Pets are important not only as an integral part of the family unit but as a source of company and
comfort, providing therapeutic qualities when we need it most. They help us to enjoy the simple things
in life; be it a morning walk or the joyful moment of returning home after a long day.
In short, pets help us to live our best lives, and there are different ways we can help them to live
Below is some useful guidance and information to help you best protect your pet and keep them healthy
and happy, while keeping yourself healthy and happy too.
Look after your pet - the way they look after you
Our pets remind us that home is where the heart is... but our homes often contain things that can be
to pets and lead to a pet insurance claim. Explore the image below to see some of the things that pose a
risk to curious paws.*
Certain fruits, including grapes and raisins:
Toxins in these fruits are potentially fatal to dogs
and cats. Make sure your pets don't eat them or any food with these ingredients, e.g. cakes, and make
sure they're stored somewhere out of the way of inquisitive noses.
Chocolate and sweet treats:
Human chocolates contains theobromine, a chemical that can be fatal to
pets. The darker the chocolate, the higher the risk. Keep pets away from any foods containing chocolate,
such as cakes, sweets, cookies and cocoa powder. Xylitol, which is found in sugar-free sweets, is also
extremely harmful to dogs, so make sure any of these products are stored safely away too.
These can get stuck in your pet's stomach and cause blockages, or splinters of bone
can cause internal damage. They can also cause fractures to your pet's teeth, stomach pain and
constipation. Make sure you keep them out of reach or discard of them safely when you've finished with
Some vegetables, such as garlic and onions:
Some vegetables contain chemicals which can poison dogs
and cats when eaten in large quantities, but exposure to concentrated forms such as garlic powder can
also be toxic. Again, these should be kept safely out of reach.
Certain flowers and plants, such as lilies and aloe vera:
Some plants and flowers are best kept well
away from pets as pets can be poisoned by eating or chewing the leaves, stems or flower heads, and even
the pollen can be harmful. If in doubt, ask your local nursery or florist for advice before bringing a
new plant into your home.
*Information taken from https://www.pdsa.org.uk/
Keeping your dog
Dogs wriggle their way into our hearts - and occasionally worm their way into trouble. But although we
never know what life will bring, vet surgeon Martin Stevens has some simple steps you can take to keep
your dog happy and
healthy from nose to tail:
Provide the basics
All pups need a balanced diet, fresh water and regular
exercise to keep them healthy. The recommended amount of food and exercise for your dog will
depend on its lifestyle, diet, age and general health, all of which your vet can help you
Keep them entertained
Walks, playing fetch, chasing their tail -whatever
they're into, encourage it! Playing is vital for a dog's mental and physical health. It's
also important for dogs to socialise - both with humans and other animals. They're most
receptive when they are puppies, so the earlier they can be socialised, the better.
Watch your food
Certain 'human foods' are dangerous for dogs to eat, such
as chocolate, onions, garlic and grapes. Be sure not to leave these lying about the house,
as we all know dogs have a habit of sniffing out forbidden snacks!
If they're home alone... take them out on a long walk
before you leave
The physical and mental stimulation should tire them out, so they'll appreciate some quiet time
when they're home. You could also try some interactive, food-dispensing toys. But remember,
dogs shouldn't be left alone for lengthy periods of time.
Do home check-ups
While visits to the vets for regular check-ups are great,
giving your dog a once-over yourself every now and again will help you spot any issues
early. There are a few key areas you can check to keep your dog comfortable, such as their
ears, claws, eyes and teeth.
Depending on the breed of your dog, they may require a little
TLC to help them look and feel their best - whether that's the odd shampoo or a regular
Common questions about pet health
If you'd like some advice before deciding whether to go to your vet, we've got you covered. Martin
answers all the burning questions about your dog or cat's health - whether you're a
seasoned dog owner or you've just brought home your first kitten.
Q: Can dogs get colds?
A: They can. Thankfully they won't catch them from us, but they can get runny noses and
coughs. If you're worried about your pet, you should contact your vet.
Q: What pet should I get?
A: Tough question. But I think the best pet is one that is well-fed, well-looked after
Q: How do I get a pet passport?
A: The regulations for pet passports are constantly changing. Best bet is to contact your
vet who can give you advice for taking your pet abroad, or check GOV.UK. A current EU pet passport issued in GB will not
be valid for travel to the EU or NI from 1 January 2021.
Q: Why do dogs bark?
A: To communicate! They can vary the tone, length and pitch of their bark to tell us
different things. But trying to work out what they're saying is a different matter!
Q: What should I look for when getting pet
A: M&S Bank have lots of information regarding pet insurance
on their website, including a detailed breakdown of what's covered by M&S Bank.
Q: Are cats' noses supposed to be wet?
A: They'll be wet from time to time. They have sweat glands in there, so they'll get a
little wet when they're hot. If there's ever any thick discharge or crustiness, it's
time to contact your vet.
Q: Why do dogs vomit?
A: This could be something really simple like a bit of tummy upset from something they've
eaten, but it could be a bit more serious. If you're worried about your dog, I'd always
advise you contact your vet.
Q: Are dogs' worms contagious to humans?
A: Unfortunately, some of them are. That's why it's really important that you have your
pet wormed regularly, and always clear up dog faeces outside - especially if you have
Q: Why are cats scared of cucumbers?
A: I don't think this is entirely true, although it has been a big social media trend!
They might think they're snakes, but generally they might not like something large,
bright and unfamiliar being thrown at them.
Q: What can I do to keep my pet cool in hot
A: Dogs should never be left in a hot car! When they're hot, use wet towels to cool them
down and give them plenty of water to drink. Try to avoid the hotter times of the day
for walks, and they should have a nice safe summer.
Q: What do cats' meows mean?
A: They can mean a variety of things. Usually they're talking to us - that really long
'yowl' you hear when you're in a different room is a contact call, saying "hey, come and
Q: Will dog food make a cat sick?
A: It can do if the cat's allergic to the ingredients, but the other way around is more
worrying. Cat food is higher in fat which can make dogs poorly.
Q: What Christmas treats should my pet avoid?
A: Definitely alcohol and chocolate. Raisins and grapes are actually really poisonous,
which rules out Christmas pudding and Christmas cake. The best thing for a treat is to
pick the meat they normally have in pet food, like beef or chicken, from your Christmas
dinner, and give it to them fresh as a treat.
Q: What can I do if my pet is scared of
A: If you can, try to desensitise them in advance. There are CDs out there which
gradually make fireworks less scary for dogs. Takes a couple months to do, so it's best
to start early.
Q: Are dog fleas harmful to humans?
A: They won't live on us, but if you're allergic you'll have a little reaction - a small
red bump might come up like a mosquito bite.
Learn more about our pet insurance
Explore the benefits of dog insurance from M&S Bank
Explore the benefits of cat insurance from M&S Bank
Underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc