Helping Your Pet Stay Happy and Healthy

PDSA Vet gives advice for pet owners during Mental Health Awareness Week

The bond between animals and owners is really powerful and, at times like these, many of us would be lost without the mood-boosting power of our pets. During Mental Health Awareness Week, PDSA is offering tips on reducing the chances of our four-legged friends suffering from the blues.

PDSA Vet Anna Ewers Clark, says: “Just like us, it’s important for our pets to keep fit and active during lockdown. It helps keep them in shape and is really important for their mental health too. As the government has lifted restrictions on exercise in England, we’re now allowed to leave the house more often, which is great for our dogs.

“Daily walks and playtime with your dog will help to decrease boredom. Adult dogs need at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Longer walks are better, though this depends on age, breed and health. Giving your dog plenty to do at home, such as puzzle feeders and playing lots of games, will help keep them mentally active in-between walks.

“Rabbits, like cats and dogs, can display unwanted behaviours – such as aggression – if they don’t have their needs met. They need to run, hide, chew and dig and will do this in inappropriate places if they aren’t given the right resources, including plenty of hay, chew toys, space to run, shelter and a dig box.”

“Contrary to popular belief, rabbits don’t like living alone and loneliness can impact heavily on their mental health. Companionship is really important to bunnies but, sadly, half of all pet rabbits in the UK live alone. When normality resumes, finding the perfect pal for your rabbit and then bonding the bunnies is well worth it to ensure that they are happy.”

Whereas rabbits thrive with the company of their own kind, cats enjoy a more solitary life, so during this time of lockdown it’s a good idea to monitor your cat for signs of stress.

Generally, cats do not live well with other cats. The stress of having to share their ‘territory’ can sometimes lead to serious medical problems such as cystitis and blocked bladders.

Aggression towards other cats and people, spraying urine, scratching carpets and begging for food can be symptoms of cat stress. But many cats will suffer in silence with less than ideal situations, so prevention is better than cure.

Anna advises: “While many of us are still at home, it’s important your cats have a quiet space away from noise and activity. To help alleviate stress in multi-cat households, you need to have multiple resources around the home so each cat can have their own space.

“As a rule of thumb, you need one of every resource for each cat, plus an additional one. So if you have two cats you need at least three litter trays, food bowls, scratching posts, beds, high places, and water bowls.

“During these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to keep an eye on any sudden change in behaviour in our pets – as they can be a sign of a medical issue too.”

In times of uncertainty and hardship, much-loved pets will still fall ill or be injured and need emergency, life-saving care. PDSA’s veterinary care – which is a lifeline to so many owners across the UK – costs £60 million a year to run. But with retail shops closed and fundraising events cancelled, the charity is losing around £3 million a month in income.

And with the country plunged into financial uncertainly, and more than a million extra Universal Credit claims, we’re expecting the number of pets needing our support to increase by around 50,000.

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