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 enjoy some cuddles and a chat to ask her some questions about her breed. If you’d like to know more about Siberian cats or are considering if they might be the right cat for you, hopefully her answers will help.

So, Boo what is the history of Siberian cats?

Our origin is something of a Cinderella story, and like all good fairy tails we’re not sure of the exact year we bought our charms to Siberia – it’s said we’ve existed for at least 1,000 years. We quickly became indispensable to the humans because of our talent for catching rats and mice, working hard in shops and farms to help by hunting rodents. That is until we were scouted by people who appreciated the Siberian cats’ regal appearance when we started to star in cat shows and competitions. It wasn’t just about our wizardly looks, though; we eventually became internationally famed for our funny, friendly nature and we made our first appearance in the UK in 2002. We’ve only been bred since the 1980s, 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 are Siberian cats?

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 and 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, but some of us live into our 20s. You can help keep us healthy by feeding us a high quality, complete, balanced, animal protein rich diet like Scrumbles to ensure we stay at a healthy weight. We naturally have a nice big belly, which is usually white like our chests and legs, but 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 although 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 which 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. Even if you try to bathe us, our fur is water repellent and it takes 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, plus the fact that we only shed twice a year means we can often be a 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 too, so a factor to consider.

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, following you around and greeting you when you come home. Siberian cats have a cute soft meow and 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 we 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?

S: 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, but 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 when you get home and 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 Siberian cats?

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 or delighting a single human or couple who have other pets with our clown-like antics. Anybody who is kind and caring and wants to build and cherish a true bond with their pet is going to 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 and sign up to our newsletter for more cat facts and doggy delights. 

Lhasa apso breed guide

Lhasa apso breed guide

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 and help you determine if Lhasa Apsos are the right dog for you.

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

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 Lhasa Apsos. 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, but 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 are Lhasa Apsos?

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!?

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: feeding cats & dogs human food holiday leftovers

Pancreatitis: feeding cats & dogs human food holiday leftovers

With the holiday season now upon us we wanted to share our pet pawrents’ guide to pancreatitis, a very serious and painful condition in cats and dogs 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.

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 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 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 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?

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 and once your cat or dog has pancreatitis, it requires ongoing management. Diet modification is vital – your vet will typically prescribe a low-fat diet for dogs. 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 calm here.

Are Cocker Spaniels the right dog for you?

Are Cocker Spaniels the right dog for you?

“We’re getting a dog” The four most exciting words to hear!!! But before you scream it from the rooftops and stop every stranger you meet to let them know you’ll soon have a fluffy friend that will love you forever, get onto Ecosia – my new favourite ethical search engine that plants trees! – and Ecosia what kind of dog is the right one for you or as I like to think of it, what kind of dog will be most happy to have you. To help you make this very important decision, we’ve teamed up with some breed experts and pet lovers to give you the low down on different breeds.

There are a lot of different types of Spaniels – Wikipedia lists 23 non-extinct types of spaniels, 7 of which originate from the UK; Cavalier King Charles, Clumber, English Cocker, English Springer, Field, King Charles and Sussex Spaniels. This week the lovely Megan, also known as Wilma and Woody’s mum, has offered to kick off our breed series offering an insight into Cocker spaniels. If you’ve not heard of the cotswold spaniels check out their blog and Instagram feed.

But first some Cocker Spaniel Breed Basics:

Cocker Spaniels are gun dogs and incredibly popular in the UK. Last year Cocker Spaniels were named the 6th most popular dogs, with Cockapoos (a cross between a cocker spaniel and poodle) the 7thmost popular British dog.

Average lifespan:

12 to 15 years with English cockers.A healthy and fit dog could live longer, especially if exercise is maintained throughout their life and they don’t overdo it when they’re younger meaning joint problems slowing them down later in life.

Colours:

Varies Kennel Club do not recognise solid colour Cockers that have white anywhere other than on their chest

Size:

Cocker Spaniels are typically medium sized dogs but in Cockers you can have all sorts, of course typically males are bigger than females. “Woody is abnormally tall and the size of a Springer Spaniel, but I also know Cockers that are absolutely tiny the size of Cavaliers. Of course, Show Cockers can also be split into another category. In the U.K. the most common of the two are English Show Cockers, but you can also get American Show Cockers which have smaller and slightly more squashed heads; they’re also even fluffier!”

Origins of Cocker Spaniels:

Originally many years ago, Springer Spaniels and Cockers were the same breed. As they evolved, they were split. In a litter all the taller dogs would be called Springer spaniels, and the shorter dogs Cocker spaniels, until they developed into the two breeds we know today. As well as this they are now also easily distinguished by colour and fur type, e.g. you would never get a black springer spaniel, it would be black and white. The word cocker comes from their use at hunting woodcock birds.

How often should a Cocker Spaniel be groomed?

Every 4-6 weeks as well as daily brushing  

How much exercise does a Cocker Spaniel need?

Cocker spaniels are high energy dogs and thrive outdoors. At least an hour of exercise a day is recommended.

Do Cocker Spaniels shed?

Like most dogs, cockers will moult but spaniels are a breed that drop their dead coat so you will find it on your floors and as double coated breeds their dead undercoat will need to be stripped out.

Any health watch outs?

Skin allergies are common. Some cockers get hip dysplasia – this can be prevented with diet (make sure as puppies they have a food with joint support, and check the levels of glucosamine and chondroitin) and appropriate exercise as they blossom from pups to adulthood.

Fun Fact!

7-time winner of Best in Show at Crufts making English Cocker Spaniels the most successful breed to win this award. Noteworthy, if that’s on your bucket list!

Breed Basics over, do you know your show cocker from your working cocker? Megan, Woody and Wilma are here to fill us in. 

What do you love about Cocker Spaniels?

Spaniels, they are the perfect package of beauty, companionship and energy…with batteries that never run out.

Although there are so many different varieties of Spaniels, Working Cocker Spaniels are my absolute favourite. Their brain is always on, meaning they need a job to do; but if that’s not going down the working route of being a Gundog there’s still so much to do with a pet just like Woody. Agility, Flyball & Obedience, all things that make them use their brains and it is great fun for both human and hound to take part in.

Tell us a bit about Woody & Wilma

Woody is a 7-year-old Working Cocker Spaniel and Wilma a 2-year-old Cockapoo, both which I have had since 8 weeks old. I have also fostered Working Cockers and Springers over the years from various spaniel rescues. Woody is absolutely tennis ball and water mad, a common trait in most spaniels!

As Wilma is a Cockapoo and she is only 50% Spaniel (Don’t tell her as she believes she’s true spaniel deep down), she is actually a Show Cocker Spaniel compared to Woody as a Working Cocker. Most people assume they’re the same breed, but there’s actually a huge difference between the Show and Working type in temperament and energy levels. One of the differences is show Cockers are usually more laid back and love human affection, whereas Working Cockers have such drive and could happily be out all day, and in my experience despite them being the perfect family pet, Working cockers prefer to stretch out by themselves rather than snuggle up on your lap. Although each dog’s personality is completely different, so depending on how they’re brought up they won’t necessarily fit a certain label or trait.

What are the differences between Working Cocker Spaniels and Show Cocker Spaniels?

Show Cocker

  • A lot more fluff. Fluffier feathers on legs, skirt (their tummy) and tail. As well as thicker ears which droop down a bit more. A lot of grooming, just simply using a metal comb to keep them knot free, high maintenance.
  • Low Drive. A good off lead walk (for at least an hour) and they’ll happily sleep for the rest of the day. Generally chilled back and happy to cuddle on the sofa. These dogs make the perfect family pet. 
  • Shorter bodies with a rounded head

Working Cocker

  • Less fluff as they’re bred to be gun dogs, so typically you have less fur all over because then there’s less to clean or pick seeds out of. Easy to maintain and doesn’t need much brushing.
  • High Drive. Very alert and ready to go. Doesn’t matter what but they need a job to do and use their brains.
  • Working cockers have a wider, flatter head and longer bodies. 

Woody was from gun dog stock & was bred on a lovely country farm. They had a lovely bunch of Cockers, Springers and Flat coats that lived outside in kennels but were also allowed in the house. Wilma was from a larger breeder but brought up ready to be a pet dog. She absolutely loved children and humans but hated being left alone; whereas Woody was happy to be crated as he was brought up well to be left alone. When buying a puppy, you should always meet the parents, and the breeders should be happy for you to ask lots of questions and visit beforehand. I visited Woody’s litter every week for 1 month. Wilma was a bit further away up in Cheshire, so I visited once before I then went up again to collect her.

They are both very intelligent and with positive reinforcements like toys or treats they are very easy to train. You’ll find them in a variety of working rolls as well. Working Cockers are often used as sniffer dogs for the police or army. And you’ll find both Working and Show Cockers in medical assistance roles such as diabetes alert dogs, or hearing dogs; all absolutely amazing dogs changing people’s lives.

They are both absolutely gorgeous breeds and I hope I always have at least one spaniel in my life.

One last thing…

If the next thing on your to do list, is find future cocker companion, be sure to check out our advice on puppy socialisation here.

Fireworks and Pets: 10 tips for calm pets

Fireworks and Pets: 10 tips for calm pets

Bonfire night only marks the beginning of firework season and if you live somewhere that’s firework crazy, you’ve already had at least a week of it with another 3 months ahead of you and your pets ?. Fireworks and pets sadly do not go well together. Thousands of pets find fireworks, and similarly thunderstorms, a terrifying ordeal but there are ways to mitigate their anxiety. Below we’ve covered our tried and tested methods for keeping your cats and dogs happy and safe over the next few months. And once fireworks season is over, you can continue to prepare them for the year ahead with some ongoing training, to make each year easier. 

Why are pets terrified of fireworks?

Loud and unpredictable, it’s no wonder that pets are terrified of fireworks. Coupled with their stronger sense of hearing, it’s understandable that your cat or dog feels threatened and vulnerable. But fret not, whilst your pets may never love fireworks, there are ways to help ease your furry friend and keep them safe and happy throughout the party season. 
If your think your pet has an extreme reaction or suffers with a severe phobia to fireworks and noises in general, we recommend you speak to your vet. They’ll be able to rule out any medical issues and may refer you on to an animal behaviourist to support further.

How to tell if your pet is scared of fireworks?

Classic signs of stress and fear for cats and dogs can include a reluctance to eat, or refusal to go outside to use the loo and this may lead to some unfortunate accidents indoors. If you have an outdoor cat, try offering a litter tray for them as an alternative relief spot away from the scary outdoors – introduce one ahead of fireworks. Dogs may additionally tremble, feeling needy of your attention, barking excessively and panting – this is how Smudge reacts to thunderstorms and fireworks. Don’t despair as with the following tips you’ll be able to prevent accidents and help keep your pets calm.

1. Firework desensitisation training

You may have come across a cat or dog who’s completely calm during fireworks and who’s owner claims they’ve never had issues nor training. There’s some truth to the time of year your cat or dog was born having an impact. Kittens and puppies can be fearless and the earlier they come across loud sounds, the less likely they’ll be fearful of them. Prevention is always better than a cure, so as early as possible, work to desensitise and familiarise your kitten or puppy to loud noises like fireworks (or in the case of Boo electric toothbrushes). It’s important to do so while they’re happy, safe and distracted e.g. during playtime or when they’re feeding so that it’s background noise. As they mature to adulthood, you’ll likely have a fearless cat or dog. 
If you already have an adult cat or dog with a firework phobia, practice the same desensitisation training with them months ahead of fireworks season. There are CDs you can buy or lots of YouTube videos. This is the one we use with Smudge and Boo:

It’s less than 10 minutes which is a good amount of time for regular daily sessions. We recommend starting with the lowest volume first and after a few sessions where you cat, or dog is calm and happy, increase the volume. Continue this until you get to the loudest level of volume. Be patient, it will not happy overnight. Depending on your pets’ current level of fear, it could take months but will be worth it in the long run.

2. Feed your pet slightly earlier

When stressed or anxious pets may lose their appetite or simply feel unable to eat due to the fear fireworks evoke. We recommend feeding your cat or dog slightly earlier before the fireworks start, to ensure that your pets don’t go hungry. 

3. Provide your pet with their own safe place

For cats and dogs, even outside of firework season, it’s important to have a safe place, somewhere quiet and cosy for them to retreat to and get their well-deserved “me time”. If you crate trained your dog, hopefully you’ve held on to their crate and that should suffice as their den. To make it the ultimate doggy den, line it with comfy blankets and cover the top to help absorb any outside noise. If you’re just introducing your dog to their den, the same principles apply as introducing a puppy to a crate, check out our blog on crate training. Start a few weeks before firework season and use treats and praise to lure them in and make it a happy place to be. 
Cats generally prefer to be up high or in the case of our Boo hidden under the quilt. You know your cat best, so choose according to your pet’s preference to find them a secure spot to retreat to.

4. Tire your pet out during the day

During firework season, we recommend taking longer more adventurous walks than you would normally to tire out your dog. This will make for a tired and calmer dog in the evenings. Similarly, for cats, have longer play sessions so that they feel sleepier in the evening. The more likely they are to sleep through, the better for you and your pet.

5. Keep your pet indoors when fireworks are being let off (generally in the evenings)

You might think your cat or dog is ok with fireworks, but chances are they are not. Pets display fear and anxiety in different ways and some pets choose to suffer in silence. Make their lives easier and keep them indoors with company of course. Your being there for them during fireworks will help keep your pets feeling happy and safe.  

6. As snug as a bug in a rug

Dubbed to “take the pet out of petrified”, ThunderShirts help alleviate anxiety for your pets during thunderstorms and fireworks. Whenever thunderstorms hit, we find a heavily panting, trembling Smudge standing on top of us in bed, so we swaddle her in a blanket and hold her tight. After a few minutes her trembling ceases and she drifts back to sleep. The principle is similar with the ThunderShirts where a constant, gentle pressure is applied to a cat or dog’s torso. If you’ve never put clothing on your pet before, don’t be alarmed when they freeze – this is a natural knee jerk reaction for many pets. Be patient, and they’ll soon relax and move around as normal – always helps to have their favourite toy or treat at hand as an incentive. ThunderShirts claim to work for over 80% of pets. Sadly, when we tried, Boo point blanked refused to cooperate and whilst Smudge complied, it didn’t have a noticeable effect on her anxiety. But other pet parents swear by them and as every pet is different, it’s worth checking if this works for your pet’s anxiety. You can buy a Thundershirt online at various pet retailers or here via their direct website where they also have a money-back guarantee and free shipping. Win win!

7. Block out the noise

There are tons of relaxing, soothing music available to buy to help keep your cat or dog calm. Lots of these are available on YouTube so you can find the right sound that works for your pet. Be warned – some of these tunes are incredibly catchy and you may find yourself humming along outside of fireworks season. Here’s one of Smudge’s favourites, “Squeaky Deaky” and I can’t lie we tend to bop along too. Yoga music tends to work wonders as well.

8. The power of pheromones

There are a number of products that are synthetic copies of the natural pheromones that provide comforting effects for your cat or dog. These are available as tablets, sprays or diffuser plug ins. A natural alternative is Pet Remedy which was recommended to us and worked wonders, firmly establishing itself as a cupboard essential! Consisting of a blend of essential oils Valerian, Vetiver, Sweet Basil and Safe that are all safe for ue on pets, your home and for the environment. We love that it’s 100% natural and made in the UK– two of our favourite shopping criteria! The guys at Pet Remedy have a party season survival kit to help keep your pets at ease during fireworks. For £25 you get a 60-day diffuser, 15ml calming spray and 3 calming wipes. As it’s a natural herbal mixture, it can be used directly onto your pet’s coat bedding and soft furnishings. And if your pet hates having anything directly sprayed onto them, we recommend using the wipe, or spraying onto your hands to wipe over your pet. We’ve tested the calming wipe which you gently wipe around the muzzle, under the chin and top of your pet’s chest and that seemed to do the trick for Smudge within 5-10 minutes. It’s hard to tell with boo as her displays of fear are less visible but we will be trying the diffuser spray this party season. You can learn more about Pet Remedy at Petremedy.co.uk and if you’re interested in trying them out, we currently have a competition on facebookinstagram or twitter where you can enter to win a free kit as well as a free bag of Scrumbles.

Do’s settled, time for a few don’ts on what not to do with your pets during fireworks season?

– Let your pet lead the way and don’t do anything that they’re not comfortable with for example don’t pick up cats or try to restrain them 
– Do not coddle them. If your pet comes to you for support, cuddles are fine but don’t act frantic or fuss over them if they don’t. Pets are incredibly perceptive and if they sense you’re behaving differently to the norm this can reinforce their anxiety. – – The best thing you can do for your pets is to keep calm, act normal and simply be around for them. 
– Be understanding of their fears and do not punish your pets. 
– Don’t leave your pets outside during fireworks. Running away from the sound is the natural instinct and this leaves your pet in a vulnerable position. More runaways are reported during fireworks than at other times of the year. Keep your pet happy and safe, where they belong at home. And if the worst does happen, by ensuring that your pet is microchipped and wearing their collar with their tag, this will help them get home safely.

Our top 10 tips for caring for your pet during fireworks

1. Firework desensitisation training
2. Feed them slightly earlier
3. Provide a secure safe place
4. Tire them out during the day
5. Keep your pets indoors
6. Apply some pressure
7. Play soothing music
8. Pet remedy
9. Keep calm and act normal
10.Be there for them

Fun for all?

Outside of cats and dogs, the loud bangs of fireworks can cause unease and disruption for many other animals including humans. Fireworks are much louder than the 120 decibels pain threshold listed by the World Health Organisation and can lead to hearing loss. Did you know that by law a town in Italy, Collechio, only has quiet fireworks display?  
Are you planning on hosting a party during fireworks season? Why not up the ante and throw a laser light show and dazzle your guests with something that’s both an eco-friendly alternative and one the animal kingdom will thank you for.

And finally, some key fireworks fuelled events for your diary – take note!

– Bonfire Night
– 7th of November – Diwali
– Christmas Eve
– Christmas
– Boxing Day
– New Year’s EvePlanning ahead is crucial and thankfully there are key dates for you to stay prepared. Outside of these dates, there may be other parties involving fireworks so continue to keep your survival kit at the ready. 
Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments and if you’ve found any useful tips for keeping your pets happy during fireworks, please do share. 
Thanks for reading, 
Aneisha, Jack, Smudge and Boo x

Let’s talk about Feeding Kittens

Let’s talk about Feeding Kittens

So, you’ve decided to bring a new fluff ball into your life? How exciting but before you rush ahead to set your new kitten their own Instagram page, let’s get down to the importance of kitten food, what and how much to feed your new kitten and why you need to feed kitten food, not cat food. Outside of food, there are lots of things you can do to ease the transition for your new kitten – check out our survival guide on bringing a kitten home here. A little read and prep now and your resulting healthy, strong feline with a catwalk worthy glossy coat, will thank you and become the talk of the town, you’re welcome ☺️.

eat, sleep, repeat – your kittens first few weeks

Before your kitten comes home, it’s mother would have been its primary carer. Kittens are completely dependent on their mother for nutrition and care up until 4 weeks old. Kittens eyes and ears aren’t able to function until around 2 weeks old, and until they are 6 days old, they haven’t even developed the shivering reflex so need a warm environment and lots of cuddles with their mum.

Like all mammals, cats produce special milk for their young, called colostrum, which provides nutrition and support for their kitten’s immune system. Kittens will develop quickly and at 4 weeks old they’re ready to be introduced to solid food and have more energy and awake time to explore the big wide world. 

when to wean kittens onto solid foods

It’s at 4 weeks old that they’ll start their weaning onto solid foods, slowly at first still mainly consuming milk from their mum. Their deciduous or milk teeth start to emerge from 3-5 weeks old, so until they’re at least 5 weeks old, they won’t yet be able to chew solid food, therefore mix with some warm water to soften. A lot of people ask whether they should soften solid food with milk. In short, no, water is best in this case!

Just as all food is not the same, all milk is not the same. Cow’s milk has a very different composition to cat’s milk for example cow’s milk is much higher in lactose and may cause diarrhoea, so shouldn’t be used for kittens. Whilst there are kitten milks available, these vary wildly, and are normally for helping orphaned kittens and never as good as the real stuff. Warm water is the best option for softening – after 6 weeks old, they can chew dry food without the need for softening.

your kitten has flown the nest – now what? what to feed your kitten?

Kitten food, right? A complete, high quality kitten food will provide your kitten with what they need to live well and develop into the cat they deserve to be. Typically, your breeder will give you some food or recommend a food that they’ve been feeding for you to continue to use. As your kitten’s immune systems is still developing when you get him or her and will not be fully developed until 16 weeks of age, so unless it’s something inappropriate, try to stick to what they’ve been weaned onto, particularly in those first few days where they’re getting used to their new home. It’s a stressful period for any kitty. You can always transition to your chosen kitten food after they’re 16 weeks old. If you really don’t like the quality of the food they’re currently on and wish to do it sooner, wait a few days once you kitten has settled in and then gradually introduce the new food in increments over a period of 7-10 days.

but, why do you need to feed kitten food?

Believe it or not, that cute tiny thing is going to increase forty to fiftyfold as they mature to adulthood – you’ll see the biggest changes during the first 3-6 months, so snap a way to lock down those memories. This is one of my fave of our Boo:

Rapid growth calls for support, more nutrients, higher protein requirement for building those new tissues etc. – with the exception of lactation the level of nutrient and energy needs during your kitten’s growth period exceeds any other stage of life, so a complete high-quality kitten food is crucial.  

what constitutes a high quality kitten food?

1. quality, digestible animal protein

Cats are carnivores and need meat protein. The first thing to check is whether your kitten food has a high level of meat protein – say no to pea protein or potato protein and always ensure it’s a named source e.g. chicken rather than “animal” or “meat” so you can trust and know what’s in the food. Secondly, is it a high quality and highly digestible meat protein? This is important for delivering sufficient levels of all of the essential amino acids your kitten needs. Percentages are a dangerous and confusing game – the rules of labelling are currently quite vague. Some manufacturers name the exact % of ingredients in the food, some quote the % of meat that makes up the overall protein level.

Always be sure to compare things on a dry matter basis for a level playing field. E.g. for fresh meat, take into consideration that roughly 70% of this is water. So, for example if a food has 20% fresh chicken, taking into consideration the level of water, this is equivalent to 6% of dry chicken. Optimal levels of protein should be between 30-36% for kittens and the majority of this from meat, not vegetable protein – look out for “pea protein” or “potato protein” in the ingredients list. Vegetable protein isn’t easy to digest for our feline friends nor contains all the amino acids they need.

So, there are lots of percentages to keep in mind. For example Scrumbles Kitten food is 35% protein with 77% Chicken composition but 97% Animal Protein relative to total protein – confusing eh?

2. docosahexaenoic acid or dha

Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids DHA along with Arachidonic acid (AA) are essential both prenatal and postnatal for your kitten in order for normal retinal and neurological development. Salmon oil is an excellent source of natural essential omega fatty acids EPA & DHA whilst animal fat provides AA.

3. a complete diet

Cats are obligate carnivores but for a complete diet they can’t solely eat meat sources as this is deficient in essential nutrients like calcium and phosphorus.

should cats eat dry food or wet food?

I love the web, but when it comes to research and facts, it can be a dangerous tool. I was surprised (and elated) when I learnt that Kel from Keenan and Kel didn’t die in a tragic accident in 2006 after all – it’s just one of the many internet myths out there. In the same vein, there is a lot conjecture out there about dry food for cats. So let’s break it down…

One of the common motivations to choose wet food over dry, is that there is a belief that it will prevent urinary tract issues, which are sadly common amongst cats. It comes from the assumption that wet food, at around 75% water or above will avoid dehydration vs dry kitten food which contains less than 10%. Will feeding wet food help prevent urinary tract disease? Unfortunately, not. Dehydration is just one of many risk factors. Other risk factors include a poor diet, obesity, age and gender. Studies show the most common cause are uroliths or stones. A more acidic urine pH is favourable as a preventative method, and this can be achieved via the diet – an increase in animal or fish protein intake will contribute to a more acidic pH.  

Hydration reassurance is a benefit of wet kitten food and many kittens find wet food more appealing due to the texture and stronger smell but as every kitten has their own preference, you might find that yours like our Boo, prefers dry food. It’s important if you feed a dry diet to always have drinking water available as your kitten will need to drink more. A benefit to dry kitten food is that if your kitten prefers to free feed, it won’t spoil if left out for the day and vs wet food they’re less likely to overfeed and become overweight. Another belief is that dry food can help promote better dental health but the jury is still out on that. 

In short, it doesn’t matter if you choose to feed wet food or dry food to your kitten or cat. What matters is the quality of the food. Cats and kittens are obligate carnivores and require a diet high in meat. Assess the ingredient make up of your chosen kitten food and ensure it has meat first, is low in carbohydrates and watch out for mentions of vegetable protein like “pea protein” which may be tying to compensate for a lack of animal protein in the food – it’s a poor subsititute. There is a wave of natural, healthy kitten food available across both dry and wet food formats to give your kitten everything they need to thrive.

how much to feed a kitten?

How long is a piece of string? Every food has a different nutritional density and so it’s best to consult the manufacturers guidelines to understand feeding requirements. If you’re feeding Scrumbles, you can use our feeding tool on Scrumbles Kitten Food product page.

For the first few weeks of life, your kitten will have nursed up to 6 times per day. Small, frequent feeding times are crucial as they develop because of their tiny tummies. The debate is still out on encouraging grazers or not – cats have fantastic personalities and they’re daily routine will vary so establishing set eating times can prove difficult, albeit not impossible. If you’re a free feeder, fret not as once your kitten reaches adulthood, they’re pretty good at self-regulating their energy intake and typically will not overeat. Still stick to only dishing out their daily requirement, each day to avoid excessive weight gain.

As kittens, it’s important not to overfeed as this can lead to accelerated growth and predispose your kitten to obesity later in life. Regular weight checks and sticking to feeding guidelines should help you keep the bulge at bay. Similarly, whilst your kitten is growing, we’d recommend you steer clear of treats, supplementing their diet can actually be detrimental to their health. It’s additional calories your kitten doesn’t need and a lot of treats out there have all sorts of nasties including sugar and salt – lots of affection and play time is the best treat you can give.

should you give kitten treats?

A complete diet is all your kitten needs and we’d recommend against treats as many treats have added nasties like sugar and salt and are not nutritionally balanced. Play and affection is the best treat you can give to your kitten.

when to transition kittens to adult food.

Some kitties mature before others and might have fully matured as young as six months old. Your kitten’s transition to adulthood will bring with it changes in personality, not unlike a teenager which can be tricky at times. Be patient and continue to show him or her plenty of affection whilst they go through this teething period. Your vet will be able to help you determine when your kitten has truly reached adulthood but generally speaking, at 12 months you’ll be able to transition to adult food. As a rule of thumb, larger cats like Maine Coons mature more slowly so they will require kitten food for longer – in some cases up to 2 years. Treat the transition the same as changing any type of food for your furry friend with a gradual introduction, increasing the amount of adult food over a period of 7-10 days until your kitten is feeding the new food exclusively.

Dog teeth cleaning and why it matters

Dog teeth cleaning and why it matters

why is it important for dogs to have healthy teeth? 

If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to have tooth ache, gum disease or even a dreaded root canal, you’ll know just how miserable it is to suffer from these kinds of inflictions. As many as 80% of dogs face these same issues, suffering silently with oral health issues and often unbeknownst to us, their pawrents. 

Just as in humans, plaque occurs naturally for dogs collecting on the surface of teeth and under the gum line. Left undisturbed it can lead to serious issues. Plaque itself is difficult to see, but after a while it calcifies and develops into tartar a hard, brown/yellow stain or deposit on the tooth.

Plaque and tartar can lead to a whole range of issues like gingivitis, pyorrhoea, cavities and periodontitis. If these issues are left to develop not only are they incredibly painful but can evolve into something serious and even life threatening. Pre-emptive action is the best way to avoid these issues and introducing a simple daily routine will lead to longer happier lives for you both.  

4 simple ways to get those bad dog teeth in shape?

  1. It all starts with what goes in – choose a high-quality food with lots of meat, no nasties and the right ingredients to develop strong teeth for your dog. We advocate the inclusion of a high quality dry food to help scrape off tartar as your dog chews.
  2. Regularly brushing their teeth – if you’ve never tried this before, read on for our how to guide and to understand how often to brush your dog’s teeth. We’ll admit it’s not always an easy task but stay strong, be vigilant and you’ll start reaping the benefits
  3. Put down the dog treats – a complete diet and lots of love is all your dog needs but in moderation and with the right doggie treats, that’s okay and helpful for training your dog, particularly in Fido’s early years. Be sure to check the ingredients to avoid nasties – believe it or not some treats including those marketed as dental chews contain sugar.
  4. Give the dog a bone – Raw bones make the perfect treat and can help promote healthy teeth. As they chew bones help scrape teeth clean knocking off tartar. Be careful not to give pork, chicken or fish bones nor cooked bones to avoid splintering.

how can I check my dog’s oral health?

The simple answer is to look inside their mouth. The first sign of oral health problems is bad breath and it can be deadly! As dental problems worsen you may find that your dog is reluctant to eat and may show signs of losing weight. We recommend you regularly check inside for tell-tale signs of tartar, plaque and swollen gums as well as an annual dental examination at the vets to keep your pets teeth healthy. Don’t hesitate to ask your vet to thoroughly check their teeth, gums and breath. If on inspection you notice tartar build up or other signs of oral health problems, it’s best to consult with your vet. You might require a professional clean or even surgery. 

dog teeth cleaning musts

Arm yourself with:

  • A suitable brush – most pet shops stock a whole array of options here from finger brushes to those more like your own. Most will do the trick just fine, but think about the size of your dog’s mouth and if you’re starting new, what they’re likely to let you put in their mouth.
  • Dog friendly toothpaste – it’s important not to use human toothpaste, as they usually contain fluoride, which is toxic to dogs.
  • Patience & determination – but you already made it this far, you’ll be fine!

If you’re dealing with an adult dog, like our Smudge was, they will likely not be overly pleased at the idea of you forcing a brush into their mouth even with the bribe of meaty flavoured toothpaste.

You can start by simply using your finger to rub over your dog’s teeth and gums the first few times – perhaps after a good walk or play so they’re more inclined to lie there without too much fuss. Go at their pace. If they get agitated after a minute, let them off the hook. You want it to be a pleasant experience and the goal is to be able to do it regularly without upset. Lots of praise and play after the event will help the next time!

Once your dog is used to you feeling around their teeth with your finger, it’s time to bring out the toothbrush. It may take a few tries and some coercion, but stay strong, stick with it and it’ll become a fun bonding time for you and your dog. 

Start at the back brushing softly in circular motions over the teeth and gum line and work to the front. 30 seconds a side for the top and the same on the bottom is a good guide for a regular clean.

For smaller mouths and teeth it can be really tricky and can take a few goes to get the knack, but you’ll feel it and hear it when you are brushing properly.

how often should you brush your dog’s teeth?

The straight answer is every day. Or as often as you can. It is a big commitment but ultimately, it’s worth it and is an important part of helping your dog lead a longer, healthier and happier life.

are dog dental chews as effective as brushing?

Tough chew toys are a great supplement to oral health, but they are not an alternative to brushing your dog’s teeth. When it comes to dog dental chews, we hesitate to advocate these since some of them are filled with some pretty dubious ingredients including sugar, so we avoid them all together. A raw bone or antler, in a suitable size, is a more natural and sustainable alternative and usually gets a tail wag approval. Just be sure to keep your eye on them in case of choking.

existing tartar on dogs teeth, fret not!

If brushing teeth is new to you, don’t worry. We started when Smudge was an adult and her teeth are now nice and healthy. There are a couple of options to remove existing tartar from your dog’s teeth. You could take a trip to the vet’s for a thorough clean. This can be expensive and stressful for you and your pup particularly if it involves anaesthetic so it’s something we try to avoid. There are dental professionals who will clean your pet’s teeth without anaesthetic and depending on how confident you feel, it might be something you can do at home. When we first started brushing Smudge’s teeth, she had existing tartar and with a lot of patience, and over the course of short sessions, we removed the tartar, tooth by tooth with the help of a dental pik.

Puppy Socialisation Checklist

Puppy Socialisation Checklist

why puppy socialisation is important for you and your pup

We’re often told how important the formation years are for your children. The same can be said for puppies albeit this period is much shorter so important to get right. The right puppy socialisation is an essential part in the development of a happy, well-rounded dog. For dogs to grow into friendly, comfortable adults, they need to be properly introduced to lots of other people, dogs and varied experiences as a young puppy.

The experiences your puppy has will help determine their future temperament and character. A puppy with negative experiences and poor socialisation can grow to be a very worried, anxious dog and is more likely to develop behavioural problems.

We’ve combined what we’ve learnt over the years from our experiences with Smudge and research and findings from the brightest and best out there. Keep reading for the Scrumbles socialisation checklist and find out our top tips for happy sociable dogs…

the sooner the better

The younger your puppy is, the easier it will be to expose them to new experiences. Young puppies have no fear and will be much more open to trying new things and meeting new people. Depending on the breeder and situation, puppies flock the nest from 8-12 weeks and will be ready to start experiencing new things as soon as they get home.

A new puppy is both playful and daring. So, this is the best time to introduce them to as many things as possible. Even whilst they are with their mothers, you can start to socialise a pup with frequent visits. But bear in mind, until your puppy is fully vaccinated, they should be house bound! Your puppy will have a course of two vaccinations, one of which should have already been sorted by the breeder at 6-10 weeks old. The second vaccination is usually given two to four weeks later. If you’re getting your puppy before the second vaccination, check with your vet to find out when it’s due and remember your puppy won’t be fully protected until a week after the second vaccination so until then, unless you know a dog is fully vaccinated it’s best to keep socialisation to humans only.

As soon as your puppy is ready to brave the outside world, get out there and adventure together. Sign yourself up to local puppy classes, walk around your local parks – a great way to meet other dogs and owners and invite friends over to let your puppy interact with as many new people and furriends as possible. The more people and furry things your puppy meet, the more sociable they’ll become. Get them used to as many experiences as possible like loud sounds and taking them on car journeys.

If you rescue or adopt an older puppy say 18 weeks onwards, then you will need to get started right away. It is harder to socialise an older puppy or dog who may have become more cautious but not impossible. Act fast! This is the perfect time to enrol in a puppy class or playgroup. The more time you can spend interacting with other people and dogs, the better.

safety first

Take your puppy to get properly fitted for a collar or harness and lead, and practice putting it on and off in the house and garden before venturing into the big outdoors. Particularly for an excitable tugging puppy, we’d recommend a harness over a collar, which is more comfortable for them and avoids them feeling strangled when they tug. A non-extending lead is best for puppies as you have more control over where they go.

taking your puppy to the vet or groomers

You’ll benefit from taking a trip to the vets in these first few weeks. Not only will you need to check your pup’s health, introducing the vet early in life will help your pooch see it as a safe place later in life. The vet can be a daunting environment for dogs of all ages. It’s full of new sights and experiences. The more comfortable you can make your puppy feel at the vets, the easier trips will be in future.

Similarly, if your dog is likely going to take trips to the groomers later in life, take the opportunity to have them visit early on. Many groomers offer puppy sessions for the very purpose of giving them the chance to get comfortable there, even if it’s just for a quick wash.

So how can you help? Get your puppy used to being handled. Spend a few minutes daily, opening their mouths to look at their teeth, looking inside their ears and touching their paws. These are all the same things the groomers and vets will do, so get your puppy comfortable with these experiences now so that it’s not a big deal for them when they get their regular check-ups and grooms.

consistency is key

Setting clear boundaries for your puppy in early life is a must for creating lifelong habits. After choosing a set of rules for your pup, you need to make sure everyone in the family is on board and will stick to the same rules. There’s little point you trying to keep your pooch off the furniture if the kids let him snuggle up whenever you leave the room!

You’re also going to be living by the phrase “if at first it doesn’t succeed, try and try again”. Generally, puppies are excited by new experiences and people and will embrace them with lots of enthusiasm. However, if your puppy is shy or cautious the first time it’s introduced to new people or objects, don’t give up! Equally don’t force it. Simply let him or her remove themselves from the area and try again at a later date. Your shy pup will need more support from you to build their confidence and help them grow into an adventurous, daring dog.

Before introducing anything new to your puppy, it’s important to be in the right environment to keep your furry friend safe and comfortable. Don’t try to rush into too many new things and overwhelm your pup. If you want to build consistent habits – which, with a puppy, you should! – start with a calm dog anytime you’re introducing anything new. If your puppy is already worked up, they won’t be as receptive of the new experience as you would want. The idea is to ensure these early experiences are positive so that they enjoy them in the future. One thing at a time is best to begin with. So, if your puppy is meeting a new friend, consider hosting the meeting in a familiar environment, where your dog feels safe.

And always remember positive reinforcement with lots of praise or a treat ready to reward your pup whenever they approach anything new.

meeting the family

Of course, you’re going to want to introduce your new best friend to the rest of the family straight away. As long as any adult dogs are well and have had all their vaccinations, you’re fine to let them meet. It’s important to make the experience a positive one for both dogs. If either animal starts to become overwhelmed or scared, remove the puppy from the situation and distract them with toys.

As with all new experiences, your pup should be introduced to other animals at their own pace. It’s essential that your puppy is introduced to a variety of animals as a youngster, so they will be comfortable as an adult dog. If you have other pets (like cats, rabbits or hamsters), make sure they are all comfortable around each other before leaving them alone together.

We know children will be desperate to play and cuddle your new pup, but this can be overwhelming and intimidating for Fido. Kids don’t behave like adults and need to be shown how gentle to touch puppies and dogs. Always supervise until you’re comfortable both child and pup are well accustomed to one another. Have plenty of toys and treats available and let the puppy lead the way. They’ll be happy to play and be stroked and best friends in no time!

Free Delivery on orders over £25! Dismiss