Vets & Pets

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Vet Stuart McMorrow answers your pressing pet queries

Q: My Russian hamster has a bald patch on one of his back legs and it seems quite red and sore. What might have caused this?

A Your hamster may have a bacterial skin infection, or a reaction to his bedding. Some hamsters develop dermatitis as a reaction to cedar or pine shavings, for example, so these shouldn’t be used as bedding materials. You should take your hamster to your vet to get a correct diagnosis.

Q: My Jack Russell, Patsy, always attacks the hoover when I use it. I’ve tried keeping her out of the room but she still goes mental. Why does she do this?

A Patsy’s behaviour is most likely caused by uncertainty, and she barks because she is not confident around it. Usually, fear towards household objects develops because a dog didn’t have the chance to get used to them in the first few weeks of life. Positive experiences of different people, sounds, objects and other animals at this young age can help to prevent fear in later life. To help Patsy, a behavioural technique called desensitisation and counter conditioning can be used to create a positive association. This is most likely to be successful if you get professional help, so ask your vet for information.

Q: My cat, Flapjack, has a lump on her ear which is getting bigger and recently it’s started weeping. Do I need to take her to see a vet?

A Yes, as this sounds as though it could be an abscess. These can be caused by cat bites or there may be a foreign body which needs to be removed. It could also be an infected or ulcerated tumour. Your vet will see if any tests are required.

Q: My dog, Basil, loves human food, and I find it hard to resist giving him anything at meal times. What sort of foods can dogs tolerate?

A Not only are certain foods poisonous to dogs, regularly feeding human food to dogs causes obesity. Overweight pets are less mobile and more likely to develop serious health conditions. On average, they also die two years younger. Basil will get all the nutrients he needs from a complete dog food, so any treats just provide extra calories. You are feeding him this because you love him, but sadly many owners that do this are killing their pets with kindness.

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