Training with your pet can be fun and rewarding, it helps to forge a strong bond between you and your pet as well as providing mental stimulation and keeping them active. Pet training can be started when you first get your new pet, from teaching them to sit and stay,
to not jumping up, and to become familiar with new surrounding, like the car and carriers or
A well debated aspect of puppy training is the “pack” or “Alpha” mentality. This is based on the outdated theory that dogs think of us as other dogs within their pack, and as such the owner must instil themselves as Alpha or leader dog in order to gain obedience from their dog. This theory unfortunately uses “negative reinforcement” which involves punishing your dog when they have done something wrong, whether the dog understands or not, as well as using harsh tones of voice which often cause fear in our pets.
This type of training can cause anxiety and distress in your dog and is important to avoid, as it can cause long term damage to the bond between you and your dog, as the dog becomes fearful of reproach, and unsure of how to behave in new scenarios. Many different methods of training have been used over the years but it is currently accepted that the best training method to use is “positive reinforcement” this means rewarding when your puppy does something good, and ignoring (whenever possible) bad behaviour rather than scolding them. For example, scolding a puppy for chewing your shoes, in fact teaches them to run away when they have something that you want to take from them, and incites a fun game of “chase”, or can teach them to be scared when you enter the room.
However, giving the puppy something it can chew in exchange, for example a toy or chewy treat, instead of your shoe teaches them to play with you, and that playtime is fun. Then in future you can try to remove things puppy shouldn't chew, to prevent the situation arising again.
Training technique depends on your pets personality, if you find something they really like; for some pets this will be food, for some it will be a particular toy, or simply affection, and use this motivation as a reward when they do the activity you wish to encourage. For example, giving your pet a treat when they pay attention to you on a walk and stay close to you, teaches them to “heel” and that walking with you is a fun activity, using soothing voices and cuddles while you brush your pet teaches them that this is a safe and happy activity to be enjoyed.
Clicker training is also very popular, but you must be quick to make this method work, for example, if you “click” the clicker and give your pet a treat when they go to their bed, they learn that a click means a treat when they do this, however if you are too slow and you “click” when they are doing something different, you may accidentally reinforce the wrong behaviour.
For small animals you can quickly teach them to play with toys they can roll such as balls or
cylinders, or objects they can run through such as tubes, by laying a trail of their favourite treats, or by giving them treats as they bring the object close to you. Teach kittens and small animals to use litter trays indoors by placing them in the litter tray when they have eaten, or when they wake up, or if you notice them squatting like they about to go, and making sure litter trays are low enough for them to reach unaided, and cleaned regularly.
Teaching any animal their name is also very useful, and can be done by repeating their name
while you do a fun activity with your pet, like playing, or feeding them. Ideally keep training sessions short, do not push your pet beyond their ability, or expect too much from them too soon, and do not move onto a new training activity until they have mastered the first, but also revisit previously trained activities to remind your pet what to do.
Do remember if using treats as a reward for your pet to consider their suitability, depending on your pets age, obesity, teeth condition and any illnesses or food allergies, if using toys as a training reward be careful of toys which disintegrate or break apart as your pet may eat portions of these toys which can become stuck in their stomach or intestines and require surgery to remove.
Prevention of Poisoning and Emergency Advice
Many household items can potentially be hazardous to pets, particularly young or inquisitive animals. Potential hazards include medicines left lying around, handbags on the floor, easy access to food items e.g. chocolate, house plants and cut flowers, pot pourri, dropped or spilt medications, cigarettes, cleaning or decorating products, and loose batteries. It is advised to store medicines and products in their original containers, out of site and out of reach of pets. Ensure storage cupboard doors are closed securely and handbags kept out of reach of pets. Keep the lids of dustbins firmly closed or away from pets to prevent access.
If you think your pet has been exposed to a toxin then you can try to remove any suspect material from your pet's mouth, as long as you can do so safely. If your pet has vomited, clean it up promptly to prevent your pet eating it. Wipe off the excess material if there is fur contamination. We would advise contacting us for advice and it would be helpful to know the following:
• What substance or product is involved
• How much has been taken
• When the event occurred
• If your pet is unwell
These are a few of the most common types of poisoning/toxicity we see in practice.
Chocolate - Chocolate contains a substance called Theobroma cacao which can cause vomiting, excess salivation, increased thirst and urination, increased heart rate and ataxia. More severe cases can show tremours or convulsions, irregular heart rates and renal dysfunction. Dark chocolate contains a higher concentration of theobromine than milk, with white chocolate containing the least. Treatment includes inducing vomiting to prevent absorption. If the dog has already vomited, anti-sickness drugs are given to aid the next step, which is giving activated charcoal to absorb the theobromine. Fluid therapy is also given.
Anti-coagulant Rodenticides - Anti-coagulant Rodenticides include drugs such as brodifacoum, difenacoum and warfarin. These drugs cause clotting factors to be reduced. Common signs seen are lethargy, exercise intolerance, pale mucous membranes and haemorrhage.
Blue-green Algae - Blue-green Algae, also know as cyanobacteria. It is found in fresh, brackish and marine water bodies throughout the UK. Only some species of blue-green algae produce toxic compounds. These toxins have a high acute toxicity and exposure frequently results in death, which is very rapid.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories - These include aspirin and paracetamol. These drugs may be prescribed for your dog but overdoses can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, blood in vomit and/or faeces, abdominal pain and anorexia. Gastric ulceration and renal failure may occur.
Xylitol - Xylitol is a sugar alcohol used as an atrifical sweetener in confectionery and baking. It stimulates insulin release in dogs ,resulting in rapid onset hypoglycaemia. It is also hepatoxic.
Ethylene Glycol - Ethylene Glycol is used as an antifreeze in screen washes, brake fluids and as a coolant. It is a clear fluid with a sweet taste. It causes kidney damage and hypocalcaemia.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories - See above. Even a single 500mg paracetamol tablet could cause toxicity in a cat.
Spathiphyllum species - Spathiphyllum species (e.g. lily) contain calcium oxalate crystals. Common clinical signs include hypersalivation, diarrhoea, vomiting, anorexia, lethargy and ataxia.
Obesity is a common problem for our pets, and can affect pets of all ages and breeds. Overfeeding can affect their quality of life and be extremely detrimental to their health, increasing chances of diseases such as heart disease and respiratory issues, as well as reducing their mobility and increasing joint pain.
Things which you may notice if your pet has gained weight include:
• a rounder face, thick neck or widened body shape including a lack of a waist
• a reluctance or difficulty with walking, general exercise, or becoming breathless
• increasing time spent asleep or resting and reduced self grooming.
While it can be difficult to understand how weight gain has occurred, there are lots of things which can contribute, some of these are:
• Exercise – reduced activity will mean your pet is not burning off the calories they are consuming.
• Diet – feeding sugary, salty or fatty foods, particularly human foods should be avoided for all pets, as should excessive pet treats or snacks. Small furry animals like rabbits and gerbils need high levels of roughage like hay in their diet to keep their guts moving, while birds and exotic pets should be fed a species specific diet.
• Age – older animals will naturally slow down, and should either be fed a lower calorie food, or limit their volume of intake to restrict their weight gain.
• Neutering – neutered animals have a lower energy requirement and specific food is available to reduce the likelihood of weight gain, and having them at a correct weight before the surgery will help.
• Sociality – if you have multiple pets living together it is more difficult to restrict their feeding habits, and you may find one steals anothers' food. For this reason it is important to have facilities available to separate your pets at mealtimes.
• Medication or health – some medications or illnesses may increase appetite or weight gain, your vet will discuss these with you when they are prescribed.
Managing your pets weight requires an assessment from your vet or nurse to give you an idea of how much weight they should lose, and a plan with an achievable goal. Don't be afraid to ask for help, any vet or nurse will be happy to help you weigh your pet and discuss progress in weight loss and give extra hints and tips, some of which are below:
• Right food – make sure your pet is on a suitable diet, cats cannot be fed dog food and vice versa, this isn't safe or healthy. Make sure your pet is on a diet suitable to their age, or a diet food which makes your pet feel full for longer.
• Right volume – weight loss should be gradual, ideally have a measuring cup marked for the correct weight and do not overfill, but do not starve your pet.
• Right speed – if your pet eats all their food immediately, try using a treat ball which dispenses their food as they move it, this increases the time it takes to eat the meal. For small furries you can hide their food within their hay for them to forage.
• Treats – treats should ideally be eliminated, if this is impossible take pieces of their mealtime food and give them through the day, so the total intake stays the same. Any treats should be recorded,so you know if someone else is giving extras too!
• Exercise – check with your vet to discuss specific needs of your pet depending on age, species and health. Increases in exercise should be done gradually and make it as fun as possible for your pet to enjoy these activities, for example for minimal strain to your dogs joints, the vet may recommend hydrotherapy. Make sure in hot weather not to exercise your pet on hot ground as this may damage their paws, and in cold or wet weather consider a coat or thoroughly drying your pet after being outside. If you cannot walk smaller pets, consider alternatives: cats often enjoy chasing unusual or colourful toys, as can birds and small furries, and many small animals will happily walk on harnesses with owners.
The cost of life saving veterinary care can occur at any time for your pet, and making a health choice for your animal based on cost is never pleasant. To stop this from being a problem we recommend Pet Insurance for every pet. Pet insurance can pay for accidents, like being involved in a road traffic incident, or illnesses which may require long term medication, like diabetes, heart or skin conditions.
When choosing pet insurance it is vital to understand what you are paying for, or you may find your policy is invalid when you need it most, as not all policies are the same.
The best time to take pet insurance is when your pet is very young, and before they have fallen ill, this means there will be no pre-existing conditions which the insurance excludes. It is also important to note whether the insurance you choose is time or fund limited. A 12 month policy will pay for an illness or accident for up to twelve months after its occurrence, but after this 12 months, the illness or accident treatment will be excluded and you will have to pay this yourself.
Fund limited policies have a limit as to how much they will pay in veterinary fees, this may be per illness or per policy year. For example, if a policy has a £2000 total limit per year, and your pet has a broken bone which costs £1500 to repair, there is only £500 to spend on any other illnesses if the limit is per year, whereas if the limit is per condition, then a different illness would be treated and claimed for separately.
Some insurance also have specific clauses which exclude conditions which may be present at birth, or for treatment for a behavioural or dental issues, and some policies will increase premiums either as pets age or if claims are made. It is also essential to check your excess on the policy, this is first amount of any claim which you have to pay, before the insurance will begin to pay, for some policies a lower monthly premium may mean you pay a higher excess if you do have to claim.
All these considerations are very important to understand before a policy is taken out, as once a policy is taken and a claim made, if you do choose to swap to an alternative insurer, they may exclude any previous treatment as a pre-existing condition, which may leave you out of pocket.
Cats are generally considered senior from 11-14 years old, and considered geriatric from 15 years onwards, whereas dogs are considered senior from 5-10 years old depending on their breed. Just like humans over the age of 70, health checks should be done more frequently to make sure they are in their best condition.
Arthritis and joint pain is caused by a degradation of the cartilage and tissue supporting the joints, this can be due to “wear and tear” or an old injury, and will often cause discomfort or pain after strenuous exercise, or after being stationary for a period of time. There are many joint supplements which can help this type of issue, discuss options with your vet to choose the right one for your pet, or in later stage conditions your vet may prescribe an anti inflammatory or pain relief for your pet.
Elderly animals are more likely to develop tumours, as through their life they have been exposed to factors such as diseases and toxins which increase the chances of cancers developing, so noticing these lumps early is highly important.
Hyperthyroidism is often seen in elderly pets and leads to weight loss, increased appetite or thirst, increased heart rate, irritability and poor coat condition. A blood test is normally required to confirm the presence of hyperthyroidism before treatment can be planned, which can consist of medication, surgical intervention, iodine therapy, or a strictly diet.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure can occur of its own accord or secondary due to an existing condition. It can effect the body in many way including damage to the retina effecting eyesight, damage to the brain and nervous system effecting balance, damage to the heart leading to heart disease or damage to the kidneys, resulting if untreated in kidney failure.
Simple blood pressure monitoring can be completed for your pet to assess them, and treatment would normally consist of treating any underlying conditions, or the pressure itself. Kidney disease is a chronic disease as the kidneys are unable to repair themselves when they become damaged. Factors which can increase the likelihood of kidney disease include exposure to toxins, infections, tumours, nutritional imbalance or breed predisposition. Signs of kidney disease include weight loss, poor appetite, lethargy, vomiting or increased drinking and urination. A blood test can confirm kidney function, and once confirmed dietary control is the most common solution.
Grooming as well as general mobility is usually reduced with older animals, take the time to carefully and gently groom them to help with cleanliness and comfort for your pet. Teeth can often become discoloured or gain a build up of tartar as pets age, and may need extractions on occasion, closely monitor your pets feeding habits to check for reluctance to eat, excess salivation or unusually bad breath which may indicate an underlying condition.
Mental dexterity can sometimes reduce as your pets age, try to keep them stimulated with puzzle toys, treats and challenging activites, or discuss potential supplements which may be available to support brain function.
Sensory impairment can affect animals just as people and you will need to be aware of changes to your pets senses to adapt their lifestyle, many pets who have become blind or deaf live on to be happy elderly pets if they are given consideration. If your pet loses their sight they may bump into things and would benefit from you talking to them so they know where you are, and limiting how often you move things within your house, if they become deaf try to teach hand or body gestures they can understand easily for simple commands, if they lose their sense of smell or taste they may find food less palateable than before, so try to find a favourite food source to tempt them with, or they may appreciate some variety occasionally in their diet.
Diabetes mellitus in pets is very similar to that in humans, it occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin (type 1) or the body no longer responds to the insulin it produces (type 2), this insulin is vital for converting sugar in the blood to useable energy within the body.
Diagnosis of diabetes is easy, with a simple blood and urine test, but it initially relies on you as the owner noticing a change in behaviour or a potential sign of the disease developing.
Signs which could hint towards diabetes include:
• Onset of drinking or urinating more than usual
• Onset of excessive hunger without weight gain
• Onset of reduced energy/ Increased naps
• Onset of weight loss
• Dull or thinning fur and coat
• A litter mate or parent diagnosed with diabetes
• An “at risk” breed such as Burmese cat or Beagle, Bichon Frise, Collie, Border Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Corgi, Dachsund, Husky, Miniature Poodle, Schnauzer, Samoyed, Scottish Terrier, Tibetan terrier, Westie or Yorkshire Terrier dog breeds.
• Overweight or senior pets are also more at risk of becoming diabetic
The earlier you spot signs such as these, the better the treatment course can be planned and applied, though generally it cannot be cured. It is also very important to notify us of symptoms like those above as they may also indicate other health concerns.
Treatment consists of careful feeding of a strict diet, regular exercise and insulin injections. Food for diabetic dogs will need to consist of something which is high in complex carbohydrates and fibre, with a good quality protein and slow release glucose, whilst cats require high levels of good quality protein and low carbohydrates, both need food which is tasty and low fat.
If you are not accustomed to giving injections this can seem scary to do at home but most pets tolerate it extremely well, and after a few demonstrations you should be confident to continue with these at home.
With due care and consideration, many pets with heart disease manage very well, and pets continue to have happy lives. The heart's function is to pump blood in a one-way-system around the body, this provides essential oxygen and nutrients to all your pet's organs and muscles.
Heart diseases can effect either the valves, or the muscles. Valvular heart disease is when a pets valves between the chambers of the heart do not close properly, so blood flows the wrong way. Dilated cardiomyopathy is when the wall of the heart becomes thinner, this means the strength of the 'beat' pushing blood to the body is reduced. In contrast Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a thickening of the muscular wall of the heart, this reduces the volume of blood the heart can hold, while Restrictive cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the muscles become stiffened and unable to contract and relax as they should.
Signs of heart disease can include:
• weight loss
• reduced ability to exercise, shortness of breath, excessive panting or coughing
• periods of fainting
• enlarged stomach/abdomen area
• very cold extremities (ears and feet) or pale gums
Heart disease can be caused by many factors including:
• other illnesses including those impacting blood pressure or the thyroid gland
• taurine deficiency (specific to cats)
• toxin ingestion
• breed predisposition: maine coon cats
To test for heart disease the veterinary surgeon will perform an examination where they will listen for irregularities in heart beat or rate, as well as your pets breathing, then possibly refer your pet for an Electrocadiogram (ECG), Radiograph (Xray) or Echocardiography (heart ultrasound) which will show alterations in the muscles and valves of the heart in further detail. The medication the veterinary surgeon will choose will depend on the type of heart disease your pet has, and the severity of symptoms.
These medications act to:
• improve blood circulation
• limit the build up of fluid on the lungs and body (a common side effect of heart disease)
• improve the contractions the heart makes
• protect the heart and blood vessels against further damage
Once heart medication has been prescribed, the vet will want to closely monitor your pet to check if changes in dose are required, and there are other lifestyle changes you can make for your pet which will help them. These include avoiding intensive effort – try multiple shorter walks at your pets pace rather than fewer long or fast walks, weight loss – excess weight puts an extra strain on your pets heart and means your pet will tire quicker, protect from heat and stress – again these will cause your pet to tire more quickly so try to help them to avoid both, avoid salty food – extra salt in the diet increases the chance of fluid build up in the body, so avoid giving food or treats with high salt content.
Animals' face shapes can be categorized according to how streamlined or compact they are, which is controlled by their skull shape. This is separated into Doliocephalic – long and thin such as greyhounds, Mesocephalic – medium or typical such as labradors, or Brachycephalic – short and compact such as French Bulldogs.
The skull shape of these dogs, as well as cats and rabbits who have exaggerated face shapes, has effects on the muscles and tissues within the skull, and can cause issues or problems for our pets. Dogs with very long faces such as Greyhounds and Borzoi's have more lengthened nose which means they may suffer more with nasal inflammation or nasal tumours.
Dogs with short faces have become increasingly popular in recent times, with smaller dogs being often more suited to apartment and city living and needing less exercise, and includes small breeds such as French Bulldogs, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Shih Tzu, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Pekinese, as well as larger breeds such as Bulldogs, Boxers and Dog de Bordeaux
Brachycephalic breeds are characterised by a shorter or almost non-existent muzzle, with closed nostrils and a roll or fold of skin over the nose beneath very large eyes. These external signs can create issues with infection or bacteria growth within the skin folds, over shot jaw with misaligned teeth, and recurrent eye infections or ulcers on the surface of the eyes as well as problems with normal tear production.
The full effects of this skull shape cannot easily be seen, but rather heard, noisy breathing, snoring, fainting and intolerance of exercise are all indicators of respiratory distress and if your pet suffers with these it is very important to consult your vet. This is largely because the roof of the mouth, the soft palate towards the back of the mouth is often too long, causing a partial or complete block between the nose and throat, meaning the dog is unable to breath normally, and may have a narrower airway in proportion to its body size, which further compounds their inability to fully breath.
Due to their compact body size and shape, Brachycephalic animals can exhibit other health concerns including issues with their spine or joints, their heart and circulation, their skin and ears, and difficulty in giving birth naturally if they do become pregnant.
While Brachycephalic dogs are often in the news, it is important to note this type of condition can affect all animals. Brachycephalic cats include Persian, Himalayan and Burmese breeds, and rabbits such as Netherland Dwarf and Lionhead are often seen with much shorter than 'average' faces.
Diagnosis of these types of conditions is usually done by your vet using a physical exam to note respiratory distress, laryngoscopy or endoscopy to view the passages in detail by passing a small camera into your pets airway, or CT scans to view the flow of air through the passages and the size of the soft palate. Surgery is often the only real resolution to these physical breathing difficulties, and can include widening the nostrils, shortening the soft palate, and removing saccules which narrow the airways.
To help your Brachycephalic pet lead a normal life, try to avoid extreme exercise or swimming, as this is when they will be most likely to overexert and faint or collapse, try to keep them cool, as again they cannot cool themselves fully by panting and may overheat much quicker than a mesocephalic breed, and try to keep them slim, as weight gain will further reduce their mobility and increase their respiratory effort for normal activity. If you are concerned that your pet may be Brachycephalic and want further advice the best action is to see your vet so they can fully assess your pet.
One of the most common reasons we see patients is for skin complaints. The skin is the largest organ in the body, and the most readily visible, so owners are often quick to spot a problem with their pets' skin or haircoat. From flea infestations to breed-specific dermatoses, we treat all kinds of skin issues at Standish Vets.
Signs that may suggest your pet has a skin problem:
– Itchiness. This is not just scratching! If your pet is itchy they may lick, bite, chew or rub the
problem area. White fur may turn a rusty pink colour due to saliva-staining, suggesting aggressive licking. Cats might overgroom, even to balding, and some pets roll on the floor to scratch their itch.
– Musty/yeasty smell from skin.
– Hair loss
– Redness to skin
– Wet discharge from skin or dry crusts
With any skin problem, the first thing your vet will want to rule out is parasitic skin disease.
This is one of the reasons keeping your pet up to date with a good quality parasiticide is so important.
Skin problems can often take some time to fully investigate, as there are many potential causes of skin disease that must be ruled out. Some methods of investigating your pets skin disease are taking skin scrapes and hair plucks, examining scale from your pet's coat microscopically, or surgical biopsies.