Adopting older dogs

We take a look at why adopting an older dog could be the right decision when it comes to bringing a new pet into your home.

When considering getting a dog, many people will have an ideal scenario pictured in their heads.

Often it will involve a cute-as-a-button puppy running around their garden, being mischievous and providing boisterous fun for the family.

Yet, older dogs can bring a lot to the party too. They often take a lot less training which may suit your lifestyle more than a puppy.

Why adoption?

Regardless of a dog’s age, adopting them from a rescue centre or a dog shelter to give them a good home is a brilliant thing to do.

There’s a common misconception that animals are given up for adoption because of behavioural issues, but often a change in circumstance for owners can result in an elderly dog being given to a rehoming centre. We unfortunately hear all too often that adopting an older dog is a “financial risk”. We cannot stress the need for pet insurance enough and most insurers will cover an older rescue dog.

How does an adult dog deal with a new owner?

The key to welcoming a new dog is letting him take his time. Dogs have a naturally inquisitive nature, so it shouldn’t be long before you can start to see your dog taking an interest in you, his new best friend.

Dogs are conditioned to make humans the centre of their world. If that person changes, it’s naturally traumatic for the dog, but it will learn to love again.

How long a dog takes to readjust depends on how it was brought up. For example, a dog that was used to different sitters, family members or even households may find it easier to slot into a new home, compared with a dog that only ever had one owner.

The benefits of rehoming an elderly pet

Older dogs for rehoming are likely to be well trained and have a wealth of experience with day-to-day life in a human world. Oldies are likely to know how to behave around people, are good on walks and get along with other dogs. They’re also calmer than high-energy puppies.

Older dogs require less training

Older dogs will already be toilet-trained and will have mastered basic commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ – saving you the energy and time spent training a puppy, which can take months!

Older dogs are often calmer than puppies

Dogs generally slow down with old age, so although they may not be able to take part in very energetic play or long walks, they will still enjoy a gentle game of fetch and a short stroll in the park.

If you have young children, a less energetic and boisterous dog may be more suitable. Plus, an older dog will already have their adult teeth, which leads to less household destruction compared with their puppy counterparts.

You can still teach an old dog new tricks!

Although they may not be as energetic as a younger dog, they still have the potential to keep learning and adapting just like puppies.

Older dogs have the ability to focus for longer periods of time, so if you’re worried about training them to your lifestyle, they can often be even easier to teach than younger dogs.

Older dogs aren’t necessarily ‘problem dogs’ as some people think

Older dogs are handed into rehoming centres due to a variety of reasons, including allergies, death of their owner, a new baby, loss of job, a move or change in work schedule. These dogs need homes just as much as younger dogs and make a loyal, fun and wonderful pet!

Older dogs are fully grown

You know exactly what you’re getting in terms of size and temperament – rather than guessing with a puppy.

Adopting an older dog is a wonderful opportunity for you to welcome a new member of the family and can be an incredibly fulfilling experience, while offering a pet a second chance for a happy life.

Of course – we are not saying pick an older dog and not a puppy. We are simply saying, look at your circumstance and base your decision upon if a puppy or a rescue dog suits your current situation and consider future situations.

How to pet your cat properly

How to Pet a Cat Properly

Cats are elegant, enigmatic animals. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that there are right and wrong ways to pet a cat.

Many of us are in the dark about how to properly pet our feline companions. Given that one of the best ways to communicate and bond with your cat is through touch, such knowledge is invaluable for moggie mums and dads.

We take a look at how to successfully approach petting your cat…

Understanding cat affection

First things first: not all cats are the same. Some cats love human contact, others may react aggressively to unwanted physical attention.

Interaction with people is something they learn during a relatively short period – between two and seven weeks old. As such, our characteristics are also important in determining how cats show affection; personality and gender, the regions of their body we touch, and how we generally handle them are all believed to be contributing factors.

Correctly interpreting your cat’s behaviour

Cat behaviour is a complex process that can be difficult to discern at times. For instance, if your cat approaches you, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be petted. Their meowing may simply be letting you know it’s time for food or play.

Rubbing up against or leaning on you are the clearest signs that being petted is probably desired.

What to do when petting your cat

For starters, you should always be gentle. Let them come to you and respect their personal space and boundaries. It’s all about building trust and sharing a loving relationship, which is one of the best parts of having a pet. Once that bond is made, you can then focus on learning where your cat likes being petted most of all.

Popular petting zones include:

  • The base of the chin
  • The base of the ears
  • On the cheeks, behind the whiskers
  • The base of the tail (lightly!)

Use a combination of soft finger glides and light scratches to keep your cat happy while petting them. You should also ensure they are comfortable and respond accordingly if they seem to be favouring one area or technique over another.

How not to pet your cat

Cats know what they like and what they want when you’re petting them – and they will display obvious signs of dislike or tension if you go about it the wrong way. These include:

  • Actively trying to move away
  • Staying quiet (no longer purring or rubbing)
  • Bursts of over-grooming
  • Rippling or twitching skin, usually along their back
  • Flattened or rotated ears
  • Biting, swiping or batting your hand away with their paw

If you notice these occurrences when petting your cat, a change of tact is in order; however if this behaviour continues despite you making positive changes, as this could signal an underlying medical issue. We would always recommend an appointment with one of our vets if you have concerns.

English Blue cat.

Blinking good cats

Have you ever tried to win a staring contest with a cat? Well, trust me, you can’t! Cats have a marvellous unblinking gaze, and this post will shed some light on why, and what that fixed stare might mean for you.

Where it all began

Cats in the wild survive by hunting small prey in dim light – and they are extremely good at it. This is partly due to their excellent vision which has developed specifically to be able to keep track of fast-moving creatures in poorly lit environments. They need to be able to lock their eyes onto a target and keep track of it, or else they risk losing their dinner! This means they have highly developed eyes, and using them is an important part of their lives – even if your average pet cat nowadays doesn’t have to stray far from their cosy bed to find regular meals.

Cats have also evolved a finely tuned communication system based on body language: mostly posture, facial expressions and noisy vocalisations. Intense staring can be an important form of this communication between cats and is often the first stage in various confrontations, including territorial spats. A cat’s ‘hard stare’ has therefore developed a bit of a reputation as a sign of aggression, but that is not always the case and depends a lot on other body language.

So, what does it actually mean now?

Eye contact is important to cats, but it is worth remembering that it is only one form of body language! Look for additional signs to see how your cat is feeling. A happy cat will likely be in a relaxed posture and may be blinking slowly whilst maintaining eye contact. Angry cats may hiss or growl, swish their tails and flatten their ears. Scared or anxious cats will often hide behind or under furniture in a crouched position with their tails tucked underneath them. All of these cats may also be staring at you!

Here are a few common scenarios in which you might glance up and see those eyes fixed on your face.

Your cat wants something

Cats quickly learn that we are their servants in life, catering to their every need and whim! We provide their food, their shelter, their affection and comfort. Unlike humans, they cannot put into words what they want us to do, and so they merely stare and assume we will figure it out eventually. This may be why you notice those eyes becoming particularly intense just around dinner time!

Your cat is curious

Cats are notoriously nosy creatures: curiosity killed the cat, after all! They are constantly keeping an eye on us (literally!), reading our body language and looking out for subtle signs that all is well. Cats rely on us both for food and shelter, but also because we are part of their social group, and regular eye contact is important for them to maintain that stable family.

Your cat is sleeping

This may seem like an odd one, but your cat may merely be catching forty winks! Cats sleep a lot (really, a LOT), and they can sleep with eyes partially open, so they can appear to be staring at you for long periods of time when in fact they’re well away in dreamland. Uncomfortable and a bit weird, maybe, but harmless.

Your cat is unwell

This is an uncommon cause of staring, but some diseases, mostly of older cats, can cause high blood pressure. This in turn can cause their pupils to dilate and their eyes to take on a slightly fixed stare. If you notice your cat staring more than usual, having dilated pupils even in good light, or a reddish look to the eyes, take them for an appointment with your vet.

Your cat just loves you!

Intense, staring eyes and a slow blink…. congratulations! Your cat just really loves you. Fixed eye contact and regular slow blinking is a sign of affection in cats. So, look straight back, indulge in some slow blinks and enjoy an affectionate moment with your feline friend.

In Conclusion

The reality is, it’s very difficult to be absolutely sure why your cat enjoys watching you so much. Unless they’re giving off some other angry body language, or have an underlying medical issue, though, it’s likely because you are hugely important to them and they want you to know that. What to do? Well, perhaps just acknowledge it, give them a stare and a few blinks back and revel in the attention. Oh, and maybe fetch them some dinner.

 

Indoor cats and misconceptions

Cats are mysterious enough on their own, without pesky myths and misconceptions mucking things up. Even though indoor cats typically live a safer, healthier lifestyle than their free-roaming feral friends, they aren’t without risk. So today, we’re debunking some of the most common myths about indoor cats.

My indoor cat can’t get fleas because my home is clean

Even if your home is sparkling clean, your indoor cat can still get fleas. Fleas can make their way indoors on shoes, with visitors, or through other pets that go outside. Even rodents that may take refuge in your home during the cooler months can bring in fleas. The best way to truly protect against fleas is to keep all your pets, including indoor-only cats, on a regular, year-round flea preventative.

Indoor cats only need one litter box

To minimize the chance of your cat going outside their litter box — and choosing your floors and laundry instead — they should have a choice when it comes to where they potty. Cats are likely to avoid a box that already has “deposits” in it or one that they’ve developed a negative association with. The general rule-of-thumb is to have one more box than the number of cats you have. Ideally, keep the litter boxes in different locations and not next to one another.

Indoor cats miss their hunting instinct

While your indoor cat isn’t hunting prey like their outdoor feline friends, you can provide the same stimulation indoors to help to satisfy that instinct. You can engage your cat’s primal instinct with interactive feeders, puzzle toys, laser pointers, and other fun toys and play.

Pregnant women must get rid of their cats

Pregnant women can have cats, but some caution should be exercised when dealing with the litter box. When cleaning a litter box, pregnant women can be at risk for Toxoplasma, a parasite which can live in cats and be shed in cat poop. Exposure to the Toxoplasma organism early in pregnancy can cause birth defects or miscarriage in women.

If you have cats and become pregnant, be sure to talk with your doctor and always wear gloves and wash your hands after scooping the litter box. Cleaning the litter box every day can minimize exposure risk since Toxoplasma isn’t infective in fresh stool.

Indoor cats don’t need veterinary care

It’s important for indoor cats to get a veterinary check-up at least once a year. Even indoor-only cats can develop a variety of medical conditions and diseases. After all, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and even cancer don’t respect walls and doors. Indoor cats can also contract viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections, as these nasties can come into your home on your shoes and clothes, other cats, or dogs in the home that can go outside.

Indoor cats don’t need to be microchipped

If your cat gets out of your home, how will you find them? Indoor cats do occasionally get out, especially during home renovations, when moving, or even when friends and family come to visit. An RSPCA survey found that only 74% of lost cats are reunited with their owners. If your cat gets out and doesn’t have visible identification or a microchip, the probability of them getting returned to you is significantly lower than if they are easily identified.

The outdoors stay outside

While your cat may not leave the house, you certainly do. And with you, comes a variety of unwanted “guests” like ticks, fleas, worm eggs, etc. Visiting friends, pets, and rodents can carry them in, too. Even neighbourhood strays that visit your cats from the other side of a screen door or window can pass along germs and parasites (e.g., fleas). The best line of defence for your indoor cat against outside invaders is to keep them up-to-date on their vaccines and on parasite protection year around.

Vet checking a cats mouth.

Visiting the vets with my cat

Cat’s can quite often be nervous about coming to the Vet, though let’s face it, they don’t know they are going to the vet’s! The reality is that Cat’s are creatures of habit and a break in that habit can be enough to cause stress and worry.

So what can you do to reduce that stress and worry?

What can a carrier do to reduce the stress associated with a vet visit? 

  1. Choose a suitable cat carrier: not all cat carriers are equal! The ‘best’ cat carriers are easy to get cats in and out of, secure so the cat cannot escape and easy to clean. They should be large enough so that the cat can stand up and change position: many carriers are too small. Ideal from a veterinary perspective are carriers that have a large top opening and/or carriers which can be easily dismantled if the cat does not want to come out voluntarily.
  2. Don’t keep your cat carrier in a dusty attic or shed! Ideally the cat carrier should be a normal part of the home, as one of the sleeping options for your cat so that they do not only associate the carrier only with travel and a visit to the clinic.
  3. Make the carrier an inviting place for your cat to spend time in at home. If it has a detachable top, then remove this and the door so that the cat now has a low sided sleeping ‘basket’ they can enjoy. Put in some soft bedding, favourite toys and perhaps some treats. Feliway spray can also be helpful. Feliway contains a synthetic version of a pheromone which cats secrete from cheek glands and which they then rub onto familiar surfaces such as walls of the home and their carer’s legs. Spray Feliway into an empty carrier 20-30 minutes before allowing your cat access to the carrier and your cat will feel more reassured that their carrier is safe. Don’t spray Feliway on or near your cat as the alcohol carrier is unpleasant for them.
  4. On the day of the vet visit it can be helpful to:
  • Prevent your cat from going outdoors, if applicable
  • Spray the carrier and a towel or blanket which can be used to cover the carrier during the journey and in the waiting room with Feliway 20-30 mins before use
  • Remember to always use one carrier per cat: even best friends may fall out if confined together in a stressful situation
  • Consider restricting access to food, especially if your cat is often sick on the journey. Restricting access to food may also be required by your vet clinic if certain tests, sedation or anaesthesia are needed
  1. Place the cat carrier securely in the car – either on a seat with a seat-belt to hold in place or in a foot well.
  1. Drive as smoothly and calmly as you can.
  2. If your cat is very stressed in the waiting area of the clinic, consider waiting in your car until the clinician is ready to see you (ask the clinic receptionists to assist with this)
  3. If using a clinic waiting area:
  • Choose somewhere to sit that is as far away from other pets and people as possible
  • Try and place the cat carrier off the ground: cats feel safer if not at floor level
  • Cover the carrier with a Feliway-sprayed towel or blanket
  1. In the consultation, where possible allow your cat to choose when they wish to come out of the carrier by opening (and possibly removing) the door of the carrier.
  2. In terms of cat handling and restraint, remember that ‘less is more’. If a cat feels that they are being held or restrained they are more likely to resist this and may, as a last resort, become aggressive.

Finally some common questions that I am asked about vet visits:

  1. What if my cat does not want to come out of their carrier? 

They should be lifted out gently (if in a top opening carrier) or, if the top half of the carrier can be removed, this should be done and the cat examined in the base.

  1. Is scruffing a cat an OK way to hold it? 

Scruffing is the procedure whereby someone restrains a cat by firmly gripping the loose skin at the back of the neck in a similar way to how a mother cat lifts and carries her kittens. Scruffing is not a kind or appropriate way to handle cats – they should not be restrained or lifted by their scruff.

Handling cats should always be done gently and with respect. If cats feel they still have some sense of control of their environment they are likely to be calmer and much less inclined to resist restraint or become aggressive. Gentle handler results in a cat that is easier to examine. If restraint is needed then wrapping a towel is much kinder than scruffing.

  1. My cat is really stressed at the vets and they find it very difficult to examine them – what else can I try? 

The first thing is always to speak to your vet clinic and voice your concerns. It may be that there are solutions which can be considered including, where appropriate

  • A phone or video consultation to follow up on test results or treatment rather than the cat needing to attend the clinic
  • An appointment at a quieter time of day when the waiting room is likely to be emptier and less stressful for your cat
  • Pre-visit sedation which can reduce the stress of the clinic visit
  • A home visit may be an option although this can still be quite a stressful experience for cats

 

How to get your cat or dog to take a pill

Have you found yourself pleading with your vet, saying “My dog won’t take pills”? If so, you’re not alone. Both dogs and cats are attracted to the smell and taste of many different things, but pill-flavoured pet food often isn’t one of them. Other dogs and cats are willing to ignore the pill entirely if it’s masked in food. To counter these common challenges, here are some tips for giving pills to dogs and cats.

Follow the directions

While some pet owners crush pills and mix them with their pet’s food, this should never be attempted without first asking your vet. Some formulations rely on the pill or capsule to remain intact to be effective and safe, while other medications are not to be given with food at all. Crushing a pill may also leave a medicinal smell in the room or on your hands that especially sensitive pets will notice.

Opt for pills with a pet-friendly taste

Many pills or tablets for pets now come in pet-friendly flavours, such as beef, chicken, or liver. Some pets will be more likely to take their medicine if they receive these tastier options. We use them on our own pets and can see first hand the benefits of flavoured tablets!

Gradually condition those who escape

Treat or no treat, some dogs and cats are reluctant to take pills and will run away when the time comes. At the first rattle of a foil pack, a pet may run away and hide in a space where even a cat couldn’t turn around. Then there’s the detective who skilfully separates food from medicine and holds it for a minute before spitting it out. Pursuing or restraining a distressed pet will only escalate the problem, so don’t go down this route.

End the pilling routine once and for all

Giving pills to your pet can become a struggle and/or result in missed doses. Some medicines, such as antibiotics that treat common bacterial skin infections, may not work as effectively if doses are given sporadically or incompletely.

The antidote to this challenge requires no food tricks, furniture moving, or undignified wrestling matches. Some veterinary medicines are formulated as chewable tablets, oral drops, or even injections (injections need to be administered in a clinic). This is especially helpful for administering antibiotics during a brief period of treatment.

In any case, always let us know if you have serious difficulty pilling your dog or cat so that they can work with you to find the best alternative solution.

Increase in ticks

We have recently seen an increase in the number of clients finding ticks on their pets!

A tick may appear initially like a spider that is brown in colour. When it feeds, it swells to around a pea size.

Ticks must be removed and we would only recommend trying this at home if you are confident in doing so as you must remove the whole tick and done incorrectly, it is quite easy to leave the head in your pet.

If you are a member of our Well Pet Club, our nursing team can remove a tick for you as it is covered in your plan! If you are not confident in the removal of a tick, always seek help from our team.

Ticks are well documented to spread disease and this is why we recommend regular prevenative treatment to help avoid any nasty situations! We have plenty of stock and can also check on your records when your pet last received a preventative treatment from us.

If you have any concerns, please email or call your nearest branch for advice.

Small Pug in a brown blanket.

Why does my dog excessively lick?

What is ‘excessive’ licking?

“Dogs lick, it’s what they do”. This remark is generally true and the action of licking whether it be for grooming or checking out surfaces in their environment is typically normal behaviour. However, just like anything in life, sometimes normal behaviours can stray into being inappropriate, especially when exaggerated or done too much. The same is true for dogs with licking and it is not unusual to see licking becoming excessive or abnormal for many different reasons.

Some animals will repeatedly lick at themselves in one location, multiple regions or all over their body with enough intensity or duration to result in the loss of fur to varying degrees. Frequently alongside the fur loss or in some instances before hair loss has become noticeable, dogs will start to develop skin lesions.

Alternatively, some dogs will lick at the air or surfaces in their environment which can include other pets or humans in the household. If done continuously, this behaviour could indicate a problem.

What causes excessive licking?

There are numerous potential causes of excessive licking in dogs. The most common causes are:

  1. Parasites

Parasites (fleas, lice, mites) are one of the most common causes of licking and scratching in domestic pets. Don’t rely on being able to see them with the naked eye. Although they can sometimes be seen, it is not uncommon for them to be missed, even fleas (using a flea comb and not finding any fleas is not a guarantee that fleas aren’t present). Some parasites can only be seen with specific testing and when observed down a microscope.

The most effective way of ruling parasites out is treating all household pets with a vet prescribed anti-parasitic treatment at the recommended interval. Remember, not all products you can buy are made equally and often then don’t cover all the possible parasites that can be a problem; cheap products are a false economy and you may just find yourself spending more money in the long run. Speak to your vet for what they recommend.

  1. Allergies

Allergic skin disease is very common in dogs and cats. This can be an environmental allergy i.e. an allergy to something your dog comes into contact with in their environment, including certain pollens, dust mites, cleaning products etc. Some environmental allergies can vary in severity between animals and can be worse at different times during the year. For example, irritation caused by outdoor allergens tend to be seen more frequently in the spring/summer months (as with human hay fever).

Alternatively, allergies may be associated with your pet’s diet. Some animals will develop skin irritation associated with something they are eating (common dietary allergies include chicken, beef, lamb, wheat), and can sometimes be seen with associated GI signs (bloating, diarrhoea etc).

A common misconception is that allergies are something you are born with. In reality the most common time for them to develop in dogs is between 6 months and 3 years of age. However, we do see issues arising outside of this timeframe too. Allergies can be complex and involve multiple different allergens (e.g. Atopic Dermatitis).

  1. Pain

In some instances, animals will focus on excessively licking at a particular part of their body indicating they are sore or painful in this area. For example, dogs may lick at an area such as over a joint affected by arthritis, or lick at their paw if they have a thorn stuck in it or some other wound. Licking typically won’t resolve until the offending cause is treated.

  1. Dry skin

Just as humans can suffer with dandruff, so too can dogs. Dandruff is essentially due to dry skin and left to exacerbate it can cause skin irritation for dogs. The origin of dry skin can be associated with a dog’s diet, inappropriate shampoo choices that dry their skin, too frequent bathing, certain parasites and hormonal issues to name a few. Dealing with the underlying cause of the dry skin will help to resolve the licking.

  1. Skin infections

Skin infections will often cause a dog to lick. However typically skin infections are secondary to other issues such as allergies or self-trauma. If the infection is more than superficial, removing the underlying issue may not be sufficient to resolve the problem. Instead, specific management such as topical cleaning, ointments or in some cases oral antibiotics may be needed.

  1. Anal gland issues

The anal glands are a pair of glands on the inside of either side of your dog’s anus. They contain secretions involved in scent marking. In some animals the anal glands can become excessively full (impacted) or infected, which can be intensely painful and irritating. As a result, some dogs will lick at their anus (or sides if they are unable to reach their anus). They may also scoot their bottom along the floor and a fishy smell may be noted. This can be a condition exacerbated in animals with underlying skin allergies.

  1. Nausea

Some animals will lick their lips or ‘lip smack’ if they are feeling nauseous or after vomiting. Causes of nausea/vomiting are a whole different and long blog post! But never-the-less, if you find your dog doing this specific licking behaviour, it’s best you contact your vet for advice.

  1. Behavioural

For some dogs the act of excessive licking can be seen to develop as a response to stress, anxiety or boredom. This type of licking isn’t always isolated to licking themselves. Dogs may be observed licking other surfaces in their environment, other pets, or humans. A good discussion with your vet about home set-up, husbandry and changes may highlight possible issues. Often an effort will be made to exclude other causes of licking first as they tend to be more frequent. Management of behavioural issues may ultimately require seeking the assistance of a trained behaviourist to assess your specific needs.

The possible secondary skin infections that can occur from not addressing the behaviour issues can further increase your pet’s stress levels.

  1. Dental/oral disease

Dogs may lick their lips (particularly after eating) if they have painful teeth or other oral disease (affecting their gums, tongue or other areas inside their mouth). The best way of assessing this is to have your vet do a dental check. However, remember licking of lips isn’t the only indicator for dental disease, so just because your dog isn’t licking his lips doesn’t mean there aren’t issues there to be addressed.

Why is it a problem?

While there are a number of potential causes of excessive licking. The end result of your dog continuing to lick themselves is the same regardless of the cause. If your pet continues to lick at itself, this will result in skin inflammation. Further increasing the level of irritation in the skin which in turn will elicit more licking. This perpetual loop will continue without intervention. Inflamed skin can result in overgrowth of bacteria/yeasts present on your pet’s skin, resulting in secondary skin infections. If left untreated, it can result in chronic skin damage and even permanent damage to hair follicles, meaning that hair may never regrow even if the licking is eventually stopped.

Don’t forget that some of the causes of licking have effects on your dog beyond just the skin and the licking. If the underlying issues are not addressed it can leave your dog with significant risks to their ongoing health.

What is the treatment?

You can now appreciate there is potentially a lot more to your dog licking excessively than you may have initially considered. The treatment is going to be specific to your dog and what the underlying issue is identified as being. The first step is making an appointment with your vet to discuss the problem. They will take a thorough history and fully assess your pet. Some problems can be identified quickly. However, be patient as further visits and investigation (including examination of samples under the microscope, bloods, allergy testing) may be needed to identify the ultimate cause. Treatments can be one off for some conditions and longer-term for other issues.

 

Easter dangers for our pets

Importance of dental care