Tag Archives: pet health

Pet Health Check: Body


As a response to a message asking to know more about health checking your pet at home, here is some information… part two:

Last weeks post covered the face, this week will cover health checking the rest of the body – as a continuation from the face/ head…

SPINE:
From feeling for lumps, nicks, cuts, etc. on the head and face of your animal; run your hands gently down the spine, feeling all along for anything out of the ordinary.
– check the spine is straight, not sticking out at any odd angles
– no lumps or swelling around the spine
– check the skin around the spine is not punctured or wounded (open)
– feel gently, slowly, and carefully

TAIL:
– same as above, just continue down the spine to the tail, checking the same things
– if your pet is a tail chaser, check that your pet has not caught its’ tail and done damage (with their teeth)

ABDOMEN:
– gently apply a slight pressure, to check for any pain
– feel for any internal lumps

RIBCAGE:
– check it feels normal for the species, not oddly shaped
– gently apply pressure, checking there is no pain (nothing feels broken)
– no lumps or swelling

LEGS/ WINGS/ HIPS/ SHOULDERS:
– no lumps, swelling, cuts, nicks, etc.
– free from pain when gentle pressure is applied
– joints bend normally; no pain or stiffness

FEET/ NAILS/ HOOVES:
– not too long; curling
– not flaking or split
– clean and free from dirt, debris, stones, etc.

FUR/ FEATHERS/ SCALES/ SKIN:
The fur patterns on your pet tend to match up with the skin colour; i.e. black patches of fur will have dark skin beneath, white fur will have pale skin beneath, brown fur will have brown skin beneath (etc. etc.) so know what your pet looks like all over so you can tell if anything is unusual. Know what is normal for your pet in terms of fur/ skin/ feather/ scale type, note any benign abnormalities so that you are able to ascertain when anything unusual occurs.
– skin: free from dryness/ crusting; fur/feathers: free from dandruff/ debris
– fur free from matting/ knots
– feathers should have a healthy shine
– fur should be soft and shiny
– wire hair/fur should not be brittle
– scales ought to be normal; not raised, or discoloured
– free from parasites, abrasions, lesions, infection

Male Bearded Dragon

Pet Health Checking: Face


As a response to a message asking to know more about health checking your pet at home, here is some information… part one:

First and foremost, wash and thoroughly dry your hands. Ensure you are clean before health checking your pet. If you feel the need, wear thin medical gloves.

Start with the eyes. Always.
If there is anything anywhere else on the body, you don’t want to transfer it to the eyes accidentally; staring with the eyes will avoid this.

EYES:
– free from discharge
– free from foreign bodies
– not red, bloodshot, or discoloured in any way

Next move onto the nose.

NOSE:
– free from excessive and/ or unusual discharge
– clean and clear
– watch also for excessive sneezing

Then the mouth.

MOUTH:
– gently lift up your pets lips to check the teeth
– small animals with split lips can have one side of the lip lifted at a time, the bottom lip can be gently pulled down to check the bottom teeth
– check for tartar build up
– know the colour your pets teeth ought to be, so you are able to tell if there is any discolouration (e.g. rats have yellow teeth, cats have white teeth)
– check gums are not discoloured or bleeding
– rabbits and rodents; check teeth are not overgrown (or likely to cause damage)
– check tongue is normal size/ shape and not discoloured (e.g. Chow-chow dog has a blue tongue unlike other breeds)

Next check the ears.

EARS:
– check the external ear is free from cuts, nicks, lumps, not extreme temperatures, and not painful when in normal motion
– check there is no excessive wax build up
– no unusual odour (dogs ears smell pretty bad normally, ensure you do not mistake this for infection)
– no mites, fleas, ticks, or other parasites

GENERAL FACE:
– free from cuts, nicks, lumps, and pain
– fur/ feathers not matted and free from debris
– skin is not dry or infected


Look out for the corresponding post next week, covering the rest of the body.

Loose the Leash!


We get dogs as companions; as pets.  Our pets rely on us to live – they trust us with their lives, trust us to take care of them. We love our pets, and we take pride in training them and teaching them things. We like to show off the fun tricks we have taught our new puppy or even our older dog! But we often neglect to keep up with, or even do, basic training – we all toilet train, and at least attempt sit, stay, and recall.

Teaching your dog not to pull on the lead is often not done, and not kept on top of. This training not only to make things easier on us, especially with larger breeds, but is good for your dog’s health. I go nuts when I see people yanking their dog back on the lead – especially an extender/ retractable lead, because they are designed for your pet to roam – don’t want him to roam, don’t use the extension or use a normal lead! Unfortunately this seems to happen more with small breeds, because we are strong enough to lift them of their feet via their neck… doesn’t mean we ought to.

Harness

If you do this, you may seriously damage your pet’s neck – and surely that’s not why you got a companion animal, to cause harm?! If the dog is pulled up sharply to a hard stop, just one jerk can cause lasting damage – permanent damage that will stay with your pet for the rest of his life.

Extender/ retractable leads are more likely to cause this reaction from us – they are harder to get your dog back with, without jerking the lead. Teach your dog simple commands, to walk to heel and come back when called.

If you still have issues with your dog pulling on a lead, then for both your benefit and your dog’s, try a gentle leader or a harness – not a “check” or “choke” chain.

Gentle Leader
Gentle Leader

Take into account the breed of dog you have – for instance, a harness will cause a dog breed such as a Husky to pull more, as their instinct to “mush” and pull will kick in. If you choose to use a lead and collar, as I do personally, ensure that you train your dog to come back when called and walk to heel on command to avoid any (accidental) jerking of the lead – remember that just one jerk can cause permanent damage to your furry friend.

Collar & Lead
Collar & Lead

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

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