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  1. How to assess your pets weightWeight is a sensitive topic.  It is now often a taboo subject, and let’s face it, not without good reason as weight comments often make us feel more self conscious and more likely to overeat to make ourselves feel better!   

    Since starting vet school, I have really started to look at excess weight differently.  Far from being an issue that should be avoided to spare feelings, or something we should feel ashamed of, I now think that looking after our body and trying to maintain a healthy weight is essential self-care!  Excess weight can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, joint pain, sleep apnoea and even cancer.  Whilst these are often multifactorial and no one should believe that a good diet alone will prevent them, our health is our greatest asset, and anything we can do to protect it, is definitely worth the effort!  Lockdown really made me look at my weight and decide to tackle it – and I’ve been pleased that many other friends have felt the same about their own weight and we’ve clubbed together to motivate each other and share tips!

    I have been surprised though, that some people quickly start to comment about weight loss being unhealthy. Highlighting the risks of ‘not losing too much’ or going ‘too far’, often commenting that people who are slim look ill!  Our nutritionist lecturer early on highlighted that this is not unique to humans, we often do not perceive overweight animals as overweight, but as healthy!  And we see thinner animals as ill, when actually they are of a healthy weight!  This is being seen a lot in horses (and it’s a risk factor for laminitis, which can be so severe as to lead to euthanasia) but it is also being increasingly seen in our smaller companion animals too, and poor vets have to find a way to politely explain that Pudsey has put on a few pounds and is now Pudgey.

    Body Condition Score Dog and CatI have had conversations with friends after they’ve had these conversations with their vet and I’m often surprised that they are very quick to defend their pet’s weight, minimising the risk and claiming that they don’t want to deprive their pet and make them miserable.  And here is the problem – whilst they are saying this because they love their pets and want  to make them happy, this attitude is literally killing our pets with kindness. Our pets depend on us to make the right choices for them and sometimes that choice includes doing something  that neither pet nor owner likes doing – but that is essential for their long term health, happiness and welfare.

    So if this has struck a cord with you and you think your pet could lose a few pounds - what do you need to do? 

    1. First and foremost, it’s a good idea to check with your vet and ask for advice.  This is especially true if you are managing any other health issues, if your animal is still young and growing, or if they are older. Your vet can also show you how to assess your pet’s weight (a body condition score) and therefore keep track of your progress, ensuring you reach a healthy weight and stay there.
    2. Secondly, there are now lots of low calorie, complete pet foods out there, meaning that your pet does not have to miss out in terms of quantity, this is essential because feeding your dog less than the recommended quantity on the bag of your normal food can lead to your pet missing out on essential nutrients that are added in the correct balance for the portion size recommended.  
    3. Next, consider how you feed your dog.  If you just pop it into a bowl, why not make them work for it?  Pack it into kongs or puzzle feeders!  Or scatter feed kibble in the garden for them to find with their noses! 
    4. Lastly – and assuming your vet is happy with this, get working your pet!  There are dozens of exercise disciplines out there for dogs, agility, flyball, hoopers, tracking, retrieving etc.  Not only will this help your dog lose weight, but it will also alleviate any grumpiness at the dietary change.  I can personally vouch for increased exercise as a strategy for distracting me from feeling ‘deprived’ on a diet!

    So please, don’t let your pet’s weight be the next taboo.  Love is not turning a blind eye as you top up their food, but in proactively monitoring your pet’s weight, regularly body condition scoring it and working to keep them trim, healthy and happy for life!

    If you are a ForPaws client and need some extra help with this, drop me an email!   We can  always look to connect ForPaws clients going  through this, so that  they can swap ideas, share tips and maybe even exercise together (in a COVID safe way of  course!).

  2. Dog Walking in GuildfordIs it just me or does it seem absolutely crazy that we have been living with the pandemonium of COVID for over a year now!?  As it has been a REALLY long time since I’ve done any business updates for our clients and friends I thought I would let you all know how we’ve been getting on in the recent years.

    Some of you will recall that several years ago we became a company ‘ForPaws UK Ltd’.  I felt that was the best move as we grew and took on a van and employees in an effort to afford to register for VAT as our turnover was reaching that level.   Sadly we struggled with many of the same issues anyone who has the grand idea of running a pet care business with staff has. The costs are just too high!  As we worked hard to upscale, it became clear that registering for VAT was either going to write off any profit we made (and put us at risk of running at a loss if we had any big bills) or raise our prices so high that we would lose customers.  So we began the business of winding up the company several years ago and reverted back to being a sole trader business.  The saddest part of this meant relinquishing our gorgeous ForPaws van and saying goodbye to Hannah Flemming who was only with us a few short months but who we and the dogs loved.  

    It was a hard learning experience for me, but we emerged last year, finally running healthily again and ready to recover… then COVID hit.  I suspect many businesses have the same story and my heart goes out to all the businesses who have worked so hard to keep afloat during this crazy time.  Let’s hope that we can all get back to some semblance of normal soon!

    The ForPaws team have been absolutely amazing during thos time however.  

    Sarah Sorgi who many of you will know as a walker, cat sitter and manager of the team, has been an absolute rock and kept the business running during a very busy time before COVID.  Sarah is currently focusing on walking and sitting as things have been a little too quiet for ForPaws to need a manager at the same level as ‘pre-COVID’, but I am hoping that things are picking up and we will need to ask for her help again soon.  ForPaws will be celebrating its 10th birthday in December and Sarah has been with us since the 2nd year!  We are so lucky to have her on board and I know I would be lost without her!

    Michelle Bialogrodzka is still cat sitter extraordinaire in Godalming and Haslemere – Michelle’s clients adore her and I know their cats do too as she often sends me pictures of them playing and cuddling!  Our cat sitting service has just gone from strength to strength – and whilst we know our website is pretty, I know that it is good word of mouth from clients about our lovely team that is the main driver for this.  

    Dog Walking in GodalmingJo Ellett is mostly now doing group dog walks and the odd cat sit for us.  Jo does our group walks and has a great time with the dogs rushing round the Surrey Hills countryside, exploring and playing.  Jo is excelling at getting the right match of dogs together on our walks, so that dogs can exercise around other dogs of a similar personality type  - this makes walks fun and pleasant for all of them!  Jo has been taking lots of video footage of this that I am hoping to compile into a longer video for the website and Facebook page.

    Finally we were also most recently joined in the last two years by Emma Knight and Rosemarie Earlam – who we are so grateful for, as our cat sitting service has been so in demand (COVID times excepting!) that we had needed a larger team!  Emma and Rosemarie have fitted into our little team beautifully and we have been thrilled to receive lovely client feedback following their visits. 

    So that is a little update on Team ForPaws!  I hope that all our clients and friends and pets are keeping well.  We have been over the moon to start receiving bookings again from many of our cat owners and can’t wait to see those gorgeous Felines over summer!  

    Corrine Lisle Dog WalkerHere’s to summer 2021 and hoping to see you all soon!


    PS Here is me with my lovely new kitten Penny!  She was a 'COVID Pet' a new addition to my house with her brother Elvis, who is a short haired tabby!  So funny that they look  so different!  It was their birthday this weekend just gone - happy birthday kitties!

  3. As many of you know over 4 years ago now I made the decision to go to vet school. I am now in year 2 (having dropped back a year due to COVID taking away childcare) and I am absolutely loving it!  Sarah Sorgi very kindly took on the role of manager several years ago and has been running things amazingly!  She has temporarily stepped back whilst COVID has put us in a lull (lets hope it's all over soon!) so I am back to running the ship for the time being!

    This has naturally caused a bit of a decline with my blogging (apologies!) but I thought I'd break the quiet spell with a blog about some of the things I didn't know about vet school until I arrived there!

    Firstly (and this is probably obviously to many, but it wasn't to me!) vet school is hard - really hard!  Each day, 5 days a week, for 11 weeks a semester, 2 semesters a year, it feels like being under an information siege that you need to retain, assimilate and put into context with other information that is being bombarded at you, whilst also needing to read and keep up with your own independent learning at the same time. It is intense!  I personally feel the reason vet schools have such high entry requirements is not that the content itself is difficult, but that the volume is incredible - so students have to be capable of keeping up with it all!  I think there has been a real tendency to dumb down professionals such as vets in recent years, as information becomes more and more freely available and people do their own research.  This research is invaluable because it is wonderful for owners to be informed on their pet's health and wellbeing, but equally it is worth remembering that researching something on google is very different to being taught content through a degree.  

    Also, along the way I have seen several friends on the course drop out, drop back or take time off and I know that some of them have had a hard time with disappointed family or friends.  But the reality is that vet school is hard and a huge commitment - many of us struggle with anxiety in keeping up the pace.  Until you are on the course, you have no idea what it is like and if you are not enjoying it - it's a long time and a lot of work if you've realised it's not for you!  It's also not unusual for exams to be failed and need resitting, possibly repeating a year - this is not a bad thing, often these students have a much better grasp of the subject the second time round than the rest of us! So if you have a friend or family member that has failed an exam or dropped out of vet school, either temporarily or permanently, do be supportive!  It's not a 'normal' degree - it's pretty tough!

    Lastly (and these are just a few of the preconceptions I have had, I will write more as I have time) I was not aware until I joined that the rates of suicide in the veterinary profession are disproportionately high.  There are a lot of issues here, it is a complex problem, but I cannot help but think that the general public attitude towards vet is quite poor.  Vets are often accused of 'being in it for the money' or of 'not caring about pets' for various reasons  including treatment charges - but the reality is that they are not a charity and cannot use their time, equipment and skills for free without either running at a loss, not having a salary or burning out.  I have met a lot of people on the course, we have lots of differences, but one common goal, we love animals and want to help them.  As I've started practical work experience I have been staggered by the costs that most practices have to cover, including:

    • The vet surgeon's salary
    • The salary of the receptionist who schedules client appointments
    • The telephone line/broadband/email/website and utilities
    • The building rent/mortgage and the business rates
    • The salaries of the nurses
    • The cost of buying and storing medication in the premises, ready to be prescribed immediately when needed.
    • Professional memberships and CPD which have to be updated annually 
    • A student loan that for tuition alone will be around £46,250 for current vet graduates, let alone maintenance loan on top. Nurses will usually all have student loans too
    • Equipment such as kennels and cages, operating table, scalpels etc etc
    • 'Cheap' materials such as swabs and bandages, that are not cheap to buy in bulk
    • Gas for anaesthetics.
    • Pet food for clients staying in overnight

    Each consultation fee has to stretch a long way - a lot longer than I ever considered before I started work experience!!  So be kind to your vet, very few are 'in it for the money' most are doing a job they are incredibly passionate about, but they do need to pay the bills too! 

    So there you have it - my first blog in a year!  I am hoping to write all about vet school as I know so many would find it interesting - many more posts to follow!