How to make your staircase dog-friendly

Whether your dog is afraid of stairs or loves running up and down them, it’s important that dog owners ensure their stairs are safe for their beloved canine friends.

Over 4,000 people are searching online for ‘dog gate for stairs’ a month which highlights that dog stair safety is a cause for concern amongst many dog owners.

If your dog often rushes downstairs at breakfast time, or to greet you when you return home from work, you might have seen them slip and tumble a few times. Or, if your dog has started to get a bit older and less agile, they might be struggling with the stairs they used to whizz up and down. So, you might be looking for some ways in which you can make your staircase a bit easier to navigate for your four-legged friends.

Here, Nick Acaster, Managing Director of staircase accessories retailer Stair Rods Direct, explains how you can make your staircase dog-friendly to keep your pooch safe:

Add carpet or a runner

If you’ve ever seen a dog try to take off running on laminate flooring, you’ll know they can often struggle to get enough grip on the surface. The same can happen with your stairs so, if you frequently see your dog fall down the stairs, could it be because the surface is just too slippery?

While wooden staircases can be very stylish, they can make life more difficult for dogs and puppies, so it might be time to compromise. A stair runner is perfect for this, as it will give your pup more purchase down the centre of your staircase, but the wooden edges of each step will still be exposed. You can even add some metal stair rods as decoration, as long as you’re confident these won’t affect your dog’s ability to travel up and won the stairs safely. A fully carpeted staircase can also look great, and is likely to be the simplest option if your downstairs or upstairs hallways already have this type of flooring.

Make sure your stairway is well-lit

Have you ever tried to walk down your stairs in the dark? Well, your dog’s vision is actually likely to be a lot worse than yours (Eyesite), which means a dark or poorly-lit staircase can be even more dangerous for them. So, it’s worth looking into whether this area of your home could do with some extra lighting.

If you’re looking to update your staircase’s flooring, it’s also worth opting for a runner or carpet in a lighter colour, which will help the edge of each step to stand out a bit better. Or, if you already have light flooring and your dog is still struggling, consider adding a strip of bright tape to the end of each step, just for a while. This will show them exactly where they need to step, and they’ll get used to it after a couple of weeks.

Install a baby gate if you’re particularly concerned

If you’re particularly concerned about your dog getting injured while navigating your stairs — perhaps they’re getting quite old or they’ve had some nasty falls in the past — installing a gate might be the only option. This will prevent them from running up and down the stairs unsupervised and will mean that you can simply carry them up and down your stairway when necessary.

Having a baby gate in place should also help to give you some peace of mind when you’re out of the house. You won’t have to worry about your dog having an accident and getting hurt while you’re away, because the most high-risk area of your home will be out of bounds.

If you’ve seen your dog take a few tumbles down the stairs, or you’re worried about it happening, the advice in this article should help. Take these tips onboard to keep your pup safe and put your mind at ease.

 

 

Top tips to maintain healthy cognitive function in pets

We all hope that our pets will have a long and healthy life. Unfortunately, like humans, some dogs and cats can experience a decline in cognitive function as they age.

Old age is inevitable, and some degree of age-related neurodegeneration could happen along the way, which is why early supplementation can be beneficial. Maintaining healthy cognitive function in pets is extremely important, as it can help to support memory and learning abilities and ultimately a pet’s quality of life.

There are common signs of reduced cognitive function to look out for in your pet, which include, disorientation, decreased activity and loss of prior house training.

To help maintain your pet’s health and their quality of life, there are some positive things that you can do to maintain healthy brain function:

Monitor their weight

Keep your pet at a healthy size. Overweight dogs and cats require increased support for cognitive function.

Exercise

Keep your pet’s body and mind active. Regular exercise, which is appropriate for your pet’s age and physical condition, can help to keep their mind and body healthy. Use games that exercise your pet’s mind as well as their legs.

Retrain your dog

This can be done using the same techniques as with puppy training. For dogs with behaviour problems, consult your vet first, as they may be able to offer advice with regards to training techniques.

Positive reinforcement

Behaviour training should include treats and praise. Don’t shout at your pet for bad behaviour, they don’t know they should not do something until they are told.

Treat-release toys

These can be beneficial for mental stimulation and to keep your dog active. Hiding your pet’s treats in toys and throughout the house will help to keep their mind stimulated and active.

Socialise your pet

Allow your dog to socialise with other pets and people. Take your dog to socialisation classes to learn how to behave around people and other dogs.

Get creative

Think of innovative ways to enrich your pet’s indoor environment. For cats you can provide them with scratch posts and climbing spaces. Provide your dog or cat with toys to keep them occupied and rotate them to help maintain their interest.

Consider natural supplements

Do this as early as possible to help to maintain optimum brain function. Products such as Nutramind, which has a unique formula, which is specifically developed to maintain optimum brain function.

Feed a nutritional diet

A proper diet will help your pet to have an optimal life. Make sure that the food you are giving your pet contains the essential vitamins and nutrients that they need as they age.

Omega-3s

Omega-3s have been shown to aid learning abilities in young puppies. Other studies linked low blood Omega-3 with dog aggression, which indicates beneficial applications of Omega-3’s throughout your pet’s life to help maintain brain health.

A guide to understanding liver health in pets

The liver is an important organ with many functions including the digestion and conversion of nutrients, the removal of toxins from the blood, and the storage of vitamins and minerals.

Maintaining good liver health is vital for an animal’s general health and recovery. The liver plays an important role in the body and has a wide variety of functions, which include, filtering the blood from the digestive tract before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver detoxifies chemicals and metabolises whilst helping the liver when it’s processing medication.

Some of the main functions of the liver include:

  • Detoxifies blood
  • Balances cholesterol
  • Stores iron
  • Stores glycogen
  • Synthesis of the urea
  • Helps recovery
  • Stores vitamins A, D, B12 and K
  • Stores blood
  • Generates bile
  • Produces protein

Because the liver essentially works to rid the body of so many different substances, it can be susceptible to damage from many different causes. The signs of liver disease can be very similar to those of other conditions. Some common signs to look out for include:

  • Poor or loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and white of eye)
  • Increased thirst
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lack of energy or depression

Common causes of liver problems

Unlike other organs, the liver is very good at regenerating itself, but serious damage to the liver can cause rapid failure of its function – this is known as acute liver failure. Over 75% of the liver is usually damaged before liver failure occurs. Liver problems in pets can be caused by a number of factors, including:

Toxins and poisons

If your pets ingest any toxins or poisonous substances, the liver is often the first organ to be affected by this, as the liver is responsible for filtering toxins from the blood.

Long-term medications

Certain types of long-term drugs for other health conditions can cause damage to the liver, as it is unable to process them properly and they can build up within the tissue of the liver itself. This may include certain commonly used veterinary painkillers or steroids, designed for chronic health problems, and this is something that your vet should make you aware of at the time.

Inappropriate diet

Feeding your pet the correct diet for their age and life stage helps to ensure that they stay healthy for life and can thrive, and feeding a diet that is not complete or is not the right fit, can lead to a whole range of both immediate problems, and those that take longer to manifest. While liver disease may not be one of the most obvious or immediate problems that can be caused by feeding the wrong diet, it is certainly something worth taking into account.

Congenital defects

If a puppy is born with a congenital defect or hereditary health condition, it can then lead to the liver being poorly developed, unable to function properly or susceptible
to failure later on. Pre-breeding health screening and finding out about the health of the parent dogs can help to avoid this problem.

Breed

Certain dog breeds, such as Dobermans, Rottweilers, Yorkshire Terriers and Cocker Spaniels can be born with or are more likely to develop liver problems.

Tips to maintain a healthy liver

Not all liver problems can be prevented, but certain precautions can help to reduce the risk of specific diseases. Some of the positive things you can do to reduce the risk and keep your pet’s liver healthy include:

Water
Make sure your pet has plenty of clean, fresh water as they may experience increased thirst.

Medications
If medications are being used, they could be causing toxins to build up in the liver. Your vet can advise if these should be looked at.

Diet
Feed your pet a good nutritious diet. Avoid fatty dry foods that are difficult to digest. Your vet may recommend a low-fat, low-protein diet to help maintain your pet’s liver health.

Key nutrients
Silybin is a bioavailable form of Milk Thistle Extract, which has proven bioactive properties. SAMe has been shown to help healthy liver function. Turmeric is a highly bioavailable antioxidant that helps to reduce free radicals.

Visit your vet
Take your pet to the vet for regular health checks and vaccinations to help maintain a healthy liver. Be sure to take on board and follow any advice given. They are best placed to monitor your pet’s health and ensure they receive the best possible care.

Remove toxins
Remove toxins from your pet’s environment. Look at taking a more holistic approach to their diet and healthcare and look into reducing conventional care that can lead to the build-up of toxins.

Be wary on walks
Keep an eye on your dog whilst on walks to avoid them eating poisonous plants or toadstools.

Exercise
Be sure to keep up your pet’s exercise routine to help maintain your pet’s overall health, as well as support a healthy liver.

 

 If you are worried about your pet’s liver health or health in general, you should speak to your vet who will be able to offer the best advice dependant on your pet’s age and breed.

Top tips to maintain a healthy digestive function in pets

As a pet owner it is important to understand how to support and maintain healthy digestive function for your cat or dog to prevent unwanted trips to the vet.

Dogs are especially curious and can pick up objects they shouldn’t. Maintaining healthy digestive function helps your pet to live a healthy and happy life, however there are a number of causes that can affect your dog’s digestion, which include: eating spoiled food, scavenging, food intolerance, bacteria imbalance, change of diet, stress of parasites.

Typical signs of a sensitive tummy can be characterised by a frequent runny nose, loose stools, loss of appetite, excessive flatulence and marked lethargy.

Here are some tips to help keep your pet’s gut healthy:

Water

Your pet should be encouraged to consume more fresh water, and this should be presented in a way that your pet prefers whilst having access to a constant supply. The aim of this is to reduce the chances of dehydration.

Avoid table scraps

The food we eat may not be suitable for your dog or cat. To maintain your pet’s digestive health, try to prevent family members from feeding your pet food not intended for them. Try not to give your pet table scraps or snacks, which could lead to a sensitive or poorly tummy.

Try to prevent your pet from scavenging

When out on walks keep an eye on your dog to prevent them from picking up any foreign objects or discarded food. Also, prevent them from drinking from puddles and eating plant material.

Diet

Your vet will be able to offer the best advice on your pet’s specific dietary requirements. A bland diet that is easily digestible, such as boneless cooked chicken breast and white rice can be advisable. A specialised diet for gastrointestinal imbalance may be beneficial with small amounts of food given several times a day. Try to keep treats to a minimum as too many could cause your pet to have a sensitive tummy.

Minimise stress

Try to reduce any stress within your pet’s home and outdoor environment. You could do this by keeping to your pet’s routine as much as possible, including sleeping, food and walking. Ask your vet about Nutracalm, Vetpro or some of the plug-ins on offer such as Pet Remedy and Adaptil, which can all help to reduce stress and calm your pet’s behaviour.

Keep up to date with deworming and vaccinations

Be sure to keep on track with deworming and disease vaccinations. Speak to your vet who will be able to advise a suitable course of action for your pet, dependent on their age and size.

Foreign bodies

Be careful when giving your dog or cat small toys to play with. These can get chewed and swallowed, as well as causing discomfort for your pet, they can also cause choking. Keep an eye on your dog when playing with chews toys.

Outside access

To avoid accidents within the home it is better to give your pet easy access to go outside or take them out frequently. However, it is important to monitor your pet’s toilet activities and general demeanour. Be sure to keep a close watch on them and don’t let them stray too far.

Consider using Probiotics

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. Probiotics can also help to optimise the efficiency of the immune response to help fight infection and boost the immune system, whilst helping to repopulate the balance of good bacteria that antibiotics can wipe out. Vets often have access to veterinary strength probiotics such as Nutrabio, Vetpro and Nutraflora which they often recommend, and others are available online such as Pro-Kolin and Fortiflora.

Follow your vet’s advice

Be sure to take on board and follow any advice from your vet. They will be best placed to help with your pet’s gut and digestive health.

How to keep your pet safe and healthy dring Spring

Spring is a warm welcome from the cold wintry days of the last few months, and we’re not the only ones pleased to turn our back on colder days.

Warmer weather and lighter evenings in Spring mean that pets generally spend more time outside, either exploring the garden or on walks. However, with warmer weather comes colourful Spring flowers, the promise of Easter and hay fever. During this time of year, it’s important to keep an eye on pets to ensure they stay safe and prevent any unwanted trips to the vets.

Pets love nothing more than basking in the sun, exploring new smells and sights in the garden or on walks, however with this can come a number of challenges and hazards to look out for. We highlight some of the hazards that pet owners should be aware of during this time of year.

Plants and bulbs

Spring bulbs of tulips and daffodils can be particularly toxic to cats and dogs. All parts of the plant are toxic, but the bulbs contain the most toxins. Pet owners should be extra vigilant and make sure your cat or dog are not digging up bulbs in the garden.

Lilies are highly hazardous to cats, including the petals, leaves, stem and pollen. The more dangerous varieties include: Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter Lilies and Japanese Show. If cats ingest just a small amount of the plant, this could cause kidney failure.

Fertilizers

Warmer weather can mean owners also want to spend more time in the garden. Some pet owners are unaware of the detrimental effect some common garden products can have on dogs and cats. While most fertilizers are not very toxic, resulting in minor gastrointestinal irritation when consumed, and without any treatment some can be fatal.

A few common ones to be aware of are:

  • Blood Meal
  • Rose and plant fertilizers – Pesticides/Insecticides
  • Iron
  • Slug Pellets

As a general rule always read the label of anything that you are adding to your garden as many will state if they are hazardous to pets. There are many pet-friendly alternatives now available, so don’t worry you can still enjoy your garden in full bloom.

Seasonal allergies

Like their owners, pets can also develop seasonal allergies to pollen, grass or even some plants. Dogs are more likely to develop such allergies and cats in only rare instances. Seasonal allergies can cause intense itching of the face, feet, ears, chest and tummy and manifest as part of a clinical problem called atopic dermatitis. To prevent your pet from scratching all season, speak to your vet as they will be able to offer advice on how to lessen the severity and give your pet some itch relief. Some nutraceuticals on the market, such as Nutramega or Vetpro could help with itchy skin during this time of year.

Cleaning products

Some products used to clean the home can be dangerous to pets. Strong acid or alkaline cleaners are a big risk, such as rust removers or toilet bowl cleaners. Most cleaning products in small amounts will only cause an upset stomach, but even if you think your pet has ingested a small amount of any product get in touch with your vet who can advise what to do next.

Be sure to keep cleaning products in a secure or raised cupboard to prevent dogs or cats having access. When using products diluted in water, such as floor cleaners, keep an eye on pets to prevent them from sampling products. Undiluted cleaners, especially strong cleaners, can damage eyes and skin even without ingestion.

Easter treats

With Spring comes Easter and eggs of the chocolate variety, which are very popular at this time of year. Chocolate is toxic for dogs and should not be given to them. Even a small amount could cause serious health problems. Be sure to keep all chocolate treats away from pets and be careful of them picking up scraps off the floor. Keep some of your dog’s favourite treats on hand to stop them from begging and prevent you from being tempted to give them some.

Hot cross buns are also a popular choice around Easter time and raisins are toxic to pets. All grapes, raisins, currants, sultanas and any foods containing them can be harmful to your pet. Keep any of the above out of reach to ensure your dog does not sniff them out.

Fleas and ticks

As the weather warms up this can increase the chances of your pets coming into contact with fleas, ticks or even worms. Infections from parasites can be very uncomfortable for your pet and in some instances could cause serious health problems.

Fleas can also cause irritation for pets, with some dogs and cats even having flea allergies. Many pets can be sensitive to fleas, which can cause allergies and skin diseases if not properly treated. Pets with flea allergies can be allergic to the saliva of the flea and become very itchy after being bitten. Your vet will be able to offer the best flea treatment sufficient for your pet. Be sure to also treat areas of your home, where your pet sleeps or may venture.

Bee and wasp stings

Pets can have a range of reactions to bee and wasp stings. At their least dangerous, stings are merely a painful inconvenience. At their worst, however extreme immune reactions can cause serious swellings – if this is around the head and neck, construction of the airways and restriction of breathing can be a major concern. Dogs and cats are particularly at risk, due to them often having an interest in catching and playing with wasps and bees they may find. Keep an eye on any pets while outside and if you see them investigating any bees or wasps remove them from the situation if you are able to.

Cold water

Despite the weather being slightly milder, water in lakes and streams will still be too cold for your pet. Keep an eye on them during walks and don’t let your dog jump in as the shock of the cold water could cause them to freeze up and struggle to swim or cause them to develop hypothermia.

If you think your pet may have eaten or been affected by any of the above, be sure to contact your vet right away, as they will be able to offer the best advice with regards to your pet’s health.

Caring for ferrets

By Emma Purnell RVN Cert.Nut.

Ferrets can be cheeky and sociable pets but have specific care requirements that must be met to keep them happy and healthy.

They usually have a lifespan of 8 -10 years so are a long-term commitment. Male ferrets are known as hobs, females are jills. Unneutered males in particular can have a very distinctive and quite strong smell and keeping them in social areas can sometimes be an issue. Ferrets sleep for around 20 hours a day and are most active around dusk. Being natural predators, they must be kept well away from other animals as their smell will be hugely stressful for other species such as rabbits, guinea pigs etc.

Ferrets are obligate carnivores; they must eat meat. Complete ferret diets are available but supplementing this with uncooked meat, offal and bones is ideal. Processed meats and cat or dog foods are not suitable due to processing and ferrets are lactose intolerant so no milk products should be given. Raw eggs given whole can be a great treat. They will tend to eat small amounts frequently so feeding ad lib or little and often can be best, hence the switch for many owners to using the commercially produced ferret diets. Fresh clean water must always be available. Their weight will vary through the year – they can put on up to 40% of their body weight for winter which is normal. Monitoring their weight year-round is still important and avoiding sugary treats can ensure they stay at their optimal weight.

Ferrets can, if given a lot of socialisation at all times, be kept alone but are more often kept in pairs or groups. Ideally this should be same sex littermates or neutered male and females. Young ferrets tend to explore new places or people with their mouths, so nipping is not unusual. As carnivores, ferrets have sharp teeth and strong jaws, so these nips can be painful.

For first time owners, taking on a well-handled ferret 12 months old and over can be easier. If handled from a young age they can form a strong bond with their owners but are likely to bite hard if startled. They can be difficult to pick up and handle so are not ideal for children. It is best to pick them up around the shoulders and support their bottom with your other hand. They do tend to fidget so care should be taken.

For a pair of ferrets, the recommended enclosure size is at least 10ft long, 6ft high and 6ft wide. Enclosures need to be very strong and secure as they will dig as well as escape easily though small gaps. In outdoor runs mesh will need to be laid, but with turf or carpet laid over the top to avoid the risk of injury when digging. They need a large sleeping area and enjoy hammocks and fleece bedding, which can be less messy and easier to clean. Enclosures should be dry, free of draughts but also well ventilated. Ambient temperatures of 15-21C are best, they can struggle with hyperthermia in temperatures that are too high.

Ferrets can be litter trained; litter trays should be changed daily. They are playful and active creatures and need toys and mental stimulation to keep them happy. Scatter feeding can be great for this, hiding food around enclosures gets them active and searching. The enclosure should be checked daily for any old food, as they tend to hide it and it can go off if not removed. Some ferrets enjoy a bath so it may be fun to add in a shallow bath, which they can easily get out of, however never force them to swim unless they seek it out.

Ferrets are usually vaccinated against distemper as this is a disease, they can catch and can be fatal to them. Neutering in ferrets is often carried out, especially for females who, when they come into season will stay in season until mated, given hormone injections or neutered. This can be a problem as it can lead to anaemia bone marrow depression and even death. Neutering males can also reduce the smell and some of the greasy coat they are usually known for. Neutering has been linked to adrenal diseases so discuss the options with your vet before deciding. They can also be microchipped to ensure they do not get lost. Ear mites can be a common issue, but your vet can help with treatments for this. Claws may need clipping, but this is usually not a difficult thing to do safely. Flea treatments are available to prevent infestations and pet insurance is available through some companies to help with costs if there are any illnesses or accidents.

Ferrets can make wonderful pets in the right situations, but research is needed as they are not necessarily the right pets for every person or environment.

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).

Q&A With tails.com Head Vet Sean McCormack

Dogs get fed treats at almost half of human mealtimes, a new study by dog food company tails.com reveals.

A separate study by researchers from the University of Liverpool estimates that 59 percent of dogs in Britain are overweight and this could shorten their lifespan by 2.5 years.

tails.com Head Vet, Sean McCormack offers advice and tips on feeding treats to dogs in a safe and healthy way, in this Q&A.

What is the best way to count treats properly within a dog’s daily balanced diet?

It’s confusing, isn’t it? My best advice on counting treats is to take out some of your dog’s food from their daily allowance and use that as treats throughout the day rather than adding more food into the mix. This is really easy with a dry kibble diet, but can be done with a little cooked meat taken out on a walk too. Tinned food, not so much!

If you’re going to add additional treats on a daily basis then just realise they all add up as extra calories. If your dog’s getting too many calories and not burning them off with activity and exercise, they’re going to gain weight. So reduce the amount you are giving your dog in their regular mealtimes.

How best to know you’re doing it right? Measure out their food, and learn to measure your dog’s weight and body condition score (BCS). If their weight is creeping up and scoring as overweight on a BCS assessment then you know you’re feeding a bit too much. That’s when to cut down on treats.

Are dog owners giving treats when they don’t need to ie: how can an owner spot the signals of a dog wanting to play or go for a walk instead of giving lots of treats?

Yes, I think we’re all guilty of succumbing to those puppy dog eyes and giving treats when we shouldn’t. Or tipping just that extra bit of food into the bowl. It’s a great point, very often dogs are not looking for food or tasty treats, they’re looking for fun and social interaction. So getting out with them, playing games, going for a walk, allowing them to stop, explore, sniff; these are all a reward in themselves and stimulate our dogs’ minds as well as tiring them out.

I always say “a tired dog is a happy dog”. And one great way we can change our own and our dogs’ relationship with food and treating, is to make eating and finding food a game in itself.

Ditch the food bowl! Your dog will actually enjoy working for their food if it’s given in puzzle feeders or toys, or by scatter feeding the food across the floor or garden. Hiding the food in the home or garden. Having a daily portion of their allowance kept aside for some fun, reward based obedience training. All great fun!

What our dogs really want most is fun interaction with us their owners, not always treats. Just because a dog asks for food doesn’t mean they are hungry. They’re hardwired to eat when there’s food available, as their ancestors didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.

When can ‘human’ food be given as treats? What human treats can owners feed safely?

Some ‘human food’ is totally off limits as they can be harmful to our dogs, like chocolate, raisins and grapes, garlic and onions for example. But there are many healthy foods we don’t always associate with dog treats that can be a great alternative to some of the calorific dog treats on the pet food market.

If your dog needs to lose weight, sweet carrot sticks or green beans are a firm favourite of most dogs. They’re low in calories, yet high in fibre so your dog will feel fuller. Fruit or berries can be good, but do contain natural sugars so go easy; sugar = calories.

Lean cuts of cooked meat are also a great, high value treat that most dogs will do back flips for! So use sparingly when you’re teaching them new tricks or trying to correct certain unwanted behaviours. Avoid fatty, processed foods which are highly calorific.

Did you know that a single human biscuit for a small dog could be the equivalent of us eating a whole packet, or a sneaky sausage from your breakfast might be the equivalent of us eating three cheeseburgers? So these types of human foods are best avoided altogether.

What factors should owners take into account when feeding treats?

There are a whole range of factors to think about when feeding our dogs the right amount, including knowing if we’re overdoing it on treats and making them gain weight. First off, age is a factor because young, growing dogs have higher energy needs than adult or senior dogs.

Many people claim that their dogs got fat when they were neutered or spayed, but in reality the effect of these health benefiting procedures is minimal. They’re usually carried out at precisely the time dogs have grown up and no longer needed extra calories to support their rapid growth period as pups. So if we don’t dial down how much food and treats we give at this stage it’s only natural that they’ll gain excess weight. Neutering isn’t an excuse for an overweight pet.

Your dog’s current weight and body condition is the most important factor in deciding how many treats to give, or to give them at all. If they are overweight, then you’ll need to really pull back on treating, find less calorific alternatives or reduce their daily food allowance. Perhaps a combination of all three.

Finally, activity level will determine how much food and calories your dog burns off each day. If something in your lifestyle changes and your dog is doing more or less exercise and activity than usual, adjust the amount you’re  giving them accordingly, and use regular weight checks and Body Condition Score (BCS) to find the right balance.

More information on Body Condition Score (BCS) in our video here.

How can owners stop feeling ‘mean’ for not treating there dog, or feeding fewer/smaller treats?

Reframe treats to mean head and belly scratches, verbal praise, an extra walk, some games, using feeding time puzzle feeders or hide and seek feeding.  You’re not doing your dog any favours if you’re overfeeding or over treating.

Unfortunately you could be doing a lot of harm and setting them up for health problems, a poorer quality of life, or even a shorter life if they end up becoming overweight or obese.

What can you do if your dog is fussy, are there any tricks to make them enjoy healthier treats?

Hunger is a great one! If your dog’s not keen on a treat, don’t force it, just move on. And skipping a meal is not a major thing to worry about on occasion either if your dog is at a healthy weight.

Too many people are obsessed with feeding their dog and if they have an off day or are just not hungry it’s not the end of the world.

Are there any treats you can give a hyperactive dog to calm them down?

It depends on the level of hyperactivity, as sometimes behavioural training is needed. Diet can only do so much. But turkey and pumpkin are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan, which the body converts into one of the happy hormones, serotonin; good for stressed, anxious or hyperactive dogs.  It’s important to say that for behaviour, diet is normally an aid rather than a whole solution.

How can treats fit into a training or reward system for your dog?

Treats are a super important part of the relationship we have with our dogs, when it comes to training but also when it comes to showing our love for our dogs and when we want to make them happy.

I’m not one to say “no treats” but just be mindful of the type and amount of treats we’re feeding, and take into account the effect of treats on daily calorie allowance by reducing food portions alongside treats.

Everything that passes your dog’s lips counts, so make those treats count when it comes to training and reward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Sean McCormack  BSc (Hons), MVB, MRCVS (Head vet):

Sean studied Animal Science as an undergraduate learning about anatomy, physiology, husbandry and nutritional management of a range of domestic animals, followed by his Veterinary Medicine degree (MVB) at University College Dublin.

Having spent six years in private practice at various first opinion and referral small animal clinics, he has a great understanding of dog owners and the concerns they face when trying to choose the best diet for their pets.

 

 

A guide to training your dog

Getting a new pet can be an exciting time in any home, but, it’s important to settle them and begin training right away.

Whether you have a new puppy or have adopted an older dog, training is the most rewarding part of owning a dog. Training your dog doesn’t just improve their manners, it’s also fun and helps to strengthen the bond between you and your new pet.

No dog is too old to learn new tricks and training your new four-legged friend should be high on your list of priorities as a new owner. Most dogs will love training as it can be a chance for them to challenge their brains, earn rewards and get lots of praise and attention.

Whether you decide to train your new dog yourself or take them to classes, it’s important to ensure you have everything you need for your training, such as toys and healthy treats. You could also use a crate for them to sleep in and for when you have to leave them home alone.

Things to remember when training your pooch include:

Give them a name

Start by helping your puppy to get to know their new name and use it every time you play, train or feed them. They’ll soon begin to recognise it and respond when called. Once they know their name, you can use it to communicate with and start to train them.

Be patient

Training can be time consuming as it can take several repetitions before your dog gets the hang of any new tricks. Arm yourself with plenty of patience and treats before you start.

Short sessions

If the training sessions go on for too long, your dog might lose interest. Limit the sessions to a few minutes each, as it’s better to have multiple short sessions a day, rather than one lasting the entire afternoon.

Don’t punish your dog

Your new dog is doing their best to learn, so if it takes longer than expected stay calm and keep the training fun and exciting. If it’s fun, your dog will be more willing to do the same routine many times.

Be consistent

Be sure to decide the house rules for your puppy before you bring them home with the rest of the family. Stick to the rules and ensure all family members understand them. It will confuse your dog if their routine is broken.

Persevere

Keep going with your training and don’t compare your dog to others – all dogs are individual and keep in mind your goal and that a well-trained dog is a happy dog.

Handle your dog

Stroke, groom and handle your dog on a daily basis with constant praise to get them used to being handled.

Training classes

These are a great way to socialise your new dog and help them to get used to other dogs and people. It will also help them to learn certain attributes and how to behave. Your vet may be able to advise on local ones in your area.

Be positive

Always end training sessions positively. Your dog has worked hard to please you throughout the session so give them lots of praise to ensure they enjoy the training.

Natural supplements

Omega-3s have been shown to aid learning abilities in young puppies and strong research demonstrates that Omega-3 supplementation from fish oil supports cognitive function. Some supplements such as Nutramind have been specifically formulated by vets to support brain function and have shown to aid learning abilities.

When getting a new pet, it’s important to remember the huge responsibility that comes with looking after them. Always consider if you have the time to look after them and can afford the costs that come with a pet. As lovely as it is to get a puppy, there are many older dogs waiting for new homes in adoption centres throughout the UK.

 

 

 

Top tips to help your pet’s joint health

Maintaining excellent joint health for your pet is essential to ensure they lead a good quality of life.

There are a number of reasons why your pet might need help with their joint health, which includes, old age, being overweight, as well as trauma or injury. Joint problems tend to occur more often as your pet ages, with dogs being more susceptible. Some large breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds and Rottweilers can be more prone to developing joint issues such as osteoarthritis.

During the colder months, joint problems, like osteoarthritis can appear more pronounced in your pet. It is especially important to support joints in senior pets, as they may feel the cold more. The mobility of your pet’s joints can have a dramatic impact on their quality of life, even affecting their sleep.

Here are some top tips on how to help maintain optimum joint health for your pet:

Weight management

Excess weight can put pressure on your pet’s joints. Aim to keep them at a healthy weight for their breed and age to reduce the risk of developing joint problems. Keeping their weight down will also help to reduce the symptoms caused by joint issues. Many vet practices offer weight management clinics to monitor this and provide advice.

Regular exercise

It is important that your pet gets regular exercise to avoid stiffness and muscle wastage. Exercise can help to strengthen the muscles that support joints. Avoid long or infrequent walks, think little and often to keep the joints mobile.

Diet

Feed your pet a good quality diet. Reassess your pet’s food and consult a veterinary professional who can recommend the best diet for their needs.

Key nutrients

Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Boswellia and Omega 3 can help, Boswellia supports the natural systems that control inflammation. Glucosamine HCL and Chondroitin Sulphate are essential for maintaining healthy joints, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and synovial fluid. Omega 3 can also help.

Bedding

Move your pet’s bed away from cold floors such as tiles. Keep your pet warm and avoid cold and drafty or damp conditions, which can aggravate joints. Add extra bedding for senior pets and shorthaired dogs to help pad around their joints.

Grooming

Help to groom your cat, when their joints become stiff as they may not be able to groom as freely.

Help at home

Helping your pet to move around the home easier could reduce the impact of joint problems. Raising their food bowls so they don’t have to bend down to them or using a ramp to help them get upstairs or into the car would help to make their life easier.

Visit your vet

Regular vet visits ensure your pet’s joints can be monitored frequently and the best up-to-date advice can be given. Ensure you follow your vet’s advice.

Alternative solutions

You could consider alternative methods to help your dog or cat, such as physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy can be a useful exercise that does not put too much pressure on your pet’s joints. These can help to increase circulation and mobility in your pet.

Joint supplements

There are many supplements on the market to support pet joint health. Some contain similar ingredients, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, as well as Boswellia and Omega 3. One the face of it many joint supplements for pets can appear good value, however many are very low in strength. For this reason, Vets will often recommend products like Nutraquin+, and Vetpro because of their high strength ingredients.

NSAIDS/Drugs

In more painful cases of joint problems, your vet may prescribe special anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help manage their symptoms. These are usually given as an ongoing daily dose or in pulses for a few weeks at a time. Your vet will be able to advise the best course of action for your pet and which would be appropriate for them.

How to keep your rabbit warm in winter

By Emma Purnell, RVN, CertNut

Rabbits are often a species kept outside, but in extreme temperatures this means they can be more severely affected.

Wild rabbits are naturally able to regulate their temperature well, as long as they can stay active and seek shelter if they need it. Making sure your rabbit’s environment allows them to do this, will help it to be able to stay warm and all activity should be encouraged. Encouraging foraging behaviour including scatter feeding and hiding hay within boxes can help as well as providing plenty of fun toys and puzzle feeders. One thing to consider is the positioning of the accommodation, both the hutch and the run. If they can be placed in sheltered spots, possibly close to walls or foliage, this can provide some insulation.

They should also be away from cold winds and draughts which can dramatically affect the temperature in terms of wind chill. Still allow access to their full run though, being active will always help to raise body temperature! Ensuring your pet is in good health before winter will make a big difference to the care needed. If a rabbit is ill or underweight, moving them indoors before the cooler weather starts would be advised. Keeping rabbits in pairs is recommended for many reasons but helping prevent them from getting too cold in winter by making sure they have a friend to cuddle up to can make a big difference! Insulation in the form of covers can not only trap heat but they can be great protection from drafts.

Some hutches have specific covers that you can buy for them, but you must always ensure they still have proper ventilation when covered and that the covers cannot be chewed. Tarpaulins, with old blankets underneath can be enough to make a significant difference to the temperature. Converted sheds and summer houses should ideally be insulated when being converted as using insulation within the walls can protect from both extremes of heat and cold. The insulating materials will need to be covered over, again to avoid it being chewed and the risks of ingestion. The materials that you use within the bedding area is vital in winter.

Straw is of very little nutritional value when eaten but is good at trapping in the heat when used as bedding material. It is important that any bedding is kept clean and dry so it will need changing regularly and adding it to a cardboard box to allow them to snuggle in a smaller area. Regular checks must be made when using straw, particularly of the eyes, as it can occasionally cause hay pokes, damage or infection. Ensuring there are no leaks and the housing is watertight is also vital. Fluffy bedding and ‘snuggle sack’ type beds can help to trap air next to the pet and raise the temperature a little but monitoring them chewing it is important.

Providing heat sources can be useful but which sources we use are very important. Things like hot water bottles are not recommended as they can cause scalding if chewed. Microwave, pet specific heat pads with material covers are recommended instead but should be used under supervision and discarded if there is any damage or wear. Fan heaters and similar can be used to heat areas but should never be placed directly pointed at a pet, always under strict supervision and never where rabbits can chew them or their cables as this is an electrocution risk. Any heat source should be provided with care and the rabbits given the opportunity to sit near them or to stay away from them if they get too warm. In cold weather, if in either a bottle or a bowl, fresh water can rapidly freeze.

Checking regularly to make sure the pet has access to clean, fresh, unfrozen water is vital and covers can be purchased to insulate the water bottles to try to avoid that happening – although still check as in very cold temperatures it can still freeze! In real extremes people can be tempted to move their outdoor pets indoor to help to keep them warm. While the intention is good, the dramatic shift in temperature can cause more problems than it solves. A better idea is to move them into a protected but unheated environment such as a garage or shed, ensuring they still have natural light. This protects them from draughts but will also raise the temperature a few degrees from outside.

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).