Pet answers: slugs and snails and puppy dogs

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

There seem to be lots of slugs in my garden at the moment and I’ve heard they can give my dog lungworm? How do I prevent this and is there any way of stopping slugs from coming into the garden?
I know how you feel! After this ‘British summer’, there seems to have been an explosion of the pesky creatures and no fruit or vegetable seems safe! Let’s start with lungworm. This is a parasite that uses slugs and snails as part of its lifecycle. This means that if your dog comes into contact with them or with things they’ve touched, for example, toys, chews or water bowls left outside, then they can potentially catch lungworm. The worms can live in the heart, lungs and arteries of dogs and cause coughing, tiredness, excessive bleeding and even fits. To prevent lungworm infection, there are a number of options available from your veterinary practice, including a monthly spot on or tablet and we can recommend the most suitable regime for your pet. To see if your pet has already been exposed to lungworm, we can test either blood or faeces. Regarding slug and snail control in the garden, I wish I had a magic answer to that one. I am always reluctant to use slug pellets or similar as they can be toxic to pets. There are options such as the copper tape, crushed eggshells or beer traps but I’m afraid the most effective way is to head out after dark with a torch and pick the little beasties off your plants one by one!

We’ve recently moved house and my cat is now spraying urine on everything! He’s got a litter tray and he seems well in himself but he’s peed on my bed and our living room curtains! Help!
Oh dear. Urine spraying is not a particularly fun habit! Well, the first thing I would do is get your cat checked by a vet. They will often require a urine sample (if possible) and can provide you with special collection kits to help you do this. There could be a number of things causing this; from a urinary tract infection to stress from the house move. If your vet feels that the problem is behavioural or stress-related, you can try using plug-in pheromone diffusers to reduce anxiety. Make sure your cat has two or three different litter trays to use and ensure they are in secluded areas that he feels comfortable in. When you are cleaning any soiled areas, use paper towels and a special urine odour eliminator product (these can be found in most pet shops) to make sure that no trace of the smell remains. Chart every area where he has urinated and clean them all again a couple of days later, even if he hasn’t returned to that spot. Hopefully, he’ll soon return to using his own litter tray, rather than your soft furnishings!

My older dog is starting to get a bit stiff after laying down and the vet thinks it might be arthritis. Is there anything else I can do to keep him comfortable without resorting to painkillers?
A bit like people, dogs and cats are susceptible to getting arthritis when they get older and there are plenty of ways to manage this. Often our nurses will run clinics for arthritic animals and offer lots of suggestions to keep our ‘golden oldies’ fit and flexible. Joint supplements are worth trying, as are the orthopaedic mattress beds and magnetic collars. From a clinical point of view, it’s worth making sure that your dog isn’t carrying any extra weight and that there isn’t something else underlying. Sometimes we will use painkillers for those particularly bad days but your veterinary practice will be able to go through all the different management options available.

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!

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   

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