Archive for the ‘Cats’ Category

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.

Tips on exercising your pet

In order to be happy and healthy, pets have needs that can be broken down into 5 areas: health, behaviour, companionship, diet and environment. Owners need to provide these needs. It is not only ethically right to do so, but also our legal responsibility. Follow our tips below on exercising your pet.


Exercise fits into 4 out of the 5 welfare needs…

  • It helps maintain our pets’ health. It’s estimated that 46% of dogs seen in practice and 34% of cats are overweight or obese. Interestingly, research shows only 15% of owners describe their dogs as overweight and 54% of cat owners don’t know their cat’s weight.
  • Exercise is essential for pets’ mental health too, providing them the ability to carry out natural behaviours. This can help prevent unwanted behaviours that can otherwise build up.
  • To allow your pet to carry out their natural behaviours they need to be given plenty to do. This is known as enrichment. Providing a safe and enriched environment is our responsibility.
  • Many of our pets prefer to exercise and live with company. In some cases companionship is actually essential for wellbeing.

Tips for dogs

ALL dogs need walking daily, but statistics say 13% are not. Different breeds, ages and personalities need varying amounts of exercise. Our team can recommend what your pet needs. A fit Labrador needs at least 2 hours of exercise daily whereas a Yorkshire terrier may only need 30 minutes. Puppies and elderly or debilitated dogs will need special consideration.

Time off-lead gives opportunities to sniff and explore which is important for mental health. Dogs appreciate a varied route for different experiences but if recall is an issue, a large garden or enclosed play area is ideal. Always keep dogs on the lead in built-up areas and use high-vis jackets during the dark nights.

If your pet is getting tired you have done too much. If they are full of energy then you may have not done enough. Dogs love human companionship, so playtime indoors or outdoors is also important. When alone, you can keep dogs occupied and exercised by using puzzle feeders. Sticks can cause serious injuries so perhaps instead throw a ball (but one that is big enough to not be swallowed).

Tips for cats

Outdoor cats scratch, stalk, pounce and batt outdoors, but it’s still important to provide opportunity for these behaviours indoors. If cats are indoors this is essential. Cats all have individual preferences. If your cat doesn’t want to play, try different toys. Interactive toys provide companionship and bonding time, and you can change the pace and speed of play. Cats exercise in short bursts, so 5-10 minutes frequently throughout the day is better than one long period. As cats naturally hunt at dawn and dusk they may prefer these times for play.

Putting part of your cat’s food ration inside food puzzles can keep them mentally amused and exercised when alone. Research shows puzzle feeders can reduce stress, contribute to weight loss, decrease aggression towards humans and other cats, reduce anxiety and fear, and eliminate attention-seeking behaviour and inappropriate toileting problems. You can buy puzzle feeders or make your own – try putting kibbles inside plastic bottles with holes cut in them. The cats can then roll them around and retrieve; or perhaps within a constructed toilet roll tube tower for your cat to reach into and grab.

Tips for rabbits

The more space rabbits have, the happier they are. Outdoor runs should let them sprint and stand up without touching their ears on the bars so should be at least 3 x 6 x 10 ft. This space includes an attached enclosure (6 x 2 x 2 ft) so they can enjoy the outdoors and run about when they want. Rabbits like to play and dig so make sure they have lots of toys.

Wild rabbits spend 80% of their waking time foraging. Food can be hidden and dispersed to encourage exercise. Research shows rabbits suffer from stress and loneliness if kept alone and rabbits love to play and exercise together. They actually value companionship as much as food. If you have a single bunny, talk to us about finding them a buddy.

Tips for small pets

Hamsters travel great distances at night in the wild. They need as large a cage as you can provide (at least 60 x 30 x 30cm). Many breeds dig, so an area of deep sawdust will satisfy this need. Most love climbing on different levels, but make sure levels are not too tall as a fall may cause harm. Hamster wheels should be solid as spokes can cause injury, and wide enough so the hamster doesn’t bend its back when moving. Restricting access to wheels to 3-4 hours ensures they don’t keep going until they are exhausted.

Hamster balls with no way to escape may also cause exhaustion, so always supervise if using these. Food can be hidden to promote foraging behaviour through the night and boxes, tubes and ladders provide stimulation for exercise and climbing opportunities. Remember, although many breeds of hamsters like company, the Syrian hamster does not. Syrian hamsters are happy to exercise alone, or with their humans.

For guinea pigs, RSPCA recommendations are minimum size hutch of 4ft by 2ft but, like rabbits, the bigger the better. Like rabbits they also need companionship, and ideally constant access to a large grassy area so they can decide when they want to go out. Hiding food can increase exercise through foraging and, like any pet, toys will increase exercise and mental stimulation.

Rats’ cages should be at least 50 x 80 x 50 cm and they need at least an hour’s playtime outside their cage per day, in a safe rat-proofed room with no cracks or wires to chew. Boxes or tubing provide extra entertainment and, although they enjoy human company, it’s unfair to keep them alone.


As all pets have different needs, do speak to us to ensure yours is getting the right amounts of the right exercise.

How to have a Pet-Friendly Christmas

For most humans, Christmas is when we meet up with friends, celebrate with rich food and drink, put up sparkling decorations and have a wonderful time! However, for our pets, it can be really tough. Stress from strangers in the house, a change of routine, unexpected hazards from decorations and tasty foods that prove to have nasty toxic side effects. So, what can we do to make the festive season pet-friendly?


MINIMISE STRESS

“God rest ye merry gentlemen let nothing you dismay…” But all those merry gentlemen certainly can dismay our pets! Almost all of them find the presence of strange people in the house stressful. Dogs may respond to this by aggression, destructive behaviours or hiding; rabbits freeze and try and stay motionless; whereas cats are more likely to start urine spraying, hide or just vanish for the duration. However, even an apparently excited and waggy dog may not be as happy as they seem – while some dogs genuinely do love company, others try and cope with the stress by being extra friendly.

Ideally, you should avoid putting your pet into a stressful situation at all. This means allowing them to have their own quiet space, away from people, minimising the amount of interaction with strangers (so those festive cat and dog costumes probably aren’t a good idea) and, as far as possible, keeping to their normal routine.

However, they aren’t going to be able to avoid the holiday season completely, so you will also have to look at managing their stress. For dogs and cats, the best approach is the use of pheromones – Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs. Sadly, there aren’t any products designed specifically for rabbits, but if your pet is really suffering, whatever their species, bring them down to see us and our vets can prescribe anti-anxiety medications that are very effective in the short-term.

AVOID ORNAMENT INJURIES

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly…” And fir trees, glass and plastic ornaments, ribbons, tinsel, lights and candles. All lovely to look at, all potentially dangerous! Cats often like to play with bright shiny things, but they can easily get themselves cut (on a broken glass bauble, for example) or burned by candle flames or hot fairy lights. Cats also love to play pounce with tinsel and ribbons, but if swallowed they can form a “linear foreign body”, cutting into the intestinal walls. find out more about what you can do with advice from Cats Protection

Dogs, on the other hand, are more likely to try eating things – and any ornament can cause an intestinal blockage, or break and cut the mouth or bowel.

Christmas trees are a particular threat, as to cats they are nice climbing frames (potentially resulting in it raining cats as well as needles), while to dogs they are a convenient urinal (which may result in electric shocks in a rather unfortunate location).

The simplest way to avoid injuries is by preventing pets from having any unsupervised contact with ornaments or decorations!

PREVENT POISONING

“So bring us a figgy pudding, so bring us a figgy pudding, so bring us a figgy pudding and bring it out here…” Sadly, so many of our festive favourites can be toxic to our pets. Most people know how dangerous chocolate is for dogs (and the darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is). However, did you know that coffee, peanuts, Macadamia nuts, onions, and even raisins and dried fruit are all poisonous to dogs and cats? So no slices of Christmas pudding, mince pies, festive nuts, sage and onion stuffing for our pets! The Dogs Trust have created a Doggy Christmas Menu – especially designed with dogs in mind!

In addition, cooked bones are highly dangerous as they can splinter in the mouth or gut, leading to sharp wounds and even perforated bowels. So, watch out for left-over turkey carcasses!

Finally, be very careful not to give them too much rich food and treats – dogs and cats do not thrive on rapidly changing diets, and a sudden change can lead to nasty vomiting and diarrhoea. Likewise, rabbits shouldn’t have too many seeds and treats, but make sure they have plenty of good quality hay.


Christmas with pets can be great fun for both of you, but you do have to take certain precautions! If in doubt, contact your local Goddard vet for more advice.

ProActive Pets – sign up and save!

In a previous blog, we talked about the importance of pet insurance. However, regular preventative healthcare prevents many problems from developing — but isn’t covered by insurance (even though in many cases regular vaccinations and worming are a requirement of your insurance policy).


That’s why we’ve launched the ProActive Pets health care plan, designed to do two things:

1.    Spread the cost

Vaccinations usually only need doing once a year, but it can be a lot of money all in one go. ProActive Pets lets you spread the cost over the whole year with a single monthly Direct Debit.

2.    Save money!

If you’re keeping up to date with worming, flea treatment and vaccination, the ProActive Pets scheme could save you up to £141.18 per year, or even more in the first year (as it includes discounted primary vaccinations).


So, what does the plan cover?

ALL of your pet’s preventative health needs, plus major discounts on other routine procedures!

Annual vaccination – essential to prevent serious and often life-threatening diseases:

Dogs on the plan all receive protection against:

  • Canine Distemper (“Hardpad”) – a highly contagious infection with a high mortality rate that attacks the gut, respiratory system, skin and brain.
  • Infectious Canine Hepatitis – a virus that attacks the blood vessels, especially those in the liver or kidneys, and can also cause damage to the eyes.
  • Canine Parvovirus (“Parvo”) – the most common of the major infectious diseases in dogs, Parvo destroys the gut lining causing severe bloody vomiting and diarrhoea, dehydration and shock. Although most common in puppies, any unvaccinated dog is at risk.
  • Leptospirosis – spread primarily by rat urine, this isn’t just infectious to dogs, but also to people, causing kidney and liver damage.

Meanwhile, the cats get cover for:

  • Feline Calicivirus – a common cause of cat flu, although there are also some fatal strains of this virus.
  • Feline Herpesvirus – another cat-flu virus, herpesvirus mainly attacks the nose and eyes. It can hide away inside the body for years after the cat has apparently recovered, only to reactivate at times of stress
  • Feline Panleukopenia (also known as Feline Infectious Enteritis) is a close relative of Parvo in dogs, and causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as damaging the immune system.
  • Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) is a “stealth virus” in that it hides away for months after infection, slowly rewriting the DNA of the cat’s white blood cells. Eventually it activates, unfortunately causing cancers to form and their immune system to collapse – 90% of infected cats will be dead within 3 years.

Treatment against external parasites, including:

Fleas

  • In both dogs and cats, fleas are the most common cause of itching. There are a number of very powerful prescription-medicines we can use nowadays to kill them, and these are included on the plan – but remember, 95% of the fleas are hidden away in your house! If you have a flea problem, it’s important to deal with the eggs, larvae and pupae as well as the adults. Fortunately, our vets and nurses will be able to advise you!
  • In cats, tick treatment is available, but is less important than in dogs, if concerned please discuss with your vet.

Internal Parasites

  • Roundworms – parasites that live in the gut, but their larvae crawl around inside the body, usually causing diarrhoea and weight loss, but sometimes more serious problems. Some species (e.g. Toxocara cati) can even invade humans (through handling contaminated soil, dog or cat faeces, or litter) and crawl into our brains or eyes! Dogs and cats usually contract these worms from their mothers when nursing, or even while still in the womb (puppies only), so worming against roundworms is doubly important in the first six months of life – all covered, of course.
  • Tapeworms – these can be spread by eating infected live prey (rats and mice etc), or infected fleas (which carry the common Dipylidium caninum tapeworm). Tapeworms can grow to a huge size (many meters long) and cause weight loss, itchy bottoms (as the segments crawl out through the anus) and sometimes gut twists (intussusceptions) in younger animals.
  • Lungworms are found in both dogs and cats, but while the cat version (Aelurostrongylus abstrusus) is relatively harmless, the dog lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) is often fatal. Protection for dogs against this parasite is built into our ProActive Pet Scheme because we do see cases here in London.
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There are a range of other benefits though too – including:

  • 20% off neutering (did you know that a neutered bitch has a 26% longer lifespan, that two unneutered cats could have up to 40,000 descendents in just seven years, or that over 80% of unneutered rabbit does will develop womb cancer?).
  • 65% off kennel cough vaccination for dogs – infected dogs often cough for up to three weeks, spreading the disease as they go.
  • £50 off all dental procedures.

Discounts on Tick treatment:

Always important in dogs, as these parasites not only suck blood (horrible things) but can spread some nasty diseases, such as Lyme Disease (causing fevers, rashes, and joint problems), and Babesia canis (which causes severe and sometimes fatal anaemia).

If you’re interested in keeping your pet healthy and saving money – contact your local Goddard Veterinary practice to to enrol.

 

What Should I Feed My Cat?

Understanding what you should feed your cat is important as a good diet generally tends to promote and maintain good health. A cats metabolism is so heavily specialised in obtaining nutrition from meat, it’s important to choose the correct diet. Most cats are notoriously fussy — so getting a healthy and suitable diet into them (that they will enjoy) isn’t always as easy as it seems… and this might explain the sheer range of diets currently available on the market!


Cat nutrition 101

Cats have evolved as obligate carnivores, meaning that they need certain nutrients only found in animal tissues to survive. In particular, key nutrients that cats need include:

  • High levels of protein in the diet (as much as 30-40% higher than a dog).
  • Specific proteins, e.g. taurine and arginine. A taurine-deficient diet leads to blindness, heart disease, and a weakened immune system, while feeding a single meal deficient in arginine can lead to liver failure and seizures.
  • Certain vitamins that they cannot make themselves, e.g. vitamin A (needed for vision).

In general, the best meal for a cat is a meat-based one, although using appropriate cereals and oils (as in many commercial diets) to balance the calorie provision is perfectly acceptable. Cats cannot thrive on a vegetarian, or survive on a vegan, diet without synthetic supplements.

So, with this vast array of options – where do we start? It can be a daunting decision. However, to make it easier, we’ve selected certain key features to consider below.

What should I feed my cat?

How old is your cat?

As we grow up from infants into toddlers into children into teenagers and into adults, our nutritional needs change. And of course, as we age, they change again. This situation in cats is exactly the same. Kittens typically need high calorie and high protein diets, with specific minerals such as calcium, for growth – more than at any other age. Adolescent active cats need more calories than adults; whereas older cats often benefit from limiting the amount of dietary protein to protect their kidneys. That’s not to say you need to buy a new food every six months or so (well, except for keeping up with those fast-growing kittens!), but that you need to be aware that your cat’s dietary needs will change.

What kind of lifestyle does your cat have?

Is your cat out and about, hunting and playing outdoors? Or are they more of a sofa-surfer? The more time they spend outside, the more calories they’re likely to require. HOWEVER, also ask yourself are they being fed anywhere else? Some cats have a great knack for persuading neighbours that they’re a poor starved stray, and may work their way from house
to house getting a fresh meal at each one… so keep a close eye on their waistline!

Does your cat have any dietary sensitivities?

While food allergies aren’t that common in cats, they do occasionally occur, so it’s worth being aware of what the protein source in their diet is.

Is there anyway your diet may be able to support and manage an existing issue for your cat?

Many health conditions have been proven to respond to certain balances of nutrients in diet – in particular, cystitis, and many bladder stones can even be dissolved by feeding the correct diet; cats with kidney disease will also benefit from a specialist renal diet that contains lower levels of high-quality protein, low phosphate, and altered salt balances. These specific food formulations are called “prescription diets”, and are available through us
(please don’t feed a prescription diet except on veterinary advice though!).
There are also diets available with specific nutrients (e.g. tryptophan) to help manage things like stress and anxiety.

Is the diet you are considering labelled a complete diet or a complementary diet?

A complete diet does what it says on the tin… it contains all the nutrients your cat needs, in the correct ratios. A complementary diet does not, and needs to be combined with another type of food to give a balanced meal. In general, most manufacturers provide complementary biscuit and wet diets, that you mix together. The problem with a complementary diet is that it assumes the cat will like both parts equally… which isn’t always the case!


Remember that your cat is an individual with their own unique requirements. No-one is better placed to know what they need than you and your vet — who both knows your cat as an individual. So, if it all seems a bit too much, and you’re not sure what the best option is — talk to one of our team! We can carry out an individual nutritional assessment for your cat and determine what their exact needs are, and then work together to find the best diet for them.