National Pet Month, April 2016

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National Pet Month has been going strong in the UK for 27 years! It is all about celebrating the wonderful impact pets have on our lives and is supported by veterinary teams, animal therapy providers, animal charities, animal experts and pet shops from all over the UK. This year National Pet Month will focus on the Top 10 Tips for Responsible Pet Ownership, which remind us of how important it is for us to provide the very best care for our pets.

During national pet month we aim to

  • Promote responsible pet ownership
  • Raise awareness of the benefits of owning a pet
  • Increase awareness of the roles of pet care specialists
  • Highlight the value of assistance and working companion animals.

There will be many events going on for pet lovers this month, including the All About Dogs Show at Newbury Showground 11-12th April. You can access lots of pet care information on the This blog and free webinars about pet care are available to pet owners from Pet Webinars , with topics including pet care, diabetes, vaccines, hyperthyroidism and reptile care.

 Top 10 Tips For Responsible Pet Owners

1. Think carefully before getting a pet and learn about its special requirements

The prospect of getting a new pet can be very exciting and it is a wonderful feeling to be a proud owner. Anyone who has taken on a pet will know that within a matter of hours you are completely hooked, but there are a few things to think about before your commit to and bring home your new bundle of fun and cuteness.

  • Are you ready for a pet and who in the household will look after it ?
  • The species, size and breed of pet need to be considered carefully to ensure they will fit into your lifestyle. For example, if you want something as energetic as a Husky,  Collie, Labrador or Dalmation, you need to make sure you have time to exercise it properly for at least 2-3 hours a day. If you want Rabbits (you have to have at least 2 together), you need to make sure you have space for a large hutch and a large run and/or secure garden. Some cat breeds really don’t enjoy being left alone all day and may become destructive.
  • The potential costs involved with keeping a pet can be huge! The average annual costs of owning a pet have been estimated at £1000 – £1500 for a dog, around £1200 for a cat, £400 – £500 for a ferret, £500-£600 for a rabbit and £300-£400 for a guinea pig.
  • Your pet will need exercise, no matter what species it is. Do you have enough time to devote to ensuring that you can meet your chosen pet’s requirements? Can you provide suitable housing and exercise areas for your pet?

Read my articles Think before you get that new pet and How to choose a new pet and where to get it from before your rush into a decision.

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2. Ensure your pet is sociable and well trained

All pets can be trained and socialised, but it does take time and effort on your part. Dogs in particular must have the correct socialisation and training to ensure that they are well mannered and under control around other animals and people. You can read more about training your pet in this article

3. Provide a nutritious, well balanced diet to ensure your pet remains fit and healthy

It is very important that your pet receives the correct type and amount of food appropriate for his or her species, size and age. You must also ensure that your pet is not too thin or does not become overweight. Ask your veterinary nurse if you have any questions about what and how much your pet should be eating. Have a look at these articles for general advice on feeding Rabbits and Guinea Pigs.

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Overweight pets are not happy pets and are at a high risk of developing problems such as diabetes, heart disease and painful joints 

4. Provide suitable housing and bedding

It is important to provide a safe, comfortable living area for your pet at the correct temperature for their species. For dogs and cats, this is usually as simple as providing a cosy bed in an area of your home. For other species, always buy the biggest cage, hutch, tank or vivarium that you can afford and have space for. Did you know that many of the rodent cages, reptile tanks and rabbit/guinea pig hutches that are sold in pet shops are far too small? As a general rule every cage must be tall enough for the animal to stand up fully on his or her hind legs to stretch up completely.

  • Rabbits should have a hutch that is big enough for him or her to hop 3 times across the length and enable them to stand up on their hind legs for the average pair of rabbits this means a hutch that is at least 6 ft x 2 ft x 2 ft plus an exercise run of at least 8ft x 6ft.
  • Guinea Pigs need a hutch that is at least 4 ft x 2ft x 1.5 ft, plus an exercise run
  • Rats need cages that are a minimum of  2.5 ft x 1.3 ft x 1.5 ft for a pair of rats
This rabbit hutch is far too small!

This rabbit hutch is far too small!

5. Clean up after your pet and worm it regularly (where appropriate)

Ensure that you clean up any urine and faeces daily from litter trays, hutches, cages and vivariums, as well as cleaning up after your dog on walks. Doing this will help prevent illness, infection, parasites and disease from occurring or being transmitted between pets (and potentially people).  Check your pet’s bottom/genital area every day to ensure this is free from faeces and urine and clean them up if necessary. Worming is very important for dogs and cats and should be done at least 4 times a year. Read my article for more information on Why worming is important.

6. Protect against disease

We recommend that dogs, cats and rabbits receive their annual vaccinations to protect them against highly contagious and potentially fatal diseases. Some diseases, such as Leptospirosis in dogs, can also be transmitted to humans (although it is rare). There is a lot of debate over whether vaccinations are always necessary for your pet, so please read these articles on why I recommend them, before you make up your mind.

Protecting your pet from disease isn’t all about vaccinations; you can also protect your pet from disease by

  • Taking him or her to the vet for an annual health check. This will enable the vet to check your pet over and pick up any problems early and before they become too serious.
  • Check your pet over thoroughly every day. Look out for lumps, cuts, scratches and lameness as well as any behavioural changes that may indicate a problem.
  • Ensuring you prevent parasite infestations such as  worms and fleas which can have a big impact on the health of your pet. Speak to your veterinary nurse about which products are best suited to your pet.
  • Ensuring your pet does not become obese. Excessive weight puts pressure on the organs and joints in an animal’s body, making everything work harder and increasing the risk of disease.

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7. Prevent unwanted litters and neuter your pet when appropriate

The decision about whether to have your pet neutered or not is likely to be one of the biggest that you make as a pet owner. There is no doubt that neutering your pet can have really great benefits to their health and you will also be doing your bit to help the growing crisis of the thousands of pets already in rescue centres around the country, because there aren’t enough homes to go around. However, for many different reasons, not all pet owners (especially dog owners) will want to have their pets neutered and as long as these unneutered pets are managed responsibly, this decision is fine. We want you to be well informed so read our article on The pros and cons of neutering for more information.

8. Groom your pet regularly

Grooming your pet will not only keep his or her coat looking lovely, but also remove any uncomfortable knots and enable you to check for any lumps, bumps, cuts and scratches. Grooming can be a very good bonding exercise and most pets will tolerate it well if started at an early age.

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9. Control your pet and ensure it is properly identified

This tip is really targeted at dog owners, however, we do recommend that other animals, especially cats, are microchipped as well.

Microchipping

  • From 6th April 2016 it will be a legal requirement for ALL dogs in England to be microchipped and registered on an approved database.
  • Puppies will need to be microchipped and registered by the time they are 8 weeks old (this applies to all puppies, whether intentionally bred or an accidental litter).
  • When the puppies or dogs of any age go to a new home, the new owner will need to transfer the microchip details to their own name and address.
  • It is the responsibility of the owner/keeper of the dog to ensure that the database information such as name address and contact numbers are kept up to date.

Identification 

  • It is a legal requirement for every dog to be wearing an identification tag/disk with the owner’s contact number, address and postcode on it, when the dog is out in a public area. This applies even if the dog is already microchipped.

Control of your dog

It is against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control. This now applies to both private property and public places. You can be prosecuted and you dog could potentially be put down if he or she is proven to be out of control!

  • You must be able to control your dog at all times, this means being able to call your dog back to you and making sure that he or she responds to you.
  • Your dog must not jump up at or chase other members of the public. Even the friendliest or smallest of dogs can cause damage by jumping up at someone, especially a child or an elderly person.
  • If there is any possibility that your dog is might attack another dog or a person he or she must be muzzled in public places.
  • You must not train or encourage your dog to attack/threaten people or other dogs.

Please read our article if your would like to know more about the laws of dog ownership in the UK

10. Take out pet insurance

Pet Insurance can help cover against any unexpected and costly veterinary fees if your pet is injured or becomes unwell. Most types of pets can be insured, but it is worth doing plenty of research and looking around before you commit to a particular pet insurance company. You can read our article for more information about pet insurance.

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The veterinary nursing team at Castle Vets offer free consultations, by appointment, for you to discuss any aspect of your pet’s care and wellbeing to ensure that you meet all of his or her individual needs. Our nurses are also happy to help anyone who is thinking about getting a pet and can offer advice about what type and breed of pet may fit in with your lifestyle, how to look after a pet properly and the costs that may be involved with pet ownership.

You can find out more about events that may be happening near you by visiting the National Pet Month Website.

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