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Preparing your pet for life after lockdown

How do you feel about the relaxation of the lockdown restrictions? Relieved? Anxious? If we could ask our pets the same question, we’re fairly certain their answers would put them in one of two camps; those who are looking forward to the peace and quiet and those dreading not being with us 24/7.

If your pet falls into the first category, they’ll probably resume their daily napping-schedule quite happily. The pets (mostly dogs) who might struggle are those who rely heavily on contact with us in order to feel secure. Young dogs and puppies, who have never been left at home, might also feel anxious when their ‘pack’ (your family) start going back to school and work.

What is separation anxiety?

Most dogs learn at an early age that, when we leave the house, we’ll always return. Knowing this helps them to feel secure when they’re alone. Some dogs take longer than others to learn, and they feel anxious when they spend time away from us.

Dogs who are scared of being left alone might express their anxiety by misbehaving. Some become destructive and chew household items or furniture; others become very vocal and bark or whine continuously until we return home – which will be distressing for them, and probably your neighbours too; and some may even go to the toilet inside the house – which is out of character for them. Your dog may show one or even all of these symptoms.

There are a few things we can do now to prepare our pets for the end of lockdown. These ideas might also help dogs who struggled with separation anxiety before the lockdown began.

Encourage independence

We can teach our pets to feel secure when we’re out by gradually spending longer periods of time away from them when we’re at home. This is especially important for dogs who like to physically touch or be near to us at all times…. our four-legged shadows!

  • Spend time in a different room to your dog and gradually increase the length of time you’re apart. Don’t fuss your dog when you leave or when you return. By staying calm, you’re signalling to your dog that it’s no big deal for them to spend time alone.
  • Encourage your dog to explore your garden, or outside space, alone.
  • Make sure your dog takes naps in his/ her own bed and not always next to you on the sofa.
  • If you always leave your dog in the same room or area, use these spaces during daily family life. Your dog will be less worried about being left in a familiar space.
  • Introduce interesting toys (such as food-filled chews) to your dog when you’re at home. Lengthen the time your dog has access to these ‘special’ toys while you gradually move away to other parts of your home. The benefits of this are twofold; your dog’s focus is directed away from you, and the action of chewing is something that relaxes most dogs.

Build resilience

If your dog is particularly attached to one person, it’s a good idea to share the load of their daily care. This helps your dog to feel secure even when their favourite pack member isn’t at home. Ask other family members to become involved with your dog’s feeding, walking, snuggling and playtimes.

Your dog will gradually learn to feel safe with whoever they’re spending time with.

How else can we help our dogs adapt to life after lockdown?

Exercise

If you plan to increase your dog’s daily exercise after the lockdown has ended, make sure you do so gradually. We’ll all be trying to lose our lockdown-pounds and increasing the amount of exercise we do is a great way to achieve this. Make sure you and your dog take things slowly to avoid injuring body parts which haven’t been used for a while!

Puppies

If you have a puppy or young dog, introduce them to places that you couldn’t visit during the lockdown period. The more smells, sights, and sounds your dog experiences as a youngster, the less they’ll fear as an adult dog.

Please contact us to ensure your puppy has received the vaccinations and preventative healthcare they need to keep them safe when they start going out.

And what about cats?

For the vast majority of adult cats, their life during lockdown was probably not massively different from their usual routine. They may have felt inconvenienced by more attention from their humans, but many cats avoided this by seeking out new sunbathing/ hiding/ sleeping places!

If your cat has lived indoors during the lockdown, it’s worth checking they’re up to date with their preventative healthcare before they go outside again. We can provide you with your cat’s usual flea and worm treatments so please let us know if you’ve run out. As soon as we can, we’ll resume all vaccinations, so we’ll contact you when your cat is due for a check-up and booster.

For new kitten parents, please arrange for us to vaccinate, neuter and microchip your new addition before letting them go outside. Because of the lockdown, your kitten might be older than usual before this happens. It’s especially difficult keeping young cats indoors during the summer months so we’ll do all we can to ensure they’re ready for the butterfly-chasing season!

All pets

It will take all of us some time to get used to our daily routines again after lockdown has ended. If your pets have enjoyed lie-ins and late nights, it’s helpful to resume your usual routine before you go back to work. Your pet will feel more secure, knowing what time dinner is served!

If you’d like further information about any aspect of caring for your pet after the lockdown has ended, please call us for a chat.

How owning a pet can be good for your mental health

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week here in the UK, so we wanted to explore the connection between pet ownership and mental health.

Thankfully, in more recent times, the conversation about mental health is more open and honest than ever. Members of the Royal family have spoken out about their own mental health issues and act as patrons to dedicated charities; celebrities and public figures talk about their struggles; and the medical profession is more educated and understanding than before.

We hear advice on how to keep our mental health strong, and how to deal with negative mental health experiences in terms of physical behaviour, but what about external factors? Here, we’re looking at how owning a pet can have a positive effect on your mental health.

Loneliness

A well-known cause of low mood and depression is loneliness. The companionship provided by a pet can help to reduce feelings of loneliness by having ‘someone’ to talk to, or to give and receive cuddles. In extreme cases, pets have been attributed with saving people’s lives’ by giving them a focus and something to live for. Pets are great listeners and never talk back, are grateful for attention and always appreciative when you feed them! They give unconditional love, which can be essential for people who feel alone.

Anxiety

Studies have shown that stroking a pet can regulate breathing, lower blood pressure, relax muscle tension and slow heart rates; all signs of anxiety and stress. It can release serotonin and dopamine – happy hormones – which relax us and improve our mood.

Structure and focus

Pets don’t care if you’re tired, miserable or don’t want to get out of bed – they need feeding, walking, and general looking after. Owning a pet can give the structure needed to get through the day when you’re feeling troubled. Caring for a pet can also remind us that we need to care for ourselves too.

Exercise and fresh air

If exercise is good for mental health, then owning a dog might be the push needed to get out and about. Dogs require regular exercise and generally love walkies, which encourages their owners to take them out even when they may not themselves feel like it. Owning a dog is a big responsibility, which needs to be thought about before making a commitment, but it’s a great way to stick to daily exercise all year round.

Be more social

Owning a pet can help people become more social too. Many dog owners love to exchange pleasantries or stop for a chat on their daily walk. But all pets provide a commonality with friends and strangers; it gives us something to talk about and share stories about. With the love of pets on social media, isolated people can develop new friendships and relationships by sharing their pets photographs and joining in conversations on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, please reach out to a registered charity or medical professional for help, support and advice.

75th VE Day Anniversary – Animals in War

On this VE Day, it will be 75 years since the guns fell silent at the end of the war in Europe. The 75th anniversary will provide us with an opportunity to reflect on the bravery and sacrifice of people from all walks of life. It is equally important to consider the role animals played and how they were touched by war.

Domestic pets

As they do today, pets played a significant role in people’s lives during the war. When refugees escaped from Europe, sometimes they only managed to escape with their pets.

With millions of people joining the war effort, charities such as the Blue Cross stepped up by looking after the pets of service members. Despite facing great danger during the war, the charity and volunteers across the UK continued to care for and treat animals. By 1945, they were treating 210,000 animals a year!

Pets also saved countless lives during the war. Here are just a few examples of pets who become heroes:

  • When an incendiary bomb was dropped through the roof of the house in which Juliana, a Great Dane, and her owner lived, the dog stood over the bomb and urinated on it, extinguishing the incendiary device. She was awarded her first Blue Cross medal for her actions. Juliana was celebrated as a hero for a second time in 1944 when she again helped to save the lives of her owners. After a fire started in their shoe shop, she alerted her owners’ family to the imminent danger. For this courageous action, she was awarded a second medal.
  • A little dog by the name of Fluff worked valiantly to save her owners. Fluff was buried with her owners in the rubble of their house after a German bomb landed on it. By continuous scratching, Fluff made a hole big enough to get out, which also acted as an airway for the trapped people. She stood outside the hole and barked until rescuers arrived.
  • The home of Peggy, a ferocious terrier, was blown up by a German bomb. Her female owner and a baby were trapped under the debris of the house. The dog worked furiously with her paws until she had made a hole through which the child could breathe. All three were saved and continued to live a happy life.

 

Dogs also played a direct role in the war. Dogs were trained to protect, patrol, find land mines, and even parachute behind German lines. Brian, a two-year-old Collie Cross, was one of the most-famous “paradogs” and was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for his service. During the D-Day Landings, Brian and several other animals joined the conflict in France and beyond.

 

Horses

Horses have had a long-established role in war. In WWI, nearly a million horses were sent to France between 1914 and 1918, and only 62,000 returned. In WW2, soldiers of the Yeomanry regiments were shipped from Britain to multiple battlefronts with their horses. In 1942, when the Yeomanry were given tanks, the animals became redundant. Thanks to efforts of a charity called Brooke Hospital, now simply known as Brooke, these war horses were provided with a second home. Read more about their work with horses by clicking here.

During the Blitz, citizens and charities worked to save horses impacted by German air force bombing. Among the many stories of heroism during this dark period, volunteers and staff members of the Blue Cross worked to rescue 11 horses trapped in a bombed building in the heart of London. Even though bombs were falling within their vicinity, they managed to save 8 of these horses.

The human-animal bond

The human-animal bond persists through war and peace. Volunteers and charities looked after animals despite a considerable risk of personal harm, and many pets actively safeguarded their owners.

As we look back on VE day, let us be sure to remember and appreciate the important role animals played and continue to play in our life.

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.
  • wrap them in a damp towel, and continue to change it regularly and monitor their symptoms.

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.