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Dogs are a man’s best friend, but like all animals, they can suffer from emotional and physical problems which can affect their quality of life. Vet Scott McGinlay, who works as a small animal veterinary surgeon at the Pets ‘n’ Vets practice in Glasgow, had some advice for dog owners whose pets were suffering from anxiety, hyperactivity and obesity issues.
The first dog looking for some help was Digby, a three-year-old Jack Russell/Beagle cross with anxiety issues. Recently re-homed, Digby has struggled to settle in with his new owners and can often be found cowering in the corner and chattering his teeth. If he is left alone for any period of time he howls, cries and barks. Scott told The Hour:
“A good tip is to go for an acclimatisation period for that sort of behaviour. Usually that involves leaving them for a short period of time on their own while you’re in the house so that at the back of their mind they know you’re in there. Just build it up over the space of weeks from five minutes to 10 minutes. That cements the idea in their heads that being left on their own in a room doesn’t mean that you’re never coming back and gets them used to that concept.”
Next up was English springer spaniel Charlie. The 18-month-old pup is hyperactive and pulls on his lead, jumps up on furniture and people, and rarely sits still. Scott advised:
“Exercise is really the key. A dog like this is quite active, and one walk around the block a day just isn’t going to be enough. Whatever you do preferably has to be accompanied by some good, off-the-lead exercise. When you’re out on the walk, instead of a traditional round-the-neck collar, you can use a head harness.”
Castration is also recommended for male dogs, as this stops testosterone from coursing through their bodies.
Last up was nine-year-old black Labrador Cassie, who is overweight. A measure of appropriate body weight of any dog is the ability to feel the outline of the ribs with light pressure when patting the side of the dog’s chest. If you can’t feel the ribs then the dog could be suffering from a weight problem.
Scott said: “Dogs are very good at clinging onto their calories, so it’s better to approach it from the point of view of putting in less food rather than burning more calories because, unlike us, they will cling onto the calories very closely. It’s maybe better to feed them the same volume of food but with a lower-calorie value. Lots of companies do low-calorie dog food now. It provides the same bulk, so they have the meal and feel just as full, but they’re not taking in the same amount of energy.”
For more information on Pets ‘n’ Vets, see the website.