WEEKEND: YOUR PETS: How can I improve my dog's hearing?
Q I HAVE an 11-year-old dog who has become increasingly deaf over the past six months. Is there anything I can do for him?
A AN apparent and progressive loss of hearing is commonly seen in older dogs, and owners will often notice their dog is slow to respond to noises, such as when they are called, door slamming or fireworks.
By this age they have learned to comply with their owner's orders and needs through observation of signs, such as expression and hand signals. However, there are some causes of deafness that can be reversed, such as ear infections.
Growths in the ear canal can also occur in older dogs so it is worthwhile getting a veterinary check-up.
Also consider that low grade carbon monoxide poisoning can also cause progressive deafness. This can happen when a dog sleeps overnight in an airtight boiler room where the air is tainted with low-grade emissions from the boiler itself.
It can also happen if the dog rides in the boot of a car, or even when they are on the car floor when the car's exhaust system is leaking.
Q I HAVE a Russian dwarf hamster who seems to have something stuck in her cheek pouch for over a day. What can I do to help her get it out?
A I WOULD suggest you take your hamster along to a vet as soon as you can.
The cheek pouches are lined with a very dry delicate layer of skin and the signs of impaction are salivation, not eating and facial swelling.
In addition, a bacterial pouch infection will cause similar symptoms.
The vet will have to distinguish between an impaction or an abscess and if it is an impaction, the vet may have to flush the pouches out with water or an anti-bacterial preparation.
Incidentally, in the future, take care not to feed sharp seed and oat husks as they can damage the pouch lining.
Chocolate is also one of the forbidden foods for hamsters. Hamsters will try to eat and hoard anything, so sticky junk foods such as cakes and sweets are also not a good idea.
Sticky sweets can cause pouch impaction, and chocolate can be very serious indeed, due to the toxic effects of the alkaloid theobromine found in chocolate
Q I HAVE always had a dog and would like to get one but now that I am a wheelchair user I am a bit hesitant.
A friend told me there is an organisation that trains dogs especially for wheelchair users. Can you help?
A YOU could contact Canine Partners for Independence, a registered charity that helps disabled people to enjoy greater independence and a better quality of life through the help of specially-trained dogs.
Their address is Canine Partners for Independence at Unit E2, The Brickyards, Steep Marsh, Hampshire, GU32 2BN. Their telephone number is 01730 894830.
n If you have a question for the vet, write directly to: Elaine Pendlebury, PO Box 5987, Chelmsford CM1 2GP.