A story appeared in the press this week about a woman from Essex who has spent an estimated £100,000 on her beloved Yorkshire Terrier Lola. As well as recently splashing out £500 on a replica Royal wedding tiara, Lola’s owner Louise Harris has also spent over £5,000 on a hand-made designer bed and jewellery for her dog, and has created a walk-in wardrobe to house Lola’s collection of designer dresses which each cost up to £400.
“She has more dresses than me,” laughs Louise. “Her most beautiful one is a £400 couture outfit we had made for a party in the summer, with nude and black embroidered lace, chiffon and silk. I like to look nice and dress well myself. If Lola was my child, she would wear the best that I could afford to give her, so as my dog I still want to give her the best I can.”
Lola might easily qualify as the most pampered pet in Britain, but she is one of a growing pack of diva dogs whose owners believe their tiny pets should have the best of everything.
So is this the ultimate sign that the British are living up to our billing as a nation of pet lovers – or are these kind of indulgences completely at odds with the idea of owning a pet for mutual love and companionship?
Personally I wouldn’t want to spend this kind of money on my pets (sorry Jack!) and I do find the whole idea of dressing pets up and parading them as fashion accessories very strange indeed. However, from a vet and pet lover’s point of view, I can also see that many of these pampered pets actually live a great life and have more love and attention lavished on them than many people. So provided the needs of the pets are properly catered for, and the pampering doesn’t lead to health or behaviour problems, I’ve got no real problem with someone spending a fortune on their pets – better too much indulgence and pampering than the other extreme, that’s for sure. Let me know what you think.
Now I wonder if Jack would look good in sequins…
I’ve just spent a few seconds signing up to a vital petition that will help save the last 3,200 wild tigers on earth.
When I first heard that there are only 3,200 wild tigers left, I was really shocked – these are one of the most iconic wild animals in the world, and if they disappear, what hope is there for the rest of the natural world? To put it in perspective, it means that all the wild tigers left on earth could all fit on just one football pitch. Added to this, we are losing them to poachers at a rate that means they will become extinct within a very few years.
The TigerTime campaign team need your help to save them. The Chinese trade in tiger parts is one of the most serious threats to the wild tiger. The Chinese government says that it is committed to saving the wild tiger. However, it is continuing to allow the trade in tiger parts and skins from tigers bred in so called ‘tiger farms’. TigerTime think that the practice of ‘farming tigers’ is barbaric and should be stopped. Additionally, this trade is the perfect smokescreen for the continued poaching of wild tigers.
Please, urge others to sign the petition at http://www.tigertime.info/index.html and pass this request on to as many people as they can by forwarding this email. China is a powerful country so as many signatures as possible are needed to make them listen.
With the weather now decidedly wintry, it’s worth thinking about how to keep your pets safe and happy when the ice and snow arrives. Here are my top tips for looking after your pets this winter:
Dogs are generally tough animals with the majority of breeds having thick well-insulated coats that are very effective at keeping out the worst of the winter weather. However that doesn’t mean that you can take their wellbeing for granted in weather conditions such as we’re seeing at the moment as extreme cold and snow can present some significant risks to their health and wellbeing.
- Hidden dangers – heavy snow falls can hide all sorts of hidden dangers from barbed wire to broken glass and this can lead to bruises, cuts and even broken bones. So take care on your dog walks and try to stick to well known routes to minimise the risks of unwelcome surprises from under the snow.
- Sliding – Dogs often don’t know when to take it easy and strains and fractures from sliding on icy patches can be a problem in this kind of weather. It’s worth taking it a bit easier than normal and not throwing balls or sticks unless the ground offers secure footing to try to reduce the risks.
- Ice – every year a number of dogs fall through thin ice and either drown or suffer from hypothermia so it’s vital to take extreme care if you walk your dog near large bodies of water such as lakes. And never ever encourage your dog onto the ice by throwing a stick as you can never be sure how thick and strong it is. If your dog does fall through the ice don’t put yourself at risk as you could easily follow them in – either try throwing them something to climb onto or call for help.
- Ice-balls – not a major danger but hairy dogs in particular are prone to getting ice stuck between their toes and this can lead to bruising and pain if left to accumulate.
- Cold – most dogs are well insulated so the cold isn’t too much of a problem but for short haired dogs and those not used to this kind of weather it can be more of a problem. There are lots of winter accessories available for dogs including coats and mitts and these are worth considering if your dog isn’t naturally well equipped for this kind of weather. At night make sure your dog has plenty of bedding to snuggle into as even if they are in the house temperatures can drop pretty low at night. For dogs living outside warm bedding is obviously even more crucial, and deep piles of fresh straw are one of the best insulating beddings. Only dogs who are used to living out should be left outside in this kind of weather, and even for these hardy animals it’s worth considering if they would be more comfortable inside (although surprisingly many outdoor dogs actually prefer being in their cosy kennel to being in the house).
Cats are pretty good at looking after themselves in the cold, usually preferring to stay in the warm and dry and watch the snow fall from the safety of a windowsill or radiator hammock. However there are still some potential risks to their health in extreme weather conditions:
- Urine retention – cats who usually go to the toilet outside can sometimes be so reluctant to go outside for a wee that they hold onto their urine to the point that it can be dangerous. Retained urine increases the risks of blockages, particularly in male cats, and urinary tract infections which are more common in female cats. To reduce the risks, make sure you offer at least one clean litter tray in an easily accessible place.
- Ice – cats are generally more cautious than dogs and are also obviously lighter so they tend to be less at risk from falling through thin ice. However where snow is covering a thin layer of ice they can be caught out and this can lead to dangerous immersion in freezing cold water.
In the wild rabbits would be safely tucked up in their burrows several metres underground, but domestic rabbits tend to have much less well insulated living accommodation. A typical hutch offers little protection from the cold, and without plenty of dry bedding rabbits can be at risk of hypothermia. It’s generally advisable to bring rabbits indoors or at least into the garage in this weather, but if they are outside make sure you check them several times a day at least and ensure that their bedding is warm and most importantly completely dry. It is also vital that they have access to drinking water so make sure you de-ice their water regularly during the day.
Pond fish are generally pretty good at surviving in cold weather even when ice forms on the surface of their pond as they will spend their time at the bottom where the water remains at a minimum of 4 degrees C. However if the surface of the water remains frozen for more than a few days toxic metabolic by-products such as carbon dioxide can build up in the water turning it ‘sour’ so it is important to maintain a hole in the ice in longer spells of cold weather. This is best done by pouring hot water onto the ice rather than physically breaking a hole as the shock waves from this can be very distressing to fish, particularly sensitive species such as Koi carp.
Longer term the best solution is to use a pond heater. These are relatively cheap devices that maintain a small hole in the ice using a very low level heater and are the most reliable way of keeping fish safe in prolonged cold spells.
I’ve long since learned that the TV world is full of unexpected twists and turns – but even so, I certainly never expected to be asked back on to Blue Peter after nearly 10 years away from the show. So I was very surprised a week or two ago to get a call asking me to go on the show to co-present a pet special this week. After such a long absence from the show I assumed that my Blue Peter days were well and truly behind me but amazingly it seems as though my career on the most iconic children’s show in the UK may have just come back to life!
When I arrived at the new studios in Manchester to record the program on Monday the last thing I expected was to see a face I remembered from the old days on the show – but that’s exactly what I saw when I met Carmella the floor manager who didn’t seem to have changed a bit since the last time I saw her in 2002! The studio was very different to the original home of the show at BBC TV centre in London though – much smaller, but also much more modern and hi-tech in feel. The smaller size gave it a more intimate feel and although the set had changed a lot since my last time on the show, there was a real since of familiarity about the place which made me realise that 10 years may have passed, and most of the people may have changed, but the show itself was really very much the same as it had always been.
The show was a pet special, with films all about weird and wonderful pets, the first visit by the BP cats to the new studios, and a host of pets in the studio for me to talk about. These ranged from everyday pets such as rabbits and hamsters to more exotic and unusual animals including a bearded dragon and a tank full of African giant land snails! Although the show was recorded, it was done as if it was live so there was the same sense of excitement and tension about the studio when the cameras started rolling as for a ‘real’ live show – and the sound of the title music brough memories of all of my other BP appearances flooding back.
It all went really well, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself – it was so good to be back after such a long break, and hopefully my next appearance on the show will be in less than 10 years time!
If you missed it, you can catch up on the i-Player for the next week at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b017pl6n/Blue_Peter_22_11_2011/
If you missed my Q&A column in The Metro today, here it is:
Our old moggie of indeterminable age seems to be having trouble with his claws getting caught on everything he walks on. Is there anything we can do to help him with this, as constantly getting stuck to cushions and bedding seems to cause him some distress?
This is a common problem with older cats as they tend to become less active and their claws get less of the general wear they need to keep them short. The claws of senior cats can also get very thick and brittle as they get older which makes it harder for them to keep them in good condition. The best way to help is to arm yourself with a pair of nail clippers, ideally the guillotine style ones which enclose the nail, and trim them yourself. Make sure you leave plenty of nail beyond the pink quick by trimming them level with the bottom of the pads and ask your vet for a demonstration if you are not confident.
We rescued a 10-month old puppy named Chelsea about a year ago, who had been quite poorly treated and thrown out as a puppy. She has always been very jealous but recently has become overly aggressive with other dogs and picks fights at most visits to the dog park. Do you have any tips on how to correct this behaviour, especially while she’s still quite young and relatively easy to train?
From your longer question it’s clear that Chelsea has issues with fear and anxiety related to her bad start in life and this is what is driving her reactive aggression towards other dogs and over-protective relationship with you. The best approach is to gradually desensitise her by using positive treats and rewards in the presence of other dogs, and also while you are having contact with other dogs. This will help to replace the expectation of fear with one of pleasure/ reward when she sees other dogs, and rebalance her relationship with you. Start by keeping other dogs in the far distance and very gradually work towards closer and closer contact whilst keeping up the positive reinforcement with treats or toys.
We have an 8 year old German Shepherd who used to have frequent bouts of diarrhoea/colitis and thought this had been cured as she has had no problems for about 12 months. However in the past 4 months she has had 3 occasions of colitis and I was wondering if there are any supplements that we can give her to stop this and give her a healthy tummy?
Supplements can definitely help promote healthy digestive function and reduce the severity and frequency of problems such as colitis. The main active ingredients to look out for are probiotics (‘good’ bacteria for the gut), prebiotics (which promote the growth of the same ‘good’ bacteria) and natural compounds including aloe vera, artichoke extract and L-glutamine which can all benefit the digestive tract. It’s also important to feed a hypoallergenic main diet made from high quality and easily digestible ingredients as food intolerances can play a big role in colitis problems.