Don’t settle for pet theories, get pet answers! Veterinary surgeon Holly Norman answers your summer animal health questions
Q: I have a black Patterdale Terrier called Bella and she really struggles in the heat. Is there anything I can do to help cool her down?
Hello to Bella! In the UK, we’re always very grateful for a lovely warm summer but this can make life a bit tricky for some of our pets. Imagine wearing a woolly jumper on a hot sunny day! Dogs can only really get rid of excess heat by sweating through their paws or by panting so they can be prone to overheating.
There’s lots you can do to still enjoy the warm weather whilst making sure that Bella stays comfortable. I’d start by restricting walks to the cooler early mornings or evenings but be sure to check the pavement isn’t too hot for those little paws. Make sure there’s plenty of cool fresh water available at all times and take regular breaks when playing or walking. There are also cooling coats available for when you’re out and about and I’d try and limit over-exuberant exercise such as ball chasing. Remember that walks are not just about physically wearing out our dogs, they’re more about mental stimulation and a lazy ‘sniffy’ walk can be just as rewarding as taking them out for a five mile run.
Q: My bunny always moults around now but it seems very excessive this year. He’s got lots of dandruff and I can see bald patches!
Moulting bunnies can often look very untidy with lots of loose fur and that fur seems to get everywhere! However, I think from your description there may be more going on. Rabbits are susceptible to a mite called Cheyletiella, otherwise known as ‘walking dandruff’, which can appear as tiny white dots in among the fur. They live on the skin surface and feed on dead skin cells and other debris and cause itchiness and baldness as well as the excessive dandruff you mentioned.
The good news is that it’s very treatable. I‘d recommend getting your bunny booked in with your veterinary practice. They’ll usually take a skin scraping or a tape strip of the fur to confirm what is causing the dandruff and fur loss. If Cheyletiella is detected, they will recommend a spot-on treatment to kill the mites, which may be needed long term to prevent any future flare ups. They may recommend also treating all in contact animals, if your bunny lives with any friends. Fingers crossed he’ll be feeling better and looking his smart self soon!
Q: Can I give my dog an ice-cream? I know some human foods can be poisonous to dogs but I wasn’t sure about ice-creams?
That’s a really good question. You’re right, there are lots of things that shouldn’t be given to cats and dogs, including chocolate, grapes, raisins and other human foods. The worry I would have about giving your dog an ice-cream is that sometimes these treats can contain sweeteners that can be very toxic to dogs. One example of this is xylitol, which is a sweetener typically found in chewing gum and ‘sugar free’ products. Although it’s very safe for humans, in dogs it causes the sugar levels in the blood to drop to very low levels and can cause seizures and liver damage.
I’ll often make my dogs home-made ice licks which involves half filling a freezer bag with water, sprinkling in some treats or even just their usual dog biscuits, and popping it in the freezer. Then they can have a big tasty ice lick in the garden when it’s very hot. It also keeps them mentally stimulated when it’s too hot to go for long walks! If you haven’t got time to make your own, there are some really fun frozen treats available in pet shops and then you know there’s no risk of them eating something they shouldn’t.
Dr Holly Norman BSc(Hons) BVetMed MRCVS
Veterinary surgeon and Practice Partner at:
231-233 St Paul’s Road
Tel: 01733 890777
Inside Pets at Home
Unit 2 The Bretton Centre
Peterborough, PE3 8DN
Tel: 01733 261094