Archive for the ‘Rabbit’ Category

5 reasons we should check your pets teeth

The first time that many pet owners know there is a problem with their pet’s teeth is when they catch a whiff of very smelly breath or, more worryingly, when their pet stops eating. Our veterinary nurses can check with your pets teeth and advise you what to do next. 


With their nursing skills, they can advise and demonstrate the best way to keep your pet’s teeth pearly white. Still not convinced? Here are five reasons to help change your mind.

Reason 1: Your pets teeth are under constant threat

Just like humans, your pet’s teeth are always being bombarded by bacteria, leading to the buildup of plaque and tartar. Even dogs from three years old can have periodontal disease which if left unchecked can cause pain and other serious health issues. Goddard veterinary nurses can give you excellent advice on cleaning your dog’s and cat’s teeth. It isn’t as difficult as you may think and the nurses will give you the best techniques to use. After all we clean our teeth every day, why shouldn’t our pets have clean teeth as well?

Reason 2: Extra teeth are not good

A full-grown dog should have 42 teeth, whereas a fully grown cat has 30 teeth. Of course, before these teeth can grow, the deciduous (baby) teeth need to fall out. Sometimes you will see these teeth scattered around the floor, however there are times when they don’t fall out and this can cause problems. Retained teeth, commonly the canine teeth, can cause gum irritation and an extra build-up of tartar.

Regular checks with our veterinary nurses can make sure these teeth are doing what they are supposed to, especially as your puppy or kitten becomes an adult. Some breeds are also more prone to retaining teeth such as Chihuahuas.

Reason 3: It’s not just dental health

You may think that a bit of smelly breath (halitosis) is okay to put up with, however poor teeth and dental hygiene can result in other much more serious health problems. An infection in the mouth can cause bacteria to enter the body via the bloodstream, causing infections elsewhere in your pet’s body.

Major organs can be infected by poor dental health, including the kidneys, heart, lungs and liver.

This means a simple check can help stop the infection before it starts. If there are signs of infection already around the gums, our nurses can flag this to the vets, who can begin appropriate treatment.

Reason 4: Pets can be secretive

You might not realise that your pet has dental problems, especially if you don’t get very close to their mouths. Most animals can be very secretive, even if their mouths are causing them pain. Many pets will not cry out, but simply tolerate it. As humans, we know how bad toothache can get, but at least we can do something about it! Another reason regular dental checks are so important!

If you do see any of the following signs, it may indicate dental discomfort:

  • Reluctance to eat – especially hard food such as biscuits
  • Their coats becoming unkempt or matted – where they feel reluctant to groom
  • Wetness around their face, chin and mouth – or even drooling
  • Some animals even ‘paw’ at their faces/mouth areas

If you witness any of these signs please bring your pets to see us as soon as possible, so we can start to treat them.

Reason 5: Early intervention can save you money!

Like any disease, the earlier it is discovered the easier it is to treat. Dental disease is no different. Would you much rather our vet nurses check your pet’s teeth regularly and advise when they need treatment – such as a scale and polish, or ignore any issues and eventually leave no alternative for your pet but lots of extractions, potentially being expensive?

By checking your pet’s teeth regularly throughout their lives from very young to their senior years you can save both money and discomfort. Our nurses can advise on the types of brushes available, toothpastes (never use human toothpaste in pets), brushing techniques, dental biscuits and chews. The initial outlay and time can save a lot of heartache further down the line.


So what next?

If your pet hasn’t had a dental check in the last six months, take advantage of the skills of our veterinary nurses and let them offer a check and advice for your pet’s dental health. It may be your pet’s fangs are fine, they may need a clean, but even if they need more invasive treatment, you now know that you are doing your best by them when it comes to their pearly whites!

Call your nearest Goddard surgery for more information, or to speak to one of our veterinary nurses about any pet dental concerns.

Fireworks and Your Pet

Fireworks season is fast approaching and although we may enjoy it as humans, it may be a little stressful for our furry friends. See below our advice on keeping your pet happy and safe during this time, or have a look at our top 10 tips on keeping your pet safe this firework season. 


ALWAYS

  • Keep dogs and cats inside when fireworks are being let off.
  • Close all windows and doors and block off cat flaps to stop pets escaping and to keep noise to a minimum. Draw the curtains, and if the animals are used to the particular sounds of TV or radio, switch them on.
  • Make sure your pet is microchipped so should they run away you are more likely to be reunited with them.

NEVER

  • Walk your dog while fireworks are going off.
  • Leave or tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off.
  • Take your dog to a firework display. Even if your dog does not bark or whimper at fireworks it doesn’t mean they are happy.
  • Shout at your pet if they are frightened as this will only make them more distressed.

DOGS

To further minimise distress, we suggest you install an Adaptil® diffuser in your home. The Adaptil® diffuser works like a plug-in air freshener, continuously releasing an odourless natural pheromone which helps to keep your pet feeling safe and calm. The diffuser contains a natural solution and there is no sedative effect. Xylkene® is an oral tablet which can also be used to help relieve anxiety without the use of potentially sedative drugs. In severe cases we may need to prescribe a sedative. Please discuss this with one of our veterinary surgeons.

CATS

A Feliway® diffuser is the feline equivalent to the Adaptil® diffuser. Feliway® releases feline facial pheromone, mimicking the cat’s own pheromones, helping to create a state of calmness and well-being, allowing reactions to stressful situations to be better controlled. Xylkene® can also be used in cats to help relieve anxiety without the use of potentially sedative drugs.

SMALL ANIMALS

Rabbits and guinea pigs living outside should not be forgotten. They can also become very stressed from loud noises. Bring small animals indoors or into an outhouse to muffle the sound of the fireworks, helping them feel safe and calm.


If you are concerned or would like further advice, please speak to your local Goddard vet soon.

How Can I Tell If My Pet’s Overweight?

It can be hard, we know! However, our vets and nurses can weigh your pet and assess their body condition score (BCS) which is a method of categorising weight, ranging from 1 (very thin) to 5 (obese), with 3 being normal and healthy. You can also do some checks at home:

  • Look from above. Your pet should go in a little at the waist. If not, they may be overweight.
  • Feeling along the side of the chest, you should be able to feel the ribs. They should not be under a thick layer of fat, but they should also not be sticking out.
  • Feeling along the back of your pet, the spine and hip bones should not be sticking out but should be easy to feel.
  • Look and feel underneath your pet for any bulges.

It’s estimated that around 60% of dogs and 39-52% of cats in the UK are overweight or obese. A report last year found 80% of dog owners stated their pet was an ideal weight, but 40% knew neither their pet’s weight nor body condition score. 74% of cat owners believed their cat was an ideal weight, but nearly two thirds (65%) acknowledged not knowing their cat’s current weight and/or body condition score.


Does it matter if my pet is overweight?

Pets who are a healthy weight are more likely to enjoy a happy and healthy life. Here are some reasons why:

  • Older pets often suffer from degenerative joint disease (arthritis). Being overweight can speed the progression of arthritis and the pain caused, ultimately reducing the quality and quantity of their life. Simple mechanics mean a dog weighing 20 kg that should weigh 15kg will place 33% more force through each limb. Even a small weight reduction can make a huge difference to their quality of life.
  • Being overweight increases the chance of diabetes in dogs and cats. Diabetes shortens life, can come with complications, and usually requires lifelong insulin injections. This poses a significant time and financial commitment for owners.
  • Obesity is not known to increase the risk of coronary heart disease as in people, but it does have adverse effects on cardiac and pulmonary function and blood pressure.
  • Operations are more risky for all pets that are overweight.
  • Rabbits naturally eat a part of their faeces known as caecotrophs, which helps recycle enzymes enabling them to digest roughage. If they are overweight, they will not be able to groom or to reach their bottom to eat these caecotrophs.
  • Obese or overweight cats are more at risk of hepatic lipidosis and lower urinary tract disease, both of which can be very serious or even fatal.

What can I do?

We can check your pet’s body condition score and weight, and perform an examination looking for other health issues, especially ones that may be weight related.

We can recommend a regime to help your pet lose weight, but it is important not to lose weight too rapidly. We aim for no more than 1-2% of their starting weight each week.

If they are only slightly overweight then feeding a bit less, or changing to a lower-calorie food may be all that’s needed. Pets needing more drastic weight loss may need a special diet, as reducing their food too much may mean they go hungry or with insufficient nutrients. A food diary for a week may highlight where your pet is getting extra calories. Each weight loss plan we suggest is individual and would involve exercise as part of the weight loss regime, but here are some general points:

  • Good pet food companies produce food for varying life-stages, as a developing pup, for example, will have different needs to an ageing dog.
  • Take the nutritional information of your current food along to your appointment and our team can assess if it’s appropriate for your pet.
  • Feeding a complete commercial pet food is the easiest way to ensure your pet gets the nutrients they need. Use feeding guidelines and weigh the food out. It seems obvious, but pets that eat too much get fat.
  • Treats and scraps on top of a complete food will unbalance the diet and most likely be turned into fat.
  • Pet lifestyle makes a difference. In the same way, an elite athlete will need more calories than an office-worker, a working greyhound or sheepdog will need more calories than a sedentary dog.
  • If considering a diet change, do it slowly to avoid upsetting the gut.

Dogs:

  • Prefer regular mealtimes. Ideally, split your dog’s daily food into two equal-sized meals, meaning your dog will be less hungry and eat more slowly. It may also help them sleep and make it less tempting to treat.

Cats:

  • Are obligate carnivores, meaning they cannot survive without meat. They cannot produce an amino acid called taurine (a protein building block) which can only be found in meat. Without it, they can develop a severe heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy and even blindness. Their gut is not designed to digest a plant-based diet, just like a cow’s gut is not designed for a meat-based diet.
  • Prefer to graze, eating 8-16 times daily, so have food available all the time weighing out the daily quota. Most cats are very good at self-regulating but some are greedy, and with these cats, meals may be needed.
  • That drink milk often gets tummy upsets due to the lactose.

Rabbits should:

  • Eat around 50% of the time so they need at least their body size in good quality hay per day to keep boredom at bay, to keep their gut health and to keep their continually growing teeth worn down.
  • Have a handful of fresh vegetables, morning and evening. They love carrots, but as they are high in sugar, use them sparingly.
  • Have an eggcup of commercial rabbit nuggets (NOT muesli-type mix) once a day if under 3.5kg, or twice a day if larger. If fed too many nuggets, they may eat less hay and veg which are both vital for rabbit health.

What rabbits should really eat

For years rabbits were commonly thought of as the ‘easy’ pet, one that was great as a ‘first’ or ‘child’s’ pet. However they’ve never been all that easy to care for at all, it’s just that many of their needs were being overlooked. Thankfully there’s good news! Rabbit owner awareness has come forward leaps and bounds in recent years.


There are a number of care requirements, now far better known to rabbit owners, serving the bunny population very well indeed. One of these is the requirement for an appropriate diet. As with people, dogs, cats, all animals in fact, a good diet underpins both physical and mental wellbeing. Gone are the days when a handful of rabbit muesli and a carrot will suffice, so here’s our guide to a rabbit-friendly healthy menu.

ROUGHAGE

Top of the list is the foodstuff of which they need most, unlimited quantities in fact. By far and away the largest component to your rabbit’s diet should be hay or grass, and we’re talking up to 90%. Not just any old hay will suffice, pinching a slice from the farmer around the corner won’t necessarily do. Those with rabbits must be prepared to become hay experts as there are many on the market. An adult rabbit should be fed what is known as grass hay. Meadow hay and Timothy hay are good examples of this and they tend to contain a balance of fibre and calcium better suited to the mature bunny; the calcium levels are on the lower side and adult rabbits that are fed excess calcium risk kidney and bladder problems. In contrast, young, pregnant or lactating rabbits will do better with calcium-rich legume hay such as clover hay.

There is good reason that roughage should make such a prominent appearance in a rabbit’s diet; you may be surprised to know that a rabbit’s teeth will never stop growing. So in order to keep them in good, short shape and therefore prevent dental problems, the grinding action of chewing hay or grass helps grind their teeth down. The consequences of overgrown teeth can be dire. As the teeth become too long and misshapen, the rabbit struggles to eat, then weight loss and steady starvation can ensue. Roughage also plays a vital role in maintaining gastrointestinal health. A rabbit’s gut must keep gently moving and the fibre in their diet will help it do so.

Gut stasis (when the gut ceases to work properly) is a painful and life-threatening problem which must be treated as an emergency, signified by lethargy, anorexia, sometimes hiding, and a lack of faecal pellets. It’s important to phone for veterinary advice immediately if you notice these signs.

RABBIT PELLETS

The next component of a rabbit’s diet should be a commercially prepared rabbit pellet. Mixed flakes or muesli type food should be avoided due to the ability for rabbits to selective feed. By this we mean they have a tendency to pick out the tasty bits and leave the rest, something we all know a bit about if we’re honest. It’s like giving a young child the choice between some broccoli and some sweeties, we shouldn’t be surprised that the broccoli remains untouched. As with all commercial diets, follow feeding directions for the individual brand, although one general rule of thumb for many diets is to feed one full egg cup of pellets per kilogram of body weight.

FRESH FRUIT AND VEG

Fresh fruit and veg is next on the menu. Take care with fruit as the sugar content is high and can cause obesity. See fruit as more of a treat and concentrate on fibre-full leafy greens as a daily option instead. Why not mix it up to keep their interest? Vegetables that are suitable for bunnies include asparagus, broccoli, tomato, spinach, radish and cabbage, as well as herbs like basil, parsley and coriander amongst many others. Avocados contain a substance called persin which is highly toxic to rabbits and therefore should never be fed. Whilst treats are available to buy, keeping bunnies in healthy, lean condition is important, so don’t underestimate the worth of alternating fresh fruit and veg instead. A handful (adult-sized) of veg each day is plenty and it’s important to introduce new foods to their diet slowly to avoid stomach upset.

CHECK THEIR WEIGHT

Getting a rabbit’s diet right will pay dividends to their health and wellbeing. Obesity in the rabbit population is sometimes overlooked, not least because it can be difficult to determine what the perfect bunny body should look like in the first place. Please ask us if you’re concerned about your rabbit’s weight (whether under or overweight) so that we can advise. Obesity should be avoided for a whole host of reasons many of which we humans can empathise with. From exercise intolerance to additional pressure on joints (especially in the aged bunny who might suffer with arthritis), obesity can also lead to diseases like diabetes.

There is one rather more sinister problem too – rabbits carrying extra weight can’t easily clean themselves, so they are less likely to keep their rear end in check. What’s more, the extra weight is also likely cause their behind to drag through faeces and urine. A dirty bottom will encourage flies (particularly during the summer months) to lay their eggs within your rabbits fur. These eggs develop into maggots which literally use your rabbit as a food source. A painful and sometimes heartbreaking condition, definitely one that’s best to be avoided.


So that’s our guide to get you started. We’d love the opportunity to tell you more about how best to care for your rabbits or answer any specific questions you may have.

Can diet really affect my pets health?

Your pet’s diet has a big impact on their health and wellbeing. The wrong diet could lead to your pet developing health issues such as obesity, diabetes, pancreatitis, allergies or dental problems — so getting it right is crucial!


DOGS

  • It’s important to feed your dog a complete, balanced, high-quality diet. High-quality commercial dog food will contain all the right nutrients and vitamins, and in the right amounts. The best way to recognise a decent quality diet is to take a look at the list of ingredients. The first item should be an animal protein e.g. chicken or pork. If the item is, for example, chicken ‘derivative’ or ‘meal’ this tends to imply a lower-quality diet. Avoid any diets where the kibble is a range of bright colours which means there are likely to be added colourants and additives. These are added to make the food look more appealing to you, whilst your dog doesn’t care what colour his food is!
  • It’s also key to feed a diet appropriate to life stage and age of your pet. As you can probably imagine, a Great Dane puppy has a completely different calorific and growth requirement compared to say, an elderly Chihuahua. You should feed a good quality puppy or junior food up to the age of about 1 year (sometimes longer for large breed dogs – usually to about 15-18 months), then gradually switch to an adult diet, then to a senior food from the age of 8.
  • If you have a large breed dog, then you should feed your dog a diet specially formulated for large breeds. This is because joint problems tend to be more common in larger dogs, so these diets contain additional joint supplements to support bone and joint health. Small breed dogs can be more prone to dental disease so generally diets suited to smaller breed dogs have a smaller kibble size and contain supplements to reduce tartar build-up (which can lead to dental disease).
  • Once your dog has been spayed or castrated, it’s a good idea to feed a neutered diet. These diets are calorie restricted to help prevent post neutering weight gain. It’s vital to maintain a healthy weight and body condition score (BCS) – extra weight puts your pet at health risks including diabetes, arthritis and heart problems. If your pet is a little on the porky side and is already carrying a few extra pounds, then special prescription weight loss diets are available.

CATS

  • Cats are obligate carnivores, so it’s important that they are dependent on their diet containing meat to thrive and survive. In a similar way to dogs, they should be fed a life stage-specific diet based on their age.
  • Most adult cats are lactose intolerant (they lack the main enzyme required to digest lactose in milk) so it’s best to not feed your cat milk.
  • Prescription diets are available for certain health concerns including – kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, arthritis, overactive thyroid (cat), skin problems, urinary problems and cystitis, obesity and many more.

RABBITS

  • The bulk of a rabbit’s diet should be hay (fibre) or dark green leafy vegetables – a minimum of 80%. This should ideally mimic what a rabbit would eat in the wild. A small amount of dry concentrate food can be offered, usually about 1 tablespoon per rabbit.
  • It’s important to feed a complete pellet concentrate, as muesli mixes promote selective feeding and can lead to dental problems. Diet is particularly important for rabbits to wear down their teeth, which continuously grow. Feeding an unsuitable diet can lead to overgrown teeth, weight problems, fly strike and lack of grooming.

If you require further advice please contact to your local Goddard vet who can share details on what’s best for your pet.