Heat awareness for animals in hutches

We all enjoy getting out in the sunshine; however, it is not always true for our pets! Any animal can overheat in hot weather, and we can often forget how tough it can be on our pets that live in hutches, such as rabbits and guinea pigs.

It can be easy to think that their hutches provide cover from the warm sun, but they can heat up very quickly and become uncomfortable for the animals. And let’s not forget all that fur that they can be carrying too!

Take a look at our 5 top tips below for helping your furry friend stay cool:

  1. It is always best to find a shady area in the garden to position their enclosure and any exercise runs, to keep them away from direct sunlight. Extra shade could be created by draping a towel or sheet over part of the run, maintaining a draught of cool air.
  2. Create an area for them that is nice and cool to lie on – this could be achieved by placing some ceramic tiles in their hutch/enclosure, however, ensure that these remain in the shade.
  3. It is important to remember that your rabbit or guinea pig is likely to drink more on hot days, therefore ensure they have access to fresh, clean water when needed. Keep checking the water throughout the day too so that you can top it up as required, but also so you can notice if anything is wrong (e.g. the bottle spout is blocked).
  4. A way to ensure that your pet is getting some added water in their diet is to feed them plenty of leafy green vegetables and safe fruit (such as tomato or cucumber).
  5. For those breeds that are long-haired, consider making them feel more comfortable in the heat by removing any excess hair with a brush.

With the above in mind, recognising the main symptoms of heatstroke for rabbits and guinea pigs is important to ensure that you can take action to prevent it, or if it occurs, get them the necessary treatment. Keep an eye out for:

–   Convulsions

–   Salivating

–   Reddening of the ears

–   Panting

–   Weakness and lethargy

If you feel your rabbit or guinea pig is showing any of the above symptoms, then use cool water to dampen their fur and contact us immediately.

Important Information – Product Recall

Fold Hill Foods has taken precautionary action to recall several dry cat food diets due to safety concerns. This is a result of a concerning spike detected by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in the number of pancytopenia cases in cats throughout the UK.

What should I do?

If you have bought any of the products detailed in the food recall, you should not feed them to your cat. Instead, you should do the following.

  • Check if you have bought the affected products and batch code(s) / «use-by / best before» date(s). You can do this by taking a picture of the notice on the Fold Hill website or writing down the batch code(s) / «use-by / best before» date(s) for reference at home.
  • Return the product(s) to the store for a full refund (with or without a receipt).

 

What is pancytopenia?

In the blood, there are three types of cells:

  • red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the organs;
  • white blood cells, which fight infection; and
  • platelets, which help with coagulation or blood clotting.

Pancytopenia means that all these cell populations are lower than normal. Depending on the cell populations that are the most affected, different clinical signs can be detected (alone or in combination) but general signs are lethargy, bleeding (eg in urine, nosebleeds), and fever:

  • low red blood cells can cause anaemia, weakness, and lethargy;
  • low white blood cells can cause difficulties in fighting infection and fever; and
  • low platelets can cause bruises and bleeding.

 

What is the treatment?

Treatment and diagnosis will vary depending on the cause of pancytopenia, but it can be fatal if left untreated.

 

Product recall information          

The affected products include some of the ranges of AVA, sold exclusively at Pets at Home, Applaws, and Sainsbury’s cat food.

For a full list of products and the affected batch numbers issued by the Food Standards Agency, click here.

To read the statement from Fold Hills Food – the facility where these diets are made, click here.

More information can be found on the RVC website, here.

If you have any concerns, please contact us as soon as possible.

August bank holiday hours

The August bank holiday weekend is here…whether you are heading to the coast, off on a walking adventure, or taking it easy at home this bank holiday, we just wanted to let you that our opening hours may differ, should you need us:

 

Summer Bank Holiday – Monday 2nd August
08.45 – 18.00

Out of Hours service will be available by calling 01450 372038 as usual.

 

Thank you for your cooperation

We’re all ears when it comes to your rabbit

Every year we celebrate Rabbit Awareness Week, a week dedicated to our rabbits. This year is the 15th year of the celebration, where we will be hopping through the years, as we provide you with the best information about how to care for your rabbit and how adapting their care throughout their years will help your bunnies live happily and healthily into their golden years.

From baby bunnies to golden oldies, read below how you can help your rabbit throughout their lifetime, and of course, if you have any questions, please contact us or book your rabbit in for a health check.

To book an appointment, please call us on 01450 372038.

Below we have detailed the five freedoms required by your rabbit to ensure they live a happy and healthy life.

 DIET

  • You should ensure that your rabbit always has access to fresh, clean drinking water
  • When providing food for your rabbit, fresh grass is the preferred choice, but when not available, hay is a good substitute that is available all year round and provides them with the nutrients they require
  • Hay provides lots of long-strand fibre, keeping your rabbit’s gut moving, and is the closest thing to a natural diet. Rabbits would naturally graze all day in the wild, so please ensure your rabbit has an unlimited supply
  • Complete rabbit food is also available but should not be a replacement for hay. Please use these as a nutritional supplement
  • There are many plants that rabbits can safely enjoy, including broccoli, parsley, spring greens, and dandelions. They also love the leaves from an apple or hazel tree. When feeding them plants, you should keep the portion sizes to a minimum
  • Fruits should be counted as a treat for your rabbit as they are high in sugar. Your rabbit may enjoy a grape, slice of apple, slice of orange, or carrots.

To book an appointment, please call us on 01450 372038.

 ENVIRONMENT

Providing your rabbit with an ample amount of space to stretch, run, lie down, and binky is very important. Did you know that there are guidelines for minimum space requirements for housing rabbits whether they live inside or out?

The SSPCA advises that rabbits need the below as a minimum space requirement for two average-sized rabbits. But, of course, if you can provide more space, that is even better for your rabbit’s welfare.

A hutch should be permanently attached to a larger run to ensure they can exercise freely, such as rabbit friendly room indoors or a larger secure run outdoors.

It’s recommended it is at least 2m long x 60cm wide x 60 cm tall to house two paired rabbits, which they have access to at all times, so they can move freely and explore as they would if they were a wild rabbit.

 Top tips:

  • It is important to note that the space must be across a single level, so raised hutches within the space will not count towards the minimum space requirement
  • If you can provide free-range space, that is even better, but please ensure roaming is supervised
  • Most importantly, the bigger the space, the more room they will have to exercise and keep in shape!

Rabbits are naturally nervous as they are prey animals, so it is important that their enclosure or housing has a safe spot so that if they feel unsure, they can escape when worried. The sleeping area should contain dust-free straw or other rabbit-friendly bedding. Away from the sleeping area, a dedicated toilet spot should be created for your rabbit. The toileting area should be lined with newspaper, straw, or a paper-based litter that doesn’t expand.

Rabbits also require enrichment in the form of tunnels and platforms so that they can perform normal behaviours that they would in the wild, such as:

  • Running
  • Digging/Burrowing
  • Jumping
  • Hiding somewhere
  • Foraging/Grazing
  • Stretching up on their back legs
  • Lying fully out with their bodies
  • Binkying

Rabbits prefer to find small pieces of food hidden rather than have their food in one bowl.

Foraging ideas:

  • Use a treat ball to feed them
  • Willow tunnels, paper tunnels, or cardboard toilet rolls stuffed with hay and fresh herbs
  • Willow, hazel, apple, and blackthorn branches are tasty treats
  • Make a turf tray – fill a litter tray with turf from a garden centre.To ensure your rabbit’s set-up is well equipped, we advise that you have the following:
  • Food bowl or puzzle type feeders (feeding balls)
  • Water bowl
  • Litter tray
  • Hay rack
  • Bedding
  • Boredom breakers
  • Suitable base materials (sawdust/straw) or non-slip flooring
  • Hiding places (cardboard boxes/tunnels)

Remember to spot clean your rabbit’s housing once a day – removing soiled materials and un-eaten food. Use a rabbit-safe disinfectant and then carry out a full clean at least once a week.

(Please note that during summer months, we recommend spot cleaning is increased to twice a day due to the risk of flystrike)

To book an appointment, please call us on 01450 372038.

HEALTH

As prey animals, rabbits hide pain and illness well. Therefore, it is very important for your rabbit to have a check-up at least once a year to detect any underlying issues or detect and potential problems early on.

To keep your rabbit fit and healthy, we recommend carrying out the following checks at home:

Eyes: Ensure your rabbit’s eyes are clear, shiny, and free from discharge

Ears: Ensure your rabbit’s ears are free from discharge and no mites are present

Mouth: Ensure your rabbit’s mouth is free from drooling and there is no swelling present around the cheek areas

Skin and coat: Ensure your rabbit is appropriately groomed, looking out for any fur that may be matted and bald patches as well as mites. (If matted fur is present, a vet visit would be necessary as rabbit skin is extremely delicate and a home groom may cut the skin)

Nails: Ensure your rabbit’s nails are not overgrowing or curling

Bottom: Ensure your rabbit bottom is free from faeces and urine staining. If faeces are present, these should be gently washed away and the area needs to be dried thoroughly. Rabbits with faeces on their bottoms are more at risk of flystrike

The most common health problems seen in rabbits include:

Dental disease

Rabbit’s teeth continue to erupt throughout their lives. This allows them to grind down course feed substances such as grass and plants in the wild. Many domestic rabbits are fed a mixture of hay and commercially available diets. Commercially available diets are lower in fibre and higher in protein, fat, and energy. This means that rabbits quickly achieve their nutritional requirements, unlike in the wild when they would need to graze all day and forage to meet the same energy intake from food. This can not only lead to obesity and boredom, but it can also lead to dental disease due to lack of wear of the teeth. In addition, less time grinding and a lower intake of indigestible fibre can lead to the formation of molar spurs, which if severe and allowed to progress, can cause tongue and cheek lacerations.

If the front teeth (incisors) are too long, these can be shortened – this is usually performed on a conscious rabbit, but this depends on temperament.

If there is malalignment of the incisors (meaning that they don’t contact each other when closed), then shortening the teeth may provide a temporary fix, but the removal of the affected incisors may be more appropriate to prevent the need for regular burring- this is something your vet would advise you on.

A general anaesthetic will be required to facilitate a thorough examination and treatment if there is spurring (sharp edges) of the back-cheek teeth (molars).

Gut stasis

Gut stasis is a digestive issue where the system slows down or stops. As a result, gas and toxins can build up, and this can prove to be fatal.

Monitoring your rabbit’s food intake and faecal output will help you detect if this is present.

Obesity

Obesity is a huge problem in pet rabbits. Two of the main causes are insufficient exercise and a poor diet of muesli or too many high sugar treats.

Remember that pellets or nuggets should make up ONLY 5% of their overall diet – with hay being 85%! So, only one egg cup twice a day of pelleted feed is required.

Obese rabbits suffer from several health issues, including not being able to clean themselves or reach their bottom to eat their caecotrophs – which puts them at greater risk of flystrike as well as putting extra weight strain on their joints.

Flystrike

Over the spring and summer months, the risk of flystrike increases amongst the rabbit population. Flystrike occurs when a particular type of fly lays its eggs on or around the rear end, which hatch into maggots. These maggots then start to eat the flesh of the rabbit, with often fatal results.

Due to rapid development, the best prevention is keeping your rabbit clean and in good health, feeding them an appropriate diet, carefully checking their bottoms, and applying preventative treatments during the peak season. Please contact us quickly for further help and advice if you have any suspicions.

Typical signs of flystrike include:

  • Not drinking or eating
  • Lethargic and noticeably quiet
  • A strong smell from their living area
  • Digging into a small corner of their living area
  • Open sores or visible maggots on the skin

Diarrhoea

If your rabbit’s faeces are watery or jelly-like, this is very serious in rabbits and can be fatal, especially in elderly or young rabbits. We recommend getting in touch with us immediately if this is the case.

Blood in the urine (haematuria)

If blood is present in the rabbit’s urine, small blood spotting would be noticed. If your rabbit otherwise seems fit and healthy, this could be your rabbit’s diet staining the urine if all the colour is the same. If any straining or difficulty is noticed, or blood spotting, please contact us as soon as possible. We would also suggest taking out bedding materials and placing a white towel or leaving the housing free from materials so you can fully assess the urine colour, consistency and amount.

To book an appointment, please call us on 01450 372038.

COMPANIONSHIP

Rabbit’s value companionship over food!

Rabbits are extremely sociable creatures and not having a companion can lead to boredom. Rabbits feel safer with the same species as opposed to a guinea pig. Rabbits that are neutered are more successfully bonded together. Different neutered sexes tend to be the best fit, although some same-sex bondings can occur. We would always recommend that you let a good rescue do the pairing for you, especially if you have not tried to pair up rabbits before – it can be quite a challenge!

NEUTERING

Rabbits are usually neutered around four months of age. Castration involves removing the testes of a male rabbit, and spaying removes the uterus and ovaries of a female. It is worth noting that sperm can reside in the genital tract for up to six weeks, so it’s best to keep your rabbit away from un-neutered females during this time. Rabbits are extremely social creatures; neutering helps pair or bond rabbits, making them much happier.

Rabbit neutering benefits:

  • Eliminates prostatic and testicular cancer
  • Helps owners to litter train rabbits
  • Reduces aggressive behaviours, especially in males
  • Eliminates womb infections in females
  • Eliminates uterine cancer in females
  • No risk of unwanted pregnancies
  • Reduces spraying
  • Promotes successful bonding of rabbits

VACCINATIONS 

We recommend that rabbits are vaccinated against myxomatosis and viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD).

Previously this would have been administered through two separate injections; however, our new rabbit vaccine means that your pet can be protected against myxomatosis and both strains of VHD with just a single injection.

Hop to our practice for a rabbit health check and for more information.  

To make an appointment over the phone, please call the practice on 01450 372038 

Hawick Vets advice on the importance of microchipping your pet

Keeping our pets safe is important to all of us as pet owners. They trust us with their care and protection and microchipping can help with keeping them safe. A microchip identifies your pet as belonging to you. It contains a unique reference number that links to your details as an owner, stored on a central database. By scanning this microchip, this data is then accessible for the person scanning your pet.

You may be concerned that microchipping is an intrusive process, but the chip is tiny – the size of a grain of rice – and the procedure takes seconds; it doesn’t require an anaesthetic or sedation. It’s usually inserted under the skin in the scruff of the neck and under the skin around the neck for horses. Once it’s there, you (or your pet) won’t even notice it.

Hopefully, you’ll never need to use the microchip, because your pet will live a safe, happy, and long life with you. But there may be circumstances where you’ll be glad it’s there, such as:

If your pet gets lost

It’s easily done – even the most careful of owners are at risk of their pet running away: whether it’s a dog that runs across the open fields; a rabbit that escapes; a horse that bolts; or a cat who gets stuck in a neighbour’s shed. When your pet is found, it will likely be taken to a local vet practice or a charity rescue home. One quick scan of the microchip and a phone call later, your pet is back where they belong – with you!

If your pet is stolen

It’s an unfortunate reality that some pets – especially purebreds with high value – are stolen to order and resold. Without a microchip, you wouldn’t be able to trace them. Databases can also mark your pet as ‘stolen’ so when a practice, kennels, or other place scans their microchip they can search to see if they have been reported as lost or stolen.

 If your pet is involved in an accident

Outdoor pets, especially cats, are prone to injury, whether that’s fighting with another animal or being involved in an accident. Injured pets found by members of the public are usually taken to a local vet practice who will treat the animal while also trying to track down the owner. If your pet is microchipped and the details are up to date, you’ll be able to get your pet back on the road to recovery. They’ll certainly be glad to see you while they’re licking their wounds!

Things to consider about microchipping

  • It’s a legal requirement for all dogs to be microchipped in England, Wales, and Scotland
  • It may also become compulsory for cats in the UK to be microchipped
  • Microchip details must be kept up to date with new addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses
  • It’s illegal for breeders to sell puppies over eight weeks old that are not microchipped and on a registered database

If you want to know more about getting your pet microchipped, get in touch with Hawick Vets and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have. There is also some information available on the government website which you may find useful: www.gov.uk/get-your-dog-microchipped

Hawick Vets discuss kennel cough myths and facts

The very name ‘kennel cough’ suggests that dogs are only at risk of contracting this airborne disease if you put them into boarding kennels, while you go on holiday for example. It’s for this reason that many pet owners don’t get their dog vaccinated; they don’t see the disease as a risk. Hawick Vets look at some myths and facts about kennel cough.

MYTH “I don’t put my dog into kennels, so they won’t catch kennel cough”

The correct name for kennel cough is actually acute infectious tracheobronchitis – an infectious cough of the upper airways in dogs. It can be more virulent in boarding kennels, due to the large number of dogs being homed together, which is why it is referred to as kennel cough, but in truth any dog who mixes with other dogs is at risk of contracting the disease.

FACT “The boarding kennel won’t accept my dog without a vaccination”

Boarding kennels have a responsibility to prevent the spread of diseases amongst their furry guests, which is why most will insist on proof of a kennel cough vaccination. Oral and nasal vaccines take effect with differing timescales, so ensure you talk to your vet about what is right for you and your pet, and ensure you leave sufficient time before checking your dog in at the kennels.

MYTH “My dog can’t catch kennel cough as they’ve been vaccinated”

Much like vaccinations in humans, the kennel cough vaccine doesn’t eliminate the risk completely, but it will significantly reduce the risk of your dog catching the disease and boost their chances of recovery if they do catch it. Similarly, as with all vaccines, the more dogs that are vaccinated, the lower the chance of the disease being spread.

FACT “Kennel cough can spread in multiple ways”

Kennel cough is highly contagious and can be spread through the air – it’s a mixed viral and bacterial disease, so when an infected dog barks or coughs the aerosols produced are infectious. Obviously, direct contact is also a risk – e.g. dogs sharing toys or touching noses during play and shared water and food bowls can be a source of contamination too.

MYTH and FACT “My dog is fit and healthy, they’d recover easily if they caught kennel cough”

Puppies and elderly dogs are more at risk of complications and severe illness as a result of kennel cough, however, dogs with pre-existing medical conditions (which you may not be aware of) are too. Kennel cough is an unpleasant disease and can often interrupt sleep even when dogs are mildly affected. Many dogs will recover naturally, but if they seem uncomfortable or unwell, please seek veterinary advice. As a responsible pet owner, we would recommend protecting your own dog and therefore help protect others too.

Get in touch to discuss your dog’s kennel cough vaccination or to book an appointment.

Hawick Vets report on grass seeds & freshly cut grass hazards

It is the season when issues related to grass seeds are quite common in pets, especially for dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors.

Grass seeds can attach anywhere, but they most commonly attach to long fur between the toes and around the ears. The ends are sharp, and so they work their way into the skin and can embed themselves anywhere. Once in, they can cause local problems or may slowly migrate around the body. Grass seeds can also be inhaled or swallowed. A variety of medical issues can occur due to grass seeds, including pain, swellings, infection, head shaking, sneezing, and pneumonia. Dogs who have seeds stuck inside their paws are also likely to lick them constantly and limp while walking. Your dog may suddenly start shaking their head and pawing at its ear after a walk. An onset of sneezing may mean a seed is in the nose.

Prevention is always better than cure. So even though most grass seeds can be removed with a minor surgical procedure by your vet, you can prevent them from affecting your pet by grooming them regularly and keeping their fur clipped to a manageable length.

Try to carefully examine your dog after walks as it is the best defence against grass seeds. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you suspect that your dog is suffering from the ill effects of coming into contact with them.

Freshly cut grass

Dogs love to run around a freshly mowed lawn during the spring and summer months. Nevertheless, there are some hidden hazards to keep in mind.

Moisture from mowed grass clippings and warm temperatures can create mould in your garden.  Consuming mouldy grass clippings can cause digestive issues for your dog. It can lead to reduced appetite, vomiting, and changes in the stool. The same applies to some fertiliser or other agents applied to lawns used to create lush green gardens.

Keep your dog safe by clearing grass clippings and reviewing the ingredients for products that you use in your garden. There are some products labelled as “lawn fertiliser safe for pets”. This means your pet can go back on the grass after a delayed period. Such products have very specific instructions, and it is essential to follow these instructions precisely. Your pet will be thankful and have a great time enjoying the lovely weather.

Hawick Vets discuss exercising your puppy and kitten

Puppies and kittens often have endless amounts of energy and enthusiasm; this is a great way to view the world, and we should encourage this optimism to help create confident cats and dogs. Harnessing this energy into appropriate exercise regimes will also result in happier, healthier pets.

How much exercise does my puppy or kitten need?

PUPPIES

As standard, the Kennel Club recommends five minutes of exercise per month of age; this can be carried out twice a day.

e.g. eight weeks of age > 10 minutes twice a day

four months of age > 20 minutes twice a day

What is the secret to a tired and fulfilled puppy?
Mental stimulation – this is just as important as physical exercise. It’s recommended to provide physical exercise, mental stimulation, and ‘down’ time so that puppies can rest and learn to focus through exciting events.

What exactly is mental stimulation?
Mental stimulation is exercise for the brain, and helps with:

  • Boredom prevention– if the brain isn’t exercised, puppies and dogs will find other sources of mental stimulation such as chewing, digging, or barking
  • Improves owner to dog bond – mental stimulation games and play can increase owner-to-dog relationships making happier dogs and owners
  • Improves overall behaviour – increasing mental stimulation helps reduce stress or frustration in dogs and helps promote good behaviour choices
  • Helps dogs tackle frustration – dogs can often get frustrated (the toy that rolls under the sofa or the kibble that isn’t in reach). Using appropriate mental stimulation games can help dogs become less frustrated and build their levels of concentration.

Puppies are like children in how they react to tasks they deem ‘challenging’. Mental stimulation for puppies will drain their energy levels quickly compared to adult dogs. Some puppies will become frustrated quicker with certain tasks than other puppies. Assessing this during mental stimulation is essential. It is a good relationship builder if you can support puppies through tasks they may find difficult and reward them for attempting, even if they are not successful.

Mental stimulation games to play:

  • Find the food – this can be as simple as hiding puppy food or treats around the house and asking your puppy to find them or scattering puppy biscuits in the grass outside
  • Food dispensing toys – such as slow feeders or puzzle feeders. These can slow a puppy or adult dog from eating too quickly; this increases mental stimulation as they must work for their food
  • Learning new tasks – learning new ‘party tricks’ can be fun to demonstrate to other people, but how about teaching puppies behaviours you would prefer to see? We recommend teaching ‘settle’ or simply rewarding for when your puppy isn’t doing anything at all; this will enable your puppy over time to understand that ‘calmness’ is a behaviour worth doing as they will be rewarded for this. Teaching recall is another task that can provide mental stimulation through learning.

Top Tip – dogs learn by association and must be rewarded within one second for them to associate the reward.

Dogs love to sniff, and we often don’t give dogs enough time to carry out this important task. Letting a dog off their lead helps them feel satisfied from sniffing everything from grass to other dogs!  Puppies are often unsure in new spaces, so having them off their lead early ensures they learn to stay close from a young age. Training your dog as early as possible to be off their lead is recommended. It should be done in a safe, enclosed area, preferably not at home, as the puppy will know their own surroundings and act differently in an unfamiliar area. Find out more here.

Please note that short bursts of mental stimulation games are advised, especially for puppies.

Click here to read further information on dog training and puppy care with DogsTrust. Or contact our team at Hawick Vets.

KITTENS

With cats and kittens, there is no set amount of exercise that should be carried out, but at least two play sessions per day for 15-20 minutes should help reduce boredom and keep them active.

The preferred methods of play for cats are:

  • Pouncing – toys that can be pounced on are a good choice
  • Climbing – cats naturally prefer to be high up; having safe areas for cats to climb on, such as scratching posts, is another good option
  • Chasing – similar to dogs, cats like to chase. Long feather type toys are a good choice
  • Batting – cats also like to push things around the floor; rolling toys such as balls are good for this
  • Exploring – new areas or objects such as cardboard boxes or cat activity stands.

Cats tend to hunt and be most active at dawn and dusk, which is a good time to play. You can also encourage play and satisfaction by dropping a few cat treats when your kitten or cat has successfully ‘caught’ a toy. Trying different types of toys is also beneficial as this will help you discover what’s best for your kitten. Some prefer slow movements of toys whilst others like fast darting toys to chase.

Did you know that cats have a predatory sequence?
Search, stalk, chase, pounce, catch and manipulate. So, we must mimic the ‘catch’ part of this when playing with our kittens.

I have a house cat; do I need to do anything differently?
Indoor cats may be more at risk of experiencing boredom and frustration. The average distance a cat would cover outdoors is around 40-200 meters, so it’s important to factor this when planning exercise and activities for indoor cats to ensure they are stimulated.

Examples of enrichment for cats include:

  • Cardboard boxes – use different sizes and move these around in different locations every day
  • Cat activity stands or scratching posts – the taller the scratching post, the better – ceiling height is preferred, but generally, twice the size of a cat, when stood on their back legs, is a good size
  • Puzzle feeders
  • Various toys – use different toys every day and then re-use previous toys the following week
  • Shelves – placing shelves around the house will make for one very happy cat as they prefer to explore from above; a cat outdoors spends most of their time above the ground.

If you have any questions relating to puppy or kitten exercise, please get in touch with our team at Hawick Vets, and we will be happy to assist you in answering any questions you may have.

Top 10 hazards to watch out for this summertime to protect your pets

Summer brings longer days, warmer climates, new adventures and outdoor socialising, which with pets in tow, can be made even more enjoyable! However, when the temperatures rise, the dangers to our pets increase too. To keep pets safe, you should be aware of the potential hazards, as well as some top tips to help prevent your pet from endangering themselves throughout the summer months.

 

Heatstroke and dehydration
Our pet’s fur is great in the cold winter months, however, in the summer it can make them very uncomfortable; especially long-haired dogs, who require regular grooming. Heatstroke occurs when the body’s temperature rises above its normal levels and therefore cannot accommodate any additional heat.

Some of the key symptoms to watch out for are:

  • Dry pale gums
  • Bright red tongue
  • Excessive panting
  • Agitated behaviour
  • Drooling
  • Increased heart rate
  • Vomiting

To minimise the risk of dehydration and heatstroke, your pet should have access to clean, fresh drinking water. You should avoid exercising your dog during the hottest part of the day and try and get out early morning or late evening. If you are out with your dog for the day, you should carry a portable drinking bottle or bowl which is easily accessible and dispensed as required. Short-nosed dogs, dark-coloured pets and animals that are overweight are more susceptible to heatstroke and should be carefully monitored.

If you do think that your dog is dehydrated, or is demonstrating one or more of the symptoms listed above, cool them down with a hose and call us as soon as possible for advice.

 

Ticks
Our pets will be spending more time outside and will become more prone to ticks. Ticks are commonly found in woodland and grassland. Ticks are small parasites, which suck blood from other animals and have an egg-shaped body, which expands and becomes darker when they are filled with blood.

If you do discover a tick, and are confident to so do, you should remove it straight away. You should avoid squeezing the body or leaving the head in your pet. Removing a tick can be done using a tick removal tool, which can be purchased from your local practice.  If you are unsure how to remove a tick, please call us and we can assist. If the tick is not removed correctly, it can leave the tick’s head in your pet, which can cause a nasty reaction.

To prevent your pet from getting bitten, you can purchase preventative treatments from your local Practice which will repel ticks. Please call us to discuss and purchase the best treatment for your pet.

 

Bee or wasp stings
As humans, we fret around the buzzing noise when a bee comes close, however, an inquisitive pet may seek to investigate, and as a result, could get stung. Commonly, most stings will cause your pet some irritation and some pain. Dependent on where your pet has been stung, and if they have been stung before, there can be a lot of swelling and they may continually scratch the stung area, which can result in fur loss. If your pet shows any of the following symptoms, they could have been stung:

  • Drooling
  • Whining
  • Swelling
  • Pawing at the face, or mouth
  • Biting at the site of the sting
  • Holding up their paw (if that is where they have been stung)
  • Hives

If they have been stung near their mouth or nose, you should contact us straight away, as this can be a medical emergency.

 

Extra Fur
Keeping your pet well-groomed is particularly important in warmer weather. Brushing your pet to remove any excess or matted fur and to reduce the thickness of their hair will help. Having thick, ungroomed hair could contribute to heatstroke, as highlighted above. However, it is also important to remember that your pet’s coat also protects them from getting sunburnt.

Some pets are more susceptible to getting burnt by the sun. Fair haired animals, such as white dogs and cats, tend to have fair skin under their fur. Pets with fine, thin hair and hairless breeds are also at risk of sunburn. Remember, regardless of how much fur they have, all pets are vulnerable on areas which do not have much fur, including their ears, nose and on their tummy. To protect your pet, you can buy pet friendly sunblock.

 

Barbecues and alfresco dining
There’s nothing more enjoyable than cooking up a feast and enjoying your favourite tipple outdoors, however for your pet there are many things to be mindful of including hazardous foods, toxic drinks, scalding surfaces and kebab skewers to name a few.

Some food and drink that should be kept out of reach of your pet include:

  • Food containing bones
  • Food containing seeds
  • Grapes
  • Raw garlic
  • Raw onion
  • Raisins
  • Corn on the cob
  • Chocolate
  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Coffee/coffee beans
  • Teas/tea bags

 

Swimming pools, sea, rivers, and lakes
For many dogs a pool, river or lake may look inviting when the temperatures are high, however, it’s important to remember that not all dogs like the water or can swim! If you are introducing your dog to water, we would advise initially trying a shallow children’s paddling pool. If they enjoy that, you could then introduce them to wider, deeper waters using a dog-specific flotation device for their safety. If you are near water with a current or tide, please be wary; even if your dog is a strong swimmer, they could quickly find themselves in trouble if swimming against a tide.

Keep a look out for blue-green algae and associated warning signs, as this is often poisonous for dogs. Don’t let your dog swim in or drink water which you suspect is contaminated. You should contact us straight away if you suspect your dog may have come in to contact with some.

If your dog does enjoy swimming, after they have played in the water you should ensure they are always thoroughly rinsed to wash away salt, chlorine and harmful bacteria.

 

Walking on hot pavements and artificial grass
Hot pavements can burn your pet’s paws. Their paws are just as sensitive as the bottom of our feet, so if it is unbearable for you to touch, then it will be the same for your pet. We would advise trying the seven-second rule; if you can place the back of your hand on the surface for seven seconds or more, then your pet should be able to withstand the temperature of the surface. If you cannot, then it’s too hot for your pet to walk on.

To prevent your pet from burning its paws, you should follow the measures listed below:

  • Walk them in the cooler hours of the day – early morning or late evening
  • If you are out in the midday heat, try and walk them on the grass where possible
  • Clean and check your dog’s paws regularly

 

Fertiliser and pesticides
Most fertilisers contain nitrogen and iron, which can poison your pet and cause severe stomach problems which can lead to irritation. Coming in to contact with pesticides can cause your pet to have tremors and seizures. If you are not sure if your pet has been exposed to such chemicals (but your pet is showing one of the following symptoms) please call us and we can provide the appropriate treatment recommendations:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Nausea
  • Dark, muddy coloured gums
  • Unusual posture due to abdominal pain.
  • Seizures
  • Tremors

 

Flowers and Plants
Many plants and flowers are poisonous to our pets. If they consume a poisonous plant, depending on how much and their level of toxicity, they may become quite unwell. Below is a shortlist of some of the plants you may find in the summer months, which can be hazardous to our pets:

 

  • Elder: The whole plant, including the elderberries, are poisonous for both cats and dogs.
  • Lilies: Containing a toxin that can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, collapsing, fits, heart problems and renal failure (cats). Lily flowers and leaves are also often used in flower bouquets and are very poisonous to both dogs and cats.
  • Foxglove: Both the seeds and the leaves of a foxglove plant contain a toxin which can cause your pet to have heart problems, sickness, diarrhoea, fits and collapsing.
  • Geranium: The whole geranium plant is poisonous to both dogs and cats.
  • Hydrangea: Parts of a hydrangea plant contain cyanide which is toxic to both dogs and cats.

 

Cars
You should never leave your dog in a car on a hot day, even if it is just for a few minutes. Heatstroke can happen quickly, and it can be fatal. In warm weather, the temperature in a car can increase rapidly, making it hotter inside the car than outside. If your dog was to become distressed in your hot car, passers-by are encouraged to dial 999 and the police will act to release the dog – even if that means damage to your vehicle.

 

Summer is an enjoyable time of year with our pets, but it pays to be aware of the hazards which your pet could be exposed to, to ensure they remain safe. If you are concerned about your pet and would like some further advice, please contact us

Protect your pet from the sun

As we head into the summer months and temperatures start rising, it’s important to remember that your pets are most vulnerable at this time to many injuries and illnesses brought on by hot weather including sunburn, foot pad burns, dehydration, and the most dangerous of all, heatstroke. While heat stress is more common during the summer months, it can occur at any time throughout the year.

A state of hyperthermia, heatstroke occurs when a pet’s core body temperature exceeds the normal range, caused when heat generation exceeds the pet’s ability to cool itself down and lose the heat.

All pets are susceptible to heatstroke, but some are more prone than others including;

Dogs and Cats – pets which are overweight, have a thick heavy coat or are of a flat-faced breed (which is prone to breathing difficulties) are all more prone to heatstroke.

Rabbits and Guinea pigs – Rabbits and guinea pigs of any age are susceptible to heatstroke because they have very few ways of getting rid of excess heat. As prey species, they are experts at hiding any evidence of distress. Long hair, pregnancy and being overweight are some of the factors which make them more prone to heatstroke.

To help protect your pets during warm weather spells, and minimise the risk of any sun-related injuries, here are a few simple things you can do at home:

Water

Ensure your pet always has access to fresh water. Like humans, our pets are at danger of dehydration if they don’t drink enough water. Do not wait for your pet to appear thirsty or beg for water; ensure that it is readily available in a shady area, out of direct sunlight. You should also ensure their bowls are clean so that it stays nice and fresh, and they want to drink from it.

Exercise

Beat the heat and exercise your dog during the coolest part of the day. You should try and get out early morning or late evening and keep extra strenuous exercises to a minimum throughout periods of hot weather. When taking your dog for a walk you should ensure you have a fresh supply of water with you. If your dog isn’t used to going for long walks, is overweight or suffers from breathing difficulties, it is advisable to avoid exercising them when it’s particularly hot.

Time out

It’s important that your pet has access to a cool area in the house or hutch out of direct sunlight to go and relax.  Also ensure the area has an ample amount of airflow and remains well ventilated throughout the day.

If your rabbit or guinea pig are kept in a hutch then you should move this into a shaded area, or inside of the house, depending on where it is located.

Sun Cream

Just like us, our dogs and cats can get burned when they endure prolonged sun exposure, and as a result, can suffer from red, inflamed skin which is painful and irritating; resulting in scaly skin and hair loss. Use a pet-safe sun cream recommended by your vet – especially on pets with thin or white fur –  focusing primarily on their nose and ears to protect them from harmful UV rays.

Cars, Caravans and Conservatories

Never leave a pet in a car, caravan or a conservatory as temperatures, even on a cloudy day, can rise dramatically within a very short space of time. This could quickly lead to heatstroke, which can be fatal. If you have to travel with your dog in a car, you should ensure there is fresh air circulating through the vehicle, either from an open window or air conditioning. If you see a dog in a car looking distressed you should call 999 immediately, as recommended by the SSPCA and other animal welfare organisations.

Keeping your pet cool

If you’re seeking some further ideas for ways to keep your dog or cat cool, and entertained at the same time, you could:

  • make some frozen treat cubes,
  • let them play with a cold/damp towel,
  • provide a cooling mat,
  • place fans around the house,
  • provide a paddling pool,
  • put some toys in the freezer to cool them down.

Do not use ice, or ice-cold water as this can cause shock.

If you have a rabbit or guinea pig, you could:

  • freeze a water bottle and wrap it in a towel. They can then snuggle up to the bottle to cool down.
  • choose to give them some fresh vegetables. Before putting them in their hutch, wash them and leave a little water on them to add to their water intake.
  • regularly pour cool water on them so the heat is lost by evaporation.

It is important to note that you should not use ice-cold water or ice as this could shock their body and worsen the problem.

Symptoms

Here are some of the symptoms you should look out for with heatstroke in dogs:

  • Distressed breathing
  • Rapid pulse
  • Heavy Panting
  • Bright red tongue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lethargic and weak
  • Collapsed or stumbling
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors

Although being very similar to a dog’s symptoms, a cat’s symptoms can be a lot more subtle and include:

  • Distressed breathing
  • Heavy Panting
  • Bright red tongue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Appears drowsy – may pace
  • Collapsed or stumbling
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors

Some of the symptoms you should watch out for in a rabbit or guinea pig include:

  • Red ears (rabbits)
  • Bright red tongue
  • Drooling
  • Panting
  • Lethargic
  • Muscle tremors
  • Appears drowsy

If your pet is presenting symptoms or you are concerned about your pet and heatstroke, you should contact us immediately.