Themes of the month
Your Pet and the Christmas Season
The festive season is a time when most people join their families and friends and enjoy giving and receiving of gifts and fine food and drink.
Pets as Gifts
Every year, in the approach to Christmas, children everywhere are giddy with excitement, deciding what they want Santa Claus to bring them as a present. Sadly, when January comes and the initial excitement of the latest craze has died, these gifts are discarded. It is a tale that is told year after year.
It is the sad truth that the exact same thing happens year after year with pets that are given to children as presents.
Despite national publicity to prevent this upsetting trend, re-homing centres are overloaded every January with these discarded presents. We strongly urge parents NOT to give a pet as a present to a child at Christmas and to consider the fact that buying a pets means they are taking on the responsibility for this animal’s life, for the whole of his or her life. Potentially 10-15 years.
Existing Pets at Christmas
So what about the animals that already reside in our houses? As they are members of the family too, we have provided a guide to keeping them safe and happy during the festive season.
Christmas Presents for Pets
These days, the market is packed with presents that you can give to your pet. You can be as practical or as festive as you choose with a wide range of clothing (festive and day to day), beds, toys, leads, collars, treats and Christmas stockings.
With on-line pet stores, pet shops, some veterinary clinics and supermarkets all having their own range, shopping for your pet can be as involving as shopping for the rest of the family. It can also be extremely entertaining and enjoyable!
Pet Safety at Christmas
It is important to consider, during this season, the potential hazards to our family pets, because the last thing that you want on Christmas Day, is a visit to the vets.
Christmas food and drink is one of the biggest causes of visits to the vets during this time. An abundance of festive treats, generally in easy reach for all (including the animals!) can be a problem for some pets, who have a distinct lack of self control! Many treats, we have seen devoured by our beloved pets, including alcoholic drinks, sweets, chocolates (CHOCOLATE IS HIGHLY TOXIC TO ANIMALS), turkey, pork, fish and chicken (usually all including bones – which can shatter and cause damage to the stomach and intestines on the way through).
Christmas Paraphernalia can also be hazardous. Additional electrical cables (can be chewed through and must be covered), Christmas trees (which easily topple over with a cat at the summit!), tinsel, ribbon and wrapping paper can all be eaten and cut through or concertina the gut, glass ornaments shatter easily and you must be careful that furry feet don't get cut.
The Christmas Plants that are available can be extremely toxic to animals; including the Christmas Rose, Holly, Mistletoe, Philodendron, Dieffenbachia and Poinsettia. If you have these plants they must be displayed out of reach of your pets to prevent ingestion.
Christmas Guests. Stress can be a big problem for animals at Christmas, with many things being out of routine. It is important to remember how your animal reacts around guests and whether they will be happier out with the crowd, or offered their own space. Animals that would be happier away from the crowd could be provided a quiet room, but donမt isolate them for the whole day, allow some time to spend with them in a quiet period. Animals that are happy out in the crowd are fun, but remember two things:
- Guests don’t generally know the doors that must remain closed for your pets’ protection and this is the common cause of pets going missing.
- Ensure that your guests will be comfortable with your furry companion
If an incident occurs
If your animal should run into any of the problems listed (or to come up with a new and imaginative Christmas hazard!), do not worry. All veterinary clinics are obliged to offer a 24 hour emergency service 365 days a year, so help will be at hand.
If your pet has eaten something they shouldn’t, it is common to induce vomiting. Although this can be done at home, you should never attempt this without first seeking advice from your veterinary surgeon.
ALL OF THE STAFF AT GREENWOOD VETERINARY CLINIC WOULD LIKETO WISH ALL OF OUR CLIENTS AND VISITORS, AND THEIR PETS A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A SAFE AND HAPPY NEW YEAR
The firework season
What does it mean for our pets?
With the firework season approaching, we need to be aware that this period can cause our pets a great deal of distress.
Common signs of stress are:
- excessive drooling
- barking or howling
- refusing to eat
- losing control of bladder or bowel function
There are some practical solutions which should always be carried out to reassure your pet such as:
- keeping your pet indoors
- turning a tv or radio on to distract them from the noise
- closing curtains
- making a den or hiding area
- taking them for a walk well in advance before the sunset
You should also ensure identichip registration information is up to date, so if your pet gets lost, you can be contacted easily.
There is, of course, the option of tranquillisers to lightly sedate your dog or cat before this distressing period. These are not always the appropriate option for every pet though. Your dog or cat would require a full Veterinary examination to ensure your pet is in good health. Tranquillisers have the diasadvantage of making the animal appear calm on the surface when in fact they are still very aware of the surrounding noises but are simply unable to react to them.
Other options that are often more suitable and recommended in the majority of cases are DAP and Feliway pheromone therapies. These are available from your Veterinary Clinic and your Veterinary team will be more than happy to advise you on these.
This is designed for cats and works by reproducing certain properties of natural facial pheromones. When a cat feels safe in its environment, it rubs its head against objects leaving behind deposits of pheromones. These pheromones help to calm and prevent stress.
When there is a change in the environment such as the presence of fireworks, moving house or adding a new pet to the family, cats may display signs of stress such as urine marking, scratching, loss of appetite or hiding. In these cases Feliway can be used to restore a natural balance by mimicing the cats natural pheromone and producing a state of calm again.
Feliway is available in both:
- plug in diffuser
It is advisable for you plug this in 2 weeks before celebrations start to get the best effect, then leave it on continuously. Plug it in, in an area where the cat will spend most of his or her time during this period. It will cover an area or 50-70 square metres. Use a plug close to the ground as the vapours rise and circulate throughout the room. The diffuser will last about 4 weeks in total and a refill is available if you wish to continue to use it.
This is more ideal for helping to control urine or other scent marking behaviour. You can use the spray directly onto problem areas. It can also be used in combination with the diffuser by applying it to the cat's blanket, or into a safe covered area 15 minutes before the calming effect is required. PLEASE NOTE: Feliway spray is alcohol based and as cats dislike this smell, you must allow the alcoholic base to evaporate before introducing your cat. (This is why a period of 15 minutes must be allowed). It is also useful if you need to transport your cat anywhere during this time as the spray can be used on a towel before the journey. This can then be placed in your travel basket.
This is designed for dogs and works by releasing a ‘Dog Appeasing Pheromone’. This is a synthetic pheromone compound which mimics all the properties the natural pheromone released by Bitches to calm their young immediately after birth. It helps to calm your dog in times of stress including loud noises, a move of house, or a new addition to a family. DAP has been recommended specifically for use in dogs suffering fear of fireworks.
DAP is available in the following forms:
- plug in diffuser
As for Feliway, it is advisable to plug this in 2 weeks before celebrations and leave it on continuously. Plug it into an area where the dog will spend most of his or her time during this period. It will, again cover an area of 50-70 square metres. Use a plug close to the ground as the vapour rises and circulates throughout the room. Note that the purpose of the natural pheromone is to draw the puppy back to the Bitch. Ensure your dog can locate the source of the scent and is able to sit next to it if he or she chooses. This will last 4 weeks in total and a refill is available.
This is a recent addition to the DAP range. The DAP collar should be placed, as a normal collar would be, around your dogs neck. While it should not be tight, the collar must be close enough to the skin so that it touches. Your dog's body heat releases the same synthetic pheromone as the diffuser. In this case, your dog carries the scent with him or her. It is an ideal product for dogs that tend not to settle, or do not have a specific place of refuge during fireworks.
This product is ideal if you have not been able to organize a diffuser to be plugged in early enough for the commencement of the celebrations. You can use the spray on bedding, in places of refuge commonly sought (under the bed is often used by fearful dogs) and will have a similar effect to that of the diffuser. This is not as effective though as it is recommended that the spray be re-applied every 60 minutes. The spray can also be applied to a bandana or cloth and attached to your dog's collar. This will then continue to release the calming pheromone and reassure your dog. It can also be used in combination with the diffuser or the collar. When using the spray ensure you allow 15 minutes before introducing your dog to allow the alcoholic base of the spray to evaporate as this can sometimes irritate your dog’s nose. If you have a dog and cat together, DAP and Feliway can be used in combination as the pheromones released from each are "species specific" and will not affect one another.
Stress to your pet can be reduced, or even avoided during the firework period. Preparation and awareness can help to prevent problems.
Remember: Pets are extremely sensitive to us. It is very common for an owner to worry throughout this time in anticipation of a fireworks display. This will only increase your animals fear as they look to you for comfort and reassurance.
Try to relax and follow the advice provided. If you wish to discuss firework fear in greater detail, please call your local Greenwood Veterinary Clinic and speak to a member of the team.
FROM ALL OF THE TEAM AT GREENWOOD VETERINARY, MAY WE WISH YOU A SAFE AND STRESS FREE FIREWORKS NIGHT
Ectoparasite control in dogs and cats
Flea related problems are the commonest cause of skin disease in pets. Usually skin problems arise because the animal becomes allergic to saliva which the flea injects as it feeds. Fleas can also carry dog and cat tapeworms. Not all animals within a household will develop a flea allergy and so only one pet may show signs of skin disease (usually scratching). Some allergic animals are so sensitive to flea saliva that they only need to be bitten once a week to scratch persistently. For this reason, it is not enough to say that your pet does not have a flea allergy because you do not see fleas on him or her. The only way to diagnose or disprove a flea allergy is to eradicate them from the pet's environment.
Fleas spend 95% of their life cycle in the environment and not on pets. They only live one to two weeks on the pet, but in this time lay many eggs a day. These eggs will drop off to hatch all around your home, giving a continued reservoir for re-infestation. It is therefore extremely important that thorough environmental decontamination is undertaken as part of a flea control programme.
- Spray inside a new vacuum cleaner bag with an environmental insecticide (eg. INDOREX) and allow to dry before fitting to the machine.
- Vacuum all dust from any rooms to which pets have access.
- Spray the floors of each room with environmental insecticidal agent ensuring that the safety instructions on the can are adhered to. Pay particular attention to under beds, behind settees, under radiators and around skirting boards. Spray the pet's bedding. Don't forget to spray the inside of sheds or out-houses if your pet (or your neighbour's pet) goes in them. The inside of your car should also be sprayed if used to transport your pet.
- Treat every cat and dog in the house with topical insecticide, eg. Advocate – drops on the back of the neck once per month. These are the most effective of the flea killers, and have a good safety record. They also control mites and roundworms – a lot easier than tablets in cats! Some other 'spot-ons' are much less effective and not always that safe. Please ask your Nurse or Veterinary Surgeon for details.
- For prevention of fleas it is essential to treat all the year round as fleas love centrally heated houses. Also with milder winters these days they are much more likely to be contacted outdoors.
Ticks are also becoming much more prevalent than they were. With more animals travelling abroad, and again because of climate change, we are seeing more tick-borne diseases now, some of which are very serious. Advantix for dogs has proved very effective against ticks as well as fleas.
MITES are also much more common these days, often being picked up from foxes and other wild animals. Advocate deals with these too.
Heat stroke and your pet
Domestic animals are warm blooded animals and need to maintain a constant body temperature.
There are several factors which can influence the animal's thermal exchange with the environment and therefore can result in elevation of body temperature leading to heat stroke. Such factors include poor ventilation, small areas of enclosed space (such as a car), and high temperatures.
DO NOT SHUT YOUR DOG IN AN UNATTENDED CAR!
Dogs that are shut in cars in the hot weather are put at a high risk of heat stroke. An immediate cause of this is the direct sunlight and heat onto the car. This will raise the atmosphere's temperature. The dog will start panting to try to cool down, but the heat being released from the panting will also be transferred to the enclosed surroundings. As there is no way of this escaping due to poor ventilation, the dog will continue to pant and the heat will continue to rise leading to heat stroke.
What other factors can lead to heat stroke?
Sunshine; humidity; wind factors; health and weight of the pet; thickness/hair type; availability of water; excitability/temperament of the animal; exercise; brachycephalic breeds (breeds such as boxers, pugs etc with shortened, squashed faces) are also more prone to heat stroke.
Signs of heat stroke
- Rapid panting
- Warm, dry skin
- Bright red gums
- Staring appearance
At the worse stage of heat stroke, if it is left unattended too long, collapse, coma and even death can follow.
The most efficient way to reduce the animal's temperature quickly is to immerse him/her in cold water or hosing him/her down as soon as signs are noticed.
ICE PACKS SHOULD NOT BE USED AS THIS CAN LEAD TO THE OTHER EXTREME WHERE BODY TEMPERATURE BECOMES TOO LOW!
Towels immerged in cold water can be used though to reduce body temperature.
Whilst this is being done, the animal should be on its way to the Veterinary Clinic for further treatment ASAP.
Other animals and heat stroke
It is not only dogs that can get heat stroke. Smaller pets such as guinea pigs and rabbits for example can also be affected.
Ways to prevent this from occurring are to ensure that the hutch and run are not in direct sunlight. Adequate shelter should also be provided such as tubing, an enclosed hutch, or a flower pot that the animal can lay in to cool down.
Do not put your hutch into a shed, garage, or greenhouse.
ALWAYS MAKE COLD WATER READILY AVAILABLE, PROVIDE YOUR PET WITH SHADE, AND DO NOT WALK YOUR DOG IN THE HOT MIDDAY SUN.
PREVENTION IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN CURE!
Pet Travel Scheme Information
The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) has been put in place to allow you to bring your pet dog or cat into the UK from certain countries without quarantine.
This page will summarise the requirements, and to give some extra information regarding travel with your pet. For more detailed information ring the P.E.T.S helpline 0870 241 1710 (830am -5pm Mon-Fri) or click here to visit the DEFRA website.
Your pet must be fitted with a microchip which meets the ISO specifications. (Any microchips fitted at Greenwood Veterinary Clinic do). If your pet is fitted with another kind of microchip YOU will have to provide a scanner which can read the chip.
Your pet must be vaccinated against rabies (at over 12 weeks old)
A blood test is carried out 14 days after vaccination to show that it has been effective. If it has not been effective, a repeat vaccination and blood test is required.
An EU PETS passport is issued by a Local Veterinary Inspector. This passport will allow your pet to enter most other EU countries and to move between EU member states. However, to re-enter the UK, and to enter Malta, and to enter Sweden or Ireland by any route other than from the UK, your pet must have the blood test mentioned above.
Re-entry into the UK is not possible until 6 months after the date of blood sampling.
It is essential that your pet is re-vaccinated against rabies within the required time interval (ie. before the valid until date in section IV of the EU pet passport). Currently Greenwood Veterinary Clinic are using a vaccination that lasts 3 years, other vaccines may differ. We endeavour to send you a reminder in good time, but it remains your responsibility to bring your pet for his or her vaccine in time. If the vaccine is even one day late, we will have to repeat the blood test and the six month wait.
To guard against the introduction into the UK of certain potentially dangerous parasites (fox tapeworm and certain ticks) you must have your pet treated against them 24–48 hours before re-entering the UK by a veterinary surgeon. If you are considering a day trip, this means you need to have your pet treated before you leave. It would be sensible to locate a Veterinary Surgeon at the port from which you will be returning to the UK, who is able to supply the necessary anti-parasitic treatments and sign your passport accordingly.
You must re-enter the UK on an approved route and, if returning by air from a long-haul country, your pet must travel in a container bearing an official seal. For further details, including lists of air, sea and rail companies' contact details please telephone the PETS help-line or consult the DEFRA website.
The PETS passport scheme only exists to protect the UK against rabies, Fox tapeworm and certain ticks.
There are a number of diseases and parasites present outside the UK which could cause infection in your pet. You may wish to take precautions against these serious and potentially fatal diseases and the information below should help.
Leishmaniasis is causes by a tiny parasite which is transmitted by sandfiles. It can infect dogs and people and very rarely cats. Sandflies are present in Europe, the Middle-East and many tropical countries. They are only active between sunset and dawn and between May and September / October. Dispite their name, sandflies do not live on the beach, but are found in rural areas, or wooded parts of towns such as gardens or parks.
To protect your pet, keep him / her indoors during the evening and night from May to October. Sandfly bites can be minimised by using a special anti-parasitic preparation (eg. Scalibor or Advantix). Please ask at reception for more details.
Dirofilariasis (Heartworm Disease) is caused by a parasitic worm, which is transmitted my mosquitoes. It can affect dogs, cats and ferrets. Infections occur in hot countries including Spain and France.
Infection can be prevented by treating your pet before, during and after travel with a product called 'Advocate'. 'Advantix' also can repel mosquitoes.
Ehrlichiosis is caused by a bacterium which is spread by certain ticks and is present in north Africa and several European countries. It can affect dogs, cats, horses and people.
The anti-parasitic precparations Frontline or Advantix can be used to help prevent ticks.
Babesiosis is caused by a tiny parasite and is also spread by ticks. It can infect cattle and other mammals including dogs and cats. It is found in Europe and especially southern France.
Insurance for animals travelling
Accidents and ill health can occur while you are away. Please check with your pet's insurance company what cover is available for foreign vets fees or for example for repatriation costs.
Inappropriate urination in the cat
Many cat owners report problems with their cat displaying inappropriate urination habits in the household, whether it be urine marking in inappropriate areas of the house or whether it be larger quantities of urine being passed outside of the litter area.
This becomes not only stressful to you as the owner, but can also therefore become stressful to the cat as family members become increasingly frustrated by the situation.
The first thing to do in these cases is to determine the frequency, quantities and behaviour displayed during the depositsto rule out medical problems and get closer to whether it's more of a behavioural problem:
- Is it small amounts of urine at a time being sprayed or expressed around the house?- this can then be narrowed down to be a likely 'marking' behaviour or is the urine of larger amounts? This could indicate more of a medical problem in which case you should consult your Veterinary Surgeon about this.
- Observe the posture displayed during the urination: if it is normal posture then it is most likely a behavioural marking,but if the cat is squatting more and possibly straining and 'yowling'/seems distressed, this is more indicative of a medical problem and a Vet should be consulted straight away as if there is a urinary blockage for example, this can very quickly become an emergency condition that can be life threatening and needs treating as soon as possible (other medical conditions could be incontinence, kidney problems, post trauma breakdown etc)!
- Ask yourself if there have been any stressful or unusual changes in the household such as a loss of a family member or changes of furniture etc as these changes can prove to be very stressful for a cat
- Is there rubbing,scratching (visual and scent), spraying behaviour displayed as these are all common behavioural conditions
OF COURSE WE WOULD ALWAYS RECOMMEND THOUGH THAT IF THERE IS ANY UNCERTAINTY AS TO THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM, PLEASE DO CALL AND SPEAK TO ONE OF OUR NURSES FOR SOME FRIENDLY ADVICE
The second thing to do if you feel that the urination pattern is more behavioural, which owners have often found useful, is to draw a simple plan of your property:
This should include: all doors (especially the ones with cat flaps fitted), windows, furniture (major pieces only), electrical equipment, litter trays, feed bowls, animal bedding.
Then you should mark with an 'X' on all the surfaces wherever the cat carries out the urination.
Once you have determined that the urination problem is behavioural, you can start to prevent and treat the problem.
- Feed ad lib(food available freely all day) and put the food in a variation of locations
- Put bowls of dry food in higher areas to give the opportunity to climb
- Provide hiding places (boxes etc)
- provide lots of quiet bed areas and warmth
- Break the habit!-clean the urine marks (this will get rid of the fats and proteins- DO NOT use normal cleaning products though as many contain ammonia like in the urine, so will make the cat want to do it more! Instead, use BIOLOGICAL cleaning products to do the cleaning and then apply a bit of surgical spirit onto the area for extra effect
- Redefine the function of location to feel safe again
- Identify triggers and remove if possible/or find ways to deal with them (ie-if there are children running around the cats 'territory' frequently to disturb them)
- PHEROMONE TREATMENT in the form of FELIWAY has proved extremely successful as a non-invasive treatment for inappropriate urination in cats. It comes in the form of both a spray to put onto specific urine marked areas or a plug-in diffuser for the general environment. This releases an appeasing pheromone to help calm the cat and give them a sense of well being to try and deter them from this behaviour
- Identify 'eliminitive' urination-ie digging and covering in the tray-give lots and lots of litter in the tray to make it a more natural area for them to go in
- Lastly, NEVER PUNISH your cat for this behaviour-it is a natural form of territory marking in many cases and can often be prevented by using the above methods!
Some handy hints!
- Always use an acceptable litter substrate plus plenty of it
- It is unadvisable to use scented litter- cats nee scent as their form of territory marking and although it may be nicer for us, it certainly isn't helpful for the cat!
- Use acceptable tray locations (keep them away from feeding bowls- can you imagine yourself having your toilet placed directly next to your dinner plate!!!)
- Don't over-crowd the number of cats using the one tray
- Place older cats trays nearer to their bed area as like older people, they will not want to go as far
- Give your cat privacy and make toileting freely available
BREAK THE HABIT, REMOVE THE NEED, NEVER PUNISH!
The benefits of identifying your pet by Microchip
What is a microchip?
A microchip is placed via injection by your Veterinary Surgeon or Nurse. The chip is placed in the natural groove between the shoulder blades.
This procedure can be done without any need for anaesthesia as it is similar to having a vaccination.
Petlog is the national database of microchip registration. Your contact details are listed and linked to your pet’s personal microchip number.
If your pet goes missing, the finder can take them to any Veterinary Clinic, Animal Charity or Local Authority (Police Stations and Dog Wardens). These centres all carry microchip scanners which will read the microchip barcode to find the microchip number.
Petlog will be able to identify the animal and provide the centre with your contact details.
This service is available 24 hours a day and this means you can be reunited with your pet as quickly as possible.
Why microchip your pet?
Placement of microchip in your pet has many advantages:
- Every year more than 300,000 pets go missing. If they have a microchip, you have a much greater chance of being reunited with them.
- Once implanted, a microchip is a permanent method of identification. It cannot be lost.
- Sadly, pets can be and occasionally are stolen. A placement of a microchip, that cannot be seen and removed as identification, will alert a Veterinary Surgeon and allow you to be reunited with your pet.
- Microchipping is a legal requirement for animals travelling abroad under the EU Pet Travel Scheme.
What species can be microchipped?
Microchip placement is most commonly used in small animals, but any species can be microchipped. Horses, birds, reptiles and fish are now having microchips placed regularly.
DON’T WAIT TILL IT’S TOO LATE! ASK YOUR VET ABOUT MICROCHIPPING
Caring for your (Easter) bunny
With Easter approaching, many families with young children may be considering getting a rabbit as a family pet. Rabbits make great first pets but they do require a high level of hygiene and care to ensure they stay healthy and live a fulfilled life.
Below are some important points to help you care for your rabbit.
Vaccines are available against Myxomatosis and Haemorrhagic Viral Disease. Both of these viral diseases can affect pet rabbits; they are very distressing and almost always fatal.
- Myxomatosis Causes the eyelids and genitals to swell up dramatically. Rabbits are blinded after only a few days and are euthanased at this stage. The virus is though to spread via wild rabbits.
- Haemorrhagic Viral Disease This is a fairly recent disease in the UK and has spread rapidly since first appearing here in 1992. Most affected rabbits die within days of contracting the disease. The symptoms range from breathing difficulties, depression, diarrhoea, haemorrhages and seizures to sudden death. HVD can be spread via direct contact between rabbits or on food and water containers, or even peoples clothing. It is also thought that wild animals like rats and mice may spread the disease.
Vaccination is given yearly for HVD and Myxomatosis. (Except in high risk areas where the Myxomatosis vaccination is given twice yearly).
Rabbits teeth grow throughout their life at a rate of 2mm per week. The commonest problem we see in pet rabbits is due to overgrown teeth caused by a lack of dietary fibre (see diet below).
Overgrown teeth can cause root abscesses, tongue laceration and tear ducts. Mild cases may be treatable but severe cases carry a poor prognosis.
Trimming the front teeth (incisors) is a fairly simple procedure and can be carried out during a consultation. To deal with overgrown back teeth (molars), an anaesthetic is necessary.
Some rabbits, especially the dwarf breeds are born with mis-aligned incisors and in these cases the incisors are best removed.
The symptoms to look out for are wet fur around the mouth and below the eyes, exaggerated chewing movements and weight loss.
THIS IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN KEEPING YOUR RABBIT HEALTHY
The majority of health problems that are seen in rabbits can be traced back to an unsuitable diet. Wild rabbits rarely develop tooth problems because they eat mainly grass and spend a vast portion of their day chewing and grinding down their teeth.
Some of the major dried rabbit foods fed to pet rabbits (especially the cereal/pellet mixes) have three major flaws.
- It only takes a short while to chew this food so not enough time is spent grinding down the teeth.
- Most rabbits select their favourite pieces, often leaving behind the pellets containing important nutrients such as fibre, calcium and vitamin D, which are needed for healthy bones. Weak jawbones can also lead to the tooth problems mentioned above.
- Dry rabbit mixes contain a relatively low level of fibre. A high fibre diet is essential for normal functioning of the bowel and will help to prevent diarrhoea.
SO WHAT SHOULD WE FEED OUR RABBITS?
Wild rabbits eat grass and this is the ideal food, but not available all year round. The next best thing is HAY. Good quality hay should be the major component of any rabbit’s diet. Current thought suggests that the most balanced diet for rabbits consists of good quality hay (Timothy Hay or Grass Hay if possible) complimented by some fresh green foods such as dandelion leaves and carrot tops.
This combination will give a high fibre diet which is essential for healthy digestion in rabbits, lessens the chances of diarrhoea and so reduces the chances of FLYSTRIKE (see hygiene below).
One final point: Rabbits are COPROPHAGIC. This means that they digest their food twice. The first motion passed is soft and sticky and they generally eat this directly from their back passage (usually at night – so unobserved). This is re-digested and the rabbit passes the dry formed motion we are all used to seeing.
If a rabbit fails to coprophage (eat it's first motion) the soft sticky motion may become impacted around it’s back passage and attract flies leading to flystrike (see hygiene below). A rabbit may stop coprophaging if it is too overweight to reach it's back passage (often a result of eating certain dry rabbit mixes which are high in energy but low in fibre) or if it has overgrown teeth making its mouth uncomfortable.
Once again, the correct diet may reduce the chances of many rabbit health problems, such as flystrike, bad teeth, abscesses, eye infections, diarrhoea, obesity…
It is very important to clean out your rabbit’s hutch regularly, particularly in the summer months, and to make sure that your rabbit is kept clean, especially around the eyes and the back end.
Dirt and faeces around the anus attracts flies to lay their eggs on the rabbit. When these eggs hatch, the maggots eat their way into the rabbits flesh. This is called flystrike and is very painful and distressing condition! If caught early enough it is possible for us to clean it up and clean the open sores- if left too late, the animal may die of blood poisoning.
The neutering of rabbits over 4 months of age is now a routine operation. There are a number of good reasons to have this done:
- The most convincing argument for neutering female rabbits is an estimated 80% of females over 5 years old develop uterine adenocarcinoma (cancer of the womb) which is often life-threatening by the time symptoms begin to show.
- Rabbits are sociable animals and should not be kept alone if at all possible. In the past guinea-pigs have been thought as suitable companions, but guinea-pigs may be bullied by rabbits and their dietary requirements are quite different from that of a rabbit. If rabbits are kept together, it is best to keep them in neutered pairs- male and female is the best combination.
- Neutering rabbits reduces aggression and dominance and urine marking behaviour. It allows them to be more easily house trained and makes for a happier, more settled pet.
Anaesthetising rabbits used to be very risky but with new anaesthetics the risk is lower.
Traditionally, rabbits have been housed outside in a hutch, but they can also be kept indoors and are becoming very popular as house pets.
- Outdoor rabbits The majority of hutches available in pet shops are far too small. All hutches should be as large as possible. Your rabbit should be able to perform at least three hops from one end to the other. There should be a dry secluded nest area with a solid front and an exercise/living area with a mesh front. Outdoor hutches should be raised from the ground and protected from the elements. The hutch should be lined with newspaper and wood shavings (NOT sawdust) and straw. Rabbits should be encouraged to exercise at least 4 hours a day in an outdoor run or a fenced area of grass. Furnish the exercise area with bolt holes (ie a piece of drain pipe for your rabbit to use if alarmed. You must also ensure the run is secure, to stop your rabbit burrowing out, and rats, mice, or even foxes burrowing in!
- Indoor ‘house’ rabbits There should be a secure area for your rabbit to live while you are out but at all other times, your rabbit should be encouraged to exercise all around the house. Rabbits are easily house trained as they naturally urinate and defecate in one place. Use wood or paper based litter. Remember that you will need to rabbit proof your home by protecting all electrical wires from prying, interested rabbit teeth and avoiding all poisonous houseplants such as Diffenbacchia. Enrich your rabbit’s environment with chewable toys such as cardboard boxes or old phone directories.
Rabbits are becoming more and more popular as pets and we are learning more about their requirements all the time. It is not possible to cover all aspects of rabbit care in this information sheet, but we have tried to mention the most important points.
Please ask our Vets or Nurses for further information in this form or for an informal chat or even to book in for a health check!
Puppy Training: How to Stop your Puppy Biting
With the Christmas period now over and with the start of a new year upon us, many people decide to add a new member to the family and get a new puppy.
Puppies are wonderful and of course bring a great deal of pleasure, but it comes as a surprise to many puppy owners that their little darling arrives with a set of teeth to be proud of and likes to test them out on humans!
This information is designed for puppies under the age of 18 weeks-which still have their puppy teeth. If you have a dog over this age which is mouthing or biting please ask your vet to refer you to a trainer for help.
Biting during play is normal for all puppies, but you need to try and stop this. Puppies have sharp teeth for a reason which is to hurt when they bite and this helps them to learn what is alive and what is not.
Puppy biting teaches a pup just how hard it can bite other living things. Clearly, he can exert a huge amount of pressure on a lifeless object such as a toy, without causing a reaction. Trying the same behaviour on us will certainly result in a big reaction and the puppy will be aware of this!
This process is called bite inhibition and it is important for pups to learn how to moderate how hard they bite before they lose their puppy teeth at around 18 weeks of age.
Once home, pups continue to learn about how hard they can bite by practising on us. This is normal and should not be treated as aggression. However, it is not acceptable for them to bite people and they need to be educated on this.
What to do
- Your puppy needs to know that biting hurts! Every time he bites or mouths you, give a sharp ouch response.
- Turn away and ignore your puppy for about 20 seconds, then continue interacting. Repeat the ouch and turn away every time he bites.
- Biting won’t stop straight away. It should decrease over a period of about 3–4 weeks. At this point the puppy should learn this behaviour is wrong!
Do not play rough and tumble games or games that involve grabbing cloths or hair with your puppy. This is giving him permission to do this behaviour and will set back all your training.
What if we still have problems?
This process works well with most puppies, but in some cases where the pup is already over 14 weeks old, they may have learned to bite for attention is acceptable. If you find that yelping has no effect, or if the pup becomes excited or more aggrsive from your reaction, you may need to take a different approach:
- Take the fun out of biting-go in a corner and stand still and quiet ignoring the puppy.
- When the puppy mouths you, place him in the kitchen or behind a door or baby gate. This should last about 2 minutes, then he can rejoin the family.
- Stopping the action of puppy biting requires the owner to be consistent. It will take lots of repetitions before your puppy understands that biting is no fun.