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.

Pusscat is so sad

cats - pusscat 1

This pretty little cat came in because her elderly owner could no longer care for her.  Ill health of owners often means that the pets are neglected, it’s a problem and we are seeing more and more cats and dogs in this state.   Pusscat is quite thin and was covered in fleas (we treated her straight away).  The infestation has left scabs and scores all over her body and round her eyes.   Now the parasites are gone she will soon heal.   It makes cats (and any animal) feel very uncomfortable though, the fleas itch and suck blood so she may be anaemic.  Raw meat, which she likes, will help.

Pusscat is an affectionate little girl but is also timid.  She has to gain confidence at present.   Her ears are dry and crackly with little hair, this may be due to her general lack of condition.  Somebody has cut some of her whiskers off.   It’s something that should never be done to a cat, whiskers are part of their senses.   They will grow again but it will be slow.   So her problems are not life threatening (we hope!) and she will recover given time.

Pusscat is a lovely looking cat, possibly young middle aged, well marked, she is clean and gentle and purrs nicely when she knows she is safe.  We were told when she was brought in that she had been spayed and she will go to be vaccinated later this week.

She has a lovely expression and the most beautiful limpid lemon coloured eyes.  Adoption anyone?

cats - pusscat 6

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.

Unwanted cockerels

chickens - valentine 2This fine looking cockerel was brought in to us on Valentine’s Day – so naming him was easy.  He’d been abandoned on playing fields and a young boy found him and took him home.  Valentine was well cared for and soon grew up and then the problems started.  He began to crow and the neighbours began to complain.   This is why there are so many unwanted cockerels.  Unless you have always lived in the country and are used to the early morning cock crows, it is hard to get used to and the noise will wake you up.   I love to hear the cocks crow and mostly sleep through it anyway but most people don’t like it.

The cockerel had to go and we’ve been happy to take him in.   He’s a youngster, one of last year’s chicks (you can tell the age by the bony growths on the back of a cockerel’s legs – the larger they are the older the bird is).  Valentine has short spurs so he’s not very old.  Cockerels use their spurs for fighting and hens don’t have them.   Fighting is the problem with cock birds, one cockerel and a dozen hens is a happy family.  Two cockerels will often fight to the death over who gets the hens.   If cockerels grow up together and there are no hens, it is usually peaceful.   Introducing a new cockerel into the group is when you get trouble.

So we’ve had to find a place for Valentine where he won’t disturb anyone and there are no potential opponents.   At the moment he’s on his own because we put all birds in quarantine for a few weeks to make sure they are healthy.   When that’s passed we’ll introduce him to a couple of hens and he won’t be lonely.   We get calls asking us to take cockerels in almost every week.   We rarely have room because all our groups of hens already have a cockerel in charge.   It’s such a pity they can’t all be kept but it’s the law of survival of the fittest – only one male gets to be the leader.  Stallions fight with each other, so do dogs and tom cats are notorious for scrapping over the young lady cats.

It brings us back to the day-old dead chicks we feed to our owls and birds of prey.   When a hen hatches a clutch of eggs there will always be more male chicks than females.   If you get a dozen chicks you can bet that at least seven will be boys.  It’s hard to tell the males from the females until the chicks start to develop feathers which is after a few weeks.  When you hear the little ones crow you can be sure!  Professional poultry farmers are able to sex them at birth – the girls are valued and kept, the boys are disposed.   Unless the breed of hens is for eating, the males will be scrawny things, who may grow up to have fine feathers but no one will want them.   So the males are usually humanely euthanized shortly after they are born.

Valentine is a survivor though, he has had a lucky escape and will have a long and natural life here with us.  Cockerels make fine companions, they are beautiful to see and look after their hens devotedly.  If you have a cock with the hens any eggs they lay will be fertile and if the hens sit them (for 21 days) you will have a clutch of chicks hatch out which is one of life’s delights to see.  Oh, what do we do about all the cockerels though???     Cock-a-doodle-do!

chickens - valentine cockerel


Pony updates

ponies - holly 2It’s a year since we took in Holly, an elderly pony with arthiritis.   She wasn’t a sweet old lady though, Holly had an attitude problem and was a grumpy pony, she’d give a sharp nip if you weren’t watching out.  Over the months Holly has been transformed, her health improved, aches and pains have gone and she is a different pony.  Now she has a happy face, she is able to run around with the others and we get pony-kisses instead of bites!  It’s all because we’ve treated her arthiritis naturally – and it’s worked.  What a difference a life free from pain makes.   She’s had freedom and exercise and companionship, life is good and so is Holly.   We’re putting the full story in our next newsletter – she’s having a party today so there’ll be pictures of that – and the carrot cake of course!

All are well in the mini pony herd.  Chloe is still looking after disabled pony Bridget (the fidget!), they are best friends and share a stable.  Ruby and Grace are still having to share, we need more stables.  Daydream and Pixie are both in small stables at night, we will need them for goats in the Spring but hopefully by then the weather will be better and the ponies can be turned out.

Pixie is having his hooves trimmed every four weeks, they grow wrong if this isn’t done.   Bridget also, because of her legs, has to have frequent trimming.   All the ponies have had their teeth checked and rasped when necessary.

They like breakfast before they go out, usually carrots and a handful of pony mix.   They won’t scamper off up the fields until they’ve had a feed.

ponies - sundance 4Grace and Bridget are usually first out……





Fat Cats how to slim them down

cats - ginger tina 5

Although Tina, who came in recently with her sister, has a small pretty face, she has a big body and is overweight.  Too long being a couch potato before she came here perhaps.  Both of these sisters were indoor cats and this can make the problem worse.  They eat and sleep and have a fuss and then do it all again!   Cats who go out chasing birds, hunting mice and eyeing up the fella next door use up a lot of energy and stay slim.

Get some exercise –  We don’t like the idea of frantic playing, it can lead to personality changes.  Making cats run round till they are dizzy may help them to lose weight but it can become addictive.  Chasing a feather duster is fun – for a few minutes at a time.   Provide toys but make sure they are natural and haven’t cost the earth (imports from the other side of the world?   No way)   Few cats can resist some screwed up silver paper or a cotton bobbin on a piece of string.  Playtime will help but it isn’t the complete answer to feline weight loss.

What do you do if your plump pet doesn’t want to play?    An overweight cat will probably just yawn.  He can’t be bothered.   You’ll have to make him  ‘hunt’ for his food.   Put a few mouthfuls of chicken on a saucer and put it at the top of the stairs or in the attic.   The porch?  Garage?  Different locations provide interest and exercise.  No more every ready meals and dishes full of factory made mosh waiting in the kitchen.  It encourages him to sit down and slurp it all up.  There’s a lot of sugar in pet food and the cats love it.  Is it good for them though?   It’s why so many cats are unwell – heart disease, diabetes, shortness of breath, allergies………..

Cut out the carbs    –   Small amounts of lean fresh food – chicken, lamb, beef, ham, fish, sardines, mackerel etc. all help to keep his weight down.  A few teaspoonfuls for each meal. Sometimes finely chopped, other times in chunks for chewing.   Only a few biscuits (if any) they are not a natural food and are full of carbs. Isn’t it a myth that biscuits are good for the teeth – does eating biscuits mean that we don’t have to go to the dentist?   Cats keep their teeth in good shape by chewing chunks of meat so don’t cut it all up too fine.  We put ‘Plaque Off’ on all the cats (and dogs) food – the enzymes in it stop plaque developing and help fetch it off if the teeth are already coated.  (We always have it in stock – it’s invaluable).  Cat biscuits are a factory made convenience food and cats have managed to thrive and stay healthy for thousands of years without them!

Dainty dishes –  Change the size of his dish, no more huge plastic bowls – a dainty china saucer is best for a fat cat – it will encourage you to give him less too.   So what about the actual food?   Shoud you buy special weight-watchers menu even if it is more expensive?   We don’t do this because it doesn’t work, it’s factory made processed convenience food and can leave cats feeling disatissfied.  It’s the quality of food that counts.   Cats haven’t evolved to eat dry biscuits or something out of can or pouch!   Fresh food is best for them and a small, lean piece of protein is more satisfying and beneficial than a dish of moshed up carbohydrates and additives. A cat in his wild state is a carnivore, a mouse for breakfast, some flies as an aperitif, a small bird for lunch and a baby bunny for supper.

Small amounts –  Lean meat or fish will help your cat to slim down, he’ll love it too.  Try chicken, lamb or ham occasionally.  Cooked or raw is fine so long as you don’t give too much.   Feed fish as often as you like, cheap cuts, sardines and mackerel are all good for him and he won’t put on weight.  Don’t forget, it’s small portions only.   A cat needs three meals a day, breakfast, dinner and an evening meal.  A good quality pouch of meat or fish will do if you haven’t any fresh meat in. When he’s back to a svelte shape and is feeling more energetic he could have a full pouch for every meal.

While he’s still a fatty you could hide  a small dish with a sardine in a corner of the spare room – he’ll have to find it – and he will when he’s hungry enough.

cats - ginger tina 6


Ponies like to run around in snow

ponies - ruby and daydream

The little ponies like to come out in the snow, they run around and play but then they are soon waiting to come back inside.  They know there is a feed waiting and a rack of hay, it’s warm inside and these little ones soon feel the cold.  A larger, plump and young horse will stand the cold much better but they can only tolerate bad weather for any length of time if they have many acres to roam in and lots of natural shelter.  If there is a wood and thick hedgerows, dips and hollows in the land and a stone barn then they will be alright.  They still need large bales of hay or haylage to feed on and bringing them in overnight is best.   These little ponies need to be in every night.  A quick chase round, a roll in the snow and that’s it – they want to be back inside.

ponies - haylage

ponies in snow

Caring for a Kestrel


birds - kizzy kestrel 4Kestrels are a familiar sight hovering in the air at the side of the motorway.  They are looking for a small rodent, something they can eat.  We’ve had them brought in before, usually injured.  When we’ve patched them up and fed them well, they are released.  One of last year’s is still around, flying free but coming for food, which is wonderful to see.

The one above, who we have called Kizzy, is fit and well so no nursing is needed.  Her circumstances are quite different.  She is a captive bred bird, an imprint who was reared by humans.  Kestrels are often kept as captives even though they wouldn’t be able to catch anything big enough for us humans to eat!   The reasoning behind falconry is for us humans to catch their dinner and a large bird such as a goshawk, a buzzard or Harris Hawk would do this easily.  They pounce on their prey (a rabbit maybe) and give it up when their handler gives them an alternative – a piece of dead chick perhaps.  In the olden days (no supermarkets) this was an important source of getting food.

Our little Kizzy knows none of this.  Her life so far has been one of waiting for a dead chick to be given to her.   She has been tied to a block (perch) by a leash fastened to her legs so she couldn’t fly away.   She chatters to us when sees us – a piercing shriek – feed me please!  Falcons and hawks are popular with enthusiasts but not so much so if they are imprints.   Everyone wants a parent reared bird – they are quiet and never beg for food.  You can get fed up with a large hawk, with a loud call, shouting to you all the time!

The sound Kizzy makes is no problem, it is low enough to be pleasant.  We like to know that she is acknowledging us.   Before she was brought to us she had never flown free, she sat on her perch all the time.  These birds do a lot of sitting around in the wild, but it is on a branch, swaying in the wind and high up in a tree.  Not so good tied to a perch on the ground.

So the first thing we did was to take her jesses (leather strips used to fasten her legs) off and remove the leash also.  We’ve let her go in an aviary (small to start with) where there are lots of branches.  At first she just sat on the floor – she didn’t know what to do.   We put her food on a branch and within a day she was flying up to take it.  Kizzy soon learned how to fly…….. it’s a natural instinct after all.

What’s the long term plan?  Are we to keep Kizzy as a captive bird for the rest of her life?  Crying for food when she sees us?  I don’t think so.  But first we have to get her weight up.   We have to get her fit and able to fly well.   We have to teach her to hunt – and that may be the hardest part of all.

birds - kizzy kestrel 2

Donations towards to the care of our wildlife would be much appreciated.  We need more aviaries, cages and equipment.

If you would like to sponsor Kizzy or other of our wild please send a donation and we’ll send you:

An adoption certificate, Kizzy’s photo and story, a Sanctuary 2015 calendar, our latest Newsletter and regular updates.

£10.00 will help towards Kizzy’s care for a month

£50.00 will buy heat lamps for birds with weakness or injuries

£75.00 will buy a hospital ‘box’

£100.00 will refurbish an aviary

£500.00 will provide a new aviary



Sally still a long way to go

dogs - sally hair 3

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.

dogs - sally hair 2

Hair is sprouting through ……

dogs - sally hair

Still a long way to go …….

Derbyshire Times Featuring the Sanctuary

derbys times Dec 14

‘Cats are not just for Christmas’ is the headline in today’s Derbyshire Times – it’s a feature about the dozens of stray cats who have been brought in or dumped here in the run-up to Christmas.  The photo shows volunteer Jodie (on the left) with Leo (a Maine Coon) and Jo, who is a Sanctuary Manageress and also Adoptions Co-ordinator.

Jo is holding Sapphire who was left for dead in our yard a few weeks ago.   Thankfully both cats are recovering now.   A big thank you to the Derbyshire Times who have highlighted the plight of the unwanted cats and featured our need for cat food and donations to help care for them.

Poorly Westie has a haircut

dogs - sally 21

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…

dogs - sally 22

dogs - sally 23

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