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Your Guide To General Pet Wellbeing

Pet Health Plans

St Kitts Pet Health Plans are designed to save you money and help spread the cost of your pet’s routine and preventative treatment with simple low monthly payments.  Plans are available for cats, dogs and rabbits and include worming treatment, booster vaccinations, microchipping and a six-monthly health check.  Our Plus Plan additionally includes flea and tick treatment and a discount on your vet bills.

St Kitts Pet Care Plans are not designed to replace insurance and we recommend taking out a pet insurance policy to cover the costs in case of an accident or illness.

Please contact us for more details.

The Importance of Pet Insurance

Having pet insurance ensures you’re there for your pet when they need it most without worrying about vet bills.  Things such as the age, breed, location, whether the pet is neutered, type and size of the pet play a part in determining how much the pet insurance will cost. Levels of cover also vary widely.

At St Kitts Veterinary group we recommend Petplan insurance for the following reasons:

  • With Petplan’s Covered for Life guarantee your veterinary fees cover is renewed each year no matter how much you claim.
  • Petplan doesn’t place exclusions at renewal on their Covered for Life policies so on-going conditions such as eczema continue to be covered by the policy.
  • Petplan won’t increase your premium or excess just because you make a claim.
  • Petplan is a pet insurance specialist so they understand the animal market and work closely with vets, charities and breeders.

Please contact us for details of a four week free trial of Petplan Insurance.

Microchip Your Pet

No matter how careful we are, pets can and do go missing. A very simple solution to this is to make sure that your pet is microchipped.

It is more comfortable for a puppy if they are at least 7 weeks old and under the microchipping law that came into effect in April 2016, all dogs and puppies MUST be microchipped and registered by the age of eight weeks.  Although there is no law for cats, it is equally as important.  Many cats roam over large distances and some house cats are prone to escaping if the opportunity presents itself!

It is a quick and simple procedure where a tiny chip is injected under a pets skin.  This chip contains a unique code that is linked to the pet owners details. It is important that your information, such as address and mobile number, is kept up to date on the database. 

Oral health in dogs and cats

Dental health is a very important part of your pet’s overall health, and dental problems can cause, or be caused by, other health problems. Your pet’s teeth and gums should be checked at least once a year by your vet to check for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.

Have your pet’s teeth checked sooner if you observe any of the following problems:

  • Bad breath
  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
  • Teeth that are discoloured or covered in tartar
  • Abnormal chewing, drooling or dropping food from the mouth
  • Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
  • Pain in or around the mouth
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth

Some pets become irritable when they have dental problems and any changes in your pet’s behaviour should prompt a visit to your vet. Always be careful when evaluating your pet’s mouth, because a painful animal may bite.

Causes of pet dental problems

Although cavities are less common in pets than in people, they can have many of the same dental problems that people can develop:

  • Broken teeth and roots
  • Periodontal disease
  • Abscesses or infected teeth
  • Cysts or tumours in the mouth
  • Malocclusion, or misalignment of the teeth and bite
  • Broken (fractured) jaw
  • Palate defects (such as cleft palate)

Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats.  By the time your pet is 3 years old, he or she will very likely have some early evidence of periodontal disease which will worsen as your pet grows older if effective preventive measures aren’t taken. Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect your pet’s mouth. Other health problems found in association with periodontal disease include kidney, liver, and heart muscle changes.

Diet

Our top tips for feeding dogs

  • Ensure your dog has constant access to fresh, clean drinking water.  
  • Your dog needs a well-balanced diet to keep them healthy. Make sure your dog eats a diet suitable for their age, lifestyle and health status.
  • Feed your dog at least once each day, unless advised otherwise by your vet.  
  • Most human foods will not provide dogs with the nutrition they need and some human foods for example chocolate and onions, can be toxic to dogs and make them very ill.
  • How much your dog needs to eat depend on their diet, lifestyle and health. Read and follow carefully the feeding instructions on the dog foods that you buy.  
  • Adjust how much you feed your dog to make sure they don’t become under or overweight.
  • If your dog’s eating or drinking habits change, contact your vet.  This is often the first sign that your dog is unwell.

Top tips for feeding cats

  • Without drinking water, your cat could become severely ill within hours. Give your cat constant access to clean drinking water.  
  • Cats need a well-balanced, meat-based diet to stay fit and healthy – they cannot be vegetarian. Make sure your cat eats a balanced diet that is suitable for their age, health status and lifestyle.
  • Most typical human food does not meet the nutritional needs of cats, and some can even cause real harm to cats
  • Cats naturally eat several small meals per day. Make sure you feed your cat every day and try to split their daily intake into several small meals (unless advised otherwise by your vet). 
  • How much your cat needs to eat depends on their age, lifestyle and health. Always read and follow the feeding instructions that relate to the cat food you buy.
  • If a cat eats more food than they need they will become overweight and may suffer. Equally, if a cat is eating too little, they will be underweight. Adjust the amount of food according to the needs of your cat.
  • If you provide a litter tray, make sure their food and water positioned well away from it. Most cats will not eat if their food is placed too close to their toilet site.

Talk to your vet if your cat’s eating and drinking habits change – it could be a sign they’re ill.

Mobility

Your pet’s mobility and regular movement, is important to their joint health but to their overall health as well. Regular movement helps keep your pet’s muscles and joints healthy, warding off arthritis and joint degeneration.

Stagnation, or lack of movement, is one of the leading causes of pet arthritis and joint disease. When a dog or cat spends too much time lying down or sitting idly, their muscles begin to atrophy. When their muscles become weak, too much strain is put on the joints. Even simple acts like standing up or walking down some steps can be a lot of work on joints, especially ageing ones.

Obesity brings a similar peril to your pet and puts them at high risk for arthritis and joint damage. Lots of extra pounds put undue strain on a dog or cat’s joints, causing them to deteriorate more quickly, and risks injury.

Of course, the leading cause of chronic disease like pet arthritis is chronic inflammation. A poor diet creates and feeds inflammation within the body so ensure you are feeding your pets a healthy, balanced diet.

Help your pet to move a little every single day. Even if your dog or cat is advanced in age or already struggling with arthritis pain, regular movement will help their joints and muscles. Keep the blood flowing to these areas helps cell repair, and will encourage muscle building (taking some pressure off of those joints).

Regular massage and passive stretching will also help keep your pet flexible and provide relief from stiff joints and tired muscles.  For more information or advice, please contact us. 

Exercise Advice

How much exercise does my cat need?

Every cat is unique and this can mean that their exercise requirements do vary a little. Normally this is based on age or health. For example, a much older pet or one with health problems may not be advised to do a great deal of exercise each day.

The general consensus is that most indoor cats do not get enough exercise each day whilst most outdoor felines do get a sufficient amount. It is recommended that cats should ideally spend an average of 30 minutes doing moderate exercise each day. Cats are naturally less inclined to exercise than dogs and so you may need to make a specific effort to get your cat moving.

One of the best ways to ensure that your cat gets enough exercise is to spend a little time playing with them each day. Choose a game that gets your cat active – such as chasing a feather or laser pointer or other interactive activities. Even if you can’t manage to do this for at least half an hour each day, the more you can do, the better it is likely to be for your pet.

How much exercise does my dog need?

Exercise is essential for all dogs. It helps keep them in shape but is really important for their mental health too. It’s so important that all dogs get a daily walk to keep them happy and healthy.

Getting out and about keeps your dog’s brain active and is great stress relief for them. Dogs love to sniff and explore so make sure your dog has plenty of opportunities to just… well… be a dog!

Not getting enough exercise can cause health problems such as obesity but can also lead to behavioural problems. Bored dogs are unhappy dogs and they can show their frustration by chewing, barking a lot, toileting in the house and over-grooming (licking too much).  If your dog has any of these problems, more exercise may help them cope better. If you’re worried about their behaviour, speak to your vet for more advice.

How much exercise your dog needs differs according to the breed of the dog and age.  It can be anything from 30 minutes a day to over 2 hours. Remember that there are fun ways to exercise your dog other than taking them for walks.  Here are some examples:

  • Make them work for their food. Using a feeding toy instead of a food bowl is a fun way to feed your dog at the same time as getting them to burn extra calories.
  • Sniff it out. Dogs have an excellent sense of smell and this can form a fun game. Use one of their favourite toys or part of their food allowance to create a scent trail by rubbing it on the floor at regular intervals. Hide the toy or food at the end of the trail as a great reward.
  • Jump to it. For more mobile dogs you can use a plastic hula hoop held upright, just off the ground and get your dog to walk through it. Give them lots of praise once they jump through and gradually increase the height off the floor to get them jumping higher and burning those calories.
  • Get them to ‘step-up’ to the challenge. You can use a flight of stairs for any dog who is mobile. Leave your dog at the bottom of the stairs and walk to the top yourself. Call your dog to you, at the top of the stairs and reward them with some fuss or a game with their favourite toy. You can repeat this a few times but stop if they seem tired or out of breath.

Training A rewarding part of dog ownership is successfully training your dog. Training is an excellent way to bond with your dog and will help you build a good relationship with them but whether young or old, all dogs can benefit from learning some basic commands.

What are the benefits of training my dog?

Teaching your dog basic obedience like sit, wait and coming back when called gives them the freedom to do the things they like to do, like running off the lead and coming with you to meet friends and family, while being safe and under control. Dogs are intelligent animals and most love to learn, so training can be a great way of stopping them from getting bored.

How do dogs learn?

All training should be reward-based. Giving your dog something they really like such as food, toys or praise when they show a particular behaviour means that they are more likely to do it again. The better the reward the more your dog will enjoy training and learning.

Top training tips

  • Always start lessons for new tricks in a quiet room in your house away from any distractions.
  • Break training up into short but regular sessions so your dog isn’t overwhelmed.
  • Be patient! Just like us, dogs all learn at different rates so don’t worry if your dog doesn’t pick things up straight away.
  • Always end with something your dog knows, so the session finishes positively.
  • Have fun!

For further advice on any of the topics above or if you have any other questions or concerns, please contact us:

St Kitts Veterinary Centre: 01252 844044
Basingstoke Veterinary Centre: 01256 844944
Crookham Park Veterinary Centre: 01252 913990
Firgrove Veterinary Centre: 01252 877799

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