Why Training Is Important & How To Do It

Why Should We Train Our Pets?

We all know that basic training for dogs is a necessity, but did you know that training is great for all types of pets? Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, rodents, birds and horses and more can all be trained in some way. Not only can it be lots of fun, but it is also mentally stimulating, a great form of exercise and it can strengthen the bond between you and your pet. New tricks are a great way of showing off how clever your pet is to other people and also a brilliant way for children to be involved with pet care.
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Pet Law – Your responsibilities as a pet owner

law

Owning and caring for a pet can be a source of great enjoyment, but being a pet owner is also a huge responsibility and part of being a responsible owner includes knowing about and understanding the law surrounding pet ownership.  A surprising number of pet owners in the UK are not aware of the law, or of what they are required to provide for their pets to ensure their physical and mental well being. The PDSA’s Annual PAW Report 2016 showed that only 39% of pet owners surveyed were familiar with the Animal Welfare Act (this is an improvement on 35% from 2016) .

Although not all owners are familiar with the ins and outs of the actual Animal Welfare Act, the majority are providing everything their pet needs already. Sadly though, the RSPCA investigated a total of 149,604 complaints of animal abuse last year,  successfully prosecuted 744 people (down by 6.53%) and secured 628 disqualification orders following prosecution (down 4.46%)

The Animal Welfare Act

This came into force on April 6th 2007. It increased and introduced new penalties for acts of cruelty, neglect, mutilation, tail docking and animal fighting but importantly, it also introduced a duty of care for all pet owners. There is no particularly perfect way to care for pets because each pet will have it’s own individual needs, so it is up to you as the owner to find out what your particular pet’s needs are and ensure that you can meet them.

The Animal Welfare Act applies to anyone who is responsible for an animal whether permanently or temporarily and includes fines of up to £20,000, a maximum jail term of 51 weeks and a lifetime ban on some owners keeping pets.

Under Section 9  of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 you must  take all reasonable steps to ensure that you meet  the needs of your pet. I have listed the Welfare points in bold and added suggestions of how this can be achieved.

1. Provide a suitable environment and living space 

  • You pet will need a safe, clean environment with protection from hazards. If your pet is kept outside you need to check it frequently to ensure he or she is safe and well.
  • A comfortable, clean, dry, quiet, draught-free rest area.
  • Somewhere to hide in order to avoid things that frighten it.
  • Access to an appropriate place, away from its resting area, which it can use as a toilet area.
  • The living area should be large enough to be comfortable and provide sufficient space to move around in. Minimum cage sizes for small animals such as rabbitsguinea pigsrats and other rodents should be taken into consideration – the bigger the better!
  • The living area should be properly ventilated and at the correct temperature so that the pet does not get too hot or cold.
  • You should never leave your pet unattended in any situation, or for any period of time, that is likely to cause it distress or harm.
  • When transporting your pet, make sure it is comfortable, safe and secure at all times. The transport must be well ventilated and at the correct temperature. Your pet should have access to water if the journey is longer than a few hours (small furries and birds should have access to food and water all of the time). Bedding or flooring must be adequate and absorb any moisture if the pet goes to the toilet during transport. Dogs should be given toilet breaks on longer journeys, but ensure they cannot escape in an unfamiliar place! 

    This hutch is far too small

2. Provide a diet suitable for your pet’s needs

  • Your pet will need clean fresh drinking water at all times. If  you own a dog, this may mean taking water with you on walks where clean water is unlikely  to be available.
  • You must provide your pet with a balanced diet that is suited to its individual needs including its age, level of activity and health.
  • You must ensure that you feed the correct amount of food and that your pet is maintained at the correct weight and does not become underweight or overweight/obese.
  •  Your pet must be able to reach it’s food and water easily.
  • If you are uncertain what diet is best for your pet you should seek advice from a veterinary practice or suitably qualified pet care specialist.

3. Allow your pet to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns

  • Make sure your pet has enough things to do in it’s environment so that it does not become distressed or bored. This may mean adding toys, hiding places, climbing places, scratching posts, ladders, digging places, activity toys and feeders etc to suit your pet’s individual requirements. For example giving cats access to high places and scratching places.
  • Make sure your pet has access to safe toys and suitable objects to play with and, in the cases of some pets, chew on.
  • Ensure that your pet can rest undisturbed when it needs to – this may mean giving them a bed, crate or separate part in their living space where they will not be disturbed by people or other animals when they are resting.
  • Provide your pet with regular opportunities for exercise and play with people or other pets, depending on the species and needs of your pet.
  • Make sure that your pet has the opportunity to exercise properly every day. It is important to keep your pet fit, active and mentally stimulated. If you are unsure how much or what type of exercise to provide, seek advice from a veterinary nurse or suitably qualified pet care specialist.
  • Ensure that where appropriate you train your pet. Use only positive reward based training and avoid harsh, painful or frightening training methods. Training is not only necessary for a well behaved pet, it is great for mental stimulation and bonding. Although most people associate training with dogs, almost any pet can be trained including cats, rabbits, rodents and birds. (View our training article)

4. To house your pet with, or apart from, other animals 

  • Make sure that your pet is never left alone long enough for it to become distressed.
  • Some pets are solitary and do not need to live with other animals, for example some dogs, cats and certain types of rodents prefer to be live as a sole pet, but others such as rabbits, guinea pigs and rats are very social and should be housed with one or more companions of the same species.
  • If your pet lives on it’s own make sure that it has opportunities to spend enough time with people so that it does not become lonely or bored.
  • In the case of dogs, you should  ensure that your dog has plenty of opportunity to meet, socialise and play with other friendly dogs. Encourage your dog to be friendly towards other dogs from an early age. There are some dogs that just don’t like other dogs, so in this case you will need to ensure they have plenty of contact from you.
  • Animals should be given regular opportunities to socialise with people and, where appropriate for the species of pet, other animals from an early age.
  • It is important that if you keep more than one pet of the same or different species, that they get on well together and do not fight. They must have plenty of space to move away or hide from each other if necessary.
  • When pets live together adequate extra resources must be provided for some species, for example separate water bowls, food bowls, litter trays and toys. This will help avoid any conflict and tension over valuable resources. With dogs you may need to make an effort to provide them with 1-1 time with you and without the other dog.
  • If your dog is fearful of, or aggressive towards other dogs or people, or if certain social  interactions distress or frighten your dog we advise you seek appropriate advice from a qualified canine behaviourist.

Some animals need the company of others of their own species

5. To protect your pet from pain, suffering, injury, illness and disease

  • You need to take precautions to keep your pet safe from injury.
  • If you notice any changes in your pet’s behaviour or normal routine you should contact a veterinary practice and follow the advice you are given.
  • Check your pet regularly for signs of injury, disease or illness.
  • Maintain your pet’s condition, for example grooming and removing any knots in the coat (or get a groomer to do this for you) , making sure there is no faecal matter and urine on the the coat and making sure that your pet is fit and well.
  • If you recognise signs and symptoms of disease, suspect that your pet is in pain, ill or injured or if you have any concerns about its health or welfare contact a veterinary practice and follow the advice regarding treatment.
  • Ensure that your pet has regular veterinary health checks and that you provide preventative health care, where appropriate to the species of pet, for example vaccinations, booster vaccinations, worming, flea treatment and neutering.
  • Clean up after your pet including cleaning the toileting area and cage or enclosure regularly and with the appropriate, safe cleaning products to avoid disease and illness.
  • Protect your pets from ingesting or coming in to contact with harmful household items and substances such as medicines and foods intended for humans or other animals, cleaning products or antifreeze.  You should always seek veterinary advice if you suspect that your pet has eaten anything harmful.
  • Collars on cats and dogs should be of the correct size and fit, and should not cause any pain or discomfort; dogs are required to wear a collar and identity tag when in a public place by law.
  • If your pet is microchipped remember to keep the microchip database up to date with any changes in your contact details.
  • You should seek the advice of your veterinary practice before breeding your pet and take all reasonable steps to ensure that both the male and female pets are fit and healthy, with no inheritable diseases or conditions and that you will be able to find suitable homes for the offspring.

Every person that owns and/or looks after an animal must take this act into consideration so that they can be sure they are providing the right care for that animal at all times.  

Dog-specific Laws

As a responsible dog owner, there are several laws regarding dog ownership that you should be aware of and we have put the most important ones into this article.

Microchipping of Dogs (Control of Dogs Order)

All dogs in England must be microchipped and registered on an approved database by the time they are 8 weeks old. Breeders will need to microchip their puppies before they are transferred to a new owner. and new owners will be responsible for updating the microchip with their details. The owners/keepers of the dog must ensure that their details are kept up to date on the microchip database for their dog.

More information on Microchipping

Identification (Control of Dogs Order)

Your dog must wear an identity disk or tag on his or her collar (or harness) while in a public place i.e. anywhere outside your property. The tag must have, at the very least, your surname and address on it; a contact telephone number is optional. This law applies even if your dog is microchipped and there is a fine of up to £5000 that may be given if your dog is in a public place and not wearing some form of ID. This applies regardless of whether you are with your dog or not.

Dog Law ID Tag

Many dog owners are unaware that this is a legal requirement!

Public Spaces Protection Orders (Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act
and the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime & Policing Act)

Some public areas in England and Wales are covered by Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) – previously called Dog Control Orders (DCOs). There should be signs up designating these controlled areas

In public areas with PSPOs, you may have to:

  • Keep your dog on a lead – this may be all of the time or during certain hours and times of the year.
  • Put your dog on a lead if told to by a police officer, police community support officer or someone from the council.
  • Stop your dog going to certain places – like farmland or parts of a park
  • Limit the number of dogs you have with you (this applies to professional dog walkers too)

If you ignore a PSPO, you can be fined a £100 on the spot fixed penalty notice or up to £1,000 if it goes to court (You can’t be fined if you’re a registered blind dog owner).

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act – Cleaning Up After Your Dog (Poop Scooping)

It is illegal to let your dog foul in a public place and not clean it up. Claiming that you are unaware that your dog had defecated or not having the correct equipment with you (i.e. poop bags), is not an acceptable excuse. Dog poo on pavements and in playing/green areas is not only unpleasant for other people and animals, but it also carries health hazards.

You can face an on the spot fixed penalty fine of £50 -£80 if you do not clean up after your dog. If you refuse to pay the fine you can be prosecuted and face a court appearance with a fine of up to £1000

Clean up after your dog. Not only is it against the law to let your dog foul in public places, it's unpleasant for other people too.

Clean up after your dog. Not only is it against the law to let your dog foul in public places, it’s unpleasant for other people too.

Stray Dogs (Environmental Protection Act)

If the owner fails to come forward and pay the Council’s fees within 7 days from date of seizure or service of a notice, the Council may rehome the dog or may have it put to sleep.

Yet another reason why your dog should wear an id tag and be microchipped.

Control Of Your Dog – Dangerous Dogs Act and the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime & Policing Act

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 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.

Your dog is considered dangerously out of control if it:

1. Injures someone

2. Makes someone worried that it might injure them

3. It attacks a Guide Dog

A court may also consider your dog dangerously out of control if

1. It injures someone’s animal

2. If the owner of the animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop your dog attacking their animal

Depending on the severity of the offence you could be faced with a prison sentence of  between 6 months and 14 years and/or an unlimited fine. Your dog may be destroyed and you may not be able to own dogs in the future.

If your dog is likely to bite someone then you must take every precaution to prevent this from happening

If you think your dog might bite or attack someone then you must take every precaution to prevent this from happening

Walking and Travelling With your Dog (The Road Traffic Act)

It is an offence to have a dog on a designated road without it being held on a lead.

Dogs (or indeed any animal) travelling in vehicles should not be a nuisance or in any way distract the driver during a journey. When travelling in a vehicle, you must ensure that your dog is suitably restrained, either in a crate/carrier, behind a dog guard or by using a seatbelt harness. A dog that is loose in a car can cause an accident very easily.

If you are involved in a collision between your vehicle and a dog, you must stop, and the police must be informed. The driver of a car involved in a collision with a dog MUST stop and stay on the scene until the police have given the driver permission to leave, which usually happens after they have attended the scene (If you see someone hit a dog with a car and drive off, inform the police and give them as much detail as possible).

If the dog was loose at the time of the incident, the owner of the dog may be liable for any damage caused to the car or any injury caused to the driver (see third party liability below), which is another great reason to insure your pet.

Noise Nuisance (Environmental Protection Act)

A barking dog can be classed as a statutory nuisance if it is intrusive and irritating and is affecting someone’s quiet enjoyment of their property. If a complaint is made to the local authority, they may serve a Noise Abatement Notice.  For more information read our barking dogs article.

Causing Distress to Farm Animals (Protection of Livestock Act)

You must never let your dog off the lead anywhere near livestock (farm animals/horses) unless you can be absolutely sure that he or she won’t go anywhere near them. You are responsible for what your dog does, and if your dog is worrying livestock -“Worrying” means attacking, chasing in a way that could cause injury, suffering, abortion or loss of produce, or simply being loose (not on lead or otherwise under close control) in a field or enclosure containing livestock -,  you can be fined up to £1,000 plus compensation to the farmer.

You could also be prosecuted under the Dangerous Dogs Act, meaning a much harsher sentence for you and possibly also your dog, if he or she was deemed to be dangerously out of control.

farm

Farm animals get worried by dogs very easily

Third Party Liability (Animals Act and Dangerous Dogs Act)

The keeper of a dog is strictly liable for any damage caused by the dog in certain circumstances. This can include destruction of property and personal injury, illness or death (including the damage done to a person or their car if they hit your dog in the road!) It is recommended that you take out third party insurance liability cover as a precaution.

Please note

The above information is only a guideline of the laws involved in pet ownership, for further and more in-depth information on dog law we recommend that you visit www.legislation.gov.uk

The law surrounding dog ownership can be very complicated especially if a dog has injured someone. If you are concerned or you are involved in a case about your own dog, we recommend that you contact a dog law specialist as soon as possible for advice.

Tooth Problems Of Rabbits and Small Pets

rabbits and rodents

At Castle Vets we see many rabbits and rodents with a variety of different dental problems. The teeth of most animals (including humans) stop growing after the initial development period, but rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs and rodents have teeth that grow continuously throughout their lives, which means dental problems will develop if these pets are unable to grind their teeth down through feeding and chewing.

Symptoms of a dental problem

  • Decreased appetite, your pet may stop eating completely or only manage very small amounts at a time.
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at or rubbing their face on things
  • Swellings around the jaw area or under the eye
  • Weight loss
  • Runny eyes (one or both eyes may be involved)
  • Discharge from the cheek or jaw area
  • Overgrown teeth may be visible

If your pet is showing any of these symptoms, please book an appointment with your vet straight away.

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Summertime Pet Care

summer

With summer in full swing most of us are spending more time outdoors enjoying the warm weather (when it occurs!) Your pets will hopefully be enjoying the weather too but there are a few things you can do to ensure they stay comfortable and safe in the summer months.

How To Keep Your Pet Cool On Warm Days

  • Provide fresh drinking water at all times. Of course you are doing this already, but it is really important to check water bowls and bottles frequently and freshen the water as necessary as your pets will likely be drinking more in the warmer weather. If you are taking your dog out in hot weather it is a good idea to take water and a bowl with you.
  • Provide access to a shaded area and make sure your pet can get out of the sun. Watch out for pets who may be sun-worshipers and try to encourage them into the shade if possible. Make sure hutches and runs are moved to shaded areas too. If it is too hot outside bring your pets inside.
  • Use pet-safe sunscreen to prevent sunburn. This is especially important for pets with white ears, pink noses and/or hairless tummies.
  • Think about ventilation and air cooling. Make sure hutches and cages are well ventilated. You can use a fan to cool and move the air in a room (placing a bottle of frozen water directly behind it, will help even more) but make sure your pet can get out of the air flow, cannot touch the fan and cannot chew the electrical cable.
  • Think about the best times for exercising dogs. Early in the morning and later in the evening will often be slightly cooler. A good rule of thumb is if the pavement is too hot for you to touch your wrist to for more than a half a minute, it is too hot for your dog’s paws.
  • Move cages containing indoor pets away from windows and/or direct sunlight, these can soon heat up to unbearable temperatures.
  • Avoid long journeys in cars if possible and definitely do not leave your pet in a parked car, caravan or conservatory (see our heatstroke article)
  • Use water to help your pet cool down. Some pets will really appreciate some water to cool off in, dogs especially like to play in paddling pools, but they should always be supervised.  Some pets may like a gentle spray with some water to help keep them cool but if your pet does not like it, don’t do it.

  • Provide cooling places and objects such as a wet towel on the ground for pets to lie on or access to nice cool kitchen tiles. You can freeze water in plastic bottles or ice packs and wrap these in a towel then place near to your pet – rabbits and dogs love lying on or against these in the hot weather (just make sure the icy surface is not directly next to their skin. (Make sure your pet is not going to chew these objects though – especially ice packs as they may contain chemicals) You can also use ceramic tiles that have been chilled for small animals to lie on.
  • Check Habitat Temperatures Carefully for tropical fish tanks and reptile vivariums as these may get too hot if the external temperature rises.
  • Watch your pet for signs of heatstroke. This can happen to any species of pet, but is more common in animals that are overweight, senior, hyperactive even in hot weather, short nosed breeds, or animals that have existing health problems with their heart or lungs. Symptoms of heatstroke can include Rapid or frantic panting, Excessive thirst, Anxious behaviour, Rapid heart/pulse rate, Dizziness and/or disorientation, Collapse. See our article on Heatstroke for more information
  • Don’t forget the wildlife. Small, shallow bowls of water dotted around your garden will help out greatly.

Summertime Hazards

Barbecues and Parties

These will be on the agenda for a lot of households but, while they are fun for us, they are a scavenging hazard for ourpets! In the summer months veterinary practices often see a lot of pets with tummy upsets or burns after scavenging food, as well as pets that need operations to remove things like corn cobs, bones and wooden meat skewers that have been eaten and got stuck in the stomach or intestines.

If you have a nervous pet who becomes distressed when you have lots of visitors, make sure he or she has a room they can retreat to where they will be undisturbed.

Flystrike

This is another common summer problem. It occurs when a fly lays its eggs on an animal and the maggots that hatch eat the flesh of the animal. Flystrike mainly affects rabbits, but other pets including dogs and cats can and do get affected. The flies are attracted to soiled bottoms, poo and wounds, so make sure you check your pet daily and keep hutches, cages and bottoms clean. Flystrike is a veterinary emergency, so if you suspect your pet has flystrike contact your vet quickly.

Grass Seeds and Plant Awns

These can be a real nuisance at this time of year and we see a lot of patients (particularly dogs), with grass seeds and plant awns embedded in various parts of their bodies. Check your pet’s coat daily and remove any seeds or awns that you find. (You can read more in our Grass Seed article)

If you have any questions regarding your pet’s care or would like any advice then please contact the practice on 01189 574488 or through our website

Are You Thinking About Getting A Pet?

pets

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.

Cost

piggy bank

This is not just the cost of actually buying the pet (which can be anything from Free to thousands of pounds!). Can you afford the costs necessary to give your chosen pet the correct care? The average annual costs of owning a pet can be quite high and have been estimated at £1000 – £2000 for a dog (depending on size), around £1200 for a cat, £400 – £500 for a ferret, £500 for a rabbit and £400 for a guinea pig and Chinchilla. (For cats and dogs that amounts to approximately £10000 – £31000 over a lifetime!) You will need to think about the costs of providing good quality food, bedding, housing for small animals, boarding kennels or pet sitters, routine vet bills for things such as parasite control and vaccinations, as well as the cost of vet bills should your chosen pet become poorly and require treatment.

Pet Insurance

This will cover your pet for any injuries or illnesses he or she may suffer from. Most types of pets can be insured, including rabbits, rodents and reptiles. The policy premium (the amount you pay in monthly or annually) will vary depending on the different cover levels and different animal breeds, so a very basic level of cover may be as little as £5.00 a month but a premium level of cover may be as much as £40.00 a month. It is also worth noting that many insurance companies now exclude certain types or breeds of pet from their policies, so check that your desired breed of pet is able to be insured. If you would like to find out more about pet insurance and what to look for in a policy, please read our pet insurance article.
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Should you neuter your pet?

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.  This article will describe the pros and cons of neutering and hopefully give you all the information you need to make your decision.

What is neutering?

Neutering is the general term used to describe the surgical removal of the sex organs in animals to prevent them from breeding. Neutering or de-sexing are terms that can be used for both male and female animals.

Spaying: When we spay a female animal, we perform an ovario-hysterectomy , which is the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus. The surgery involves a small abdominal incision in the dog, rabbit and guinea pig just below the umbilicus, or a small flank incision in the cat (unless the owner specifically requests an abdominal spay).

Castration: When we castrate a male dog, cat, guinea pig or rabbit we remove the testes to prevent reproduction. The surgery involves a small incision just in front of the testicles in the dog, guinea pig and rabbit or a small incision into each side of the scrotum in the cat. Sometimes male animals have a problem called cryptorchidism, in which one of the testicles has not descended properly, in these cases they may require abdominal surgery to remove the retained testicle.

Image

The first picture shows where the operation site would be for a female dog, guinea pig and rabbit . The second picture shows the operation site for a female cat. The third picture shows where the operation site would be for a male dog, guinea pig  and rabbit. The fourth picture shows the operation site for a male cat.

The reasons for neutering

There are many reasons to recommend that dogs, cats and rabbits are neutered; it benefits their health and helps reduce pet overpopulation. So many animals end up in rescue centers, or are even put to sleep, because there are just not enough homes available for them. Each year, approximately 150,000 stray or abandoned animals are taken in by animal welfare organisations in the UK, such as the RSPCA, Dogs Trust, and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, who try to find homes for them.

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The health benefits of neutering

Female animals

  • Prevents “heat” or oestrus (also known as being in season)
  • Prevents unwanted litters
  • Prevents hormone fluctuations that cause false pregnancy
  • Prevents Pyometra, a serious and potentially fatal womb infection
  • Prevents mammary (breast) cancer.
  • Prevents uterine and ovarian cancer.
  • Prevents the urge to escape and find a mate during heat.
  • Prevents unsociable behaviour during heat (Think PMS!)
  • Prevents genetic problems, deformities and bad temperaments being passed on.
  • Prevents urine spraying and marking behaviour that sometimes occurs in entire female rabbits (does).
  • Neutered female cats cats are less at risk of diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukaemia (FeLV), which are highly infectious and incurable diseases.
  • Enables some animals to live in mixed-sex groups without fighting and/or pregnancy

 Male animals

  • Lowers the risk of serious conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostatitis and hormone-related (testosterone) diseases such as perianal adenoma in dogs.
  • Eliminates the risk of testicular cancer, a common cancer in entire dogs.
  • Removes sexual urges and the need to escape or roam to find a mate. Entire male cats can have huge territories and are more likely to get into fights.
  • Reduces certain types of aggression in male dogs
  • Prevents genetic problems, deformities and bad temperaments being passed on.
  • Neutered animals are less likely to mark their territory with strong smelling urine.
  • Neutered male cats cats are less at risk of diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukaemia (FeLV), which are highly infectious and incurable diseases.
  • Neutered male rabbits and guinea pigs are less likely to show aggression towards other males
  • Enables some animals to live in mixed-sex groups without fighting and/or pregnancy

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Problems that can occur in un-neutered animals

Pyometra: This is an infection of the uterus (womb) in female animals. The uterus fills with pus, and toxins quickly spread throughout the body causing the animal to feel very unwell. If this condition is not treated quickly it can be fatal.

Mammary (breast) Cancer: Mammary cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal mammary gland cells. If left untreated, certain types of breast cancer can metastasize (spread) to other mammary glands and organs throughout the body. While any pet can develop mammary tumors, these masses occur most often in older female dogs and cats that have not been spayed.

Ovarian Cysts: The symptoms of ovarian cysts will depend on the type of cyst but can include; swelling of the vulva, due to the high amounts of estrogen in the body, vulvar discharges that may contain blood and occur outside the regular bleeding in the heat cycle, hair loss, irregular heat cycles or lack of heat cycles, extended heat cycles, abdominal swelling due to pus or fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity.

False Pregnancies: False pregnancy is a term used to denote a common condition in a non-pregnant female animal that is showing symptoms of pregnancy or nursing without producing babies. Symptoms usually occur after her oestrus (heat) is over and is thought to be caused by a hormonal imbalance. Symptoms can include; behavioral changes, mothering activity, nesting and self-nursing, restlessness, abdominal enlargement, enlargement of mammary glands, vomiting, depression, loss of appetite (anorexia), fur plucking (rabbits).

Prostate problems (dogs): Enlarged prostate occurs in more than 80% of un-neutered male dogs past the age of five. Some dogs with an enlarged prostate have difficulty with urination or bowel movements.

Testicular cancer (dogs): About 7% of un-neutered males develop a testicular tumor. Fortunately it seldom spreads. Although castration has a complete cure rate of approximately 90%, neutering prevents it entirely. If your dog has one or both testicles tucked up inside his body (called cryptorchidism) he is far more likely to develop a testicular tumor compared to a dog with descended testicles; this condition can also be passed on to offspring so a cryptorchid dog should definitely be neutered.

Behavioural problems and injuries: Roaming is the main problem for both un-neutered males and females as they are likely to want to try and find a mate. This can lead to road traffic accidents, fighting with others and injury. Dogs often have problems with recall and focusing on their owner if they are being led by their hormones. Some animals will also demonstrate hormone-related aggression.

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Neutered rabbits can live together happily

Common myths about neutering

“It changes the pet’s personality”
The only behaviour changes are likely to be positive ones. Neutered animals often make better companions and are more affectionate. Pets are less likely to roam, which means less chance of getting lost or hit by a car, they are also less likely to mark territory or get in fights.

“Neutered pets become fat and lazy”
While it is true that a neutered animal needs fewer calories in the diet, it is ultimately overfeeding and/or a lack of exercise by the owners that causes obesity in animals. Make time for walks and play, and ask your veterinary nurse about reducing calories once your pet has been neutered.

“My pets are brother and sister so they won’t mate”
The fact that they are related to each other will make no difference to your pets, they will still mate and produce offspring.

“My pet is a pedigree and shouldn’t be neutered”
Your pet is a companion, not a financial investment or status symbol. Unless you are planning on showing your pet and plan to breed, you should consider having it neutered. Remember that one in four animals handed in to animal shelters is a  pedigree.

“I don’t want my male pet to feel deprived or less masculine”
You shouldn’t confuse human sexuality with an animal’s hormonal instincts. Neutering won’t cause any negative emotional reaction in your male pet. In addition, it greatly reduces the risk of prostate and testicular diseases in dogs and the possibility of FIV & FeLV and fight related wounds and abscesses in male cats.

“It’s too expensive to have my pet neutered”
The surgery is a one-time cost and a small price to pay for the health of your pet and the prevention of life threatening illnesses, not to mention preventing more homeless animals. Our pet health club offers a 20% discount on neutering and there are also several animal charities that may provide assistance with the cost of neutering.

“Having a litter is good for her and it will be a great experience for the family”
Motherhood will not make your pet healthier or happier (and some animals make terrible mothers!). In fact, early spaying greatly reduces the likelihood of mammary cancer, and eliminates potentially life threatening infections of the uterus and ovaries.

If you are thinking about letting your pet have a litter, is important that you think things through properly and ensure that you make the health and welfare of your pet and its offspring an absolute priority. Breeding because you think a male and female will produce cute offspring or because you think you will make some money is extremely irresponsible. Care must to be taken to ensure you can find good homes for the whole litter, that you will not be allowing genetic/hereditary problems to be passed on to the offspring and that you can afford to look after the mother and her offspring properly.
Before you let your pet get pregnant, think about the following things

  • Have you ensured that your pet is healthy, vaccinated and is not going to be passing on genetic or hereditary problems to the offspring? Have you had the appropriate health screening tests carried out such as checking for hip dysplasia and eye problems in dogs (further information can be found on The Kennel Club website), viruses in cats and dental misalignment problems in rabbits?
  • Is your pet’s temperament good? Do they have any fear or aggression issues?
  • Is your pet fully grown and mature enough to have a litter?  Usually between 18 months and 3 years old, but this is dependent on species and size, so ask your vet or veterinary nurse if you are not sure.
  • Can you find an appropriate mate? It is vitally important and you ensure that the mate is healthy and has also had the appropriate vaccinations and health tests. Just letting your female pet out to get mated by any roaming male suitor is highly irresponsible, she may end up with disease or illness (particularly in the case of cats) that can not only make her sick, but could be passed on to her offspring.
  • If your pet has difficulties giving birth you may end up paying for a very expensive caesarean operation. This could result in complicated surgery for the mother and you may end up with no babies or, worse, the mother could die too! (Pregnancy complications are not usually covered by pet insurance). For your information, the dog breeds most likely to require a Caesarean Section are the English Bulldog, Boston terrier, French Bulldog, Mastiff, Scottish Terrier, English Bull Terrier, Miniature Bull Terrier, Clumber spaniel, Pekingese and Chihuahua (as well as crosses of these breeds).
  • If the mother cannot or will not feed her litter are you prepared to hand-rear them and to give them food every 2 hours for 24 hours a day until they are weaned?  
  • Food and care of the litter will be expensive until they go to new homes. Can you afford the cost of feeding, worming and possibly vaccinating them all? If the mother and/or her offspring become unwell can you afford the veterinary treatment that they will need? The puppies will also need to be microchipped and registered before they go to a new home (this applies to all litters, whether planned or accidental).  
  • Do you know how to look after your pet during pregnancy and raise, habituate and socialise the offspring properly, before they go to their new homes?
  • Can you find good homes for all of the litter? What will you do if you can’t find homes for them or if they are returned to you because their new owners cannot keep them? Are you comfortable with the fact that you could be adding to the many thousands of animals in rescue centres that cannot find homes? 

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Should you have your cat neutered?

We do generally recommend that cats are neutered, unless you have a registered pedigree cat that you are planning to breed from. This is because the vast majority of cats cannot be ‘chaperoned’ in the same way that dogs are and, when they are let outside, they are generally left to their own devices; making pregnancy in females highly likely and also increasing the risk of disease transmission through sexual activity and wounds, as well as injuries from territorial fighting. So unless you can prevent this by keeping your cat indoors and well mentally stimulated, or by cat-proofing your garden to prevent your cat getting out and other cats getting in, then neutering is usually the best option for your cat.

Should you have your rabbit or guinea pig neutered?

Whether to neuter your rabbit or guinea pig will very much depend on their housing circumstances and group dynamics. Female rabbits can often become territorial and aggressive from 4-6 months of age,  they may have repeated false pregnancies, and may growl at, bite and scratch their owners as well as other rabbits. Spaying reduces (and sometimes eliminates) these problems.  Male rabbits can be territorial, aggressive and spray urine. Neutered males of both species are often much happier and relaxed, they can also live with a spayed female or even another neutered male. Since rabbits and guinea pigs should be kept in groups of 2 or more, neutering of one or all is usually the best option.

Should you have your dog neutered?

It is up to you as the responsible owner to decide whether or not to have your dog or bitch neutered. At Castle Vets we generally do not recommend that male or female dogs are neutered until they have finished growing and have reached maturity, which is usually between 8 months and 2 years old, depending on the breed (bigger breeds take longer to fully mature). However, we also understand that some young and hormonal dogs can be a real handful, so we will neuter at a younger age if you request it.

We have discussed the risks of not neutering above, but here are some of the benefits seen in dogs that have delayed neutering until they have reached maturity, or have not been neutered at all

  • Fewer fear-related behavioural problems, especially in male dogs (1)
  • Lower risk of Hip Dysplasia and Cruciate Ligament damage in larger breeds (2)
  • Lower risk of some cancer types such as hemangiosarcoma and lymphosarcoma (3,4)
  • Lower risk of hypothyroidism (4)
  • Lower risk of obesity (although frankly this has more to do with what and how much is fed by the owner)
Being a responsible owner of an unneutered dog
  • Male dogs: If you own a dog and do not want to get him neutered, you need to make sure that you can prevent him roaming the neighbourhood and running away every time a bitch comes into season locally. It is as much your responsibility as the owner of a bitch in season, to prevent an unwanted mating. You also need to ensure that he has had proper socialisation, training and behaves well around other entire and neutered male dogs. If you can do this then you may not need to neuter your dog.
  • Bitches: If you own a bitch and do not want her neutered, you need to be sure that you can prevent her from being mated and becoming pregnant potentially twice a year and that you can cope with her seasonal bleed twice yearly as well (which can be very messy in some bitches). You will need to be careful about where and when you take her for walks during her season; she will still need exercise, but will be very attractive to any unneutered male dogs in the area. You also must never leave a bitch in season unattended outside, even in your own back garden, unless you are 100% sure that she cannot get out and other dogs cannot get in (you would be surprised at the length some male dogs will go to for a bitch in heat!)

Canine behavioural problems that neutering cannot solve

There are some canine problems that are often misinterpreted as being caused by the dog’s sex hormones and unfortunately neutering will not solve these problems. In some cases your vet may be able to give your dog an injection of a hormone suppressing drug that will mimic the effects of neutering and enable you to see if neutering will have any effect on the behaviour.

  • Over excitability and unruly behaviour: This problem is commonly due to adolescence and/or a lack of training and these dogs often respond really well to reward-based training and appropriate mental and physical stimulation. Increasing the amount of daily exercise and, if possible, giving them more opportunity to exercise off-lead can make a huge difference to these dogs.
  • Predatory hunting, herding or chasing behaviours: This is down to the breed/type of dog and what it has been bred to do rather than a hormonal issue. These problems often need the input of a qualified behaviourist to help you and your dog.
  • Fearful, unconfident dogs: Anecdotal evidence from many qualified animal behaviourists suggest that neutering these dogs may actually make the situation worse. Seek out advice from an appropriately qualified canine behaviourist to help you if your dog is fearful.
  • Bitches that show signs of aggression or reactivity when not in season: Spaying is unlikely to improve the behaviour and there is a small risk that spaying could make the behaviour worse. We advise that you speak to an appropriately qualified canine behaviourist to help you if your dog is showing signs of aggression.

What happens when your pet is neutered ?

At a good veterinary practice the following should happen when your pet is neutered

  1. Your pet will usually be admitted at the practice between 8am and 9am (dogs and cats will need to have an empty stomach – so no food after 10pm the night before).
  2. Your pet should be given an injection of a mild sedative and a long acting pain relief injection.
  3. Your pet should be placed in his or her own kennel with a nice snuggly blanket to sit on (or something to hide under if they are a cat)
  4. After the sedative has taken effect, your pet will be given an anaesthetic and some hair will be clipped away from the surgical site.
  5. The vet will perform the surgery whilst a veterinary nurse closely monitors the anaesthetic and records your pet’s breathing rate, heart rate, colour and reflexes throughout the whole of the surgery.
  6. After the operation a veterinary nurse will watch and monitor your pet closely until he or she is fully awake. We will then contact you to let you know how your pet is and when you can pick him or her up from the surgery.
  7. When your pet goes home they should have a buster collar or a medical pet t-shirt to prevent them from interfering with their wounds
  8. Your pet may have some medication to take for the next few days, so a veterinary nurse will explain how and when you should give this to your pet. Make sure your pet receives all of his or her medication, don’t stop it because your pet looks fine.
  9. You will need to take your pet back to the practice 3 days later for a check over and then 7 days after that for any sutures to be removed.

Always check with your veterinary practice that either a veterinary nurse or vet will be monitoring your pet’s anaesthetic and vital signs throughout the procedure and will be monitoring your pet carefully as he or she wakes up after the operation.

Problems that could occur with the procedure

Every anaesthetic and surgical procedure carries a small risk, whether it be on an animal or a human. At castle Vets your pet will have a thorough health check prior to the operation, to ensure that he or she is healthy and well enough for the procedure to take place on that day.

Postoperative infections are very rare but if one does occur, your pet will be examined and given any necessary treatment and/or medication to help them get well again.

Occasionally a patient may need to be re-sutured if they pull out their stitches, which is why we always recommend they go home with buster collars to prevent this;  We even offer a refund if your pet does not need to use the collar because we would rather they had one just in case.
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References

1. Association Pet Behaviour Counsellors
2. Slauterbeck, et al Canine Ovariohysterectomy and Orchiectomy Increases the Prevalence of ACL Injury
3. Gretel Torres de la Riva, et al Neutering Dogs: Effects on Joint Disorders and Cancers in Golden Retrievers
4. Laura J. Sanborn, Long-Term Health Risks and Benefits Associated with Spay / Neuter in Dogs

We hope you find this article useful and informative. Please contact Castle Vets if you wish to discuss neutering your pet.

National Pet Month April 2017


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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 promoting responsible pet ownership. It is supported by veterinary teams, animal therapy providers, animal charities, animal experts and pet shops from all over the UK.

  • 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 events going on for pet lovers this month, including the All About Dogs Show at Newbury Showground 8th-9th  April. You can access lots of pet care information on the Castle Vets 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 our articles Think before you buy that 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; this is as important for the small breeds as it is for the larger ones! 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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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 our 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 our articles on why we 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. Ensure your pet is properly identified

Microchipping

It is particularly important to have dogs and cats microchipped, but did you know that almost any species of animal can be microchipped?

  • on 6th April 2016 it became a legal requirement for ALL dogs in England to be microchipped and registered on an approved database.
  • Puppies must be microchipped and registered by the breeder before they go to their new home and 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 by filling out a form with the current owner.
  • 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 Tags 

  • 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 and there is a very large fine for non-compliance.

10. Ensure you can control 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

11. Take out pet insurance if possible

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 or via their Facebook page