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Alarming Pet Obesity Statistics in the UK & What You Can Do

Alarming Pet Obesity Statistics in the UK & What You Can Do

Just like humans, pets can suffer if they are overweight or obese. Pet obesity can lead to a number of health issues like arthritis so it’s important to keep your pet’s weight in check. Read on for our guide on pet obesity and how to reduce it so you can help your pets live long and healthy lives.

Obese pets typically have a lower quality of life too – and can die younger than those with healthy weights. A recent study by the University of Liverpool and published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine showed how overweight dogs could lose over 2 years lifespan. That’s why it’s so important to know the facts.

Pet obesity impact on lifespan

The extent of the problem

In the UK alone, it’s estimated that 40% of dogs and 53% of cats are overweight or obese, which is only set to get worse. Pet obesity is on the rise in the UK. 81% of vets and nurses report seeing an increase in the number of overweight animals. PDSA recently published their 2018 animal well-being report, and it has some shocking statistics:

  • 33% of dog owners walk their dog just once a day
  • 45% of dogs are only getting up to 30 minutes of exercise when they are walked
  • 1% of dogs are never walked at all 😲
  • 65% of cat owners don’t know their pet’s current weight
  • Just 19% of owners described their cat as overweight or obese

Overweight animals are less energetic, less willing to play and generally get less enjoyment out of life. Whether it’s due to a lack of exercise or being uninformed when it comes to portion sizes, there are lots of drivers for pet obesity.

Quite often, pet obesity is simply caused by a lack of knowledge, rather than intentional actions. One of the main issues when it comes to pet obesity is the lack of awareness surrounding the problem. Many of us don’t know what to look out for and our pets could be suffering unknowingly. 

Identifying the problem

It can be difficult to recognise if your pet is overweight, particularly if it happens slowly or if they have always been overweight. Of course, the best way to check is to take them to the vet and get them properly weighed.

There are some home tricks you can try first, however, to judge if a trip to the vet is necessary. PDSA have a series of images to help you determine if your pet is a healthy weight. Ranging from very thin to obese, you can check which image most closely resembles your pet.

Here are some signs to look out for in both cats and dogs: 

  • Ribs – Overweight pets have a layer of fat covering their ribs, which makes them difficult to see or even feel.
  • Back – A ‘fat pad’ will cover their back
  • Tummy – Your pet’s tummy will bulge out and sag downwards, which may wobble or sway when they move
  • Face, legs and neck – Obese cats and dogs can get fat pads in these areas

In contrast, underweight cats and dogs will have highly visible ribs, hipbones and backbone. There will be a complete absence of fat around these areas, with an exaggerated waistline and non-existent tummy.

Preventing pet obesity

There are lots of ways for your cat or dog to lose weight if they are obese or overweight. Food reduction, increased exercise and less treats can help. But the best way to reduce pet obesity is to work to prevent it in the first place.

Here are our top 5 ways to prevent pet obesity: 

1. Plenty of exercise

Husky playing outside

There are so many benefits of regular exercise for your pets. Not only will exercise help your pet shed extra pounds, it will strengthen respiratory and circulation systems and aid digestion. Find out how much exercise your dogs needs.

Cats don’t tend to go on long walks the same way dogs will, making increasing exercise a bit trickier. Try playing interactive games with your cat, with a feather or toy mouse for instance. Keep these bonding sessions regular to keep your kitty entertained and trim.

2. Food and portion control

A lot of pet owners out there don’t know the correct portion sizes for their cats and dogs. Pets need different amounts of food during their life stages, just like we do. Puppies and kittens need more energy, protein and minerals, so food specifically tailored for this lifestage is best. Different breed sizes have different needs. Large breed puppies can take up to 24 months to mature to adulthood and need tailored nutrition to manage the growth carefully. That’s why we have a large breed specific puppy food.

Some dogs, particularly, can’t regulate their intake well and will just eat everything in sight. To avoid this, it’s best to regulate meal times rather than having food available at all times.

Every complete pet food in the UK must have feeding guidelines. These are based on an assumed activity level, typically above the level of exercise the average cat or dog gets. To avoid your pet putting on weight, start with the feeding guideline closely monitoring any weight changes over the first few weeks. Adjust feeding amounts accordingly to maintain a healthy physique. If you’re feeding Scrumbles, we include a guide based on various activity levels.

3. Weight monitoring

Without regular weigh-ins and body checks, your pet can very quickly become overweight without you realising. One extra pound may not seem like much for your cat or dog, but it doesn’t take much weight to push them into the overweight or obese category. That’s especially the case for smaller breeds.

Check with your vet what the recommended weight is for your pet. Keep on top of things weighing your pet regularly to make sure they stay inside the healthy range. Feeding habits change across seasons and as cats and dogs age they will be more prone to putting on weight.

4. Step away from the treat bowl

Many of us feed our pets leftovers from our own meals. According to the PDSA, 27% of pet owners surveyed said they regularly give their dog leftovers. The additional calories and decreased nutritional value of table scraps is often the biggest offender. Crucially it can lead to pancreatitis, which can be fatal.

Healthy tasty treats exist and are better than leftovers for your dog. They also prove useful in training exercises. Although you may feel good for rewarding your dog and giving them what they ‘want’, too many treats can have serious consequences.

When it comes down to it, most dogs would prefer extra attention to more treats. Spend more time with your pooch will give you both more satisfaction than a treat which is inhaled in an instant and quickly forgotten.

5. Look for diseases and get them treated

Although the majority of the weight gain in cats and dogs is caused by over-feeding and not enough exercise, there are some medical conditions that can contribute to obesity in pets. Fortunately, most of these diseases and illnesses can be treated by a vet, so it’s important to keep an eye on your pet for any changes.

An unexplained increase or decrease in appetite or weight could be a sign of something more sinister. So, be sure to get them checked out by a registered vet to keep on the safe side.

Keep your pets happy with Scrumbles

Diet plays a huge role in the health of your cat or dog. To keep them healthy, introduce a natural pet food, with no added sugar or salt. See the difference it can make.

Scrumbles stocks a selection of natural pet foods for cats and dogs, specifically tailored to suit the needs of different ages and breeds. Check out our range of cat food and dog food – and don’t forget to comment below with your own pets’ health tips and stories. 

Are Afghan Hounds the right dog for you?

Are Afghan Hounds the right dog for you?

Aloof – Independent – Clownish

Trying to determine if the Afghan Hound is the right dog for you? Or maybe you just want to brush up on some dog trivia just in case the moment comes for you to shine. Keep reading for our breed guide on Afghan Hounds. All you need to know to officially deem yourself an aficionado.

Afghan Hound Breed Basics:

Average lifespan: 11 to 14 years

Average weight: Male: 27 kg, Female: 22.5 kg

Colours: A wide range from cream to black. There are also many brindle coats as well as red coats.

Trainability: Challenging. Afghan Hounds are stubborn with selective hearing.

Shedding: Low

A history of the Afghan Hound

Unsurprisingly, Afghan hounds find their origins in the course terrain of Afghanistan and neighboroughing regions. The Afghan Hound’s unique coat offers an insight into their ancient past. Their long hair and thick fur helped keep them warm when used in the colder climates of Afghanistan.

Afghan Hounds were introduced to the UK in the 19th century. Originally brought over as a gift from the Afghan royal family, the breed remains a popular large breed companion. Afghan Hounds are members of the sight hound family. Due to their typical nature and impressive speed, they were used for hunting. Rumours have it, they could and have taken down leopards.

Afghan Hound temperament

Afghan Hounds have a regal appearance with silky long coats and a tall stature. Described as “high-maintenance” by some with an almost clownish personality. They love to play and have fun but they are also fiercely independent. Sometimes described as aloof, they can be wary around strangers and a little standoffish. Early socialisation is key.

Their independent nature has seen them likened to the cat of the dog world. They can either be your best friend, or not care at all that you’re in the room.

Are you looking for a breed that is easily trained or used for show? Keep on looking… the Afghan Hound is not for you my friend. However, if you fancy a challenge, with some patience and perseverance, basic commands like sit, stay and heel are possible. Just keep in mind Afghan Hounds are temperamental suffering from selective hearing, much like our Smudge, so they’ll never ace the recall test. And potentially look at rehoming rather than training an Afghan Hound puppy from scratch.

How to groom an Afghan Hound

One of the Afghan Hounds most distinguishable features is its glorious, flowing coat and it’s up to Afghan Hound owners to keep it in tip top shape.

How to groom an Afghan Hound

When it comes to clipping the coat, it’s advised to let it grow out naturally for as long as possible. This ensures the thickness of the coat is kept even, which is great for your hound.

It’s not surprising that you’ll need to set aside a good hour plus per week to keep this coat in great condition. Owning an Afghan Hound means you’ll have to brush up on your grooming skills. You need to be able to spend time bathing and grooming your hound, particularly in the first 14 months, as this ensures your puppies coat grows out in the healthiest way possible.

The easiest way to keep an Afghan Hound’s coat clean and healthy, is with weekly baths and brushing with a pin comb. A little dog conditioner will go a long way with this breed and make sure that it is super easy to brush through the long thick coat.

How much exercise do Afghan Hounds need?

The Afghan Hound is an agile, high energy breed, and cover distances quickly. They may look delicate and elegant, but these hounds love to run and play.

Afghan Hound sprinting

Afghan Hounds are known for their speed and in some countries are even classed as racing dogs. With this in mind, it’s advised to keep them on the lead, particularly in unenclosed spaces or unfamiliar territory, as they have a tendency to speed off without warning! Try to find somewhere that’s safe and enclosed to let them gallop around to their heart’s content.

Despite their killer speed, they are described as low exercise dogs. They can burn off energy quicker than your average pooch. 1-2 hours a day incorporating a leisurely walk and a couple of short sprints is enough to satisfy their instinctual desire to chase will keep your Afghan Hound happy and healthy.

Afghan Hound health

On the whole, Afghan Hounds live healthy lives and are not susceptible to major health issues.

As mentioned above, their long, silky coats do need a lot of tender love and care. Without weekly baths and grooming, their coat can become matted and dirty causing discomfort and infection. It’s also important to keep the coat trimmed, particularly around the eye area so as not to obstruct their vision.

Afghan hounds are large breed dogs. Although less common vs other large breeds, they can suffer from skeletal development problems like elbow deformity and hip dysplasia so it’s important to feed the right nutrition. As puppies, they can take up to 24 months to mature to adulthood so keep them on a large breed appropriate puppy food until they have matured to adulthood, where you can then transition to a large breed appropriate adult food.

A study by the Kennel club found cancer was the most common cause of death. The next most common cause of death was old age. The same study found that laryngeal paralysis, a respiratory condition, which is a progressively developing paralysis of the larynx, that can be found in large breed dogs as a whole impacted 4% of the dogs studied.

Other health issues occasionally seen in afghan hounds:

  • Medial canthal pocket syndrome caused by the shape and angle of the eye which can lead to eye issues like conjunctivitis
  • Afghan Hound myelopathy is a degenerative disease affecting the spinal cord that can lead to paralysis
  • Cataracts and Glaucoma in senior years

Are Afghan Hounds good family dogs?

Afghan Hounds make great family dogs as they have a friendly and loving nature. Despite their independence, they can be extremely loyal and they love to have fun and play all day long.

Afghan Hound Puppies can be socialised with children of all ages. If you’re introducing an older dog to your family, older children is preferable.

Unless your Afghan Hound has grown up around other family pets from a young age, they’re best to be the only family pet or surrounded by similarly sized pets. As sight hounds, they have a pretty strong prey drive and as they are not great at recall it’s best to keep smaller animals at a distance when you’re out and about and keep your hound on the lead, particularly when walking anywhere that may have small wildlife.

Are Afghan Hounds aggressive?

Afghan Hounds are not known for being aggressive. They have a laid back character although do like their own space, so it’s best to let them be when they clearly want some me time.

Given their high prey drive and hunting instincts, it’s best to keep an eye on them when around smaller animals.

Are Afghan Hounds intelligent?

These hounds are by no means the brightest bulb, but it just adds to their clownish charm. In fact, they came in at number 10 in a list of some of the less intelligent breeds.

They may not be able to learn the latest tricks all too quickly, but Afghan Hounds make excellent companions and we think that’s the most important thing for our four legged friends!

How much does an Afghan Hound cost?

So you’ve decided the Afghan Hound is the perfect dog for you, or maybe you’re the perfect human for them. The cost to acquire an Afghan Hound can be quite steep, up to £1000 for a pedigree Afghan Hound puppy. You’ll also need to consider the cost of insurance, regular grooming and food.

There are a number of rescue organisations where you can rehome an Afghan Hound. There are 13 registered with the kennel club along with 4 breeders. Beware of websites selling Afghan Hound puppies or dogs at cheap prices. There’s a risk of poor dog and puppy welfare as increasingly puppies are farmed for quick money. If you do come across anyone that appears to not neglecting the animals’ welfare, report it to the RSPCA.

Conclusion

Afghan Hounds are the perfect dog for you if you enjoy grooming, are ready to take on the challenge of training this independent beauty and enjoy the outdoors. Healthy, loyal and with buckets of character we’re confident you’ll have lots of tails of adventures.

The Importance of Environmental Enrichment for House Cats

The Importance of Environmental Enrichment for House Cats

This week we have a guest blog about environmental enrichment for house cats. Brought to you by our pal from Katzenworld – the lovely Marc-Andre Runcie-Unger. If you’ve not heard of these guys and are as cat mad as we are, check them out!

In today’s blog post we would like to look at how to keep your cat happy. While this is especially important for those of our cats that are indoor only, this can also apply to cats with access to the outside!

Many new cat guardians go by the misconception that cats simply like to sleep all day! But cats do need a lot of stimulation. For a few tips on enriching your felines life, we’ve put together this handy list of suggestions.

1. Get your cat a scratch tree!

Scratch trees or wall mounted walking platforms are a great opportunity to give your cat exercise and environmental enrichment. Cats simply love it if you can give them a bit of a “3-Dimensional” space! This can be especially useful if your cat wants to see guests on their terms as they can get away from the ground and sit on their safe perch of a scratch tree instead.

Wall mounted climbing areas can also be a great way to create a space if you don’t have the room for a big free standing scratch tree or are simply looking for something a little more unique for you and your cat.

Either way providing these areas for your cats will ensure that they can play to their hearts content and get the exercise and enrichment they need. You may even find that your favorite sofa will be less of a target with a nice and interesting area for your feline friend around 😉

Of course this doesn’t just apply to your indoor cats! There are plenty of weather proof scratch trees around that you can use in your garden or outdoor climbing frames to make it easier for your cat to get back inside.

Enriching your garden can help keep your cat happy in their own area and thus often reduces the distance they will roam during the day and night. And who wouldn’t want their cat to have access to the outside while being safe!

2. The toys!

I have lost count of the times someone has told me that their cat doesn’t like to play with toys or that their cat is too old to play with toys. If you are one of the people thinking in that way think about how you’d feel if you had to watch an episode of Friends for 10,000 times or more!

Many cats simply get bored with the toys we have given them as they like a challenge and try something new. That doesn’t mean that you have to go out and purchase new toys every other day but simply means you have to be smarter in the way you use the toys.

If your cat has a few favorite toys do NOT leave them out all the time. Put them away in a cupboard so that they are out of sight. Once you get these toys back out most cats will naturally get excited as they think it’s something brand new.

Different cats of course also like to play with different toys. There are interactive toys such as electronic mice or laser toys, dangler toys and of course catnip and valerian toys.

When it comes to catnip & valerian toys make sure that you don’t go for the cheapest toys on offer. Research the brand and find out where their catnip comes from, how long it’s stored for if the toys are not in a sealed bag.

During my daytime I work for 4cats Heimtierbedarf GmbH, which is a German manufacturer of catnip & valerian toys and we often have to deal with people telling us that their cats don’t react to cat attract but when asked what brands they tried it often turns out to be cheap imports from abroad that were purchased on eBay.

A good catnip / valerian toy will be using a high quality organic blend of catnip or pure valerian root but sadly many of the imports will be using something that looks more like dust.

Once you’ve found the brand of choice for your cats catnip  / valerian toys it’s important to understand that the affect of actinidine will only last up to 30 minutes! If your cat reacts to it you’ll see your little friend exhibit behaviors such as licking, rolling over their toy or kicking it. They are a great way to have fun and enrich your cats general routine.

Once the playtime is offer I would highly suggest to take the toy away and put it out of reach to dry. Yes your cat will most likely have slobbered all over it! Once dry stick the toys in a zip lock back to ensure that they will last quite some time. Most high quality cat attract material should outlast the life of its containing fabric!

Valerian toys can also be a great choice to destress your companion. While both catnip and valerian make your cat initially go “crazy” they will be much more mellow and calm using the valerian filling. This is because valerian has a calming affect on most animals and is for example often used in tea bags to help us humans sleep.

If you’d like to get yourself some of these cat toys they are available over at Katzenworld from a variety of brands.

3. Puzzle feeders!

I am sure in agreement that we all like to have an occasional snack from crips to chocolates whichever is our favourite! Cats are no different when it comes to that but we shouldn’t just throw them in their bowl. Have your cat work for them.

There are many cool puzzle feeders out there which can be used to hide snacks in them. This means your cat has to work just that little bit extra to find the treat but also provides them with a fun little game with the ultimate reward at the end.

Conclusion: No cat is the same so remember to take different approaches with your own feline companion and let your cat lead you into finding their favorite environmental enrichment.

I hope you like Marc’s top three tips! Let us know which of these you’re doing already and if you have anything extra to share that makes your kitty purr.

Probiotics for dogs aka the journey to the perfect poop!

Probiotics for dogs aka the journey to the perfect poop!

At Scrumbles, we have first-hand experience of the power of probiotics for dogs. After on and off problems, our vet prescribed us a probiotic paste to calm down our pets’ sensitive stomachs. And to our amazement it worked!

We spent a long time reading up on gut health and probiotics. Our research highlighted how probiotics for dogs are hugely beneficial as part of their daily diet. Read on to uncover the benefits of probiotics and how they impact your pooch.

According to a recent survey, 95% pet owners are primarily concerned with the digestive health benefits of the dog food they choose. Pet pawrents are right to prioritise dog food designed to aid digestion. Your dog’s gut and your own play a huge role in overall health and quality of life.

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said, “bad digestion is at the root of all evil”. Unbalanced gut flora can have negative effects on every dog’s immune and digestive system, which is why we advocate living the gut life. 

So, what are probiotics?

Probiotics are microorganisms found in your dog’s body. You might have heard of probiotics referred to as “good” and “friendly” bacteria. Probiotics promote gut health aiding digestion and balancing your dog’s gut flora.

The origins of probiotics for dogs

Wild canines would hunt for their food, so their diet consisted of mainly meat. However when they ate their catch they also ate the vegetables inside their bellies. These vegetables were fermented by their prey’s digestive system containing probiotics. Some modern-day pooches have even been known to eat soil when craving probiotics that they aren’t getting in their diet. Clever dogs!

Probiotics were discovered for humans back in 1907. High in the Caucasus Mountains of Bulgaria, a scientist named Elie Metchnikoff was baffled by the long lives enjoyed by the villagers – many of them in their 100s! Metchnikoff found villagers would drink a fermented yoghurt drink daily. This drink was brimming with a probiotic known as Lactobacillus bulgaricus.

Gut bacteria and your dog’s microbiome

Bacteria is everywhere. However, before you reach for the bleach, some bacteria are friendly. Inside every dog is their gut microbiome. This is made up of microorganisms like bacteria and fungi that directly affect their immune system. Good bacteria aid digestion and absorb the nutrients and vitamins from your dog’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

Gut bacteria really are a dog’s best friend and have a big part to play in your dog’s overall health. If they’re out of balance your dog can suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diarrhoea and other digestive problems.

Unbalanced gut bacteria can contribute to animals and humans developing allergies, diabetes. Recent studies show how poor gut health can lead to mental health and mood disorders like anxiety. This is because microbiomes play a big role in the production of serotonin, the happy hormone built in our gut.

Fur Fact: Unlike their pet pawrents, a dog’s slobbery saliva doesn’t contain any digestive enzymes. 

Benefits of probiotics for dogs?

Your dog’s gut affects almost every other function in their body. Ensuring it is running smoothly has a far-reaching impact on their physical and even mental health.

  1. Digestion aid: Probiotics are pawsome for aiding your dog’s digestion. Probiotics can help poor pooches who suffer from allergies or who have regularly upset tummies including vomiting, gas and bloating.
  2. Stool quality: The poo picking pet parents among us will have experienced “events” we would rather forget. For dogs who are suffering diarrhoea or loose stools, probiotics can help treat the symptoms and improve stool quality. Similarly if your dog suffers from constipation, probiotics can help.
  3. Immune Boosting: Probiotics provide an essential role in keeping your dog happy and healthy. Boosting their immune, probiotics can help reduce the frequency and length of illnesses. They’re particularly helpful post a course of antibiotics to rebalance their gut.
  4. Improve skin and coat: It’s thought that probiotics can help improve skin and coat condition through synthesising essential vitamins e.g. B group vitamins

Environmental factors like stress can also impact stool quality and these can be tricky to avoid even with probiotics. Just as we can all get a dicky tummy in a stressful situation, so can your pooch. You may notice tummy upsets or loose stools during stressful situations. These include anxiety during firework season, moving house or if they suffer from separation anxiety. A lack of appetite is a common symptom of stress and this further reduces the nutrients your dog gets. In these situations, keeping things consistent is important so before changing diets, help appease your dog first.

What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

A lot of people confuse the two, but they are not the same thing and each play different roles for your pet’s digestive system. Prebiotics are complex sugars that fuel probiotics. Common prebiotics in pet food include FOS (Fructo-oligosaccharide), MOS (Mannan oligosaccharides), chicory root and beet pulp. Prebiotics can be helpful in fuelling the microbiome. But, as they can also feed harmful bacteria they should be used with caution, particularly if a pet has a pre-existing issue like IBD.

Probiotics and your dog’s immune system

As well as the skin and other organs, a key part of your dog’s immune system is known as the circulating immune system, which involves the blood and lymph liquid. Lymphocytic cells recognise antigens which are the bacteria, parasites and viruses that cause an immune response.

There are two types of lymphocytic cells which synchronise or stimulate the immune system. These are called T-cells and B-cells. They either destroy and remove the antigens themselves or produce antibodies which activate this response in other cells. 

T-cells activate white blood cells in the blood as well as influencing the good bacteria that exists inside a dog’s gut. B-cells produce immunoglobulins, or antibodies, like Immunoglobulin A (IgA) which plays a role in protecting the dog from local infections in its secretion from the mucous membranes, such as in saliva or tears. B-cells have long lives and are responsible for remembering the antigens, so they can fight them if ever exposed again. When your pooch has a vaccination, it is targeting these B-cells to produce antibodies. 

Lymphocytes flow around the dog’s body to where they are needed but the majority of them are based in the gut, where dendritic cells assist in identifying antigens. As well as these cells there is a normal level of bacteria called gut flora and the gut is acidic for extra defence against nasty antigens.

Between 70-80% of your pooch’s immune system is in their digestive tract. Feeding a gut-friendly diet with probiotics helps keep your dog’s immune system in check.

When should you give your dog probiotics?

Probiotics are gut-friendly and offer a number of benefits for your pooch which is why we recommend daily probiotics for dogs. However, if that’s not already the case there are number of occasion where you might want to explore probiotics for dogs.

  • Following the use of antibiotics which can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach-aches for your dog as they destroy both good and bad bacteria. The addition of probiotics will help get their gut back to a happy state. 
  • Leaky gut syndrome in dogs, where toxins enter the bloodstream through the intestinal wall, can be caused by unbalanced gut bacteria. This condition results in gas, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. Probiotics in a healthy dog form a layer over the inside of the intestine, and a strong barrier helps ensure only nutrients are absorbed into the blood.
  • Some cheeky canines always find a way to eat things they’re not supposed to from bins or the street. These dietary indiscretions can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in otherwise healthy pooches. Dog breeds like the Basenji can inherit digestive problems and some dogs just suffer from regular upset tummies. These symptoms can be eased with the inclusion of probiotics for dogs into their daily diet.

Probiotics for dogs: are these the same as those for humans?

Most human probiotics are unlikely to cause your pet any harm. However, given your dog’s digestive system is made up of a different bacterium, it’s best to introduce a probiotic specifically designed for their digestive system.

Many human probiotics are available from special yoghurts and milk drinks like Yakult and Activia. As dairy is a known allergen for dogs (and cats) that can cause upset to their tummies we’d recommend against feeding it for your dog.

Many foods have naturally occurring probiotics but aren’t suitable for you to include in your dog’s diet, like onions which contain thiosulphateand are toxic to dogs. You might not have the time to make batches of fermented vegetables and there’s no guarantee your choosy canine would eat them. Thankfully there are a wide number of probiotics for dogs that you can choose from.  

Picking the right probiotic for dogs

If you’ve decided you’d like to include probiotics in your dog’s diet, then where do you possibly start? It might be tempting to load your doggy with as many as possible. However, this isn’t recommended as the probiotics can compete for space with existing bacteria and ultimately not achieve the benefit you were looking for. Instead look for a probiotic and dosage that is proven to aid digestion.

Enterococcus faecium is found naturally in the flora of animals. It’s known to be beneficial to dogs and is the probiotic we add to Scrumbles at a dosage of one billion CFU (colony forming units). This colony forming unit count tells you how many live probiotic bacteria are in the dog food and we’ve chosen one billion, not simply because it’s a fun number, but because it is shown to see health benefits. Studies show that Enterococcus faecium increases the presence of the antibody IgA in dogs. IgA helps protect against pathogens and improves the overall health of dog’s skin, digestive tract and respiratory system. 

How to get probiotics into your dog’s daily diet 

You have two main choices. Use supplements that have probiotics for dogs, or feed a diet that includes probiotics.

There are a range of supplements available in pill, power and paste form but we believe it’s easier and can be better value to feed a probiotic dog food which your furriend likes the taste of like our range of dry dog food Scrumbles.

Whichever choice you make, do make sure that the probiotics are live in order to get the benefits. Probiotics can be rendered inefficient if subjected to heat and moisture so need to be prepared and packaged carefully. Once Scrumbles is cooked we let the food cool fully. Only then do we add our gut-friendly probiotic and pack it into resealable bags with a moisture barrier. This carefully planned process is totally worth it for the wiggle of approval from our doggy consumers. 

What to expect when changing your dog’s food

When switching any dog food, we recommend you introduce it to your doggy gradually over 7-10 days. Keep your feeding routine the same but add in some of the new dog food with each meal, eventually phasing the old food out altogether. 

As with any transition, you may notice a change in your dog’s poo and it isn’t uncommon to see some loose stools during this period. This can be a sign that you are transitioning too quickly or overfeeding so take it slow and watch how your dog responds. These symptoms should go away after a couple of weeks. Be sure to keep an eye out and if the problem persists it may be worth reverting or consulting with your vet.

Are you considering introducing living the gut life? Do you already feed Scrumbles? Let us know in the comments!

References for further reading

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324605537_Similarity_of_the_dog_and_human_gut_microbiomes_in_gene_content_and_response_to_diet
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509123657.htm
  3. https://www.intechopen.com/books/probiotics-and-prebiotics-in-human-nutrition-and-health/biosynthesis-of-vitamins-by-probiotic-bacteria
  4. https://animalpharm.agribusinessintelligence.informa.com/AP015006/BENEO-Consumer-trends-drive-pet-food-sector-development-globally
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12672936

How much exercise does a dog need every day?

How much exercise does a dog need every day?

New year, new you! Do you love making new years resolutions or think they’re a waste of time? We’re here to talk to you about something amazing your dog will love that can make them happier, healthier and live longer. Plus, this miracle process is completely free! That’s right: daily exercise.

When everyone else is regretting their gym membership in February, you and your fluffy companion will still be going strong on your plan for 365 days of walkies. The question is – how much exercise does a dog need every day? Read on to discover the benefits, exercise recommendation, handy tips and more!

The benefits of exercise for dogs

Regular exercise is important for a happy, healthy pooch. It’s key to fighting obesity, which can shorten your pet’s lifespan by up to two and half years according to researchers at the University of Liverpool. On top of helping your dog keep physically fit, exercise provides much needed mental stimulation. A bored pooch can be a destructive one. Exercise helps to ward off poor mental health and negative behaviours like chewing, digging and excessive barking. Not forgetting, it’s a great way to bond with your dog and is fun too.

But how much exercise does a dog need every day? Is there such a thing as too much exercise? And isn’t every dog’s need different? If you’ve warmed up properly and raring to go, read on to find out more.

How much exercise does a dog need every day?

Don’t forget each pooch is an individual with their own needs and nuances to considers. Exercise needs for dogs differ dependent on their breed, personality , lifestage and health.

Exercise needs by breed type

  • Low activity dogs include toy dogs such as the Chihuahua and giant breeds like Newfoundlands. Less than an hour of exercise a day which includes indoor fun should suffice to meet their physical needs.
  • Medium activity dogs like utility dogs who were bred for a purpose other than sporting or hunting such as the Boston Terrier need 1-2 hours a day. You can split into 2 walks a day and indoor fun.
  • Working dogs and gun dogs need the most exercise. At least 30 minutes of hard core activity in addition to their 2-3 hours a day.
  • Don’t forget our non-sporting dogs! Originally bred to work but now more commonly found as family pets. These include the Lhasa Apso, Bulldog and Shiba Inu. These dogs can be either low, medium or high activity. Our Smudge loves the outdoors and will happily go for a 2-3 hour trek with us and still have bursts of energy in the morning and evening for our playtime sessions.

Exercise needs for puppies and seniors

  • Puppies need a lot of sleep for all of that growing. Puppies quickly tire, so short bursts of activity is best. Consider their breed needs and if you’re in the middle of toilet training or about to start, check our crate training guide for a useful routine of eat, play and sleep.
  • As your dog grows older you might notice they slow down slightly. It’s still important to exercise senior dogs to keep them healthy but go at their pace, slower, shorter walks are best.
How much exercise does a dog need everyday

Exercise to help your dog lose weight

Weight gain is common in certain breeds and senior dogs. Older dogs often adopt more leisurely lifestyles but don’t lose their taste for mealtimes and treats. Estimates have over half of pets in the UK overweight or obese.

If your dog is overweight, it’s not usually necessary to change to a diet food. Start by reviewing portion size, treat count and exercise regime. Often the reasons behind overweight dogs are due to overfeeding and/or not enough exercise.

Kick off getting them to a healthy weight by ensuring you’re feeding them the right amount of food. A measuring scoop will help – and your pooch will thank you for it. Our Scrumbles packs have multiple feeding guides which vary dependent on age and activity level.

For overweight dogs, we recommend first cutting out treats and increasing their daily exercise. Start slow by introducing an additional play session like ten minutes of fetch or increasing the dynamics of their walk – taking them for a hilly walk or just hiking ten minutes further.

These small changes can help shift some of that excess weight without a need to reduce feeding. If your pooch needs to shift a lot of weight, reduce their food by 10% and increase the activity level further. Be sure to start gradually introducing more calorie burning activities to build momentum. Too much too soon can put your pet at risk of injury. Set manageable goals for the future and aim to make exercise a part of their lifestyle.

How much exercise is too much for your dog?

It’s important to know how much exercise a dog needs every day to avoid over exercising them. Perky puppies tend to have more energy than older dogs and the stamina to walk further at a quicker pace. It is possible to even over exercise even a puppy, though. The following questions can help you determine whether you need to take precautions when exercising your dog.

1. Does your dog have arthritis?

Pooches with arthritis or similar conditions may need restricted exercise so they can enjoy the benefits without causing any damage. Dogs with arthritis should avoid exercise that involves jumping. Your vet will be happy to advise you on what’s right for your furbaby. 

2. Does your dog have a short nose, like a bulldog?

Shorter nosed dogs can find it difficult to breathe if they work too hard, so listen out for laboured breathing. 

3. Does your dog have short legs?

Just like taking a toddler shopping can have them complaining of exhaustion and begging to be carried before you’ve made it to the checkout, little dogs will need to take shorter walks than their bigger brothers and sisters. Similarly they should be discouraged from walking up and down stairs.

When you are exercising your dog every day be sure to watch out for signs of overexertion. These include panting, limping, or flat out refusing to go any further. 

Walking in all weathers

Dogs need exercise every day, but the changing seasons can prove challenging. Here’s some tips for walking in all weathers. You can continue to provide the mental and physical stimulation your dog needs in difficult weather as well as adjust how much you feed to avoid a paunch.

Keeping dogs safe in the summer

We all know dogs shouldn’t be left in hot cars. Similarly dogs can suffer from heatstroke on their walks. If it’s going to be very hot, change up your walking routine to avoid the sun at its hottest. It’s best to go for a 20-30-minute walk in the early morning and late evening.

The ground can get incredibly hot and scorch our dog’s paws. As a general rule, if it’s too hot for you to comfortably have your hand on the floor, it’s too hot for your dog. Plan a route that involves shade and hydration. It’s a good idea to bring a big water bottle and umbrella with you.

Walking your dog in winter, come rain or snow

Rain or snow is usually no deterrent to a daring dog. You can try to reduce their exposure to the elements by choosing to walk in places that have some shelter, like big trees or covered outdoor areas. Being out for long periods of time in lots of cold rain or snow could cause hypothermia so put on the pooch’s waterproof jacket if they need to wear one.

Walking your dog in wet weather

Some dogs love to dress up. Others like Smudge don’t. But in cold, wet weather outdoor clothing is your friend particularly for short coated breeds like greyhounds. Keep them warm with an appropriate jumper or coat.

When it snows, for some dogs like lhasa apsos, snow can get stuck in their fur restricting their movement. It might sound counterintuitive but its best to keep the fur around their feet nice and trim during the winter to help here. Similarly, to hot weather burning their paws, you wouldn’t want them to get frost bite. Fret not booties are here and will keep their tootsies nice and snug. If your dog really opposes to booties try to find a clearer path for walks and always towel dry a wet dog when you get in.

Indoor exercise for your dog

As well as their daily walkies, you can also exercise your dog inside. For dogs that can take on stairs, chasing a ball up your stairs is a great game; just make sure the stairs are carpeted and clear of any hazards to ensure they can’t trip or hurt themselves e.g. check for snagged carpet.

Even if you live in a bungalow, there’s still plenty of exercise oppawtunities. Fetch can be played in the rooms where you don’t keep your priceless ornaments and you can create obstacle courses with cushions, boxes and blankets for your hound to race around. Dogs love playing with toys and they can also burn calories playing games with you like hide and seek. You can even train your dog to help you with tasks around the house, like bringing dirty clothes to you ready for washing.  

Doggy day out. Take your furball for a walk around your local large pet store. It’s another way to get them moving and a chance for them to enjoy a leisurely stroll that has endless amusements to sniff and discover. 

Remember every dog is different. Certain types of exercise are not suitable for certain types of dogs. If in doubt, speak to your vet. They’ll help put together an exercise plan that’s appropriate for your dog.

How to get enough exercise for your dog when you work

Fitting in dog exercise when you work full time can be a challenge. For the time poor pet pawrent thankfully there are options.

It’s important for your pooch’s health and wellbeing that they aren’t bored and although they can be left alone, this should be for as short a time as possible i.e. less than 4 hours.

Are you an early riser? And like to exercise in the morning? Morning walkies and play with your dog is a great stress reliever to ease you in and out of the working day.

For most of Smudge’s life we’ve had jobs where she could join us at work and play with our colleagues or other dogs. When we weren’t able to, we used a doggy day care. These can vary significantly in cost and quality so shop around. And there’s also the option of a dog walker although we found it wasn’t much more expensive to have Smudge looked after for the whole day at our local doggy day care and we’d get pupdates with photos of her on her walks.

These things can add up, so it’s worth checking with your friendly neighbours to see if they can look after your pooch whilst you’re at work.

This might be a stretch depending on your workplace but what if Bring Your Dog to Work Day was every day? If your employer can be persuaded that productivity will soar with the addition of a friendly fluffball in the office this is a great get around. If you have an option to work from home, even just once a week, this is another avenue to explore. 

Are you inspired to get fit with your pooch this year? How do you make sure your dog gets enough exercise every day? Let us know in the comments and sign up to our newsletter for all things dog.

Siberian Cat Breed Guide

Siberian Cat Breed Guide

The Siberian cat is a charming, large cat who can make a great addition to many homes. Although their ancestors are likely to have roamed Siberia for thousands of years, the domestic breed has only been relatively recently recognised. Since their introduction, Siberian cats have quickly gained popularity around the world for their striking looks and affable personality.

Boo, our very own Siberian cat is a playful, affectionate soul. We joined her, by the windowsill to ask her some questions about her breed. Would you like to know more about Siberian cats? Are you considering if a Siberian cat would be the right cat for you? Boo’s here to help.

So, Boo what is the history of Siberian cats?

Our origin is something of a Cinderella story. Like all good fairy tails we’re not sure of the exact year we bought our charms to Siberia. Siberian cats are thought to have existed for at least 1,000 years.

We’ve got a talent for catching rats and mice. So we were quickly recruited in shops and farms to help by hunting rodents. That is until we were scouted by people who appreciated the Siberian cats’ regal appearance. From then on we started to star in cat shows and competitions.

It wasn’t just about our wizardly looks, though. We attracted international fame for our funny, friendly nature. Siberian cats have been bred since the 1980s and first appeared in the UK in 2002. So what you see when you look at a Sibirskaya koshka (that’s our name in our native Russian tongue) is all natural and has been shaped by the cruel winters and hot summers of Siberia. You might have seen us take the lead role in a Hollywood movie. I’m sure the Siberian cat actor did all her own stunts – and we feature in Russian folklore stories.

How big is a Siberian cat?

You won’t find out our full size until we’re five years old, but once fully-grown Siberian’s are large cats. Females can weigh from 3.5 to 6kg and males 5.5 to 8kg and sometimes even larger. Siberian cats are normally about 30cm tall. Siberian cats have big round paws with tufts of fur between our toes and a muscly, sturdy build. Our thick, luxurious coat comes in almost every different colour. Mine is a dashing mackerel tabby but it’s common to find us in red, gold, white, and silver and we have a regal ruff around our necks. All the better for our famous fluffy cuddles!

How long do Siberian cats live?

The life span of a Siberian cat is around 10 to 18 years. Some of us live well into our 20s. You can help keep us healthy by feeding us a high quality, complete, balanced, animal protein rich diet like Scrumbles. We naturally have a nice fluffy belly, usually white like our chests and legs. You shouldn’t be able to feel rolls of fat when tickling our tummies.

Speaking of food, what do you like to eat?

I have a fondness for fishier things so I like to munch on Scrumbles Salmon. When Smudge isn’t looking I do tend to wander over to her bowl and grab a few biscuits. The high meat content and salmon oil keeps my coat glossy. I also like to crunch down on a dried jack spratt. Fishy heaven!

Do Siberian cats need grooming?

We have a naturally oily coat. This protects us from the freezing temperatures of the tundra and the beating sun in the summer months. Siberian cats are triple coated! Luckily our luscious locks don’t tend to matt or tangle, probably because you have to be quite low maintenance living in the snow forests of Siberia.

If you try to bathe us, our fur is water repellent. It can take around fifteen minutes to wet the coat – then even longer to wash out any shampoo you’ve used. If you don’t rinse it out, we can get dandruff so it’s best to just brush us every day or at least once a week. We’re devoted to our pet pawrents and love the time you take to groom us. Our extra fluffy ears need to be kept clean too with cotton wool or a soft, clean damp cloth.  

Are Siberian cats hypoallergenic?

Siberian cats are believed to produce less of the protein that typically affects people with allergies. Coupled with the fact that we only shed twice a year means we’re more suitable companion for those with allergies. For example, my pet parent Aneisha suffers with cat allergies and she isn’t really affected by me. We can’t call ourselves officially hypoallergenic, but anecdotally people who have allergy symptoms around cats tend to get along just fine with us. Also, worth noting that girl cats tend to produce less of the protein than male cats.

Do Siberian cats shed?

Siberian cats typically shed just twice yearly: in spring to lose our winter coats and in autumn to lose the light summer covering and grow in a thick furmidable one for the cold weather. If you don’t brush us at these times we can ingest a lot of the hair we shed and suffer from those dreaded furballs.

Are Siberian cats healthy?

As cats we can be affected by the usual feline problems, but we tend to be a strong, healthy breed. Unfortunately, many Siberian cats carry the hereditary condition hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which causes swelling of the heart and is the most common heart disease in kitties. You can talk to your vet about early screening of cats’ hearts with an ultrasound and using anti-coagulants like aspirin to thin the blood.

Are Siberian cats’ indoor cats?

We’re very happy being indoor cats as long as there’s lots to entertain us and access to the outdoors for mental stimulation – there are some great catios which keep us safe and give us a taste of the outdoors. I like to go outdoors for a stretch in the morning and evening but spend the rest of my time lazing indoors with my sister, Smudge.

Siberian cats are known as a dog-like breeds (unlike some of our fellow cats we don’t see this as a bad thing) and we need to release our energy through play and exploration. Some of us can be taken for walks on a harness every meow and then; we prefer cat harnesses over collars and it’s best to get us used to wearing this as early as possible. We adore chasing things and playing fetch so if there’s room to run around we’ll have a happy life inside your home.

Are Siberian cats friendly and cuddly?

Absolutely! We are very playful, affectionate and love spending time with our family, including children. We’ll follow you around and greet you when you come home.

Siberian cats have a cute soft meow. If we’re not purring happily we’ll be trilling and chirping away – we can hold our own in conversations. We know when you need time to yourself but we’re always ready for a game or a chat. We couldn’t be further from the idea of the “aloof cat” and think it’s pawsome to jump on your lap for cuddles. Humans say we tend to notice if they’re having a bad day or feeling sad and we devote extra attention to them. Us Siberian cats have been described as gentle giants and we have a calm demeanour despite our cheeky feline frolics.

Do Siberian cats get along with dogs?

We get along purrfectly with everyone! Siberian cats are playful and curious, and we love interacting with other cats, dogs and children – we’re very patient. We just really enjoy forming close relationships with our family, whether they’re the human or fluffy kind.

Us Siberian cats don’t really get bothered by noise or strangers like some other cats do. We’re just too friendly for that! Although, we do still have that strong hunting instinct. So a hamster or mouse might be best kept in a cage around us… Nobody’s perfect.

Are Siberian cats vocal?

We purr a lot and like to make adorable little meows and cute cat sounds to let you know what’s going on. We’re not known as a particularly vocal cat. If you’ve been out all day though it’s likely us Siberian cats will have a lot to say to you once you’re home. We will be very excited to hear about what you’ve been up to.

As we’re not known for being loud, if you notice excessive vocalisation it could mean we are in pain or anxious about something. Remember that we stay cute kitty cats for the first five years of our lives, and kittens are known for being chattier. Our purrs and chirrups soon become the welcome soundtrack to family life.

Can you train a Siberian cat?

Us Siberian cats are intelligent problem solvers and it’s common for us to teach ourselves how to open a door if we think our purrents are on the other side. We will often instigate a game of fetch and anything can be a toy to us so don’t leave out items you don’t want us putting in our mouths or batting about with our paws as we wouldn’t want to break something you like.

We can usually be trained to walk on leashes and use scratching posts. If you look at videos online, you will see many examples of our relatives doing impressive tricks. If you’ll be bringing a little kitty home, you can help us trust and feel safe with you by preparing for our arrival; we long for close bonds and will enjoy trying out training and learning tricks if it means spending quality time with our family.

Do Siberian cats like water?

Water – where? We love water! All varieties of water bring us great joy to play with, as our ancestors used to stay out in all types of extreme weather playing in the rain, sleet, and thick snow that blanketed the forest floors.  Our triple coated fur is designed to handle wet conditions, so it doesn’t bother us as much as other cats. They don’t know what they’re missing. Don’t be surprised if we join you in shower or bathtub… Can we get some more water in here please?

Who would make a perfect pet pawrent for a Siberian cat?

Somebody who will love us, play with us, and adore us as much as we do them. We may be glamorous – we are the national cat of Russia, after all – but we are incredibly affectionate and thrive in a social environment. We don’t just want to be admired from afar.

Our purrfect pet pawrent would want a companion who will be there for them and not the sort of cat who comes and goes every few days. Our pawrent should be a great conversationalist with a talent for brushing hair. It would be terrible if they got annoyed when they find us Siberian cats hanging from the chandeliers or making ourselves comfortable on their laptop or the book they’re reading.

We would be happy joining a big boisterous family with children. Equally we’d love delighting a single human or couple who have other pets with our clown-like antics. Anybody who is kind, caring and wants to build and cherish a true bond with their pet will make a great pawrent for us.

Now, to sum up in Russian: Sibirskaya koshka mozhet proiskhodit’ iz kholodnogo klimata, no u neye teploye, obozhayushcheye serdtse – ne mogli by vy dat’ nam vsyu lyubov’, v kotoroy my nuzhdayemsya?

Thanks Boo! And in English?

Of course. The Siberian cat may come from cold climes, but it has a warm, adoring heart. Could you give us all the love we need?  

It’s hard not to be won over by the Siberian cat’s stunning looks and affectionate, friendly nature. If you have any questions for Boo about her breed, let us know in the comments. Sign up to our newsletter for more cat facts and doggy delights. 

Lhasa Apso Breed Guide

Lhasa Apso Breed Guide

If you’d like to find out more about the Lhasa Apso breed, or are trying to determine if a Lhasa might make the right companion for you, this handy guide, by Smudge herself, might help.

After a grooming pamper session, a nice walk and a tasty lunch (Scrumbles of course!), Smudge sat down with us to answer some questions about her breed…

What is the history of Lhasa Apsos?

The Lhasa Apso is a positively magical dog! The tale of our mystical origins begins way back in 800 BC in the sacred city of Lhasa, Tibet, known locally as “the place of the gods.” Lhasa boasts holy Buddhist pilgrimage sites nestled in some of the highest mountain peaks in the world, over 3.6km above sea level.

My ancestors were entrusted with the great honour of guarding the monasteries and palaces from within as well as providing loyal companionship to Tibetan Buddhists. Their alertness, intelligence and ability to recognise unusual sounds and respond with an assertive bark earned them their place besides nobility and the divine residents of the sacred buildings. It was believed that the souls of monks who didn’t make it to spiritual nirvana would pass into a Lhasa Apso.

It used to be you could only gain a Lhasa Apso if you were gifted one by the Dalai Lama, but we now make common companion animals – the 27th most popular breed of 2018 in the UK… Surely that should be 1st?!

The noble, hardy Lhasa Apso may be far removed from the mountain wolves we descend from. However, our Tibetan name of Abso Seng Kye, which translates to “bark lion sentinel dog,” reflects the legend that a Lhasa Apso looking in the mirror sees a lion.

How big is a Lhasa Apso?

The original Lhasa Apsos had to be able to survive the tough conditions of the mountainous Himalayan region: short hot summers, long freezing winters, terrain of high peaks and low troughs, dust, wind, and high altitude. You can see evidence of this in our features, from the hair that covers our eyes if left ungroomed, to protect from flying particles, and our straight front legs which are great for climbing. We are usually around 25cm tall at the shoulder and weigh between 5 and 9kg. As Lhasa’s go, I’m rather petite at just 5.2kg.

How long do Lhasa Apso dogs live?

We are tough pooches and tend to live long lives, with a typical lifespan of 15 to 18 years and many of us reach our early 20s. The oldest Lhasa Apso on record lived for an amazing 29 years!

How often do Lhasa Apsos need to be groomed?

The longer the hair, the more grooming is required. For my long haired lhasa brothers and sisters, daily brushing is recommended. Us Lhasa Apsos are double coated and our thick, long hair will grow straight down to the floor on each side from a parting along the middle of our backs.

Many owners choose the charming teddy bear cut (like mine) for their Lhasa Apso which is lower maintenance although I still get a brush twice a week, particularly on my long fluffy tail. A neglected coat will quickly matt, so we really need a pawrent who can give the time to care for our coats properly, and it’s a great way to bond with us. I take weekly baths, too, driven by my penchant for fox poo. We can be many colours including white, black, tan, grey or different combinations and can have dark markings on our face and ears – we’re full of surprises as our hair tends to change as we mature.

Do Lhasa Apsos shed?

Generally, Lhasa’s shed very little and are popular for not moulting. Our hair sheds more like human hair rather than some other dog breeds. We shed over time rather than all at once and our long, heavy hairs are less likely to fly around that could cause sneezing fits for sensitive humans.

Are Lhasa Apsos hypoallergenic dogs?

Although no perfectly hypoallergenic dog exists, we are a good choice for someone with allergies. Little to no shedding, and almost zero drool means that people who normally wheeze, sneeze, and tear up around dogs are less likely to be affected by a Lhasa Apso. I am a bit of a licker though and will happily shower you with kisses, all day, every day but that’s just me. 

Are Lhasa Apsos noisy?

We have a distinctive bark but there are ways to prevent us using it too often. If we get tummy rubs or toys when we bark, that encourages us, and if we are shouted at when we bark we just think you are barking back and carry on!

If we don’t get enough exercise we bark to de-stress and if we are bored or lonely barking can become a habit which we do to entertain ourselves. You can actually train us to bark on a command like “speak” or “talk” and to stop barking by saying “quiet” or “stop.”

Barking is part of what makes us dogs, but excessive yapping suggests a problem so please speak to your vet. Personally, I’m not much of a barker, until I see a pesky squirrel in the garden, or the damn postie shows up making a racquet – but that deserves a bark or too right!?

Barking is part of what makes us dogs, but excessive yapping suggests a problem so please speak to your vet. Personally, I’m not much of a barker, until I see a pesky squirrel in the garden, or the damn postie shows up making a racquet – but that deserves a bark or too right!?

Are Lhasa Apsos smart?

Absolutely! Us little lions are known for our intelligence and curiosity. We have a great sense of humour and are envied among the other breeds for our ability to learn many words (along with all our other great traits, obviously.) My favourite word is “food” and “walkies”.

What health problems do Lhasa Apso’s have?

Lhasa Apsos are as hardy as we are hairy, but unfortunately are prone to hip dysplasia, which can be prevented by keeping us at a healthy weight and feeding the right portion size of a healthy and complete dog food. We don’t tend to gain weight easily, especially with daily exercise.

Sadly, we are susceptible to eye problems and hereditary progressive retinal atrophy, which causes retinal deterioration and could result in vision loss in our twilight years; however, we tend to handle this with ease and adapt well to the changes.

Lhasa Apsos can also develop cherry eye, where the tear duct moves to the surface of the eye, and dry eye, where not enough tears are produced. This doesn’t sound very nice to me and there are treatable conditions so please make sure to schedule eye tests for us – your vet can tell you more about how to take care of our eyes.

Lhasa Apsos are also predisposed to sebaceous adenitis, which is when the immune system attacks the sebaceous glands causing silvery dandruff, skin lesions, and a musty “wet dog” smell. The condition requires lifelong treatment managed with antibiotics and medicated shampoos, minerals and ointments and feeding us dog food rich in essential fatty acids and vitamin A.

Speaking of eyes, we’re known for having rather large beautiful eyes which can produce tears excessively leading to tear stains. There is no way to get rid of tear stains contrary to claims out there but there are things that can help. I get fed a highly digestible food with probiotics (Scrumbles), use stainless steel bowls and filtered water as well as having my eyes cleaned every morning.

How much exercise do Lhasa Apso’s need?

We’re known for being perfect lap dogs who don’t need a lot of exercise and are suitable for the home or flat life, but we do still need daily walks and I’m a big fan of the outdoors. I like a big hike and most days run around in the woods or park for at least an hour. It’s also great fun for us to run around off our leads in a fenced-in back garden and we love playing frisbee or fetch.

Are Lhasa Apso’s stubborn?

Lhasa apso Breed Guide

I’m not answering that!

Please?

Later, after a treat and lots of cuddles…

Ask again, as we discussed.

Ok, are Lhasa Apso’s independent?

Yes, we are! When you consider our origin, it makes sense that we have a lot of pride but we’re also very funny, loyal and obedient to a strong leader. We have a bit of a reputation as being tough to train with selective hearing but actually we just keep our playful puppy demeanour for the first few years of our lives. Lhasa Apsos really need lots of socialisation early on, so we don’t become suspicious towards strangers – that’s our old guard dog instincts showing themselves in a negative way.

Obviously, we don’t think you have any, but what are the cons of Lhasa Apso’s?

I’m glad you asked this – I want to clear up some misunderstandings! It’s hard to believe but we Lhasa Apsos have a reputation for being aggressive, stubborn, defensive, and unkind to strangers and small children. Doesn’t sound at all like me, does it? Some have even tarnished us with the brush of having small dog syndrome – how rude!

In truth good socialisation early on will help make a calm, friendly companion and personally I get on well with people, dogs and even cats of all sizes. Now that I’m an older lady (8 years old), I prefer calmer pets and people. Due to my diminutive size, I do have to watch out for boisterous puppies who have been known to step on me in the past, so I prefer those kinds of encounters to be in a controlled, open environment.

Our keen sense of hearing is our very own super power but can make us sensitive to sounds. Personally, I’m not a fan of thunder or fireworks so do take a little extra care are consideration where this is concerned. Take a look at our guide to keeping me and my furry friends happy during fireworks season

We have tiny teeth so dental care is a must. Daily brushing will help keep our teeth in tip top condition so that we’re happy and healthy. Introduce us to tooth brushes early on so that we get used to it. I personally don’t enjoy this part of grooming but my pawrents say it’s a non-negotiable. If you’re new to brushing teeth check out our guide here.  

Are Lhasa Apso’s easy to train?

Our independent nature can make us a little tricky to train, but with patience and the right motivation we can be well trained. Motivational training involves using praise, toys and the occasional treat to train us. Although, we typically only like praise when there is a good relationship between the trainer and the pup which can take a while to develop, so if you can be the one to train your dog this will be a great building block for a beautiful relationship.

Us Lhasa Apsos have a noble background and we won’t accept being treated aggressively or unkindly, so telling us off if we’ve grown tired of training won’t work at all and we may leave a little present for you to teach you to be kinder. Training should be steady, ongoing, and positive. Crate training is recommended for Lhasa Apsos and we really enjoy consistent rules and having our own safe little den to retire to. We also love learning your human language! Understanding what you mean when you say words like “sit” and “fetch” feels great so please take the time to teach us.

Do Lhasa Apso’s like children?

Young children should always be accompanied when interacting with any dog. Our long ears and tails may be tempting to tug but are very sensitive. What a child might think is a playful pet may hurt us – I’ve been brought up around children so love getting kisses and gentle strokes and am patient when fussed over but I will give you a warning growl if you hurt me and look for a quiet spot. Generally, it’s important to give us some space and watch our body language as we’ll make it clear it if we are unhappy.

Who would make a perfect pet pawrent for a Lhasa Apso?

Lhasa Apsos love having fun and playing with our human housemates. We’re adaptable doggies and suit living with most people. We’re low maintenance as dogs but do require a little more training that others as puppies so prefer a patient owner. Mostly we just want to be respected and treated like the regal breed we are. And don’t forget about elderly daring dogs – we still make charismatic companions but just a little less mischievous.

Thanks, Smudge! With such an enchanting background, it’s not surprising Lhasa Apsos have put so many pet pawrents under their spell. 

Do you have a question for Smudge about Lhasa Apsos? Ask us in the comments and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter for more pet info straight from the dog’s mouth!

Pet costumes for cats and dogs: cute or cruel?

Pet costumes for cats and dogs: cute or cruel?

Pet pawrents spend on average £200 a year on clothes for pets, with a fifth spending £20 a month on adorable outfits; one tenth have splashed out on designer attire. Since we’re asking if pet costumes are safe for cats and dogs, Smudge and Boo have kindly agreed to help with some super cute photos. When it comes to pet costumes for companion animals, some turn their noses up at the very idea, while others love any excuse to accessorise.

In 1833 Queen Victoria wrote in her diary about dressing Dash, her pet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in blue trousers and a scarlet jacket. A novelty postcard from 1900 shows a distinguished cat wearing a pinstriped suit and top hat beneath the phrase “One of the ‘smart set’,” proving cat memes have been popular for a long time! Fast-forward to modern times and we have a National Dress Up Your Pet Day (January 14th, if you’re interested.)

Is it ok to dress your cat and do dogs like wearing clothes?

You know your pet better than anyone, however in general most animal experts do advise against using clothing to create festive pets, no matter how cute the photos may be. This is because there are risks involved in dressing cats and dogs in pet costumes and it can be a source of stress for your fluffy best friend.

Signs your pet is strictly a naturist include:

  • Bolting when they see any them-sized pet costumes approaching.
  • Backing out of the costume or trying to remove it themselves.
  • Clawing, scratching, or chewing the costume.
  • Playing statues, falling to the floor, or refusing to move.
  • Growling, hissing, or whimpering.
  • Excessive licking.
  • Ears pinned and eyes rolling back or to the sides.
  • A look of absolute fury on their adorable face.

Some pets have been dressing up since they were tiny and are completely used to it, with their pawrents sharing stories of the little critters not wanting to take their dog fancy dress off long after the celebration is over. Even if your pet seems to enjoy it, there are a few things to check each time you give a costume for animals as a present to another pawrent or fancy a fitting for your furbaby. With pet costumes online, readily available on the high street, and in supermarkets, an impulse buy might never get worn if it causes discomfort.

Cat Christmas costumes

Cats use their whole body to explore their world and a costume that restricts them is going to make them feel threatened – although they spend their time showing off their hunting prowess, they will feel vulnerable to attack if their vision is restricted or their whiskers are squashed. Dangling elf arms or fairy headwear could cause them to think they are being constantly chased and a heavy pet costume might feel like they’ve already been caught. In a multi-cat household, a kitted-out kitty could confuse its naked brothers and sisters who might react to her with aggression and hostility.

Cats spend up to half of their time happily grooming themselves. They really do enjoy it and when they’re feeling particularly generous they might lick their pawrent’s hair or hands too as a special treat. If a pet costume for cats prevents them from this natural behaviour, it can cause them stress. Grooming each other helps cats to bond, so a costume that covers her scent and fur might confuse her kitty companions.

Dog fancy dress

Dogs need to be able to eat comfortably, move around as normal, and bark their innermost thoughts. If your puppy isn’t used to wearing costumes around people or other animals the experience could affect their socialisation. It’s best to avoid introducing your pup to dressing up at the same time as something else which they might find overwhelming, like ten tipsy family members flashing camera phones in their faces at their first visit.

They may be very tempted to chow down on a tasty looking button or bow on their costume and excessive licking could cause them to swallow string, ribbons, or any Velcro holding it together. Just like a child, flimsily attached accessories on pet costumes for dogs can be a choking hazard.

Tails, temperatures and sensitive skin

Cats and dogs use their tails for balance and to communicate how they’re feeling to those around them. If a pet costume constricts their tail it could cause them to misjudge a jump, lose their balance, and fall. Always let their tails fly free to prevent accidents and frustration from not being able to express their emotions properly.

It’s also important to make sure your fluffy friend doesn’t get too hot. Even if they want to wear it forever, if it covers their body be sure to only let them wear it for short intervals. If you’ve noticed them exerting themselves by running up and down the hallway or chasing squirrels in the garden with the costume on, take it off for a bit to ensure they can properly cool down with some fresh air. Keep an eye out for panting or lethargy and as always, ensure there’s lots of clean, accessible drinking water available.

Just like cats and dogs have sensitive tummies that benefit from a gut-friendly, high-quality hypoallergenic diet, their skin can react to materials that rub or irritate them. A pet costume they’ve been fine wearing before can suddenly cause skin flare ups so be sure to keep an eye out for redness.

Small and less noticeable accessories

If your cat or dog is used to wearing a collar, they might enjoy swapping this for a dashing bowtie or bandana, as seen on Smudge herehere, and here… 

costume-free fluffy photoshoots

If your furball made it clear they’d rather go naked than wear clothes and you have the chewed-up pet costumes or cat-scratch scars to prove it, there are still ways to get that perfect seasonal photo for Instagram or your holiday cards. You can try using props or backdrops to create the atmosphere you want, like in this photo of Smudge looking adorable in front of our tree. Lure your pet to where you want them to be with a handful of Scrumbles or other healthy treat and snap away! You want to make sure you aren’t using any props that could be toxic, so avoid using real plants, chocolate decorations, or leaving them unsupervised where they could get tangled in tinsel, chew through some fairy lights, or swallow something they shouldn’t.

If that doesn’t work and your pet runs and hides whenever you try to get them onset, why not try out some free photo editing apps on your phone or computer? This way you can go all out with costumes, backdrops, and accessories – even down to adding polished painted claws. Be sure to get your canine or kitty’s approval and check they’re ready for Instagram fame before you post their pictures!

Practical clothes for the cold

As winter really begins, pet pawrents can worry about their fluffy loved one getting cold in the fureezing weather. Our kitty Boo loves to snuggle up in soft blankets when the mercury plummets, but what if you and your pet will be out in the elements or exposed to cold temperatures for a long time? Whether your cat or dog needs a jumper or jacket depends on what type of fur it has.

Double coated dogs have two layers of fur: short, woolly hairs make up the undercoat, with longer hairs forming the guard layer on top. If your pooch’s shedding is the stuff of hair-raising legends, it’s likely you’ve got a double coated dog. These canines are designed to do well in cold weather and are unlikely to need any extra help keeping warm. Double coated dog breeds include Alaskan Huskies, Golden Retrievers, Shibu Inus, Labradors, Miniature Schnauzers, and Pomeranians.

Single coated dogs don’t have that dense bottom layer and just have a single top layer of fur. Their hair has a longer growth cycle so appears to shed less. These pooches are less protected from the elements, so they need additional layers when the temperature drops. Single coated dog breeds include Chihuahuas, Poodles, Maltese, Greyhounds, Whippets, and Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers.   

As well as considering coat type, a jacket or jumper is recommended if your canine is:

  • Very small like a toy terrier.
  • Slender like a Whippet.
  • Recovering from an injury or illness.
  • A playful puppy or elderly daring dog.
  • Going to be out in temperatures below freezing.
  • Likely to spend long periods of time in the cold.

Trust cats to try and one-up dogs: kitties can be single, double, or triple coated, including Turkish Angoras, Persians, and Siberians respectively. But should cats wear clothes in winter? Vets usually don’t recommend putting any cats in clothing to keep warm unless they have been shaved for health or grooming purposes or if they are permanently hairless like the iconic Sphynx. Even then, that’s only if you’ll be in particularly c-c-c-cold conditions, and your hair-free feline might still refuse to wear it. In this case, nice warm spots in front of radiators and plenty of dry, clean blankets will be fine.

If the clothing is only for outdoor use, put it on your pet just before you go out and take it off once you return, especially if it’s got wet or covered in snow.

Choosing a jacket for cats and dogs

If your playful puppy, daring dog, curious kitten, or cool cat is likely to get wet in their jacket from rain and snow or jumping in deliciously tempting puddles (whether you approve of that or not) then it’s best to buy one with a waterproof top layer and avoid wool. Choose washable clothing for ease and to avoid expensive dry-cleaning costs. Think about how you’ll put a jacket or jumper on your pet; if your pet has arthritis or is elderly, you’ll want to make sure it can slip on with ease. Measure your pet with a tape measure and check the manufacturers’ sizing guides so you get that snug and comfortable fit just right. Too tight can restrict movement, but too loose could cause your pet to get twisted up like a pretzel, with legs caught in neck and arm holes.

Canines and cats wearing pet costumes for charities

Kitties and pooches who love to dress up have been using their fashion forward way of thinking to benefit charities. Battersea Cats and Dogs Home host its Collars & Coats Gala annually with all proceeds going towards their good work. Another fashion show, held by Strutz for the first time this year, supported charities including Dogs Trust. If pets plus catwalks sounds like a dream, check the events pages of animal charities and your local newspaper to see what’s happening near you and how to get involved.

Final thought: are pet costumes cruel or cool?

Dressing up cats and dogs in pet costumes can be quite a divisive topic, with some people calling it cruel while others swear their pets like wearing clothes. Whatever you decide, we know you’ll always have the best interest of your pet at heart and will let them take the lead.

Remember the acronym PET when choosing clothes for companion animals and check: can they Play, Eat, and Toilet normally when wearing it?

If you and your furbaby find that trying out pet costumes is something they enjoy, always supervise them when they are wearing anything other than the fluffy coat they were born in.

What do you think about pet costumes? Is your dog a dedicated devotee to dress-up or do you have the cat scratch scars to prove your kitty can’t be tempted to try on a party hat? Let us know and sign up to our newsletter to keep in the loop on all things pet!

Pet rehoming: Reasons to adopt a pet

Pet rehoming: Reasons to adopt a pet

Adopting cats or dogs and buying from breeders

We’re sure you’re familiar with the Dog’s Trust slogan, “A Dog is for Life, not just for Christmas” which celebrates its 40th birthday this year, but if you’re ready to fetch a new furry bundle of joy, we want to help you get your purrfect pet.

Whether its your first or 50thpet, there are always certain questions to ask yourself or whoever will be owned by the adorable animal beforehand:

  1. Do you have the time to give your little cutie the attention it deserves, and can you commit to be a pet pawrent for up to 20 years (longer if you’re lucky!)?
  2. Can your new companion comfortably cohabit with any existing pets you have (we’re living proof that cats and dogs can get on – just check these two best friends, Smudge the dog and Boo the cat, hanging out together on our Instagram)
  3. Can you afford it if your pet develops a health condition, or needs multiple trips to the (whisper it) V-E-T?

Getting ready to give a new home to a hound or kitty cat is an exciting time as you start planning what toys you’ll get them and researching how you’ll socialise your puppy or how to feed your kitten. But the most important decision is where you’ll find your new furbaby. Before you reply to that ad on Facebook or Gumtree, we’d like to recommend you consider adopting from an animal shelter.

Why should you adopt and not shop?

The hashtag #adoptdontshop is another great campaign from Dog’s Trust (we think they must have some clever cats and persuasive pups on their marketing team!) that we totally support. Animal shelters across the UK are almost always operating at full capacity with so many residents desperate to find their furever home.  

How many animals are in shelters?

  • The RSPCA rescued and collected 114,584 animals in 2017.
  • Dog’s Trust have 1,700 dogs in their care daily and reported over 47,000 pooches abandoned in 2017.
  • The RSPCA rescue 30,000 cats a year.

Why do cats and dogs end up in shelters?

Whilst some may have accidentally got lost after escaping without being microchipped, unfortunately, a lot of cats and dogs are abandoned.

The RSPCA finds that the number of cats being rehomed in June drops by hundreds but the number needing a new furever family rises steeply.

There is a rise in pets being given to shelters in the summer when owners want to go on holiday and are unable to find a pet sitter.

In the six months since Christmas, the puppies and kitties given as presents have grown from adorable angels and entered the pet equivalent of the terrible twos in toddlers. They have got bigger and may be exhibiting signs of inadequate training.

There is also an increase of dogs being dumped in the run up to Christmas, as people abandon their elderly dogs to replace them with puppies.

Other pets were abandoned because of behaviour that given time and a trip to the vets could have been solved, such as a cat going to the toilet out of the litter tray who stops the unwanted behaviour once she’s been treated for a urinary tract infection or diabetes.  

Across the Battersea Cats and Dogs Home branches, the average length of stay for a dog to endure is 38 days, and 22 days for a cat. For others this can be much, much longer.

Hidden treasures waiting in shelters

Adopting a new best friend from the RSPCA or other reputable animal shelter guarantees they will be spayed or neutered, dewormed, treated for fleas, and any medical conditions will have been identified so they can explain them to you.

Everybody’s circumstances are different, and you don’t need acres of land and to be home 24-7 to be an amazing owner. This is the beauty of adopting from a shelter; the staff and volunteers know each animal’s individual quirks and can help you choose a pet to fit right in to your lifestyle. For example, someone in a top floor flat might long for a kitty but worry about not being able to let her out in a garden. Purrhaps a cat with a disability, which they adapt to really well, would make the ideal flatmate who just needs cosy cushions and cuddles rather than to chase chickens on a farm.

A new pet doesn’t have to mean new in age. There’s another gem in animal shelters that too often gets overlooked: senior kittizens and old age pensioners’! Thought you couldn’t have a dog because you’d struggle with long walks? Fear not, as you can find an elderly dog who perfectly matches your pace, so you can keep him healthy while he raises your fitness too with manageable daily strolls.

Older animals still have the wonderful character that make kittens and puppies so appealing but have moved past the teething stages that some people might worry about, such as their never-ending energy and needing to be trained to use the litter tray or go outside.

Take the time to find your perfect match

All Dogs Matter know that just like online dating, you’re searching for your soul mate when choosing a pooch. They match prospective pet pawrents based on their list of preferences, showing them dogs who can fill that gap in their hearts and families, and meaning it’s less likely there will be problems down the line. All Dogs Matter have a rehoming questionnaire on their website that ensures you won’t get collared with any unwelcome surprises. The questions range from the age and size you’re interested in to whether you’re prepared to help your dog with training classes if necessary.

Some animals have had a ruffer life than others, and you may want to rescue an animal who will need space, quiet, and gradual introduction of affection before they come out of their shell. You might be more comfortable with a friendly furball who’s in the shelter because her owners can no longer take care of her and is ready to fit right in to a big, boisterous family.

The staff and volunteers at shelters befriend the animals under their care and can work with you to find the furbaby of your dreams. There are endless different cattitudes and pawsonalities in the shelter hoping for their furever home. To help you choose, you can ask questions like:

  • How did they end up in the shelter?
  • Would they get on with my children/budgie/horse/drum kit?
  • Do they need medicine or a special diet?
  • What sort of home and family do you think they need?

RSPCA staff and volunteers are specially trained to assess each individual animal and shower them with kitty cuddles and pooch pampering sessions, all aimed at growing their confidence and restoring their sparkle. They will work with the animals for weeks or even months and the RSPCA work closely with established animal behaviouralists to ensure they have the best chance at happiness.

Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn knows first-hand how rewarding it can be to give an animal a second chance in life. He said, “Many have had very tough pasts, and some have never experienced life as part of a loving family, which is incredibly sad. Of course, taking on any animal is a huge responsibility and potential owners must have the time, commitment and resources available to provide for the needs of a pet. We would never encourage impulsive rehoming, however, anyone thinking of getting a pet is very welcome to come along to our centres to meet our fantastic animals for themselves.”

Buying from a breeder

Sometimes you fall in love with a breed and have your heart set on raising the cat or dog from infancy, wanting to train it yourself and that’s ok. There are steps you can take to ensure you are using a reputable, licensed breeder who has ensured the health and safety of your future pooch or feline.

There have been horrible instances of people breeding animals without a licence who have treated the poor little critters very badly. The RSPCA have done fantastic work to close down illegal puppy farms, running a three-year campaign called Scrap the Puppy Trade to bring in stricter licensing for breeders. In October 2018 the government passed new legislations which mean:

  • Puppies must be seen with their mum before they are sold.
  • Sales must be completed in person and not online.
  • Licenced sellers can’t deal with puppies and kittens younger than eight weeks old.
  • All adverts, including online, are regulated, showing the seller’s licence number, country of origin, and country of residence of the pet for sale.
  • A new star rating allows people to rate breeders and pet shops on their animal welfare standards.

These new regulations accompany the government’s commitment to ban third party sales of kittens and puppies, as inspired by Lucy’s Law. Lucy was a King Charles Cocker Spaniel whose terrible early life in the puppy farm system inspired her adopted mother, Lisa Garner, to campaign for her and others like her. You can read about Lucy and her incredible legacy here.

Choosing a good breeder

A good breeder will never avoid or refuse to answer your questions. They will also ask you about yourself and your home environment, as they care deeply about the furbabies they’ve raised being happy with their new family. Questions you should ask the breeder include:

  • Can I meet my future pet’s parents? Do they have any genetic conditions?
  • What is the health like of the litter? Have they been dewormed, deflead, and spayed or neutered?
  • Can I see certificates of their health?
  • What socialisation have they had?
  • Does the breeder have references from previous buyers?
  • Are they weaned? What are they eating and how often?
  • When can I take mine home?

You should be able to visit the kittens or puppies in their current home, but you shouldn’t be allowed to take them back with you before they are eight to ten weeks old. When you visit the breeder, you should check that the animals in their care look healthy, with no protruding bones, skin irritation, runny eyes and noses, or extremely sleepy behaviour. Watch to see if the furbabies are happy to see the breeder and how they play together. Dirty kennels or crates are also a warning sign – these should be well maintained and clean, with enough space, food, and drinking water available. Always check to make sure the breeder is licensed and walk away if not, then inform the RSPCA.

Be extra careful with online ads

Buying an animal online is not all it’s cracked pup to be. Scammers take advantage of the internet and animal lovers by advertising litters that don’t exist, taking people’s money, and then disappearing. This is obviously heart-breaking and a financial blow. They often trick unsuspecting customers by using the same fake photo in lots of different places.

87% of the calls the RSPCA receives about illegal breeders’ puppy farms are to do with online adverts. They advise everyone to beware of adverts that:

  • Use phrases about the latest trends in pets like “teacup” and “miniature.”
  • Include statements saying a puppy or kitten younger than four to six weeks old has been vaccinated (vaccinations should not be done this early.)
  • Use an image you recognise from a different advert.

Let’s meet some of the cats and dogs in need of a loving forever home

Affectionate Benji is a playful puppy who loves to be fussed over and run around. He’s looking for a forever home where he can be trained to be a daring dog. He’s not the biggest fan of cats, but is happy around other dogs and children. 

Ivy is ready to get festive in her new home. She’s looking for someone who can look after her as she suffers from Calicivirus – its more than manageable with simple medication added to her food and bi monthly steroids. She was recently fostered but her foster had a tragic accident and is on life support so she’s in urgent need of a home. She is the perfect lap cat and loves to give kitty kisses. 

Gorgeous Marble is on a special appeal. He was rescued underweight and suffering from skin problems. He’d love to retire in a comfy home and is looking for a companion who will take him on short walks. He’s a gorgeous pooch that’s toilet trained and gets on well with both cats and dogs. 

Popeye is a 6 year old cutie who came to the shelter as a stray. Sadly he’s had one eye removed but is fit and healthy looking for an experienced cat owner who will shower him with chin tickles. 

We’d like to give a round of appaws to the fantastic work animal charities do to take care of these precious pooches and courageous kitties. Did you adopt your perfect pets from a shelter? Are you inspired to visit your local animal charity and change a cat’s life of make a dog’s dreams come true? Let us know in the comments!

Pancreatitis in dogs & cats: feeding human food holiday leftovers

Pancreatitis in dogs & cats: feeding human food holiday leftovers

With the holiday season now upon us, we wanted to share our pet pawrent guide to pancreatitis in dogs and cats – a very serious and painful condition in that isn’t always easy to spot.

Pancreatitis is also more likely to occur between November and February. Although the following might be scary to read, these tips can help you to create many more happy holiday memories with your furry family. Now here comes the science!

What is Pancreatitis?

Your cat’s pancreas weighs about the same as 2 teaspoons of sugar, but it has a very big job in keeping your kitty healthy. In both cats and dogs, the pancreas is a pink organ shaped like a chicken wishbone that sits between the left kidney, which filters blood and removes toxins, and the duodenum, which prepares digested food to enter the small intestine. A healthy pancreas produces insulin and the enzymes that digest food, which only become active once they reach the small intestine. 

Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas caused by the digestion-aiding enzymes activating as soon as they’re released, which is too early. Instead of targeting the food in the small intestine, these enzymes inflame the pancreas and surrounding tissue and organs, even digesting the pancreas itself.

The two types of Pancreatitis in dogs and cats

There are two types of pancreatitis: the acute form, which is most commonly seen in dogs, and the chronic form, which tends to affect cats. Acute pancreatitis in dogs and cats occurs very suddenly and is the first time an animal has experienced the condition. Chronic pancreatitis is a persistent inflammation of the pancreas that has developed over a longer period. It may also be the progression of acute pancreatitis that happened more than once. 

The two forms can vary from a mild tummy upset to more severe symptoms including death and sadly both will cause pain.

Dogs are more likely to progress to chronic pancreatitis, even if initial symptoms are those of the acute form. It’s also possible for chronic inflammation to be missed in cats, who have hidden symptoms. Whilst Pancreatitis can sometimes be idiopathic with no real cause found and, in a lot of cases linked to physical trauma like being struck by a car, there are other risk factors we can help prevent. Being vigilant towards the risk factors below and knowing what to look out for can help you care for your pets.

What are the risk factors of Pancreatitis?

Genetic Predisposition

Pancreatitis can occur in any pooch, but certain breeds are predisposed including cocker spaniels, miniature schnauzers and some terrier breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier, which is also the most at risk breed for acute pancreatitis. On the flip side, Labrador retrievers and miniature poodles have lower risks for acute pancreatitis. Cats, particularly Siamese, are affected more frequently – perhaps proving they are more persuasive, or just better at stealthy swiping of scraps! Other diseases like diabetes also increase the risk of pancreatitis.

Other diseases can cause pancreatitis

Certain diseases including Type 1 Diabetes, Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism or epilepsy put your pet at increased risk for developing pancreatitis.

  • HyperlipidaemiaHigh cholesterol, common for miniature schnauzers, doesn’t just affect people and arises when there are too many fatty substances in the blood. In cats and dogs, the symptoms include seizures, abdominal pain, and bumps on the skin filled with a greasy liquid. It can be caused by eating fatty meals, kidney disease, and thyroid problems.
  • Gastrointestinal Disease, e.g. Inflammatory Bowel DiseaseInflammatory bowel disease (IBD) often occurs alongside pancreatitis in dogs and cats and causes the same painful symptoms as those seen in humans, including bloating and weight loss, constipation, diarrhoea, and blood or mucus showing in unhappy bowel movements.
  • Cats are vulnerable to TriaditisFeline triaditis causes three inflammatory diseases to appear in kitties at the same time, affecting the intestine and liver and causing the chronic form of pancreatitis. A cat with feline triaditis will be very poorly, with chronic vomiting. Frequent kitty vomiting is always a case for your vet as the intestine, liver, and pancreas are all located close to the duodenum. A feline duodenum contains much more bacteria than a canine duodenum, and vomiting can allow nasty bacteria-filled juices to travel to the surrounding organs.

Exposure to fatty foods like table scraps

The government recommends that daily, women should eat 20g and men 30g of fat. On Christmas day alone, the average Brit consumes 200g! This overindulgence may just put you in a familiar food coma and have you snoring through the Queen’s Speech, vowing to get down to the gym in January.

Unfortunately for your fluffy companions, giving in to their begging for scraps under the table can have very serious, unwanted consequences for them. This is the main cause of pancreatitis in pets and it is particularly dangerous for animals to consume a lot of fatty foods all at once.

Obesity

Keeping your pets at a healthy weight has many advantages and is a responsible way of showing how much you love them. A fit and strong animal can enjoy their instinctual hunting, fetching, and playing behaviours for much longer than a chubby critter.

We recommend feeding your daring dogs, playful puppies, cool cats, and curious kitties a hypoallergenic, gut-friendly diet consisting of quality ingredients high in animal protein. A couple of sessions of at least ten minutes of activity a day where you tire your pet out with running, jumping, and chasing their favourite toy is the perfect blend of bonding time and healthy exercise, in addition to daily walks for your dog.

Dietary discretion in dogs

If you’ve noticed one or more occasions where your pooch has eaten something they shouldn’t, like rubbish, gone-off food, balloons, socks, or homework, this is the equivalent of food poisoning in humans. Although common, it can cause complications for your pup so is always worth a quick chat with your vet.

Pancreatitis in dogs and cats – signs to watch out for

Cats typically show less symptoms than dogs, but you can get around this with preventative measures, so you know your kitty is only eating what’s best for her sensitive tummy.

Watch out for your cat refusing to eat and acting lethargic instead of displaying her usual graceful pouncing on dust particles and 4am zooming up and down the hallway. There may also be diarrhoea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Cats who are in pain tend to hide, so warning bells should ring if your normally sociable fluffball won’t come out from under the bed.

Dogs will exhibit similar but more pronounced symptoms to those seen in cats, including chronic vomiting, dehydration, lethargy, fever, and refusing food. There will be times where they aren’t over the moon when you mention walkies or start turning their nose up when you fill their food bowl. They may also have noticeable bloating in their tummy.

Both cats and dogs may put their forearms and head on the floor, raising their rear to help relieve their tummy ache. This hunched-over position is a sure sign an urgent trip to the vet is needed.

If you notice any of these symptoms, particularly if you think your pet is experiencing more than one, it’s important you contact your vet as quickly as possible.

How does a vet diagnose Pancreatitis?

The vet will review an animal’s medical history to check for risk factors or previous indicators of pancreatitis. This is another reason why it’s always worth checking in with your vet if you are worried about something, no matter how small it may seem.

There will also be the usual physical examination, including checking their heartbeat, gums, abdomen, and every pet’s favourite procedure (or not!), taking their temperature.

Blood tests will be taken to determine the level of pancreatic enzymes and X-Rays or ultrasounds of the abdomen to check for damage to the pancreas. Further procedures may be required as recommended by your vet.

What is the treatment for Pancreatitis in dogs and cats?

We understand how horrible it is when a beloved pet is unwell, and the first priority is to relieve any pain they may be experiencing and prevent complications by dealing with the symptoms as early as possible.

Historically for less severe cases of pancreatitis food was withheld for 24- 48 hours but up to date research shows this can have a harmful effect therefore it’s advised instead to feed a very small amount of food (1/16thof their normal daily feed) split into four meals. Your vet will either prescribe a specially formulated food that’s highly digestible or advise you to feed something simple at home like boiled chicken and white rice. As well as painkillers, anti-sickness medication will also help cats and dogs to feel better. Once they can keep down food without vomiting, they will be sent home with pain medication to continue their recovery under the watchful eye of their pawrents.

More serious cases will require hospitalisation to keep a close eye on the patient, including tube feeding to ensure they get the nutrients they need for about three to five days. Hopefully by this point they will respond well to a gradual reintroduction of liquid, soups, and food, eventually tucking in to healthy-sized portions of a nutritionally balanced pet food.

Unfortunately, there isn’t yet an effective cure for pancreatitis in dogs and cats – it requires ongoing management. Diet modification is vital – your vet will typically prescribe a low-fat diet for dogs. Be sure to understand the difference between the % declared on the ingredient list and the % of fat contribution to total calories. Vets & nutritionists consider diets to be low fat if they have less than 22.5% of calories contributed from fat.

Cats are better adapted for higher fat diets so do not need a low fat diet – the key focus for cat’s is that the food is highly digestible and high in animal protein. For both cats and dogs, it’s important to split the meal into small, frequent meals to ease digestion, and in some cases additionally supplements are prescribed to further help with digestion.

Why does Pancreatitis happen more in the holiday season?

Many vets internationally all expect to see an increase in cases of pancreatitis in cats and dogs arriving in their surgeries around the holiday season. The abundance of high-fat foods as people gather together to celebrate with delicious home cooked meals – and a never-ending flow of mulled wine increasing their generosity – exposes pets to the danger of table scraps more readily than other times of the year.

4 simple ways to keep your pets happy during the holiday season

Your pets are the heart and soul of your family and it’s natural to want to give them a fun and exciting experience this party season. When you see their fluffy little face peering up at you (possibly wearing reindeer ears if they like dressing up) it’s hard to resist their insistent whines. No matter how demanding they may be, limiting their exposure to pancreatitis -causing conditions is the best thing you can do for them.

  1. Consider closing off the kitchen to your pets on the days you’ll be cooking and try to always store food away in the fridge and cupboards – a curious cat can get into some foil or cling film in ten seconds flat, and Smudge has even been known to drag our Indian takeaway containers out of the bin. Where possible, make your bins pet-proof by adding a lock to your dustbin lid or storing the rubbish bags in an outdoor cupboard or shed. You don’t want your fur babies dining out on days-old, decomposing foodin secret. 
  2. We all know that what’s yours belongs to your fluffy friends too, whether it’s the warm spot on the couch or your computer keyboard, but it’s important to create a mealtime routine that makes begging harder. Try to eat in a separate area away from your pups or felines and if they sneak up to sniff your plate, silently move them away, ushering them to another room and closing the door if necessary. Don’t make a big deal about it and do show them they only get the attention they love from their favourite humans when you aren’t eating.
  3. Stay consistent and never give up now that you’ve made the decision to prevent pancreatitis. Don’t despair if you’ve been spoiling your kitty or canine with some of your human favourites at mealtimes. We have no doubt it was done with love and it might take your furry friends a little while to get used to the changes. You can swap the scraps for healthy treats instead to start with and taper off until their diet consists of the recommended portion size of purely pet-friendly food. Every little change you implement leads to big benefits to their health, comfort, and all your future adventures together. Even when their begging is Oscar-worthy as they try to convince you they’re so hungry, remember why you’re doing this
  4. Spread the word! Share this blog with people you know, as well-meaning party guests would no doubt be devastated to hear the little scraps they’re slipping your pets to befriend them could cause them harm. Humans who aren’t yet owned by any fluffy creatures might not know about pancreatitis and may believe the stereotype that pets are designed to hoover up leftovers. Unfortunately, even “just a little taste” isn’t safe.

People foods to permanently avoid!

And don’t forget, there are some people foods you should never, ever feed your pets: 

– Alcohol and caffeinated drinks

– Chocolate

– Chives, garlic, and onion

– Raisins and grapes

A quick note on decorations

Be careful when choosing your decorations and watch out for people bringing traditional, seasonal flowers to your parties. Holly berries are poisonous to cats and particularly dogs, as they contain theobromine, the chemical found in chocolate. European mistletoe, the plant most commonly used at Christmas, also contains several poisons. When ivy is accidentally ingested it too can lead to serious gastrointestinal problems. Always avoid yews as they are dangerous to people and pets, causing irregular heartbeat when eaten.

One last thing…

With the holiday season comes a guarantee of fireworks aplenty, so be sure to check out our advice on how to help your fluffy friends stay happy and calme.