Don’t settle for pet theories, get pet answers! Veterinary surgeon Holly Norman answers your animal health questions
My female dog is acting very strangely these past few days. She has collected all of her toys in her bed and growls at anyone who goes near her. I also thought she looked like she was producing milk but she can’t be pregnant!
This sounds very similar to a ‘phantom pregnancy’. Usually after a female dog has had her season, her hormones will naturally decline and all signs of season will disappear. Sometimes, these hormones persist in the body and the dog produces all the symptoms of being pregnant. They will exhibit nesting behaviour, when they gather toys or soft objects around them. This can result in the dog being quite possessive over her ‘puppies’ and guarding them from other pets or people in the household. The mammary glands may become large and produce milk and other behaviour changes such as clinginess, restlessness and a reduced appetite can also be present. Often a phantom pregnancy will run its course without needing any treatment but they can last up to four to six weeks. If there is the slightest possibility of your dog being pregnant, it is worth getting her checked by the vet and having an ultrasound scan. Otherwise, you can try and discourage nesting behaviour by removing all the toys and soft objects from your dog’s reach. There are medications that can be used if a dog’s phantom pregnancy is going on too long or if behaviour changes are extreme. And lastly, if you are not planning on breeding your dog, we would suggest getting her neutered as dogs become more prone to phantom pregnancies the more seasons they have.
I think my budgerigar’s claws need cutting. Is this something I’m supposed to do or can I take him to a vet?
Many veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses are happy to clip budgie’s claws. This will usually involve you bringing them to the practice. We would suggest a small travelling cage or a secure cardboard box with ventilation holes in. The vet or nurse will usually have an assistant to hold the bird and the claws can be carefully trimmed to the right length. If you have never done it before, I would suggest going to your local veterinary practice for assistance as birds have very long blood vessels in their claws and it is easy to cut them too short and make them bleed. Otherwise, we would recommend having a variety of widths of real branches in your budgie’s cage at home to help them keep their claws at a more natural length.
My daughter is thinking about becoming a veterinary surgeon but doesn’t know where to start. I know she needs good grades in Biology and Chemistry but are there any other requirements?
Fantastic news! Veterinary medicine is one of the most rewarding and challenging careers but is a true vocation. There are only eight universities that offer the Veterinary Medicine degree: The Royal Veterinary College, Liverpool, Bristol, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Surrey and Nottingham and their entry requirements vary slightly. They all ask for high grades at GCSE and A-Levels in Biology, Chemistry and sometimes Maths but exact details are all available on the UCAS website. The next step for your daughter is gaining some work experience and this isn’t limited to just veterinary practices. Ideally, she’ll have to get a variety of work experience placements that include: farm animal, equine and small animal vets, as well as stables, kennels, milking dairy cows, lambing sheep and working in an abattoir. I’d certainly contact your local veterinary practices as a first port of call and go from there.
Dr Holly Norman BSc (Hons) BVetMed MRCVS veterinary surgeon and Joint Venture 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