Christmas Cautions- How to keep your pet safe

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We all love Christmas, even our pets! They notice all the excitement, the extra visitors and the new toys and treats. But it is important to realise not all aspects of the festive season are enjoyable for our pets, and we have to be extra cautious at this time of year, as there are many things that can be dangerous for our furry friends that we may not even be aware of.

Here are a few things your pet should steer clear from

Food hazards

Chocolate, onions, nuts, blue cheese, fruit cakes and mince pies can all be toxic to dogs and cats and should be out of reach from your pet at all times. If you are to give your pet some turkey as a Christmas treat, be sure to remove any bones as although they can usually eat around them, they can sometimes get stuck in your pet’s throat and cause chocking or damage to the intestines.


Presents 

Although we will not be able to tell what’s inside once they are all wrapped up; our pets can! They will use their sense of smell to sniff out all the tasty treats which could actually be poisonous to them. Be conscious to place these kinds of presents somewhere that your pet cannot reach them, or keep your pets out of the room where the presents are.

Christmas trees

Can cause mild vomiting and diarrhoea if chewed or ingested and pine needles can also get stuck in paws. Make sure the area is vacuumed regularly and the tree is watered to reduce the number of fallen pine needles. 


Anti-freeze 

Ethylene glycol – what we use to de-frost our car windows in the morning is extremely dangerous for pets, especially cats. Due to its sweet taste, pets find it very palatable but even the smallest amount can cause serious kidney damage and can be fatal. Remember to keep this in a safe place, preferably in a secure or locked cupboard where it is impossible for your pet to get hold of. 

Decorations

These can cause significant problems if ingested. Baubles can splinter or smash inside your pet which can cause damage to the stomach and intestines. Try to supervise your pets around all baubles, tinsel, Christmas lights or any other decorations which would be ingested. 

Holly and mistletoe are also mildly toxic and can cause vomiting and diarrhoea if ingested so should be kept well out of reach of animals. 

Batteries

Ingestion of batteries is more common at this time of year. If the battery is chewed by your pet or pierced it can cause chemical burns and heavy metal poisoning. If they are swallowed whole they could cause an obstruction, so be sure to throw old batteries away safely and store new ones away from your pets reach. 


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Marissa
Student Veterinary Nurse

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE LOSS OF A PET

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Halo Dog

For many people a pet is not “just a dog” or “just a cat.” Pets are beloved members of the family and when they die, you can feel a significant and even traumatic loss. The level of grief depends on factors such as your age and personality, the age of your pet, and the circumstances of their death. Generally, the more significant the loss, the more intense the grief you’ll feel.

The loss of a beloved pet is a very hard and emotional time for pet owners, and can be upsetting to come to terms with. All cases are different and all people will grieve differently. Some people find grief comes in stages, where they experience different feelings such as denial, anger, guilt, depression, and eventually acceptance and resolution. Others find that grief is more cyclical, coming in waves, or a series of highs and lows. The lows are likely to be deeper and longer at the beginning and then gradually become shorter and less intense as time goes by. Still, even years after a loss; a sight, a sound, or a special anniversary can spark memories that trigger a strong sense of grief. It is important to remember that this is a completely natural process and you should not bottle up your emotions or feel ashamed for feeling them.

One aspect that can make grieving for the loss of a pet so difficult is that pet loss is not appreciated by everyone. Friends and family may ask “Why are you so upset? It’s just a pet!” Some people assume that pet loss shouldn’t hurt as much as human loss, or that it is somehow inappropriate to grieve for an animal. They may not understand because they don’t have a pet of their own, or because they are unable to appreciate the companionship and love that a pet can provide.

It is important to remember that not everyone may understand your grief, but that doesn’t mean that it is wrong to grieve for your pet, they once were a big part of your life.

It is always good to seek out others who have lost pets; those who can appreciate the magnitude of your loss and may be able to suggest ways of getting through the grieving process as they have gone through it already. There are forums on the internet, or you can always ring up your veterinary practice and ask if they know where you can chat and get help from others in your situation.

There are other ways of coping with a traumatic loss. Here are a few tips from some people who have experienced the loss of a pet that have proven helpful:

  • If you have other pets, try to maintain your normal routine. Other family pets can also experience loss when a pet dies, or they may become distressed by your sorrow. Maintaining their daily routines, or even increasing exercise and play times, will not only benefit the surviving pets but may also help to elevate your outlook too. Try to do things that you would usually do and try to keep yourself busy, this will decrease the time you are sat there thinking of your loss; which can lead to more severe depression and sadness.
  • Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to move on. Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment. It’s okay to be angry, to cry or not to cry. It’s also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy and remember the good times you shared with your pet; this can actually creative a positive mind set and help you let go and cherish the memories you hold.
  • Rituals can help healing. A funeral can help you and your family members openly express your feelings. Ignore people who think it’s inappropriate to hold a funeral for a pet, and do what feels right for you.
  • Create a legacy. Preparing a memorial, planting a tree in memory of your pet, compiling a photo album or scrapbook, or sharing the memories you enjoyed with your pet, can create a legacy to celebrate the life of your animal companion and bring to life the happy memories you shared with your pet. It may take time for some people before this feels appropriate to do.

However you deal with the loss of a loved family pet, remember that emotions are a natural way of expressing grief and sadness and these emotions will allow you to remember your pet in the best way possible to allow yourself to move on.

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Marissa
Student Veterinary Nurse

 

How to Care for your Senior Companion

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OldDog

All dogs age at a different pace but dogs are generally classed as ‘geriatric’ when they reach the age of 8 years old. Certain changes will occur in your dog’s body as they get older; important bodily functions may start to slow down and their general pace of life will start to get a little slower.

Just like humans; the senses eventually start to deteriorate too, leading to impaired vision, hearing, taste and smell. Older dogs are also prone to a number of medical conditions, the signs of which can be subtle and that we should be on the lookout for as many are treatable. You will usually be able to tell if your dog is feeling a bit under the weather with signs such as lack of appetite, lethargic demeanour, unusual toilet activity and general behaviour of your dog.

Here are a few tips on caring for your senior companion to keep them comfortable, happy and up to new tricks:

Regular check-ups are a must for older dogs – It is tempting to miss the check-ups if you think your dog is ok, but remember some pets are good at hiding discomfort and a vet may be able to detect something you can’t. Vaccinations, worming and flea treatments also remain important during your dog’s senior years and in fact; as the immune system may not be what it used to be, these preventative measures are vital to keep your older dog in good health. Older dogs should be weighed regularly, and if indicated have blood and urine analysed for certain diseases. Some veterinary clinics run special nurses clinics for older pets to have a regular check-ups at reduced fees to ensure peace of mind your dog your senior dog is in good health.

Exercise – It is still very important at this stage for your senior pooch to get some exercise! Dog’s metabolisms slow down as they get older so regular, gentle exercise and the correct diet is necessary, however it is important strenuous activity is avoided as too much exercise may put excessive stress on fragile bones and muscles. Your vet can recommend a diet and exercise plan for your dog depending on their health and breed.

Nutrition – Understanding the changing nutritional needs of your senior dog is one of the most important things you can do. Senior dogs are less active and have a slower metabolism, so fewer calories are required. However, high quality, easy to digest protein becomes more important than ever, to help maintain overall body condition.

A good senior diet provides concentrated, high quality protein, low fat, and easy to digest carbohydrates for energy. Key minerals support ageing joints, and vitamins, along with protein, help support the aging immune system. Buying a specialised dog food for senior pets is advised as these provide the nutrients your older dog will need.

If your older dog appears reluctant to eat, you should always check with your vet that there is not an underlying medical reason for what you may think is just fussiness. A few changes to feeding regimes may also encourage food intake in older dogs including feeding little and often as smaller meals can be easier to digest, varying textures and flavours, and warming the food to release tasty smells.

Make sure food and water are within easy reach and don’t require trips up and down stairs.

Bedding and sleep – A soft bed goes a long way when you are less agile and have sore joints! Make sure their bed is in a quiet, draft free location, maybe next to a radiator in winter and big enough for them to lie and stretch out.

Getting about – Arthritic joints are not as good at jumping so you may need to lift a small dog in and out of the car or up onto the sofa, or for larger dogs provide a ramp. Try to keep their bed downstairs to avoid trips up and down the stairs every time they want to get into their bed.

These small measures will help your senior dog in their day-to-day life and keep them by your side for many more years to come!

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Marissa
Student Veterinary Nurse

 

Move over Cats and Dogs – It’s all about the exotic!

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The ownership of exotic pets is becoming more and more popular. These pets can be fun to own but there are also other important considerations to take into consideration such as how to look after them and give them proper care. Here are a few popular weird and wonderful pets and a few tips on the right care. Move aside cats and dogs!

The Bearded Dragon

Bearded Dragon

About: Bearded dragons make great family pets as they are docile creatures that can be easily tamed with frequent, delicate handling. While they are relatively small pets (usually growing to around 16 – 24 inches) they still require lots of love and care.

Environment: Bearded dragons love to socialise, so if you want to, you can keep more than one in a cage together. However it is not advisable to put two males together as they may get competitive and injure one another. Two females are fine together. If you want a group of bearded dragons, make sure there is only one male and that the females are of a similar size.

You’ll need to house your bearded dragon in a vivarium – which is an enclosed cage with glass doors – this allows them plenty of room, bearing in mind that a bearded dragon can grow to up to 24 inches. If you are keeping one bearded dragon, the cage should be at least 90cm long, and two will need a cage that’s at least 150cm long x 50cm wide x 50cm high.

The vivarium will need to be kept well ventilated at all times, with no humidity. This is because bearded dragons are desert reptiles so need to be kept in conditions as similar to this warm, dry environment as possible. You will also need to monitor and control the temperatures in the cage regularly.

Lifespan: When they are properly cared for, bearded dragons can live for around ten years.

Feeding: Bearded dragons are omnivores, meaning they eat both insects and plants. As a guide, live insects such as locusts, mealworms, earthworms and crickets should make up about 50 per cent of an adult bearded dragon’s diet. The other 50 per cent of your pet’s diet should be made up of either fresh or dried food. Fresh food should be mostly greens such as dandelions, watercress, spring greens and rocket, with some vegetables such as grated carrot or pepper. Any food that is not eaten must be removed from the vivarium each day.

Health: Bearded dragons do not need annual vaccinations like cats and dogs do, however they will need to be treated for fleas and worms. You should have regular check ups with your dragon at an exotic vet specialist who will be able to give you more information treating them for parasites.

The Hedgehog  

Hedgehog 2About: Hedgehog’s are fun to watch, quiet, not aggressive, and are fairly easy to care for. They can be a wonderful addition for someone who wants a unique and entertaining pet. The African pygmy hedgehog is the most common type sold as pets and can grow to be around six to nine inches long. The hedgehog is a solitary animal and should live alone however do enjoy human contact and your hedgehog will learn get to know you over time.

Environment: Hedgehogs are small, but are very active and need quite a bit of space. The cage should be at least 4 feet long and 2 feet wide, but go with the biggest cage possible. Bigger is always better when it comes to your pet’s home. The bottom of the cage will need a bedding or substrate. There are a variety of different types of bedding that work well; the fluffy bedding made from recycled paper or pulp is an excellent choice. Try to avoid wood shavings since some can be harmful to your companion.

A place where your hedgehog can hide, feel safe, and relax will be needed in the cage. A wood box, pet igloo, tubing, half log, or tunnel can all be used as a hiding area.

Lifespan: A pet hedgehog can live up to ten years if cared for properly.

Feeding: In order to keep your hedgehog healthy it is important to provide a high protein diet. Commercial dry or wet hedgehog food is available or cat and dog food can also be used. This should be the majority of the diet along with a small amount of fruits and vegetables such as green beans, peas apples and carrots.

Health: Hedgehogs do not need annual vaccinations but again they do need to be treated for fleas and worms and also mites. You should also have regular check ups with your hedgehog at an exotic vet specialist.

The Tortoise

Horsfield's tortoiseAbout: Tortoises can make a fun and interesting pet but are not as easy to maintain as some other pets. They require lots of space and a natural habitat along with a healthy diet. The Hermann’s tortoise is one of the most popular breeds to keep as a pet. This breed develops a bond of companionship with their owner, and you will get to know their individual quirks, likes and dislikes. They live about 75 years, which gives us something in common!

Environment: We advise using a wooden vivarium rather than glass as they retain heat more efficiently keeping your pet nice and warm. As Hermann’s Tortoises are quite slow growers we advise a vivarium of 36″ x18″ x18″ as a youngster and a 48″ x24″ x24″ for adults. This will ensure your tortoise has enough room to explore and move around. Beach woodchip is a good substrate to put in your tortoises environement. Sands, such as calci sands can be ingested easily, building up inside the animal potentially causing health problems and distress to your pet.
Hermann’s Tortoises are very active and require decor to climb around on, however you should make sure its not too steep as the tortoise may fall. You can use artificial plants to brighten up the vivarium and make it more natural.

Being from the Mediterranean, they do not cope well with temperatures lower than 70oF (21oC). Unless you’re living in a very hot climate, you will need to make arrangements to house them indoors. Many Hermann tortoise owners keep them indoors most of the time, and have an outdoor pen for them for when the weather is fine. This gives them the best of both worlds; the warmth of the indoors and the space and freedom of the garden. This is the best solution if you have the space. During the day a spot bulb is used to raise the temperature to about 80 – 90oF. This should be at the one end of the vivarium to create a hot end and a cooler end. The spot bulb will also provide a day and night cycle and should be emit a UV light as tortoises need this to synthesise vitamin D. Temperatures should always be checked by a reliable thermometer.

Lifespan: This particular breed has a lifespan of around 75 years. Other breeds of tortoise can live up to 150 years!

Feeding: The basis of your Hermann tortoise’s diet should be green leafy plants: weeds, flowers, clover, wild lupine, grass, hibiscus, dandelion, charlock, watercress, chickweed, groundsel, plantain leaves and the leaves of plants and bushes like buddleja, ice plant, lilac, rose and bramble. These should be dusted in multi vitamins before feeding to avoid vitamin deficiencies.

Health: This species don’t require vaccinations but will need regular check-ups at a specialist exotic vet. It is advisable to locate a vet before you bring your new friend into your home!

If you are considering bringing an exotic pet into your home make sure you do thorough research before going ahead and be confident you can provide the right care and home for them. Always seek out an exotic vet beforehand as small animal practices don’t usually deal with exotic pets.

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Marissa
Student Veterinary Nurse

 

Is a Dachshund puppy right for you?

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Dashchund

Meet Lincoln. Lincoln is a 12 week old smooth hair dachshund and has been part of the family for just over a month now. He has settled in very well to everyone’s delight, however our cat Moozy isn’t overly impressed with his new little brother. Saying that he has been very patient with Lincoln – even when he chases him, bites his tail and eats his food!

Young puppies often settle in well to new homes with the right care and love, and often take to their owners very quickly – seeing them as their new mother figures. This can be very demanding on you, but worth it in the long run 🙂

Dachshunds can be one of the most demanding puppies and even adult dogs to own. They have proved very difficult to train due to their stubborn nature, and also love to cause mischief whenever they can! If you are considering taking a dachshund into your family, here are a few hints and tips to make life with your sausage dog a pleasure from start to finish!

Start training early – as these pups have proven tough to train, it is important to start training your dachshund within a few days of them settling in. It is also important not to be too forceful or rough with your pup at a very young age, as this contact may be seen as playing and taken into adult life. Be firm and use a cage or enclosure to put your puppy in if he’s naughty. He will soon learn any unacceptable behaviour will lead to confinement and we all know puppies are not a fan of that! Get advice from a trainer or others who have dachshunds and see what has worked for them. If you love a challenge – a dachshund will be perfect for you. Dachshunds can grow up to be very loving, friendly and well behaved dogs if they get the right training early on.

Jump dog

Sausage safety – Being the shape they are, dachshunds are prone to spinal injuries and slipped discs as their long body and short legs don’t allow them as much support on their backs as most breeds of canines do. They will walk and run around just fine, however always ensure they are not left on a high surface such as a chair or sofa alone as jumping down will cause considerable pressure on their body and could easily cause injury. Making the downstairs their living quarters is a a good idea. Give them an area they can go to when they want to relax or want some peace and quiet, and always make sure you have regular check-ups at the vets to ensure their delicate frames are in good condition.

Sufficient exercise – Exercise is very important in dachshunds as they are prone to being overweight. A 20 minute walk or play in the garden twice a day is recommended for this breed. Be strict with your diet plan and if you notice signs of your dachshund getting overweight, get advice from your veterinary nurse on how to lose the pounds. This is especially important for this breed as being overweight also puts pressure on their fragile backs and legs.

Did you know that a different coat equals a different character? There are 3 types of dachshunds; the smooth haired, the long haired and the wire-haired who each have different personality traits.

  • If you’re looking for more relaxed and laid back company, the long haired dachshund will suit you. They are still just as fun loving and playful but also have a very quiet nature and love nothing more than to relax with you!
  • The wirehaired has proven to be a bit more mischievous and active, they love running around and playing and always seem to have a trick up their sleeves!
  • The smooth coat dachshund can be in-between these two characters. They are very mischievous and love to play but are not quite as active as the wirehaired. They love to socialise and play in the great outdoors.

dachshunds

Always read up and get advice from your vets or other dachshund’s owners if you are unsure if a sausage dog will be right for you! They require a lot of care and love, but in return will be your friend for life.

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Marissa
Student Veterinary Nurse

Expert advice: How to care for your new puppy

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Caring for your new puppy

Taking on a new puppy is a huge responsibility and requires a lot of your time, attention & love. It can be confusing to know the best ways to care for your puppy so here are some top tips from some veterinary professionals.

You will usually take your puppy home at around 8 weeks of age if you are getting your new pup from a breeder, and this is a very important stage in your dog’s life! It is during this period that puppies begin to learn behaviour, socialisation, training and introduction to solid foods.

General care

Juvenile puppies (2-6 months old) are excitable, playful and very hard work! However it is an ideal time to begin training as they are more likely to learn and adapt to the behaviours you teach them.

Puppies quickly learn how to do important day to day activities like chasing and running and can learn what good and bad behaviours are with simple training techniques. 

In regards to preventative health care; worming treatment should be being given every month up until they reach 6 months of age and flea treatment should be being given every other month. After they reach 6 months of age, worming should be given every 3 months and flea every 2 months. However this does depend on the brand you use, and your vet can advise you on the differences between each one. It is not recommended to use a flea or worm product bought from a supermarket or general store as these are a very low strength and often do not work at all. 

At 8 weeks it is highly advised you get your puppy vaccinated against harmful diseases. Your puppy can have their 1st vaccination at 8 weeks, and then the 2nd vaccination 2-4 weeks later. These will protect your puppy against parvovirus, lepto-spirosis, hepatitis, distemper and para-influenza.

You may also want to get your pup micro chipped, this will re-unite you with you pup if he ever decides to explore too far!

Pups this age may benefit from going to a puppy party (after being vaccinated) at your veterinary practice. This is where other puppy owners come along with pups for advice and tips on training, and to socialise their pups with others!

At around 6 months of age it is advised you get your dog neutered if you do not want to breed your dog. There are many behavioural benefits to spaying or castrating your dog. Your dog is less likely to roam for a mate, spray in your home and it also generally calms their behaviour down. 

Nutrition and water

Weaning – A mother’s milk makes the ideal first food as it’s naturally rich in all the required nutrients and components needed for a healthy immune system. Although puppies get ready for weaning between six and eight weeks old, most will start to take an interest in solid foods at three to four weeks.

This is the best time to start offering a puppy food formula. If you want to feed them dry food, it should be moistened and mashed into gruel. As your puppy gets older you can add less water and make the food progressively drier. It is important not to suddenly switch to solid food as this may put stress on the puppies immune system.

How much to feed: –

Puppies have small stomachs but large appetites, so feed them small amounts on a frequent basis depending on their age, breed and size.

•                From starting to offer solid foods (usually two months) – feed 4-6 meals a day.

•                From two to three months – feed 4 meals a day.

•                From four to six months – feed 2-3 meals a day.

•                Over six months – feed 2 meals a day (depending on breed).

Don’t be tempted to overfeed your puppy to speed up the growth process. The volume could be too much for their developing digestion, leading to digestive upsets and impairing growth, or could accelerate growth unhealthily resulting in unwanted weight gain and painful skeletal problems in the future.

Make fresh, clean water available at all times in the house in a shallow dish and offer more water when the pup has been playing a lot or running around for long periods of time.

Bedding and sleep

 

Ensure your pup has a warm cosy place at bedtime. A cushioned dog basket is recommended. It is up to you as an owner to decide whether or not your pup can sleep on your bed at night, wherever they sleep, it is good to get them in a routine so they know where to go when it is time for them to sleep. The bed should be soft and warm and be big enough for them to fit in comfortably. Juvenile pups tend to get very tired out from all the playing and running around they love to do in the day, when it’s time to settle down, it won’t be long until they are fast asleep. 

Every puppy will be different and you will get into a routine pretty quickly. Always go for regular check-ups at your local veterinary clinic with your puppy to make sure they are developing and growing in the healthiest way possible! They will be able to give you specialized advice for your pup and give you a much needed helping hand.

Your puppy will soon turn your fully grown best friend and will thank you for giving them the best start in life! 

Does Your Pet Have Dental Dilemmas?

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Dental care for your pets can easily be overlooked and forgotten about. We may even joke about how unpleasant our pet’s breath is, but dental care is in fact very important and if left unmanaged for a long period of time; can result in plaque and tartar build up which eventually leads to nasty diseases in the mouth such as periodontal disease and gingivitis. Taking care of your pet’s teeth by brushing, providing dental food and treats and regular check-ups on your pet’s teeth can keep their mouths healthy and also save you forking out a lot of money repairing the damage if things are left untreated.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease affects both cats and dogs. It is a bacterial infection of the tissue surrounding the tooth and takes hold in 5 progressive stages. It starts out as plaque, and then calcifies into a hard rough substance called tartar. If left to spread, the plaque and tartar can lead to gingivitis – an inflammation of the gums which worsens over time. This leads to infection and in the final stages of periodontal disease, the surrounding soft tissue and bone become infected and the teeth become loose.

This process is very painful for your pet and can easily go unnoticed as inside their mouth is not somewhere you’d tend to venture very often!

Signs to look out for

  • Bad breath
  • Inflamed, swollen gums
  • Discomfort and pain – your pet may react when touched around or in the mouth, take a long time to eat food or may be unable to chew hard foods
  • Exposed tooth roots
  • Loose or broken teeth
  • Weight loss/not eating

What can you do to ensure your pet’s mouth and teeth stay healthy?

Firstly, you should get our pets teeth examined by a vet or nurse at your veterinary practice. Your pet’s teeth can be evaluated and you will be given advice on what care will be best you for pet next. If necessary, your pet may need to undergo a dental procedure; either a professional scale and polish which gets rid of tartar and plaque build-up or if you’re pet has a worse case of periodontal disease, extractions may be needed. If you have a very young pet or there is only a small amount of plaque and tartar build up on the teeth you may be recommended an oral hygiene programme to start at home, this will also be recommended for pets after they have undergone a dental procedure. This will involve daily tooth brushing as it is considered to be the most effective way of removing plaque. Soft bristled tooth brushes and veterinary toothpastes are available for cats and dogs and are safe to use every day with no need for rinsing. Other products such as antibacterial oral rinses, specialised dental treats and foods and even tooth wipes are also available to keep your pets mouth healthy.

Ask your local veterinary practice for advice and tips on pet oral hygiene and advice on methods for brushing your pet’s teeth. Not all pets are willing to sit still while you brush, so your vet or nurse can give you a demonstration. It’s usually best to introduce the taste of the toothpaste for a week or so beforehand and get your pet used to you being near their mouth.

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What about our other furry friends?

Rabbit’s and guinea pigs teeth grow throughout their entire life and are filed down naturally by the foods they eat. This is why a good diet of hay, specialised rabbit food and fruit and vegetables are good for not only their digestive health but also their dental health. Dental check-ups at the vet twice a year are recommended to ensure your rabbits and guinea pigs teeth are healthy and not overgrown.

With hamsters it is very similar. Provide good quality food for your hamster and also chews and toys are available. You can check your hamster’s teeth at home by holding them gently in your hand then use your other to pull back the skin around the neck; this should cause your hamster mouth to open. Be on the lookout for misaligned teeth, bleeding, inflammation, redness, and swelling around the gums. If you see anything you don’t think is right, call your vet’s for a professional opinion.

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Marissa
Student Veterinary Nurse