Is ‘renting’ a dog right for the dog?

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Human foods which can poison pets


It’s Easter and we’re all tucking into chocolate, and we may also be tempted to feed our pets bits of Easter egg. But chocolate, like many other ‘people foods’, can be dangerous to our feline friends and canine companions.

Here’s our list of human foods which are most toxic to our pets: 

Chocolate, coffee & alcohol 
The substances in chocolate, coffee, and caffeine, methlxanthines, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, and potentially death in pets. The higher the cocoa percentage, the more dangerous the chocolate is, making dark chocolate more toxic than milk or white chocolate. All these products can cause vomiting, diarrhea and even death.

Grapes & raisins 
These can be toxic to dogs and cause kidney failure. Researchers say there are still many unknowns about the toxicity of grapes and raisins, including whether only certain types of dogs are affected, but it is advised not to feed grapes or raisins to dogs in any amount.


While many pet owners say they feed their pets avocados with no problems, studies have shown that their leaves, fruit, seeds and bark can contain a toxin called Persin.

Onions, onion powder, chives and garlic
These all can lead to gastrointestinal irritation and red blood cell damage. All forms of onion can cause problems including dehydrated onions, raw and cooked onions. Cats are more susceptible than dogs, but it can be toxic to both.

Foods with a high salt or fat content
Excessive fats can cause upset stomach and potentially inflame the pancreas causing pancreatitis. Salty foods can pose a risk for the development of sodium ion toxicosis. Be aware that if your pet gets into food with a high fat or salt content, he could experience stomach problems including diahorrea and vomiting.

Left-over bones
Left-over bones pose a choking hazard to pets, and they can also splinter and puncture your pet’s gut or intestine. Additionally, do not feed your pet undercooked meat or eggs, as they can contain harmful bacteria.

Macadamia nuts
These nuts can cause weakness, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Symptoms generally last up to two days, and usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion.

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Insights into the primate pet trade 

PictureKodak ©Wild Futures

By Paul Michael Reynolds MSc, Education Officer and Primate Keeper at Wild Futures.

Wild Futures is a UK registered charity founded upon five decades of experience as a leader in the field of primate welfare and conservation, education, and sustainable practice. We are committed to protecting primates and habitats worldwide, with our UK flagship project “The Monkey Sanctuary” housing monkeys rescued from the primate pet trade and other abusive captive situations. 

Our primary focus at Wild Futures is to protect primates and one of our main methods for achieving this is through education. Our education program raises awareness of the serious conservation and welfare implications for victims of the primate pet trade and other issues affecting primates worldwide. 

Some of the monkeys at our Sanctuary were born in the wild and through both legal and illegal means, have ended up as pets in Europe. Kodak the capuchin (see photo above), started his life in the rainforest and probably witnessed his family group shot. He then found himself transported across the globe to Greece where he was kept in a photo shop, until his owner realised he needed to be with others of his own kind. He is now the alpha male of his own group at our Sanctuary. 

We estimate with the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) that there are at least 7,000 privately owned primates in the UK, with further evidence suggesting it is far higher and there are signs that the primate pet trade is on the increase.  Our Sanctuary witnesses the damage caused by this trade every day.  Of the 37 monkeys residing at our Sanctuary, many of them display serious physical and psychological problems resulting from their time kept as pets.  

Our campaign work has led to much advancement, including political recognition that the trade in primates as pets is an issue within the UK, the publication of the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately Kept Non-Human Primates (to be used in conjunction with the Animal Welfare Act 2006) and strong public support, which has resulted in a parliament led committee discussing the UK primate pet trade.  

We are working hard to protect primates and their habitats worldwide and strive for the day when all monkeys are free from the threat of the pet trade, free from malnutrition, mental, physical and emotional suffering.

Author bio:
Paul Reynolds started off at Wild Futures as a volunteer after completing his MSc in 2010, he swiftly advanced to become a primate keeper intern and then entered his current role as Education Officer. He is driven and committed to ending the exploitation of primates for any purpose. You can email him at [email protected] 

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A fantastic campaign to get our pets fighting fit!


Take-aways, biscuits, chips and even alcohol – are all fuelling an ongoing obesity crisis for British pets, whose collars are bursting at the buckles due to our addiction to high-calorie, fatty diets.
According to vet charity PDSA, more than 10 million pets* are getting fatty treats, due to owners sharing their own unhealthy eating habits with their pets in a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to make them happy.
The research shows that around nine out of ten owners (87%)* give pets treats, despite the fact that 91% realise the resulting obesity can reduce their pet’s lifespan. Around 2.5 million dogs (one in three) and over two million cats (one in four) are currently overweight and, not only could they have their lives cut short, they will also have a drastically reduced quality of life in some cases.
Scotland topped the lardy league table when it comes to lavishing animals with potentially deadly junk food, with 72% of owners admitting to giving fatty treats. Welsh pet owners are the next worst offenders, with 69% of owners over indulging their pets. Two in three North West pet owners (64%) are also loading their pets up with high-calorie, unsuitable snacks. While London pet owners scored the best, around half (48%) of owners are still feeding inappropriate food to their four-legged friends.  
To help combat the problem the charity has launched its annual fat-fighting competition, PDSA Pet Fit Club. Over the last eight years, the contest has transformed the lives of some of Britain’s fattest pets, many of whom simply wouldn’t have survived had their weight issues not been tackled.
Owners can enter their pets at; the deadline for entries is Sunday 27 April 2014.

Elaine Pendlebury, PDSA Senior Veterinary Surgeon, said: “Sadly, seeing morbidly obese pets is now an everyday occurrence in vet practices across the UK; it is one of the biggest welfare concerns facing the nation’s pets. It’s effectively a silent killer leading to long term health issues for pets that can cut their lifespan by up to two years.
“Pet obesity significantly increases the danger of developing major health problems such as diabetes, arthritis and heart disease and can also bring about the onset of these chronic diseases much earlier. It’s tragic to think that millions of pets are suffering under the strain of carrying too much weight, when it is an entirely preventable condition.”  
PDSA’s 2013 PAW Report*, produced in conjunction with YouGov, provides the biggest annual insight into pet health and welfare and has discovered a wide range of inappropriate treats are being fed to pets. These include fast food leftovers, crisps, biscuits, chocolate and chips. In some cases, it appears pets have also been helping themselves to leftover alcoholic drinks.
Dr Philippa Yam, leading animal obesity expert at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Glasgow, said: “PDSA’s findings are very worrying and demonstrate that diet remains one of the most misunderstood welfare needs for pets. Obesity is one of the most pressing health issues affecting companion animals. PDSA’s work in this area is hugely successful.
“I am delighted to see that Pet Fit Club is continuing to make a real impact on pet obesity, by raising awareness of the issue and helping to transform the lives of many pets who were heading for an early grave due to the severity of their weight problems. PDSA’s programme clearly demonstrates that with tailored veterinary support and education, this devastating condition can be reversed.”

Watch the PDSA Pet Fit Club video.

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Pets magazine exclusive: Leading vet on ‘Zoonoses’ or diseases you can catch from your pet 


By Mark Hedberg, DrMedVet MRCVS

The veterinary profession is warning that more people will catch TB from their pets, as it is ‘endemic’ in wildlife. Leading vet Mark Hedberg writes exclusively for Pets magazine on zoonotic diseases or infectious diseases that are transmitted between species, specifically from animals to humans.

If you are reading this article, chances are you are one of the estimated 13 million households in the UK that own at least one pet. (PFMA 2012). And if you’ve ever owned a pet, chances are someone’s told you stories about all the nasty bugs and diseases you can get from your animal friends.

The scientific word for a disease you can get from an animal is “zoonosis”. (plural: zoonoses.)

It’s true: there are over a hundred diseases humans can get from animals. The good news is that if you live in the United Kingdom, you’re probably only going to meet with three or four of them.

In this article we’ll cover the three most frequent zoonoses in the UK, and one very famous disease. All of them are treatable, and all of them are preventable.

Gastrointestinal disease

Gastrointestinal disease is what we call a ‘tummy bug’ or ‘food poisoning’. It happens when bacteria or viruses get into our food or into our mouth. Most commonly this occurs when you forget to wash your hands before eating, especially after playing with animals.

Reptiles are often accused of carrying salmonella, but the truth is, dogs and cats can carry it too. The prevention: never let your pets eat off your plate, and always wash your hands after playing or working with your pets. Always wash your hands before eating, no matter what.

Skin disease

One of the most common things people pick up from stray animals is ringworm. No, it’s not a worm. Ringworm is a skin fungus; you first notice it when you get a ring-shaped itchy bad spot on your skin. It’s easily treatable with anti-fungal skin creams from your chemist. Stubborn cases should be seen by your GP.

Fleas and mites can also pass from a pet to a human; this usually only happens when your pet has a severe flea or mite infestation. Treatment with an anti-flea spot-on solution can help control this. In case of severe infestation, you may need to get a prescription-strength product from your vet.  (Always read the instructions before using any medicine on your pet! Dog flea medication can KILL cats!)

Bites and Scratches

The mouth of a dog is full of germs – they’re constantly sniffing, licking, digging and chewing their way through their daily walk. Cats can scratch and dig with the best of them, as well as catching mice and birds. Is it any wonder that many bites and scratches become infected?

Untreated bite and scratch wounds can cause severe discomfort, and in extreme cases may require hospitalization. Yes, this is a zoonosis too – you’ve gotten this disease from an animal! As long as we spend time with animals, there is the risk of catching a disease from them. Don’t panic – common sense precautions and good hygiene are your best ally to prevent catching most diseases from pets!

Exotic animals are frequent culprits too – the NHS estimates that bites and injuries from reptiles caused 760 consultations, 709 hospital stays, and 2121 days in hospital for patients between 2004 and 2012!

The Truth about Toxoplasma

No article on zoonosis would be complete without a mention of toxoplasma. This disease is responsible for a huge number of wrongly re-homed cats. I’ve heard people believe all kinds of things about toxoplasma. Some people think toxoplasma can cause harm to women and children. One gentleman informed me that he wanted to re-home his cat, as a cat would cause his pregnant wife to die. (This is absolutely NOT true.)

  • Toxoplasma is a parasite – and cats can carry it. If a pregnant woman is infected with toxoplasma, her unborn baby may suffer birth defects. 

  • Toxoplasma is transmitted through undercooked or contaminated meat, contaminated dirt, and cat faeces. Fortunately, the only way to catch toxoplasma is to eat it. You heard me – cook your meat thoroughly, and don’t eat cat poop!

  • Handling your cat is perfectly safe. If you are pregnant – have someone else clean your cat’s litter tray; and have them wash their hands when they’re done. Dispose of the used litter and cat faeces promptly. 

  • If you are pregnant and have to clean the litter tray, use gloves. Wash your fruit and veg thoroughly before eating them, and don’t drink unpasteurized milk.

  • Still worried? A blood test can check if you have ever been exposed to toxoplasma. 

  • If you have, you’re safe – you can’t catch it twice.

Life, of course, isn’t risk free. As long as we spend time with animals, there is the risk of catching a disease from them.

Don’t panic – common sense precautions and good hygiene are your best ally to prevent catching most diseases from pets!

Mark currently works for The College of Animal Welfare, a non-profit animal care and veterinary nurse college in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. 

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Pets as therapy


A prestigious veterinary journal has published a feature in which Professor Daniel Mills and Dr Sophie Hall discuss the therapeutic effects of companion animals.

Professor Mills, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, and Dr Hall, who will be joining the team on a project related to pet dogs and families with autistic children, also focus on the influence of pets on childhood development in the article for Veterinary Record.

Despite a growing body of evidence indicating many benefits surrounding the relationship between people and pets, the authors suggest even more novel interventions using companion animals are possible in preventative healthcare.

They conclude: “Animal companionship is potentially more cost-effective and socially acceptable than technological solutions. Companion animals should not be considered a luxury or unnecessary indulgence, but rather, when cared for appropriately, they should be seen as valuable contributors to human health and wellbeing and, as a result, society and the broader economy.”

Pets are often used to support people, but there are few controlled investigations into the effects of human-animal companionship in medical settings, and this is an area that researchers are keen to develop further at the University following Dr Hall’s appointment.

Along with reducing overt emotional responses such as anxiety, there is evidence to suggest that animal companionship can be highly influential in reducing a sense of isolation. 

The constant companionship of an animal has been shown to reduce feelings of loneliness in elderly care home residents. And a further study with patients in palliative care showed that the presence of a dog, cat or rabbit improved the mood of patients. Similar mood changes have also been observed in children with autism and Alzheimer’s patients.

The team is now engaged in a long term follow-up of their earlier controlled study, in conjunction with the Parents Autism Workshops and Support Network, examining the effects of pet dog ownership on UK families with an autistic child. Results from the initial study are due to be reported soon in the scientific press. Uniquely, this has examined the effects on the child, primary carer and wider family, since it is hypothesised that all of these might benefit from the companionship provided by a dog.

The positive effects of animals in reducing negative emotions and increasing positive emotions may improve not only quality of life but can also help with the development of effective interventions.

Previous research in the field of human health and medical psychology has provided evidence to suggest that dog and cat owners have better psychological and physical health than non-owners. Dog owners are also reported to recover more quickly after serious mental and physical illness, and even make fewer visits to their doctor. All of these effects might have a significant impact on NHS costs at a time when government is looking for cost savings,

The authors comment: “We should be curious about all the ways companion animals can potentially help us and embrace the opportunities provided by a greater appreciation of the impact of companion animals on our lives. 

“It is perhaps ironic that in a world that seems to be increasingly encouraging the development of technologies to make our lives easier, an obvious answer to many of our problems may be literally staring us in the face (or sitting on our lap).”

To read the full article ‘Animal-assisted interventions: making better use of the human-animal bond’ in Veterinary Record go to

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The dog and cat fur trade

Each year, approximately 2 million dogs and cats are slaughtered for their meat and fur in Asia. Investigations have revealed that these animals are largely strays, and even pets stolen from their homes. Cats are routinely killed by strangulation, often in full view of their cage mates. Dogs are hung by the neck or paws and slashed across the groin. Their fur is used to make a variety of products that are shipped all over the world. 

The European Union ban on imports took effect as of 1 January 2009. However, some products made with dog or cat fur may be mislabeled. 

Please be cautious if choosing to buy fur products – particularly in Canada where the import and export of dog and cat skins is shockingly perfectly legal. 

VIDEO LINK: Dog and cat fur trade

The facts:

  • Up to 10 adult dogs needed to make fur coat
  • Up to 24 cats needed for cat fur coat
  • Cat and dog fur also used in hats, gloves, shoes, blankets, stuffed animals and toys
  • Dog fur labelled as: Gae-wolf, sobaki, Asian jackal, goupee, loup d’Asie, Corsac fox, dogues du Chine, fake or exotic fur
  • Cat fur labelled as: house cat, wild cat, katzenfelle, rabbit, goyangi, mountain cat
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Car sick dog?  


Whether it’s visiting family or going on a holiday break, there are often times where you need to take the dog on a long car journey with you. Nikki Bayley, owner of a beautiful spaniel called Freddie, gives her advice on the best ways to travel with your dog in a car. 

Before you go
Take your dog for a run around before heading off on a car journey. This will work off that first burst of energy they have when they leave the house – and give them a chance to go to the toilet. Make them feel relaxed in the car by putting in their favourite blanket and sitting calmly with your dog for a while before heading off. 

Car preparation
There are a number of items you could consider buying before a long car trip with your dog. You can buy pet seat-belts which hook on to regular seat belts and help secure your dog if there’s an accident. Alternatively, if you have a car big enough for a dog-area, consider buying a pet barrier to safely contain the dog behind the back seats.

Car sickness
If you’re worried your pup might get sick during the journey, skip feeding them before you head off and make sure to pack some wet wipes. Look out for signs that your dog might be carsick, such as drooling, whining and then heaving. Make sure there are plenty of toilet, water and fresh air stops on the way and make sure you don’t overheat the car. 

On arrival

Once you’ve reached your destination, don’t worry about unpacking, the first port of call is to take your dog for a walk. Keep them on a leash until they’re settled with the new smells and sounds of their new home. Once they’ve run off the energy they’ve built up in the car, introduce them to where you’re staying, making sure it’s as familiar as possible with their own bed and toys. 

Top tip

Stressed dogs will enjoy a massage at the base of their head or beginning of their spine with a little lavender oil rubbed on your hands.

Nikki is the in-house ‘canine travel expert’ at Forest Holidays

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The real-life Dr Dolittle?


It may seem outlandish to some, but claims by a leading animal welfare researcher that animals can ‘communicate’ directly with their owners ring true for me. 

Professor Ian Duncan says that pets including goldfish and even farm animals can tell their owners if they are happy with their lot. Duncan has devised a system that allows humans to ask animals questions about their happiness and welfare. The scientist who is based at the renowned Guelph University in Canada has already helped bring about changes to the welfare of battery farmed hens and pigs in the 1990s.

Duncan devises tests where the animals are offered a choice and if they make the same choice repeatedly it shows what they want from us. 

He explained: “It used to be thought that animals were ‘dumb’, driven by programmed instincts and responses, but now it is clear they live a much richer life than we ever realised and can remember the past and the future. We can use that knowledge to ask questions about their care and then improve it.”

Quite rightly, Duncan has hit out against the barbaric practices of halal and kosher slaughter of animals; practices which have been condemned as cruel by John Blackwell, President-elect of the British Veterinary Association (BVA.)

Duncan also says that farmed fish like trout and salmon are as sentient as livestock and should be subject to similar welfare rules. “We need to communicate with them to find better ways to care for them,” he says.

Anyone who has ever had an animal in their life knows that they are far from being ‘dumb’. Our pets are sentient and intelligent creatures who can surprise us by their mental acuity. I am sure that my Cavalier King Charles Sophie has gone even further than most humans in perfecting the art of mind control. This remarkable ability comes in extremely useful when I have said a firm ‘no’ to more doggie choc drops…

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Premium vs Budget Dog Food: Which to Choose?  

PictureA decent doggy diet is fundamental if you want your pet to live a healthy and happy life. Although with so many brands and products available, it’s no wonder that it can be a little tricky working out which food is best to serve to your dog.

It’s easy to be persuaded to purchase specific brands, but have you ever stopped to think about what’s actually contained in the ingredients? Well just like humans, your dog’s nutrition will have a significant impact on their overall mood, health and wellbeing.

As each individual brand and product varies in both quality and price, which options should you choose? Let’s take a closer look.

Premium brands, premium quality 

The main factors that influence which food you buy your dog are price, quality and brand.

Established brands may cost you more initially, however bargain foods can cost you more in the long run, especially in relation to your pet’s health. A long spell on cheap budget products can have a damaging effect on your dog’s teeth, organs, muscles and coat.

On the whole, brands that are renowned and charge more as a result use fewer preservatives, additives, and better quality ingredients. In contrast, if the food is cheaper, it’s likely that it contains less protein. Premium food will provide your dog with the nutrients they need and will also help to avoid any allergies that your pet could be suffering from.

Although you will be paying more for premium food, it will actually contain more of what your dog needs as part of a stable and balanced diet.

Wet dog food and contents 

There’s nothing wrong with wet food as part of a sufficient diet, however remember to check the label to see how much water is contained within each product.

Cheap variations of this type of food may cost you less, although the water contents could be as high as 80%. On the other hand, a premium product is likely to contain less water and more of the actual product – which again is more beneficial for your pet.

Puppy diets 

Don’t forget that if you own a puppy, it will require a different feeding regime compared to adult dogs. Start by using formulated growth food and feed them four meals a day initially until they are four to six months old. At this stage, two meals a day will be enough for them to take on board the nutrients and protein they require.

During the early stages of their development it’s important that you feed your pup quality dog food. Premium products that cater specifically for puppies will enhance their growth and maintain good health as they get older.

Premium dry food for example is a good choice and this will have more of a positive impact on preventing any damaging health issues later on in life.

Complete dog food 

If the food you are buying states that it’s ‘complete’, then it contains the right balance of nutrients that your dog needs. This consists of protein, carbohydrates, fat, minerals, vitamins and water.

If any issues arise later on in your dog’s life as a result of poor nutrition, then you may have to pay out for medical treatment.

Complete premium dog food suitable for all breeds is a good choice, but remember you still need to read the ingredients on the label to determine the quality of the product.

Specific breeds 

If you are worried that your dog has specific dietary requirements due to their breed, or from diabetes or IBS, speak to your vet or pet supplies store for further advice and assistance.

Premium products are always better, although you might not be able to feed them this type of food. Speaking to your vet first will allow you to understand their needs and find a suitable premium product that can fit in with their existing diet.

The difference with premium

If you are feeding your dog budget food and you transfer to a healthy, premium-quality diet, it won’t take you long to notice the difference.

Similar to humans eating cheap food, your pet won’t suffer from highs and lows of extreme hyperactive activity before crashing and feeling lethargic and sleepy.

A premium-quality and balanced diet will release energy at a consistent level throughout the day so your dog’s mood will be more manageable and they’ll look and feel better as a result.

Remember – where possible always use premium over budget products when it comes to feeding your beloved four-legged friend.

This post was written by Time for Paws, a leading online pet supplies, pet food, and pet accessories store.


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