Q1 "My dog has suddenly become frightened of travelling in the car. She refuses to get in, shakes and drools. It's usually to go somewhere for a lovely walk rather than a trip to the vet. We've put treats in, tried pheromone spray, have moved her to the seats rather than in the boot, even sit in the back with her but it makes no difference."
Your dog may have suddenly become scared of travelling in the car due to a negative experience and she now associates the car with being afraid. It sounds as if you have already tried lots of very good ideas to overcome this and it might take a little bit of time, but I’m sure you can get your dog back to being a happy traveler.
Start small by letting your dog explore the car’s interior in a safe environment without turning on the engine. Reward your dog with praise or a small treat so that she associates the car with positive experiences.
Your dog should either be safely restrained with a harness or a pet carrier if she is too small for a harness whilst travelling.
Gradually get your dog used to wearing the car harness and having the car engine on, and when she feels comfortable, take her on a short journey, held securely with the dog seat belt. Gradually lengthen the journeys.
If you are still struggling after this ‘travel training’ contact your local Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC) behaviourist for advice tailored to you.
Q2. "Our guinea pigs are being regularly harassed by the local cat population loitering around their hutch and run. I like cats but not when they distress our piggies. Is there anything we can do to deter these pesky mogs?"
"Cats looking in on your guinea pigs will be very distressing so I’m not surprised you want to deter them from your garden. If you know where these cats live you could ask their owner to keep them in for an hour or two a day so that your guinea pigs can be in their run and not bothered.
If it is possible to move their hutch to an area where the cats cannot see them, for example in your garage, this will give your guinea pigs some peace and quiet. You can also provide your guinea pigs with a ‘safe place’ in their hutch and run – for example, a cardboard box that they can hide in if they want to get away from the cats.
Q3. "Our 16 month old chicken is limping quite badly. We took her to the vet who diagnosed a lack of calcium as a possible cause to her muscle wastage in her left leg and her egg laying decreasing. She gave her a calcium injection and prescribed her some Zolcal-D medicine. Would this be the correct diagnosis and treatment? She doesn't seem in pain, just limping. She's eating well and not ill."
Lack of calcium can cause problems such as these, but the best thing to do if your chicken is still limping is to get in touch with your vet as they’ll be aware of all the factors involved in your chicken’s care. They may advise of further tests they would like to run to confirm a diagnosis and may be able to make suggestions for further treatments that they deem necessary. You can also then discuss your chicken’s diet with your vet and ensure that this isn’t the cause of any deficiencies.
Q4. "Having used everything possible what else can I do to keep my four year old dog’s teeth white please?"
Looking after our dogs’ teeth is just as important as looking after our own. Regular tooth brushing using pet toothpaste is the best way to keep the teeth clean and healthy. There are also specially designed foods, chews and toys available to help clean your dog’s teeth.
If the tartar build up becomes very severe you need to book an appointment with your vet. They can thoroughly check your dog’s mouth and, if necessary, they can perform a scale and polish under general anaesthetic.
Q5. "Our cat is 15 and he eats well but is getting thin, is this just old age?"
Some cats can start to look thinner as they get older and still be completely healthy. It sounds as if your cat should have a check up at your vets to put your mind at rest, as there are some health problems that can cause weight loss in older cats such as an over active thyroid gland and kidney disease.
Your vet will give your cat a thorough check over and, if needed, can perform some simple tests to check there are no underlying health issues.
If they give your cat the ‘all clear’ it might be worth looking for a cat food specifically designed for older cats as their nutritional needs do change as they become more elderly. Your vet will be able to advise you about the best diet.
Q6. "My cat has kidney disease and won't touch the dry kidney diet food, we've tried several types. He'll eat the wet food but I'm worried about his teeth is there something else I can try?"
Fussy eating is a very common problem amongst cats with kidney disease. The prescription diet in either the wet or dry form is the best food to help the kidneys. If you are worried about your cat’s teeth on a wet food only diet you could start brushing their teeth to prevent tartar.
Q7. "My cat is sick a lot is that common?"
If your cat is regularly being sick you need to take them to your vets for a checkup. They will perform a thorough examination to make sure your cat is healthy. If your cat has not been wormed recently they can prescribe a wormer as this can be a cause of vomiting. You could also try gradually changing your cat onto a bland diet. Your vet will be able to advise you on what foods are best for your cat.
Q8. "I have two female cats, sisters, who are about five years old and I have constantly struggled with them spraying in the house. The microwave has been a particular target!"
It would be worth a check up at the vets for your cats just to make sure that there is no medical reason for them spraying indoors. If they find no medical reason, they may be able to give you some advice regarding your cats’ behaviour or, if necessary, refer you to a behaviour specialist. Cats can sometimes spray indoors as a result of stress, but signs of stress are often very subtle as cats are very good at hiding such emotions. Have a think about anything that may have changed at home for your cats or could be causing them any stress and discuss this with your vet.
Q9. "Can I cut my cat’s claws myself or is that risky?"
Cats usually keep their claws trim themselves by scratching so make sure you have a suitable scratching post where your cat can do this. If the claws are becoming overgrown despite this then you can cut them at home.
You might need to get your vet, nurse or groomer to show you how to do this safely as you need to avoid cutting the quick which is the pink, central, part of the nail that will bleed and is painful if you accidentally cut it.
Q10. "Is there any advantage to buying branded pet food, or are they all similar?"
Pets come in many shapes and sizes, the type and amount of food they need depends on their age, health and lifestyle. You should match your pet’s diet to what they need at different ages and stages of development. Many companies make food especially for puppies, juniors, adults and seniors.
Feeding your pet a complete commercial pet food is the easiest way to make sure they get all the nutrients they need. Follow the guidelines on the packet on how much to feed them, and weigh it out at each meal as it’s easy to accidentally feed too much. Your vet can give you advice on what food is best for your pet and which brands might be most suitable.
Q11. "What’s the ideal weight for middle-aged dogs?"
The ideal weight for your pet will depend on their breed and size. If you pop into your local vets you will be able to weigh your pet. Your vet or vet nurse can then advise you on their ideal weight and size.
Dog’s nutritional requirements do change as they get older; your vet can advise you on the most suitable diet for your dog as this might now be a ‘senior’ food.
Q12. "Why does my dog/cat eat grass?"
Pica is the term for eating things that aren’t food. Many dogs eat grass and the reason why is unknown. For some dogs it’s likely to be because they enjoy the flavour and texture, for others it’s because they are bored or it has become a habit.
Your dog will not gain any nutritional value from grass but if they are eating so much that they are sick you might want to try and stop them. You can try engaging your dog with an interactive feeder or interesting toy in the garden to prevent the grass eating. If your dog is regularly eating grass and being sick you should also get them checked by a vet to rule out any underlying medical problems.
Always make sure you are not using any toxic fertilizers or pesticides if your dog eats grass.
Q13. "My cat had a claw ripped out – will it grow back on its own?"
Yes, your cat’s claw will grow back, but it can take several months. Keep a close eye on the area. It will be very sore for your cat, but it’s important to make sure it doesn’t get infected - so keep an eye out for any swelling or discharge, or if your cat begins to limp. If you see any of these signs, take your cat along to your vet for a checkup.
Q14. "Why does my hamster continually gnaw on the bars of his cage, even though I have provided him with chew toys and mineral stones?"
If your hamster has plenty of opportunity to chew on things within his cage, it could be due to boredom or stress. Hamsters are very active, so give him lots of things to climb on and explore in his cage, including an exercise wheel – but make sure it has no spaces between the rungs which could cause injury to his legs. Add in things such as cardboard rolls and boxes to hide in and chew, and rotate any toys he has so that he doesn’t get bored of them. It’s also a good idea to allow him time out of his cage to stretch his legs and explore – early evening is best as this is when hamsters are usually awake and active.
Q15. "How do I recognise arthritis in my dog/cat?"
There are many signs associated with arthritis in dogs and cats. Some of the more common are reduced mobility – for example, difficulty going up or down the stairs; stiffness in the legs, especially after sleeping or resting in one place for a while. You may see lameness or obvious swelling over particular joints. Grooming patterns can be altered – sometimes you can see a duller, more matted coat if your pet is having difficulty grooming itself due to sore joints, or you may notice your pet is overgrooming – this is commonly over affected joints. If you suspect your pet is arthritic take them along to the vets for a checkup. Your vet will be able to advise you of medications and supplements that can help make your pet more comfortable.
Q16. "What is the cause of fits in cats?"
There can be several causes of fits in cats. These can include low blood sugar, head trauma, poisons or toxins, epilepsy and any inflammatory or infectious diseases that can affect the nervous system, to name a few. If your cat is suffering from fits it’s important to see your vet to find out the cause of the problem and if any treatment is necessary.
Q17. "My seven- year-old cat has quite a few extra pounds and the vet has said she is overweight. She only eats two packets of wet food a day and a couple of cat biscuits before bed but I just can’t get her to lose weight, especially as she doesn’t really like going out. What can I do?"
It’s important to make sure you’re not over-feeding your cat, so take a look at the feeding guidelines on the packet to see how much she needs every day and make sure this is all she’s getting. Try to cut out the treats. You could also consider getting an activity feeder for her, so she’s having to work for her food a little and make sure she has plenty of toys around the house to encourage play – anything which she can run after and pounce on is best as this mimics her natural hunting behaviour. Weigh her regularly and bear in mind that any weight loss will be slow. It’s also a good idea to see if your vets run any weight clinics, as this could be of great support to you.
Q18. "My four-year-old dog licks his feet quite often and chews his own nails, why is this?"
There can be many things that cause dogs to lick at their feet, so it’s worth a check up at the vets. Some of the possible causes include parasites, such as harvest mites; allergies; lick granulomas and grass seeds. Any treatment your dog may need can be quite specific to the cause of the irritation, so your vet will do a thorough examination and then advise you on the best course of action to take.
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