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Stop this fishy behaviour; pets corner.

Byline: Scott Miller

Q My twin brother keeps tapping on our fish tank and I tell him that it hurts them. Does it? A You're right, tapping on the tank can be extremely stressful for fish. Sound is amplified underwater - just like when you're in the sea and can hear a boat's motor from far away.

The vibrations will make your fishy friends uncomfortable, causing them to feel depressed, weaken their immune system and make them prone to catching disease. So I have two words for your brother - stop it.

Q Our cavalier has starting clearing his throat constantly and it is driving us mad. He is also a little down and quiet. He is only three and rarely goes in grass or eats anything silly, so what could be up with him? A Clearing the throat regularly could be due to physical abnormalities affecting the larynx, or something not quite right further down.

Heart conditions are common in this breed and throat clearing can be associated with excess fluid in the chest or pressure on the windpipe. Ask your vet to listen to your dog's heart to see if this throat clearing is just a phase or something that needs looked into more thoroughly.

Q Do all Staffies chew their feet? Our boy bites furiously at his toes, making one side bleed and the others are bald and a bit scabby. It only started a week ago and I have tried to bath and flea him but nothing helps.

A This sounds like a case of mange mite.

Sarcoptic (fox) or demodectic mange makes dogs very itchy. It's common in terrier breeds such as Staffies and tends to affect the feet and the face followed by an infection that causes the hair loss and lesions you mention.

Treatment can be injectable antiparasitic medications, shampoos, topical treatments, antibiotics, or a combination. It's a condition that can get serious so book a trip to the vet immediately.

Q Our 17-year-old cat has stopped using the catflap to go out and do the toilet in cold weather. He uses the carpet by the front door instead. I have tried putting a litter tray there but he prefers to use the newspaper it sits on. If I put him outdoors he does what he needs to do then returns through the flap. How can I encourage him to use the litter tray? A Your old boy is almost certainly senile, causing him to be more nervous of the catflap and showing strange new behaviours. Speak to your vet about medications that improve the blood supply to the brain.

In the meantime, if your feline prefers newspaper, give him what he wants. Encourage him to use the litter tray by lining the bottom with paper and use torn-up newspaper instead of litter. Gradually reintroduce the normal absorbent litter as his toilet habits get back on track.

You could also prop open the catflap, then his majesty may deign to walk through it and go back to toileting in the garden.

Q One of my son's two hamsters died suddenly and we wondered if we should get another for company? A It depends on the breed of hamster. If it is a Syrian, they are exceedingly anti-social and best living solo. If it is a Russian dwarf, a friend may be well received. If you do decide on a new recruit, take the current hamster out, clean the cage well then allow them to meet. You may have to use a second cage as a temporary measure if things don't work out so well on the first try. Also, don't forget to get the same sex as the surviving hamster, or you may end up with many more than just the one new furry friend.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 21, 2010
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