The Work of the DSPCA

Posted by Miriam Kerins, June 01, 2012 at 14:30



You will see this note placed sporadically throughout this blog.  Please read it.

Please Note.

All of the above and below articles are written as guidelines and as an informational source only.  They are in no way intended to be used, nor should they ever be used, as a substitute for professional veterinary and/or dog training advice.  If you have any concerns regarding your animal's health or behaviour, please contact your local veterinarian or dog training professional without delay.




Why Do Some Children Abuse Animals?

During the week I had a conversation with a lady concerning a small child of her acquaintance whom she suspects is being cruel to animals.

“What should I do?”  She asked.

“First of all we must understand why the child is doing this; then we must put in place intervention strategies.” Was my immediate response.

It’s thought by some that animal abuse by children is perhaps just  an exploratory stage of their development. This could be true; however, the intensity and motivation for this abuse must be explored.

 Educating children that all living creatures experience pain and suffering, including animals, and discussing the similarities between us and animals should develop empathy and go a long way towards preventing future cruelty.

If a child grows up in an environment filled with violence there could be other reasons behind his/her motivation to harm animals.  For instance, they may be forced by an adult to abuse an animal and then this may be used to coerce them into silence about being abused themselves.  This can lead the child to feel powerless and therefore seek out their own victims to exert control over and gain power.  They may well abuse a pet, a sibling or a peer in order to seek revenge for their own maltreatment. Animal abuse may also be part of an initiation rite for becoming a gang member.

All animal abuse situations should be taken seriously.  We should never disregard acts of animal cruelty as childish games; otherwise we may be giving children permission to inflict pain without fear of punishment!

So, what are the effects of animal abuse on the abuser? Animal abuse can be an indicator of the likelihood of future acts of violence.  Abusers and children who witness abuse may become desensitized to violence and may lose the ability to empathise with victims. The only way to stop the abuse is intervention and education.  The earlier we intervene the higher the rate of success. For example, Dr Randall Lockwood, Senior Vice President for anti cruelty initiatives and training at the ASPCA (American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is quoted as saying “A kid who is abusive to a pet is quite often acting out violence directly experienced or witnessed in the home”


 Below are a few questions for readers to ponder:

Do all children explore and is this what they’re doing when it comes to harming animals?

Kiddies love to ask questions, explore and experiment, etc., however, not all of them torture and kill pets! If a parent allows a child to harm animals it’s highly likely that child will be violent in later life.  Animal cruelty should never, ever be attributed to a stage of development in a child’s life.

 What type of child is cruel to animals?

Research has shown that it’s usually a male child who is more likely to hurt an animal rather than a female child.  Children as young as four may harm animals; however, this type of behaviour is more common during their teen years.  Animal cruelty is very often associated with those children who perform poorly at school, have low self esteem and few friends.  Children who commit cruelty to animals are usually classified as bullies and usually have a history of bad school attendance and anti social behaviour, including vandalism.

What are the Family Dynamics?

Research has found that if a child is committing violent acts of cruelty toward animals they are often demonstrating displaced hostility and aggression stemming from their own neglect or abuse by another family member. If animal abuse is being committed by a family member, whether parent, adult or child, it may often mean child abuse is also occurring within the family dynamics.

If I’m concerned, what do I do?

If you have any suspicions, talk to your child. Discover why he/she has committed this cruelty. Communicate with your child’s teachers and friends – investigate; because the more you know about your child’s activities, the more you’ll be able to guide your child into making humane choices. Explain to him/her that animal abuse is a sign there’s usually another serious problem occurring in his/her life and needs to be addressed. 

If your child says it only happened the once; it may simply be innocent exploration. However it must be corrected and maybe talking with the child will sort this out.  Please exercise caution and understand that you should be very concerned if a child causes suffering or pain to an animal.

If your child has committed an act of cruelty towards an animal, you shouldn’t handle this alone. This is a serious situation and should be treated as such. Seek the help of a family counsellor, your family doctor, or district nurse; etc.,

How will I know the difference between innocent exploration and calculated cruelty towards an animal?

Calculated cruelty is motivated be a strong desire to harm.  However, innocent acts of cruelty must also be addressed. It’s important to intervene when a child acts insensitively to what you deem is an obviously distressed animal; repeats harmful behaviour towards them and derives pleasure from causing the animal pain or seeing that it’s in pain or discomfort.

Teach your child to respect and be compassionate towards all animals through example.  Use real-life situations to instil a sense of respect for all life. Feed wild birds together, rescue a spider or a bug.  With an older child, discuss animal cruelty cases that are publicised in the media and encourage children to speak up for animals.

For more information log onto or email or please speak to a medical professional.


© Miriam Kerins.  DSPCA.




Do Dogs' Sweat?

I was asked an interesting question by a student during the week which made me chuckle.  “Do dogs sweat and can they become smelly?”  He enquired. My answer was, er, yes and no.  Let me explain.
Dogs don’t ‘sweat,’ or perspire the way we humans do but they can overheat and yes, they can produce body odour. 

Now pay attention at the back because here’s the science bit.  As humans, when our body temperature builds up due to vigorous exercise, etc., we perspire and it becomes quite obvious – damp patches under the arm pits, moisture droplets on the skin and unpleasant body odour.   This is because our sweat glands are distributed all over our bodies. 

However, a dog’s body is different. His sweat glands are located around his foot pads (merocrine glands) so when he overheats due to hot weather or too much exercise,  you will  notice little wet paw shaped patches where he’s been walking. Your dog will also have what is known as apocrine glands which do not function in order to keep him cool but to release pheromones.

When your pet overheats, in order to control his body temperature, he will pant quite a bit. This action makes the moisture on his tongue evaporate and the heavy breathing that accompanies it allows the moist lining of his lungs to become a surface from which excess moisture can also evaporate. Hence his body cools effectively.

A tip for those who own bulldogs and pugs. These are breeds with a compromised respiration system so are at a higher risk of overheating because they are unable to pant efficiently, so please keep this in mind when exercising.

However, sometimes, along with your pet’s panting comes doggie body odour which can be unpleasant for some pet owners.

So, as his parent it’s up to you to help alleviate his discomfort; of course this depends on the cause of his body odour and if you are unsure that it’s simply due to overheating, then it’s always best to contact your vet.

In the meantime, here are a few tips to help you, help him remain a cool canine.
If you believe the odour was caused by your dog being in contact with something unpleasant like fox poo, then give him a bath with a normal dog shampoo but clean and rinse him thoroughly – if you’ve ever smelt a dog who’s rolled in fox poo you’ll know what I mean.  One of my Jack Russells cannot resist rolling around in it.

If you believe it’s his diet then alter it.  Some dog food can cause a build up of oils on his skin and a lower fat diet may help with this. Always consult your vet before you change your dog’s diet.

Make sure you feed your pet a high quality dog food. Some low quality foods may not contain the essential vitamins your dog requires to maintain proper health and vitality. Read the label.

Prevent your dog from eating dog faeces. Yep, again one of my Jack Russells, (surprise, surprise, the one who loves to roll in fox poo), also has a fascination with other dogs’ faeces. No she’s not strange, many dogs do this but you must watch them carefully and prevent it happening.

Here’s another tip! If your dog eats his own poo, add a tin of pineapple chunks to his food.  Once the pineapple is absorbed, the dog goes to the toilet and then decides to eat it, the taste of the added pineapple will make his poo taste bitter and your dog should eventually stop. Sorry, I’ve no tips for preventing him eating other dogs’ poo other than to keep him away from it.

Finally, If you’re uncertain as to what is causing your dog’s body odour, (as in you know it’s not over heating or any of the above) then please take him to the vet for a full health check because serious health conditions need to be ruled out. 

Conditions such as an infection, mange, dental problems and cancer can all cause unpleasant doggie odours so it’s always best to get an expert opinion and who better to provide this than your local vet.
For more info log onto or email me at

© Miriam Kerins, Education Officer, DSPCA



Have you recently stepped in little puddles of pee in the kitchen or found some chew marks in the new sofa? 


Well, it’s no wonder; school’s back, and as Mna Na hÉireann breathe an audible sigh of relief, our four legged friends are feeling less than overjoyed!

It’s no secret family pets benefit greatly from lots of TLC and walkies during the long summer months; but, once the new school term returns, our dogs may feel upset, lonely and left out.  You see, one of the joys of being a pet parent means your family and your dog form a strong bond; however, if your dog becomes too reliant on this bond, he can become distressed when left alone, resulting in some out of character behaviour.

Just think about it for a moment. Your kids are your dog’s entire universe; his pack, and he adores them; and you as the parent are the leader of this pack. Your dog’s a sociable little thing that thrives on attention so it’s not unusual for him to experience some form of stress when he’s apart from the pack.

Geddit? Got it!

So, don’t be surprised if Fido becomes a tad destructive, he’s simply telling you he’s suffering from what we at the DSPCA commonly refer to as ‘Separation Anxiety.’ 

Yep while the school year can be a time of great relief and freedom for many parents, it’s tough on the old family dog.  During the summer break he’s become used to his favourite friends walking, talking, tickling and playing with him; then suddenly, he’s left alone for a large portion of the day while the kids are at school and mum and dad are at work.   This can be very upsetting for him; often leading to mild depression, over eating or in some cases, refusing to eat at all. 

First of all, what are some of the signs of separation anxiety?
• Inappropriate behaviour like urinating indoors, destroying furniture, excessive barking are just some examples.
• Following you everywhere around the house, immediately becoming distressed if he can’t remain close to you.
• Becoming visibly anxious if you prepare to leave the house, for example when you pick up car keys or put on a coat, etc.,
• Digging holes in the garden.
• Excessive salivation.
• Chewing or self mutilation.

What can you do to help your dog?
First of all, educate your dog from as early as puppyhood that sometimes, you may need to be apart from each other. 

Every responsible pet owner knows their dog needs to be walked at least once a day.  A well exercised dog is a happy dog. However, if mum and dad are busy, maybe a favourite grand parent, aunt or trusted neighbour would be happy to step in and spend some quality time with the family pet, giving him plenty of fresh air and socialisation.

Additionally, make sure your pet has a warm bed, dry shelter and plenty of food and clean, fresh, water. This is very important.

Some new toys are a good way of alleviating boredom for active pets; but must not be used as a substitute for exercise and attention.    Check out your nearest pet store or the DSPCA for a range of fun, stimulating toys and activity ideas.

Leave an item of clothing belonging to either yourself or one of the kids in your dog’s bed so that he still gets his favourite friend’s scent.

Leave a radio on; the sound of voices can prove soothing.

About fifteen minutes before you leave the house, try paying no attention to your dog and slip out without any fuss. Do the same when you arrive home. Come in, ignore your dog for a little while and then initiate contact when you’re ready.  After all you don’t want him to think his constant barking or acting out has brought you rushing home to his side.

Above all, remember, punishing your dog will NOT work if he suffers from separation anxiety as his behaviour is a panic response and not a result of disobedience.

For further information contact your vet or log onto www.dspca. ie or email me at

© Miriam Kerins, DSPCA


 Pesky Parasites

One of my most popular queries this week has come from mums' groups looking to join  my ‘Pesky Parasites’ workshops dealing with canine fleas; and while it's true, these pests are more likely to cause problems during warm weather, I tell callers they’re also known to hang around during the cool season due to their abilities to continue their life cycle indoors. 

Ah those dreaded fleas…We can never, ever underestimate the determined little freeloaders.   Ok, they can be neutralized; however, they’re very resilient and have a four stage cycle making it difficult to get rid of them.

For example, did you know a flea can live in our environment for over a year without feeding and is protected by their impenetrable shell?  It’s at this stage they survive most treatments and return to breed and re-populate year after year; sort of like a series of bad horror movie sequels.  Remember Friday 13th.
So, be warned, one hatched cocoon can produce over a TRILLION offspring in her 9 month life-span.  This army can continue to fight time and again, causing a serious health risk to your pet (in extreme circumstances, anemia). So you see, treating your pet is essential for their good health and in order to kill any errant fleas entering from other quarters.

Remember, fleas can jump over 6 feet and will get into your home via pets and humans.  If you’ve white clothing, like runners, sports socks, t-shirts; they love it.  They’ll get into the sitting room and live there unnoticed and will happily reproduce without you ever knowing…well, not until the problem is at an advanced stage.  So, it’s best to treat everywhere; indoors, outbuildings like garages, sheds, dog kennels, etc.

Here’s a checklist:

How will fleas affect my dog?

In the house:
Regularly hoover carpets, bedding, and furniture and anywhere else your dog spends time; remembering to immediately dispose of your hoover bag otherwise it will act as an incubator for un-hatched fleas.   Regular washing of your dog’s bedding will help.

In the garden:
Fleas thrive in shady, protected areas where your dog loves to rest.  Keep an eye on these areas and use an insecticide (usually sprayed through a garden hose).  Always read the label, use extreme caution, consult your vet and keep your dog away from this area until it is safe to allow him return. Alternatively, use a natural flea repellant like cedar chips along the fence line or in dark areas.
Keep your grass short and get rid of any dark, moist heaps like leaves or rubbish.

Your pet’s diet:
Fleas love malnourished animals because their immune systems are weak.  Make sure your pet has a balanced diet. Consult your vet for advice on proper feeding.

• Flea Shampoo
• Regular Grooming
• On-Pet spray
• Monthly Spot Applications
• Treat all dogs in the household

So readers, if you want your pet to live free of disease, irritation, allergies and infestation, do not allow this remorseless enemy to survive in his environment.

Always check with your vet but I believe prevention is better than cure and personally use a systemic monthly flea product which dramatically reduces the flea burden in mine and my dogs’ environment.

For more info log onto, check with your vet or email me at
© Miriam Kerins, DSPCA


Summer Activities for the Kiddies


As a humane educator specializing in adult education part of my programme specifically targets parents; and in particular mums who are trying to juggle a career, raise children and make time for the family pet. 
Now I don’t care what the experts say ladies; nothing prepares you for the highs and lows that are part of the job description of being a mother.  It’s a complex journey and the answers don’t miraculously fall at your feet!

When contemplating motherhood, I’ll bet like me your expectations were high.  Yes?  That’s because we’re fed by a culture that shows motherhood to be a time of bliss, joy and tranquility. Oh purleese! 

Well, not to worry girls, you’re not alone in your disorganized state; I’m with you and I’m going to offer you some sisterly advice that I hope will help you out when it comes to planning some fun, supervised, summer activities for the kids and the pets.

Before I start, I want to remind you that all children should be monitored whilst playing with pets; particularly a toddler who will view a pet as a small, moving cuddly toy and will not be able to understand that hitting them or pulling on their tail will cause pain and/or injury.

We’ll start with the toddlers.

• Young children love hide and seek games. Hold up a sheet or towel so that your dog is hidden and ask your toddler to pull the sheet aside, revealing your pet.
• If your dog is a gentle pet, allow your toddler smear some tasty treat such as soft cheese onto their fingers and allow your pet to lick it off.  (Please try this with your own fingers first in case your pet’s nibbling gets too rough).
• If you feed your child in a high chair, allow him to drop some pet friendly fresh vegetables for your pet to enjoy. Restrict this to carrot sticks, unsalted cooked pasta, broccoli or apple slices without the pips.

Older kids:

• Encourage your child to throw a ball or favourite pet toy for your dog to retrieve. Alternatively, your child can blow bubbles for your dog to catch.  Make sure to buy a bubble kit that’s pet friendly; available at all good pet stores. Using ordinary, home made bubbles may cause a stomach upset if ingested by your pet.
• Run with your dog on a lead and have your child ‘race’ your dog to a designated finish line.
• Get a toy water gun or use the garden hose and have your child spray small amounts of water a few feet away from your dog; moving the stream of water away in a zig zag motion along the ground; your dog will love to chase this.  Keep a close eye for signs your dog is no longer having fun and stop this activity.
• Hide a few doggy treats (near to the ground so that your dog can find them) and have your child and dog try to find them together.

Young Teens:
• Your teen should be encouraged to play ball games with your dog.
• Enroll yourself, your teen and your dog into dog training classes, especially obedience and agility where many teens will enjoy the competitiveness and it will also boost self esteem for both teen and dog.
• Have your teen read plenty of books or search the internet for fun, safe ways to play and interact with your dog.
• Never leave or expect your teen to be in charge of your pet outside of the safety of your home as situations such as interactions with strange dogs can easily occur.
• Sometimes, and I stress sometimes, teens can become angry or direct negative reactions toward their pet  if that pet  destroys their personal items;  so watch out for signs of aggression from both teen and pet.
• It’s no secret teens can be very busy young people and you as their parent will be forced to compete for their love and attention; so imagine how the family dog feels. Encourage your teen to spend some of his pocket money on doggy treats and to take on the responsibility of cleaning out the dog’s bed etc.,
• Observe your dog and obtain feedback from the way he licks, cuddles or growls, scratches or runs away in response to your child/teen’s interactions.

Oh yes ladies, I’ve no doubt you’ll face many hours where you’ll wonder  if you were cut out to be a mum at all; but give yourself credit, grab a coffee and write down all your good points and forget about the negative ones because you know what?  You’re a great mum and your kids are not so bad either!

For more information, log onto or email me at
© Miriam Kerins, DSPCA






The sun's out, hailing the start of the summer holidays, and I want to remind pet parents to make every effort to ensure their pets – as well as their family -  have a safe and happy experience when travelling to and from that holiday destination; whether it’s by road, sea, rail or air.

Remember, travelling can be very stressful for both you and your pet; I know, I’m one of those people who bring their dogs everywhere, and take it from me, poor holiday planning can literally be listed as grounds for divorce in our house!  However, with thoughtful preparation, you can ensure a safe, happy and comfortable experience for everyone.

Here’s a few top tips from a weary traveller.

• When you and hubby are excitedly discussing your travel plans and destinations, make sure you remember to get your pets involved.  And no, I don’t mean sit down and ask them where they’d like to go!  I’m simply suggesting you factor your furry friends into the equation.

• Take your pets to the vet to ensure they are up to date on all vaccinations and that you have a supply of any medication they are currently taking. 

• If you own dogs that will be in contact with other dogs, make sure they are vaccinated against kennel cough.

• Additionally, make sure your dog has basic training so that he will at least behave during the trip.

• Obtain a clean certificate of health from your vet and make sure this is dated at least 14 days before your departure if travelling by air or sea.

• Ask your vet about any parasites, health risks, etc., to your animal that may be associated with your planned destination.

• Make sure your pet wears a collar and ID tag and is micro chipped.  Make sure his details are up to date and clearly displayed.

For Air/Ferry Travel:
The first time I took my dogs on a ferry and somebody callously described them as “cargo,” I nearly had a fit. However this is how they are considered and even if your dog is the most relaxed canine in the world, (a la our middle one, Belle), the cargo hold does not make for a pleasant travel experience.

If required, purchase an approved shipping crate – it should be large enough for your pet to comfortably stand, sit, lie down and turn around in.  Write the words ‘LIVE ANIMAL’ clearly on at least two sides of the crate and use arrows to prominently indicate the upright position of the crate.  Make sure the door is securely closed but not locked so that airline/ferry personnel can open it in case of emergency.

Whenever possible, book direct flights and tell every airline/ferry employee you encounter that you are travelling with a pet in the cargo hold.  This way they will be ready if any additional attention is required.
Always check ahead with your airline’s/ferry’s pet policies.

For Car Travel:
Plan the journey taking into account any rest stops and/or restaurants where you can safely eat with your pet.

In order to make the journey safe and secure, a well ventilated pet carrier/crate, large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in should be provided.  Alternatively a pet harness/safety belt should be attached.  However, if your dog is anything like my lot, they will probably gnaw through the straps, rendering them useless.  So, it’s up to you; you know your own pet so you’ll know the best way to secure them. 

Don’t allow your pet to travel with his head outside the window. This can subject him to inner ear damage and lung infections and your pet could be injured by flying objects.  Cats should always be held in a carrier.
Don’t allow your children to tease or annoy your pet whilst travelling.

Never, ever, leave your animal alone in a parked car. On a hot day, even with the windows open, a parked car can turn into a furnace and very quickly, in a matter of minutes, heatstroke can develop, causing death.  In cold weather a car can turn into a fridge, holding in the cold, causing the animal to freeze to death. 
Take along plenty of bottled drinking water from your own tap.  Drinking water they are not used to could cause the animal’s tummy to become upset.

Bring along a travel bag for your pet and include things like:
• First aid kit
• Clean towel
• Fresh supply of water
• Paper towels
• Poo bags
• Treats
• Favourite blanket/toys

Above all, remember to try and enjoy your holiday because one bad experience for both you and your pet can prompt you to say what I’ve said so many times…”never again!”

For more information log onto or email me at
© Miriam Kerins,  DSPCA





Summer's here and you’re on a health kick. Good for you!  You’re avoiding those nasty toxins found in processed foods and deodorants; even your cooking utensils have been modified to reflect the more organic, fabulous you!

Think you’re great, don’t you? But what about your pet?

Did you know that on any given day your cat or dog is only a mouthful away from possible death?


Well let me explain.  Human medications, including dropped pills, have topped the list of pet toxins for the third year in a row, according to latest research; with over the counter medications containing ibuprofen and acetaminophen, anti-depressant medication and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder prescriptions topping the list. 

Every year the DSPCA receives frantic ‘phone calls from pet owners who’ve left their own medication on a table only to return some time later to find an  agitated, extremely ill animal and several pills missing from the container.

Then there’s the emergency calls we receive from those pet parents desperate for reassurance, when the always curious family cat or dog jumps into the wheelie bin containing a smorgasbord of household waste including batteries, broken glass, paper towels soaked in bleach used for cleaning the worktops etc., I mean, did you know, household waste poses a very large threat to any pet’s health.  Animals are naturally drawn to smelly rubbish; always in search of delicious scraps of human food. Remember, if you’re a dog, anything that smells good gets munched.

So to help you keep your pet safe; take a look at my list of some of the most common poisons that have affected our four legged friends during the last year.

1. Insecticides: Commonly used on pets for flea control and often left around the house, readily available for dogs/cats to devour.

2. Rodenticides: Grain based bait used to destroy mice and rats. If ingested by cats and dogs, these can cause seizures, internal bleeding and kidney failure.

3. Human Food: Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs while onions and garlic can cause anemia if enough is ingested. Some sweeteners and sugar free gum and mints can cause low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs.

4. Chewable Veterinary Medications: Common ones are medications for arthritis and incontinence; often flavoured for ease of administration but this means animals may ingest the entire bottle.  Always read the label!

5. Chocolate: This contains methylxanthines which act as a stimulant to your pet and can cause agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, seizures and even death! Remember, the darker the chocolate, the more methylxanthines it contains.

6. Some plastic pet toys and feeding bowls can contain bisphenol A (BPA): This is a chemical that's harmful to your health the health of your animals. Try using ceramic or stainless steel instead.

7. Plants: House and outdoor plants can be ingested by pets.  Lillies are lethal for causing life threatening kidney failure in cats while Sago Palms cause liver failure in both cats and dogs.  If you’re lucky enough to receive a Valentine’s bouquet…keep it away from your dogs.

8. Outdoor Toxins: Keep anti freeze and fertilizers locked away in securely locked sheds.  I wouldn’t even recommend keeping them on high shelves, because, er, cats can climb!

9. Herbicides; or weed killers to you and me: These usually have a salty taste and pets love salt and will commonly ingest them.  Follow the instructions on the label and keep pets away from treated areas in your garden until they are thoroughly dried out.

10. Household Products: If you’re like me and sterilise everything till it’s pristine, then keep that bleach out of reach! Also, alkalis, acids and other detergents can cause corrosive injury to your pet’s mouth and stomach.  Then there’s the liquid pot pourri; a huge offender so open a window and let some fresh air in if you want to kill those offensive odours!

As I said, the list above represents just a few of the unknown dangers lurking in our homes.  If you suspect your pet has swallowed or come into contact with something poisonous, then ring your vet immediately.
For more information, log onto or email me at

© Miriam Kerins,  DSPCA





Temperatures are rising, and it’s May so officially we’re in the midst of summer and you know how we girlies  love to get our bodies into shape for that all important bout of sunbathing. (I’ll let you into my body beautiful secret; I’ve added a salad to every meal; the weight should be dropping off any day now!)

Ah yes, roll on  the aroma of the family barbeque and the frenzied dash to smother the kids with sun block; even though we know we’ll never see blue skies and searing sun for more than a few days at a time; but wait, did you forget something?  What about Fido and Kitty?  Did you know that hot weather can pose a real threat to your pets?

Let me put this simply. Animals CANNOT tolerate extreme temperatures; so, as a responsible pet owner you must make absolutely sure that when the sun does make an appearance, you’ve taken precautions to keep your pet safe.

Below are some tips to help you out:
Never leave your animal in a car. Pet owners should know the dangers of leaving any animal in a hot car; even for just a few minutes. This particularly applies to dogs who love to travel in a car and it’s tempting to let them go to the supermarket with you, but don’t leave your dog inside, even with the windows open.

Temperatures don’t have to be in the 90’s for a car bound dog to be in serious trouble. Even at much lower temperatures, even under a cloudless sky, the humidity inside the car turns it into a sauna.  Research has shown that if it’s a sunny 78 degrees, the temperature in a car, with the windows open, rises at least 32 degrees in 30 minutes. In short, 78 to 110 in half an hour!   Temperatures in air conditioned cars can reach the same temperature as outside within just five minutes of being turned off. This means on a hot day it takes a matter of minutes for a dog to end up organ damaged or dead!

If you must take your dog out in the car, make sure you have him well strapped in. Purchase a car safety harness for your dog. This is for your safety as much as his! They’re available in any good pet shop or from our DSPCA gift shop. Cats should always be in pet carriers when travelling in the car.
One small jolt in traffic can have a very sad result for an unsecured pet. If you’re forced to brake suddenly, an unsecured animal can be thrown forward, hitting you in the back of the head or neck, causing painful injuries to both you and your pet.

Make sure the car window is open while driving; enough to give your animal plenty of ventilation.  Don't leave your dog in the car if you need to leave your vehicle. 

If your dog pants quickly, looks very tired or collapses, he could be suffering from heatstroke. Put him in a cool, shady spot and spray his body with cool water, or give him a cool (not cold) bath immediately. Never cool your dog so much that he/she begins to shiver. Let your dog drink small amounts of cool water.

Contact a veterinary surgeon urgently for further advice as heatstroke can prove fatal.

Be responsible; leave your dog at home. Place his bed/kennel in a shaded area and he will automatically go to it when he needs rest from the hot sun.

Leave plenty of water and leave it in the shaded area.  Check water bowls regularly to make sure there’s plenty of fresh water available.

Never exert your dog during hot weather. When walking your dog, remember there are areas and times during the day where temperatures soar. It makes sense to walk your dog in the early morning or late evening, when temperatures are lower and the hot concrete won’t burn sensitive paws.

Always take along water for yourself and your dog. Stop frequently to allow both of you to have a refreshing drink. Many domestic animals do not sweat to keep cool. Dogs have no sweat glands and can only lose heat by panting. Make sure they always have plenty of water to help them keep cool. Tip: Temperatures are at their highest during mid day and three. Avoid these times.

Keep your pet groomed: Very important during hot weather. If your pet has long hair then that’s akin to you wearing a fur coat in 90 degrees of heat!  Regular brushing helps remove the winter undercoat and helps your pet regulate his body temperature.

Apply sunscreen to pets with white tipped ears and noses. Tip: Children’s sunscreen, Factor 50+ is particularly good.

Insects: Make sure your pet receives regular flea preventatives.   And… keep that first aid kit close by in case of bee and wasp stings.

Water Safety: If your dog likes the water, he’ll instinctively want to swim during the hot weather so put a life jacket on him.

Remember, even the healthiest of pets will suffer in extreme temperatures so please take the above precautions.

 If you’d like more information log onto or email me at or speak to your vet.

(c) Miriam Kerins, DSPCA







We all know that man’s (and woman’s) best friend is the dog!  Dogs love us unconditionally and their level of gorgeousness goes right off the, well, the gorgeousness scale; you can tell I’m a doggie kinda gal.

However even the nicest doggie has been known to bare his gnashers and quite often it’s a small child who bears the brunt of his anger.

All parents know that kids go off the rails when they spot a dog.  Their natural instinct is to run up and pet the animal, try to hug it, pick it up and scream and squeal with excitement often upsetting the poor pooch, albeit unintentionally.

Now to a small child and even an adult this type of adulation is a normal reaction and appears cute; to a dog it spells something entirely different. Sudden movements and loud, ear splitting screams often cause the poor dog to feel fear and could promote an aggressive response in the friendliest and most easy going of canines.

So, as a parent, what can you do to protect your child from strange dogs?

Well, here are a few tips and guidelines that I hope will come in handy.

• Teach your child to respect a dog’s instincts and most importantly, its fears. When around a strange dog, ask your child to speak quietly and to move slowly – no running around making mad flapping movements.

• Never allow your child to ride a bike, a flicker scooter or skate too close to a strange dog.  Some dogs may  feel scared because they are not normally used to these things and may even chase the moving object because such behaviour can trigger a dog’s natural prey instinct.

• If a strange dog gets too frisky or excited around your child, then teach the child to behave like a statue. Your child will need to drop any food or toy they’re holding and stand still like a statue or a tree.  Statues are boring for dogs – they will usually come over, sniff and go away.  Practise this with your kids so they know exactly what to do if a dog rushes at them.

• Teach your child to never, never, and again I stress, NEVER pat a dog without the owner’s permission.  I’ve lost count of the times kids have rushed up to me in the park to try and grab hold of my dogs’ heads and attempt to rub them and when I pull my dogs away the parents get stroppy.  There is a reason why you must seek the owners’ permission.  Some dogs, two of mine included, do not like strangers patting them and may become unfriendly due to nervousness.  Teach your child to respect a dog’s personal space and his right to refuse to be patted by strangers.

• If the owner gives permission, teach your child to approach the dog slowly and quietly and allow the dog to sniff the back of the child’s hand; then gently pat the dog’s chest, sides or back. Dogs’ don’t generally like to be rubbed on their heads. Keep your face away from the dog and never stare into its eyes. For very small dogs, your child may need to kneel down, keeping the top half of the child’s body straight and not bend over the dog.

• Tell your child it’s a big no no to sneak up on a dog that is eating or sleeping. If a dog is eating, your child must wait until he has moved away from the feed area before approaching him.  If the dog is sleeping, your child needs to stand back and call the dog out of his bed if they wish to give him a cuddle.  Any dog can bite you if it is scared, confused or in pain – even your own family pet.  You must allow a dog to see you before you approach it.  You must allow a dog to sniff you before you pat it.

• Puppies! Never allow your child pick up a puppy. Mummy dogs are very protective of their babies just as humans are, and may bite the child if she thinks they will hurt them. 

• Make sure your child doesn’t approach or pat a dog that has his head sticking out of a car window.  It’s likely the animal is protecting and defending what he perceives as his space.

The above are just a few simple guidelines for parents to follow so that in the event of unplanned canine encounters, your child will know what to do.

For more information, log onto or email me at or contact a dog training professional.

(c) Miriam Kerins, DSPCA.




You will see this note placed sporadically throughout this blog.  Please read it.

Please Note.

All of the above and below articles are written as guidelines and as an informational source only.  They are in no way intended to be used, nor should they ever be used, as a substitute for professional veterinary and/or dog training advice.  If you have any concerns regarding your animal's health or behaviour, please contact your local veterinarian or dog training professional without delay.




As animal lovers, we at theDSPCA understand and appreciate the importance of spaying and neutering animals. In fact, for 172 years this Society has assumed a leadership role in advocating and offering affordable spaying and neutering in order to help prevent the cruel and inhumane slaughter of unwanted, homeless, abandoned and neglected cats and dogs.

In Ireland, as in every other country in the world, there are homeless animals.  Many of these end up in rescue shelters similar to the DSPCA. Through our very strict re-homing policy, we manage to rehabilitate them with loving, caring families.  They are the lucky ones.  Tragically, many, many, more, throughout the world, though healthy, wonderful and companionable they may be; face the prospect of being euthanised due to a shortage of new homes and this the only future they can look forward to.

Let me make myself very clear – responsible pet parents do not add to this problem – they spay/neuter their pets!

But it’s not just abandoned animals that are left at shelters. No; it’s the offspring of beloved family pets.

Let me explain:
For example, how many times have we heard from members of the public that their dog “managed to get out of the garden, went missing for only half an hour and came back pregnant with puppies.” And, even if the “accidental” offspring manage to find themselves adopted, it’s still possible for them to be placed in a rescue shelter due to them being “too big,” “not great with the kids,” “doesn’t fit in with the new decor,” or “too difficult to handle.”  Yep, we’ve heard it all. 

So, in order to avoid this happening to you and your pet, we strongly recommend spaying and neutering as the ONLY effective one hundred per cent method of birth control for cats and dogs!

And…it’s not just cats and dogs!
The overpopulated pet problem also affects our bunny rabbits too.  Rabbits reproduce with lightening speed; faster than cats and dogs.  Spaying and neutering can reduce hormone-driven behaviour such as mounting, spraying, boxing and lunging.  In females, spaying can prevent ovarian, uterine and mammary cancers.

Neutering: The Facts.
• Castrating your dog prevents more than unwanted litters; it can help prevent  testicular and prostate cancer which is common in un-neutered dogs.  In addition to this, if the dog is neutered before he reaches adulthood he may not naturally develop the types of territorial behaviours un-neutered male dogs may develop, i.e. possible aggressiveness, marking territory, roaming, etc.,
• Neutering is also a routine, relatively low risk surgery with a swift recovery time.  Serious complications are rare and owners can usually take their dog home on the same day surgery is performed, having him back to his old self in no time.

Spaying: The Facts.
• Spaying your female dog eliminates the problem of stray males camping on your doorstep and decreases her own desire to roam and breed.  In addition there are many health benefits attached such as a marked reduction in the risk of her contracting ovarian cancer, mammary gland tumours and the procedure may help reduce aggression.

The Myths:
Spaying/Neutering will make my pet fat.
• Er, no. Owners make their pets fat! Failing to provide an adequate, healthy diet and daily exercise will render your pet fat.

Bitches should have one litter.
• This is of no benefit at all and simply an old wives tale.

Spaying and neutering is cruel.
• Look, we, as humans, domesticated animals and brought them into our lives and homes. The environment we created for them is far removed from their natural one and we have made them dependent on us; therefore we are responsible for their care. What is cruel in my opinion is allowing your bitch to have litter after litter and then dumping the puppies in a black sack on a deserted roadside, leaving the poor mites to fend for themselves and the mother heavily burdened with milk and at serious risk of developing mastitis and dying from lack of veterinary you get my point?

 My dog’s personality will alter.
• Oh Please! Neutering/spaying has no negative affect on your dog’s personality. Be positive! This procedure will make your animal more amenable, less aggressive and less likely to pick a fight! with another dog.  Sure take me for example; I’m Miss Personality, nay, a sweetheart, and I’ve been spayed for over a decade.

It’s too expensive.
• The DSPCA provides affordable spaying/neutering for those pet parents who are in receipt of social welfare payments through our mobile veterinary clinics. Log onto and click on 'Mobile Clinic.'

So, what’s your next excuse?

You don’t have one!

Save a Life – Spay/Neuter your pet!!!

For more information log onto or email me at

© Miriam Kerins, DSPCA





It never ceases to amaze me the amount of queries I receive concerning nuisance barking.

People often ask me. “Why does my dog bark?” The answer is straight forward and not difficult to understand; dogs bark because barking is their way of communicating. They don’t bark to annoy you or to spite you or just because they can…although it may appear that way if it’s driving your neighbours mad!

However, there are different types of barking, and you, as the pet parent must familiarise yourself with them.

 For example:
The Alert: This is the normal, expected barking to alert you there’s an intruder in the house.  It’s perfectly natural for your dog to bark if he senses there’s a threat to his family or his territory.  This is usually a loud, sharp bark and if you hone in on this natural canine instinct with proper training you can help your dog protect your home and your family.

Barking at other dogs: A dog down the road barks and before you know it your own pet, along with every other dog within earshot is involved in a dawn chorus. Very annoying.

Playful, excited barking: More common in puppies who bark when playing. My own dogs bark excitedly when they know a car trip and a walk is imminent. This type of bark normally sounds upbeat.

Then there’s the biggie – the behavioural problem or nuisance barking: This usually signals boredom, loneliness or miscommunication between owner and pet. If this type of barking is a problem, you need to recognise the triggers!

• When does it occur?
• Is the dog left alone for long periods of time?
• Is he getting enough exercise?
• Is he anxious about something he hears or sees? (Neighbour has a new lawn mower and the noise is scaring him, neighbour’s child is tormenting him, etc.,)

In order to address this, you will require plenty of patience and training with a specialist dog trainer for both you and your dog. This will help you understand ‘doggy’ language, and then you can correctly express what it is you wish to communicate to your pet.

Many training techniques are based upon the dog receiving a reward for the desired action.  In this case for example, the desired action would be “stop barking.”

When your dog barks and you wish to make him stop, hold his muzzle very gently or squirt him, again gently, with a child’s toy water gun filled only with clean water; (do not hurt your dog), this will momentarily startle him and make him stop barking.  When he stops, use the word “quiet.”

Immediately after saying “quiet,” if the dog remains quiet, reward him.  When he starts barking again, repeat the process.  Eventually he will learn to associate “quiet,” with a reward. Eventually your dog will stop barking without the need for the water gun and only the use of the word “quiet,” will be sufficient.

It sounds easy enough, I mean once you determine the cause of your dog’s excessive barking you can try to remove any potential reasons and you can begin to control his behaviour.  Also, it helps if you give your dog better things to do to prevent and distract him from nuisance barking.

Below are some of the things you should never do:
Never: Comfort, feed or pet your dog when they bark for attention or out of anxiety; this is simply rewarding his behaviour.

Never: Shout – this will only cause him to bark more and louder.

Never: Allow your dog to bark constantly outside regardless of the reason – this is the best way to make enemies of your neighbours.

Never use a shock collar they are inhumane, painful and unkind to your dog.

Never allow your dog to become lonely or bored and never leave him to his own devices for long periods of time.

So it’s up to you; develop that ‘barking ear,’ and find out exactly what your dog is saying when he ‘woofs,’ ‘howls’ and ‘growls.’  And yes, it requires a lot of time and patience but it’s well worth it because if you train mans’ (and womans') best friend properly you’re embarking on a lifetime’s investment for you and your pet.

For more info, log onto or email me at

Or contact our dog training team at 01-4994725 or email them at  Alex,  Cathy and the crew are wonderful and are always ready with help and advice.

© Miriam Kerins, DSPCA





Would it surprise you to know that approximately 53 per cent of cats and 55 per cent of dogs are overweight? Well, they are, according to the findings at the fourth annual Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) which, in my opinion, clearly suggests we’re placing our pets at a serious risk of dying early.

So, what constitutes an overweight animal? I hear you ask.

Over weight animals or pet obesity is an excess of body fat that’s enough to impair the health, welfare and lifestyle of the animal. To put it simply, and setting all lame excuses aside, your pet is taking in more calories than he requires and any excess weight in an otherwise healthy animal is very likely to be due to over eating.

When experts speak about humans being obese, they usually define it as being 20-25 per cent above ideal body weight.  However, in animals, the degree of obesity that impairs health, welfare and quality of life has not been fully defined and will vary from one individual animal to another, but it’s more likely to be similar to that seen in people.

However, it must be stressed that obesity is a serious health issue in pets for several reasons:
• It causes suffering and can be disabling for the animal.
• It can affect an animal for a long period of its life.
• It’s preventable.

So, What are the Causes of Obesity?
The main reason is the type of food being fed to the animal. This is something that’s controlled by you – the owner.  If your dog eats too much and doesn’t exercise enough, he can become obese. 
Let me explain a typical scenario.  A lovely pet parent visits the clinic and the dog is clearly overweight, so I very politely and respectfully suggest that, er, perhaps Fido could do with losing a few pounds.  And below are just some of the replies…

Ah but you don’t understand, he barks all night if I don’t give him his choccie biccies.”
No, he barks all night because he’s copped on that the more noise he makes, the more he gets attention. You give in and reward him with a biscuit. You’re training a beggar.

But he never eats a thing and I worry about him so I give him some of my own dinner.”
He does eat; he’s just a grazer who goes back and forth to his food to nibble during the day.  That’s normal. However, when the humans eat they feed him from the table which fills him up, leaving no room for his dog food. This means his total calorie intake is excessive and now he’s a roly poly!

So, what are some of the Possible Health Risks of Obesity?
• Diabetes Mellitus or Sugar Diabetes
• Complaints in Joints and Bones.
• Heart Disease.
• Problems with Breathing.
• Heat Intolerance.
• Surgical Risk
• Risk giving Birth
• Constipation.
• Cancer: The link between obesity and certain forms of cancer is unknown.  There have been studies suggesting obese dogs tend to have an increased risk of developing certain types of cancers.  A recent study has found that dogs who are obese at one year old are at a greater risk of developing mammary tumours.

So, how do you tell if your animal is obese?

Below are just a few telltale signs: If you are concerned please ask your vet's advice.

• Excessive panting, particularly in hot weather
• Lagging behind during walks
• Sluggish behaviour
• Reluctance to exercise resulting in fewer calories being used up, thus being stored as fat.
• No visible waist.  When viewed from above, your pet should have slight curves; as in a gentle dip after the ribs turning to a gradual slope to the hips.  If he hasn’t perhaps he’s overweight.

Avoiding Obesity:
• Only offer food recommended by your vet
• Offer no snacks/scraps
• Measure food intake carefully
• Increase exercise; easier for dogs than cats. Put your cat’s food upstairs, thus encouraging her to walk up to get it, play with her more and rotate her toys.
• Include everyone who plays a part in your pet’s life to understand how important his health is.

Remember, these are only guidelines and there are some diseases that can cause obesity in your pet, so if in doubt, check with your vet.

For more information contact your vet or log onto or email
© Miriam Kerins DSPCA




The other night whilst trawling through a never ending supply of TV channels I came across a programme dealing with compulsive hoarding; a disorder that affects many people. 

Now, it’s my understanding hoarding is the acquisition of possessions - that a person fails to use or discard – and that are in excess of what would be deemed normal amounts.

So,  for someone like me who is a self confessed ‘neat freak,’ (everything  tidied away  and I live by the belief that if I haven’t used it in 6 months I don’t need it and bin it), well then, hoarding is a very difficult disorder for me to comprehend. Nevertheless it‘s a serious, debilitating disorder for the sufferer.  However, when the hoarding compulsion involves animals, then it‘s a very real concern, the effects of which are a mental health, animal health and public safety issue.

At the DSPCA, we investigate and deal with incidents of animal hoarding and below are just some of the markers that would give us cause for concern.

• More than the usual number of companion pets
• An inability to provide even the minimum standards of nutrition, shelter, veterinary care and sanitary conditions for the animals.
• Denial of this inability and the impact that it has on the animals and the home environment for both them and the human occupants of the home.

So, Why Hoard Animals?
That’s a question I can’t fully answer. However, from what I’ve studied, some research points toward a number of obsessive-compulsive disorders.  Newer studies lead toward attachment disorders in conjunction with personality disorders, paranoia, delusional thinking, depression and other mental illnesses.   For example, some animal hoarders began collecting following a traumatic loss or event.

  Then again, others see themselves as ‘rescuers.’

Very often, hoarders appear to be intelligent people, clearly believing they’re helping animals.  Many even possess the ability to garner sympathy and can even deceive others into thinking their situation is under control.  They become ignorant to the fact they’re not helping the animals but are inflicting extreme suffering upon them.

How Do You Spot a Hoarder?

Animal hoarders range in age and gender.  The elderly tend to be more at risk and this is possibly due to their own deteriorating health and isolation either from family, community or social groups.  However, one common denominator between them is the lack of understanding of the pain and suffering they are inflicting upon the animals and of the crises they are committing.

They have many animals and may not even know the total number in their care.

Their homes are in a state of deterioration, (broken furniture, in need of repair, lots of clutter.)

A strong smell of ammonia is present and floors may be covered in animal poo, urine, vomit etc.,

Animals in their care are emaciated, poorly groomed and not properly socialized.

Vermin is present.

The person is isolated and has neglected themselves.

Despite the signs of distress, the individual insists all is well and the animals are well cared for.

Do Hoarders Ever Pass Themselves Off As Rescue Shelters?

Unfortunately sometimes they can set themselves up as ‘rescue’ facilities and may appear to be sensible individuals.  They convey their love for those animals that have special needs. Lately, the internet has become a tool for such solicitation.

How Do You Know If It’s a Hoarder or a Rescue Shelter? 

The hoarder will not disclose the number of animals in its care.  (The rescue shelter will be able to provide facts and statistics).

Little or no effort is made by the hoarder to adopt animals out.  (Rescue shelters actively seek to re-home animals in their care).

Legitimate rescue shelters are viewed as the enemy by hoarders.

Animals may be picked up or handed over at a remote location – (car park, field, street corner), rather than at the hoarder’s facilities. The legitimate rescue shelter will have a headquarters.

Please bear in mind, not everyone who has multiple animals is a hoarder. An individual may have many animals, have them spayed/neutered and provide them with regular veterinary care, a correct diet, proper living conditions and a sanitary environment. Such a person would not be considered a hoarder.

For more information, log onto or email me at
© Miriam Kerins,  DSPCA.




 This Little Piggy is Not Going to Market

They’re mini pigs with a massive price tag, and although these gorgeous little porkers are not going to market, I’m concerned for their welfare.  You see, now that the designer ‘handbag dog,’ phenomenon is soooo last month, these adorable, pint sized creatures look set to become the latest fad.

Therefore, following a number of calls to the shelter, some of which I’ve taken personally, from people asking such questions as ‘eh, do you know where I can get my hands on a micro pig for my mate’s 18th birthday?’ to ‘Can I bring my micro pig out in my handbag?’  My answer to both questions by the way is No and, er absolutely Not.

 If you read on you’ll understand why.

 I’m going to outline a few guidelines which I hope prospective micro pig parents will take into account before they decide to purchase one of these animals and then find out, when it’s too late, that they are unable to provide for their very specific well being and requirements.

What is a micro pig?
It is quite simply a pig that, over generations, has been bred to be smaller in adulthood than other species of pigs. They are usually described as being ‘knee height’ when fully grown, however, as not every human is the same height this is obviously difficult to judge.

Can anyone own a micro pig?
No. A pig is a farm animal. This means in accordance with the legal requirements; before you purchase your pig, the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine will need to be contacted in order that the local District Veterinary Office, (DVO), can arrange an inspection of the owner’s premises to establish suitability. You will then need to be registered as a ‘herd owner.’ A herd owner is someone who has just one pig or several pigs.  According to the Department’s guidelines, ‘Only persons registered with the Department and issued with valid pig herd numbers are allowed to own or trade in pigs. This provision applies to anyone who wishes to own pigs, however few.’

Can I bring my pig out with me when I’m socialising?
No. You will need to contact the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, and fill in a dispatch document to notify them of a pig movement. So, if your pig becomes ill, how do you take him to see a vet if you don’t have a legal permit stating you’re a herd owner or a dispatch document giving you permission to move him? The vet will need to visit you so do take into account expensive, out of hours, house calls.

This brings me to veterinary care – Will my local vet be able to provide care for my pig?
Unlikely. Local vets are highly equipped and trained to deal with domestic pets like cats, dogs, rabbits, etc., When it comes to dealing with pigs, however, you may likely need a more specialized professional.

What is the average life span of the micro pig?
Approximately 10 years although some live until they are 25 to 30 years and that’s a lot longer than a cat or a dog.

So you see, pigs are wonderful, intelligent animals, but sadly they are often purchased by people who are not equipped with the proper knowledge or facilities required to care for them. Owning a pig takes skill, a proper budget, land and a good deal of time and understanding.

Also, as social animals, pigs require the company of other pigs and that means if you only purchase one, he is likely to become depressed. 

Please do take the above guidelines into consideration before you rush out and purchase one of these adorable creatures.  As the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, we advise that pigs, in general, are not suitable as pets due to their specific requirements, and the growing trend among inexperienced people to purchase them on a whim gives us cause for concern.

Where can I obtain more information?
Check out  and I would advise reading their Pig Welfare Requirements Booklet.
For more info log onto or email

© Miriam Kerins, DSPCA.




Handbag Dogs are, Sadly,  So Last Season

Handbag dogs, the once ‘must have’ accessory for many a fickle, fake tanned, gel nail wearing celebrity are becoming so last season dahling, it now appears many of Ireland’s  fashionistas, like the rest of Europe, are bucking the trend, aping the likes of Paris Hilton and ditching the pocket sized pooches in favour of, oh well who cares, the point is, these dogs are being dumped.  That means animal shelters like the DSPCA are being left to pick up the pieces…literally.  I wonder, does Ms Hilton et al, realise they’re fuelling this phenomenon? If so, would they care? I sincerely hope they would.

Once seen donning diamond studded style collars and little pink sweaters, these cutsie pie dogs are no longer the canine companion of choice for Ladies who Launch. No more the favourite novelty accessory for almost anyone who owns a fake Dolce and Gabbana or Gucci handbag or, sorry, dog carrier, and the brutal irony of it all is these poor animals look and smell like dogs but don’t act like dogs because they, er, don’t know that they actually are dogs.

Let me explain.
Teacup dogs with names like Hilton’s Tinkerbell or Britney Spears’ Bit Bit come into the rescue shelter not knowing how to walk, act or behave like a dog, in short, they’re lacking in doggy skills.  Sure who could blame the poor things, they’ve spent their lives sitting in handbags or sleeping on sofas, never having been walked or trained or fed an appropriate diet or even been given the basic veterinary care they deserve.  Did you know that lack of exercise can cause stunted growth and development in your dog and mollycoddling them too much can result in behavioural problems? 

Every week I come into contact with pet parents who’ve paid hundreds for these throwaway, novelty pets only to complain when they’ve to cough up the meager, highly affordable cost for their subsidized veterinary care; or who baulk at the thought of walking, socialising or training them. 

So why is this happening?

  Well, it’s a question of economics you see – a supply and demand situation. Not by reputable, registered breeders I hasten to add, they are not the cause of this problem, but by back street puppy farmers and the ignorant people who do business with them. I call them ignorant because I am certain that if they were aware of the facts then surely they wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong, I mean one lady told me, (as I stood in my DSPCA uniform) that  she got rid of her dog because she had re-decorated the house and the animal didn’t fit in with her colour scheme.

So, for those of you who’ve bought a teacup dog such as a Chihuahua, here’s a few basic tips/guidelines in order to provide them with the best possible care, specific to their breeds’ needs.

• Exercise every day. This breed has quick bursts of energy so short walks are best.
• Provide a diet specific for her breed. Consult your vet for advice.
• Socialise early with children and other dogs.
• Use a body harness rather than a lead to protect their delicate neck. It will also help to prevent damage to the trachea and soft palate.
• Pet her often; this breed needs lots of attention.
• When bathing take care not to get water in her ears, this can cause infections. Brush long haired Chihuahuas daily.
• This breed may suffer from the following:
• Weak knees
• Colds
• Corneal Dryness
• Secondary Glaucoma
• Check with your breeder to see what/if at all any, screening has been carried out for these health problems. A good breeder will not mind you asking this question.
• Sometimes owners report their Chihuahua gags or coughs a lot.  This may be due to what we call reverse sneezing; a condition relating to a soft palate and it’s always advisable to take your dog to the vet for a check up as soon as this occurs.

For more information, log onto or email me at
© Miriam Kerins, DSPCA.





Budget for That Pet

We’re well into 2012 and I’m sorry to say the first signs of what I call ‘New Year pet abandonment syndrome,’ or ‘throwaway pets,’ are, sadly, already showing. 

We’ve rescued dogs who have been thrown over ten foot high walls, resulting in appalling injuries; dogs who’ve been hog tied to concrete pillars and left for dead, puppies dumped on the doorstep with excruciatingly painful mange, horses left impaled on barbed wire fences in fields, forcing animal welfare officers to humanely euthanise, cats dumped in a bird cage in a city park, dangerously ill geriatric pets abandoned on the side of the road…to name but a few.  And it’s only January! I can tell you the DSPCA is bracing itself for the remainder of the year.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to put together a little budget list – which by the way does not include for emergency veterinary care – so that if you’re considering adding a canine  to your family, then you’ll at least have a ball park figure of what it’s going to cost…approximately!

First of all let me stress again; keeping a dog as a pet is a huge responsibility that does not end after the dog’s first vaccination.

It must be remembered that a dog can live, on average, for as long as 12-15 years; in some cases longer, (in my case my eldest dog is now 17) and the cost of keeping it throughout its lifetime does not stop at what it eats.

Here’s a few facts but do remember, the figures are an approximation only.

Cost of a puppy from the DSPCA Animal Shelter: €135
•?Puppy has 1st vaccination if 8 weeks old.
•?Will have had 2 vaccinations if 12 weeks or older.
•?Will be neutered/spayed as part of Adoption Fee at 6 months old.
•?Will be micro chipped.
•?Will have had flea and worming treatments

Approximate cost of a pedigree puppy from a breeder averages from €250-€1,200 depending on breed. And please only go to a registered, licensed breeder.

•Neutering/spaying averages from €150-€250
•Primary vaccinations (2-3 required) approximately €50 each.
•Microchip €50 (average).

In addition to the above, the annual cost for all dogs whether adopted from a shelter or purchased from a breeder will be:

•Annual booster average €50 (Essential for maintaining health of dog)
•Kennel cough vaccination – essential if dog is being boarded – effective only for 6 months)
•Annual flea and worming treatment €80 (average)
•Vet Consultation (without medication) €45 (average)
•Boarding Kennels (Summer Holidays etc.) €13+ a day – depends on size of animal.
•Food – (Depends on the appetite of the dog) €20 plus per week. (Based on a medium sized dog on dry food with additional tinned dog food.)
•Pet Insurance €180 to €285 approximately annually - covers accident, illness etc.
•Dog collars, beds, toys, treats all extra.

So, taking into account all of the above, (and please bear in mind, figures are approximate), an animal who is properly taken care of, makes regular trips to the vet, leading to a healthy life for, on average 15 years, (and my oldest dog is 17), could cost you as much as €30,000.

Further information on keeping a dog or for those thinking of getting a pet can be obtained from the DSPCA or from our website at or email our adoption consultants at 

© Miriam Kerins, DSPCA.




 Please Support Us

This Christmas it’s business as usual for the good folk at Ireland’s oldest and largest animal welfare charity, the DSPCA and our wonderful staff and volunteers are all bracing themselves, not just for the cold snap because let’s face it, the conditions are practically arctic up here in the Dublin mountains, but for the surge in the many rescue requests we’ll no doubt receive.

Last year, the DSPCA helped in excess of 4,400 animals, an amazing feat when you realise it costs us €2m to run the shelter  and we do all of this without government funding; depending heavily upon donations from kind members of the public.

So while most of you will be opening your presents and tucking into the turkey and ham, our frontline staff will be on full alert, helping animals in need.  And,  even though we all adore Christmas at the shelter, animal welfare,  just as it is every other day of the year, remains our top priority.

However, the great part is we arrive at work to cheerful  barks, luscious licks and energetic tail wags and every animal gets their visit from Santa who puts lots of animal friendly treats and toys into their stockings…now, how many of you reading this gets to experience that type of yuletide pleasure? How lucky are we?

So, in order to help rescued animals and support the country’s favourite charity this holiday season, take a quick look at my hints below.

A few Cents:
This yuletide, designate a day where co-workers, family members, school mates, etc., donate their small change to the DSPCA. 

Make it a Puurrrfect Christmas.
We’re always looking for foster families to socialise our cats and kittens throughout the year.  Why not become a ‘feline friend’ this Christmas and give a cat a home over festive season.

New Year/New You:
Throw a New Year’s Eve party at your house and ask guests to make a resolution to become more animal friendly in 2012.

Adopt the Perfect Partner:
Visit us and adopt your forever friend.  We have lots of wonderful animals, all deserving good homes, just waiting for their new families to love and cherish them.  Our adoption consultants are all expert at placing the right animal with the right family using their unique, ‘meet your match,’ programme.

Go Online:
The DSPCA’s gift shop has lots of gifts for this holiday season, from Christmas cards to wrapping paper, from 2012 calendars to cute, cuddly teddies, complete with full veterinary scrubs, from stationary to novelty mugs and aprons, etc.,

You could even Sponsor a Pet by going online at and sponsoring one of our much deserving shelter animals as a goodwill gift for a friend or family member.

  • A Symbolic  Gesture:
    Why not support us by becoming a monthly member? By donating a small amount each month, you could provide our charity with a sustainable income that will help us give sick, Injured, cruelly treated, abandoned and forgotten animals a happy ending.  For example:
    If you donate €5.00 per month you will enable us to buy vaccines for 30 dogs and cats.
    If you donate €9.00 per month you will help us provide special milk to bottle feed 40 orphaned kittens.
    If you donate €21.00 per month, or more, this will qualify for tax relief which means your annual gift will be increased from 20-42% (depending on your tax bracket) at no additional cost to you.
    If you donate €32 per month you will save a life. Let me explain. The average cost of a rescue, veterinary treatment and boarding of each animal we take care of is €475.  When we re-home an animal, having rescued, treated, rehabilitated, spayed/neutered, microchipped, vaccinated, de-flead and de-wormed him, and after adoption fees are paid, there is still a deficit of €379 on each animal, or €32 per month.

Too Much Stuff:
Take a look at our wish list on and see if you have anything in your home you no longer want that you can donate to us.

Lobby for Legislation:
Contact your local TD and lobby him/her to get legislation passed at local and national level and join us in the fight to save animals’ lives.

For more information, log onto or email me at

Nollaig Shona Daoibh.

© Miriam Kerins, DSPCA.




Nuts About Mutts

There are so many wonderful reasons to get a dog.  Regular readers of this column will know I’m a gal who’s nuts about her mutts. Those readers will understand my annoyance when, through my job, I often have to deal with pet parents who have gone out and bought a dog in order to ‘enhance,’ their own lives, however, they’ve never taken the time or had the desire to enhance their pet’s lives by giving them a regular bath or treating them to a trip to the groomers.

When speaking to these self professed ‘dog lovers,’ I have to ask:

Do you enjoy the invigorating feeling of being clean and fresh? 

Do you visit the hair/beauty salon?

You do?

 Great. Well your pets are no different.

Ok, every pet has his/her own personality; some love to be brushed and fluffed, some don’t  and I will hold my hand up and say one of my dogs, (great aunt Sophie, the 17 year old, does not like being brushed anymore but she’s an old lady and this is her right; she doesn’t have the patience for it).  Let’s just say our Diva Dog is a bit of a challenge these days; however, as her mom I know that regular grooming encompasses many aspects of companion pet care and even though Sophie is no longer as energetic as she used to be, she is still in need of having a nice warm, gentle bath, getting her nails clipped, her ears cleaned, her anal glands squeezed, etc., And I do believe this regular ritual brings me and my dear old  friend, closer together…and can reduce costly veterinary visits.

Also, when I’m grooming/petting my dogs, especially Sophie, I check for areas of bumps, tenderness, scabs, hair loss etc., because I do not wish them to run the risk of the following problems:

Ear Mites: A parasite that lives out its life cycle inside your pet’s ear canal; causing severe irritation and itchiness. I use a soft facial tissue around my finger or a cotton bud dipped in cool olive oil and very gently wipe around the inside of my dogs’ ears making sure not to insert too deeply. If the dog has an open wound or the ear is inflamed, it’s straight off to the vet.

Fly strike: Also known as Myasis - a maggot infestation.  This is more common in warmer months where flies lay eggs that go on to develop into larvae that eat dead and rotting tissue on your pet. For example, vomit, skin infection, mated hair, diarrhea, etc., This condition can be fatal if left untreated.  Bathe and groom your pet regularly, treat your pet for diarrhea immediately, and if your pet becomes ill, keep them indoors away from flies. Always seek veterinary attention.

Anal Sac Impaction: Dogs and cats have anal sacs that can become impacted if not emptied properly.  Ideally anal sacs should empty with your dog’s normal bowel movements. You won’t even notice this however, if your pet begins to drag his/her behind along the ground, take him/her to your vet.  There could be other reasons for this dragging such as: a bothersome growth, matted hair, an irritation or diarrhea. Only your vet can diagnose.

Minty Fresh Breath: When I’m rubbing my dogs’ faces I always take a look inside their mouths to check for plaque build up. If you do this and notice plaque or bad breath, take your pet to see the vet for a dental check up. When there, ask your vet if he/she can demonstrate the correct technique best suited to your pet and follow the guidelines.

As you can see, I’ve given you just a few reasons why grooming your dog is important and should not be underestimated. I’ve also given you guidelines as to some of the health risks associated with animals who are not groomed.  That said, I am not a vet, so please do seek your vet’s advice regarding any concerns about your pet and if you don’t feel like grooming your new best friend yourself, there are plenty of professionals who’d be delighted to provide that service for him/her.

For more information log onto or email
© Miriam Kerins, DSPCA.




Herbal Remedies for your Pets


This week I decided to write about a problem very close to my own heart; in fact it’s breaking it. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) or in lay persons terms, dog dementia. 

Yep, after 17 years of faithful companionship, loyalty and unselfish love our eldest Jack Russell Terrier Sophie has begun to display strange behaviours.

 Ever since I rescued her as a six week old frightened puppy from a lift shaft in an area of North Dublin, Sophie has showered me with love and been my best friend.  No matter what obstacles life throws at me, Sophie stoically sees me through them. Now, although physically healthy, my darling little friend is often in  a state of confusion, doesn’t greet me the way she used to, stares into space and bites and snaps at me when I feed her or offer her treats.  I’m around animals long enough to realise what’s wrong with Sophie and don’t really need our wonderful vet to confirm that she is displaying signs of CCD.

Similar to Alzheimer's in humans, CCD tells me there are  physical changes taking place in Sophie’s   brain; the result of which means a deterioration of how she remembers, thinks and acts; all causing great upset to our lives.

Sophie has other ‘old lady’ problems too but none of them is life threatening.  Therefore, while my duties as her Mom may be more demanding due to her problems, and I’ll admit, she can be hard work, the fact is my best friend still enjoys a good quality of life.

She eats well, she sleeps well, in fact she sleeps quite a lot, she drinks adequately, her coat is good and she lets me know when she needs to relieve herself.  So in the grand scheme of things, her dad and me reckon great aunt Sophie deserves a little extra help and that is why we’ve consulted our lovely vet with regard to providing alternative remedies such as herbal and nutraceutical treatments that contain brain sustaining supplements. And no, I’m not trying to teach an old dog new tricks, rather help her extend the happy, good quality of life she already enjoys with us.

So, what is a nutraceutical? Basically from what I understand it’s a term used for a product isolated or purified from food(s) that is generally available in medicinal forms which are not usually associated with food.

What are the benefits of herbal remedies to your dog? I believe they can be of great benefit:  especially as the gap between natural remedies and traditional treatments is not very wide. Traditional medications are actually synthesized from herbal compounds that have been used to treat the same problems for centuries.

Herbal remedies are also highly cost effective. Often less expensive than conventional medicines.
How do they work? I believe natural remedies will strengthen the inherent immune system of my dog; allowing her body take care of her problems, (rather than mask them), and hopefully with their help, the short life Sophie has left will be enhanced, and the great thing is, without any of the side effects of conventional medications.

My love and loyalty for Sophie will never falter. We face tough times but we face them together. I’ll be there for her as she has been for me. Patience and love is the key. 

Many pet parents are seeking more ‘natural’ forms of treatment for their pets’ however; I would like to mention the information contained in this column is simply a guideline. It is in no way a substitute for professional, medical advice from your vet; whom you should always consult before using or treating your pet with a natural remedy.  A specialized practitioner will best advise as to which remedy can interact with your pet’s prescriptions, interact with each other and safety and effectiveness, etc., It is only when you are armed with your vet’s advice, you will be able to make an informed decision regarding your pet’s healthy future.

For more information regarding veterinary care for your pet, log onto or email me at or contact our veterinary clinic at  - PH: 01-4994780

© Miriam Kerins, DSPCA. 



Choosing the Right Vet for your Pet


As a responsible pet parent I know one of the most important decisions I have ever made was finding and choosing the right vet for my doggies.

Ok, I’m at a distinct advantage because I work at Ireland’s oldest and largest animal welfare charity so I’m surrounded by wonderful veterinary staff and experts.  However, I didn’t always work for the DSPCA and as a ‘civilian,’ I would have depended entirely on my personal research skills and referrals from family and friends regarding the suitability of the local veterinarians.

So, if you’ve recently adopted a companion pet or you’re already a pet parent who has moved to a new area or  perhaps  you’re unhappy with  your veterinary clinic’s  facilities and aren’t sure where to turn; don’t worry, help is at hand.  I’m going to give you a few pointers that you can use as guidelines; of course, the final choice is up to you. That said, do bear in mind your vet will be your closest ally in your quest for a healthy, happy, long and loving relationship with your pet.

Get a recommendation from your local animal welfare shelter or family and friends. However, make sure their idea of a good vet matches your own personal criteria.  For example, you want to find a vet who suits your pet’s specific needs and who explains things in a manner you understand.

Emergency Service:
I would recommend you don’t base your choice on convenience but I would suggest you ask if the vet is available for emergencies/out of hour’s calls/does the practice enjoy hospital status?

Ask Questions:

Are appointments required?

Does the vet specialize? For example, as I prefer the holistic approach, it’s important for me that at least one vet in the practice specializes or is open to using homeopathic remedies.

Is he/she familiar with your pet’s specific breed?

Fees for routine check-ups, vaccinations, out of hour’s service. Ask about options such as pet insurance.

How are overnight patients monitored?

What is the protocol for pain management?

Ask for a tour of the facility and check out the examination rooms. How sanitary/up to date/efficient are they?

Effective communication is the key: What’s staff morale like? Does all staff have a good rapport with each other? With your pet?

Is there a facility for x-rays, blood tests, ultrasound, etc., to be carried out in-house or by referral to a specialist?

How many vets are in the practice? Most modern surgeries have several and allow for different skills sets/specialties. This does not mean one vet is better than another.

Check for:
Does the vet have exceptional people as well as pet skills? I believe a good vet should be able to listen, learn and be willing to update his/her skills.

Does he/she have a library of reference books in order to diagnose difficult ailments?

Are dogs and cats housed in separate areas?

How organised is this vet? Are instruments arranged methodically or lying about in a haphazard fashion?

So you see, choosing the right vet for your pet requires extensive research because believe it or not, you’re doing more than engaging the skills of a medical expert; you’re searching for your new best friend!  You’re employing the services of someone who is as passionate and compassionate about your pet as you are.

That’s why I use and recommend the amazing veterinary clinic at the DSPCA.  In my professional opinion as an animal welfare officer and as a woman who places her animals on a pedestal,  the facilities are state of the art, the staff are dedicated and passionate about my dogs, the team offer high quality medicine that is not only affordable but individualized to suit each of my dogs’ specific needs (and believe me, with rescue dogs,  they are varied), and the fabulous ladies who work there provide an emergency, out of hours service making it convenient as well as Dublin’s premier one stop complete veterinary service.

Oh,  and  another good reason for choosing this state of the art facility – as if the fabulous staff weren’t enough – all profits go straight back into the DSPCA Animal Welfare Charity to help us rescue, treat, rehabilitate and rehome more cruelly treated and abandoned animals.  Now that’s not just innovative and creative; it makes for positive animal welfare for you and for your beloved companion pets.

For more information log onto or email me at or ‘phone our veterinary clinic on ‘Ph: 01-4994780; they’d love to hear from you.
© Miriam Kerins. DSPCA.




                                                                        Precious Pooches

You’ve booked the flight, made arrangements for Nana and Granddad to take the kids and bragged to your friends about your “last minute deal on the internet,” but wait, what about the pets?  Who’ll mind them while you’re away sunning yourself?

This year we’ll holiday at home.  Recession?  Mainly; yes, like most families, finances are tight and we’ll probably be forced to take that very fashionable ‘staycation’ However, with three Jack Russell terriers that are more precious to us than inheriting shares in Microsoft; we just don’t trust anyone enough to take care of our ‘babies,’ while we’re away.  Oh yes, I’ll admit it, I’ve left the kids with relatives when I’ve gone abroad but never the doggies!!!

So, now that our new state of the art boarding facilities is open here at the DSPCA you can imagine how delighted I am because, if and when I can afford a break I can leave my doggies in a safe, trusted and happy environment.  I’m also delighted  to inform readers that one hundred per cent of the profits from this facility  will all go directly back into our shelter in order to allow us rescue, treat, rehabilitate and re-home more animals…all animals. 

As leading experts in animal welfare, we at the DSPCA understand how important it is to find the perfect home away from home for your beloved pet. We have 30 kennels for dogs and 30 kennels for cats; with several extra large ones for those pet parents who wish to double up; for example someone like me who can’t separate her little darlings, or for those who want to give their pooches more space. There’s also a fully operational, state of the art veterinary practice on the campus and, not forgetting a caregiver who resides on the premises.

So, if you’re thinking of heading off to sunnier climes and boarding your cat, dog or small animal, or you’re doing a bit of DIY and want to make sure your pet is safely housed while you’ve got the power tools out; then give us a ring.

 I mean, you’d be surprised at the amount of dogs we rescue and treat who’ve been involved in a road traffic accident because their owner was doing DIY or had a builder in who accidentally left the gate open and Fido, seizing his opportunity,  legged it; straight in front of a car.

You may even be going into hospital for a period of time or having a baby and need a few days to adjust to your new routine…well, isn’t it good to know your pet is safe, secure and in the hands of experts who have over one hundred and seventy years experience caring for animals?

In the meantime, below are some top tips to help you secure a happy, safe environment for your pet.

• Make sure to inspect facilities and speak to staff who will be caring for your pet. Consider how you feel as you take the tour; for example, what kind of vibe are you getting?
• Make sure kennels insist on all vaccinations being up to date.
• Check if there is sufficient bedding/space to play/space to sleep, what feeding schedules are like, etc.,
• Heating: Are you warm enough? Too warm? This is an indication of how your pet will feel. What’s the lighting like? Is there enough space for the animals to move comfortably?
• Are there toys available? Can you bring your pet’s favourite toys?
• Is there a vet on site/on call?
• Fees?
• If your pet requires routine medication, does the facility administer it?
• Security: Are all entrance and exit points double-doored/gated making it less likely for your pooch to escape.

Remember pet parents; cleanliness, sufficient, professional and caring staff, safety measures and those little extras all add a tad more to the cost; however, you can rest assured your pet is receiving expert care and attention while you’re away or otherwise engaged.

For more information regarding the DSPCA Pet Boarding Facility, contact us on PH:01-4994790 or email

For more information regarding animal welfare or education, log onto or email me at

© Miriam Kerins. DSPCA



Kitten Season

They live in sheds under broken down cars and condemned buildings.  Their lives are short and harsh as they struggle to find food, water and shelter in an environment bursting to the brim with threats of disease, cruelty and predation.  In short, they’re abandoned to the wild and they desperately need our help!
Who are they?  They are Feral Cats! 

Where do they come from? Well they are usually the offspring of former domestic cats who’ve been abandoned by their owners. And now, as spring is in air we have the onset of kitten season; a time of year when cats give birth; flooding the DSPCA and other busy animal rescue shelters across the country with homeless litters.

 When the warm weather coincides with female cats’ reproductive cycles, they go into heat, sending the male cat population into a mating frenzy; visiting the laydees from near and far.  This usually begins in spring, peaks early summer and runs right through to October.

As you can imagine, the cats are not the only ones feeling the effects of the stress.  The burden also presents enormous challenges for us here at the DSPCA, with space and finances stretched to the limit and, on top of our usual compliment of rescued animals; we are inundated with hundreds of homeless cats. 

Typically the adult cats suffer the immediate affects as they are overlooked by potential new families when kittens are available in abundance; increasing the risk of feline illness and death.
So, what can you, the public do to help?

Firstly, the most efficient way to reduce the overwhelming burden of unwanted cats is to spay or neuter your own cat.  Unaltered cats are driven by hormones and will sneak outdoors in search of a mate.  It’s important to know that mating just the once can start a cycle that will result in thousands of unwanted animals who are often left to fend for themselves and end up arriving en masse here at the DSPCA.

Below are some guidelines to follow if you come across a mother cat and her litter:

Firstly, try to establish if the family is tame or feral.

If the mother cat miaows and responds to you giving her food and water then she’s most likely tame.  Give the family shelter but do not separate mother and kittens; keeping them together in a garden shed, downstairs loo, cloakroom or utility room and ring the DSPCA at 01-4994700  for advice.

If the mother and her kittens hiss and warn you off, then it’s likely they’re feral.  If the kittens have opened their eyes fully, (this usually occurs at around 2 weeks when eyes begin to open slightly, getting wider as the weeks progress), it’s likely the kittens can see and may try to defend themselves by biting you.

 In this case, leave them alone, again, do not remove kittens from the mother, but ring the DSPCA and we will offer you advice.

It’s important to understand, even though the family is feral, there is every chance we can tame the kittens, re-home them when they are ready to leave their mother and spay the mother so that this situation does not reoccur.

Either way, it is imperative that you do not ever remove or separate the kittens from their mother; to do so could mean their certain death.

Remember, feral cats deserve to be taken care of just as much as the tame ones who live with us.  They are very often the victims of abandonment and failure by owners to spay/neuter their own pets.

It’s no secret that many rescue kittens, feral or tame, have been influenced negatively by early separation from the mother.  Sometimes an unwitting member of the public brings a litter of unwanted kittens to the shelter too early as it’s often assumed they’ve been abandoned by the mother when she is actually away finding food or is trying to keep humans and other unwelcome prey away from her nest area.

Kitten Development: Here are the Facts!

Kittens separated too early from their mother can suffer a variety of psychological and health problems because they miss out on critical physical and emotional milestones that occur during the early weeks of life.

For example, if they are deprived of their mother’s milk too soon their immune system is compromised making them susceptible to a wide variety of illnesses, in particular, respiratory conditions.
Also, rushed weaning will mean they are inclined to suffer from severe diarrhea caused by a rapid shift to solid food.  This condition is very often life threatening as the kittens become dehydrated and lose weight quickly.

Kittens suffer poor socialisation skills because it’s during the early weeks when the mother teaches them which behaviours are appropriate.  Separated too early, kittens are likely to be hostile and aggressive towards humans and other pets, even cats.  This is because they have never learned to interpret feline body language, having missed out on the process with their mother. Overall a kitten separated too early from the mother is insecure, less tolerant and will experience health problems.

Take a look at our Kitten Development tips below:

• 3 weeks: The mother and kittens interact. She grooms them and prevents them from becoming over-demanding and aggressive. Kittens begin to explore just outside the kitten box.
• 4 weeks: Kittens accept semi-solid food and can be taught to use a litter tray which should be placed close to the kitten box.
• 6 weeks: Kittens learn through play. They begin to explore further away from kitten box.
• 8 weeks: Kittens are fully weaned onto solid food and first vaccinations may be given around 9 weeks.

For more information log onto or email me at

(c) Miriam Kerins. DSPCA





Spring is here and you’re on a health kick. Good for you!  You’re avoiding those nasty toxins found in processed foods and deodorants; even your cooking utensils have been modified to reflect the more organic, fabulous you!

Think you’re great, don’t you? But what about your pet?

Did you know that on any given day your cat or dog is only a mouthful away from possible death?


Well let me explain.  Human medications, including dropped pills, have topped the list of pet toxins for the third year in a row, according to latest research; with over the counter medications containing ibuprofen and acetaminophen, anti-depressant medication and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder prescriptions topping the list. 

Every year the DSPCA receives frantic ‘phone calls from pet owners who’ve left their own medication on a table only to return some time later to find an  agitated, extremely ill animal and several pills missing from the container.

Then there’s the emergency calls we receive from those pet parents desperate for reassurance, when the always curious family cat or dog jumps into the wheelie bin containing a smorgasbord of household waste including batteries, broken glass, paper towels soaked in bleach used for cleaning the worktops etc., I mean, did you know, household waste poses a very large threat to any pet’s health.  Animals are naturally drawn to smelly rubbish; always in search of delicious scraps of human food. Remember, if you’re a dog, anything that smells good gets munched.

So to help you keep your pet safe; take a look at my list of some of the most common poisons that have affected our four legged friends during the last year.

1. Insecticides: Commonly used on pets for flea control and often left around the house, readily available for dogs/cats to devour.

2. Rodenticides: Grain based bait used to destroy mice and rats. If ingested by cats and dogs, these can cause seizures, internal bleeding and kidney failure.

3. Human Food: Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs while onions and garlic can cause anemia if enough is ingested. Some sweeteners and sugar free gum and mints can cause low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs.

4. Chewable Veterinary Medications: Common ones are medications for arthritis and incontinence; often flavoured for ease of administration but this means animals may ingest the entire bottle.  Always read the label!

5. Chocolate: This contains methylxanthines which act as a stimulant to your pet and can cause agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle tremors, seizures and even death! Remember, the darker the chocolate, the more methylxanthines it contains.

6. Some plastic pet toys and feeding bowls can contain bisphenol A (BPA): This is a chemical that's harmful to your health the health of your animals. Try using ceramic or stainless steel instead.

7. Plants: House and outdoor plants can be ingested by pets.  Lillies are lethal for causing life threatening kidney failure in cats while Sago Palms cause liver failure in both cats and dogs.  If you’re lucky enough to receive a Valentine’s bouquet…keep it away from your dogs.

8. Outdoor Toxins: Keep anti freeze and fertilizers locked away in securely locked sheds.  I wouldn’t even recommend keeping them on high shelves, because, er, cats can climb!

9. Herbicides; or weed killers to you and me: These usually have a salty taste and pets love salt and will commonly ingest them.  Follow the instructions on the label and keep pets away from treated areas in your garden until they are thoroughly dried out.

10. Household Products: If you’re like me and sterilise everything till it’s pristine, then keep that bleach out of reach! Also, alkalis, acids and other detergents can cause corrosive injury to your pet’s mouth and stomach.  Then there’s the liquid pot pourri; a huge offender so open a window and let some fresh air in if you want to kill those offensive odours!

As I said, the list above represents just a few of the unknown dangers lurking in our homes.  If you suspect your pet has swallowed or come into contact with something poisonous, then ring your vet immediately.
For more information, log onto or email me at

© Miriam Kerins. DSPCA





This week I received a call from a pet owner who keeps rabbits.  She’d purchased two; one male, one female, but neglected to educate herself regarding the benefits of  neutering and spaying and is now frantically wondering what she’s going to do with the large litter of new kittens.  (No, I haven’t gone mad, rabbit babies are called kittens).

“I know a man with three small children;” my caller enthused…”he wants to take three of the rabbits because he thinks they would be amusing”…should she give him “a few of the rabbits for the children?”  She enquired.

“Absolutely not!”  Was my immediate response. And no, it hasn’t escaped me that this is the Year of the Rabbit and since the dawn of time, many households have successfully brought small children and rabbits together.  However, I would ask readers to take a few minutes to read my advice before rushing out to get a Britannia Petit or a Mini Lop for their offspring.

I love rabbits but I wouldn’t give one of these extremely sensitive, gentle and intuitive creatures to my granddaughter because they require lots of attention and mature parenting.  If taken care of properly, a rabbit should live for eight to twelve years but instead often die within the first year of life due to irresponsible owners.

Rabbits are beautiful cute animals who are often purchased by parents as so called ‘starter pets,’ because children are great at persuading mum by telling her that a little nose twitching rabbit will make them happy. In fairness, many parents believe rabbits are passive and cuddly when in fact; they’re ground loving creatures who often feel insecure and frightened.

Young children are sometimes allowed to inappropriately handle and pull rabbits by their ears. Not a good idea because rabbits are quite frail and don’t like little hands who are rough and impatient. If a child behaves inappropriately toward a rabbit, the animal will have no time for this and often end up biting or scratching the child in its bid to escape. 

As prey animals, rabbits are happiest when running, jumping, hopping and twisting; therefore they cannot be kept in little cages indefinitely, (which is often the case), and must be allowed the freedom to exercise around the back garden.

When they reach adolescence, usually at three and a half months, the rabbit will begin to display a strong will and may, on occasion, express its fear and dislike by nipping and biting. However, they may often bite a little hand if it smells of food or even just out of curiosity.

Bringing us nicely onto Thumper’s feeding regime.  Food from a pet shop will not always provide him with the proper nutrients.  A rabbit requires high quantities of fiber; this is found in carrots and green vegetables and plenty of fresh hay on a daily basis. Also, keeping a rabbit’s home fresh and odour free may mean cleaning out his hutch twice a day. This can prove difficult when you’ve got small children to care for.

A rabbit should be neutered (male)/spayed (female), and particularly so in the case of the male, who will display sexual aggression by marking his territory with urine and faeces. If a home is not bunny proofed, Thumper will chew his way through furniture and electric cables and let me tell you his need for this is so strong it will eclipse almost every other instinct. So, be proactive and take preventative measures by making items you wish to protect inaccessible, cover cables and provide safe items for him to chew on or dig through. Rabbit chew sticks or even twigs from the back garden are advised.

Like most pets, a rabbit won’t like to relieve himself where he eats or sleeps; so I’d suggest you litter box train him.   Yep, rabbits can be trained just like a cat.  It’s easiest to do when they’re around six months old but you must first have Thumper spayed/neutered because this makes the process easier and more pleasant, both for you and for bunny.

So, the moral of the tail, sorry tale, is this…if you’re a parent who is appalled  by the idea of their child being on the receiving end of a physical reaction from a pet who doesn’t take kindly to being roughly treated or picked up in an inappropriate manner; DON’T GET YOUR LITTLE DARLING A RABBIT`!!!

For more info log onto or email me at

© Miriam Kerins. DSPCA







Every week at the DSPCA we help a number of lost cats and dogs; many bearing no identification details. We never know why they’ve become lost, they can’t tell us; nor do we know how far they’ve roamed.  What we do know is – none are implanted with micro chips!

I mean, how can any pet parent claim to love their animal yet fail to adequately protect them with an implanted, inexpensive, painless and permanent, piece of technology no larger than a grain of rice?


We all know animals give us enormous comfort, companionship and unconditional love and I would imagine the last thing you’d want, as a responsible pet parent is for them to disappear.  It stands to reason that by nature, animals are curious; not to mention practiced escape artists, and if the front door is accidentally left open, well, your cat or dog will just venture out to see what’s going on across that busy main road. 

Think about it! How many times have you noticed a poster in a shop window, an ad in a local newspaper or a plea on Facebook; desperate for the safe return of a missing family pet?

So, want to know more about this fast, easy, painless to your pet, (and your pocket) micro chip thingy? Then read on.

What is a Microchip? It’s a non reactive chip, the size of a single grain of rice, implanted by a veterinary surgeon under your pet’s skin.  To be precise, between the shoulder blades by way of a needle.   

What does a Microchip do? This tiny chip holds your pet’s unique information; visible only through a special scanning device.  The unique four digit number on the chip, along with the name of your pet and your own contact information; and a back up contact number; usually a family friend and one who doesn’t go on holidays with you,  is then registered on our data base and the following is how it all works: 


  • If a member of the public finds your pet they can contact us using the ‘phone number on the special disc around his collar. 
  • We operate a ‘Pet Trace’ service 24/7. We ask the finder to quote the four digit pin number at the base of the disc.  This usually begins with a ‘D’ – depicting a dog, followed by four digits or a ‘C’ depicting a cat, and followed by four digits.  You get my drift.
  • Upon hearing this, our operator enters the animal’s details into our data base, identifies the owner, who is then alerted. If the owner cannot be contacted, the alternative name on file is then telephoned.  Hence the need for someone who doesn’t holiday with you – no point in both contacts being out of the country when Fido goes AWOL.
  • If your pet is found and brought to our shelter, a vet or a pound, but is not wearing his disc because he’s lost it or someone has removed it, not to worry, the microchip is still in place. Remember, it’s implanted under the dog’s skin.  If this happens, staff will immediately scan him using a scanner.  This exercise will reveal his identifying details and the owner is contacted.


What’s a Scanner? This is a hand held device; sort of like a TV remote control that is passed over the animal’s body to detect the chip.  

Does Microchipping Hurt? Absolutely not! The entire procedure takes seconds to perform – a bit like having your ears pierced ladies - but Microchipping must be carried out by an experienced, qualified veterinary surgeon.   

Is Microchipping Expensive? Costs vary from vet to vet.  Some charge a consultation fee plus the chip, some charge depending on the size, weight and breed of the animal. Do your research and ring around.  

 The DSPCA charges just €25 per animal irrespective of weight, breed or size.  This fee includes the Microchipping of your pet, registration of his and your details onto our data base and ‘Pet Trace,’ service which is manned 24/7 by a staff member. We will also give you a special card, depicting a bar code, to keep inside your wallet/handbag at all times.  This is particularly useful for people living alone.  If you were to be involved in an accident, when members of the emergency services are attending to you, they will find the special card on your person; realise a pet is home alone, requiring attention. The bar code will be scanned by us giving details of the animal who will then receive the appropriate care and attention.

It’s worth remembering, most animals are found by members of the public who don’t have micro chip scanners as part of their kitchen appliances; so we cannot stress enough that all animals should also wear proper fitting, appropriate collars and tags.


However, as a permanent form of ID and the best possible insurance of getting your beloved pet home safely, we recommend you have a micro chip implanted…NOW!


For more information log onto or email me at



© Miriam Kerins.  DSPCA.





Cruelty and abuse are some of the most difficult things any animal lover will ever have to deal with. So, when approached by a concerned person this week who said a neighbour’s dog appeared “very fearful and aggressive,” and worried this constituted “cruelty;”  the following was my advice.

The aggressive, fearful or timid behaviour of an animal does not always mean he’s being badly treated and it’s difficult to make a conclusion based on the pet’s behaviour alone. Therefore, by learning to recognize the obvious signs of animal cruelty, concerned readers can crack down on the abusive treatment of animals in their own communities.

 Yep, it all begins with you, the public! Be aware of the animals in your area and keep your eyes and ears open.  

First of all, let’s ask the question. What is animal cruelty?

Animal Cruelty occurs when someone intentionally injures or harms an animal or when someone willfully deprives an animal of food, water or necessary medical care.

In order to help you, I’ve set out some of the signs and symptoms we see in many of the cases we investigate here at the DSPCA.

Physical Sings:

  • Collar so tight it causes a wound or has become embedded in the animal’s neck.
  • Open wounds or signs of multiple healed wounds or ongoing injuries or illnesses left untreated.
  • Fur infested with fleas, ticks or other parasites.
  • Weakness, limping or inability to stand or walk normally.
  • Visible signs of confusion or extreme drowsiness.
  • Heavy discharge from eyes or nose.
  • Owner striking or otherwise physically abusing the animal.

Environmental Signs:

  • Animals tied up alone for long periods of time without adequate food or water – or with food or water that is unsanitary.
  • Animals kept outside without access to adequate shelter.
  • Animals  kept in an area littered with faeces, rubbish, broken glass or other harmful objects.
  • Animals kept in kennels/cages (often overcrowded with other animals) that are too small to allow them stand, turn around, stretch out in or make normal movements.


If you witness or are concerned about an animal’s welfare please take the following steps:

  • Take Notes: Document the date, time, precise location, who was involved in the abuse and the type of animal(s) giving you cause for concern. 
  • Take a photograph/video of the animal and immediate surrounding area. (Mobile ‘phone will do).
  • Contact your local animal rescue shelter.  The DSPCA can be contacted at 01-4994700 or the local Gardai.

Remember, reporting suspected animal cruelty ensures that animals at risk receive prompt and very often lifesaving treatment and care.  You can do this anonymously if you wish.  Every year the DSPCA receives in excess of 90,000 calls, most of these come from concerned members of the public, many are anonymous; all are investigated.

What happens next?

An investigating inspector follows up and ascertains if animal cruelty laws have been violated and takes it from there. Depending on findings,  the inspector may speak with the owner and issue advice and a warning and he/she may give them a chance to correct their situation. This usually happens in the case of neglect arising out of ignorance; where the owner may simply require education regarding the welfare and needs of the animal.

In other cases, it may, and very often is, necessary to remove the animal(s) in order to protect them.

The DSPCA also provides assistance and resources to other animal welfare agencies and concerned parties regarding education and guidelines, etc., because in order to stamp out cruelty and suffering for good, we need to get to the core of the issue and provoke change.  With our established, free, education programmes, we are in a position to inform and promote lifelong learning in the humane and compassionate treatment of all animals.

Remember, you can make a difference to an animal’s life. Without your vigilance and ‘phone calls we wouldn’t know about many of the innocent victims who remain mute and unable to defend themselves.  

For more information on how you can help animals and lobby to strengthen animal cruelty laws in this country, log onto or email me at


© Miriam Kerins, DSPCA



The Christmas Countdown

The Christmas countdown commenced chez Kerins this weekend when poor hubby was sent to the attic crawl space to retrieve and untangle the giant sparkly, glittery, colourful mass I call ‘the fairy lights.’ And yep, I’m listening to Christmas FM as I write and I wish I had a mug of marshmallow laden, cream filled hot chocolate sitting on my desk also.

You got it I love Christmas. So, if, like me you’re busy decking the halls, (or delegating that task to someone else), panic buying and generally enjoying the run up to all the festivities; and let’s face it we need all the glad tidings and cheer we can get nowadays, then read on, because I’m going to give you a few helpful tips for making sure the little ones, and by ‘little ones’ I mean the four legged kids, also benefit from Santa’s visit by staying safe and happy during the holiday period.

Keep an eye on the Christmas Tree: Dogs don’t differentiate, so a tree in your living room looks the same as a tree in the park. Familiarise Fido with the tree and never allow unsupervised access until he’s learned the difference. If you have a real tree, sweep up fallen needles as these can get stuck in your pet's paws or throat and trim lower branches to avoid poking accidents. If possible, fence off the tree from your pet. 

Dogs are intrigued by the sudden appearance of colourful boxes, so don’t put gifts of food or treats under the tree until it’s time to open them. Pets can’t read gift tags but they can smell a box of choccies, (highly toxic to them), at twenty paces and may decide to open that interesting, delicious treat and have their own, private but potentially deadly party.

Christmas Decorations: We all enjoy looking at beautiful lights and ornaments adorning trees, fire places, doors and stairways and so do our pets; only they see them as chew toys.  While we understand no tree is complete without fairy lights; stray cables and wires may be tempting for your pet to nibble on. To remove the risk of electrocution, ensure all cables are out of reach of pets and tape down loose ones. Cats love knocking baubles from the tree so try to use unbreakable decorations. Tinsel, ribbon, cling film and tin foil should be avoided, or at least confined to the higher branches of your tree.

Toxic Treats: It can be tough and you’ll need eyes in the back of your head when it comes to guarding the leftovers. Don’t leave the turkey or honey baked ham on top of the worktops; instead put them into the fridge. Many a pet parent has spent a fortune on a vet’s out of hours emergency visits to their home following the dog’s midnight feast of turkey bones. Pets can choke and/or experience internal damage from snacking on bones, even cooked ones can prove fatal 

Did you know grapes, raisins, garlic, onions, caffeine and macadamia nuts etc., are also deadly to dogs and cats?

 Pets and Guests: When you have guests, secure your pet in a safe place. The more people you add to the equation, the more you place your pet in danger. Small breeds like Yorkies and Pomeranians etc., are often accidentally stood on; especially if you get distracted by company and lose track of your pet’s whereabouts. When it comes to visiting my home, I make sure my guests know my house rules. My pets are not to be treated as novelty toys and are kept out of harm’s way at all times. No exceptions!

Most people, when dressed in their holiday finest, don’t appreciate animal hair or canine drool. Elderly visitors and toddlers may lose their balance when jumped upon by even a moderately-sized dog. Young children pose an interesting attraction for dogs because they carry food at muzzle level. Never leave cups/glasses where pets can drink from them, especially if they contain alcohol.

Finally, remind guests to watch for pets when opening outside doors. Make sure your pets are wearing current identification tags and are micro chipped – just in case.

Maintain Routine: If you walk your dog at a certain time each day, try stick to it.  Any change can cause pets to become anxious and unsettled.

Toys - Don't forget about the little toys you get in Christmas crackers! They’re choking hazards so pick them up off the ground!

Festive Foliage -Poinsettia, Holly, Mistletoe, Amaryllis and Lilies are poisonous to pets and must be kept out of reach. Poinsettia can cause drooling, oral pain and vomiting.  Mistletoe causes vomiting, laboured breathing, shock, and even death from cardiovascular collapse if ingested. Seek immediate veterinary treatment if you think your pet may have ingested parts of any of these plants.

Nollaig Shona Daoibh

For more info log onto or email me at


© Miriam Kerins. DSPCA  



So, you’ve mastered the art of introducing your baby to your dog and surprise, surprise, they get on wonderfully.

However, somebody’s moved the goalposts and baby has started to pull, drag and poke at the poor animal!

Sound familiar?

What do you do?  Well, you need to morph into Kofi Annan and quick. But don’t panic, I’ve a few tips to help you keep peace and harmony in the family home.

Get he-who-must-be-obeyed to put up a safety gate – on second thoughts girls, do it yourself, it may be quicker! One of the easiest ways to protect your toddler from your doggie and vice versa is to separate them.  A gate across a doorway allows dog and baby to see each other but keeps them apart, giving each the freedom to play without interfering with the other’s activities. 

Handle your dog! A dog that is used to, and comfortable with, lots of handling is more likely to accept the awkward and uninvited hands of a small child.  Teach your dog to enjoy being handled before your toddler begins to wobble, crawl or walk. Look into your dog’s ears, rub his body all over, hold his paws, tug very gently at his tail; all the while speaking to him in a calm, soothing voice; praise and reward him for accepting this type of handling. 

Teach your child to pet your dog: This is vital! Sit close to your dog with your toddler on your lap and, holding your toddler’s hand under your dog’s nose, allow him sniff the little hand. Still holding your toddler’s hand, encourage him to pet the dog gently.  If your toddler gets a bit rough, explain he can hurt doggie and tell him firmly but gently “no.”  Teaching your toddler simple rules goes a long way toward keeping him safe around dogs as he grows up.

Safe haven: Make sure your dog has a place to escape.  I have three dogs and when my granddaughter visits and I want to allow my oldest, less tolerant dog some ‘me’ time, I pop doggie into a training crate. It’s comfortable; large enough for her to stand up, sit, lie down and walk around in, it’s got her bed and water and it’s see through. While they can still interact, grandchild and animal are safely separated and she knows, once inside, doggie is strictly off limits.

Make sure your toddler respects your dog’s things: Some dogs get aggressive over items like toys and definitely over food.  Make sure your toddler knows not to touch the dog or his feeding bowls, especially when he’s eating. I have taught my granddaughter that when food is placed down for my dogs, the area must be respected as their area and she must leave them to it. If she picks up their toys I remove them from her telling her they belong to the dogs. However, there is one doggy toy that isn’t ‘off limits’.  When my dogs have been fed, my granddaughter, under my strict supervision, picks up the toy, brings it to the garden and plays ‘fetch’ with my dogs.  Dogs and child know this is a regular ritual that happens following feeding time only. 

However, this takes endless time and patience, but repetition and persistence is the key and both she and the dogs have a lovely time together playing; all knowing and respecting each others’ boundaries.  (Do we sound like the Waltons?)

Reward good behaviour in both dog and child. If this is done consistently it will make for a happier dog, a happier child and a calmer you. 

If your dog snaps, growls or bites your toddler, get professional help immediately. A good trainer will help you deal with this problem. 

Supervise: I cannot stress this enough; you must NEVER leave a child and a dog unsupervised. Both are unpredictable and a toddler will be uncoordinated. Dogs can jump up and hurt a child, whether it is unintentional or otherwise. 

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie: If a sleeping dog is awakened in an abrupt manner he can bite before he’s fully awake! Dogs can react for a few seconds before they’re ‘technically awake.’  It’s an essential part of his survival instincts.  If he lived in the wild, when he sleeps, he would be at his most vulnerable and open to attack.  He can react suddenly to a child’s innocent petting and can actually bite the child before he’s fully awake.  It’s a defense mechanism and we all have it.  It’s automatic and the animal bites without knowing he’s biting.  

Think about it. If somebody raises a hand to hit us we react by putting up our hand to protect ourselves. It’s a reflex. We don’t say to ourselves, “oh yes, I must immediately put up my hands to protect myself.” We just do it.

If a dog bites out of reflex and then he’s punished, this may not prove affective because the animal doesn’t know what he’s done or why he’s being punished. He has no memory of the bite because he wasn’t clinically awake.

Please keep your toddler or young child away from sleeping dogs. This also applies to you!

For more info log onto or email me at 


© Miriam Kerins. DSPCA



The Doggie Chronicles - Introducing your dog to your new baby.  

So, you’re the proud parents of a beautiful bouncing dog, but wait, there’s a new addition on the way –you’re about to welcome a new baby into the family, and this time, it’s  human!


For parents, the process of introducing a new baby to the family dog can be stressful.  Sadly,

sometimes the poor pooch gets ousted out in favour of the newer, human addition.


I totally understand because I’m a parent and I know there’s nothing as special as the moment you bring your new bundle of joy home for the first time. I also know that if you’ve already got a bundle of fun, i.e. a dog, and in my case three, there’s bound to be a bit of jealousy.  This is especially true if the pet is older and hasn’t previously been socialised with infants or small children.


So, take time out to paws, (sorry) and read my  tips below because, believe me, with an event as major as a pregnancy, your dog has already sensed your change in mood as animals are very much in tune with our emotions.


  • While in the early stages of pregnancy, act as if the baby is already here. Buy a lifelike doll, one that makes realistic  noises, (Baby Born, Baby Annabel;  available at any good toy shop), and allow your dog to get used to the sound of a crying baby. (This will be good practice for you too). Pop the ‘baby’ doll on your knee and hold it in your arms. This will show your dog that your lap is no longer for him alone.


  • Open up different baby products, leave them around the house and allow your dog to get used to the new smells.


  • Allow him to sniff baby clothing/blanket, check out the new car seat, baby wipes, nappies, nappy sacks, etc., and let him give them all a thorough inspection.


  • And, while we’re on the subject of inspection… when you’ve given birth, but are still at the hospital, have dad or Nana bring home an item of clothing that’s already been worn by the baby. Allow your dog to sniff it. This will get him used to the baby’s unique scent.


  • Keep a close eye on your dog and watch for any new signs of insecurity, separation anxiety, discomfort or, most important, signs of aggression. If in doubt, speak to a trained professional as soon as possible. Check out our website at for our dog training classes.


  • Teach him basic and important control commands when around the ‘baby’ doll. Commands such as “down,” “sit,” “stay” and “heel.” Use one syllable commands; don’t go off on a rant like, “get away from the baby and get into your bed.”  He won’t have a clue what you’re on about.  Keep it simple.


  • Have an ‘emergency recall,’ for use only in emergencies. Choose a word  not normally used as a command.  Sometimes he may not obey you but emergency situations require stricter control.  You need an emergency recall telling him you mean business. For my dogs it’s “NOW!”


  • Before you bring baby home, get your dog a clean bill of health from the vet and make sure he gets his boosters. A trip to the dog groomer won’t go a miss. Have any excess hair removed, have nails clipped and check for fleas or ear mites.


  • Get your pet spayed/neutered. It’s a simple, routine procedure, it’s safe and best for his long term health; so get it done now…before baby arrives and you haven’t got the time!


In the final weeks of pregnancy:

  • Gradually decrease the time you spend with your dog. Now I’m not saying ignore him, but get him used to not expecting as much attention from you as when the new, peculiar smelling and noisy object arrives. Instead, have dad give him a bit more attention.  This should minimize the changing of roles when the time comes.


  • If your dog sleeps in your bedroom, now’s the time to get him used to sleeping somewhere else before the baby comes home.


  • When you arrive home from hospital with your new addition, have dad carry the infant into the house. This gives your dog the chance to welcome you back home and, hopefully, avoid a negative first impression. It would be easy, and understandable, for you to tell your dog to “get down,” if he jumped up onto you whilst holding the new baby; however, this will not make for a good first meeting.
  • The initial meeting needs to be positive and calm for your dog. You should create a happy association from the beginning. However, do have a lead on your dog as a safety precaution.


  • Supervise, supervise, supervise!  Behaviour changes and dogs can become aggressive and jealous. All dogs have the potential to bite. Never, never, never…leave your dog alone with your baby. Always give both dog and baby your full, undivided attention.


  • Finally, a new baby is always exciting but don’t forget your dog. After all, you were his mum first.  He was the centre of your world and now for a reason unknown to him he’s not anymore. Spend a bit of quality time with him, even if it’s only a few minutes alone. A hug and a belly scratch goes a long way to reassure him you still love him…same goes for hubby?

 (c) Miriam Kerins, DSPCA




Christmas, although a joyous occasion, is one of the most stressful times of the year.  Yep, it’s strange how a season of good will and peace to all manages to bring out the worst in people, so much so that in my opinion, it transcends human understanding.  For example, I know I’ve reached breaking point when, come St Stephen’s Day, me and reality start filing for divorce because people, and by people, I mean, my kids, have begun to speak to me in binary code.

So, if you’re like me, you’ll probably be glad it’s now all wrapped up and melted away like the last remnants of snow so that you can look forward to the New Year with hope in your heart and a packet of Alka Seltzer in your handbag.

While we all know, 2010 hasn’t been great for the Irish on the whole, (unless you’re the lovely Delores McNamara and bagged the euro million lottery); I for one will be glad to see the back of it; however the one shining light in my life has been my work as Education Officer with Ireland’s oldest and largest animal rescue shelter, the DSPCA.

Now I don’t want to sound all St Francis of Assisi, but working in animal welfare can be one of the most rewarding and life altering changes any human being can have and seeing the happy faces of previously abused animals in their new ‘forever homes’ is, for me, a humbling experience because I’ve loved animals for as long as I can remember. I was that awkward kid that strays would follow home...much to the annoyance of my parents.

However, getting to the stage where we successfully rescue and rehabilitate is not easy. I think people forget we are ordinary people; just like them.  The difference is, we’ve stepped up and taken responsibility.  We’re not superheroes who don capes and magically make everything in the animal world better; no matter how badly we want to.

Every DSPCA animal welfare emergency response operation commences with endless hours of research, resource and intelligence gathering, collaboration and ground work. Then there’s the actual rescue itself which can be as exhausting as it is harrowing. But, in the end it’s  our love of animals and the dedication of the staff, volunteers, fosterers and supporters who all help us complete our mission; ensuring every adoptable animal has a safe haven to rest their heads and receive the love and care they so desperately desire and deserve.

In 2010, The DSPCA, knowing that no duty is more urgent than that of saving lives, investigated, intervened, prosecuted  and carried out rescues involving hundreds of  cases, including puppy farms, illegal dog fighting rings, animal hoarding situations and probably the most harrowing and heart wrenching of all, equine cruelty cases, to name but a few.  Of the thousands we rescued this year, a European record breaking 4,400 to be exact; each animal has his or her own unique and sad tale.

Take Pharaoh the Lurcher/Whippet cross for example. A twelve month old bundle of love.  Ok, it’s no secret he’s a bit lively; but despite the fact his previous owner callously ignored his right to be loved and nurtured, unceremoniously abandoning him, this fast runner, who can date his ancestors back to Egyptian Kings, hence his regal title, is a very affectionate animal who’s a consummate people pleaser and I have no doubt whomever adopts him will be a Lurcher lover for life.

Then there’s Mary, our beautiful Staffie who, within hours of being dumped Christmas week, gave birth to seven adorable puppies; now recovering in the loving arms of shelter staff in our special Mothers’ and Babies nursery.

Of course all of our work would not be possible without the tender and faithful support of our volunteers and fosterers who help us save and alleviate a whole lot of heartache in animals’ lives; their dedication knows no bounds.

So as 2010 closes and 2011 begins, on behalf of all the staff and animals at the shelter, I would like to wrap a present of gratitude for everyone who supported us and wish you all a happy and peaceful new year.

For more information log onto or email me at

(c) Miriam Kerins, DSPCA






It’s the most wonderful time of the year, chestnuts are roasting, carollers are singing and bells are ringing; wait, maybe that’s just the kids pestering you to ask Santa for a puppy! 

Oh no, I feel a Hallmark moment coming on as you decide that yes, the time is right to add a new addition to the family and it’s not of the human variety.  But let’s be realistic here; are you ready to take on the responsibility of a puppy? 

Yes, I know it’s a family dog, but get a clue Mum, that means you will be the primary carer when this bundle of energy requires house training, chews the heads off the Barbie dolls, poos in Dad’s slippers and runs off with Granddad’s new teeth!

Now, I don’t care what the experts say; nothing prepares you for the highs and lows that are part of the job description that comes with being a mother, especially at Christmas time. It’s a complex journey and the answers don’t fall out of the sky, landing miraculously at your feet.  For me being a mum is simple…

It’s going into my adult daughter’s room and seeing the innocence of the little girl she once was, spread over her beautiful, peaceful, sleeping face. Aaah.

I mean, when contemplating motherhood, I’ll bet, like me, your expectations were sky high. Yes?  That’s because we’re fed by a culture that shows motherhood to be a time of bliss, tranquility and cute puppies that run through the house entangled in the expensive toilet roll.

So, when the kids’ ask that all important question, “Mum, can we pleeese have a dog? We promise to look after him, feed him and walk him,” sit yourself down and weigh up the pros and cons of owning a companion animal because, I guarantee you, the thought of picking up a piece of poo will never even sear their delicate brain stems.

So, in order to help you out this Christmas, here are my top tips for giving a dog a loving forever home.

  • Contact your local animal shelter, or better still, call into us at the DSPCA, Ireland’s oldest and largest animal rescue shelter and take a look at our wonderful pets, desperate to be part of your family.
  • The DSPCA is the country’s leading animal care and welfare experts who firmly believe in re-homing all year round, including Christmas. We have a strict re-homing policy which includes interviews, socialisation and home checks and this continues right through the festive season. In short, we don’t get lax during the holiday period!
  • Decide what type, size and breed of dog you want: Is it a lap dog that’s easy to carry around or is dad the macho man who wants a larger breed?  Maybe you’re divided? No problem, opt for a medium sized dog like a Beagle, a Cocker Spaniel or a Cairn Terrier. We get them all at the shelter.
  • Puppy v Adult: A puppy requires training and socialising, especially during the first six months of his life. Do you have the patience for this? Are you prepared for little puddles around the house and chewed furniture? Also, if your puppy is a cross breed, are you prepared for the fact he may grow up to be an entirely different dog?
  • An adult dog is always a good choice because you get an idea of his energy levels and his temperament when you visit the shelter. In short, what you see is what you get. However, adult dogs don’t equal trained dogs so expect some degree of training to be involved.
  • Older Dogs: Senior dogs are often left on the shelf but need love just as much as cute puppies.  They make wonderful companions, especially if you’re looking for a dog with low energy levels. However, with senior dogs come health problems and this can be costly.

When adopting a dog from the DSPCA we ask for a donation of €135.

  • Puppy/dog has 1st vaccination if 8 weeks old.
  • Will have had 2 vaccinations if 12 weeks or older.
  • Will be neutered/spayed at 6 months old.
  • Will be micro chipped.
  • Will  have had flea and worming treatments


 Your dog will also require annual boosters, regular flea and worming treatments, food, leads, collars, kenneling if you’re on holiday, pet insurance, a license, treats, toys, beds, etc., Taking into account all of the above an animal who is properly taken care of, makes regular trips to the vet, leading to a healthy life for approximately 15 years, could cost you as much as €30,000! 


That said, kids and dogs go hand in hand and I think most readers will agree that kids raised with pets make for more humane and compassionate adults.


Having a pet teaches a child to have responsibility for another living creature and creates a bond between them and the animal.


In addition, I believe a pet will create empathy and raise a child’s self esteem, providing unconditional love and stability in a sometimes unstable world because no matter what else goes on in the child’s life, a dog still needs walking, feeding and grooming and this keeps the entire family in a routine.


However, the key to enjoying the most satisfying relationship with your pet is choosing one that suits your lifestyle. Remember, this is not Hollywood and not all dogs are like Lassie!


For info log onto or email me at

(c) Miriam Kerins, DSPCA





For many years I worked in the media. As a journalist with a national, daily newspaper, I enjoyed a high profile life involving parties and red carpet events.  When I moved into TV and radio, the buzz of being recognized in the local supermarket was mind blowing and a great boost to my self esteem. But I gave it all up to save lives. Animals' lives.

Now I work with the DSPCA. Or, as your Nana might have called us, "the dogs' and cats' home."

Nestled at the foothills of the Dublin Mountains is Ireland's oldest and largest animal rescue shelter, the DSPCA.  I'm an Education Officer and my job is to educate children and young adults in order to try and end the cruel and inhumane treatment of animals.

As a Society, we play a leading role in raising the public's awareness by providing a free comprehensive service in animal welfare education; because, in our opinion, education is the best possible insurance against cruelty.

Established in 1840, 2010 year saw us celebrate a landmark 170 years rescuing, treating, rehabilitating and re-homing cruelly treated, abused and badly injured creatures; making us proud to profess our mantra, Standing up for Animals ... all animals, great and small.

Open to the public 7 days a week, this unique facility is currently in the grip of a major self sustainability project. We're supported by a dedicated team of 32 staff and a network of fabulous volunteers who work tirelessly to help the thousands of animals that come through our doors each year.

Week by week, I'll offer you many reasons to keep on reading because I believe, for pet lovers,  there are few things more enjoyable than knowing about these formerly unloved, unwanted animals who've been rescued by us, the DSPCA. 

I'll tackle the topics that concern your pets, and, as an Education Officer, I'll endeavour to educate the next generation of animal lovers by sharing my knowledge with those who wish to make a difference in the world. Oh, and I'll keep you all up to date with shelter gossip, news, views and reviews.

For more information, log on to and click on 'Education.'

(C) Miriam Kerins, DSPCA

Please Note.

All of the above articles are written as guidelines and as an informational source only.  They are in no way intended to be used, nor should they ever be used, as a substitute for professional veterinary and/or dog training advice.  If you have any concerns regarding your animal's health or behaviour, please contact your local veterinarian or dog training professional without delay.







• Dog will incessantly chew and scratch at himself, often until the area becomes hairless, raw and weeping. This can cause scaling and a bacterial infection.
• Display visible patches of hair loss due to scratching.
• Possible skin allergies
• Fleas may transmit other parasites like tapeworms to your dog.
So, how do I check for fleas?
Check your dog’s coat for flea dirt (feces)
Comb your dog’s coat while he’s lying on a white sheet of paper; black flecks that resemble dirt will fall onto the paper.  Transfer them to a damp piece of paper and if they turn reddish brown then it usually means fleas as blood sucked from your pet has passed into the flea’s waste matter. If they remain black the flecks are possibly just regular dirt on your dog. Whew!
Preventing Fleas?


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