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How to Help Your Pets Cope with Firework Season

Summer tans are fading, the nights are drawing in, and you never know whether to bring a coat out or not. Yes, autumn is here, and it’s the season of celebration! And with celebration often comes fireworks. Seemingly harmless fun, firework season can actually be very distressing for our furry friends. The loud noise and bright lights can cause a lot of stress in our pets, causing changes in behaviour, self-trauma, and even disease. But what can we do? You won’t be very popular if you try to stop fireworks altogether; so looking after your pets around firework season is more about the preparation before and care during. Here are some of our top tips for keeping your pets stress to a minimum.

Preparation

As with all things pet-related, it is never a good idea to make sudden changes. Preparing for fireworks is no exception, so we recommend starting to implement all the following tips gradually - this will reduce any stress caused by changes, and hopefully help make your pets more prepared for firework season.

First of all, any pets that live outdoors all the time, such as rabbits, should be brought inside. Preparing a cage with a nice nest in a quiet corner of the house is best for small rodents or other caged pets. For cats and dogs, bedding in a quiet secluded area is perfect for your pet to hide in if they are frightened. Cats often like to climb up high, so consider placing a nest on a tall surface. Some dogs may prefer to be alone, but others need the comfort of their best friends when they are scared; consider your own dog and where they will prefer to be during a firework display. Introduce these nests early so your pets know exactly where to go when the time comes.

On the night, it is important that all pets stay indoors, but if the worst should happen and they get outside, some pets may be too scared to come home. To make sure they can be found again, ensure all your pets are microchipped (and the details up to date) well before firework season.

One final piece of advice you should start doing now is to walk your dog earlier in the evening - though you can predict the big firework displays, people often have their own mini-displays in their gardens which can make dogs out on walks quite frightened. As firework season gets closer, try and avoid going out when it is dark enough for firework displays to take place.

On the Night

So the night has come, and there’s a big firework display later on. You may be wanting to go see it yourself, which is perfectly fine. However, you might want to consider your pets before you go. Unfortunately, even with all the preparation in the world, many pets will always be somewhat stressed by fireworks. It will therefore be down to you to decide whether your pets will manage alone, or if they would be more comforted by you staying home. If you do have to go out during a display, consider a house-sitter, or even taking your pets to a kennel or cattery far away from noises.

As mentioned earlier, it is very important to stop your pets getting outside during firework displays, where the noise and light is loudest, and there are the dangers of bonfires and the fireworks themselves. Make sure all doors, windows and cat/dogflaps are well secured.

During the display, it might be a good idea to have some recognisable noise in the house, to help drown out the sounds of fireworks, such as TV or music. However, your pet will probably show signs of stress and anxiety regardless, and their behaviour may change: they may hide or run around; some can become nervous or aggressive; they may even have an ‘accident’ on the floor. It is important not to get angry and shout, as this can make their stress worse. Stay calm and reassure your pet that everything is okay - dogs will likely appreciate this; cats may prefer to be alone and stay in their nests. Be wary if your pet is showing signs they want to be alone, as a stressed pet can lash out. Talk quietly and soothingly, and do what you can to keep their stress as low as possible until the firework display ends.

Managing Long-Term Stress

We hope that if you take some of the advice above, firework nights will be manageable for your pets, even if they are still unpleasant. The vast majority will endure through the night, but will be back to themselves by morning. However, a few nervous pets can show signs of stress long term. For these, there are other solutions, which should be considered before and after firework season.

One solution to consider may be acclimatisation therapy - this is where a pet is made to listen to increasingly loud sounds, without any negative consequences. The idea is that they learn that loud noises aren’t scary, so when fireworks go off for real, they will not be scared. It is not as simple as it may sound though, so don’t attempt to perform this without discussing it with your vet first.

There are also medications and/or natural supplements that can help soothe nervous pets - many pet shops sell plug in pheromones which are designed for relaxation and may be worth trying around firework season. For chronically nervous pets, there are a number of options available from vets that can help reduce anxiety. Again, discuss these with your vet if you are concerned for your pet.

Finally, pet behavioural therapists and psychologists are becoming a lot more common nowadays, and many work with nervous or anxious patients to try and stop them stressing. Many work through veterinary practices, so you might want to enquire at your next visit.

Final Thoughts

As fun as firework season is for us, pets can struggle. We sadly have no foolproof solution, but the advice above will go a long way to reducing your pet’s stress levels over the season. Start thinking about preparation now, as the season draws closer. Even a few simple changes can make all the difference and keep your pets much more comfy when the loud noises start.

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Other options for your pets – Specialised services

At Hampton Park Vets, we pride ourselves on offering a complete veterinary service. As well as the routine medical and surgical treatments that you’re probably well aware of, we also offer a range of more specialised services. These provide your pets with other options, so that we can choose the best for your pet as an individual, not just a follow a “standard protocol”. In this blog, we’ll explore some of these newer options!

 

Laser therapy  What is it? 

Laser therapy is a non-invasive treatment. It uses light energy of a specific frequency which allows it to penetrate different depths of the skin. The laser light penetrates the skin giving the desired effects by accelerating the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) within the cells. ATP is what our pets’ cells use for energy. This means that the cells can operate more efficiently, healing faster than they would otherwise be able to do. 

The sessions last 3-20 minutes. No sedation is usually required although your pet may have to wear safety glasses (or “doggles”!). The treatment can be performed multiple times in a day or at particular intervals to maximise the effect. 

How can this treatment benefit your pet?

Laser therapy aims to stimulate cell repair, regenerate nerve tissue and increase the blood supply to specific areas increasing the rate of healing. This can increase the rate of recovery and improve the prognosis following injury. It can dramatically reduce pain and inflammation, and we routinely use it after surgery (e.g. after neutering).

Other conditions that we often find respond to treatment include arthritis and muscle damage, as well as some skin conditions such as inflamed ears (otitis externa).

Are there any risks associated with this treatment?

If you apply laser treatment over the top of a tumour, some studies suggest that it can accelerate the rate at which the tumour grows. Very hot lasers can cause burns - however, we use a “cold laser” that does not heat the tissues and so burns cannot occur.

When used properly, it has no known side effects, and is often much safer than medical management of pain and inflammation with painkillers.

 

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) treatment What is it? 

Platelets are a type of blood cell that causes blood to clot at the site of a wound preventing your pet from continuing to bleed following an injury. They contain a range of growth factors and help to control the formation of new blood vessels in injured areas. 

We can produce PRP by collecting a blood sample from your pet and putting it into a centrifuge. This separates the blood into its different components allowing us to separate the platelet-rich plasma from the remainder. The treatment includes some white blood cells which help to control the immune response and communicate the level of response to pathogens needed. The processed plasma is injected directly into the joint or painful area. This often requires sedation. 

How can PRP be used on your pet?

This treatment has been shown to increase the healing rate of injured tendons and joints. The platelets, when injected into a wounded area, can help with cell migration and proliferation and create new blood supply. These all speed up the rate of healing by creating new cells in a new, less hostile environment encouraging the repair of the joint or even tendon tissue. 

It can be a great alternative to operating in older dogs as there is no anaesthetic needed. It can also be used in conjunction with conventional medications and joint supplements to improve your pet’s welfare without needing to increase the number of drugs - with potential side effects - required to keep them comfortable.

Risks associated with this therapy

As with any injection, there is the risk of transmitting an infection into the body although this risk is relatively low. The joints may swell following the injection too, but this is usually temporary.

PRP is a minimally-invasive technique, and improvements can last as long as a year after only one or two injections, meaning that the risks are very low.

 

Stem cell therapy  What is it? 

Stem cells are generic cells that have not differentiated or become specialised to have a particular function yet. To help manage specific conditions, we can adapt the expressed genetics and behaviour of these cells causing them to act a certain way performing specific roles. This means we can use stem cells to produce new tissues which can replace old, damaged or diseased ones.

How can stem cell therapy be used on your pet?

We use stem cells to help manage patients with severe arthritis. When injected, the stem cells promote the repair of damaged tissues, and some will even transform into new cartilage cells, helping to regenerate the joints. We see improvements after about 3 weeks, and the effects can last as long as 3 years.

Are there any risks associated with this treatment?

Putting any foreign material into the body can be dangerous and risks the chance of rejection by the body. However, because we use your pet’s own stem cells, rejection doesn’t happen! 

There have been one or two cases where stem cell treatments have caused tumours to form, but this is not something that seems to be an issue in dogs and cats being treated for arthritis.

  

What are the benefits of being registered with a veterinary practice that offers these services?

Many of these services require specialist machines and personnel to operate them. The machines are expensive to buy hence why not every practice has them. This means many pets are referred to us for these treatments. 

By registering with us, these brand new, gold-standard treatment options are an immediate option and can be started with no delay compared to if you had to be referred. Being registered with us means we already have access to your pets health notes and history speeding up the process. The sooner procedures are started, the better the prognosis!

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Dental Health for Pets

As people we are recommended to brush our teeth for two minutes twice a day, floss, use a fluoride toothpaste and visit our dentist regularly, to keep our pearly whites in good working order. Do you ever consider why we don’t do the same for our pets? Traditionally pets would see the vet about their teeth only if they had an obvious or serious dental problem. However, it is now recommended that pet’s, like their owners, have a regular dental routine with check-ups.

 

Gum disease is reported to be 5 times more common in dogs than humans. Cats’ dental health is no better with 85% of cats over 3 years old predicted to be suffering from dental disease. In the following article we hope to give you some top tips for keeping your pet’s teeth and mouth in tip top condition.

 

So, why is dental health so important in pets? Firstly, good dental health can help prevent dental disease that may eventually lead to tooth loss. Dental disease is caused by bacteria that start to build up and form an invisible plaque over your pet's teeth every time they eat. Once plaques are present, calculus (visible mineral formation, also known as tartar) can form. Both plaque and calculus will irritate your pet's gums and lead to the development of gum disease. Gum disease starts as mildly inflamed gums but will progressively become more painful and start to affect the teeth and surrounding bone. Eventually dental disease will result in tooth loss.

 

Dental disease can be very painful for pets. The pain may even progress to a stage where they become reluctant to eat and start to lose weight as a result. Another common side effect of dental disease is very smelly breath. The smell in some cases can be so strong it can be smelt without going near their mouth.

 

Advanced dental disease will require veterinary intervention. This will usually involve general anaesthetic to remove the affected teeth and clean the remaining teeth. Removal of teeth, especially such fragile teeth weakened from disease, can be a very tricky and time-consuming procedure. This means general anaesthetic is required for a much longer duration, increasing the costs and risks of the procedure. Removing teeth also presents a very real infection risk since the mouth is impossible to sterilise for surgery.

 

As well as surgery costs dental disease will have increased medical costs. Drugs will be required to provide pain relief as well as treating any infections. As a result, we strongly advocate prevention rather than cure if at all possible!

 

Luckily, there is plenty you can do to help your pets maintain good dental health, starting with tooth brushing. Just like us, our pets should have a regular tooth brushing regime. It is best to start them early to familiarise them with the toothbrush and toothpaste but if you introduce it slowly and carefully, any age animal can learn to tolerate - or even enjoy! - it. Our vets and nurses are happy to help if you need some advice on where to start with introducing toothbrushing. Using a finger brush can really help and these are easily available nowadays, here and at many pet shops. You should always use a toothpaste designed for pets and these come in a variety of flavours. Some pets may prefer some flavours to others so don’t be afraid to experiment and see what suits your pet best.

 

If your pet really won’t tolerate toothbrushing then there are water drops and powders for mixing into food available. Although these won’t be able to replace tooth brushing, they will be better than nothing in pets where tooth brushing is not an option. Similarly, many commercial diets are available that are specifically designed to aid in dental care.

 

Many people opt to offer dental chews to help with dental health. However, it is important to bear in mind that the purpose of these chews is to encourage chewing that promotes dental health. So, if your pet swallows the chew whole then it is unlikely to be effective. Another thing to bear in mind with dental chews is that they can be very calorific. This means that you may need to reduce the amount of food in their meals in order to weight gain if dental chews are provided regularly. Although chewing things like dental chews can be beneficial for dental health, harder objects such as rocks or pebbles should be avoided as these can lead to tooth fractures that may result in tooth loss.

 

Finally, don’t forget to get your pets teeth checked regularly by your vet. This can easily be combined with annual vaccine boosters or even more regularly as required. For many insurance companies, claims on dental treatments will require for your pet's teeth to have been checked regularly by the vet. Early stages of dental disease such as mild gum disease and calculus build up may require a routine scale and polish under general anaesthetic. It is recommended to address these early stages as soon as possible to reduce the time required under anaesthetic and prevent progression of the disease.

 

Overall, dental disease is a serious disease for our cats and dogs but with plenty of options to help control and reverse the disease process. Remember if you have any questions regarding dental health in your pet then do not hesitate to pop in and have a word with one of our vets, you could even book your pet in for their next dental check up with us at the same time.

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Have you got a plan for your pet’s health?

If you’re trying to be a responsible pet owner, there always seems to something to do! Worming, flea treatment, annual vaccinations… the list can seem endless. And, of course, keeping your pet in good health isn’t always cheap - the most effective preventative medicines are often the more expensive ones. Yes it’s worth it for your pet’s continued good health, but is there an easier, more convenient, or (even!) cheaper option?

 

What is preventative health?

We use the term “preventative health” to describe all those things we do or give to a pet to reduce the chances of them developing diseases. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure - and it really is, plus it’s cheaper. Here at Hampton Park Vets, “preventative health” includes the following:

     Flea and tick treatment

     Prevention of roundworm, tapeworm and (for dogs) lungworm.

     Vaccination for dogs against Parvovirus, Distemper (Hardpad), Infectious Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, and Kennel Cough.

     Vaccination for cats against Cat Flu and Panleukopenia (Feline Infectious Enteritis).

     Neutering (to prevent prostate disease and testicular cancer in the boys, and breast cancer and pyometra in the girls).

 

Of course, there are other important elements of preventative health as well. For example, providing a balanced and nutritious diet, and regular checkups to make sure there aren’t any problems starting.

 

The trouble is that the cost can build up over a while...

 

Have you considered our Pet Health Club?

The Pet Health Club is a way of spreading the cost of preventative health treatments over the year. This means that instead of having to pay for things as they’re due, you have a regular, set, monthly payment that covers all the essential elements - vaccinations, flea, tick and worm parasite treatments, nail trims, and 6-monthly health check-ups. We’ll even send you convenient reminders of when to administer preventative treatments!

But that’s not all - the Club also offers you discounted neutering for puppies and kittens, and 10% off all pet food bought through the practice!

 

I have pet insurance - do I need it?

Yes - pet insurance doesn’t cover routine, preventative treatments. It’s there for accident or illness, but not for the regular things like worm or flea treatments, or vaccines. That said, many insurance policies are in fact void and will not pay out if you haven’t kept your pet’s vaccinations, flea and worm treatment up to date! So missing out these treatments and relying on pet insurance if your furry friend does develop an infectious or parasitic disease might backfire...

 

How much will it cost?

The prices are worked out based on your pet’s age and weight (their adult weight, for the puppy and kitten plans). So, there’s a Puppy or Kitten plan, an Adult Dog or Cat plan, and a Senior Dog or Cat Plan. On average, though, dog owners will save almost £114, and cat owners just under £67, every year.

You can see the full price breakdown here.

 

How do I join?

It’s really easy! Pop into any of our surgeries (Salisbury, Downton, or Ringwood) and talk to our friendly reception team. You’ll need to bring with you your bank details, but it’s just one form to be filled out, and then you’re all set!

 

Bottom line - is it worth it?

Prevention of disease is the way forward - although many infectious and parasitic diseases can now be treated, there are always some animals which don’t respond. It’s also a lot more expensive, and much, much more worrying and stressful for you and your pet. The preventative medications our vets recommend will be tailored for your pet, their life-stage and lifestyle, and will minimise the chances of illness.

You also save money compared to doing everything “a la carte” - so what’s not to like?!

 

Keeping your pet healthy is a huge responsibility - but the Pet Health Club can help make it more convenient and cheaper. It’s the savvy thing to do if you care for your pet and your wallet!

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Should We Insure Our Pets?

If your much-loved pet was to become suddenly ill or to have an accident and require urgent veterinary care would you be prepared for these unexpected veterinary fees? During this upsetting and stressful time, the last thing you want to be worrying about is how you are going to be able to pay the bill. Did you know that you can take out pet insurance for your pet to help cover veterinary fees in these situations? 

 

 

What is Pet Insurance?

 

Pet insurance is something that you can take out for your pet to provide cover for veterinary costs when your pet is unwell. There are many insurance companies that offer pet insurance and each policy offered will be different. They vary on the total amount of veterinary fees covered, whether behaviour consultations are included or even if hereditary conditions (conditions that your pet may have been born with) are covered, along with many more options. We would advise comparing different insurance plans carefully and making sure you are happy with the cover they will be providing for your pet. 

 

There are two main types of pet insurance; 12 months cover and lifelong cover. A 12 month cover policy will pay out for veterinary fees for 12 months and then after the 12 months (or when the veterinary fees limit is reached) that condition will be excluded for the rest of your pet’s life. This means that you will have to pay for any further veterinary fees for that particular condition. A policy offering lifelong cover will renew your veterinary fees limit every year and will continue to pay out for a condition or recurrent illness each year for the rest of the life of your pet. You must continue with your policy for this to happen and you will need to pay your excess every 12 months for any ongoing claims. 

 

Once you have taken out an insurance plan there will usually be a short waiting period before you can start claiming. This means that a policy needs to be taken out before your pet becomes unwell, although usually any accidents will be covered during this time. It is also worth bearing in mind that insurance companies will often exclude any of your pet’s previous injuries and illnesses, meaning that these conditions will not be covered by the insurance policy. 

 

Who can I insure? 

 

When thinking about pet insurance you are probably aware of insurance policies for dogs and cats, after all there are adverts on television that show these policies are available, but did you know that you can also take out insurance on your other pets too?

 

There are increasing numbers of insurance policies available for rabbits. Rabbits may seem like low maintenance, easy to keep pets but they are prone to certain illnesses which can require intensive veterinary treatment to treat. Over recent years the diagnostic and treatment options available for rabbits has improved greatly, which is good news for our rabbits but it does mean that there are additional veterinary costs involved. This is where insurance policies can be invaluable, as it gives you peace of mind that if your rabbit does become ill then you are able to proceed with investigations and give your rabbit the best chance of recovery. 

 

Alongside rabbits, there are also a small number of insurance policies available for rodents, exotics and birds. These pets often require referral to specialist exotic vets for treatment and the cost of this can quickly add up. 

 

What are the benefits of pet insurance?

 

If your pet was to have an unexpected accident, such as a broken leg, then pet insurance can be invaluable. Sometimes emergency veterinary treatment will be needed which can be lifesaving, though often an unexpected expense. For injuries such as a broken leg, treatment often means repeat x-rays, surgery (sometimes at an orthopaedic specialist) and follow up care. The costs of these treatments can add up and are unexpected and hard to plan for. Having pet insurance in place can give peace of mind that if an unexpected veterinary cost arose, you have appropriate cover, allowing you to concentrate on your pet’s recovery. 

 

Pet insurance can also be invaluable for long term illnesses that require repeat veterinary visits, repeat tests and long term or even lifelong medication. For example, a dog that has been diagnosed with diabetes will require lifelong insulin medication. They will also need regular blood and urine tests to check for stabilisation. These dogs are also prone to certain illnesses so may require more comprehensive tests and additional treatments from time to time. Again, a considerable cost will build up over a period of time with veterinary fees continuing monthly for the life of your pet. Unfortunately, the owners of some diabetic animals are unable to afford continued veterinary treatment, resulting in euthanasia of their pet. Pet insurance may be one way to avoid this situation as some pet insurance plans will give continued cover for life long conditions. 

 

The range of veterinary treatments available is growing and this often means a referral to a specialist for access to the latest developments in treatment. This can be an additional expense, and often your pet insurance will cover this referral. This means the most up to date diagnostic tests and treatments can be used to enable the best possible outcome and care for your pet, without the financial worry that comes with it. 

 

Why we recommend pet insurance

 

We care for every one of our patients as if they were our own and want to give every animal the best possible care and treatment available. While improved diagnostic tests and treatments are great for your pet and make a successful outcome more likely, unfortunately, this does come with increased costs. We want to be able to give the most up to date treatment for your pet and find that this is more likely to happen for insured pets. 

 

We understand that with the number of pet insurance policies available that it can be very daunting to find the ideal policy. If you have any questions then a member of our team would be happy to talk to you about different types of policy. 

 

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Darwin’s Journey with Hampton Park Vets

Darwin is your typical Fox Terrier and perhaps a brave choice for a first dog, given the tenacious intelligence of the breed.  But Darwin’s owners have enjoyed the challenges he has given them and the fun that he has brought to their lives, describing him as:

 

“Very smart and with ‘selective hearing’ at times, but a very loving family pet’

 

So when, on one of his daily walks, they noticed that his urine was dark, almost red, they were understandably concerned. Of course they contacted us for an appointment straight away where Darwin was examined by vet Maria.  Darwin was seemingly well in every other way, so his owners were sent off with some antibiotics for Darwin and a urine pot, tasked with obtaining a urine sample.  His owner remembers this undertaking saying:

 

            “It’s quite entertaining if you’ve not done it before.  The neighbours were wondering why we were chasing Darwin round the garden with a plastic pot!”

 

Fortunately Darwin was “surprisingly cooperative” and we were soon able to test the urine which was remarkably normal except for the evidence of blood.  In the meantime, Darwin’s owners were getting increasingly concerned that there was something sinister going on and were stricken with worry at the thought of losing their beloved pet.  The antibiotics hadn’t cleared the issue so five days later ultrasound imaging was the obvious next step.  Darwin stayed in with us for the day so that Maria could visualise his urinary bladder and the associated structures using ultrasonic waves.  What she saw was a lesion within the bladder which needed further, surgical investigation and a cystotomy was planned.  Cystotomy refers to the surgical opening of the urinary bladder.  It is a process which takes great skill so as not to allow urine to leak and infect the abdomen as this could result in peritonitis.  Fortunately, we have some very skilled surgeons, one of whom is Maria.  So back Darwin came for surgery and at this point his owners in their own words thought:

 

            “This is it; it’s some kind of awful bladder cancer”

 

What Maria and the team found were numerous ‘polyps’ or small lumps attached to the walls of the urinary bladder.  She painstakingly removed a dozen of them as well as some bladder stones.  As a skilled surgeon, she sutured (stitched) Darwin back together and sent these structures off to an external lab for expert analysis.  Our working diagnosis for Darwin’s troubles is that these structures developed secondary to an infection, which is reassuring for his owners who have been extremely worried.

 

The whole process doesn’t seem to have fazed Darwin and he still pulls his owners into the practice as soon as he is out of the car.  His owners put this down to our team…

 

            “…having looked after him so well, knowing him by name, giving him lots of fuss and treats.”

 

 We are just delighted that Darwin has recovered well from his ordeal and should live a long and happy life.  His owners agree that he has made a good recovery saying:

 

            “He looked funny in a baby grow which kept him from removing his own stitches.  He has healed really quickly and is very resilient. After two weeks he had his stitches out and after three weeks he’s running around, right as rain.”

 

Longer term management of Darwin’s health should be relatively simple. A dietary change is likely to be the only real difference in his routine.  Depending on the laboratories analysis of his stones, we will recommend a diet whose constituents are specifically designed to reduce the chances of the stones reforming.    

 

To top off Darwin’s smooth recovery, we have recently tested another urine sample from him which confirmed that there was no longer any blood detected in it.  Darwin’s owner described Maria as being “extremely excited to deliver the news” as were they to hear it.  All in all his owners describe the surgery as a “resounding success”.

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Obesity in our pets

We are all acutely aware of the negative impact that being overweight can have on our health, but how many of us consider the same implications for our pets? In fact, it is quite typical for the media to misguidedly portray ‘chubby’ pets as healthy ones; just look at the cartoon kitties Garfield and Pusheen. We know that, just as in people, animals that are carrying extra pounds tend to have a shorter lifespan and will be more predisposed to a wide range of health conditions throughout their life, which is why we want to work with you to keep your pet a healthy weight.

Clinical research has shown that obese bunnies are more prone to gut stasis and fly strike. Similarly, fat cats are much more likely to get diabetes in their lifetime while fat dogs often suffer with osteoarthritis and mobility problems in later life. This short list of obesity-related ailments is just the tip of the iceberg and there are many more potential implications that are simply beyond the scope of this blog.

Luckily, obesity is something that can be swiftly addressed and once animals reach a normal body weight, their risk of developing weight-related issues plummets.

First off, it is important to be able to identify if our pet is overweight or not, something which may not be as simple as it initially seems. To assist owners, the ‘Body Condition Score’ system has been developed, which allows us to assign a tangible number (ranging from one to nine) to each animal. While our vets and nurses will happily assess your animal with you, you can also do this at home by accessing the chart online. A low number (1-3) indicates an animal that is underweight, while a high number (6-9) tells us that weight loss is needed. Ideally, we are aiming for a 4 or a 5, with these animals usually having a few ribs that are just visible, a discernible waist and a tucked-up tummy. Of course, it can be more difficult to assess those animals with long or thick fur or those that have dense muscling, so we are always happy to help.

Once it has been established that your pet is chunkier than average, the fun can begin!

The first area to address, is their nutrition. A prescription weight loss diet will often give the best results as they have been developed to reduce hunger and increase metabolic rates. Remember to always feed your pet the amount recommended for their ideal weight rather than their current weight. Use a kitchen scales to provide accurate measurements and remember to deduct anything else they have eaten that day from their calorie allowance. While the odd bit of boiled chicken or carrot should not cause any major issues, steer clear of calorific foods such as rawhide chews, cheese, bread etc.

For rabbits, keep in mind that grass and hay should make up around 90% of their diet, with veggies, fruit, herbs and a small portion (around one to two egg cups) of pellets accounting for the rest.

Though it may take several weeks to start noticing the effects of a calorie-controlled diet, the effort will eventually pay off. Attending ‘weight clinics’ with our nurses, where your animal’s weight can be recorded every few weeks, is a super way to determine how the plan is going and to adjust things accordingly. Weight clinics are also a great time to bring in the packets of those foods and treats that you are giving and to discuss any food diaries that you have been keeping. Your animal’s weight will be recorded on our computer system each time you come in, so we should soon start to see their progress.

As well as diet, it is vital to provide enough exercise for your pet. This not only keeps them trim but provides much needed mental stimulation. Cats can be encouraged to move more with laser pointers and wind-up mice. Consider hiding portions of their dry kibble around the home, like a rewarding game of ‘hide and seek’. Dogs benefit from consistent walks, though caution is advised in geriatrics who may find a sudden increase in activity challenging. Discuss any new exercise programmes with our staff who can help point you in the right direction.

With just a few simple lifestyle changes, you can dramatically improve the quality of life of your pet, ensuring that they are around for as long as possible.

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Why is dental health so important?

Dental health is incredibly important because most pets only have one set of adult teeth! Dental health can affect the health of the rest of the body and vital organ function which is why it is key to maintain good oral health. Dental screening and regular checking of the mouth can highlight changes in bodily health.