FESTIVE SAFETY FOR OUR FAMILY PETS

Jen Cairns - AAPS training specialist shares some festive tips for your furry friends

Christmas is such a busy and exciting time not just for us, but for our pets as well. Families tend to be home more, there is many outings, kids are on holidays and there are many gatherings and events to attend. 

With all the excitement, it is important to remember there are some hidden dangers for our beloved pets that are important for owners to be aware of. 

Visitors and events: 

Many families have Christmas gatherings at their homes, with lots of guests and sometimes people our pets have never met. While some pets take this in their stride, others may find this overwhelming. 

Keep an eye on your pet for cues, looking nervous, trying to retreat or behaving differently to normal are all signs your pet needs some quiet time alone. Christmas can also be a time where there may be unfamiliar children in your home. If you are not sure how your pet will react around children, the best option is to keep your pet separate. If your pet is overwhelmed or unsure at anytime, you can still let them enjoy their day. Find a delicious treat that will take your pet a long time to eat and give them a quiet area either in the laundry or somewhere safe in the backyard to chew this while the festivities continue. 

Festive foods: 

The festive season generally goes hand in hand with lots of delicious foods! But many of the treats we love, are not safe for our pets. The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) warns owners to never feed these items to our pets: chocolate, nutmeg, grapes and raisins (including Christmas pudding and mince tarts), avocado, macadamia nuts, onion and garlic, turkey skin, pork crackling, sausages and other fatty meats, and lastly alcohol.

When consumed, these foods can cause illness and be potentially toxic. If you think your pet has eaten any of the above foods, call your vet immediately for advice. 

Fireworks: 

Fireworks while beautiful are very loud and many animals find the noise overwhelming and unfamiliar. Dogs, cats and even horses don’t cope well with the unfamiliar sound of fireworks, with many trying to escape the sound and putting themselves at risk of injury or becoming displaced. 

Over the festive period when fireworks are common, where possible keep your pet indoors or in an area where they can not injure themselves on anything if they do try to flee. Ensure microchip and ID tags have the correct details and where possible if your animal is particularly scared of the noise, stay home with them or have a trusted friend to watch them if you are out. 

For dogs, it can help to close the curtains, turn up the television to drown out the noise and give them something to keep them distracted – treat balls, puzzles and treat scatters all work great! 

If you keep these tips in mind, you and your pets will enjoy the festive season together.

Megan Seccull
BUNS & PIGS ADVICE & HANDY HINTS

Our resident rabbit and guinea pig expert Leigh Munro shares some advice

How can I litter train my rabbit? 

The easiest way to litter train a rabbit is to put their tray where they do their urine the most. They like to feel safe, so make sure it’s against the wall and in a corner. Rabbits normally have a few places where they go to the toilet, so start with the tray there, and then slowly move it where you want it to be. Desexed rabbits are also easier to train to use a litter tray, as they are less likely to do stray territorial poos around the place. Desexing also helps with urine odour, we don’t know why but a desexed rabbit seems to be almost odour free, which is great when inside the home. It's also a good idea to have a thick layer of newspaper on the bottom with oaten hay on the top as rabbits like to have a "poo and chew' station where they enjoy eating hay and going to the toilet at the same time. Cleaning out the tray daily allows us to observe if the rabbits are pooing too, as it’s important that they are. If your rabbit goes somewhere other than the tray don't get angry at it, as this will do more harm than good - clean the area with warm water and a splash of white vinegar, place a towel on top and place the tray on that area. You might need more than one tray at the beginning to cover other areas of the room. Rabbits are sensitive creatures and like to test their surroundings out with their teeth so for the health of your rabbit do not use cat litter in their tray as they may try to eat it and do not use harsh chemicals to clean up after them. Rabbits are very clean animals and will eventually choose to go to the toilet in one area. Try to remember that Rabbits see their litter trays as comfort zones and if you follow these easy tips your pet will be weeing where you want in no time.

How to help shy and anxious rabbits or guinea pigs… 

Both rabbits and guinea pigs are timid by nature, as they are ground-dwelling animals that think we are big and scary and trying to eat them. It’s up to you to alter your behaviour so that they understand that you are a friend. It’s important to let them settle in their new home, be quiet as possible and move slowly so as not to scare them. Sitting on the ground at their level and talking softly helps them to get to know you in a non-threatening way. Don't expect your pet to approach you right away, remain quiet and patient, even if it takes an hour or more. They are naturally curious animals, and eventually, they will come over to sniff you. Resist the temptation to reach out and pat them, instead, let them sniff you, hop on you and get to know your smell. This will help them realise that you are not a threat. Repeat this everyday until they become more familiar with you and eventually you will be able to give them gentle pats. One of the most common misconceptions people have about rabbits and guinea pigs are that they like to be held and cuddled; probably because they look like plush toys. Not picking them up will make them feel secure and safe in a new environment. Try to restrict picking them up to necessary moments like vet visits, health checks etc. Treats (not too many) help them associate you with good experiences too. Patience, time, and common sense will do the job. The gentler you are, the slower you enter their space, the faster they may become more accustomed to you.

One of the most important things is that they have a compatible friend of the same species, as it helps them relax and feel safe. They are a social species and need a friend; this is why we’d rather not rehome them to be a single animal. If your pet is looking for a new buddy we do bunny and piggy dates so they can choose their own friend. 

handy hints

  • Hey, did you know that not only horses eat hay! Rabbits and guinea pigs need hay too! Fresh oaten hay helps wear down teeth and keeps their gut healthy. 

  • Fresh water and vegetables are also important, especially for guinea pigs, as they can’t produce their own vitamin C they require one cup a day. Your bun or pig will love you all the more when you treat them to the occasional (once or twice a week) piece of fruit and/or Oxbow or Burgess pellets.

  • Guinea pigs are herd animals and rabbits are social butterflies, so they need friends. Having compatible friends gives them confidence and prevents loneliness. If your pet needs a friend, we do play dates at the Shelter!

  • Rabbits and guinea pigs are known as “prey species” so the best way to interact with them is at their level. They find it scary to be picked up and cuddled, you’ll notice their nose twitching and increased heartbeat, and so playing on the floor with them is best. 

  • Rabbits like to sleep all day and are most active in the evening, when they are happy they like to “binky”, which is when they jump and twist and run around madly.

  • Guinea pigs are very vocal! They make lots of different noises when expressing themselves like squealing, chirping, rumbling, or purring. When they are happy they do "popcorns", which are crazy leaps in the air. 

  • Guinea pigs should ideally be housed indoor and love to hide in PVC pipes and to burrow in hay. The more space you give them the better, because they like to exercise. 

  • Rabbits can be outdoor or indoor pets and litter box trained! Just remember, they need lots of space to exercise. Make sure you have flywire on hutches to prevent mosquito bites. 

  • Guinea pigs like to eat their own poop, yes you read right! They do this to maximise the nutrition they receive from their food, so don’t be alarmed. 

  • You should brush your bunny! When they are moulting they need frequent brushing, just make sure to be gentle and take your time. 

  • Providing enrichment is paramount for buns and pigs and regular health checks are ideal; every six months you should take them to an exotic vet. 

  • We can give advice about behavioural traits and issues and can provide information on their care including diet, housing, health issues to look out for, enrichment ideas, and much more. All you have to do is ask.

Fun fact: Guinea pigs are not pigs and do not come from Guinea and rabbits are not to be confused with Rabbis and nor do they come in bits!

At the Shelter we can give advice about further behavioural issues and bonding problems. We can also provide information on their care including diet, housing, what to look out for so you know when to take rabbits/guinea pigs to a vet, enrichment ideas, and much more so why not come in and see us.

Megan SeccullComment
SUMMERTIME BRINGS FLYING NASTIES

FROM OUR IN-HOUSE VET BELINDA

With the increasing heat of summer approaching, we all get to experience balmy nights, trips to the beach... and bugs! Australia is home to large numbers of flies and mosquitoes in the summer months. While these can prove super irritating, they also come with some health concerns to our pets. 

Here are some of the more common fly-related conditions; for all of them, PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE:

FLY WORRY/FLY BITES

'Fly worry' describes the fly bites that tend to occur around the margins of dogs' ears, causing them to be itchy, painful, and prone to secondary infections. Fly worry can develop very rapidly when sensitive dogs are around flies. Severe cases may require pain relief and antibiotics, if the wounds become infected. Prevention is far better than cure; you can chat with your veterinarian about fly repellents that can be used on your pooch's ears.

FLYSTRIKE/MYIASIS

Flystrike, more accurately called myiasis, describes the hatching of maggots in or on the tissues of our pets. Flies seek out moist, nutrient rich areas to lay their eggs; while this is generally in the environment they will take full advantage of any animal areas that fit the bill. As a result, this is most commonly seen in animals with mobility and toileting problems, as well as, issues with grooming or a poorly kempt coat, especially around their rump such that the coat becomes contaminated with droppings. Open wounds are also at risk. The fly eggs hatch and maggots start to grow and feed on the pet. This is a severe condition with associated pain, discomfort and secondary infection. Myiasis is life threatening and requires intensive treatment, prevention is vastly better than cure. Animals kept in good condition without any areas of their body that look inviting to flies should be at minimal risk.

HEARTWORM

Heartworm is a worm that lives within the vascular system of dogs, foxes, ferrets, and more rarely cats. Mosquitoes spread it; the larvae circulate in the bloodstream of the infected animals, and develop into adult worms that reside within the heart and major blood vessels. Larvae are transferred between animals when mosquitoes, which can extract larvae from infected animals and inoculate them into healthy animals with their bite, bite them. Heartworm is a grave disease, and at its worst can cause heart failure. Removal of adult worms from the bloodstream is problematic, so prevention is far better than cure. While the incidence of heartworm is quite low in Melbourne, this is likely to increase with the warming climate. It’s strongly recommended that dogs and cats kept in areas with a high number of mosquitoes, and those that go on trips to tropical areas like Queensland, are kept on a heartworm prevention product. You can discuss options that would best suit your lifestyle with your veterinarian.

MYXOMATOSIS AND CALICIVIRUS

The viral diseases of rabbits, spread by mosquitoes and flies is a severe, often terminal disease. Myxomatosis is nearly 100% fatal, and causes swelling of the ears, lips, eyelids, and genitals leading to increased debility until death. Euthanasia is strongly recommended for infected rabbits given the hopeless prognosis and the suffering involved in the disease process. Calicivirus causes bleeding in rabbits. Traditional strains caused rapid bleeding and death within hours of infection, whereas newly discovered RHDV2 strain can be more insidious and cause general signs of lethargy and inappetence, with few rabbits able to overcome the infection and survive. While a good vaccine exists against the traditional calicivirus strain and regular vaccination of pet rabbits is required for their welfare, there is no vaccine for myxomatosis or the new calicivirus variant. The only way to combat these diseases is by attempting to eliminate flying insects or contaminated products from your rabbits' environment. Avoiding outdoor time at dawn and dusk when mosquito numbers are higher, removing water bodies where mosquitoes breed, mosquito netting on enclosures, excellent hygiene, and ideally considering an indoor lifestyle will help. 

Megan SeccullComment
THE IMPORTANCE OF FOSTER CARE

Becoming a foster carer means you are providing invaluable support to our organisation by caring for lost, abandoned, orphaned, or unwanted animals that need new forever homes. 

Fostering provides us with useful information on their behaviour in a home environment and this enables us in finding them their perfect forever home. 

By offering your time, energy, and home to an animal in need you prepare them for adoption, whilst allowing us to take on more animals that need our help. 

What is foster care and how does it work?

Foster care is when you provide temporary care to a shelter animal in your own home whilst we look to rehome them. At AAPS, we often have animals in need of a little extra attention and care. Our foster care program provides these animals a temporary home away from the shelter, where they can rehabilitate and recover in a safe and relaxing environment. It’s flexible for most lifestyles. When we receive an animal that is not ready for adoption right away we contact a foster carer, if the foster carer is not able to foster at any time we simply try another. There is never any pressure to take on an animal and there will be plenty of other opportunities to foster. 

What types of animals will I foster and why do they need foster care?

Cats and dogs that come into our care are likely strays or were surrendered. The shelter environment can be quite stressful and some animals cope better than others. 
These animals require foster care for a number of reasons, including:

·     Animals who need extra TLC in a home environment while they recover from illness or surgery (typically one to six weeks of care required).

·     Abandoned or orphaned kittens and puppies that need to gain weight and confidence (typically one to three weeks of care required).

·     Animals that need a holiday outside the shelter for rest and relaxation (typically three days to four weeks of care required).

·     Dogs who need behavioural support in a home environment (typically one to three weeks of care required).

·     Animals that need gentle interactions to build their confidence (typically one to four weeks of care required).

·     Animals that we need to learn more about (such as how they manage in a home environment or cope when left alone) so we can find them the perfect forever home.

What are the requirements for becoming a foster carer?

Almost everyone is suitable to foster an animal, but you must be over 18 years of age. If you work full-time, have pets at home, live in an apartment, have kids, are retired, or have a busy schedule, we will find the perfect foster match for you. It’s important to be compassionate, empathetic, and appreciate that every foster animal will be different and be willing to help them gain confidence and continue their training. Most importantly be prepared to care for all the animals needs including: feeding, walking, vet checks, grooming, and socialising.  

Please contemplate whether you are able to provide a safe and secure home, and whether you will be able to safely transport the pet to and from vet appointments at our temporary Dandenong South home.

How do I become a foster carer?

After you submit a Foster Carer Application Form, the more information provided the better; we will get back to you within 24 hours to conduct an informal telephone interview.You will be available for fostering once our animal welfare team has performed a home check and your needs as a foster carer are also established.

Can I choose which pet to foster?

Our animal welfare team will match you with a pet who suits your lifestyle and experience, and make sure you feel comfortable and confident looking after them. You can indicate whether you would like to foster dogs, cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs but will not be able to choose the breed or age.

Will it cost me to foster a petand what do AAPS provide?

We will provide you with everything you need to care for your foster animal:

·      You’ll get 24-hour support from out animal welfare team.

·      We incur all veterinary and medical costs.

·      Behavioural and training support.

·     All food, litter, and equipment are provided before taking the animal. 

What happens with my foster pet when they go back to AAPS?

Depending on the individual animal, some pets will go up for adoption straight away, while others may need further veterinary work, or behaviour training to help them. Once an animal is ready for adoption, their profile will appear on our website to enable them to find a loving forever home as soon as possible. We may place them with other rescue shelters that can help them find a new home.

Can I adopt my foster pet?

Yes, many foster carers have fallen in love with their foster pet and decided to adopt, we jokingly call them “failed fosters”. The aim of foster care is to provide temporary support and there is no pressure to adopt your foster pet. 

If you’re ready to become a foster carer start by filling in an application form

43676269_10155845717963342_3607735424417529856_n.jpg
Megan Seccull
SPRINGTIME ALLERGY MANAGEMENT IN PETS

FROM OUR IN-HOUSE VET BELINDA

For us humans spring is a lovely time as we watch the flowers start to bloom, but for some with that comes dreaded hay fever! Springtime allergies also affect our pets and may cause them the same sort of grief, typically in the form
 of intensely itchy, red, and inflamed skin. While it can be much more difficult to tell which allergen is causing problems in our pets, there are some common kinds we see frequently. 

PARASITE ALLERGY 

The most common parasites we deal with are intestinal worms, topical fleas and ticks, and blood born parasites like heartworm. It is important to note that parasites, as a group, always tend to attack and populate the weakest and sickest animals. So the best way to manage all parasites is to keep your pet in the best of health. A strong immune system will fight off parasites but prevention is better than taking chances. Use flea control only if needed and heartworm and tick control based on your local area requirements. Using products that specifically target the parasite, rather than monthly treatments with an all in one parasite control, is preferable. 

Supplementary, fleas cause an intense itch for our pets and some animals may develop an allergy to flea saliva, causing what is normally known as ‘flea allergy’ dermatitis. Commonly this shows
 as a scabby rash on the base of the pet’s tail and/or rump. This allergy is one of the easiest varieties to control; using a veterinary-grade flea treatment product, the allergen can be eliminated. Intensely affected pets may require additional anti-allergy medications to help relieve their signs. 

FOOD ALLERGY 

Did you know some dogs can’t eat beef and some cats can’t eat fish? It’s true! Food allergies are typically under-diagnosed in our pets or confused with other kinds of allergies. Dogs and cats may develop dietary sensitivities to common pet food ingredients like beef, mutton, fish, chicken, wheat, corn, soy, dairy foods and eggs. We can’t stop this irregular response so the most effective treatment is to avoid eating the food that causes the problem.

Trying to find the offending agent can be no easy task. This typically involves a process of elimination. Starting the pet on a hypoallergenic diet, or a diet with a less common protein source such as crocodile or venison and wait and see if the signs of allergic disease resolve, if they do, great! It’s then a matter of progressively testing the pet on different proteins to find out which one causes the skin to flare up, and then avoiding this protein for life.

CONTACT ALLERGIES  

Contact allergies are more rare than a lot of people think, but still occur in our dogs and cats. There are two types of contact dermatitis: allergic and irritant. In both cases, the pet must make direct physical contact with a substance in order to suffer a reaction. 

Allergic dermatitis occurs when a pet becomes oversensitive to substances in their environment and is caused by repeated physical contact. Despite your pet coming into contact with these substances in the past without issue, skin irritation can take somewhere between six months to two years to develop.

Irritant dermatitis, on the other hand, is when a reaction occurs the first time your pet makes contact with a substance. Common household chemicals and plants that cause this include: poison ivy sap, detergents, soaps, solvents, acids and alkalis, and petroleum by-products. 

When diagnosed, these can be some of the more frustrating allergic conditions to manage, as there is no cure. The best way to treat and prevent the disease is to limit exposure to the irritating substance. It may involve having to completely prevent access to certain places or the use of funky bodysuits to reduce exposure! 

ATOPIC DERMATITIS 

Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory, chronic skin disease. This is the second most common skin disease in dogs. Generally harmless materials like pollens, grass, mould spores, house dust mites, and other environmental allergens can bring on sensitive reactions. Symptoms gradually worsen with time and can become more obvious during spring. The signs connected with atopic dermatitis consist of itching, scratching, rubbing, and licking, especially around the face, paws, and underarms.

Early onset of atopic dermatitis is often associated with a family history of skin allergies and breeds like Staffys and West Highland White Terriers are predisposed. Despite the fact dogs are more prone to atopic dermatitis, it may still occur in felines.

Unfortunately, atopic dermatitis seldom goes into remission or naturally resolves. However, bathing your dog or cat in cool water with anti-itch shampoos may help alleviate its symptoms. 

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT 

Ultimately, your veterinarian is the best qualified to discuss management of allergic skin disease in pets with you, and the control you use will depend on your objectives and how far you wish to take the diagnosis. Often, decisively finding out which allergen is at
 play involves testing trials over many weeks and may even lead to a referral to a veterinary dermatologist for additional skin testing or desensitisation therapy. If this is not an option, the signs of allergic skin disease can be controlled with medications that suppress the immune response, antibiotics for secondary infections, and medicated shampoos. There are new medications on the market that can tone down allergic skin responses with fewer side effects than past medications; you should always discuss with your veterinarian if these are the right choice for you and your pet before administering yourself. 

Hoping both you and your furry family members have a wonderful springtime, sniffles and scratching free! 

Megan SeccullComment
MAX FINDS REAL LOVE

Max’s story was all too familiar to us here at AAPS. Sadly, he belonged to a family that grew tired of having a cat and eventually surrendered him to the Shelter. Max spent eight years giving that family his love, only to one-day wake up in a different environment and not know why he was left there. 

We made sure Max was fit and able to be re-homed and then set to work finding him the perfect ‘furever’ home. However, Max was a special case, not only was he a bit older than the usual surrenders but he had a cataract in one eye, which meant he was limited to being indoors

We wondered at the adoption interest we would get for Max and hoped he wouldn’t need to spend any more time than necessary at the Shelter. Boy, was all that worry for nothing. Max’s profile went up and within a matter of days he had a new family who loved him. 

We spoke to his owners a week ago to see how Max was settling in and they wrote us this lovely email detailing their and of course Max’s happiness… 

Hi AAPS,

When we first saw Max on the pet rescue website we instantly fell in love with this little fur ball and knew we had to bring him home. I sent out an enquiry to AAPS and we were to meet him on 2nd September. We were too excited to adopt him and hence we asked if we could bring him home the same day - we felt another family would snap him up otherwise.

When we went to see him he was facing the wall. He greeted us, sniffed our hands, head booped and purred but faced the wall again. He looked sad and we wanted to give him all our love. The journey home was a long two-hour drive and he had pooped in his box as he was scared and nervous. While we gave him a bath straightaway, he was calm and compliant. He then hopped on our bed and now that is where he sleeps, by our feet - and not in the three cat caves we got him. On the first night he spent two hours hiding under the bed and we were worried, but by the second day he was comfortable around us and started following us around the house. Max loves head boops and cuddles. He is very chatty and we love having cat conversations with him.

He has now started playing with his toys, getting cosy on the cat tower, licks and nibbles on our hands, kneads on everything that is soft (and that includes us!) and wet noses us. He seems like a kitten most times and is fun to play with but very gentle and cuddly at other times. 

After we adopted him we read his story on the Facebook page on AAPS and we were in tears! We simply could not imagine that no one wanted Max's love as he has so much of it to give. He is our baby and this is now his forever home, we think he loves us too.

We hope more people adopt senior pets, as they are really special. They will always love you unconditionally even if they have not received too much love in the past.

Regards,

Kshama and Quinn

Please feel free to share your happy adoption stories with us, we love hearing how our past boarders are doing. 

NEW SURROUNDINGS

BY TEDWOOD

Wow, how cool is this, a new shelter and website! Not only do I get to help out in the office a couple of days a week they’ve also asked me to write blogs to give a dogs perspective of the world and report on what’s going happening at AAPS. If you ask me it’s long overdue. We also have a cat, yes a cat writing a column in the Newsletter! Honestly, as if a cat would know what’s going on.

Anyway, here’s a little something about myself. I’m Tedwood Green and I’m 15 years old. They say I’m a Chihuahua-Pomeranian cross but I don’t feel cross at all, I’m actually very calm. My mum used to work in the office at the shelter. She’d be so proud to know I followed in her footsteps. She had to go away and couldn’t come back so my brother, sister and I went to live with my Aunty and her fur-kids. She has lots! I’ll tell you about them all one day.   

I loved my mum. She used to bring home all sorts of baby creatures to care for, she called them wildlife but they didn’t seem particularly wild to me. She brought home dogs and cats too, who must’ve loved it because they always stayed. We even had a couple of rats that were very funny. We were one big happy family. She took me to the shelter a few times but back then I preferred to play guard dog at home. Mum used to say I must have been doing a good job ‘cause we were never burgled.

The new shelter is different but I’m sitting on the same chair and have the same adoring humans around me, so I’m getting used to it. They’re all working very hard to get things up and running and from what I can tell are still helping lots of animals. I’ll actually be really pleased when they are able to keep animals on the premises, especially dogs, as I’m currently sharing my Aunt’s home with three Staffy puppies. She says they won’t be here for much longer though.   

Any-hoo, it’s getting a bit late. Aunty says I need to stop writing and get to bed as we’ve got an early start tomorrow. I'll catch up with you all again soon. In the mean time feel free to browse our new website.

Megan Seccull