Ask the experts: Your questions answered

Written by Napo HQ
26th May 2023
Thank you all for sending in your burning questions! 💙

Your behaviour questions

All our
answers are reviewed by our wonderful in-house clinical animal behaviourist, but please do not take these answers as specific behavioural or veterinary advice. The behaviourist has no knowledge of any specific pet's requirements or background. All answers are intended to be used for general information only.  Please consult a veterinary surgeon individually for any specific concerns or questions regarding your pet.

My 5 month old puppy is afraid of people?

Thank you for your question, and sorry to hear that your pup’s nervous around people.
Your pup is really lucky that you have noticed that they are struggling with this, as many people don’t recognise signs that dogs are afraid and can accidentally end up making the problem worse, and scaring the puppy more!
When puppies are young they often find meeting unfamiliar people daunting. As they are small and cute, people can’t help themselves and want to come over and try and interact with them. When they do this, they often lean over them, getting into the puppy’s space and being quite intimidating for the young dog.
One of the best things you can to do help your dog is to advocate for them. Ask people not to interact with your pup. (As cute as they are!)
  1. Ask them to just ignore your puppy.
    This is more likely to help your pup gain in confidence and move towards them.
  2. Gentle greetings.
    At this point they could lower a hand out for the puppy to sniff, but they should not do this suddenly, or over the top of your puppy’s head.
  3. Stop if your pup is scared.
    If at any point your puppy shows signs of being worried again (tail tucked under, ears back, whites of their eyes showing,) then you should step in and ask the person not to try to touch your pup anymore. You can find out more about these signs in our “understanding your puppy” session with Puppy Academy. If you don’t have access, send us an email and we’ll sort it for you.
  4. Don’t force them to say hello.
    It’s key not to try to force your puppy into interacting with people. Dragging them over on a lead to meet people is a process called “flooding” which can actually make your puppy’s problem worse in the long run. Instead go at your puppy’s own pace and try to keep interactions with people short, and positive.
  5. Reward interactions.
    You could even give them a small treat after they have had any interaction with a new person to make it even more positive for them! Your pup will learn pretty quickly that new people = treats, and feel much happier about meeting them.
I really hope this has helped answer your question. If you need further help, you can find a safe, ethical reward-based trainer on the Animal Training Instructor register with the ABTC. Good luck with the training! 💙

Why does my mini Dachshund jump towards me barking and not biting but mouthing my hands and arms? He’s 9 months old.

Jumping up and mouthing are two of the most common puppy behaviours I'm asked about. Don't worry, it's super common for puppies as well as adolescent dogs, like your 9 month old Dachshund. Because it's common, and I want to give tips on addressing the jumping and the mouthing, I've written a full article here.
To answer the "why" your Mini Dachshund's jumping, barking, and mouthing, it's because he's expressing excitement, and being playful. Jumping up is his way to get closer to you and engage in playtime or seek attention. While jumping up is a normal response for puppies, it's vital to teach them the behaviour you would like him to do instead. This will involve ignoring the jumping, rewarding calm behaviour, and redirecting his mouthing onto appropriate toys. You can find all my tips here.

I have an intact male and the female next door is in season. Is it normal for my dog to go off his food, and how long before he returns to his normal self?

I totally understand your concern about your boy going off his food while your neighbour's dog is in season. To answer your question, it's completely normal for your dog's appetite to be affected when a nearby female is in season. The powerful allure of pheromones and the distraction of potential romance can often cause a temporary loss of interest in food, play, or anything else he usually loves.
As for how long it will last before he returns to his normal self, you can expect your pup to revert to his regular eating habits within a week or two. It can vary though, some dogs regain their appetite pretty quickly once the season passes, while others may take a bit more time to refocus on their usual routine.
In the meantime, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
  1. Keep an eye on him.
    Monitor your dog's overall health and behavior during this period. While a temporary decrease in appetite is normal, if you notice any other concerning symptoms or a prolonged loss of appetite, it's best to consult with your vet to rule out any underlying issues.
  2. Maintain your routine.
    Stick to your regular feeding schedule and offer your pup his usual meals. Even if he's not showing much interest, it's important to keep providing nutritious options for him. Make sure fresh water is always available as well.
  3. Minimise distractions
    . Limit your dog's exposure to the female in season to help him regain focus. Keep him as engaged as you can with playtime and mental stimulation to redirect his attention.
It can be worrying when your pup is acting out of sorts, but rest assured it’s perfectly normal for him to be distracted and acting a little differently if he’s around females in season. We hope he’s back to his usual self soon!

My dog won't stay still when she's doing a poo and leaves a trail around the garden! Is there anyway we can train her not to do this?

Thanks for reaching out with your question, and I hope your pup’s not leaving too many trails to clean up! Here’s some training tips that can help encourage better bathroom etiquette for your furry friend.
  1. Choose a designated toilet area.
    Establishing a specific spot in your garden for your dog's bathroom breaks can help create a routine and minimise wandering. Take your pup to this designated area consistently and use verbal cues like "toilet" to encourage her to stay in that spot until she finishes.
  2. Lead control.
    Consider using a lead during bathroom breaks, even in the garden, to have better control and limit your dog's movement. Keep her on a short lead and gently guide her back to the designated toilet area if she starts to wander. Over time, she’ll learn to stay still during potty time.
  3. Reward toileting in one spot.
    Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for training. When your dog successfully stays still and completes her business, praise and reward her. Make the rewards even better if she does it all in the designated toilet area. Then, start to only reward her when she goes in the toilet area. This helps create a positive association with staying still and reinforces the desired behaviour.
  4. Patience and consistency.
    Training takes time and patience, so be consistent with your approach. Regularly reinforce the desired behaviour and gently redirect your dog back to the designated area if she starts to wander. Consistency and positive reinforcement will help her understand what is expected of her during bathroom breaks.
  5. Calmly clean up.
    Accidents happen, especially during training and puppyhood. If your pup has an accident or leaves a trail, clean it up promptly and calmly. This will help get rid of odours that could encourage her to toilet in the same spots. Never punish your pup for accidents or trails, as she won’t be able to link the punishment and the behaviour.
  6. Ask for help if you need to.
    If your dog's wandering behaviour persists despite consistent training efforts, consider chatting to a professional dog trainer. They can offer additional techniques and advice to address the specific challenges you're facing.
Unfortunately, training won’t always help a pup who isn’t pooping in one place. If your dog is walking around rather than staying in “the poop stoop”, it can be a sign that holding the position is causing them discomfort or pain. In some cases, that means hip problems. It’s a good idea to have a vet give your pup a physical examination to rule out any underlying pain that could be preventing her from staying stooped in one spot.
I hope this answer helps you on your way to getting your pup pooping in one spot!

How can I stop my dog from frantically licking the sofa when she's sat next to me? She doesn't appear to do it if she's sat alone.

Thanks for reaching out with your question, and hopefully your sofa is holding up alright with all that licking.
First of all, licking is a natural and normal behaviour for dogs, but in this case she’s displaying the behaviour in a way you don’t want. So here are a few tips on why she might be taking it out on your sofa, and what you can do to stop it.
  1. Does she definitely not do it alone?
    Do you know that she doesn’t lick the sofa when she’s by herself? It can be useful to get a camera, or set up an old phone recording it. That way you can see what she’s up to when you’re not around, and if the behaviour appears then.
  2. She could be anxious.
    If your pup is only licking the sofa when you’re there, it may be a sign of anxiety.
  3. Don’t punish it.
    Telling off your dog for licking the sofa might can increase anxiety, and actually escalate the behaviour.
  4. She’s calming herself.
    Licking is a natural behaviour for dogs, and it’s a calming activity for them. She could be licking to settle herself down.
  5. Be calm.
    Dog’s are emotionally intelligent, especially with us humans. How are you feeling when you’re sat with her? If you’re stressed or worried or frustrated, your pup will pick up on this, which can make her start exhibiting calming behaviours, like licking.
  6. Try redirecting.
    Since licking is normal and calming, try to redirect her to licking appropriate items. A lickimat is a great option for this.
Hopefully this answer helps, but if you ever need more advice you can chat to a clinical animal behaviourist. You’ll find accredited behaviourists on the ABTC website.

My dog snarls when she goes into her cage, how can we stop her from doing this?

Thank you for reaching out with your question. Snarling can be be a worrying thing to deal with. Let’s explore a few ways to make being in the crate a more relaxing and positive experience for you and your pup.
  1. Create a positive association.
    Gradually introduce your dog to her crate by associating it with positive experiences. Make the crate a welcoming and comfortable space by placing soft bedding, toys, and treats inside. Leave the doors open and encourage her to explore the crate voluntarily, rewarding her with treats and praise when she enters on her own. This guide on crate training by veterinary behaviourist Dr Sophie White has some practicaly tips on how to build positive associations with crates.
  2. Gradual desensitisation.
    Take small steps to help your dog become more comfortable with the crate. Start by leaving the crate door open and allowing her to enter and exit freely. Gradually increase the time she spends inside, always rewarding her calm behaviour with treats and positive reinforcement. This gradual desensitisation process helps her associate the crate with positive experiences and reduces anxiety or fear.
  3. Counterconditioning.
    If your dog snarls when entering the crate, it may be a sign of anxiety or discomfort. Counterconditioning techniques can be helpful in changing her emotional response. Use treats or favorite toys to distract her and gradually build positive associations with the crate. Encourage her to approach the crate, toss treats inside, and reward her when she enters without exhibiting any signs of aggression.
  4. Don’t force it or punish her.
    Never force your dog into the crate or scold her for exhibiting fear or anxiety, as it can worsen the situation and her reaction. By the time a dog is snarling, they’ve probably already displayed subtler signs of anxiety, like whale eye, looking away, lip licking, etc.
  5. Consider changing the crate.
    Crate training can be useful, but it’s not vital. You can try using babygates or a play pen to keep your dog contained without being confined to a crate. She might find it more comfortable and relaxing.
  6. Seek professional advice.
    If your dog's snarling behaviour persists or escalates, it's best to speak to an accredited dog trainer or clinical animal behaviorist. They can assess the situation and provide specific advice tailored to your dog's needs, and offer hands-on guidance to address the underlying cause of the behaviour.
I hope these tips can help you and your pup with making the crate a more positive, stress-free experience for you both. If you do need further advice, do reach out to an accredited trainer or clinical animal behaviourist. You can find accredited trainers and behaviourists through the ABTC website.

How do I stop my dog from being possessive over toys. She jumps on our other dogs when they have a toy she wants?

Many dogs don’t like to share things with their “siblings”, but it’s important we handle this appropriately so that things don’t escalate.
What you have described as being “possessive” may well be resource guarding. Resource guarding is in fact, a natural, normal behaviour. We actually do this too! Think about if you have ever gotten on a train and put your bag onto the seat next to you to stop someone sitting there? This is an act of resource guarding.
However, it is an undesirable and potentially dangerous behaviour in our homes. Dogs guard resources because they fear losing them, but this can turn into a learnt behaviour.
Sometimes the fear is learned through experience; someone (or another dog!) has been taking valuable resources away from the dog, which proves the dog right - there is a reason to protect these things!
Although at the moment your dog is just jumping onto the other dogs when they take things that she wants, guarding is a dog behaviour problem that can very quickly escalate. Signs of guarding can include low level signs such as the dog running away with what they are holding, turning their back when approached, to then freezing, looking tense, lowering their head, and opening eyes wide, to more obvious signs like hard stares, growling, snarling, snapping, or at worst, biting!
What can you do?
It’s key to teach your dog that it’s ok for other dogs to have access to resources. But how we do this is by showing them there are plenty of resources to go around, rather than punishing them for showing signs of guarding.
  1. Don’t punish her.
    It’s important not to tell a dog off, or punish them, around their favoured resources as this can actually make the situation worse. Remember, resource guarding stems from a FEAR that something is going to be taken from them. So your dog is already worried and unhappy about sharing their favourite things, and telling them off is more likely to make them dislike your other dogs more because now interaction with those dogs = being told off! And the last thing we want to do is cause any difficulty or upset between your dogs.
  2. Provide lots of toys.
    If there’s plenty to go around, then there’s less chance of a dog being unhappy when another dog has the one they like.
  3. Supervise access to toys.
    Then you can step in if there is a sign of possessiveness being shown. So don’t leave toys out if you leave the house, for example.
  4. Teach appropriate behaviour.
    If one of the other dogs goes towards a toy that your dog likes, then encourage the “possessive” dog to come over and play with you with a different toy. Start playing with the other toy and making it fun. Dogs are inquisitive, so they should come over to see what you are doing and join in the fun. Now their sibling having their favourite toy = them getting attention and play, so it can become a good thing not a bad thing!
Please note , if your dog has bitten whilst guarding, then you'll require a full behaviour consult and vet referral. A vet referral is needed as guarding can have a health reason behind it. Examples include giardia, arthritis, and phantom pregnancy. You can ask your vet to refer you to an ABTC registered Clinical Animal Behaviourist for further support.

Why does my otherwise well behaved dog bark at animals on TV?

It can be confusing when our otherwise well-behaved furry friends show some unexpected behaviours, like barking at animals on TV. Especially if they don’t tend to bark at animals in real life! Here are a few ideas on why your pup’s barking at the TV.
  1. Instinctual response.
    Dogs have innate instincts that drive their behavior, and one of them is their natural prey drive. When they see animals on TV, their instinctual response may kick in, triggering a reaction such as barking, chasing, or even excitement. It's their way of responding to the stimuli and engaging with what they perceive as potential "prey."
  2. Sensory perception.
    Dogs rely heavily on their senses, particularly sight and sound. The moving images, sounds, and realistic depictions of animals on TV can capture their attention and stimulate their senses, leading to an instinctual response like barking. From their perspective, it might appear as though real animals are present in the room.
  3. Social facilitation.
    Dogs are highly social animals and often look to their human companions for cues on how to react in certain situations. If they notice you showing interest or reacting to the TV, they may interpret it as a cue to join in and respond by barking. It can be a form of seeking attention or trying to communicate with you.
  4. Entertainment and engagement.
    Dogs are intelligent critters and can experience enjoyment from watching TV. Barking at animals on the screen may be their way of engaging it, similar to how we sometimes shout at wrong answers on quiz shows, or cheer at the footie.
  5. TVs are more like real life now.
    Barking at the TV is actually becoming more common, as new TVs have a higher framerate. Dogs see life in much higher framerate than we humans, and old TVS with low framerates would have looked like a powerpoint to them. Now that TVs are faster, the images look more real to our pets, making them more likely to react!
While occasional barking at TV animals is generally harmless, if it becomes excessive or disruptive, you can try the following tips.
  1. Gradual exposure.
    Gradually expose your pup to TV programs featuring animals, starting with brief sessions and gradually increasing the duration. This helps desensitize them to the stimuli and reduces their arousal level.
  2. Positive reinforcement.
    Use positive reinforcement techniques, rewarding your dog with treats, praise, or toys when they remain calm or redirect their attention away from the TV. This helps them associate calm behavior with positive rewards.
  3. Environmental enrichment.
    Provide your dog with plenty of mental and physical stimulation through interactive toys, puzzle games, and regular exercise. A well-exercised and mentally stimulated dog is less likely to become overly-fixated on TV animals.
If you’re still puzzled by your pup’s behaviour and need a helping hand with it, a dog trainer or behaviourist will be able to help. You can find accredited dog professionals using the ABTC site.

My 2-3 year old cocker spaniel (rescue) has recently taken to staring at a roof drain soakaway, for no apparent reason! She even takes some of her toys round there and when coming in she sees me or my wife she often dashes back round to the drain. There is no water dripping and we can only think she may have seen a toad there a few weeks ago but she is so intent on watching it! Any ideas we love Napo too!

I’m delighted to hear you love Napo! And thanks for taking the time to send in your question 💙
This really is an unusual bit of behaviour, and it may be I can’t get quite to the bottom of exactly 
your dog is doing this as I don’t know what has happened during some of the times when it’s been occurring.
Sometimes dogs learn to do strange, and seemingly pointless behaviours that they find enjoyable or reinforcing for one reason or another. When the activity has no “function” to us, we sometimes refer to them as “superstitious behaviours”.
  1. Superstitious behaviours.
    Superstitious behaviours get reinforced and become learnt by the dog owing to coincidental reinforcement - which may have been the toad! Your dog might just happened to have been by the roof drain soakaway when a toad hopped out. This will have activated part of the predatory sequence.
  2. The predatory sequence.
    The predetary sequence is something all dogs find some parts of enjoyable. For example, Collies are designed to enjoy the “eye orient” part of the sequence, whereas Terriers like the part near the end where they “grab” a rodent. The toad hopping about could have been great fun for your dog to watch, and potentially chase to try and catch. So now she may be watching the drain in the hope of having this fun again.
  3. Beware of toads.
    This is something we need to be a little bit cautious of, because licking/ingesting the toad would be dangerous for her. Toads are poisonous to dogs. Signs that a dog has licked or ingested a toad include vomiting, frothing and foaming at the mouth, hypersalivation, shaking, oral pain, and collapse.
Now we’ve talked about why your Cocker might be so interested in the soakaway, here’s some ideas on how to persuade her to stop playing this game she’s invented. (And hopefully leave any toads alone!)
  1. Give her something else to chase.
    I would look at giving her different chase games to play in the garden, perhaps with a long handled toy like those from the tug-e-nuff range. I like these toys because dogs are easily enticed by the fur on the product, and they’re easy to make entertaining. Just drag them along the ground to stimulate an animal moving and get them to chase it.
  2. Move away from the soakway.
    Try to play in different areas of the garden away from the soakaway . Hopefully your new game will become more fun than the game she invented for herself!
I hope this has answered your question, and that you and your pup can play plenty of fun chase games that don’t involve toads! 🐸

Your health & wellness questions

All our answers are reviewed by the wonderful vets at The Finchley Vet, but please do not take these answers as specific veterinary advice. The vets have no knowledge of any specific pet's requirements or background. All answers are intended to be used for general information only.  Please consult a veterinary surgeon individually for any specific concerns or questions regarding your pet.

Is wet or dry food the best for our pets well being?

The big debate: wet or dry food? It's like a never-ending saga in the pet world. I completely get that you want nothing but the absolute best for your pet. So here are the pros and cons of each.
Wet food does have a lot of moisture, which is great for pets who need a little extra hydration, or can’t chew hard food.
On the flip side, dry food may help maintain strong jaws, working your pup’s muscles to chew (although not all pups chew their food much!). There are some claims dry food can improve dental health by breaking off tartar as your pet chews, but this doesn’t have a ton of scientific backing. It’s definitely no replacement for teeth brushing.
This isn’t from a wellbeing perspective, but dry food also has the benefit of being convenient, easy to store safely, and cost-effective.
Ultimately, as long as the food you use is nutritionally complete and suitable for your pet’s species and life stage, it should provide all the nutrients and energy they need for their wellbeing. It’s also just as important to feed your furry friend the right amount of food, to help prevent obesity.
But just like us, pets do have preferences. So if your furry friend does have a favourite, whether it’s wet or dry, you can go with that.
If you want even more specific advice for your pet’s diet, chat to your vet. They'll give you the inside scoop based on your pet's age, breed, activity level, and any special health considerations.

What to look for when finding the most nutritious food for our pets?

Thanks for asking us your question! And I really get that you want to give your pets the very best. When it comes to sniffing out the most nutritious food, the two most important things to look for are:
  • It’s “complete” food
  • It’s age appropriate
As long as the food is complete and age-appropriate for your furry friend, it’ll provide all the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Any other choices will be to find foods that your pet prefers, and best suit your personal budget, space, and time. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of what to look for in nutritious pet food.
Must haves:
  1. It’s nutritionally complete.
    If a food is “complete” or “nutritionally complete” it means it has all the nutrients your pet needs, in the right quantities. It means they could eat only that food, and still get everything they need from their diet.
  2. It’s fit for their species and age.
    Cats and dogs have different dietary needs, so you need to get the right food. Your pet will also have different needs depending on their age. For instance, puppies and kittens need more protein. So to make sure the food is as nutritious as your pet needs, make sure it fits their age.
  1. Look for whole, quality ingredients.
    Check out the ingredients list and look for real, high-quality protein sources (think chicken, beef, or fish) as the top ingredients. If the meat is named, it means it’s used whole meat, not meat or bone meal.
  2. Say no to artificial nasties:
    Just like we steer clear of artificial stuff, our pets deserve the same treatment. Keep an eye out for foods without artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Go natural and let your pet's taste buds dance with joy!
  3. Keep it suitable for your pet’s conditions.
    If your pet has specific dietary requirements or health conditions, have a chat with your vet about foods that cater to their unique needs. They're the experts who'll guide you towards the best options!
How to choose your pet’s food and diet:
  1. Wet or dry?
    As long as it’s complete, there’s little nutritional difference between the two. The main difference is that wet food has a lot of moisture, so it can help to keep your pet hydrated, and it’s easier to chew if they have tooth or jaw issues.
  2. Grain or grain-free?
    This is a big debate. Dogs have evolved with humans for millenia and one of the big differences they have with wolves is that they can digest grains. So your pup can eat grains and thrive. There is currently some concern over grain free foods and increased risk of heart diseases, so I recommend food with grain in.
  3. Raw or nah?
    Some pets do well on raw food, other’s don’t. If I’m honest, raw food comes with a lot of faff (and storage space) to avoid cross-contamination. There’s also a risk of pathogens, which could make you and your pet very sick. So I’d rather not take the risk. Plus, lots of foods, like carrots, actually become more nutritious and easier to digest after cooking.
Remember, the amount of food your pet needs is just as important as the kind of food they eat!

How to make sure my dogs gets all the nutrients, like fiber and all? Is it OK to feed my dog just one type of food all the time?

Thanks for sending us your question! When it comes to sniffing out the most nutritious food, the three most important things to look for are:
  • It’s a “complete” food
  • It’s age appropriate
  • It’s produced by a reliable pet food manufacturer
As long as the food meets those three points, it’ll provide all the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Any other choices will be to find foods that your pet prefers, and best suit your personal budget, space, and time.
  1. One food is fine!
    As long as the food you’re giving them is complete and age-appropriate, they can eat just that one food all the time and be perfectly healthy. That one food has everything they need.
  2. Try not to vary food.
    Chopping and changing foods can lead to fussiness and gut problems. Dogs are generally much healthier and happier when given a complete single food. You may need to change foods for health reasons, or as a dog gets older (e.g. puppy food and adult food have different nutritional contents). But if your dog is eating some of the food and maintaining their healthy weight (even if it seems like they’re not enjoying it as much any more,) then stick with the same food.  
  3. Keep conditions in mind.
    If your dog has an existing health condition, it’s a good idea to chat to your vet about it as it could be worth adjusting their diet to help them feel their best.
As long as your dog is eating their food, and it’s complete, you can keep feeding them the same thing for as long as you both like. I know that some dogs appear to become fussy with their food, but as long as they are eating something and a healthy weight, try to stick with the same food. Because changing food suddenly can lead to fussiness and sometimes gut problems.
If you’re ever in doubt about how much or what your dog is eating, always ask your vet. I hope this helps 💙

Everyone has a different opinion on what is best to feed my dogs and I’m confused. The local dog food shop says only feed hard food and stay away from wet to keep their teeth in good condition. I can already see a small amount of tartar starting to build up. Currently I feed both dogs a complete freeze dried raw food and a complete cold pressed raw food. Is this ok?

Thanks for your question, and believe me, I know navigating the dog food advice can be really overwhelming. Especially with so many different diet choices out there!
Firstly, let’s answer about the food.
Raw foods are currently very popular, and lots of people find that they can help their dogs. However, there are some risks that you need to be aware of if you do use raw food. 
  1. Ensure they’re nutritionally complete.
    Many raw foods are not genuinely complete, so it’s really important to check with your vet that the food you are giving is genuinely a complete food which is appropriate for your dog's age, breed, and activity levels.  
  2. Be aware of pathogens.
    Because it is not cooked, raw food can contain more parasites and bacteria than cooked food (even if it is just exactly the same as the food that has been cooked). This can increase the risk of your dog developing parasites and certain bacterial infections. 
  3. Consider yourself.
    There’s also some evidence that owners who feed their dogs' raw food are also at higher risk of getting problems themselves compared with dog owners that feed cooked food.  This may be the case even if you are really careful to avoid cross-contamination. Of course, the risks vary for different people and different situations, so it is something to discuss with your vet, or your doctor if you have any specific health problems yourself.  
As for their dental health, there’s not much scientific evidence that eating hard food will help keep their teeth clean. The best thing to do to keep your dog’s teeth clean is to brush them regularly. You can keep your dogs on the food of your choice, just incorporate some dental hygiene practices alongside it.
  1. Get rid of the tartar.
    Tartar can only be removed through professional cleaning. I’d say to check your dog into the vet’s for a professional cleaning. Cleanings are seen as preventative healthcare, so most insurers don’t cover them.
  2. Regular brushing.
    Ideally, you’ll brush your dog’s teeth 2-3 times a week. But something is better than nothing.
  3. Other ways to clean teeth.
    VOHC-approved water additives, dental chews, or chew toys designed to promote dental health can help maintain good oral hygiene. They’re not as effective as brushing (and some are more effective than others), but you can use them to help keep your pup’s teeth clean if you brush their teeth less frequently.
For more advice on how to keep your pet’s teeth clean, check out this guide. I hope this has helped answer your question! 💙

How often should I be feeding my 9-month-old miniature Dachshund a day?

Thanks for sending us your question about your pup’s meals! 🐶
I know the puppy stage goes quickly, and there’s a seemingly endless list of things to do, including changing the number of meals a day, and the type of food, as your pup grows.
Now that your Dachshund is 9 months old, they should be eating either 2 or 3 meals a day. Puppies can go from eating 3 meals a day to 2 once they’re 6 months old, but it isn’t vital that they make the change then.
As long as your puppy is eating the recommended volume of food for their size, it’s up to you if you want to split it into 2 or 3 meals. Most people swap to 2 because it’s a bit easier, and you can feed them at the start and end of the day.
Speaking of the amount of food, most 9 month old Mini Dachshunds are about 4kg, so they’ll need about 370-390 calories a day depending on how active they are. The puppy food you’re using should have a guide on the packet advising how much your pup should be eating, but if you’re not sure, you can always check with your vet and they can come up with a detailed feeding guide for your pup as they grow. I hope this helps!

My 6 month cockapoo puppy will not eat dog food. I’ve tried so many, dried and wet. She will go for days! We don't give her human food either, but she will eat cat biscuits?

I know that having a picky pup can be a real source of worry and frustration, my own dog went through phases of being picky for days at a time until she had her first season. She can still be a bit fussy, but generally has been more of a foodie since she became and adult!
It seems like your pup has quite the discerning palate, and it’s hard not to panic when your pup won’t eat. But don’t worry, it’s pretty normal for puppies and dog’s to go through phases of picky eating or refusing food. Puppies can be especially picky, as their taste preferences can change as they grow. Hang in there!
In the meantime, here’s a few ideas to try and help.
  1. Cut the cat biscuits.
    Cat biscuits are full of protein and fat, near irresistable and pretty filling for a dog. If you can feed your cat seperately from the dog, and keep the cat biscuits out of reach, she might have more of an appetite.
  2. Try fewer treats
    . Similarly, if your pup is still eating treats, it could be filling her up.
  3. Find a similar flavour.
    Take a look at some of the ingredients and flavours in the cat food and see if you can find a similar dog food. Is it chicken? Fish? Pup’s have preferences and it sounds like she’s exploring hers.
  4. Make meals more enticing.
    Adding a bit of warm water or low-salt broth to dry food can also enhance its aroma and make it more appealing. So can warming it in the microwave. You can also try adding some dog-safe foods like chicken or salmon oil to her meals to make them more enticing.
  5. Keep meal time consistent
    . Pup’s thrive on routine. If you’re not already, keep meal times at a consistent time. If your pup doesn’t eat her food in half an hour, pick it up, cover it, and pop it in the fridge. Try offering it to her again the next meal time
  6. Avoid changing their food. Dogs are typically “neophobic”, scared of new things. Plus, sudden changes in diet can cause gastrointestinal upset, and make your dog less likely to eat. So avoid changing your pup’s food too often and try to stick with one thing for a while as long as they’re eating enough to stay a healthy weight, even if they’re not ravenous for the food.
While missing a meal isn’t the end of the world, if your Cockapoo pup shows signs of weight loss, or symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, diarrhoea, or regurgitation please take them to a vet. And if she really isn’t eating anything, contact your vet as they’ll need to monitor your Cockapoo and make sure no harm comes to her whilst you’re waiting for her to get used to the new food.
If you need further guidance or support on your journey to conquer picky eating, let us know! In the meantime, you can read this guide on picky puppies. I wish you all the success in discovering the perfect dinner for your Cockapoo!

When I take my dog out for a walk she keeps on eating rabbits dropping is this bad for them?

To us humans, eating poo seems pretty gross, so we get your concern! However for dogs, it’s eating poo is a pretty common behaviour, and what vets and behaviourists call “coprophagia”.
When it comes to eating rabbit droppings, it's not a cause for major concern. While it seems pretty unhygienic to us humans, rabbit poo is little more than grass and water. And unlike poo from other animals like foxes or other dogs, there’s little risk of rabbit poo having harmful parasites or bacteria.
  1. Rabbit poo is usually harmless.
    Rabbit droppings are mostly undigested grasses and fibres. And unlike poo from other animals like dogs and foxes, there’s little risk of any harmful bacteria. Although eating a lot can cause an upset stomach.
  2. Moderation is key.
    While occasional nibbles on rabbit droppings may not pose a significant risk, it's important to discourage your dog from eating a lot of it.
  3. Preventative measures.
    During your walks, keep a close eye on your dog and try to steer clear of droppings. Keeping them on the lead makes it easy to direct them away from poo. If your dog’s poo eating is excessive, muzzle training can help as it’ll prevent them from eating anything they shouldn’t.
  4. Try redirection.
    As well as preventing them from getting near poo, you can try redirecting them. If you see poo, try encouraging your dog to focus on you or a toy instead. Positive reinforcement training can be helpful in teaching them to focus on other activities or treats instead.
  5. Keep up their deworming.
    Rabbits can carry certain parasites, such as intestinal worms. Your dog might pick these up when eating poo. It's a good idea to make sure your pup is up to date on their deworming treatments to minimise any potential risks.
So eating rabbit droppings occasionally isn’t too bad for your pup. To be safe, it’s a good idea to keep up her regular worming treatment, and if she shows any symptoms of illness, chat to your vet. I hope this helps, and good luck on your next walk! 🐇 💙

Should my dog have his teeth brushed regularly? What schedule and steps should we be following?

Yes, your dog should have their teeth brushed regularly. Like humans, dogs can get bad breath and plaque if they don’t have their teeth cleaned regularly, and it can lead to problems like dental disease. It’s regarded that regular teeth brushing is the gold standard for maintaining healthy gums and preventing dental issues.
  1. Regular tooth brushing is important.
    Just like humans, dogs can develop plaque and tartar buildup on their teeth, leading to gum disease, tooth decay, and bad breath. Regular teeth brushing helps remove plaque and maintain good dental hygiene, promoting your pup's overall health.
  2. Ideal = Daily. At least 2-3 times a week.
    Ideally, you’d brush your dog’s teeth once a day. But it’s not always possible, so it’s good to aim to brush your dog's teeth at least 2-3 times a week. 
  3. Other ways to clean.
    You can also use other dental cleaning aids like dental chews or VOHC water additives to help keep their teeth clean if you’re not brushing daily. But they’re not as effective as brushing so still aim for 2-3 brushes a week.
When it comes to cleaning their teeth, here’s a quick breakdown of how to do it.
  1. Choosing the right supplies.
    Use a soft-bristled toothbrush specifically designed for dogs, or a finger toothbrush that fits over your finger (although be careful that your dog doesn’t mistake your finger for a tasty treat!). You must use dog-friendly toothpaste, because human toothpaste can be harmful to dogs. Plus, dog-friendly toothpaste is in flavours like poultry or beef to make the experience more enjoyable for them.
  2. Familiarise your dog.
    Introduce the toothbrush and toothpaste gradually to your dog. Let them sniff and lick the toothpaste to get acquainted with the taste. Reward positive behaviour with praise and treats to create a positive association with the brushing process.
  3. Brushing technique.
    Gently lift your dog's lip to expose their teeth. Using the toothbrush or finger toothbrush, brush in small circular motions along the gum line and teeth surfaces. Pay extra attention to the back molars, where plaque tends to build up. Aim for a 2-minute brushing session. You can gradually work up to this duration using positive reinforcement.
  4. Patience and positive reinforcement.
    Patience is key during the teeth brushing process, especially if your dog is new to this routine. Start with short brushing sessions and gradually increase the time as your dog becomes more comfortable. Always end on a positive note with praise, treats, or a favourite activity to make it an enjoyable experience.
  5. Professional dental checks.
    Regular teeth brushing is an essential part of dental care, but it's also important to schedule professional dental checks with your vet. (The same way we humans go for annual checkups!) Your vet can perform a thorough examination, clean your dog's teeth, and address any underlying dental issues.
While daily tooth brushing is ideal, something is better than nothing. If you only manage to brush your pup’s teeth once a week to start with and gradually build up to three times a week, that’s great progress. Consistency and patience are key to establishing a successful teeth brushing routine. If you want any more info, check out this guide on teeth cleaning. Good luck with those pearly whites! 🦷

How do you determine when your bitch has safely finished her season?

I know hormones are hard, and knowing when your bitch has come into - or out - of season can be a bit of a mystery. Especially since she can’t say that she’s feeling back to normal. Here are a few signs that your pup has come to the end of her season.
  1. No more discharge.
    During your bitch's season, you might notice a discharge from her vulva that ranges from bright red to a lighter pinkish colour. As her season wraps up, the discharge typically becomes less intense and gradually fades away.
  2. Her romantic interests fade.
    As your pup’s hormones settle and her season ends, she’ll become less interested in romantic escapades with her admirers. The boys may still come knocking, but if she's politely declining their advances she’ll be at the end of her season.
  3. The swelling subsides.
    One of the telltale signs of a bitch in season is swelling in the vulva area. As her season comes to an end, you'll notice the swelling gradually decrease, and her lady parts will return to their normal size.
Remember, safety first! During her season, and even a little while afterwards, keep a close eye on your precious pup and prevent any unwanted encounters. Some dogs may have so-called “silent heats” where they are fertile but do not show external signs.  So, it’s best to make sure that you keep any intact boys away at all times to prevent any accidents!
Most dogs have seasons that will last 2-3 weeks. If you notice signs of season lasting longer than this, or have any concerns at all, always ask your vet.

My dog is 10 years old now, she’s been vaccinated every year of her life, should I continue with yearly vaccinations?

Thanks for reaching out with your question! 💙
As your dog reaches her golden years, it's important to reassess her vaccination needs in consultation with your veterinarian. While vaccinations play a vital role in preventing diseases, the frequency and types of vaccinations may vary for senior dogs. Let's explore some considerations to help you make an informed decision.
  1. Consult your vet.
    Your vet is the best person to advise you on your dog's specific vaccination needs based on her age, overall health, lifestyle, and any regional disease risks. Schedule a check-up to discuss her vaccination history and receive tailored recommendations.
  2. Keeping up core vaccinations.
    Core vaccinations protect against highly contagious and potentially life-threatening diseases that are prevalent and pose significant health risks. Examples include vaccines for distemper, parvovirus, and hepatitis. Many of these vaccines provide long-lasting immunity, and booster shots don’t always need to be annual. Some can be every 3 years, depending on the vaccine used. Again, you’ll need to chat to your vet.
  3. Assess your lifestyle and environment.
    Consider your dog's lifestyle and environment to determine potential exposure risks. If she has limited contact with other animals and you live in an area with low disease prevalence, the need for certain vaccinations might be reduced. However, if she frequently interacts with other dogs, visits parks, or stays in boarding facilities, regular vaccinations will be essential.
  4. Tailored vaccination schedule:
    Based on your dog's individual circumstances, your vet may recommend adjusting the vaccination schedule. This could mean extending the interval between certain vaccinations or selecting specific vaccines that align with her needs.
  5. Consider her age.
    As your dog gets older, her immune system will weaken. Keeping up her vaccines will help to protect her from serious illness, especially when her own immunity isn’t as strong. Your vet will evaluate your dog's age, health, any existing medical conditions, and consider how vaccinations may impact her wellbeing.
  6. Check your insurance.
    Insurance policies often require you to keep your dog vaccinated, so double check your insurance.
Remember, open communication with your vet is key to making informed decisions and providing the best care for your furry companion. I think the best thing for you to do is to take your pooch in for an assessment and chat to your vet about what options you have based on your circumstances. I hope this answer has helped highlight your possibilities!

My 20 month old GWP is recovering from an adder bite to her face 3 weeks ago. She had excellent and immediate vet care and all the swelling has now dissipated. However, she is panting a lot more than usual on walks and lying down regularly. Could this be related to the bite or just that temperatures have risen lately?

I’m so sorry to hear about your poor pup’s snake encounter! Please give her a cuddle from me. 💙
Firstly, kudos to you for seeking immediate veterinary care for the adder bite. I can understand your concern about your pup’s increased panting and resting following the incident. It’s so hard telling when our pets need extra care, since they can’t tell us how they’re feeling, so you’ve done a great job of advocating for your pup.
It’s a good sign that the swelling has gone down. However, if the panting and lying down are not something that your vet informed you was normal after the bite and treatment, then I would take your pup to your vet - or consult with the wonderful vets at First Vet. Don’t forget, you have access to FirstVet free with your policy, and no question is too big or small.
Panting and lethargy can be symptoms of several possible problems. Hopefully you’ill get your pup checked and have the all clear, but it’s better to be safe than sorry in a case like this.

Our cat recently came home with a wound on her back. She continually licked it and scratched which made it far worse. We bought a cat t shirt to discourage her and, although it stopped her licking, she still scratched the wound through the shirt. Is there something which you can use to stop a cat licking or scratching a wound, a cream perhaps? In this case the cone of shame would not have stopped her scratching and would have prevented her enjoying the freedom of using a cat flap.

Thanks for sending us your question, and I’m sorry to hear about your cat’s injury. I hope she’s on the mend, scratching aside. You’re right to try and stop it so her injury has time to heal. Annoyingly, getting itchy is a natural part of the healing process so I also empathise with your cat!
There are creams you can use. Topical steroids are often used to reduce inflammation and itching, so your cat will be less likely to scratch. She won’t need to be on them long either, just for a week or two while the wound heals. Although they’re not appropriate in some cases, your vet will know if they might work.
It’s a shame the shirt hasn’t worked, as recovery suits are a great alternative to allow cats their freedom whilst keeping the wound covered. You can try covering the wound with gauze or self-adhesive bandages to keep it covered too. While shirts and dressings won’t stop your cat from scratching, as long as they keep the wound covered and prevent her from re-opening it, they may help.
Scratches on the head and neck of cats can often be a sign of underlying problems, and can sometimes get infected. Please make an appointment with your vet as they will be the best person to talk to about this, and will help with anything extra your cat can have to make her more comfortable. I wish your kitty speedy healing and hope you find something that gets rid of her itch. 💙

My dog is scratching and licking himself a lot, almost excessively. Can we give him over the counter antihistamines that we take for hayfever and if so which is the best/safest for him. He is an 19 month old lab about 28 kg in weight.

Thanks for reaching out to us with your question about your furry friend's excessive scratching and licking. I get it, seeing your pup uncomfortable is worrisome. While it's natural to consider using over-the-counter antihistamines since they help us humans, let's take a closer look at the safest options for your Lab.
First off, you must consult with your veterinarian before giving any medication to your pet. They know your dog's medical history and can provide personalised advice. It’s lovely to see that you are trying to sort this problem out for your doggo, as it must be causing a lot of distress for him, however in the UK it is also illegal to give medication intended for humans to dogs without a veterinary prescription (even medication for people that can be bought from over the counter). So we would never advise that you do that.  
That being said, here are some general insights to consider:
  1. Over-the-counter antihistamines.
    Some antihistamines are safe for dogs under veterinary guidance. However, not all antihistamines are safe, and dosages will vary based on your dog's specific needs. Remember, the dosage and suitability of any medication must be determined by your vet. They'll provide guidance based on your dog's health, age, weight, and any potential interactions with other medications.  However, antihistamines are rarely effective in controlling itching in dogs (although some antihistamines may make a dog sleepy which can result in less itching!).  Luckily there are other, much more effective medicines which a vet can prescribe instead to help itching.
To treat the itch, you’ll have to figure out what might be causing it.
  1. Are they up to date on flea treatment?
    Itching can be a sign of fleas, so if you haven’t already, check for signs of fleas on your pup.
  1. Check their diet.
    A balanced and nutritious diet can work wonders for your dog's overall well-being, including their skin health. Opt for high-quality dog food that contains essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, which help maintain a healthy coat and skin. Itching can also be a sign of dietary allergies. Consult your vet for specific dietary recommendations tailored to your dog's needs.
  2. Environmental changes.
    Sometimes, allergies to environmental factors like dust, pollen, or certain cleaning products can trigger itching. Keep your home clean, use hypoallergenic or pet-friendly cleaning products, and minimise exposure to potential allergens.
Once you’ve identified what might be causing your dog’s itching, and made sure there is no broken skin, you can try a few things to settle their itching.
  1. Regular grooming.
    A good grooming routine is essential to keep your furry friend's skin healthy. Rinse your dog regularly when they come in from walks as some dogs can be allergic to pollens on their skin - however, try to avoid any soap or shampoo products which can make itchy dogs more itchy by removing the natural oils from their skin.
  2. Oatmeal baths.
    Colloidal oatmeal is a gentle and soothing remedy for itchy skin and a much better option for cleaning itchy dogs than soap based products. You can find oatmeal-based shampoos or make a homemade oatmeal bath by grinding plain, uncooked oats into a fine powder and mixing it with warm water. Gently massage the mixture onto your dog's skin and rinse thoroughly. This can provide relief and reduce itchiness.
  1. Essential fatty acids.
    Essential fatty acids like omega-3 are proven to help fight inflammation and soothe itchy skin. You can either give oral supplements or topical creams, your vet can chat to you to decide which is best for you and your pup. Since they need to build up in your dog’s body, they can take 4-6 weeks before you notice a difference, but they’re proven to make skin healthier!
Again, you must consult your vet before giving your dog any medication or using any topical treatments (including washes and shampoos). They will assess your dog's symptoms, conduct a thorough examination, and provide specific recommendations based on their professional expertise.  Generalised itchiness can lead to severe infections and can be very distressing for a dog, so you must consult a vet about your itchy Lab. 
While you're exploring potential solutions, remember to address the root cause of your pup's itching. Allergies, fleas, dry skin, or other underlying conditions can contribute to their discomfort. Your vet can help identify the cause and develop a comprehensive treatment plan.
Wishing your precious Lab a speedy relief from itching! 🐾💙

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