Ask a vet

Ask a vet

Author: Canadian Living


Ask a vet

Q. My four-year-old greyhound is family friendly and loving, but he goes ballistic if anyone tries to cut his nails. Your advice?
-- Ellen Bone, Salmon Arm, B.C.

A. A simple canine pedicure can become a wrestling match. Even with a cooperative pet it can be tricky: cut too short, nails can hurt and bleed. But trims are essential. Luckily, vets and veterinarian technicians are pros at safely holding a distressed pet and providing a proper trim. But try training him, too. When he's solid with basic obedience commands, Sit and Stay, regularly pick up a front foot, hold it for a few moments and praise him. Once he's OK with this, get that foot trimmed. Repeat with his other feet, visiting the vet every two weeks for several months until he is accustomed to the process.

Q. We think our Border collie has a tick. How do we know for sure and how should we treat it?
-- Lori Lockey, Port Perry, Ont.

A. Common dog ticks have grey, oval bodies that swell as they feed (often noticed at corn-kernel size) and black heads, usually hidden, that burrow into the skin. A tick attaches for several days, then drops off.
If you find one, don't just yank it or the anchored head will remain to cause irritation or infection. Dab the tick with rubbing alcohol or flea-and-tick spray to lessen its grip, then grasp it close to the skin with tweezers and pull straight up. If you're squeamish, your vet can do it and advise you about tick-prevention, as well. Fortunately, tick-borne Ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease aren't common in Canada.

Q. Is there anything I can do to minimize the dander from my cat?
-- Sue Petkovic, Toronto

A. Dander is a polite name for the skin flakes and broken hairs that all animals, including humans, produce. Trapped in fur, animal dander is easy to spot, but an excessive amount is abnormal and not always a cosmetic problem, so check with your vet. It may indicate an allergy or skin infection that needs treatment, or your pet may need better nutrition. A cat food containing fatty acids and oils helps maintain a healthy skin and coat. Cats with exceptionally thick coats can benefit from daily brushing, regular bathing or even shaving. Weight loss, too, can help flaky cats (obese felines can't reach around their Garfield-size girths to groom their own backs).

Got more pet problems? Discuss with other readers in our forums!

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Q. My three-year-old cat has been urinating on the furniture since I returned from a weekend away. My vet prescribed amitriptyline, but my cat spits it out -- and admonishing him is useless.
-- Tanya Montebello, Bowmanville, Ont.

A. This sounds like simple revenge, but it isn't. Amitriptyline is a treatment for both interstitial cystitis and behavioural urination problems. Interstitial cystitis is difficult to diagnose and manage; if the amitriptyline isn't effective, there are other therapies available. But no medication is going to work if your cat won't swallow it. Taking a cue from Mary Poppins, veterinary pharmacies offer flavoured tablets or liquid to "help the medicine go down." Behavioural problems are complex; you'll need patience and persistence. Anti-anxiety medications, with training, can help. Temporarily, you may need to confine your cat in one room with his litter box or provide multiple boxes throughout the house. Keep them scrupulously clean, and try different litters to see which he prefers. And apply a commercial deodorizer to soiled furnishings so he doesn't return to the same spot. A veterinary behaviour specialist (a phone consultation may be enough) can tailor treatments to your household and your cat.

Q. When my budgie is molting he has loose droppings and is listless and antisocial. How can I make him feel better?
-- Alice Rowe, Whitby, Ont.

A. Molting -- old feathers fall out as new ones grow in -- is normal. Molting birds may almost seem embarrassed, but they're actually stressed because their metabolism is more active then. Changing your bird's routine to cheer him up could make things worse, but ensure that he's in a warm spot with lots of good food. Seed eaters, budgies also benefit from variety. Soak some of his seeds in water, offer sprouts and chunks of fresh fruit, and add vitamin drops (carefully follow directions) to his water. He may be flightless during molt and enjoy extra perches to climb. One caution: birds will hide illness until they are extremely unwell. If anything worrisome persists for longer than a few days, take him to a specialist or a vet who regularly treats birds.

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