Q My eight-year-old Shih Tzu seems a little underweight. Do I need to feed her a food specifically for older dogs?
A Weight loss can be a sign of certain medical conditions, so I would suggest that you take your dog to be checked by your vet. Your vet will also be able to confirm whether she is a healthy weight or not. Around one in three dogs are overweight these days and because of this, some owners have come to view an overweight body shape as normal. This can cause them to think that a dog at a healthy weight is underweight, when, actually, they are fine. Generally, it is recommended for older dogs to be fed a “senior” dog food but, because of your concern, I wouldn’t change the food until a vet has checked her first.
Q I’m thinking of getting my six-year-old ferret a friend for Christmas. How will I know that they’ll get on with each other?
A Ferrets are social animals, so they should normally be kept together. The best option is to keep littermates of the same sex who have grown up together, but your ferret can be successfully introduced to an unrelated ferret if it’s done carefully. Don’t mix an unneutered male with an unneutered female, as they are likely to breed. At first they should be housed close to each other, separated by wire mesh, allowing them to see and sniff each other to get used to the other’s scent. To prevent territorial aggression, their first meeting should be somewhere where neither of them have been before – for example, an empty bath. You should do this for short periods, ideally several times a day.