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FAT DOG SLIM

FAT DOG SLIM

Lose the puppy fat!

WHY IS IT SO HARD FOR OUR PUPS TO SHED THEIR PUPPY FAT?

Our vet Vicky recently went on a course about how dogs move, but the research teams had found out about more than just the mechanics of dog locomotion.

Dogs are incredibly good at trotting. Tracking their close relatives, wolves, in Germany showed that packs covered over 30miles a day! They hunt their prey by slowly wearing it down, only going in for the kill when the prey is exhausted. Wolves can do this because trotting is incredibly energy efficient, and because they have a type of muscle fiber that doesn’t tire in the way our does. Our dogs have inherited these traits, which is why most dogs won’t tire on a walk or run before you do!

The efficiency with which dogs move may have caused a problem though. An adult dog walking 5-7miles a day uses just 5-10% of his daily calories for that exercise! Over 70% of the calories he eats are used in maintaining a stable body temperature, and the rest for digestion, repair etc. This means it is easy to overestimate how much food our dogs need. If a 30kg Labrador who gets two 45minute walks a day needs 200g of a complete dry food, he would need less than 20g extra food if he started going for two 90minute walks! And it gets worse…an overweight dog has more fat to insulate the body so less calories are needed to maintain body temperature.

Obesity is a huge problem for pet dogs. Being overweight predisposes pets to joint and mobility problems, diabetes, even some cancers. Aim for your dog to have a body condition score of 4-5. If you think your dog is overweight consult your veterinary practice for advice.

At Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary care we can help support those who want to feed a raw or homemade diet, as well as those who choose prepared foods, and we can advise on safe and fun exercise plans. Contact us for more details.

Body Condition Chart from Royal Canin

 

DATA PROTECTION

NEW DATA PROTECTION RULES

(AND HOW WE ARE TRYING TO FOLLOW THEM…)

The new General Data Protection Regulations are probably A Good Thing. They are designed to reduce the risk of your personal details getting out, and give you control over the data that companies hold about you. Unfortunately they are written with tiny Holistic Veterinary Care practices in mind. But here is information on what data we hold on our clients, and how we do (and don’t) use it. 

If you are current or past client and you are in any way concerned about data we hold, please email us on health@holisticvetsussex.co.uk bearing in mind that we are unable to amend clinical notes.

 

Client data including name, address, email address, and telephone numbers is held on a GDPR compliant cloud based network. This is password protected and can only be accessed by Vicky Payne BVetMed MRCVS

Animal Details and clinical records are held on the same network. You have a right to request your pet’s clinical history but we retain ownership of the records. Records must be kept for a reasonable length of time in case of claim or complaint. We will consider removal of clinical records on request 5 years after the death of a pet. Records made prior to our use of the secure cloud based system will be removed 5 years after the death of a pet, or 5 years after the average age of death for that species (12 years for dogs, 15 years for cats).

Clients may contact us to make appointments or to discuss cases by email, telephone, text message, or through Messenger. We will reply using one of these methods. We do not use your postal address, email, phone number, or messenger accounts for any reason other than to discuss your pet’s health care or for reasons associated with visits. We do not give your contact details to anyone else.

As we offer referral services, we do need to share information relating to your pet’s healthcare with your primary care vet, and sometimes with other vets or paraprofessionals involved in the case. If you do not give this permission we will not be willing to treat your pet. We must also provide a full clinical history when requested to your insurance company when making a claim. We may also be asked to supply clinical history in criminal cases or where an insurance claim is made against your pet.

Your data is kept on a secure cloud based system on a password locked home computer with up to data virus and malware protection software. The office is locked and access restricted. Paper records (microchip forms, consent forms, printed referral histories) are also kept in this locked office. Some data (phone numbers) is kept on a mobile phone used for personal and business use. This is locked when not in use and protected by relevant anti-virus software. The cloud based records are occasionally accessed by this mobile phone, or by a similarly secured tablet. Basic contact details are written in a paper day book to allow visits to take place.

Payments are usually by cheque or cash. We do not store client bank account numbers or credit card numbers.

Chip, Check, Change

MICROCHIPS! REUNITING LOST AND STOLEN PETS…OR ARE THEY?

One of our favourite jobs at Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care is microchipping litters of puppies. We strongly support UK law, which requires all puppies to be microchipped by 8 weeks of age (12weeks for legally docked puppies) and before they are sold.

Microchips can be implanted by Vets, Vet Nurses, and by other pet professionals who have received appropriate training (a practical course before 2015, and a LANTRA regulated course since 2015). We offer the additional benefit of a basic health check for all puppies we chip.

Microchips are a very safe and reliable way to permanently identify a dog, they also provide a way of identifying the keeper of that dog. Since April 2015 the first registered keeper must be the breeder of the puppy, and the breeder must provide the buyer with paperwork which allows the buyer to register themselves as the new keeper. If a dog is given away or sold the ‘old’ owner must get a transfer code from their microchip registration company and give this to the ‘new’ owner. It is easiest to think of the microchip registration scheme as being very similar to the car logbook system which we are all familiar with.

Just like a car log book, being named as the keeper of a dog with a microchip registration database is not considered proof of ownership. There is no single document which proves ownership of a dog, though in disputes a receipt from the purchase, evidence of paying the food and vet bills, and Kennel Club registration papers will all be considered.

When buying a puppy, or an adult dog, you should ask for a transfer code or paperwork which shows that the dog is chipped and to allow your to transfer the dog into your keepership.

WHY DON’T MICROCHIPS ALWAYS GET PETS HOME?

CHIP

Don’t assume your pet is chipped! Although all puppies should be chipped before sale we still see a lot of pups where this hasn’t been done. Visit your vet soon after buying any pet to check if it is microchipped.

CHECK

Pet microchips are very simple, and therefore very reliable. But a few do fail or move (especially after trauma to the implant area). Movement should not prevent a pet being returned to its owner as pet professionals scanning a stray pet should ensure they scan the whole animal all over, and should use two different types of scanner if a chip isn’t found. Failed chips are obviously a disaster in terms of reuniting lost or stolen pets. Microchip companies monitor reports of failed microchips and several years ago one company discovered a faulty batch had been implanted with a high risk of failure. Keepers were advised to have their pet’s chips checked and a new chip inserted if necessary. Although a chip could fail at any time, it is sensible to get it checked at least once a year (perhaps at your pet’s Annual Health Check).

Remember that your dog must still wear a collar and tag when out in public, which must have your surname and address on. A mobile phone number is also very useful for a quick reunification.

We also recommend ear tattooing as a back up to tags and microchips. Both puppies and adult dogs can be tattooed in a quick and only briefly painful procedure. Tattoos can become harder to read over time, but even a faded tattoo can help reunite a dog.

CHANGE

The main reason it can be difficult to reunite lost pets with their keepers is that the keeper registration details are not kept up to date. If you buy a pet, or if you move house, or change your telephone number one of the first things you should do is to change the contact details held by the chip registration company. You should be given a transfer code/form by the seller, if you move you will be able to change the details online or by post. Some databases make a small charge for changing details, in other cases it may be free.

VETS (AND RESCUES, AND DOG WARDENS, AND GROOMERS) GET SCANNING!

It can be hard for very invested dog owners to understand why lost and stolen dogs aren’t scanned and returned to their owners really quickly. Whilst we know that not all veterinary practices are as diligent about scanning new patients for chips as they should be, the sad truth is, that many dogs go for years without visiting a vet. Lots of people don’t take their dogs for Annual Health Checks and only visit the vet if their dog is ill. We have been involved in cases where dogs have been bought from homeless people, a man in a pub, or from classified adverts and many months or years (9 years in one case!) passed before the dogs were taken to a vet. In these cases vets scanned the dogs, found a microchip, and checked the database for registration details. This has been made much easier in recent years with the introduction of Scanner Angel for Halo scanners which alerts us to pets reported lost or stolen. Buyers should be asking to see chip registration paperwork, and should be suspicious if this is not available. It is our hope that compulsory microchipping will make more dog buyers ask about chips and make it harder for theives to move stolen dogs on (reducing their value and therefore reducing theft).

CAN REGISTRATION DETAILS BE CHANGED WITHOUT PERMISSION? CAN DOGS BE RECHIPPED? CAN DOGS BE REHOMED WITHOUT SCANNING? CAN CHIPS BE REMOVED?

The answer to all of these questions should be ‘No!’. But incidents do happen, and recently some distressing cases have been shared on social media.

Microchip databases won’t change the registered keeper details without the transfer code, or other proof of change of keepership. This can make changing keepership difficult if the transfer code wasn’t provided or for strays where the previous keeper can’t be traced. In these cases the microchip databases will consider other evidence, including whether the original keeper reported a pet as lost or stolen, and will ask that efforts are made to contact the previous keeper before changing keepership. If the original owner decides to contest ownership in the future it is important to keep as much evidence as possible of the efforts made to find them, or proof that they sold the pet.

Pets will not be implanted with a microchip by a Vet, Vet Nurse, or trained implanter without being checked for a pre-exisiting chip. In rare cases pets may have two chips if one has failed. Sometimes these failed chips ‘come back to life’ which means either number can come up on scanning. If a second chip is implanted where one is known to have failed the keeper details should be kept up to date on both numbers. As previously discussed, anyone scanning strays, new patients, or implanting microchips should scan very thoroughly to try and identify pre-existing chips. We sadly do know of stories where pets have not been scanned properly when picked up as strays or handed in to rescue, leading to complicated situations later on. Only robust and easy to follow protocols for rescuers and animal wardens can avoid these mistakes.

Microchips are not as easy to locate and remove as social media might suggest. We are only aware of one confirmed case of a dog having its chip removed by theives. A shaved dog and a scar, not to mention the requirement for anaesthetic mean removal is quite unlikely.

Ultimately, microchips DO work. They do identify dogs positively for breeding health checks, vaccinations, and competition. They do help reunite lost or stolen pets with their owners. But we advise our clients to CHIP, CHECK, and CHANGE!

 

GOODBYE GOUDHURST

GOODBYE GOUDHURST VETS

Many happy years offering clinics at Goudhurst Vets and Equine Clinic in Goudhurst are coming to an end. 

Vicky will be concentrating on home visits for Acupuncture and Behaviour problems, and will continue to offer Holistic and Herbal medicine consultations at Companion Care Vets in Eastbourne (01323 649315).

Existing acupuncture clients at Goudhurst will be transferred to vet Caroline Borer, who has recently undertaken acupuncture training. Repeat prescriptions of herbs can be delivered to Goudhurst by arrangement.

Vicky’s final clinic at Goudhurst will be on Thursday 4th January.

VETERINARY HERBAL MEDICINE UNDER THREAT?

RCVS THREATENS ‘ALTERNATIVE’ VETERINARY MEDICINE!

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has released a statement in which it appears to threaten Vets who use ‘alternative’ therapies. It focuses on Homeopathy, but could lead to problems for Vets who prescribe herbs or use acupuncture too. https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/news/college-publishes-complementary-medicines-statement/

WE DON’T DO ‘ALTERNATIVE’ VETERINARY MEDICINE

At the moment we are not concerned that the RCVS statement will affect our work at Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care because we use herbal medicine, diet, lifestyle changes, acupuncture, and physical therapies to complement conventional diagnosis and treatment, or where no conventional medication is available or suitable. We only work on referral from your First Opinion practice and choose therapies which are supported by laboratory studies and clinical trials as well as case studies. 

At Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care we don’t call our therapies ‘alternative’ because Vicky is first and foremost a qualified, experienced Vet. If she feels a pet needs conventional diagnostic tests such as a blood test or radiographs your pet will be referred back to your First Opinion practice, or these may be performed at Companion Care Vets Eastbourne if you are visiting the clinic there. Some cases may need conventional pain relief before starting acupuncture or physical therapy at home. The welfare of your pet is our primary concern at all times.

COMPLEMENTARY VETERINARY MEDICINE BACKED BY SCIENCE

At Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care we choose to use treatments which are backed by laboratory research, clinical trials, and case studies.

Herbal medicines contain complex combinations of active ingredients, many of which have been extensively studied. We often use herbs with active ingredients which act on the same receptors as conventional drugs. Valerian, for example, contains valerenic acid which modulates GABA receptor function and reduces the breakdown of GABA, leading to sedation.

Sometimes we have data from clinical trials in animals, other studies may only have been done on cell cultures, so we interpret the results with great care. We don’t promise miracle cures, but we try to choose therapies which will improve your pet’s quality of life.

PRICE RISES

PRICE RISES

We endeavour to keep the costs of treatment, visits, and medicines at an affordable level. Our prices for herbal medicines have not changed for several years, but unfortunately our supplier has had to increase their prices significantly due to increasing manufacturing and shipping costs…so we have to pass this on to our clients. Below are the new costs for our most commonly prescribed botanical medicines. Herbal medicines remain great value with most formulas coming in at under £1 a day for a 30kg dog and around 30p a day for a cat.

100g dry herbs £7.50

200ml herbal tincture £23

500ml herbal tincture £ 47

HERBAL MEDICINE SAFETY

IT’S NATURAL, SO WHAT HARM CAN IT DO?

It’s frustrating, as a vet who has undertaken extensive training in physiology, conventional pharmacology, and then studied herbal pharmacology on top, to read the advice of all the ‘experts’ on the internet. Today, a post popped up on my Facebook feed all about the benefits of turmeric which included this gem, “I take it three times a day. It’s natural, what harm can it do?”

The answer is that if there are chemicals present in a herb that can do good, there is also the potential for harm.

Obviously, some herbs are well known for their toxicity. Although foxgloves and lily of the valley contain chemicals that can be used to treat heart disease, we don’t use them because the risk of poisoning and death is too high. But there are many herbs that we do use that can be therapeutic at one dose, but poisonous at a higher dose. A good example would be garlic; small doses can be very useful, but even moderate doses over the long term can cause blood disorders in some animals, especially cats. Some herbs can irritate the nose, mouth, or gut if given in large quantities, or if not mixed well into food.

Whilst we’re on cats, they are very tricky creatures! There are differences in how cats metabolise drugs…and herbs…which make them far more toxic than they are to humans or dogs. Worryingly several herbal preparations are sold over the counter for arthritis in dogs and cats which contain willow bark. Willow bark contains compounds similar to aspirin which can be toxic to cats if given in even moderate doses over a period of time. And although nobody is suggesting lilies as a botanical medicine, these pretty plants can prove fatal to cats if they ingest even a small amount of pollen.

Next comes the problem of giving herbal medicines without your vet’s knowledge when your pet is on medication. Almost everything taken into the body, drug, food, or herb, will be metabolised. Much of this metabolism happens in the liver, where a limited number of enzymes get to work on a huge variety of natural and artificial compounds. Some compounds compete for the same enzyme which slows down their metabolism. Other compounds may slow down or speed up the activity of an enzyme which metabolises another drug. Turmeric has many of its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects through inhibiting enzyme reactions…but this also means it could slow down the metabolism of other drugs. This may be a benefit, leading to a greater effect, but could also lead to toxicity. St John’s Wort is well known for increasing the activity of certain enzymes, meaning other drugs are cleared more quickly from the body. In humans progesterone in contraceptive pills is a concern, but in animals clearing antibiotics too quickly would be a concern. St John’s Wort also works to reduce the reuptake of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, hence its usefulness for depression in humans. But if given with other medications (especially antidepressants) which also block neurotransmitter reuptake there is a high risk of side effects, including the sometimes fatal serotonin syndrome. And it’s not just herbal medicines; broccoli and sprouts can increase specific enzyme activity, and grapefruit can inhibit enzymes.

Finally, I am always concerned about the quality and safety of herbal medicines. Even where a particular herb is safe, and should be effective, buying the right tablet or tincture is essential. Very few companies make herbal medicines with the attention to detail that they should and this can lead to ineffective, or unsafe products. Research done by the BBC last year found that most over the counter herbal products contained little active ingredient. Some contained no active ingredients, and some…unknown compounds. Herbs may be incorrectly identified before processing, poorly stored, or have grown in poor conditions meaning they contain less active compounds. With dried ground herbs, such as turmeric, the method of drying and grinding can significantly affect quality, and where a herb contains essential oils, drying can remove many of these.

At Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care we love herbal medicines. But we strongly believe they should only be used after consultation with a vet who is trained in their use. In addition we only use herbs from companies which perform sufficient quality control.

 

VACCINATIONS

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DOG VACCINATIONS: TRUTH AND HYPE

You can’t read a dog magazine, or join a dog Facebook group without the subject of dog vaccinations coming up. Usually the theme is, ‘vets are ripping you off and harming your dog’, but is that true?

The best place to start is probably not an anti-vaccination group, or a drug company website, but the WSAVA who have a committee dedicated to reviewing the research into vaccination and developing guidelines for vets in many different countries and situations.

The WSAVA are concerned with both an individual dog’s health, but also the health of the wider canine, wildlife, and human populations. Many writers focus on their advice that many dogs have long durations of immunity to core vaccinations…but they don’t consider the extra puppy jabs the WSAVA recommend. This article considers the recommendations for pet dogs in the UK.

WHY VACCINATE DOGS?

Vaccination gives dogs protection against a range of diseases. Vaccination pre-warns the immune system so that it can respond better when challenged with the disease. This means the dog either doesn’t get sick, or has a milder form of the disease. Many vaccines also stop dogs shedding the disease and spreading it to other dogs.

CORE VACCINES

Every dog should receive vaccination against Canine Adenovirus (infectious hepatitis), Canine Parvovirus, and Canine Distemper. Of these Parvovirus remains the most common, often being seen in puppies from poor backgrounds. It causes bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, and affected puppies often die even after extensive (and expensive!) treatment. Distemper was becoming something of a distant memory in the UK, though many colleagues have seen one or two cases (often in dogs imported from Eire). However distemper is on the rise in imported dogs from eastern Europe. Early symptoms include lethargy, conjunctivitis, and joint pain. Dogs can recover with intensive nursing, but may suffer neurological damage and problems with their pads. Infectious hepatitis is not often reported in the UK, but may be underdiagnosed with liver problems being attributed to other causes. Most UK core vaccines are proven, by their manufacturers, to give at least 3 years duration of immunity.

NON-CORE VACCINES

These should be given according to risk. In the UK almost all dogs should receive Leptospirosis vaccination. This bacterial infection is found in standing water, especially water which may have been contaminated with farm animal or rat urine. The disease is contagious between dogs, and also to people (where it is called Weil’s Disease). Infection in people starts with flu-like symptoms but the disease can become serious, even fatal. In dogs the liver or kidneys are most commonly affected. Treatment with fluids and antibiotics can be successful, but dogs can shed the leptospires in their urine for some time after recovery making them an animal and human health risk. The number of confirmed canine Leptospirosis cases each year is relatively low because a proper diagnosis required two blood samples, taken a month apart, showing a rising antibody titre. Dogs are usually either dead or recovering by the time the second sample should be taken and its cost means this step is often skipped. Many more suspected cases are treated every year, and Leptospirosis is thought to be responsible for some chronic kidney and liver disease too. In recent years with increased flooding vets have reported clusters of Lepto cases.

Kennel cough vaccines can be considered for any dog which goes to kennels, groomers, training classes, shows, or to a dog walker. Although Kennel cough is not dangerous to healthy adult dogs it can kill old dogs and puppies. Breeding bitches should be vaccinated before mating. The vaccine protects against Bordatella and the Paraninfluenza virus and is given as a nasal drop.

Leptospirosis and Kennel cough vaccines only offer short lived protection and should be repeated annually if required.

Rabies is not a core vaccine in the UK as we are rabies free. However vaccination is required for travel under the Pet Passport scheme.

In the last few years additional vaccines have become available for Lymes Disease and Leishmania; these should be given only to dogs at high risk of those diseases. Herpes virus vaccination is available to reduce the risk of fading puppy syndrome. It is only given to breeding bitches and must be given at each pregnancy.

SICK DOGS

A small number of dogs can’t be vaccinated due to ill health, previous reactions, medications, or simply don’t produce a good immune response to vaccination.These dogs can be protected by ‘herd immunity’, i.e. diseases are unlikely to reach them if all the other dogs around them are protected.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF VACCINATING DOGS?

Nothing that we put into our, or our dog’s, bodies is safe. The immune system can react badly to any food, drug, or vaccination. The risk of reactions from vaccinations may be higehr than for other drugs as we are directly trying to stimulate an immune response. However, vaccines are generally safe with a low risk of reactions.

COMMON REACTIONS

The most common reaction is pain at the injection site. With some vaccinations over 50% of dogs will show some pain. A few of these will get a swelling at the injection site but this is short lived.

Being ‘off colour’ for 24 hours or so is not unusual either, and reflects the stimulation of the immune system.

Some dogs, especially puppies get diarrhoea after vaccination. This may reflect the immune response, but may also reflect the stress of a vet visit on top of rehoming, a change in diet and water, and any parasite treatment given. Most cases resolve with symptomatic treatment.

These common, mild reactions usually pass with little or no treatment, but always contact your vet if you are concerned.

RARE REACTIONS

Anaphylactic reactions are extremely rare, and unfortunately are very unpredicatable. Dogs may react at their first injection, or after having a vaccine on several previous occasions. Anaphylactic reactions happen very quickly after vaccination and may include fainting, fitting, vomiting, and diarrhoea. They usually happen before a dog leave the practice and treatment with oxygen, adrenaline, and maybe steroids is usually effective.

LONG TERM REACTIONS?

Some authors write extensively about diseases caused by overvaccination, but there is actually very scant evidence for this. A ‘hypothyroid epidemic’ is blamed on vaccination, and yet the rate of diagnosis in the UK is the same as that on the Falkland Islands (where no disease risk means no vaccination). Autoimmune disease certainly seem to be on the rise, but many factors may be involved other than vaccines; we know certain breeds, and lines within breeds are more likely to get autoimmine diseases, pollution may play a factor, and understimulation of the immune system due to excellent hygiene and parasite control could be factors too. A survery examinind illnesses suffered in the three months after a vet visit showed no statistical difference between dogs which had been vaccinated, and those which had been seen for other reasons.

That said, it makes sense to only give what a dog needs when he needs it.

ALTERNATIVES TO VACCINATION

Homeopathic nosodes are not a suitable alternative to vaccination. In challenge testing puppies ‘vaccinated’ homeopathically against parvovirus got ill and died.

Titre testing is the best alternative to following the manufacturers recommendations. Titre testing is now available at a reasonable price (around £30) for Distemper, Hepatitis, and Parvovirus. Dogs with good levels of circulating antibody will be protected against disease. Dogs with low or no circulating antibody may not be protected. Advanced testing shows that some dogs with no circulating antibodies actually have cellular immunity…however this level of testing is not available in practice, so revaccination is recommended for low/no titre dogs.

Leptospirosis vaccination only produces circulating antibodies for a few weeks, then the immunity is cellular. For this reason titre testing is not suitable for assessing Leptospirosis protction.

WSAVA VACCINATION RECOMMENDATIONS AND PRACTICAL ONES

For maximum protection the WSAVA recommends either titre testing puppies monthly from 6weeks until their maternal antibody protection fades, or giving core vaccines monthly until 16weeks. They recommend a further vaccination at 6-12months and then either revaccination every 3 years for core vaccines or titre testing.

In practice very few people are going to want to either pay for monthly titre testing, or vaccinate their puppies up to 5 times in 6months. In the UK where disease risk is moderate the current protocols where vaccination starts at 6- 8 weeks and finishes at 10-12 weeks, with a booster at 12months, should provide adequate protection for most dogs. A 16week vaccine or titre test could be considered for certain breeds, or during a disease outbreak. Additionally, breeders keeping puppies which may suckle from their dam for longer than most could consider delaying their vaccine start, or titre testing.

The good news is that more and more practices are offering titre testing and individualised vaccination. Our Vet Vicky Payne offers vaccine consultations and titre testing at Companion Care Vets Eastbourne and Goudhurst Vets.

 

NEW MICROCHIPPING RULES FOR DOGS

MICROCHIPPING DOGS BECOMES LAW IN 2016

From 6th April 2016 all puppies must be microchipped before sale. The breeder must register the puppies in their name and provide buyers with the paperwork to transfer the microchip registration.

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FREE TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP ON PETLOG!

The good news announced today is that if the puppy is Kennel Club registered then transferring the Petlog registration into the new owners name, and upgrading to Petlog Premium will be FREE!

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HOME VISITS FOR LITTER MICROCHIPPING

We have offered a home visit service to breeders for many years to provide litter health checks and microchipping and will hope this will be an even more popular service with the law changes next year. Microchipping and Health Check costs just £15 per puppy (with a small visit fee based on mileage). Our chips are registered with Petlog. Please contact us for further information.

FOOD GUARDING

PREVENTING AND FIXING FOOD GUARDING IN DOGS

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Food is REALLY important to dogs. Left to their own devices most of their waking hours would be spent looking for and eating food, and they would spend the rest of their time sleeping and digesting food. Guarding food from other dogs, other animals, and even people is a natural dog behaviour, a survival tactic even. Unfortunately a very common problem for dog owners is that their dog growls if people approach him while he is eating, and this can escalate to snapping or biting. We need to teach our dogs that they don’t have to guard their food from us.

FOOD GUARDING FROM A DOG’S POINT OF VIEW

Snoopy loves mealtimes, he can’t wait for his dinner to come and he’s not planning on sharing! Up until now Snoopy’s people have put his food bowl down and left him to eat in peace but Snoopy’s people have just read that you should be able to take food away from your dog and as their baby is now a free ranging toddler they decide to see how ‘good’ Snoopy’s food manners are. Snoopy’s male owner strides over to the bowl while Snoopy is eating, Snoopy is a bit worried as this is unusual. The male owner reaches down and tries to take Snoopy’s bowl which makes Snoopy gobble his food down really fast, but he’d nearly finished anyway. The next day the male owner puts Snoopy’s food down, leaves the room, then walks back in. Snoopy is worried the male owner will take his food again so he stands over the bowl and gives a little growl. The male owner has read that he should hit Snoopy if he growls so he knows who is in charge so he smacks Snoopy on the nose and takes the food away. This happens most evenings for a few days, even the female owner has started taking his food away. Every time he is fed Snoopy gets more and more worried as his people not only steal his food, they hit him as well. Finally Snoopy is so worried that he growls and growls and when the female owner moves her hand to hit him he snaps at her. She doesn’t move quickly enough and his teeth sink into her hand. Snoopy didn’t mean to bite, just to scare her away from his food…but she’s straight on the phone to the vet, “Enough is enough,” she says, “next time it could be our toddler’s face!”

FIXING FOOD GUARDING IN DOGS

Luckily when Snoopy’s owner called the vet she was given the number of a COAPE behaviourist who agreed to come out and see Snoopy. They discussed how to keep the toddler safe while Snoopy learnt new food manners and how Snoopy’s owners would change their behaviour at feeding time. Various options were discussed and tried including hand feeding, scatter feeding, and adding tasty treats to the bowl. It took several weeks of patient practice but before long Snoopy began to trust his owners again. He stopped growling and would sit it they approached his bowl in the hope of getting an extra treat. Because food guarding can have serious consequences we aren’t going to tell you exactly how to fix it here. It is safer for a behaviourist using modern, dog fair techniques to visit and assess your dog. Our vet Vicky is a COAPE behaviourist and is happy to help with this as well as other behavioural issues.

(Snoopy isn’t a real case, he’s just an all too typical example!)

PREVENTING FOOD GUARDING IN DOGS

Prevention is always better than cure. What if Snoopy’s owners had done things differently when they brought him home?

Snoopy’s owners did lots of research before bringing him home, and they spoke to COAPE behaviourist about how to teach him manners around his food. The behaviourist told them they should use his food ration to help train him instead of using lots of treats. Snoopy’s owners held the bowl and when Snoopy did clever things like sitting, or peeing outside, or coming when they called they would feed him from their hands. Being a puppy Snoopy would occasionally get a bit excited and nip his owners when taking the food. When this happened he wasn’t offered any more until he calmed down; Snoopy soon learned to be gentle with his mouth. After a while Snoopy’s owners needed to use less food for training and Snoopy was allowed to eat by himself from the bowl more often. Sometimes they came over to his bowl and added tasty things like bits of chicken. Now when Snoopy sees people coming towards his bowl he steps back to give them lots of room to add treats.