Despite it being one of my primary occupations, and therefore something you’d expect me to have answered by know, I have realised this blog hasn’t yet provided a satisfactory reason for the existence of a large proportion of its content. To some, welfare charities and the like exist for lonely people to include in their will, or as a distraction from more pressing international problems. After all, they’re only animals, right?

But this question’s most critical answer lies not in the muddy waters of animal rights, but on the dry and familiar land of basic human interest. Animal Welfare is important,  not only because we owe the beings that we depend upon respect and protection, but because caring for animals is good for human nature. Fostering concern for the welfare of another being, be it animal or human, is crucially important for the development of individual humans and the human race as a whole. 

Tail docking in dogs has always been a controversial practice, and as of 2007, a banned one in the UK. However, there are exemptions to the ban and so the practice continues, fanning the flames of the debate.

The exemptions are for medical reasons, or for dogs that are likely to be ‘worked’, where evidence to prove these ambitions can be provided to a registered veterinary surgeon. The prooceedure must be carried out no later than 5 days of age by a vet, and with appropriate anaesthetic and sterilisation. For more information on the details go to DEFRA’s website

The objections to the ban often come from show dog owners who are used to having their dogs look a certain way, or working dog owners who are convinced that undocked tails will  become entangled in brambles and the like during work.

To the first group of people I wouldn’t bother arguing, as to put it bluntly, logical argument must elude them. To submit a dog in the early stages of life to unnecessary cosmetic mutilation is backwards. It impairs the dogs ability to communicate in later life and is a serious procedure in terms of possible complications.

To the second group, I always wondered why long haired dogs were selected to work- yet long locks aren’t trimmed to prevent ensnaring the legs. If it were such a problem as to demand such a ruthless resolve, I wonder why the long haired trait wasn’t selected against in breeds such as the springer spaniel?

Too little space to cover all sides of both arguments here, so if you have any thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment.

Picture from http://www.coloribus.com

Horse Vices?

15/12/11

The ‘vices’ I’ll be discussing today are of the equine kind. Specifically, wood chewing, wind sucking, wood licking etc. These are sometimes known as ‘equine oral sterrotypies’. They develop as a means to an end. And here’s news, that end isn’t to reduce boredom.

Those of you that read ‘Something to Digest‘ will know that horses naturally graze most of the day. Their stomachs secrete acid in a continuous fashion, but saliva is only secreted in response to chewing. In this way, the pH in the stomach of a horse at grass is kept under control by the buffering and flushing action of the saliva.

The problem comes when we cut down on the forage portion of the horses diet in favour of concentrates. The acidity in the stomach rises as it is not being capped by saliva production, which is presumably quite uncomfortable and can eventually lead to stomach ulcers.

And so the horse learns these ‘vices’ to reduce its discomfort, as it can mimic the effect of chewing grass on non edible substrates. Over time they become habit, and can be seen in a horse that has been out at grass for some time, but has been fed a high concentrate diet in the past.

Hidden Meanings

15/12/11

Sometimes, things can get a bit too much for a puppy. In this picture, Shadow has taken refuge from all the ‘love’ under a parked car. Providing your puppy, or dog, with a place to hide will make him feel safer. It is particularly important if you have children, as a time-out area can prevent puppy frustration when the children’s enthusiasm inevitably surpasses the puppy’s. Having their own place is also helpful to combat phobias, giving your dog some control by allowing him to escape if it all gets too much. So consider making your puppy’s bed/crate/stable a puppy-only-zone and save yourself the hassle of digging your dog out from his DIY hiding spot!

Roley Poley Pets

15/12/11

Approximately 50% of dogs and cats in the UK are overweight, but 76% of owners believe their pet is of a healthy weight, according to research by the pet food company Hills. The reason for this disparity is that humans are very good at judging the weight of fellow humans, but not as good when it comes our four legged companions. In horses, weight is most easily seen on the crest, the line of tissue to which the mane attaches. Dogs develop a barrel like appearance, whereas soft, dropping pot-bellies are observed in cats. Why not have a go at scoring your pet using the body condition score links below?

Dog and Cat Body Condition Scores

Horse Body Condition Score

Most of us know not leave our dogs in cars, so we open the window a tad, or won’t be away long. Here’s why we shouldn’t take the risk, even if its just for a little while.