I’m on a Low Income – Should I Get a Pet?

Veterinary treatment can be expensive

A pet really is the perfect companion, and when you adopt an animal, you have a furry best friend for the rest of their lives. But there’s a lot to take into consideration before becoming a pet owner. It’s so important that you’re able to take care of their needs and understand exactly how much responsibility an animal is.

One question that raises a lot of debate is whether you should get a pet if you’re on a low income. It’s tricky because there isn’t a black or white ‘yes or no’ answer to this. Although pets can be expensive, it’s certainly possible to provide an animal with a happy and fulfilling life without a whole lot of cash in the bank. However, there are some questions you will need to ask yourself first.

Work Out Your Current Situation

If you’re on a low income because you’re between jobs or have been made redundant, how will your situation change later down the line? You might have more money when you get back into work, but will you have the time and energy to care for your pet? If you live alone and are likely to work long hours, this is more of an issue to consider. If you’re on a low income because you’re retired or sick, what will happen to your pet if you have to go into hospital? It’s not just the low-income side of things you need to think about, but what your situation is now and how things could change.


Are You Entitled To Free Vet Care?

People on a low income and in receipt of certain benefits are entitled to free pet care at the PDSA. This can give you peace of mind that if anything were to happen, your animal would get the treatment it needs. If you’re on a low income but don’t receive any benefits, there are vets who provide lower cost care, so this is an option. However there will still be a bill to foot, so you’d need to work out if this is something you could cover if your pet got sick.


Can You Afford Food and Other Essentials

Buying food in bulk works out a lot cheaper, and means that many animals aren’t really that expensive to feed. You can purchase seventeen kilogram bags of dog kibble from any supermarket for around £12, which would last a small or medium sized breed many months. You can buy four kilograms of cat biscuits for around £10 which would last the average cat for almost three months. However if your pet is sensitive or intolerant to certain ingredients, a more specialist food will be a lot more expensive. On top of this though you will need to purchase toys, beds, collars, leads, flea and worming medicine and grooming equipment. Sit and work out your budget, and find out if you have enough to cover all of these combined costs.

Whether you’re on a low income or not, pet ownership is a huge responsibility so be sure to work out if it’s something that’s possible for you. Your finances, free time energy levels and whether you have enough space are all important questions to ask.

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Does Size Matter When You Pick A Pet?

If you’re considering bringing a new pet into the family, chances are you’ve had a few conversations about your choices. Allergies, time, and lifespan are just some of the things you may have thought about. Not all pets are furry, and not all pets live at home with you. Some spend months asleep in winter, while others will be very lively and energetic.

Most of us prefer to have a pet that is similar to one we had as children. Of course, if you’re ready for a change, or hoping to fulfill a life ambition, you might choose to take on something completely different. But the one thing you really should consider is the size of the pet you take on. If you’re buying a juvenile, be prepared for a big grow! And before you say you want something cat-size, consider just how big some breeds, like the Maine Coon, can actually become!

Really Small

Gerbils, mice, spiders, and ants have all found their way into our hearts. They tend to live quite happily in their small enclosure or cage and are ideal for small apartments or even bedrooms. They eat relatively little, and their enclosures require a tidy up and clean every few days. Some might say they are low-maintenance pets, but every living thing needs the right care and attention.

Medium House Pets

Cats and small breeds of dog have become the most popular household pets. The fact they’re cuddly and furry really helps too! However, they can also be quite expensive pets to look after. Aside from any special dietary requirements, this kind of pet requires regular veterinary care and vaccinations. Dogs and cats can also cause allergies for people living in the house. If this should happen, consider how you will manage the situation or if you can give up your pet.

Large Pets

Large dog breeds, pet pigs, and domestic farmyard animals are becoming more popular as pets. They require extra or special accommodation as well as extra attention to security in their running space. Pets this size can also be quite dangerous around small children. There is a wider range of illnesses and diseases that you will need to protect your animal from too.

Biggest Pets

The largest pets you might own could be ponies and horses. These animals often live at a local stable if you don’t have a family equestrian property. They need an all-weather turnout rug to ensure they are warm and dry when roaming the paddock. Horses also need a lot of opportunities to run around. If you don’t have enough time to ride, why not let the stable manage riding for you? There is often a fee. Veterinary bills are extremely high for our largest pets. Food bills aren’t cheap either. Of course, the reward for having any loving pet is much more valuable.
If you’re hoping to acquire a new pet, don’t be put off by size. Do carefully consider the affordability of the pet you choose and make sure their home is roomy enough to grow into. Love your pet.

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RSPCA Reports Rise in Animal Cruelty

The RSPCA investigated more than 400 allegations of animal cruelty per day last year – an increase of almost 5% compared to the previous 12 months.

In figures released today, the RSPCA says it received 1.15million calls last year, averaging one every 27 seconds.

The RSPCA’s leading inspector believes the surge in calls to Britain’s biggest animal welfare charity is down to the public seeing more animal cruelty through images and films being shared on social media.

A total of 149,604 complaints of animal abuse were investigated by the RSPCA last year.

These include the case of Reo – a nine-year-old German Shepherd who was whimpering in agony from the open wounds on her ears, jaw and eye when she was found. Her owner was banned from keeping animals for life after being prosecuted by the RSPCA, and Reo is now thriving in her new home.

Other shocking cases of cruelty investigated by RSPCA officers included:

  • A bulldog repeatedly thrown down a flight of stairs, stamped upon and headbutted
  • A royal python and boa constrictor which were both decapitated with a pair of scissors
  • A shih-tzu repeatedly stabbed in the face and neck with a kitchen knife before being left to die in broad daylight
  • Badgers dug out of a sett and a waiting pack of dogs encouraged to attack them whilst the ordeal was filmed on a mobile phone.
  • A golden eagle kept in a cramped kitchen, surrounded by broken glass and empty tin cans

Dermot Murphy, Assistant Director of the RSPCA Inspectorate, said: “It never fails to shock me when I look back on the extreme instances of animal cruelty the RSPCA has been called upon to investigate.

“It continues to outrage and sadden me that people can be capable of such deliberate brutality towards animals, but equally it drives me on to ensure that perpetrators of animal cruelty are put before the courts.

“I believe that the figures from last year show that we’re not becoming crueler, but that people are simply less willing to stand by and do nothing if they think an animal is suffering.

Dermot added: “People are increasingly likely to share images or footage on their social media accounts of animals they believe are not being cared for properly, while many will see material their friends have shared and then contact us about them.

“Either way, our officers are under increased pressure having to respond to more calls and investigate more complaints, but it is thanks to their dedication, as well as RSPCA staff and volunteers across England and Wales that we are able to transform the lives of tens of thousands of animals each year.”

The statistics:

In 2016, the RSPCA:

  • Received 1,153,744 calls to its 24 hour cruelty line (up by 3.15%)
  • Investigated 149,604 complaints of alleged animal cruelty (up by 4.62%)
  • Issued 84,725 advice and improvement notices (up by 3.99%)
  • Successfully prosecuted 744 people (down by 6.53%)
  • Secured 628 disqualification orders following prosecution (down 4.46%)
  • Had a prosecution success rate of 92.5% (up by 0.1%)

The majority of complaints received by the RSPCA in 2016 continued to be about the welfare of dogs (84,994), followed by cats (36,156) and equines (19,530).

The highest number of complaints investigated were in Greater London (11,812), West Yorkshire (7,920) and Greater Manchester (7,708). The most people convicted of animal cruelty offences were from West Yorkshire (94), followed by North Yorkshire (50) and the West Midlands (49).

There was also a rise in the number of owners who were offered and accepted welfare improvement advice and notices – up to 84,725, compared with 81,475 in 2015.  This is over 95% of all notices given out showing the importance of prevention in the RSPCA’s work.

The latest RSPCA statistics featured in the charity’s Prosecutions Annual Report 2016 and are released almost 10 years after the Animal Welfare Act was introduced into England and Wales, making it possible for the RSPCA to intervene earlier and prevent an animal suffering.

Since the Animal Welfare Act came into force in 2007 the RSPCA has secured convictions for breaches of the legislation relation to more than 25,000 animals, including 15,787 dogs, 3,650 cats and 2,525 equines.

Since 2007 there have been 8,706 disqualification orders on keeping some or all animals issued by the courts following RSPCA prosecutions.

“People might see these figures as a negative, and I certainly take no satisfaction from knowing that any animal has suffered. What I do take pride in is knowing that because of the RSPCA’s intervention we have prevented many more animals from suffering at the hands of those who we have successfully investigated and brought before the courts,” added Dermot Murphy.

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Millions of Animals Unprotected by EU law

Huge flaws in animal welfare policies in Europe have been uncovered, which campaigners say are putting millions of animals under unneccessary suffering.

A new European Parliament report shows slow progress on EU animal welfare policies and legislation has major negative effects for animals.

“Action must be taken”, says Animal Defenders International to redress the balance, with assurances given by the UK government to maintain, and improve upon, existing animal welfare measures after the country leaves the EU.

Jan Creamer, Animal Defenders International said: “The imbalance in animal welfare laws in Europe must be urgently addressed to provide protection to the millions of animals currently being failed. As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it is imperative existing welfare measures both remain in place and are strengthened.”

The study “Animal Welfare in the European Union”, commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs and authored by Professor Donald Broom of University of Cambridge clearly states the situation needs to be urgently addressed. The report specifically recommends the development of a generic animal welfare law or species specific legislation.

The development of EU law over the past 44 years has led to 45 legislative acts relating to animal health and welfare. These legislative results culminated in the crucial acknowledgement of animals as sentient beings and the moral implications this brings as laid down in the Treaty for the European Union, a fundamental value which should underlie all EU legislation. However in the majority of EU law, animals so far are only recognised as goods, products or possessions.

Last years’ special Eurobarometer survey on “Attitudes of Europeans towards Animal Welfare” demonstrated a groundswell of support from European citizens to better protect all animal species. This mirrors the many animal welfare petitions the Petitions Committee, who requested the new report, has received over the past decade.

Despite the scientific evidence and public support, current EU legislation excludes several farmed species. Most notably, there is insufficient legislation for 340 million farmed rabbits, 170 million ducks, 150 million turkeys, 83 million sheep, 10 million goats, 88 million bovines (with the exclusion of calves kept for veal production). The second and third most farmed species, salmon and trout (1 billion and 440 million, respectively), are also not protected by any legislation.

Other animals such as equines, pets and wildlife also lack necessary legislative protection, as often only EU level actions can truly address the cross-border nature of the problems these species face. Deliberate or commercially-motivated cruelty to wild animals is not for example prevented by existing EU legislation. The use of traps for wild animals that result in severe suffering such as snares is still permitted in the EU.

Professor Broom states how animals in laboratories in the EU and worldwide have long suffered “widespread inadequate housing conditions that do not meet the needs of the animals”, particularly rodents, as attempts are made to maximise hygiene at the expense of providing other resources that animals need, like bedding and companions.

The study also recognises that most wild animals cannot adapt to a life in captivity and underlines that the trade and keeping of exotic pets can result in poor welfare and risks to biodiversity conservation. It stresses that the adoption of legislation including (positive) lists of allowed pet species could tackle these issues. The keeping and training of animals in circuses is identified as one of the priorities for new EU legislation; the UK government announced it would ban wild animal acts in 2012 but legislation has yet to be introduced.

While the report rightly emphasises how existing EU animal welfare legislation contributes substantially to improving the lives of many species, it also stresses that implementation and enforcement frequently remains problematic.

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Insight: How To Care For An Elderly Dog

Dogs make fantastic pets. They’re loyal, trusting, loving and lots of fun, especially when they’re puppies. But they don’t stay puppies, and there’s a lot you need to know about looking after an elderly dog to ensure its twilight years are as fantastic as its early years.

Don’t worry, though, the basics are below:

Take Your Dog To The Vet For A Check-Up At Least Once A Year

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons recommends you get your dog to see the vet at least yearly, even if your dog appears healthy. Because they can detect minute odor concentrations, one part per trillion (the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic size swimming pools), some dogs work as Medical Detection Dogs, helping to detect diseases early and save thousands of lives. But a human’s powers of perception are by comparison weak, so it’s best not to wait for signs which may not arrive before going for a check-up as many diseases are hidden and not easily detectable.

Feed Your Dog A High-Quality Diet

You should feed all of your pets the best diet you can afford. But it’s especially important to make sure your elderly dog is getting the essential nourishment. One thing to consider is fortifying your dog’s diet with fatty acids such as DHA and EPA. These are an excellent bulwark against mobility diseases like arthritis. If your dog as heart or kidney disease, you might consider a diet plan lower in sodium, an excess of which can lead to other diseases developing, including diabetes.

Keep Your Dog Warm

A dog in the prime of its life is resilient to the effects of the weather. However, older dogs are susceptible to Degenerative Joint Disease and arthritis and need warm shelter from the elements. Keep any hard surfaces, such as concrete, covered, perhaps with pieces of carpet – and perhaps consider custom dog beds. A good idea would be to line one with some towels or blankets. If your dog needs to get upstairs, or perhaps on to the couch for a cuddle, you might consider building wheeled-ramps to make it easier. Something else to consider is where you leave your dog when you go away. Some accommodations are, of course, better than others – so choose the best you can afford. *Tip: Call dog hotels in advance and let them know if your dog has special requirements.

Give Your Dog Plenty Of Gentle Exercise

Let’s face it; an elderly dog will probably want to leave the chasing cars and swimming after ducks in the local reservoir in the past. But that doesn’t mean exercise isn’t still important. It is. Both for optimal organ function and for maintaining strong joints and lean muscles. The trick is to tailor your dog’s exercise regime. For a large healthy dog, a walk around the block might not be enough. But a Yorkie might be spent after the same distance. Keep things slow and steady – and again, remember to consult your veterinary professional at least yearly.


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Thai-Based Animal Welfare Organisation Soi Dog Foundation Wins at Prestigious British Charity Film Awards Ceremony

“People’s Choice” Award for Short Film of Thai Dog Who Had Front Legs Hacked Off With A Sword

Cola, who had his front legs chopped off for playing, is one of the dogs helped by Thai based Soi Dog Foundation

Soi Dog Foundation, the Thai-based street dog and cat welfare organisation responsible for fighting the Asian dog meat trade, was awarded the “People’s Choice” award at the inaugural British Charity Film Awards in London on 15 March.

The short film entitled “Love Will Always Triumph Over Evil” tells the true story of a pup called Cola from Bangkok whose front legs were hacked off by a sword by an angry neighbour, because Cola had chewed his shoes. The pup was saved by Soi Dog who paid for emergency medical treatment and fitting of prosthetic legs, before bringing him to Phuket, where he was adopted by co-founder of Soi Dog, Gill Dalley, herself a double amputee.

The British Charity Film Awards celebrate the charity sector’s use of film, whether for awareness building, changing attitudes and behaviours, or for fund raising.

From left: A representative from the British Charity Film Awards with Suzanne Woodhead (Soi Dog UK lead volunteer), Donna Freelove (Soi Dog UK lead volunteer), and Sally Phillips, British acress and comedienne, and host of the awards ceremony.

Over 375 charities entered the Awards, with just 36 actually making it through to the finals. Soi Dog’s “People’s Choice” award was voted for by members of the public. Over 65,000 people voted, with Soi Dog collecting just over 30,000 votes.

John Dalley, co-founder and President of Soi Dog Foundation said: “We are very grateful to all those who voted for us. It helps to bring knowledge of our work to a wider audience, and highlights the plight of many homeless dogs and cats in this part of the world, as well as the cruel and horrific dog meat trade in Asia that we are trying to end. It is also more than a fitting tribute to Gill, who passed away last month, with the film demonstrating her pure compassion for animals who otherwise would have no-one else to help them. Gill would have been particularly happy at winning the People’s Choice awards. She was a woman of the people”.

Gill Dalley passed away last month following a brief battle with cancer. As a double leg amputee herself, Gill had formed an instant bond with Cola, understanding the issues he was going through in adjusting to life with prosthetic legs. The two became inseparable in the few months following Cola’s adoption by the couple. Cola is now being looked after by John at the family house in Phuket, along with numerous other street dogs and cats that the couple had adopted over the years.

This is the first time a Thai-based organisation has received a charity award in the United Kingdom, and highlights the great efforts of all Asian-based not-for-profit organisations in making a sustainable difference to the lives of people, animals and the environment.

John Dalley said: “Thailand should be very proud of this award. It demonstrates how far the country has come in terms of improving the welfare of its animals. We are eternally grateful to the Thai people for all their support and assistance in improving the lives of street dogs and cats, and in ending the dog meat trade here”.

The Soi Dog Foundation short film on Cola and Gill was surprisingly made on a zero budget, in stark contrast to the professionally made films entered by the other charities. John Dalley added: “Our supporters don’t want us to spend their money on initiatives that do not directly impact on the welfare of the dogs and cats here., We spend 92% of all donations directly on the animal welfare programmes we run on behalf of our supporters”.

Soi Dog Foundation lead UK volunteers Donna Freelove and Suzanne Woodhead were on hand at the ceremony to collect the award, which will be dedicated to the memory and legacy of Gill Dalley.

Other winners at the British Charity Awards ceremony included St John’s Ambulance, Alzheimer’s Society, Royal Trinity Hospice, The National Holocaust Centre and Museum, Support and Love Via Education International, The Loss Foundation, Communities for Development, and The Restorative Justice Council with Fully Focussed Productions.

A link to the winning film can be found here: Cola’s story

Soi Dog Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation established in 2003, is a legally registered charity in Thailand, Canada, the United States, Australia, the UK, France and Holland. Its mission statement is to improve the welfare of dogs and cats in Asia, resulting in better lives for both the animal and human communities, to create a society without homeless animals, and to ultimately end animal cruelty. John Dalley, co-founder and president, is available for interview.

For more information please visit www.soidog.org or www.facebook.com/SoiDogPageInEnglish

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Cheshire Rescue Dog Awarded ‘Animal OBE’

Bryn served in disaster zones in Japan and Nepal

An extraordinary search and rescue dog from Cheshire was honoured today (Thursday 16 March 2017) by leading vet charity PDSA for his devotion to duty in some of the world’s most challenging regions.

At a special ceremony at Manchester Town Hall, Border Collie Bryn became the latest recipient of the prestigious PDSA Order of Merit* – the animals’ OBE.  Bryn’s award is in recognition of his exemplary service as a search and rescue dog, working with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and UK’s International Search and Rescue Team.

Commenting on the award, PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin said: “Bryn has displayed extraordinary devotion throughout his career and made a monumental difference to search and rescue operations across the world.   His story demonstrates the huge contribution that animals make to our lives.”

Bryn’s Story

Border Collie Bryn has worked as a search and rescue dog alongside his handler Steve Buckley since he was a puppy.

Steve requested a rescue dog for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, where he worked as a firefighter, after witnessing the incredible work of search dogs while on a rescue mission in India following the 2001 earthquake. Bryn was handpicked from a litter of puppies due to his nature and intelligence.

Steve and Bryn started training and in 2005, at the age of four, Bryn became fully qualified and UKISAR graded.

In 2009, they became one of only four UK dog teams to attain the International Rescue Dog Organisation’s ‘mission readiness test’. The test consisted of seven searches over 36 hours, a 10km march, dog first aid and working at height.

Alongside his work with Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service Bryn has been deployed to building collapses, missing persons’ searches and gas explosions throughout the UK.

His international work involved working in Japan (2011) after the earthquake and tsunami, and in Nepal (2015) following the devastating earthquake which killed and injured thousands.

Bryn’s ability to search large areas for casualties, with greater speed and efficiency than his human counterparts, was invaluable. It minimised the need for risky interventions when faced with precarious and volatile rescue situations.

As well as helping find casualties within disaster areas, Bryn’s skills have also helped reunite families with lost loved ones, allowing them to be laid to rest.

Later in their career Steve and Bryn also worked for Avon Urban Search and Rescue team.  Bryn retired in May 2016 after an outstanding 11-year career.

Commenting on the award, Steve Buckley said: “Bryn has been a dedicated and exemplary search dog throughout his career.  He never wavered from his mission and those working with him had complete faith in his detection skills.  His skills have been used to set training standards across the world.

“Dogs like Bryn only come along once in a lifetime and I’m incredibly lucky to have worked beside him for the past 11 years.  Receiving the PDSA Order of Merit is a fitting end to his distinguished career. I am so proud of him.”

The PDSA Order of Merit was presented to Bryn by PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin.

Jan said: “I’m proud and honoured to award Bryn his PDSA Order of Merit. His support for teams in dangerous search and rescue situations has made a profound difference to the lives of people across the world. His incredible talent and skills are truly rare.

“Today he joins an honourable line-up of animals that have displayed outstanding devotion and companionship in various walks of life. Although very different, they are all worthy recipients of the PDSA Order of Merit.”

Head of Operational Policy and Assurance at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, Gus O’Rourke, added: “Bryn and Steve have been an integral part of our International Search and Rescue Team, always ready to fly out to wherever in the world they were needed. Bryn’s deployments haven’t been without incident; in Japan, where Steve and Bryn went to help in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Bryn received serious life-threatening injuries while searching through the debris. He was treated by a field surgeon for temporary respite until he could get expert veterinary treatment.

“The pair have also been at the forefront of training other dogs and handlers, both nationally and internationally, so the great work done by these teams will continue and evolve. Many, many people the world over owe their survival to the brave, courageous work done by the search and rescue dog teams and I am so proud of both Bryn and Steve for their massive and dedicated contribution. I wish them both a long, healthy and happy retirement.”

PDSA Medals

The PDSA Order of Merit recognises animals that display outstanding acts of devotion above and beyond normal companionship. It also recognises animal acts which represent the special relationship that exists between animals and humans. Bryn is the seventh canine recipient of the honour, which has been awarded 17 times since its institution in 2014.

For more information visit www.pdsa.org.uk/OOMdogs.

PDSA is the UK’s leading veterinary charity, treating 470,000 pets annually across its 51 Pet Hospitals. The charity strives to improve all pets’ lives through education, preventive care and emergency treatment. For more information visit www.pdsa.org.uk

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Why Does Nobody Want One-eyed Tyson?

Crossbreed dog is still waiting to find his fur-ever home…

RSPCA staff and volunteers in Buckinghamshire are desperately trying to find the paw-fect home for a one-eyed dog who is their loneliest pooch.

Tyson has been waiting for a home for 295 days (as of Thursday) and, despite having a small fan club online, still hasn’t found his perfect match.

As the five-year-old rottweiler-cross approaches his 300-day milestone, staff are doing all they can to find him a home to call his own.

Paula Flitney, deputy manager at RSPCA Blackberry Farm, where Tyson is currently living, said: “Poor Tyson is now officially our longest stay dog.

“We really can’t understand why he continues to be overlooked as he’s such a wonderful boy. How many dogs could pull off the pirate look?!”

Tyson ended up in RSPCA care in May last year after a cat scratched his eye. He needed treatment and, sadly, had to have the eye removed. But he has bounced back and isn’t letting a missing eye slow him down!

“He is such a sweetheart and will make a brilliant companion for the right person,” Paula added.

“Tyson loves a cuddle and is quite happy plodding around the field and going for a calm walk. He is happy to be left on his own for short periods and could live with older children and with a calm female dog, but can’t live with cats.

“Tyson is a lovely dog who is very special to everyone at the centre. He’s been waiting far too long for a home.”

If you think you could offer Tyson a home, please visit the website or contact Blackberry Farm on 0300 123 0752.

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit: www.rspca.org.uk/give or text LOVE to 87023 to give £3 (Text costs £3 + one standard network rate message).

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Office Worker’s Pregancy ‘Outed’ at Work by Colleague’s Dog!

A dog’s sense of smell is about 1,000 to 10,000,000 times more sensitive than a human’s (depending on the breed)

A Manchester office worker was surprised to find that a colleague’s dog was able to detect her pregnancy during a meeting, suggesting there may be some credence to the research that four legged friends are able to spot pregnancy ahead of their human owners.

Freya McNally, senior content manager at Pets at Home, was able to successfully conceal her pregnancy from all of her colleagues, except for one nosey office dog.

Freya said: “When I was about eight weeks pregnant – and long before I told anyone – I was in a meeting with a colleague, senior designer, Angie Keay and her dog, Chesney, a  a Yorkshire Terrier, Jack Russel, Chihuahua cross.

“Although our pets often come to meetings with us, I had never spent much time around Chesney, so I was quite surprised when he snuggled up to me. Angie was a bit embarrassed and kept trying to remove Chesney, but he would just cuddle up again!”

When the meeting was over, Freya forgot all about it. But Angie told a mutual colleague that Chesney had a history of snuggling up to pregnant women, despite normally being very shy. Experts agree that both cats and dogs can detect when a woman’s pregnant, although they’re not sure exactly how. Some dogs detect very early hormonal changes using their sense of smell – and its thought this may be why Chesney reacted as he did.

So, when Freya announced her pregnancy at work a few weeks later, Angie wasn’t the least bit surprised. She said: “In fact, Angie said she was so glad she had told our colleague about Chesney’s super-sense because otherwise no one would have believed her!” says Freya.

“The hormonal changes must have made me smell different to Chesney, but it’s not something that can be detected by the human nose.

“I couldn’t wait to tell my friends and family; it’s now my favourite work story!”

More information on pets and pregnancy can be found in the latest issue of Pets at Home’s My VIP magazine. The magazine is free to VIP club members and available at Pets at Home stores throughout the UK.

For more information about Pets at Home’s VIP club, please visit: vip.petsathome.com.

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Canine Health Campaigners “Dismayed” by Crufts ‘Best in Breed’ Champ

A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Campaigners for tighter health checks on Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, a breed beset by hereditary health issues, say they are “dismayed” the Kennel Club is “ignoring” their concerns – after a dog crowned ‘Best in Breed’ at Crufts has “been bred flouting health guidelines.”

Cavaliers suffer in high numbers from an inherited heart condition called Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) and Syringomyelia, a painful neurological disorder. Almost  31,000 have signed an online petition asking the Kennel Club to only register puppies from Cavaliers screened for these conditions.

Last Friday, Margaret Carter, Charlotte Mackaness and TV vet Emma Milne presented Bill Lambert, Health and Breeder Services Manager at the KC, with comments from the petition at Crufts. They told Mr Lambert that there would be no need to petition the KC if sufficient breeders were carrying out health checks and followed guidelines.

The three have since written an open letter to Mr Lambert expressing their dismay that the Cavalier that won the Best of Breed title at Crufts later that day had seven litters of puppies registered with the UK Kennel Club before he was 2.5 years old.

“Two years ago the Cavalier awarded Best of Breed had sired a litter of puppies before his first birthday. If one looks only at the dogs entered in the Crufts’ show guide for this year’s Open Dog Class, eight sired litters registered with the UK Kennel Club before they reached 2.5 years old, some well before this age,” they write.

Breeding guidelines put in place in the 1990s state that Cavaliers should not be bred before this age.

The Cavalier Club’s website states: “Reputable breeders are aware of these health problems. Those intending to purchase a puppy are recommended to buy from a breeder who health tests their stock, who follows breeding guidelines issued by veterinary experts, and who is prepared to discuss and advise the purchaser on health issues.”

Pets Magazine’s Sophie, a ruby Cavalier


In addition, the health campaigners claim that not only is the Best in Breed winning dog, Castlewytch Rave On With Russmic, owned by a Cavalier Club committee member but his second registered litter was bred by the then chair of the Cavalier Club who is still the Kennel Club Cavalier Breed Health Coordinator.

The group also highlights that one of the dogs entered for the class they examined starting siring puppies before his first birthday, despite being bred and owned by a regional Cavalier Club puppy coordinator.

TV vet Emma Milne explained: “When the people giving breed advice, including the Club’s own health liaison and puppy coordinators, are producing animals outside of protocols, what hope is there for the breed or for puppy buyers trying to be responsible.”

There is no official heart testing scheme in the UK for Cavaliers, despite MVD being their biggest killer and 20 times more prevalent than in other breeds. There is a long-standing heart scheme run by the Cavalier Club that campaigners would like the Kennel Club to adopt but make mandatory.

“Research published earlier this year by respected cardiologists found that in 20 years the age of onset of MVD has improved by only six months and only in bitches examined by a GP vet,” says Margaret Carter. “Only four per cent of breeders were following the MVD guidelines at some stages of the study.”

Many European countries have mandatory health testing for Cavaliers, including Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark, which has seen it’s the risk of MVD in Cavaliers fall by 73 per cent since introducing a compulsory heart testing scheme for the breed.

“The winner of this year’s Best of Breed at Crufts makes a total mockery of the breed club and Kennel Club claims that they are committed to Cavaliers’ health and welfare,” believes Emma Milne. “Litters should not be registered from breeders that are so blatantly ignoring well-accepted specialist research and advice. These health problems are widespread and devastating for the dogs and their owners. Nothing concrete has been done to improve things for decades. It’s way past time for change.”

In response, Bill Lambert, Kennel Club Health and Breeder Services Manager, said: “We fully support attempts to highlight the health and welfare issues that can affect Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and as dog lovers, we fully understand how passionate those who have signed the petition are about their Cavaliers.  We are glad that Crufts is able to shine a spotlight on dogs and provides a chance for these types of issues to be discussed more widely.

“Whilst the Kennel Club promotes health screening and makes many tests a requirement under its Assured Breeder Scheme when they are proven to work, health testing is not a legal requirement for breeders and registration with the Kennel Club is only voluntary. Therefore making the test mandatory for registration will simply drive breeders away from the Kennel Club, where they will continue to breed, resulting is us having fewer health test results and less information about the specific condition.  The Kennel Club only registers an estimated thirty per cent of the pedigree dog population, so it is important that we maintain influence over those who do register their dogs with us.

Mr Lambert added: “Instead, we need to understand breeders’ concerns about tests if they are not all using them, and support and incentivise them to do so. Where tests do not produce definitive results about whether puppies will be affected by a condition, such as the CM/SM test for syringomyelia, and because of the cost and risks associated with tests like this, we believe collaboration with breeders who are passionate about improving breed health will be much more effective than making the test a mandatory requirement for Kennel Club registration.

“We are realistic and we know that not all breeders will wish to put their dog forward for testing, but we do not need large numbers to produce results and to build a picture about the health of the breed in order to improve it.

“We have recently agreed to publish results of the Danish heart scheme for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and are working with both breed representatives and veterinary cardiologists to develop a UK-based scheme that will be easier for breeders to access. We will continue to work with the relevant experts to develop solutions for all health conditions, to assist breeders in breeding healthy puppies and help buyers make informed choices.”

View and sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/the-uk-kennel-club-stop-registerin-g-cavalier-king-charles-spaniel-puppies-unless-their-parents-are-mri-scanned-and-heart-tested

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