From happy gerbils to a terrier snappy with kids — your pet queries answered | The Sun

HE is on a mission to help our pets  . . . and is here to answer YOUR questions.

Sean, who is the head vet at tailored pet food firm tails.com, has helped with owners’ queries for ten years. He says: “If your pet is acting funny or is under the weather, or you want to know about nutrition or exercise, just ask. I can help keep pets happy and healthy.”


Q) I HAVE always had rabbits but am thinking of getting two gerbils. What are the essentials to keep them happy and healthy?

And should they see a vet after I get them?

Amanda Smith, Worcester

Sean says: I’m glad you said two gerbils as they are sociable and do best in a pair or trio.

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They are quite easy to keep, but need space and freedom to burrow.

So a standard hamster or mouse cage is not the best option.

It is far better to keep them in a deep aquarium — as big as you can afford.

Half-fill it with a mixture of hay, shredded paper and compressed, absorbent paper bedding such as Carefresh.

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This mixture will hold its shape and allow them to tunnel.

Avoid dusty wood shavings as gerbils are prone to respiratory disease from inhaling dust particles.

You can also build underground hiding places and give them plastic tunnels and toys.

Q) REGGIE, our seven-year-old cocker spaniel, will not eat his food unless he has a football present.

He dribbles it through the house up to his food bowl, flicks it away and has a mouthful of food then does it again until he’s had enough.

He’s not greedy and it can take all day to clear his food but he will not do this without his ball.

It doesn’t bother me or my husband but we are wondering, why?

Ilona Butt, Bideford, Devon

Sean says: I have never heard of this and I’m going to hazard a guess it falls firmly in the “your dog is just a weirdo” advice bucket.

How funny.

Embrace it as a little Reggie quirk and live with it if it’s not doing any harm and he’s healthy and happy.

We’d love to see a video of it.

Tag me @thatvetsean and @tailsdogfood on social media.

Q) DURING lockdown, two cats – ­Sidney and Cherry – kept visiting our house.

By chance, their owners decided not to keep them, so my husband and I gave them a forever home.

Sidney goes in and out happily, but after Cherry had a run-in with a new cat next door, she is reluctant to go out.

She has gained a little weight and we are worried for her health. What can we do to get her back out and about?

Tracey Milano, Nottingham

Sean says: It might take time, or perhaps she’ll just stay a bit of a homebody.

You can’t really force cats, but you could use positive re-inforcement with food and play time in the garden to build her confidence.

Reduce her food a little if she’s now less active and thus gaining weight.

Encourag­ing indoor activity with plenty of places to climb is important, as is getting her to play.

Q) MY son’s year-old Staffordshire bull terrier Poppy is very snappy with children and puts her hackles up.

I got one youngster to get down near her and I did the same beside her, but she still bared teeth. We even tried giving the child a treat to give Poppy, but it was a no-go.

She was on a lead at the time but I wouldn’t trust her if she was off. She is gorgeous normally.

Valerie Humphries, Norwich

Sean says: This is quite serious and she needs a professionally qualified animal behaviour­ist to observe her.

I would also say you need to limit Poppy’s interactions with children for the time being

It’s very dangerous to try to “train out” aggression towards children using children.

Seek a local accredited behaviourist on the websites of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, Animal Behaviour and Training Council or the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour’s CCAB certifi-cation scheme.

Star of the week

SHIH Tzu Chilli was rescued by the RSPCA after a previous owner tried to sell her at a car boot sale.

Now the sweet-natured one-year-old visits Thomas Russell Infants’ School in Barton-under-Needwood, Staffs, and Charlotte James Care Home in Burton upon Trent as a qualified Pets As Therapy dog.

Owner Julia Sanders said: “The families of the residents say it’s wonderful to see how their loved ones react.”

Chilli is also the face of a new RSPCA campaign to raise awareness of neglected pets and abandonments.

See rspca.org.uk.

WIN: Hotel stay

FANCY winning a great pet-friendly hotel getaway this spring?

The Corner London City, in the East End, is offering a two-night stay worth £290 for two adults and their pup.

The comfy room has an eco-friendly, anti-anxiety dog bed, sustainable dog bowl and dog treats.

For a chance to win, send an email headed GETAWAY to [email protected] by January 22.

See thecornerlondon city.co.uk.

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Look out for the signs of anxiety

UP to 85 per cent of pets in Britain suffer from separation anxiety.

And a new study by Agria Pet Insurance found four in five of owners correctly identified barking and howling as a sign, followed by chewing, destructive behaviour and pacing.

Other symptoms include panting, salivating, scratching at doors, loss of toilet training, inability to eat when alone and aggression.

Carolyn Menteith, a trainer and behaviourist, said: “It’s important we think about how our pets are coping on their own, and look for signs they are unhappy.”

Her training tips are:

  • Leave the room while they eat their dinner. This teaches them that good things can happen without you.
  • If you have a secure garden, scatter their kibble in the grass and leave them while they search for it.
  • Don’t let your dog follow you everywhere.
  • Once your pet is happy being left for a few minutes, slowly build up the length of time you leave them.
  • Use a pet webcam to keep an eye on them.

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Vicki Wentworth, managing director of Agria Pet Insurance, said: “Many of our pets are simply not used to being left alone for short periods of time.”

See agriapet.co.uk.

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