If your pet becomes ill, with Pet Insurance from John Lewis Finance you can call vetfone™ – a telephone service that allows you to speak to UK qualified veterinary nurses 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Make sure you keep vaccinations up to date (the cost of these will not usually be covered by insurance), and take steps to keep your pet in good health and reduce their risk of illness.

Diet and exercise

Ensure your pet gets regular exercise. Toys are a great way to encourage play and exercise. Feed your pet a balanced diet – it’s essential your dog or cat gets all their vital nutrients in their food. There’s so much choice out there, of varying quality, and specific requirements for young kittens and puppies, senior cats and dogs, plus other health requirements for certain breeds or for health issues.

Dog food
Your dog’s diet should be appropriate for their age, breed, lifestyle and health. Check with a vet or nutritionist what is most suitable, and go for the highest quality food your budget allows to ensure good quality cuts of meat and the vital nutrients needed.

Don’t feed your dog any meat you wouldn’t eat.

Don’t feed your dog from your plate – this can encourage bad behaviour and begging. It can also disturb their routine, affect their diet or digestion.

Cat food
Your cat’s diet should be appropriate for their age, breed, lifestyle and health. Check with a vet or nutritionist what is most suitable.

If your cat eats mainly dry food make sure they get enough water – keep fresh water available for when they need it. Not enough water can lead to kidney stones or bladder problems.

Buy the best cat food your budget allows – cheaper brands tend to have more additives and filler ingredients, less protein and nutritional value. If you change brands, do this gradually to avoid digestion problems – introduce small amounts of the new food with their old food, and increase it every few days to wean them off the old brand.

Keep cat bowls clean and remove any uneaten wet food after 15 minutes – bacteria will grow quickly on most food and could make your cat ill. Monitor unusual eating habits (such as suddenly leaving food) as your cat may need to go to the vet.

Safety

Collars with name tags can be removed, but microchipping is a permanent way of linking your pet to a database so they can be easily identified and returned to you.

Your vet inserts a tiny microchip with a unique code under your pet’s skin using a sterile needle, usually just behind the shoulder blade. It’s quick and no more painful than a vaccination – once done it should last your pet a lifetime. If your pet goes missing, the chip can be scanned and matched to your contact details stored on the database, ie the National Petlog Database.

Microchipping can cost as little as £20 – contact your vet for more details.

Remember
Make sure you keep the database you’re registered with updated with your latest contact details.

Your pet should always wear an ID tag, even if it’s microchipped. The Control of Dogs Order 1992 states that any dog in a public place must wear a collar or tag with the name and address of the owner engraved or written on it. Your telephone number is optional (but advisable).

If your pet is a pedigree, beware of leaving it tied up outside a shop, alone in a car, and strangers asking you lots of questions about it.

If your pet goes missing, search the local area, make up some lost pet posters and offer a reward – Pet Insurance from John Lewis Finance will pay up to £1000 per year towards advertising and a reward. (Once the search is over, remember to take down the posters.)

Seasonal risks

Slug pellets – these can be toxic to cats and dogs. Store them away from your pets, and keep them out of the area when you’re using them.

Spring bulbs – these can be fatal to your pet if eaten, especially tulips and daffodils (and lilies for cats).

Cocoa shell mulch – used in flower beds, contains the same toxin as chocolate – a safer alternative is tree bark.

Kennel cough (dogs only) – highly infectious, symptoms include a cough that gets worse when your dog exercises, breathlessness, a high temperature, lack of energy and a decreased appetite. Kennel cough can affect dogs of any age, but puppies and elderly dogs are more vulnerable. A vaccination is available, given as drops in the nose – worth considering if your dog is going into kennels, make sure it’s done at least 10 days before they go in.

Allergies – spring plants, grass and flowers can cause allergic reactions in cat and dogs, similar to hayfever in humans – your pet may be scratching, licking and biting to relieve itchy skin. Untreated this can lead to skin problems or infections, but your vet can prescribe medication to relieve the symptoms and use allergy tests to pinpoint the problem.

Wasps – if your pet is stung by a wasp or a bee, try to remove the sting by gently scraping it away – don’t squeeze it with tweezers. Bathe the area in a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda with 300ml of warm water. If you’re sure it’s a wasp sting use malt vinegar or lemon juice. Speak to a vet if it’s near your pet’s mouth or neck, or your pet has swelling, is vomiting, has collapsed or has breathing difficulties, as this could mean they are allergic to stings.

Lungworm – slugs, snails and frogs can carry the larval form of lungworm. If your pet eats the slime, or the slug/snail/frog itself, they can become infected. Once the larvae are inside the dog or cat, they travel to the lungs and heart through the blood vessels and mature into lungworm.

Some flowers especially lilies, can be toxic to cats and lead to kidney failure.

Autumn
Harvest mites – these are tiny orange/brown insects that mainly affect cats, though dogs and humans can get them too. Many animals are allergic to the fluid the mite injects, resulting in reddening and crusting of the skin, and because the bites are itchy animals will scratch at them, worsening the inflammation and potentially introducing infection. Keep an eye out for mites around the ears and between the toes. If your cat or dog is affected they may need treatment to settle the inflammation so a quick trip to the vets is a good idea. Mites are most active August – October. They live in long grass and plants so keeping your grass short and your garden weed-free will help reduce the chance of your pet picking them up.

Ticks – very common in early autumn around moorland or wooded areas, both dogs and cats can pick them up – these are grey / brown and vary in size from not much bigger than a pinhead to the size of a baked bean! Ticks can be tricky to remove so if you live in an area where they’re found, use a spot-on treatment regularly. To remove a tick call our vetfone helpline, or ask a vet or vet nurse to remove it for you. Ticks can carry Lyme disease, which can cause recurring lameness of the joints, days or even weeks later. Look out for swollen and warm joints which are painful when you feel the area – antibiotics from the vet are advisable here. If left untreated, Lyme disease can develop into kidney problems – your dog may start vomiting, have diarrhoea, loss of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst, a stiff walk with an arched back, difficulty breathing, lack of appetite and depression.

Christmas
Beware of decorations, ornaments, tinsel, garlands, wreaths and light bulbs that could be dangerous for your pet, whether they may break and cut their paw, or are at risk of being swallowed and causing digestive problems. Don’t hang these items on low Christmas tree branches or leave them on low tables.

Place lit candles up high where they can’t be knocked over.

Hide electric wires from lights out of sight so your pet isn’t tempted to play with or chew them.

The nuts and chocolate we eat are toxic for cats and dogs so don’t be tempted to ‘treat’ them. Raisins and grapes can cause renal failure in dogs and cats, so don’t leave any lying around.

Don’t give your pet turkey or chicken bones as they could easily choke – remove the meat for them.

Never give animals alcohol.

Some real Christmas trees carry moulds and can cause allergic reactions in dogs, including respiratory problems.

If you have a real tree, keep the water in the base covered up – your pet might try to drink this which could make them sick.

Seasonal plants like holly, poinsettias and mistletoe are toxic to pets – if you think they’ve ingested some, look for symptoms like vomiting or breathing problems and seek veterinary helps asap.

John Lewis plc is an appointed representative (Financial Conduct Authority number 416011) of Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc. John Lewis Pet Insurance is underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc (No. 93792). Registered in England and Wales at St. Mark's Court, Chart Way, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 1XL. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (Financial Services Register No. 202323).

John Lewis Finance and John Lewis Insurance is a trading name of John Lewis plc. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NN. Registered in England (Registered Company Number 233462). John Lewis plc is an appointed representative of a panel of carefully chosen insurers to offer a full range of insurance products and services via John Lewis Insurance (Financial Conduct Authority number 416011). Calls may be recorded and monitored.

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