Pet Advice Guides for Pet Owners

RSS feed for this section

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.

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.

Pusscat is settling in

cats - pusscat 2

A comfy bed, a good night’s sleep and what a difference a day makes.  Pusscat enjoyed her fishy breakfast and is settling well.  This timid little cat who was hiding and cringing when she first saw us is coming out of her nest and saying ‘hi folks’ straight away.  She is a sweet and affectionate cat and loves to be fussed.   She was so stressed and frightened when she first came in but now she is gaining in confidence and showing us her loving nature.  It must feel good not to be itching now that she has been de-flea-ed (we used Advocate which zaps fleas, worms and ear mites).   She’s had soothing aloe vera on all her sore places and she’s looking much happier.   Now all we have to do is fatten her up – and get her vaccinated – that’s on tomorrow’s list.

If anyone can buy us some Advocate (get it from the vet) we would be very grateful.  It isn’t the cheapest but we’ve found it to be the most effective, easiest to use and the safest.

cats - pusscat 6

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