We're a nation of pet lovers, and our cats and dogs bring us a lot of happiness. We all want to do our best for them, but with the cost of veterinary treatment on the rise, what can we do at home to help keep our pets in tip top condition?
As dental disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed health problems in pets, brushing our pets teeth is a good place to start.
We know the importance of brushing our own teeth at least once a day, but how many of us will do this for our pets? Tooth brushing is just as important for our pets as it is for us, but it must be done every day to see the benefits. There are specially designed toothbrushes available to suit the shape and size of our pets' mouths, and animal toothpaste that has been specifically formulated to suit their needs (and their tastes too!).
It might take time and patience for your pet to accept the feel of a toothbrush in its mouth, so don't give up! If you can, get your pet used to having its teeth brushed from day one, when they're still a kitten or puppy. Daily brushing will also mean that you will be regularly looking at your pets mouth, and any problems such as fractured or discoloured teeth can be detected and treated early.
Grooming is very important as well. Although many animals will appear to manage this themselves, it is amazing how much dead hair will come out once a comb is put through their fur! Animals left to groom themselves will often ingest their fur as they do so, and this can lead to problems with furballs.
Long haired breeds of dog and cat will certainly need more management, either through grooming or possibly through regular clipping. Bear in mind that mats of hair that develop in animals that have previously kept their coats in good condition, may be a sign of deteriorating health and you may need to seek veterinary assistance. Mats should only be removed using clippers: never be tempted to cut out mats of fur with scissors – it is very easy to accidentally cut the skin.
Many of us enjoy a good manicure or pedicure – don't forget your pet has nails too and they can grow very long! Long nails will cause discomfort when walking and can, in some cases, start to grow into the pads of the paw making your pet very sore.
To trim your pet's nails yourself, you will need a strong pair of animal nail clippers suitable for the size of your pet. If you are planning to clip nails for the first time, I would strongly advise you to ask the vet or veterinary nurse at your practice to show you how.
If the nails are cut too short, you will damage the 'quick' – this is the sensitive part of the nail and not only will it cause discomfort to your pet, it will also bleed heavily. Some animals do not like having their nails clipped, but if you do have a tolerant pet, with practice, it is a skill that you can easily perform at home.
While emptying anal glands may be a turn-off for some owners, for those with pets needing theirs regularly emptied, it can be a very useful cost-saving skill to learn! As with nail clipping, I would advise that you seek instructions from your vet or veterinary nurse before attempting to perform this yourself. It will take time and practice to become confident, and to recognise what is normal or abnormal for your pet. However, it will make your pet much more comfortable and reduce the risk of infections.
Of course, as lovely as they may be, not all our pets will tolerate intervention from us despite our good intentions. If you will be at risk of harm from trying to perform any of these techniques on your pets, then stop and leave it to the experts. But, should you be willing to give some of these techniques a try, and have a fairly easy-going pet to look after, then hopefully these tips will help you keep your pet in peak condition