April was a sad month for us as our beloved Tillie (pictured with me) was put to sleep. She was an absolute trooper of cat with multiple health issues, but she was bright and eating until the end.
This was oddly the most guilt free passing of any of our pets and we worked hard with her care team to get the timing just right. She will be much missed by us all.
Its very exciting to now be writing blogs for clients at Any-UK-Vet – a fabulous resource to find vets wherever you are in the UK.
Here’s a blog about an unpleasant problem all pet owners might face… fleas!
As the holiday season approaches those of us in practice face increasing requests for pet passports. But do these work just like human passports and how much freedom do they really give you?
For Vet Times this month I pondered the good, bad and ugly of the smells we get exposed to in The Veterinary World. That might sound weird but there’s something very powerful about smell and memory and in the vet world we get to sniff the weird wonderful and down right nasty.
Check my blog out here, but sorry, it’s not scratch and sniff!
I’m really pleased to announce that I’m now working with any-uk-Vet.co.uk to provide blogs for pet owners. This adds to my current blogging for Vet Times and Recruit4vets which are mainly focussed on the vet industry.
My first blog was concerning that thorny issue of being a vet nurse who owns a Peke – a flat faced dog of the type that has seen a lot of negative press recently. How do I feel about this and what do I do to keep Hollie healthy? Read more!
I’m really honoured to be chosen to speak directly to pet owners and share my knowledge and experience of being that curious hybrid of vet nurse/vet client as I progress throug the care needed for a high maintenance Peke and a cat who seems to let none of her chronic health issues hold her back.
With over 40% of households having a pet in 2016 you would think that finding a place to live with a pet wouldn’t be that difficulty? If nearly half the households in the UK have a pet then finding a home that allows pets must be easy?
It seems that it isn’t, from personal experience and news stories it appears that by having a pet you become a second class citizen in terms of housing. You can expect to be limited in where you can rent or buy and be expected to pay higher deposits and extra fees.
This issue has been brought into sharp focus for me with the recent Grenfell Tower fire. There is the issue of moving your pet safely in an emergency. Then there is the issue of where you move to. The safety precautions being taken at other tower blocks has meant residents have been evacuated to emergency accommodation. Camden Council have provided pet friendly emergency options, which is fantastic.
I hope this sees a change in attitude towards pet owners and their housing needs. Currently there are a number of issues facing pet owners when finding a place to live. Whether you are renting or buying there are limits to the properties available to you if you have pets.
When renting a property you will be required to meet the criteria of the property owner and agent before you move in. There are many properties that automatically exclude pet owners. This may be because there is a clause in the original lease for the property or more commonly it’s in the rental contract from the owner or agent. This is usually because there are fears that pets can bring disruption in the form of:
- Noise for neighbours
- Damage to the property
- Fleas or other parasites left in the property
- allergy issue for future tenants
I feel there is sometimes the assumption that as pet owners we enjoy living in a flea infested noise hell! For the majority of pet owners this isn’t true, just as there are different living condition choices for those without pets.
While there as an element of the property owners own choice in what they put in a rental contract they cannot discriminate or be unfair. Therefore if you are trying to rent a property with a caged pet such as a hamster it could very likely be classed as unfair to refuse a potential tenant. However if it is a second floor small flat with no private outside space and you are asking to rent it with two springer spaniels then a landlord can fairly refuse a tenancy.
Having said that I have found often it is the letting agents who can make life difficult. On more than one occasion when trying to find a rental flat I have had a letting agent suggest either:
- we “get rid” of our pets
- we lie to the landlord about the pets
- they alter the contract without telling the landlord
I was appalled about all 3 suggestions. Re-homing centres are filled with the results of these attempted deceptions. People either so desperate to get a place to live they re-home their pets, or lie and later lose their home and their pet.
Leasehold issues with buying flats
Buying a property is not always any easier
When I was younger I dreamed of 3 things, I would own my own flat, and have a car and most of all a dog. In my mind owning my own flat would be needed to get a pet. While it can be easier to get a pet when you own your home it is not always the case. Flats and some houses come with a lease or set of criteria about how the tenant or owner can achieve “quiet enjoyment” of the propert.
When buying a property check the freehold or lease for clauses or covenants that may preclude animals being kept there.
Particularly with flats you should get your solicitor to check the lease for any “no pet” clauses. This takes time and money. We have spent weeks waiting for a solicitor to send a copy of the lease to my solicitor, to read it and say there is a no pet clause. Even although the agent and solicitors were advised we would not buy with a no pet clause they assumed we would still go ahead. They were all shocked when we pulled out and the solicitor even said “get rid of the pets”.
There may be a clause that states you can have pets if you do not cause a nuisance to your neighbours. This is enforcing that pets come under the quiet enjoyment rights of living in a property.
What can owners do to help?
It is clear that the issues with having a pet in a property are linked to the possible issue they may cause. As a pet owner you can help yourself by taking a few simple steps.
Keep your pet up to date with vaccines and flea and worming treatment. You can provide a copy of your vet records to show your pet is registered with and regularly seen by a vet. This shows you are responsible.
You can write your pet a CV, as suggested by Dogs Trust on their excellent advice website for pet owners and landlords. The CV can include information on who cares for your dog while you are at work, or a reference from a previous landlord.
Where damage is the issue offering to pay a larger deposit can help. While I’ve always questioned the practicality of this – if my dog is going to chew off all the skirting boards 2 weeks extra rent is unlikely to cover the cost of repairing this – many landlords find this acceptable.
I would always advise to try and speak directly to the owner rather than the letting agent, or the management agent if buying. The typical estate agent wants as little work as possible to secure a sale or lease. Therefore if you are in an area of high demand they will try to find a way not to deal with pet owners. If you can speak to the people who actually make the decisions then you are more likely to negotiate a deal that includes your pets. In reality if you have pets you don’t want to move more than you have to and most people recognise this when you approach them.
Since the advent of social media we have become addicted to likes, shares and retweets. It shows our post is good – doesn’t it? If likes and shares are good then a viral post must be the best?
Well, it shows people are interested but if your post gets more than the normal number of views is it really good for you? Is the Moon the dream viral destination, or a lonely place with little interaction?
What is a viral post?
The name tells you little about what a viral post is. Yep, it’s like a virus…. It’s a post that takes over and grows larger than your usual audience and usually at a rapid pace. That might mean a few hundred shares and likes or more, but still within YOUR community. It’s truly viral if it gets shared across more than one social media platform, gets trending or spreads outside of your country, EVERYONE sees it.
Of these two options – either viral for YOU or viral for EVERYONE which do you think is best and how does it get there?
What makes something “go viral”?
viralmadnews.com – is this an image you would like to be known for?
There are common themes for viral posts we often see. The post usually provides one or more of the following:
- Invokes a reaction – good or bad
- There’s an error – beware of cropping pictures properly, typos, checking facts, photo bombs
- It’s emotional – animals always get a response! Telling a story with animal pictures/videos will always get increased interest
- New information – which might seem obvious to you but is new to clients – think of the recent interest in the posts on not giving sticks to dogs
- Use of key words or # – this creates an easy way for people to search for and find your post, naturally increasing the audience
- Timing – local papers can pick up stories that then get into national press. This is more likely to happen on a slow news day for most vet related stories.
There’s Good Viral and Bad Viral too. Posts often get shared because of a reason…
|Post type||Good Viral||Bad Viral|
|Invokes a reaction||Re-uniting lost pets||Animal welfare issues raised that are contentious – cruelty cases|
|There’s an error||An amusing typo||Client details revealed on paperwork or screen!|
|It’s emotional||Feel good stories – patients get better||Highly contentious areas
|New information||Health advice such as not throwing sticks for dogs||Issues with insurance claims – may be relevant to your clients but not to the wider public|
|Use of key words or #||Active veterinary #s such as #teamvet #planetrvn #whatvnsdo||Piggy backing from a trending # not related to your post – dodgy Bots do this so avoid!|
Social media sites have many examples of businesses promoting poorly chosen products for likes – do you want to answer all these negative comments for a the sake of a few more likes?
Is a viral post the Moon Landing of a good social media account?
This might be a surprise to you all but having a post go viral isn’t the unicorn that people think it is. As a service provider a vet practice is unlikely to see a huge benefit in having posts go viral for EVERYONE.
It will probably reach more people than you wish to register at once and they are likely to be out of your geographical area. The point of practice social media is usually to drive more clients to your door or website – but at a level you can cope with and creating committed clients who will return and again and again, not people who travel miles to attend a “celeb” vets but don’t use you for all their pets care.
There is a lack of control of a post once it goes viral. It is harder to read and respond to comments made and you will need specific software to track the post. It can be more work than you intended to keep up with a rapidly shared post.
As a vet practice in the UK there can quickly be a loss of context for some posts. Animal issues vary widely between countries and something that is of concern here may be routine in another country. This can result in then some negative comments that are not intended to be, but are posted due to the lack of context that can happen. Social media users are aware of this and you often find other posters advising people of the origin of a post. Having others correct issues is a great attribute so don’t rush to correct people too quickly yourself.
I see social media is another way of spreading the traditional word of mouth recommendations and a viral post can result in a loss of personal interaction. I like ensuring that comments on my posts or blogs all get a “like”, even if there are too many comments to respond to each individual comment. It’s the same for a business page.
Your practice Instagram is unlikely to become the vet equivalent of Beyoncè, where thousands comment and you aren’t expected to reply, just exist and be adored! It is more realistic to have tens of replies that you can respond to and engage with clients or potential clients. Therefore, a viral post can quickly remove the practicality of doing this and reduces the posts impact and ability to do what you want – increase footfall to practice or website.
What type of viral is best?
For the average vet practice a post that is in the “good” category AND is viral to YOU is the best option. These types of posts generate a bigger audience, they may be picked up by local and maybe national newspapers (or a spot on This Morning!) for a story but you still have control over seeing the responses to the post. If your usual likes are 15-20 and share 5-10 then a viral post for YOU would probably see likes of 150+ and shares hitting 35+. This is great work, and is an asset to your practice, not a burden.
Shoot for the Moon and you’ll still land among the Stars? Maybe hanging around the Stars is the best place to be, the Moon isn’t all its cracked up to be.
We work every day to keep our pets safe. Avoiding certain flowers in the house for cats, stopping dogs scavenging bad food stuff on a walk. Carrying out preventative care such as flea and worming treatments.
That’s all great but what do you do in an emergency? The awful fire at Grenfell Tower in West London brings this to mind for me. As a city dweller with an indoor cat and a small dog what would I do if I needed to get out of my flat in a hurry and in safety for me, my pets and others? Although we all consider fire safety perhaps it’s time to stop and make a plan for what you would do if the worst happened.
As a vet nurse I have my fire training from work that says it’s very unsafe just to open the door and let the pets flee. Its stressful and unsafe for them and in the limited visibility of a fire could be a trip hazard to people. It’s a knee-jerk reaction, but letting your pets loose and hoping for the best isn’t the answer. Pets will be become as disorientated and stressed as we will in a fire and may not run to safety as you would wish. They are also likely to be a hazard to others escaping as with smoke there can be low visibility and dogs and cats can become trip hazards for people.
This raises what you might be able to do. There is the option to leave pets behind. I know I couldn’t do this, and it would slow my escape as each step would be a physical and emotional wrench. I might even get out of my flat, decide the fire doesn’t look so bad and go back to get them – this is not a good idea. You need to get out and stay out. If you are planning to take them with you then get prepared and make your decision and stick to it.
Moving your pets safely
How do you do this? With pets that don’t want to go in their carrier at the best of times how will you do this in a time of stress? Do you even have the carrier to hand and how easy is it to move quickly with a bulky cat basket hitting your knees?
Many years ago I pondered this. We had two cats and lived on the second floor. I was also nearly finished my vet nurse training and had notes and caselogs in abundance. This was before electronic backups so it was a paper copy, and for one night I had all the paperwork at home – normally it was safely spread across work, college and home. This focused my mind and I told my boyfriend that if there was a fire he had to get both cats as I would be getting my paperwork. How was he to handle two cats, including one who didn’t like him that much?
We found out about advice for New York pet owners – use a pillow case! You can put your cat or small dog in the pillow case and put a loose knot in the top. Your pet is safe, and it’s easier to carry than a basket, and there’s always a pillow case close at hand. It means you can carry your pet with one hand, leaving the other free for handrails, ladders, or helping others. You can also pass the pet to people outside the building and free your hands up to escape.
It was such a great idea we put two spare pillow cases under our beds. One slightly larger as The Flump was a bit of a hippo, but that’s another story.
Evacuation – be prepared
Prepping for evacuating your pet for disasters is a whole other blog – food supplies, meds, you need a stock for you and your pet – for everyday tragedies like home fires just plan to get out and stay out.
There have been advances from the pillow case advice all those years ago. There are now pet evacuation sacks that provide a stronger and slightly larger ‘pillow case’ effect. If you need to evacuate quickly then you and your pet can do so safely.
If you can prep just a little have a few days food, a small water bottle and your pets vaccines and identification and insurance details. Hopefully your pet can stay with you, but if they need to go to a kennel or cattery and your vets isn’t open then having all their details will make life easier for you at that moment.
It’s also worth considering having a spare harness/collar and lead ready, even for cats. Once out of the house it may be safe to have them out of the pillow case and they still need to be under control.
My first advice on pets in an emergency was from New York and there is still great advice there. If you want to prepare a little further there is a pet emergency plan to download and fill in.
A purpose made pet evacuation sack or a pillowcase is not going to be the answer to all the problems in a quick escaepe so please read this from London Fire Brigade and watch the short video. The advice is relevant for any quick escape. While the Grenfell Tower tragedy has highlighted the urgency for fire related issues in recent times close to me there have been three floods from water mains, an evacuation from an unexploded WWII bomb and a gas leak. All are reasons for needing quick, safe escapes from home.
A few minutes planning now could save more than one life if the time comes.