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Friday, 18 December 2009

Off lead is off putting!

My beautiful Beagle puppy is almost old enough to go out for walks. What is giving me sleepless nights is the prospect of letting her off the lead for the first time.
How do you know for sure that they'll come back?
Any hints for making this less of a stomach-churning episode?
Sue Maxwell, Walton-on-Thames

Hi Sue - Beagles will be Beagles! But they do need their exercise, so at some point you are going to have to let her stretch her legs! Common sense applies, so make sure you are well away from roads so that the worst that can happen is that she has a run in the country! Technology can also play its part - did you know you can now track your Beagle using GPS! I would recommend the Retrieva collar (though I confess to a vested interest!), and there are other devices that may also help. No technology can act as a remote control though, so it won't stop the chase, but at least you'll know where to look should curiosity get the better of her! Good luck! Jon

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Other fish to fry

Can a dog have too much fish? My Lab cross loves white fish cooked with rice or pasta and has it every night for tea. She is a faddy eater at the best of times and doesn't like her food all at the same time. She has a complete meal with either chicken or beef at lunch, and although she eats the meat, she sometimes leaves the meal. She seems healthy enough but I am worried that fish every day could do some harm (too much of a good thing).
Joan Hardaker, by email

I've cross posted this question on our new food blog  - click here

Monday, 7 December 2009

Spray it again?

I went to a local dog training club recently with a relative and noticed a line of water sprayers on the trainer's desk. My relative's dog was getting stressed so I started blocking him from the source of anxiety. The trainer came over and told me that blocking wouldn't work and handed me a water spray! She told me to say 'no' and spray the dog's face. The dog was already stressed!
I looked around the room and saw a couple of other handlers using sprays. Whenever their dog barked they would say 'no' and spray. It was probably used as an interrupt rather that a punisher, but I just don't like the idea.
I know a lot of training clubs use them but can they work and what is the logic behind using them?
Tony Cruse, by email

Friday, 4 December 2009

Stomaching the problem

Does anyone have any experiences of using L-glutamine in dogs with stomach ulcers? We are keen to investigate any supplements which may be safely used to aid our dog who suffers with this uncomfortable condition. He receives veterinary medication, and we will obviously discuss any recommendations with our vet, but several internet articles suggest this could help too.
Wendy Peacock, by email

RIchard Allport, alternative vet, says...
Before looking at supplements, the most important question is why has your dog got stomach ulcers in the first place? The commonest reasons are the use of steroids or non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs such as Rimadyl, Metacam etc, or the use of drugs like Aspirin and Ibuprofen. If your dog is on any of these, get him off them as soon as possible. Another possible cause is the presence of mast cell tumours in the skin – they release histamine which can be implicated in the formation of stomach ulcers – so if your dog has any lumps or bumps in the skin, get them checked out. Another possible cause is a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, which is a known cause of stomach ulcers in humans. However, although this bacterium has been found in the stomachs of dogs, it doesn’t seem to have been conclusively proved that it is an actual cause of ulcers.
This brings us on to L-glutamine. This is thought to work by protecting the lining of the stomach from the damage caused by ammonia produced by the Helicobacter bacteria. Whether it would work if Helicobacter isn’t causing the ulcers is a matter of debate. However, it won’t do any harm to try (give 500mg daily). Other natural medicines that are probably more likely to help are Slippery Elm, Liquorice Root and Aloe Vera.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Two's company

In the November issue of Dogs Today you published an article on the top ten tips for selecting a dog and my question relates to that.
Do you have top ten tips for selecting a second dog and how best to integrate him/her into your home with your existing dog?
We have a three-year-old Border Collie who we think is well trained and we feel we are ready to start again and introduce another dog (from a puppy) into our home.
Lance and Sarah Doggart, by email

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Food for all

I find it very hard to say no to a difficult dog hence I tend to end up with the ones no one else wants!
Two of my current pack have health problems. I'd really love to have one food I could feed to all four of my dogs as they all tend to move bowls midway just in case the other dog's dinner tastes better!
Jack has really bad eczema and poor old Jill has colitis.
Is there a food that they both could eat that I could feed the other dogs, too?
Be grateful for any suggestions!  Don't mind paying a bit more for the food if I have to as feeding the wrong diet means spending an awful lot more at the vets and having unhappy dogs.
Jean Hamilton, Wirral

Richard Allport, alternative vet, says...
Ah yes, the old ‘musical chairs’ routine with the food bowls, I know it well! This is a difficult question to answer definitively because it really depends on the underlying causes of Jack’s eczema and Jill’s colitis. If either problem is linked to food sensitivity then it may be difficult to find one diet that suits all four. It would certainly seem logical to keep to a wheat free diet, as wheat seems to be the most common cause of dietary sensitivity, and also because dogs have no need for carbohydrates anyway.
Working from logic and experience I would suggest that the following diets (in decending order of health benefits) should be considered:
• The famous and original raw meaty bone diet
• A lightly cooked version of the raw meaty bone diet
• One of the ‘ready prepared’ frozen-in-packs raw food diets – several companies such as Anglian Meat Products and Darling’s Real Dog Food supply these
• A (preferably organic) high quality wheat free or low wheat diet such a Lily’s Kitchen or Orijen
• If none of the above suit and you have to feed an ‘ordinary’ processed diet, try Chappie – for some reason it often suits dogs with colitis
It would be helpful to add some Slippery Elm to Jill’s diet, whichever on you choose – it’s a great help for dogs suffering with colitis. Slippery Elm soothes the intestines and helps digestion. For Jack a Cod Liver Oil and Evening Primrose Oil supplement may help the eczema. But if you can get the diet right, you will already be a long way towards controlling or curing their symptoms.

Fiona Campbell, Nutritionist, Burns Pet Nutrition Ltd, says…
There should be no reason why you can't feed all of your dogs on the same diet. However, you may need to fine-tune the feeding amounts to each individual dog.
When it comes to pet food the term 'holistic' is often misused with many people thinking it means natural. Actually, a holistic diet is one which helps the whole body not just one area or organ. The Burns diets are all holistic and can be used for both skin and digestive problems, however we do suggest a few feeding guidelines.
Firstly I would strongly recommend that you get Jack's anal glands checked as emptying waste from these glands can help a skin condition greatly. Secondly I would try and put them both on an elimination diet for 6-8 weeks which means that after the introductory period you feed just one variety of Burns and cut out other treats and tit-bits. Thirdly, the amount of food is almost as important as what you are feeding. Many owners assume that the only side-effect of overfeeding is weight gain but excess food can exacerbate skin problems and overwork the digestive system. And finally please ring the free Burns
Nutritional helpline (0800 083 66 96). We can advise the correct feeding amount and if the first Burns diet you try does not work we can try another one! Some dogs have food intolerances which cause these problems and that's why we have several varieties!
You should also find that Burns is economical to feed due to the low daily feeding amounts. A 20kg dog fed on Burns would cost approximately 52-59p per day depending on variety.

Henrietta, from Lily’s Kitchen, says…
Yes, it’s great to see your dog tucking into a healthy meal - knowing it’s good for them and that they are really enjoying it!
My dog, Lily, had bad skin issues and I tried every food on the market for her - most of which she refused to eat. I then started to cook for her and her appetite came back and her skin started to clear up, but I knew I wouldn't have the time to always cook for her and was desperate for a meal I could just pull out of the cupboard and feed her. And that's how Lily's Kitchen began a year ago. We now make a range of 13 different recipes and each one is slightly different to suit particular dogs. Everything on the menu is just as good as a home-cooked meal, but with the addition of all the necessary vitamins, minerals as well as a wide variety of beneficial herbs (phytonutrients). Lily is now the picture of health and we have helped literally hundreds of dogs with their skin conditions, itchy ears and also with colitis. Dogs who suffer from colitis do need a very digestible food - ie one that is made with whole ingredients. And because most of our range is certified organic, there are no preservatives or chemicals to digest - again good for dogs who need a hypo-allergenic diet. You can read about each recipe at We had a lady call yesterday who said her Westie's ears have now completely healed and she was so grateful as she had spent £7,000 at the vets in bills the previous year!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

More on microchips!

I have long been an advocate of having dogs microchipped, ever since our Lab Pippin bolted in the woods 15 miles from home when the dogs in a nearby kennel began barking. She was only 11 months old at the time. She finally flung herself at my legs seven hours later, a hot, breathless and exhausted but very relieved dog. Whenever the nasty thought sprang into my mind that she might have been taken by someone, I reassured myself that she had been microchipped so that, even if her collar was removed or just the dog disc on it, I would always be able to prove ownership.
Twice I have been followed back down our lane from a walk by a dog. The worry was that our house is only three houses in from the main road… The first dog was a golden retriever some years ago. He was wearing a collar with a dog disc but the engraving had rubbed and was illegible. In the end, I had to call the dog warden, whose first action was to scan for a microchip – none. If there had been, he would have driven round to the address. As it was, he had no option but to take the dog away in his van to be kennelled until his owners claimed him (hopefully).
The second time was this week, a young dog who, again, was wearing a collar but this time no form of identification at all on it. He was very keen to stay with me which posed me a worry but, fortunately, his owner appeared. I suggested that a dog disc would have been a good idea, so that I would have known where to return him (and also a legal requirement). That was like water off a duck’s back – instead, she assured me that he was booked to be microchipped, in four weeks’ time! Great to hear that, but no use to me without a scanner, and no use with a scanner for another four weeks!
As an aside, I would also like to emphasise the importance of having cats microchipped. I know that this is the Dogs Today Think Tank, but many dogs live with cats so this does apply to many households. Whenever I see a still body on the road or on the verge beside a road, I pull over if I can to retrieve it and take it in to the practice. Only once have I found a microchip so that I could contact the owners – they were, understandably, very upset but, at the same time, relieved to be able to stop searching and worrying.
Cats do also stray and, again, a microchip does make the matter of reuniting them with their owners so much easier. A cat was brought in to me in December one year which had been living with a couple near the hospital for two months. They had leafleted all their neighbours and put up notices in the local shops, but no-one had come forward to claim him. They decided it was time to have him vaccinated. I said that I ought to just check he did not have a microchip and nonchalantly passed the scanner over him, not expecting it to ‘ping’ because I have scanned so many stray cats without finding a chip.
This time, however, there was a chip and, to my amazement, not only had we as a practice implanted it but also the address registered against it was just round the corner from my home. Interestingly, his owners would not have seen the publicity about him because we live in the next village, and this cat had travelled along a main road which passes under the A12, then in to the suburbs before ending up near the hospital!
This also brings me to my final point. There was only a mobile telephone number logged against the microchip and, when I rang it, there was a recorded message to say that the number was no longer in use! I took it upon myself to call round at the house on my way home, thinking that they may well have moved away which could have explained why the cat had wandered so far. In fact, I made their Christmas! They were thrilled at the thought of having him home. The mobile telephone, it transpired, had been discarded because it broke, and they had forgotten to amend the contact details for their cat’s microchip record. So, please keep your details up-to-date.
Alison Logan, vet

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

What's the best course?

Dear Sirs
As an avid subscriber of your magazine I would be grateful if you would be able to advise me what are the best courses to enrol on preferably home correspondence courses, to become qualified as a behaviourist and what prior qualifications are needed to join the courses if any.  I note there are many animal behaviour courses on line but am not sure which is the correct one to enrol on to gain the recognised qualification.
Many thanks 
Sue Parkin

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The natural way

I make all my own dog food, biscuits and pellets and would be very grateful if anyone could advise me on what to use to de-worm and also keep my dogs safe from ticks and fleas naturally. My local vet does not have any advice and believes that natural remedies don't work. I would like to believe she is incorrect.
Belinda-Lee Seagreen, by email

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Any hints on how to raise money?

A few weeks back I sat next to Demelda Penkitty at the Woman of the Year Lunch. Demelda had been nominated for the selfless way she had answered a request on my blog to help Anne Fowler, a lady dying of cancer who ran the wonderful charity Home-A-Dog in Snowdonia.
With hardly any notice, Demelda moved into a caravan at the bottom of Anne's garden to take over the rehab and rehoming of the dogs rescued from death row as Anne's health deteriorated.
Sadly after Anne died, it proved impossible for Demelda to continue her work with the charity, despite every effort on her part.
Demelda could see that there was still a tremendous need to continue the good work that Anne had started and resolved to continue to help the dogs in that region.
One of the first stumbling blocks in registering a new charity is the fact you need to have £5,000 in the bank in reserve.
Over lunch Demelda posed the question, how can you encourage people to donate before you become a registered charity?
Can you share your best fundraising techniques with Demelda and anyone else interested in raising a small organisations profile and funds?
Any wonderful companies happy to donate to Demelda's new venture to help save the death row dogs of Wales do get in touch!
This is a wonderful venture that retrains and rehomes dogs that otherwise would be killed. Any nice commercial pet companies out there feeling generous?
Beverley Cuddy, Editor

PS We’ve just spoken to Demelda about Border Collies in Need and her fundraising issues and, with her team, she has put together a fundraising Christmas Quiz Booklet which is an A5 booklet filled with quizzes and puzzles.   It costs £2 and if people buy it, fill it in and send it back to her, the person with the most correct answers will win £20 worth of high street vouchers.  All proceeds go to Border Collies in Need.  Last year a similar booklet raised £100 for Home-a-Dog, but they would like to raise a lot more this year.  It is available to buy from local sellers, from, by emailing or from the Border Collies in Need Facebook group, and the closing date for entries is 29th January 2010.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Save the planet and the poo!

I am one of the responsible dogs owners who makes sure my beloved pet
doesn't leave any mess in a public place. As we all know, apart from
the smell, dog faeces can carry diseases. So I am doing the right
thing there.
However, what I am also doing is putting a natural product that
naturally degrades and adds to the ecosystem into a plastic bag which
does not. Doesn't that sound crazy? Where do these bags end up?
Probably still intact on a landfill site.
I understand you can acquire biodegradable poo bags. But they are not
widely available in the usual places such as 'Pets at Home' and the
supermarkets. Shouldn't the big manufacturers of these bags be more
aware and start making them biodegradable? Otherwise we are actually
preserving out dogs waste for generations to come!
How many dog owners use Biodegradable Poo Bags and where can they be

Many thanks,
Tony Cruse, by email

Holiday plans

I'm just putting in for my holiday dates for work and I'm realising that now I have a pup I just can't contemplate jetting off somewhere and putting her into kennels. I just wouldn't be able to enjoy myself knowing that my lovely Roxy was stuck in kennels and missing me.
I have not holidayed in the UK since I was a kid and have no idea where to start and what it is possible for us to do together. There's just Roxy and me on this adventure as I've not long split up with my husband - so it'll be a girlie break!
Where do I find dog-friendly places to stay? And where do we eat - are there any dog friendly restaurants or will I have to just order room service or eat fish and chips in the car?
Are there any places we can visit together during the day? What do you think are the most dog-friendly UK destinations? Would be really grateful for any personal recommendations.
Roxy is a very well behaved Miniature Schnauzer by the way. We're up for any adventures you can recommend!
Charlotte Palmer, Sunbury-on-Thames

We've got a special bumper dog-friendly holiday section planned in our January edition and there are always ads in the back of the mags for doggie holidays. So do check them out! I found the Isle of Wight to be really good for dogs when I went a few years back, but I've not been on any very doggie holidays since I've had the kids and dogs - we just can't all squeeze in the car I'm afraid!
So over to you readers! Where have you been that you can recommend... Please give Charlotte and our other readers some tips.
Beverley Editor, Dogs Today

Wood Cottage:

A chocolate box hideaway that nestles in National Trust woodland on the Stackpole Estate in Pembrokeshire, Wood Cottage is cosy and warm, with a real wood fire. Sleeping six, (with 1 double and two twin rooms, one on ground floor ideal for grandparents) it has all the residential benefits of home, with the magical charm of an earlier age. Set in complete seclusion within three quarters of an acre gardens, this former Earl of Cawdor Head Gardner’s cottage is accessed via a woodland track that leads to the magnificent Bosherston Lily Ponds and onward to the splendour of Barafundle Beach (a top ten Visit Britain beach).
This is a great coastal location in the Pembrokeshire National Park, close to some fantastic beaches and many good pubs.
Well behaved and groomed pets are welcome. The cottage has a strictly non-smoking policy. Unfortunately the cottage is not suitable for wheelchair users. For further details visit

Kim from Cornish Holiday Cottages, says...
Cornwall would be a great place for you and Roxy to explore; with many dog-friendly beaches, beautiful coastal walks and exotic gardens to visit. Self-catering gives you the freedom to come and go as you wish and there are many dog-friendly options available. We specialise in the Helford River area near Falmouth and have several properties which may tempt you. As local people and dog lovers ourselves; we are on hand to offer advice on anything from walks to (shhhhh....) vets. Our website has full details of all the properties together with an online booking facility or, for a more personal touch, why not call us on 01326 250339. Good luck with your search, I'm sure you'll both love holidaying in the UK, wherever you decide to go.

Sarah, from Dales Holiday Cottages, says…
We have a great selection of 300 cosy pet-friendly holiday cottages that would be ideal for your girlie break away with Roxy.
You could consider the Yorkshire Dales. With green valleys, limestone crags and dry stone walls, this beautiful area is ideal for walking. The landscape is criss-crossed with footpaths and you can choose either a gentle riverside ramble or an invigorating hike on the fells ...or maybe even the challenge of the "Three Peaks" of Ingleborough, Penyghent and Whernside?! After a busy day exploring, you might like to pop into of the traditional village pubs which serve good local food and locally brewed ales - many welcome well behaved dogs in the bar area. If you visit during the summer you might also enjoy one of the many agricultural shows (dogs are normally welcome). Livestock displays generally take centre stage, but you'll also find exhibitions of giant home-grown vegetables, homemade jams, cakes and chutneys for sale, tractor and vintage car displays, tug-o-war competitions ...and even Terrier Racing (Gargrave Show, held in late August, is famous for their terrier racing event - I love popping along to watch this event with my Jack Russell to pick up some tips!).
Alternatively, if you're drawn to the sea and sand, then the Yorkshire coast or the Northumberland coastline would be perfect. With dramatic cliffs, quaint fishing villages and sandy beaches, the coast of northern England is very beautiful. The vast majority of beaches along this stretch of the Heritage Coastline welcome dogs throughout the year, and they provide the ideal scampering ground for dogs to play, paddle, and dig for sticks. Again, you will find a lovely selection of country inns which welcome dogs; during my holiday to Northumberland earlier this year, I found a lovely pub called The Crown & Anchor Inn on Holy Island where they made my dog very welcome, and we enjoyed a hearty lunch by the cosy open fire.
Whether you decide to go for the rolling hills and dales, or the rugged coastline, we have a range of dog-friendly cottages to choose from, either in peaceful rural locations with walks straight from the doorstep, or in the historic market towns with excellent amenities
within easy reach.
We'd be delighted to help you find somewhere that both you and Roxy would love, so please give us a call on 01756 790919 to discuss your wish list, or pop onto our website at
We also have a great choice across Scotland via our sister company Scotland Cottages - if you'd like to find out more, visit or call the team on 01756 702558.
I hope you have a lovely break! Please do give us a call if we can be of any help.

Veronica Parry, from Barleycorn House, says...
One thing you will miss is the sun; but we in Devon have so much more. Devon is a very 'dog friendly' part of the country. Lots of places to stay are happy for you to bring your dog and even if there is no evening meal provided because it's a B&B property there are plenty of gastro pubs all quite happy for dogs to come in and enjoy being made a fuss of. There are plenty of 'pet friendly internet sites' and a good number including ours which are near or on Exmoor and other beautiful places to walk and wonderful sights to see. The coastal paths take you around some of the most stunning views you could wish for and there are also many dog friendly beaches, all the Tourist Information Centres can help with finding them. So for a lovely, Roxy friendly, holiday Devon is the place to visit.

Monday, 2 November 2009

How do I lick this?

I fear that my baby may have become allergic to my dog. Sebastian is almost 10 months old and if Rudy our Staffordshire Bull Terrier now licks him he comes up with terrible raised red welts. He doesn't seem to have any other symptoms of allergy - no sneezing etc, just this reaction to him licking.
What can I do? Obviously, I'll try to stop the dog licking the baby - but as he starts toddling they'll be sharing each others space more and more.
Is there anything I can try to make dog and baby less reactive?
How can I be certain this a saliva allergy? What else could cause these symptoms? Could the baby be allergic to something that the dog is eating? (Rudy is eating Wagg complete food at the moment.) The baby is quite allergy prone - he also gets a rash from the carpet, even upstairs where Rudy is not allowed. My older children have no problems being licked by the dog by the way!
The baby's skin reacts almost immediately after the dog licks him. Perhaps he's just got a very rough tongue?
Linda Parker, by email

Nick Thompson, holistic vet, advises:
You're right – it's either Rudy's saliva or the food he's eating that are setting off Sebastian's skin reaction.
The way to tell, therefore, is to put Rudy onto a hypoallergenic diet with a single protein source e.g. fish. Your vet will be able to organise this for you. My choice would be for a natural diet, of course! If the reaction persists after four weeks of the new diet, then you can try a chicken based diet to be belt-and-braces sure.
If Sebastian is allergic to Rudy, then there is no way, I'm afraid, of changing the proteins in Rudy's saliva. You'll just have to hope Sebastian grows out of his hypersensitivity. Homeopathic treatment of Sebastian may be very useful for this and his other allergies. I would strongly urge you to consult a good, qualified homeopath.

Your puppy's immune system seems to be hypersensitive which means he is prone to develop allergies. You may not be able to stop the puppy coming into contact with much of his environment - carpets, grass, dust, saliva etc but you can probably change the way in which he reacts. This should be possible by getting his food right. You don't say what you are feeding him but as the adult is on Wagg I suspect that the puppy is also on a supermarket brand too. I recommend a higher quality food which is hypo-allergenic. Feed an adult food which is lower in fat and protein than puppy foods, don't give any treats for now and feed as little as possible. That should be helpful but you may need some ongoing professional advice.
Best wishes
John Burns BVMS MRCVS Burns Pet Nutrition

I am emailing John to point out that Sebastian is actually a human baby rather than a puppy. But who knows maybe some Burns may sort him out!

I don’t think it is very hygienic to allow the dog to lick the baby so you should try to discourage that. The dog’s saliva does contain high concentrations of anti-bacterial enzymes (discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming who came from Darvel in Ayrshire as I do) but there are likely to be lots of bacteria too. You could probably reduce the amount of bacteria in the dog’s saliva by following the advice on feeding which I gave for the puppy.
As for the baby, I recommend reducing or eliminating dairy foods, proprietary formulae. Even juices whether natural fruit based or sugar based can cause allergy-type reactions. If the baby is being breast fed these recommendations apply to the mother too.
John Burns BVMS MRCVS; Burns Pet Nutrition

Saturday, 31 October 2009

First fireworks season

Last night for the first time this year we had noticeable firework noise. We have a gorgeous three month old pup, Socks, for whom this was a new experience.
We turned the TV up a bit and tried to pretend it was perfectly normal to be in the middle of a World War and Socks was curious at first but seemed not too worried by it.
We didn't have a plan, should we have been getting her ready somehow? Have we left it too late?
Is it best to keep her inside after dark until this passes or might we convince her its normal if we take her out on a lead and just reassure her.
Be grateful for any hints as to how to make sure we have a bomb proof pup!
Marco, by email

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Et tu Cesar?

I am quite nervous to ask this question having read the last few issues of Dogs Today! But what is so wrong about us trying to be the top dog, surely wolves have alpha males and females. Don't we have to be dominant to keep all the pack in order?
All this reward based stuff is all very lovely in principle, but if we're not assertive surely these dogs will walk all over us.
Those insiders that understand the ins and outs of the divide can you explain it to us normal pet owners who don't know the difference - why shouldn't we be listening to the dog whisperers?
And who is on which side?
For example is Victoria Stillwell on the good side?
Is Jan Fennell? In or out?
Can't really get my head around what is acceptable and isn't.
Smacked bottoms and rolled up newspapers - definitely out?
Choke chains - obviously a no no?
Always going through doors first? Always eating first? Not allowing dogs up on the bed or sofas. Dark side or good side?
What if a dog keeps barking. biting - is correction or punishment ever acceptable to the reward-based folk?
Please help guide a novice pet owner who is struggling to understand what all the fuss is about!
I watch Cesar Millan on TV and really enjoy it. Just can't see what this big split in the behaviour world is all about. Isn't it just a ratings clash? He's the big star at the moment and we Brits just love chopping down those tall poppies! Or is there really some science that shows that reward based is more effective than punishment?
Name and address withheld! (I'm a coward!)

Monday, 26 October 2009

Difficult decision

I have just returned with my 10 year old Labrador Retriever from the vet. Four weeks ago he underwent x-rays as he was not putting his hind right leg down. The x-rays were fine and showed that his knee and hip joints were good. Now, four weeks later and with the problem
My vet after examination thought another x-ray was needed. I have now been told that my beloved Storm has a very aggressive tumour in his hip joint and it can be clearly seen in the x-rays as is joint which looked so good four weeks ago has now being eaten away quite dramatically. I now have to decide whether to get his leg amputated hopefully getting rid of the tumour or have him put to sleep. I would be grateful for any advice that could help me come to a decision that would be in my beloved Storm's best interest. Has an older dog of this size coped with having his leg amputated, and went on to have a good quality of life? Would it be kinder to let him go? I would be very grateful for any feedback . My only thought is to do what is right for my beloved Storm.
Thanking you in anticipation of a speedy reply as time is of the essence.

Dear Ian

I hope you don’t mind but I have put this question up on the Think Tank so others can share their experiences. It is very difficult to decide whether it is better to treat or to just make comfortable and there is no right or wrong answer, you have to go with your instinct.

There are many dogs who cope well with amputation – in fact we formed a special three legged dog agility team a few years ago and were vastly oversubscribed! I think it is worth asking the vet how good your dog’s other hip is, how heavy he his and how strong his front legs are – if he has a strong other leg then he will probably cope very well. But you have to look at how invasive the treatment will be after amputation and if the time it buys you is worth the upset. Is managing the symptoms with strong pain relief a possibility? I’d ask lots of questions about prognosis and actual duration of treatment with the amputation option so you can make an educated choice. Dogs generally cope very well on three legs – so if that is your only concern I have known dogs bigger than Labs cope with losing a leg. Generally a front leg is much more difficult for heavy dogs to lose.

You have a difficult time ahead, I am sure others who have been through the same thing will give their input, too

Best wishes

Thank you for your quick response to my e-mail of 26th Oct. After talking to my vet and reading different blogs i made the decision to have Storms leg amputated. I don't know if this will save him but i felt i owed him the chance. The agreement was that the vet would x-ray his chest and if this was clear he would proceed with the op. Thankfully his x-ray was clear and the amputation was done on Wed 28th. He came home on Thurs 29th and has adapted very well to having his leg removed. I was very interested to read that you had used a vet John Carter and his alternative treatment for cancer and feel that would be a good way to treat my beloved Storm . I know that sadly John Carter has died but that the treatment has since been licenced . I would be most grateful if you could give me some advice/pointers that would help me in this quest. I know diet plays a big part but have no idea what i should be feeding Storm. Once again thank you for your help and advice. I look forward to your reply.

Many thanks, Ian

Hi Ian and anyone else interested in John Carter's amazing work, we have a separate blog on this very subject. Click here to be taken to a round-up of all the info. Good luck Ian and delighted to hear that the op went well and Storm has coped with the amputation so well, dogs really are remarkable.
Perhaps you can tell Storm's continuing story via the CV247 blog? Hope it works out for you. It is a very gentle method that either works or doesn't with no nasty side effects. It's also something you can try without sending your dog away for invasive or distressing treatment. I have to say that diet is key to success and those that do well tend to follow it to the letter. There's lots of wonderful people out there who have followed the regime and can pass on tips.
Best wishes

Friday, 23 October 2009

Does road-kill kill?

When I go dog walking I sometimes see dead wild animals on the road - squirrels, rabbits, foxes and even once very sadly a badger. Someone once told me that you should move them off the road as their relatives may get run over when they go to investigate why their loved one isn't moving. Is this an old wives tale? I'm not sure I could bring myself to move a dead animal.Can you call the council or anyone else to move these bodies? Where do you move them to? Surely they can't go in the general refuse?

A dead animal should be moved - but only if it is safe for you to do so. Move it well on to the verge or better still deep in to the hedgerow where it can provide food for other animals. (Buzzards and corvids, for example, rely on roadkill as a major source of food.) However, please wear gloves and in any case you should double-check that the animal is dead before attempting to move it. Be sure to look for any signs of life. Otherwise you could be putting yourself in danger. Any wounded animal, especially a badger and fox, will try to defend itself, even if it is very seriously injured and weak.
Simon Cowell MBE, Wildlife Aid

Nearly deer departed

I watched in horror as someone else's dog chased a young deer onto the road and into the path of a car. The deer was hit very hard and the dog had a glancing blow. The dog's owner took both animals to her vet and I later discovered the deer had to be PTS as it was so badly hurt. It's made me think what if I hit a deer in my car, what am I legally meant to do? Should I take them to the vet? Phone the RSPCA? What if the deer is still conscious and you're on your own. How on earth would you get an animal in pain into your car?
Gareth Jones, Ottershaw

A dog's natural instinct is to hunt and chase - and this can be extremely dangerous when near a road, which is why it is so important to train a dog to come when called. In the case of a wild animal being knocked down and injured on the road, there are certainly some vets who would try to save the creature but some would automatically PTS. The best thing is to contact your nearest wildlife centre (Wildlife Aid covers Surrey and surrounding areas) or RSPCA. If you find an animal that has been injured on the road, please - where possible, and without putting yourself or other road users in any danger - try to protect the animal by screening it with your vehicle . If available you could cover the animal including its head with a sheet or blanket. But don't stay close to it or attempt to cuddle or nurse the animal as this would put them under enormous stress - and could be very dangerous. We had one case where a deer had been knocked down and the driver attempted to move the deer themselves; they brought it into Wildlife Aid and, amazingly, had put it on the back seat of their car, on the next seat to their child. I dread to think what might have happened if the deer had woken up as this deer had huge antlers and would undoubtedly have caused a terrible accident if it had woken up. Luckily it was unconscious for the entire duration of the trip to Wildlife Aid. I cannot emphasise enough that only trained and experienced animal handlers should move an injured animal.

Simon Cowell MBE, Wildlife Aid

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Chicken or beef... or indeed pork or lamb?

I was always told not to feed dogs pork...........but why? I spoke to some folk the other day who were telling me how they fed their dogs during war time. The dogs had whatever was on offer and appeared to thrive - including pork. It would be interesting to have some views. A pet nutritionist once told me that rabbit was the best protein for dogs and she was amazed how little this figured in UK dog food. All the manufacturers prefer chicken - even most non-chicken brands do in fact contain chicken derivatives. [We have a dog allergic to chicken but that's another story...] So what is best? Lamb? Beef? What do the experts say?
Wendy Harris, via email

Richard Allport, alternative vet, says...
The only reason that pet food manufacturers prefer chicken is because it is cheap. I’ve never seen any evidence to back up the old wives’ tale that dogs shouldn’t eat pork. Any good quality protein source – fish, chicken, lamb, rabbit, beef, venison and pork is fine in my view, unless a particular dog has a known allergy or intolerance to any specific protein. I’m sure there are some dogs that don’t assimilate pork well, but that can occur with any other meat, including chicken, as your dog has found out. A variety of foods is best and there is nothing wrong with pork as part of the variety unless proved otherwise.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Going underground

My Flat Coated Retriever is too big to carry, so if I use the London Underground I need to plan a route across London that avoids escalators.
Is there anywhere that lists tube stations that have either lifts or stairs? I guess wheelchair users will have similar problems - finding wheelchair friendly stations would help.
Where can I find dog-friendly Underground stations?
Gita Beecroft, via Twitter

Transport for London says…
If you travel with a dog on London Underground you must carry it on moving escalators. This is for the safety of the dog as it could be seriously injured if it gets caught in the moving components of the escalator.
If your dog is too big to carry, you can use TfL’s Journey Planner to plan your journey using public transport and avoiding escalators. The Journey Planner tool can be found on the right hand side of the home page of TfL’s website,
The ‘Advanced options’ include a choice of mobility requirements to be taken into account when planning your journey. By ticking the option ‘I cannot use escalators’, Journey Planner will return a list of travel options avoiding escalators. These recommended routes will only use London Underground stations which have stairs or disabled access.
Journey Planner also takes engineering works and line closures into account, so checking it before you travel will ensure that you know the best route for that day.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Flea free naturally

I have three Poodles - a Standard, Miniature and Toy. I treat them with Frontline spray, but it doesn't work for my black Toy Poodle, Abby. As a result I bought a cheaper version from the pet shop yesterday, put it on her and for more than 12 hours she was really demented, running around as if she was trying to get away from something and very distressed. I put it down to the chemicals in the spot-on which I used this time.
It was so upsetting to see her like this and I do not like putting chemicals into her body and wondered if there was an alternative. I have tried cider vinegar in the past. I would try to comb the fleas out but with her black curly coated body this makes it impossible. Also I have well-sprayed my house but these fleas seem to be resistant to anything.
Can anyone suggest a solution as I am at my wit's end.
Judith Stephens, by email

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Too much exercise?

I bought Daisy, my five-year-old black Labrador when she was eight weeks old and for as long as I can remember we have been totally inseparable. Unfortunately I fear I may have overdone it with the exercise over the years. Is it possible to have done too much walking with her and what would be the consequences?
I was ill myself at the time and didn't work for many years. To help me cope I would walk and walk and of course Daisy always came with me. Most of the walking was on tarmac roads or hard surfaces. I think somedays we would go out for four to five hours at a time and the mileage would reach 15 miles at least. I hasten to add that this was not when she was a puppy, but started when she was about 18 months old.
However, I have now noticed she often quickly turns to try and 'bite' herself on her hip area and looks at me as if to say, 'Mummy I hurt there, but don't know what's wrong'. Sometimes when she is walking her rear end gives way for a second or so, and yet then carries on as if nothing has happened. If she walks on concrete for about an hour she starts to limp and in the evenings she licks her front paw pads. She is of average weight and is a very healthy, happy, fit dog. I give her cod liver oil capsules and a high strength flexible joint supplement containing glucosamine, omega 3 etc daily.
I have taken her to the vet who is very thorough usually, but he didn't see the need for X-rays. But I know my beautiful Daisy and something isn't right. Have I caused some damage by walking her too far, and if this is the case, is there anything I can do to rectify this? I am worried I have given her a bone problem and can't forgive myself.
Joanne Bedwell, by email

Friday, 9 October 2009

Early start

After reading the litter adverts in the Perfect Pup section of the November magazine could you please tell me how a puppy can be sold as recall trained - as two litters claim to be. Is it really possible now to go and buy a puppy from a litter already trained like that? I guess so if you are happy to advertise them. I expect there will be a rush for them, but I hope the new owners aren't too disappointed.
Margaret Wildsmith, by email

Beverley Cuddy, Editor, says...
There are more and more breeders selling pups part-trained. I think it is an excellent idea. Pups can learn so much, so young. How much easier for new puppy buyers to have a pup that is already housetrained, can walk nicely on the lead and comes back when called. Now that really is going that extra mile for novice owners and helping ensure that your pups do well in their new homes and don't bounce back.

Elaine Day, KC Accredited Breeder, says...
Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone felt confident enough to allow their dogs free running exercise when on walks rather than keeping their dog on a lead because they are afraid it may run off. I have devised a method of recall training which seems to work on every dog that I have tried it on and indeed, our puppies are sent to their new homes at the age of 8-10 weeks completely recall trained using my method.
I am sure that most people have attempted clicker training their dog. Clicker training is a marvellous way of training dogs for some people, but I have found that the vast majority of dog owners find it extremely difficult to master the exact timing required to successfully clicker train their puppy. It often confuses the dog if the timing is not right, which leads to the owner believing that their pooch is one of the untrainables, and they give up.
I only use the clicker to teach the recall to dogs, and the way I train my Deerhound and Whippet puppies is pretty much foolproof. When I decide to start weaning a litter of puppies - usually around 3-4 weeks old - they are fed a complete puppy diet mixed with water until it forms 'puppy porridge'. As soon as the puppies have any of this food in their mouths, I continuously click the clicker so that whilst they are actually eating, they hear the clicker noise. After a few days of this, I can click the clicker when all the pups are asleep, and they will immediately run to where they know their food is. I continue to click the clicker whilst the puppies are eating, so that they associate the noise with food.
Once puppies are allowed outside to play, usually around 4-5 weeks old depending on the weather, I wait until all the puppies are exploring and playing with each other, and then give just one or two clicks. The puppies rush to me and are rewarded with a tasty treat (I use cat biscuits at this stage, as they are small and very tasty). The treat is thrown onto the ground and the clicker used whilst the pups are enjoying their treat. I continue this training until the puppies go to their new family, when a demonstration is given.
I then tell the new owners that when they are out with their puppies, a couple of simple rules need to be adhered to so that this method of recall training continues to work. When out on a walk, the treat being used should never be given at any other time, and the clicker should never be used at any other time. This means that the dog will associate the noise of the clicker and that particular treat with going for a walk. When the dog comes back, gently hold his collar whilst he is eating his treat (some dogs learn to eat the treat then do a quick runner!), and every so often, pop his lead on for a few minutes, and then release. This is so that the dog does not associate getting his lead on just at the end of the walk, when he may not be ready to go home. Keep clicking the clicker and rewarding the dog throughout the walk, and always, always give loads of praise when the dog comes back to you. If the dog does not return immediately, still give loads of praise (a dog must NEVER be reprimanded for coming back to you - however late!), but he does not get the tasty treat unless he comes back immediately - he'll soon learn. Don't forget to use a friendly, high-pitched voice when calling your dog back to you, and try turning it into a game, maybe by running away from him to turn it into a chase game. This way, you will be an exciting part of the walk, rather than the person just trying to catch the dog and spoil his fun.
I have successfully trained adult dogs using this method, and I recently boarded a working Cocker Spaniel for five days which had had very little training - her owners said she was untrainable. True, she was a very excitable little girl, prone to leaping about all over the place and wagging not only her tail but her entire body. It had got to the point for the owners where they no longer allowed her any off-lead exercise, as it took so long to catch her after a walk.
I played with her in my garden, and every time she came anywhere near me, I clicked the clicker and threw her a tasty treat. After about ten minutes of this, every time I clicked she ran to me for her treat. She also ran to me for a treat when I hadn't clicked, and I turned my back on her and walked away. After about half and hour, she understood that when she heard the click she would get a treat, but not at any other time. When her owners picked her up after the five days, I had taught her the recall, taught her to walk to heel, and stopped her stealing food - she was actually a very trainable and biddable little dog. I had to then retrain the owners so that they were no longer the ogres that just caught the dog after a walk and went home, but were the dog's point of interest on a walk.
I have even recently trained a horse using this method. Friends have a beautiful Thoroughbred who is stabled at night and turned out in her paddock every day. They would often spend up to two hours in the evening walking round the paddock with a bucket of food, following the tail end of the horse! The horse did not want to be stabled at night and only associated the owners with being caught. I kept clicking, rewarding, then turning the horse away, until after a couple of days the horse wanted to follow me, rather than the other way round.
I know that my method works as I used it on a litter of Whippet puppies some years ago and placed two brothers with their new family. The brothers came back to me after nearly three years for a holiday whilst their owners were away and I asked if they still used the clicker method of recall, but was told the Whippets now came back to their names. I took them out for a walk with my 10 dogs off-lead, and clicked the clicker, and these two dogs returned to me immediately. I was truly amazed that they had not heard the clicker since they were eight weeks old but they still remembered what it meant!
If you walk your dog where other dog owners may use the clicker method of training, you can very easily use another noise. Just for fun, I used to use a duck call which I purchased from a country fair, and would go around the park quacking at my dogs. It doesn't matter what you use as long as the noise and the treat are only used when out on the walk, and never at any other time.
When I am out with my own dogs - two Miniature Poodles, three Deerhound, four Whippets and a very naughty six-month-old Hancock Lurcher - I can get them all to run back to me if I hear a horserider or hikers. Rather then throwing their treats on the ground immediately, I hold them in my hand and all the dogs stand at my feet looking up at me waiting patiently. This looks incredibly impressive to the passers-by, but I know it only works because they are waiting for the release of the treats - still, no point sharing all my secrets with everyone, is there?

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Comfort levels

My two-year-old Whippet Bingley is a happy, healthy little chap with a very caring home and a Whippet companion aged six with whom he gets on wonderfully. He is a little highly strung about some things, a bit nervous of big, bouncy dogs and is a little anxious about some men and ladies with loud voices. He isn't worried about guns or fireworks and is quite obedient and affectionate.
What I want to undertand is why he often gets hold of his large woolly toy and holds it tightly in his mouth for quite a while, often whining quietly? He will then often start licking it for quite a long time so I have to wash it frequently. He seems to do this when we come back after being out and he has been left behind. He also does it after his evening meal and always brings it with him to the sofa in the evening when he sits by me. He does seem to do it when I feel he is happy. He seems very intense when involved with this toy and you can't get him to leave it - he doesn't get cross, just hangs on determindly! I once thought it was sexual but he doesn't show any mounting excitement and was castrated anyway at 14 months owing to an undescended testicle and this behaviour was already apparent. Is it a sort of security thing do you think?
Bingley was born in a very good kennels, but his Mum went back to her owner when he was just under six weeks as there were only three pups who were weaned and thriving. We had him at eight weeks of age and he has been a delight. I have had four Whippets, Bingley being my fourth and I have never experienced this with any of the others, although they have all always brought us a toy on our return from being out.
He does spend quite a bit of time washing his front and back legs and I know this can be an anxiety problem, although I did discover harvest mites on him recently which have been dealt with. He doesn't have any skin problems.
Ruth Pritchard, Blandford, Dorset

This behaviour does sound like a security problem, although I claim no special skills in dog psychology. On the other hand I feel I can offer some useful insight into the excessive washing of his legs. This is not necessarily an anxiety problem as you suggest - I think this relates more to some minor skin discomfort which could in time escalate into a problem skin disorder. As a student of Traditional Medicine who tries to view mental and physical health in the round (i.e.holistically) I suggest you look at his diet. Here I must declare an interest as I am the proprietor of Burns Pet Nutrition. There may be an underlying food intolerance at the root of these as yet minor aberrations. You don't mention his diet but I believe that many mental and physical disorders are diet related.
For this you may need some professional advice but a good starting point is to feed a hypoallergenic type diet as his only food (no treats initially). Also, check and if necessary, empty his anal glands; this is a good way to remove toxic wastes from his system.
Best wishes

Elaine Day, Celticmoon Hounds, Dogs Today Advisor, says...
I think this problem will be a difficult one to solve without seeing the dog and his owner in their home whilst this behaviour is taking place, but I may be able to suggest a couple of reasons for this.
Although Bingley was castrated at 14 months, the behaviour was already apparent. It may therefore be learned sexual behaviour, which simply gives Bingley some pleasure.
However, I think it more likely that Bingley simply enjoys the attention he is getting from his owner when he is acting in this
fashion. All dogs would rather have attention - even negative attention - than be ignored, and Bingley seems to be getting a fair bit of attention with this unwanted behaviour. Apparently the toy is often taken away from the dog to be washed - what is his reaction to the loss of his toy? Could the toy simply be removed from Bingley altogether? Does Bingley get attention from his owner when he displays his dislike to certain people, when he licks his legs, when he plays with his toy? It may be time to totally ignore any unwanted behaviour and spend more time interacting with the dog to keep his mind occupied with other
things. Maybe replace the toy with a Kong, or play a retrieve game with him.
I think it is possible that Bingley has learned to elicit a lot of attention from his owner from his slightly odd behaviour, and the more he does it, the better the attention!
Again, I must reiterate that without seeing the dog, his body language and his owner's response, it is very difficult to say for certain what the problem is and how it can be rectified. It may be a good idea to find a good dog behaviourist to visit Bingley in his home to really see what the problem is.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The lawn ranger

Since we acquired a female puppy in early May our little lawn has become a complete wreck, mostly bare earth with just a few pathetic strands of grass here and there. They say you should teach the puppy to pee and poop in just one area but as our garden is so small, and is nearly all grass - or was! - that would impossible.
I tried the Dog Rocks, which you put in the drinking water, and they made absolutely no difference at all. I tried watering where she had peed but this meant I had to watch her like a hawk and keep rushing out with the watering can in my hand - hopelessly impractical. Next I decided to hose down the whole lawn morning and evening, in the hope of diluting the urine, but that didn't work either and the ground became much too wet.
Last weekend I was visiting a friend who also has a female dog and a tiny garden but to my amazement her lawn was unmarked by any unsightly patches. She told me she puts a teaspoonful of tomato ketchup in her dog's food and this apparently does the trick.
My friend also said she'd heard tomato juice was best of all but because she doesn't like it herself, and didn't want to throw the surplus away, she opted for ketchup.
Does anyone know if using either tomato juice or ketchup is OK for the dog's health? And if using the ketchup, should it be the low salt, low sugar version?
Julia Lewis

Monday, 28 September 2009

Help needed with research

I am a 17-year-old student studying ND animal management ready to go to university to study veterinary sciences and medicine. I am about to start an investigative project. My chosen category is "Will outbreeding pedigree dogs change their current welfare and genetic situation?"
As you may be able to tell, it is basically about changing pedigree breeding standards. This may be a little unorthodox, but I buy your magazine monthly and know how much you are doing to help change the breeding standards within the Kennel Club. I don't get any government support and am finding it extremely hard to gain access to the materials i need.
I have at least seven of your magazines to use in my literature review, and your two pamphlets on the issue, I also have a transcript of the Kennel Club's response to the programme "Pedigree Dogs Exposed." I am getting a book by George A. Padgett called Control of Genetic Diseases.
I was wondering if there was any other books you would be able to advise me to use, and if you would have a copy of the transcript from Pedigree Dogs Exposed as I have to use a transcript, not the video.
I am sorry for writing such an unorthodox email but I hope that you would be the people to help me as I am completely stumped.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and hopefully helping my cause.
Kayleigh Bale (student)

Hi Kayleigh
I've forwarded your email to the programme's creator Jemima Harrison to see if there is a transcript available.
The first place I'd start is the RSPCA scientific review of dog breeding which is very well referenced. Click here to download.
Anyone else got any must read books/reports?
I'd stop by Carol Fowler's great website for a review of all the relevant reports, too. Carol was the brave Cavalier lady featured in the documentary. Her website is called "Campaign to improve the health of pedigree dogs" Click here.
Good luck with your studies.
Best wishes
Beverley Cuddy, Editor

Friday, 25 September 2009

Pondering about danger

My dog is a Springer, but if it was only spring water she jumped in that would be fine. I've heard about the dangers of Algae and I have no idea what it is I'm meant to be looking for.
There's green stuff growing all over the surface of our pond, but it doesn't stop her drinking it and swimming in it.
How do I spot the dangerous stuff? Anything I can do to our pond to make sure we don't get it?
Jon James, High Wycombe

Alison Logan, vet, says...
The specific risk from algae is when there is a rapid proliferation of blue-green algae following warm or hot weather with little or no wind, generally in stagnant water. This is called an algal bloom. The windward parts of lakes and reservoirs are particularly affected with this blue-green scum and slime, which is toxic if swallowed or if groomed off the coat after swimming.
There are different types of algal bloom which have different toxic effects. There are three main toxins: one causes liver failure, the other two act on the nervous system. They can act very rapidly indeed, and all that can be done is to treat the clinical signs and wait for the toxin to leave the body. Sadly, there have been fatalities.
It is therefore wise - but often not possible – to check the water your dog has chosen for swimming before she launches herself into it when the weather has been calm and warm or hot. If you can see a blue-green scum or film on the water then I would put her on the lead and head off in the opposite direction.
The situation with your own pond is more difficult. Much will depend on the size and location, and whether there is circulation of the water, either naturally or with some artificial method. Avoiding stagnation is a key factor. Inspecting the water by eye in hot weather is advisable and it may well be possible to have samples analysed if you suspect the presence of blue-green algae.
In hot weather, a dog’s natural urge is to cool off with a dip. Swimming is a great form of exercise which avoids over-heating in hot weather, as well as being non-weight-bearing. If, on a particular day when weather conditions are warm and still, you suspect your pond may have been affected with a blue-green algal bloom then it would be safer and wiser to take her somewhere else.

Nick Thompson, holistic vet, says...
Cyanobacteria is the posh name for what you’re referring to here. They are called Blue-Green Algae and they are present in most brackish, still water, much less so in rivers. However, in the summer in hot, calm conditions especially, they can ‘bloom’, or ‘swarm’ across a pond, contaminating the water with hepato-toxins (affecting liver) or neuro-toxins, affecting the nervous system. It makes the water look a bit like spinach or watercress soup. You can see some good pictures if you look in Google Images
The toxins produced by the algae can cause very severe disease and even death, with some reports in the U.S. describing dogs being found dead at the edge of algae infested lakes. If your dog collapses or shows any extreme symptoms (collapse, salivation, breathing difficulty) after swimming in any still water during the summer, it’s probably worth mentioning this to the vet who can treat for toxicity as well as checking for heart problems or epilepsy etc.
Instances of these bloom problems are not that common in the UK at the moment, so please do not forbid your dog from swimming in lakes just yet.
The best advice is to be more careful with still water in the summer, especially late summer and to examine any ponds, lakes or non-flowing water, especially the windward shores, before your dog jumps in or even laps. It's a pain, but the alternative is to forbid all still water swimming, which is much worse as swimming is really important and a lot of fun!
Blue green (which can also be brownish greyish) algae over-grow in still, warm water where the balance of nutrients is high, the acidity of the water is abnormal. Normal maintenance of the pond, monitoring nutrient and pH parameters of the water and keeping the pump running well to oxygenate the water should be enough to stop algae blooming in a pond near you.

Night lights needed

I am finding that walking my gorgeous black pup in the evening is proving increasingly tricky. I can't see her if she runs too far ahead and on the bits of our walk where we are near the road, cars struggle to see both of us as nearly everything in my wardrobe is black, too!
What can I use to help us stand out? And is there anything I can use to help us to continue to enjoy a game of fetch at night? I'm aware that darker mornings and evenings could significantly lessen our chances of having a good game.
Please brighten up our lives! What fun things have you found that we can wear/play with?
Georgina Blaire, Halifax

I have the same problem when walking our black Labrador in the early hours of dark mornings. In fact, for me it is a sign of impending winter when the reflective gear has to be worn.
I wear the reflective belt I used to wear when cycling in the dark. It has a waist band with a band running up from the front, over one shoulder to re-join the waist band at the back. Now, you can also buy high visibility tabards to wear over outer clothing, which are even more effective.
I always carry a torch but never have it turned on because I like my eyes to become dark-adapted. If I hear a vehicle approaching, then I do turn it on and point it in the direction of the vehicle to reinforce my presence!
I must confess that I do also look on my torch as some means of self-defence. I go through phases of chickening out of walking in the dark, even though I have my trusty canine friend with me. As for walking in the dark when it is foggy…
There are now all manner of safety items for dogs to wear when it is dark, or in that awkward half light of early morning or dusk. They range from high visibility collar and leads to LED collars.
Pippin sports a reflective, high visibility collar and lead. Her original set was black with white reflective stripes but sadly that went astray so she now has a fluorescent yellow, high visibility set. Attached to the collar is a special tag: it is a shallow cube which has a fluorescent yellow patch on one side and a light source which I switch on before we set off. It is very interesting to watch the light and follow what she is doing, when I am sure she thinks her activities are hidden under cover of darkness!
I think it is very important to consider the safety of yourself and your dog when light conditions are poor. Facing oncoming traffic is generally recommended, because your face will be more apparent when vehicles’ lights illuminate it. I would, however, think about trying to ensure that your dog is walking on the verge side of the road, ie you will have to walk your dog on the ‘wrong’ side of your body, on your right side.
Take care!
Alison Logan, Vet

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

How do you fatten up a skinny Lurcher?

Dear Think Tank
Meet the newest Dogs Today dog. This is Isla, a small, sweet young Lurcher from Scotland originally via Dogs Trust's Newbury kennels. She has settled straight in, loves everyone and has been remarkably good.
Isla arrived with a bag of dry food, which she was not terribly keen on. While Lurchers are known for their slim figures, Isla is very underweight and needs to put on about 1kg ideally.
How should I do this? Isla loves ham and human food, but dry dog food does not seem to interest her at all.
She already has two meals a day, now tarted up with very finely chopped ham, but she's not got a great appetite.
What tips would you pass on for putting some meat on her long elegant bones? She was spayed just before she left Dogs Trust and is about to have her stitches out.
She is painfully thin, even for a Lurcher. I am worried if she were to fall ill she would have no reserves. She has very little stamina and tires very easily.
My partner Kathryn cooked her liver and bacon but also included a worming tablet, which may explain why she didn't tuck in!
Not much is known about her life in Scotland, the staff at Dogs Trust thought there was more chance of her putting weight on in a home than in kennels which is why she's come to us so thin.
What should I try to build her up? Beverley has suggested trying lots of small meals with more carbs than protein. I've just made her some macaroni cheese and she's licked the plate clean and is now soundly asleep on the sofa. Anyone got any Lurcher-specific hints or indeed recipes?
Kevin Brockbank, Dogs Today illustrator

PS Both Kathryn and I fed her three bowls of pasta/potato/ham with thin coating of leftover cheese not realising the other had already done it. She ate the lot but had an upset tum the next morning. Too much, too soon. The vet agrees she needs to put on about a kilo.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Rain check

I have a six-year-old male neutered Whippet. He developed a phobia of fireworks and thunder several years ago. This has escalated so that now he is also frightened of rain. Each time it rains heavily when he is indoors he will pant, shake and pace. This becomes so stressed he hardly eats and often vomits if he does eat. To make matters worse he has a grade 4 heart murmur so I worry at the stress he is placing on his heart.
I have tried Skullcap and Valerian tablets, rescue remedy, DAP diffusers, collars and room sprays. I have tried a supplement called Zylkene, and also seen my vet and been on two courses of Clomicalm on two separate years for three months - October through to December. I think the Colmicalm helps a little, but nothing else seems to help much at all. I try to be matter of fact and never make a big thing of his fear. I have tried sound tapes and taking his mind off things with treats, toys and training, but he is generally too stressed to respond. Giving him a 'den' (cage covered over) seems to help him a little, yet strangely he can hear gunshot and thunder while out walking without any signs of fear and his only problem with rain when outside is being miserable because he is wet and cold.
Does anyone have any other ideas I might try?
Frances Wrigley, by email

Friday, 18 September 2009

Something is bugging our Havanese

My husband and I recently had swine flu. I have recovered, but my husband is still coughing. We sometimes give our leftover chicken or other protein to our Havanese and Golden Retriever after dinner. In the last 24 hours the Havanese has developed a very hoarse raspy cough, but otherwise is acting fine and is not running a temperature. Could she be getting the flu, too?
Diane K, by email

On the basis of my current understanding, the simple answer to your question is ‘no’, assuming your question to be ‘Could my Havanese have caught swine ‘flu from us?’
There are two types of influenza virus, named A and B. Type B affects humans whereas Type A viruses can also affect certain animals, although usually in a species-specific fashion. The virus involved in the current Swine ‘flu pandemic is thought to be the result of a pig influenza virus mixing with a human influenza virus to produce a new strain. Because this is a new strain, there is no immunity to the virus in the human population from having had a bout of ‘flu previously.
To date, there has only been human-to-human transmission of this swine ‘flu or H1N1 virus. It is generally recognized, however, that influenza viruses can readily change, hence all the worry when cases of avian ‘flu were first identified in humans. We have to hope that this virus retains all its current characteristics.
Type A influenza viruses can cause illness in dogs, and cats, but transmission to humans has not been identified. An outbreak of Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) occurred in Florida in 2004 and has affected dogs across several states in the US since then. A vaccine is now available in the US to limit the spread of this highly contagious virus which, fortunately, is rarely fatal. The illness it causes is quite similar to kennel cough here, and it is kennel cough which would head my list of possible explanations for your Havanese being ill.
Kennel cough is a coverall term for an infection characterized by a honking cough. The patient often brings up small pools of white froth. There are various causal agents, so although there are vaccines available against Bordetella bronchiseptica and parainfluenza virus they will be ineffective against other causes. A kennel cough infection is readily transmitted between dogs; an outbreak under kenneling conditions is classic if a dog is taken in who happens to be incubating it, hence the name kennel cough. Likewise, it can be picked up at dog club, dog shows, or meeting other dogs in the park, for example, so it could be said to be behaving like the common cold with a wide range of causative agents.
The patient may run a fever and therefore be under-the-weather, but more often than not he or she is otherwise well apart from this cough which can persist for one or two weeks. As vets, we do not prescribe antibiotics unless we suspect a secondary bacterial infection, and perhaps if the patient is frail or elderly. Cough suppressants and expectorants have a limited place in treatment because the cough is the body’s natural response to the effects of the virus.
Isolation is a priority and mainstay of treatment to limit the spread of the infection to other dogs. If you ring a veterinary practice to book an appointment for your dog to see a vet because of a cough, then it is likely you will be asked to leave your dog in the car. Only yesterday, I examined two dogs out in the car park with suspected kennel cough – great excuse for a breath of fresh air!
If your Havanese does indeed have kennel cough, then a more immediate likelihood is that your Golden Retriever will also develop the infection!
Alison Logan, vet

Can you help sniff out this product?

For the first time in many years I have a puppy, a Beagle. I would like to use the same method for housetraining as I did many years ago but I can't remember the name of the product.
It was a small bottle of a concentrated aroma that encourages dogs to wee on the newspaper or where ever you sprinkle it. Does anyone know what this is called and where I can get it.
Mr Hogarth, near Aberdeen, Scotland

I don't think Potty Rock will have existed when you last had a dog.
The US inventor had two dogs male and female and became angry at that his dogs were destroying his beautiful lawn with urine burn spots, he looked for a product to solve his problem and found nothing that worked so he set about researching and developing the Potty Rock in 2002, now having won a number of inventor awards in the US in 2005/2006 launched the product a year later, with huge success having sold over 100,000 units.

As the manufacturers in the UK of the Potty Rock we have large number of puppy and adult dog owners contact us with many problems with toilet training.
POTTY ROCK is a healey scented thin briquette 7''x 4'' that attracts all dogs and puppies male and females to toilet.
This product allows the dog owner to choose the area in the garden for their dog to do their toilet. Great for gardeners too, as it limits those ugly urine burn stains found dotted all around the lawn, the soiled area being confined to a small area far away from the children's play areas.
By following 'our four-step guide to training your dog to Potty Rock' assists the dog owner to toilet train their dog in a very simple method, the main thing to remember is to praise the dog and have patience and to put the time aside.
Your dog will soon associate the stone smell with toileting after a few visits.
Please visit for more detailed information.
For puppies we have found the Potty Rock a great asset, lay out the newspaper in the kitchen as you do and place the Potty Rock to one corner the puppy will soon use the Centre of the newspaper( have you laid newspaper down on the kitchen floor only to find your puppy poops and pees everywhere but on the newspaper) With the auwfull clean up that follows.
Once you have achieved this take the Potty Rock out to the garden and then follow our four step guide.
I do hope your readers find this a far more helpful aid to toileting
Kindest regards
David George
Sales Director
Greentouch Pet Products Ltd
Tel: 01525 721218

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

In the genes?

My German Shepherd, Monty, suffers from Anul Furunculosis, for which he gets Nizora half an hour before food and Atopica two hours after food - twice per day.
We were told that this disease is genetic in the German Shepherd breed. Is this correct? Is he on the best of treatment and should he be fed a special diet?
Monty is on his second lot of treatment in the last 12 months and we have been told the outlook is not good. Please could someone advise us and give us some hope.
Mr J S Booth, Barnsley, Yorkshire

Richard Allport advises:
Anal furunculosis is thought to be a hereditary autoimmune disease and is a condition seen almost exclusively in German Shepherd Dogs, or GSD crosses. An autoimmune disease is one in which the immune system goes haywire and mistakenly attacks normal healthy body tissue – in this case the area around the anus.
It is not, however, quite as simple as that. The anatomy of a GSD predisposes to the condition – the tail is held down and very close against the anal area, rather than held up as in may breeds, so there is little natural ventilation reaching the anal region. Anal furunculosis often seems to be associated with other conditions such as colitis, pancreatic insufficiency and hypothyroidism. It is evidently a very complex problem.
Treatment can include antibiotics, surgery or cryosurgery to remove diseased tissue, steroids and other immune suppressive drugs such as Atopica (Cyclosporin). Nizoral is often prescribed alongside Atopica, not because it has a therapeutic effect on the furunculosis as such, but because it means a lower dose of Atopica can be given. As Atopica is a very expensive drug, this is useful from an economic point of view. None of this treatment is curative, and drug side-effects from the suppression of the immune system are always likely.
Diet is a controversial topic. There are some dogs that seem to benefit from a wheat free diet. Indeed, some benefit even more from a totally carbohydrate free diet. Naturally, any diet that produces formed but softish stools may help a dog that has this problem, since passing stools can be painful. Adding Psyllium husks to the diet can help achieve this. I find that dietary supplements such as Zinc, Vitamin E and Aloe Vera can be helpful.
So my advice for Monty, or any dog afflicted by anal furunculosis, is to feed a wheat free and low carbohydrate diet, with Psyllium husks, Vitamin E, Zinc and Aloe Vera as beneficial supplements. Also to bathe affected areas several times a day with salt water, and apply Manuka honey which helps promote healing and keep infection at bay. Try and avoid immunosuppressive drugs if at all possible, maybe look at herbal and homeopathic medicines as an adjunct or an alternative. Avoid vaccination or any other drugs or treatments that might further damage the immune system.
I do wish Monty good luck and good health for the future.

Gail Gwesyn-Pryce, Dogs Today Breed Advisor, says…
The cause of anal furunculosis is not known but it appears to be connected to irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune conditions. Drug therapy is usually only a temporary cure and the condition often needs freezing or surgery. The condition can also be seen between the toes but this is much more difficult to treat.
The anal type is rather like fistula in people, in or around the anus which on close examination can be seen as tiny holes and it is when it takes hold underneath that freezing or surgery are recommended. Homeopathic remedies have been found to be very helpful in the early stages. I would strongly advise that you look up Canine Health Concern who can give you lots of help regarding general health problems and a resource link for such things as garlic and colloidal silver, both of which could be beneficial.
The Royal Veterinary College is undergoing a research project to try and identify the genes involved. A leaflet on the subject can be obtained from the German Shepherd Owners Information Centre. Contact Chris on 01223 298216, email or Dorothy on 01277 220933, email
As for diet I would always recommend a good fresh, raw food diet for all GSDs – firmer stools would be important so that no residue is left behind to further compromise the anus and of course chemical diets can have an effect on the immune system. I suspect that Monty has other medical problems, perhaps dermatitis as this often goes hand in hand.
I have no first-hand experience of this condition so it is difficult for me to comment further, however I believe there is also a strain of Leonbergers that carry this condition so it may be worth contacting their breed club to see if they have any suggestions.
Please make sure you inform Monty’s breeder so that he/she is aware of this condition in their line so they can take steps to eliminate it from their breeding programme.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Trigger happy

I am the proud owner of a lovely caring rescued Border Collie cross. I am a carer to my elderly mother and every time I go to give my mum her inhaler, Murphy jumps up and whines pitifully at us. On most occasions he also makes a beeline for one of his toys. Is this normal behaviour?
Elisabeth Hurley, by email

Carol Price, trainer and behaviourist, advises:
Please rest assured that this is perfectly normal collie behaviour. Collies are an exceptionally reactive breed, and the things that can trigger them quickly into an excited state can range from the doorbell, phone or TV to owners coughing or sneezing or filing their nails, or a broom, mop or food blender. In fact - you name it! The trigger has just got to move quickly or make a distinct noise, or preferably both factors together.
Once excited, many collies will then have an urge to do something with their mouths - eg grab a toy or nip something or, if out, snatch at sticks, grass or even earth. This is purely instinctive behaviour, adapted from the classic offensive/defensive nip reflex sheepdogs need to have in order to work livestock, and protect themselves from being challenged by these animals. This instinct gets triggered as soon as the dog enters a more aroused or excited mental state.
Some collies will be highly reactive on this front, with a wide range of triggers that set them off. Others may have far more limited triggers they react to, or may barely possess this instinct at all. If you are not careful, however, what begins as an instinctive response to a specific trigger can then turn into a longer-term attention-seeking device, once the dog realises how much notice you take of its excitable behaviour.
For this reason it is important to nip such behaviour in the bud, and correct it, by calmly making your dog lie down, and stay still, the instant it starts. If you do not do this then one excitable reaction tends to lead to another and the dog can quickly wind itself up into a totally manic state in this way, drunk on adrenalin.
You do not say how much exercise you give your dog, but the kind of behaviour you describe in him is always more common in dogs who have not been given sufficient daily physical exercise and mental stimulation.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Remember remember... how awful fireworks were last year!

Dear Think Tank
Firework night is fast approaching and I'm dreading it. My older dog is very noise phobic. He paces, drools, shakes, tries to hide or escape. It's heartbreaking. But this year I also have a new puppy, a Border Collie, and I really don't want her developing the same fears. Any suggestions as to what to do to get the Border Collie prepared. And is there anything I can do to help my Lurcher?
Jane Roberts, by Email

This is common problem and it is estimated that up to 1.6 million dogs suffer from noise phobias in the UK but during the fireworks season their noise phobias become more obvious. There are several steps that I would recommend; firstly don’t panic or cuddle or fuss your dog as this can make the problem worse as it only reassures the dog that there IS something wrong, so stay calm and try not to change your usual behaviour. Generally a dog will be comforted by being able to retreat to a safe place, so it can be a good idea to prepare somewhere suitable in advance. I would highly recommend using a herbal medicine called Scullcap and Valerian tablets as these are entirely safe and are very effective to calm dogs without sedating them. They should be given throughout the firework season, starting at least a week in advance, and increased to a high dose on the nights you know will be worse such as November 5th. Along with the herbal medicine you may also want to try a desensitization CD. You will need to start this well in advance but it can get your dogs desensitized to loud noises and fireworks and can be effective when used in combination with Scullcap and Valerian tablets. These measures will enable your dog to still be aware of the bangs and loud noises but not become concerned about them, and so enable them to cope much better.
I think the key here is try to desensitize your dogs and use a herbal medicine to help them stay calm, but it is most important for you not to give out the wrong signals to your dog that may increase its fear.
Roly Boughton, Dorwest Herbs

I have seen firework phobia from both sides of the table, so to speak. As a vet, I see a surge in requests for medication from mid-October, not helped by firework displays taking place on the weekends immediately before and after 5th November, as well as on Guy Fawkes night itself (let alone on random nights around this time). Also, eight years ago my parents-in-law adopted a JRT from rescue at the age of three years who came with a firework phobia, which has incidentally escalated into a phobia for all manner of sounds including thunder, rain drumming on the conservatory roof, strong winds, gun fire on the nearby army range etc etc.
I would agree with all that Roly Boughton has said. There are other strategies available as well, such as the use of Dog Appeasing Pheromone (or DAP) as diffuserand/or collar, so I hope there will be a combination which will help. No two dogs are alike with regard to a firework phobia so there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. As with so many behavioural problems, it is not clear cut. I am glad you are aware of the risk of your puppy picking up on your dog’s phobia. It does need careful management.
Many years ago, the infamous yellow tablet of ACP was the mainstay of treatment but, being a sedative, it is rarely suggested now because it prevents the dog from being able to hide up or show other behavioural responses. Thankfully, there are now better prescription drugs available from veterinary surgeons to help.
I am always a little saddened when approached for advice on firework phobia just a few weeks before Guy Fawkes night. Management of a phobia needs time. Also, fireworks are used at so many other different times of the year: New Year, Chinese New Year, celebrations such as weddings and major birthdays, ‘Last night of the Proms’ concerts, military tattoos – the list goes on. There is always a fireworks display at our local sailing regatta in August.
In addition, as I mentioned with the JRT belonging to my parents-in-law, a fireworks phobia can become a more generalised noise phobia.
Alsion Logan, Vet

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Foxy is looking a bit poxy

Dear Think Tank
I just love wild animals and I think my initial attraction to Shelties was probably due to the fact that I think they look a lot like little like foxes! When I moved to this house I was delighted to discover that a fox already regularly visited our garden and I started leaving out scraps for her as I suspect the previous resident did before. I have greatly enjoyed watching this beautiful fox from my window. Unfortunately, lately she's been looking a bit scrawny and poorly. I'm no vet, but it looks like mange to me - her coat is starting to look very grotty.
Whatcan do to help this poor, usually beautiful creature get better? And is there any chance that my Sheltie could now catch mange, too? Am I putting my dog at risk by putting food out for the fox? What should I be feeding the fox? I've been leaving out meaty bones and left over cooked meat. Are these okay?
Lucy Trent, Leatherhead, Surrey

Fox or sarcoptic mange would certainly be very high up on my list of possible explanations for this fox’s ‘mangy’ appearance. If that is the case, then your dog could well pick up the mite and develop signs of sarcoptic mange. It is well known that fox populations have increased in recent years in both rural and town environments. I would therefore suspect that having one fox visiting your garden probably means more in your immediate neighbourhood, so your dog could be at risk of contracting mange whenever you go out for walks anyhow.
It is not a very pleasant skin condition, both through causing the affected dog or fox to be very itchy as well as cosmetically with the fur loss and other effects on the coat and skin. It particularly affects the ears, elbows and hocks, armpits and tummy, because the mite likes skin with less of a fur covering. Classically, rubbing an ear between finger and thumb will cause an almost reflex movement with a hindlimb, as if to scratch at the ear.
It used to be very hard to treat sarcoptic mange because there was not a product specifically licensed for use in the dog. In fact, the treatment used (a cattle wormer) was not recommended in the border collie and Shetland sheepdog because adverse reactions had been reported.
Fortunately, the situation has changed in recent years so it might be worth considering treating your dog pre-emptively. In fact, you might even find that your current flea control strategy is already affording protection to your dog against sarcoptic mange. I would contact your vet for more specific advice, since it is likely you will be needing a prescription (POM-V) product.
Alison Logan, vet

This certainly sounds like mange. There are two courses to treat mange. The first is a drug that we use here at Wildlife Aid that is highly effective and takes just three weeks of actual medication, and then after a further rehabilitation period we release the fox back into the wild. This, however, MUST be done here, and cannot be administered in your garden as it is a very specific course of treatment. On the whole we prefer not to have to take a fox in unless absolutely vital as we are very strict about the need to avoid unnecessary human contact. As an alternative to the conventional drug, there is a homeopathic treatment which can be put in the fox's food, and it is reported to be very successful. Please get in touch with Wildlife Aid (09061 800132) for more information.
We have been dealing with foxes for over 30 years and have had numerous cases of mange that we have treated here at Wildlife Aid. I have always had dogs here and at no time has any of them caught mange. As far as feeding foxes is concerned, we always advise strongly against it as this lessens their instinct to hunt and means they get used to one easy food source, it also means that if you move away or go on holiday their food supply will abruptly cease, and besides which plenty of people don't like foxes and it is not uncommon for people to put down poison or to seek to do them harm in other ways.

Simon Cowell MBE, Wildlife Aid
To order the fox mange treatment from Wildlife Aid click here

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Healing hands

Please could you advise where I would look to start investigating the possibility of training to become a canine therapist - ideally massage etc? I am a qualified Holistic Therapist with Massage, Aromatherapy and Hopi Ear Candling for humans, however I would like to pursue my career with dogs, cats and other animals. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
Janine Osnowska, by email

Natalie Lenton, The Canine Massage Therapy Centre, says…
Firstly you may like to decide which particular area of therapy you are interested in.
To train in Canine Massage you are looking at around an 18-month study along with practical case studies and assessments; check out for more information on Canine Massage training. You will also be studying Canine Anatomy and Physiology alongside massage to gain a greater understanding of the body and common pathologies like Luxating Patella, Arthritis and Hip Dysplasia to help with your work and ensure that no harm is done. Masseuses work solely on soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligaments and fascia) to help areas of pain, overcompensation and soft tissue problems that may be causing reoccurring lameness, pain etc.. Go to to find out more on what a trained canine masseuse can help. You may like to attend a one day workshop (home use only) run by Canine Massage Therapy Centre to see if it is what you are expecting before embarking on a full course.
Other therapies like acupuncture are strictly performed by veterinarians ( and is not a transferable qualification even if you are a human acupuncturist, to ensure that infection can be controlled and in case a needle breaks. You may however like to find out more about Acupressure, although I am aware that Tall Grass will not be coming over to the UK until 2011 to do more training, I have been told what a fantastic, and thorough, course they run, see for further information.
Again, aromatherapy may only be performed by a vet too due to the effect of the oils on the dog’s physiology.
Tellington TTouch involves body work and ground work exercises to help with rehabilitation of physical and emotional issues. It helps promote feelings of wellbeing and is often used when dealing with behavioural issues. See for more information on their different grades of practitioner.
Canine Bowen is a nice gentle therapy but specifies that you must firstly be a human practitioner before you go onto work with animals (
Hydrotherapy is a great treatment for rehabilitation but often depends on you setting up your own centre which can be costly. See for more information on training to become a hydrotherapist.
Mctimoney Animal Manipulation (they aren’t under law allowed to call themselves chiropractors even though this is what we know them as). They state, ‘Under current legislation, the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) regulates the chiropractic treatment of humans. Only practitioners that are registered with the GCC can legally call themselves chiropractors and treat members of the public. Animal practitioners are not able to join the GCC as it is only concerned with human treatment. The use of the word McTimoney to describe the animal treatment DOES NOT imply that our Animal practitioners are chiropractors.’ This course takes around three years and involves adjustments that are fast to beat the body’s muscle reflexes to return the bone to its correct position and function, no force or stress is necessary as the small movements make use of the body’s innate ability to realign itself by simply reminding the bone where it should be naturally in order to achieve its full natural working capacity.
Reiki, or energy field healing, may also be something you are interested in and can typically take around six months to train. You will of course still need veterinary consent as discussed below.
If you are considering working with animals you should also be aware of the UK Veterinary Act 1966 which states that no one other than a vet can treat animals.
The Veterinary Surgery (Exemptions) Order 1962 was bought in to amend the veterinary act to legitimatise therapies performed by professionals on animals. This means that you must gain veterinary consent from your clients’ vet before treating the animal to ensure that there are no contraindications to treatment. This also of course depends on gaining the right training and also having insurance too before setting up in practice, it is quite normal for vets to check on your qualifications so they can ensure that their clients are being treated by a professional. Go to for more info.
If you aren’t too sure which therapy you would be happy with doing you could always look at a general course like the one run by the Animal Care College,, which although it doesn’t qualify you to practice could be a good starting point for continuing professional education.
Best of luck on your path towards a new career, I can promise you it is worth it when you get there!

Susan Davies, from HandsOnHounds, says...
Well done for choosing canine massage therapy as a career. It is most certainly a rewarding and satisfying way to be involved in the wellbeing and general health of our canine friends. I have been a fully qualified canine massage therapist for around seven years now and still find that I am learning constantly. Do beware when researching training establishments that
you avoid the 'fast track' courses that claim you can qualify in weeks or days. These are positively dangerous and only serve to devalue the therapists out there who have trained properly and have taken the time to qualify with a credible training centre. There is only one course therefore that I fully recommend and that is the course run by Julie Boxall of ICAT - Institute of Complementary Animal Therapies. It is divided into three levels and will equip you with the necessary skills and knowledge you will require to treat animals with confidence and know-how. Each level involves two or three days of theory and practical sessions from which you practice 'at home' building case studies and building a case file for assessment. There are exams and practical assessments at the end of each level. It may take you 18 months to complete but it will ensure you are properly qualified. The details of ICAT are as follows:
The Institute of Complementary Animal Therapies
P.O. Box 299
01626 852485 or 07977 359347
Good luck and I hope you go on to train for a wonderfully satisfying career.