Your pet questions answered

Chris Troughton is clinical director of Heath Vets. He’s here to answer all your pet questions. If you’d like to ask Chris a pet-related question, drop us a line

I recently acquired an older dog after her owner passed away. Despite my best efforts, I’ve not been able to find any medical records for the dog and I’m worried that if I bring her in for a check-up, that she’ll be subjected to all kinds of jabs that she’s already had. What do I do?

Firstly, thank you for taking on this dog. Many elderly people worry a great deal about what will happen to their pets if they pass on, and it’s good that there are people like you out there who are prepared to help.

It’s not uncommon to have no medical records in re-homing cases, and the best plan would be to take the dog for a check-up with your vet. You can rest assured that she will not receive any treatment against your wishes. Your vet will be able to advise you on the risks and benefits of various courses of action, including whether she needs vaccinating, and if so, against which diseases, and what parasite control measures are appropriate for her. It’s quite possible she hasn’t had a check-up for ages, and the vet might find other issues that need addressing. On the other hand, she might get a clean bill of health, which will be very reassuring for you.

My dog has started a new habit of finding, and rolling in, some kind of dog muck in the local park. Sometimes, he’ll attempt to eat it. How dangerous is this and can I stop it? I’d imagine that it’s riddled with all sorts of bacteria!

Dogs do learn some horrid tricks, don’t they? There are some health risks that come from this behaviour, but they are not too serious. Obviously, eating other dogs’ faeces could cause tummy upsets, but the main infection risk is from roundworms, so it’s important that you give an effective worm treatment every month. Smearing dog poo all over his coat is very nasty but not really hazardous. However, if it is fox poo (and that has a very characteristic smell which is very difficult to get rid of), there is a chance he could catch mange. Foxes with mange nibble their itchy skin, thereby ingesting the mites and eggs.

These pass through the digestive tract and can be infectious through contact with the faeces. Therefore it’s important to clean the faeces off the dog very effectively, and if he becomes itchy, take him to the vet. Some of the routine flea treatments are also effective against mange, so it might be worthwhile making sure that what you routinely give him for fleas will cover mange as well.

What’s the most effective anti-flea treatment for cats? And is it true that cat fleas can live for over a year because that freaks me out?

I have to be careful here, because it is illegal to advertise (ie. mention by name) prescription-only medicines, so I will use the name of the active ingredients, and you’ll have to Google them!
Cats are generally not willing to take tablets, so the best treatments are applied to the back of the neck as a liquid. Some then spread through the coat to cover the whole body, while others are absorbed through the skin and reach the skin of the whole animal through the bloodstream.

Other means of applying insecticides, such as collars or powders are very much less effective. There are two main products we use. One contains imidocloprid (and moxidectin) and has to be applied every month. This product also kills roundworms. The other, more popular, contains fluralaner and this lasts for 3 months at a time – a big benefit for most cat owners.

I’m sorry to tell you it’s true that fleas can live a long time. Adult fleas live only on the host animal, and usually last only a matter of weeks, possibly a month or two. The eggs and pupae are found in the bedding and carpets etc. and if there are no suitable hosts in the environment, the pupae will wait to hatch until there are. They can remain in suspended animation for over a year if necessary. So if you move to a new home where there have been pets in the past, look out for signs of flea irritation on your pets, and if it happens, treat the carpets as well as the pet.

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