Common Pet Toxins

There are many things in your home that are safe for you, but extremely toxic for your pets. In today’s blog we’re tackling some of the most commonly reported toxicities in dogs and cats that pet owners should be aware of.

Food: 

  • Chocolate:  Contains the compound theobromine, which can cause GI upset, restlessness/agitation, high heart rate, muscle tremors, and seizures. 
  • Grapes & Raisins: We are still uncertain of the exact toxic compound and therefore toxic dose in cases of pet consumption. What we do know is grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure and possibly death for dogs if not addressed in a timely manner.
  • Onions & Garlic: Foods in the allium family contain the compound thiosulfate, which is known to cause hemolytic anemia in dogs. This is where the body attacks its own red blood cells causing anemia that often requires a blood transfusion.

Household products: 

  • Household human medications, such as: Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Naproxen, Acetaminophen/Paracetamol, Vitamin D, ADHD medication, Antidepressants 
  • Household pet medications, swallowed in large quantities: Pain medications/NSAIDS such as Galliprant or Carprofen, Incontinence medications such as PPA/phenylpropanolamine, Parasite preventatives such as Nexgard, Credelio, or Bravecto 
  • Cleaning products: Household cleaners such as those containing bleach can be extremely toxic if consumed. This is because many contain caustic substances which can eat away at the mucosal tissue along the gut resulting in tissue death and bleeding. 
  • Anti-freeze: Many brands of car antifreeze solution contain the compound ethylene glycol, an alcohol type compound that can cause kidney failure and death.
  • Essential oils: Particularly tea tree, lavender, mint, and eucalyptus have been shown to cause a variety of issues in cats. This can occur via direct contact to skin, ingesting the oils, or inhaling them.

Plants:

  • House plants, such as: Sago palm: contains the compound cycasin which can cause liver failure in dogs, Plants containing insoluble calcium oxalates (philodendron, calla lily, elephants ear, Chinese evergreen) can cause significant irritation and damage to a dog’s GI mucosa
  • Lilies (Lilium and Hemerocallis species): Lilies from the above classes have the potential to cause fatal kidney failure in cats, it’s the pollen to be careful of as this can get anywhere. However, Not all lilies are toxic! As mentioned, lilies from the Lilium and Hemerocallis families are known to be the problem.

Signs your pet has ingested a toxin 

Dogs: 

Gastrointestinal symptoms: Vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, hypersalivation, difficulty breathing

Kidney failure: Change of urination frequency – increased or decreased, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, drinking excessive amounts of water

Liver failure: Vomiting, diarrhea, yellow gums, collapsing 

Internal bleeding: Coughing up blood, vomiting blood, collapsing, heart racing, pale gums

Cats:

Gastrointestinal symptoms: Vomiting, hypersalivation, lethargy or weakness, difficulty breathing

Other symptoms of cat poisoning include: Coughing, skin inflammation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, collapsing,  loss of appetite, drinking excessive amounts of water, heart racing, change of urination frequency – increased or decreased

What to do if your pet has ingested a toxin 

If you think your pet has been poisoned, you should contact your vet immediately. If you can, try to figure out what toxin your pet has been exposed to and how much, this will help your vet treat your pet correctly and efficiently. 

Our cats and dogs are part of the family so we want to keep them as safe as possible. When it comes to household toxins it can be concerning, but as long as you keep them out of reach or locked away you shouldn’t have to worry. 

Looking after your pets during NYE fireworks

New Year’s Eve calls for a celebration with loved ones to ring in the new year, and for many of us this includes fireworks. Beyond the beauty of fireworks for us, the loud bangs and flashes of lights can be frightening for our pets. Here are some tips from us on how to minimise your pet’s stress on the night: 

Calming sounds and videos 

  • Spotify and Apple Music – If you search for “firework calming” you’ll be met with a  great selection of desensitising playlists for animals.  
  • YouTube – This is another great tool to use during fireworks , if you search for “calming music for animals fireworks”, a variety of videos will come up, including some that are up to 20 hours long so you don’t have to worry about the video stopping at the wrong time. 
  • White noise machine – these devices offer many different settings to choose and lets you select a suitable volume. 
  • Putting on the TV during fireworks – This can also be helpful in masking the loud bangs. 

Providing a safe place 

A lot of animals will want to burrow and hide away when they feel frightened so as owners, we should make a place where they feel safe to do this. 

  • Finding a spot – Pick a room that you know your pet will feel comfortable in, perhaps a bedroom or spare room and set their bed up in here. 
  • Utilising their bed – Fill their bed with a blanket and even some cushions to make it as cosy as possible. You could also use a blanket to make a fort around your pet’s bed, this can help them feel even safer. 
  • Closing the curtains – This will help block out the flashes of light from fireworks 
  • Leave them be – Though it might be tempting to lure your pets out of their safe place once you know the fireworks have stopped, but you should let them come out when they’re ready 

Outside time 

Pets need their outside time for exercise and going to the toilet, so if you’re unsure whether to let them out at all during New Years Eve, you definitely should.

  • Going out earlier in the day. If your cat goes out exploring at night time or you normally take your dog for a walk later in the day, we recommend you try to schedule these times earlier to avoid fireworks going off while your pets are outside.  
  • Providing a litter tray. If your cat usually uses the toilet outside, we recommend introducing a litter tray for nights like New Years Eve so they have somewhere to go to the toilet if they’re too scared to venture out. 
  • Making sure your pets are microchipped and has a tag on their collar, with your contact information on it. If your pet does get out during the fireworks and runs off in a panic, it’s important you have taken these measures so they can be returned to you if they get lost. 

It’s important for you to remain calm if your pet is stressed, shouting at your pet if they’re acting out because of the fireworks will not help the situation, and can frighten your pet further. Follow these tips and be a good support system for your pet, and you won’t have to worry too much come New Years Eve. 

Making sure your Christmas is pet-safe

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

The best things about Christmas are often decorating the house, eating good food and hosting loved ones. 

However, there are certain dangers to our pets that come with the festive period. Read on for tips for how to keep your pets safe this Christmas. 

Christmas decorations that could be harmful 

Christmas Trees

For cats especially, Christmas trees look like the perfect climbing frame but unfortunately they can be hazardous. Getting a real tree can make your home look and smell so festive, however the needles can get stuck in your pew paw’s and if swallowed, stuck in their throat. On the other hand, artificial trees can be just as dangerous with the plastic needles and small pieces that can break off. 

However, this isn’t a sign to not put up a Christmas tree this year, more of a warning to try to keep your pets away from the tree, or keep an eye on them when they do go near it. Try to place your tree out of reach from pets and regularly brush up around the tree to collect the bits that may have fallen off. 

Baubles, ornaments and lights 

Baubles and ornaments you hang on your tree or place around your house, could look like toys and a game to play for your pet. If your pet knocks these decorations off your tree or another surface and they break, the shards could get into their paws and cause injury, and if your pet ingests them they could choke, or worse. 

We suggest keeping hanging baubles on your tree out of reach and making sure they’re attached tightly to the branches. Ornaments on other surfaces could be ‘glued’ into place using blu tack or double sided tape. 

Lights around the house and the Christmas tree can be tempting to chew for your pet, loose wires could also look like something else to play with, which is definitely not safe. 

Try to switch lights off properly when not in use and keep out of reach where possible. 

Christmas food to keep away from your pets 

When handing round sweet treats such as mince pies and Quality Streets, or serving Christmas dinner to family and friends, you should keep in mind what may be poisonous or harmful to your pets:

  • Chocolate 
  • Puddings 
  • Mince pies 
  • Onions
  • Alcohol 
  • Nuts 
  • Bones from animal carasses 

We don’t want to make our pets ill, especially around Christmas, so remember to not leave food out within your pet’s reach. If you want to safely treat your pet around the holidays buy treats specifically for animals. 

If your pets are anxious around lots of people 

Some pets feel anxious around lots of people or people they’re not familiar with. We don’t want to stop you from inviting people into your home around the holidays, so there are few things you can do to make your pet feel more comfortable. 

  • Make sure they have a safe place they can go to away from your guests. Perhaps putting their bed and some blankets into a bedroom or a spare-room.
  • Let your pet come to you, don’t force your pet to meet new people, especially all at once. If they want to come and say ‘hello’ let them do this in their own time. 

Stick to your pet’s routine 

Although Christmas parties and Christmas Day are usually out of routine for us, it shouldn’t be for your pets, this can lead to stressing out your fur-babies. Try to feed them at the same time as usual and any outside time, including going for a walk, or toilet time is also kept the same. 

Christmas is a time for giving back, and we think the best way to do this with your pets is to ensure they’re safe and healthy. That’s why VetBox provides an affordable and trustworthy monthly subscription to keep your pets safe during Christmas and beyond. 

Kittens: Socialisation & Behaviour

A new kitten is one of the cutest and most unpredictable additions to a household. It’s an exciting time for families to be bringing in a furry member, but it can be overwhelming too! We wish we had an hour to sit down with every family that comes in to go over some truly important kitten topics, but unfortunately that reality is not often possible. Because of this, having resources for owners to read/keep has become a must. We’ve included top tips and considerations for socialisation/behavior here for new kitten owners.

  • Having a well adjusted kitten takes time and training.
    • Kittens are cute and small, but it’s important to remember that kittens don’t magically grow up to be well behaved and easy going. There are many new experiences that kittens will go through that shape the type of cat they eventually become. While it is easy to assume all kittens are mellow and welcoming, some kittens are timid and fearful. Behavioral problems are one of the number one reasons why cats are relinquished to shelters or requested to be put to sleep. Taking initiative early on can make all the difference.  If you have a kitten at home, you have an opportunity to help them jump through the hoops towards becoming a well adjusted cat.
  • Kittens experience their primary “learning” and “socialisation” period up to about 12-16 weeks of age, sometimes even younger. 
    • This means that the optimal window for teaching them how to acclimatize to new situations is before they hit this age. This often surprises owners, but I like to turn this into a plus. This gives us the chance to help kittens become great cats.
  • Vaccinations vs. Socialization: When is my kitten considered protected?
    • The answer is, it depends. This question arises because we know the primary socialisation period is prior to 12-16 weeks of age, but kittens have not completed their initial vaccine series to receive disease protection until that age or later. Our answer is to pick safe socialization opportunities, as we should ideally not wait to introduce new experiences. 
    • Allowing your kitten to have supervised time with other cats or dogs indoors that are vaccinated, on parasite prevention, and are good with other cats is a great chance for socialisation. Make sure to watch your kittens’ response to other pets and stop the interaction if they are becoming overwhelmed/scared. We want to foster positive associations with new friends.
    • We recommend holding off on letting your kitten outdoors until their initial vaccination series is completed, to ensure they are protected. Additionally I encourage owners to wait to slowly introduce their cat to being outdoors until they are larger (i.e. closer to 10 -12 months of age) so that they are grown and able to protect themselves/retreat should a threat arise.
  • Short and sweet is key.
    • Keeping new experiences short and positive allows for kittens to avoid becoming overwhelmed or stressed. 10-15 minutes can often be enough at one time, though repetition over time is also important. Positive reinforcement for positive behaviors/responses are much easier for kittens to remember and associate with future behaviors. For example, a positive experience with treats and praise is much more likely to lead to repeating that behavior in the future. 
  • Remember that kittens will often be nervous in new situations.
    • We need to keep in mind that everything is new to kittens and these things may be scary. Trying to avoid triggers can be helpful to creating a positive experience. For example, ensuring your kitten has a safe place to hide if they are nervous can be beneficial, like a carrier or a room that is gated off from other animals/people. Don’t forget treats and toys! Sounds can also be scary, so exposure to things like cars, vacuums, lawn mowers, washing machines, hair dryers, etc. are useful.
  • Vary the exposure.
    • The more types of situations and handling your kitten gets exposed to, the easier it will be for them to associate a positivity with new situations. 
    • We recommended touching your kittens head, feet, mouths, tummies, etc. to get them used to and not startled by human contact. This makes it less likely for them to react later on, and easier for both owners/vets to handle the cat as an adult. Prime example here – trimming their nails 🙂 
    • This also comes into play with children. Children are often unpredictable in terms of sounds, smells, and behaviors which can be challenging for kittens to comprehend. Getting kittens used to children is a good way to curb a common cat fear later on in life. It is also essential to teach your children appropriate behavior around kittens/cats! Cats and children should never be left unsupervised. 
    • Similarly, kittens should not be left unsupervised with other cats/dogs. Starting by letting them see/smell each other without contact is ideal (through a baby gate or a screened door), then slowly working towards time together. Dogs should be kept on a lead until kittens are more used to them and dogs can respect their boundaries. These scenarios should always be supervised until both pets are comfortable. This may take weeks in some scenarios, but the diligence and patience is well worth the results. 
  • Don’t forget to make the vet less scary too!
    • There are several things we can do to make the vet less scary, including getting cats used to their carriers and the car early in their lives. We encourage pet owners to leave their cats carrier out for 5-7 days prior to any trips in it, so that it is not associated with fear. Your cat can get used to the carrier with plenty of time before having to go in it. Keeping treats, toys, and blankets in the carrier also helps make it more welcoming and less scary. Pheromone sprays for stress such as Feliway can also be used to decrease your kitty’s anxiety. I often spray the carrier inside, as well as spray a towel that I put over the carrier while the cat is being transported. Taking your cat in it’s carrier in the car on short trips without going to the vet first can be helpful, so the car is also not automatically associated with the vet. Trips to the vet solely for treats and a pet (no medical care) is also another way to associate positivity with the vet!
  • Consider training non-negotiables to help make a ROUTINE.
    • The best training protocols rely on creating one that works for you and your kitten then sticking to it. Consistency helps reinforce concepts you are trying to teach, and also helps them retain these faster. This may include feeding times and styles, what surfaces your cat is “allowed” to be on, encouragement in using a scratching post (rather than your couch), nail trimming, etc. This takes some of the uncertainty out of learning for kittens and can relieve stress in new situations. 

KEY POINTS: 

Positive rewards for positive behavior/interactions, routine, and consistency win the game here. Exposing your pet to a variety of safe new environments, people, and animals while they are growing is essential to helping them grow into a well adjusted adult cat. 

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

Fleas 101

Health risks crash course

“I’ve never seen a flea, so my pet doesn’t have fleas.” As vets we’ve heard this many times and wish it was true. Unfortunately, just because you can’t see fleas, doesn’t mean your pet is flea-free. 

Not only do fleas cause a huge amount of discomfort for your pets…there are other health-factors to take into consideration. That’s why consistent flea prevention is so important. This blog will cover all the main health risks that fleas pose for your pets, and also to you and your family. 

First let’s cover the big one and the major reason why many owners end up at the vets. Live fleas are ITCHY! Flea bites are uncomfortable and cause itchiness in our furry family members and potentially, the rest of the family. Fleas aren’t picky about where their meal comes from (blood) and will bite any warm body near them, meaning you and your family are fair game for these parasites. Animals will obsessively lick, bite, chew and can even become extremely stressed when infested with fleas. Not to mention they’ll be keeping you up at night doing so. 

Now that we’ve covered the most common reason owners reach for flea prevention, it’s even more important we cover the health issues that can create an even bigger problem.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

A step above your average itchy flea bite is referred to as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Some pets have an immune hypersensitivity or allergy to flea saliva, and when bitten a more severe local reaction will occur. Affected animals will lick and chew themselves in response to a bite to the point of hair loss, severe redness and even secondary bacterial or yeast infections. These pets absolutely should be treated regularly for fleas to decrease the chances of experiencing these types of outbreaks, as they are often painful. Pets that suffer from FAD often need to seek veterinary care for topical and/or oral medications like antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, sprays, and shampoos to help treat the skin. 

Environmental flea infestation


Just because you can’t see fleas doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Live adult fleas are small and quick! Adults can be seen with the naked eye, are dark brown in colour and only a few millimetres in length. They like to jump around but also burrow deep within the fur to plan their next “blood meal” (bite). Eggs however, can’t be seen so easily and are produced in large quantities which can remain on your pet, or are shed into the environment. These eggs mature into larvae which are both persistent and resistant. They love to hide in carpet, bedding, furniture, etc. Adults will emerge weeks down the road and begin the life cycle again. As vets we often find live fleas or flea poo on many pets when owners insist their pet doesn’t have fleas. Fleas prefer moderate weather, however it takes several days of sub-freezing temperatures for the flea life cycle to be interrupted. This means that in a moderate climate like the UK, year round prevention is necessary. It’s also common for vets to recommend prevention year round regardless of weather because of other parasites that are also prevented by flea treatments, such as ticks. 

Due to their short life cycle, affinity for moderate temperatures and ability to persist in the environment – regular flea prevention is all the more important. 

Flea borne diseases

If you aren’t disgusted enough already, unfortunately there’s more. Fleas can carry other diseases that can cause your pet (or you) to become ill. Historically, fleas have been the culprit to harbouring and spreading the bacterias guilty of causing plague and typhus in humans. Additionally, fleas are also the transmitter of the bacteria Bartonella, better known as cat scratch fever. Bartonella may cause infected cats to become unwell and can be spread to humans by a cat scratch. Mycoplasma haemophilus is another bacteria spread through fleas, and is a major concern for cats that spend time outdoors. This nasty bacteria can cause cats’ red blood cells to be recognised as foreign and destroyed, leading to potentially life threatening anaemia. Fleas also commonly carry the egg of the tapeworm Dipylidium, which if swallowed by your pet or humans will lead to development of the tapeworm along the intestinal tract.

Conclusions

When it comes down to it, not only are fleas annoying, they also pose a health risk to you and your pets. For this reason, vets encourage pet owners to be proactive in preventing fleas year round. There are many products on the market which can be overwhelming for owners. Which is right for your pet? Why are there so many? Why do I need a prescription when I can buy some over the counter? In general, preventative treatments containing medication are going to be the most effective. Unfortunately “all natural products” will not achieve the results we desire in most cases. 

VetBox subscriptions are tailored to your pet by our team of qualified vets and the treatments are sent automatically in the post each month. Fill out our quick online sign-up form to find the best treatment for your dog or cat. For pets with specific requirements, our vets can tailor their subscription even further so please get in touch to discuss. 

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM – MRCVS

The Common GI Parasite Pet Owners Should Know About

Giardia

Does your dog like puddles? Streams? Dog parks? Then your dog has the potential to be exposed to the intestinal parasite Giardia. This sneaky parasite is common, but isn’t covered by regular “wormers”. Here’s a few bits about Giardia that dog owners should be aware of!

What is Giardia?

Giardia is a protozoal parasite that’s target location is the gastrointestinal tract in animals. While it can cause diarrhea like other intestinal parasites, it is a different class of parasite than roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. This means it has a different type of life cycle and is not treated by most regular wormers. 

How do dogs get Giardia?

Giardia is contracted via faecal-oral routes. This means infected faecal material from one animal makes its way into the mouth and then intestinal tract of another animal. In addition to dogs eating another dog’s poo and becoming directly infected, Giardia can also be contracted by drinking contaminated water sources like puddles/streams or even your dog stepping in contaminated soil and licking their feet clean!

Can people get Giardia?

Yes! People can also become infected with Giardia. Most Giardia is what we call species specific, meaning certain strains of the parasite tend to stick to infecting certain species (dogs, cats, humans, etc). Because of this, direct infection from dogs to people can occur but is extremely uncommon. More often, humans and dogs become infected at the same time when both drinking from the same contaminated water source (i.e. drinking from a stream while hiking). 

How do I know if my dog has Giardia?

Your vet can test a fresh faecal sample from your dog to see if it is positive for Giardia parasites!

What clinical signs does Giardia cause?

Giardia causes GI signs, particularly watery diarrhoea. This diarrhoea is often discoloured and has a very foul odour. Dogs with Giardia may also experience changes in appetite or vomiting. Some dogs can also carry Giardia without showing any clinical signs!

How is Giardia treated?

Unlike many other common intestinal parasites, Giardia is not targeted by our typical preventative worming medications. Because Giardia is in a completely different class of parasite, it requires a different type of drug to eliminate it. Products containing the drug fenbendazole are typically used, and may require more than one round of treatment to clear the parasite. These can be prescribed by your vet in the instance of a positive faecal test. 

Diarrhea should never be ignored in our pets, because there are so many underlying causes including parasites! Recurrent changes in your pets stool consistency should always be addressed with your vet. If you are worried about the potential for your dog to have Giardia, contact your vet for an appointment!

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

Kittens: Diet Recommendations

Introducing a new furry kitten to the household should be an incredibly exciting time but it can be overwhelming too! There are some basics about what they eat that not everyone knows….So we’ve included top tips and considerations:

There are so many different food options available in pet stores and online. So before you buy, let’s bust a few myths: 

  • Expensive does not equal better: A lot of pricy “boutique” or “organic” pet foods are unfortunately not balanced or tested according to veterinary standards, and may actually pose a risk to your pets health down the road. These can be 2-3 times more costly than standard diets from reputable companies, and in some cases more than even prescription diets.
  • Vets recommend certain brands because they get rewards from the company: FALSE! Vets recommend a particular set of brands because there really are only a handful that have tested their diets according to veterinary standards and employ full time board certified veterinary nutritionists (among other specialists). More on this later…
  • Home cooking is better to avoid preservatives: While home cooking can be done safely if this is your goal, they are tricky. It is essential home cooked diets be done under the direction of a nutrition specialised vet to avoid dietary imbalances. Imbalanced home cooked diets can be very detrimental to cats of all ages, especially growing kittens. Commercially prepared diets are adequately balanced to provide the right nutrients, and any additives have been carefully selected to ensure no ill effects to your pet.

What should I feed my kitten?

First and foremost, a food labelled specifically for kittens or all life stages is essential. These are formulated to meet the unique needs of growing kittens. Kittens need higher levels of protein and fat to keep up with growth. Nutrients such as calcium are also required in different quantities than adult cats for bone maturation. Feeding kittens an adult or senior formulation runs the risk of interfering with healthy growth. 

Three brands we reach for consistently are Purina, Hills Science Diet, and Royal Canin. These companies consistently prove reliable and have become major players in the veterinary field. All three companies provide both over the counter as well as prescription diets that have been heavily studied and proven to provide the right nutrients in the right quantities (if you are feeding the correct amount of the correct life stage). Iams, Eukanuba, and Blue Buffalo also have a few diets that have been appropriately tested and researched as well, but it is important to read the labels on any diet to ensure this is the case. For more information on understanding pet food labels and regulations, check out www.pmfa.org.uk (Pet Food Manufacturers Association). 

Dry vs. canned…is one better than the other?

Dry and canned are both perfectly fine options for kittens as long as you ensure you are feeding the right amount of total calories recommended daily and using a kitten formulation. Some kittens will prefer one over the other, and may tell you quite quickly if that is the case. Both are safe and healthy. Using dry vs. canned vs. a combination of the two are all appropriate.  Kittens are typically ready for dry food by around 6-8 weeks of age and have been weaned completely from their mother. Many veterinarians encourage trying to incorporate at least some quantity of canned food into a kitten’s diet. This is to provide extra moisture as cats are very inefficient drinkers, to help promote kidney and bladder health, manage weight, and also to help with feeding medications down the road if needed.

How much should I feed my kitten? 

Typically, it’s best to look at the food label for directions on the quantity to feed. These tend to overestimate a little bit for adult cats, but for fast growing kittens I think that the feeding guide charts on the sides of the bag or can are a good place to start. 

Feeding multiple smaller meals per day is easier for cats to digest, as their stomachs are extremely small even into adult food. This may mean 3-4 meals per day for kittens and young cats. I also recommend meal feeding (setting out a specified amount at specified times) typically over “free feeding” (having larger quantities of food out all the time). This allows owners to keep a better idea of if their kitten/cat is eating a normal quantity, pick up on problems sooner, and also helps keep cats at a healthier weight. Unfortunately most cats are not great at regulating their own calorie intake, though there are a few out there!

TIP: For more information on deciding if your kitten is too thin or overweight, check out our blog on weight management!

When should I feed my kitten?

Having a fairly stable schedule in terms of feeding times/location is going to make things easiest. Starting with a morning meal, 1-2 mid day meals, and an evening meal is often the easiest schedule to stick with. 

TIP: I recommend avoiding play time immediately before or after a meal, to help prevent GI upset. 

Where should I feed my kitten? 

A calm place away from distractions and other pets is best. Having a designated “spot” is nice to encourage routine. This allows your kitten to focus their very short attention span on eating, not playing or trying to swipe their housemates’ food. 

TIP: If your kitten is a quick eater, activity feeders are a GREAT way to slow them down and prevent choking or vomiting. Flat bowls can also slow the speed at which kittens eat. There are many of these commercially available at pet stores and with online retailers such as Amazon. 

Can I feed my kitten human food?

It is important for pet owners to understand there are many foods that are perfectly safe for humans but are extremely toxic to pets. Some things that are very toxic to cats include garlic, onions, caffeine, chocolate, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, artificial sweeteners (xylitol), and alcohol. I recommend asking your vet before giving any human food to your creatures! As much as we are tempted to give it, they don’t actually need it. 

Checking with your vet is always the best way to overcome the overwhelming amount of information on pet foods out there. They can help you decide what’s best for your kitten based on their medical needs and what works for you!

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

Puppies: Diet Recommendations

There are fewer things that bring more smiles to the vet clinic than an owner bringing in their new wiggly happy puppy. It’s an exciting time for families to be adding a furry member, but it can also be overwhelming too! Having resources for owners to read/keep has become a must. So we’ve included our top tips on puppy diets: 

There are so many different food options available in pet stores and online. So before you buy, let’s bust a few myths: 

  • Expensive does not equal better: A lot of pricy “boutique” or “organic” pet foods are unfortunately not balanced or tested according to veterinary standards, and may actually pose a risk to your pets health down the road. These are often 2-3 times more costly than standard diets from reputable companies, and in some cases more than even prescription diets.
  • Vets recommend certain brands because they get rewards from the company: FALSE! Vets recommend a particular set of brands because there really are only a handful that have tested their diets according to veterinary standards and employ full time board certified veterinary nutritionists (among other specialists). More on this later…
  • Home cooking is better to avoid preservatives: While home cooking can be done safely if this is your goal, they are tricky. It is essential home cooked diets be done under the direction of a nutrition specialised vet to avoid dietary imbalances. Imbalanced home cooked diets can be very detrimental to dogs of all ages, especially growing puppies. Commercially prepared diets are much more likely to be adequately balanced to provide the right nutrients, and any additives have been carefully selected to ensure no ill effects to your pet.

What should I feed my puppy?
First and foremost, a food labelled specifically for PUPPIES or ALL LIFE STAGES is essential. These are formulated to meet the unique needs of growing pups. Puppies need higher levels of protein and fat to keep up with growth. Nutrients such as calcium are also required in different quantities than adult dogs for bone maturation. Feeding puppies an adult or senior formulation runs the risk of interfering with healthy growth. 

Three brands I reach for consistently are Purina, Hills Science Diet, and Royal Canin. These companies consistently prove reliable and have become major players in the veterinary field. All three companies provide both over the counter as well as prescription diets that have been heavily studied and proven to provide the right nutrients (if you are feeding the correct amount of the correct life stage). Iams, Eukanuba, and Blue Buffalo also have a few diets that have been appropriately tested and researched as well, but it is important to read the labels on any diet to ensure this is the case. 

Dry vs. canned…is one better than the other?

Dry and canned are both perfectly fine options for puppies as long as you are making sure you are feeding the right amount of total calories recommended daily and using a puppy formulation. Some puppies will prefer one over the other, and may tell you quite quickly if that is the case. Both are safe and healthy, and using dry vs. canned vs. a combination of the two are all perfectly appropriate. Puppies are typically ready for dry food by around 6-8 weeks of age and have been weaned completely from their mother.

How much should I feed my puppy? 

Typically, you should look at the food label for directions on the quantity to feed. These tend to overestimate a little bit for adult dogs, but for fast growing puppies I think that the feeding guide charts on the sides of the bag or can are a good place to start. 

We recommend starting young puppies at 3-4 meals per day (i.e. dividing their total daily caloric intake into 3-4 feedings). As they approach 3-4 months of age, 3 meals is a good transition point. Once a puppy is 6-8 months I like to phase out that “puppy lunch” and start getting them used to two meals per day. Remember you aren’t decreasing the quantity fed, just the frequency. Meal feeding is encouraged to help keep track of how much you are setting out and how much they are eating (as opposed to free feeding where there is food out all the time). 

TIP: For more information on deciding if your puppy is too thin or overweight, check out our blog on weight management!

When should I feed my puppy?

Puppies LOVE a solid routine. Having a fairly stable schedule in terms of feeding times/location is going to make things easiest. This also helps with potty training, as I like to encourage owners to associate meal times with going outside to potty before and/or after the meal. Starting with a morning meal, 1-2 mid day meals, and an evening meal is often the easiest schedule to stick with. 

TIP: I recommend avoiding exercise immediately before or after a meal, to help prevent GI upset. Exercise close to meal time has also been discussed as a potential contributor to bloating or GDV (gastric dilatation and volvulus), though this is still under research and debate. 

Where should I feed my puppy? 
A calm place away from distractions and other pets is best. Having a designated “spot” is nice to again encourage routine. This allows your puppy to focus their very short attention span on eating, not playing, barking, or trying to swipe their housemates’ food. 

TIP: If your puppy is a quick eater, activity feeders are a GREAT way to slow them down and prevent choking/bloating. There are many of these commercially available at pet stores and with online retailers such as Amazon. 

Can I feed my puppy human food?

It is important for pet owners to understand there are many foods that are perfectly safe for humans but are extremely toxic to pets. Supplementing your puppies diet with a safe protein like plain boiled chicken is absolutely ok, however again we need to make sure the majority of their diet is primarily made up of commercially formulated food to avoid nutritional imbalances. Some things that are very toxic to dogs include garlic, onions, caffeine, chocolate, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, artificial sweeteners (xylitol), and alcohol. I recommend asking your vet before giving any human food to your creatures! As much as we are tempted to give it, they don’t actually need it. 

Checking with your vet is always the best way to overcome the overwhelming amount of information on pet foods out there. They can help you decide what’s best for your pup based on their medical needs and what works for you!

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

Is your Pets Gut Acting Up?

Busting Myths about Gut Upset in Dogs & Cats

An inevitable part of being a pet owner is dealing with some, let’s face it, pretty grim moments. These include when your pet vomits and/or has diarrhoea. GI upset is one of the most common reasons dogs and cats are seen by a vet. While an angry gut may seem like a simple diagnosis, there can be a lot more involved Today we’re going to bust a few myths that have to do with vomiting and diarrhoea in our pets. 

MYTH 1: It’s normal for cats to vomit regularly. 

Over the years, cats have earned the reputation of being regular pukers. Many cat owners think their cat vomits just because it’s a cat. While it is true that cats can vomit occasionally without there being a major underlying cause, it truly isn’t normal for cats to vomit regularly. There is no hard and fast rule about how many times is too many, but if your cat vomits at least once per month, there is a possibility of an issue that needs to be addressed. This may be as simple as changing the way your cat is fed, but can also be a medical problem, like intestinal tract disease. Your vet can help you figure out if your cat’s vomiting is a concern.

MYTH 2: My pet’s not vomiting so they can’t be nauseous.

Nausea can be challenging to treat in pets because they can’t tell us they feel unwell. That being said, we often hear pet owners ask why their pet needs anti-nausea medication if their pet isn’t vomiting very much. Particularly in cats, underlying nausea is a common problem that can mask itself as decreased appetite. Our pets do not have to be vomiting to be battling nausea. If your vet recommends anti-vomiting medication when your pet is unwell, it may also be to help combat nausea, so heed their advice. 

MYTH 3: Vomiting and diarrhoea aren’t a big deal. 

A one off episode of soft stool or vomiting may not be cause for concern. Pets can absolutely have an occasional bout of GI upset. They might have eaten something they shouldn’t have, they might have chewed on some grass in the back garden, or even might have been stressed after a new person visited the house. Once vomiting and diarrhoea becomes a pattern, this should put up a red flag for owners. Multiple episodes of vomiting/diarrhoea in a short period of time may indicate an issue that needs to be addressed. Chronic vomiting/diarrhoea regularly over several weeks to months is also a concern. Taking your pet to the vet sooner rather than later can help avoid dehydration, lethargy, and other side effects of fluid loss. They can also help determine if your pet simply needs supportive care vs. more diagnostic testing to address the underlying problem. 

MYTH 4: Pets can’t have parasites if they don’t have diarrhoea. 

It’s true that diarrhoea is a common clinical sign of pets infected with intestinal parasites. But did you know that it’s also common for vets to diagnose parasites in pets with normal stool? Particularly in multi-pet households, it’s not uncommon for several pets to be infected and one has diarrhoea but the other does not. This makes regular worming specific to your pets lifestyle and appropriate faecal testing with your vet all the more important. 

MYTH 5: Vomiting and diarrhoea are always due to problems with the GI tract itself. 

While vomiting and diarrhoea arise from the GI tract and often do reflect irritation with that body system, it doesn’t always mean the underlying problem was just the gut. Here’s a few diseases in pets that are not primary gastrointestinal in origin (like parasites, food sensitivities/allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.) but commonly cause vomiting and/or diarrhoea: 

  • Hyperthyroidism (cats)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes 
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Hepatitis/liver disease
  • Kidney infections/pyelonephritis
  • Hypoadrenocorticism/Addison’s disease
  • Toxicities/poisons

Let’s recap. This list doesn’t mean that your pet must have a serious problem if they vomit. If you are like many of us, it’s easy to assume something scary is going on. It’s just important for pet owners to be aware that there are many causes of GI upset, and that diseases other than intestinal ones can also cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Just as importantly, vomiting and diarrhoea can cause dehydration and nausea quickly so it’s important to have your pet seen by your vet if they have repeat episodes. 

Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS

Keep your fur-babies warm this winter

As we begin to approach the official start of winter, the mornings are darker, the days are shorter and the temperature drops. We get ourselves bundled up in blankets when inside, and wrapped up in coats, scarfs and hats when outside, but sometimes we forget our pets might be struggling with the change of season too. It’s easily done as we can assume cats and dogs don’t feel the cold because they have their own built-in fur coats! But unfortunately for our fur-babies, winter can take a toll on them too. Not to worry, we’ve included some top-tips to help you ensure your pets are kept warm this winter! 

Dogs:

Dogs actually have a higher body temperature than humans at around 38-39.2°C, which can work in their favour during winter. However, most dogs begin to feel uncomfortable when the temperature drops to 7°C and below. That said, different breeds of dogs react differently to certain types of climate, for example dogs with finer and shorter fur will feel the cold more than others. 

How to tell if your dog is cold:

  • Shivering or trembling 
  • Whining 
  • Curling up in a ball 
  • Seeming weak or lethargic 

Keeping your dog warm:

  • Ensure your dog has a warm bed where they can rest. 

Just like us, dogs need their own bed which they’d think of as a safe haven, getting a specific dog bed and adding a thick blanket, will provide your dog with the perfect cosy place to sleep

  • Reduce visits to the dog groomers. 

Getting your pup a haircut every 10-12 weeks is the usual recommendation. However, during colder months, we advise you to let your dog’s fur grow out for that extra layer of warmth and to provide them with their own winter coat! 

  • Buy your dog a jacket. 

For dogs who struggle more with the cold or have finer fur, consider buying a good jacket that your dog can wear inside. This will also save you from having to put the heating on for extended periods of time.

  • Heated pads.  

If you don’t have carpeted floors in your home, consider investing in a heated pad for your dog. Tiled floor surfaces can make your pets colder faster, so a heated pad would help avoid this. 

  • On colder days try to exercise your dogs inside. 

There are some extremely cold days during winter which humans struggle to keep warm in, these are the days you should consider keeping your pups inside. Getting your dog some toys and playing a game of indoor fetch should help keep them active even when inside. 

  • Buy your dog a fleece-lined jacket. 

These can be worn inside or outside, depending on the temperature. A thermal jacket is recommended for when you’re taking your dog on a walk to ensure they’re warm enough. 

  • Check your dog’s paws. 

After your dog comes in from being outside, be sure to check their paws for any abrasions from things such as grit and salt, and if it was snowy or icy out – make sure to wipe their paws properly. 

Cats:

Most cats enjoy going outside and venturing out on their own, but it’s important as owners we do what they can to provide them a warm sanctuary, for when they come back inside during colder months. Similar to dogs, cats have a slightly higher body temperature than humans, usually sitting around 38.3-39.2°C, and anything under 7°C is considered to be too cold for cats. Here are some tips for keeping your cat safe and warm this winter.

How to tell if your cat is cold: 

  • Shivering or trembling 
  • Seeking warmer places – sleeping directly on or next to the radiator 
  • Tips of their ears, nose or tail feeling cold to the touch 
  • Puffed up fur 
  • Curling up into a ball 

Keeping your cat warm and safe

  • Provide a warm bed. 

This winter consider getting your cat a covered igloo bed or a hammock bed that attaches to a radiator, or even just a cat bed with blankets placed next to the radiator. These are perfect spots for your cat to have a warm and cosy rest. 

  • Put out a litter tray. 

Even if your cat usually goes to the toilet outside, during winter you should provide an accessible indoor litter tray just in case they don’t feel comfortable going outside in the cold. 

  • Get your cats lots of toys they can play with inside. 

You’ll find that most cats will prefer to spend more time inside during winter, but they’ll still need a form of exercise that they’re missing from being outside. This is where you can help by providing them with a range of toys to ensure they stay active and healthy. 

  • Be careful of antifreeze.

If cats ingest even 5ml of antifreeze it can be fatal, so please ensure any products you own are stored securely and if any spills occur they are cleaned up right away. If your cat accidentally ingests or is exposed to antifreeze you should contact your vet immediately. Signs this has occurred include vomiting, seizures, lethargy, faster heart rate, shallow breathing, increase in urination or drinking. 

  • Get your cat a reflective collar. 

Winter is the time of year with the darkest mornings and evenings so to ensure your cat is visible to cars and people, make sure they’re wearing a reflective collar when going outside. 

  • Provide an outside shelter. 

Even when cold, some cats will still want to stay outside for hours, so make a safe shelter your cat can go to for some warmth when outside. This could be a small animal-friendly hut or even a cardboard box with a blanket inside. 

  • Check your car engine. 

As temperatures drop, some cats crawl under car bonnets or wheel arches for a warm and dry sleeping spot. Make sure to tap your bonnet and check your wheels before starting your car and driving off.  

  • Check your cat’s paws. 

Just like dogs, when your cat comes in from being outside, be sure to check their paws for any abrasions from things such as grit and salt, and if it was snowy or icy out – make sure to wipe their paws properly. 

With prices going up this winter, we want to ensure when it comes to caring for your pets you don’t have to worry about being overcharged. That’s why VetBox provides an affordable and trustworthy monthly subscription to keep your pets safe during winter and beyond.