Monthly Archives: February 2014

Let’s Sea About Sea Monkey’s


My brother and sister-in-law have recently tried, not very successfully, to raise a little batch of Sea Monkey’s.  Quite disappointed in the short-lived pets, I was asked how long they typically live for… so I decided to do a bit of research looking into this little species.

For many people, their first pet as a child was a little packet of Sea Monkey’s; lovingly hatched from the eggs received in the packet, after following all the instructions to prepare the little tank for their home… what most people don’t know is, what Sea Monkey’s actually are. Whilst doing some research into this post, I have also come to realise that a lot of people (I’m unsure why…) did not even know that Sea Monkey’s were living creatures!

What Are They?

Sea Monkey’s are an invertebrate species, meaning they do not have a backbone. They are arthropods, meaning they have jointed legs. They are a crustacean; related to crabs, shrimp, water fleas, lobsters; with an exoskeleton, an outer shell. When growing, they shed their exoskeleton and regrow a new one to fit their larger size. Until the new exoskeleton hardens, they are more vulnerable.

They are also known as, Brine Shrimp. If you have followed any previous posts you may have come across this little titbit of information before, in Something Fishy! (1) – as they are a form of live and frozen fish food.

Females vs. Males

Size wise – females are smaller than males; females growing between 8-12 mm in length, and males growing between 10-15 mm in length.

Females have a “lump” at the base of their tail (which is where the eggs are stored), the males do not. Females have small antennae, whilst the males have large, distinct antennae (see image, below).

Female (left), Male (right) - Brine Shrimp
Female (left), Male (right) – Brine Shrimp

Lifespan

My sister-in-law told me that the packet informed her, that Sea Monkey’s can live up to 6 months! That surprised me a bit, as from what I have witnessed and been taught through my studies, is that they typically live 3-5 weeks in the right conditions. The longest I have discovered for the claimed lifespan of the Brine Shrimp is 12 weeks; the average being about 6 weeks.

They last about a week in the fridge, in a bag of water for fish food (less if they are not refrigerated)… and approximately 48 hours in freshwater (provided they are not eaten first), as they are not designed to live in freshwater habitats.

Basically, don’t be too disheartened your Sea Monkey’s die before they have reached half of the lifespan given in the information booklet you got with your new pet.

Keeping Sea Monkey’s Alive!

Being kept in tiny tanks means that the water needs changing more often, as in such a small space, the water deteriorates quickly. Roughly a 20% water change should be done bi-weekly, to ensure clean water and enough oxygen for survival; so that your Sea Monkey’s do not die from suffocation. Adding an aerator into the tank will also keep up oxygen levels, making breathing easier.

Doing a water change with such a small animal can be difficult; ensure you do not accidentally throw away any Sea Monkey’s with the dirty, discarded water! The shedding of the exoskeleton during growth makes up a lot of the dirtiness of the water, with so many of them shedding around the same time!

Causes of Death

Deteriorated, dirty water and lack of oxygen, are common causes of premature Sea Monkey death.The tank being knocked over, and therefore spilling your Sea Monkey’s everywhere, is a big stress to the little creatures, and ultimately will result in the death of the little guys (and girls)! The stress, combined with not being able to breathe out of water… so ensure your Sea Monkey’s are in a safe, secure place where they are unlikely to be knocked over.

Other common causes are the tank being in too warm a location; by a window in summer, in a very warm room/ next to a radiator in winter… or being in a location that makes them too cold; in a room not warm enough in winter, in the fridge because they will be fed to my Comet Goldfish within the week. Of course, being used as food is a cause of death, although this does not apply to Brine Shrimp being kept as pet Sea Monkey’s!

Last Thought

Even though Sea Monkey’s are just simple Brine Shrimp, feel free to imagine them how they were advertised in the 60’s and 70’s (see image, below). – as a cute little family… it may be anthropomorphic, but who doesn’t treat their pet a bit human at times?!

Sea Monkey Family
Sea Monkey Family

General Pet Care and Health


Animals are very important to us humans as companions, as part of the family. It is important that our pets are cared for properly, within their environment, to ensure health and happiness. In the wild, animals will care for their every need themselves; animals cannot care for their every need, in domestic environments, as some needs are beyond them (such as protection from domestic diseases). Our pets need us to care for them and make sure their lives are as good as can be, as part of our lives.

Disease is something which affects all living things. Natural immunity is one way of fighting disease; this is something an animal is born with. Due to human activity, there is also artificial immunity and ways to ‘boost’ natural immunity; these are things such as, vaccines, tablets, and spot-on’s. Keeping your pet and it’s living space clean is one way to help prevent this as much as possible. Uncleanliness leads to things such as, poor health and condition in animals.

It is always beneficial to have knowledge and understanding about common diseases and parasites of your pet(s) species; and ensure that your pet is kept up-to-date with vet checks, vaccinations, and de-flea and de-worming treatments. With the warmer weather coming, parasites will be on the up – so make sure you keep on top of parasite protection for you pet.

Disease, parasites, care and protection, all comes as part of loving your pet – no matter if you feel too lazy, tired, busy, etc… pets need caring for every day of every week. So research into the needs of your pet to ensure that you can provide the best care for them at all times, and to make sure you have the best pet for your lifestyle… It isn’t worth getting a dog if you have no spare time to exercise it, or getting a reptile if you cannot afford the tank, lighting, heating, etc.

Pets are amazing, and become big parts of our lives! Any questions about your pet(s)? – Ask them on the contact page, via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter.

 

Chocolate Lab

Something Fishy! (2)


This is a follow-up post to “Something Fishy! (1)” – inspired by my Comet Goldfish (see image, below)

Comet Goldfish
Comet Goldfish

In this part I give a bit more information on fish, tanks, husbandry, and more! Following on from fish diseases and foodstuffs, I have decided to talk about the tank and what goes into it, in this; part 2…

Hygiene and Husbandry

Water changes should be done 10% weekly or 50% monthly. More than a 50% water change should not be done at any one time, unless a new tank is being set up – this can cause an imbalance in the chemicals in the tank, which is quite likely to lead to problems!

A siphon is used for suctioning out dirt and debris from the gravel and décor. It also sucks out water so a bucket is needed to put the dirty water in. This dirty water is the water the filter sponges and the décor, should be cleaned in.

Tap water, at the correct temperature, with “Tap Safe” – the chemical that is added to the water to make it safe for fish – should be used to refill the tank. Chlorine and chloramines are strong chemicals which are added to drinking water, this kills bacteria and makes tap water safe for humans to drink. Untreated (without “Tap Safe”) tap water contains these chemicals, which can strip the protective mucus coating (what makes fish ‘slimy’) off the fish making them susceptible to disease and infections, and can lead to the death of your fish. Putting “Tap Safe” or “Safe Guard” makes the water safe and comfortable for your fish to live in, and must be done EVERY time you do a water change.

Safety First!

ELECTRICS SHOULD BE TURNED OFF BEFORE YOU PUT YOUR HAND INTO THE TANK!! – Due to the filter (and heater) and light, there is electricity dangerously close to the water. If the water becomes electric due to a fault, the fish will be unaffected as they are unearthed – meaning you will not see it. You will know about it though, if you put your hand into the tank as you will get electrocuted.  So be safe rather than sorry – especially if there is nobody else around to help you if you do get hurt!

Housing and Environment

Tanks and Location

Fish should be housed in a decent sized fish tank – bowls are insufficient in space and are a poor home for your pet. Ensure your tank is big enough for how big your fish will grow, and the amount of stock in the tank. Never overstock your tank; this could lead to aggression, fighting and even death. Remember when you buy your tank that the space will be lessened with the décor added, so remember to account for this.

Put your tank in a quiet place as too many vibrations; from noise from TV or people walking past often, will cause stress to the fish. Fish have something called the lateral line, which detects vibrations; over-stimulation of this causes excess stress to fish, thinning the mucus coating, which can lead to ill health in your fish.  Ensure that you put the tank away from windows, as excessive sunlight promotes algae growth; algae upsets the chemical balance in the water as well as mucking up your tank.

Depending on what species you want to keep will determine the water in the tank – cold, tropical or marine. No matter what temperature, or water type you have you will always need “Tap Safe” in the water to make it safe for your fish to live in. The chlorine in tap water is unsafe for your pet fish and will cause very poor health, and even death; however, there are treatments to add to the water to make it safe. Depending on brand of the product, the name will be different – “Tap Safe” and “Fresh Start”  and “Safe Guard” (not “Safe Water”) are 3 of these treatments; differently named as they are manufactured by different companies, however do the same job. Always ask advice from the pet shop staff if you are unsure about which one to buy – if shop staff are unsure, go to a different shop!

Décor

Décor needs to be added to the tank for enrichment – natural is always best, however some people do prefer funny décor such as; sunken pirate ships, fake plants, characters (see image, below), and “No Fishing” signs. Fish however, prefer natural rocks, pieces of wood, and live plants.

Turtle characters, tank décor
Turtle characters, tank décor

Live plants also add oxygen into the tank making it a better environment for the fish. Although, it can become and expensive upkeep to have live plants if, like my fish, they just eat the plants resulting in the necessity to buy more… and more… and more! So I keep false plants in my tank – one larger and one smaller (see image, below) – to provide a hiding place, as well as a bit of colour in the tank.

Fake plant, décor
Fake plant, décor

For extra oxygen you could put an aerator in the tank (or as the Yellow Tang in Finding Nemo calls them, “MY BUBBLES!”) – which can be in standard form, or in the form of décor such as; an opening/ closing treasure chest, a scuba diver, or other items. Another option (as mentioned in part 1) is to position your internal filter high enough to keep the surface of the water moving (see image, below).

Filter keeping water flow, adding oxygen
Filter keeping water flow, adding oxygen

Fish like somewhere to hide, in case they feel threatened and need to get away. Large, leafy plants and tunnels are common hide-away’s; as are castles, houses, and sunken pirate ships! Natural looking, artificial hide-away’s are longer lasting than real bits of wood, etc. – and are easier to clean! An example of a hide-away is my tank’s natural looking, hollow of wood (see image, below).

Natural looking, wood hide-away
Natural looking, wood hide-away

A substrate needs to be provided – gravel is the most common, but sand or bark can also be used. Ensure that the gravel is bigger than your fish’s mouth, as during foraging fish often pick up bits of gravel, and are likely to choke if the gravel is small enough for silly fish swallow!

Backing paper is optional, it is for the owners benefit only – it hides wires at the back of the tank, and makes the tank look nice. Backing paper is fitted onto the outside of the tank on the back ‘wall’; image facing the inside of the tank. When a person looks into the tank from the front, the backing paper image can be seen.

Filters

A filter is necessary in all tanks; to filter the dirt, bad chemicals and faces from the water – leaving clean water. This could be an internal, external, or under-gravel filter. Filters need to be cleaned out regularly and thoroughly, in ‘dirty’ tank water – not tap water.

Internal Filter

These go on the inside of your tank are best for single tanks of standard sizes (best for your everyday fish tank). Internal filters come in a range of sizes to fit with most standard tanks and even some smaller ones, and are very easy to clean.

External Filter

These are larger than internal filters, and sit on the outside of the tank, with a bit attached to the inside – these are great for large tanks where the filter size needed is just too big to put in the tank.

Under-Gravel Filter

These are often found in small, starter tanks and are unseen, because (as the name states) it hidden under the gravel. The gravel being on top of the filter can cause issues with the filtration, and under-gravel filter performance is not great (not recommended – even for starter tanks).

Filters need to be cleaned out weekly or fortnightly (at least). The filter has a sponge (or sponges) inside which need to be cleaned in the tank water itself – not tap water – because the chlorine will get into the filter and get into the water rendering your “Tape Safe” or “Safe Guard” useless.

Heaters

In tropical and marine water type tanks; a heater needs to be placed, as well as a thermometer on the outside of the tank to ensure the optimum temperature is regularly maintained. Ensure the temperature is not too hot or cold for your species – research into the species you will house before you get them. Ensure, in multi-species tanks, that the temperature is suitable for all species of fish that are in your tank.

Lights

Lights are also a fixture beneficial to the tank. The light can be turned on to see the fish in the evening, and can be on during the day – but lights should be turned off at night so the fish can sleep. Fish lack eyelids so need complete darkness to enable the to get a good night sleep! Different light types can be purchased – daytime and night-time lights; night lights usually being a blue colour and not as bright as day lights. Day lights can be standard tank bulbs, or UV bulbs which imitate sunlight by providing vitamin D. Preference is down to you when picking a bulb, however if you choose to go with a UV bulb – ensure you remember to turn them off for a minimum of 10 hours each night as too much vitamin D can also cause health problems.

Final thought…

One of my Comet Goldfish was not too pleased with me for photographing him, his tank-mates, and his tank! I thought I would share with you the photographic evidence of this, in the form of a meme… enjoy!

Unimpressed Goldfish
Unimpressed Goldfish

Something Fishy! (1)


After doing my dissertation on goldfish nutrition, bringing the fish back home with me, and them surviving the long journey from university, I am quite impressed at how well my goldfish are still doing after 2 years! I also maintain my dad’s tropical fish tank with somewhat smaller and different species to my Comet goldfish (pictured below). This tank has been going since I was a kid, just replacing stock as required.

One of my Comet Goldfish

There are some key factors in well maintaining a fish tank, which I have decided to cover in 2 parts so that I avoid writing an essay! So here it goes…

Feeding

Food varies with species. There a many forms on the market. Flakes are the most common/ popular, as are pellets. Live and frozen food are also popular choices for meals and/or treats – again, this depends on the fish species and dietary requirements.

Flakes and Pellets

The brighter coloured the flakes are, the worse they are for the fish as they are filled with additives and colourings! Pellets are harder to tell by colour, however, the best kind you can get is from a reputable brand, not a supermarket’s own brand (this goes for flakes too).

Pellets Flakes
Pellets                                        Flakes

Ensure that you feed the correct flakes for your tank species – fish from different climates, habitats and water-types have different dietary requirements – according to what they would eat in the wild. Tropical flakes for tropical species, cold-water flakes for cold-water species, and marine flakes for marine species. Pellet-wise they can be more species specific than just water-type, for example; Catfish pellets specifically designed for catfish, sinking pellets for general bottom feeder species, and another example being cichlid pellets designed specifically for the diet of cichlid’s.

Live

Mealworms: live mealworms need their heads crushing to prevent them eating their way out of the fish’s stomach). These may also need cutting up if they are too large for your fish – do not feed anything too big for your fish to swallow, as fish can choke too! It’s difficult to do the Heimlich-manoeuvre on your fish!

Brine Shrimp: these can be purchased in many aquariums and pet stores in a bag of water. They will live approximately 5-7 days (slightly longer if they are refrigerated), but ought to be fed to your fish A.S.A.P to prevent them from dying before your fish get their dinner! Do not feed dead brine shrimp to your fish as it could cause stomach upset.
*Interesting fact – this is what your first “pet” was if your first “pet” were Sea Monkey’s!*

Blood Worm: these can also be purchased in aquariums and pet stores, and come in a bag of water. Again they live approximately 1 weeks, a day or 2 longer if they are refrigerated.  However, with blood worm you may wish to drain the water out as it can turn your tank water red! This can be done by pouring most of the water out; carefully keeping the blood worm in a small amount of water at the bottom, and then pouring that into you tank.

 Frozen Food

Beef heart, blood worm, and brine shrimp are the most common forms of frozen food sold. These can all be defrosted for feeding to your pet fish, for marine or tropical tanks. Cold-water tanks can have the frozen blocks defrosted, or dropped straight into the tank – as it shouldn’t affect the water temperature too much, and is a great and tasty way for your cold-water fish to cool down on a particularly warm day.

These types of food can be the main diet, in the place of pellets or flakes. They can be fed as a treat or supplement weekly or every-so-often, again to replace a flake/ pellet meal or as half-half with flakes/ pellets.

If you have larger carnivorous species of fish (such as an Oscar Fish) frozen mice are often fed, defrosted, via long forceps to avoid bitten fingers! Depending on the quantity and size of the fish, determines the quantity and size of the frozen mice fed.

Other Treats

Depending on if your fish is a cold water, tropical or marine fish; and whether they are herbivores, carnivores or omnivores, will depend on what it needs feeding.

Vegetables (not for carnivorous species!):

  • Zucchini (sliced to appropriate size)
  • Lettuce and Swiss chard (shredded to appropriate size)
  • Cucumber (sliced to appropriate size)
  • Peas (boiled or fresh, or frozen for Cold-Water)
  • Broccoli (boiled or fresh, chopped to appropriate size)
  • Split green beans(boiled and cooled)

Fish treats can be purchased that stick to the side of the tank, and can be nibbled at throughout the day.  These need to be suitable for your tank – tropical, cold-water or marine – just like flakes need to be specific to your tank type. These can be a good way of health checking your fish as the treats can be stuck to the front of the tank, and you can see a lot more of your fish when they come up for a nibble!

When checking your fish out for signs of ill-health, bear in mind some common fish diseases to look out for…

Common Fish Diseases and Treatments

White Spot > Characteristic white spots covering body; white spot treatment

Ich > Small white or grey spots on body; ich treatment

Rot – Fin, Mouth, Tail, Gill > Fungus rotting various parts of the body – fluffy grey or white patches; fungal treatment

Parasites – Gill fluke, Nematoda, Anchor worm, Internal Parasites > There are, as with most species, too many to name individually – both internal and external parasites; various parasitic treatments

Velvet > White/ yellow ‘peppered’ spots all over body; ich treatment

Dropsy > Bloated, protruding scales; anti-bacterial treatment

Head and Lateral Line Disease (a.k.a Hole-in-the-head) > visible holes in the head and along lateral line – at first pin prick size, and then get larger. Swollen lateral line; various “Hole-in-Head” treatments

Tuberculosis (Fish TB) > hollow belly, weight loss, possibly sores;  no known cure – very contagious to other fish, zoonotic (can be transferred to humans) if a human puts bare, wounded/ broken skin into infected tank

Oxygen Deficiency > Water problem – more oxygen needed in water. Gasping for air at the top of tank can be seen, water tests can be done; possible solutions – 50% water change, add aeration, add real plants (naturally put O2 into tank), put filter closer to the water surface to keep the water flowing/moving (adds O2) – see image below.

Filter keeping water flow, adding oxygen
Filter keeping water flow, adding oxygen

The majority of these treatments can be purchased in a pet shop, if not the treatments can be found online.

Guinea Pig Care


Guinea pigs are small, sociable, ‘chatty’ rodents and like living in pairs. They have a lifespan of around 5 years of age, and come in a variety of breeds, colours, and sizes. Once fully grown, guinea pigs average an adult size of  20-25 cm in length, and weigh approximately 1 kg.

Guinea pigs are a mammal, belonging to the species of rodent, and the family “cavy” (pronounced “kay-vee”). They are precocial species – meaning that they are born fully furred, with eyes and ears open, and walking within 30-60 minutes after birth. By 3 days old, baby guinea pigs (pups) are able to eat solid food, however still suckle from their mother.

General Care

The cage/ hutch should be cleaned out thoroughly at least once a week; if guinea pigs are left in an unclean environment for too long they can get foot problems, like bumble-foot. Ensure your guinea pigs have constant access to safe hiding places where they can escape if they feel afraid, tunnels and hides can be placed in cages/ hutches for your guinea pigs.

Guinea Pigs

Provide your guinea pigs with safe toys to play with and chew, this helps keep their minds stimulated and their teeth from overgrowing – check your guinea pigs teeth and nails weekly, as they are constantly growing, and may need to be clipped if they become overgrown – to prevent health problems (see my post on nail clipping).

Guinea pigs should have at least one hour interaction and handling, daily where possible, as this gets them more used to and more comfortable with their owners. Be quiet and gentle around your guinea pigs; never shout, they are very unlikely to understand and can become more nervous or scared. 

Make sure your guinea pigs have opportunities to exercise every day to stay fit and healthy – this can be running indoors (supervised!), ensuring they cannot escape anywhere or do themselves harm, or access electrical wires – or this can be free roaming outdoors (supervised from escape and local predatory pets) or safe in an enclosed run. Ensure there is shelter in outside runs, from both bad and sunny weather.

In warm weather you should check the fur and skin around your guinea pigs rear end daily, as urine staining or droppings that are stuck will attract flies, and can cause ‘fly strike’ (flies lay eggs in the dirty fur, the maggots hatch and eat away at your guinea pig), which is often fatal.

Provide fresh clean drinking water at all times. Check the water supply regularly, more so on hot days and during the summer; make sure the water does not freeze in winter – bottle covers help with this.

Hay should make up the most of your guinea pigs’ diet, and should be available at all times. A fresh portion of guinea pig pellets be available daily. Guinea pigs are grazers – they like to eat little and often – so food should be available as much as possible. Feeding your guinea pig the correct diet will help prevent a lot of common disease. One day a week off from feeding fruit and vegetables should be given as too much can make your guinea pig ill, although fresh grass, fruit and vegetables should be given on a regular basis.

Guinea Piggies

 Safe Foods to Feed

  • Oranges
  • Peppers
  • Cabbage
  • Bananas
  • Kale
  •  Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Apple (pips and core removed)
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Dandelion leaves and flower
  • Asparagus
  • Tomatoes (NOT leaves and stalks)
  • Apricot
  • Celery (including leaves)
  • Corn on the cob
  • Mango
  • Pear (pips and core removed)
  • Watercress

Foodstuffs to Avoid

  • Lettuce (can cause a swollen tummy and the runs)
  • Lawnmower clippings (these can upset a guinea pigs tummy and make them ill)
  • Avocado
  • Beans
  • Chiles
  • Coconut
  • Daffodils
  • Lemons
  • Ivy
  • Garlic
  • Buttercup
  • Watermelon
  • Foxgloves (flowers)
  • Nuts
  • Olives
  • Grapes/ raisins
  • Privet (plant/ bush)
  • Rhubarb (including leaves)
  • Anything with artificial additives in it
  • Anything cooked
  • Anything sugary (including honey)
  • Anything stale, wilting, mouldy or otherwise ‘off’ vegetables or fruit

 

Moulting in Dogs


Pet owners are obviously interested in their pets and how to properly care for them, things that their pets do and/ or go through are also of interest. One thing that pet owners often wonder about, is moulting – particularly in dog owners – especially when it means bringing out the vacuum cleaner more often than usual!

Your Dog’s Coat

In order for dog owners to understand the moulting of their pet’s coat, it is helpful to understand the coat of a dog. The canine coat is made up of of two layers. One is the longer outer layer known as the overcoat; the other being the dense, insulative layer known as the undercoat.

This requires the hair growth cycle to be looked into. All of the hair on your dog goes through three cycles; these phases are the anagen (or active growth) phase, the catagen (or transitioning) phase, and the telogen (or resting) phase.  Although not all the hair will be in the same cycle at the same time, at particular times of the year the telogen phase is most dominant, causing more shedding to occur.

Anagen Phase

This is the active growth of the hair follicles, the cells of the hair root are diving rapidly. This is when the hair will actively grow under the surface of the skin, and then reach full length above the skin’s surface. Full hair length is genetically determined, so different breeds will have a different length of time for this phase of the hair growth cycle.

Catagen Phase

This is the transitioning phase at the end of the the anagen phase; the end of the active hair growth. During this stage the hair root and hair shaft (top portion of the hair, coming up out of the skin) detach from one-another – preparing for new hair growth.

Telogen Phase

This is the resting phase of the hair. The hair does not grow during this stage. At this stage the hair stays attached, however it could be pulled out (i.e. via grooming) at this stage, but tends not to fall out. Approximately 15% of al hair is in this stage at once.  Towards the end of this stage, as the hair cycle is coming around again to re-enter the anagen phase – the old hair falls out as new hair comes up and pushes the old hair out – this is your pet moulting.

 

Dog Coat Type

Dogs, such as my Bedlington Terrier (Barney, photo below) and Poodles, that do not moult have hair that is predominantly in the anagen phase. They require extra grooming to keep a nice coat and to pull out the old hairs as the detachment stage occurs less.

Barney, Bedlington Terrier
Barney, Bedlington Terrier

Dog breeds that do moult, such as Old English Sheepdogs (see Daisy, photo below) and most other breeds to be honest, have hair that is predominantly in the telogen phase. This is why you get a lot of hairs all over your furniture, clothes, carpet… Well let’s face it, EVERYWHERE!

Old English Sheepdog
Daisy, Old English Sheepdog

But Why?…

Daylight and temperature

These cycles are largely influenced by the amount of daylight, and a little by temperature – often people think that seasonal shedding is due to change in temperature, but in actual fact it is the length of daylight that has the main effect. As the seasons change and the day-lengths change, the daylight triggers the shedding of one coat and the growth of the new. This often occurs bi-annually, but in some breeds only occurs annually.

Breeds that shed annually are breeds built for colder temperatures (such as the Alaskan Malamute), and in the wild would need their coat thicker for longer. The majority of breeds shed bi-annually, losing their thick winter coat in favour of a lighter summer coat; losing their light summer coat in favour of a thick, warm winter coat. However, with dogs nowadays living inside with a lot of domestic comforts their wild counterparts lack, shedding can occur all year round, or at least more often than once or twice a year. Artificial lighting seemingly lengthens the “daylight” and can cause your dog to moult more.

Hormones

Bitches and dogs also shed slightly differently. After coming into heat or season, a bitch often sheds as part of her body cycle due to the hormone changes; pregnancy, gestation and birth can also cause hair loss with the changes in hormone levels and with the female pulling out fur for nest making.

Obviously, males are not affected by this kind of hormone change – however, male or female, thyroxin (the hormone from the thyroid gland) contributes to hair growth and rate of growth. This means that any pets suffering with hyperthyroidism, being deficient in this hormone, can lose hair more rapidly than a dog with a healthy thyroid.

External Factors

Food and water, environment, and grooming can all contribute to hair loss too.

Ensuring your dog is on the right food and has a healthy coat and skin will help ensure a normal hair cycle and moulting. Ensuring your dog has plenty of fresh water, easily accessible will also help with normal moulting – dehydration can cause problems (not just with moulting and coat but to your the general health of your pet).

Changes in environment can cause stress – noise, boredom, fear, a new pet/ child, moving house, redecorating, etc. – can all be stressors to your dog. Not all of these will affect every dog, as all dogs are individuals, different, and have had different life experiences. In cases of daily stress, moulting problems can occur.

Poor grooming, or lack of grooming, will affect the health of your dog’s skin and coat condition – affecting the hair cycle and moulting. Ensure you bathe your dog, as a dirty coat encourages bacteria growth and prevents hair growth; however, do not bathe your dog too often as you can wash away the natural, protective oils in the coat – again causing problems. Brush your dog regularly too, especially if it is a breed with curly or wavy hair, or a breed that does not moult, as hair can become tangled and matted and will be problematic in shedding.

 

Last Thoughts

If you suspect your dog is moulting excessively, take it to the vet to ensure their is no underlying issue. Check into the diet and nutrition of your dog, as sometimes the problem can be solved with a change in diet. If you are not comfortable or confident in grooming your dog yourself, find a reputable dog groomer and book your dog in regularly to keep their coat in tip-top condition!

Just groomed Westie, on grooming table
Just groomed Westie, on grooming table

“Catty” Cats (and Aggression)


I was lying in bed last night listening to some resident cats somewhere on my road have a “catty” show-down! This is a fairly regular occurrence, more so when a new cat moves in close by. This time, it did not escalate into a fight (fortunately) – the aggressive displays were enough to solve whatever this dispute was between these cats.

This got me thinking about the different types of aggression shown by animals, and why they do it. So here are my brief thoughts on animal aggression…

Firstly, there are two types of aggression:

  • Inter-species aggression – aggression between two or more individuals of the same species (i.e. cat on cat)
  • Re-directed aggression – aggression caused by one factor, being ‘taken out’ on a neutral thing (such as your brand new shoes, your lovely curtains, or your expensive dining room chairs!)

Secondly there are 3 reasons for the aggression

  • Fear – being aggressive due to feeling threatened or scared
  • Status-related – for dominance over another individual
  • Territorial – defending their area

I figured that what I was listening to last night could be one, or all, of those reasons!

Fear Aggression is the most common, and the most likely to occur – and it can also be the most dangerous to a person. A fearful animal will often panic and attack as they are unsure what else to do, and instincts kick in, in the form of the “fight or flight” reflex – stay and fight or run away. If the latter is not an option (e.g. an animal backed into a corner) then the first is the only option the animal can perceive.

Dominant or status-related aggression, which is what most people think of when thinking of aggression, is displaying aggressive behaviour to intimidate and make whoever the display is being done at, back off or put up a fight. This can occur in multi-pet households (to establish a hierarchy), not just with adult animals but even between litter-mates  growing up. Dominant aggressive behaviour is to state “I am the boss, and will accept a fight with any who challenge me!”

Territorial aggression is often seen by guard dogs displaying this behaviour in defence of their territory. It is also common when cats cross-over into someone else’s territory at the wrong time…
The display is a warning to say “if you come into my territory, I will be aggressive, so keep out!”, however the likelihood of attack from this is minimal if the distance is kept!

It is quite likely this “cat-fight” going on outside my bedroom window was territorial – however, whichever way aggression is displayed, it is not a nice behaviour; one to be avoided if and when possible! It was safe to be in bed whilst this “catty” dispute was taking place for me, I only hope the cats involved got away unscathed too!

Top Tips on Nail Clips!


Last week I was round at a friends house to clip the nails of their 2 little guinea pigs – Smudge and Caspian. Lovely friendly guinea pigs, each with their own little personalities – and challenges!

Smudge is the slightly larger of the 2 and is a little wriggler! She dislikes sitting still for too long, making nail clipping a bit more of a challenge.  To combat this, if she wanted to pull her paw away and have a little wriggle or move about, I let her. Simply. This way I could clip her nails without the risk of damage; whilst she was still I clipped, whilst she wriggled I left her to it. This meant that clipping her nails took a little longer than anticipated but it got done, and no harm was done!

photo (8)
Smudge, Guinea Pig

Caspian on the other hand is slightly smaller than Smudge; she is also a little more timid but less of a wriggler! I cooed and talked in a soothing voice more with Caspian as this helped her to relax (she knows my voice despite not being my pet) and she settled quite quickly. She was a little nervous about the nail clippers but allowed me to clip her nails, rarely pulling away. Again, if she pulled away I allowed her a moment before starting again. I got through clipping her nails quicker than with Smudge as she was quieter and kept still for longer.

Caspian, Guinea Pig
Caspian, Guinea Pig

Both guinea pigs were pleasant to nail clip and received a lot of fussing, cuddling and even a little treat each when their nails were done – so that the experience is not seen as a negative one. For their first time having their nails clipped they were lovely – and the inspiration for this post!

Nail clipping is an important part of pet grooming that sometimes gets overlooked, due to being seen as quite a daunting task, that can cause both pet and owner to become anxious! Many people take their pet to the vets and pay to have their pets’ nails clipped – but when you know how to clip your pets’ nails it’s easy and simple enough to do yourself!

Whether you do it yourself or take your pet to the vets, nail clipping needs to be kept on top of as overgrown nails can cause pain and discomfort, irregular gait (walking), broken nails, and (if left long enough) can cause long-term skeletal problems.

 

Which Clippers?

Guillotine or scissor clippers?

There are 2 kinds of pet nail clippers – the standard scissor type pet nail clippers (image 1), and guillotine type pet nail clippers (image 2). The scissor type nail clippers are used for small animals, cats and dogs. The guillotine nail clippers are usually only found for, medium and larger, dog breeds.

image 1, image 2
image 1 – scissor             image 2 – guillotine

When buying nail clippers buy the ones for your pet, if you use large dog nail clippers on a small animal (not only will the clippers be very large compared to the tiny nail but) they may be too strong and cause damage to the nail/ your pet. Similarly, small animal nail clippers will be too small and weak to cut your dogs’ nails.

If you are clipping nails for a dog, find which nail clippers you feel most comfortable and confident using and get some added to your grooming kit! Most nail clippers will say what animals they are suitable for use on, and often even have pictures.
DO NOT use human nail clippers as these may split the nail of your pet.

Styptic Powder

This sterilised the nail and helps to stop the bleeding faster, if you do cut the nail too short – to the quick. Some nail clippers have this included inserted in the handle, however you can buy this as a separate product. The nail just needs to be dipped into the powder and left.

 

How Often?

Walking dogs on pavement, letting your cat out, putting your small animal(s) in a run on the patio (so they HAVE to stay on the pavement for a bit) will help naturally wear down nails and reduce the frequency in which nails need to be clipped – but watch out for dew claws, if they does not reach the ground they will not get worn down and will need trimming even when the other nails do not!

Dew Claw
Dew Claw

You handle your pet often and this makes your pet comfortable with you – use this to your advantage to health check your pet and check out those nails! Some pets may need a little encouragement to allow you near their feet, this can be accomplished by distracting your pet with their favourite toy or a treat, and similarly rewarding them with a play or a treat after they have let you inspect their nails.

When checking out your pets’ nails during a handling or fussing time check the length and feel if you think the nails are becoming too long. If the nails are beginning to curl back on themselves it is probably quite likely that nail clipping ought to be done quite soon! Again, remember to check the dew claws if your pet has these, as these may need clipping more often. If it is just a routine nail clip, take approximately 2mm off end of claw, if the claws are very long a bit more may need taking off. Check your pets nails weekly to ensure you keep on top of nail clipping.

 

How?

Getting used to the clippers

First, your pet needs to be okay with the nail clippers and you using them. The same process for getting your pet to allow you to check out their feet, can be done to get the pet used to the nail clippers too:
– Put the clippers near your pets’ toes but do not use them, then reward your pet.
– Put the clippers (closed) on your pets’ nails, then reward your pet.
(This can be done over a few days or a week at regular intervals)
Your pet will soon become accustomed to the clippers, and rewards can be given after nail clipping has been done too.

The Quick

The quick is the blood vessel in the nail. This can be seen very easily in white nails as the pink bit running part the way down from the foot, however black nails are a problem as the quick cannot be seen and is therefore harder to avoid with the nail clippers.

If your pet has both white an black claws on the same foot, the black claws can be clipped using the already clipped white claws as a guide as to where the quick ends. If, like my little Bedlington, your pet has no white claws, then clip only a little bit off the end (use your own judgement based on the length of the claw).

Black nails, cannot see quick
Black nails, cannot see quick

If bleeding occurs, it usually stops in around 5 minutes. Do not put small animals back into shavings (bedding) until bleeding has stopped so the substrate does not get stuck to the nail.

Nail Clipping

Using the proper nail clippers for your pet species, clip the nail approximately 2mm away from the quick. Clip at approximately a 45° angle, one nail at a time. Take your time and if your pet wants to have a wriggle, and pull its’ paw away from you, let it! A little break may be what is needed before continuing.

If you and your pet are calm enough then nail clipping can be accomplished just you and your pet. If you and/ or your pet feel better with a second person then nail clip with a trusted second.

clip nails
Nail

 

A Few Tips
  • Talking to your pet in a soothing voice helps your pet to relax; they know your voice and are comforted by it
  • Put your pet on your lap or a non-slip floor for clipping
  • Tightly wrapping a wriggly or nervous animal, in a towel or blanket, with only the desired paw (and head) sticking out can help, as the tightness helps the animal feel secure
  • A towel or blanket can also be used as a non-slip area under your pet that will catch the nail clippings, so the clippings are not lost in your carpet
  • If necessary, get someone else to hold the animal for you, whilst you clip the nails
  • There is NO point fighting with a wriggly animal as it’ll be okay for clipping again once it has calmed back down
  • DO NOT tell off or punish your pet, this will make the experience of nail clipping a negative one and your pet may be more nervous or fearful the next time
  • Reward your pet after with a treat, fussing or a favourite toy – this way your pet will associate the experience as a positive one, and will be less nervous or fearful next time