Pet answers

Rabbit question

Don’t settle for pet theories, get pet answers! Veterinary surgeon Holly Norman answers your animal health questions

Q: I have a four month old kitten and he’s already scratching at the door and trying to get outside. How do I know when he’s ready to go out?
A: Oh, I love kittens at this age, they’re so curious! Some cats are happy to stay inside or just visit
the garden occasionally whereas others are determined to get out as soon as possible. Wanting to go and explore is really natural at this age but realistically it’s not really safe yet. There is a whole host of hazards out there including cars, other cats, dogs, wildlife and don’t forget negotiating fences, gardens and everything else! As a general rule, we recommend that all cats are neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and up to date with flea and worming treatment before venturing outside. Once your kitten is fully protected, I would start by doing a little basic training. Call his name and shake a packet of treats or rustle his cat food pouch when it’s time for his meals. When he comes over, give him a treat or offer him his food and he’ll start to realise that it’s always a good idea to come when you call! Then you can start cautiously letting him out for very short periods of time. Try letting him out just before his breakfast or dinner so he’s not going to go too far and will want to come back for his meal. Then gradually build up the time he spends outside and always make sure he’s supervised if possible. It’s a big exciting world out there and I bet he’s desperate to explore it but taking it one step at a time will help build his (and your) confidence!

Q: My rabbit is scratching and biting his fur. Do you think he might have fleas?
A: Fleas are certainly a possibility! Rabbits are less likely to get fleas than cats and dogs but it’s still possible. If other pets in the house have fleas, they’ll shed eggs into the environment and these can hatch and jump on your bunny. Or if your rabbit lives outside, they can catch fleas from wild rabbits visiting the garden. One way to check for fleas is to part the fur and see if you can see any little dark brown specks. This could be flea dirt which is a mixture of flea poo and digested blood. If you dab it with a damp paper towel and the paper turns pink, there are fleas present. But there could still be other causes of your rabbit scratching. They can have bacterial or fungal infections or have mites. A trip to your vet for a thorough check over would be a great place to start and if you need to tweak your flea control for your other pets, they can talk you through that too.

Q: My two year old Cockapoo gets really stressed whenever we go to the vets and I just
wanted to know if there’s anything I can do to help her?
A: Oh no! That’s such a shame and it can be awful to see your dog stressed. Unfortunately, lots of dogs find vet visits difficult and the recent pandemic hasn’t helped. Lockdown and distancing has meant that we haven’t been able to socialise our dogs and get them out and about. And visiting the vet isn’t always the most fun for our pets! We usually poke and prod your dog all over and have to do things they might not enjoy, like taking their temperature or giving them injections.

But there’s still lots of things we can do to help your dog at the vets. First thing is to have a chat with your vet practice. If your dog gets really stressed, sometimes we’ll prescribe some ‘chill-out’ tablets that can be given before the actual appointment. They aren’t sedatives, more to make her relaxed and reduce her anxiety. Then it’s about stacking up some positive experiences to balance out the more negative ones. See if you can pop in once a week and just sit in the waiting room to give your dog some yummy treats and cuddles. Then, once she’s feeling a bit happier, see if she’ll accept a snack or a stroke from the nurses and vets. It takes the pressure off both of you and gradually your dog will start to associate vet visits with positive things. Most vet practices will happily help you do this as we don’t like seeing dogs getting stressed either!

Dr Holly Norman BSc(Hons) BVetMed MRCVS Veterinary surgeon and Practice Partner at:
● Peterborough Vets4Pets 231-233 St Paul’s Road Peterborough PE1 3RL Tel: 01733 890777 ● Bretton Vets4Pets Inside Pets at Home Unit 2 The Bretton Centre Peterborough PE3 8DN Tel: 01733 261094

Do you have a pet or animal health question? Send it to us at: Holly will endeavour to answer all questions, whether published or not!

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