Pet questions 22/12/12

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Our pet expert Stuart McMorrow answers your animal questions.

a I have a rag doll kitten named Princess, but she keeps coughing and hacking, and then brings up what I think is a hairball. She does lick herself a lot, so I guess she’s swallowing a lot of hair when she does this. Is there anything I can do to prevent this?

a It does sound as though Princess is regurgitating hair balls. When she grooms her fur with her tongue she is swallowing hairs and over time they bind together and ball up in her digestive system. This can cause a problem if it stops food from entering her stomach. Often they are regurgitated and an owner may see their cat coughing and hacking first. The best prevention is to groom her daily, which will help remove all her loose hairs. There are also special pastes that can be given to help her pass a hair ball. Although it sounds as though hair balls are the problem, I would suggest you get Princess checked by your vet, just in case there is a different reason, such as a trapped foreign body.

q I adopted my Jack Russell about 18 months ago from a rescue centre, and he had quite a bad case of kennel cough. This was treated and soon got better, but he still coughs occasionally now, especially after running and playing. Is this normal? He seems well otherwise, and eats OK.

a As he is generally well and the coughing is only occasional, this may not be anything to worry about. Some dogs that have had kennel cough can go on to develop chronic bronchitis (inflammation in the airways). Heart disease and a collapsing trachea are other possible causes of a persistent cough. For these reasons I would recommend that you take him to be checked by your vet, just to be safe.