Pet Health

  • Puppies & Dogs
      • How can I stop my dog being sick in the car?

        This can be tricky – your dog may associate car travel with nasties! You need to get your dog used to your car and associate it with nice things. When your car is parked safely and there’s no risk to you or your pet, let your dog play in it. Maybe then feed it some titbits there – or take it on a short journey followed by a lovely walk. When travelling, make sure your dog is in a doggy seat belt. Some dogs like to look out of the window, but this can cause sickness in others. You could give calming pheromones – talk to your vet to see if they may help your dog.

      • The best thing to do is to take your dog along to a reputable dog trainer. Your vet may be able to recommend one.

      • Dogs should only have the amount of calories they need. If they have more they’ll probably pile on the pounds. It is true that a dog's metabolic rate can drop after neutering. So you either need to reduce their calories or increase their exercise. Ask your vet what’s best – or look at PDSA’s page on obesity for advice on suitable diets.

      • Dental disease is common in dogs. So brush your dog’s teeth regularly with doggy toothpaste. If your dog has tartar on his teeth, this has to be removed first: visit your vet – they’ll tell you if your dog's teeth need cleaning and how to prevent recurrences.

      • This could be almost 'learned behaviour': your dog may realise that by being a 'picky' eater they get nice treats. If it is a behavioural issue like this and not a medical one, owners have to be a bit 'hard hearted', give a bit of ‘tough love’ and not give treats if a pet turns their nose up at their food. Look at reputable behavioural books, such as those by Sarah Heath or Jon Bowen.

      • Yes. Dog vaccination protects your dog against various diseases which can cause pain, distress and are often fatal. By vaccinating your dog you have peace of mind, knowing that you have provided protection. As well as safeguarding your own pet, it also prevents diseases from being passed onto other animals.

      • No. There’s no benefit to your female dog, and by delaying getting her spayed you increase her risk of getting breast cancer.

      • Dogs often benefit most by having the operation when they are under one year old. Ask your vet when the right time is for your dog.

      • Pets should receive a ‘primary’ vaccination course early in life, followed by ‘booster’ vaccinations throughout their life.

        The primary vaccination course for dogs varies with the type of vaccine used. The first vaccine can sometimes be given as young as six weeks of age, with the second usually given two to four weeks later.

        Booster vaccinations are needed because the body’s immune response gradually fades over time. They are often given every year, depending on the vaccine.

        Ask your vet when it is best to vaccinate your puppy or dog.

      • There are many possible causes – but one of the most common is fleas. Some people think that fleas only live in dirty houses. Wrong. Fleas will breed and thrive in almost any home with central heating. The solution is stop fleas with safe, effective treatments when problems arise. Some over-the-counter products aren't as effective as those from your vet practice – so always check with your vet for what’s best.  

        WARNING: Dog flea products containing permethrin are toxic to cats and can be fatal – even if your cat just lives in the same house as a dog treated with a permethrin based product. Always check with a suitably qualified person which products are safe for the pets in your home.

        You’ll need to treat your dog, other dogs and cats in your home and your home itself – especially your dog's sleeping and resting areas. It’s vital to visit your vet to rule out other possible causes of the fur loss, such as mites, infection or allergies.

      • Castration can help with some types of aggression, but not others. You should always ask your vet for advice if your dog is behaving aggressively.

      • How often you worm your dog depends on their age and their risk of getting worms. Ask your vet what’s the best worming control strategy for your pet. Vets often recommend worming every three months for adult dogs. Some shop-bought products are not as effective as those available from your veterinary practice – so always ask your vet.

      • If a dog’s nails become too overgrown they can start growing into the skin. This is painful and can cause infection. Clipping is better than filing. It’s important not to cut too high up the nail or you risk cutting the ‘quick’ – the blood vessel and nerve which run through the middle of the nail. You can see the quick in pale nails, but not in black nails, so they need careful trimming a bit at a time. It’s best to ask your vet if it’s going to be  a problem – they could show you how it’s done, so you’re happier about clipping them yourself in future. 

      • How can I stop my cat from overgrooming?

        Overgrooming can be caused either by conditions – such as skin infections – or by behavioural issues. E.G. If a cat is stressed, this can cause them to lick at their fur – a bit like nail biting with us. So get your vet to check your cat to make sure there isn't any infection/flea problem. If it’s not a condition, think about what may be stressing out your cat...

        Have you got a new baby or pet? Have you redecorated your home – making it smell differently?

        Understanding your cat is the best way to start to help it.

      • First you need to work out why you cat is weeing everywhere. It could be a behavioural problem – e.g. sometimes a cat tries to put its 'smell' on to new decorations etc. Or it could be a blockage of the cat’s bladder which is causing infection: as the bladder gets full, a small amount of wee overflows and urinating is painful. This can be serious, so it’s best to take your cat to your vet as soon as you can. This condition happens more in male cats than females. It may be nothing to worry about but it is always best to get your vet to check than to be sorry.

      • Yes. Feeding unhealthy treats is a huge cause of fat cats. One in four cats are overweight or obese. It reduces their quality of life – they are less willing to play and enjoy life etc. It also leads to weight-related medical conditions such as diabetes, urinary tract disease and lameness.

        Regularly feeding treats on top of a pet’s main food will quickly cause the pounds to pile on. At PDSA we know that cats do not need treats. If you need to give treats, ensure they are only occasionally and that they’re healthy treats. Don’t kill with kindness: it is better to find another reward that your cat loves – such as playing with a favourite toy as lots of exercise and mental stimulation is really important.

      • All cats should be regularly wormed. Cats can get many different types of worms, so one treatment may not be effective against all of them.  Chat about your cat to your vet to see which are the most suitable worming products for your home.

      • Some cats are allergic to flea bites. A single bite can cause an allergic reaction causing the cat to scratch and gnaw their skin. As a cat may only have one or two fleas, they’re hard for an owner to spot. The sensible solution is to use medication from your vet. Double check that you’re using it as frequently as you safely can, especially in warmer months when fleas thrive. Vacuum and clean your cat’s bed. Your vet can also recommend an effective product for treating your home, as flea eggs and larvae hide in carpets and rugs. Despite these measures, some cats also need an anti-inflammatory to control their irritation: ask your vet what’s best – they can also check for other possible causes of the gnawing. 

      • Scratching is normal for kittens and cats. It leaves familiar smells from the scent glands between their toes. It also good as it conditions their claws. It’s just not good for our furniture. The secret is to provide a scratching post and encourage them to use it:

        Ensure it’s stable enough to not fall over – and taller than your cat when it stands on its back legs – so your cat can stand up and scratch at full stretch. A soft wood post is fine or another surface covered with scratchable materials like sisal or jute. Place the post by your kitten’s resting or sleeping areas. Attract your kitten to the post with an encouraging voice and a healthy treat – e.g. a small piece of lean meat. Give them praise and the treat when they scratch the post – keep repeating this to reward the behaviour.

        Discourage scratching in inappropriate places by covering them with plastic or a loose cover. Prevent access to a room you want to protect, until your cat prefers to scratch the post. Never physically or verbally punish your cat as this causes anxiety-related, behavioural problems.

      • No. There’s no benefit to your cat – and by delaying getting her spayed you increase her risk of having an unwanted litter. There is currently a cat population crisis in the UK because there are too many cats and not enough homes for them.

      • Neutering is normally done at four months of age. It can also be done when your cat is younger or older. Early neutering is important: kittens can get pregnant from four months of age and many people do not realise that brothers and sisters will produce kittens if they live together unneutered. If kittens are neutered after four months, some will have an unwanted litter – which adds to the cat population crisis in the UK.

        Kittens have traditionally been neutered at six months of age, but veterinary guidance has changed to reflect latest evidence and neutering at four months is now recommended. Ask your vet when the best time is for your cat. To find a local vet practice that neuters kittens at four months, visit CATS.ORG.UK

      • Kittens should be vaccinated before they mix with other animals. It is essential for their normal development that they are allowed to socialise with other animals while they are very young, so you should get them vaccinated as soon as possible. Ask your vet when they can start meeting other animals and begin to socialise with them.

      • Pets should receive a ‘primary’ vaccination course early in life, followed by ‘booster’ vaccinations throughout their life.

        The primary vaccination course for cats varies with the type of vaccine used. The first vaccine can sometimes be given as young as nine weeks of age, with the second usually given three to four weeks later.

        Booster vaccinations are needed because the body’s immune response gradually fades over time. They are often given every year, depending on the vaccine.

        Ask your vet when it is best to vaccinate your kitten or cat.

      • Can rabbit ‘muesli’ cause dental disease in rabbits?

        Yes. Many of the health problems that vets see with rabbits are caused by their diet. It’s extremely important that you give them the right food. Lots of people have become used to feeding rabbits a bowl of rabbit ‘muesli’. But these muesli-type mixes are linked to painful health problems, especially with the teeth.

        The most appropriate diet for rabbits is at least their body size in good quality hay each day, a handful of suitable fresh greens morning and evening, and a tablespoon of commercial rabbit nuggets once daily (or twice a day if your rabbit weighs over 3.5kg)

      • The key to solving the problem is working out the cause. If it’s caused by fear, your rabbit may be comfortable around you, but scared of others – and bites to keep them away. If this happens more around meal times, it may be territorial – the need to defend their food. Ask your vet what’s best. If territorial behaviour is the cause, they may recommend neutering him. PDSA recommend that all pet rabbits are neutered, especially as the friendliest pair to keep together is a neutered male with a neutered female. Visit our Rabbits section to see more on rabbit wellbeing.

      • Yes. A neutered male and neutered female is the best combination for companionship. But you need to get advice on how to introduce a second rabbit safely. Rabbits living on their own get lonely and bored, but keeping the wrong pairings together can lead to unwanted ‘kits’ – baby rabbits – and also to fighting. So get your rabbits neutered and introduce your second rabbit carefully and gradually.

        Ask a vet, vet nurse or other qualified pet care specialist for advice on how to do this.

      • Rabbits produce two types of droppings – hard, dry ones which are true faeces – and dark, shiny, smelly ones. This second type is called ‘caecotroph’ and rabbits eat them, usually straight from their bottom. This enables them to get the full goodness out of their high-fibre food, so don’t be concerned if you see this.

      • Fresh water must always be available. A suitable water bottle with a metal spout is a good way to provide water. Check your rabbits are using the bottle as some rabbits may be used to drinking from a bowl and may not change very easily. Whether using a bottle or a bowl, keep them clean at all times. 

      • A neutered male with a neutered female. Un-neutered males and females shouldn’t be kept together, as they will breed and it can be difficult to find homes for the young.