Pet Questions

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Q Our house tends to get very busy over Christmas, with lots of excited children visiting. But our old Labrador Vinnie gets a bit scared and tends to hide from all the noise. What can we do to help him?

A Christmas can be a stressful time for some dogs – the unfamiliar visitors and noise can be very unsettling. To help Vinnie, make him a cosy den a few weeks beforehand, away from the hustle and bustle. There may be a place where he likes to hide already, such as under the stairs or behind a sofa. Put cushions or blankets inside to help soundproof it a bit and give Vinnie praise or a healthy treat when he relaxes there, to help build a positive association with the den. Let him hide there whenever things get a bit too noisy for him. You could also use plug-in pheromones nearby – smells which can help reduce a dog’s anxiety.

Q My ferret seems to have two large lumps on his bottom and he keeps rubbing them on the floor. What’s wrong with him?

A Without seeing these lumps it is difficult to be certain what they are, but you need to get him checked by your vet. One possibility is that your ferret is actually a female. When female ferrets come into season in the spring, the area around their bottom becomes visibly swollen. If a ferret in season is not mated (or has a hormone injection), she can develop a potentially fatal condition affecting her bone marrow. For this reason, female ferrets should either be neutered or given a hormone implant.

Q My rabbit has started sneezing. He lives indoors but gets plenty of fresh air. Can rabbits get colds?

A Rabbits can get a type of respiratory disease that is similar to a cold. The most common cause is infection with a bacterium called Pasteurella multocida. This often causes a runny nose, sneezing and/or an eye discharge. Even if the infection appears quite mild, it can develop into pneumonia and become very serious, so you should make an appointment to see a vet.

* Stuart McMorrow is based at Edinburgh’s PDSA PetAid Hospital, 26 Hutchison Crossway, 0131-443 6178