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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