Can gerbils catch a cold? Our pet vet answers all your questions

HE is on a mission to help our pets  . . . and is here to answer YOUR questions. Sean, who is the head vet at tailored pet food firm tails.com, has helped with owners’ queries for ten years.

He says: “If your pet is acting funny or is under the weather, or you want to know about nutrition or exercise, just ask. I can help keep pets happy and healthy.”


Q) IT seems like our gerbil Fluffy has the sniffles. Do they get colds like us? What can I do?

Margaret Edgcumbe, chiropodist, Stoke

A) Actually, gerbils can catch the human cold and so can ferrets. But there are other reasons Fluffy might have sniffles. Other infections specific to gerbils could be the cause.

Is she new, or have you brought any other new small animals into the home recently that could have been carrying an illness?

Finally, dusty or dirty bedding can cause irritation, sneezing and sniffles so make sure it’s regularly cleaned and use dust-free bedding with no added scent fresheners or chemicals.

Got a question for Sean?

SEND your queries to [email protected].

Q) MY cat hasn’t been herself for a couple of weeks. She was off her food and was sneezing and coughing a bit when trying to eat and not wanting cuddles or much attention.

Today is the first day that she has sat with us and been more friendly. So we think she is over the worst. She also has a very slight weepy eye that I have been bathing.

We are not sure whether to take her to the vet as I am worried about the cost as we don’t have insurance.

Sarah Dowse, teaching assistant, Datchet, Berks

A) I can understand the concerns about cost if she’s not insured, but it’s absolutely fine to make that clear to your vet when you book the appointment. They will work with you and your budget to do what’s necessary to help your cat feel better.

It does sound like she’s under the weather, and a weepy eye can quickly turn into a more serious problem like an ulcer. So I’d book an appointment, and take it step by step with your vet to work out what’s up.

It may be she just needs an injection, a few tablets or an eye ointment first. Or they may give her a clean bill of health after a thorough exam.

Q) I HAVE a cockapoo who won’t stop running around in circles. I think it started with him chasing his tail but now he does it all the time. He twirls around the living room.

Sarah Bennett, Doncaster, shop worker

A) It sounds like obsessive behaviour, which is often worsened by boredom or excess energy. I always say a tired dog is a happy dog.

Problem behaviours often crop up if they’re not getting lots of mental and physical stimulation. Cockapoos, despite being a popular family pet, are a little bit nuts!

A challenging combo of Poodle intelligence and Cocker Spaniel energy. I prescribe more exercise, training and problem-solving games, multiple times daily. Also make sure not to reward the unwanted behaviour with attention.

Q) FLOSSY, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, has a habit of clawing at the carpet as if digging a hole. It lasts for about 20 seconds or so. She even does it throughout the night.

She has been spayed, is diabetic with twice daily injections but this started before she was diagnosed. Have you come across this habit before? Is it fairly common?

Peter Danzey, football club secretary, Gravesend

A) Yes, I have seen many dogs do it and the only reason I can give is that they enjoy the sensation of digging, or perhaps it eases anxiety for some.

It may also be an attention-seeking behaviour so try to ignore it and redirect her behaviour elsewhere. You could give Flossy a sand pit in the garden and reward her when she digs there.

A behaviourist may be able to help if it’s become so ingrained there is no stopping her once she gets started.

Star of the week

OAKLEY the donkey was rescued by the Brooke animal charity after his parents died and he now raises funds to help other animals in need.

He lives with owner Jade Weaver and her family at the Danceabray stud in Surrey and loves going to shows and giving rides.

Later this year he will turn 18, with a party for him, his stablemates and his human fans, with carrot cake.

Jade, 28, said: “Oakley supports the Brooke and carries collection boxes to do his bit to help those donkeys less fortunate than him.

“We are so proud of him and can’t wait to celebrate his 18th.”

  • For more info, see thebrooke.org.

WIN: The ultimate dog pamper kit

GIVE your pup a freshen-up with this nifty kit from Norfolk Natural Living.

The bathing bundle includes dog shampoo, paw cleanser and 200ml of the firm’s unique dog cologne, which are all 100 per cent hypo-allergenic, natural and vegan.

We are giving away seven of the £40 Ultimate Dog Pamper Kits, which come in a tidy tin, with a grooming brush.

To enter, email PAMPER to [email protected]

Try out doggy paddleboarding

PADDLEBOARDING is the latest fitness craze for owners who want to keep in shape with their pups.

Dog trainer Nick Benger from Hound Plus (nick benger.com) says all you need is some treats and a doggy life jacket.

He adds: “The first step is to get your dog used to lying or standing on the board when it’s completely still. As soon as they put a paw on, reward them.

"Next, stand on the board with them and get them to stay, and reward again. Practise getting them used to the rocking motion by putting towels or blankets under the board, and keep rewarding them.

“Once your dog is ready, hit the water. Introduce them gradually to build confidence. It’s a great way to bond with your dog.”

Louise Humphrey, 55, from Leicester, introduced her Labrador pup Pickle to the sport at four months.

She said: “It was really easy to teach her. She would sit between our legs as a pup but now she’s two and very confident.

“She paddleboards with me and my son Tom, who’s 15, and if she sees others paddleboarding, she’ll run to see them.”

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