cat carrier

Choosing a cat carrier

Cats often have negative associations with their carrier, especially if it means a trip to the vet. This may make it difficult to get them to enter the carrier, therefore making it harder and more stressful for the owner to bring the cat to the vet. What causes these negative associations? Here we look at what to consider when choosing a carrier and how best to train your cat.

What to look for when choosing a cat carrier

Slats on the side – a carrier with slats on the side will allow the cat to feel more secure compared to a carrier which has slats all over it. The slats allow for air to circulate and treats to be given to the cat and a blanket can be used to cover the whole carrier when you transport the cat

Roof opening – a carrier that opens fully at both the top and the front allows the cat to enter and exit the carrier in two different ways. This is especially helpful with cats that are not yet comfortable with using the front door. A roof opening also allows a vet to examine the cat without taking them out of the carrier which can be good for nervous cats

Material and size – carriers made of strong plastic are ideal as they are easy to clean, and prevent escapes. The carrier should be big enough for the cat to lie down, stand up and turn around in

Familiar bedding – cats are very territorial and rely on scent to feel comfortable and secure in their environment. Placing familiar, comfortable bedding in the carrier will help the cat to feel more at ease when travelling in the carrier. A synthetic facial pheromone, such as Feliway, can also be sprayed on the bedding 15 minutes before the cat enters the carrier.

Questions to ask if you cat is experiencing problems using the carrier:

  • Is the carrier too small? Without enough space to move or having a lack of control over their environment may make a cat feel uncomfortable
  • Is being handled in the carrier uncomfortable? A cat may associate rough handling with the carrier itself
  • Does the cat have negative associations with the carrier due to previous illness? For example, the cat may have been in pain when they were put in the carrier, and therefore associate the carrier with this feeling
  • Does the carrier smell different to their usual territory? For example, if it is kept in a shed, a different smell may make the cat feel anxious

How to improve your cat’s emotional response towards the carrier

  1. Ask yourself why the cat may have negative associations with the carrier. If the cat has been forced into the carrier, or had a negative experience with a carrier, it’s usually best to source a new carrier to re-start the training process.
  2. Have other cats used the carrier? If cats share a carrier, albeit at different times, and they do not have a good relationship, this may cause issues with entering the carrier. Cats leave chemical messages (pheromones) for other cats, so they may pick up negative signals if another cat has used the carrier. In this case, wash the carrier with a warm solution of biological washing powder (approximately 10% washing powder) to remove any pheromones
  3. When starting to train your cat to use a carrier, ensure the process is not rushed. If possible, start before any vet visits are needed. The top of the carrier can be removed or opened, and the carrier can be placed in an area of the house that the cat feels comfortable in. Synthetic facial pheromones (for example, Feliway) can be sprayed on a favourite blanket inside the carrier. Try placing a treat(s) and/or catnip in the carrier and leave it there for the cat to investigate freely
  4. If the cat does not choose to go near the carrier, try moving their favourite bedding a little closer and give them a treat when they go near or on the blanket. In this way your cat will learn to relax near the carrier. Slowly place the blanket closer to the carrier over time until the cat is comfortable sitting on the blanket in the open carrier. This helps to form positive associations with the carrier
  5. This same technique can be used when it’s time to add the roof, and eventually the door, to the carrier. The roof should be placed on the carrier when the cat is not in the carrier. If the cat is not comfortable with entering the carrier yet, a ‘lure’ can be used to encourage them. Do not use a lure if they are very anxious. A lure could be a treat or toy placed inside the carrier. Once inside, a treat should be given to mark the correct behaviour. Build this training up over time with the cat spending increasing amounts of time in the carrier, before repeating the process with a door attached

When should you contact your vet?

  • If you have any concerns or questions about your cat
Posted in Pet

Pros and cons of keeping a cat indoors

For most cat owners, it is an important decision on whether you should keep your cat indoors or allow them access to the outside world. There are pros and cons of both options which this article will discuss.

The benefits of keeping a cat indoors:

  • The risk of physical injury is lower in indoor-only cats and these cats may live longer. Physical risks that they will avoid include road traffic accidents, falling from trees, drowning, attacks from other animals and aggressive encounters with other cats in territorial disputes (unless they are living in a multi-cat household with incompatible cats).

  • The risk of someone else physically harming the cat or stealing it is eliminated if they do not go outside.

  • Protection from infectious diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), Feline Leukaemia (FeLV) and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP).

  • Some breeds or types of cats may be at higher risk of challenges in the outside world. For example, hairless cats are at risk of exposure to higher and lower temperatures and direct sunlight, white cats are more at risk of skin cancer and long haired breeds are more at risk of matted fur by being in the outside world. These risks can be minimised or removed by keeping them indoors.

  • An indoor-only lifestyle prevents cats from hunting wildlife, which is not necessarily a positive for the cat. However, this is a positive for the wildlife population and can be an ethical decision for some owners concerned for the wildlife population or who experience pressure from neighbours to keep the cat indoors.

The downside of keeping a cat indoors:

  • There is less opportunity for the cat to perform natural predatory and exploratory behaviours which can lead to boredom and frustration. These behaviours can and should be mimicked in the indoor environment with the use of prey-like toys, puzzle feeders and scatter feeding.

  • Accidents within the home such as falling from windows, poisoning from cleaning products, medications or plants are still prevalent in indoor cats. These risks still apply to indoor-outdoor cats but there may be a slightly higher risk to cats who spend all of their time indoors.

  • Indoor cats will tend to be less streetwise if they do manage to escape from the house and may be at higher risk of startling from traffic, being involved in a road traffic accident or getting lost.

  • Indoor cats may perceive threats from seeing neighbouring cats enter their garden or pass the house without being able to chase them away, which can lead to frustration.

  • If an indoor cat is part of a multi-cat household, there is a risk of them experiencing negative emotions and subsequent inappropriate behaviours from sharing space with incompatible cats. This might include house soiling, increased marking or scratching behaviours and over grooming to name a few. This can still be the case with indoor-outdoor cats, but the pressure could be much higher on those cats not able to remove themselves from the house at times of high stress.

Posted in Pet
Conker poisoning in dogs

Conker poisoning in dogs

Conkers are the seed of the horse chestnut nut tree, a very common species in the UK, which are found lying on the ground in the autumn time. Similar to acorns, curious dogs may pick up conkers to play with. Read what our vet advises about conkers in our article.

Clinical signs of conker poisoning

The first signs of the toxicity are seen between 1 and 6 hours after ingestion, although signs can be delayed for 48 hours.

Signs of toxicity include:

  • Restlessness
  • Wobbliness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Drooling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting +/- blood
  • Diarrhoea
  • Increased thirst
  • Reduced appetite

Cause of conker poisoning

Although conker toxicity is rare, accidental ingestion can lead to problems. The major toxic component of conkers is aesculin, which is found in all parts of the tree, including the leaves. The mechanism of toxicity remains unclear.

What can you do to help your pet?

Preventing your dog from eating conkers, whether you are outside or on a walk, is the best way to avoid conker poisoning. If you notice that your dog picks up, chews or swallows conkers, it is important to seek prompt veterinary advice.

Treatment of conker poisoning

The first thing that your vet will do is give your dog medication to induce vomiting to remove the stomach contents. They may also perform gastric lavage to wash out the stomach. In this way, as much of the potentially toxic material is removed from your pet’s digestive system.

The main treatment for conker poisoning is supportive treatment to manage the clinical signs, including fluid therapy and correction of electrolyte imbalances. In cases where conkers cause intestinal obstruction, surgery might be necessary.

Posted in Pet
prepare your dog for fireworks

How to prepare your dog for fireworks with training

Many dogs are afraid of fireworks – and why wouldn’t they be! Unfortunately, firework displays aren’t limited to 5th November, so it’s best to be prepared at any time from October through New Year’s Eve. If you already know your dog is terrified of fireworks, do speak to your vet or a dog behaviourist for advice. There isn’t a quick fix, and sometimes medication may be needed.

How to prepare your dog for fireworks with training

Dogs and fireworks: how to prepare your dog with training

There are things you can do to help an already anxious dog or to make sure a dog who hasn’t yet experienced their first fireworks season copes as well as possible.

  1. Safety first: keep your dog on lead, even in the garden, unless you’re absolutely certain they can’t get out. Check their collar or harness is secure, that microchip information is up to date, and that they’re wearing their ID tag. A frightened dog may scramble over a fence or tunnel through a hedge.

  2. Be there: your dog will find it far harder to cope alone. Ignore old-school advice that it’s wrong to comfort them. You will help by being a reassuring presence. And, just as you might with a nervous small child, be calm and comforting. If they seek your lap or a soothing hand, do offer it.

  3. Provide a ‘safe place’: many dogs will find it helpful to have a covered den in an area where they feel most comfortable. Where they feel safest when stressed is your dog’s choice – it might be in their crate, under a bed or behind a sofa. Wherever they are likely to choose, cover it perhaps with an old duvet to reduce the noise and flashing lights. Don’t shut them in as they may panic if they feel both scared and trapped. Close windows and draw the curtains if possible.

  4. Think about exercise and toileting: plan walks well before dusk in the hope of avoiding the fireworks, and try and get them to toilet before it kicks off as they may not be prepared to do so later. You may have to get up in the middle of the night or very early to take your dog out instead. It’s probably a good idea to leave newspaper or pads on the floor, just in case.

  5. Alternative sounds: play music or have the TV on. There are also sites where you can get music that’s specially written to calm dogs.

  6. Distracting your dog isn’t always possible but well worth trying. Have their favourite treats and good tasty chews available, play games, try gentle massages. But if they just want to hide away, allow them to do so.

  7. There are a number of products designed to calm pets. You can try Pet Remedy plug-in diffusers or sprays. Your dog may benefit from a body wrap such as a Thundershirt or hoodies designed to go over their ears – but get them used to these well in advance.

Remember, only your dog can decide what’s helpful! With a little preparation, hopefully your dog will get through it all relatively calmly.

Posted in Pet
Fever in dogs and cats

Fever in dogs and cats

Having a body temperature that is higher than normal is usually associated with fever. A fever is typically caused by inflammation or infection. A temperature rise is part of the body’s normal defence mechanism and fulfils an important function. A rectal temperature above 39.2 degrees C is considered abnormal in dogs and cats. In this article you can read more about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of fever – and when it’s time to contact a vet!

Causes of a temperature

In addition to infection and inflammation, a high temperature can be caused by immunological diseases, traumatic tissue damage, tumours, heat stroke, seizures, allergic reactions, pain, stress or heavy exercise, as well as in response to certain drugs, such as vaccines.

Symptoms of fever in dogs and cats

  • Dull
  • Lethargy
  • Anxious
  • Increased breathing rate or effort
  • Reduced appetite
  • Drinking more
  • Trembling
  • Pinker or redder gums than normal
  • Increased heart rate

Diagnosis – how to find out if your pet has a fever

To know if your dog or cat has a high body temperature, you need to take their rectal temperature. You cannot accurately assess body temperature by feeling the nose, ears, tongue or paw. At rest, the normal temperature is around 38.3 degrees C. It is useful to take the temperature of your animal a couple of times when it is well, so that you know what is the normal temperature for your particular animal.

Tip! Here you can see how to take the temperature of your pet.

Treatment of a fever

If your dog or cat has a mild temperature rise (below 39.2 degrees C) but is otherwise in good health, you can often wait and keep a close eye on them for any other signs that might develop. It may also be a good idea to contact a vet for some advice. Ensure your pet is allowed to rest, stays hydrated and eats small regular meals.

If the animal is showing any of the signs above, or does not start showing signs of improvement, a vet examination is likely to be needed. Blood samples, and x-rays or an ultrasound scan may be the first steps to finding out what the problem is. The treatment will depend on what the cause is. Sometimes, your pet may need to stay at the clinic for monitoring and treatment, such as a drip (intravenous fluid therapy).

Can I prevent infections in my dog ​​or cat?

It is difficult to protect against all infections, just as with humans. Make sure that your dog or cat receives their recommended vaccinations and boosters. A healthy diet and body condition is also important. Knowing what is normal for your pet will help you to spot abnormal symptoms early. Avoid sharing water bowls, food bowls and toys with other animals outside the household will also help to reduce the risk of infections.

When should you contact a vet?

If your dog or cat has a high temperature and is feeling under the weather, or you notice any other symptoms, contact your vet for advice. You can start by booking a video appointment with one of our vets at FirstVet for an initial assessment. If the temperature is above 40 degrees C, you should see a vet as soon as possible.

Posted in Pet
Taking your pet's temperature

Taking your pet’s temperature

The only way to determine if your pet has a fever is to use a thermometer. We show you how to do this with a few quick and easy steps to help you take your pet’s temperature safely and accurately.

How to take your dog or cat’s temperature using a thermometer

  • We suggest using a little Vaseline or lubricant on the end of the thermometer to make it easier to insert
  • Try to keep your pet calm, and offer a treat to distract them, so that your pet has a positive experience
  • It may be helpful to have an assistant to stroke the pet over the back and support them with a hand under the abdomen to ensure they are standing
  • As a preparation, touch the anal opening gently with the thermometer before inserting it about 1-1.5 cm
  • Digital thermometers typically beep when the reading is complete, which may take 5 or more seconds

The normal temperature for dogs and cats is about 38.3 degrees celsius at rest.

Posted in Pet
Is chicken dangerous for dogs and cats

Is chicken dangerous for dogs and cats?

Is chicken dangerous for dogs and cats?

Do you feed your pet chicken? Most dogs and cats love the taste of chicken and it is a favourite for many. However, there are a few safety factors to keep in mind when giving them chicken.

Cooked chicken and other recipes

It is tempting to let dogs and cats taste a piece of chicken, or have leftovers, from meals that we have cooked for ourselves and our families. It is important to remember that some everyday spices used in cooking chicken can irritate a dog’s stomach, resulting in symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea. In this case, it is better to scrape off any spices before giving it to your dog. Why not cook a separate piece for your dog without any spices? Alternative ideas include making a plain salt-free chicken broth or soup, and including rice. Remember to weigh the amount of food you give your pet everyday. This ensures that you provide a consistent and balanced diet specific to their weight and activity, helping to avoid them becoming overweight.

Drumsticks and bones

Compared to chicken breast, which contains no bones, parts of a whole chicken, such as the thighs or wings, can pose a serious risk to dogs. This is because pieces can get stuck in a dog’s throat, stomach or the intestine. When the bones are crunched, it creates sharp ends which can pierce the delicate walls of the digestive system. Cooked bones are more brittle, and therefore shatter more easily than raw bones, however both pose a risk. If you feed raw chicken legs as part of your dog’s diet, it is advisable to supervise their meal times. If your pet has eaten chicken bones then keep an eye out for blood in their stool.

Many dogs are eager to eat and, if they eat very quickly, there is also a risk that chicken legs could get stuck in the dog’s throat. We would recommend preparing your dog’s food safely to avoid these risks. Read our article for advice on how to help your dog to slow their eating and make the most out of meal times.

Raw chicken

If you feed raw chicken, it is important to be aware that the chicken can contain bacteria that can make a dog or cat unwell. For example, chicken may contain SalmonellaCampylobacter or ESBL (Extended Spectrum Beta-Lactamase) bacteria that carry resistance genes to certain antibiotics. These are also potentially dangerous to humans. Good hygiene is therefore essential when handling raw chicken, or feeding it to your pet. Food bowls and surfaces that the dogs have eaten from should be disinfected after the dog has finished eating. If your dog is currently receiving a course of prescribed antibiotics, it may be a good idea not to feed raw chicken or similar raw food, until after the treatment course is finished. This is because bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics.

Dried chicken treats

There is a huge range of dog treats with dried chicken available, which many dogs love. When using training aids or feeding treats, we would recommend reducing some of their allocated daily food allowance in order to avoid excess calories and over-feeding your dog. When selecting treats for your dog, it is important to avoid those that contain additives or preservatives, and to always provide your dog with access to plenty of fresh water. If your dog shows signs of dehydration, increased thirst or urination, or they are off colour, always seek veterinary advice.

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This article was written by a FirstVet vet

Posted in Pet
Help! My dog gets travel sickness

Help! My dog gets travel sickness

Travel sickness, also called car or motion sickness, can affect pets as much as humans. Any form of travel can trigger travel sickness- dogs may shake, drool, yawn excessively, vomit and in some cases urinate or defecate. The association between the car and sickness often makes dogs afraid of the car. Luckily there are plenty of things you can try to help your dogs as well as travel sickness tablets which can be prescribed by your vet. Read our advice here.

What causes travel sickness in puppies and dogs?

The mechanism for motion sickness is not fully understood. The generally accepted theory is that when there is a mismatch between the brain’s input from the eyes and the middle ear (vestibular system) it triggers the vomiting centre of the brain. This is why, for humans, starting at the horizon as a stable point of reference can help. Car sickness is more common in puppies and thankfully many dogs outgrow their motion sickness as they get older.

What are the signs of travel sickness in dogs?

Early signs of stress/car sickness in dogs include; panting, whining, vocalising, excessive yawning, drooling, pacing and restlessness. This can progress to vomiting and in some cases urinating and defecating. If your dog associates the car with feeling sick they are naturally going to become fearful of getting in the car. This anxiety can be enough to cause sickness before the car has started moving. Preventing travel sickness also involves tackling this anxiety.

How can I stop my dog from getting travel sick?

  • Face your dog forward – facing forward in the back seat is the best option. It is a legal requirement that your dog is secured in the car, both for your safety and that of your dog. If your dog travels in the front make sure the passenger side airbag is off and that the passenger seat is as far back as possible

  • Fresh air – open a window to allow air to circulate

  • Position them so that they can see out the window – much like us having a point of reference outside the car can help. You may need to provide a cushion or booster seat to raise small dogs up

  • Don’t feed your dog at least 2 hours before a car journey – having a full stomach makes nausea more likely

  • Distraction – offering a special car trip toy which only comes out on car journeys can help take their mind off the journey

  • Keep the car cool and quiet – calming music may help

  • Try using a calming scent – products such as Adaptil and Pet Remedy have been shown to have a calming effect. Alternatively a blanket from home may make them feel more secure

  • Behavioural modification/ training – For some dogs the fear of the car (and the association with vomiting) can be enough to cause vomiting before the journey has even started. For any dog showing fear of the car-training can help (see below)

  • Medication – your physical vet will be able to provide motion sickness tablets but these are not recommended for regular journeys and should only be used for a maximum of 2 days in a row. Don’t be tempted to use human medication for your dog as this can be dangerous

How can I help my dog like the car?

Helping your dog like the car is a gradual process, don’t expect instant results but over time perseverance pays off. If you have a dog who is extremely fearful or the measures below don’t seem to be working consider seeking help from a behaviourist- look for behaviourists who are accredited by a recognised body such as Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourists (CCAB) or Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC).

  • Preparation – if possible use a different car from where the dog has been sick before. Initially open all the doors so your dog doesn’t feel trapped. Add a blanket from home or try using an Adaptil collar or spray (15 minutes before training). If possible, plan to avoid car journeys with your dog for the next few weeks whilst you train them

  • Watch out for stress – Dogs show a whole range of behaviours when they’re scared as listed above. Your dog should be totally happy with the first step before adding anything else. Be patient

  • Baby steps – Start by asking your dog to get in and out the car a few times rewarding them each time they jump in. Try feeding your dog in the car as the ‘jackpot’ for all their hard work. If you have a dog who is too scared to even approach the car it would be best to talk to a behaviourist

  • Avoid ‘luring’ your dog – Try not to use high value treats as a ‘lure’ as this can create a stressful conflict for your dog (tasty food vs. scary place). Imagine, if you saw a bar of chocolate in a scary cave you might be tempted to run in and grab it, but the moment you’ve got your hands on it you’re out of there! Alternatively if you go into the cave even though you find it scary and THEN get rewarded with chocolate, suddenly the cave is a little less frightening

  • Building it up – Once your dog feels ok sitting in the back seat, try turning the engine on and not going anywhere. Watch for any signs of increasing anxiety. Once this feels okay try a 30 second drive and build from there, keeping drives as smooth and corner free as possible

  • Keep up the good work – keep reinforcing the idea that the car is an okay place to be. If your dog only goes in the car to the vets they will begin to form a negative association. Try to add in driving short distances to rewarding places e.g. for a walk to dilute the negative association

  • Give your dog a cue – If you HAVE to put your dog in the car whilst you are still training try using a special harness or lead which is very different from their normal set. This gives your dog a cue that they are going in the car and helps them continue to trust you when it comes to training

Is there a travel sickness tablet for dogs? What about sedation?

Yes, but it has to be prescribed by your vet. Motion sickness tablets can be used to see how much of your dog’s worry around car journeys is related to sickness vs fear. Tablets are also a good option for long or unavoidable journeys but not for use every time. Sedation is rarely the answer although it has its place either as part of a behavioural modification programme or for one-off unavoidable journeys. There is no long term ‘quick fix’ for fearful behaviour but if you’re having trouble seek help from a professional.

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

Posted in Pet

First aid for your dog or cat: how to treat minor ailments

First aid for your dog or cat: how to treat minor ailments

Whenever your dog or cat needs first aid treatment it’s good to be prepared. This article will give you some suggestions for what to stock in your pet’s first aid kit at home and some first aid tips for common ailments.

First aid kit

Ready-made pet first aid kits are available to purchase from your vet clinic or pet pharmacy. However, if you prefer to assemble your own first aid kit, here is a list of some important items to include:

  1. Up to date vaccination card

  2. Microchip number

  3. Recent photo of your pet

  4. Important telephone numbers, including your nearest 24-hour veterinary clinic

  5. Thermometer: normal temperature for both dogs and cats is approximately 38-39oC

  6. Saline for cleaning wounds. Make your own by adding 1 teaspoon of salt to 500ml (1 pint) of cooled boiled water

  7. Chlorhexidine or antiseptic wash: use diluted (1:10 dilution – 1 part antiseptic to 9 parts water) for contaminated wounds

  8. Melolin non-adhesive dressing to apply directly to wounds

  9. Gauze swabs to clean wounds or eyes

  10. Cotton wool roll

  11. Conforming bandage (eg Knitfirm) and cohesive bandage (eg Vetrap) for bandaging wounds

  12. Adhesive tape to secure bandages

  13. Scissors with rounded ends

  14. Syringe to administer medication or clean a wound

  15. Spare collar and lead

  16. Probiotics for dogs and cats

  17. Electrolyte powder for dogs and cats. This is usually added to their drinking water


It is recommended that you check the kit each year, and replace things that have been used or gone out of date.

What happens if my pet eats something it shouldn’t?

If your pet eats something it shouldn’t, that might cause irritation, damage or perforation of the stomach and/or intestine you should contact your vet immediately. It may be necessary for your vet to induce vomiting. This is done with the help of a special vomiting medication given by injection. Please do not try to make your pet vomit at home using salt, as this can cause salt poisoning.

If more than two hours have passed since your pet ate something inappropriate, expulsion by vomiting is rarely possible. After this time the stomach contents pass through into the small intestine. In some cases it is not appropriate to induce vomiting as the item/chemical may cause further damage on the way back up, or may become lodged in the oesophagus (food pipe).

There are many human food types, as well as other household items, that are toxic to pets. If your animal is showing any signs of having eaten something it shouldn’t, then do not watch and wait; contact your nearest vet clinic immediately. If possible, take a sample of the item consumed, or the packaging with you, as this will help the vet assess the danger and provide the appropriate treatment.

If your pet seems well, or you are unsure about what they have eaten, you can start by calling your vet for some advice. More information is available from the Veterinary Poisons Information Service Animal Poisons website. Here you will find details, for example, about how much chocolate a pet can consume before signs of toxicity are seen.

How do I treat fight wounds at home?

If your dog is involved in a fight, do not try to intervene with your hands as you risk getting bitten, or scratched. Instead, try to distract them or separate them, for example by soaking them in water using a bucket, or a hose pipe. For cats involved in a fight, gently introduce a sheet of cardboard or another large barrier between them, to split them up and then allow them to cool down.

After the fight your pet may be agitated, scared or in pain. Take great care when checking for injuries. If you can see an obvious wound, if your pet has difficulty walking or standing, is bleeding heavily, or is in shock, then seek advice from a vet immediately. In the meantime, keep your pet as quiet as possible. If you find a wound(s) that is more than 1 cm long or more than a few millimetres deep, if the wound is over a joint, or if the wound is contaminated with debris, a visit to your vet is needed. If the wound is bleeding heavily, it may be possible to wrap a bandage (see first aid kit above) around the affected area to stem the blood flow. Let the vet know that you are on your way, so that they can be ready when you arrive.

If your pet seems ok, check closely for small wounds or tiny puncture marks. These may be hidden under the fur and may only become apparent after a few days. Puncture wounds often become infected because bacteria become trapped under the skin, resulting in the formation of an abscess. This often leads to swelling, which can be very painful.

It may be possible to treat small wounds at home. Carefully trim the hair around a wound and wash it with copious saline solution; if necessary, use clean gauze to remove mild debris. If you notice that the area around the wound is swelling, or the wound is not healing, then seek advice from a vet.

Lameness: What do you do if you suspect a broken leg?

If your pet has an obvious fracture, if bone is visible, if it is non-weight bearing on one or more limbs, or seems to be very sore, then we recommend that you seek emergency assistance from your nearest vet clinic. If your pet has a broken leg, you can try to stabilise it by gently wrapping the leg with cotton wool roll, followed by conforming bandage and then cohesive wrap. You can add a light-weight stiff splint for extra support between the layers of cotton wool, for example a wooden ice-cream stick for small animals, and a similar larger splint for bigger animals. If it is an open fracture (the broken bone is visible through the wound), use a clean piece of gauze or melolin dressing, moistened with saline. This should be placed over the entire wound before applying the bandage on top.

How do you dress a paw wound?

Sometimes it may be appropriate to put on a bandage to protect a paw wound and to speed up wound healing. It is important to follow these steps and use the diagram below:

  1. Cut small strips of gauze or cotton wool and lay a piece in between each toe, including the dew claw. This is to prevent the nails from rubbing and scratching the adjacent toe/s

  2. Wrap the paw with a cotton wool roll, starting with the toes and continuing up the leg; you may or may not need to extend the bandage over the wrist joint in the forelimb, or the ankle joint in the hindlimb

  3. Wrap conforming bandage over the cotton wool, for the full length of the bandage, followed by a cohesive wrap

  4. If you put bandages on a back paw, make sure that there is sufficient cotton wool over the ankle joint so that it is properly padded, and do not wrap too tightly as this can cause pressure sores in this area

How do you treat a broken nail?

The first sign of a broken nail may be that your pet is limping. If the broken nail has been lost completely, the nail bed may be very sore. You can clean it very gently each day with saline (see first aid kit above). Using regular paw bandages and/or an Elizabethan (Buster) collar for the first two weeks may be sufficient to allow it to heal fully. The nail should start to grow back after a few weeks. If your pet won’t let you look at the paw, if the nail is only partially detached, or if there are fragments of nail still attached, then you should seek additional veterinary advice and treatment.

Eyes: How do you treat conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is typically caused by environmental irritants, such as dust or pollen. If the eyes are both fully open, clear and bright, you can usually start by applying a drop of saline to each eye 2-3 times per day to provide cleansing and lubrication. If it does not resolve within 24-48 hours, or gets worse, then your pet should be seen by your vet.

Eye injuries are more serious. They can progress quickly and are extremely painful, so it is important that they receive prompt treatment by a vet. What to look for:

  • The eye is partially or fully closed and your pet does not want to open it

  • The pupils (black hole in the centre of the eye) are different sizes

  • The eye looks cloudy or milky

  • There is blood inside the eye, or there is blood coming from the eye or surrounding area

  • Your pet appears to be blind, or is having difficulty seeing with one or both eyes

To prevent your pet from doing further damage to the eye on the way to the vet, use a restraining harness, an Elizabethan Collar or an Inflatable Buster Collar. A traditional collar and lead is not advisable because pressure on the neck may also increase pressure in the eye.

What should I do if my dog has vomiting and diarrhoea?

If your pet develops vomiting and/or diarrhoea, ensure that they have access to fresh water. Electrolyte powder for dogs and cats can be added to their water to help them maintain hydration. If an adult animal vomits then it should be starved for 2-3 hours before being offered a small bland meal. For example, boiled rice or pasta with a little cooked chicken, turkey or white fish. Please note puppies and kittens cannot be starved as their blood sugar levels will fall dangerously low.

If there is no further vomiting, this diet can be continued for 5-7 days, together with a probiotic supplement, to help the gut microflora to recover faster. It is important to make any changes to the diet slowly.

If the animal becomes lethargic or dehydrated, vomits blood, has frank blood in their stools, or vomiting episodes continue after 24 hours, then you should contact your vet to arrange an examination.

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

Can my dog eat a vegan or vegetarian diet?

Can my dog eat a vegan or vegetarian diet?

Technically yes, dogs can survive on both a vegan or vegetarian diet. However, there are some important things to understand to ensure that your dog gets the right nutrition for their age, size and general health. In this article our vet discusses what to consider when feeding a vegan or vegetarian diet to your dog and examples of nutritionally balanced brands available. Our vet shares the latest advice here.

This article will cover:

  • Why feed your dog a vegan or vegetarian diet?
  • Can I feed my dog a home cooked vegan or vegetarian diet?
  • Does a vegan diet provide enough nutrition?
  • What commercially available vegetarian or vegan diets are available?
  • What else should I consider when choosing a vegan or vegetarian diet for my dog?
  • How do I get started feeding my dog a vegan or vegetarian diet?
  • Can my cat be fed a vegetarian or vegan diet?

Why feed your dog a vegetarian or vegan diet?

Many of us are trying to eat less meat for concerns over welfare, to reduce our environmental impact or for the overall health benefits associated with meat free diets. If you lead a vegan lifestyle you may understandably want to explore the options for extending your beliefs to include your dog. In certain circumstances a vegan or vegetarian diet may have health benefits for your dog. For example, dogs with food allergies or sensitivities tend to be reacting to the animal protein source (very rarely gluten or dairy). By using plant sources of protein this reaction could be avoided, which makes vegetarian or vegan diets are suitable for diet trials. However, it is important to feed your dog a ‘complete’ commercial diet to ensure your dog gets a balanced diet.

Can I feed my dog a home cooked vegan or vegetarian diet?

No, don’t be tempted to home cook for your dog unless you are under the guidance and supervision of a qualified veterinary nutritionist. It is extremely challenging to create a nutritionally balanced home cooked diet, let alone a vegan or vegetarian diet, which is part of the reason the commercial versions are relatively new on the market. In the short term, your dog may seem ok, but there are serious health consequences to feeding an unbalanced diet for a longer period of time and this is never recommended. Signs of inappropriate nutrition include poor coat quality, poor growth, weight loss, lack of energy and low litter size in whelping bitches.

Does a vegan diet provide enough nutrition?

Yes, if you use a commercially prepared ‘complete’ dog food. All commercial dog foods described as ‘complete’ are bound under law to provide all of a pet’s dietary requirements. It is interesting to note that adding food to an already complete commercial diet can actually cause nutritional deficiencies; for example adding cooked chicken changes the calcium to phosphorus ratio, which is especially important for growing dogs. So there is no need to supplement your dog’s diet with any extras if you are feeding a complete commercial pet food. If you do want to add something else, adding a small amount of a good quality balanced wet or dry dog food is much better than adding cooked chicken.

What vegetarian or vegan diets are commercially available?

There are more and more options when looking for a vegan or vegetarian dog food. Be sure that the product is labeled ‘complete’ if this is going to make up the majority of your dog’s diet to meet its nutritional needs. Vegan or vegetarian options include: Vetruus Solo VegetalYarrahBenevoAmi and Lily’s Kitchen. These can be fed on their own or mixed into a meat based diet.

If you’re looking to reduce the environmental impact of your pets’ food, Yora and Green Petfood sell insect protein-based complete pet foods. Entec nutrition also has an insect based pet food in the pipeline, launching in 2021.

What else should I consider when choosing a vegan/vegetarian diet for my dog?

Your dog’s age, weight and health conditions must be carefully considered when choosing a diet. Elderly dogs and puppies have different nutritional needs. It is vital that puppies are on a puppy specific food as this contains the right balance of nutrients for growing. Feeding your puppy an adult food can lead to lifelong skeletal issues. Some health conditions require a specific prescription diet and there may not be a suitable vegetarian or vegan alternative on the market just yet.

How do I get started feeding my dog a vegetarian or vegan diet?

Choose a complete dog food which is appropriate for your dog’s age and lifestyle. Slowly transition from your current food over a week or more, starting with 75% of the original food and 25% of the new food. Increase the percentage of new food and reduce the percentage of old food by 25% every 2-3 days. A sudden change of diet can lead to vomiting or diarrhoea. Home cooking for your dog can lead to health problems and malnutrition and should not be attempted long term unless you are under the supervision of a veterinary nutritionist (nutritionist is not a protected term which means that anyone can give themselves this title so please ensure that they are a veterinary nutritionist).

Can my cat be vegan?

Unfortunately, cats cannot survive on a vegan or vegetarian diet and should always be fed a meat based diet. To find out more read our article ‘Can my cat be fed a vegetarian or vegan diet?’

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

Posted in Pet