For some of us Christmas is a time of great anticipation and excitement, something to be looked forward to as soon as the supermarkets have cleared up after Halloween! For others it can be a time of hard work, and of-course there are those who would rather avoid it all together. Our pets are much the same, at least in my household. I have a 13 year old dog who knows full well what Christmas is about and not only waits patiently to be presented with his own presents from under the tree, and also enjoys his share of Christmas dinner. My younger dog finds it all a bit overwhelming, she loves the idea but – much like some children – can get a little overwrought and out of control. Finally, there is the poor cat who tends to make herself scarce until it is all over!
It is hard to advise people on how to handle Christmas with their pets because everyone’s Christmas, and everyone’s pet, is different. If you have animals who like to be involved that’s a good start, but remember that they may get upset by the change in routine, scared by all the noise, hustle and bustle or tired by all the activity. It is always a good idea to have somewhere that any animal can go for some time out, as a ‘retreat’ if they need some peace and quiet or when you need them out of the way of a hot oven! Of-course Christmas is also a time when many of us have more visitors than normal, or are invited to travel, and not everyone we socialise with will be as happy with our pet’s company as we are, or indeed there may be other animals your own pet’s do not get on with. It may be that you need to have a separate area where your pets can settle away from unwelcome other animals or unfamiliar people, especially if these include children who may be scared of your pet, or may well be the cause of anxiety in reverse.
We all want our pet dogs to live as long as possible, but the fact of the matter is that on average, certain dog breeds live longer than others. This might be a consideration when choosing a dog breed and it is therefore useful information to know before hand.
Life expectancy figures are based on averages. Actually the average lifespan of any dog whether purebred or of indetermine descent is between 10 to 12 years of age. The average life span of the North American or European dog is 12.8 years. This is a large increase in life span over the past 100 years and is mostly attributable to better food and better medical care. Within this 12.8 year average for all dogs is a large range of life spans where certain breeds live longer and certain breeds live less long. In general, larger dogs live shorter lives than smaller dogs. This is due to the fact that the bodies of larger dogs must work harder (are more stressed) than the bodies of smaller dogs. That said, the life expectancy of any one dog in particular is ALSO determined by the stresses in its life (both physical and psychological), what it eats and how well it is taken care of.
For example an Irish Wolfhound has a lifespan that is on average between 6 and 7 years of age whereas a toy poodle or Lhasa Apso is going to have an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years of age. As with people certain individual dogs may exceed their breed’s average life expectancy and others will fall short.
Raw feeding is the practice of feeding domestic dogs, cats and other animals a diet primarily of uncooked meat, edible bones, and organs. There have been many claims about the advantages of the diet over commercial processed food and this article hopes to bring you some of the arguments for and against this way of feeding your pet to help you make up your own mind. I’ve tried to avoid bias, and present a balanced view.
Those in favour of the diet cite many health benefits to their animals but there have been few scientific studies carried out to prove or disprove these claims.
Proposed benefits for a BARF diet include:
Reduced doggy odour and ‘dog breath’.
Naturally cleans teeth – no need for toothbrushes, de-scaling, helps prevent gum disease leading to improved general health.
Chewing raw meaty bones cleans teeth and supplies minerals, but, very importantly, dogs love it!
The time it takes for a dog to chew raw meaty bones gives their stomach time to get the acids moving.
Produces firmer, more ‘pick-upable’, smaller stools.
Can reduce vet bills (healthier dogs)
Economical to feed in comparison to quality commercial dog foods.
Puppies develop at a more appropriate rate. Quick growth spurts are avoided.
Better weight control which helps to reduce the symptoms of arthritis and obesity.
Some long standing bowel problems (e.g. constant or recurrent diarrhoea) and skin problems (chewing feet, recurrent ear infections or constant scratching) can be cured with raw food and careful selection of ingredients.
THINK AHEAD … PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE
During high levels of stress pets can be very unpredictable. They also become unable to take account of their own personal safety and may panic. Therefore, it is your responsibility to look after their safety needs.
Always make sure your pet is wearing an identity tag and are microchipped to ensure it can be returned if it escapes and becomes lost.
* During the firework season, try to stay with your dog whenever possible *
Pets rolling in carcasses and the faeces of other animals is particularly unpleasant for owners, and most of us who own dogs have had the fun task of washing the stink and mess off our pet before letting them back indoors. However its very hard to prevent such an instinctive behaviour, and we know some dogs find it harder to resist than others.
Rolling in strong smelling substances is thought to be a behaviour handed down from their ancestors. There are different theories about why they do this:
It disguises their own scent, and smelling more like their environment they can get closer to their prey before being detected.
They can take back the scent to inform their pack of their find.
You can help save a dog’s (or even a cat’s life) life by registering your pet as a potential blood donor. Every day pets just like yours need blood transfusions. For many procedures a transfusion is a clinical necessity, without animal blood donors, veterinary surgeons could not undertake important and often life-saving operations. With advances in veterinary medicine, it is possible for vets to offer higher standards of care for their patients. In human medicine, supplies of blood and blood products are available through the efforts of the National Blood Transfusion Service. Vets however must rely on their own resources. Some veterinary practices keep their own stocks, whilst others rely on animal blood registers such as The Animal Blood Register (www.animalbloodregister.com). By becoming an animal blood donor, your pet can help vets help other pets through provision of life-saving blood transfusions.
If you are interested in this scheme please contact www.petbloodbankuk.org for details of sessions. For the area served by Safe and Hound, the nearest donating sessions are held at Ellwood and Briggs Veterinary hospital in Boston.
More and more people are discovering the benefits of using natural health treatments or “holistic medicine”. Though conventional medicine has experienced many breakthroughs that make modern life better, many people are willing to give alternative remedies a try, as a safe, more natural way of dealing with less serious, or chronic health problems.
Most natural dog remedies, as opposed to treatments, fall into three main categories, herbal remedies, flower essences, and homeopathic remedies. Physical treatments such as hydrotherapy, acupuncture and reiki are considered in their own article.
As you’ll find out, there are many natural dog remedies for you to consider when trying to improve your pet’s health, some fairly mainstream (like herbs) and some more controversial (like homeopathy).The key is not to ignore your traditional veterinarian but to become familiar with these alternative treatments for dog health in order to have more options when your dog becomes ill. One idea is to work with a holistic veterinarian who is also open to some of these natural treatments for dogs. Some of these remedies have more proven effects than others, with herbal remedies being the most proven, followed by flower essences, with homeopathy remaining arguable the most controversial.
There’s a lot of information on the web and in books on using alternative remedies, please use your own judgement about the safety of using this advise, for example one book I’ve recently read recommends treating distemper with Bach flower remedies, although it does qualify this advice later on in the section by stating that ‘seriously’ ill animals should be taken to a vet. As hopefully most dog owners know, Distemper is a killer, puppies not receiving a great deal of treatment are almost guaranteed to die, even those that do receive swift hospitalisation often succumb.
Personally my advice would be to seek veterinarian treatment for illness and accidents, but perhaps try some herbal/bach flower remedies for mild/minor emotional/nervous problems. I’ve personally had success with rescue remedy and valerian for poor travellers. However, I do have a scientific background, so I’m likely to be somewhat biased against homeopathy. So please treat this article like any other information you come across, and feel free to make up your own mind!
Owning a dog is a privilege, not a right and it comes with a great deal of responsibility. If you are considering adding a dog to your life, you need to think seriously about the commitment that dog ownership entails. If you already have a dog, you need to continue to consider if you are fulfilling your obligations as a dog owner.
Being a responsible dog owner isn’t just about feeding it properly or walking it or taking it to a vet if it needs it. It’s also about fulfilling your obligations to the other people in your area, that means keeping your pet under control at all times. Making sure it doesn’t disturb other people, either by fouling or being noisy. Some people simply don’t like dogs, its not their fault, but they should be disturbed by your choice to keep one. Your pet must wear a collar and ID tag, at all times, and should be microchipped – with your contact details kept up to date – and is vaccinated annually.
If you are thinking of going out for the day or even just going to the shops then think very carefully about whether you take your dog as they should never be left alone in a car.
It is the time of year when many of us are looking forward to a well-earned holiday. Whether or not you take your pet depends on the destination, the species and personality of your pet and what other options you have.