Pet Theft Is On The Increase

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Pet theft is on the increase in the UK and we want to make pet owners aware of this worrying trend. The theft of a much loved pet and companion can be absolutely devastating to the whole family and it is not just something that happens to pedigree dogs. Any pet is a target for thieves if they think they can sell it on quickly, breed from it, hold it for ransom or, with dogs, use them in organised fights.

The Pet Theft Awareness website has statistics to show that 52% of dogs are stolen from their own gardens! With other commonly reported locations being from inside the house, from vehicles, while out on walks and when left outside shops. We also know that small pedigrees and ‘designer’ dog breeds are more likely to be stolen than larger breeds. Popular cat breeds to be taken are Siamese, Ragdolls and Persians.

MPs and peers are urging the government to do more to tackle organised dog theft and many charities are also petitioning the government to impose tougher punishments to people who steal pets. There is also the ‘vets get scanning‘ campaign which is urging vets to routinely scan any newly registered pets for microchips.

How to prevent dog theft
  • Never leave your dog alone in the car
  • Never leave your dog tied up outside while you pop into the shop or visit a friend.
  • Make sure that your garden is secure and supervise your pet while outside.
  • Supervise your dog while he or she is outside and off the lead

Microchip your pet. It won’t prevent theft, but it will prove that your pet belongs to you should there be any dispute of ownership or if your pet is found and taken to a rescue centre.  Some microchip readers also alert the operator that the pet has been reported as missing or stolen when they are scanned. The Tag stating your pet is microchipped may also act as a deterrent. More Microchipping information can be found here.

Take lots of pictures of your pet from all angles and include any distinguishing markings or features and make sure you record the date on the photos if your camera is able to do this. Again this won’t prevent theft but it can aid identification and will be useful if you ever need to make posters.

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What to do if your pet goes missing
  • Make posters of your pet and put them up in your local area and online
  • Report your missing pet to the local dog warden and veterinary surgeries
  • Phone your pet’s microchip company (details will be on the paperwork) to report your pet as missing, this will automatically update any linked microchip readers and alert anyone that scans your pet.
  • Register your pet on as many social media sites and pet lost sites as you can find (a few links are given at the end of the article)
  • Contact rescue centres so they can get in touch if your pet is handed in.
  • Don’t give up – some dogs are returned after many months or years
What should you do if you believe your pet has been stolen
  • Write down as many details as you can remember as soon as you can, about where and when your pet was taken and people that may have seen it happen.
  • Talk to anyone who may have seen your pet get taken.
  • Report the crime to the police and make sure you get a crime reference or incident number from them. You will need this if you make a claim on your pet insurance.
  • Talk to the local newspapers to see if they will cover your story.
  • Don’t give up – some dogs are returned after many months or years.
Castle Vets is offering microchips for the low price of £9.50. Microchipping is free to our Pet Health Club members. If your dog is already microchipped you can pop into the surgery and we will scan your dog to ensure the microchip is working correctly, no appointment necessary.

Useful links to lost pet websites

Useful links for theft prevention

  • Pawtrax – GPS tracking for dogs
  • Microchips – Microchip your pet at Castle Vets
  • Petloc – Secure lead and collar

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Guinea Pig Care

Gill's Piggy 1

Guinea pigs, or Cavies, are small, sociable, friendly, chatty, adorable and inquisitive. There are over 40 different breeds of guinea pig recognised by the British Cavy Council and these include many different colours, coat types and coat lengths so there is definitely a guinea pig to suit everyone.

With their gentle natures they make great pets and, if given a lot of love and attention, can make wonderful companions for both adults and children (an adult should always supervise the care and any interactions between children and their pets). Guinea pigs live on average for 4-8 years and owning them is very rewarding, but it is also a big responsibility and commitment in terms of care and finances, so please think about this before you buy your guinea pigs.

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Guinea pig history 

The guinea pigs that we keep as pets are descendants of wild guinea pigs found in the Andes and were introduced to Europe in the 16th century. In South America, wild cavies live in burrows in rocky areas, savanna, forest edges, and swamps. They are social and live in groups of up to 10 and they are most active at night, when they are foraging for food.

No one knows exactly where the name Guinea Pig came from. It may be that “Guinea” is a reference to Guiana in South America, or it may refer to the coin known as a guinea, which could have been the price of the “friendly rodent that squeaks like a pig”. Did you know that Queen Elizabeth I owned a pet guinea pig?

Guinea pigs need company

It is important to remember that guinea pigs are very social animals and in the wild they live in groups, so they need to be housed in groups of 2 or more of the same sex or neutered. They also love plenty of human company and gentle handling, chatting and stroking. If you are picking up a guinea pig always do it by placing one hand under the chest and use the other to support their hind quarters – always make sure you have a firm hold of your guinea pig while you are cuddling them, as falling from a height can injure them.

But not from rabbits ……

Guinea pigs and rabbits should not be kept together because

  1. They have different dietary needs and guinea pigs cannot synthesise vitamin C which must be provided adequately within their diet.
  2. Rabbits may injure guinea pigs by kicking them with their powerful back legs, by jumping on them, or by trying to mate with them.
  3. Rabbits may bully guinea pigs, which can make them distressed if they cannot get away.
  4. Rabbits carry a bacteria called Bordetella Bronchiseptica and while this does not harm the rabbit it is the most common cause of respiratory disease in guinea pigs and can make them very poorly (cats and dogs can also carry this bacteria).
  5. Rabbits behave and communicate in very different ways to guinea pigs, so they don’t understand each other’s behaviour and therefore do not make ideal companions.
Guinea pig trio

Guinea pigs are social animals, but the best companion for a guinea pig is more guinea pigs!

Feeding

Guinea pigs have evolved to be able to extract all their nourishment from the poor quality vegetation that is often the only source of food available to them in the wild. This means that they require a diet that is low in calories but high in fibre.  Guinea pigs also require a diet that is rich in vitamin C because unlike most other mammals, they cannot synthesise this themselves (we humans can’t either!).

Dietary problems are one of the main causes of most illnesses and problems that we see in guinea pigs at Castle Vets and a poor diet can lead to obesity (and its related complications), soft stools, diarrhoea, fly strike, scurvy and bone and teeth problems.

The following feeds are listed in order of importance

  1. Water – fresh water should be provided daily and bowls and bottles cleaned regularly.
  2. Hay – fed Ad Lib. the fibre contained in hay is extremely important to the guinea pigs diet. Dried grass can also be fed in unlimited quantities.
  3. Fresh vegetables – a minimum of 3 different types daily, veg is an important source of vitamins. Variety will be appreciated by your guinea pigs, but remember to introduce any new veggies one at a time and in small amounts.
  4. Fresh fruit – Don’t over do the fruit as although your guinea pigs will love it, it contains lots of sugars and can lead to obesity and dental problems.
  5. Dried food – guinea pig pellets are better than the muesli versions of dried food as they prevent selective eating. Dry food should only make up a small percentage of your guinea pigs daily diet.

Your guinea pigs will also love to graze on fresh grass when they are out and about. They will also enjoy dandelions, dandelion leaves (care should be taken to ensure they don’t eat too many though) and clover.

gpig fruit and veg

Do not feed iceberg lettuce, olives, beans, garlic, cherries, avocado or potatoes to your guinea pigs as they can cause upset tummies.

Housing

Traditionally Guinea pigs have always been kept in hutches in the garden, however guinea pigs are just as happy (if not happier) when kept indoors. Wherever you decide to house your pets, there are a few things that need to be considered

  • Guinea pig enclosures or hutches should have a minimum floor area of 2ft x 4ft with a height of at least 40cm – the bigger the better.
There are many different types of cage for your guinea pig

There are many different types of cage for your guinea pig

This cage is commonly sold in pet shops and is far too small for most rodents

This cage is commonly sold in pet shops and is far too small for most rodents

  • There are a wide range of hutches and indoor accommodation available for Guinea pigs but please remember that most of the cages available from pet shops are far too small for guinea pigs!
  • Hay and straw are generally good materials for bedding, and the bottom of the hutch or enclosure can be lined with newspaper. Wood shavings as sawdust are not recommended as they have been linked to causing respiratory problems in small mammals. Other popular bedding materials include
    • Fitch – recycled perforated paper, it is very absorbent and is actually marketed for horses.
    • Finacard – dust free cardboard bedding.
    • Megazorb – made from wood pulp, highly absorbent and safe for use with small animals.
    • Fleece/Vetbed/Towels – commonly used for indoor guinea pigs This keeps guinea pigs dry and is soft on their feet also. You do need to supply an area for foraging in (i.e., hay)  if using these materials.
  • The cage and exercise areas, including the wire mesh, feeding bowls, bottles and toys should be thoroughly cleaned once a week using a pet safe disinfectant. Rinse the cage and allow it to dry properly before putting your guinea pigs back inside.
Exercise

Guinea pigs are surprisingly active and can happily mooch around for up to 20 hours per day, so they will need plenty of space for exercise and toys for stimulation.

  • They should have an outside space for when the weather is nice and an inside space so that they can get exercise in cold or wet weather.
  • The exercise space will need to be secure to protect your piggies from getting into trouble, escaping or being attacked by predators. People may tell you that guinea pigs don’t jump, but I’ve seen mine jump onto my sofa from the floor!
  • You will need to provide toys and hiding places such as tunnels or pipes to crawl through and cardboard boxes to hide in or chew. A link to a supplier of guinea pig toys can be found at the bottom of the page.
  • The exercise area should include some shade from the sun and shelter if the weather is windy or wet.
Daily Health Care
  • Nose The nose should be clean and dry with no discharge. Any snuffling, discharge or crustiness may indicate a problem.
  • Mouth – Check that the upper and lower front teeth (incisors) meet properly in the middle and that they are not overgrown as this may prevent your guinea pig from eating properly and could cause infections if the teeth are rubbing other areas of the mouth. Make sure there is no excess salivation or dribbling which may indicate that there is a problem with your guinea pig’s teeth or gums.
  • Eyes – The eyes should be clean, clear and bright. Any discharge could indicate an infection such as conjunctivitis or a blocked tear duct.
  • Ears – The ears should be clean and dry with no waxy or mucky discharge or crusting.
  • Skin – The skin should look clean and healthy. Stroking your guinea pig will help you feel for any lumps, bumps or wounds on the skin; if you find anything out of the ordinary make a note of exactly where it is before contacting your vet as small lumps can be difficult to find again! Flaky or dry skin could also indicate poor diet or a parasite problem.
  • Coat – Guinea pigs should be groomed daily (go on they enjoy it!) and their coat should look and feel clean and healthy. Most guinea pigs groom themselves really well so if you notice that your pet is not looking after him or herself this may indicate a health problem. Any mats that you find in the coat should be carefully groomed out because they will only become worse and very uncomfortable if they are left. Any signs of excessive moulting/shedding or any bald patches may indicate a parasite or health problem.
  • Feet – The feet should be clean and dry. Sore patches or faecal matter on them may indicate a health problem (or that you need to clean out your pet’s toilet area more often!). Make sure that your pet’s nails are not too long – nail clipping can be done at home if you have someone to help hold your guinea pig for you. Your veterinary nurse can show you what to use and how to do it properly.
  • Bottom – Guinea pigs normally pass faecal pellets as well as the softer caecotrophs which they eat.Guinea pigs with consistently dirty bottoms may be suffering from an illness that causes loose faeces or diarrhoea, or they may be overweight and cannot groom themselves properly. Your pet’s bottom should be clean and dry with no mats or faecal matter stuck around it which could attract flies to lay their eggs leading to fly-strike. Dirty bottoms can be cleaned using cotton wool soaked in warm water and then thoroughly towel drying the area afterwards (do not use a hair dryer on your guinea pig).
  • Movement – Look for any signs that your pet might be lame (limping) when moving about his or her hutch or exercise area, or that your pet is reluctant to exercise.
  • Breathing – Guinea pigs breathe a lot faster than we humans do (50-150 breaths per minute!). Check for any signs that your pet may be having difficulty, such as wheezing noises or panting which may indicate a respiratory problem or infection.
  • Eating and Drinking – Make sure your guinea pig is eating and drinking well every day.

GP groom

Guinea  pig illnesses and problems

 On the whole guinea pigs are usually relatively healthy rodents and the problems/illnesses they suffer from are usually as a result or poor care and nutrition from the owner.

  • Obesity – this is a common problem in all pet animals and can lead to heart and respiratory problems, flystrike (because they can’t clean themselves properly), sore joints and skin sores and bumble foot.
  • Respiratory problems – these can be caused by a number of bacteria, including Bordatella, which is carried by rabbits. If your guinea pig is wheezing or has noisy breathing he needs to be seen by a vet.
  • Mouth sores – this is usually as a result of a dental problem or from eating too many watery or sugary foods
  • Scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency)  – Guinea pigs cannot make vitamin C themselves, so it needs to be provided in the form of a healthy diet. Symptoms include poor coat, inappetance, diarrhoea, reluctance to walk, painful, swollen feet or joints and hemorrhages and ulcers on the gums or skin.
  • Abscesses (an infected swelling within a body tissue, containing pus)  – these can affect the skin, teeth, muscles and lymph nodes. They are usually caused by infected wounds and bites or as a result of a dental problem.
  • Urinary Problems – guinea pigs can develop cystitis which may be caused by a urinary infection and/or urinary calculi (stones), which normally form in the bladder but can form in the kidneys too. Symptoms include inappetance, blood in the urine, straining to pass urine, a hunched posture or a complete lack of urine production.
  • Parasites– Guinea pigs can be infested by mites and fleas and get fungal infections such as ringworm. Symptoms include hair loss, scratching, crusty/scabby skin and open sores or wounds caused by scratching.
  • Gut/intestinal problems – these are usually caused by poor diet or too many watery vegetables or sweet treats, but they can be caused by bacterial infections and imbalances. Symptoms can include inappetance, diarrhoea, soft stools, constipation, hunched posture (pain).
  • Dental problems – overgrown or sharp teeth can be very painful and may need to be filed down by a vet. This is often a result of not eating enough hay and dried grass.

If you suspect that your guinea pig is unwell or may have any of the problems listed above, please don’t delay and get him or her to the vet as soon as possible for a check over.

Neutering guinea pigs

Neutering prevents unwanted pregnancies and also means that males and females can live together. Neutering also helps control the number of unwanted pets in this country, reducing the numbers being abandoned, neglected and put to sleep. It is very uncommon to neuter a Sow (female) and is usually only necessary for medical reasons. Sometimes Boars (male guinea pigs) need to be neutered so that they can live with females -this group dynamic works really well.

If you are going to have a male guinea pig neutered then be aware that every anaesthetic carries a risk of complications and death (this is the same with any species). It is worth checking that your vet has equipment and facilities for the anaesthesia and recovery of small animals and that they are experienced in neutering guinea pigs.

Castle Vets and guinea pigs

At Castle Vets we  have a specialised ward for our Exotic patients (rabbits, guinea pigs, rodents and birds) enabling us to keep them completely separate from natural ‘predator’ animals such as dogs and cats. This means that our exotic patients can receive the care they require in an appropriate, warm and secure environment and undergo far less stress when hospitalised for any length of time. We are also very pleased to have vets and nurses with special interests in exotic pet care, medicine and anaesthesia.

Useful links

Rodents with attitude – a very informative guinea pig site and forum

British Cavy Council – information on the various breeds and showing guinea pigs

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If you would like any further information on guinea pig care or advice about guinea pigs then please contact us at the practice on 0118 9574488

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Pet Insurance – What it covers and why it is worth considering

lots of pets

Owning a pet is a very rewarding experience but it is also a lifelong financial responsibility. Every year many dogs or cats become ill or are injured and unfortunately there is no National Health Service for pets, so an emergency visit to a veterinary practice with a sick or injured pet could be quite expensive and for this reason vets recommend pet insurance.

One of the most distressing situations pet owners and veterinary professionals find themselves in, is when a pet’s problem is curable but the cost of treatment is too expensive and owners just cannot afford to have the treatment carried out. It is truly heart breaking when we have to put a healthy animal to sleep.

Research from Petplan pet insurance, found that you are more likely to have to claim on a pet insurance policy than you are on your home or car insurance, yet only a third of the country’s pet owners take out pet insurance.

Do I Need Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance is sometimes labeled as a waste of money by non-pet owners, but if you’ve ever had to take your pet to the vet’s for more than just a routine booster vaccination or flea treatment, you’ll know how expensive some treatments can be.

Ultimately the pet insurance decision is up to you as a pet owner and we cannot make it for you. You need to ask yourself if you can afford to pay for veterinary treatment easily, or if you will struggle to find the money to cover emergency or ongoing treatment for your pet.

What Does Pet Insurance Cover?

Most pet insurance companies cover everything except routine or elective treatment, these routine things would include;

  • Flea Treatment
  • Worming
  • Vaccinations (some companies offer vaccination vouchers)
  • Nail Clipping
  • Neutering
  • Anal gland emptying (unless there is a specific cause)
  • Pregnancy complications or related illnesses
  • Food ( although some companies may cover prescription veterinary diets)
  • Any problems, illnesses or conditions that your pet suffered from before taking out the pet insurance.

Read the small print of a policy carefully before taking it out. some insurance companies will exclude or place a monetary limit on things like Dentistry, MRI scans, Referrals, Cruciate injury repairs and even laboratory and hospitalisation fees!

 How Do I Choose The Right Policy For My Pet?

You need to pick the policy that suits you best and it is a good idea to shop around and compare several different policies before you commit to anything. You local veterinary surgery may be able to provide some pet insurance leaflets from different companies but they are usually not allowed to recommend specific companies unless they have received training by that company. Essentially there are four main types of policy available (with a few variations), so it is important that you understand what type of policy you are buying and what it will cover.

  1. Lifelong Cover Policy – This policy usually offers a fixed amount of money to cover veterinary fees for each year and then reinstates this amount when the policy is renewed each year. For example, if your pet were to develop arthritis in his later life he would be covered for this condition for the rest of his lifetime up to the stated amount yearly. These policies are usually available in maximum claimable amounts per year from £3000 up to £12000 depending on your chosen cover level. This type of policy can be expensive but it is generally considered to be the best type because it can cover conditions for the duration of the pet’s lifetime.
  2. Monetary Limit Policy – This type of policy offers a maximum monetary limit on the amount paid out for each condition. This means that you can claim for a condition until you reach the maximum limit for that particular condition.  For example, if your pet developed arthritis and your maximum monetary limit was £4000, you can claim for as many years as it takes to reach this amount. However, once this limit has been reached, the arthritis condition would then be excluded from your insurance. This type of policy is generally less expensive than the first type, but you need to remember that once you have reached the maximum monetary limit your pet will no longer be covered for a long term condition.
  3. Maximum Monetary And Time Limit Policy – This type of policy has a maximum monetary limit per condition and a maximum time limit that a condition can be claimed for (usually 12 months from its onset).  Once the maximum monetary or time limit has been reached the condition will no longer be covered. This is commonly referred to as a 12 month policy. This type of policy is often inexpensive to purchase but wont cover lifetime conditions.
  4. Accident Only Policy – This type of policy provides cover for veterinary treatment after an accident, but not for illnesses or ongoing conditions. There is usually a monetary limit per claim and some policies may also have a time limit for the treatment.
What Are Insurance Excess Fees?

An excess is the part of a claim that you have to pay yourself for each different condition. Different companies will apply differing amounts of excess so you need to check this with them.

  • Annual Excess – If a single, ongoing condition spans two or three policy years, the excess will be taken yearly.
  • Fixed Excess – Companies deduct a fixed amount of money regardless of how much your claim is for. For example, if your excess is £50 per condition you would only have to pay that amount regardless of whether you claim for £100 or £3000. This is usually only applied to 12 month policies.
  • Percentage Excess – This is where your excess is based on a percentage of your claim (usually after a fixed minimum has been applied), so the more you claim the higher your excess will be. These are usually fixed somewhere between 10% and 30% depending on your policy.

An excess fee can vary depending your pets age. Most insurance companies will charge you an excess for each condition you claim for, so if you are claiming for two different conditions you will have to pay two excesses.

What Should I Look Out For When Buying Pet Insurance?
  • As with most types of insurance you get what you pay for, so it pays to shop around and get the best policy you can afford.
  • Pet insurance costs can vary from as little as £5.00 up to £40.00 per month, depending on what species and breed of pet you are insuring. Be aware that some breeds of pet are likely to cost more than others to insure, for example a breeds with known inherited conditions such as heart disease, skin problems, hip dysplasia or respiratory problems.
  • Be wary of insurance companies that offer a ‘lifetime policy’ but cap the yearly amount you can claim for at a ridiculously low amount –  A claimable limit of £6000 per year sounds great, but when you read the small print and it says only £500 per condition per year, you could be stuck with a huge bill if your pet needs expensive specialist surgery or ongoing medications.
  • Try to find out how much your excess is likely to go up by on a yearly basis and if your insurance company will also add a percentage excess once your pet reaches a certain age. It is a good idea to make sure you always have enough money put aside to cover an excess fee.
  • Ask your friends about their experiences with insurance companies and what happened when they made a claim – Was it dealt with quickly?, Did they pay out the expected amount?, Were there any complications?. It is also a good idea to look at reviews online.
  • Check with your veterinary practice if they do direct claims with the insurance company you are interested in. This is where the insurance company pay the veterinary practice directly, rather than you having to settle the bill and wait for the insurers to pay you, meaning that you only have to pay the excess to your veterinary practice.
  • Remember that once you have made a claim for a specific condition, if you decide to change your insurance company that condition will usually be excluded by the new company, so make sure you do your research.
What Else Do I Need To Know about Pet Insurance?
  • Your insurance company has the right to ask for your pets medical history from your vet and that your vet must provide it when asked. You must make sure that you tell your insurance company about any pre-existing conditions when you take out your policy.
  • Your vet may charge you an administration fee for processing a direct claim and your insurance company is unlikely to cover this cost.
  • Some insurance companies allow the veterinary practice to send claim forms electronically for a faster service, so it is worth asking your practice if they can do this.
  • It is your responsibility as the owner of the animal to pay for any treatment not covered by your pet insurance policy.

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If you would like more information you can contact Castle Vets on 0118 9574488 for an appointment with one of our veterinary nurses.

We have pet insurance information leaflets available from several different pet insurance companies but we are only able to discuss Petplan policies in any detail, because our staff have received special training and are appointed representatives.

Keeping your pet fit and healthy

The PDSA Annual Wellbeing (PAW) report has recently revealed that 81% of veterinary professionals have seen an increase in the number of overweight pets in the last few years and that the UK is currently in the grip of a pet obesity crisis. Like humans, pets become overweight when they consume more calories than their body can use or burn off; weight gain in our pets is often so gradual that we don’t always notice until someone points it out to us.

So how can you keep your pet fit and healthy?

Proper Nutrition

Make sure that you are feeding your pet the correct type of food for his or her age and activity levels, many owners pick food types without taking this into account especially where older pets or pets with low activity levels are concerned.

Are you feeding the the correct amount of food? As owners we are usually great at following feeding guides on food packets, but we often forget to take into account all of the extra tit-bits we give to our pets. Before you give your pet a treat have a think about the amount of calories it might contain. Did you know that some of the more popular pet chews, treats and dental aids on the market can make up approximately 1/3 or more of your pet’s daily calorie allowance when they are fed the recommended daily portion?

Weighing out your pet’s daily food allowance using your kitchen scales can make a huge difference. Did you know that measuring food by eye or by using a cup/container can be different every time by up to 50g? That may mean that your pet is getting an extra 20-170kcal per day!  

If you would like any advice on what or how much to feed your pet, please contact the surgery and have a chat or book an appointment with one of our veterinary nurses. We can also advise you about how many calories your dog or cat needs to maintain a healthy weight.

Help your pet lose excess weight

Being overweight can increase the likelihood of your pet suffering from serious problems and conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, breathing difficulties, high blood pressure, arthritis, skin problems, anal gland problems, cystitis, fly strike and irritability to name a few. Overweight pets are also less likely to want to interact and be playful with their family and have much shorter lifespans.

Is your pet overweight?  The next time you stroke your pet run your hands over the back and chest area; in a normal healthy animal you should be able to feel bones without applying any pressure (you should not be able to see them) and your pet should also have a visible waist line. If you cannot feel your pet’s backbone and ribs without applying pressure then your pet may be overweight. You can also look at a body condition score chart to see what shape your pet should be.  The ideal score for pets is a 5, but over 60% of pets in the UK have a body condition score of 7-9!

BCS dog

Our free Healthy Weight Clinic is managed by qualified and registered veterinary nurse Clare Espley, who has a special interest in companion animal nutrition.  After assessing your pet, Clare will  make a weight loss plan that is based on your pet’s lifestyle, current diet and individual requirements and advise you on the best way for you to help your pet lose his or her excess weight and keep it off.

Proper Exercise

We all know that exercise and mental stimulation are good for us; they can help us maintain a healthy weight, give us energy, keep joints flexible, make us feel better and help us to live longer. The same is true for our pets, so make sure that you give your pet the opportunity to stay fit and healthy.

Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and Ferrets can be encouraged to exercise and forage for tasty food quite easily by hiding tasty treats around their hutch and exercise area. Tasty treats and veggies can be suspended from the top of the hutch or enclosure to provide tasty and stimulating entertainment (this should be done under supervision to ensure your pet doesn’t get tangled in any string). Plastic tubing and cardboard boxes can be used to provide stimulation and encourage exploration and play. Many of these pets will also enjoy walking on a harness if you introduce it slowly and carefully, but be mindful of other animals that may be around such as cats and dogs.

small furries activities 2Rodents and other small furries can be encouraged to exercise using wheels or exercise balls, where appropriate. You can also provide small cardboard boxes or tubes for them to climb in and out of or chew and treats can be hidden around their cage to encourage exploration. You could also invest in some plastic tubing to run around the outside of their cage to allow more space for exercise. Remember that rodents such as rats are highly intelligent and can be taught many simple tricks, using food rewards, that will keep you and them entertained.

rodent exerciseDogs can be great fun to exercise and their enthusiasm will encourage you to be more active too. Exercise for your canine companion will greatly depend on what you and he can cope with, but can be anything from leisurely walks in the park or around the block, to racing after a ball or a frisbee and playing with other dogs. If your dog isn’t used to lots of exercise, build up slowly over a few days to avoid any health problems or injuries. It is a good idea to warm up your dog’s muscles properly, with at least 10-15 minutes on-lead walking, before allowing him or her to race about. For extra mental stimulation and boredom prevention, try changing your walking route occasionally to keep things varied and interesting for your dog. If you can’t get outside with your dog a 10-15 minute training session, teaching a new trick or improving an old one is really good mental stimulation for your dog.

Other than walking there are plenty of other activities you can get involved in to improve your dogs fitness including swimming, agility classes, obedience training, rally O and heel work to music.

Dog activitiesCats can take laziness to dizzying heights; snoozing in the afternoon sun, taking cat naps after strenuous activity such as visiting the food bowl or the litter tray, and helping you watch the telly while curled up on your lap. There are plenty of things you can do to encourage your feline friend to exercise, but remember cats prefer short, frequent periods of activity, usually limited to 5 minute bursts.  Good cat toys include empty cardboard boxes (some with cat-sized holes and some without) to encourage play and exploration or some paper bags with treats inside. Climbing towers and scratch posts can be made at home or purchased from pet shops and cats love to be up in high places, so even providing access to a shelf or the top of a cupboard can help them achieve this. Dangling toys attached to string or ribbon and batting toys, such as rolled up paper and ping-pong type balls, also work really well and can encourage even the laziest cat into activity. You can also train your cat to perform tricks if your cat is willing and you can find the right food motivation.

cat activities

Useful Links

Agility clubs This website has information about agility and lists of local clubs
Pets In Practise Our local dog training club offers dog training, kennel club good citizen scheme, and Rally classes
The Kennel Club  Offer lots of information on dog related activities
Cat Clicker Training A good article on training your cat
Cat Entertainment How to make a box tower for your cat
The Hay Experts  Some ideas on activities and equipment for small pets

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