Everything you need to know about dogs with blue eyes

Have you ever wondered why it’s so rare to see a dog with blue eyes? Only around 5% of dogs have blue eyes, with brown being the most common eye colour.

Although all dogs are beautiful, breeds with classic icy-blue eyes are particularly captivating. Blue eyes are striking, elegant, and expressive in a way that’s unlike any other colour — as you’ll often find in breeds, such as Siberian huskies, Weimaraners, and Australian Shepherds. In most cases, special genetic variants are the reason certain dogs are blessed with this remarkable eye colour.

What breeds have blue eyes?

The Siberian husky is famous for its striking eyes, which are often icy blue. Siberian Huskies can also have brown eyes or heterochromatic eyes, meaning irises that are different colours. Huskies are pack dogs bred for companionship, and they’re also extremely active — requiring over two hours of exercise a day. They’re therefore a great choice for active families. Alternatively, Weimaraners also often have either blue or amber eyes, which contrast beautifully with their beautiful silver-grey coats. Like Huskies, Weimaraners have plenty of energy, and do well with active families. The Australian Shepard is another breed with stand-out eyes. Australian Shepherds with merle coats — a distinctive pattern featuring irregular blotches of pigmentation — are more likely to have either blue eyes, or heterochromatic eyes. Featuring a long, double coat, naturally bobbed tail, and solid, muscular build, Australian Shepherds are a stunning breed. As they’re herding dogs, Australian Shepherds are bursting with energy, as well as intelligent and loyal.

What causes blue eyes?

In humans, eye colour is determined by genes, which are largely inherited from our parents. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule, and in rare cases, a child may be born with different coloured eyes to both parents. It turns out that dogs are no different. Some dogs are born with a genetic variant that causes blue eyes. Merle-coloured dogs, in particular, have a gene that often results in blue or partially blue eyes, while the same goes for dogs who carry the piebald gene. In addition to blue eyes, the piebald gene results in white patches of colour on the coat. Heterochromatic eyes are also usually hereditary, meaning they’re passed down along certain genetic lines. However, heterochromia can also sometimes be the result of a health issue or eye injury, so if you notice this condition suddenly appearing in your dog, it’s important to schedule a checkup with the vet.
Dogs may also have blue eyes due to albinism — a rare genetic condition caused by a gene mutation resulting in a lack of melanin and pigmentation. Dogs with albinism usually have either a white or off-white coat, along with a pink nose, lips, skin, and paw pads, and blue or white eyes. It’s important to note that just because a dog has a white coat doesn’t automatically mean it has albinism.

Is there cause for concern?

Although dogs with blue eyes may be more sensitive to light than dogs with brown eyes, or even green eyes, their vision is usually fine. On the other hand, a double-merle dog — a dog who’s inherited the merle gene twice — will often have poor vision, and may even be completely blind. Double-merle dogs may also be completely white, deaf, and have very small eyes or unusual irises, in addition to vision problems or blindness. It’s therefore not recommended to breed two merles together. Moreover, dogs can also sometimes develop pale, cloudy, or blue eyes as they age, which may be a sign of several health conditions, including cataracts or nuclear sclerosis. Although cataracts can result in significant vision impairments, nuclear sclerosis doesn’t affect vision and requires no treatment. If your dog displays any signs of vision problems — such as, white spots on the eyes, cloudy eyes, or red or swollen eyes — it’s important to contact your vet, so they can identify any underlying health issues and recommend treatment.
Blue is a striking eye colour in dogs, and is usually not a sign of any sort of health issue. However, if one or both of your dogs’ eyes suddenly start turning blue or cloudy, it’s important to get them checked over by the vet as soon as possible.

Top tips for autumn walks with your dog

Autumn is a great time to get outside to enjoy nature with your four-legged friend. While walking your dog, it’s important to be aware of how to keep them safe.

To help pet owners keep their dog’s safe this autumn on walks, we share some top tips:

Change walking routine

With changes in temperatures and dark nights, it’s a good idea to gradually alter your normal walking routine to make it safer for you and your dog. Start morning walks later and your evening walks earlier in the day to avoid being out when it gets dark.

Be visible on walks

If you are walking later at night, make sure you are visible to avoid any accidents. Wear bright clothes or a high vis jacket, you could also put a high vis jacket or collar on your dog. Try not to let them off the lead in the dark, they may get spooked and run off.

Autumn toxins

It’s important to keep an eye out for some autumn staples that pose a risk to pets whilst out on walks.


Not only can conkers block your dog’s airways, but they also contain a chemical called descullin, which can cause internal danger if eaten.


These are also toxic to dogs due to the presence of tennic acid which can cause stomach upset and diarrhoea. In severe cases, acorns can even cause internal damage and kidney disease.

Slug pellets

These are often used at this time of year by avid gardeners, but they are poisonous to dogs. They contain metaldehyde, which can cause tremors and convulsions, and are usually fatal without immediate treatment.

Wet leaves

When out on autumn walks, don’t let your dog sniff or roll in piles of wet leaves. These can be a perfect breeding ground for mould and bacteria, which can make your dog seriously ill. Contact your vet asap if you think they have consumed any autumn toxins.


These remain active throughout autumn, so be sure to give your dog a quick once over after any walks in grassy, wooded areas to spot any signs. Tik transmitted diseases such as Lyme disease can be prevented if the tick is removed within 24 hours.

Protection from the cold

As the temperature starts to drop, despite their fluffy coats some dogs may still feel the chill. Using an extra cosy layer will keep dogs snuggly in the cold and protect them from the rain.

Antifreeze spill

As the weather turns colder, keep an eye out for anti-freeze spillages which may look like puddles. Be extra vigilant around parked cars where the owner may have spilt some or a leak could have occurred.


If you’re worried about your dog’s health, speak to your vet who is best placed to offer advice.






Advice from the expert: Caring for Fancy Mice

By Emma Purnell, RVN Cert.Nut

Fancy Mice are fascinating pets to own, both active and fun to watch, but have specific care requirements.

Fancy mice generally live up to 3 years which is a fairly short life span but still a significant commitment. They are very social animals and must live in same sex groups or mixed groups with neutered males. They are generally active morning and evening as well as overnight, meaning they are not ideal as children’s pets. They can be handled and if handled from a young age can be very settled however, they can nip when nervous and are very fast so again they are not ideal as pets for young children.

Diet is vital to keep mice fit and healthy. They must have clean, fresh water at all times. They are omnivorous so eat both plant and animal-based materials. Complete diets are available for mice and this can ensure they achieve the correct levels of vitamin A, magnesium and choline which they must have in their diet. They will eat seeds as well as fresh fruit and vegetables occasionally, but also mealworms and similar. These should be given as part of their diet and not extras to ensure they do not become overweight! Always check new foods before feeding as things such as grapes, walnuts and lettuce can be toxic or cause stomach upsets. Rather than having a bowl, scatter feeding is advised. Spreading the food around the cage allows for more normal foraging behaviours and works as enrichment for them.

Housing your mouse

One of the key things to consider when buying housing for mice is that they find it very easy to escape from normal cage bar widths! Narrow bar spacing is needed, around 0.5cm- 0.7cm is usually recommended. The top of the cage being metal bars allows them to climb which is normal for them. The base of the cage should be solid and easy to clean and disinfect (wood is not advised for this reason). They are sometimes housed in glass sided tanks, but it is very difficult to ensure proper ventilation in these cases, so it is not advised. While mice are small, they are very active animals who roam a large area in the wild so larger than expected cage sizes are recommended. For 2 mice, a 60cm x 50cm cage size is advised with 30cm height but the bigger the better! Mice don’t really toilet train but will have specific areas they toilet in more often, spot cleaning is possible but full cleanouts regularly will be needed. Mice are brilliant nest builders and providing them with suitable materials for building their nests is vital. They use it for temperature regulation, even if conditions are ideal. Hammocks and hanging beds can be popular to nest but also allows them to use their climbing skills. Nesting materials should be provided for them, this can include specially made shredded paper beddings and hay. A mix of different types to allow them to choose works well. Cotton wool and similar products are not advised as they can make mice seriously unwell if eaten and can also wrap around limbs and cut off circulation.

Enrichment is absolutely vital for mice, they love to be active, climb, investigate and chew! Enrichment can be as simple as a toilet roll tube, a branch or a piece of rope, anything to allow them to climb, nest, chew and be active. They will chew any enrichment added so always ensure branches or similar are free from pesticides or toxins in preservatives as well as a safe wood for them to ingest.


Handling mice will depend very much on how much time you put into getting them used to you. Rubbing your hands in the material used to line the cage, putting food onto your palm and allowing them to use your hand as a shelf will allow them to build a trust with you. Picking them up should be done gently around their body or allowing them to climb onto your hand, they should never be picked up by their tail as this can cause major damage and be very painful. Mice will bite if they feel threatened picking them up should always be done by and adult and they are very fast so lots of care should be taken!

Mice can suffer with some health issues that must be monitored for. Respiratory issues can be seen, and any wheezing or discharge should mean a vet visit. They can also be prone to getting lumps, get these checked by a veterinary surgeon as soon as possible as they can grow rapidly and ulcerate meaning they are potentially very painful. Overall mice are very entertaining pets and can provide hours of entertainment but need a lot of mental stimulation and enrichment in order to be healthy and happy.

About the author

Emma qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in 2008 and works for Nutravet (UK) Ltd. She has a BSc in Zoology with Animal Ecology and an MSc in Ecology, helping to fuel her interest in more exotic species. She has a particular love of small furries and has a grade A distinction in Canine and Feline Clinical Nutrition (CertNut).



Why do pets moult?

Although moulting in pets is natural, the amount of fur coming off your pet can sometimes seem never-ending! And with the seasons about to change, you may see even more fur around the house.

Luckily, PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing is on hand to explain why and when pets moult and what you can do to help your furry family member.

“Some breeds of pets shed a lot all year round, while others shed hardly anything,” explains Nina. “The key is knowing what’s normal for your cat, dog, or rabbit so you can spot a potential problem.”

Why do pets moult?

“Moulting is the body’s way of replacing old, dead, or damaged fur to make way for new fur. Some animals shed more than others, depending on breed, coat type, season, diet and stress levels. Although it can happen all year round, moulting is often more noticeable in the spring or autumn. During these seasons, an animal’s lighter summer coat is replaced by a thick winter version (or the other way round in spring).

How long do pets moult for?

“Several things determine this, but it’s essentially down to the individual animal and their environment. Some animals shed all year round and some shed more at specific times of year. It’s important to learn what’s normal for your pet so you can identify any change that might indicate a problem. Many factors affect moulting, including the time of year, exposure to heat and light, anxiety and stress, hormones – like when your pet is in season or pregnant, or if your pet has a health condition.

When should I be concerned about my pet’s moulting?

“You only need to be concerned about your pet losing fur if new fur does not grow back in its place, if the skin underneath looks red or if your pet is itching more than usual. If you notice bald patches in your furry friend’s coat, they could have a skin condition or could be over-grooming due to stress, injury or pain. The best thing to do is visit your vet so they can examine your pet and give you advice on what to do next.

When should I expect my pet(s) to moult?


“When rabbits are young – at around five months old – a transitional coat replaces their ‘kitten’ coat. Soon after, the rabbit’s adult coat will develop, and then they will generally moult twice a year: once in the spring and again in the autumn. However, house rabbits are kept in very different conditions to wild rabbits, so they can have a more varied moulting pattern. As rabbit owners will know, some appear to moult almost constantly!


“How often a cat moults can depend on how much exposure they have to daylight, weather and temperature. This means they usually shed more noticeably in spring and autumn, like other pets. It also means indoor cats can shed all year round as artificial lighting and centrally heated homes can confuse their normal shedding routine.


“Some dogs shed constantly all year, some shed seasonally in spring/autumn, and some appear not to shed much at all. Dogs with longer or silky coats seem to shed more than dogs with short or coarse coats, however, that could be because the length of the hairs, make them much more noticeable. Some breeds are known as ‘low shedders’, such as Maltese, Poodles, and Yorkshire Terriers. ‘High shedders’ include Saint Bernards, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Labradors.

Is there anything I can do to help my pet while they’re moulting?


“While it’s impossible to stop your pet shedding completely, keeping on top of their grooming requirements will mean they’re less likely to shed all over the house. This can be achieved through a professional groom or brushing them at home. If you are brushing them at home, pick a time when they’re relaxed, and every so often offer them low calories treats throughout the process to make it a positive experience.

Diet and nutrition

“As well as regular grooming, your pet’s nutrition and general health can affect moulting. It’s good to review your furry friend’s diet from time to time, as nutritional requirements vary during their life. A good diet supports a healthy coat and skin, so it’s important to feed a diet suitable for your pets life stage.

Flea treatments

Parasites are unpleasant to live with and very irritating for your pet. Maintaining a regular flea treatment programme will prevent your pet from scratching, which can cause scurfy and sore areas, so helps to ensure your pet has clear and healthy skin.


“Watching out for signs of allergies in your pet is important, such as scratching, carpet surfing (dragging themselves along the carpet), or shaking their head excessively. If you notice any of these signs, contact your vet for advice as discomfort from allergies can be distressing and cause over grooming which can lead to excessive hair loss and even bald areas or skin infections developing.

Nina’s moulting clean-up tips:

  • Be prepared to hoover regularly to keep on top of the hairy floors!
  • Invest in fur-busting tools such as a lint brush or roller to remove fur from clothes.
  • Rubber gloves are also great for getting fur off clothes and furniture. Put on a rubber glove, dampen it with clean water, and then brush your hand over the fabric. The hair should come away and stick to the gloves.
  • Dry sponges are also an option for removing pet fur from furniture, with the added advantage of being reusable! You might find it works better if you dampen it a little.
  • Use sticky tape if all else fails or you have nothing else to hand. It’s slightly more time-consuming and wasteful (so not great for the environment) as you’ll have to keep ripping off a new piece, but tape will pick up a lot of hair from clothes and furniture.
  • To protect your sofa from fur, try using blankets and throws. It’s much easier to pop one of these in the wash than clean your sofa (although be sure to shake it out first so you don’t clog up your washing machine with fur). Remember that cats prefer familiar smells, so it might be best to try and brush the hair off their blankets rather than wash them weekly.

PDSA is the UK’s largest vet charity providing a vital service for pets across the UK whose owners struggle to afford treatment costs for their sick and injured pets. For many vulnerable pets, PDSA is there to help when there is nowhere else for their owners to turn. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information.


A guide to probiotics for pets….

Like humans, the majority of a dog and cat’s immune system resides in their gut.

The gut is the largest immune organ in the body, which also digests and absorbs food. It is populated by trillions of bacteria collectively called Microflora, which support a dog or cat’s digestive function. The bacterial population can be affected by a number of aspects and bad bacteria can flourish and multiply which can lead to an upset tummy.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are living organisms that are found naturally in foods such as yoghurt. They are known as ‘good’ or ‘friendly’ bacteria as they compete for space and fight against bad bacteria to prevent them from settling in the gut. Probiotics can have a positive effect on a pet’s digestive system. They can help to increase friendly bacteria within the gut, as well as replenish the natural balance of gut bacteria and improve their stool consistency. Good bacteria are integral for your pet’s gut health, but they also support their brain, digestion and their immune system. Boosting your pet’s immune system is one of the most important roles of probiotics.

Approximately 70% of the body’s immune Lymphatic tissue is located in the digestive tract, mostly in the form of ‘Gut- Associated Lymphatic Tissue’ (GALT). The GALT contains many types of immune cells that optimise the efficiency of immune response. Studies have shown that having a healthy microflora stimulates the immune tissue. Therefore, a healthy digestive system is important for optimal immune support, as well as helping to aid recovery. Viruses and bacteria can enter the body through your pet’s mouth and probiotics are present starting in the mouth and throughout the gastrointestinal tract. Maintaining your pet’s good bacteria can help to keep pathogens in check.

When to use probiotics?

The intestinal tract is the organ in the body that digests and absorbs food. It’s populated by bacteria that keep your dog healthy. If your pet develops an upset tummy or Diarrhea it may result in a trip to the vets where probiotics for pets may be prescribed.

During illness & recovery

Various drugs and pain killers can have a vital and often lifesaving role for pets that are suffering, but they can also kill healthy (beneficial) gut bacteria and upset the delicate microbiome balance. The immune system produces toxic oxidative products which can injure the cells of the gut. These are usually balanced by the animal’s own antioxidants but can become overwhelmed in times of inflammation or infection. This can cause digestive imbalance and impairs the GALT immune response.

Tummy upsets

Due to the inquisitive and natural presence to explore, scavenge, taste and put themselves in places they shouldn’t be (and because pet owners & humans have a habit of offering too many treats) pets are prone to tummy upsets.

 What to look out for

  • Excessive gas
  • Regurgitating or vomiting
  • Changes in your pet’s appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Diarrhoea / changes in stool consistency
  • Eating grass to alleviate discomfort
  • High temperature
  • Lethargy and general feeling unwell

How probiotics can be beneficial

Maintain long-term gut health

To help maintain long-term gut health and a healthy digestive balance Probiotics can help with conditions such as, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic or infectious diarrhoea and pets with a history of gut related problems.

Maintain tummy comfort

Do you have a nervous dog or cat? If this is the case it could have an impact on their digestive system and using probiotics for pets could help to look after their digestion during stressful periods.

Immune support

Probiotics can help to optimise the efficiency of the immune response to help fight infection and boost immune system functioning.

If taking antibiotics

They can help to repopulate the balance of good bacteria that antibiotics can wipe out.

During recovery

They can help pets who are recovering from surgery or treatment who require added immune support.


Probiotics are becoming recognised more and more as a positive way to improve the health and wellbeing of dogs and cats, by both vets and pet owners. Speak to your vet for further information on how probiotics can help your pet.


Harnessing the power of essential oils to calm your dog during car journeys

recent study by researchers at the University of Lincoln has found that dogs commonly experience excitement (56%), anxiety (48%), and nausea (44%) when travelling in a car.

The situation is worse in fuel-powered cars than in electric vehicles, with the study showing that dogs’ heart rates reduced significantly when they were travelling in EVs compared to traditional vehicles. Of course, EVs don’t totally eliminate car anxiety and sickness, so many owners use treats and toy blankets, as well as practice drives, to make the experience a little easier on their pooches. Around 36% of owners, meanwhile, play relaxing music in the hopes that this will calm Fido down. If you are into natural remedies for your pet, then you may already be using essential oils for a myriad of ailments. Here’s how you can harness their effectiveness to reduce stress and induce a calmer state in your pooch when you’re at the wheel.

What Are essential oils?

Therapeutic-grade essential oils differ from most commercial oils in that they are purer than merely cosmetic products. They are classified as “secondary metabolites” of plants and are obtained via mechanical process of distillation. Modern therapeutic-grade oils hail from a host of different plant parts, including the leaves, roots, bark, wood, and fruits. Each oil has different properties, with some having antimicrobial activity—in fact ,one of the most common uses for essential oils on pets is for the treatment of bacterial and fungal infections. Essential oils can also be used to quell altered states and battle anxiety.

Which oils can calm your pet down?

Top choices for calming your dog down before a car ride include essential oils such as rose, lavender, and chamomile. In one study published in the journal, Applied Animal Behavior Science, dogs were exposed to five types of olfactory stimulation: rosemary, chamomile, lavender, peppermint, and a control stimulation. The results showed that dogs spent more time relaxing and less time moving when they were exposed to lavender and chamomile than to the other stimuli. These oils also caused less barking than other aromas. Meanwhile, rosemary and peppermint seemed to have a stimulatory effect, as dogs exposed to them engaged in more standing, moving, and vocalising behaviors. Other studies have shown that essential oils such as rose geranium had similar effects.

Timing is everything

If you will be travelling with your pet or simply taking your pet for a drive, make sure to apply essential oils beforehand. Distractions lead to road accidents, so pulling your essential oil bottles out and trying to calm your dog down “in the moment” won’t do the trick. When you’re driving, your eyes should be on the road, so you can spot any obstacles, brake when you need to, and watch your speed. Your pooch should be buckled up and already in a calm state when they enter the car. Essential oils can have a pretty fast effect, weaving their magic as quickly as two minutes after application. In order to work, they need to pass through your pooch’s bloodstream and travel to their nervous system. A good general rule is to apply your oils a minimum of three minutes (but preferably 10 to 30 minutes) before you leave.

Applying oils safely

Before applying any essential oil, run your proposed list of oils by your vet. Some essential oils are toxic to dogs (including eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, cinnamon, citrus, peppermint, pine, wintergreen, and ylang ylang) so don’t assume they are safe because they work well for you. Even if a study proclaims a specific oil to be effective, always obtain medical approval first. Secondly, you will need to dilute your oils before applying them on your dog. For small dogs, use a carrier oil at a ratio of 9:1 carrier oil to essential oil. For medium-sized dogs, take the ratio down to 4:1 and for large dogs, use a 3:1 ratio. Apply the solution to the back of your dog, with your hands, rubbing your hands together until they are no longer shiny prior to application. Avoid applying to paw pads, wince dogs sweet through these. Once again, ask your vet’s advice for the best place and method to apply these oils.

Essential oils are a natural remedy that you can try to reduce your pet’s anxiety prior to car travel. Studies have shown that they effectively reduce stress and promote calm behaviors. See your vet first with a shortlist of oils, and ask their advice regarding safe doses and methods to apply the oils to your precious pooch.


Top tips to calm pets during thunderstorms

During summer months, warm weather can often lead to thunderstorms. For some pets these can be stressful, due to the loud claps of thunder.

Thunderstorms are a common reason for dogs or cats to become stressed and signs of this can include trembling, shaking, hiding, becoming more vocal and sometimes even aggressive.

Storm anxiety amongst pets is a common problem, especially dogs who don’t like loud or sudden noises, like thunder. To help keep pets calm during a thunderstorm, we share some top tips:

Stay calm yourself

It’s important to stay calm yourself during the thunder and lightning as pets can pick up on your stress and this could cause further anxiety for them. Try to ignore the thunderclaps as much as you can and do not react.

Close windows and curtains

Block out the noise by closing windows and curtains in your home, this can help to reduce the impact and block out any flashes of light.

Provide a den

Some pets may want to take themselves off during times of stress. Create a den or safe space for your pet to retreat to if they get anxious. This can help increase their sense of security. Make sure it’s not too far from the family so you can keep checking on them to make sure they are ok. Place their food and water bowls close by, should they need them.


To help keep your pet calm during a thunderstorm you could distract them with their favourite toys or treats. Try some fun games that will keep your pet occupied during the storm, using positive rewards. Treat puzzles are a great way to keep your pet occupied.

Use background noise

Turn up the TV or radio to help create background noise and drown out the sound of the thunder. You could play some calming music that can help reduce any stress for your pet. There may be some channels on YouTube who play calming music for pets, during thunderstorms or fireworks season.

Keep pets indoors

Keep an eye on the weather forecast and if you know there are going to be thunderstorms that day, keep your pet indoors. Try to walk your dog before the thunderstorm is expected. Make sure you have plenty of litter trays in the home for cats who usually like to go outside.


Getting your dog or cat used to the sounds of thunderstorms could help them cope better when they happen out of the blue. Playing sounds of thunder in the background while playing with them with a toy could help to desensitise them to the noises. However, if they don’t seem to be responding well don’t make them continue.

Close windows and doors

Make sure there are no escape routes for your dog or cat should they get spooked. Sometimes when they are scared dogs may run-off. Close all doors and windows and check the garden for possible escape routes.

Don’t shout or punish your pet

If your pet does anything they shouldn’t it is due to stress so don’t punish them as this could lead to further anxiety.

Natural calming support

Many vets recommend a natural calmer like, Nutracalm, Adaptil plug-ins or Thundershirts to help calm pets during times of stress and anxiety.

Speak to your vet

If your pet has severe anxiety speak to your vet who is best placed to offer advice on treatment and possible behaviour training techniques and seek advice from your vet.

Advice from the expert: Spotting signs of dental problems in rabbits

Emma Purnell, RVN Cert.Nut.

One of the most common and potentially complicated issues in rabbits are dental problems, but spotting these problems isn’t always the easiest. Rabbit dentition is unusual with incisors (and smaller peg teeth) at the front of the mouth and visible, with rows of cheek teeth (molars) positioned at the back of the mouth and not able to be seen without specialist

equipment. Rabbits are also very good at hiding problems, often meaning issues are further advanced than we would like before we notice them. This means that we have to look for more subtle signs when these teeth are causing a problem and seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

One of the early signs that can be spotted by owners is a change in diet preference. When teeth are causing a problem, things which were usually eaten but are harder to grind up properly, such as hay, can be shunned in preference to easier to eat veg or crumbly pellets. This is because the molars often rub against each other wrongly and develop spurs (sharp edges) which will rub the tongue or cheeks causing ulcers and sores. These areas can be very painful, made worse by having to grind up hard food. Any hard foods could potentially be picked up and then dropped again. These changes to diet, if not spotted initially, tend to lead to anorexia and weight loss which can be significant over time.

Regular weight checks are a great way to monitor any changes to weight and are an early method to pick up changes and problems. Anorexia can also lead to gut stasis which is a potentially fatal emergency. Any changes to diet that are unusual should always involve a vet check to ensure there are no underlying problems and to prevent escalation. Changes to drinking preference can also be an indicator of issues. Rabbits with dental problems given a choice between a water bottle and a bowl will usually pick a bowl as the water bottle can catch teeth and cause pain. This is a great reason for offering water in multiple dispensers to ensure proper intake.

More visible signs can be seen as problems progress. Overgrowth of the molars will lead to a misalignment of the jaw as the rabbit tries to compensate for the back teeth and this will potentially cause an overgrowth of the incisors which can be visibly seen. Incisors should be checked daily for any signs of them not properly aligning or over lengthening. Drooling can also be a key sign; any wetness of the chin or excess saliva should lead to a vet check. A more unexpected sign of dental problems can be discharged from the nose or excess tear production. This is because the roots of the molars, if they overgrow, can put pressure on and even completely block the tear ducts, meaning they cannot drain correctly. Overgrowth of these roots in the lower jaw can also lead to lumps and bumps along the jawline, even leading to abscesses in severe cases. Dental problems are also often painful for the rabbit involved. This means you may see signs of pain including teeth grinding and visible facial signs such as pulling back of the whiskers, tightening of the face and narrowing of the eyes.

Any visual pain signs should lead to a vet appointment as soon as possible as pain has to be fairly severe before the rabbit shows signs. The key thing to remember with dental issues in rabbits is that if you have any suspicion there may be a problem, seeing a rabbit savvy vet as soon as possible to assess the dentition and decide on a treatment plan is key.

Q&A with Vet, Dr Kirsten Ronngren DVM MRCVS

Summer is a great time to spend quality time outdoors with pets, however hot temperatures can be challenging for our four-legged friends and it’s important to ensure they remain cool and happy.

Vet, Dr Kirsten Ronngren has answered our top summer questions to help pet owners care for their furry friends at this time of year.

What can pet owners do to help their pets in summer months?

When temperatures soar at peak heat times of the day, it’s a good idea to avoid taking your pets out. When going out on walks, aim to do this at either the beginning and end of the day when it’s a little cooler. When temperatures pick up, try to keep pets indoors for the majority of the time, in a place with plenty of shade and ventilation. Many don’t realise that over exertion on a hot day can be just as dangerous as leaving your dog dog in the car! It’s best to stick to cooler times for walks, or if you aren’t sure, to skip a walk altogether.

How can pet owners prepare in advance to keep their pets healthy in summer?

It can be helpful to have some cooling products to hand, to help prevent overheating. A shallow paddling pool filled with cool water is a great option for keeping them cool when outside. Alternatively, you can purchase a pet cooling mat, which is specially designed to lower body temperature and provide relief on scorching summer days.

Can you use sun cream on pets?

Just like in humans, sun exposure can cause skin problems in pets. Applying a pet-friendly sun cream can help to prevent these issues, keeping pets safe from harmful rays; the most common burn areas for dogs are around the face/ ears and the tummy. However, be careful that you don’t apply your own SPF to your pooch! Human sun creams typically contain zinc oxide or paraaminobenzoic acid, which are hazardous to dogs if consumed. A waterproof, odourless dog safe sunscreen with an SPF of 30 is the best to go for.

What tips would you give pet owners for summer?

It may sound obvious, but it’s incredibly important to make sure that your pets stay hydrated when temperatures rise. Try to ensure that they always have access to a drinking bowl; I’d recommend putting multiple around your house/apartment, so that they don’t have to go far to rehydrate and get used to drinking water at different areas in the house.

Should you give dogs ice cubes in hot weather?

Some people think it’s dangerous to give dogs ice water in hot weather, but that’s not necessarily true! Cold water and treats are a great method of prevention. To help keep them cool, you can drop a few ice cubes into your dog’s water bowl (I often say let the cubes melt first to avoid choking hazards) or even make up a little frozen treat – such as bite-sized balls of frozen (xylitol-free!) doggy safe peanut butter.

What should you do if your dog is showing signs of heatstroke?

If your dog is showing signs of overheating or heatstroke, pouring cool water over them and getting a fan running if possible is recommended to help dissipate heat away from their core. It is not recommended to cover your dog during this time with wet towels as that can trap heat in. Again, if you see signs or are concerned ring your vet immediately, do not wait! They can help you assess the situation and make safe decisions for you and your pet!

Should you shave your pet’s fur in summer to keep them cool?

Dogs don’t sweat through their skin like humans do, and instead they pant to get rid of excess heat! It’s a common misconception that shaving a dog’s hair helps keep them cool. Shaving can have the potential to make it harder for dogs to cool themselves naturally while also putting them at higher risk of sunburn. In some scenarios, however, it may help avoid trapping heat close to the body. When the temperature rises, your dog will naturally moult, and their coat will thin out. A trim to reduce excess hair is fine, but regular brushing and bathing is usually enough for most pets. If you’re not sure if your thick furred pup would benefit from grooming during a heat wave, chat with your vet!

When should pet owners contact their vet?

Ring your vet immediately if your dog is showing signs such as excessive panting, increased drooling, lethargy, vomiting/diarrhoea, disorientation, brick red gums, or collapse/loss of consciousness.

DogFest takes place at seven sites across the UK and boasts the best experts, vets, and dog behaviourists at its talks & demo stage, behaviour zone, and action arena. DogFest also has over 10 have-a-go activities like dog diving and agility which owners and their four legged friends can take part in, as well as over 100 shopping stands, and food and drink stalls – it really is the best dog day out ever! www.dog-fest.co.uk

Caring for your horse

Owning and caring for a horse is great fun and extremely rewarding. However, it’s also a big responsibility and takes a lot of commitment.

Horses can live well into their thirties and take a lot of care, work and money. Every horse is different and there is no one size fits all way to care for them, but it’s important to understand your horse’s needs so they can live a happy and healthy life in your care.

There are many different breeds of horses that can vary in shape and size and caring for them could depend on this. As an owner, you will be best placed when caring for your horse and be able to recognise signs that they are not well. Looking out for signs and treating any health issues early will help to maintain your horse’s quality of life.

There are many positive things you can do when caring for your horse, which include:

Feed your horse a good quality diet

Horses need roughage (hay or pasture) to stay healthy. High quality food will lead to a healthy horse. Try to resist the temptation to buy cheap hay, which might not have the best nutrients needed. Your horse will need a balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals that are essential to keep them healthy.

File your horse’s teeth

Horse’s teeth can wear down unevenly over time, due to them eating the same type of food. It’s important to get their teeth checked by a vet, where they can file them down and examine their mouth at the same time.

Let your horse live outside

It might not always be possible to let your horse live outside, but doing so can be important for your horse’s health and wellbeing. Turnout can help to provide exercise, which also helps to prevent weight gain. Weight gain in horses can then impact on other health issues such as joints. You horse can also get bored and frustrated being confined to a stable all the time.

Exercise them daily

Your horse should be exercised daily to help prevent weight gain and keep them healthy. If you are not able to do it every day make sure your horse has access to a field to walk in, or ask someone to go to exercise them for you. Exercise is also beneficial as it encourages natural hoof growth.

Regular check

It’s important to regularly check your horse for signs of illness. This should be done on a daily basis and you should ask someone to do it for you if you are away or unable to.

Hoof health

It’s important to regularly check your horse’s hooves. Be sure to pick them out regularly to check for any rocks or objects that might bruise them. Your horse can develop problems with their hooves if they are not cared for properly. It’s important to not only check them when you’re preparing to ride, but every day. You should also get a farrier to trim their hooves.

Schedule regular vet visits

When caring for your horse, it’s important that your horse has a vet visit at least once a year, to keep a check on their health and keep up-to-date with vaccinations. Not getting your horse checked could lead to health problems developing in the future.


Your horse should be brushed daily. The more you brush, the more you help to distribute the natural oils that coat your horse’s hair evenly. Invest in good quality brushes and make sure you keep them clean. If you have more than one horse, try to use a separate set of brushes for each horse to reduce fungal infections.

Provide sufficient shelter

Be sure that your horse always has sufficient shelter. It needs to provide protection from the rain and wind, as well as being comfortable and safe. Also provide them with enough bedding to keep them warm in the winter and make them comfortable at night.

Provide fresh clean water

Horses need a daily supply of clean and fresh water. Depending on breed and size, a horse can drink between 5 -10 gallons of water a day. Be sure to also keep the water bucket clean to help reduce bacteria build up. In warmer weather, horses might need extra drinking water and to be cooled down with water.

Minimise stress

If you know that certain situations can cause your horse to become stressed, try to reduce this by preparing for the event or situation in advance. Consider using a natural calming supplement to help reduce stress and anxiety in your horse.

Joint care

Horses often develop stiff joints as they age, but younger and growing animals can also have joint stiffness. Performance horses in particular can put a lot of strain on their legs as they run, jump, spin or pull carriages. The areas most commonly affected by joint stiffness in horses are the knee joint, front fetlocks, hocks and coffin joints which can be uncomfortable for your horse when the joint is flexed. It’s important to maintain healthy joint function in horses to enable them to enjoy their life to the full and for their joints to function properly.

Natural supplements

There are a range of natural supplements on the market that can help to support your horse’s health from joint care, to hoof health and natural calming supplements. If you are worried about changes in your horse’s health or behaviour, it is best to consult your vet, who will be able to advise the best solution for horse health.