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The Joy of Keeping Hens: Goodbye to Bulbi

~ Birds are angels who lift us up when our own wings forget how to fly ~

This is a really sad blog post to write because it’s my saying goodbye to Bulbi (aka Bulbster) – my hen with a silly “bouffant” that I have had since 2010. I never thought in a million years that I would be get to see her at this age, or that I would be saying bye in this way … but that’s life and here we are.

We received some dreadful news in October last year and I knew that it meant our hens wouldn’t be a permanent part of our future; however, one kids themselves and tries to carry on as normal, making the future delay its hand so to speak. Her ‘friend’ of six years – Flighty – died a few months back and against better judgement (some would say) we got Bulbi a companion by way of an ex battery hen from Hula. She was called Martha and oddly this newcomer relegated the previously in charge Bulbi to second position after two days. Martha was never 100% in health and sadly she passed away from egg peritonitis two days ago … this left Bulbi “friendless” once again. As any hen keeper will know, chickens do best when in a flock … so I knew I had to deal with the future square on this time.

Lots of people kindly offered to take Bulbi but none of them felt completely right .. so when McRae (a friend of Nick’s and someone I used to work with back in 2007) offered her a home with his flock, and I saw the pictures of his set up, I just knew my little girl would be well looked after into her old age. I can’t thank him enough for alleviating my worries – he even drove all the way to Bicester this Saturday to get her!

Anyways, the point of this blog is to celebrate my hens wonderful life, and highlight just how amazing these birds are!

Hens, and Bulbi in particular, were my first adult pet. I had dogs growing up, but as an adult, and as a couple, hens were our first proper pets. We got them in March 2010 from a farm where they were all roaming free, just as hens should do. I chose Bulbi because of her silly “hair” – it was busy and ridiculous. She looked a fool and it made me laugh. She also laid blue eggs and we thought this was pretty cool …

Right from the start she was odd. For starters, she didn’t lay eggs for about 8 months (we bought them at Point of Lay). It went on so long I actually called up the farm to ask what was going on .. the guy laughed and said “she’s a hen, they lay eggs” (not mine I thought!). She did eventually I should add … about 9 months late but she’s still doing so over 7 years later so that delay might have been a good thing …

hen keeping milton keynes

She “broke” a wing on one occasion … I put this in quotation marks as she really didn’t break a wing, it was a fake illness (yes hens DO fake illness and injury, lol) when she was being hen pecked by the others. The first winter she was with us it was snowing heavily in December and she had flown to a post in the garden and decided at that point it was far too icy and cold to get back to her run so she just sat there … and sat there … for hours, not moving an inch! I had to go fetch her or I’ve no clue what she would have done overnight, just sit there?

We clipped her wings, which should have stopped her being able to fly. But she still flew, into the tree house, over the fence and into the adjoining gardens where she would regularly scavenge for berries and other delights. She can still fly over a 6ft fence we have surrounding Pankee’s enclosure, it has a roller system which stops cats escaping and creatures getting in … but doesn’t stop Bulbi so clearly she’s flying straight over.

She fell in love with something white and dreamy called yogurt, and her most favourite thing in the world is a bowl full of the stuff topped with blueberries and worms. She used to regularly terrorize our vege patch and absolutely demolish all berry bushes, peck away at all the special strawberry plants and steal the peas! We taught the hens to jump for berries and I’ve got a wonderful video of them all jumping up to get them from my hand … all except Bulbi who was always a little thick we felt, she spent a lot of time staring into bushes and eating. This is a hen after my own heart and she just loves food! I mean loves loves loves it. She moans for the good stuff from the moment she wake up .. we try to give the hens their pellets in the day and treats at night, but she makes such a racket for something else if she can see you in the kitchen window. The hens have had the finest foods here and Bulbi appreciated this the most I feel. She’s demanded such foods as cous cous, quinoa, seeds, roasted onion and squash, salmon, blueberries and watermelon…

chicken care mk

Hens enjoy foraging but they also enjoy tasty morsels and a big variety of species appropriate food (there is an argument that not all the above is “appropriate” but it certainly worked out ok for Bulbi). My girls had such unique characters and made us realise early on how disgusting and selfish the egg / meat industry is, especially around chickens for food and eggs. I became vegetarian back in 2010 after we got the girls and I’ve not looked back. People don’t realise how amazing these birds are until they have one – I didn’t. When you buy the cheapest meat in the supermarket, please realise and understand what a cruel industry it is you are supporting by your choice of product. I fully appreciate meat is something many people are unable / unwilling to give up, but do at least spend more money so you are buying a quality product, where the animals have had the opportunity to live a decent life before being slaughtered.

The hens I’ve had over the last 7 years (Flighty, Dunkey, Bulbi, Truffel, Eric and Quailey) taught me so much .. you learn to appreciate the simple things in life when keeping hens; and you also learn to notice small things that mean they are unwell, or fearful, you see what makes them happy and to be honest this is simple: lots of space to wander and forage, they need an area to bath in the dry mud and shelter under bushes or trees. They need to scratch in real earth and munch grass and other vegetation. They need space to get away from each other if they want to and stretch out in the sun. When you watch hens you realise just how awful humans are in continuing to fund the ‘caged egg and cheap meat ‘ demand because we can’t spend a few extra pennies on animal welfare.

hens in milton keynes

I’ve written this blog post in the garden on the last night Bulbi is here (31st March 2017); she’s currently scratting around for the bits of rice, broccoli and worms I scattered on the grass for her earlier and also exploring Pankee’s patch of the garden. In the morning we’ll set off early and she’ll be in her new home by lunch time. I’ll miss her dearly but know she’s going to the best possible place.

I hope this post, if nothing else, helps you see chickens as more than just a cheap food to be consumed but as the loving unique animals they are. Don’t buy the cheapest chicken on the shelf but choose the one that costs more yet ensures that the chicken has had a decent life. They deserve respect, good homes, love and the space to live their lives outside where they belong. Not in a run, not in an Omelett Eglu but in an open farm (or your whole garden) running and flying free like all birds should be.

With all my love Bulbster 🙂 xx

 

Anger Management: Moving On

Got a reactive dog? Are you at your wits end with what to do? Have a read through this positive post as it doesn’t have to be this way!

As previous readers of our blog will be aware, my dog Grizzle suffered with reactivity last autumn. This behaviour was ‘learned’ over the summer as I had a number of different dogs boarding and in day care on a constant ‘rotating door’ basis. Simultaneously, we had brought him in to our vets for a 6 month Suprelorin dog contraceptive implant which would mimic castration (we wanted to see what neutering would do to his behaviour and coat). Prior to this, Grizzle was a super friendly puppy who loved to play with all dogs but we watched with dismay as he became reactive and snappy to first puppies, then all entire males, some females and neutered adult male dogs too. You can read the full story here.

Working with your Dog

We worked hard with him over autumn and winter by following our behaviour modification plan which Ellie from Haines Hounds provided alongside reducing the number of new dogs he would meet on a daily basis. We also stopped day care and boarding so as to give him down time and allow him to move about, rest and access the whole of his house without other dogs in his space.

dog day care mk

Immediately this last action made the biggest difference. Without having other dogs in his home he wasn’t constantly on edge, vying for the best seat on the couch or being woken up by dogs wanting to play when he was tired. His tolerance to dogs outside the house therefore became better as he wasn’t already wound up from what was going on in his home. By not mixing him with new dogs on the walking rounds he had a predictable routine with mum taking him for a walk first thing, a lunch time comfort break by dad and another walk later in the afternoon with the two of us. Taking him out on his own also forced us to rethink our own notions about what a satisfying walk is or isn’t to a dog; and we identified just how much Grizzle wants to “work” when out and about.

Learning what makes your dog ‘tick’

Our boy is not a trotter, he doesn’t do plod along type walks. When he goes out he wants to do tasks: retrieve, swim, chase things, carry sticks in his mouth, point out lost objects, fly after balls, play scentwork games. This will be partly the terrier in him but also just his character. He loves nothing more than “working” and would do it all day long if he could. All the times I stressed over him not walking properly, begged and cajoled him to move were just wasted efforts as the problem wasn’t him – – – –  it was me!

I urge you to ask yourself what makes your doggy happy on a walk. Are you truly catering for their needs or your own time pressures, ease of walk location and set routines. Do you check your phone whilst you walk, talk to other people or simply ignore your dog as you hurry through the hour? How much of the time you spend out and about with your dog is about them and not simply a task that must be done.

dog walker mk

I’ll be the first to admit, I used to dread taking Grizzle out in the morning. He would just not walk! Was he being stubborn, difficult and annoying? Or was I simply not getting him? Believe me, Grizzle has no issues with the outdoors, he was trying to tell me to stop being so boring and actually play with him! Interact with your dog, find out what makes them tick, what excites them, what really makes them feel All Dog! When you identify this they will not only have a far more satisfying walk (mentally and physically) but you will have lots more fun yourself.

The neutering debate

As an interesting final point, Grizzle’s implant wore away in December and his balls came back to their full size in January and over these last couple months we noticed that he was becoming more tolerant of other dogs again. Females were no issue, adult male dogs were also greeted in his puppy ways of old. He used to lie down on the floor with his chin resting on his front paws and wait until they came near him before he’d jump up and say hi with tail wagging. This behaviour stopped when he was in his ‘angry phase’ but appeared to be returning as his balls became fat again. He is now a completely ok with all dogs when off the lead; although he’s not 100% charmed by males who are entire like him we are able to control this behaviour when he’s running free by distracting him with a ball, sticks or just a treat.

Could this change we see be down to his hormones, not being swamped by dogs, having a more satisfying walk or the fact he’s getting sufficient down time at home? Might it be one of these things in isolation or a combination of factors? My gut tells me it is a bit of everything …. but whatever the case, we’re just glad to have our happy go lucky dog back and have learned a valuable lesson. I hope you can take something useful from it too 🙂

behaviour training milton keynes

7 Benefits of Home Boarding Your Dog

Booking a holiday always comes with a difficult decision to make as a pet owner – do you take your pets with you or leave them behind. If the latter is what you choose, you have a number of options from kennels, to house sitters to home boarding.

At Jog My Dog we recommend house sitting and home boarding over kennels every time. Through experience we have found that dogs are far less stressed when their usual routines are maintained; and if you select the right home boarding host your dog may have such a great time he doesn’t want to come home!

Our home boarding hosts are approved by Milton Keynes Council. This means that their homes and gardens have been inspected carefully and any safety concerns put to right before guest dogs are welcomed. Hosts are also DBS checked for your peace of mind, along with having training in Canine 1st Aid.

We only welcome one guest dog at a time which means that your pooch will receive our undivided attention during their holiday. And if that’s not enough reason to book your dogs holiday with Jog My Dog then have a read through our top 7 benefits of Home Boarding below …

Dog Home Boarding Benefits

  1. Your dog will always have human company
  2. They settle quicker in a home environment
  3. Your dog gets to have a 24hr trial while you are nearby
  4. Your pooch is less likely to feel stressed or suffer separation anxiety
  5. There’s less risk of catching diseases like kennel cough, which can easily be contracted when dogs are exposed to the many other dogs in kennels
  6. Your dog has the opportunity to socialise with another furry friend and explore new exciting walks
  7. There’s less disruption to your dogs routine. We are happy to follow your regular walking, feeding and exercise regimes which helps to reduce their anxiety when away from home

Home Boarding with Jog My Dog is an affordable alternative to kennels so drop us an email to book your dogs stay today!

www.jogmydog.co.uk | https://www.facebook.com/jogthatdog/ | 07843 711075

home boarding milton keynes

Helpful Guide to Choosing Dog Food

There are so many different feeding regimes to choose from that selecting the right dog food can be pretty confusing. This post attempts to guide you through making the right choice. Remember, any changes in diet should be made very gradually over at least a week to avoid upset and you should try a new diet for at least 10 days before making any further changes.

Wet Food

Tins or pouches – can be classified into 4 groups; Cereal Based, Premium, Ultra-Premium and Raw Feeding.

Cereal based dry food

Can be low in real meat content, high in low quality cereals which can contribute to food intolerances or allergies and possibly obesity

Super premium

Rich in real meat with a consistent quality carbohydrate source. Generally easier to digest and more nutritious.

Ultra premium

Rich in real meat with a consistent quality carbohydrate source. Generally easier to digest and more nutritious.

Raw

As nature intended. No cooking, no preservatives, no additives – just plain goodness. If you’re too nervous to make your own then try a prepared raw available from a number of suppliers such as Natural Instinct or Cotswold Raw. 

raw food

Raw: meat, eggs and supplements. This is providing your dog with the building blocks to help them fight illness from the inside!

Excuses

We’ve all done it. Made a food choice by following marketing ploys, social media or our vet. We’re then stuck in a rut feeding a food which we’re not really sure about but which seems to be ok. Our pooch is eating it .. well most of the time … and friends feed it too, the vet also said it was good (and it’s got to be as it was on the shelf in the waiting room).

But do we really know what this food is doing to our pets? Why not stop making excuses about why you feed a particular product and dig a little deeper?

“Oh but my dog loves the food I give him and laps it up without fuss” – yes this is true, but he might be loving the gravy and jelly in his wet food because it’s high in salt and sugar! The food may taste nice but if you inspect the ingredient list carefully you will see that it is actually far from healthy. Not only will it rot their teeth just like junk food, it will not be providing much in the way of quality nutrition.

“I buy it because it is economical” – ever wondered why this is? How about because the ‘meat’ is really by-product containing feet, fins, feathers and other artificial ingredients you probably can’t pronounce.

“But still …. it’s just soooo cheap” – canned food can contain as much as 85% water. Take this out and what do you have left? Is it really still that cheap? Why not put your own tap water into your bowl of dog food instead, that really will cost you less!

“Dog food is dog food is dog food” – but is it? Cheaper foods will have a higher cereal content which our canines can’t digest, so it ends up as squishy, stinky poo which you’re no doubt picking up a number of times per day. It will also be contributing to a host of other health issues such as diabetes, allergies, cancers and more. Transition your dog to a higher quality product – or my personal favourite: raw 🙂 –  and you will see fewer, firmer stools with a far less pungent smell.

“I feed it because it’s such a well known brand (or my vets promote it), so it simply must be good” – this one really frustrates me. If a dog food has a household name all this means is that it has a bigger advertising budget, not that it’s the healthiest food to feed. Just like there are many popular human foods being advertised on telly all the time (McDonalds anyone) doesn’t make it healthy or the right choice for your child. The same applies to your dog. Get under the wrapper, read the ingredient list, do some research on the manufacturers and what other foods they sell, interview your vet properly to understand just what qualifications they hold in canine nutrition and you might be surprised at what you find …

kibble dog food

Dry food (kibble): full of colours and preservatives, heated to an inch of its life. Helpful or harmful, what do you think?

What are animal derivatives or ‘by-products’?

This is what’s left of a slaughtered animal after all the best cuts have been removed for human consumption. With the exception of feathers, this can really include almost anything… feet, beaks, head, undeveloped eggs… the list goes on. Not what I would class as a quality ingredient.

And a final point when choosing dog food: Look out for sodium nitrite listed in the ingredient list. This is a color preservative which has been linked to the production of cancer-causing substances when meats are exposed to high cooking temperatures.

Choosing a Dog Trainer or Behaviourist

If your dog is showing signs of aggression or reactivity then I would always recommend consulting a certified force-free behaviour consultant. If your dog is simply exhibiting annoying behaviours then you need to consult a certified force-free dog trainer who will work with both you and your dog. It’s worth noting that not all dog trainers are specialists in dog behaviour, so ask to make sure the person you choose has experience in dealing with the problem you need to solve. However, before you do this take your dog to the vet to determine if an underlying medical problem is influencing the dog’s behaviour.

Dog training and dog behaviour consulting are unregulated so it is up to you to decide whether the professional that you choose is qualified. If your dog is aggressive with other dogs be sure to mention this so that you can have private lessons prior to enrolling your dog in a group class. Talk to more than one person if you can before you choose. Be sure that you understand their methods. Be sure that they will use a positive reinforcement-based approach.

If a trainer suggests that they take the dog into their facility to do the training, be sure to visit and see the facility and the dogs currently in residence. Ask to see the trainer working with a dog to see that the dog is happy and likes the trainer and that positive methods are being used. A trainer that uses violence or aggression with your dog will make matters worse and the dog will become even more likely to bite.

behaviourist milton keynes

Don’t just rely on clever marketing or lots of Facebook / Social Media recommendations when choosing your trainer or behaviourist. This is not something you can risk getting wrong as you could potentially be making the problem you’ve got 10 x worse! Here are a couple of questions to get you started when interviewing someone for the role in shaping your pet. Can you think of any more? If so please participate by posting a comment.

  • What is your educational background in the area of dog training (and behavior if applicable)?
  • What are your credentials and do you have any certifications?
  • Do you belong to any professional associations, and if not, why not?
  • Do you attend continuing education courses and if so what were they?
  • What method of training do you use?
  • What equipment do you use?
  • What kind of follow-up do you provide after the session?
  • Can you provide a list of clients we can contact for references?
  • What sort of services do you provide for pet owners? Do you provide specialized services? (i.e. therapy dog training, competitive dog sports training, service dog training)

You can force-free professionals to help you using the ABTC or APDT websites. If you live in Milton Keynes then the below list will help you identify those who are accredited:

Certified Trainers:

Zoe Stanley from Tittletails

Ellie Haines from Haines Hounds

Jeni Perie from My Pet Gets

Certified Behaviourists:

Zoe Stanley from Tittletails

Jeni Perie from My Pet Gets

Ellena Hinson from Pet Behaviour Therapy 

Theo Stuart from The Dog Lady

Katherine Clarkson from Wags Pet Behaviour 

dog trainer milton keynes

Jog My Dog is a small, friendly and professional company offering home boarding, puppy visits, doggy day care, cat visits and dog walking services in Milton Keynes and the surrounding villages of Bow Brickhill, Brickhill Sands, Little Brickhill, Great Brickhill, Aspley Guise, Woburn Sands and Brogborough.

Registered, Insured, Knowledgeable and Experienced, we take the job of pet care seriously. So whether you’re looking for a cat sitter for your weekend away or regular runs for your dog while you’re at work, we can help! Get in touch to book your pet sitter and dog walker in Milton Keynes today.

Feeding Your Cat a Healthy Diet part 2

I really don’t recommend feeding dry food of any kind (high protein or not) because it is so potentially dangerous for reasons such as:

  • water depletion (many cats on kibble are severely dehydrated)
  • high in plant-based proteins and carbs
  • risk of bacterial and fungal contamination and food which is essentially cooked to death
  • very calorie dense and without nutrients

Urethal obstructions and cystitis are extremely common problems seen in cats fed dry food. Urethral obstructions are painful, life-threatening and very expensive to treat. Because it is so painful cats often stop using the litter box (note, if your cat free roams you may not notice this).

Cats fed raw or wet canned food consume double the amount of water when compared to a dry fed cat (even though you will probably never see them drinking from their bowl!). Water is one of the most important nutrients for all living beings and cats are no exception.

cat care milton keynes

But my cat seems fine on the food he’s on ….

  • Every living creature is “fine” until outward signs of a disease process are exhibited
  • Every cat with a blocked urinary tract was “fine” until they started to strain to urinate and either died from a ruptured bladder or had to be rushed to the vets for emergency catheterization
  • Every cat with an inflamed bladder was “fine” until they ended up in severe pain, started passing blood in their urine and begin to refuse to use their litter box because they associated it with pain
  • Every cat was “fine” until the feeding of species-inappropriate, hyperallergenic ingredients caught up with him and he started to show signs of food intolerance/IBD
  • Every cat was “fine” until that kidney or bladder stone got big enough to cause clinical signs

Diseases ‘brew’ long before being noticed by the living being.

Cat Food Analysis:
cat food options

(the ones highlighted red are a big NO NO)

Top Tip: buying food from The Happy Kitty Company or Zooplus can save you a lot of money. It seems that some of the best cat food is made in Germany – both these companies stock what is considered to be the “top wet cat food”.

Cat food ingredients are listed in decreasing order according to weight, so formulas that are mostly meat will have meat listed as the first ingredient (remember though it’s by weight PRE COOKED). Feeding your cat a formula with a meat or identified meat meal (like salmon meal or chicken meal) ensures that your cat is getting its protein from a quality meat source and not an unidentifiable mystery meat source.

If a cat doesn’t get the majority of her nutrition from meat and fish she’s going to suffer some pretty serious health problems. The most crucial element is taurine, an amino acid essential to the health of your cat’s heart and eyes, as well as its immune system. It can’t be synthesised by the body so must be taken in through food, and the highest concentrations of taurine are found in meat and fish. A lack of taurine has been found to have such major implications for cat health that it is supplemented in all cat food. Cats deficient in taurine can suffer from heart failure, irreversible blindness from retinal degeneration, fur loss and tooth decay.
Common medical problems associated with dry food:

  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Hairballs
  • Kidney Disease
  • Obesidty
  • Fatty Liver Disease
  • Cystitis / Urethral Blockage (UTI)
  • Dental Disease
  • Asthma

Main concerns with cat food is how it affects a cats:

  • metabolism in regards to diabetes and weight
  • kidney and urinary health
  • digestive system, IBD and intestinal cancer prevention

Water Water Water

This is really the most important take away from the post. Water is so very important to your cats overall health that it just can’t be ignored. Cats do not have a very strong thirst drive when compared to other species so that is why it is so very important, critical even, that they ingest a water-rich diet. The cat’s lack of thirst drive can lead to low level, chronic dehydration when dry foods make up the bulk of their diet.

A cat fed a species appropriate diet will be passing more urine so the litter box will need scooping more frequently. I always recommend having two litter trays per cat. Why? Some cats are very fussy and will not poo in the same place they have previously pee’d . Or if they have to “go” frequently they will not pee in a tray which has had poo in it already (note, if you are home all the time, or your cat has access to the outdoors, this may not be necessary). However, if they are an indoor only cat or you are keeping them indoors whilst you go on holiday then I would recommend having two litter trays – one for each floor of your house.

Adding 1-2 tbs of water (plain or flavoured such as tuna water, without salt, chicken or beef broth, again without salt) per meal is beneficial. I feed raw and even with that I add water to each meal.

If your vet tells you to keep feeding dry because it helps with your cats dental health … be forewarned … ! it is about as healthy as crunching cookies is for your own teeth!! 🙂

cat sitter milton keynes

(Cat.Org)

Litter Tray Training for Kittens

Many kittens are actually litter-trained by the time you take them home, but if they are very young, or have not been litter trained then it’s pretty easy to show them the ropes. Look out for the signs that they may ‘need to go’ and gently place them in the tray at these times, or after they eat, as soon as they wake up from a nap, if you see them scratching or sniffing. Cats instinctively know how to go toilet, and hide their waste in the wild, so what you are doing is trying to replicate that environment – if you do it successfully they will pick the rest up!

So with that in mind, you will need to consider the type of tray you purchase. When your kitten is very small you may opt for using a low-sided one (giving them easy access in and out, you wouldn’t want it to be so high that they can’t get into it!) but as they grow then you’ll need to get a much larger tray so they can stand up and turn around in it with ease. My guy is a big 5+kg cat and he likes a lot of space when doing his thing! You may also want to consider mess so a deeper tray may work for you or a covered one (not all cats like being enclosed though so start with a cheap one before making a more expensive purchase). The rule of thumb is to have one tray per cat, plus one extra in your house. Don’t think you have space for two trays? Check out some great litter tray location hacks on the Ikea Hacks website. Cats don’t like to do their business in the middle of a busy household, and with stress being an important player in cats who eliminate outside the litter box, I would suggest placing your litter tray somewhere quiet, where the cat can pee and poo without being disturbed.

5 Easy Steps to Litter Tray Training

  1. Buy the right size tray
  2. Experiment with litter
  3. Position the tray in a quiet location
  4. Scoop frequently
  5. Be patient

kitten visits milton keynes

If your cat bulks at using the tray don’t give up. Some cats are just plain fussy and might not fancy the type of litter you bought! Some cats like fine, soft litter while others like a clumpier sort (I swear by Cats Best Oko Plus, available in pet stores or online). You may just need to play around with the type of litter your cat  prefers best. Also remember, cats are naturally really clean creatures so they are unlikely to use the litter tray if it is full of pee or poo. So if you use a clumping litter you will be able to scoop frequently, thus keeping the tray nice and clean – perfect for your kitty.

Finally, don’t feel fed up if they make mistakes in the early days, my guy made quite a few mistakes in the early days (or did we?) but he got it in the end. Best of luck.

House Sitting – Grizzle’s tips and tricks

I know something’s up a week before they go. This big black object gets brought into the house (I have since learned this is a suitcase). Clothes, shoes and other nick naks I try to put in my mouth are being moved around constantly and there’s talk of passports, whatever that is.

My owners are going away on a holiday. Without me. Did you hear that?

This is my first time  I won’t be with either mum or dad since I came to live here at 8 weeks old. But please, my name is Grizzle and I’m not afraid of anything. Because I live in what humans call a multi pet household, mum booked the fabulous Ellie from Haines Hounds to house sit instead of splitting up our care. Let’s just say kennels were never on the agenda, however it is common for dogs like me to go to other people’s houses for home boarding. But Pancake the cat could never leave the house, he’d die of fright, and the hens also need their usual garden for free ranging, so it actually works out much cheaper for someone to come stay in your own home and also means your house looks lived in too (sorry thieves!!!).

dog boarding milton keynes

Since I’m such a clever dog I’m going to share with you below some of my top tips that you can pass on to your owners next time they decide to be cruel and leave you alone as they jet off on fancy holidays like mine have just done (shhhh don’t tell them we really don’t care they’re gone) 🙂

  • Meet the pet sitter in your home and go through all of the particulars about the house, the pets, feeding routines, likes/dislikes and general home info (don’t forget alarm codes, checking the spare key works correctly and explaining how the telly and internet work)
  • Type up all the same info and print out for the pet sitter. This gives you time to remember all the things you may have forgot to cover in the meeting and also means the pet sitter doesn’t have to take loads of notes at the meeting and can instead spend their time listening. Mum actually divided this up into different sections so the info was easy to find: Food, Walks, Sleeping, Insurance, Home, Other
  • Sign a contract and an Off Lead Disclaimer Form (if you are happy for your dog to be walked off lead in your absence) or include a letter if you want them kept on lead
  • Provide an emergency contact telephone number – one that the pet sitter can reach you on when you are gone
  • Make sure your pets’ registration, ID tags etc are up to date and secure
  • Buy plenty of food for the entire trip, plus some extra. If any pets are on special diets make sure to discuss this with the pet sitter in advance, and also leave further instructions in your printed notes. If food is awkward to prepare then leave bags of pre-prepped food so that feeding is a straight forward job
  • Set aside all your favourite treats on one shelf in the fridge or cupboard. Don’t leave it to your pet sitter to search for things hidden deep within the kitchen
  • Leave out your dogs collar, leads, poo bags, harnesses and any other dog walking items
  • If you have a cat or other small furries then don’t forget to cover their particulars and leave out all their care items (for instance, my brother Pancake has little cotton swabs for his eyes, special raw meat baggies and a brush as he’s a short hair Persian cat)
  • Ensure there’s plenty of household essentials in the cupboards along with pet safe cleaning product should anyone have a little “accident”
  • Collect up possibly injurious articles and substances, and either dispose of them or put them out of your pets’ reach. Also prevent your pets from getting into and out of areas which could lead to harm
  • Before you go away make sure to clean the house top to bottom ready for your pet sitter. There is nothing more gross than leaving a house dirty for a guest and I can’t underestimate how long a proper clean may take you. Set aside a good half day for this task and do it properly (this includes dusting all surfaces, light fixtures, bed edges, etc)
  • Make up the bed for your pet sitter and close the door to their bedroom so it stays nice and fresh, free from pet hairs and other nasties
  • Shut any doors that the pets should not have access to while you’re on holiday and give the house a final vacuum before departing

In summary, I think the most important thing to consider when booking a holiday where pets are not allowed is that you find someone you really trust to look after them. Once you find a super reliable, knowledgeable and friendly pet sitter then you need to make their life easy by leaving comprehensive details about your pets and the house they are staying in so that they can just crack on with looking after your furries.

I hope you found this blog helpful, if you did then go on and share it with your friends and family, not everyone is as clever as me….

And P.S. I did miss mum and dad …. I just put on a brave face!

Love Grizzle

pet sitting mk

The Joy of Keeping Hens: the signs of sickness

I’m feeling poorly … 

Keeping hens can either be a straight forward easy thing or fraught with illness and death. Is it luck of the draw, the environment they live in or where they were bought? I think a bit of each to be honest. Our original flock of hens were purchased in 2010 and we had one for only three years, she died from what most hens do: an internal infection which weakens the body to the point where they die from lack of nutrition (a sick hen will not eat or drink) and exhaustion.

The second one made it a good six years but sadly passed away in August this year after a very hot spell. She had been on and off for many years and we often thought we would lose her but managed to bring her back from the brink time and again with additional supplements to her diet and extra care.

We still have one from the original batch of hens and she is going strong. She’s an ‘unusual’ hen, a speckled long plumed sort who doesn’t lay many eggs. This is good in the hen world as it means their bodies are not constantly being overworked to produce the eggs that we take so much for granted. When her buddy died in August I got her a new companion from Hula Animal Rescue. Martha is only three years old and should have been free from issues for awhile yet.

However, for the last couple weeks she started laying dodgy eggs. Super soft shells which crack as you try to pick them up, or shells which are not formed at all and simply slip out of the hen in a messy yolk’y blob. If you see this in your hen it is a clear sign of something internally not right and it shouldn’t be ignored. When an egg doesn’t pass properly out of the hen what is left inside her body will get infected and, if continued to be left untreated, weaken the hen to the point of death.

Signs of a sick hen

  • Staying in the nest box or continually entering it and leaving without producing an egg
  • Hunched posture (seen in pictures below)
  • Lack of interest in food, including favourite treats
  • Reduced water intake
  • Standing in one corner of the coop or garden with little movement
  • Pale colored comb
  • Liquid poo
  • Yellow colored poop which looks a bit like wet scrabbled egg

Luckily we seem to have caught it in time with Martha!

Hens need careful monitoring and observation to ensure they stay in tip top shape. Yes they are an easy pet to own as they don’t require much in the way of faffing or attention; yet a few daily checks will see to it that your hens live long and healthy lives. I had observed that Martha wasn’t coming down out of her nest box in the morning, nor showing much interest in her food. Having seen this in countless hens before I didn’t waste any time in ringing the vets.

If you are based in Milton Keynes or the surrounding villages and keep hens then the vet I would recommend every time is Beech House Vets in Towcester (just off the A5 near the garden centre). Charles Castle is the principle of the practice and has been maintaining and breeding his own large flock of hens for more than twenty years. This vet, and the practice in general, have such a caring manner about them and nothing feels too small. Charles will ‘fix’ your hen if he is able to and provides a wealth of information along with explanations about what he is doing and why. I have trusted Beech House Vets for years with my hens, both in terms of trying to make them better to putting them to sleep when it did not work. I’ve never felt silly for crying (well balling my eyes out) over the passing of one of my chickens and it’s down to Charles I have to say. Lovely lovely man.

Back to Martha. Having noticed she didn’t eat much on Saturday or Sunday, when Monday morning came around I decided to ring the vets who were able to squeeze us in first thing. My worry was egg peritonitis which is a common condition seen in backyard hens of all ages, from the point of lay onwards. It is an infection established within the coelomic cavity of hens, caused by the presence of an ectopic yolk within the coelom (main body cavity).

Charles gloved up and popped his fingers inside Martha feeling around for any remnants of shell within her body. He felt confident that there was none but confirmed that those ‘dodgy’ eggs we noticed previously would have caused the infection we were seeing and if left untreated would have ended in her demise. Her comb was still a deep red which was a good sign and she hadn’t suffered too much weight loss as yet.

We were given a course of antibiotics and advised to try to get her to eat as much as possible over the next few days, along with bathing her backside in warm water (this stimulates any egg potentially trapped within the hen and helps it pass easily).

Important Tips for Maintaining Healthy Hens

  • Reduce snacks and ‘extra’s in the summer months when hens tend to eat less as it is
  • Feed high quality layer pellets and other rich sources of protein such as mealworms
  • Monitor their behaviour so you can catch any signs of illness early on
  • Clean out their coop and run regularly. A dirty environment invites disease
  • Provide fresh water. Every month you may want to splash some apple cider vinegar or hen supplement in with the water to help boost their internal system
  • Worm regularly. You can get wormer already mixed in with their layer pellets so it’s one less thing to remember. Worms weaken hens and they are a fragile creature as it is

Feeding Your Cat a Healthy Diet part 1

*Survive* versus *Thrive*

… there is a very big difference between the two states of health we see in our pets….

Cats are often put into the same bracket as dogs in regards to their dietary needs. We pop a bowl of whatever in front of our dogs and they eat it, and seem to do ok for it as well (I put the word ‘seem’ in italics as they are actually probably not quite as healthy as you imagine – but that’s for another blog post!).

A cat on a species appropriate diet (high in real meat, moisture and low in carbs) should poo only once a day – if that. My raw fed cat only poo’s every 3 or 4 days … The poo should be dark brown, firm in consistency (easy to pick up) and pretty tiny! They should be peeing at least twice a day, if not more. Why is this?

Cats on a low residue (low fiber/low waste/highly digestible) diet will often not pass stool every day because there is very little non-digestible matter contained in this diet.  Therefore, the volume of faeces will be less when compared to cats on high fiber or poorly digestible diets.

The colour, consistency and frequency of your pets poo can tell you A LOT about the state of their inner health. A cat fed raw meat will only poo once every couple days while a cat on good quality wet (high meat content) might poo just once a day or every other day as opposed to a few times each day when fed kibble. Cats eating a natural, species-appropriate diet do not produce soft, voluminous, stinky faeces like so many people are used to seeing from their cats eating commercial diets. The two pictures below show the poo deposits of two different cats – the one on the left is a RAW fed cat and the poo on the right is from a canned diet, not as great as real meat but a hell of a lot better than kibble. The bottom picture is the poo of a cat fed a popular kibble – Go Cat (god awful choice of food by the way). This is what comes out of the poor cat every day, sometimes twice a day.

Which poo looks the most healthy to you? Which would you prefer to clean up? Yep, it isn’t the kibble fed cat poo that’s for sure!!

cat pooSome people are put off wet food because they can’t free feed it. Actually cats don’t need to eat throughout the whole day. Yes in the wild they tend to eat lots of tiny meals, but you can replicate that with your automatic feeder. With these you can put a section of it into the freezer which will keep a meal cool for most of the day. In fact I feed my cat just twice a day … morning and evening and nothing in between.

Cats are obligate carnivores and require a diet high in protein. Cat food ingredients are listed in decreasing order according to weight, so formulas that are mostly meat will have meat listed as the first ingredient. Feeding your cat a formula with a meat or identified meat meal (like salmon meal or chicken meal) ensures that your cat is getting its protein from a quality meat source and not an unidentifiable mystery grain or dubious animal part.

What to look for in a food

  • Protein is listed as the first ingredient on the label, and the meat/poultry used is fit for human consumption. …
  • The food is grain-free (no rice, barley, or any other grains (pea included) …
  • The food does not contain by-products, corn, soy, or any other fillers ..
  • Percentage of meat should be above 70% (meat, not animal derivatives)

Top Tip: don’t be fooled into the marketing gimmick of ‘gravy being a great sort of liquid’. It’s also chuck full of carbohydrate which your cat doesn’t need.

cute cat

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Jog My Dog is a small, friendly and professional company offering home boarding, puppy visits, doggy day care, cat visits and dog walking services in Milton Keynes and the surrounding villages of Bow Brickhill, Brickhill Sands, Little Brickhill, Great Brickhill, Aspley Guise, Woburn, Woburn Sands, Brogborough, Linslade, Stoke Hammond and Soulbury.

Registered, Insured, Knowledgeable and Experienced, we take the job of pet care seriously. So whether you’re looking for a cat sitter for your weekend away or regular runs for your dog while you’re at work, we can help! Get in touch to book your pet sitter and dog walker in Milton Keynes today.