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PDSA column – Help sought to calm down westie

The PDSA is the UK’s leading veterinary charity, providing free veterinary care for the sick and injured pets of people in need and promoting responsible pet ownership. For further information about PDSA please visit or call 0800 731 2502.

Q: We have inherited a seven-year-old westie called Dylon. He is settled in well but he used to live in a very rural area. When traffic and people come past our house (which is all the time) he goes mad, biting the furniture and ripping things up. We’ve tried everything but nothing seems to work, we love him dearly but this can’t continue, we need help.

A: People and cars passing by are a common focus of excitable behaviour, probably because dogs are very sociable animals and want to find out who’s coming to visit them. It can also be a sign of anxiety though, which could also result in other “displacement activity”, such as tearing up cushions or running around. It’s important to find out what the trigger is for this behaviour, then see if you can lessen it. For instance, get a friend to pose as a “passerby” and then only praise and reward Dylon when he remains calm. Getting rid of any excess energy may also help. For example, if Dylon hasn’t had a walk for a while, he may be more likely to get excited.

Q: My cat sometimes bites at a specific place on her back and rips her fur out, then licks or bites it until it bleeds. I put a cone on her head and it heals, but then she does it all over again. I de-flea and worm her regularly so I don’t understand it. My vet says she is just allergic to fleas but she doesn’t scratch anywhere else. She is an indoor cat too, is there anything else I can try?

A: It is good that you visited your vet, as they are best placed to advise on what is best for your cat. A flea allergy is a possibility, even if your cat never goes outside. Regular pet flea treatments, if used correctly, should kill fleas that are living on your cat. But eggs and larvae can still remain in carpets, blankets and beds for quite some time, so it is important to treat your home as well, otherwise the problem will continue. You can buy sprays for this, but washing and vacuuming your home, especially the areas where your pets spend a lot of time, is important. You should also treat any other pets living in your home, so that fleas don’t jump from them back on to your cat. Your vet can advise you about all of this, so I’d suggest chatting with them about how to get rid of fleas to help your cat. Remember, never use a dog flea treatment on your cat – it can cause fatal poisoning.

Q: My budgie scratches all the time. We’ve sprayed him with mite spray but his skin still looks red and sore under his feathers. Does he need to see a vet?

A: Scratching can be a sign of mites, or other skin parasites. However, your budgie’s sore skin could also be a result of “feather plucking”, which can have quite a few causes, with boredom or anxiety being relatively common. It can also be caused by a bacterial or fungal infection, which causes inflammation of the feather follicles. As there are several possible causes, I’d recommend getting your budgie examined by a vet as soon as possible. It might also be useful to think about your budgie’s environment, as sometimes boredom can lead to feather plucking. For instance, make sure there are plenty of toys for him to play with, and change these regularly to keep him interested.

Q: My guinea pig has problems going to the loo. Sometimes she doesn’t poo for days and then it comes out in one big lump. I’m not sure what to do to help her, what can you advise?

A: First, you need to take your guinea pig to your vet to check out why she is constipated. You may want to think about her diet.

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