Home alone? What to do with your cat when you go on holiday

July 21, 2021

If you’re worried about leaving your cat when you go on holiday, you’re not alone. Many cat owners in Derbyshire aren’t sure what to do with their cat when they go away.

Leaving your cat completely home alone, like Macaulay Culkin in the movie, should always be avoided. Read our head vet, Emma Poore’s advice on why this is, and how to make sure your cat is well cared for while you head off into the sunset.

Why you shouldn’t leave your cat home all alone

Have you ever thought, will my cat be sad when I go on vacation? Cats are often thought of as aloof and self-reliant when in fact, they’re social creatures that form close bonds with their human family. Your cat won’t understand why they’re suddenly completely alone for days.

When cats get stressed or anxious, their health can suffer, and their behaviour can change. Separation anxiety in cats is often overlooked until it becomes serious. Symptoms can include overgrooming, soiling indoors, and extreme vocalising.

Your cat also relies on you for shelter, food & water, a clean litter tray, being let outdoors (if you don’t have a cat flap) companionship, and heath care.

So, how do you take holidays when you own a cat? Emma has some suggestions below.

What to do with your cat when you go on holiday:

  1. Arrange homecare with a friend, neighbour or professional pet sitter – This is the ideal scenario, so your cat’s routine doesn’t change too much, and they have someone to hang out with. Your sitter could either provide live-in care, or twice-daily visits. It’s a good idea to try and get your cat used to the sitter ahead of your trip.
  2. Choose a house swap holiday – If you have friends or family that live somewhere you fancy going, see if they’ll swap homes with you for their holiday…and look after your cat.
  3. Book your cat into a swanky home-from-home boarding facility – These days, there’s a lot more choice when it comes to boarding your cat. Do an online search for ‘cat boarding near me’ and you’ll likely get a good selection for Derbyshire – maybe even some luxury options!
  4. Take your cat with you – Cat friendly holidays might not be as popular as dog ones, but some holiday accommodations will accept other pets. Some cats love to travel and it’s true that you won’t know until you try it. However, if you have a feeling your cat won’t appreciate such a big change and could wander off, this option may not be right for them, or you. Going outside of the UK will be more of a challenge, so make sure you research this in advance.

Whatever option you choose, Emma recommends adding the details for your cat’s carer, or your cat friendly holiday information to their microchip account online, just in case…

It’s also advisable to write down your cat’s routine and supply any items they need to their carer. This should include food and drink requirements, any mediation or flea & worm treatments they’re due, and our phone number: 01530 270 170

We hope you have a fantastic holiday! Remember, if you or your cat sitter needs help or advice, our contacts and emergency number can be found here.

Causes of car travel sickness in dogs and remedies

July 14, 2021

Not all cases of travel sickness in dogs result in car seats being redecorated. There are other symptoms that show your dog is feeling unwell on your journey, and even before you start. Our experienced head vet, Caroline Ward, explains what to look out for, and how you can help your dog cope with car travel.

Visit our Vet Nurses for advice

Causes and symptoms of travel sickness in dogs

Travel, or motion sickness in dogs is more commonly seen in puppies and young dogs because the ear structures used for balance aren’t fully developed yet. Most puppies should outgrow motion sickness by the time they are about 12 months old.

Some older dogs, however, will start to fret as soon as you open the car door. A common reason for this is stress. If your dog is only ever in the car for a trip to somewhere they have associated with a negative experience, anxiety can lead to nausea and vomiting.

When it comes to the symptoms of motion sickness, Caroline advises dog owners to watch for any signs of inactivity, yawning, whining, excessive drooling, smacking or licking lips, and vomiting.

10 steps to treating motion sickness in dogs

If your dog suffers from sickness while travelling, don’t panic. There are plenty of steps you can take to minimise suffering.

  1. Take your pet back to basics to build up their tolerance level. Try just sitting in your car with them for a while, before embarking on a trip to the end of the road and back. Gradually progress a little further each time and give them extra praise after each session, so they associate car travel with a positive experience.
  2. Make the car journey as comfortable as possible; ensure your dog is facing forwards while travelling rather than looking out of side windows. Buy a dog seatbelt to keep them secure.
  3. Keep your vehicle cool and well ventilated. Lower windows slightly when the car is moving to balance air pressure in the car.
  4. Limit their food consumption before travelling.
  5. Give them their blanket and favourite toy in the car to try and pacify them.
  6. A natural remedy you can try for dog car sickness is placing a cotton ball with a few drops of lavender or chamomile oil on, inside your car 30 minutes before you set off. This fills the car with a soothing aroma. Be sure to remove the cotton ball so your dog doesn’t eat it.
  7. Spray a small amount of Dog Appeasing Pheromone inside the car. Ask us about this.
  8. Vary destinations so your dog doesn’t just associate car travel with vet visits, or wherever else they are uncomfortable. Why not throw in some trips to an exciting new park?
  9. Try using desentisation techniques at the places where your dog seems nervous (if it’s safe for them). For example, you can bring your dog to our Atherstone Road clinic just to get a treat and some fuss from our team. Weigh-ins make good interim visits too. Several positive experiences in a row will help your dog learn that not all vet visits involve a thermometer up their…
  10. If your dog’s travel sickness isn’t improving, talk to Caroline or one of our vets about whether a prescription tablet could help. Never give your dog human travel sickness tablets.

Good luck, and we hope you enjoy an incident-free journey with your dog soon. If you need any further advice or support, we recommend making an appointment with one of our friendly Vet Nurses by calling 01530 270170.

How to find the right cat sitter in Derbyshire

July 7, 2021

If you’ve booked a summer holiday but haven’t made arrangements for your cat yet, our head nurse, Lara Bettaney, has some advice for you.

Read all about homecare options below and download Lara’s handy checklist to help you remember what you need to do before you depart.

Download our cat holiday checklist

There are some excellent catteries in Derbyshire but not all cats do well away from home. Stay-at-home cat care is an increasingly popular option but it’s important to get the details right for your cat. These are your homecare options:

  • Daily visits can be carried out by a friend, neighbour or professional cat sitter. They’ll need to take care of your cat’s basic needs and ideally spend time with them too. Family members are a great option as your cat will likely be comfortable in their presence.
  • Live-in care is a more focussed version of daily visits. It may be the better option if you have an anxious cat, they’re on medication, or you have several pets. Your pet(s) will have company at various times of the day and their routine can remain relatively unchanged.

You’ll feel better while you’re away if someone trustworthy and knowledgeable is looking after your cat and is checking your home is secure.

Top tip – Lara recommends getting your cat microchipped before you go away (if they’re not already), in case they go missing. Add your cat sitter’s details to your microchip account online so they can talk to animal care professionals on your behalf. Book a microchip appointment.

What your cat needs when you’re on holiday

When looking for a cat sitter, Lara advises that you should check they’re able and willing to take care of the following:

  • Regular visits at least twice daily.
  • Your cat’s food & routine should be the same as if you were at home.
  • An abundant supply of fresh water must always be available.
  • Litter trays should be cleaned twice daily, especially during warm weather.
  • Quality time spent playing or simply being with your cat.
  • Flea & worm products applying or medication administering if required, and a trip to our vet practice if there’s a problem…

Common cat health issues that need a vet’s attention: male cats having issues urinating, deep scratches or animal bites, vomiting & diarrhoea for over 24 hours, heatstroke, breathing difficulties, not eating, swelling on the face or throat, eye injuries, severe or uncontrollable bleeding, poisoning,
severe pain or a suspected fracture, seizure or collapse. You may want to print this for your sitter.

If it isn’t someone you know personally and you’re choosing a professional cat sitter, Lara recommends asking them about:

  • References – Are they able to provide details of a few other people they have sat for?
  • Insurance – Professional cat sitters should be insured – ask to check their documents.
  • First Aid – Do they know pet first aid and the signs to look out for if your cat is unwell?

Now that you know what to look for in a cat holiday sitter, all that’s left to do is make sure you and your cat are ready for when you go away. Our cat holiday checklist can help you with this – download now.

3 important summer disease checks for cats in Derbyshire

June 21, 2021

Did you know that most summer cat diseases are preventable? According to our veterinary team at STAR Vets, cat owners in Derbyshire can lower the risk of their feline friend contracting a common cat illness, by carrying out a few simple checks this summer. Follow our checklist below.

Caroline’s three summer checks every cat owner should make:

1. Check your cat’s vaccinations are up to date
The risk from infectious common cat diseases is greater in summer as there are more cats outdoors. Cats are routinely vaccinated against the below diseases to give them optimal protection:

  • Feline Infectious Enteritis
  • Feline Herpes Virus
  • Feline Calicivirus
  • Feline Leukaemia Virus (optional)

The schedule for some vaccines may differ depending on your cat’s age and lifestyle. For example, indoor cats may need less frequent vaccines for certain diseases than outdoor cats, and some vaccines last longer than 12 months. If you’re unsure whether your cat is due a vaccination and you’re registered with STAR Vets, get in touch and our team can help.

Contact us about cat vaccinations

2. Check your cat for obvious signs of illness
Cats can be masters of disguise when it comes to illness and pain. However, there are some common, obvious signs that your cat might be sick: sneezing, coughing, runny eyes & nose, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, and lethargy.

If your cat is due a vaccination, our vets can give them a nose-to-tail health check at the same time to look for any potential problems. Talk to us about your cat’s vaccinations and health.

3. Check your cat for ticks and other parasites

  • Check your cat for ticks when they come home for the day by running your fingers through their fur and feeling for little hard bumps. You’ll need a special tick removal tool to avoid leaving the tick’s head in, as this increases the risk of disease transmission. Ticks can carry Lyme disease, a debilitating condition that can affect cats, dogs, and humans.
  • While you’re there, it’s worthwhile checking your cat for signs of fleas & roundworms. Always wash your hands after and ask our team what to look out for if you’re unsure.

Our team can talk to you about the best combination of preventative treatments to give your cat optimal protection from parasites and common diseases. They can also tell you about our pet health plan that can save you money on preventative cat care. Just give us a call on 01530 270 170.

Flystrike and other summer risks for rabbits & guinea pigs

June 14, 2021

When it comes to rabbits and guinea pigs, the summer season isn’t just about hopping gleefully around the garden with the sun on their back – it comes with some risks. From heatstroke to seasonal conditions and diseases, you will want to be clued up.

It’s worth learning the symptoms to check for and our head nurse, Lara Bettaney, has some advice on how to avoid common issues in Derbyshire.

With prevention always being the best option, if a vaccine exists for a disease, we highly recommend that your pet stays up to date. Not sure if your small furry pet has been vaccinated or is due? If you’re registered with STAR Vets, we can check their vaccination schedule for you so do get in touch.

Contact us

Summer health issues for Rabbits & Guinea Pigs:

Guinea pigs and rabbits can die from heatstroke

  • Heatstroke is caused by too much exposure to heat and can become serious very quickly.
  • Check for signs of heatstroke: Drooling/salivating, panting & short shallow breaths, overall weakness & lethargy, red and warm ears, wetness around the nose, fitting, unconsciousness.
  • Avoid heatstroke by keeping their hutch somewhere cool and shaded in the summer, away from direct sunlight and with good ventilation.

A lack of natural sunlight can cause vitamin D deficiency

  • Guinea pigs & rabbits need sunlight/UV rays to help them produce the vitamin D they need.
  • Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency in guinea pigs & rabbits: Fatigue, depression, muscle weakness/aches/cramps, bone pain, dental issues.
  • You can provide more vitamin D via certain foods, supplements, and carefully planned time in the sun (avoid heatstroke) or under a UV lamp.

Flystrike is common in rabbits & guinea pigs during summer

  • Flies quickly lay eggs on soiled bedding. These turn into maggots that burrow into open sores and moist places like the rear. Pets that struggle to keep themselves clean due to old age, arthritis, or dental issues are most at risk. You may need to give yours a ‘butt bath’.
  • Check for signs of flystrike: Initially quiet & lethargic, refusing food & drink, a strong smell coming from their hutch, digging into corners for pain relief. Look for maggots and flies around your pet and in their hutch. Flystrike can lead to death if untreated.
  • Avoid flystrike by keeping your pet and their bedding clean and dry. Check their rear end and fur regularly (incontinence can attract flies). A fibrous diet including hay, vegetables, and fresh water is needed so the digestive system produces caecal (soft poops) they can eat.

Lara advises that poor hygiene and airflow can also lead to bacterial pneumonia, a significant summer disease in guinea pigs. Be sure to clean your pet’s hutch regularly and provide adequate ventilation to help prevent this disease. For reference, a hutch should not be damp, humid, or overly dusty. Check for symptoms: nasal discharge, sneezing, difficulty breathing, conjunctivitis, fever, weight loss, depression, loss of appetite. Sudden death can occur in groups of guinea pigs.

Rabbits are more at risk of contracting Myxomatosis & Rabbit Viral Haemorrhage Disease during the summer months too, due to increased wildlife activity. Myxomatosis is spread by rabbit fleas, and RVHD-1 & RVHD-2 are carried by birds, insects, and even on clothes, hands, and objects people touch. Both diseases are highly infectious and deadly but can be avoided with annual vaccinations.

Follow Lara’s advice above to help your small furry pet avoid unnecessary risks this summer.

If you have a rabbit, we can help you make sure they’re up to date with vaccinations. Contact us to get your small furry pet protected.

Beware of five common summer dog diseases

June 7, 2021

Canine infectious diseases can be hard to avoid during summer as they spread where there are large concentrations of dogs. This could be at the park, on dog-friendly holidays, in boarding kennels, day care, and at dog shows.

Our head vet Caroline Ward, recommends that pet owners should know how to spot the symptoms of common canine diseases, but also how to prevent them. Vaccinating your dog annually reduces the risk of contracting most harmful diseases not only for your dog, but for other dogs as well. That’s why Caroline always explains the importance of vaccinations to pet owners in Derbyshire

If you’re not sure when your dog was last vaccinated, and you’re registered with STAR Vets, give us a call on 01530 270 170 and we can check and book them in.

The facts about five dog diseases that are common in summer:

Kennel cough (canine tracheobronchitis)
• Airborne, highly contagious and infectious.
• Can be picked up anywhere infected dogs have been, not just in kennels.
• Symptoms of kennel cough: a dry hacking/honking cough, retching, nasal discharge, and lack of appetite in some dogs.
• Can progress to secondary pneumonia with a high temperature and lethargy – can be fatal.

Canine parainfluenza:
• Contagious respiratory virus in dogs that often leads to kennel cough.
• Spread via contact with an infected dog, shared food and water bowls, and bedding.
• Symptoms of canine parainfluenza: a cough, temperature/fever, nasal discharge, appetite loss, lacking energy.
• Sometimes mistaken for canine influenza, which is a different virus and less common.

• Unvaccinated dogs (especially puppies) can catch parvovirus from an infected dog, their faeces, and anything they’ve touched e.g., lead, bowl, bedding, human hands, clothes, other objects. The virus can live outside of the body for up to a year.
• Symptoms of parvovirus: attacks the intestines causing vomiting, reduced appetite, diarrhoea (foul smelling, bloody & watery), extreme lethargy, fever (hot or cold to touch).
• Can be fatal if left untreated, and sometimes fatal even if prompt treatment is sought.

Canine Coronavirus Infection (CCoV) – not related to COVID-19:
• Highly infectious virus, attacks part of the small intestine causing gastrointestinal issues.
• CCoV can remain in the body and be shed in faeces for up to 6 months. It can survive in the environment for a couple of days. Transmission is via exposure to an infected dog’s faeces.
• Stress and poor hygiene can make a dog susceptible to CCoV.
• It can be most problematic for puppies and dogs with other infections like parvovirus.
• Symptoms of CCoV: sometimes none, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, depression, fever, appetite loss. CCoV can be fatal.

Lyme disease isn’t contagious, but it is the most common tick-borne disease in the UK. Lyme disease can be contracted by dogs, humans and other pets when bitten by an infected tick. Ticks are always around, mostly in grassy and heathland areas, but are most active in warmer months. It’s important to check for ticks after walks and keep an eye out for common symptoms: fever, lethargy, appetite loss, lameness, and joint swelling. Lyme disease can progress and become debilitating.

To combat these diseases there are two things Caroline recommends to dog owners: 1) know the symptoms, and 2) learn how to prevent them in the first place.

Thankfully, you can protect your dog from the above diseases by keeping them up to date with vaccinations, and parasite treatments for ticks.

If your dog is registered with us, our team can check if they are up to date with vaccinations and parasite control. To help you, both are included in our pet health plan – just ask our team for information.

As a side note, according to the RSPCA, imports of puppies doubled in the previous year last summer thanks to the ‘lockdown puppy trend’. Do you know someone who adopted a new pet in the last 12 months? You can help their dog and the wider dog population by encouraging them to check up on vaccinations too.

COVID cat concerns: separation anxiety & obesity

May 21, 2021

During COVID lockdowns, did you spend way more time than normal at home in Derbyshire with your cat? Did you both eat more and do less? Chances are, weight gain and separation anxiety could now be an issue… for your cat.

You may need to help your cat adjust now that you’re returning to some kind of normality and leaving the house more. Our head nurse Lara Bettaney has some advice on COVID cat concerns.

Get cat advice from our nurses

COVID Cat obesity:

Social distancing from your sofa, cat on lap, sharing snacks… sound familiar? Doing less and eating more leads to weight gain. If your cat is overweight, their quality & length of life can suffer. There’s no need to panic, STAR Vets’ nursing team can help.

Book your cat in for a weight check and body condition score review. Our nurses can advise you on the best foods for overweight cats, and ways to get your cat moving more.

COVID Cat separation anxiety:

You hear about dogs, but can cats get separation anxiety? Yes. Cats are often seen as ‘aloof’, but are in fact very attached to their owners. They’re typically not as vocal or destructive about it as dogs, which is why cat separation anxiety often goes unnoticed until it’s severe. It can be caused by change or a lack of stimuli, and when forming a dysfunctional bond i.e. prolonged time at home with you.

Anxiety in cats usually presents as behaviour issues:

  • your cat cries when you leave, loudly and excessively
  • they’ve started urinating on your clothes or soiling other areas indoors
  • licking and self-grooming has become an obsession
  • your cat has become clingy or takes self-isolation too far
  • changes at mealtimes i.e. eating too fast or not eating
  • vomiting & diarrhoea (common for other health issues, get checked if more than 24 hrs)

If your cat is displaying some of these new behaviours, it’s a good idea to get them checked by our team. Some health issues can also cause behavioural changes. If needed, our team can talk to you about getting support from an experienced pet behaviourist.

4 ways you can help your cat adjust after lockdown:

  1. Cut the snacks, but talk to our team before changing your cat’s main diet.
  2. Add more stimuli to their environment for when you’re not there – cat activity centres and toys can also help with weight loss.
  3. Designate time each day for playing and grooming – great for exercise and bonding.
  4. Ask us about using plugin diffusers that omit natural pet pheromones to soothe your cat.

If you’d like to chat about these topics or anything else, STAR Vets’ friendly nurses are happy to help. Talk to us about your cat.



Try these rabbit enrichment tips from STAR Vets

May 14, 2021

Did you get a new rabbit during lockdown? Are you wondering how to give it the best life, now that your life is gearing up again? Enriching your rabbit’s life is pretty simple when you know how. STAR Vets’ nursing team is sharing their top tips for a happy & healthy bunny.

Before we dive in, have you registered your new rabbit with us yet? Once registered, our team can give you more in-depth advice and take care of your rabbit’s health care needs.

Register your rabbit

Seven way to enrich your rabbit’s life

1. Cognitive enrichment for rabbits
Rabbits need mental stimulation and the ability to express natural behaviours to ward off boredom and stress. We love homemade rabbit enrichment ideas such as toys from cardboard boxes, paper bags, old towels, and flower pots. How about a rabbit tunnel made out of ready-made tubes, or a rabbit digging box using a container of soil? You can also buy rabbit enrichment toys online.

2. The perfect companion
Pet rabbits should ideally be kept in pairs. If you have concerns about a pair leading to baby rabbits, please talk to us about neutering.

3. Human interaction
Regular human interaction and being handled from a young age will help your rabbit develop into a confident, friendly adult pet. Carve out some time each day to spend with them.

4. Food enrichment for rabbits
A nutritional, fibrous diet will aid your rabbit’s digestive health, avoid dental problems, and make them happy – our nurses can advise on this. Using food to encourage natural behaviours will enrich your rabbit’s life too. Make hay-filled toilet roll tubes, hanging food parcels, and foraging trays.

5. Sunlight
Did you know that rabbits need sunlight to make vitamin D, which helps them get more calcium from their food? Allow plenty of time in a secure outdoor run each day (not during the hottest hours).

6. ‘Hutch goals’
Rabbits love a cosy, safe hutch, accompanied by a run that’s big enough to complete at least three full hops and stand up comfortably in. Stairs and obstacles will provide challenges too.

7. Grooming & cleaning
Regular hutch cleaning, grooming, and keeping fur clean & dry are essential for avoiding ‘fly strike’, which can be fatal. Grooming can also make your rabbit happy. Check for ear mites & fleas while you’re at it, both are easily treated so just ask our team.

8. Disease protection for rabbits in Derbyshire
Rabbits need annual vaccinations for protection against life-threatening diseases Myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease. Rabbit Awareness Week 2021 in June is all about raising awareness around RVHD2, a more deadly variant of RVHD1. Is your new rabbit vaccinated yet?

We offer a full range of veterinary services for rabbits at our Appleby Magna practice. Why not register your new rabbit with us today?

How to socialise a puppy after lockdown

May 7, 2021

Like many people, did you try to socialise a puppy bought in lockdown and weren’t able to cover all aspects? STAR Vets’ nurses want you to know it’s never too late to socialise a puppy, or an older dog, and explain how below.

So you can get 1-2-1 puppy advice from our fully trained vet nurses, take a moment to register your new best friend and tell us all about them.

Register your new puppy

Puppy socialisation is an important part of early development, and helps them grow into confident and well-mannered adults.  After 6-8 weeks of ‘training’ with mum & siblings, it’s over to you. Ideally, socialising a puppy should be done by 16 weeks. Socialising an older dog is still worth doing, just allow more time & patience. Our nurses have created this handy puppy socialisation checklist to help you:

 Post-Lockdown Puppy Socialisation Checklist

  1. The basics: Build up to collar wearing in the house and lead walking in the garden. Once fully vaccinated, do daily walks around your neighbourhood (start with 5 mins for each month of age twice a day). Get them used to being examined all over at home, and bring them to see our team to get weighed regularly. Happy experiences will reinforce a positive association, before they need a veterinary procedure.
  2. At home: Check your puppy is relaxed and happy. Then let your puppy get used to seeing and hearing things like the washing machine, hoover, TV, hairdryer, doorbell/knocker, and post arriving through the letterbox. Toys can be used to introduce different movements and textures in a non-threatening way.
  3. Summer sounds: There’s lots for your puppy to get used to in the garden this time of year such as the lawnmower, kids playing, and the hosepipe. Your puppy can of course have fun outdoors, but what you don’t want is for them to be afraid or bark uncontrollably.
  4. People: Your puppy may not have had much interaction with people outside your household yet. Now they can get used to friends, family, different age groups, and people wearing face masks, hats and glasses. Don’t forget postal workers and people in high-vis clothing.
  5. Animals: Socialising your puppy with other dogs is very important. Stay close enough to remove your puppy from the situation if needed, but don’t overcrowd so they can build confidence. Most dogs will teach puppies what is/isn’t acceptable to them, and owners may ask you to leave their dog alone. When introducing cats, small furries, horses, sheep, and cows, go slowly and be careful. A calm puppy around squirrels & birds would be beneficial.
  6. Out & about: Get your puppy used to traffic, busy highstreets, pet-friendly shops, and the ice-cream van of course!
  7. Car travel: Use a dog crate or a harness and seatbelt. Build up to longer car rides now you can go further afield – remember water & toilet breaks. Ask us for help if this isn’t going well.
  8. Home alone: If you’ve spent a lot of time at home, your puppy could develop separation anxiety when you go out. Try crate training or dedicate a safe corner in a quiet room for your puppy’s bed. Leave them alone for a bit longer each time.

STAR Vets’ nurses recommend involving everyone in your household, including children. Plus, stay calm, be consistent, and keep sessions short & frequent. Try not to overload your puppy with new experiences all at once and always reward calm behaviour towards new things. Finally, stay strong and resist the urge to cuddle your puppy if they get wary.

For more helpful puppy socialisation advice, register your new puppy and book a chat with our nurses.

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