Overweight Pets

o0verweightIs your pet a Usain Bolt , muscular fit and active or is it Mr Blobby in a fur coat? Chances are it’s somewhere between the two. Not many of us can expect to run a sub 10 second 100 metres, but we should be able to run it without collapsing halfway for a rest and half a bottle of oxygen. Our pets are the same and whilst not every dog is going to catch the rabbit or win the 4th race at Romford Dogs, they should at least be able to run faster than the average person and get a ball back to you before you get bored waiting for them.

Sadly obesity in pets is all too common and we see a lot of them at Cherrydown every month. Last year a major survey was done to find out more about obese pets and there were some interesting statistics:

There are approximately 2.9 million dogs and over 3 million cats in the UK that are overweight.  However, 84% of owners believe their pet is the correct weight.  This shows there is a big misunderstanding when it comes to a pet’s ideal weight, or more people need get down to Specsavers!

Some other facts include:

Rabbits have a worse diet when compared to cats and dogs.  42% of rabbits do not get enough hay every day and they are fed too much rabbit muesli.  This contributes to obesity and is linked with painful dental disease.

90% of dog owners have admitted giving their pooch cheese, crisps, cakes, biscuits and takeaways.

If dogs were meant to eat crisps there’d be photos of Gary Lineker on dog food packaging. Thankfully there aren’t, and Nigella Lawson isn’t on them either so that must mean the product from cake & biscuit baking is not meant for dogs either. So why do we do it? Well…….

48% of owners say they give their pet a treat because they believe it makes their pet happy.

29% of owners say they give their pet a treat to make themselves feel happy.

100% of dictionary writers would say the important word here is ‘treat’. If you have something regularly or all the time it’s not really a treat is it? Would Christmas be as exciting if it happened every day? Would we Brits get the same pleasure from a beautiful sunny day if we were guaranteed them every day through the summer? Of course not, it’s the fact that it’s a treat that makes it so good. Giving your pet a treat is fine, but just remember that a treat should be a very occasional thing to make it special; a bit like Gary Lineker scoring from outside the penalty area.

The serious bit here folks is that obesity in pets often leads to other health issues. Too much strain is put on important organs like the heart, on bones, joints and muscles. Incidence of disease rises and life expectancy decreases. I wonder what percentage of pets that would make happy?

If you want to make your pet happy play with it, exercise it and have fun with it. When you get the lead out and walk to the door most dogs go nuts, and that’s because they’re excited and happy because they know they’re going out for some exercise. They know it makes sense which makes them smarter than some of us!

So what is the ideal weight for your pet? Can you play a tune on their ribs, if so then they’re probably too skinny. Can you actually feel their ribs, if not then they’re almost certainly too fat. Our vets and nurses can help you to realise what the ideal weight for your pet is and they can give advice on nutrition, diet and exercise to help them keep to that weight. We even have two nurses that run FREE weight clinics for your pets. All you have to do is contact us and ask for an appointment with Sarah or Rikki.

As this blog draws to a close, I’m going to ask a question that I think may not be too tricky…… would you prefer an overweight pet that is more likely to get sick, die younger and cost you more in vets bills, or would you like a fitter healthier pet at the right weight that will almost certainly cost you less in the long run and live longer? Bit of a no brainer really. Not only that, but you can get the help and advice you need to achieve this for Free (but please don’t tell Jonathan!).

Prevention is better than cure as the saying goes, and preventing obesity is easier than getting a pet to lose weight.  A good healthy diet and plenty of exercise from a young age will help your pet stay trim and make it less likely to become fat when it gets older. At Cherrydown we strongly believe good preventative care is essential to your pet’s health and that’s why we not only run free weight clinics, but keep the price of the nutritional pet foods we sell to less than our competitors. So please give us a call or pop in and see us so we can help keep your pet as healthy as possible.

healthy pets

Owning a Rabbit – Part 1

Did you know there are approximately 1.7 million rabbits kept as pets in the UK? This makes them the third most popular pet after cats and dogs. There are many different breeds all varying in size, shape and personality.  It is generally thought owning a rabbit is easy. However, as they need daily attention, have quite complex needs and can live for a long time (typically 8-12 years or even longer) keeping a rabbit is a major commitment.

Buying a rabbit

If you are looking to get a rabbit, going to a reputable breeder is a good option.  They will have planned the breeding carefully and the baby rabbits should have a good temperament. They will have handled them from a young age so they get used to being picked up. You will also know the exact date of birth which will give you peace of mind that you are not taking the baby rabbits away too young.

Another option is to go to a rescue centre. Every year many rabbits get abandoned because the owners either lose interest or can’t look after them properly.  If a rabbit goes into a rescue centre they will receive a vet check to ensure it’s healthy before being put forward for adoption. The rabbit’s temperament will be checked to ensure they will be safe for children to handle.  Also, many centres will ensure the rabbits are micro-chipped and neutered before you take them home.  You may need to fill in forms, have an interview and possibly have a home visit. This is done to ensure you are able to look after the rabbit properly.

A lot of people will get their first rabbit from a pet shop. However, very few of them will get their rabbits from private/reputable breeders. They will more than likely get them from commercial breeders and the rabbits have been born as part of a mass breeding programme.  These types of breeders are aiming for quantity rather than quality.  Also, the baby rabbits won’t have been handled before reaching the pet shop which means they may be more afraid of humans.  If you do go to a pet shop, ensure the staff know what they are talking about and are able to provide you with all the information you need.

When getting a rabbit there are a couple of other things to consider:

Rabbits are very social animals and do not like to be alone.  If possible you should keep your rabbit with another friendly rabbit unless your vet has told you otherwise.  Rabbits can get bored very easily and can suffer if they have no company or nothing to do. If you have been told to keep your rabbit on its own make sure you interact with it every day.

If you already own a rabbit and you are getting another one, introduce them gradually and do not leave them on their own at first. It may be a good idea to put them in a space that is new to both to them.  Normally, young rabbits that are bought up together will get on, but if they are introduced as adults they may fight.

If you have other pets, a cat or a dog, do not leave your rabbits unsupervised when they are around. Even if you know they all get on. It’s better to be safe than sorry

Finally, unless you are planning on breeding it would be advisable to get your rabbits neutered as this can reduce the likelihood of fighting in both male and female rabbits. Another advantage is neutering female rabbits also stops them getting uterine cancer.

In the next part of our blog we will look at diet and advise on where to keep your rabbit – indoors or outdoors.

As always, if you have any questions you can call us at the clinic or leave a question on our Facebook page. Also, you can pop in to get a free check up with one of our rabbit nurses who can give advice on diet, dental, neutering, vaccinations, housing and boredom breaking activities to help keep your bunny happy

Fleas

Even though you may have the cleanest pet in the world and your house is sparkling, your furry friend may still get fleas.

It is commonly assumed that fleas jump from one animal to another but that is not the case. Pets generally pick up fleas from infested areas such as the local park, your own garden or any place where animals with fleas (hedgehogs, foxes or another cat or dogs) can be found.

Fleas are tiny, dark brown creatures which feed on your pet by sucking their blood. They move around on the surface of the skin, dodging between the hairs and are difficult to see.  They can cause great discomfort to your pet as some animals are sensitive to flea bites and can have an allergic reaction. This can lead to more serious skin problems such as an infection due to excessive scratching.

If your pet become infested with fleas,  scratching may not be the only issue they face. As fleas feed on blood,  young or frail animals can become weak, flea larvae can become infected with tapeworm eggs and if your pet eats an infected flea when it is being groomed it can become host to this parasite. Fleas can also spread diseases. Myxomatosis can be spread by fleas and this can be serious for rabbits.

There are few things you can do to check for fleas. Groom your pet using a fine tooth comb over a white surface or some kitchen towel. If fleas or flea droppings are present, they will drop onto the surface. If you think you have flea droppings, add a few drops of water to them and if they go a reddish-brown colour then there is a good chance your pet has fleas. Another good idea is to get a flea spray that you can use around your home.

If you believe there is a problem with fleas we suggest you speak to our vets or nurses about the best course of action for your pet.

Rabbits – Diet and Husbandry

RABBITS – Diet and husbandry

Water should always be available.

Avoid muesli based diets – it makes rabbits more likely to become selective feeders and not to obtain the full nutrition needed.

Pellets such as Excel should be fed but should make up no more than 10% of the rabbits total diet.

70% of a rabbit’s diet should be grass and hay – it is important that they chew grass and hay to prevent teeth overgrowth. A variety of hay types can be used as it encourages different chewing patterns and is better for dental health.

The rest of the diet should be made up of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, sage, basil, and carrot tops. Carrots and fruits should be fed as treats in small quantities and they contain a large amount of sugar that rabbits can digest very well and lead to obesity. Avoid onions, leek and rhubarb as these are toxic. For a comprehensive list see

https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-diet/

The amount fed should be modified to prevent obesity. An obese rabbit is unable to groom or to eat the soft faeces they have to consume to obtain vital B vitamins. It also leads to a ‘sticky bum’ and makes a rabbit more prone to fly-strike in the summer months. Obesity will make mobility more difficult in the older rabbit that may also have osteoarthritis. For weight clinics, please see one of our nurses.

If your rabbit is becoming a selective feeder, it may be due to overgrowth of the teeth, which can make chewing some foods difficult or even painful. You may notice dribbling down the chin and your rabbit may not be eating the soft faeces (caecotrophs) or passing any faeces as normal. Some rabbits also develop watery/crusty eyes. If concerned, please bring your rabbit in to see one of our dental nurses who can assess the teeth

Exercise is important to prevent obesity. Digestion and gut motility are encouraged by your rabbit moving around and therefore it is important that your rabbit should have access to an area outside of their hutch every day that is large enough for them to run around. For more information, please see

https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-housing/

“The Vet Says……” – Myxomatosis in Rabbits

Perhaps one of the most well known animal diseases, it has had much publicity since it decimated the rabbit population after introduction to the UK in the early 1950’s. So virulent is the disease that 95% of rabbits in the UK had died by 1955. Since then it has gone on to be a major killer of wild rabbits over the years and can also be found in domestic rabbits. The disease is able to mutate and comes back with a slightly different strain making eradication very difficult. The severity of outbreaks tends to vary and there was quite a major outbreak in the South east of England in 2000. Myxomatosis is a threat to all rabbits but the greatest threat is to wild rabbits.

Those domesticated rabbits that live indoors are at least risk but they are still susceptible to it. Domesticated rabbits living outside in gardens and hutches are at an increased risk, especially if wild animals can get in to the garden, or they come into contact with a dog that hunts wild rabbits. The myxoma virus  is mainly spread by biting animals such as mosquitoes, fur mites or rabbit fleas. The fleas can go from one rabbit to another via contact with each other. The best way to protect your pet rabbit is to have it vaccinated against the disease. Myxomatosis  is a dreadful disease and the animals die a horrible long slow death. They can take up to two weeks to die and treatment is rarely successful, so the kindest option is usually euthanasia.

Symptoms

The first sign of the most common form of the disease is often runny eyes and can be confused with conjunctivitis. In myxi however, the genitals show signs of swelling & puffiness  while  the conjunctivitis worsens until it leads to blindness. Nodules can also start to appear on the head and body. Thick pus starts to discharge from the nose and swollen eyes  and death will follow. There are two other forms of myxomatosis and these have a better recovery rate if treated quickly. One causes pneumonia type symptoms and snuffles while the other is again nodular. Symptoms in vaccinated rabbits are much the same but less severe,  and the disease is potentially treatable in vaccinated rabbits.

Prevention

Domestic rabbits have no genetic immunity against myxomatosis and it is essential these rabbits are vaccinated to give them the best chance of survival. Boosters need to be kept up to date and owners need to look out for symptoms of the disease to catch it as early as possible. If it is thought a rabbit may have contracted the disease, it should be isolated from any other rabbits to prevent spread. If there is an outbreak nearby then it is safest to get a further booster if the rabbit has not had a booster in the last 6 months. Vaccinations can be given at 6 weeks of age and can also be given to pregnant rabbits. Regular 6 monthly vaccinations are recommended. Other steps you can take are to buy hay from farms not infested with Myxi, fit insect screens to hutches and runs & prevent standing water from accumulating nearby to reduce mosquito’s appearing. Check your rabbit regularly for fleas and fur mites and if found get treatment to eliminate them. The vaccination for myxomatosis is unusual in that part of the dose also has to go into the layers of the skin (intradermally) and for this reason it is best given by a vet to ensure it is done correctly otherwise the rabbit will not be properly vaccinated.

Treatment

This is as previously mentioned and is usually unsuccessful in unvaccinated rabbits. If a vaccinated rabbit contracts the virus then treatment can be successful with good veterinary & nursing care. This will likely include

  • Regular bathing of sticky eyes and genitalia
  • Keeping them in a warm environment
  • Fluid treatment
  • Feeding
  • Antibiotics to prevent secondary infections

Remember

As always, prevention is better than cure. Vaccination substantially increases the chances of survival and will reduce the pain and suffering a rabbit will have to endure from catching myxomatosis.

“The Vet Says….” Fly Strike in Rabbits Part 3

This is part 3 of our The Vet Says series on fly strike in rabbits – you can read part 1 here and part 2 here. The wrong diet can increase the risk of your rabbit suffering from fly strike in a number of ways. If they are fed too much food they will become obese which means they will not be able to groom themselves properly. Also, the wrong diet greatly increases the risk of them developing dental disease which again can lead to failure to groom and a soiled perineum. Finally, simply overfeeding can result in rabbits not performing caecotrophy and getting a soiled back end. As well as fly strike, many of the problems we see in rabbits every day is caused by poor diet. So what constitutes a good diet for your rabbit? Remember that domestic rabbits are no different from wild rabbits in terms of their digestive system, so mimicking a wild rabbits diet is a good place to start. The most important component of their diet needs to be hay. Rabbits in the wild are grazers and only eat grass and other plants. They are designed to eat lots of low quality, high fibre food. This is vital for the health of their digestive system and helps to wear down their teeth, that grow continuously throughout their life. You should feed your rabbit at least its own body size in hay each day. They also can eat grass but must never be fed lawnmower clippings as these can make them ill. Secondly, you should feed your rabbit fresh vegetables. A handful morning and evening is about the right amount. In the wild, rabbits do not eat fruit or root vegetables. Green vegetables are the best to feed such as broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, kale, celery leaves, parsley, spinach. Despite the common idea that rabbits should eat carrots, they are high in sugar and should only be fed sparingly. The green carrot tops are ideal though. There are some plants that are very dangerous to your rabbit and must be avoided. These include: Amaryllis, Bindweed, Bracken, Elder Poppies, Foxglove, Laburnum, Yew, Lily-of-the-Valley, Lupin, Most evergreens, Oak leaves, Privet, Ragwort, Rhubarb leaves. If in any doubt ask your vet. Finally, you can feed some commercial rabbit food. What are the different types of commercial rabbit food you can feed? Find out next time!