Don’t Pick Up Baby Birds

Please DON’T pick up baby birds!

With spring nearly here, it is important that everyone knows what to do if they find a baby bird on the ground. The best course of action is almost always to leave it where it is and not handle it.

People are often worried that if they leave the bird where it is, it will become prey for local cats and dogs. This may be the case, but in many cases they can survive quite well, particularly if it can be made safer for them by locking your own cat inside or taking other actions to reduce the risk to the bird such as putting a sign near the bird so dog and cat owners are aware the bird is there. Most species of birds will have a higher survival rate by being left alone on the ground than they will in captivity. Often the birds parents will still be caring for, protecting and feeding the bird on the ground, and for some species it is perfectly normal for them to leave the nest before they can fly, or they are nearly ready to fly but venture out of the nest just a few days too early.

We realise that many people feel that leaving a bird on the ground will lead to certain death for it, and unfortunately in some cases that may be true, but overall the bird will have a much better chance if it is left alone.

If the bird is “rescued” and take into a vets or wildlife carer, the chances of that bird ever being released and experiencing a normal, free life are very small. Birds rely very heavily on learning and imprinting from other birds, and without this they are unable to survive in the wild. Many species of birds cope quite poorly in captivity, so once they are removed from their normal environment they have little chance of survival at all. Those that do survive are often unable to be released due to a lack of survival skills, so are condemned to a life of captivity.

Unfortunately, the first we are aware of a bird being “rescued” by a member of the public is when the bird is brought in to us to see if we can help it. At this point, the damage has already been done and the young birds chances of a normal life have almost always disappeared. Please remember, if in doubt, always call a vet clinic or wildlife carer BEFORE handling a bird on the ground. We are always happy to offer advice.

Chewing Puppies

Although owning a puppy is an absolute joy most of the time, it can come with a few headaches. We are often asked how to stop puppies from chewing everything in sight. My top tips for minimising puppy destruction are:

  • Give the puppy toys it can chew. It may sound obvious, but owners often fail to provide toys for puppies. Chewing is a natural behaviour designed to strengthen jaws and help teething, so you need to provide something to chew. If you don’t provide anything, your puppy will find something itself
  • Remove things you don’t want chewed. Puppies aren’t born with a sense of what they can and can’t chew. If it is valuable, keep it out of the puppies reach
  • Avoid mixed messages. Don’t provide old shoes to chew or other such objects as the puppy can’t tell the difference between an old shoe it can chew and a new one it can’t
  • Training is essential. Puppies can be intelligent creatures, and if you don’t provide adequate mental and physical stimulation they can get bored, which can lead to destructive behaviour
  • Ensure they have food to chew. Make sure the food you feed your puppy needs chewing. Tinned or “wet” food can be more palatable than biscuits, but it is often higher in fat and bad for their teeth. Biscuits and raw chicken wings and necks can provide good chewing opportunities.
  • Only tell them off if you catch them chewing inappropriately. It’s a golden rule of dog training that you can only tell them off when you catch them performing the bad behaviour, including chewing the wrong thing, toileting in the wrong place, barking inappropriately, etc. You can’t tell them off if you get home and find things destroyed, as this can create anxiety problems and may make the destructive behaviour worse

For all puppies, we recommend Puppy Preschool. We run Puppy Preschool on Monday evenings, with the course lasting 4 weeks. It is a great chance to pick up handy tips on training and behaviour, as well as a chance to socialise your puppy in a safe and controlled environment. By attending Puppy Preschool at a vet clinic, it has the added advantage of teaching your dog that the vets is a fun place to come, so vet visits aren’t a scary and unpleasant experience for your pet.

August is Pet Dental Month

With many plants starting to flower, we are starting to see the first cases of pollen allergies coming into the clinics.

SetWidth140-Dental-procedureThe most common signs of pollen allergies in dogs is itchiness and inflammation affecting the paws, ears, groin and armpit, though any area can be affected. In cats, we tend to see scabs forming over large parts of the body.

Our treatment of allergic skin disease has changed quite a bit over the last couple of years. We used to believe that the pollen affected the dog by them breathing in the pollens, which would then get absorbed and affect the dog systemically. We now believe the allergies are actually coming from the pollens directly contacting the skin.

For cats with allergic skin disease, we find it is often associated with episodes of stress. We focus our attention for cats on minimising stress, controlling other things that may irritate the skin such as fleas, and use medication where required to settle things down.

For dogs, we often find they have secondary infections with bacteria or yeast if not brought in to us early. Owners may notice a bad smell, little lumps covering the skin and reddening and roughening of the inner surface of the ear. If an infection is present, they need veterinary attention.

To help minimise the risk of infection and to reduce itchiness, we recommend bathing dogs with allergies once weekly with and oatmeal based shampoo such as Episoothe. This is left on for around 10-15 minutes then rinsed off. This is then followed with a leave-in conditioner such as PAW Nutriderm. We also find that zinc and fatty acid supplements such as Nutricoat applied to the food once daily can dramatically reduce itching in some cases. These products are all available without a consult from the Bunbury Vet Clinic and Eaton Vet Clinic. For the more severe cases, we may use antihistamines and other medications such as steroids, but we try to minimise the use of these products.

If your pet becomes itchy over spring (many people notice it coincides with their hay fever flaring up), it may have an allergic skin disease. As usual, early intervention and treatment is the most successful, and we can help you build a maintenance program suited to your pet.