Ask The Vet

Q: My 6-year-old male cat has recently started getting fussy about his food. They get dry food pellets in the morning according to the required measurements on the pack and then again at night with a small amount of wet pouch food as a treat. He refused to eat the dry pellets, but eats the wet food and then begs for food from our plates. (I occasionally spoil them with small pieces of meat or fish). Should I just ignore this and feed him the pellets, or could this be instinct kicking in to tell us that the food doesn’t taste right? My other cat doesn’t seem to have the same problem. 


A: When an animal suddenly goes off their usual food but will still happily eat other food it may be an alarm that there is something wrong with the food. If there was something wrong with the food, however, it would be reasonable to assume that the other cat would also be refusing to eat it, or would at least be getting sick from eating it. The more likely scenario is that your cat is choosing not to eat the food. It may be that he is becoming fussy, or learning that he can “train” his owner to feed him nicer food if he holds out on the pellets. It’s also important to note that cats with dental disease may also go off their pellets, but continue to eat softer varieties of food. It would, therefore, be recommended for you to take your cat for a check-up at your vet to check his tooth and gum health. Poor mouth hygiene not only affects their ability to eat, but can have a negative impact on their health in general. Only after he’s been given the all-clear should you consider changing his food to something a little more suited to his taste.


Q: My dog recently went on holiday with us on a farm. When we got back home I saw a tick on her neck. My   husband took some tweezers and pulled the tick out   completely, but I’m worried about tick fever. What is the correct way to remove a tick and should we be giving our dog any medication after such an incident to avoid tick fever?


A: Tick bite fever is not caused by the tick itself, it is caused by microscopic parasites which grow in the tick’s salivary glands and are transferred to a dog whenever a tick attaches to feed. The longer a tick is attached, the more likely it is to transfer the parasite into your dog’s blood stream. When a tick is forcibly removed, there is always a risk that a part will be left behind, attached to the dog’s skin. This is why tick and flea control products are the most important part of preventing tick bite fever as they contain active ingredients that not only kill ticks, but cause them to detach from their hosts as well.

The signs of tick bite fever include: loss of appetite, lethargy, pale gums, vomiting and fever. If your dog starts showing any of these symptoms please see your vet. The drugs used to treat tick bite fever can be harmful and must only be used once the condition has been accurately diagnosed. For this reason; home use of these drugs is never recommended.


Q: My dog keeps scratching himself, but I can’t see any fleas. He’s wearing a Sorresto Collar, which I bought about 3 months ago. The collars usually last up to 9 months. The scratching started after a bath about a week ago, but the shampoo is the same we’ve been using for almost a year. Could he have started to get allergic to it now, or could it be that he’s allergic to something else? Is it safe to give him Allergex to see if it clears up?


A: Tick and flea control is definitely the first step towards controlling itching, so the Seresto collar was a good choice. Unfortunately, parasites are not the only cause of itching. A dog’s skin is exposed to many potential allergens, both from the environment and in the food that they eat, and any combination could cause itching. Bathing him with a shampoo that is formulated to soothe itchy skin might be a step in the right direction, and weekly bathing with the correct shampoo can be very therapeutic. Allergex, on its own, doesn’t seem to help much. If an allergy is suspected, there are several effective treatments available including: special diets, topical cortisone sprays and essential fatty acid supplements. These often have to be used in combination, and it would be best to contact your vet to work out which combination would be best suited for your dog.


Q: Hi there, I’m considering getting a parrot. I was thinking to either get an African grey or Ringneck. What are the  veterinary needs of these birds? Do they also get             vaccinated yearly? I’m just curious as this will be my first time owning one.


A: For a first time bird owner, I would definitely recommend a Ringneck parakeet rather than an African Grey. A lot of African Greys can be a bit nervous and highly strung, which can make them challenging pets. They can be grumpy at times, and sometimes bite their owners, which leads to a lot
of them ending up permanently caged and never taken out by their owners. Of course, some of them have wonderful temperaments, but you never know what you’re going to get.

Ringnecks are smaller, easier to house and handle and can be real clowns. They love people and make great pets. The only downside is they can be noisy, so one always has to consider your home environment before buying one.

Regardless of the bird you eventually choose, always wean them onto a good quality pellet food. The majority of health problems we treat are related to poor diet such as seed mixes. No annual vaccinations are necessary, although regular de-worming is not a bad idea. Remember to keep the wing feathers clipped so you don’t lose your bird, but get a professional to do it and show you which feathers to clip, as poorly clipped wings can lead to injury.



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