Pet Advice Guides for Pet Owners

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Coping with problem pets can be daunting without good pet advice. If you have encountered aggressive behaviour in dogs, cats who refuse to use their litter trays, overweight pets, nervous behaviour and fear of loud noises, excitability, skin ailments and general poor health, help is at hand. Our Pet advice pages are based on years of work with all sorts of animals. Through our dog adoption services, we have seen all sorts of behavioural problems. Sadly, this usually results in owners getting rid of the problem, often due to many months (even years) of trying to cope. Our aim is to educate, rehabilitate and create harmony between owners and their pets. We provide assistance, help, maybe just a shoulder to lean on, so you can enjoy a balanced, healthy relationship with your pet.

If you have a specific pet problem and would like some advice, let us know.
All our pet advice pages are provided as a free service for you to enjoy. If you find them useful, a small donation is always appreciated.

Caring for poorly pets

dogs - jack & noleneSanctuary residents, Jack Spratt and Miss Nolene have both suffered with serious health conditions and had operations to cure them.   Spratt had a large lump which had to be removed and Nolene had a hernia which caused paralysis.   Even when pets have only mild ailments, how we look after them makes a big difference to their recovery.

The same old routine just won’t do.  Follow your vet’s instructions as to medication of course.  Provide plenty of fresh water to drink and change at least twice a day.  Try warm goat’s milk too, it’s a good restorative and palatable to both cats and dogs.  Cow’s milk is best avoided as it’s likely to upset their tummies.

A soft, comfy and clean bed should be provided.  Following an operation we use a couple of clean (new) duvets and then put a clean sheet on top.  We have a pile of sheets ready to change when soiled.  Pillows and cushions, again new or freshly washed, put round the duvets make a comfy nest.  A dog, especially, needs to be able to stretch out and get in the best position to sleep in comfort.

We keep pets who are poorly nice and warm.  A heated pad is best for a cat, near to a warm radiator is good for a dog.  A dish of water, scented with lavender or tea tree oil is good to have nearby so the air doesn’t get dry.

The lights should be dimmed until the invalid begins to pull round.  It might take several days and keeping the room quiet is best.  Other pets who might be disruptive shouldn’t be allowed near.

We offer soft and tempting food when dogs and cats are ill.  Warm tuna, mashed up is often liked by cats. The best invalid food though is chicken soup, we make it by stewing chicken along with bones.  The chicken carcass is the key ingredient and a slow cooker is perfect as the bones need to simmer for a long time. When the meat is falling off the bones you can switch off and allow it to cool.  The soft chicken meat will be surrounded by jelly and it’s this that does all the good.  Like chicken soup for the soul (and for a cold) this jelly has compounds in it that combat infection and speed recovery.  It’s easy to digest, very tasty with no nasty artificial ingredients and makes a nice invalid dinner.

When your pets are up and about again they can gradually go back to a normal diet.   At least one bowl of chicken soup every day for several weeks will still be beneficial and help full  recovery.

Pets and plastic

plastic & petsWe routinely use plastic when we have pets.  They eat from plastic dishes like this little kitten here.  Dogs have plastic bowls, beds, toys.  Cat carriers aren’t wicker anymore, they’re plastic.  Dogs and cats and other small animals are in contact with plastic on a daily basis.   Cats used to have cushions and cardboard boxes.   They had china pottery dishes, a saucer with a chip in it was destined to be the cat’s dinner plate.   Plastic litter trays were unheard of.   Cats used to go outside to their toilet.  If a cat couldn’t go out she was provided with a wooden box or tin tray filled with ashes from the fire and this was her temporary w.c.  Houses were better then, they had sculleries and coal houses where cats could shelter and utensils could be washed and stored.   Blankets were wool and usually handed down to the cat when they were frayed or past being mended.  Toys were feathers and cotton reels and silver paper.

Dogs had leather collars, wicker baskets or a wooden box that someone had knocked together.  With a piece of old carpet on the base and then some old cushions and cut up blankets, they were cosy and warm.   There was no such thing as a plastic dog bed.      Rover had an enamel dish for his dinner, it might be worn and dinted but he didn’t mind. Water bowls were stoneware, which is the cleanest and best for dogs to drink from.

We made dog coats, which is quite easy to do.  My Dad used to make a pattern and then cut down cast off clothes and sew on fasteners.  Mum would make polo jumpers by cutting off sleeves from old cardigans.  A couple of holes in for legs and they were perfect. Most things for the dog and cat were household cast offs being used again.  We didn’t know that we were recycling and being environmentally friendly – it was just commonsense and thrifty.

Now we buy new for everything.  The first thing anyone does when they get a new pet is go and spend a small fortune on plastic gizmos at the pet superstore.   Plastic toys make me shudder.  They are unnatural and most dogs don’t like them.  After costing so much they are thrown away.  We stuff old socks (with other old socks) and make a soft ‘toy’ a dog can carry round.   Dogs like to pick up sticks (make sure they are chunky) and carry them.  Bones are the best plaything ever.

Buying plastic for pets is completely unneccesary and is costing the earth – literally.  Plastic isn’t made in a factory down the road, it comes from China.  The idea of such a thing as a dog bed or a plastic chicken being brought here from the other side of the world is ludicrous.

It’s not just people owning pets to blame there is waste and pollution in every aspect of life today.  But there are around 9 million dogs and 8 million cats in the UK today.   If we can change the way we look after them and provide for them it will make a difference.   The ice caps are melting, water levels are rising and it’s almost too late to stop this man made disaster.   Keep pet care simple, buy local, feed natural and locally sourced food.   The pet industry is a massive concern, we fear  that one day our pets will be wandering round a wasteland planet Earth where their future has been destroyed because we humans like to go shopping.

Coming next – mounting evidence that plastic can be toxic ….

Danger for dogs down in the garden

dogs - nolene in flowersOur little sanctuary resident Miss Nolene loves to sit out in the garden, she wouldn’t dream of eating a plant or flower (unless it was chicken flavoured maybe).  She is wary about food and likes only the best – is this from M & S?  It’s mostly young dogs who like to experiment and will nibble at anything.  We’ve even heard of dogs who avidly eat frogs!   If your pet is the inquisitive kind you need to be aware of the large number of plants that are toxic to dogs, some can be deadly.  These aren’t exotic flowers but the ones we know and love.  A dog shouldn ‘t normally want to eat them but if he did you can expect tummy aches, excessive saliva and even deadly damage to the liver and nervous system.

If you’ve recently lifted your daffodil bulbs and are storing them ready to plant again later in the year, they need to be kept safely in a shed.   A recent survey has shown that out of 2,000 cat and dog owner, more than 1 in 12 pets have eaten poisonous plants and half of these became ill enough to need vet attention.  Fifteen per cent of dogs died.

Plants that are dangerous include:  Clematis, Ivy and Wisteria, Verbena, Chrysanthemums, Geranium, Grape vines, Seed Potatoes, Asparagus Fern, Asiatic Lily, Calla Lily, Daisy, Dahlia, Delphiniums, Eucalyptus, Fern, Foxglove, Oleander, Peony, Poppy, Privet, Tomato plants, Wisteria and the deadly Yew Tree.   We’re not suggesting you grub up half your garden but if you see your pet eating or chewing with any plant (apart from grass which has health benefits for dogs to eat) – keep an eye on him for a while in case of symptoms.

Hedgehog orphans

hedgehog orphans 4

These tiny hoglets (baby hedgehogs) are orphans, they were brought in by council workers who had moved a shed and found the family underneath.   Mum was dead, the little ones don’t have their eyes open so they are very young.  We’ve reared hoglets before, they usually take to suckling from a bottle quite well.   One is even smaller than the rest so that is the most vulnerable and it all depends on how well their immune system has developed.

It’s the same as rearing a baby – keep warm, clean, feed warm milk often and give lots of love.   We’ll give it our best  ……..

hedehogs - orphans

hedghog orphans 5Still in the nest when they first arrived.

Horses getting ready for summer

horses - rhoganThis is Rhogan who is one of our older horses – he’s over 20 and has been with us for many years.   Rhogan has had a thick woolly coat all winter but we know it’s Spring when it starts falling out – there are hairs everywhere at present.   We brush and curry (metal scraper) him every day to help the hair come out.  He likes being groomed, perhaps his thick coat is itchy.   Rhogan rolls a lot and this is to help his coat loosen.  There are patches of grey hairs all over the fields.   The birds love it when we brush him and fetch the soft hairs for their nests.

Gradually the old hair will be gone and Rhogan will have a smooth, shiny coat which will be a different colour.  He’s a strawberry roan horse and is almost white in winter and a rosy chestnut in summer.   We’ll be featuring Rhogan in our next newsletter, he’s a lovely old fella and a big softie!

Keeping Rabbits Advice Guide

bunny - bobo 2

Before you buy a rabbit make sure you know all about how to keep your new pet well and happy.

You will need lots of time – rabbits like companionship, they are intelligent and friendly when well handled.  If you don’t get to know your rabbit and hand feed him and fuss him, he will revert back to the wild.  A tame rabbit makes a wonderful pet but you have to give him lots of time.  Even if your rabbit lives outdoors most of the time he will enjoy coming into the house and might even watch a bit of television with you!  Just as your garden will have to be safe for the rabbit, so will your house.   Rabbits do like to chew!

Characteristics – Rabbits are basically timid, years of being hunted by many predators and having no defense except flight has made this a trait.   They are easy to tame however and make delightful pets.  Rabbits are vegetarian and they are gentle creatures.  They like to be stroked and petted and will bond with their carer.  These gregarious animals need their friends, it’s sad to see a rabbit on his own, although a human companion can be a good substitute.  Most rabbits don’t mind being picked up when they are accustomed to it, although this isn’t natural for them.  Put one hand under their tummy and the other under their hind feet and gently lift them up. Never pick them up by their sensitive ears which is cruel.  They like to be held close or to sit on your knee.  If your rabbit doesn’t like being picked up then leave it at that.  You might find that if you are sitting on the ground your pet will come to sit with you of his own accord.

Housing – your rabbit will need a large wooden hutch or a shed is good.  It should have a separate sleeping compartment, filled with soft, sweet smelling hay and also a feeding room and a separate toilet with either a litter tray or sprinkles of wood shavings.   This has to be cleaned out regularly, every day if possible.

Food – no, it’s not the stuff in packets that the pet food manufacturers want you to buy – rabbits need fresh natural food and hay should make up most of their diet.   As they nibble it their teeth are ground down.  If you don’t give them plenty to chew on you’ll be taking your rabbit to the vet to have his teeth cut.  Hay keeps the rabbit digestive system in good order, you can supplement with a very small amount of cereal and plenty of brambles and dandelions.  A raw vegetable or fruit treat is alright but not too many carrots as they are high in sugar.   Our rabbits like a small piece of toasted brown bread for breakfast or a piece of Ryvita which is very popular.  Best of all is a large piece of bramble, it’s very prickly so how do they eat it?   They love it.

Exercise – Rabbits sleep a lot of the day and in their natural world would dash out to feed early morning or at dusk.  They need a large run attached to their hutch so that they can come and go when they want.  If you can let then loose in the garden it is a lovely for them and you will enjoy seeing them – just make sure there are no poisonous plants and that the fencing is high and secure.  Dogs can jump and foxes can pull wire down so it has to be extra high and strong.

Friends – two rabbits are best, a singleton will be lonely.   Make sure you either get the same sex or have the male neutered.  Rabbits tend not to get on with strangers so it’s best to get members of a family or those in an established group.  Sometimes you can get two to be friends with each other but it takes time and patience and doesn’t always work.   Always remember that rabbits breed amazingly quickly!

bunnies - two litters 3



Tortie has a toothache

cats - tortie 3

Tortie has been a resident in the sanctuary for many years.   She was brought in after being found in a greenhouse with four kittens.   Tortie was a devoted mother and raised her kits well, we found them lovely homes and in due course Tortie was spayed.   She was not re-homed because she developed a strong affection for two other cats who live here – Mischa and Myrtle.  These three still stay together and eat and sleep with each other.

Family and friends are important to cats and we never like to split them up when there is a bond between them.   Tortie is the character cat of the trio – she is playful, intelligent and very loving.  Tortie likes her own chair, her special places to sit and sleep and they are all foodies.  They like fish and mince and biscuits so long as they are top of the range!

They’ve been on a senior diet for the past three years, they are all in early teens.  Mischa and Myrtle are fine but a few weeks ago, Tortie stopped eating biscuits.  She still had a good appetite but we noticed she preferred really soft food.

A trip to the vets showed that Tortie had an infected tooth, it was one of her back ones.   She was given a long acting anti-biotic while an appointment could be made for her to have surgery.   We had to isolate her so that she could be starved the night before the op.    Tortie didn’t think much of it – where’s my breakfast?  She was full of complaints!

It was a worrying day when Tortie went to the vets at the beginning of the week.   Apparently she was on her best behaviour and gave no problems even though she was in a stressful situation.   Because she is an elderly cat she was kept on a drip for the afternoon after her op.   We were able to fetch her back at teatime and although she was still groggy, she was pleased to see us.

We kept in Tortie in a room of her own until we were sure she was over her ordeal.   A dish of soft white fish poached in goat’s milk was the clincher – when she cleared the plate we knew she was on the mend.   Today we let her out and she sprinted back to her friends.  They were pleased to see her and all tucked in to their lunch (lightly cooked mince) together.

If you suspect your cat has dental problems it’s essential to get prompt treatment.  Cats sometimes shake their heads, go off their food, paw at their mouth or eat slowly.   Bad teeth go septic and can poison the system, sometimes abcesses develop, the infection can cause swellings in the jaw or even the eye.   Yearly health checks are essential for all middle aged and elderly cats.  Fresh food, which is free from sugar unlike most pet food, is best for cats – a regular sprinkle of Plaque Off helps to keep teeth healthy.  It’s on the menu for Tortie from now on.

cats - tortie & mischa

Ordinary things that are toxic for cats

cats - lucky 11

Cats like lots of things that are bad for them.  Some are definitely toxic and can lead to serious illness and even death.  Others take a while to take affect or give mild symptoms.  Here are some of the most common:

Anti-freeze – make sure you have put it away in a locked cupboard.  If any of it spills and your cat laps it up (and she might well do this as it is sweet and palatable) she will become ill quite quickly and recovery is unlikely.   Only your vet can help and may recommend euthanasia as anti-freeze poisoning is a slow and painful death.

Liver – most cats love eating liver.  A small amount is good for them but eat too much and their bones can fuse together.  It’s bizarre but it does happen, we’ve seen cats who look arthiritic and can only hobble around – indulging on liver is the cause.  It’s a treat for high days and holidays only.

Cod Liver Oil – it’s fine for dogs (and people) it’s an anti-inflammatory and can help with the pain from arthritis.   It’s a no-no for cats though, it has too much Vitamin A and this is not good for our feline friends.   Better to use a few drops of salmon oil (for shiny coat) and follow the dosage on the bottle.   Sardines and oily fish are alright for tea from time to time though.

Cut flowers – If you have a bunch of flowers and there are lilies in it make sure you put your floral arrangement well away from cats.  If they brush against the pollen it can make them ill.  It isn’t a contact contaminant – the trouble starts if the cat washes herself and ingest some of the lily dust.   Keep lilies away from cats.  This could also happen if you grow them in the garden.

Green water – standing water can have algae growing in it – you’ll see a surface ‘bloom’ of green or yellow or blu-ish colour.   Our fastidious cats aren’t so bothered about drinking stagnant water so this isn’t usually a problem, but if they do decide to slurp some up you’ll be taking them to the vet.  It’s extremely toxic and some pets don’t survive.  It’s usually dogs who succumb, even paddling in it can cause fatalities.  Fresh water every day is the only answer.


rufus - with dallas 2Rufus will need lifetime care – It’s going to be a slow recovery, he is making progress but all the years of neglect have caused some lasting damage – his teeth, his feet, his ability to move around, his general health. He’s a cheerful and loving little pony though and worth every bit of the care we give him. So many ponies out there don’t get the chance of recovery. There is such a lot of cruelty in the horse world – at least this little one is safe.

You can help Rufus at   Many thanks.

Dementia sufferers need help with pets

ponies - rufus 12

Rufus is safe now, rugged up and warm.  The long process of his recovery has begun.   It’s sad to think of all the years he was neglected – not because his owner didn’t love him but because she had dementia.  The vet was called and then refused admittance.  The blacksmith was sent for and then turned away.   We have a campaign to help Rufus recover – at – we also need to think about making the public more aware of the suffering caused to animals by people with dementia.

Rufus isn’t the only one, although the worst so far.   A dog brought in last year was in a dreadful state, thin, neglected, ill and all because her owner couldn’t care for her because of his deteriorating mental condition.   Social Services acted swiftly and we were able to help before the situation was too bad.

If anyone with dementia, alzeimhers or any other health problems – please find out whether they have pets and what is happening to them and let someone know.  We are here to help and welcome your call.