Pet questions

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My German Shepherd Diesel is nearly two and seems to have severe anxiety whenever we leave the house. He is very scared of other dogs and people, but is completely fine with us when inside – loving and calm.

A: Diesel may have two anxiety-related problems. If he is anxious when you leave him alone, this is likely to be a condition called “separation anxiety”. This affects dogs who are highly bonded to their owner and can’t cope when their owner is not with them. This can cause signs such as pacing, drooling, toileting in the house, destructive behaviour (for example, chewing at door frames) and/or constant barking when the owner leaves the house. The other problem is his fear of dogs and people. Diesel needs professional behavioural help with these problems, to improve his quality of life. It’s important not to shout at him or punish him, as this will make his anxiety worse.

Q: My cat, Speedy, loved playing in the snow last year, but I noticed her come in shivering a couple of times. I don’t want to keep her locked inside as she enjoys being out.

A: Snow can be fun, but you should make sure Speedy can always come back inside to the warmth whenever she wants to. Cats may have a nice warm coat, but if they aren’t used to the cold, or are young, old or ill, it is possible for them to develop hypothermia. Cats will normally return once they start to feel the cold, but if you are concerned, try only letting her out for short periods. You should also get her microchipped, if she isn’t already, so that you can be easily contacted if she does wander too far or, worse, is found injured.

Q: My kids’ hamster, Goldie, is always escaping from her cage, even though she has lots of toys and things to play with.

A: It is important that any home for a pet is safe and secure – if small pets escape they can be faced with lots of risks and dangers. Sometimes, putting a strong metal clip on the latch to the cage door is necessary. If Goldie is chewing her way out she may need a home that is made from more sturdy material. The other thing to think about is why she is trying to escape – could she be unhappy with her cage? It should be big, with different levels and places where she can dig. It needs to be cleaned weekly so that it doesn’t become unhygienic and unpleasant. It should also be away from radiators, direct sunlight, draughts, busy or noisy places, TVs and music systems, as these can all be stressful.