Tag Archives: care

Veterinary Poisons Information Service: Fabric Washing Capsules and e-cigarettes.


The Veterinary Poisons Information Service has highlighted two products which may be a risk to your pet; fabric washing capsules and e-cigarettes/ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems).

Fabric Washing Capsules/liquitabs

These may be eaten by pets if dropped on the floor or visible in kitchen cupboards. The jelly-like presentation may encourage curious animals to play with the liquitabs until they eventually burst in the animals mouth.

Recently the VPIS was contacted about a Staffordshire Bull Terrier who had bit through a liquitab. He became depressed and started vomiting over night. When he presented at the vets the next morning, he was severely dehydrated with pale gums and aspiration pneumonia. He developed renal failure and had convulsions. He died 2 hours after presentation, approximately 24 hours after ingestion.


The liquids in e-cigarettes have been shown to be serious or fatal to both humans and dogs. E-cigarettes and their refills contain large doses of nicotine (up to 36mg per ml). Nicotine in all forms is highly toxic.

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at http://www.tiptreevets.co.uk or http://www.willows-vets.co.uk



Dogs expel heat by panting; however, this is ineffective if the environment is too humid or hot. In cases of heat-stroke, a dog’s body temperature can rise over 42°c (normal body temperature is around 38°c).

Signs of heat-stroke

Signs of heat-stroke include panting excessively, anxious behaviour, very red gums (turning blue in extreme circumstances), salivating, very rapid heart rate, collapse, convulsions or shock.
Heat-stroke must be treated IMMEDIATELY otherwise it can be fatal.

What to do if your dog is suffering from heat-stroke:

Remove the dog from the hot environment.
Reduce the body temperature GRADUALLY by using a shower spray and fan (to increase air flow). Then douse the dog in cool water, especially the head and neck (DO NOT USE ICE COLD WATER) or cover your dog in wet sheets. Continue until his breathing starts to settle.
Allow your dog to drink as much as he wants in small quantities at a time.
Seek veterinary advice immediately as it can be difficult to be sure how serious the situation is and urgent treatment may be needed.

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at http://www.tiptreevets.co.uk or http://www.willows-vets.co.uk

The Yellow Dog Project: Some Dogs Need Space

The Official Yellow Dog UK poster

The Yellow Dog Project was created to bring awareness to dogs who need space while training, recovering from surgery, or being rehabilitated.

If you see a dog with a YELLOW ribbon, bandanna or similar on the leash or on the dog, this is a dog which needs some space. Please, do not approach this dog or its people with your dog. They are indicating that their dog cannot be close to other dogs. How close is too close? Only the dog or his people know, so maintain distance and give them time to move out of your way.

You can read more here: http://www.yellowdoguk.co.uk/


Lungworm dog and bone

The larvae of the lungworm parasite are carried by slugs, snails and frogs. They can cause a problem if the dog eats them either purposefully or accidently (by eating grass, drinking from puddles, etc). Dogs or foxes infected with lungworm can spread the parasite into the environment as the larvae are expelled in the animal’s poo.


After infection, you may see worsening signs of cardiac and respiratory disease. This can include a chronic cough that gets worse over time, exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing and weight loss. Initially symptoms are only seen at extremes of exercise, gradually becoming more obvious as the disease progresses. Affected dogs can develop a diarrhoea that rapidly becomes bloody. They may also bleed from the nose or elsewhere. Infection can cause serious health problems and even be fatal if untreated, so seek veterinary advice if you have any concerns.

Your vet may be able to diagnose lungworm by looking at your pets faeces under a microscope, examining their history, compatible clinical signs and response to treatment.

Prevention and treatment of lungworm

Dealing with the health problems caused by lung worm can be very difficult but killing the actual worm is relatively simple and cheap. We therefore recommend that you include lungworm treatment into your normal worming routine. Your vet will be able to advise you of the best product for your pet.


If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at http://www.tiptreevets.co.uk or http://www.willows-vets.co.uk

Caring for your hamster


Female: Sow
Male: Boar
Young: Pups
Life span: 1-3 years
Litter size: 4-12 pups
Gestation period: 15-18 days
Average weight: 85-150 grams


There are over 20 different breeds of hamsters, each with their own individual markings and colours.


Hamsters can be housed in a wire cage with a firm plastic base, a plastic hamster home or an adapted aquarium (viviarium) with a well ventilated cover. Wooden cages should not be used as hamsters can chew their way out. Hamsters love to explore, so a big cage with multiple levels is ideal. Your hamster must always have a place to rest and hide and another area to play and feed.

Your hamster needs warm, absorbent bedding. Do not use synthetic bedding as it could harm your hamster if eaten.

The temperature should be constant (out of direct sunlight or draughts) and should be away from loud noise (radios and tvs).


Hamsters should be fed every day, preferably in the evening as they are nocturnal. A metal bowl is ideal as they will chew plastic ones. Follow the recommended daily allowance on the food bag to ensure your hamster has enough food and make sure that fresh water is always available, preferably in a water bottle.

Treats should only be given occasionally and should be specially designed for hamsters as some human foods can be harmful to them.


Hamsters need daily exercise, either in a ball or a wheel. The wheel must be big enough that they don’t need to bend their back to fit in it, and must have a solid floor rather than rungs. Most hamsters will exercise for 3-4 hours a night. They will enjoy playing in tubes and boxes and having willow branches to chew on. You can also hide your hamsters food around the cage to encourage them to forage.


Make sure that your hamster is awake before handling them, as they may bite if startled. If possible, let it approach you and sniff your hand first. Then slowly offer your palm. Some hamsters will crawl into your hand. Alternatively you can scoop your hamster up and cup it in both palms to make sure it’s safe. Lift it slowly and either place it into your lap or hold it close to your chest while carrying it.


Some dwarf hamsters can be sociable but hamsters like Russian, Syrian or Chinese, are solitary and therefore should be housed alone to avoid fighting. If you have more than one hamster than a larger cage will be needed.

Common illnesses:

Diarrhoea: Generally caused by feeding too much green food. Stop feeding green food and instead just give your hamster its dry food. If the problem persists, consult your vet.

Constipation: A lack of droppings or hunched appearance may be a sign of constipation. Feed your hamster a small amount of green vegetables and see a vet if the problem persists.

Wet tail: A bacterial infection that can cause extreme diarrhoea. The anus and tail area appear wet and sticky. The hamster may appear hunched up as if it is in pain. This condition is highly infectious so affected hamsters should be housed separately. Clean the cage with AntiBAC+ and seek advice from your vet immediately.

Overgrown teeth: Hamsters teeth grow continually and they therefore need to gnaw to keep them short. Make sure your hamster has lots of things to gnaw on and consult a vet if they are struggling to eat.

Overgrown nails: Nails should be trimmed regularly by a vet to ensure that your hamster is comfortable.

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk

Caring for your guinea pig


Female: Sow
Male: Boar
Young: Piglets
Lifespan: 5-8 years
Litter size: 1-6 piglets
Gestation period: 59-72 days
Average weight: 750-1000gms


Guinea pigs should be housed in a hutch, with access to plenty of sunshine (though out of direct sunlight) and fresh air. The minimum size should be 91cm x 61cm x 45cm. It should be around 4-5 times the length of the guinea pig when stretched out. In the winter, guinea pigs should be housed indoors at a temperature between 18-26 degrees celsius.

Place the hutch on bricks to avoid it getting damp in wet weather. Ensure the roof is sloping, waterproof and overhangs slightly. Always ensure the doors are locked.

It’s important to have fresh safe bedding and to clean the hutch out regularly to avoid attracting flies. Flies can lay eggs, leading to an infestation of maggots. In the winter, bedding can become damp and mouldy.


Guinea pigs need a balanced diet of specially formulated guinea pig food and hay daily. The food must include vitamin C as guinea pigs cannot generate their own and will become ill without it. Hay provides fibre and helps wear down their continuously growing teeth. We recommend a mono-component diet (where all the ingredients are mixed into biscuits) to avoid selective feeding. A water bottle should also be provided to keep the water fresh.

Treats should only be given occasionally and should be specially designed for guinea pigs as some human foods can be poisonous for them.


Guinea pigs are frightened in large open spaces and love to hide in tunnels and boxes. They also like to have access to wood, so they can keep their teeth in trim.

Handling Your Guinea Pig

Talk to your guinea pig and approach it at the same level. Let it come to you and sniff your hand. Gently place your hand across its shoulders and slowly lift it up, placing your other hand under its rump to support it. Either place it in your lap or hold it close to your chest while getting up.


Guinea pigs are sociable and should be housed with other guinea pigs. Female pairs are fine. Males live happily together but may become agitated in the vicinity of females. If females and males are housed together they must be neutered to avoid litters.


If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk

Caring for your Chameleon



Males 5-10 years
Females 2-5 years


Chameleons require an enclosure made from strong plastic or wire mesh, at least 3 foot wide and deep and 4 foot high. The bigger the better. Aquariums are not suitable since they trap too much moisture, particularly at the bottom, they do not allow enough movement of air and the reflection of the chameleon in the glass can be very distressing to them.


A good supply of climbing frames are necessary and need to be made from non-toxic material such as plastic. They must be strong enough to prevent bits breaking off since chameleons will sometimes ingest foreign objects and die as a result. Natural plants are a good idea. A list of useful plants and a second list of toxic plants can be found on www.chameleonsonline.com.  Artificial plants are sometimes ingested by chameleons and can cause death from intestinal obstruction.

Floor covering

Beware of small particles such as sand, grit, etc since chameleons will eat them and their intestinal tract becomes blocked up. Also be careful not to allow mould to grow on any of the substrate since many moulds are very toxic to chameleons. Plain newspaper or bark chips are a good idea.


Heat should be provided by positioning several normal light bulbs at various points in the cage. Make sure the chameleons cannot come into contact with the bulbs and burn themselves.

It is important to have a max / min thermometer to record the extremes of temperature over 24 hours. During the day, keep the temperature at 80-90 degrees (27-32 degrees Celsius) and allow it to drop to 70 degrees (20-21 degrees Celsius) at night. Temperatures should never go out of the range of 60-90 degrees (16-33 degrees Celsius)

Ultraviolet Light

Chameleons need both UVA and UVB light (At least 5% UVB). Glass and plastic stop all UV light so it cannot be separated from the chameleons. The best source is a UV tube, but take note that many of them are only effective for 3-6 months, even if the still look violet to our eyes. The manufacturers will usually be able to tell you how long they last.


Insects such as crickets, locusts, wax worms and meal worms are suitable. Never feed an insect larger than the width of the chameleon’s mouth and never give biting or stinging insects or any that could have been exposed to toxins.

Insects purchased from pet shops are often just empty skeletons and have little food value. It is essential to feed them up and ‘gut-load’ them by providing insect food such as potato, carrots, cabbage, fish flakes, kitten food, potato flakes and bee pollen. Baby chick crumbs with a slice of vegetables to provide moisture can be used. Commercial ‘Bug Grub’ is also a good idea.

Do not overfeed meal worms or wax worms since they contain a lot of fat.

The insects should also be fed a vitamin/mineral ix such as Nutrobal and before giving them to the chameleon, dust them with the powder as well. Chameleons will eat up to 15-20 crickets / locusts per day in the very active season (Spring) whereas their appetites drop considerably in winter.


Chameleons will not drink from a bowl. They need a daily misting, either with a fine spray bottle or mister.  Fresh water (preferably rain water) at 20-30 degrees celsius) must be used. It is a good idea to add a water conditioner to get rid of the chlorine, chloramines and ammonia, adjust the pH, provide electrolytes and help support the slime layer on the skin.

Less effective ways of providing water are by putting a plant in the shower to get wet and then putting it back into the chameleon enclosure, using a humidifier, or providing a rodent drinking bottle.


It is very important to provide a place for female chameleons to lay their eggs or they become ‘egg-bound’ and die as a result. A deep bucket of fresh potting compost mixed with equal amounts of coarse builders sand is ideal. Allow the chameleons to dig around and rearrange the nursery to her liking. Unless kept with a male, the eggs will be infertile and can be removed and discarded at a later stage.


Most chameleons will tame very rapidly and become good pets. Always allow them to climb onto your hand by sliding it under them, rather than picking them up, which can be uncomfortable for them. Reward them with food and they will get used to coming to you. Some species never tame but will tolerate your presence.

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk

Caring for your bearded dragon



Life-span: 7-10 years
Adult size: 18-22 inches


Bearded Dragons require a glass or plexiglass aquarium or terrarium, at least 36 by 18 by 18 inches, with a screen top.  The bigger the better.  Wire and mesh enclosures are unsuitable as they lose too much heat.  If your bearded dragon appears to be distressed by its own reflection, a background can be used.


A variety of rocks and branches can be used to create hides, basking sites and climbing structures.  The basking site should be wide for comfort, and raised to create a temperature gradient.  Climbing furniture should be wider and longer than your pet’s body.  If pieces of wood found outside are used, they should first either be baked for half an hour at approximately 150 degrees Celsius or washed in a 10% bleach 90% water mixture (rinsed clean after) to ensure it is safe.  Artificial plants may be used for decoration, but be on the lookout for signs of them being eaten since they can cause fatal blockage of the gut.

Floor Covering:

Textured slate, porcelain or ceramic tiles, reptile carpet, paper towels and newspaper are all suitable substrates.  Washed and sifted silicone-free play sand may also be used if your bearded dragon is at least 16 inches long and 1 year old.  All sand should be scooped thoroughly, and replaced entirely every 3-4 months.


Reptile daylight bulbs or heat emitters are required.  Ensure the bearded dragon cannot come into contact with the bulbs and burn itself.  A maximum-minimum thermometer should be kept in the enclosure to monitor temperature.  If a simple thermometer is used and read in the morning and the evening, then it is possible that the temperature is falling to dangerously low levels in the middle of the night or becoming excessively hot in the middle of the day. The temperature in the enclosure should range from 77-95 degrees (25-35 degrees Celsius), with a basking area at 100-108 degrees (38-42 degrees Celsius).  The basking light should be off to one side so that the dragon can move closer if cold and retreat if too hot. Heat rocks are not a good idea as they can burn your reptile.  The relative humidity should be 30-40%.


A UVB light (e.g. ZooMed Reptisun 5.0) is required for the metabolism of vitamin D3.  Fluorescent tubes are also appropriate for this, and should be kept 6 inches from your reptile and replaced approximately every 5 months.  For UVA light, bearded dragons do best with a bright white light (a typical household bulb or Halogen flood can be used for this).  This light should be on for 12-14 hours and off for 12-10 hours to simulate day-night cycles.


Bearded dragons are omnivores, so require both insects and vegetables/fruit.  For a bearded dragon less than a year old, the diet should be 70% insects and 30% vegetables, with a young bearded dragon getting 30-80 appropriately-sized crickets (smaller than the space between the eyes) each day.  For bearded dragons over one year of age, the diet should be 70% vegetables and 30% insects, with a bearded dragon consuming approximately 50 crickets or 30 worms in a week.

Before the age of 2-3 months, bearded dragons should be fed 3-5 times each day, twice a day at 3-8 months and once a day after eight months.  To help avoid obesity in dragons over one year of age, a three day feeding rota may be used, with one day salad, one day insects and one day nothing.

Crickets, silkworms, calci-worms, superworms and locusts are appropriate insects for feeding, but should themselves be fed first (at least 24 hours before being fed off). When purchased from the supplier, most of these insects are just shells with very little inside, since they have often not been fed by the wholesaler, the distributor or the retailer.  Feed them up first.  Insects caught in the wild can be fed, but there is a danger that they may have been poisoned. Never feed insects that can sting and never any insect larger than the width of your bearded dragon’s mouth. Aim for 2-3 types of greens and 2-3 types of vegetables in the salad.

Bearded dragons should have both multivitamin and calcium supplements added to their food.  For dragons under one year of age, feed the multivitamin twice a week and calcium supplement 5 times a week.  For dragons over one year of age, feed both twice a week.


Water can be provided in a variety of ways.  One method is to mist them 2-4 times a day, and the dragon will drink the falling/fallen water.  Another method is to drip water on its nose until it has finished.  Bearded dragons will not recognize standing water as drinkable, so will not drink from a bowl unless trained to.

A fairly large water bowl may still be provided to allow the bearded dragon to bathe.  This water should be approximately 5 degrees Celsius lower than the air temperature.


The female will display obsessive, frantic and constant digging behavior, and may go off her food when she is ready to lay.  A laying box should be provided for the female containing sand, soil, or a sand-soil mix.  This should be moist enough to keep its shape, so that when she digs a burrow it doesn’t collapse on her.  It should be 12 inches deep at the deepest end, gradually becoming shallower.  This should also be kept warm.  After laying, the female should be allowed to bury her eggs uninterrupted.


Bearded dragons are largely docile and willing to be handled.  You should wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling due to bacteria found in the skin around their claws and in the gaps between scales.  Babies and hatchlings should be handled with great care, and allow them to walk onto your open palm.  Bearded dragons should not be forcibly removed from their enclosure.  Never hold the bearded dragon by the tail, and take care handling around this area as it can easily break off.

Further information:

For more information, visit http://beardeddragoncaresheet.weebly.com

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk.

Caring for your Chinchilla



Life-span:  15-20 years
Adult size:  Up to 1 foot
Adult weight:  1-1.5 pounds (500 – 800g)


Chinchillas are very active, so the bigger the cage the better.  The minimum size for a single chinchilla should be 16 by 20 by 16 inches.  A wire mesh cage is the most appropriate, to ensure the chinchilla does not chew its way out.  There should be solid flooring as wire flooring can damage their feet.  Glass tanks should not be used due to poor ventilation.  The cage should have several levels for enrichment.  Keep the cage out of direct sunlight, and away from heat sources, drafts, and areas of high humidity.


A hide area is essential, and may consist of a nest box, tunnel, or any other chew-proof place it can hide.  Exercise wheels are an essential, and must have a solid floor.  Chew-proof toys may be provided for further enrichment, with wooden blocks and chew-sticks to help keep teeth worn down.  Provide ledges and branches for climbing.  Avoid using wood found outside as it may be toxic.  Dust baths are essential for your chinchilla at least twice a week to maintain their soft, plush fur.  Commercial dusting powders and bins are available.

Floor covering:

Pelleted or shredded paper makes a good bedding as it is safe to chew and absorbs liquid well.  Pine or cedar bedding should be avoided as they can damage your pets feet, and the dust may cause respiratory problems.  Dirty bedding should be removed daily, with all bedding being replaced at least once a week.


Chinchillas are sensitive to heat, humidity, and drafts.  Temperatures above 78 degrees (25 degrees Celsius) should be avoided, and may cause heat stroke.


Avoid direct sunlight and brightly lit areas as Chinchillas sleep a lot during the day.


Chinchilla pellets should be fed, as they are manufactured to contain the correct amounts of protein, fat and roughage.  Use a heavy bowl to prevent spillage.  Clean, fresh hay should also be provided for extra roughage, and help wear down teeth.  Ideally this should be provided in a hay rack.  Salt blocks and Vitamin C supplements may be beneficial.  Nuts, seeds and dried fruit should only be given occasionally as treats, as they are fattening.


Fresh water should always be available.  This is best provided in a stoppered water bottle.


Chinchillas mature sexually around 8 months of age.  Mating season is usually between November and May in the northern hemisphere.  Injury is possible, so mating chinchillas should be supervised for safety.  Gestation lasts around 110 days.  A usual litter is born in the morning and consists of 2 kits, but may be as many as 6.  Fathers may become aggressive, so regular supervision is advisable.  Kits will eat solid food after about a week, but are dependent upon their mother for up to 8 weeks.


Regular time out of the cage is essential for exercise.  Ensure nothing potentially harmful is within reach of the chinchilla.  When your chinchilla first gets home, you should talk to it to allow it to become accustomed to your voice.  Then introduce your hand into the cage offering a treat.  Chinchillas should be held firmly but gently, close to your chest, with one hand on its back and one under its bottom.  Rough handling may cause your chinchilla to bite, and will shed its fur if it becomes distressed.  You should handle your chinchilla regularly.

Further information:

For further information, visit http://chinchillacare.org/

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk

Caring for your gerbil



Life-span: 3-3.5 years
Adult size: 4.5 inches long
Adult weight: 2-4 ounces


A glass aquarium provides spacious, inexpensive, easy-to-clean housing.  A 10 gallon tank should be used to house 1-2 gerbils, 15 gallons for 3, 20 gallons for 4 and 30 gallons for 6.  Suitable lids are fine wire lids or lids provided at pet stores with fittings to allow ‘habitat’ tubes.  Ensure the lid is secured.  Wire mesh or plastic cages may also be used, but gnawing on wires may prove harmful, and plastic can easily be gnawed to ruins.


Tunnels and tubes can be provided for playing and exploration, along with play areas with sloping ramps and a climbing branch.  Cardboard tubes can be provided both for exploring and chewing.  A variety of toys can be purchased for further enrichment.  An exercise wheel may also be provided, but ensure there are no gaps where the gerbil will run.  If there are, masking tape can be placed round the circumference, and then lightly coat the inside with bedding.  A nesting box should be provided for privacy.  Wooden ones are best.

Floor Covering:

Aspen, Carefresh and corncob bedding is best.  The average 10 gallon tank with 2 gerbils will only need the bedding changed every 2-3 weeks.  A regularly cleaned tank should never smell.  Fill the tank 1/3 full with bedding.  Plain, shredded paper may also be used.


Gerbils should be housed at normal room temperature.


Gerbils have no special lighting requirements.


A good, pre-mixed gerbil food is recommended.  Sunflower seeds tend to be high in fat, and are therefore very fattening.  It is best to pick these out beforehand and hand feed them to the gerbils during the day.  Food should be provided in a heavy ceramic bowl, or placed on the bedding in the centre of the tank to allow for foraging.


Each tank will require its own water bottle.  If you are using a glass tank, a special bottle holder/shield will need to be purchased.  Ensure that the tip of the bottle is kept well above the bedding, or it will drain in a matter of hours.  Ensure the water is kept clean and fresh at all times.


For the best results, the gerbils should be three months old before mating.  Females can produce offspring until about 2 years of age.  Gestation is about 24 days, with a typical litter containing 6 pups.  The mother should be left alone whilst giving birth, and will usually stay alone in the nest with them for up to 48 hours.  Ensure all hands are washed before handling the pups to prevent rejection by the mother.


Most gerbils are easily tamed in a short space of time with frequent, gently handling.  They should first be allowed to become accustomed to your hand inside the tank, before letting them step onto your hand.  After this, they may gently be scooped out of the tank.  Do not lift your gerbil too high unless it jumps out of your hand.  Allow your gerbil to sit on your lap and investigate you.

Further information:

For further information, visit http://agsgerbils.org

If you would like any more information then phone 01621 818282 (Tiptree Veterinary Centre) or 01206 561407 (Willows Veterinary Centre) to book an appointment with one of our vets. You can also visit our websites at www.tiptreevets.co.uk or www.willows-vets.co.uk