Episode 2 Trust Me, I'm a Vet


Episode 2

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We Brits have a staggering 50 million pets,

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and from dental chews and flea collars

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to vaccinations and vet bills,

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we are now spending £40 billion a year on their health.

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But what do they really need to have a long and healthy life?

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Your pet can't tell you, but science can.

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I'm Steve Leonard, and in this series,

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I'm joined by a team of vets.

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We're going to seek out the latest veterinary research

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to find out what's really good and bad for the nation's pets...

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-Campylobacter.

-Mm-hm.

-One of those words that you do not want to hear.

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..and do some brand-new science of our own

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to tackle the biggest issues in animal health today.

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So the experiment's been a great success.

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We'll talk to world-leading experts

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to give you the knowledge you need...

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How important is it to prevent overheating?

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..and cut through the myths and misconceptions

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to bring you the very best advice.

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Each time, we'll be based at one of the UK's top vet schools

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to seek out the latest research

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from the front line of veterinary medicine.

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This time, we're at Liverpool University Veterinary School.

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Welcome to Trust Me I'm A Vet.

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Liverpool University Veterinary School is one of the biggest

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and most technologically advanced in Europe.

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It also has a world-renowned clinic

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specialising in the biggest health issue affecting our pets -

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weight problems.

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So, in this programme,

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we've joined forces with the vets here

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for a scientific first -

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an exciting new experiment to find the best way

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to help your pet lose weight.

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Our team of vets will also be out and about across the UK,

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seeking out the latest in veterinary research.

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We uncover a hidden epidemic facing the nation's pet rabbits,

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and the surprising solution,

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and the pioneering surgery used in human medicine

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that's now changing the lives of paralysed animals.

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But first...

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Around half of all pet dogs are now overweight here in the UK,

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and our cats and our rabbits are getting fatter, too.

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So, as an owner,

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how can you turn things around and get their weight under control?

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To find out, general practice vet Alice Rhodes has teamed up with

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the University of Liverpool's Vet School

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to run a unique experiment.

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The pleading can be hard to resist,

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but obesity is now recognised as the single biggest problem

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affecting the health and welfare of all pets in the UK.

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It's not just a cosmetic issue.

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Dogs who are overweight are more likely to suffer from arthritis,

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heart and lung disease and diabetes.

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This can affect their quality of life

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and it can reduce their life span.

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Here at the University of Liverpool Weight Management Clinic,

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researchers are developing treatments to tackle

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what has become a very serious problem.

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So what's the best way to help your dog lose weight?

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Is it diet or exercise?

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To find out, Trust Me I'm A Vet is going to run a brand-new study.

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We've recruited 13 dogs who have all been assessed as overweight

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by Professor Alex German, the UK's leading expert in pet obesity.

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So what's the plan with the experiment?

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Well, most people will tell you that if you want to lose weight,

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you've got to eat less and exercise more,

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and that's exactly the same for dogs.

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The trouble is, really,

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we don't yet know, in the veterinary field,

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which is most effective.

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Is it diet? Is it exercise?

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And for the first time ever,

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we're going to be pitting one against the other,

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and that's exciting because it will really, I think,

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help us moving forward in terms of how we gear our advice.

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The first key step is to collect some baseline data on our dogs

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before they start.

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-Does he ever get any crisps?

-Yes, he seems to like crisps.

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Ice cream? Yeah. Burgers? Yeah.

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Does he ever get any cereal with milk?

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Only milk in his tea.

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All the dogs are weighed, measured

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and given a body condition score out of nine.

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A score of seven or above indicates they're obese,

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and most of our volunteer dogs

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are starting off at eight or nine.

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That may seem surprising,

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but a big problem is that

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we're so used to seeing overweight dogs these days,

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we no longer know what normal looks like.

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Pepper used to attend the clinic here.

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She started out with a body condition score of eight.

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She's now an ideal five.

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She's got good definition in her lower abdomen.

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You can see this little skin fold here.

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I can feel her ribs nice and easily, and she's not too flat on top.

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And, if you look from above, she's got a little waist.

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When some people look at Pepper,

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they might think that she's underweight,

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but she's not.

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She's just right.

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We're going to find the best way to get your pet down

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to a healthy shape and weight.

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Our volunteers' dogs have been randomly allocated

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to one of two groups.

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Group one is the exercise group.

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Your dogs will be burning more calories in order to lose weight,

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so you're going to take whatever level of activity

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you already have and increase it by a quarter to a third.

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So, let's say you're taking them for a 30-minute walk,

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you're going to increase that to 40 minutes,

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or if you're doing two play sessions a day,

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you can increase that to three.

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Group two is the diet group.

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So your dogs will be following a special diet

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that's high in protein, high in fibre,

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with restricted calories,

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but should satisfy their hunger, so no treats or extras,

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so you're going to have to ignore all those pleading looks

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and whining, and stick to the plan.

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Do you anticipate any struggles with this?

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Loads, cos Elvis is a stealer, and he thieves food constantly.

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We're fitting all the dogs with monitors,

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so the team can measure how active they are throughout the experiment.

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What do you anticipate the outcome to be?

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Well, I'm really excited.

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I would guess that we'll have loss on both sides,

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but I'm just so keen to find out.

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-It's going to be really interesting to see.

-Yeah, definitely.

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Over the next eight weeks,

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the owners will be locked in a battle of wills with their pooches

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to see if they can get them to stick to their weight loss plan.

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We'll be back later in the programme

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to find out which is more effective -

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diet or exercise.

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After dogs and cats, our most popular pets are rabbits -

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nearly two millions of them across the UK.

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But there's new evidence of a health issue

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that's becoming a hidden epidemic.

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Stress.

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It's now believed to affect up to two-thirds of our pet rabbits.

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If it's not recognised, it can affect their immune system

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and increase their risk of digestive problems and other illnesses.

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And we've uncovered some surprising new research

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that suggests the key culprit is...

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..the hutch.

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Dr Nicola Rooney is a rabbit expert from Bristol University Vet School.

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-Hi!

-Hi! Come on in.

-Hi.

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She and her team have conducted a major survey

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of over 1,200 households, and have established that nearly

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two-thirds of the nations' rabbits are kept in hutches.

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Now they're researching how much space

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a pet rabbit needs to stay healthy.

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The typical hutch is a metre or so across

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with a ceiling height of 50cm or less.

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Although Pepper's is a bit larger, his current owner Paula,

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who took him in a year ago,

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is worried he doesn't have enough space.

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We inherited the hutch, but he's such a big rabbit.

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To be honest, sometimes I look at him and he looks quite sad.

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To find out whether life in the hutch is causing Pepper stress,

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we're installing cameras to record his behaviour for 24 hours.

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Nicola's research suggests that the healthiest pet rabbits

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have patterns of activity that match their counterparts in the wild.

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So I've come with her to observe some natural rabbit behaviour,

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and the most striking thing is how much ground they cover.

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Wild rabbits utilise an awful lot of space, so given a field,

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you'll see them evenly distributed around it.

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They run, they jump.

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Certain key behaviours they display in the wild,

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like standing up on their hind legs,

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are thought to be signs of wellbeing in pet rabbits.

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And the time of day they're most active is also important.

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We know animals in the wild are most active at dawn and dusk,

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something we call crepuscular,

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and we've recently at Bristol done some studies on domestic rabbits

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and we found out that they naturally will follow

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exactly the same pattern.

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The next day, we can see how Pepper's movements compare.

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At dusk and at dawn, we'd expect rabbits to be doing

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a lot of activity, so we'd expect them to be moving around,

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we'd expect them to be feeding.

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If you look at Pepper here at those times of day,

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he's not really doing anything.

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-Mmm.

-And he spends quite a lot of time in this bottom part

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of the enclosure,

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potentially partly because the upstairs,

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although it's more sheltered, is quite small.

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But he's not really moving very much at all, is he?

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Pepper may seem calm and comfortable,

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but our footage reveals some signs that he's quite the opposite.

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His body position is key.

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A contented rabbit would stretch its body out in a relaxed way.

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But Pepper is hunched up,

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a position that's associated with stress.

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Other signs of stress observed in pet rabbits

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are gnawing and repetitive behaviour.

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He really doesn't give indications of being happy in that environment.

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What does he need to make his life better?

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He needs to be able to run, he needs to be able to jump,

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so something that's large enough for him to do all those behaviours.

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We know that rabbits are really social,

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it would be great if he also had a companion,

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one that he gets on with.

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Well, this is really exciting, then.

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This is an opportunity for us

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to make a big difference to Pepper's life, then.

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Mm-hm. Mm-hm.

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So, the first thing we're going to do is ditch the hutch.

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We've called in a team to build Pepper a brand-new living space

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that's designed to mimic a rabbit's natural environment.

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Meanwhile, since rabbits in the wild live in groups,

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we're on a mission to find Pepper a soul mate.

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Anybody who's dipped their toe in the human dating world

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knows that it can be far from straightforward,

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and that's true for rabbits, too.

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You've got to pick your partner carefully and, even more crucially,

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you've got to take it slow.

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We've brought Pepper to a match-making service for rabbits.

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A selection of potential companions is placed in the enclosure

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next to Pepper to assess if they're compatible.

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A good indicator is if they display immediate interest in each other.

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The first two are showing little sign of that towards Pepper.

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But things are looking more promising with the third, Tamarind.

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It looks like Pepper may have found his match.

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Tamarind's now going home with Pepper.

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And for the next two weeks, they'll be living together

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and moving into their new enclosure.

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So we've ditched the hutch and found Pepper a companion.

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But will all this actually reduce his stress?

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We'll be back later in the programme to find out.

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Back in Liverpool, Judy Puddifoot's been investigating

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a controversial food fad for pets.

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Raw food is the latest pet food craze,

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the idea being that you feed uncooked meat products

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to your pet cat or dog over standard pet food,

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which is cooked and processed.

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It's the fastest-growing trend in pet nutrition.

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The market in pre-packaged raw foods has doubled in the last five years.

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But is it really any healthier than ordinary pet food?

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The marketing hype is based on the idea

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that because raw food is what wolves eat in the wild,

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it's more natural, and therefore better for your dog.

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So, is that true?

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In fact, I found no conclusive evidence

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that pre-packaged raw foods are nutritionally any better

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than ordinary complete pet foods.

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And if you make up your own diet with raw meat from the supermarket,

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it's easy to get the balance of nutrients wrong.

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But nutrition isn't the only issue.

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There's another obvious question.

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Is raw food safe?

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Raw meat is known to harbour many different kinds of bacteria

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and here at the University of Liverpool Vet School,

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researchers are investigating whether your pet

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can spread these around your home.

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So who is this that we've got here?

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This is Ziggy, our volunteer dog,

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who's going to eat some raw meat today.

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Professor Nicola Williams is going to show me

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the sheer quantity of bacteria present on raw food

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and how they spread around your pet, your home and you.

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So this is a plate that I took of my hands

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after handling the raw meat that we fed to the dog.

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-OK.

-So this would be, essentially, if the owner uses their hands

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to, sort of, prepare the meat, put it into the dog's bowl.

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And these are the bacteria that we saw from handling that meat.

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There's quite a lot on there, isn't it?

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Yeah, there is a lot of bacteria on there.

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The next one is actually from a swab that we took from the bowl.

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-Wow - this was after the dog had eaten.

-Yup.

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-You swabbed the bowl and this was what was left.

-Yeah.

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So this was a very clean bowl.

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And again there's a lot of different types of bacteria there.

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-Did we find anything else?

-Yes.

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So we took a swab from the dog's mouth

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after it had eaten raw meat and, essentially, you can see

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there's an awful lot of bacteria there.

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There is a lot of bacteria on there.

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But what exactly are these bacteria?

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And how worried should we be about having them in our home?

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In another lab here at the vet school,

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Dr Vanessa Schmidt has been analysing hundreds of samples

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to find out if they contain types known to be dangerous -

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not just to our pets, but to us.

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-This is campylobacter.

-Campylobacter.

-Mm-hm.

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One of those words that you do not want to hear

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-your doctor saying you've got.

-That's it.

-OK.

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And this one here is salmonella.

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Another word that a lot of people get frightened about when they see it.

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That's correct. Absolutely.

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Campylobacter and salmonella can cause severe illness in humans.

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And Vanessa has also found harmful strains of E. coli

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that, in some cases, carry genes that make them resistant

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to antibiotics used in human medicine.

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So you found this E. coli in the poo of a dog

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that was fed a raw food diet.

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-That's correct, yes.

-OK. So the types of E. Coli

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-that you're finding...

-Yeah.

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..are potentially ones that can cause

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illness in dogs and humans?

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-Yeah, absolutely.

-And those diseases and illnesses that they might cause,

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you're saying, could be quite difficult to treat?

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-Yeah.

-That's pretty scary stuff. OK.

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-I'm staying well away from that.

-Absolutely.

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In her study, Vanessa analysed the faeces

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of 114 dogs fed on raw diets

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and 76 on standard processed pet foods.

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Her results were conclusive.

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The raw diet dogs were carrying significantly more

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of these harmful bacteria than the dogs fed on cooked diets.

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These bugs certainly won't do your pet any good,

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but for you and your family, they're especially dangerous.

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So if you do feed your pet a raw food diet,

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you need to do what you can to stop the bugs spreading.

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If you're playing with your dog,

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letting your dog lick your hands, even your face,

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which some people like to do,

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that's an opportunity for those bacteria to transmit to people.

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Really important to have good hygiene when you're handling the food,

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washing the dog's bowl -

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even when you're touching your dog, you're potentially at risk.

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Routinely, I'd say good hygiene when handling our pets

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is always the best policy,

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but especially if you're feeding your dog a raw meat diet.

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-It's really crucial.

-OK.

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So, by the two measures I've looked into,

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I've found no health benefits in giving your pet raw food.

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First off, there's no clear evidence that it provides better nutrition

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than standard complete pet foods

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and, secondly, they risk bringing dangerous bacteria into your home.

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So, as a vet and a pet owner,

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my feeling is that, hopefully, raw food is just a fad.

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I certainly don't feed it to my own dog.

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Still to come, the latest research

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on how to decode your guinea pig's secret language...

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..how to stop a greedy pet from binge-eating,

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and the pioneering surgery that's changing the lives

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of paralysed animals.

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But first, there's growing evidence that

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a surprising number of common foods most of us have in our kitchens

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can cause serious harm to your pet.

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Alice is going to take you through

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some of the most dangerous and unexpected culprits.

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In my practice, I see a lot of cases of pets eating things

0:18:360:18:39

that they shouldn't,

0:18:390:18:40

so I'm going to show you some of the top foods to keep out of reach,

0:18:400:18:44

because some of them really aren't that obvious.

0:18:440:18:46

I've been joined by some local dogs and their owners

0:18:490:18:51

to play a toxic foods guessing game.

0:18:510:18:54

Now, I've got some ordinary everyday foods here,

0:18:550:18:58

but there are some of these that you definitely want to be keeping

0:18:580:19:02

out of reach of your dogs.

0:19:020:19:03

So which are harmless and which are toxic?

0:19:030:19:06

So what do we think? Stick the onion in the red.

0:19:080:19:12

-Everyone happy for the chewing gum to go in?

-Absolutely. Yup.

0:19:120:19:15

Chocolate, definitely.

0:19:150:19:17

What about the white, though?

0:19:170:19:18

Technically, there's no cocoa in that.

0:19:180:19:20

It's not going to poison them.

0:19:200:19:22

That's onion. Yeah, leeks should go, yeah.

0:19:220:19:24

-Leeks.

-Definitely.

-Garlic? Yup?

0:19:240:19:25

Some treats do have a little bit of garlic.

0:19:250:19:27

-Garlic.

-Not the whole clove.

0:19:270:19:29

-Take one out.

-LAUGHTER

0:19:290:19:31

Yeah, put one in one, one in the other!

0:19:310:19:33

A little bit of garlic won't hurt.

0:19:330:19:35

-Tea.

-OK.

0:19:350:19:37

Let's see how we got on, then.

0:19:370:19:39

You've got a lot of things right there,

0:19:390:19:41

so let's take a few things out and have a look.

0:19:410:19:44

Onions, garlic, leeks and chives,

0:19:440:19:47

whether cooked or raw,

0:19:470:19:48

contain sulphur compounds that can damage red blood cells

0:19:480:19:52

and cause anaemia in dogs and cats.

0:19:520:19:54

So, not ideal.

0:19:550:19:57

-Won't do it again.

-No!

0:19:570:19:59

So the group were right to put them in the toxic bin.

0:19:590:20:02

Any of these things, you wouldn't want your dogs eating

0:20:020:20:06

and so things like leftover casseroles,

0:20:060:20:08

that kind of thing, not ideal.

0:20:080:20:10

Chocolate, tea and coffee are bad news for pets.

0:20:100:20:13

Both tea and chocolate contain theobromine,

0:20:130:20:17

which is toxic to dogs, so you've done really well there.

0:20:170:20:21

Theobromine is a natural chemical that can increase heart rate

0:20:210:20:24

and potentially cause seizures in both dogs and cats.

0:20:240:20:27

You've popped in here the chewing gum and the mints

0:20:280:20:32

and that's great, because they contain xylitol.

0:20:320:20:35

Xylitol is found in some sugar-free foods

0:20:350:20:38

and can cause liver failure in cats and dogs.

0:20:380:20:42

And grapes and raisins are a common cause of kidney failure.

0:20:440:20:47

I mean, we quite often see dogs coming into our clinic

0:20:490:20:51

having eaten a lot of them and in a really serious shape,

0:20:510:20:54

so that's a great thing to have pointed out.

0:20:540:20:56

Some of the foods the group put in the toxic bin

0:20:560:20:59

are not really harmful, but if you're not sure,

0:20:590:21:02

it's always best to be cautious.

0:21:020:21:04

The cashew nuts aren't toxic.

0:21:040:21:06

If they were salted,

0:21:060:21:08

that wouldn't be very good for them,

0:21:080:21:09

but the macadamia nuts are toxic.

0:21:090:21:12

And we're not really sure why, but they can't process them in

0:21:120:21:15

the same way that we can.

0:21:150:21:17

We vets see spikes in these cases around Christmas and Easter,

0:21:170:21:21

so it's worth being particularly careful

0:21:210:21:23

when lots of these problem foods - chocolate, nuts and raisins -

0:21:230:21:27

might be lying around.

0:21:270:21:29

And it's not just food that you need to be aware of.

0:21:310:21:35

So there is one major culprit that we have not yet talked about

0:21:350:21:39

and that is everyday medicines.

0:21:390:21:41

By far the most common cause of poisoning in dogs is ibuprofen

0:21:410:21:45

and it can really seriously affect their kidneys.

0:21:450:21:48

The other one is paracetamol, which is not good for their liver,

0:21:480:21:51

although it can sometimes be prescribed by vets.

0:21:510:21:53

So I think both of these need to go well and truly in the toxic bin.

0:21:530:21:57

Now, whether it's food or pills,

0:22:000:22:03

if you suspect your pet has eaten something they shouldn't have,

0:22:030:22:06

don't delay, because the effects can be fatal.

0:22:060:22:09

And don't attempt to make your pet vomit

0:22:100:22:13

as this is difficult to do safely at home

0:22:130:22:16

and can often do more harm than good.

0:22:160:22:18

The most important thing is to get them to the vets

0:22:180:22:21

as soon as possible.

0:22:210:22:22

You could phone ahead to let them know that you're coming

0:22:220:22:24

and ideally tell them what you think they've eaten, how much,

0:22:240:22:28

and when - and, even better,

0:22:280:22:29

you could take the packet or the jar with you.

0:22:290:22:32

By being careful which foods you leave lying around,

0:22:320:22:35

you can avoid serving up any dangerous dinners

0:22:350:22:38

and might just save your pet's life.

0:22:380:22:41

Even our most familiar pets sometimes behave

0:22:490:22:51

in unpredictable ways,

0:22:510:22:54

but the latest scientific research

0:22:540:22:56

is helping us understand them as never before.

0:22:560:22:59

Judy's going to crack the secrets of one of our most popular small pets,

0:22:590:23:03

the guinea pig.

0:23:030:23:04

Nearly three-quarters of a million guinea pigs

0:23:070:23:09

are kept as pets in the UK.

0:23:090:23:12

But they can often behave in really funny and erratic ways

0:23:120:23:14

which can come as a surprise to many owners.

0:23:140:23:17

It makes you wonder - "Is it normal? Is it good or is it bad?"

0:23:170:23:21

Time to learn some guinea pig.

0:23:210:23:23

We asked you guinea pig owners across the country

0:23:250:23:27

to capture your pets' bizarre and unexpected behaviour on camera

0:23:270:23:31

and send us your footage,

0:23:310:23:33

and you've given us loads of intriguing stuff.

0:23:330:23:35

Lots of you sent us footage of your guinea pigs

0:23:380:23:40

-making extraordinary sounds.

-THEY SQUEAK

0:23:400:23:43

In fact, research has revealed that guinea pigs have

0:23:430:23:45

a repertoire of around 14 different noises,

0:23:450:23:48

all of which have different meanings.

0:23:480:23:50

THEY CHIRRUP

0:23:500:23:53

To help me interpret them, I've come to meet behavioural expert

0:23:540:23:58

Dr Sagi Denenberg at the University of Bristol Vet School.

0:23:580:24:01

Most of the behaviours are based

0:24:010:24:03

on their need to communicate with each other,

0:24:030:24:05

so they signal something with their body language

0:24:050:24:07

and a sound together.

0:24:070:24:09

One surprising sound you might hear your guinea pig make...

0:24:090:24:13

-THEY PURR

-..is purring.

0:24:130:24:16

Like cats, guinea pigs can purr when they're content,

0:24:180:24:21

as this one is doing.

0:24:210:24:23

But they also purr for another reason.

0:24:250:24:27

They sometimes use it to placate another guinea pig

0:24:300:24:32

in the hope of avoiding a fight.

0:24:320:24:35

If you hear your guinea pig purring

0:24:360:24:37

while backing away from another guinea pig,

0:24:370:24:40

it could mean they feel threatened.

0:24:400:24:42

You might need to separate them temporarily.

0:24:420:24:45

Our next behaviour could also signal trouble.

0:24:470:24:50

Talk us through what we're seeing with this then.

0:24:550:24:58

The teeth chattering that you hear are actually sounds of aggression.

0:24:580:25:01

They might be fighting over resources

0:25:010:25:03

or something like that, or space.

0:25:030:25:05

It doesn't have to be a full fight with bites and fur flying.

0:25:050:25:08

Sometimes, it's just the noise,

0:25:080:25:10

sometimes it is just...using the human term, verbal aggression

0:25:100:25:13

rather than physical aggression.

0:25:130:25:15

If you have more than one guinea pig and hear teeth chattering,

0:25:150:25:18

there could be trouble brewing,

0:25:180:25:20

so try to make sure they have enough food and space

0:25:200:25:23

to share between them.

0:25:230:25:25

If your guinea pig's teeth chatter whilst on their own,

0:25:250:25:28

it could be a sign of dental problems,

0:25:280:25:30

so it's a good idea to have them checked by a vet.

0:25:300:25:33

Our final guinea pig behaviour is one of the most bizarre...

0:25:360:25:40

..and as peculiar as the behaviour is its name.

0:25:420:25:44

So, this guinea pig is running and bouncing in the air.

0:25:470:25:50

That's why they call it called "popcorning" behaviour.

0:25:500:25:53

Like the popcorn, bouncing.

0:25:530:25:55

That's typically a very joyous activity

0:25:550:25:57

that pups will show a lot when they run and they play and they jump.

0:25:570:26:00

Another reason for this activity

0:26:000:26:02

is showing off to girls.

0:26:020:26:04

Sometimes a male would show similar behaviour

0:26:040:26:07

and some owners will term it, actually, as the rumba.

0:26:070:26:09

-The rumba?

-Yeah, like the dance.

-OK.

0:26:090:26:12

And they'll bounce a bit, and they'll shake their rear end.

0:26:120:26:15

But in young and old, male and female alike,

0:26:150:26:19

this energetic behaviour is usually a sign that guinea pigs are happy.

0:26:190:26:24

Even as a vet,

0:26:260:26:27

I've learned today just how complex guinea pig behaviour can be.

0:26:270:26:30

They do have weird and wacky behaviours.

0:26:300:26:33

But they all totally make sense in the world of guinea pigs.

0:26:330:26:35

And the more you understand them,

0:26:350:26:38

the more it can help you keep your guinea pig healthy and happy.

0:26:380:26:41

Still to come...

0:26:430:26:44

We dive into the science of how to give your pet fish

0:26:440:26:47

a longer, healthier life.

0:26:470:26:49

And what's the best way to help your dog lose weight?

0:26:490:26:53

Diet or exercise?

0:26:530:26:55

We'll have the results of our big experiment.

0:26:550:26:58

But first...

0:27:010:27:03

One of the biggest challenges that owners have

0:27:030:27:05

when trying to control their pet's diet

0:27:050:27:08

is when they're faced with an animal that seems to be constantly hungry

0:27:080:27:11

and always pestering them for food,

0:27:110:27:13

no matter how much they've already eaten.

0:27:130:27:15

So, how can we stop your pet's constant urge to overeat?

0:27:150:27:20

That's something they're investigating here

0:27:200:27:23

at Liverpool's pet weight loss clinic.

0:27:230:27:26

And one of the key problems they've identified

0:27:260:27:29

is the speed at which animals eat.

0:27:290:27:32

Bailey here, like many Labradors,

0:27:320:27:34

is a notoriously fast eater.

0:27:340:27:36

We've given him half his normal breakfast

0:27:380:27:40

and he's taken just 38 seconds to polish it off.

0:27:400:27:44

He's eaten so quickly, his brain hasn't actually had time

0:27:440:27:47

to register that he's full,

0:27:470:27:50

and that means dogs can still feel hungry,

0:27:500:27:53

even when they've eaten more calories than they need.

0:27:530:27:56

Research shows this makes animals more likely to overeat.

0:27:560:28:00

And the same is true of humans.

0:28:000:28:02

But the vets here have a solution.

0:28:040:28:06

A range of low-tech toys called "puzzle feeders"

0:28:060:28:10

to make dogs work harder for each morsel.

0:28:100:28:13

So, now we're going to give Bailey

0:28:130:28:16

the other half of his breakfast

0:28:160:28:17

on one of these.

0:28:170:28:19

Imagine how difficult it's going to be

0:28:190:28:21

to get all of these bits of food out from these grooves?

0:28:210:28:25

We know he's hungry, he's always hungry,

0:28:250:28:27

so let's see how long.

0:28:270:28:29

Ready, steady, go.

0:28:290:28:31

He's going for the shallow grooves first.

0:28:330:28:35

We're getting close to how long it took him last time

0:28:380:28:41

and he's barely touched it, really.

0:28:410:28:44

'Leading researcher in pet weight loss Professor Alex German

0:28:440:28:48

'has been studying how these puzzle feeders work.'

0:28:480:28:51

By slowing down how long it takes him to eat,

0:28:510:28:55

it'll give time for his stomach to send signals to his brain

0:28:550:28:58

to say, "I'm full."

0:28:580:28:59

So, yes, it will satisfy him,

0:28:590:29:01

even though it's the same amount of food.

0:29:010:29:03

Surprising though it sounds,

0:29:050:29:06

recent research has shown that dogs prefer to work for their food,

0:29:060:29:10

rather than have it served up without effort.

0:29:100:29:13

This may be because it allows them

0:29:130:29:15

to satisfy their natural foraging instincts.

0:29:150:29:17

He's still going. This is two-and-a-half minutes.

0:29:170:29:20

A few trickier pieces left here.

0:29:200:29:23

Right, last one, last one, last one.

0:29:230:29:25

Good lad. Well done, you.

0:29:250:29:29

Three minutes ten. That's a massive difference.

0:29:290:29:32

Well, that worked for Bailey -

0:29:320:29:35

it took him five times longer to eat the second half of his breakfast,

0:29:350:29:38

giving his stomach more time to tell his brain that he's full.

0:29:380:29:42

And it's not just dogs -

0:29:430:29:45

eating too quickly is a problem that also affects cats.

0:29:450:29:48

But research has shown that cats tend to fall into

0:29:500:29:52

two very different types of eating behaviour.

0:29:520:29:55

We recognise two different sorts,

0:29:560:29:59

so we have so-called bingers and grazers.

0:29:590:30:02

Grazers take many small meals

0:30:020:30:04

but importantly, can regulate how much they eat.

0:30:040:30:08

On the other hand, the binger tends to consume a much larger amount

0:30:080:30:12

at each setting, so they're the ones we think are prone

0:30:120:30:15

to weight gain and obesity.

0:30:150:30:17

If your cat is overeating,

0:30:180:30:20

you could try giving them their food inside

0:30:200:30:22

a specially designed toy like this.

0:30:220:30:25

Just like the puzzle feeders for dogs, these toys slow down

0:30:250:30:29

the rate at which a cat eats,

0:30:290:30:31

and cats tend to enjoy expressing their predatory instincts.

0:30:310:30:34

But what if you have not only a binger

0:30:360:30:38

but also a grazer living under the same roof?

0:30:380:30:41

How do you stop your binger bingeing

0:30:410:30:44

and still allow your grazer to graze?

0:30:440:30:46

I'm with Georgia from the university's pet weight-loss clinic,

0:30:480:30:51

visiting a family who face this problem.

0:30:510:30:53

Here we have Purdy, a grazer,

0:30:540:30:57

and Casper, who's definitely a binger.

0:30:570:30:59

But Georgia has found a solution.

0:31:010:31:04

This is Casper.

0:31:040:31:05

This is part of his daily allowance of food that he's got here

0:31:050:31:08

and we're having to moderate how much he has in a day to get

0:31:080:31:12

the weight loss that we wanted from him, and he's doing ever so well.

0:31:120:31:15

The Liverpool team have introduced hi-tech feeding bowls

0:31:160:31:20

that only open for a specific cat with the right microchip.

0:31:200:31:24

At around £60, bowls like these aren't cheap,

0:31:240:31:27

but they do seem to make a difference.

0:31:270:31:30

So by activating his own sort of feeder...

0:31:310:31:34

It means that everyone has their own bowl and can only consume

0:31:340:31:37

their own food, meaning there's no bowl-swapping and overeating.

0:31:370:31:41

Now Casper can no longer just help himself.

0:31:410:31:44

This is Purdy being able to come and go at her bowl as she chooses.

0:31:450:31:49

She probably won't eat all the food that's available to her straight away.

0:31:490:31:52

She'll come and go throughout the day, and the bowl allows her

0:31:520:31:55

to do that. It means Casper can't come and steal all her food.

0:31:550:31:59

So as soon as she exits here,

0:31:590:32:00

lid's shut and she can leave a little bit for later.

0:32:000:32:03

-Absolutely.

-That's such a simple solution to really a major problem

0:32:030:32:07

for anybody who's got a multi-cat household.

0:32:070:32:09

So if you've got a binge-eating cat or dog at home that always

0:32:110:32:14

seems to be hungry, there are lots of solutions out there,

0:32:140:32:18

from a simple puzzle feeder like this

0:32:180:32:20

to the latest technology like this.

0:32:200:32:23

We at Trust Me I'm A Vet are keen to answer your burning questions

0:32:310:32:35

about pets, and there's one type of dog

0:32:350:32:38

whose popularity has rocketed in recent years

0:32:380:32:41

that's causing a lot of concern for vets and owners alike.

0:32:410:32:44

I've got a flat-faced dog and I know they can have health problems.

0:32:450:32:49

What should I be looking out for and what can I do about it?

0:32:490:32:52

Pugs like little Betty here are what's called brachycephalic,

0:32:530:32:56

which means they've been bred to have flat faces.

0:32:560:32:59

This is done because it's thought it makes them look cute,

0:32:590:33:02

a bit like babies, and it makes them very popular choices for dog owners.

0:33:020:33:06

Pugs, bulldogs and shih-tzus are all in the flat-faced category

0:33:070:33:13

and becoming increasingly popular,

0:33:130:33:16

with four times more pugs

0:33:160:33:17

and a staggering 30 times more French bulldogs

0:33:170:33:20

registered in the last 10 years.

0:33:200:33:22

Unfortunately, their adorable features make them prone to

0:33:240:33:27

specific health problems, so if you've got one or you're thinking

0:33:270:33:30

of buying one, what health issues should you be looking out for?

0:33:300:33:34

We vets are seeing more of these dogs than ever before.

0:33:350:33:38

The Royal Veterinary College near London now treats so many

0:33:380:33:42

that they have a dedicated brachycephalic clinic.

0:33:420:33:45

One of the vets here is Professor Dan Brockman.

0:33:450:33:49

Today he's seeing a pug called Ken.

0:33:490:33:52

So, Dan, what's the problem for dogs that have got flatter faces like Ken

0:33:520:33:56

compared to normal dogs that have got longer faces?

0:33:560:34:00

If you look at these two skulls,

0:34:000:34:02

this is a medium-length face

0:34:020:34:05

and this is what we call a brachycephalic,

0:34:050:34:08

a short-nosed dog's skull,

0:34:080:34:09

and then we turn these over and you can see immediately

0:34:090:34:13

that the room that they have,

0:34:130:34:16

especially for the teeth,

0:34:160:34:18

is all crammed together,

0:34:180:34:19

but all of the soft tissues,

0:34:190:34:21

the lining of the back of the throat, is exactly the same.

0:34:210:34:25

The tongue is the same,

0:34:250:34:26

so all of that tissue has been pushed into a much smaller space

0:34:260:34:31

and so there are folds on the inside

0:34:310:34:33

just as there are folds on the outside that are interfering with the ability to move air.

0:34:330:34:37

Ken had surgery to remove some of the excess tissue from inside

0:34:390:34:43

his skull and widen his nostrils,

0:34:430:34:45

which has helped him to breathe more easily,

0:34:450:34:48

but, like many flat-faced dogs,

0:34:480:34:50

the skin folds on his face also cause problems.

0:34:500:34:54

If I just lift the forehead up a little bit,

0:34:540:34:57

do a little mini face-lift,

0:34:570:34:59

we've got discolouration inside these folds of hair.

0:34:590:35:03

That's where bacteria, yeasts can cause skin infection

0:35:030:35:08

that really can be painful for the animal.

0:35:080:35:11

Another standout feature of a flat-faced dog is their prominent eyes.

0:35:120:35:16

Sometimes the eyes can be so bulgy

0:35:180:35:20

that they can't close the eyelids properly.

0:35:200:35:23

Closure of the eyelids is crucial for spreading the tear film

0:35:230:35:27

that nourishes that superficial layer of the eye, so that is

0:35:270:35:31

defective and that can lead them to develop things like ulcers.

0:35:310:35:35

Not all flat-faced dogs will suffer from these health issues,

0:35:400:35:44

but there are things you can do to help prevent them

0:35:440:35:46

and treat them if they happen.

0:35:460:35:48

Number one, their breathing.

0:35:480:35:50

Try not to overexert your flat-faced dog.

0:35:500:35:52

If you do notice your dog is struggling to breathe,

0:35:520:35:55

take it to a cool, quiet place to calm down,

0:35:550:35:57

where it can have access to a drink, and then take it to a vet.

0:35:570:36:00

Number two, their skin folds.

0:36:020:36:04

Ideally, you should inspect and clean your dog's face folds

0:36:050:36:08

at least once a day, depending how dirty they get.

0:36:080:36:11

You can use warm, soapy water.

0:36:110:36:13

Just make sure that you rinse it well and dry it properly.

0:36:130:36:16

Finally, number three - those eyes.

0:36:180:36:20

If your dog's eyes show any signs of drying out,

0:36:230:36:25

it's really important that you get them properly checked by a vet.

0:36:250:36:28

They might need a saline eye gel

0:36:280:36:30

that acts as a lubricant to keep the eyes moist

0:36:300:36:33

and they might need treatment if there's any infection too.

0:36:330:36:37

So if you've got a flat-faced dog,

0:36:370:36:39

it's important to look out for the health problems that they're prone to,

0:36:390:36:42

and if you're thinking of getting one, then make sure

0:36:420:36:45

you can give them the care they need to stay happy and healthy.

0:36:450:36:48

Earlier in the programme, we began a unique experiment

0:36:570:37:01

to tackle a hidden epidemic in the nation's rabbits - stress.

0:37:010:37:05

The latest veterinary research suggests that the biggest cause

0:37:050:37:09

is keeping them in hutches,

0:37:090:37:11

so we installed some cameras in the hutch of one pet rabbit, Pepper,

0:37:110:37:16

and the footage revealed some classic signs of stress.

0:37:160:37:19

Pepper's sitting hunched and motionless at times of day

0:37:190:37:22

when he should be active and playful.

0:37:220:37:24

So we've taken two key steps to try and reduce his stress.

0:37:250:37:29

First, we've ditched the hutch and replaced it with an enclosure that's

0:37:310:37:34

larger and contains features that mimic a rabbit's natural habitat.

0:37:340:37:39

Secondly, as rabbits in the wild are social and live in groups,

0:37:400:37:43

we've found Pepper a companion, Tamarin.

0:37:430:37:46

For the last two weeks,

0:37:480:37:49

Pepper and Tamarin have been living together and have moved into

0:37:490:37:52

the new enclosure, and we've been capturing their behaviour on camera

0:37:520:37:57

to find out if the changes we've made have reduced Pepper's stress.

0:37:570:38:01

Now we're back for the results.

0:38:030:38:05

SHE KNOCKS

0:38:050:38:06

-Hi, Paula.

-How are you doing?

0:38:070:38:10

Oh, look at that. Very good.

0:38:120:38:13

Time to see if ditching the hutch has changed Pepper's life.

0:38:150:38:19

This is so, so much better.

0:38:210:38:23

He's sort of in and out of the tree trunks.

0:38:230:38:26

He's up and down the tubing.

0:38:260:38:28

They use it as, like, a little adventure playground.

0:38:280:38:31

It's about three metres long, which we know is long enough for

0:38:310:38:34

the average rabbit to be able to run and jump.

0:38:340:38:37

We've got things in this that they can climb on

0:38:370:38:40

and we've got things they can hide under,

0:38:400:38:42

and the route into the home is through small tubes.

0:38:420:38:46

Now they can just shoot down a bolthole and they're back

0:38:460:38:49

in their safe shed.

0:38:490:38:51

So, the signs are encouraging,

0:38:510:38:53

but have we really been able to reduce Pepper's stress levels?

0:38:530:38:57

This footage shows Pepper being much more active and playful,

0:38:580:39:02

especially at those key times, dawn and dusk.

0:39:020:39:06

He and Tamarin groom each other, which shows they've bonded,

0:39:060:39:10

and both of them stretch out in the middle of the night,

0:39:100:39:13

a sign they're content and relaxed.

0:39:130:39:16

It's a big difference from the hours Pepper used to spend hunched up,

0:39:160:39:20

a telltale sign of stress.

0:39:200:39:22

Such, such an improvement,

0:39:230:39:24

and it's really, really nice to see them both interacting

0:39:240:39:28

-with all the stuff in there.

-Yeah.

0:39:280:39:29

So, for your pet rabbit to be stress-free and healthy,

0:39:300:39:33

don't keep them in a small hutch.

0:39:330:39:36

The research has shown that rabbits need at least three metres' length

0:39:360:39:40

and sufficient headroom to run, jump and stand up.

0:39:400:39:43

And even if you haven't got all of that space,

0:39:430:39:46

there's always something you can do.

0:39:460:39:48

Give them platforms to climb on, places to hide, places to dig,

0:39:480:39:52

and most importantly, rabbits are social creatures like us.

0:39:520:39:56

They need the company of other rabbits.

0:39:560:39:58

Now, just as in humans, if an animal has spinal damage and is paralysed,

0:40:130:40:17

there is no cure, but I'm about to witness a ground-breaking operation

0:40:170:40:21

performed by only two surgeons in the world.

0:40:210:40:23

For the first time, surgical technology developed to treat paralysis in humans

0:40:260:40:31

is being adapted to radically improve the quality of life

0:40:310:40:34

of paralysed animals.

0:40:340:40:35

Ozzy is a seven-year-old dachshund.

0:40:370:40:39

Just six weeks ago, his owners Andrew and Aggie noticed

0:40:390:40:43

he had started walking much more slowly and seemed in pain.

0:40:430:40:47

After that he just collapsed on his back legs and there was clearly

0:40:470:40:50

something very seriously wrong with him.

0:40:500:40:52

Ozzy's vet performed a CT scan

0:40:530:40:56

and found that one of the discs in his spine had ruptured.

0:40:560:41:00

This can happen to any dog,

0:41:000:41:01

but dachshunds are especially vulnerable

0:41:010:41:03

to weaknesses in their discs.

0:41:030:41:05

Ozzy was rushed in for emergency surgery

0:41:060:41:09

but the damage couldn't be repaired.

0:41:090:41:12

He's now paralysed from the middle of his back down.

0:41:120:41:15

Veterinary neurologist Dr Nicolas Granger can show me why.

0:41:170:41:20

So this is Ozzy's back.

0:41:200:41:22

Just explain to me what we're looking at here.

0:41:220:41:24

The fibres within the spinal cord have been completely damaged

0:41:240:41:28

and therefore that blocks the information to go from the brain

0:41:280:41:32

to the back end of the dog

0:41:320:41:34

and equally the back end won't be able to communicate with the brain.

0:41:340:41:38

It's pretty much like somebody's actually cut through his spine

0:41:380:41:41

and it's completely severed.

0:41:410:41:43

It's very clear when you look at him that there is a point

0:41:430:41:45

along his back where he can feel

0:41:450:41:47

and a point after the lesion where he can't,

0:41:470:41:50

so he can't feel pain but that comes with loss of function as well.

0:41:500:41:54

This loss of function causes many health problems

0:41:550:41:59

that can shorten an animal's life.

0:41:590:42:01

And the most serious are not always the most obvious.

0:42:010:42:05

Surprisingly, one of the biggest threats to the health of

0:42:050:42:08

every paralysed animal is that they lose control of their bladder.

0:42:080:42:12

This puts them at risk of dangerous infections.

0:42:120:42:15

It's such a serious problem

0:42:150:42:17

that Ozzy has to be taken to the vet twice a day for treatment.

0:42:170:42:21

But in human medicine, innovative surgical techniques have been

0:42:220:42:26

developed to restore some vital functions like bladder control.

0:42:260:42:30

And now one such technology is being applied to animals.

0:42:320:42:36

Dr Nicolas Granger is one of only two veterinary surgeons in the world

0:42:360:42:40

to perform this pioneering operation.

0:42:400:42:43

In humans, neurosurgeons have designed very clever implants

0:42:430:42:48

that you can place near the nerves in the lower back region

0:42:480:42:51

going to the bladder.

0:42:510:42:53

It involves placing a tiny electrode on a key nerve

0:42:540:42:57

in the spinal cord called the sacral nerve.

0:42:570:43:00

This electrode can be activated by a remote-controlled device

0:43:020:43:05

to send an electrical impulse down the nerve.

0:43:050:43:08

The idea is that this will act exactly like a signal from the brain

0:43:080:43:12

telling the bladder to empty.

0:43:120:43:15

The system, this external system

0:43:150:43:17

will exploit the nerves and replace the brain.

0:43:170:43:21

That's absolutely amazing.

0:43:210:43:23

Today Ozzy is being admitted for surgery.

0:43:240:43:27

It's an extremely delicate procedure

0:43:270:43:30

and Nicolas is the only surgeon in the UK to perform it.

0:43:300:43:33

One of the difficult things about this procedure is really

0:43:350:43:38

just finding the right nerve.

0:43:380:43:40

It's such a tiny part of the anatomy buried deep in the body.

0:43:400:43:44

Nicolas needs to work carefully.

0:43:460:43:48

Any damage could make Ozzy's condition worse.

0:43:480:43:50

Now it's going to be a matter of getting the implant onto those nerves and permanently in position.

0:43:540:44:00

Micro forceps.

0:44:010:44:02

Once Nicolas is confident he has positioned the chip correctly,

0:44:030:44:07

he has to attach tiny cables and a receiver under Ozzy's skin.

0:44:070:44:11

The surgery has gone as well as could be hoped

0:44:150:44:18

and Ozzy is taken back to the dog ward to recover.

0:44:180:44:21

It was a real honour for me to see Nicolas at work.

0:44:230:44:26

He's very quick, he's very meticulous,

0:44:260:44:28

but we'll only know if it's been truly worth it

0:44:280:44:31

when Ozzy wakes up, and see if the implant works.

0:44:310:44:35

Two hours later, the moment has arrived for Nicolas to test whether

0:44:390:44:43

the implant has worked and can stimulate Ozzy's bladder to empty.

0:44:430:44:47

OZZY WHINES

0:44:500:44:52

Gosh, it really is just literary straightaway.

0:44:520:44:55

That's incredible.

0:44:570:44:58

Yeah, yeah. And it's very good that it's working as well,

0:44:580:45:01

for this little dog.

0:45:010:45:03

That is amazing.

0:45:030:45:04

He's obviously completely oblivious

0:45:040:45:07

but what a complete difference that will be.

0:45:070:45:09

Three weeks later, and Ozzy's life has been turned around.

0:45:140:45:18

Instead of daily trips to the vet,

0:45:180:45:21

he's back to his normal walks in the park.

0:45:210:45:23

The surgery can't give him back his hind legs but by replacing

0:45:230:45:27

one key part of the connection between his brain and his body,

0:45:270:45:31

it's made him a lot more comfortable and healthy.

0:45:310:45:34

He's just so happy to be out and about.

0:45:350:45:38

He's just back to himself and he's got many more years to come,

0:45:380:45:42

hopefully, of happy and healthy life with us.

0:45:420:45:46

And what's really exciting is that

0:45:470:45:49

Nicolas's technique is only the beginning.

0:45:490:45:52

By taking the latest technology from human medicine and applying it

0:45:520:45:55

to the veterinary world, this promises to transform

0:45:550:45:58

the quality of life for animals like Ozzy.

0:45:580:46:00

And in showing that it's possible to overcome spinal damage in this way,

0:46:020:46:06

Nicolas and his team have taken a crucial step towards

0:46:060:46:09

the Holy Grail of reversing the effects of paralysis.

0:46:090:46:13

In a few moments, we'll be getting the results of our big experiment,

0:46:180:46:22

pitting diet against exercise

0:46:220:46:24

to find the best way to help your pet lose weight.

0:46:240:46:26

But first, over to Vim Kumaratunga.

0:46:320:46:35

You might not think it, but by sheer numbers,

0:46:370:46:40

fish are far and away our most common pet.

0:46:400:46:43

There are around 36 million pet fish in the UK.

0:46:450:46:49

That's more than twice as many as all the dogs and cats put together.

0:46:490:46:54

Yet it's a shocking fact that many fish kept at home

0:46:570:47:00

will only live for a quarter of their natural lifespan.

0:47:000:47:03

And when they fall ill, they're hardly ever taken to the vets.

0:47:050:47:08

Given how many there are, it's remarkable how few we see.

0:47:090:47:12

So what's going wrong and how can we put it right?

0:47:140:47:16

To find out, I've come to Bristol Zoo Aquarium,

0:47:190:47:22

home to more than 100 different species.

0:47:220:47:24

Remarkably, every week here, head curator Johnny Rudd takes on fish

0:47:260:47:30

from owners who are struggling to look after them at home.

0:47:300:47:33

He finds that most of the problems

0:47:340:47:36

are caused by three popular myths about keeping fish.

0:47:360:47:39

Myth number one -

0:47:410:47:42

fish will only grow to the size of your tank.

0:47:420:47:45

70% of the animals in this tank have come from pet shops originally,

0:47:450:47:49

unfortunately come to us after people can't look after them

0:47:490:47:52

once they get to their full size.

0:47:520:47:53

They would have been sold as very small animals.

0:47:530:47:56

In around a third of cases when owners can't keep their fish,

0:47:580:48:01

it's because they've grown too big.

0:48:010:48:04

This pangasius catfish, for instance,

0:48:040:48:07

started out just a few inches long,

0:48:070:48:09

but has grown to be a giant three-foot tankbuster.

0:48:090:48:13

And when fish are kept in a home tank that's too small,

0:48:140:48:17

they suffer serious health problems.

0:48:170:48:19

That applies to even our most common pet fish,

0:48:210:48:24

the seemingly humble goldfish.

0:48:240:48:27

Goldfish can get to a great big size and live for a long, long time.

0:48:270:48:31

In a pond environment they will live to 30, 35 years.

0:48:310:48:35

Given an unsuitable environment like a goldfish bowl or something,

0:48:350:48:38

where they're not going to thrive,

0:48:380:48:40

they can only live for three or four years.

0:48:400:48:42

People think this is normal and it's just not.

0:48:420:48:44

It's almost like it's a disposable pet.

0:48:440:48:46

In my opinion, they shouldn't really be in indoor tanks.

0:48:460:48:48

So before you buy a fish,

0:48:500:48:51

make sure it's a species that will remain a manageable size.

0:48:510:48:55

Myth number two - you can put whatever fish you like in your tank.

0:48:570:49:01

In fact, the combination of fish is crucial.

0:49:030:49:05

Not all types will be happy living together.

0:49:060:49:09

When the mix of species is wrong,

0:49:090:49:11

the very first problem you're likely to see is aggression,

0:49:110:49:14

and fish on the receiving end will tend to become stressed

0:49:140:49:18

and prone to disease.

0:49:180:49:20

To help you achieve harmony, believe it or not,

0:49:200:49:22

there are such things as compatibility charts.

0:49:220:49:25

Which is a great starting point,

0:49:250:49:27

but it won't give you all the information that you need,

0:49:270:49:30

so it's best to seek expert advice from a specialist

0:49:300:49:33

before you choose your fish.

0:49:330:49:34

And getting the right number of fish in your tank is also vital.

0:49:350:49:39

The piranhas here at Bristol are a good example.

0:49:410:49:43

Like many species, they're only happy living in large shoals.

0:49:450:49:49

They're a little bit like the Rottweiler of the fishkeeping world.

0:49:490:49:52

People get them because of their fearsome reputation,

0:49:520:49:54

but in fact they're very, very timid.

0:49:540:49:56

They will often just get one,

0:49:560:49:58

which will be very stressed and it will die very young.

0:49:580:50:01

It won't have the security of the shoal around it,

0:50:010:50:03

which it really needs, they're very social animals,

0:50:030:50:05

so they'll see it deteriorate and then they'll buy two,

0:50:050:50:08

which is a terrible thing to do

0:50:080:50:09

because then there's no way of distributing their aggression.

0:50:090:50:12

They will fight literally to the death.

0:50:120:50:14

You need six to eight animals, minimum, really,

0:50:140:50:16

but you will need a really big tank to do that.

0:50:160:50:18

But even if you've got your fish right,

0:50:200:50:22

there's still myth number three -

0:50:220:50:24

that the water is the easy bit.

0:50:240:50:26

In fact, water quality is the number one reason why

0:50:280:50:31

the lifespan of fish kept in tanks is so much shorter than in the wild.

0:50:310:50:35

So your water conditions need to be controlled precisely

0:50:360:50:39

or your fish will quickly fall ill.

0:50:390:50:41

That's particularly true of salt water,

0:50:430:50:46

which has very complex chemistry that's difficult to get right,

0:50:460:50:50

especially for first-time owners.

0:50:500:50:52

Johnny's collection includes

0:50:530:50:55

saltwater fish that became popular as pets after Hollywood stardom,

0:50:550:50:59

only for their owners to run into trouble.

0:50:590:51:02

The whole industry has seen a big influx of people trying to

0:51:020:51:05

donate these sort of animals shortly after those sort of films,

0:51:050:51:08

which is sad, really, because I think people just underestimate

0:51:080:51:11

the amount of care and dedication you need to keep these animals.

0:51:110:51:14

They're very sought after, they're very colourful and vibrant,

0:51:140:51:17

but they're not for the beginner,

0:51:170:51:18

so really should think it through and not get them on impulse.

0:51:180:51:21

So, when you keep fish at home, there's a lot to think about.

0:51:230:51:26

Not all vets are experts on fish

0:51:270:51:29

and not all retailers know what they're talking about.

0:51:290:51:32

So ask your vet to recommend to you someone who does.

0:51:330:51:36

At the start of the programme, we began an experiment to find out

0:51:470:51:50

which is more important for your pet to lose weight - diet or exercise?

0:51:500:51:55

So we recruited 13 overweight dogs.

0:51:580:52:01

We split them into two groups and for the past eight weeks,

0:52:030:52:06

they have each been on a different weight loss plan.

0:52:060:52:10

Our first group have been on a controlled diet,

0:52:100:52:12

with precisely measured portions of food, and no treats.

0:52:120:52:17

So how have you got on with Elvis?

0:52:170:52:19

It's been a challenge because Elvis is Houdini-dog

0:52:190:52:21

and can find food where you don't think there is any.

0:52:210:52:24

He had two sausages out of my bag a few days ago.

0:52:240:52:27

I forgot I'd put them in a Tupperware dish in my work bag.

0:52:270:52:30

The second group have increased the amount of activity the dogs do

0:52:310:52:35

by at least a quarter to a third.

0:52:350:52:38

We're really hoping she's lost something because

0:52:380:52:41

I've lost a couple of pound over the eight weeks, even if Lucy hasn't!

0:52:410:52:44

Throughout, all our dogs have been fitted with a device

0:52:460:52:49

to monitor their physical activity.

0:52:490:52:51

It's the end of the eight weeks and they're returning

0:52:530:52:56

to the University of Liverpool's Pet Weight Management Clinic

0:52:560:52:59

to be weighed and measured.

0:52:590:53:01

So she was 15.6, just under, last time.

0:53:010:53:05

-She's now 14.6, 14.55.

-Oh, wow!

0:53:050:53:08

-So she's actually lost a kilogram.

-That's good.

0:53:080:53:11

Professor Alex German and his team have analysed the data

0:53:110:53:14

to find out which group has lost most weight -

0:53:140:53:17

the dieters or the exercisers.

0:53:170:53:19

Time for the results.

0:53:210:53:22

Welcome back. It's really nice to see everybody.

0:53:230:53:26

To our knowledge, this is a world first.

0:53:260:53:29

This is the first properly controlled trial comparing the two,

0:53:290:53:33

so thank you so much for taking part.

0:53:330:53:36

So we're going to start with the exercise group.

0:53:360:53:39

If we look at the group as a whole,

0:53:390:53:43

and we think in percentage terms,

0:53:430:53:46

the average loss that your group achieved was 2%.

0:53:460:53:51

So a modest but significant weight loss for the exercise group.

0:53:530:53:57

But how did the diet group compare?

0:53:570:54:00

Once again, if we think in percentage terms,

0:54:000:54:03

the diet group achieved

0:54:030:54:06

a spectacular 10% on average,

0:54:060:54:11

so well done. Fabulous.

0:54:110:54:13

CHEERING

0:54:130:54:15

So the diet group were the clear winners.

0:54:160:54:18

And this was the case in every measure we used.

0:54:190:54:22

At the start of our experiment,

0:54:230:54:25

every dog was given a body condition score.

0:54:250:54:28

All our dogs scored between six and nine of a maximum nine,

0:54:280:54:32

meaning they were all classed as overweight or obese.

0:54:320:54:35

By the end of the experiment, just one dog in the exercise group

0:54:370:54:41

managed to drop her score by one point.

0:54:410:54:43

But in the diet group, all dogs went down by either one or two points,

0:54:440:54:48

making them closer to their ideal size and weight.

0:54:480:54:52

And our experiment has revealed an unexpected reason

0:54:560:54:59

why the diet group did so well.

0:54:590:55:01

Alex and his team measured the physical activity

0:55:030:55:05

of all the dogs in the study.

0:55:050:55:07

And in the diet group, when the dogs began to lose weight,

0:55:080:55:12

they also naturally became more active.

0:55:120:55:14

Over the eight-week period,

0:55:160:55:18

Honey the shih-tzu increased her activity by 33 minutes a day.

0:55:180:55:22

And Poppy the collie, also in the diet group,

0:55:220:55:25

increased her daily activity by more than an hour.

0:55:250:55:29

We didn't ask the owners to change her activity

0:55:290:55:32

but Poppy seems to naturally have done that.

0:55:320:55:35

These dogs' owners didn't do anything to change their routine,

0:55:350:55:39

which suggests that losing weight helped the dogs feel motivated

0:55:390:55:43

to move more of their own accord.

0:55:430:55:45

-Well, that's a win-win situation.

-Absolutely.

0:55:450:55:49

Our experiment is the first of its kind to compare diet versus exercise

0:55:500:55:55

and it's been a big success.

0:55:550:55:57

I didn't really expect her to have lost as much as she has.

0:56:000:56:02

She has done very well.

0:56:020:56:04

Bob's a lot healthier and happier, so it means a lot that he's well.

0:56:040:56:09

We've learnt she probably does need more exercise

0:56:090:56:11

but I think we need to also look at her diet.

0:56:110:56:14

All our volunteers will be continuing

0:56:150:56:17

a long-term weight loss programme here at the Liverpool clinic,

0:56:170:56:21

but making a lasting change to your pet's diet or exercise habits

0:56:210:56:24

is never easy.

0:56:240:56:26

Alex has some tricks that can help.

0:56:260:56:29

With diet, one of the big challenges is sticking to a new regime.

0:56:290:56:33

When we want to reward our dog, it needn't be food.

0:56:330:56:36

It could be playing with your dog or some other positive interaction.

0:56:360:56:41

Exercise, and it's little differences, it's like using

0:56:410:56:44

the toys to stimulate the activity,

0:56:440:56:46

and really just trying to stick to a regular plan.

0:56:460:56:49

Dogs that do lose weight and keep it off are healthier,

0:56:540:56:57

live longer and have a better quality of life,

0:56:570:57:00

and the best way to do this

0:57:000:57:02

is to combine a weight loss diet with exercise,

0:57:020:57:06

but what our study has shown for the first time

0:57:060:57:09

is that diet is the single biggest influence on weight loss,

0:57:090:57:12

so it's well worth trying hard to break those bad habits -

0:57:120:57:16

cut out the treats,

0:57:160:57:17

feed the right amount for the size and breed of your dog and no more,

0:57:170:57:22

and what's really encouraging is that when they do start to lose weight,

0:57:220:57:26

they naturally start to exercise more,

0:57:260:57:28

leading to a happier and healthier life for them.

0:57:280:57:30

That's it from Liverpool University's Veterinary School.

0:57:410:57:44

Next time we'll be in Bristol University's Langford Vet Hospital,

0:57:440:57:48

where I'll be following a cutting-edge therapy

0:57:480:57:50

to save a horse with nerve pain.

0:57:500:57:52

We'll be finding out how to take care of one of our most intelligent pets.

0:57:540:57:58

Does Milo eat with you every night?

0:57:580:58:00

Of course he does. He's part of the family.

0:58:000:58:02

And we'll be running a unique experiment to find the best way

0:58:030:58:07

to reduce stress in cats.

0:58:070:58:09

CATS YOWL

0:58:090:58:10

-It looks like it hasn't been totally plain sailing all the way.

-No.

0:58:100:58:13

Steve Leonard and his team of vets investigate the best way to help your pet lose weight, witness a pioneering operation to improve the life of a paralysed dachshund, decode the secret language of guinea pigs and discover why, when it comes to keeping rabbits, it is time to ditch the hutch.


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