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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Make Training Fun For Your & Your Pets

New Tricks

Why Should We Train Our Pets?

We all know that basic training for dogs is a necessity, but training is great for all types of pets including dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, rodents, birds and horses. Not only can it be lots of fun, but it is also mentally stimulating, a great form of exercise and it can also 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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Rabbit & Rodent Dental Problems

rabbits and rodents

At Castle Vets in Reading, we often see rabbits and rodents with a variety of 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 animals are unable to grind their teeth down through feeding and chewing.

Common causes of dental problems

  • Insufficient gnawing materials – these are needed so that the pet can grind and wear their teeth down naturally as they grow.
  • Poor nutrition during development can lead to dental and bone abnormalities.
  • Poor nutrition after the growth period leads to dental abnormalities.
  • Traumatic injury and/or broken teeth can lead to malocclusion (teeth not aligning properly).
  • Cavities and periodontal disease caused by a poor diet and bacteria passed on from owners.
  • Genetic abnormalities passed on from the parents (this is becoming much more common in rabbits because of poor breeding standards by irresponsible owners).

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Before You Commit To A New Pet – Think!

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. 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. (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 pet insurance for accidents and illnesses.

Looking after an animal can be very expensive, so please don’t take a pet on if you cannot afford to pay for the necessities including veterinary care.

Your Family 

Think about how the pet will fit into your family and home.

  • Are you ready for this pet? If you are due to go on holiday, start a new job, have a baby, move house or start a big project on your home, now is probably not the best time to get a pet.
  • Does everyone in the household want this pet? Believe it or not, pets have been cited as a common source of problems in relationships. Couples and families can find themselves arguing over their pets for a variety of reasons and while these arguments may seem minor, they can actually cause more major disagreements or problems over time.
  • Do you have children or do children visit your home? If the answer is yes, please make sure that you give special consideration and do your research on the breed and type of animal that you want as a pet, as not all of them will be suitable. You will need to train the children (yes I did say that!) to respect animals and not to tease them, they will also need to know not to touch them without an adult present. Remember all animals have the potential to bite, scratch or otherwise injure someone if they get scared, no matter how well trained and handled; this also includes the ‘small furries’ such as rabbits and rodents. If you are getting a dog, regardless of the breed, you must ensure that he or she is very well socialised with people of all ages from a very young age and that you understand canine body language well enough to remove the child if the dog starts to look uncomfortable with the situation it is in.
  • Does anyone have allergies and what will you do if you discover someone is allergic to your new pet? It has been shown that children that grow up with pets have less allergies and are healthier in that respect, but not everyone is that lucky.
  • Who will look after the pet? Never buy a pet for a child and expect them to take responsibility for it’s care and training. For most children the pet-owning novelty wears off very quickly once they realise its not all cuddles and walks in the sunshine! Obviously there are some exceptionally wonderful kids out there, but all too often the responsibility for the less glamorous parts of pet owning, such as cleaning up the poo and going for walkies in the rain, sleet and snow will fall back to one or both parents.

Size Of The Pet
size of pet

Do you have enough space at home and/or in the garden for your chosen pet? Even small pets like hamsters and rats require fairly big cages. Where will your pet eat, drink and sleep? The size of the pet will also affect how expensive it will be  for vet bills, insurance, food, housing and equipment. Those giant breeds of dog can look fabulous walking next to you, but have you thought about how you will travel with it if necessary? Will it fit into your car? Could you carry it in an emergency?

With regards to housing of ‘small furries’, remember that despite their small size, most will still need plenty of exercise and space to explore and play in. Rodents such as rats and hamsters often prefer habitats with multiple platforms and safe tubing. Rabbits and guinea pigs will not only need large hutches, but also a large, safe exercise area.

  • Rat cage minimum recommended size:  for 2 rats you need at least 3 ft ( w) x 2 ft (d) and as high as possible, with an additional 2 cubic feet for each additional rat. However, the bigger the better with rats, especially if they will not be getting any exercise outside the cage. Rats are extremely active and need lots of space.
  • Hamster cage minimum recommended size: 80 cm ( w) x  50 cm (d) x 35 cm (h) would suit a single Syrian hamster or a pair of Dwarf or Chinese hamsters.
  • Guinea Pig hutch minimum recommended size: An absolute minimum of  4 ft.( w) x  2 ft (d). x  2 ft (h).  for two guinea pigs. The more guinea pigs in the hutch, the bigger it will need to be. You will also need to include a secure exercise run of at least 6 ft. ( w) X 4 ft.(d) X 2 ft. (h)
  • Rabbit hutch minimum recommended size: The Rabbit Welfare And Fund (RWAF) recommend a minimum hutch size of 10 ft ( w) x 6 ft (d) x 2 ft (h) for a pair of rabbits, to allow them room to move, stand on their hind legs and have enough space for the food, toilet and sleeping areas to be kept apart. You will also need to provide a large secure exercise area.

Breed Of Pet

Once you have settled on the type or species of pet you want, you will need to have a really good long think before you settle on a specific breed and make sure it is absolutely right for you; please make your decision based on the animal’s needs and requirements versus what you can offer it, rather than on what it looks like.

Different breeds of animals often have very different personality traits (far too many to go in depth on this blog) so you should always consider what an animal has been bred to do in the past, before making your decision. For example everyone loves the look of the stunning Dalmatian or the handsome Siberian Husky, but you might not realise that these dogs were originally bred to run for miles and have HUGE amounts of stamina so, therefore, require lots and lots of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and prevent unwanted behaviours. Terriers have been bred for their ability to dispatch rodent pests quickly so don’t be surprised at their feisty and bold behaviour. In the cat world the Siamese can be very vocal, Maine Coons are known for being very affectionate and Bengals can be very destructive when they get bored. With rabbits the Dwarf-Lop is generally friendly and outgoing where as Netherland Dwarfs can be very skittish and are generally unsuitable for children.

The difference between Pedigree, Pure-Breed, Crossbreed and Mongrel (Dogs and Cats)

These words/terms are often confusing to people and can lead to unsuspecting people getting fooled or deceived by crafty breeders.

The terms Pedigree and Purebred are interchangeable for most people and are generally used when refering to a dog or cat of a certain ‘recognised’ breed or type that is recognised by the Uk and/or American Kennel Club (KC) or the Governing Council Of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) for example Labrador, Cocker spaniel, St Bernard, Burmese, British Shorthair. Persian etc. The difference between the two terms is usually in the cost of the animal and whether or not you might be intending to show and/or have your pet produce a litter yourself at a later date.

Pedigree – These animals will have a registered mum and dad of the same ‘recognised’/’pedigree’ breed; by which I mean a breed that is officially recognised by the UK or USA KC or the GCCF. The parents and offspring will have a genuine registration certificate – usually from the Kennel Club (UK or USA) or The Governing Council Of The cat Fancy (GCCF), which means that the litter has been officially registered with the club and will have an official three to five (or more) generation pedigree certificate that will show his or her ancestry and it will state whether or not you can show and/or breed from your pet and register their offspring in turn.

Please remember that having a pedigree certificate does not necessarily mean that the breeder is a good or responsible one, or that the animal is guaranteed to be healthy and well bred! It simply means that you can show the animal at official shows and potentially breed from the animal and register it’s offspring.

Purebred – These animals will have a mum & dad of the same ‘pedigree breed’ but the offspring are not registered with the KC or GCCF so cannot be shown in official competitions (Mum and dad may or may not be registered).

Crossbreed – This is usually the result of the mating between 2 different identifiable ‘pedigree’ breeds for for example Cockerpoo (Cocker spaniel x Poodle), Labradoodle (Labrador x Poodle), Cavachon (Cavalier KC Spaniel x Bichon Frise), Multipoo (Maltese Terrier x Poodle), Jug (Jack Russell x Pug), Sprocker (Springer Spaniel x Cocker Spaniel), Lurcher (Greyhound x with anything else!) etc. These crossbreeds may also come under the ‘designer breeds’ label.

Mongrel/Moggy – This term is usually used to refer to a crossbreed of 3 or more ‘pedigree’ types or a mix of of unidentifiable breeds, but can be used to mean crossbreed too.

Be especially careful when looking at ‘designer breeds’ – which, to put it bluntly are essentially very expensive crossbreeds and mongrels! (You will often find the same or very similar ‘breeds’ in your local rescue center, in desperate need of new homes and for a fraction of the cost). These animals have usually been bred to look a specific way and to make money for breeders, rather than for a specific function.  It is true that some of them are fabulous crosses and make great pets, but others can be very bad crosses, especially if the parents had health problems or bad temperaments. Designer dog breeds are NOT pedigrees or purebreeds (no matter what the breeder tells you) Some examples of ‘designer breeds’ include

  • Labradoodles and other Poodle crosses: The Labradoodle was originally bred to create a ‘low-allergen’ guide dog and quickly became popular because you could have a low-allergen dog (thanks to the poodle’s non-shedding coat) of small, medium or large size. But, did you know that the low-shed and low-allergen only happens with the first cross of labrador to poodle? (and not all of the puppies in a litter will have this quality!) Labradoodle x Labradoodle often does not have this effect at all.  Other poodle crosses such as the CockerPoo or CaviPoo may have low allergen qualities as well, but it can never be guaranteed. Often these cross breeds make wonderful family pets, but not always as they are very active and smart dogs that need the appropriate care and stimulation.  There are literally hundreds of these types of dogs in rescue centres waiting for homes, so before you part with your money have a look at your local rescue.
  • Northern Inuit or ‘WolfDogs’: These dogs are not pedigrees. They have been bred purely to be a status symbol because they look like wolves (or what people imagine wolves to look like) and they are becoming hugely popular. The problem is that these dogs are the result of crossing many breeds together, such as the German Shepherd, Husky, Malamute, Canadian Inuit Dog, Labrador and Belgian Shepherd (to name a few!) Most of the ‘breeders’ are doing this with no regard to temperament or health of the offspring, and as a result these dogs can suffer from many conditions including epilepsy, heart problems, joint problems and endocrine problems. Not to mention the fact that these dogs are bred from VERY active and often high maintenance  breeds, so they are very active and very intelligent and therefore need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation in order to prevent behavioural problems.
  • Designer Cat Breeds: Examples include the Bengal, Ocicat, Sphynx, Tonkinese and Munchkin. On the whole these cats are quite healthy, with the exception of the Munchkin, whose short little legs can predispose them to spinal problems. Care needs to be taken with some of the breeds because of their ‘wild’ natures though.

While many crossbreeds and mongrels can be very healthy and make wonderful pets, sadly many unscrupulous breeders/farmers have jumped on the ‘designer pet’ bandwagon and are breeding animals for looks, rather than temperament and good health, for a quick profit. The brood bitches are often kept in appalling conditions  and no thought is given to their health or that of their offspring.

Please read our guide on choosing a new pet for more information on what to look out for and the questions you should be asking breeders and sellers.

breeds copy

Take time to research your breeds carefully or you might end up taking on more than you can cope with.

Coat Types and Grooming

Most pets will require grooming and/or bathing of some sort and you will need to check their coats, mouths, ears, eyes and bottoms every day to make sure they are clean and healthy.
Pets with long coats will require daily grooming to prevent matting and you will need to consider if you will have the time to do this. Some animals shed lots of fur which may not be good for allergy sufferers. Even those designer pets with little or no hair (Chinese Crested dogs, Sphynx cats, Reptiles) will still need their skin looking after.

long haired pets

Time and Exercise

Many behavioural problems in pets occur because they are bored, under exercised and under stimulated.

Do you have enough time to keep your chosen pet properly exercised and mentally stimulated? Exercise is really important for the health, fitness and well-being of your pet and you will also need to spend time with your pet so you can play with it and provide any training it might need.

Dogs:  It is not recommended that dogs are left alone for more than 4 hours a day and for some, even 4 hours is too long. All dogs need at least two 20 minute walks a day (most breeds need much, much more than this) and the opportunity to run about off the lead in a safe area and meet other dogs if they are socially inclined. Depending on the breed of dog you choose, you may need to provide activities such as agility and training classes to keep it fit and stimulated.

Cats: In an ideal world a cat should be able to go outside, but if you have decided to keep your cat indoors then you must provide adequate mental stimulation for it and it will need much more of your time than an outside cat would to prevent boredom.

Rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets: These pets will need a large outside enclosed run/exercise area or they can be exercised on harnesses in safe areas. They can also be exercised in safe areas inside your house.

Rodents: These pets will either need a home large enough to exercise in or will be need to let out in the home for exercise.

Exercise

Did you know that the majority of behavioural problems in animals happen because they are bored, under exercised and under stimulated?

How To Find and Choose Your New Pet

So, you have read this article and have decided that you can afford a pet, you have the time and space and now is the right time to do it. Congratulations! But where do you start? Head on over to our next article about choosing a pet and where to get it from. We cover everything from rescue centres to pedigree pet breeders, the golden rules of buying or adopting a pet and what you need to ask and look for.

Pre-Purchase Advice Clinics

The Veterinary Nurses at Castle Vets are happy to chat with you before you buy your pet. Our FREE clinics cover

  • Breed types, personalities and traits
  • Potential costs involved in pet ownership
  • Where to look for your pet
  • Questions you should ask and what to avoid
  • How to avoid puppy and kitten farms

Please contact us at the practice for advice or to make an appointment on 0118 9574488 or you can send us an email for advice.

New Year Pet Care Resolutions

New-Yr-Pet

At the start of a new year, many of us start to think about the coming year and what we hope to achieve (or avoid!). Thoughts are often about a new diet and getting more exercise, to make up for any holiday indulgences, or making more time for ourselves and our families. Here are some ideas and tips to enhance the health and wellbeing of your pets.

Routine and Preventative Pet care

Have a chat with a veterinary nurse about on-going preventative healthcare such as flea and worming treatments to protect your pet and your family from pesky parasite infestations. Remember to make a note in your new diary of the important healthcare dates for your pet such as booster vaccination date and parasite treatment application dates.

Get into the habit of examining your pet regularly for any signs of problems or illness.

  • Grooming and gently stroking your pet is a great way of bonding, but it also gives you the opportunity to check for any lumps or bumps that may have appeared. If you do find anything, it is a good idea to have it examined by the vet, but also make a note of exactly where it is and, if you can, measure the lump so you know if it is getting larger or staying the same size.
  • Your pet’s teeth should be nice and clean with little or no plaque on them and healthy gums should be pale pink. Brushing your dog’s or cat’s teeth can really help keep them in good condition, although we appreciate that not every pet will tolerate this! If you cannot brush your pet’s teeth, have a chat with one of our veterinary nurses about suitable alternatives, we offer free dental check ups and advice on pet care. Remember that although there are a wide variety of ‘dental’ chews and treats on the market, many of them don’t do much good at all and are very high in calories (some making up 1/3 – 1/2 of a pet’s daily calorie needs!).

Playtime and Exercise

Try to find time each day to play with your pet and ensure that he or she is getting enough exercise to meet their needs. Not only is this great for keeping your pet fit and providing mental stimulation, but it will also strengthen the bond you have with your pet.

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-21

Cats 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 however, plenty of things you can do to encourage your feline friend to exercise, but remember that 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

Dogs 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.

For playtime,  hide and seek games with people, toys or treats always go down well and will encourage your dog to use his or her senses. Fetch is popular with most dogs but it is a good idea to make sure your dog has had a bit of a warmup before you start throwing their toy as far as you can. Always use a dog toy for fetch games rather than sticks which can be dangerous.

dog-activities

Small Furries such as rodents and other other small pets 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.  Investing in some rodent safe plastic tubing to run around the outside of their cage, will also 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-exercise

Useful Links For Play & Exercise Ideas

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

Help Your Pet Lose Any Excess Weight

Obesity is on the rise in the UK pet population and it is not just a cosmetic issue. Being overweight can seriously affect your pet’s long-term health and well-being and put your pet at risk for developing some serious medical conditions. Some of the most common disorders associated with excess weight include Diabetes, Arthritis, Joint and mobility problems, High blood pressure, Skin and coat problems, Cystitis and Breathing difficulties to name a few. Overweight and obese pets usually have shorter lives than fitter pets and tend to interact less with their families.

Losing weight and getting in shape can vastly improve your pet’s quality of life can help your pet live longer and may reduce those vet bills!

If you think your pet may be overweight, help is at hand. Have a look at our free healthy weight clinics page for more information and give us a call.

Join The Castle vets Pet Health Club

Membership to our Pet Health Club includes booster vaccinations, year round worming and flea control and nail clipping, as well as discounts on many of our other products and services. Another advantage is payment by monthly direct debit, keeping things hassle-free.

More Information

If you have any questions or would like any advice about caring for your pet, then please contact Castle Vets and we will be happy to help.

Make Some New Years Resolutions To Help Keep Your Pet Fit And Healthy

new-year-kitty-wallpaper

New Years Resolutions

  1. Make a note in your new diary of the important healthcare dates for your pet such as his or her booster vaccination date and parasite treatment application reminders.
  2. Speak to your veterinary nurse about on-going preventative health care such as safe and effective flea and worming treatments. Buy the treatments in advance so that they are ready for use when your pet needs them. We now offer free text reminders for flea and worm treatments, so let us know if you would like to opt in.
  3. Weigh your pet regularly to ensure that you are feeding the right amount of food, you are giving the right dose of flea or worming product and that your pet is not becoming overweight.
  4. Get into the habit of checking your pet’s mouth regularly. Your pet’s teeth should be nice and clean with little or no plaque on them and healthy gums should be pale pink. Our veterinary nurses offer free dental checks and can advise you about caring for your pet’s teeth and gums with daily brushing.
  5. Find time each day to interact with and play with your pet. Grooming or stroking your pet is a great way of bonding and it also allows you to check for any lumps or bumps that may have appeared. Play is very important for pets and new toys don’t have to be expensive. You can use home-made items such as paper balls and kitchen roll tubes filled with a few treats for cats and small furries. For dogs, hide and seek games with people, toys or treats always go down well.
  6. Enrol your cat, dog or rabbit into the Castle Vet’s Pet Health Club and ensure they receive the best healthcare on time every time. You can make substantial savings on your pet care and each new member will receive a £10 voucher. For the full range of member benefits and prices visit our website or telephone the practice.
  7. Give your pet the opportunity for exercise and mental stimulation.

Healthy 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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Rabbit & Rodent Dental Problems

rabbits and rodents

At Castle Vets in Reading, we often see rabbits and rodents with a variety of 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 animals are unable to grind their teeth down through feeding and chewing.

Common reasons for dental problems

  • Insufficient gnawing materials will restrict the animal’s ability to grind and wear their teeth down naturally.
  • Poor nutrition during development can lead to dental and bone abnormalities.
  • Poor nutrition after the growth period leads to dental abnormalities.
  • Traumatic injury and/or broken teeth can lead to malocclusion (teeth not aligning properly).
  • Cavities and periodontal disease caused by a poor diet and bacteria passed on from owners.
  • Genetic abnormalities passed on from the parents (this is becoming much more common in rabbits because of poor breeding standards by irresponsible owners).

Signs that your pet may have a dental problem

  • Decreased appetite, your pet may stop eating completely or only manage very small amounts at a time.
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • 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
Dental problems in small animals

Dental problems in small animals

Common types of dental problems

  1. Overgrown incisors will normally be visible outside the animals mouth, but sometimes can grow up through the roof of the mouth or out through the cheek.
  2. Pre molar and molar teeth can grow painful spurs that rub against the tongue and cheek of the animal causing ulceration and laceration.
  3. Abscesses (a pocket of infected pus) can form because of infection in the mouth. They are most often seen as swellings around the jaw line, cheek or under the eyes.
  4. Dental Caries and tooth decay  is usually caused by a diet of high energy and sweet foods (as in humans).
Dental abscesses in rabbits

Dental abscesses in rabbits

Treatment of dental problems

  • Maloccluded or Overgrown Incisor teeth – The vet is usually able to clip or file these teeth down without the need for sedation or an anaesthetic if the pet will tolerate it.
  • Spurs on Pre-Molars or Molars – The vet may need to give your pet an anaesthetic in order to be able to file these teeth and make him or her more comfortable
  • Dental abscesses – The treatment of these will depend on the location and severity of the problem. The abscesses of small animals do not drain well and often need to be surgically removed under an anaesthetic.
Spurs form on teeth and can cause a lot of pain when the dig into the mouth and tongue

Spurs form on teeth and can cause a lot of pain when the dig into the mouth and tongue

Long-term care of animals with dental problems

A rabbit or rodent diagnosed with dental problems will often require regular visits to the vet for treatment, but you can help a great deal by providing the correct nutrition. Feeding the right foods is vitally important and giving your pet a balanced diet will go a long way to helping with dental problems as it will enable them to grind their teeth down properly. Give hard foods (and hay where appropriate) and safe woods to chew on such as elm, ash, maple, birch, apple, orange, pear, peach. Most of these are available in pet shops. (do not give cedar, plum, redwood, cherry, and oleander)

If you suspect that your pet has a dental problem we recommend that you see your vet as soon as possible.

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