Paws for thought

  • Rabbits
  • Ticks
  • Adopting Or Buying A Pet
  • Arthritis
  • Diet & Exercise
  • Fleas
  • Halloween 2019
  • Having a Bad Ear Day?
  • How to avoid a visit to the vets this Christmas
  • It must be love
  • Mental Health & Wellbeing
  • Parasites
  • Pet Obesity
  • Pets of old age
  • Rabbits
  • Starting from scratch
  • The benefits of owning a pet
  • Vaccinations
  • Which Pet is Right for Me?


Rabbits are the 4th most popular pet in the UK with 0.8 million being kept as pets.

Therefore, rabbit welfare is very important for owners and prospective owners to consider.

The three main infectious diseases in rabbits are Myxomatosis, and rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) caused by classic (RHD virus RHDV1) and variant (RHDV2) strains.

The latter is a new variant of the disease and is often fatal. Many rabbits in the UK are not vaccinated against this deadly disease and are therefore at risk. Therefore, all rabbit owners in the UK are advised make sure that their rabbits are vaccinated against this and other fatal diseases.

The disease has no symptoms, meaning that it is very hard to spot early on and where symptoms do occur these signs can be confused with other health conditions.

Whilst previously the full range of protection from these diseases could only be achieved by using two different vaccines, with injections spaced two weeks apart, a new ‘single shot’ vaccine is now available - Nobivac Myxo-RHD Plus. This gives 12 months protection. All our clients are being moved to this new vaccine.

Here are some other tips for rabbit owners:

  • Take your rabbits for a vet health-check every 6-12 months, or as recommended by your vet
  • Check daily that your rabbits are eating/drinking and toileting normally
  • Keep an eye out for any change in behaviour
  • Check your rabbit daily for signs of ill-health - Check they are moving/running normally - Run your hand all over them to feel for lumps, bumps, wounds or wetness or any signs of flystrike
  • Check your rabbits’ nails weekly to ensure they are healthy and not too long
  • Check your rabbits’ teeth weekly. If their teeth look abnormal, they have watery eyes, there is drool, partly-chewed food or weight loss then you should take your rabbit to the vets
  • Make sure your rabbit has plenty of space to run around and housing high enough so they can stand up fully
  • Rabbits are social animals so make sure you keep your rabbit with at least one other friendly rabbit


Ticks are blood sucking parasites that are seen in the UK mainly in the spring and summer months.

They are zoonotic parasites so they can attach, an infect, humans as well as our pets.

Ticks live in areas like long grass, rough vegetation & woodland. They wait for a host to walk by so they can attach and feed off their blood after which they will fall off but Ticks are known as vectors which mean they can transmit diseases. The main disease they spread to humans and animals in the UK is Lyme disease.

The most obvious sign of infection in you and your pet is a distinctive “bull’s eye” lesion around the site of the bite. Pets can also become lame, and have enlarged lymph nodes and a fever. Humans can show flu-like symptoms, including extreme tiredness, muscle pain, muscle weakness, joint pain and headaches. They can also attack the central nervous system. 

If you or your pet, have any of these symptoms, you should contact a doctor or vet immediately.

For your pet, using an effective prescription-strength tick product will reduce the chances of your pet getting sick. These can come in a collar, spot-on or tablet form. Some products repel ticks so they don’t even bite but most require the tick to bite for the product to work. They only attach for a short while before the treatment kills the tick, so there is insufficient time for any tick-borne diseases to transfer.

Adopting Or Buying A Pet

Should you adopt or buy a pet?

There has been a lot in the press recently about pedigree dog health, including the worrying aspect of imported puppies, many of which are illegally imported.

One of the best ways of tackling these problems is responsible purchasing by potential owners. If there is no financial market for poor health puppies and their importation, then it will dry up.

Things to consider

Responsibly acquiring a puppy (and indeed any pet) will make a significant difference to the health and welfare of the puppy but, importantly, will mean a great start for the family with their puppy. The veterinary practice is without a doubt the best place to advise potential owners on how to be responsible when acquiring a puppy and to provide the education needed to help to make sure that the owner/puppy relationship is one that is enjoyable for all.

Although we all know the huge benefits of dogs within a family, it is also a responsibility. New owners should reflect on the joy of dog ownership, but also the responsibility attached. PDSA have some useful information to make people think about getting a pet that breaks it down into:

  • Place – where you live and the environment available for your pet can make a big difference to the type of dog you choose.
  • Exercise – can you give your new pet enough exercise and the right kind of exercise for its breed and type.
  • Time – to care for your pet and meet all of its needs.
  • Spend – the cost of owning your pet for its lifetime.
  • Knowledge – an understanding of the needs of your potential pet and your responsibilities to it, the wider environment and the community.

Choosing a pet responsibly

Something to consider is always whether you should rehome a dog or purchase one from a breeder. Rehoming a dog is often very rewarding as it will give a new chance to a dog. Larger, well-known rehoming centres work very hard to adequately match owners and dogs and offer support to make sure that the experience is a success.

However, some owners may wish to purchase a puppy or a particular breed. In this case, it is vital that potential owners know how to buy responsibly to avoid breeds with known debilitating inherited health problems and to avoid fuelling irresponsible breeding and importation that causes health and welfare misery for thousands of puppies and their parents.

A great way to educate a potential puppy purchaser and help them to purchase responsibly is for them to use the Puppy Contract.


The cold weather makes all of us more achy and stiff – and the same is true of our pets. Older dogs especially may struggle on slippery ice or mud, and running on hard frozen ground puts even more strain on joints.

Arthritis is common in dogs and cats of all ages; but is especially prevalent in older pets. Although a variety of factors contribute to the development of arthritis, the end result is a loss of the smooth cartilage lining the ends of the bones. The bones rub together, causing pain, and the joints become misshapen and knobbly due to the chronic inflammation.

Arthritis causes lameness due to pain and reduced range of movement of the joints. Affected pets are in pain all the time they are moving: they may not yelp or show obvious signs of pain, because the pain is a chronic dull ache most of the time.

So: what can be done to help? Quite a lot actually. Your vet may want to take X-rays to see which joints are affected and how badly. In most cases, medication (anti-inflammatories) may be prescribed: either a short course, to reduce inflammation and pain, or else as a long-term treatment. There are many other pain medications which can be given if these are not effective enough. Joint supplements may also be of benefit: and keeping your pet’s weight down will be very important. Physiotherapy is often a great help: sometimes you, the owner, can do this at home; at other times your vet may refer your pet for physiotherapy, acupuncture or hydrotherapy. Laser therapy is becoming more popular, with an increasing wealth of evidence to support its use.

In more severe cases, surgery may be an option: either joint replacement or fusion, or cartilage implant surgery. A small number of veterinary surgeries, such as my own, are now also offering stem cell therapy. Known as regenerative medicine, this involves a small operation to harvest special cells (stem cells) from your pet, and then injecting them into affected joints. These stem cells have the ability to grow into cartilage cells that can reform the joint; in some cases completely reversing the signs of arthritis.

To sum up – there are lots of options for treating arthritis and your vet will be happy to talk to you about them. Remember: lameness is always a sign of pain – not just a consequence of getting old!


Diet & Exercise

A British Veterinary Associations Voice of the Profession survey showed that over 60% of vets said that pet obesity is their biggest health and welfare concern.

The Veterinary Animal Welfare Coalition (a group of leading veterinary organisations and vet-led animal charities that aims to help pet owners better understand their pets’ five welfare needs) polled over 500 vets and vet nurses and “recognising when a pet is overweight” was the top issue that vets and vet nurses wish UK pet owners were able to identify.

The health costs of obese pets are very like those for humans as well as concurrent welfare problems.  The causes of obesity are also depressingly similar, with the overwhelming reason being inappropriate diet (too much, wrong type etc) and lack of exercise.

Diet and Exercise

Giving the right diet to a pet is about education and willpower and your veterinary team can really help owners get this right for their pet.  Dedicated weight clinics can give advice and motivation to help make a meaningful difference.  A healthy change in diet is good for pets but they are not always going to enjoy this immediately.

However, exercise is something that pet and owners can really share together, get great enjoyment from and improve both of their physical and mental health.  Taking the dog for a walk costs significantly less than a gym membership and is much more fun.  Most dogs are very keen to go for some exercise and are probably the only ones in the house that are delighted to see their owner at sunrise and be ready to go out and exercise.  An excited wagging tail (even at 6 in the morning) and some exercise is a great way to start the day.

BVA’s five point plan to get fit

Advice from the British Veterinary Association for getting fit with pets:

  1. Go the extra mile – do an extra circuit around the local park or go a bit further on country walks, but remember that your dog should be on a lead in the countryside when there is livestock around
  2. Think toys not treats – toys that a dog can play with and get fun exercise from can get that tail wagging as energetically as treats can
  3. Get the right diet – make sure that your dog’s diet is right for its breed, size, age and lifestyle
  4. Ask your local vet – your local vet will know and be able to offer the best advice on your pet and its needs
  5. Join the veterinary practice weight club to motivate you to help your pet to lose weight


Fleas are very common on domestic cats and dogs and a vast majority of these are actually cat fleas although dog fleas, poultry fleas and hedgehog fleas are also found.

The fleas are well suited to living in the humidity and temperatures that exist in most UK homes, with 95% of a typical flea infestation existing in the home as eggs, larvae and pupae. This combination of factors leads to an increased flea challenge on domestic pets and without routine preventive care, a high risk exists of flea infestations establishing - and these can take up to three months to eliminate!

Not only do fleas cause skin issues they can also transmit a variety of infections including tapeworms and Bartonella henselae (cause of cat scratch disease). It is thought that the latter can be passed to humans primarily through flea faeces.

Flea control is, therefore, essential to reduce disease risk and maintain a strong, healthy relationship between pet and owner. To do this it's important to consider the flea life cycle and in particular to ensure that adult fleas are killed on the pet before they can initiate egg production.

Adult fleas can lay eggs within 24 hours and so the treatment used must kill fleas within that time. It must also be administered frequently enough to continue to prevent flea egg laying however, many pet owners live busy lives and this can mean that flea treatment gets missed or not applied on time. The time after application of the treatment that fleas survive long enough to lay eggs is known as the reproductive break point. If the reproductive break point is reached, flea control will fail.

Don't forget that the efficacy and duration of some spot-on treatments can be affected by frequent swimming and shampooing.

As well as ensuring your pet has regular flea treatment, pet owners should also help by hot washing bedding and daily vacuuming.

Talk to your vet about the most suitable product for your pet and ensure you are advised how to use it correctly.

Halloween 2019

Make no bones about it, Halloween can be a pretty frightening time for our pets.

With all the excitement around at this time of year, it’s easy to overlook potential hazards in the home, leaving pets vulnerable.

This month I have put together a list of horrors to be aware of which will help you keep your pets safe and happy this Halloween. Spook-tacular!

Trick but hide the treats!

Most responsible pet owners will be aware of the danger to pets from ingesting inappropriate treats such as chocolate, which is highly toxic to them. However, lots of other treats meant for humans can be just as dangerous, even healthier options such as raisins and grapes which can cause kidney failure in pets. Wrappers, chewing gum, sweets and lollipop sticks pose a hazard so it’s really important to keep treats in pet-proof containers and make sure rubbish is in a secure bin where it can’t be chewed on.

Hubble bubble, decorations mean trouble

It wouldn’t really be Halloween without a lantern or two, but naked flames and wagging tails don’t tend to mix well and singed whiskers are not a good look either. Candle decorations should always be kept out of reach from curious paws, along with glowsticks and glow jewellery which may be punctured with a sharp tooth and can cause some distressing symptoms.

Does my tail look big in this?

As entertaining as it might be to have a miniature Aslan or four-legged Captain Hook running around the lounge, dressing pets up could mean they struggle to behave normally, causing disorientation, stress and panic. Ribbons, sequins, beads and wire can also be a choking hazard so it’s really best to leave the dressing up to the humans.

Hide and seek

Dinging doorbells, creepy callers and startling sounds can all cause anxiety in pets and leaving them outside means they are vulnerable to being teased or spooked by trick or treaters. Keep pets safe from the eerie excitement indoors, in a quiet room away from the front door, where they can hide away and stay calm.


Despite our best efforts, accidents can still happen. If you spot your pet behaving strangely, keep an eye on them. If they start to display symptoms that you are worried about including being unsteady on their feet, vomiting, diarrhoea, breathing difficulties or seizures call your vet immediately.

Having a Bad Ear Day?

If your dog’s constantly shaking, scratching, or rubbing its head they may have a sore ear.

Ear disease is annoying for both the owner and pet alike since it causes a painful, irritating, itchy, malodorous ear. It’s no wonder that it is one of the most common complaints when seeking veterinary advice and also one of the most frustrating to treat.

The external ear canal of a dog comes in a myriad of shapes and sizes due to decades of selective breeding. For the most part, a dog’s ear canal is an L shaped tube lined with special skin cells that secrete a waxy material designed to protect the ear against moisture and infection. At one end of the tube is a fragile thin membrane protecting the middle ear called the tympanic membrane, commonly known as the eardrum. Problems will arise when this defensive barrier is abnormal. Whether they are too narrow or very hairy, both irregularities can block airflow and cause moisture retention. Underlying skin conditions such as allergies and overproduction of wax can also affect the defensive barrier. Occasionally active dogs will have a grass seed that can lodge into and migrate within the canal causing acute pain and inflammation. Also, secondary infections from yeast and bacteria soon set themselves up in the ear canal.

As well as inflamed, itchy and painful ears you may see your dog rubbing their head on the floor and shaking their head.

Treatment is based on keeping the ear relatively wax free and dry. Changing the canal to a more acidic environment with specific astringent cleaners, using anti-fungal, anti-bacterial medications and ensuring adequate air flow are the suggested treatments. In severe cases, gentle ear flushing under a general anesthetic is needed to remove debris deep inside the canal without compromising the eardrum.

An important point to note is that ear problems can potentially return so owners must be vigilant with all medications and future monitoring for recurrence is essential.

Foreign bodies such as grass seeds must be gently removed but seek veterinary help with these since the eardrum is a delicate structure and your vet will have special instruments to aid in seeing and retrieving the material safely.

How to avoid a visit to the vets this Christmas

The festive period can be a great time for all the family including our furry family but it is also the time when pets really do prove that they can get into anything.

Chocolate isn’t the only food hazard to be aware of

When we think of pets eating things that cause harm, we often think of dogs eating chocolate. While this is the most common poisoning that vets see, and chocolate will be in plentiful supply over Christmas, there are lots of other hazards we also need to consider that are abundant in our homes over the festive period. For example, raisins and sultanas, which are plentiful in Christmas puddings, are toxic to dogs.

A gift of a beautiful bunch of Lilies can be toxic to cats and other festive plants around the house such as mistletoe and Ivy are mildly toxic to our pets. A bowl of macadamia nuts left out to snack on for the humans is a danger to your dog if ingested. And then there is the alcohol. An inquisitive (or greedy) pet will investigate the drink left on a low table or the spillage on the floor and pets are far more susceptible to adverse effects of alcohol.

Temptation can lead to paying the ultimate price

Tinsel, baubles and wrapping paper can look like a fun toy to play with for pets, but this can lead to ingestion of bits or the whole lot of it which may cause a life-threatening blockage. In the excitement of presents, it is easy to leave new toys lying around which can also be a temptation to dogs to have a quick chew. Ingestion of batteries can cause serious life-threatening problems. While this is just a small list of potential hazards and there are many more we need to be aware of, it highlights the extra perils that the festive period can hold for inquisitive pets.

Overindulgence is a problem for pets as well as humans at this time of year

Over 60% of vets (British Veterinary Association 2018) think that pet obesity is the biggest health and welfare concern for pets. Giving extra treats over the festive period could be doing your pet much more harm than good and serious overindulgence by pets can lead to digestive problems.

The best way to have a happy and safe festive period for the whole family is to prepare and keep hazards away from pets to avoid unexpected trips to the vets!

It must be love

Animal companionship is an integral part of life in the UK, with the PDSA Paw Report 2017 recording that 51% of households now own a pet.

Many pet owners see their pets as a valued member of the family and simply enjoy the unconditional love that pets bring all year round.

For the love of the pet is what gets us up in the cold mornings to walk the dog or feed the cat. The joy of companionship is given without restraint from our pets and helps to keep us happy.  The excited face of a non-judgemental pet can help the stresses of a bad day melt away.   The love for a pet can help teach responsibility to children and that unconditional love in return is one of a best friend.

Show your love

Pets make us laugh, keep us company and can even improve our physical health and wellbeing; helping to lower blood pressure and relieve stress. But, as with any successful relationship, love is a two-way street and keeping pets happy and healthy is, without a doubt, the best way to show them love.

The importance of playtime

Just like humans, pets need mental stimulation and exercise. Playing with pets is a great way to achieve both at once, whilst strengthening the bond between pet owner and pet. Playtime doesn’t need to involve buying mountains of expensive toys, undivided attention will be enough to get tails wagging as social interaction is very important, especially for rabbits, who should never be kept alone.

Tip top health

Keeping up to date with vaccinations and parasite treatment will help to keep pets in good shape, whilst regular health checks with a vet are an opportunity to identify potential issues before they become a problem, such as maintaining a healthy weight.

Love their waistline (and yours) with more exercise and fewer treats

Obesity is a welfare problem for our pets and can lead to real health problems.  Keeping them at the correct weight with an appropriate diet and plenty of exercise will keep them healthier for longer and the extra walks will help you too.

Mental Health & Wellbeing

We are a nation of animal lovers. The PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) report 2017 estimates that 51% of UK households own a pet.

That’s a whopping 1.1 million rabbits, 9.3 million dogs and 10.3 million cats, cuddling up to owners, all around the country.

Yet, despite our devotion to our furry friends, many owners will not have considered how the healthy choices that we make for ourselves could be applied to the lives of our pets and benefit them too. There are lots of things we, as pet owners, can do to help keep our pets healthy and happy for longer, both physically and mentally.

Let’s start with rabbits

In the wild, rabbits are social creatures that will run, jump, play and dig, all of which are limited if confined to a hutch for long periods of time. But there are lots of easy ways you can improve the quality of life for your pet rabbits. Here are some things to consider;

  • Rabbits should always be kept with a playmate or two and never alone
  • A run with space for rabbits to play together and with toys to chew or climb on can help keep them busy while their owners are at work
  • Allowing rabbits to explore outdoors in a secure garden is the ultimate adventure. Although careful supervision is required if you want to protect your vegetable patch!

Cats can be elusive

They run their own schedule and are well equipped to entertain themselves outdoors, climbing trees and stalking prey which keeps them fit and healthy. But house cats are still programmed to want to do those things which is why environment enrichment is so important for these intelligent animals.

If you were left alone in a house all day with nothing to do, you’d probably feel bored and frustrated. Over time, the stress of a mundane routine without stimulation or company could negatively impact your mental wellbeing and thirst for life. Your behaviour may change and you could feel anxious, lethargic or depressed. Lots of pet owners don’t realise that pets, put in the same situation, can suffer in a similar way to humans.

The good news is that, with a little bit of thought, you can easily provide environmental enrichment for your cat;

  • Cat trees for climbing will satisfy house cats with an adventurous nature
  • Scratching posts for scent marking offer the opportunity to display natural behaviours
  • Creative feeding regimes, to make house cats work for their food, are a clever way to get pets moving more
  • Interactive play is a great cardio workout and can strengthen the bond between a cat and their owner… especially if it’s followed by a post-play chin rub

Owning a dog can provide a great source of comfort and companionship

And, as dogs require daily exercise, dog ownership can also be a huge motivation to get active.

Dogs can easily become bored if left alone for long periods of time. Getting outdoors provides a huge sensory experience for them, and a walk in the park is mutually beneficial for humans and dogs, both physically and mentally.

What better encouragement to get active is there, than an excitable dog who can’t wait to get outside and make the most of life with you?


Parasites can cause significant disease with debilitating effects for pets. Some can also have an impact on human health. Their ability to hide, survive and multiply make them pretty impressive pests, but not the kind of things pets and pet owners want in their homes!

Thankfully most parasites that affect pets can be treated or prevented. That’s why parasite control should be a priority for all pet owners.

Whilst most pet owners know they need to treat their pet regularly, it’s a misconception to think that this is only as the weather starts to warm up and that they do not need to keep up protective treatment during the cooler months.

In recent years, the tick population in the UK has started to feed earlier in the year, and continue for longer due, to increasingly warm, wet winters. Fleas are also becoming a year-round problem, as a centrally heated house with pets provides a warm home with a constant food source.

It’s also important to understand that as your dog or cat grooms, if they eat a flea which is infected with tapeworm, this can lead to other problems.

Helping owners to understand how to prevent and treat parasites is an important aspect of a vet’s work. The vet has the knowledge to be able to give the best advice to ensure your pet gets the right treatment at the right time.

Without this advice you could be giving your pet the wrong preventive product and unintentionally causing harm to your pet.

Many veterinary practices have a Pet Health Plan that will cover most preventive care for a pet with the cost broken down into monthly payments. Visit our Pet Health Club page for more information.

Pet Obesity

The topic of obesity at this time of year, following the indulgent festive period is not uncommon. However, with the likelihood of more food around the home, it would not come as a surprise for pet owners to feed festive treats to our beloved pets.

It is reported that over 4 million pets are fed scraps, treats & leftovers as part of their main meal. Pet obesity is therefore becoming a growing problem in the UK, with 83% of vet professionals agreeing that there will be more overweight pets than healthy weight pets in five years’ time!

Similarly to humans, the common factors include lack of exercise and being fed too much of the wrong kind of food. Owners can have a lack of awareness of what the right amount of food is for their pet & will often feed them human food when the pet appears to beg at the table. This coupled with a lack of exercise makes it really hard for the pets to burn off the extra calories.

Equally symptoms of obesity are the same for us as they are for our pets, with potential for a reduced life expectancy, diabetes, arthritis and cancer.

So avoid feeding your pets human food such as takeaways, chips, crisps and cheese because it will not do them any good. If you are worried about your pet being overweight, seek veterinary advice about the options for weight management.

Pets of old age

Caring for a pet in its twilight years can be hugely rewarding; whether you’ve had your pet since it was a puppy or kitten, or actively decided to adopt an older pet because of the endearing qualities they can offer.

With some understanding of your pet’s changing needs as they age and a few small adaptations to their environment, you can make a big impact on the quality of your pet’s life.

Here are some tips to help you understand more about caring for older pets.


Make sure your pet is microchipped, in case they go missing. Older pets can sometimes become disorientated and their reactions can be slower, getting them into trouble.

Veterinary care

Many of the disorders that affect older pets can be treated and managed to allow your pet to live a happy and comfortable life, particularly if treatment is sought early. It’s important that your pet has regular health checks to identify any potential issues before they become problems, as well as keeping on top of their preventive health care treatment, even if they no longer venture outdoors. Your vet can also do a thorough check including looking for overgrown claws and dental issues.

Adapting the home

Older pets might not be as agile as they were when they were young, finding it difficult to make accurate calculations when jumping. For cats, strategically positioned furniture, boxes or ramps can help them reach their favourite places safely. Dogs may also appreciate a ramp over steps in and out of the house.

Indoor rabbits may find kitchen or laminate flooring slippery so rubber mats can be used to help them grip when hopping around and low sided litter trays will make toileting easier.

Outdoor rabbits with a two story hutch may need revised accommodation if the ramps up and down become a struggle for them.


Although joint function may deteriorate with age, and arthritis can be a problem, exercise is still important for senior pets. Controlled weight and exercise, little and often, can help to alleviate symptoms as long as you don’t allow your pet to overdo it.


Time spent bonding with your senior pet can be hugely rewarding and beneficial to both pet owner and pet. Cats and rabbits may appreciate help with grooming, which becomes more difficult as they age.

Play time should be shorter and softer than when the pet was young but is still important for enrichment and mental health.


Rabbits are the 4th most popular pet in the UK with 0.8 million being kept as pets.

Therefore, rabbit welfare is very important for owners and prospective owners to consider.

According to the annual PDSA Animal Welfare (PAW) Report 2017, inappropriate diet has been consistently cited by vets as the top issue that needs to be addressed for rabbits. This report suggested that 25% of owners still feed muesli as part of their rabbit’s main diet which is a lot of rabbits being fed a harmful diet that can cause disease such as obesity, dental problems and sticky dropping leading to flystrike. A high-quality, hay-based diet is preferable.

Rabbits also spend a large proportion of their day grooming themselves and their companion rabbit(s) if they have one. However, housing needs to be cleaned out frequently and must be adequately ventilated to deter flies. Leave some used bedding material each time, as this will smell friendlier and so provide assurance and clean toilet areas every day if possible. It is particularly important in the warmer months to check your rabbit at least 3 times a day for fly strike, a potentially fatal disease wherein flies lay eggs in soiled rabbit fur and these hatch into maggots.

Vaccinating your rabbit against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) is important especially in rural areas where domestic rabbits may come in contact with wild rabbits, or their fleas.

Finally, owners should give attention to ‘enriching’ their rabbits environment – they are inquisitive animals and love to play and investigate new toys. A veterinary nurse should be able to advise you on ways of doing this or look at the Rabbit Welfare Association website.

Starting from scratch

Allergy is a disease in which the immune system reacts excessively to certain substances, causing a physical reaction which is unpleasant and sometimes very serious.

Although we often hear about allergies in relation to humans, pets are equally susceptible.

Starting from scratch

Although the signs and symptoms of allergies are usually easy to see, identifying the root cause can take time and patience. Talking to your vet is the best way to begin figuring out the cause of your pet’s discomfort. And although there is no way to cure an allergy, treatment to prevent or minimise the effects and provide your pet with relief is possible.

Identifying the itch – the top three causes of allergies in pets

1. Two’s company, flea's a crowd

If you’ve noticed fleas on your pet, the chances are that both they and your home are already infested. Fleas are one of the most common external parasites and it’s the proteins in their saliva that can cause an allergic reaction in some pets. Fleas aren’t just a summer problem, they’re active all year round. However, with a monthly application of a suitable parasite prevention treatment, it’s easy to stop them from becoming an issue.

2. Food allergies. Not as common as you think

Despite common belief, food allergies in pets are quite unusual, with the Banfield State of Pet Health Report 2018 showing that food allergies are only seen in 0.2% of dogs and 0.1 % of cats. Allergies to protein sources such as chicken, beef or dairy are also far more likely than allergies to grain. Pets that do have food allergies are likely to suffer from other allergic skin conditions as well, which can make identifying a food allergy particularly challenging.

Unfortunately, there are no simple quick-fixes when it comes to treating a food allergy. So, it’s important to work closely with your vet who can arrange the necessary tests to narrow down the cause of your pet’s discomfort and prescribe a tailored trial diet plan.

3. Home sweet home

Many of the same environmental allergens that affect people can affect pets. Pollen, for example. Not all environmental allergens are seasonal though and many can be found inside your home; dust mites, fabrics and cleaning solutions are all common culprits and difficult to avoid in most houses.

Like food allergies, environmental allergies can be difficult to identify and often require long-term management. However, regular visits to the vet for appropriate advice and testing can help reduce the risk of more severe skin problems developing.

The Pet Health Club covers the cost of preventive treatments like monthly parasite products and regular check-ups.

The benefits of owning a pet

Research has shown that pet ownership could have a big part to play in enhancing human well-being by staving off the growing social issue of loneliness and social isolation.

The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) has said that its research reinforces the importance of the social bond between humans and pets.

Many people responding to the research said that having a pet made them feel less lonely and 85% believed that interaction with a pet could help to reduce loneliness.


In human health, vaccination has become such a routine word that we forget how powerful it can be.

Measles vaccination in children has been so successful that most doctors qualified within the last 10-15 years have never seen a case and in 1980 amidst great fanfare, it was announced that smallpox had been eradicated from the World. Polio has almost been wiped out.

The same is true in the animal world where the routine vaccination of our pets has led to such a huge drop in some preventable diseases that most vets qualified within the last 10 years have rarely seen a case of parvovirus and never seen a case of distemper.

And that is a problem!

When diseases fall to low levels – due to successful vaccination programmes, it is very easy to forget the threat of those illnesses, and the misery they can cause.

Vaccination offers the most effective way of protecting pets from infectious diseases such as Canine Parvovirus, Canine Distemper, Infectious Canine Hepatitis, Canine Parainfluenza & Leptospirosis, Cat Flu, Feline Infectious Enteritis, Feline Leukaemia Virus and Chlamydophila and Myxomatosis in rabbits.

Vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune system to mount a protective response against these diseases. The immune system then remembers these diseases, enabling it to defend the body against any natural exposure to that disease in future.

Every vaccine lasts for different lengths of time, depending on the disease it is protecting against. Most animals require regular boosters to “remind” the immune system and enhance the level of protection.

Don’t forget that if you are taking your pet abroad the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) means that, before travelling, your pet needs to be vaccinated against rabies and remember that there may be other diseases which are not found in the UK.

Of course, vaccines are not without their risks: like any medicine, there is always a chance of reactions or side effects. These are very rare, and in general the benefits of vaccination vastly outweigh the risks.

Contact any of our branches today and our vets will be able to advise you on all aspects of vaccination.

Which Pet is Right for Me?

Which Pet is Right for Me?

Consider your home, time, activity levels, and budget. The PDSA charity has a great ‘Petwise’ quiz to discover which pet will fit right in.

Which dog for life…?

Dogs are the most genetically diverse species. This diversity is the result of selective breeding over generations. Each breed comes with its own unique characteristics. Traits like behaviour, exercise needs, eating habits, or how much they shed are all impacted by the breed. So it’s key to find out which breed is the right breed for you.

The PDSA charity has some great information on dog breeds. Or you could try the Kennel Club’s ’Find a Breed’ quiz.

I Know Which Pet. Where Can I Buy One?

Some dealers are importing more and more pedigree puppies from overseas. Because of the growing demand for popular breeds, this is often done illegally. You can help: buy responsibly from breeders who give puppies and kittens the best start.

How to Buy a Pet Responsibly:

  • Meet the parents. If you’re buying a puppy or kitten, visit the litter with their mum in their home environment
  • Review the vet paperwork with your own vet. Make sure the pet you want has had the right preventative vaccinations, and flea and worm treatments
  • Check the breeding paperwork. Ask to view the pedigree certificate. A pedigree puppy will have individual registration papers. The breeder will sign these and give to you on purchase so you can transfer ownership
  • Check the health tests. Certain breeds are prone to inherited diseases. The good news is, there are tests for these. Parent pets can be tested to reduce the risk of inherited diseases in the litters. Your vet will be able to advise you which pre-breeding tests are recommended.
  • Be cautious about using social media or local media adverts to buy a pet. Rather follow the steps above
  • Do think about contacting your local animal shelter or breed rescue. Older pets often fit into a busy family routine more easily than a puppy, too

Preparing for the New Arrival – What Does My Pet Need?

Rabbits need the right size of the enclosure, with different levels and plenty of space to exercise. House rabbits will need litter trays and some protection around electrical cables.

Cats need places to jump, hide, scratch, and look outside. They can be quite particular about the type of litter, too. Puppies may need a crate as their safe space. And it’s a good idea to get them toys to chew to save your soft furnishings.

Perfect Pets

Take the time to get good advice from your vet. Do your research and choose your perfect pet responsibly. Doing so will give you and your furry friend the best possible start and who doesn’t want the best for their new best friend?