From anxious pups to rabbits feeling the chill — your pet queries answered

HE is on a mission to help our pets  . . . and is here to answer YOUR questions.

Sean, who is the head vet at tailored pet food firm tails.com, has helped with owners’ queries for ten years. He says: “If your pet is acting funny or is under the weather, or you want to know about nutrition or exercise, just ask. I can help keep pets happy and healthy.”


Q) MY rabbits James and Gonzo and my guinea pigs Carlos and Jose get cold on a night.

Is it OK to warm large pebbles in the oven to put in their hutches?

Helen Van Horn, Cambridge

Sean says: What cool names. I’d be very careful about that, as you can’t control the heat so there is a danger of them burning themselves if they come in direct contact.

Pet-safe warming blankets have an insert you can heat up. Otherwise, covering their enclosure or house with an insulating layer like a blanket is a good idea. Remember to let some air flow in.

The main thing is plenty of dry, fresh bedding. Provide loads of straw for them to nestle into.

Got a question for Sean?

SEND your queries to [email protected].

Q) I GOT a yellow Lab called Max just before this lockdown.

He’s great fun and I have been training him with a local trainer but he gets up too early. He sleeps in a crate happily but wakes between 5am and 6.30am.

He doesn’t need a wee and if I sit on the sofa with him, he will sleep until 8am. I tried to leave him but his yap turns hysterical.

We put the crate in our room and left the door open too. Nothing works. We are shattered!

Kate Jones, Perth, Tayside

Sean says: I feel your pain. This is a classic vicious cycle. He whines and yaps because he’s awake and bored, you go to him and reassure him. He gets the attention he craves and settles again.

To break the cycle, ignore the unwanted behaviour at all costs. Earplugs are your friend. Get him out for a wee last thing at night. If you go to him on his 20th yap, he’ll yap 40 times the next morning, as he knows it will work.

If you don’t cave, he’ll eventually realise it doesn’t work any more.

Q) DAISY, our three-year-old Cockapoo, is so timid she refuses to walk if she hears a noise, a car or people pass by.

Sometimes she gets just a few metres from the house and won’t go any further.

If she hears a firework, she will run and hide in a corner.

Colin Bond, Chelmsford, Essex

Sean says: Poor Daisy. Without observing what’s happening — and how you react to her behaviour — it’s hard to give specific behavioural advice here.

Qualified animal behaviourists (not to be confused with trainers, who also do a great job) are worth their weight in gold. I’d invest in one. Many are doing remote consultations.

Techniques to look up in the mean time are habituation, desensitisation and response substitution.

Q) WE’VE had Poppy, who is now three, since she was a puppy. She won’t eat tinned food or dog biscuits.

We have tried everything. All she will eat is chicken. I worry she is not getting the right nutrients. I have tried starving her so she would be hungry and eat — to no avail.

Rosemary Matthews, North London

Sean says: Unfortunately, chicken will not provide everything Poppy needs. Something has to change.

You are in charge here. She needs a complete, balanced diet, tailored to her individual needs. There may be a hunger strike at first but you mustn’t cave.

An occasional bit of chicken mixed with her food is fine. But she needs to quit her addiction.

Star of the week

RUBY the flat-coated retriever saved the life of her owner when Chloe Johns slipped into a diabetic coma.

She was taken to hospital when Ruby, her medical alert dog from Hypo Hounds, wouldn’t leave her side.

Chloe, 12, from Chelmsford in Essex, has Type 1 diabetes.

Her mum Kathy, 53, said: “It could have been fatal if she hadn’t been treated. She was seriously dehydrated with high blood sugars.

“It was the most serious episode we’ve had. It’s thanks to Ruby that she had the treatment she needed.”

Chloe spent a night in hospital and has since recovered. She says: “Ruby is my best friend. She makes me happy and feel safe.”

WIN: Canicross kit

BOND with your dog and get fit with canicross, the increasingly popular sport of running attached to your pet.

We have three starter kits, each worth £89.99, from K9 Trail Time.

Each features an adjustable sports harness for your dog, a belt for you and a bungee line to connect you, plus video tutorials.

To enter, choose size and colour of harness at k9trailtime.com and send an email headed K9TRAILTIME to [email protected] the-sun.co.uk.

  • T&Cs apply. Entries close February 28, 2021.

Truth aches with dental hygiene

SIXTY per cent of dogs and as much as 95 per cent of cats have dental disease.

The Royal Veterinary College says dental disease is one of the three disorders that most impact pets’ welfare, along with obesity and arthritis.

Many owners don’t realise they need to clean their pet’s teeth or know how.

Paws & Claws head vet Sean McCormack says: “We joke about ‘dog breath’ but nasty breath can be a sign they are in pain with inflamed gums, calculus, loose teeth, abscesses or even bone loss.

“If left, a film of bacteria builds up on their teeth and creates tartar, gingivitis, infection around the tooth and gums. Swallowing the bacteria can lead to heart problems.”

Sean recommends a deep clean under general anaesthetic at the vets for dogs and cats every two to three years.

He adds: “The gold standard is to brush with pet-friendly toothpaste every day if you can or at least three times a week.

“The next best option is vet-standard dental chews, followed by enzyme gels you can put on their gums or powder in water to break down bacteria.

  • Learn more at tails.com/gb/health/dental-care.

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