Category Archives: Advice

Should I adopt a dog?

Among companion animals, dogs are unmatched in their devotion, loyalty and friendship to humankind. Anyone who has ever loved a dog can attest to its hundred-fold return. The excitement your dog shows when you come home, the wagging tail at the sound of the leash being taken from its hook, the delight in the tossing of a tennis ball, and the head nestled in your lap-those are only some of the rewards of being a dog owner.

Owning a dog is not just a privilege-it’s a responsibility. These animals depend on us for, at minimum, food and shelter, and deserve much more. If you are considering taking a dog into your life, you need to think seriously about the commitment that dog ownership entails. If you already have a dog, you need to consider if you are fulfilling all your obligations as its owner.

Consider the following carefully – Are You Really Ready To Get A Dog?

  • Have you done homework, such as reading about housebreaking, training, behavioral problems, and daily care of a dog? And what kinds of dogs are best for you and your family?
  • Will your working hours allow enough time to provide the care and exercise a dog needs every day?
  • If you have children, will you have time to provide the daily care and exercise a dog needs every day?
  • Will you have enough money to cover food, toys, annual vet exams, vaccinations, monthly heartworm preventative, flea control, unexpected medical costs, grooming, training, and boarding the pet when you travel?
  • Are you ready to live with a pet? Can you depend on your children not to pester a dog and let a dog out the door? Will you be able to watch the dog at all times when children visit your home?
  • If considering a puppy, will you be able to arrange for midday visits — since puppies need to go out every 4 hours or so to become housebroken?
  • Do you have time for obedience training and teaching house manners as necessary to help the dog become a good companion?
  • Do you travel frequently, and if so, what are your plans for the dog?
  • If you move, can you be sure your next place will allow dogs?
  • Can you make the commitment to care for this animal for his or her lifetime?


How to Care for Cats & Kittens

So, you’re going to get a kitty cat, congratulations. Cats are wonderful pets and the reasons for adopting a cat from us, the Louth SPCA, are numerous. Sure, you can’t go wrong. Our rescue cats will reward your love and kindness with a lifetime of unconditional devotion…you can’t rival that!

However, before you adopt your friendly feline, we want to make sure you know exactly what you’re letting yourself in for. I mean, apart from love, you’ll need to provide her with the correct food, fresh water, and a safe place to sleep, a litter tray and professional veterinary care.

We get lots of enquiries from and, for your information, we’ve decided to compile a list of frequently asked questions and answers because we know that it will be helpful for you, our new cat parents, to know what to expect when you bring her home.


There are a number of things to look out for. The cat that appears affectionate at first may suddenly become shy and withdrawn once she’s in her new home, or maybe she can become aggressive. Remember, your home is familiar to you but it’s a strange environment to your new friend. She may have spent some weeks, even months at a foster home, surrounded by other cats; so a bit of pre-planning on your part will help avoid problems.

How do I prepare for my cat’s arrival?

Ok, she’s had a bit of a rough day. She’s a bit stressed at leaving her foster home and her buddies and is not used to life outside this comfort zone. We suggest you keep her in a small, safe room for her first few days in her new home.

Let her set her own rules…initially. Don’t get upset if she hides under the sofa for a few days; this is fine, so long as she knows where her food, water and litter tray are; she’ll be ok. Also, give her a toy or two to play with. We bet when you’ve let the room she’ll come out and play and explore.

Gradually increase your time together. Sit down, read a book or watch some TV; we bet in no time at all she’ll hop up onto your lap and you’ll know she’s feeling safe and loved in her new home.

Keep your kitty safe by keeping her indoors. Cats love the security of always having access to the house. If you are allowing your kitty to go outdoors, we at the Louth SPCA recommend an enclosed, outdoor cat run, this way she gets the freedom of the great outdoors with the security of her own back garden.


What do I feed my cat?

Again, as with dogs, a healthy, balanced diet is essential. Take a look at different foods available and check the ingredients. Are they quality ingredients or are they fillers? Don’t go spending lots of money; instead ask for some samples and see how your kitty reacts to them. If, however, you are in doubt, discuss your cat’s dietary requirements with your vet. Make sure your cat has access to fresh, clean, water at all times.

Dry or wet cat food?

Dry cat food has become very popular with many cat parents. It’s convenient and cats seem to prefer dry food and it helps keep teeth clean. However, cats that eat a dry food only diet need plenty of fresh water. Try to choose dry food with little or no grain. Some grains like corm and wheat can trigger allergies in cats. Also a high carbohydrate diet can cause feline diabetes. If in doubt, check with your vet.

Can I give my cat dairy products?

Be careful about giving cats dairy products. Yep, they like them but they aren’t good for them, cat’s don’t digest them well and they may end up getting sick from eating them.

Remember: Cat’s are prone to dehydration. A cat can go without food for a couple of days, losing up to 40 per cent of her body weight and she will survive. However, a loss of body water of only 10 per cent can kill her. Make sure she has plenty of fresh water – we cannot stress this enough.


Do I bathe my cat?

Quick answer to this is no! Cats don’t need to be bathed. They are capable of cleaning themselves. However, there are a few reasons why you may need to bathe your cat and they are if she gets covered with an unpleasant or poisonous substance or if she has fleas. However, if you are inexperienced then you should let the vet take care of the bathing ritual.

Your cat, however, will benefit from a good, regular grooming. It’s well known they do a pretty excellent job of grooming themselves but if you want to take her from scruffy to fluffy, then you need to be able to provide her with expert grooming. Make sure you factor this cost into your budget.

The advantage of bringing your cat to a professional groomer is they are skilled and experienced. They will get your cat’s coat in ship shape quickly and, most importantly, humanely. If you’ve never removed matting and tangles from your cat’s coat you run the risk of injuring her.

Does my cat need toys?

Cats love anything shiny or small enough to smack across the floor. As she doesn’t have hands, she likes to pick things up with her mouth and this is where there is a danger of choking. Best case scenario, your cat can vomit or have diarrhoea, worse case scenario, there is a danger of choking. Provide your cat with a selection of toys that you can rotate regularly and make sure to get a scratching post…it will keep kitty away from the furniture.

Should I get my cat vaccinated?

Yes! It’s essential your cat is fully vaccinated and has her boosters. There are a lot of cat viruses out there that can make your cat seriously ill or are fatal, the cost of vaccinations are cheaper and a lot less stressful than having a sick kitty.

Should I get my cat spayed/neutered?

As shelters across the country are already full with unwanted cats, we at the Louth SPCA strongly recommend you have your cat spayed/neutered.   Two cats together can have 52 kittens each year and those kittens can breed as well so you do the math, that is a lot of kittens to get homes for.

Can I train my cat?

Hmmm! Cats usually have their own agenda when it comes to what they can and can’t do in the house. I mean, think surly teenagers and you’ll understand. However, with repeated, gentle, persuasion your cat will learn some basic house rules. Oh if only that was the case with teens!

Never, ever, hit your cat. If you do feel she needs an extra touch of discipline, we recommend you use a squirt gun filled with clean water to distract her momentarily if you catch her doing something you don’t want her to do.

Other info!

Provide a litter tray for your kitty. Put it in a quiet spot, cats like privacy.   Show her where it is and she’ll use it. Scoop the dirty litter out of the tray at least once a day and make sure you wash the tray on a regular basis.

Make sure your cat is micro chipped and wears a visible collar that includes her name and your contact details. If your cat does stray, and remember, a spayed/neutered kitty is less likely to want to stray, then, if she’s micro chipped, you increase your chances of having her returned safely.

On average cats live for 12-14 years, but they can live for up to 20 years.

Cats like to be alone and will look for companionship when they want it. They spend a lot of time resting but must be able to have enough space where they can play and climb. Indoor Cats need a lot of stimulation (toys, high areas to climb, scratching posts, etc ) or they can become bored and stressed.

If you need to pick up your cat place one hand beneath the cat’s chest and the other round its back legs, so that all its weight is supported if you need to pick up your kitty. Never pick up a cat by the scruff of its neck or front of its body.

Dealing With A Barking Dog

While the Louth SPCA would ideally like to think that every dog is happy in his environment, we all know that many are not. This unhappiness often manifests itself as excessive barking. Unfortunately if this dog is being regularly fed and has shelter (kennel for instance), our hands are tied as we only deal with neglect and abuse. This is a matter for your local council (however, do let us know if you believe the dog is without food and/or shelter).

Section 25 of the Control of Dogs Act 1986 deals with nuisance by barking dogs. If you don’t get a satisfactory response from the dog owner, you may complain to the District Court, using the form prescribed under the Control of Dogs Act. You can download a copy of this form from here.

The court may make an order requiring the occupier of the premises in which the dog is kept to abate the nuisance by exercising due control over a dog. The court may limit the number of dogs that can be kept on a premises or may direct that a dog be delivered to a dog warden to be dealt with as unwanted.

Read further information about control of dogs in general.

Dogs also bark due to behaviour problems or training problems, The biggest mistake people make when it comes to stopping your dog from barking is using punishment-based tactics or things like bark collars, sprays, shock, or pronged collars – they never work and are cruel to your canine companion. Instead you may well need to consult a professional dog trainer to help get to the root of things. It is very likely they can help get your dog’s barking under control!

How to deal with a break up as a pet owner

Experiencing a relationship breakdown is usually a stressful time for all parties involved. It can be made even more upsetting when considering what to do about your pet.

Many of us think of our pet as one of the family and the thought of losing them, as well as dealing with the emotional turmoil of a break up, can at times feel too much.

Sadly 10% of people said they had lost a pet during a break up with a partner, with more than 5% saying they had had to work out visiting hours with an ex.

However, there are a few things that you can think about in order to make the transition for your pet an easier one.

How pet ownership is legally decided

While pet owners will disagree, pets are considered property from a legal standpoint.

If a decision can’t be mutually reached on custody of your pet and you don’t have proof of ownership in your name, a court could decide on legal ownership and the return of the animal. However, they don’t have the power to order the legal owner to give access to the dog to the non-legal owner.

A court may take into consideration the following:

  • who bought the dog?
  • who the key provider is?
  • whose name is registered on the dog’s microchip and insurance?
  • who is registered with the vet?

Pet custody in divorce & separation

The best thing is to settle pet custody outside of court, and to come to a mutual decision together.

These can be hard conversations to have but, if you can, you will need to sit down with your partner and discuss what the arrangements will be regarding who will be keeping your pet, and whether the decision you have made will be the best for them.

The best decision will depend on what pet you have. For instance, if you have a dog and are considering sharing custody, you should consider what schedule will work best for your dog. They should have a key carer who has both the time and money to be able to care for them on their own.

This is slightly different for cats, as they become more attached to their environment and are better staying with the partner who is remaining in the same house. If neither of you are staying in the same place, then you can discuss who is in the best position to keep the cat, bearing in mind things like money, time and location (i.e. is it away from a busy main road?).

Who gets custody with two pets?

If you have two pets, you will need to think about their relationship with each other. If you have two pets that are attached then, while it may seem like the fair decision to have one pet each, this may not be the best decision for them.

However, if your pets are not particularly fond of each other, or seem more content when they are on their own, then splitting them up may be the right option for everyone involved.

How will my pet react to the change in circumstance?

It’s important to remember that your pet can easily sense changes in their environment. This means that if there is tension in the home or arguing, they can pick up on this and this may cause behaviour changes.

If you can, try to keep arguing and emotional discussions to a minimum around your pet.

Be sure to carefully monitor your pet for any changes in behaviour or appetite – this can be an indication that your pet is feeling anxious or stressed. A hormone diffuser such as Feliway or Adaptil can help keep your pet calm during what can be a stressful period of time.

Moving day for your pet

The days leading up to and immediately after your move can be stressful for everyone in the household, including your pet. All your pet has known and become familiar with, in terms of household objects and smells, changes dramatically and it is not surprising that some pets become stressed when moving house, with dogs and cats being most affected.

You may wish to consider placing your pet in a boarding kennel or a family/friends home for the duration of the move, which has the advantage of keeping them safe and stress-free while allowing you to attend to the details of the move. Once safely settled into your new home, with everything unpacked, collect your pet and dedicate the time needed to settle them into the new environment.

Settling your pet into a new home

When settling into your new home, remember that this will be a big change for your pet, so try to keep as much of the same routine as you can. If your pet has a specific time that they usually eat then try to keep this the same. Place familiar bedding and toys around your new home so that they are surrounded by familiar smells and, if you have a dog, try to walk them around the same time that you would usually.

For dogs, it’s a good idea to slowly reintroduce them to being left on their own in your new home. With all the changes in their environment, they may find it hard to adjust in the beginning. Given time and patience, they will get back into their usual routine.

Diabetes in Dogs

Diabetes is a disease that means the body is unable to properly regulate its glucose metabolism.  Glucose is typically metabolized by insulin, a hormone created in the pancreas.

There are two types of diabetes, insulin resistance (Type 2 Diabetes, which is more common in cats, and the inability to create insulin (Type 1 Diabetes) which is most common in dogs.  Type 1 diabetes is caused by the inability to create enough insulin.

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas becomes damaged by either inflammation, or the dog’s own immune system attacking it. The result is a shortage of insulin producing cells in the organ, which is irreversible.  Consequently, diabetic dogs are very unlikely to go into remission.

Signs of Diabetes in Dogs

The most common symptoms of diabetes in dogs is increased thirst and urination. This is caused by the glucose becoming too concentrated in the dogs bloodstream. Drinking more water helps to dilute the glucose. However, there are other medical conditions that can also cause your dog to drink more than usual, such as kidney or liver disease or Cushing’s Disease. Your vet will run some tests to check for diabetes; they will look for higher than normal levels of glucose in his blood and urine.


In both types of diabetes, the treatment is to supplement that insulin with injections of the hormone. The first step is to work out how much insulin your dog needs. Your dog will be admitted to hospital and given a measured dose, and then his blood will be checked at regular intervals to assess his response. When the amount of insulin he needs has been calculated, you can then continue to treat him at home. It’s not difficult to learn how to give insulin injections, and the needles are so fine that your dog will barely notice them.

It’s important that your dog’s energy needs are kept constant. This means that the are given the same amount of exercise, because more or less than usual will affect how much insulin they need. Similarly, their food intake should also be the same from day to day, both in quantity and the timing of their meals. If you can do this, then it will be easier to keep their blood glucose within normal limits.

Overweight dogs should be put on a restricted calorie diet, as weight loss can make it easier to regulate blood glucose. The hormone progesterone can raise blood glucose levels and make it difficult to stabilise a diabetic dog, so entire females should be spayed. There are a number of prescription dog foods that can help with this process if your veterinarian recommends them.

Most diabetic dogs will develop cataracts in their eyes, and this will affect their vision. However with a few adaptations, they can still have a good quality of life.

Diabetic Emergencies

There are two emergency situations that can occur in your diabetic dog.

  • Hypoglycemia. This occurs when his blood sugar drops too low, either because he has been given too much insulin or he hasn’t eaten all of his food. Symptoms are trembling and weakness, and some dogs even have seizures. Emergency treatment is to rub some glucose syrup or honey on his gums, which will quickly increase his blood glucose. Most dogs quickly recover after this, but it’s still worth having them checked by your vet.
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis. Insufficient insulin will lead to your dog metabolising his body fat to provide energy. The by-products of this metabolism are chemicals called ketone bodies. They have a distinctive odour, like nail polish remover. Affected dogs are lethargic, vomiting and off their food. Diabetic ketoacidosis often occurs before your dog is diagnosed with diabetes, because their pancreas isn’t producing enough insulin, but it can also happen if his diabetes isn’t well managed and his insulin dose is too low. This is a real emergency and your dog needs urgent veterinary treatment.

There is no cure for diabetes in dogs. However, with a committed owner, the disease can be managed well. This will allow your canine best friend to enjoy most of his normal daily activities.

How to Keep Your Dog (And Other Pets) Cool

As we all know, one of the most life-threatening mistakes people can make is to leave a dog in a vehicle during hot weather. Dogs can’t perspire, as humans do, to cool themselves off via evaporation, so they have to pant to cool themselves. If the air that they are taking in is too hot (as it is in a parked car in hot weather), then panting has little cooling effect and the dog quickly overheats.

Many people think their dog will be OK if they leave the windows open, but even with the windows wide open, the car can quickly become hot enough to cause heatstroke, brain damage, and even death. Your pet may pay dearly for even a few minutes spent in a sweltering car.  Please leave your pets at home during hot weather (and not outside, but inside with a fan and plenty of water).

Heat stroke in dogs

Signs of heat stroke include heavy panting that does not resolve as the pet rests, increasing distress, a tongue color that is dark red to almost purple, weakness or collapse, hyper-salivation, vomiting and labored breathing. If you suspect a dog or cat is suffering from heat stroke, move him to a cooler environment immediately and apply cool water to the abdomen, ears and foot pads. Don’t pour ice water over the whole animal, submerge him in a tub of cold water or cover him in a cold, wet blanket. Once he is stable, get him to a vet as quickly as possible, even if he seems to be cooling down and his temperature seems normal. Things may be happening on the inside that are not obvious from the outside.

Walking a dog in hot weather

If you walk your dog on lead, keep in mind that asphalt can get very hot during the summer. In fact, it can get hot enough to burn a dog’s pads, causing him pain for days. You might want to do only short walks early in the morning or later in the evening, when the temperatures are lower. Before taking your dog for a walk, check the ground for hotness with one of your own hands or bare feet. If you can’t keep your hand (or foot) on the ground for more than three seconds, it’s probably too hot to walk your furry friend. Dogs who are older or overweight, have a thick coat or have a pushed-in nose (such as bulldogs, Boston terriers and pugs) are especially at risk of overheating. On walks, bring water for both you and your pet, or a collapsible bowl if there’s a water source on your route.

Provide water for a dog at all times

Providing water for your dog is always important, but it’s especially critical during hot weather. If your dog is inside during the day, make sure you supply fresh, cool water that remains in a shaded spot throughout the day, since sun coming through a window can heat a bowl of water. Most dogs won’t drink hot water no matter how thirsty they are.

If your dog stays outside during the day, make sure his water bowl isn’t in a place where he will tip it over. Water bowls can be tipped over by dogs trying to make a cool spot to lie down. If necessary, buy a tip-proof water bowl. Also, make sure he has a shady place where he can get relief from the sun. Kiddie pools are a nice way to give dogs their own clean puddle in which to play.


Cats, of course, also need plenty of cool water during hot weather. White cats can become sunburned if they lay in the sun too long. Even if they’re indoor cats, they can get sunburned through a sunny window.


Rabbits can also be adversely affected by extremes of temperature. To control the temperature of their environment and to keep them safe from predators, rabbits should be kept inside. The temperature inside their houses should not drop below 15 or go above 23 degrees. Heat stroke can occur in a rabbit at 26 degrees.

A little empathy goes a long way in protecting our pets from extreme weather. Basically, if it’s too hot for us to stay comfortable in the car, in the yard or on a walk, it’s even HOTTER for our furry friends. Use your common sense, and don’t kill your pet with stupidity!

How to Care for Horses, Ponies & Donkies

Owning a horse or pony can be very rewarding, but it is a huge responsibility and very hard work. You need time, money, commitment and access to suitable land.  Every responsible horse owner and handler will need to keep themselves updated on all aspects of horse care and information in order to ensure their animals live a long, happy and healthy life.  It’s no secret that horses require a certain level of care, including exercise, grooming and vaccinations.

Depending on where you live / keep your horse you may need to have a licence to keep a Horse, Pony or Donkey.

When you get your horse you should get him micro-chipped and registered on a database.  The micro-chip is injected into the horses neck and should not cause him any discomfort.  You should also keep a record of the micro-chip number on his passport or identity card.

Another thing to consider when you get your horse is horse and rider insurance – Allianz can give you full details on the cover provided.  Check out their website on

Most horses and ponies can live for over 20 years and some can even live into their 30’s, so owning a horse is very much a long term commitment.


Horses, in their natural state, live in herds, and they love the company of their own kind.  As such they are also designed to graze in open spaces.  It is better for them to live outside then be permanently stabled, but if the horse is to live outdoors all the time, then they must have access to suitable shelter when the weather is too hot, cold or wet.

Horses are very much creatures of habit, and are more relaxed in a stable routine with the same thing happening at the same time every day, especially when it comes to feeding times.


When handling your horse always be aware of the look in his eye.  This will help you to know his thoughts and to anticipate his movements, be they friendly or aggressive.

For everything else the golden rules are to speak quietly, handle the horse firmly but gently and avoid sudden movements that could startle the horse and panic.

Always speak to any horse before you approach it and while you are handling or working around the horse.  This allows the horse to be able to recognise the voice of the person who feeds him or from whom kindness is expected.  It can also make it easier to catch if the horse is out with his mates in a big field – he will hear your voice and know to come to you.

When moving your horse you should either use a correctly fitted head-collar or a halter.  If you are using a head-collar these can be generally left on the horse when they are out in a field, provided there is nothing for the horse to catch the collar on, such as branches or broken fencing.  Halters are not designed to be left on the horse as the excess rope that is used to lead the horse cannot be removed and so will be left to trail on the ground, which means it can get caught or the horse can step on it and injury himself.

If you are leaving the head-collar on the horse, be sure that it fits snugly – not too tight that it can rub the horse, but not too loose that it gets caught in branches.  You should also check and clean the head-collar regularly to be sure that there is no build up of dirt and causing an irritation to the horse.

When leading your horse, you should be able to lead the horse on both sides.  However, majority of horses are used though to being led from the left hand side.  When leading a horse, always walk at his shoulder – it is harder from him to kick out or step on you if you are beside his front leg.

If you must lead a horse on a road, the horse must travel in the same direction as the traffic and the person leading the horse should be between the horse and the traffic.  This is for your own safety – if the horse spooks away from the traffic he will also be spooking away from you and so you won’t end up being squished by a frightened or nervous horse.

Horse in the Field

If the field and horse are properly managed, many horses and ponies thrive on living out in fields and it can save you considerable time and money.

In the growing seasons of spring and early summer, if the fields are big enough they will be sufficient to provide the horses their full dietary requirements.  In this case, you will only need to provide fresh water and a salt-lick.  Grass-kept horses are also able to exercise themselves as they are not constricted by space – this will also reduce the necessity for you to exercise them every day.

The downside of keeping your horse at grass, is that they can get very dirty and wet, he can decide not be caught when you want him, it is very difficult to regulate the diet and during the winter extra feed may need to be put out if the grass is inadequate or the horse is doing a lot of work.

It is very hard to give you hard and fast rules about the amount of land needed to support a horse.  A lot depends on the quality of the grass in the area, the drainage of the land and the nature of the soil.  If a number of horses are being kept in the one field then the general rule of thumb on the minimum size the field should be is one acre per horse.  But a field the size of one acre is not big enough for a single horse – they need to be able to move around.

Ideally, you should rotate fields so that the fields have a chance to rest and the grass gets a chance to grow.  Constant grazing in the one field can make the field horse sick, and therefore, unsuitable for the horses to remain on.

In order to ensure your horses are safe from wandering off the field and into traffic or populated areas the field needs to be properly secured.  Properly treated post and rail fencing with a hedge at the back are considered the best, but so are properly maintained thick hedges and stone walls.  The main points to note when securing your fields are the following –

  • Can the horse easily jump the fence
  • Can the horse push through the fence
  • Can the horse injury himself from sharp edges, barbwire, or protruding nails.

The following plants are poisonous and they should be removed before leaving a horse in the field:

  • Privet
  • Ragwort – by law this plant should be cleared from grazing land on a regular basis
  • Foxglove
  • Yew
  • Horsetail
  • Hemlock
  • Laburnum
  • Acorn (oak)
  • Nightshade – woody, black and deadly varieties

If you decide to keep your horse in a field, you will still need to provide the horse with some form of shelter from the elements.  Our weather is getting more extreme with heavy snow falls, cold spells to heavy rain and heat waves.

A shelter shed should be built in the corner of a field with its back to the prevailing wind and easily accessible for feeding.  It should be positioned so that a horse cannot get trapped between it and the boundary fence.  A shed which is open fronted will also lessen the possibility of one horse being cornered and injured by another.  Also don’t remove the cobwebs as they act as a useful and free trap for flies.  You may not see your horses using the shelter that much in the winter, but in the summer they provide great protection from flies.

NB: Your horse should always have access to clean fresh water.

If a stream runs through the field make sure that the approach to the water is not steep or likely to cause injury to the horse.  Also the water should be free flowing and not stagnant.  If there is no stream in the field then you need to supply water to the field.  A large trough or old bathtubs with smooth edges are ideal.  They should be checked and cleaned regularly at the very least twice a day, more in hot weather and any ice taken out during cold weather.


The rules to good feeding are as follows:

  • Clean fresh water must be available at all times
  • Feed little and often (for their size horses have very small stomachs)
  • Feed according to work, temperament and condition – if you have a big cob he may need a higher energy feed then your flighty thoroughbred.  Also the sick horse will be on a different feed to the health horse.  Like people, each horse is different so you need to change your feeds to suit each horse
  • Keep to the same feeding hours each day
  • Do not work hard immediately after feeding – take your horse out of the field at the very least ½ hour before riding him, depending on the work he is about to do
  • Feed adequate roughage – grass, hay, chaff or bran
  • Introduce changes to feed gradually – horses have sensitive digestive systems if you change their diet too quickly they can get colic and other illness.
  • Feed clean, good quality forage – you would not eat bread covered in mould, so don’t give mouldy feed to your horse
  • Feed something succulent every day – depending on your horse, this can mean grass or a carrot.

If the field has not got enough grass for the horses or they are doing hard work, you will need to supplement their grass diet with hay and what are called ‘hard feeds’.  These are oats, barley, pony cubes, mixes etc.  In order to give your horse the correct hard feeds you should talk to your supplier about the right diet for your horse taking into account the amount of work the horse is expected to do each day, the type of horse you have and the condition he is in.


Most Irish horse, like the draught and cob, will not need rugs.  If the horse is fit and healthy, their own coat will keep them comfortable and warm, but if he has been clipped, or if his coat is very fine and he is groomed regularly then you will need to put a rug on to protect him from the cold.  This is why the grass kept horse should not be groomed on a regular basis.  You should check for any cuts, bumps or bruises on a daily basis, but only give him a light groom such as cleaning the feet and removing heavy mud and sweat marks.  This will allow the horse to maintain the natural oil balance in his coat and reduce the need to use a rug.


You don’t need to have all the latest products and gadgets to keep your horse clean and happy.  A few basic pieces will be sufficient.  The necessary things you should have are:

  • Hoof pick – absolute must have, if your horse can’t walk, you can’t ride him
  • Curry comb – either plastic or rubber, very good for lifting dirt off the coat, massaging the muscles and cleaning the body brush
  • Body brush – removes the dust and scurf from the coat, mane and tail
  • Water brush – for use with your bucket of water to remove heavy mud and stains
  • Sponge or cloth – for cleaning eyes, nose and muzzle and dock.  Don’t clean the dock and then the face – it would be like you cleaning your bum and then using the same towel on your face!!


Remember, ‘No Foot – No Horse’

Depending on your horse and the type of work he does your horse will need to see the farrier between 4 and 8 weeks, and they will also be able to tell you how you should look after their feet and whether or not they need shoes.  You should talk to your farrier about the best practice for your horse or pony.

Your farrier will also be able to help and advise if your horse has laminitis or other hoof related injuries / aliments.

Laminitis is a very serious condition which can cause severe lameness and deformity in the horses hoof.  There is no one cause for laminitis and there is no cure – but it can be controlled and prevented.  Every horse is different, so while one horse in a herd may develop the condition it does not mean all the horses will.  Some causes of Laminitis are too much rich feed, not enough exercise, standing still on hard ground all the time, pregnancy.

Laminitis is the inflammation and swelling of the sensitive areas in the horses hoof around the bone and behind the hoof wall.  The level of discomfort would be something akin to you putting on and wearing 24/7 a pair of shoes a size to small for you – causing your foot to be pressed into the narrower area with no room for movement.

If you suspect your horse has laminitis contact your vet immediately, followed by your farrier as he may need to remove or re-adjust the shoes on the horse to help relieve the discomfort.

Bad shoeing can also lead to laminitis, so make sure your farrier is fully qualified.


Just as you should go the dentist once a year for a check up so should your horse.  Horse’s teeth also need to be seen to on an annual basis.  Due to the nature of a horse’s diet and the way they eat, horses teeth can develop very sharp edges which will result in discomfort for the horse and in turn for you as the rider / handler.  There are specialist equine dentists in Ireland and some do come from the UK on an annual basis to visit yards.  So check with your local yard to see when the next dentist visit is planned.

Looking after a sick / injured horse

With the best intentions in the world, we cannot always prevent our horses and ponies from being sick or getting injured.  We can reduce the risks but sometimes these things just happen.  And when they do happen – the important thing is not to panic and not to leave the horse in pain.

To help reduce the chances of your horse getting Equine Flu or Tetanus you should have him vaccinated once a year and keep clear records of the injections on his passport / identification card.

A big problem facing a herd of horses is worms.  To prevent your horse getting ill from an infestation of worms you should worm your horse on a regular basis – roughly every 6 – 8 weeks.  Talk to your local vet to confirm the type of worming dose to give your horse throughout the year.  Different types of worms appear at different times of the year and no one product is effective against them all.

If your horse is sick or injured contact your vet straight away – it does not matter the time of day or night.  Depending on the severity of the injury / sickness the vet may tell you what to do over the phone or he may call out.

If you suspect your horse to have colic, contact your vet immediately.  Colic is a very serious condition.  The symptoms of colic include laying down and getting back up again repeatedly, the horse looking at their quarters (bum / hind legs), stamping the ground, swishing of their tail, unable to go to the toilet though they keep trying.  The horse may not present himself to you with all these symptoms – he may only show one or two, but you should be able to recognise in your own horse  through constant handling when he is not feeling well.

If your horse has an injury or illness, don’t keep riding the horse, unless the vet gives the all clear.  Give your horse a couple of days rest and then start back with gentle walking in hand before sitting up on him and taking him for gentle hacks.  You would not like to be asked to play a football match if you hurt your leg or were sick – so allow your horse time to recover before putting him back to hard work.

Going away on holiday

If you are going away on holiday have a friend agree to look after your horse while you are away.  Leave them the contact numbers of your vet and farrier and also any special diet requirements your horse is currently on.

What to do if you find a baby wild animal

Many wild animals are born during the spring and summer months. In your own back garden, you may come across baby rabbits, squirrels, deer, and other young wildlife as they make they make their way into the world.

For many people, the pleasure of seeing these young creatures is mixed with a sense of protectiveness—of wanting to help them survive. But spotting a baby animal by himself doesn’t necessarily mean he’s an orphan. Many wildlife parents leave their young alone during the day, sometimes for long periods. The mother is usually nearby and quite conscious of her young. Also, keep in mind that despite their small size, many young animals are actually independent enough to fend for themselves.

  • a wild animal presented to you by a cat or dog
  • bleeding
  • an apparent or obvious broken limb
  • shivering
  • evidence of a dead parent nearby

Wild animals can suffer greatly through being handled and this should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

Injured or Sick?

If the baby has any one of the following signs, he or she is probably sick or injured and in need of assistance:

  • bleeding or wounded
  • seen in a cat’s or dog’s mouth, or if there is a likelihood that the animal was picked up by a cat or dog
  • wet and/or shivering
  • hit by a car, lawnmower, boat, or other vehicle
  • limping
  • a drooping wing (But if both wings appear to be “drooping” by the same amount, it could be normal—it depends on the species)

Some young animals appear injured when they’re not. If the animal has none of the above signs, he may be healthy.

Is the Animal Really an Orphan?

The Louth SPCA often receives phone calls about orphan animals that aren’t really orphaned at all. Many young animals may appear to be orphaned, but actually may be doing just fine on their own. Determining whether or not an animal is an orphan depends on the animal’s age and species, and how you may perceive their natural behaviors. Here’s more information on the young of species you may encounter, to help you decide whether or not they need to be rescued.

Baby Foxes

Often fox kits will appear unsupervised for long periods of time while their parents are out hunting for food. Observe the kits from a distance; if they seem energetic and healthy, just leave them alone. Only contact a wildlife rehabilitator if the kits appear sickly or weak, or if you have reason to believe both parents are dead.

Baby Rabbits

If you find a nest of baby rabbits and the nest is intact and the babies uninjured, leave them alone. Mother rabbits only visit their young 2-3 times a day to avoid attracting predators.

If the rabbit nest has been disturbed, or if you think the babies are orphaned, recover the nest with surrounding natural materials such as grass and leaves.

  • Put an “X” of sticks or yarn over the nest to assess if the mother is returning to nurse her young.
  • If the “X” is moved but the nest is still covered by the next day, the mother has returned to nurse the babies.
  • If the “X” remains undisturbed for 24 hours, contact a wildlife rehabilitator near you.

Keep all pets out of the area, as they will surely find and kill the young rabbits. Also, try not to touch the babies, as mother rabbits are very sensitive to foreign smells and may abandon their young. A rabbit who is four inches long with open eyes and erect ears is independent from his mother and able to fend for himself.

Baby Squirrels

If tree work was recently done and the nest or baby fell down as a result, give the mother squirrel a chance to reclaim her young.

If the baby is uninjured, leave him where he is, then leave the area and keep people and pets away. Monitor from a safe distance.

If the baby is not retrieved by sundown, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator. If it’s chilly outside, or the baby isn’t fully furred, place him in a shallow box with something warm underneath (like a heating pad on a low setting or a hot water bottle) so he doesn’t get cold and compromised while waiting for his mother to return. Do not cover the squirrel with leaves or blankets, as the mother may not be able to find him.

Note: A squirrel who is nearly full sized, has a full and fluffy tail and is able to run, jump, and climb is independent.

Baby Deer

If you come across a young deer, remember they are also very resilient in the wild but very difficult to rehabilitate once removed from their natural habitat – they often die from stress. People often mistakenly assume that a baby deer, called a fawn, is orphaned if found alone. Rest assured that the mother deer, the doe, is probably nearby. The doe will only visit and nurse her fawn a few times a day to avoid attracting predators. Roe deer give birth in May and June and fallow deer mostly have their young in June. Fawns can walk within an hour of being born. Unless you know the mother is dead, leave the fawn alone.

Mother deer are wary of human smells; if you have already handled the fawn, take a towel, rub it in the grass, and then wipe down the fawn to remove all human scent. Then return the fawn to the place where you found him.

If the fawn is lying on his side, or wandering and crying incessantly, he may be orphaned. If this is the case, call a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. But remember: a fawn found alone and quiet is okay.

If a wild animal exhibits any of the above signs, you should immediately call one of the following local resources for assistance. You will find listings for most of these in your telephone directory, or try an online search.

  • Local animal shelter
  • Animal control agency

Capture and Transport

Once you’ve contacted the right person, describe the animal and his physical condition as accurately as possible. Any wild animal can be dangerous, so take safety precautions, even with small babies. Unless directed otherwise, here’s how you can make an animal more comfortable for transport or while you’re waiting for help to arrive:

  • Prepare a cardboard box big enough to hold the baby. A shoe box works well for most song birds and small baby mammals, but some animals might need a larger box.
  • Line the box with an old t-shirt or soft cloth and poke holes in the sides before you put the animal in the box.
  • Wear gardening gloves if you are handling a small bird and leather gloves if you are handling a larger bird or a mammal.
  • For most animals, it is best to use a towel to cover the animal and then gently scoop her into the box and close the lid securely. But if the animal is a baby mammal larger than a small rodent (squirrel), it is best not handle her at all. Instead, use the box itself to scoop her up.
  • Do not give the animal food or water. He could choke, develop digestive problems, or drown. Many injured animals are in shock, and eating or drinking can make it worse. It is far more important to keep the baby warm and safe than to feed him immediately. If the rehabilitator is unable to arrive soon, he or she will instruct you on what else to do, if anything.
  • Place the container in a warm, dark, quiet place—away from pets, children, and noise—until you can transport the animal.
  • Transport the animal as soon as possible. While in the car, keep the carrier out of the sun and away from direct air conditioning or heat. Keep the car radio off and talking to a minimum.