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Our favourite things

Our Favourite Things

KONG for your pup

The KONG Classic

These are a few of our favourite things – unassuming yet amazingly useful enrichment toys

Thanks to the pandemic, many people new to pet ownership are finding their feet with their new paws and wading through the thousands of available aids, toys, and enrichment games on the market.

We see a lot of different toys for pets and there are plenty of choices, but what if you want a “toy” that has more than one purpose? One that can become a hit with your pet and your go-to item for entertainment, comfort or learning. Have a quick browse through our well-tested, favourite things.

KONG

KONG sizes

KONG – available in a range of sizes and varieties

Years ago, when we bought our pups their first KONGs, neither we nor the youngsters were impressed. We tried throwing them, but there wasn’t a lot of interest in them and they may have chewed on them for a while, but they just weren’t very stimulating. If only we had known!

KONGs solve these problems

What use is a KONG?

Fast forward a few years and we learned the secret of the KONG – the filling! Fill them with all sorts of goodies and the dogs were drooling the moment they saw them. That is the value of a KONG. Freeze them in the hot weather for a nice refreshing treat and prolong the entertainment.

KONG Stuffing

Learn to stuff ’em

Cats too, can get to enjoy this far from boring gift that keeps on giving.

Kitty KONG for cats

The Kitty KONG

Puller

Puller pup

The Puller Dog Exercise Toy

Another product that doesn’t initially excite you when you first set eyes on it. The Puller has become the number one favourite toy in our household. They all love it, even Jack, who doesn’t play with toys.

Puller range

The Puller comes in a wide range of sizes to suit all breeds

It will fly like a frisbee, roll along the ground, float in water and not surprisingly, you can use it as a puller or tuggy. If you have more than one dog, they can play tug together. Our dogs adore it, especially our Daisy, who would swim to it in the pool and even chase it in her wheelchair.

But that’s not all it does, it is also a dog fitness aid, and with it, you get instructions on just how to use it to get your dog fit. But, if fun is all you’re after, you can’t beat it!

Puller train

Train your dog to fitness with the Puller

Tug n Toss Jolly Ball

Tug n Toss Jolly Ball Floats

The Tug n Toss Jolly Ball

The Tug n Toss Jolly Ball is actually lovely to look at, but it is far more than just an ornament. This toy floats beautifully in water and, with the handle, is perfect for a dog to grab. Although our big boy Blitz never bothered with the handle, he enjoyed chomping into the body with his powerful jaws. And that’s the beauty of a Tug n Toss Jolly Ball, they may puncture, but they don’t deflate.

Jolly Ball Range

Available in a range of sizes and even scented varieties

Great for tossing, retrieving and for mouthing. They are also brilliant enrichment toys for horses and come in scented varieties to entice the equine nose!

Jolly Horse

An enrichment toy for your horse or pony

HOL-EE Roller

Hol-EE Roller

The HOL-EE Roller

This one took us by surprise. We have stocked the HOL-EE Roller for a while, but had no idea that there was a whole movement out there – #hackyourholee.

Hack your HOL-EE

#hackyourholee

Such a simple, unassuming “toy”, and yet it has a cult following. Inventive owners have come up with all sorts of wonderful ideas to turn this into probably one of the best, most cost-effective enrichment toys around at the moment.

HOL-EE Sizes

The HOL-EE Roller comes in a range of sizes

Use the HOL-EE Roller for a simple game of fetch if you wish, but you can go so much further. Attach a handle to it for an instant tuggy. Fill it with treats, or don’t just fill it with treats! Cut up some felt strips, roll the treats inside and then push them through the holes of the HOL-EE for longer-lasting fun and a handy brain game. Alternatively, put a ball or squeaker inside for some exciting entertainment. And horses can enjoy it too!

Hol-EE Roller horse

Fill the HOL-EE Roller with hay or treats to make snack time more fun

Your Summer Tick List

Dogs in the long grass

Tick territory

Tick it off

For us, it’s that time of year where we need to be vigilant for ticks.

Our grass is tall, nearly ready to be cut for hay and when we walk, it swallows up the dogs – prime tick territory. Although we check our dogs frequently, we often only find ticks by chance. Cats can be the prime target for hungry ticks too, so here are the main areas you should be checking regularly on your pets.

Dogs and ticks | How to spot and remove ticks | Blue Cross

Tick removal is the same for all species, so learn the basics and ensure you have a tick removal tool as part of your pet tool kit.

Cats and ticks | How to remove a tick from your cat | Cats Protection

Pet Allergies – the season for sneezing

Pollen from the cow parsley and grass seed

In addition to ticks, we also have to contend with grass seed and pollen, all of which can act as irritants for dogs – they can suffer allergies too. Know what to look out for.

Allergies are always difficult to treat. For seasonal allergies, we have fed honey produced by local bees, but if unsure, it is best to seek veterinary advice.

Pause for paws

When the weather is hot, we also need to be aware of what our pets are walking on, be it tarmac or even artificial grass. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for their paws!

Play it cool

Keeping your pets cool and hydrated is also very important. We have two large water bowls in the house, but with four dogs, we are constantly refilling them in this weather. So ensure there is always plenty of fresh water available, particularly if you are leaving them home alone.

Caring for your Dog in Warm Weather

Tips for cool cats

Tips for cool cats

Cool down your canine

If you are out at work and your windows are all closed, create a cool place for your pets to lay in the house – perhaps with a cooling mat. Or how about a frozen treat toy such as a KONG? But make sure they don’t eat it all over your carpet! And, of course, plenty of fresh water – you can also pop an ice cube or two in their bowls.

Training Lines Cooling Products

From left to right: Fresh Breeze Mat, Cooling Bandana, Hydration Bone, Garden Water Fountain, Cooler Bowl

A hot dog is not a good dog

And finally, the most important thing to remember this summer!

We all know you shouldn’t leave dogs or any pets in cars in the hot weather, but are you aware of how quickly it could affect your dog. Just by nipping into the shop for a couple of minutes, you are risking disaster – not long is too long! Dogs die in hot cars, caravans and conservatories.

Dogs die in hot cars

Spawting Dogs

Disc Dog

Most people have heard of dog agility, and probably a lot of people have had a go at it, but what if you haven’t got the space for all that equipment? How about trying some alternative dog sports that get you outside with your dog(s) and that you can do together. Or if you are both competitive types, take part with other sporty dog lovers.

What is CaniCross?

Cannicross

CaniCross

CaniCross is the sport of cross country running with dogs. The dog is attached to the runner’s waist with a bungee lead. It is powered, and whenever the runner’s feet are off the ground, the dog pulls the runner forward. The dog and the human form a team with the human as the driver, directing the dog from behind with voice commands. CaniCross is not only a great way to get human and canine fit but also works the dog’s mind as well as its body.

What skills does your dog need?

To successfully participate in CaniCross, your dog needs basic obedience skills. Start by teaching good lead manners during your walks. Once you and your dog are walking nicely together, start picking up the pace from a jog to a run. In addition, it’s helpful to teach your dog movement cues such as “speed up” or “slow down.”

What types of dogs can participate?

As long as your dog is fit, healthy, of the right age and able to run, you can both take part in CaniCross. Always consult your vet if unsure.

Equipment needed

The equipment needed for the dog is a comfortable fitting harness, which is suitable for running. A bungee line/lead and a waist/hip belt for the runner.

For more information:

trailrunners | CaniCross & CaniSports community

What is Treibball?

Treibball

Treibball

Treibball can be best described as urban herding. It is a competitive dog sport that requires teamwork between dogs and their handlers. Together, they must drive large exercise balls into the goal in a set amount of time. Handlers can only use whistles, hand signals, and verbal commands to provide direction to their dogs and play their part in the game.

What skills does your dog need?

The distance skills and verbal cues are similar to those used in agility, but with Treibball, there aren’t the same physical demands on the handler, and so people of any age and athletic ability can play. Basic skills needed are sit and down, touch an object with the nose, turn left and right and work reliably off lead.

What types of dogs can participate?

Most popular with herding breeds, but any dog can take part whatever breed or size.

Equipment needed

You will need fitness balls of varying sizes and colours, a kid-sized soccer goal, long line if your dog is unreliable off lead.

For more information:

Here’s a great video to get you started:

What is Disc Dog?

Disc Dog

Disc Dog

Disc dog takes a casual game of fetch with your dog to a different level. Dogs take part in the sport worldwide, and there are local clubs that organise meet-ups, training sessions and small competitions. In disc dog competitions, dogs and their human flying disc throwers compete in events such as distance catching and somewhat choreographed freestyle catching.

What skills does your dog need?

It will help if your dog already likes to play fetch, but it’s not a requirement. The most important thing is a good bond between human and dog. The sport celebrates this bond by allowing them to work together.

What types of dogs can participate?

Dogs of all shapes and sizes. Check with a vet first if your dog has any fitness or lameness issues.

Equipment needed

Flying discs.

For more information:

UK Disc Dogs Association

Other canine sporting activities

If none of these suit you or your canine, there are lots of other doggy sporting activities that may take your fancy and an excellent look book to get you both in the right frame of mind.

Pathway to Positivity

Tracking/nosework

Scentwork UK

Try Tracking Tracking Lines

Flyball

British Flyball Association

Heelwork to music

Heelwork to Music in the UK

Dog Puller

There isn’t currently a UK Dog Puller Federation, so you could start your own!

Dog Puller Fitness Tool

Dog Puller Exercise Toy

Walkin’ Wheels Second-Hand Wheelchairs

Dog wheelchairs

Does your dog need a wheelchair?

How do you know when your dog needs a wheelchair?

This is a difficult question and one we pondered on for quite a while, probably too long. It can be a big investment, so it needs to offer a lot of benefits.

With Daisy and her DM, we knew only too well the progression of the illness, but we had no idea whether a wheelchair would help her or if she would even accept it.

We eventually decided we would go ahead and try one when she still had use of all 4 legs. DM was creeping along, and she was already unsteady on her back legs but could still run and walk about indoors.

If you are struggling with this same conundrum, why not read this article for some inspiration: Dog Wheelchair – Independent Dog Wheelchair Reviews – Canine Compilation

Which is the best wheelchair for my dog?

Walkin' Wheels Wheelchairs

Walkin’ Wheels Wheelchairs

Another difficult question. We started out buying a second-hand Eddies Wheels wheelchair that wasn’t the ideal size for Daisy. However, we spent a lot of time and effort customising it to fit her needs. We pretty much took it apart and put it back together again in a way that suited her best. It was perfect for a few months but then started to deteriorate. We found ourselves constantly repairing it on every outing.

Her second wheelchair was from Best Friends. It was also used and on loan to us from a charity. This one was a much better fit, but our customising options were limited since it didn’t belong to us. Several other dogs had used it before we got it, so again, it was in constant need of repair. When we noticed that Daisy was struggling on her front legs, we looked around for something more suitable.

We came across Walkin’ Wheels and purchased the 4-wheel option to future-proof it. This wheelchair was the perfect fit. We were impressed by how customisable it was out of the box and the sturdiness of the frame. She seemed far more comfortable in this one than the previous ones.

Will my dog take to a wheelchair?

Daisy in her Walkin' Wheels Wheelchair

Daisy in her camo Walkin’ Wheels Wheelchair

For us, this was the most critical question and one that could only be addressed the first time we put her in it.

At first, the answer was no! She refused to move. Remember, she still had the use of four legs. She much preferred being walked in a sling where she would run around quite happily with one of us trying to keep up with her.

By combining her sling with her first wheelchair, we finally got her to use it. Once she realised she had her freedom back and could chase her beloved Puller, there was no stopping her – all she had needed was the right motivation.

Wheelchairs are not just for dogs

Walkin' Wheels Wheelchairs for cats

Other animals can benefit from a wheelchair

We’ve seen cats, goats, sheep, and even ducks benefit from a wheelchair, whether it be long-term or short-term, to cope with surgery or injury.

Take a look at our range of second-hand, hardly used wheelchairs

Second-hand Walkin' Wheels Wheelchairs

Second-hand Walkin’ Wheels Wheelchairs

If you face this dilemma and are undecided, we are now offering a range of second-hand/hardly used Walkin’ Wheels Wheelchairs for sale.

We may not have the ideal size available for your dog, so if you don’t see what you need or would like further advice, please contact us, and we will be happy to help.

Daisy

We never did use the front wheels. We lost Daisy in December 2019 and miss her every day. She was such a character. One thing we don’t ever regret was getting her that wheelchair. Watching her run around in her Wakin’ Wheels wheelchair was our greatest pleasure and left us with many happy memories. It gave her back some of what DM had taken away, and you could see on her face how happy and contented she was pottering around the field, sniffing out rabbits – just one of the gang and being a normal dog in her last few months.

Daisy in her Walkin' Wheels Wheelchair

Daisy – just one of the gang!

Licking Mats – Simple but Smart

What is a licking mat?

First and foremost, what is a licking mat? A licking mat is a plastic or silicone mat that can be smeared with a variety of different treats. These can include wet food, pastes, peanut butter or plain yoghurt – anything really that is spreadable and enjoyed by your pet. They come in a wide assortment of shapes and sizes but all of them have patterns of cavities and grooves to hold the treats.

Why would you want a licking mat?

Both dogs and cats find the act of repetitive licking soothing which can calm an anxious pet, so by participating in an activity that causes them to lick, they are releasing cortisol into their body – a hormone responsible for relaxation. Licking mats are a great way to help promote calm behaviour.

If you have pets that eat too quickly, you can extend their feeding time with a licking mat making them eat more slowly, produce more saliva and aid digestion. This also aids dental health helping fight off bacteria in the mouth.

And of course the big buzzword at the moment “enrichment”. The licking mat can provide mental stimulation which promotes mental health. A mentally stimulated pet is a healthy pet.

Licking mats can also be frozen thereby extending the game longer by presenting a greater challenge or maybe provide some much-needed refreshment in the hotter months.

When should you use a licking mat?

As a distraction. Maybe you’re still working from home and need time to make that Zoom call in peace.

How about bath time, nail trimming, grooming? You can get licking mats that stick on the wall, and on windows when out on a car journey.

Perhaps on Bonfire night? Something to soothe an anxious pet and take their mind off their fears.

If your pet is confined to a crate due to illness or an operation, and they need a low-impact boredom buster.

Trixie Junior Licking Plate

Trixie Junior Licking Plate

To distract and entertain your new puppy or kitten.

As a slow feeder, and of course, as a reward. At the end of a great training session, for example.

Just because you love them!

A useful addition to your toolkit

Aquapaw Feeding Mat Licking Toy

In summary, you may already have a whole stash of puzzle toys to keep your pet entertained but we believe it’s worthwhile adding this simple yet effective soothing slow feeder to your toolkit.

Bear in mind that these mats can be a chewing hazard so should only be used when supervised.

Our range of Licking Toys:

Licking Toys

Licking Toys range from left to right: iQuites Lick Treat Mat, Trixie Lick n Snack Ball, Junior Licking Plate from Trixie, Trixie Lick n Snack Platter, Aquapaw Feeding Mat Licking Toy

iQuites Treat Lick Mats

Trixie Lick N Snack Ball

Junior Licking Plate from Trixie

Trixie Lick n Snack Platter

Aquapaw Slow Treater Dog Feeding Mat Licking Toy

Calm Dog Games

Calm Dog Games

What is Calm Dog Games?

Calm Dog Games is a beautifully presented pack of cards, wonderfully illustrated with different dog breeds. It contains 52 individual challenges for dogs, along with a guide booklet to help you on your way.

As has been proven, mental stimulation can be just as engaging and demanding as physical exercise for the active canine. In situations such as our current lockdown or maybe for disabled dogs, or dogs recovering from surgery, or even just bad weather, these cards are the perfect solution.

The five categories

Calm Dog Games categories

The cards are divided into 5 different categories; Puzzle, Bond, Focus, Calm and Play, so you can quickly select an appropriate activity for your mood or desired aim. The categories are a mixture of scent games, stealth training, brain games, enrichment activities and bonding exercises to strengthen your relationship.

Whether you are training a pup, settling in a new rescue, or just spending time with your four-legged bestie, these games are great to help you bond, train and have fun together. Add joy, stimulation and enrichment to their day while developing positive behaviours such as calmness, confidence and connection with you.

How to play

  • PICK A CARD – Select from a category or choose from the whole deck.
  • FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS – Play the game for 60 seconds to 5 minutes max.
  • PLAY AGAIN OR CHILL – 3-5 games over the course of the day is sufficient.

(Some games require additional equipment)

From the creator

Creator of Calm Dog Games

Calm Dog Games is, first and foremost, for the love of dogs. Inspired by my own spaniel, Cam, my desire was to give him an interesting and enriching life.

Dogs really are the best of us, and they deserve to be listened to and heard. I believe many behavioural issues can be remedied through clear communication, gentle understanding and positive reinforcement. In essence, a calm default.

My aim is to help empower other people who have a dog in their life with the tools and strategies to communicate and connect with their dog, develop calmness and build upon that all-important bond.

Calmness isn’t just for dogs, it’s for us too.

What people are saying about Calm Dog Games

Calm Dog Games

“Great for any dog lover. Lovely cards with some great games on them. Simple ideas well thought out. Glad I bought them. I feel I have an ace up my sleeve with these.”

“A handy resource for enrichment and training. These cards are a great way to find games that will help you boost the behaviours you want from your dog.
Being able to pick a card at random is an easy way to make sure you include variety in your play.

They’re great for rainy days and handy for holidays, and they include lots of ideas that would work for dogs who are on restricted exercise.

I especially like the little book that explains the thinking behind the games and how to take them to the next level as your dog becomes an expert.

On top of that, they’re very pretty and easy to wrap, so I am working out who I can buy them for as a gift.”

“Honestly brilliant!

These are great little fun games to help focus, calm bond and play with my dog, and I love the fact that it has a little book that has higher levels of you can train further. It’s compact to carry around and to just whip one out, I really enjoy doing the focus games with my pup while out walking!”

Archie in the snow

Archie’s Op

Archie in the snow

Archie hasn’t always been such a handsome boy

Archie is one of the only dogs we’ve had who hasn’t spent a great deal of time at the vet during his adult life.

This wasn’t the case when he was a young pup.

We bought him locally and he was clearly the runt of the litter. After a few days with us, we realised he really wasn’t very healthy. His coat was in terrible condition. He had bald patches where his fur had fallen out, and he was very skinny.

Archie as a sickly pup
Archie pup

The vet was initially puzzled but when we told her what we fed him, she immediately blamed his raw diet. It was difficult sticking to our guns, but we had fed our dogs a raw diet for years. During that time we had seen huge improvements, not only in their health, but also in their behaviour after we switched from dried kibble. Despite the criticism, we continued with his diet, along with medicated baths every day for his itchy patches.

We find the root of the problem

Although the breeder had previously wormed him, it became clear that the cause of all his problems was indeed worms. As soon as we cleared that up, he blossomed. The vet was astonished at the change in him, as were we.

Archie blossomed into a beautiful boy
A couple of months down the line and he blossomed

He went from an ugly duckling to a swan almost overnight and has not had any major problems since.

Last year we noticed a lump at the base of his neck, just above his shoulder. It wasn’t huge and we know that older dogs (he’s nearly ten now) get lumps and bumps. However, it continued to grow, so we took him to the vet. They said it was probably a cyst, and tests later confirmed this to be the case.

Visiting the vet in lockdown

We were advised to leave it alone but keep an eye on it. It got bigger still, so we really wanted to take him back to the vet for a check-up. With lockdown in place, it proved difficult to get an appointment. We had to wait a week or so and in the meantime the lump burst. Or it may have been helped on its way by Archie’s toenail!

Despite our best efforts, we couldn’t get an immediate appointment so instead, sent them a picture of the wound. As it wasn’t what they considered to be an emergency, we continued to wait. In the meantime, we kept it as clean as possible.

Eventually, we got our appointment. The wound was cleaned up and he was given antibiotics. These didn’t help. We got stronger ones and at last, it looked like it was healing. But then pus started seeping from the wound again.

We decided enough was enough and booked him in for surgery.

Thanks to lockdown, we can’t accompany him inside the vets. He has to be handed over and collected at the door. We have to stand outside in the freezing cold for the consultation, but it’s completely understandable and better than no consultation at all!

No cone of shame for Archie

He had his op and seemed completely unfazed by it all. Now we just need to ensure that it has time to heal properly. A cone is no use (thank goodness) because of the location of the cyst. Luckily, we happened to have a Vetgood Veterinary dog boot which is on his back foot to help prevent any damage to the wound should he attempt to scratch it. And he’s definitely given it a try!

All we can do now is wait and hope that this time it heals up completely.

Archie as he is today
Our gorgeous boy today

Unleash the festive cheer this Christmas!

Seasons Greetings from Training Lines

The year we would all rather forget

It’s been one hell of a year! Who could have imagined this time last year when we were sending out our Christmas greetings, what was in store for us all?

So many people have worked so hard during this awful pandemic to keep us all going and none more so than our outstanding National Health Service. We hope that everyone involved will have some time to chill-out over the festive period and maybe reconnect with loved ones, even if it is at a distance.

Thanking our NHS

And for us, it’s quite poignant as it was just days after Christmas that we lost our beloved Daisy. She has left a massive hole in our lives.

Daisy dog in wheelchair

Remembering our beautiful Daisy dog 2009-2019

Let the old year-end and the New Year begin

But we can only look forward, so out with the old, in with the new – make way for 2021! Wishing you and your fur family a peaceful, safe and healthy Christmas, and much happiness, and prosperity in the New Year!

To squeak or not to squeak

To Squeak or not to Squeak, that is the Question?

Do your dogs like squeaky toys, and if so, why?

The theory is that your dog is motivated by an instinctual drive and the squeaky noise is not unlike the sound of prey that’s frightened or injured. When the squeak stops, your dog has successfully killed its prey.

Or maybe there’s another explanation; dogs get an immediate reward from the sound that’s emitted from the toy. The feedback tells them that their bite is effective, thus spurring them on to continue, unlike with a silent toy which doesn’t provide the same gratification.

We all know what it’s like when a dog is obsessed with a squeaky toy and it can drive us nuts, until, in the end, we take it away, much to the disappointment of the dog.

Not all Dogs love a Squeak

With our dogs, we have to be very careful. Tilly absolutely loves a squeaky toy. Archie and Jack aren’t bothered one way or the other, but Toby dislikes them intensely. More than that, they actually upset him.

He is not particularly sound sensitive. He loves the sound of a clicker! Thunder or fireworks don’t bother him in the slightest, but anything that squeaks or beeps will have him running for cover.

We once took him to agility classes and at first, he did well until another dog in his class came along with a squeaky toy. That was the end of it for Toby. He couldn’t concentrate and he spent the whole time cowering behind our legs.

When Tilly was confined to her crate after her surgeries, we gave her a fluffy lamb to keep her company, but first, it had to be operated on to remove the squeaker. We couldn’t risk traumatising Toby.

When new toys arrive in the warehouse, we are very wary about testing the squeak and usually wait until Toby is out of earshot otherwise he’ll be upset and fearful for hours.

It’s not that he doesn’t like toys, he loves the treat dispensers, especially Starmark and of course, KONG. Then there’s his all-time favourite, the Puller, but anything that makes a noise is a no-no for him.

It’s a good idea to take the time to find out what toys your dog likes and dislikes and what stimulates or comforts them. A squeaky toy can be a great motivator and grab your dog’s attention, thereby making an excellent training tool but beware it doesn’t have the opposite effect.

Regular Checking of Toys is a Must

Supervision with a squeaky toy is advised especially with dogs that get overstimulated easily. Squeaky play should be confined to short sessions and ask your dog to do something like sit or down before rewarding them with the toy.

Squeaky toys can be fun but inspect them regularly to make sure they are not damaged and that your dog doesn’t have access to the squeaking mechanism, which could become a choking hazard.

If you discover their favourite squeaky toy is damaged, then repair it or replace it with a new one.

The Ultimate Squeak

If you have a squeaky-obsessed dog, The Petsafe Ricochet is an excellent choice. These paired toys will have your dog going back and forth chasing the squeak. Tilly was enthralled with them but sadly cannot play with them in our home!

Petsafe Electronic Dog Toy Ricochet

Petsafe Ricochet: The ultimate squeak

The Thrill of the Chase or Food Fun

For those, like us that have a dog who is upset by a squeak, here are Toby’s Top Tips for squeaky-free fun:

Toby

Pet Insurance – Is it worth it?

Toby turns four

The birthday boy – Toby

The Birthday Boy

Our Toby celebrated his fourth birthday this month, just as we were celebrating two months of no vet bills. That quickly changed as our accident-prone shepherd suddenly started licking the pads of his front paws non-stop.

We examined him thoroughly but could see nothing obvious, and still the licking continued and became more frenzied. The licking was soon followed by limping.

So it was off to the vet with him and not a moment too soon as he was sporting a gash over his left eye that he had sustained from smacking into a door frame when he wasn’t looking where he was going! The vet examined his eye, and although swollen, it looked like it would heal okay, so no treatment was necessary. As for his paws, he had some red patches between his pads which could mean a contact allergy. Our choices were either a shampoo for his paws or Apoquel. We decided on the Apoquel, which relieves allergic itching, as we were familiar with it and had experienced good results with Fin.

Toby wearing his Trixie Walker Active Protective Dog Boots

These boots are made for walking

For two weeks he took two tabs a day and needed boots to break the itch/scratch cycle. That was easy for us; we chose the Trixie Walker Active Protective Dog Boots for when he went out on his walks. When he was indoors, we used Vetgood Slim Protective Veterinary Dog Boots.

By the end of the two weeks, Toby was much improved and we were relieved, if a little poorer!

Should you insure?

We took the decision many years ago when we had five shepherds, all insured and costing us a fortune every month, to cancel our pet insurance. Instead we vowed to put away an amount each month for any unexpected occurrences. At that time our dogs were relatively young, very healthy and rarely needed the vet, so the monthly expenditure seemed a total waste of money.

As they got older, this started to change, but then the premiums would, of course, have risen to reflect their ages.

And as for putting money aside, or self-insurance, as it’s called, we quickly forgot about that!

Towards the end of their lives, our five shepherds, none of whom were now insured, racked up hundreds of pounds in vet bills. However, we’d saved ourselves hundreds of pounds in premiums, so we may just have broken even, or even come out slightly ahead.

But pet insurance is not just about illness. Some policies cover a whole host of other things such as theft, treatment for behavioural problems, liability cover and kennel or cattery fees should you yourself become ill and unable to look after them.

Is pet insurance worth it?

With hindsight, we would have insured both Toby and Tilly; Tilly’s elbow arthroscopy cost an arm and a leg. We would also have been able to claim for any hydrotherapy she has going forward. Toby has ripped open his shoulder and his tail due to his clumsiness and heaven knows what he’ll do next. Insuring those two would have been a good investment.

Jack has also had a major op. He swallowed something which caused an obstruction in his gut and had to be removed. So far, Archie has needed very little veterinary treatment. He’s getting on a bit now, so no doubt problems will start to crop up.

Pet insurance is a safety net, most obviously used for veterinary bills, but as mentioned above, there are other benefits. It can seem like an unnecessary expense – until you need it! What does it cost, what should it include, and what are the alternatives? We came across a good article discussing the pros and cons of taking out an insurance policy on your pet, so if you are unsure whether to insure, why not read Pet insurance – Do you need it?