We caught up with Katy Corton, a veterinary specialist at PDSA, and Rebecca Chapman, a Section Manager for Small Animals at Woodgreen, to find out the most common questions and concerns they hear from pet parents.
Question 1: Is my pet overweight?
KC: We would love all pet owners to be able to body condition score their pets. You should be able to feel but not see your dog or cat’s ribs and see a waistline when looking down on your pet from above. That is a really good way of making sure your pet isn’t overweight.
RC: The average adult rabbit should weigh between 2.2 and 2.5kg and appear lean and pear shaped - large shoulders or a double chin is a sign of obesity.
Question 2: Do I really need vaccinations?
KC: Vets can discuss with owners the specific risks facing their pets, but there are still many cases of vaccine preventable illness and deaths across the UK each year. The risk of any adverse reaction to a vaccine is hugely outweighed by the risk of these infectious diseases.
Question 3: When should I neuter my cat or dog?
KC: We recommend cats are neutered at 4 months. Most dogs can be neutered at 6 months old but in the case of large or giant breed dogs we recommend speaking to your vet to decide the best time at which to neuter. Spaying females prevents the development of uterine infections and reduces the chance of mammary cancers in later life. Castrating males prevents testicular cancer and reduces the chances of prostate disease as they get older.
Question 1: How can I stop my dog being naughty?
KC: The best way to train a dog is to positively reward behaviours you want and ignore those you don’t want. Research shows dogs respond very well to this type of training. If owners have more serious behavioural problems, they should speak to their vet about a possible referral to an expert from the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.
Question 2: What should I feed my dog and how much?
KC: Puppies, adult dogs and older dogs have very different nutritional requirements so owners need to feed a diet appropriate to their pet’s life stage. This also helps prevent obesity as their energy requirements will be matched to the food provision and fat level.
How much to feed depends on the food but it is important for owners to look at the feeding guide on the packaging and work out what to feed according to their pet’s ideal weight – not the weight they are. A weight clinic with a local veterinary nurse will help owners realise what their pet’s ideal weight should be, and then how much to feed. They just need to remember to take the packet with them.
Owners should weigh out food each day to make sure they are feeding the correct amount. Guessing the amount tends to end up with overfeeding and obesity.
Katy’s Top Tip: Make sure treats are not given in addition to a daily allowance – keep some of their daily kibble back and use that as treats.
What should I be feeding my rabbits?
RC: To help your rabbits live a long and healthy life, their diet should be as natural and varied as possible. Hay makes up the grand majority of their diet and bunnies need a constant varied supply to graze on. This should be soft, long, green hay that smells sweet and fresh.
A small percentage of their diet should be made up of a daily ‘5 a day’ selection of safe plants and vegetables and an egg cup’s worth of good-quality pellet food.
Daily fresh water is extremely important! Bottles are suitable but many rabbits prefer to drink from a bowl.
What should my guinea pig’s teeth look like?
RC: When carrying out your guinea pig’s weekly health check, it is important to look at the front teeth: they should be white and smooth and clearly wearing against each other. If your piggy is missing a tooth, one or more appears a lot longer or they are wearing them down at an angle, it is advisable to seek advice from a guinea pig-friendly vet.
Rebecca’s Top Tip: Feeding your guinea pigs a healthy diet of good quality hay, fresh forage, including apple/willow twigs, and opportunities to graze on grass will help keep their teeth in good shape.
How often should I bathe my guinea pigs?
RC: Guinea pigs are prone to skin issues such as fur mites, fungal infections and ringworm. Ideally, your guinea pig should be bathed twice a year in piggy safe products to protect them from these. Signs to look out for are:
Rebecca’s Top Tip: Pet shop treatments such as powders and drops rarely work when it comes to guinea pig skin problems. Ivermectin 1% for small pets is available online or from your vet and is the best form of treatment for lice and mites.
Find the PDSA, Woodgreen plus many other animal experts at the National Pet Show. We have a whole timetable of expert talks and demonstrations so you can find all about pet care and advice on becoming a pet owner. Tickets on sale now get yours here!
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