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Preparing a heat-loving Beagle for winter

The other week during our first blast of serious winter weather I encountered a neighbour on the dog walk who greeted me with the words “I’ve just met a Beagle wearing a very smart coat.” We both looked down at my undressed Beagle and she looked back at us silenting saying (I imagine) “See I told you it was cold today…”

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So how cold does it need to be before you start dressing your dog up and indeed how cold does it need to be before you stop walking a dog full stop? When we lived in Canada with our big hairy Canadian dog I was advised that “when it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog” but what does that mean?! Too cold for me in a bikini? Or too cold for me dressed in hi-tech ski gear? Sometimes it’s too cold for me in a centrally heated house, if I’m sitting still and not wearing enough layers! And are coats a fashion statement or a necessity?

A lot of it depends on the dog. Whippets and greyhounds don’t have much body fat and will actually shiver in cold weather which is a pretty big clue they need a coat. Macy our Canadian dog sits at the other end of that extreme. She happily ran around in -25c with no side effects other than ice crystals collecting in the fur on her toes and so in the benign UK climate she gets no special treatment in winter.

Bella our Beagle is closer to the whippet end of the scale, but with a few more pounds round her middle to keep her warm. A winter coat makes walking in cold winter temperatures more enjoyable for her, but when temperatures are above freezing, she’s unlikely to suffer too much without one. All dogs have a degree of natural protection against colder weather, as the days shorten their lighter summer coat falls out and is replaced by a thicker winter one. When temperatures are significantly below freezing we tend to limit our walks anyway and do two short 20 minute outings rather than one long one.

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One area of concern in winter is paws, both dogs do the morning school run with me along a main road and during a cold spell that pavement is covered in the residue of deicing chemicals which have been applied to the roads and the cars using them. We make sure we keep an eye on Bella’s paws and check for any cuts, cracking or dryness and treat appropriately. As there is usually mud involved somewhere in our daily walks a wash down at the end is a necessity anyway, which means nasty residues aren’t left on her feet for the rest of the day.

The winter months are a time when all of us find we need a few extra calories and Beagles are no exception. Bella has suffered in the past with colitis and we have to keep a close eye out to ensure she doesn’t steal human food (easier said than done with a toddler in a high chair!) but if she loses weight or seems to be particularly keen for her next meal we don’t hesitate to give her a little extra dog food, so this time of year does have its perks!

This post is a collaboration with PEDIGREE®, but all thoughts are my own. For additional pet care information you can read the following PEDIGREE® Reviews for tips and advice.

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So you want to own a Beagle?

Today I am teaming up with Royal Canin who make food that is nutritionally tailored to different dog breeds to give you an insight into Beagle ownership…

Out on dog walks I often encounter people who make a beeline for our dog and say they have “always wanted to have a Beagle” and there is something very appealing about these real life Snoopys, but what are they like to own?

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Bella our own Beagle is a Cypriot rescue dog who we’ve had for six years. I knew very little about the breed when we first rehomed her and have learned an awful lot since, which is definitely not the best way to approach it.

Being hounds, Beagles are pack dogs and like company. Many Beagle owners I know have more than one dog (though not necessarily two Beagles) and Bella is not exceptional in her inability to cope with being left alone. In fact we can’t leave her n the garden when we go out as she will perform impressive acrobatics to escape and then run joyously down our lane to be reunited with us as though we could never have intended to leave without her!  More than once I’ve had to turn up somewhere with her in a makeshift lead.

Beagles are famously highly food motivated. If you do a quick search of youtube you’ll come across a selection of impressive stunts performed by these hungry hounds who will go to incredible lengths for a snack. There’s one video in particular where a Beagle manages to navigate round a kitchen to reach an oven which he then opens in order to access the cooking contents. There are also quite a lot of Beagles that open fridges on their own.

Bella’s own food stealing efforts aren’t as extreme, although she does go through bins and people’s handbags and will eat absolutely anything left in her reach including stuff that once had contact with food like sweet wrappers! Her off-piste diet has lead to a few health problems in the past. I have written before about our struggle with diagnosing (and now treating) her Lymphomatic Enteritis/Colitis, a condition which was undoubtedly caused or triggered by the rubbish she has consumed. She is currently on low dose antibiotics and a couple of homeopathic treatments but otherwise eats a normal diet.

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So Beagles are escape artists and food stealers – What are the good sides of their character? Well it turns out that Beagles unfortunate association with testing labs came about as a result of one of their better personality traits. They are quite simply very docile and calm animals. In testing labs they were used because they wouldn’t bite the staff and we have found our dog to be the perfect pet to have around children. When Theo was younger Bella would often be hugged tightly or have her eyes poked and I would intervene and take her away, only to find she was crawling back for more attention. My niece Millie has also always been a big fan of Bella as you can see above!

Caution must be applied when you have a Beagle out on a walk. People are often surprised to see Bella off the lead at all and we do have to pick and choose our moments, once her nose is down and she has a scent she loses her hearing totally and will not be lured back for anything, even when she is just a few feet away. One of her favourite tricks is to disappear into a field of crops and emerge two hours later looking a little sheepish. Fortunately for us it’s often one of the fields near our house and so after many wasted hours trying to call her back, I have started to be a little more relaxed and I leave her to come home on her own.

In conclusion Beagle ownership is nothing if not eventful, but I don’t think we’d be without her. She is certainly one of those dogs that will be fondly remembered when the children are older. Her distinctive character has infiltrated almost every area of our family life.

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Thank you to Royal Canin for Bella’s great hamper and if you are considering dog ownership and would like to find out more about the personalities of different breeds head over to the Royal Canin website where you can find the “Royal Family” guide. 

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Taking your pets to Europe on holiday

People are often surprised to discover that neither of our dogs are British. Macy our larger dog was born in Canada and traveled to the UK via two years in Cyprus where we picked up Bella our Beagle. All EU countries and a large number from outside Europe are part of the pet passport scheme which means animals can now travel relatively freely between most parts of the world. Free of quarantine, but not free of cost, as when you ship them halfway across the globe it does come at a price!

Traveling within Europe though is cheaper and as both our pets were already microchipped and vaccinated we decided to take them to France last year on holiday, along with two other family Border Terriers.

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If you are thinking of taking your animals away with you trying to find the right information online can be tricky. Microchipping will become compulsory for all dog owners in England, Scotland and Wales from 6th April this year, removing one thing from the travel check list, but there are still a few other things you need to be aware of if you want your pet to join you on holiday.

  • There are no restrictions on dogs leaving the UK, they only apply when you re-enter from Europe, so although you will need to make sure you have their vaccinations up to date no one will actually check your paperwork as you leave.
  • Your pet must have been vaccinated against rabies and you must wait 21 days from the date of the vaccination before travelling
  • If you are traveling on a short ferry service or on Eurostar your pets will have to stay in the car for the journey, however if you are traveling on a longer crossing (such as  services from Portsmouth) you can book a pet-friendly cabin. When we did our trip we went from Dover To Calais and specifically chose Eurostar so that our dogs didn’t have to left in the car without us as they would if we had traveled on a hovercraft or P&O ferry.
  • Some pet insurance policies will cover the costs you incur if you lose your pet’s travel documentation and any resulting quarantine fees
  • Pets returning to the UK need to be treated for tapeworm between 24 hours and 5 days before travelling. When you get the vets to complete their paperwork ensure they include the time as well as the date that the procedure took place as documentation that isn’t time stamped won’t be accepted

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  • Doing the pet passport bit at the port in France before the crossing can be time consuming. Assume that if you are traveling during peak periods and/or school holidays you will need to allow extra time to queue at the pet passport office. When we traveled in May there was literally a queue of people and animals out of the door and into the car park!
  • Unsurprisingly vets who are close to ports charge more for worming than ones elsewhere, so do your research and find one near to where you are staying
  • If you arrive at the port with incomplete or out of date paperwork you will need to start again which will involve a minimum delay of 24 hours and that’s assuming you can change your crossing!

If in doubt check the official UK government website for more information. This post has been made possible thanks to Petplan but all thoughts and experiences are our own.

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Over the last few weeks we’ve been having some trouble with our rescue dog Bella and having tried a few routes to resolve it, I thought I’d share the story here to see if we find any new ideas. I would just qualify that this might not be a story you want to read whilst eating… you have been warned!

First a bit of background… Bella joined our family in Cyprus where she had probably started life as a hunting dog, we think she is about seven years old, but we can’t be certain. Generally speaking Cypriots tend not to keep their hunting dogs in great conditions and it’s likely she didn’t eat the highest quality food for the first few months of her life. As a result Bella has fluctuated between eating anything and everything with admirable tolerance and having periods of time where her digestive system goes into meltdown.

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The first time we experienced it was when she was about a year old when if she wasn’t let out of the house early enough in the morning she would pee on the stairs, we went crazy trying to solve it and eventually it just stopped on its own. Then a couple of years later in Scotland she suddenly started having trouble with her bowel movements and had blood in her stools. We tried the vets and a few types of medication and after a lot of going round in circles, we eventually resolved the problem ourselves by introducing a percentage of wet food into every meal we gave her.

Since then we haven’t had any many problems right up until about two months ago when out of the blue she started pooing in the house every morning. Again we tried changing her diet and we had a period of success when, after a suggestion from a veterinary nurse, we changed her over to gluten free food. In fact it was so successful that when one day we ran out of gluten free and I switched back to the old stuff, the problem occurred again immediately.

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But sadly the story does not end there… Several weeks down the line, the gluten free solution seems not to be working. We took her to the vets who gave her antibiotics, an injection and a short course of special “gastrointestinal food”, this worked for a short period of time and then the problem of soiling the house (nearly always on carpet) started again and the poo is often runny with blood in it.

We have now started crating her at night which works a treat, but it begs the question of why if she can hold it in in the crate at night, can she not hold it in during the day? Is it behavioral, biological or a mix of both? Yesterday I watched her like a hawk and restricted her access to the rooms she favours with her “accidents” and we had no problems. Also apart from the digestive problems and some weight loss she seems absolutely fine in herself.

She’ll be going back to the vets again on Saturday (thank heavens for pet insurance!) to see what they suggest as a next move, but I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who has had a similar problem with their dog and how they solved it. Today someone suggested a chicken and rice diet to me and told me to get the vet to x-ray in case she has an obstruction as it’s a common problem with Beagles who eat rubbish that they shouldn’t.

All suggestions however obvious or strange would be much appreciated, we want Bella to get better, but personally I could also do without the continual clearing up of mess in places you really don’t want to find it… Oh and any suggestions for a good spot carpet cleaner also much appreciated!

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This dog…

Five years ago this month we opened our doors (and our pockets) to a small malnourished Beagle who had been found wandering the streets in Cyprus. It seems oddly appropriate that Bella should enter our lives in a month which (lets be honest) is often associated with a little financial hardship. For anyone who has never had a Beagle in their lives before, it is fair to say they should probably come with some kind of warning.

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Though they are patient, tolerant and endlessly loving they can also disappear for hours on end, eat anything and everything and have a propensity for getting into trouble. One Beagle owner I know had to have her pet’s stomach pumped on Boxing Day after he ate the family’s entire supply of Christmas chocolate. The bill? £500.

You’d think therefore that if you owned one of these cheeky but loving animals, it might be prudent to have them insured? Both our dogs have been insured right up until a year ago when we got fed up with the monthly payments and decided to wing it. Eleven months down the line and we were counting up the pounds we’d saved and congratulating ourselves on the gamble having paid off.

Then just before Christmas Bella and our other dog got into a brief but heated, scrap over their breakfast. I had stepped out of the kitchen momentarily and came back to find the Beagle limping. I didn’t panic immediately because one of Bella’s special tricks (learned during her time as a street dog) is to put on a limp and look pitiful. But, when she was still doing it the next day we took her to the vet who injected Bella with an anti-inflamatory and extracted £90 from me. No prizes for guessing who that hurt most.

Suddenly our gamble wasn’t looking quite so clever. Christmas happened and the renewing of the insurance got put on the back burner. We were reassured that after our bill a few weeks before, lightning was unlikely to strike twice.

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And it didn’t… until last Tuesday, when Bella was back at the vets after managing to impale herself on a bit of shrubbery. She wasn’t in pain, but the collision had caused a small blister to start to grow on her inner eyelid. Our vet examined her and informed us that she’d need to have a general anesthetic and stay in for the day. I greeted this news with a sharp intake of breath and the vet tried to reassure me by telling me what a strong dog she was

But the intake of breath was not about Bella’s health, but what I knew would be a dramatic increase in the bill the moment that anesthesia was involved. And I was right. The cost in the end was £269, but as our vet said there was nothing else we could have done. Pets become part of our families and when lightning does strike twice, I’m grateful I have a credit card for emergencies, so that at least the problem can be fixed quickly.

This post was written in association with Santander, who offer a range of credit cards and loans to help you spread the cost of purchases, emergency or otherwise.

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