Your pet questions answered

Chris Troughton of Heath Vets answers your pet questions

I’ve seen so-called ‘cooling coats’ for dogs online for sale. With all the hot weather we’ve been promised, are they a good idea or do dogs have a way of cooling themselves naturally? I wouldn’t want to ‘overcool’ my dog.

Dogs reduce their body temperature by panting – they are unable to sweat like we do. Some breeds have difficulty with panting because of their extreme shape – for example, bulldogs, pugs etc – and overweight dogs can also have compromised panting ability. These individuals are at increased risk of overheating, and something to help them stay cool could be useful.

Cooling coats work on the same principle of evaporation as panting or sweating. You wet the material of the coat, then put it on the dog and as it dries, it keeps him cool.

Cool mats are also available. These work on a different principle of a gel which actively absorbs heat from the dog’s body when he lies on it.
Both these methods could be helpful, but I think I would prefer the cool mats, as the dog could choose whether he uses it or not, and could move off it if he starts to feel chilly.

It’s worth reminding everyone that the temperature inside a car can rise very rapidly if it’s in the sun. You should NEVER leave a dog alone in the car. Even in winter, a period of sunshine could raise the temperature unpleasantly, and in summer, dogs can be killed in a very short time. A cool coat or cool mat would not protect against this sort of threat.

I have a friend who rescued a street dog from Spain and I’d like to do something similar as I know that there are a few out there who need help. Is it likely that they will bring back any diseases that we don’t normally have over here and do you know if I can get them insured?

There are a number of pretty nasty diseases in the hotter parts of Europe that we don’t have in the UK, for example leishmania, babesia and heartworm. Dogs can be carrying the infections without symptoms and later succumb to illness. There are tests that can be done to see if they are infected, but very few rescue organisations do them.

I don’t know if you would have any difficulty insuring an imported rescue dog. Probably not, but the small print of all insurance policies excludes pre-existing illness, so if your imported dog went down with an ‘exotic’ disease that he must have caught while in Spain, it would not be covered by the insurance.

I know that many countries have a big problem with street dogs, and several rescue charities import them to the UK. However, we have a large stray dog population of our own living in dog pounds and rescue kennels all over the country, all desperate for homes. Why not consider one of these? They are likely to be much healthier and probably better socialised. They will certainly all have been neutered and dewormed and many will have been vaccinated too – a better bet for you, in my view.

Does neutering stop cats from spraying? I have a cat who is yet to be neutered and wondered whether this would help save parts of my house and garden.

Cats spray urine to mark their territory. All cats can spray – male, female, and neutered, but the territorial drive is much stronger in un-neutered cats so they do it much more. Neutering your cat should reduce the behaviour but it may not eliminate it completely, especially if it has become a habit. Tom cat urine has a very strong pungent smell, which is very persistent and difficult to get rid of indoors. The odour is prevented by neutering.

Cats that feel threatened or under stress will mark their territory more, and this is often the reason for spraying urine indoors. If indoor spraying is a problem, you need to work out what is upsetting the cat and deal with it, and using de-stressing pheromone diffusers and other anxiety-relieving treatments will be useful. Neutering alone may not stop the behaviour.

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