Advice on coping with loss of a pet

March 5th, 2012

IF A colleague breaks down at work as a result of the death of a friend or relative they are generally surrounded by sympathy and understanding.

Make that a pet and suddenly the sympathy and understanding tend to disappear.

“As a result, a lot of the grief is hidden,” says Caroline Davis, who is writing a book on the subject and needs help from readers.

“You find people are able to talk to other friends or relatives when someone has died, but they find it difficult to talk about a pet’s death because the same level of support isn’t there because it’s ‘just an animal’ but that pet might be the only friend or companion that person has.”

Caroline, who lives in Gedney Hill, has been an animal lover since childhood when her parents bred dogs and cats and ran a boarding kennels.

Since then she has had “a multitude of cats, dogs and horses”.

For those who have never owned a pet, Caroline describes the joy as: “They give unconditional love.

“People love their pets just as they would another family member and, unlike humans, pets don’t judge and they are always there.

“It doesn’t matter if you have had a good day or a bad day, owners come home and see to the pet before they feed themselves.”

Unfortunately, pets tend not to live as long as their owners, so Caroline has also experienced the death of a number of them over the years.

She says that, just as when a human dies, owners frequently feel guilt and wonder if they could have done something differently.

“Some people keep the pet going as long as possible, even when it is to the pet’s detriment, because they can’t face having to make that decision,” Caroline says. “For some people, such as an elderly or single person, the pet may be the only real friend they have got in their life.

“When the pet gets old or is injured it is a massive loss for them, and often it can be greater than a human loss.

“I think the kindest thing you can do for a pet is to take responsibility and not to think of it as a human but to do the best thing by the pet.”

People ascribe human feelings to their pets because they believe they understand every word and believe the pet ‘talks’ back to them.

“No, they don’t,” says Caroline. “Pets learn to do things by routine and if you feed a cat at 5pm every day it is going to expect it and whinge if it doesn’t get it. People are putting their own feelings and thoughts on to animals.”

Caroline, who has worked on the major UK pet magazines and written more than a dozen books on pets, mainly practical pet care books and some on alternative therapies for pets and horses, is in the process of writing a book that will help pet owners deal with this difficult aspect of pet ownership.

As Caroline puts it: “I hope it will help them realise it’s not something to be frightened or ashamed of and to realise their feelings are totally natural.”

Caroline concedes there are plenty of books already on the market about pet bereavement, but they tend to be American, whereas Caroline’s is written from a British viewpoint and will be full of useful resources, such as contacts for pet bereavement counsellors, and practical information as well as being easy to read.

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New medicine to treat cancer in dogs

March 5th, 2012

A new treatment for cancer in dogs is now available in Australia.

Developed by Pfizer Animal Health, the medicine is administered orally and works by killing cancer cells and cutting the blood supply to skin-based mast cell tumours.

The potentially lethal form of canine cancer can appear as wart-like lumps on the surface of the skin.

Vet Rod Straw, founder of the Australian Animal Cancer Foundation and the Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre, was one of the first in Australia to use the new treatment.

He said one in four dogs developed a tumour at some stage in their life.

“When an owner is given the devastating news that their beloved pet has cancer, their primary concern is to limit their dog’s day-to-day pain and suffering,” Dr Straw said.

“This new medicine gives vets and owners the best chance to do this.”

Dr Straw said before the new treatment vets had to rely on human cancer medicines as the only option for treating mast cell tumours.

“Given that these medicines weren’t developed with canine cancer in mind, it is only through trial and error that we as vets were able to identify a safe dose and work out how to best administer the medicine for each individual dog,” he said.

US-based lead researcher and practising veterinary cancer specialist Cheryl London has been involved in all stages of the medicine’s development.

Her own clinical study found that in three in five dogs given the treatment, the tumours stopped growing, shrank or disappeared.

“If you’re a dog owner whose pet’s life is threatened by a mast cell tumour, the introduction of this medicine is a significant step forward in not only fighting the disease, but in improving their quality of life,” Professor London said.

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Somerset has the best gun dogs in the country

February 6th, 2012

A dog trainer can claim he has some of the best cocker spaniels in the UK after triumphing at an elite gundog competition.

Three of Nigel Partiss’ cocker spaniels, Swift, Jack and Midge, qualified to compete in the Kennel Club’s Cocker Spaniel Championship this year.

Swift was named third best cocker spaniel in the contest while Jack was awarded a diploma of merit.

Mr Partiss, 43, from Illminster, Somerset, explained that just 35 dogs from around the UK qualify to take part in the championship each year.

“They’ve got to compete throughout the shooting season and they’ve got to win so many trials,” he said.

The competition, which is held on a different country estate each year, consists of a number of challenging tasks for the gundogs involving live game.

Mr Partiss, who lives in Ilminster, Somerset, explained that he originally started working with cocker spaniels as a hobby, but it gradually grew into a full-time job.

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The moment good Samaritan had to be saved after leaping into freezing river to save passer-by’s dog

February 6th, 2012

Trying to save the dog, the good Samaritan then needed to be saved himself.

During all the kerfuffle, the dog emerged from the water safe and sound.

A good Samaritan had to be pulled from a freezing river after risking his own life to save a stranger’s dog.

The well-meaning 51-year-old man jumped into the icy water in Northumberland to try save a dog which was in trouble.

But things soon took a turn for the worse when the good Samaritan himself began to drown – other park-goers ran to find buoys to throw to him.

People then rushed to drag the man from the River Wansbeck in Morpeth, while others looked on anxiously.

Witnesses said it took around ten minutes for the man to be hoisted to safety before the emergency services arrived to assess his condition.

The man was taken to Wansbeck Hospital to be checked over while the dog emerged safe and sound.

Police warned people not to go into icy water in any circumstances.

Sergeant Niall Mackel, from Northumberland Area Command, said: ‘Although this person was trying to help another member of the public by rescuing their dog, this only serves to highlight the dangers of going into open water.

‘Particularly with the recent freezing temperatures which can lead to even strong swimmers getting into difficulty.

‘We would always warn people against going into open water and to contact emergency services so that they aren’t endangering their own lives in attempting a rescue.

‘Fortunately this didn’t result in tragic consequences and I extend my thanks to those people who assisted this gentleman prior to emergency services arrival.’

John Phillips, from Morpeth, Northumberland, took pictures of the rescue while he was in the park with his son, Cameron, seven.

The 38-year-old coach builder said: ‘I was down at the park in Morpeth sledging with my son and I saw someone running with a buoy.

‘People were saying ‘what is it, what is it?’ and I looked along the promenade and there was a man with two buoys wrapped around him with a rope around them.

‘They were trying to pull him out of the water. ‘There was a woman shouting and everyone was wondering what was going on.

‘The ambulance, police and fire brigade came but the man was already out by then. It was the public that got him out of the water.’

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service said three fire engines and their Swiftwater Rescue team were sent to the scene but the man was already in the care of paramedics.

Temperatures plummeted to well below freezing on Saturday night with heavy snow fall causing delays around the region’s roads.

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Take part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch!

January 27th, 2012

Take part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch!

The RSPB are once again asking new and dedicated bird watchers to take part in the annual garden birdwatch.

All you need is a pen, some scrap paper (or, a printout of our handy bird ID sheet), and an hour to spend watching the birds in your garden, or local park, on either Saturday 28, or Sunday 29 January 2012.

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Alfie the cockapoo named Britain’s happiest dog

December 8th, 2011

The nine-month-old pup beat dozens of others to be named top dog in the competition, organised by Penguin Books.

It was a close call but Alfie, who lives in Bristol, won the judges over with his big grin and furiously wagging tale.

His owner Dan Salt said: ‘Alfie is a cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle and he is a very happy dog.

‘He always looks like he is grinning – he even runs with a smile on his face but is just as happy when he’s lying around at home.’

Chris Croissant, from Penguin, said: ‘The only fair way to decide the winner was for the staff to get round the computer screen, look at all the entries and the photo that got the most cheers won. That was Alfie.’

The white-haired pooch was entered into the competition by his walker, Sharon Jackson.

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Dog owners warned after deadly virus outbreak

December 8th, 2011

DOG owners are being warned after a suspected outbreak of the deadly parvovirus in Rugby.
Several recent dog deaths have been confirmed, with more suspected, after the outbreak of the virus.
It is caught when ingested or inhaled and can kill if not diagnosed quickly, and it can live in the environment for months on clothes, shoes, pavements and animal paws.
Director of Rainsbrook Vets, Simon Daniel, said they had seen four dogs – two of which died – in recent weeks with parvovirus.
“This is the highest number of cases we’ve seen at once for a long time. I can’t remember seeing this many at any time over the last five years or so,” he said.
“It is a serious and potentially fatal stomach infection but can easily prevented with vaccinations.
“Parvovirus is always a risk, but whether people are trying to save money in the current economic climate and are getting less vaccinations I don’t know.
“If that is the case it is a false economy as it will cost them far more paying for treatment if their dog catches parovirus.”
Mr Daniel said confirmed cases had also been reported by Bilton Vets, with more around Rugby suspected.
He added: “I would urge all dog owners to have their pets vaccinated, or if not then to keep them indoors or in their own gardens where they will be safe.”
Parvovirus first emerged in the UK in the late 1970s. If contracted by a dog it causes severe stomach problems which can be fatal or leave lasting damage even when successfully treated.
Symptoms of the infection include vomiting, lethargy and refusal of food or water.

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Celebrating cats at Christmas

December 8th, 2011

Celebrating cats at Christmas. University of Bristol

Cats are one of the UK’s favourite pets with a population of eight million, almost twice the number it was 30 years ago.
A cat’s Christmas carol will be a celebration and festive look at cats, aspects of their behaviour and the role that they play in people’s lives. The talk, organised by the Small Animal Practice at Langford Veterinary Services, will take place on Tuesday 13 December at 7.30 pm at the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences, Langford.

The talk will explore some of the odd behaviours displayed by cats, such as:

* why cats hunt even when their food bowls are always full;
* why do cats ‘call’;
* why do some cats lick and then bite their owners;
* why are cats not neighbourly and positively hate the new cat next door.

Dr Alison Blaxter, a vet in the Small Animal Practice, who will be giving the talk, said: “Cats are one of the UK’s favourite pets – they give us great joy and companionship yet much of what they do remains a mystery to us! Trying to work out why they behave as they do in our homes is a fascinating and fulfilling occupation for a winter’s evening.”

The talk is free but entry is by ticket only. To request a ticket, contact the Langford Veterinary Services Small Animal Practice on tel 01934 852422.

Refreshments will be available and all proceeds will be donated to the Langford Trust, a charity that supports the University’s School of Veterinary Science to promote the practice, advancement and teaching of veterinary science.

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Celebrity vet backs campaign for abandoned dogs

November 7th, 2011

CELEBRITY vet Steve Leonard has put his name to a fundraising campaign for abandoned dogs. He explains to Ian Robson why he refuses to have a man’s best friend of his own.

STEVE Leonard would love to have a dog but, he says, it would not be right for the animal.

The vet, who became a star on series such as Vets in Practice, said his busy lifestyle would not suit a dog.

Steve is backing the Pedigree Adoption Drive to raise money for shelters.

The annual campaign awarded Newcastle Dog and Cat Shelter £25,000 for desperately needed building costs last year.

Matching dogs to suitable owners is a passion for the vet whose TV career was launched when the BBC filmed vets in their final year of training in Vets School.

It was soon followed by Vets in Practice and made household names of Steve and co-star Trude Mostue.

He said: “I would love to own a dog but have chosen not to because my lifestyle does not suit one.

“I’m out all day, I travel a lot, and dogs need attention. They need someone with them at least every couple of hours to take them out and give them some social activity.

“Dogs are very social and don’t like being on their own very much at all so I have a cat.

“My cat is Bruce, he’s a bit of a bruiser, he was picked up by the RSPCA as a wild stray.”

He said the Adoption Drive, backed by the Pedigree dog food company, was a campaign close to his heart.

He said: “It’s the fourth year they have done this and, to date, they have raised over £1m to help support rescue centres around the UK.

“Dog abandonment is at an 11-year high with over 120,000 dogs nationally being picked up as strays and that’s terrible numbers.

“The rescue centres are overwhelmed. Most of them are completely full which means if the local authorities do pick up dogs they find wandering around and cannot find them a space within seven days into a rescue centre or new home many perfectly healthy dogs are being put to sleep.

“Why are we in this situation? People take puppies on without really understanding the size the animal will get, the amount of exercise it is going to need, the financial implications of owning a dog, feeding it, vaccinating it, all of these things, whereas when you take on a rescue dog normally all of that has been done.

“You get to see how big it is, you get to see what its temperament is going to be like, and in many ways it’s a safer bet than taking on a puppy.”

Steve said the current economic climate may have contributed to the increased numbers of abandoned dogs.

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Giant rabbit found in Swindon reunited with owner

November 7th, 2011

A giant rabbit found wandering around the centre of Swindon has been reunited with its owner.

The 8kg (18lb) pure bred continental giant rabbit was found in the middle of Birch Road in the town on Thursday.

The rabbit, nicknamed Thumper, was taken to Thameswood Veterinary Clinic and housed in a dog kennel as “she wouldn’t fit in the small animal cage”.

But following an appeal, the two-year-old grey rabbit was reunited with its owner on Saturday morning.

“Apparently her name is Daisy,” said Lahni Butler, a veterinary nurse at the clinic.

“The owner said he’d left the gate open and she’d escaped but she didn’t get far – just around the corner.

“We usually keep lost pets for about a week to give the owner time to come forward but we’ve got quite a lot of rabbit lovers here so she wouldn’t have been hard to re-home.”

When fully grown, continental giant rabbits can weigh up to two-and-a-half stone (16kg) and grow more than 3ft 5in (1.04m).

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