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  • Pet Care

    Here at the Dublin SPCA we want to support you as an Animal Owner and we have a large variety of articles for you to read on Animal  Care for all types of animals.

    We hope these articles help you and your pet to have a healthy & happy life together.

    If you are thinking of getting a pet why not read these articles so you can make an informed decision in deciding what pet suits you best and what you are going to have to do to take care of them.

    Please click on the links below to bring to the relevant information

    Dogs & Puppies Cats & Kittens

    Guinea Pigs


    Dogs & Puppies

    It’s no secret that canines and humans make great companions. The benefits for the human are; a dog will give you unconditional love, loyalty and lifelong friendship. In return, your canine friend asks for food, water, shelter, safety, regular veterinary check-ups and plenty of exercise. In fact, did you know that if you don’t take proper care of your dog, he is likely to suffer not only from physical ailments but also behavioral problems?

    To help you, we’ve compiled a list of some of the frequently asked questions we receive. Take a look at our information below; we’re sure you’ll find it useful for both you and your furry friend.


    What do I feed my dog?

    A healthy, balanced diet is essential. Take a look at different foods available and check the ingredients. Are they quality ingredients or are they fillers? If, however, you are in doubt, discuss your dog’s dietary requirements with your vet. Make sure your dog has access to fresh, clean, water at all times. Tip: A complete, dry dog food helps keep his teeth clean.

    What about my dog’s kennel?

    Well there’s no doubt about it, your dog needs to have proper shelter when he’s out in the garden. However, as a pack animal, he likes to be included into the family unit. Ok, we know in some circumstances a family may require their pet to stay outdoors for certain parts of the day; but he should have access to the family home.

    If you must leave him outdoors for any length of time, make sure he has access to a temperature controlled kennel. Never, ever, leave him unattended outside without shelter, food or water. When in the house, set down rules for your dog; he will respect that. Dogs like routine. Make sure he knows the ‘off limit’ areas in your home and make sure he is welcomed into the ‘permissible’ areas. For example; my dogs are not allowed onto the beds but are welcome on chairs and sofas. They know this and will happily jump onto the sofa but steer clear of the beds.

    Should I go to training class with my puppy? What about an older dog, can you teach it new tricks?

    Dog’s thrive on love and discipline. Choose a training programme such as the ones offered by King of Paws and follow it through. Make sure he knows you are the boss but still maintain a human-canine bond by setting aside time for you and for him. Owning a dog is not a chore; it’s an experience and we believe it should enrich your life and that of your best friend, your dog. 


    How often should I bathe my dog?

    Ideally not too often or you may cause damage to the natural oils found in his coat. Once per month is more than enough. If you find your dog is mucky after forest walk try to wash him with some warm water to avoid shampooing too often. Always use a good quality dog/ puppy shampoo, if in doubt check with your vet.

    What products should I use to bathe my dog?

    We stock a wide variety of Pet Head animal shampoo, no doubt you’ll find the best one you’re your favourite furry. With longer haired dogs be sure to brush them both before and after their bath as this helps when rinsing. Rinsing his coat clean and clear is vital. 

    Keep an eye out for our new Grooming facility opening soon


    Exercise! How much does my dog need?

    All dogs need exercise. Let’s face it, all humans need it too, we’d recommend an hour per day; a bit less for small dogs, a bit more for larger breeds. 

    But I have a huge back garden and he runs around it all day?

    That’s great however your dog still needs a walk! He’ll get Cabin Fever if he’s expected to run around the same old few acres all day, every day. He needs new experiences, excitement and he needs to live a little.

    Does my dog need doggie toys?

    Yep. He needs chew toys; think lovely rawhide, pigs’ ears, real bones; something he can get his teeth into.

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    Cats & Kittens

    So, you’re going to get a kitty cat, congratulations. Before you adopt your friendly feline, we want to make sure you know exactly what you’re letting yourself in for. Apart from love, you’ll need to provide her with the correct food, fresh water, and a safe place to sleep, a litter tray and professional veterinary care.


    How do I prepare for my cat’s arrival?

    You may find your new cat or kitten is a bit stressed during the first few days away from everything they’ve previously known. We suggest you keep her in a small, safe room for her first few days in her new home. 

    Let her set her own rules…initially. Don’t get upset if she hides under the sofa for a few days; this is fine, so long as she knows where her food, water and litter tray are; she’ll be ok. Also, give her a toy or two to play with.

    Gradually increase your time together. Sit down, read a book or watch some TV; in no time at all she’ll hop up onto your lap and you’ll know she’s feeling safe and loved in her new home.  

    Keep your kitty safe by keeping her indoors. Cats love the security of always having access to the house. If you are allowing your kitty to go outdoors, we recommend an enclosed, outdoor cat run, this way she gets the freedom of the great outdoors with the security of her own back garden.


    What do I feed my cat?

    Again, as with dogs, a healthy, balanced diet is essential. Take a look at different foods available and check the ingredients. Are they quality ingredients or are they fillers?  Make sure your cat has access to fresh, clean, water at all times.

    Dry or wet cat food?

    Dry cat food has become very popular with many cat parents. It’s convenient and cats seem to prefer dry food and it helps keep teeth clean. However, cats that eat a dry food only diet need plenty of fresh water. Try to choose dry food with little or no grain. Some grains like corn and wheat can trigger allergies in cats. Also a high carbohydrate diet can cause feline diabetes. If in doubt, check with your vet.

    Can I give my cat dairy products?

    Be careful about giving cats dairy products. Yep, they like them but they aren’t good for them, cats don’t digest them well and they may end up getting sick from eating them.

    Remember: Cat’s are prone to dehydration. A cat can go without food for a couple of days, losing up to 40 per cent of her body weight and she will survive. However, a loss of body water of only 10 per cent can be potentially fatal. Make sure she has plenty of fresh water – we cannot stress this enough.


    Do I bathe my cat?

    Quick answer to this is no! Cats don’t need to be bathed. They are capable of cleaning themselves. However, there are a few reasons why you may need to bathe your cat and they are if she gets covered with an unpleasant or poisonous substance or if she has fleas. However, if you are inexperienced then you should let the vet take care of the bathing ritual.

    Your cat, however, will benefit from a good, regular grooming. It’s well known they do a pretty excellent job of grooming themselves but if you want to take her from scruffy to fluffy, then you need to be able to provide her with expert grooming. Make sure you factor this cost into your budget.

    The advantage of bringing your cat to a professional groomer is they are skilled and experienced. They will get your cat’s coat in ship shape quickly and, most importantly, humanely. If you’ve never removed matting and tangles from your cats coat you run the risk of injuring her.

    Does my cat need toys?

    Cats love anything small and shiny to smack across the floor. As she doesn’t have hands, she likes to pick things up with her mouth and this is where there is a danger of choking. Provide your cat with a selection of toys that you can rotate regularly and make sure to get a scratching post…it will keep kitty away from the furniture.

    Should I get my cat vaccinated?

    Yes! It’s essential your cat is fully vaccinated and has her boosters every year. There are a lot of cat viruses out there that can make your cat seriously ill or are fatal, the cost of vaccinations are cheaper and a lot less stressful than having a sick kitty. 

    Should I get my cat spayed/neutered?

    As shelters across the country are already full with unwanted cats, we strongly recommend you have your cat spayed/neutered.  Two cats together can have 52 kittens each year and those kittens can breed as well so you do the math, that is a lot of kittens to get homes for.

    Can I train my cat?

    Hmmm! Cats usually have their own agenda when it comes to what they can and can’t do in the house. However, with repeated, gentle, persuasion your cat will learn some basic house rules. 

     Never, ever, hit your cat. If you do feel she needs an extra touch of discipline, we recommend you use a squirt gun filled with clean water to distract her momentarily if you catch her doing something you don’t want her to do.

    Other info!

    Provide a litter tray for your kitty. Put it in a quiet spot, cats like privacy.   Show her where it is and she’ll use it. Scoop the dirty litter out of the tray at least once a day and make sure you wash the tray on a regular basis. If you have multiple cats you will need to provide one litter tray per cat and one extra, i.e. 2 cats = 3 litter trays.

    Make sure your cat is micro chipped and wears a visible collar that includes her name and your contact details. If your cat does stray and she’s micro chipped, you increase your chances of having her returned safely.

    On average cats live for 12-14 years, but they can live for up to 20 years.

    Cats like to be alone and will look for companionship when they want it. They spend a lot of time resting but must be able to have enough space where they can play and climb. Indoor Cats need a lot of stimulation (toys, high areas to climb, scratching posts, etc ) or they can become bored and stressed.

    If you need to pick up your cat place one hand beneath the cat’s chest and the other round its back legs, so that all its weight is supported. Never pick up a cat by the scruff of its neck or front of its body.  

    If you’ve any questions, please contact us for advice at vetclinic@dspca.ie or call us on (01) 499 4780

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    The Right Pet for You?

    Rabbits have been enjoyed as pets since the time of the Romans. Rabbits like being petted and groomed but not a big fan of hugs or cuddles but apart from that make a great pet.  They need lots of space, and large homes that can be expensive to create.  Rabbits need to be attended to, and cleaned out, every day. That is quite a big commitment, especially when the weather is bad.   Rabbits are social animals so getting two is a great idea and you need to spend time with them too, don’t leave them in the garden and ignore them.

    What do rabbits need?

    • Companionship – to be with other rabbits or humans. The widespread practice of keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together is not recommended.
    • A mixed diet of grass, rabbit pellets, apples, carrots, dandelions and a good quantity of hay.
    • A constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water in a drip feed bottle with metal spout.
    • A large weatherproof home off the ground, out of direct sunlight and strong winds. Move to an indoor area or porch in cold weather. Many homes sold in pet shops are too small.
    • A separate covered sleeping area for each animal.
    • A clean layer of wood shavings and plenty of hay or shredded paper for bedding.
    • Daily exercise in a large, safe grassy area.
    • Rabbits burrow, so ensure the enclosure is sunk into the ground, escape-proof and safe from predators.
    • Their home to be cleaned every day and bedding changed weekly.
    • A gnawing block to wear down long teeth.
    • To be brushed every day if they have a long coat.
    • To be neutered at an early age. Ask your vet.
    • Injections to prevent serious diseases.
    • To be taken to a vet if they are ill or injured.
    • To be looked after when you are on holiday.

    Rabbit Runs Hutches:
    Rabbits do not enjoy being cooped up all day in very small hutches, so it’s nice to treat them to the largest hutch possible. If the weather is dry, rabbits can be allowed outdoors to exercise. Wire runs protect small breeds from foxes, cats or dogs and can be used in the garden when it’s not too wet or excessively sunny. Runs can be partially roofed if you are not going to be at home to look out for weather changes. They should be moved to different parts of the lawn to provide fresh grazing and prevent diseases such as coccidiosis, but do make sure that the lawn has not been recently treated with weed killer or fertilizers.

    In the wild, rabbits live on a mixture of grass, herbs and weeds – and vegetables if they can get into gardens and fields. Pet rabbits love fresh grass and dandelion leaves but these must not be treated with chemicals. They can also graze on lawns and will happily chew on the bark and leaves of twigs such as ash, sycamore, apple and hawthorn. Apart from grazing, pet rabbits get all the nourishment they need from good quality rabbit foods, fresh hay and water. The quality of the food is important and it is a mistake to use rabbit food with a high cereal or grain content. Bowel conditions, such as enteritis, are common in pet rabbits and are almost always due to the feeding of poor food.

    Pellets should only make up 2% of your rabbits diet, the balance should be made up of fresh vegetables, grass and hay.

    Rabbits still retain much of their natural behaviour, which makes them unsuited to life in captivity. In the wild, rabbits live in large social groups, and it is unkind to keep just one. Male and female rabbits can be kept together as long as they have been neutered. A female rabbit can have several litters a year, with as many as eight babies in each litter so you can end up with a lot of rabbits if you don’t get them neutered.

    Unfortunately, rabbits may not always friendly towards one another. Females are less aggressive and are easier to keep than males. Females from the same litter can also be kept together, but will have fewer medical problems if they are neutered. Males tend to fight when they become mature and can bully and beat up smaller, weaker individuals. Males are best kept on their own, and really need to be neutered if they are to be housed with others.
    Some rabbits are kept with a guinea pig companion but there is not much sense to this idea as they are from totally different animal families and don’t communicate with one another. This unequal arrangement frequently ends up with a frustrated rabbit and a terrorised guinea pig.

    Approach the rabbit from the front. Gently hold the scruff of its neck with one hand but take the weight in your other arm, which should be around the hindquarters. Lift the rabbit towards you and rest it against your body with its head towards your shoulder. Never pick up a rabbit by its ears or the scruff of its neck. Put a rabbit down slowly, hind legs first, on a non-slip surface.

    Rabbits should be vaccinated and given regular boosters.

    Young rabbits may be affected by a highly infectious disease called coccidiosis. Symptoms include a yellow look, diarrhoea, dullness and loss of appetite. Keep the rabbit isolated and seek veterinary advice straight away.

    Rabbits may suffer from parasites. Treatment is available from your vet.

    The prominent front teeth in rabbits give them their typical “Bugs Bunny” appearance. These incisor teeth are used for gnawing twigs, vegetables and tough vegetation into small pieces. The food is then taken further into the mouth and chewed to tiny fragments by the large molars at the back of the cheeks. The front incisors can grow at about one cm per month and normally wear down when the rabbit is eating. Some teeth do not wear properly and can get very long and curl into, or out of, the mouth. The rabbit eventually can’t eat and vets have to cut the teeth back to their correct size. Giving rabbits plenty of twigs and branches to chew may help. However, abnormal shape and growth pattern of the teeth is sometimes genetic in origin. These teeth never seem to wear properly – even when the diet seems to be correct.

    Another rabbit disease you can prevent is myxomatosis. Myxomatosis is common in wild rabbits and can be spread to pets by biting flies and fleas. A vaccine is now available to protect against this killer disease.

    Remember – a pet needs your time and interest for the rest of its life

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    Guinea Pigs

    The Right Pet for You?

    Guinea pigs are friendly and easily tamed, but they need commitment and regular attention. Long-haired guinea pigs can be especially difficult to look after.

    What do Guinea Pigs need?

    • Companionship – to be with other guinea pigs. 
    •  Feeding twice a day, with a mixture of meadow hay, green stuff, pellets, washed fruit and vegetables. 
    • A constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water in a drip-feed bottle with a metal spout. 
    • A large weatherproof home kept off the ground, out of direct sunlight and strong winds. It should be moved to an indoor area or porch in cold weather. 
    • A separate sleeping area for each animal inside the home. 
    • A clean layer of peat or wood chippings on the floor of their home and plenty of soft hay for bedding and burrowing. 
    • Daily exercise in a grassy area safe from predators and an indoor run in cold weather. 
    • Their home to be cleaned every day and bedding changed weekly. 
    • To be brushed every day if they have a long or rough-haired coat. 
    • A hardwood gnawing block to wear down long teeth. 
    • Some quiet time alone or with other guinea pigs every day. 
    • To be taken to a vet if they are ill or injured. 
    • To be looked after when you are on holiday.

    Life span
    Guinea pigs live for up to seven years.

    In the wild, guinea pigs live in close family groups, and it is unkind to keep one guinea pig. Companionship is essential, but two adult guinea pigs that don’t know each other may fight, so choose two young littermates of the same sex, a father and son, or mother and daughter. Guinea pigs have a basic need to graze and should have regular access to a grassy area. Guinea pigs also need to have their own sleeping area.

    Approach the guinea pig from the front and on its level. Pick it up using both hands, one around the hindquarters,the other around its shoulders (for a young guinea pig) or around its chest (for an adult). Guinea pigs may become upset by too much handling.

    Guinea pigs should be checked regularly for overgrown claws and teeth. Both can be trimmed by a vet. Too much scratching results from skin problems and is often caused by mites or lice. Your vet can provide suitable treatment for these. Long-haired guinea pigs in particular may suffer from the potentially fatal disease flystrike, caused by flies laying eggs in soiled fur. Make sure the guinea pigs’ home is cleaned every day and bedding changed regularly.

    Groom guinea pigs every day, checking their fur all over for any dirt, especially under the tail. If a guinea pig develops bald patches on its face, this could indicate the fungal disease ringworm. Seek veterinary advice straight away. Guinea pigs can suffer from vitamin C deficiency, which causes weight loss, general weakness and swollen joints. Ask your vet for advice on how to provide your guinea pigs with an adequate supply of this vitamin.

    Remember – a pet needs your time and interest for the rest of its life

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    The Right Pet for You?

    Hamsters are lively, clean, interesting to look at and happy to live alone. They can take time to become tame and need to have peace and quiet during the day because they are nocturnal.

    What do Hamsters need?

    • To live alone. 
    • Daily feeding on a mixed diet of seeds, grains, nuts and washed fruit and vegetables. 
    • A constant supply of fresh, clean drinking water in a drip-feed bottle with a metal spout. 
    • A large home that is kept in a warm place indoors, out of direct sunlight. 
    • A nest box inside their home. The hamster needs somewhere it can burrow out of sight to sleep and hoard food. 
    • A clean layer of peat or sawdust on the floor of their home with soft hay and clean white kitchen paper for bedding. Do not use newspaper or cotton wool. 
    • Plenty of exercise. A solid exercise wheel (no open rungs) should be fixed to the wall of the hamster’s home. 
    • Toys to play with, like cardboard tubes and wooden cotton reels. 
    • Their home to be tidied every day and thoroughly cleaned every week. 
    • A hardwood gnawing block to wear down long teeth.
    • To be brushed every day, especially if they have long hair. 
    • Lots of quiet time during the day. 
    • To be taken to a vet if they are ill or injured. 
    • To be looked after when you are away on holiday.

    Life span
    Hamsters live for up to two years.

    In the wild, hamsters make underground homes and have strong nest building instincts. They are nocturnal, which means they are active at night and should be left alone and quiet during the day. If the temperature becomes too cold, they may go into a deep sleep called hibernation. When two or more hamsters are put together they usually fight, so it is best to keep just one hamster.

    Pick up a hamster very gently using both hands as a scoop and stay close to the ground or over a flat surface. Hamsters move very quickly and are likely to jump or fall if they are frightened.

    If your hamster develops skin sores, bathe them with warm water containing a mild antiseptic. If they persist, seek veterinary advice. Loss of fur and sore skin could also indicate parasites or the fungal disease ringworm. Sore eyes can be caused by dusty bedding, old age or breathing problems. Ask your vet for advice. If your hamster becomes too cold and goes into hibernation it can be revived by warming gently in cupped hands or raising the temperature of the room. Hamsters may suffer from overgrown teeth and claws. Both can be trimmed by a vet if necessary. The lining of a hamster’s cheek pouches is very delicate and can be damaged by wood splinters or sharp food. If any material becomes lodged in the pouches, seek veterinary advice straight away.

    If a hamster is sneezing, breathing slowly and has a sore nose, it may have an infection that could develop into pneumonia. Keep the hamster warm and improve its diet, but seek veterinary advice if symptoms continue. Wet tail is a potentially fatal disease that is highly infectious. If a hamster is tired, loses its appetite and has watery diarrhoea, seek veterinary advice straight away.

    Remember – a pet needs your time and interest for the rest of its life.

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