Battersea Dogs & Cats Home has today renewed its call for tougher sentences for horrific cases of animal abuse and cruelty, after a Welsh farmer was jailed for 18 weeks for killing his sheepdog.
Tredegar man Graham Thomas was convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to Welsh Border Collie Prince after the dog failed to round up his flock of sheep correctly.
Thomas reportedly hanged Prince from a large tree on his farm after witnesses saw him shouting and swearing at the dog. The RSPCA investigated and took him to court.
At the sentencing hearing yesterday (21 March), which followed Thomas’s conviction on 12 March, Newport Magistrates’ Court heard the offence was so serious that only a custodial sentence could be a suitable punishment and he was jailed for 18 weeks.
He was also banned from keeping dogs and sheep for life and ordered to pay £750 prosecution costs and a £15 victim surcharge.
The news comes weeks after Westminster drafted a proposed amendment to the law on new legislation to increase the maximum sentence for animal cruelty in England and Wales to five years in prison.
Battersea research shows England and Wales’ current six-month maximum sentence for animal cruelty is the lowest in Europe.
Battersea’s chief executive, Claire Horton, said: “Shocking cases like this show how important it is to increase sentences for the most serious cases of animal cruelty.
“Had this man been convicted of fly tipping, he could have been jailed for up to five years. Instead, he has escaped with just a few months in prison. We urge Westminster not to lose sight of this vital issue and to tighten up our laws as soon as possible.”
Dozens of animals have reportedly been removed from a 4 Paws Veterinary Clinic in North Lincolnshire, following a raid by the police and RSPCA.
There were an estimated 30 dog rescue vehicles at the scene in South Killingholme, after police and rescue services arrived at the property at 8.30am on 22 March 2018. Dogs Trust were also present at the scene.
The Humberside Police have not yet revealed any details, but have said the raid was a result of an intel-led operation.
Humberside Police Inspector Tim Harvey said: “We and our colleagues at the RSPCA are currently carrying out an intel-led operation at an animal rescue organisation in Killingholme. At this stage, we cannot confirm any further details, as the investigation is ongoing.”
An RSPCA spokesperson said: “RSPCA officers have accompanied police as a warrant is being executed at a property in Killingholme in Lincolnshire today, Thursday, March 22. Dogs Trust and vets are also present to assist.
“As an investigation is ongoing, we cannot go into any further detail.”
The PetQuip Association is also asking the industry for nominations for retailers or suppliers who in the opinion of the nominee deserve to be winners.
The PetQuip Awards will take place on the first evening of PATS Telford at a gala dinner and party on Sunday 23 September 2018.
The categories for the 2018 PetQuip Awards are:
Business of the Year
Pet Product Innovation of the Year
Exporter of the Year
Marketing Project of the Year
UK Pet Retailer of the Year
International Pet Retailer/Distributor of the Year
The nominations can be made anonymously, and PetQuip will contact anyone who has been nominated to progress the entry.
The PetQuip Awards 2018 take place in association with PATS Telford in the Ludlow Suite, International Centre, Telford on Sunday 23rd September at 7.30pm. The PATS Telford New Product Awards will also be presented at the PetQuip dinner. Tickets cost £80 plus VAT (or only £70 plus VAT to PetQuip members). Early Early bird bookings for tables (by 31 March 2018) will secure a 10 percent discount and a bottle of fizz.
Commenting on the launch of the awards this year and the continued success of the event, PetQuip trade association manager Pat Flynn said: ”This year is the sixth year that the awards have been staged. Such has been the success of the event that suppliers, retailers and our friends in the trade eagerly await each edition of the awards, since the event provides an ideal combination of networking, fun, excellent publicity for the entrants and true pride among the finalists and winners in their achievements.
“We plan to make this year’s event even more successful. It will be a fun evening of networking between customers and peers in the pet trade and included in the festivities is a pre-dinner drinks reception, a three course meal with wine, entertainment and the awards themselves. Do come and join us.”
Direct Food Ingredients has achieved a AA grade in BRC Global Standard for Agents and Broker, making the firm one of the first ingredients suppliers in the UK to achieve this accreditation.
The BRC Global Standard Audit has been developed to provide a framework for managing product safety, quality and legality for non-manufacturing businesses in the food and packaging industries.
With five key focuses, the Global Standard concentrates on senior management commitment and continued improvement, hazard and risk assessment, product safety and quality management system, supplier and subcontracted service management and personnel.
Steve Loake, managing director of Direct Food Ingredients, said “We are incredibly delighted to have been awarded this highly-respected accreditation, achieving a status which we did not know would be possible on the initial attempt at this new global standard version.”
“In addition to our noteworthy certification from Informed-Sport, this accreditation gives us a remarkable advantage in this forever expanding industry.”
Direct Food Ingredients has turned over in excess of £21.2m at year end in 2017.
Research by pet grooming company FURminator has revealed that less than one in 10 Brits consider a breed’s grooming requirements to be important when choosing a dog.
For 40% of dog owners, temperament was the most considered factor when it came to choosing their desired breed. This is followed by how suitable the breed was for a family setting, their size, appearance and general reputation.
The top five most popular breeds, according to research by the Kennel Club, are all very different dogs with very different grooming needs.
Long-haired collies should be brushed daily to ensure their fur stays free from tangles while Staffordshire Bull Terriers require a bath every three weeks as they can be susceptible to allergies causing their skin to become irritated. Long-haired Jack Russells will need to visit the groomers every three months for a hand-strip, with a wash and brush in between, which can add up to nearly £400 a year.
And, while mixed breeds, such as Cockapoos and Labradoodles have beautiful thick curly coats that are very desirable, they should visit the groomers every three weeks which can cost anything up to £80 a session.
Stuart Simons, FURminator’s grooming expert and founder of the Groomer’s Spotlight, said: “It’s understandable that a dog’s nature would be hugely important to anyone looking to introduce a new pet to their home. However, what is worrying is that so few people consider the grooming needs of their pooch.
“Grooming is a really important part of pet maintenance as not only does it ensure that dogs look healthy and happy, but regular grooming sessions at home can create a relaxing environment where owners and their pet can boost the bond between them, while giving owners the chance to check for any skin issues such as dandruff or unfamiliar lumps.”
A three-month-old puppy, who was bought while the buyer’s parents were on holiday, but later no longer wanted, has found a new home.
The Jack Russell pup, named Donnie, had been sold to a young buyer who had purchased the pup while their parents were on holiday.
Unfortunately after the parents returned from holiday they couldn’t cope with looking after the puppy and the poor pooch was later brought into London-based animal welfare charity, Mayhew.
Mayhew’s head of animal welfare, Zoe Edwards, said: “There are already so many unwanted animals in rescue centres like ours that have come from people who buy pets on a whim, without taking into consideration the responsibilities and needs of the animal.
“At Mayhew we do not judge and we are here to assist and advise pet owners on the best course of action for their animal.
“Absolutely anyone over the age of 16 can walk into a pet shop or buy any animal they want online. There are no checks on the reliability and ability of buyers to look after pets.
“Mayhew is a member of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG), which aims to ensure that pets advertised for sale are done so legally and ethically. It also aims to raise public awareness of the need to act responsibly when buying pets from websites and the need to do research before making any purchase. We ask that owners think responsibly about where they get their pets from and consider adopting a rescue dog or cat first.
“When getting a new pet you should always consider whether you will be able to look after them correctly, and if you are able to provide them with the Five Welfare Needs including a suitable environment and the need to be protected from pain, injury, disease, and suffering.”
After receiving a thorough health check from Mayhew’s Vet Team at their on-site Community Vet Clinic, including vaccinations and neutering, Donnie was put up for adoption and quickly found a new home.
Donnie has since been renamed Peanut and is enjoying his new life in his loving home, and particularly loves chasing tennis balls.
Peanut’s new owner, Steve, said: “Peanut is full of beans and is learning very quick. After a couple of hours of chasing a ball, he likes to rest – he snores very loudly and even barks in his sleep.
“He may be very excitable, but he makes up for it by being cute and loveable. My previous Jack Russell reached 17 years of age and I’m hoping that Peanut will do the same.”
Mayhew supports the government’s call for evidence on whether there should be a ban on third party puppy sales. Environment secretary, Michael Gove, has invited all interested parties to share their views by May 2nd, 2018, on how this could best be introduced.
Founded in 1948, family-run company Dorwest Herbs produces the only herbal medicines authorised by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. With a passion for keeping pets in tip-top health, the manufacturer supplies the pet sector with dietary supplements and homeopathic products.
This year, Dorwest is celebrating 70 years in business, with brand new products to keep up-to-date with the ever expanding sector. Managing director, Jo Boughton-White, the third generation of her family to lead Dorwest, explains “It is incredible to think that seven decades and three generations ago my grandparents Murray and Dorothy Ellis were pulling together their initial ideas for a business. Their passion for both herbs and health planted the seeds to create Dorwest and the development of those unique herbal formulations. It wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that Dorwest really came into its own and started specialising in the veterinary market. This injection of energy, knowledge and passion came from my parents Mary and Tony Boughton who transformed Dorwest Herbs and grew it to the company it is today. We are now in more than 20 countries around the world.”
The company prides itself on giving the best treatment to pets possible, with a herbal twist. It provides a natural alternative for owners who don’t want to give their pet medicated supplements. “Nothing beats having healthy and happy pets, we aim to provide products which work in harmony with dog’s and cat’s natural processes,” Jo explains. “A commitment to medicinal rigours underpins everything we do, and we prepare our treatments to pharmaceutical standards using active ingredients taken from the ‘whole plant’. Using the leaves, stems, roots and first pressings of oil, this means that there are no second-stage extracts, and all our herbs meet the utmost in quality standards.
“We are also the only company in the UK to hold herbal medicine licences authorised by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, and we are the UK’s leading provider of canine and feline herbal treatments. With a growing demand for natural alternatives in our human lifestyles, this demand is equally as important in pet care, and at Dorwest we understand this. That’s why we strive to produce the best possible medicines and supplements for their health and nutritional needs, that keep their life in balance. We also have UK based advisors on hand for support, and a free correspondence training scheme designed for stockists. This helps anyone stocking Dorwest products gain essential product knowledge, enabling them to promote the range with confidence.”
Celebrating its 70th birthday with a bang, Dorwest is kicked off its celebrations at world-famous dog show Crufts. As well as their 70th birthday, this year also marks the business’ 45th year at the largest dog event. Launching new products isn’t all the company is focused on. “As part of our 70th birthday and to show our commitment to ongoing charitable giving, we are extremely proud to announce the launch of the Dorwest Foundation. We wanted to ensure that our 70th year was not only a time to reflect on our heritage, but also to look to the future and give something back to the dog and cat world,” Jo says. “The aim of the Foundation is to help dogs and cats that are in need of care, health and quality of life improvements. The Dorwest Foundation will donate to established animal welfare charities on an annual basis through the sale of our special foundation products.
“One of these products is a limited edition 70th birthday dog biscuit tin which include handmade ‘Keeper’s Bix’ cheesy biscuits, all profits from this item will go to the Foundation. Our brilliant supplement Keeper’s Mix is now our official Foundation Product, and ten percent of profit from every sale will be donated from now onwards. The celebrations will continue at PATS Sandown with a free celebratory tin with every order.”
The Product Launch
Marking such a milestone wouldn’t be the same without brand new exciting products hitting the shelves. In January Dorwest Herbs launched Neutradog, a unique blend of natural ingredients perfect for a whole host of ‘smelly issues’. The powerful combination of Chorophyllin, parsley, seaweed and mint aims to help neutralise smells by absorbing odour causing compounds and naturally removing them through the body. “This product is perfect for any dogs with bad breath or yeasty smelly skin and will even help bitches in season and smelly older dogs. Already we have had some great feedback and customer stories,” says Jo.
The next product launched for 2018 is Turmeric Tablets. Turmeric has attracted lots of attention recently and owners are keen to supplement their dogs diet, but sometimes find it hard to know which is best. Jo explains, “We have therefore searched high and low with the emphasis on quality to find the perfect source. Our Turmeric Tablets contain an incredibly pure and high potency extract of Turmeric, consisting of 95 percent curcuminoids which are known as the active part of this well documented herb.
“The turmeric that we source is traditionally grown in its native region of Southern India using sustainable farming methods, and this source of turmeric is renowned for its purity and traceability. Bioperine is included in our Turmeric Tablets for its ability to increase the bioavailability of nutritional compounds. Turmeric is well documented for its ability to support the body’s natural anti-inflammatory processes, and we are expecting this product to be extremely popular.”
Being a innovative brand the company is always looking for new ways to reach out to customers and pet owners. This year, the Dorwest Herbs show team is set to have a busy year. “As well as our normal circuit of UK Champion Dog Shows, PATS Sandown and Telford and veterinary exhibitions, we will also be attending Dog Fest South West, the National Pet Show, as well as the International Agility Festival.”
Dorwest Herbs may look a little different than it did 20 years ago, and a lot different to 70 years ago! However, the company is proud to say that its values have remained the same, Jo says “we are family owned and managed, every single one of our team love what we do. We will continue to be a company you can depend upon to produce herbal products that keeps dogs and cats lives in balance.”
To become a stockist or for more information on Dorwest’s new products call 01308 897272, email email@example.com or visit www.dorwest.com
As much as Britain is known for its cool and wet weather, it is also common to experience sudden increases in temperature and yearly heatwaves. While we are currently getting over a prolonged cold snap, it won’t be long before the weather suddenly gets warmer so it’s imperative to prepare pet owners for the unexpected, and sometimes drastic, change.
As smaller pets – such as rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats, ferrets and mice – are generally kept in enclosed habitats such as cages and hutches it is completely under the responsibility of the owner to ensure they are kept in suitable conditions, as the animals are relatively restricted in their movement.
There are some simple changes that can be made to a small animal’s environment to make sure they remain comfortable and out of harm’s way as the temperature rises.
Keep water topped up
Pet owners will need to keep a closer eye on the water levels in the small animal’s habitat, as it runs the risk of evaporating in warmer weather. Pet owners should make sure that enough water is in their pets cage or hutch at all times. A good supply of water will help the small animal to regulate its fluid balance and keep it refreshed as the day goes on. The bowl or bottle the water is in should be easily accessible, but not possible to overturn. A few ice cubes can also be kept in the water to keep it sufficiently cool and prevent evaporation.
Feed them water-filled foods
One way to easily hydrate a small animal is to feed them foods with a high water content. Fruits and vegetables like cucumber, lettuce, radish, apples, berries, cherries, melon, grapes, strawberries, watercress, celery leaves, tomatoes and fresh spinach are good food-related sources of water and hydration. Be careful not to feed too much fruit to certain small animals though as the sugar can cause health problems.
Keep them in the shade
This might seem like a common one but pet owners need to be mindful of where they keep their small animals. As mentioned earlier, the cages and hutches a small animal is kept in will render it stationary, leaving the animal no option but to remain in a spot which may be too hot or harmful. Pet owners should try to keep their pets out of direct sunlight, away from windows and in an area which doesn’t get too hot throughout the day. Pet owners should also be aware of the changes that one location may go through – what might seem like a cool, shaded spot in the late afternoon could be very warm and in direct sunlight at midday. Preferably, small pets shouldn’t be kept in metal hutches or cages during summer, as they attract heat. Also, pet owners should be advised to refrain from keeping their small animal unattended in a hot car. Bear in mind animals within the store, if you sell them, as they will also need protection for window heat.
…But keep them away from fans
To make sure a small animal is kept sufficiently cool, it might be tempting for pet owners to sit them in the line of a fan or in an air-conditioned room as a quick fix to possible overheating. While small animals are particularly sensitive to heat, keeping them in the direct line of cold air for prolonged periods may leave them vulnerable to ill health, especially when left unattended. Also, if a hamster gets too cold for too long, they may go into hibernation while gerbils and ferrets may go into a lethargic, hibernation-like state – something which is discouraged among captivated pets. A fan might also be ineffective as it works by cooling down human sweat thus regulating our temperature, however, small animals do not perspire.
Look out for fly strike
Fly strike – or Myiasis – is more common in the summer months, so it is something that pet owners need to keep an eye on. Fly strike is caused by green bottle flies and other related fly species laying eggs on smaller animals – namely rabbits, and it can be potentially fatal. The flies are attracted to damp fur, urine, faeces and the odour of a small animal’s scent glands and the maggots which hatch from the laid eggs can eat the flesh of small animals as well as release dangerous toxins. Small pets with a wet or dirty groin are most at risk, including those which are unable to clean themselves properly. Pet owners who detect maggots in their pet’s fur should contact a vet and try their best to remove as many of them with tweezers and shaving off damp or dirty fur. Maggots embedded in the fur can also be encouraged to the surface with a warm, damp towel. Flystrike can be avoided by not overfeeding a small animal and not feeding them too many greens and fruit – which can lead to diarrhea and a dirty groin or anus. Pets and their surroundings must also be cleaned regularly.
Be wary of heatstroke
Pet owners should look out for signs of overheating and heatstroke or hyperthermia in their small pets. Smaller animals are sensitive to heat while older and sedentary animals are more prone to heatstroke. Other factors such as a lack of water, lack of shade and stress can also increase the risk of overheating. Signs of heatstroke include panting, a bright red tongue slobbering, or thick, sticky saliva, depression, weakness, reluctance to move and convulsions. Any pet owners who notice these symptoms in their small animals should move their pet into shade, lower its temperature by wetting its ears and and be advised to contact a vet.
Don’t keep hutch on ground, ventilate it
A hard surface can become too warm in the summer months, so one way a pet owner can keep their small animal cool is to ventilate their cage or hutch by keeping it off the ground. Placing a few bricks under a small pet’s habitat will lift it off the ground and can allow breeze to run through the cage or hutch to provide the animal with some much-needed ventilation.
Keep them cool
Leaving a small animal in the shade might not be sufficient when it is very humid and warm. A pet owner can place a cooled ceramic tile in their pets cage from them to rest on, to keep their temperature down. It might also be handy to freeze a large bottle of water or two to be placed in the animal’s cage or hutch to keep the atmosphere cooler. It might also be helpful to suggest a small animal owner invests in a misting spray or system, while allowing for dry areas in the hutch or cage so the small animal can escape the mist when required. If a misting system is used, pet owners should be vigilant about changing their small animal’s litter tray and hay to avoid the formation of mould and to ward off flies.
Pet owners should be advised to regularly groom and trim the hair of their small pets, namely long-haired rabbits and guinea pigs. This will help the small animals to keep cool in warmer temperatures as their hair and fur helps them to retain heat. Small animals don’t sweat so when they have more fur or hair they are unable to stop themselves from getting overheated.
A Kent veterinary surgeon has been removed from theRoyal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Registrar after he was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud in court and for a number of clinical failings.
The hearing for David Edward Smith took place from 19 February before coming to a close on Thursday 15 March 2018.
Smith had previously been convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud at Maidstone Crown Court in June 2016 for which he was sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment in July 2016 and this formed one of the charges against him.
There were also a number of charges related to his treatment of five different animals while in practice at the Lakeview Veterinary Centre in Folkestone, Kent. In summary these charges are:
In relation to a Clydesdale mare named Grace on 14 August 2014 he failed to perform an adequate examination and/or undertake sufficient investigation and/or take a history of her; that after his initial visit to Grace on that day he failed to respond adequately to the owner’s telephone reports that Grace had deteriorated and/or failed to improve; and, that he failed to make adequate clinical records for Grace.
Between 29 September 2014 and 31 January 2015, in relation to a Labradoodle named Holly, he failed to keep adequate clinical records.
In relation to a cat named Maisey the allegations were that he failed to examine and investigate the cat adequately, he made a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus and gave insulin to administer to the cat without first undertaking the minimum investigation required, failed to keep adequate clinical records and sent an incorrect, misleading and dishonest statement to the RCVS regarding his treatment of Maisey. All charges date between 30 October and 19 December 2014.
In relation to a cat called Comet the allegation was that between 1 April and 17 April 2015 he failed to keep adequate clinical records and failed to respond adequately and appropriately to concerns raised by the owner.
Regarding a Yorkshire Terrier with diabetes named Poppy the allegation was that in two emergency out-of-hours calls made by Poppy’s owner to Mr Smith in April 2015 regarding the dog’s condition, he failed to recommend veterinary treatment or keep adequate clinical records. Furthermore, when the owner attended the practice following the two calls and the death of Poppy, he attributed the care to another member of the practice and failed to communicate effectively with the owner.
Having heard from a number of witnesses, including Mr Smith, and having received representations from Mr Smith in relation to the above charges, the Committee found almost all of the charges proven, with the exception of those relating to Mr Smith’s alleged conversation with Poppy’s owner at the practice following her death.
Cerys Jones, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The Committee was particularly concerned because the dishonesty went to the heart of Mr Smith’s responsibilities as a veterinary surgeon.
“His registration as a veterinary surgeon enabled him to take part in the conspiracy, and that role involved him conducting certified examinations on animals and supplying drugs for administration to animals. Reliable and honest certification is a vital element of the veterinary surgeon’s public role.”
The Committee said that the case demonstrated that Mr Smith’s lack of treatment or his inappropriate treatment of these animals caused harm and that in some regards, for example the writing of accurate and contemporaneous clinical notes, Mr Smith demonstrated a total disrespect for the Code of Professional Conduct.
The Committee went on to say: “Further, he deliberately lied to his regulator. He demonstrated deep-seated attitudinal issues including a misplaced belief in his own abilities and had no insight or commitment to do anything different in the future. In those circumstances the likelihood of repetition was significant in the Committee’s view.”
In relation to the conviction the Committee also directed that the Registrar remove Mr Smith from the Register.
Mr Smith has 28 days from being informed of the Committee’s decision to make an appeal against it.
Over the past year or so we have been looking in detail at the wider topic of nutrition in captive reptiles and amphibians. We have looked at the parameters that any given species needs to encounter daily to be able to ‘fuel’ its body.
I have explained that these needs are ‘core’ and are dictated by the ‘long development’ of the animals in the wild, as such it is these ‘wild-like’ parameters that must be provided for in captivity, if we are to see these incredible animals go on to truly thrive.
We looked at the theory of ‘overall nutrition’, ‘free energy’, and the intricate synergy between the sources of both ‘external’ and ‘internal’ nutrition. I demonstrated that it is the assimilated energy stored within the trillions of photons of terrestrial full-spectrum daylight that allows an animal to ‘function’, and then go on to find and ingest food. It is then this same synergy between the energy that arrives from the sun, or replicated lighting system and the food and water that is ingested that allows the correct assimilation, storage and use of all of the elements contained within the structure of food and the elements found in water.
Nutrition is all important, it is an intricate web of supply and one that touches every aspect and function of ongoing life. As such we factor in to the overall heading of ‘nutrition’ everything that surrounds an animal, everything that it ingests and of course its own mental and physical stimulation. Yes, movement and stimulation are just as vital within ‘overall nutrition’ as ingestion, it is this ‘exercise’ that keeps the organs functioning correctly. All of these things work to fuel and maintain the body and mind.
The area that I wish to look at this month is livefood sales, the quality of live-feeders and how we further ensure that the intricate web of nutritional supply is functioning at the optimum level.
Many of the reptiles that we keep and sell will consume live insects as part of the usual varied diet. Variety is vitally important, huge nutritional holes start to appear if an animal is only fed one prey source for an extended period, no matter the type or quality of supplement. Let us not forget that a supplement is only able to do what it has been designed to do and that is to fill some of the holes in the mineral and vitamin ranges that we fail to provide for within the usual diet. Indeed, we should be stocking as wide a variety of livefoods as possible, thus allowing our customers greater choice and their pets to benefit from a wider range of nutritional constituent parts. I can understand a hesitance in some stores towards expanding the regular choice of live-feeders as they are wasted if unsold and factor in as a loss on the bottom line. However, if we as professionals do not push the boundaries to start with and expand in a moderated way we will never have any chance at all of growing our livefood sales nor seeing an increase in the welfare of the animals that our customers keep.
The livefood that is now produced is of exemplary quality overall, fresh and will be well packed. Indeed, we live in exciting times in terms of quality and quantity. However, these are living animals in their own right and as such they are subject to the same need to assimilate energy in some way as the predator themselves. Typically, insects are harvested fresh each day and packed into a tub with a loose particulate medium as a ‘packer’. This is usually bran. Bran is not a good source of nutrition for insects as it has very little ‘nutrition and ‘trace’ levels of moisture. As the live insects are stored, re-packed and shipped out, the contents of the insect’s alimentary system are being used in order to keep the insect alive. Yes, we are now on a stopwatch as the internal levels of nutrition that the insect can pass forward to the predator are starting to depreciate.
The Process of Gut Loading
As we have seen, nutrition is an ongoing and intricate web of supply, as such the contents of the gut of a feeder insect are just as important within these cycles as the feeding off of the insect itself. It is vital that livefoods experience a continuous supply of safe food and water all the way through their lives. If we as traders can ensure that our livefood offerings are both fed and hydrated at all times we will see an increase in sales, simply because keepers will travel to buy the freshest food sources. We will also see less weekly waste and we will start to see more interest at a consumer level per store.
The process of feeding live-feeder insects before they are fed forwards is called ‘gut loading’. This is a descriptive that accuracy describes both the process and the goal. We aim to fill our livefoods with as much transferable nutrition as possible and as such see a positive impact upon the predator.
By both feeding live-feeders in store and taking a small amount of time to educate our local customers on how to ‘gut load’ and recommending to them with easy to use gutload mixes we increase the nutritional value of the feeders sold and we ensure that our customers are always happy with the feeders we supply them. As a result, the insects will live longer and look fresher.
Thankfully gone are the bad old days of using wheat based breakfast cereals and fish flake as standard gutload. Wheat and bran contains a compound called ‘phytic acid’ which is a calcium inhibitor and chelator. This is double whammy for poor calcium supply and products containing it must be avoided, be careful, even some insect gut load mixed contain bran. Goodness knows what is in ‘fish flake’, one thing is for sure, it has not been designed for reptiles and most seem to have a worrying number of unintelligible additives. We can now easily find gel based ‘whole food’ powder mixes that will both feed and hydrate a live feeder correctly.
Within gut loading and especially for crickets and locusts heat also plays an important role. Some of the species of insect must be heated to a certain temperature before they are able to pass on the full value of the gut onto the predator. As such we should now educate our customers to start using small livefood keeping tanks in-which they can feed, hydrate and warm their insects for 24-48 hours before being fed onwards. This of course negates the old advice of putting livefoods in a plastic bag in the fridge to ‘slow them down’ before feeding onwards. In many cases this would simply reduce the bioavailability of the insect going forwards, it also does nothing for physical and mental enrichment.
Livefoods should always be displayed to look as fresh as possible, pull forward and or use old tubs yourself so that your customers are able to see the freshest possible stock. It is also a great idea to have 2-3 separate shipments of livefoods throughout the week, especially if you sell hundreds of tubs a week, ask your wholesaler to help you with this. Again, this will help you to grow as once again you will always have a fresh display, less waste and garner loyalty within the local keepers.
There is a fine line as to what is safe to do in store. By making the tubs very wet we encourage mould growth in the bran and egg crate. This will kill off the livefood and poses a possible pathogen risk within the food. It is better to use a gel base food that will both feed and rehydrate, also small pieces of carrot or similar at one end of the tub with the bran removed and replaced or shaken down towards the opposite end can be added.
Livefoods should be kept warm in store also. Cold livefood is inactive and will die off quickly. Over hot livefood will similarly expire, so choose an area in which to have a display that has a constant temperature.
You can also start up ‘pre-buy’ and collect at will, or loyalty schemes in store to attract and maintain long-term customers.
There are many little changes that can be made within reptile care and the trade that will have a positive impact in overall welfare and increase sales. It is up to us as traders to embrace these new guidelines and lead the hobby one step at a time. As we do so we will see vast improvements within the whole hobby and trade.
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