Looking After Dogs

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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.

Does my dog have arthritis

dogs - tinaAlthough it is mostly a condition of elderly dogs, many younger ones can suffer the pain of arthritis.   Damage, injury and wear and tear can all contribute to joint damage – dogs can’t tell us when it hurts and this is the problem.  Monitoring your dog and ‘reading’ the signs is essential.   It’s not always a condition of old age.

You need to investigate further and contact your vet if your dog is less energetic than usual.  Does he lag behind on walks?   Or if he’s stiff getting up stairs and into the car.   Check him all over and see if he winces when you press on anywhere.  He may lick certain joints to try to relieve the pain.   Shoulder, elbow, knee and hips are the joints most commonly affected.

Your vet will advise and treat the symptoms but there are things you can do to make life easier for your dog.  Walking on flat ground is best, he will still need exercise and little and often is best.  Make sure he has a really soft comfy bed, we use duvets and make the nest big enough for him to stretch right out.   A dog bed, then a duvet on top and then several fleeces is a good comfort zone.  In the wild a dog would make his own bed by circling in grasses and straw.    It would be warm and dry and comfy.  We have to make sure he has as good a location for his bed in the house – no draughts please!

Keeping your dog in trim is important.  If he’s too fat it will put extra pressure on the joints.   Good food and dietary supplements containing fish oil, glucosamine and chondroitin can all help.  It’s said that natural food helps calm down the inflammation that can give rise to arthritis.   It’s good for your dog anyway so it’s worth a try.  By ‘natural’ we mean a raw meat diet such as Nature’s Menu – which is frozen meats with brown rice, fruit and vegetables added.  It’s convenient to use and the meat is a ‘safe for human consumption’ variety.   We give cod liver oil capsules to all our mature dogs and find that it really helps.

We keep Nature’s Menu in stock – and our own dogs and Sanctuary residents don’t know what arthritis is!

An excellent food for dogs with stiff joints is Dr.John’s complete mix.  It’s the Platinum variety that is so good – it has New Zealand Green Lipped Mussel has an ingredient and you can see the difference in a dog after a few weeks.  By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen and a 15k bag is only £14.99 – again it’s in stock here.

Sally still a long way to go

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Sally has put a lot of weight on and she’s a happy little girl now.  Her skin is soft and not so leathery, which is amazing because it looked as though it could never change.   She still has one or two inflamed spots but not red all over as she was at first.  And her hair is definitely growing back, she has fluffy little tufts in most places now.

Her feet and nails are still a problem, she hates having them touched, probably because they’ve been sore for such a long time.  Taking a bit off at a time doesn’t upset her too much.

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Hair is sprouting through ……

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Still a long way to go …….

Poorly Westie has a haircut

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We all feel better for a wash and brush up and having our hair done and Sally is no exception.  She had a quick wash in warm water and then we trimmed her hair – and doesn’t she look much better?   We don’t do too much with dogs or cats when they first come in and are in a frail condition.  It’s better to let them settle for a day or two.  Just moving to a new home is stress enough, even if they are in much better circumstances.  Sally has settled in well and is much more confident, she knows us all now and loves a fuss and a cuddle.  She has a walk round and is beginning to explore.   She lets us put her cream on and then she goes back in her room and snuggles down in her duvet.

Sally is a sweet and well behaved little girl.   Can we see tiny hairs beginning to grow through the leather skin?  Too soon to say, maybe it’s wishful thinking…

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Thanks to Kate and the rest of the team who are giving Sally so much love and care.

Little Billy doing better

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It’s early days but there is already an improvement in Little Billy’s condition.  He isn’t howling or shaking or looking so doped.  Being off the medication will help his system to heal and him to recover.   He’s beginning to be a happy little chap, we’ve had smiles and fuss from him, he loves attention and although he is still sleeping a lot, when he’s awake, he’s a sweetie.   Little Billy likes food and has ate everything we’ve put him front of him, so appetite isn’t a problem.  We’re feeding him natural food only and with lots of herbs.

His eyes were pits of blood when he first came in, now the inflammation is going and they are beginning to heal.   This little dog is as good as gold to treat, he lets us put his Aloe Vera gel on the sore places, without a murmur.   It’s soothing and will feel good.

We’ve even been for several small walks today and he’s enjoyed the fresh air and sun – not too far though.   Most of all he likes the love and attention we’re giving him.   And when he’s ready for a nap he puts himself to bed!

Where’s Billy?   When it’s bedtime this is all you can see!

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A poorly little dog

dogs - little billy 4In dogs, as well as humans, health is everything.  We take it for granted until it breaks down.   This is Little Billy, an elderly and poorly Jack Russell, who has been brought in to us because his owners, who have their own health problems, can’t cope with him any more.   He’s been unwell for a long time and has been treated with tranquilizers (diazapam) and steroids.   He’s been getting worse and becoming more distressed, he’s started to howl for long periods and has become incontinent.

Little Billy has Lupus which is a disease of the immune system.  His body has broken down and the skin around his eyes is raw and looks horrific.  When he first came in he looked very miserable.  Lupus can cause the nose and skin in other areas to be raw too.   Little Billly’s condition is challenging but he is such a sweet little chap and we have seen other dogs improve dramatically with a holistic approach.  The other option was for his owners to have him put to sleep, the howling especially was a big difficulty and a sign of extreme unhappiness.   They have another dog and the two of them do not get on.  This may have been making Little Billy worse.  Feeling unhappy can be a cause of ill health.   We’ll make him comfortable (one of our specially cosy duvet beds) and put him on an organic diet.  We’ve stopped the tranquilizers, they aren’t doing him any good anyway.  He’s having lots of love and holistic treatment – it may not work but we’ll give it a try.dogs - little billy 2

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Get well Little Billy ……..recovery prayers please …….

Holly is scared of everything

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Holly is a sweet little terruer who was brought in this week  – she is a scared little youngster who cowers and cringes whenever anyone goes near her – mostly she is terrified of men.  We don’t know what has happened to her in the past but it hasn’t been good.  She is also very thin.   When she is on her own in her room she burrows down into her bed or runs and hides in a corner.   We’ve given her a den so she can feel safe but it will be a slow process to get her to feel confident and happy.

She is beginning to be a bit more confident with us and when we cuddle her she is starting to  relax, it’s just a question of gaining her trust.  She’s such a pretty little dog and when she realizes that she isn’t going to be hurt you can see her tail start to wag.  It is distressing to see a dog cower and cringe so much though.

Going out for a walk is fine unless she sees a sudden movement and then she hits the floor and puts her head and her tail down.   She has such a sad face.   She did a lot of shivering at first so we’ve put her a coat on and that is comforting for her.  Dogs like to be wrapped up warm when they are stressed.

If Holly doesn’t know what  something is she won’t go near it – even the feed dishes were a worry for her at first.  Now she’s eating well although it will take a while to get her weight up to normal.

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This is Holly when she first came in.

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They are making lots of fuss of me here ….. but I’m still not sure …..

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I’m cosy in my nice pink coat …..

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Lots of fuss – just what I need …..

Pets who comfort eat


Dogs and cats don’t need to eat as much when the weather is warmer.  They’ll usually go on munching away and loving their food even though it’s comfort eating, ;they are not hungry any more and its much more than they need.  Just like us humans, pets who overeat are prone to health problems – heart conditions, diabetes and joint pains. The amount of energy they use to keep their bodies warm in summer is less so their nutritional needs are too.

Research done recently at Liverpool University has proved that cats and dogs need more food in cold weather (well, that’s common sense isn’t it?).  It’s just as necessary to adjust their food when it’s hot.  We don’t use set amounts as every dog and cat is different.  Feeding by condition is best.  A dog’s skin should be glossy and supply, their bones well covered but without any overlying fat.

Cat’s soon develop a fat tummy so cutting back their rations and encouraging more exercise, perhaps through play, is helpful.  It’s easy to give a dog more walks but with cats you have to be a bit more subtle.  Try putting small amounts of food in different locations, a few biscuits in a dish upstairs or outside or on a high shelf is good.  Our cats like to climb on roof spars and the top of pens etc.   If you want to know where they are just look upwards – you’ll see cheshire cat faces looking down at you!   It’s a pity when cats don’t have the chance to do this – in most homes they wouldn’t be allowed to do this because the ornaments would be knocked down.  Isn’t it odd how cats tip over the best china and rarely break  a chipped saucer?

We’ve seen specially adapted houses where cat is priority and they have shelves nearly at ceiling height and branch climbing frames running up the walls.  Cat’s love them!  If you cat goes outside he’ll find lots of climbing, up trees and over walls and fences, and will exercise quite naturally.  As they eat a bit less they will get fitter and more adventurous – that’s the theory anyway!

Don’t forget, it’s just as important to increase the rations when winter comes, it;’s quite disturbing to note how many really hungry and thin dogs we see, even though they are in a ‘good’ home situation.   It’s all down to following instructions on bags maybe – instead of looking at the dog’s size, metabolism and condition?

Good manners, good dog

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Many of the dogs we get brought in to the sanctuary have behavioural problems and a period of re-hab and re-training is necessary.  This isn’t the case with Scooby who is very well behaved and a pleasure to look after.  He is polite, good mannered, sociable and charming as well as walking calmly on the lead.  Dogs who pull are not good to take out and if they haven’t been taught their manners as puppies, they are difficult to handle.

This is why so many are thrown out as young adults, a boisterous ‘teenage’ dog is a handful.   Teaching puppies how to behave is so important, it’s much harder for them to learn their lessons when they are older.

Training classes are good ways to socialize young dogs, it helps to avoid the nightmare of the nervous adult who shows fear aggression.   Most of the training is done at home though, by example and consistent routine.   If you let your dog sit on the sofa when he’s a baby dog, it’ll be hard to stop him doing it when he’s grown up.

Why do dogs attack babies?

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With some dogs you can see their aggression straight away.   Whenever we meet a dog there is an interchange of reaction.  Without being conscious of it the dog is eyeing us up and we are doing the same.  It’s obvious that some dogs would attack a baby or child or even an adult.   What makes a family pet behave in this way though?

It’s down to scent and familiarity.   A baby is new to the household and a dog has no concept of how important this small human is to us.  Dogs are pack animals and governed mainly by instinct.   The baby is an intruder and on the lowest level of the pack, to the dog he or she is of little importance.

However, adult dogs, even those with an aggressive nature, rarely attack puppies, even though they are vulnerable and at the bottom of the pack.  At the same time they will keenly attack a new born lamb, kid or rabbit.   The birthing process leaves a food scent to a dog or other predator.  Puppies have their scent (dog) so they leave them alone.

The difference is in the smell of the baby.   We love the fresh washed talcum powdery smell but to the dog this is only masking the exciting scent of the birth and milk and the nappy.   Put a nappy on the floor and any dog will immediately go to investigate.  Then the dog will start pulling it about, he will be intrigued by the smell.

A dog will see a small human as a possible food source.  It isn’t his fault, how could he know any difference – milk, blood, nappy?   With a family pet who is normally friendly, it isn’t aggression, it’s inquisitiveness.   It starts with a lick, then a nip and it’s too late.  The baby screaming only serves to make the situation worse.

The only answer is never to leave any dog near a baby or young child for even a second.   As the baby grows up and scents change the dog will have a different perception.  The child will have more importance in the pack.   In a small house it’s difficult to keep dog and baby or young child apart and, in our busy lives, to monitor the situation all the time.  One failure can lead to disaster.  It’s a risk no one should take.