Know what your pet needs

The RSPCA rehomes thousands of unwanted dogs and puppies every year.

Neutering is a good way to help solve this problem.

What is neutering?
Neutering or ‘spaying’ a female animal involves removing the womb and ovaries (an ovaro-hysterectomy). Males are castrated – the testicles are removed. Both operations are straightforward -they are carried out under general anaesthetic and the animals recover quickly.

When should a dog be neutered?
Thousands of unwanted puppies are born every year, and the RSPCA strongly advises neutering at an early age. This is a straightforward operation that can be arranged with a vet.

Unneutered female dogs (bitches) come into season up to twice a year and may have up to 12 puppies in each litter!

Will my pet behave or look differently afterwards?
It may, but most owners think any changes are for the better. Unneutered male dogs tend to be more aggressive than their neutered counterparts – they get into fights with other dogs; they often escape from their owners in an attempt to find a bitch in season and are sometimes injured or cause traffic accidents as a result. Male dogs, which are kept indoors, may turn their amorous attentions to pieces of furniture or even people. Barking and ill temper are other symptoms of frustration.

Unneutered female dogs come into heat twice yearly for about three weeks each time. A bitch in heat usually attracts scores of visiting dogs to her owner’s front door. She will also be quite anxious to escape and, as a result, may be difficult to control. Unneutered bitches can also go through phantom pregnancies which can lead to all sorts of odd behaviour and may even require veterinary attention to sort it out. They are also more prone to tumours of their breasts in later life and a serious disease of the womb called pyometra.

Will neutering make my pet fat?
No, it shouldn’t. Animals generally only get fat from overeating. But a neutered animal may not need as much food as before and you should keep an eye on what you are giving it.

Is it best to let my pet have one litter first?
No, this is a myth. There is no good reason for letting a dog produce a litter and the normal health risks associated with birth and pregnancy can actually be harmful.

How much will neutering cost?
This is a matter that you must discuss with your veterinary surgeon. Cost depends on the size of your dog and whether it is male or female. As a rough guide, in the UK dogs cost in the region of £80-£100 for a bitch and £40-£60 for a dog.

It has been estimated that more than one million dogs become distressed and destructive when they are left alone.

“Typically dogs will bark, chew furniture, and/or urinate and defecate indoors when left alone by their owners, ” says the RSPCA’s chief veterinary adviser. It may not be obvious to owners that a dog suffers from separation anxiety. Unless owners find evidence of destructive behaviour or toilet problems when they return home, they may be totally unaware. If a dog has this problem it is important to teach them that it is okay to be left alone.

Top tips for owners:
Be calm, consistent and predictable with your dog. Reward good behaviour with your attention or with treats. Ignore any attention seeking behaviour. Never punish your dog, as this will harm your relationship and may make your dog scared of you. If you dog looks ‘guilty’ s/he has simply learned that you are sometimes angry when you return home – your dog is not able to associate your anger with something that s/he did while you were out.

Leave your dog alone for gradually increasing periods of time – start by leaving your dog for one minute and gradually increase the time you are away. Give your dog something nice to do while you are away – perhaps leave a tasty chew or a durable rubber toy filled with food.

Nearly all dogs and cats get worms and even animals which look in tip-top condition can carry them. A pet with worms can be quite difficult to diagnose as it may not show any outward signs of ill health. It is important to worm your animals regularly as some types can occasionally be dangerous to human health.

It’s a roundworm!
Roundworms are pinky-white and curled like a thin coiled rope. If your animal is infected, you will probably be able to see the roundworm in faeces or vomit. The eggs are so tiny they can’t be seen. Most dogs carry toxocara canis – a common roundworm. In adult dogs the roundworm has a complicated life cycle. It grows from larva to adult worm inside the body. Worms and eggs are passed out in the faeces where the eggs develop into larvae. Another dog eats the larvae and the life cycle begins all over again. Roundworms can also lie dormant in the muscle tissue of bitches and queens and are activated during pregnancy. They can then pass across the placenta infecting unborn young. Puppies and kittens born with roundworms can become sick or even die if they are carrying lots of worms.

It’s a tapeworm!
Tapeworms look like long strips and are made up of flat segments filled with eggs which break off. The segments can come out one at a time and visibly twitch and move.
You can sometimes see them moving on the skin near the animal’s anus or on the

Dogs and cats are never born with tapeworms. One of the most common ways they pick them up is through fleas. Tapeworms can live in fleas which feed on the cat or dog.
The animal then eats the flea when it grooms itself and the tapeworm continues life inside its new host. Common tapeworms do not usually infect humans.

Is it worms?
If you see any worms on your animal wrap them up in damp cotton wool and take them to the vet who will be able to identify them and treat the animal accordingly.If your dog or cat starts losing weight and its coat becomes coarse or harsh, this could be a sign that unwelcome visitors have arrived. Infected puppies and kittens often have a distended abdomen. A dog or cat dragging itself about on its rear or licking its bottom more than usual may also be infected.

Worm worries
Sometimes humans can be at risk from worms, so regular worming of companion animals is important. Toxocara is an infection spread by roundworm eggs. This usually occurs in children who, by playing outside, can pick up infective stages of the parasite on their hands.

Sometimes these eggs develop into larvae which lodge behind the retina in the
eye and cause damage or even blindness. To stop this happening, worm pets regularly,
wash children’s hands thoroughly before they eat and clean up after your dog with a poop scoop.

Did you know…
Roundworm eggs take about three weeks to become infectious – so only old dog mess can be risky. The eggs can remain infectious for up to two years.

Check it out
Ask your vet for the correct worm treatment. All adult dogs and cats should be wormed
against roundworm every three months, or as advised by the vet, whether you think they have them or not. Pregnant animals should only be wormed under the supervision of a vet. Puppies and kittens should be treated against roundworm from a few weeks old or as advised by your vet. The best way to stop tapeworms is to use an anti-flea preparation advised by your vet. Only worm against tapeworms if you think your pet is carrying one.

Hundreds of dogs in RSPCA centres across England and Wales have had a bad start to life and offering a new home to one of them can be very rewarding – but it can be hard work too.  Here are the RSPCA’s top tips on how you can help your rescue dog feel at home.

The RSPCA rehomes about 19,000 dogs each year, and animal centre staff spend a lot of time working with the dogs in their care to make sure they are able to find them the most suitable home.

Staff will assess each dog’s behaviour and temperament and look at what has happened to it in the past, before making a decision on what home would be best.

When you visit an animal centre the staff will ask you lots of questions about your home
and how long you are out each day. This is important because it helps the staff to find a dog that will best suit your lifestyle. Another crucial part of making sure your dog is right for you, and that you are right for your dog, is a home visit. This helps the animal centre staff to be sure that your home is suitable for a pet.

Once the checks have been done and you collect your pet it’s time for you to carry on the work that the animal care assistants have done.

When you first take your dog home you will spend time getting to know each other.
Your dog will need to learn where he or she fits in the family, so it is important to teach your dog the basic rules from the very beginning.

When doing this be sure to: be patient and take things slow remember your dog won’t know you or your lifestyle give your new pet time to settle in and introduce different activities and people over time.

Home alone
A problem that some people experience when they rehome a rescue dog is that the dog doesn’t like to be left alone. A dog can’t understand why it has been taken from its previous home and can sometimes feel very insecure when the new owners go out because they may never come back. Dogs can’t tell us when they’re upset so they show it in other ways, like barking or making a mess in the house. It is important that you don’t tell them off, because they are not being naughty – they are just finding ways to show you that they are worried or upset.

You can help your dog to overcome this problem by:
Going out for short periods and slowly increasing the time that you leave them

Giving your dog a chew or toy to play with while you are out.

Teaching your dog that being left alone can be enjoyable and relaxing.
You should not leave your dog alone for too long, and remember accidents can
still happen.

It takes time and hard work to help your pet get used to its new life, and to help it overcome problems, but all the time and effort will be worth it when the end result is a happy well-balanced dog!

Overfeeding an animal can be just as cruel as underfeeding.
Around 50 per cent of Britain’s pets are overweight.
These extra pounds – fat that affects their comfort and health –
are usually the result of overeating.
Most pet owners are guilty of slipping their pet the odd tid-bit and the problem

is often worse at Christmas, when everyone is tempted to overindulge.
Why worry?
Fat pets have shorter lives, a reduced ability to withstand surgery
or fight and recover from disease.
Obesity causes or worsens conditions ranging from skin disease,
heat intolerance, diabetes, arthritis,
back and heart problems.
To find out if your dog or cat is overweight you can check with a few simple
Stand above your cat or dog and check its waist –
pets of the proper weight will have a visible indentation behind their
ribs. Place both hands, palms down, lightly on your cat’s or dog’s ribs.
You should be able to feel the ribs, but they shouldn’t be sticking out.
If you can’t feel the ribs, your pet is probably overweight.
Look for pouches of fat in the groin area between the hind legs

It’s not just cats and dogs that are affected -lots of roly-poly rabbits
could also benefit from a calorie-controlled diet.
Bunnies tend to eat only their favourite morsels from concentrated rabbit food,

often leaving the healthier food behind.
Another frequent problem is that they are not provided with sufficient space

in which to exercise.
Rabbits should have high roughage diets including lots of hay and grass, along
with pellets.
This keeps them slim and also helps prevent intestinal and dental disease.
Weight watcher
Before putting your pet on a diet you must have it checked out by a vet.
Your pet may be on medication or have an underlying medical problem
that has influenced the weight gain.
Once your pet is diagnosed as overweight,
try following these tips from the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition:
Cut out all treats and table snacks during the weight loss period.
Divide the daily food allowance into two to four small meals.
Weigh your pet at the same time of day at least once a week. Keep a record.
Feed your pets one at a time to stop them eating leftovers.
Feed cats/dogs before you eat and keep them in another room during meals.
Don’t let your pet scavenge when outside. Make sure dustbins have secured
Exercise your pet regularly.

Remember that chocolate is toxic to dogs!
If you want to give your dog the occasional chocolate treat,
stick to special doggie chocolate drops.

A microchip is recommended by the RSPCA as an effective way of
permanently linking pets to their owners,
increasing the chances of them being reunited if the animal is lost, stolen
or strays.

Thousands of pets are lost every year and many are never reunited with their
The RSPCA believes that the best way to ensure a lost pet is found
is to have it microchipped –
implanted with a special microchip tag.

How does microchipping work?
Once an animal has been microchipped it has its own unique code number.
The owner’s details and the code
are put on to the national PetLog database.
If a lost or stolen animal is found, the code will be revealed by
passing a scanner over the microchip.
Then it’s just a matter of matching the code with the PetLog database.

How can microchipping help find my dog?
The PetLog scheme provides a fast, fool-proof way of identifying your dog,
wherever it is found. The RSPCA,
as well as many other animal welfare organisations,
vets and dog wardens, have scanners
which can read the microchip’s

Is microchipping easy to do?
Yes, it’s as simple as an injection. A tiny microchip – the size of a grain
of rice –
is painlessly inserted under the animal’s skin. Once in, the microchip
cannot move or be seen,
but can be read by the scanner.

Which animals can be microchipped?
Most animals – but it is most commonly used on dogs, cats and horses.

How much does it cost?
Prices vary but a one-off payment of about £20 will get your pet on to
the PetLog database
for life.
Owner details can be quickly amended if an address changes.

Where can I have my pet microchipped?
Contact your local RSPCA branch or veterinary surgeon for advice.

My dog has a collar tag so why should it be microchipped?
By law all dogs have to wear a collar with a tag showing
its owner’s name and address.
But collars can break, identification tags fall off and get lost.
Microchips identify your pet permanently and harmlessly.

Why should I worry about losing my pet?
Even the most reliable and well-cared for animal can get lost or stolen.
Home-loving pets are most at risk because
they don’t know their way around the local area.

Is the microchip system well established?
More than 450,000 animals have been microchipped in the past five years in the
UK alone.
It is the RSPCA’s policy to microchip all cats and dogs it rehomes.
Although the RSPCA believes that microchipping is the most
reliable method of identification,
the PetLog scheme
also accepts animals which have been tattooed or collar-tagged.
For more information about joining PetLog, telephone 0870 606 6751.

The RSPCA recommends pet insurance as an integral part of responsible pet ownership.

Insuring your pet will cover you for paying unexpected veterinary bills,
and will ensure your pet can receive the treatment
it needs if it becomes ill, giving you peace of mind.

The RSPCA recommends pet insurance as an integral part of responsible pet ownership.

RSPCA pet insurance provides cover for cats and dogs.
For more specialist insurance policies covering other types of pets,
search online or check your local yellow pages
for a suitable policy.

What do dogs need?
Companionship –
to be with other dogs or people and not to be left alone for too long.
A balanced diet.
A constant supply of fresh, clean water.
A bed and blanket.
A well-fenced garden to play and exercise in.
To be brushed every day, especially if they have long hair.
Help to clean their teeth.
They also need to have their teeth checked regularly by the vet.
Regular walks and a lead for walking near traffic or farm animals.
Someone to clean up after them with a pooper-scooper.
Never to be left in a car in warm weather, even with the window open.
A collar and identity tag.
To be properly trained.
To be microchipped.
To be neutered.
To be taken to a vet if they are ill.
Injections to prevent serious diseases.
Worming and regular flea treatments.
To be looked after when you are on holiday.

Remember – a pet needs your time and interest for the rest of its life.

Protect your pet when fireworks are around by following our animal-friendly

firework code:

Keep your cat indoors. Close all windows and curtains and switch
on music or the television to drown out the noise.
Leave your cat to take refuge in a corner if it wishes.
Do not try to tempt it out as this could cause more stress.
Make sure your cat is microchipped
to ensure it can be returned to you if it escapes and becomes lost.

Exercise your dog during the day.
Never walk your dog while fireworks are being let off.
As with cats,
keep your dog indoors, close the curtains and play music or turn on
the television to drown out the noise.
Let your dog hide if it wants to take refuge under furniture or in a corner.

Make sure your dog is wearing a collar and tag
and is microchipped in case it bolts and becomes lost.

To further minimise distress, ask your vet about the Dog Appeasing Pheromone.

It is a synthetic version of a chemical produced by a bitch shortly after she
has given birth.
The pheromone reassures newborn puppies and naturally calms them down. Scientists

have discovered it also helps calm older dogs as well.

A simple plug-in diffuser that disperses the chemical into the room is available

at some veterinary practices.
It is safe and easy to use.

If your dog is particularly prone to becoming very distressed,
discuss sedatives with your vet.
Remember, these should be given before
the firework noise begins to allow them to take effect.

Small animals
Rabbits and guinea pigs and other small animals living outside should not be
They can also become very stressed from loud noise.
Bring small animals indoors or into an outhouse
or garden shed to give them extra protection.

Horses often bolt from firework noise and become injured.
Always make sure horses, ponies and donkeys
are stabled while fireworks are being let off. Make sure fireworks
are not in view by closing the stable door.

Bonfires can be fatal for wildlife such as hedgehogs,
which often crawl in to them to sleep.
Build bonfires as late as possible to reduce this risk
and make sure you disturb the foundations
of the bonfire to give any wildlife a chance to escape before it is lit.

Always clear up after a fireworks party –
litter is hazardous to domestic and wild animals.

For mor information on fireworks and our Keep the noise down!
campaign, visit our fireworks pages.

If you see an animal in need of help call the RSPCA
cruelty and advice line on 0300 1234 999.

The RSPCA rehomes thousands of unwanted cats and kittens every year.
Neutering is a good way to help solve this problem.

What is neutering?
Neutering or ‘spaying’ a female animal involves removing the womb and ovaries

(an ovaro-hysterectomy).
Males are castrated – the testicles are removed. Both operations are straightforward

they are carried out under general anaesthetic and the animals recover quickly.

When should a cat be neutered?
Cat neutering should be carried out as early as possible in order to avoid unwanted
Most cats are sexually mature at six months,
but some cats can become pregnant as early as five months.
Therefore, the ideal age to neuter your cat is between four and five months.

Your veterinary surgeon will be able to offer you further advice
on the best time to neuter your cat.

Will my pet behave or look differently afterwards?
It may, but most owners think any changes are for the better.
Unneutered male cats can be great wanderers and fighters
which can lead to injury and infected wounds.
Tom-cats also mark their territory by urinating – this is called ‘spraying’.

The smell is difficult to eliminate.

A female cat in season also has great powers of attraction –
legions of cat-calling suitors will come in search of her attention.
An unneutered female cat can have three pregnancies
a year and five or six kittens per litter.

Will neutering make my cat fat?
No, it shouldn’t. Animals generally only get fat from overeating.
But a neutered animal may not need as much food as before
and you should keep an eye on what you are giving it.

Is it best to let my pet have one litter first?
No, this is a myth.
There is no good reason for letting a cat produce a litter and the normal health
associated with birth and pregnancy can actually be harmful.

How much will neutering cost?
This is a matter that you must discuss with your veterinary surgeon.
Cost depends on the the size of the animal and whether it is male or female.

As a rough guide, in the UK cats can cost between £30-£50.