Category Archives: Grooming

Common Behavioural Problems: Feather Plucking


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Birds range from the little songbirds in your garden, to the powerful birds of prey, and various kinds of flightless birds – they certainly vary a lot between various species. They have been popular as pets as early as the 1700’s. Christopher Columbus brought 2 Cuban Amazon Parrots back from his travels in the 1490’s.

We all love our pets, no matter how they became introduced into our history, and our individual lives. The sad things about domestic life for our pets, is that sometimes it can result in behavioural problems; without always knowing the cause.

Grooming is a normal, natural behaviour – in birds known as ‘preening’. Feather plucking is when this normal, natural behaviour becomes obsessive, and done to excess. Birds may do this to themselves, or to others in their group.

Possible Causes:
– Nutritional deficiencies/ unbalanced nutrition
– Poor Diet
– Food sensitivity/ intolerances/ allergies
– Disease
– Itchy skin/ skin problems
– Frayed feathers
– Boredom (insufficient stimulation)
– Dirty environment
– Wrong environment

Moluccan Cockatoo
Moluccan Cockatoo

Possible Solutions:
–  Change in diet
–  Allergy tests (steering clear of the allergen)
– Food supplements
– Regular vet checks
– Stimulation: toys, interaction, treats/fruit/veg
– Plenty of light; not left in the dark
– Clean environment
– Sufficient space (but not too much) per bird
– Suitable type of environment; cage (tall or wide), paddock, by water, dirt bath, places to perch (at different levels)

Geese
Geese

Toys:

Ensure these are appropriate for your bird; for the species. Stimulating toys with bells and pieces that move are good for birds such as parrot types.
Mop/ rope toys (without loops!) are good for occupying birds with a pulling/ preening activity – keeping feather preening to a normal and safe amount.
Some birds like toys that look like birds, and this can be beneficial; others will be stressed by this kind of toy – know your bird and what they like, so as to best care for your pet.


If you have any questions or comments, or would like more information regarding this post; or if you have anything specific you would like me to cover in a future post, then either leave a comment below, or contact me via one of my social media pages:-
. Google+ (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Twitter (@AnimalFreak24)
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Common Behavioural Problems: Introduction


What is a behavioural problem?
(a) A natural behaviour that is undesirable to the owner, but very desirable to the animal.
(b) A natural behaviour that us undesirable to both owner and animal.
(c) An abnormal behaviour exhibited (and often done in repetition) that suggests the animal has an inability to cope with something in its environment (known as Stereotypical Behaviour).

Common Behavioural Problems:
– Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (O.C.D.)
– Coprophagia (eating faeces – not abnormal for certain species)
– Aggression
– Excessive Vocalisation
– Scratching/ biting/ kicking/ rearing/ bucking
– Anxiety
– Tail Chasing
– Feather Plucking/ Fur Pulling
– Chewing (things that they are not meant to chew)
– Hyper-excitability
– Excessive Grooming
– Wind Sucking/ Cribbing

Stereotypical Behaviours:
– Pacing
– Weaving/ Swaying
– Head Bobbing
– Circling
– Neck Twisting
– Bar Biting
– Rocking
– Self-Mutilation
– Vomiting (and then eating it, and vomiting again)
– Coprophilia (playing with faeces)
– Coprophaga (repeated)

How can behavioural problems be approached?
(1) Educating the owner
(2) Modifying the environment
(3) Modifying the animal


I will be doing some follow up posts on some of these behavioural problems, and some ways to tackle them. If you have anything specific you would like me to cover then either leave a comment below, or contact me via one of my social media pages:-
. Google+ (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Twitter (@AnimalFreak24)
. LinkedIn (Ali Holloway)

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

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