Preparing your pet for a change in season

As we move from one season to another, we think about the number of layers we need to wear and whether we need to alter our daily routine to cope with the changes. Whilst we consider the alterations we need to make; it is important to ensure that we also prepare our pets for the season ahead.

Below are five things to consider as we head into autumn and winter:

Exercise
Even though the nights are drawing in and there’s a chill in the air, it is important to still exercise our dogs to ensure they stay fit and healthy. However, older dogs and puppies can be more sensitive to the colder weather so it may be worth keeping them inside more and looking at other ways to keep them active (e.g. interactive toys). If you still venture out for your regular walk, ensure that your dog is suitably prepared for the season, whether that be a warm coat for the cold or a reflective collar for those darker nights.

Diet
The change in season could also bring about a change in your pet’s nutrition. Food portions may need to be altered to align with their exercise regime to control their calorie intake and body weight.

Grooming
Your pet’s fur and coat acts like that ‘winter coat’ we put on to keep ourselves warm; therefore, ensuring it is kept in good condition is crucial. In addition, having clean fur helps to hold air just like when you layer clothes!

When returning from a walk, a handy tip can be to have a bowl of warm water and some towels available so that you can wipe your dogs’ paws, as this helps to remove any mud, salt or other substances they may have picked up whilst out, that can be an irritant or make them unwell.

Chemicals
With the temperature starting to drop as we transition through the seasons, we can experience colder nights and the occasional frosty mornings. As such, there is an increase in the use of chemicals such as antifreeze, coolant, and screen wash – all of which can be poisonous to your pet if ingested. Always ensure they are kept out of reach from inquisitive animals and clear up any spills promptly!

Housekeeping
Many of the points above relate to your pet being outside; however, it is equally important to ensure that you are prepared for seasonal changes inside the home. Be mindful that certain floor types that are tiled or uncarpeted can become cold, creating an uncomfortable environment for your pet to sleep on. Ensure they have a nice warm bed to cosy up into for sleep, away from the cold floors and any drafts and avoid using portable heaters to provide that extra warmth as this can pose a hazard to your pet.

Accessing our services

Whilst visiting us, we’re here to provide you and your pets with the best experience, in the safest way.

Our practice, as always, has extensive hygiene measures in place. We are still encouraging social distancing, face coverings and contactless payments. However, we are very happy to be welcoming you into our consulting rooms and reception areas.

We are operating with the following additional measures in place:

  • 1 person per appointment
  • limited numbers in waiting rooms

Thank you for your continued understanding.

We look forward to seeing you soon.

Learn how to identify and reduce worry, anxiety and stress in your pet

Just like humans, our pets can experience worry, anxiety and stress. Since we know how these emotions make us feel, we certainly want to help alleviate our pet’s distress where we can. However, our pets cannot voice their feelings, so how can we tell they are experiencing these emotions? The signs in pets are often subtle.

Do you know the most common events that your pet may find stressful?

  • Addition of new members to your household, such as another pet or a baby
  • Moving house
  • Loud noises such as fireworks or thunderstorms
  • Drastic changes to their routine
  • Trips to the kennels, cattery or vet

What does worry, anxiety and stress look like in pets?

  • Hyperactivity or stillness
  • Drooling
  • Urination or defaecation
  • Baring of teeth, lunging or biting
  • Excessive sniffing
  • Changes in appetite
  • Excessive grooming
  • Cowering or hiding away
  • Tense muscles
  • Raised hackles
  • Tight lips
  • Panting
  • Yawning
  • Flattened ears
  • Lowered tail that may be wagging in a short arc

Stressed dogs can startle easily, jumping at the slightest noise or movement. Some shake and shiver excessively or drool. They may use self-calming techniques, such as yawning, lip licking, excessive grooming or spinning. Dogs may become uncharacteristically aggressive, start growling or snapping.

As for cats, you will need to look for more subtle signs, such as overgrooming, increased vocalisation or hiding. If your cat is not using a litter box or your dog is urinating inside your home, these could be signs of stress. For many pets, stressors can lead to a relapse on previous training because they solely focus on their source of anxiety and stress. For cats, stress can cause feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC), which is bladder inflammation. Inflammation in the bladder causes the need to urinate more frequently and often will result in urinating in places other than the litter box.

Short term stress and anxiety can change your pet’s interest in food because chemicals such as adrenaline and noradrenaline are released, which causes an increase in breathing, heart rate and blood pressure.

When this happens, appetite is reduced (fight or flight response).

If you think your pet is experiencing the above, please contact us. 

What impact does it have?

 Chronic worry, anxiety and stress can negatively impact your pet’s immune system, making it more likely for them to get sick from a range of illnesses and slow their healing process. Stress hormones cause a decrease in the production of some white blood cells that create antibodies and fight off bacteria and viruses.

 How can we overcome worry, anxiety and stress in pets?

 There is no single answer that can overcome all issues. Often, it is a mixture of strategies that work best. We have detailed some tips below.

  • Find a new mentally stimulating outdoor exercise with your dog. Playing with your cat is essential in reducing their anxiety and stress, even if they spend all their time indoors.
  • Interact with your pet to stimulate their mind. Using a toy which you can both engage with will also help form a stronger relationship with your pet. Consider something you could throw, drag or swing to get their attention and maintain their interest.
  • Introduce new toys and rotate existing ones; there are lots of interactive indoor and outdoor toys available for both cats and dogs. By rotating new and old toys, you will keep your pet interested in what they are playing with. Whether a hide and seek mouse game or an IQ treat-dispensing puzzle, there is bound to be something available for your pet.
  • Give your pets places to escape for a break, especially if you have a lot going on in your home. Designate their favourite spot as a place where others don’t bother them. This will help your pet build their resilience and ability to cope with unusually high levels of social interaction.
  • A safe place to go during a storm and firework season is essential. When pets are afraid, they go where they feel the safest: the closet; under the covers in the bed; or a crate. Background noise such as a television, fans or soft music can help block out other sounds. Music therapy can help calm pets.
  • Canine and feline pheromone products can help relax your pet in strange or stressful situations. They are available as a spray or a plug-in diffuser, like an air freshener. They are best used for a few days before fireworks start and help to encourage your pet to relax.

There is lots of evidence that a mentally and physically stimulated pet is happier and healthier. By knowing your pet and observing changes in their behaviour, you will spot whether their mental wellbeing is being impacted.

If you have tried several of the techniques we’ve suggested and are concerned your pet is exhibiting signs of distress, contact your vet who will be able to offer more advice. After ensuring that your pet’s behaviour does not have a medical basis, we may refer you to a veterinary behaviourist to evaluate stress-related issues. We may also prescribe anxiety-reducing medications if appropriate.

If you need help with any behavioural issues, please get in touch.

Preparing your pets for firework season

Fireworks are used throughout the year to mark significant seasonal celebrations including Bonfire Night, Halloween, New Year’s Eve and Diwali.

Whilst they are enjoyable for humans to watch, pets can often get scared of the loud bangs and bright flashes. Preparing your pet early can make a significant difference and will help your pet cope throughout the seasonal events – start preparing now!

There are several precautions we can put in place to help our pets and to ease their stress when fireworks light up the skies:

  1. Purchase a pheromone adaptor

Placed throughout the home, a pheromone spray, and/ or adaptor, can help ease your pet’s anxiety and stress. A pheromone is a natural chemical which triggers a social response in members of the same species, and often promotes a calming effect.

Please ask your vet for advice on the best one to suit your pet.

  1. Provide hiding places within your home

Ensure there are plenty of hiding places around the house for your pet, particularly for cats, e.g.:

  • Top of the cupboard – make sure it is safe and there’s an ample amount of room for them to rest
  • Underneath a bed – make a small space, whilst ensuring it is safe
  • A raised shelf – clear a space on a bookshelf or on top of a chest of draws
  • Inside of a box – you may have an old box in the garage or loft which you can dig out
  1. Stay at home with your pets

Staying in with your pet will help calm their fears. Your presence and attention will comfort them and distract them from the background noise. If a pet is left alone and becomes stressed, they could become destructive or panic and injure themselves.

  1. Ensure your pet has access to freshwater

You should ensure your pet has access to freshwater. Anxious dogs can pant more than normal, resulting in a greater thirst.

  1. Make sure your pet is microchipped

It is important to ensure your pet is microchipped as, if spooked, they could run away. If your pet is already microchipped make sure your contact details are up to date so that you can be reunited if the worst happens.

  1. Close curtains, blinds, windows, and keep doors closed

Loud bangs and bright flashes can scare pets. By keeping your windows, doors and blinds closed, sounds can be can dampened. Also, if you have a cat and they are in the house, don’t forget to lock their cat flap to stop them getting outside.

  1. Walk your dog early

If you usually take your dog out in the evening, or for a late-night stroll, you should avoid being out when fireworks start – switching up your routine ahead of forthcoming events, so it’s not a sudden change, will support this. You should also ensure they are kept on a lead, as startled dogs can run off without warning.

  1. Consider bringing small animals inside

Loud noises can be stressful for small animals, particularly if they are living in hutches outside. If you have a rabbit or guinea pig, you should consider moving their hutches inside. This could be into the house, shed or garage space. If you are unable to bring them inside, you should consider covering their hutch in some blankets and a waterproof sheet to dampen the noise. If you are covering their hutch, please remember to leave a suitable gap for ventilation.

  1. Provide bedding for your pet to snuggle in

If you have a small pet, in a hutch, put some additional bedding in with them so that they can burrow into it and hide.

  1. Don’t punish “bad behaviour”

You should not punish bad behaviour if your pet is scared. Instead, you should stay calm and demonstrate to your pet that there isn’t anything to worry about. This will help restore normal behaviour.

For further information, visit the RSPCA website: visit: www.rspca.org.uk/fireworks

August bank holiday opening hours

The August bank holiday weekend is upon us… whether you will be heading to the coast, off on a walking adventure or taking it easy at home, we just wanted to let you that opening hours, should you need us.

On Monday 30th August both Rugeley and Stafford will be closed to give our hard working teams a well earned break.

If you need emergency care or attention, please call 01889 582023 and you will be directed to our Out of Hours provider.

Wishing you a lovely bank holiday weekend, from all the team at D&T.

How to prepare your cat ahead of fireworks

We understand that noisy celebrations such as Halloween, Bonfire Night, Diwali, Christmas and New Year can cause nervousness in pets. However, by taking the appropriate steps to plan ahead of these scheduled events, you can minimise unnecessary stress and anxiety for your pet.

Signs of anxiety to look out for in cats

  • Hiding
  • Scratching furniture
  • Urine spraying
  • Overgrooming (can lead to hair loss)
  • Pacing
  • Vocalisation

Top tips for cats

✓ Make sure your cat is microchipped to increase the chance that you will be reunited if they do get scared and decide to run away

✓ Ensure your cat is safely indoors well before dusk and that all windows, doors and cat flaps are securely closed

✓ Close curtains to reduce the impact of flashes

✓ Provide a litter tray in a quiet area of the house. Do this well before the day’s fireworks are expected, so they become familiar with it

✓ Turn on the TV or radio to drown out the noise of fireworks

✓ Don’t disturb your cat if they find somewhere to hide when the fireworks are going off. Cats find a good hiding space, comforting

✓ Try to ignore any reactions your cat makes to the fireworks – they may see this as a sign that you are worried about the noise yourself

What products are available to support my pet

There are a range of products available to purchase to help alleviate stress for your cat, from pheromone diffusers to calming food supplements.

If your cat starts to show significant signs of anxiety, please contact us to discuss all the options available to you to ensure they remain as calm as possible.

Autumn dangers

To ensure you know the dangers associated with autumn,  we have compiled together our guidance as we transition from spring to autumn. We want you all to stay safe this season.

Clocks changing

The changes with the clocks going back next month sees an increase in pet-related road traffic accidents and cat fights. The change in routine from the time difference can unsettle our pets, who often prefer routine – changing your routine a few weeks before the change, starting now! This ensures there is less routine disruption and ensures your pet will be less affected.

Leaves

Piles of leaves are fun to jump in, but once they start to decay underneath – they harbour large amounts of bacteria and mould.

Conkers

Although they may look appetising to dogs – conkers are toxic if chewed or ingested and can cause blockages if swallowed.

Antifreeze (ethylene glycol)

This liquid is sweet tasting to pets and if ingested it is extremely dangerous. The liquid is rapidly absorbed and can cause severe kidney damage. One study, involving 25 cases, 96% of those affected by antifreeze sadly died. Make sure your cats have access to fresh water and don’t allow dogs to drink from puddles where cars may have parked.

Blue green algae

Blue green algae is mainly present from late spring to early autumn and looks like a blue/green layer on the water. Dogs who swim are most at risk but be sure to avoid known infected waters or avoid letting your dog swim or drink from lakes or ponds.

Arthritis

As the seasons start to change and we see the cold creeping in, we start to see pets becoming stiffer and less mobile if they’re suffering with arthritis. If you’ve noticed any change in the colder months, we can assess your pet to see how we can help them feel more comfortable. We will also be dedicating November to our older pets – giving you all the latest information and advice for caring for your older companions so keep a look out for further information in the coming weeks.

Fleas

It’s a good job our health plan covers the cost of prescription strength flea treatment and wormers, because even during the winter months, we still see pets with fleas. Although fleas like the warmth, households keep the heating on during cold spells and this can keep those pesky fleas breeding in the house. Make sure you’ve collected your pet’s treatment this month if you’re a member.

If you have any worries or concerns during the autumn time, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Top tips to calm your anxious and stressed pet

Like humans, pets often suffer from everyday stress that can lead to issues which can cause them to become anxious or stressed. Unfortunately, while humans have some means at their disposal to deal with such issues, pets aren’t so lucky. So here are some effective ways to help reduce and relieve anxiety and stress in pets.

Physical and mental exercise

Lack of mental stimulation or physical activity can create stress. There are lots of interactive toys available for both cats and dogs. By rotating new and old toys, you will keep your pet interested in what they’re playing with. Whether a hide and seek mouse game or an IQ treat-dispensing puzzle – there’s bound to be something available for your pet.

Pheromone diffusers

When dogs or cats lactate, they produce a pheromone that intensifies the bond between mother and pup or kitten. This pheromone has a calming and soothing effect and can be manufactured into an easy-to-use product. You can get products that contain the facial pheromones that cats rub over people and objects to mark them as familiar or safe. Cat pheromone products come in a diffuser form and dog pheromone products come as diffusers, sprays or collars. Pheromones can help treat anxiety in cats and dogs of all ages. In addition, it is odourless to humans, so you don’t need to worry about strange scents in your home.

Safe space

Most pets like to have a safe space to go to when they feel anxious or stressed. Your pet’s safe space could be a place where they can have some privacy and serenity along with a few of their favourite toys. You can also use a pheromone dispenser on or around their safe space. Cats like to get up high where they can observe their environment, especially when they are frightened. Provide your cat with a few different options, including open resting spaces such as windowsills as well as enclosed resting spaces.

Calming music

Spotify has launched a ‘My Dog’s Favourite Podcast’ – which has hours of ‘soothing sounds and friendly chat’, which is an ‘aural treat’ for your dog. Classical music is soothing not only for humans but also for cats, according to the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, produced by the International Society of Feline Medicine, the veterinary branch of International Cat Care. The soft sounds can calm down some cats and lead to relaxed breathing and a well-balanced heartbeat – with some dogs as well.

Avoid drastic changes in your routine

Cats thrive on routine and benefit from regular mealtimes, playtimes, and bedtimes. However, changes in your cat’s schedule or environment can create stress and anxiety and may trigger inappropriate urination. A routine will let your dog know what to expect each day and when to expect it. Establishing a toileting routine will help to avoid feelings of discomfort or anxiety for them and nasty clean-ups for you.

Check for health and behavioural issues

Pets often conceal health issues because of how they have evolved over several millennia. Anxiety and stress could be caused by an underlying health issue. It’s crucial that you speak to your vet to see if this can be ruled out as possible cause. You may also want to consider meeting with an accredited veterinary behaviourist to help you put together a specific plan to adjust your pet’s underlying emotional response.

 

Please keep in mind that sometimes you may need to implement a mixture of strategies. The solution may not be quick or easy, but you can help your pet be happier and worry-free with dedication and the right professional assistance.

How to prepare your dog ahead of fireworks

We understand that noisy celebrations such as Halloween, Bonfire Night, Diwali, Christmas and New Year can cause nervousness in pets. However, by taking the appropriate steps to plan ahead of these scheduled events, you can minimise unnecessary stress and anxiety for your pet.

Signs of anxiety to look out for in dogs

  • Pacing
  • Cowering or hiding
  • Trembling
  • Abnormal vocalisation (barking or whining)
  • Panting
  • Pacing or circling the room
  • Excessive yawning or lip licking
  • Need to stay close to their owner
  • Soiling the house
  • Refusing to eat

Top tips for dogs

✓ Start to walk your dogs before dusk – ensure they are back indoors before fireworks begin

✓ Ensure all windows and doors are shut

✓ Close curtains to reduce the impact of flashes

✓ Make a den/retreat, so your dog has somewhere they feel safe and secure

✓ Turn on the TV or radio to drown out the noise of fireworks

✓ Make tasty treats or toys available as a distraction

✓ Try to ignore any reactions your dog makes to the fireworks – they may see this as a sign that you are worried about the noise yourself.

Why not make a dog den/refuge

Make the den a few weeks before the expected fireworks to allow time for familiarisation.

  • Choose a room your dog is used to and preferably one you will be in during firework times
  • Use bedding they already have so it has a familiar smell
  • A puppy crate is an ideal starting point if you have one
  • If you do not have a crate, an enclosed area of the room is helpful, for example, a gap between the sofa and the wall
  • Use blankets to cover the den to create an enclosed and darkened area
  • Now that you have made a safe place, you could offer food or lay a treat trail so that your dog gets used to their den and associates it with pleasurable things

There are a range of products available to purchase to help alleviate stress for your dog, from sprays to calming food supplements.

If your dog starts to show significant signs of anxiety, please contact us to discuss all the options available to you to ensure they remain as calm as possible.

Have a worry-free experience when taking your cat to the vet in Rugeley

We know regular veterinary visits benefit our cats – but taking them for an appointment in Rugeley can pose a challenge if not done correctly. Cats by nature are independent, territorial and need to feel in control. So – all these things can make trips to the vets eventful for both you and your cat.

Preparation for your cat’s vet visit

A trip to the vets in Rugeley takes cats completely out of their comfort zone as they experience confinement in a carrier followed by unfamiliar motion, sights, smells and sounds. All these will increase a cat’s anxiety levels and place it into a high state of alert.

Fortunately, you can do a few things to make the experience less challenging for you, your cat, and our veterinary team.

From an early age, you should get your cat accustomed to being handled. One of the most common things your vet or nurse will do during any visit is perform a routine physical exam of your pet. The best approach is gentle, little and often handling. Always stop if your cat shows any signs of unease. The more your cat is used to this, the more likely it is that being handled by our veterinary and nursing teams will be well tolerated.

Travelling to the vet in Rugeley means getting your cat familiar with carrier use. When choosing a carrier, it should be sturdy, easy to clean, secure and should be easily accessible. Open top carriers can be easier for this reason.

In the first instance, place the carrier in a room where your cat is comfortable, put some familiar bedding in it and allow your cat to get used to it being there. You may wish to use a pheromone spray for cats on the bedding to reduce any anxiety or place some treats within the carrier. It is also advisable to place a light covering over carriers to increase the feeling of security.

On the day of the appointment, please do not feed your cat a large meal before leaving for the vet, as the travel could induce nausea, causing your cat to be sick in their carrier. It’s fine to offer a few treats as positive reinforcement when preparing them for their journey (as long as you haven’t been asked to withhold food before a procedure). We may sometimes use treats at our practice to reward your cat and improve their experience with us.

At the veterinary practice

When your cat is ready to go to the vet, please avoid rushing. Pick up your carrier in a secure manner, held close to you to reduce excess motion. The handle on a carrier should only be used to lift the carrier when empty! Cats usually need time to get used to the veterinary clinic and to calm down – this should not be a problem and our team will take the time needed.

At the veterinary practice, keep the cat carrier covered to avoid visual contact with others. We try to keep our waiting room as tranquil as possible, but the presence of other pets and unfamiliar scents can increase anxiety in cats. Ask the clinic staff to place your cat in a quiet area or room. Wherever possible, keep your cat carrier placed off the ground as cats feel safer when in an elevated position as they can then scout their surroundings more easily.

Once in the consulting room, ask our team if it is ok to open the carrier and let the cat exit the carrier on its own to explore the examination area. Use strokes or treats to help them relax. Our team will always take a few minutes to chat with you before the physical check-up in a routine consult. This gives your cat a chance to acquaint themselves with the surroundings and get used to the new sights, sounds and smells of the clinic before the vet or nurses begins an examination.

Bringing your cat back home

The exit from the practice should be done with as much care as your arrival. A rushed trip back home with a lot of unnecessary movement can be equally traumatising to your cat. However, you can give your cat extra cuddles and treats when you arrive home for being a brave kitty!

We look forward to seeing you and your cat soon

Stress, anxiety and worry have a major impact on cat welfare. This is why we are proud of our International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) Silver Cat Friendly Clinic status. There are many ways we help to minimise stress as much as possible for our feline friends when they visit the practice. Click here to find out more, and visit www.catfriendlyclinic.org

If you have any questions or queries please contact us or drop into our practices in Rugeley or Stafford.