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Welcome to Petplan’s blog, a space where you can read up on the latest pet-news, find out interesting facts and tips about keeping your pets happy and healthy, and share your views on hot topics.

Can I leave a rabbit outdoors over winter?

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This article contains: rabbit winter outdoors outside hutch

Q: I usually bring my rabbits indoors around the end of October but, as we have several children and only a small house, we’d ideally like to leave them outdoors next winter. Is this possible?

A: A rabbit would normally shelter by burrowing deep underground but, as that’s not possible for a pet, we need to take other measures to protect them from the long British winter. You could look into the possibility of placing heat lamps in a covered section of the hutch, and using appropriate dry bedding for a winter outdoors.

The hutch should be in a sheltered position and, ideally, off the ground to avoid frosts. Your rabbits must be checked every day, and you may need to bring them indoors if there’s a lot of snow.

Do jabs put your kitten under the weather?

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This article contains: cat kitten vaccination jabs

Q: Our little kitten Tiggy recently had his first ever vaccination, and was really sad and quiet afterwards. It worried us, and made us think twice about any further jabs. What do you think?

A: You should discuss this with your vet, although generally I would say it’s important to have a young cat fully vaccinated against the harmful and common viruses in our environment. To be a little quiet and off food is a fairly normal reaction to a vaccination – very similar to how we or our children feel after routine jabs – though anything more severe should always be reported to your vet.

If the reaction is deemed severe, then there are other vaccines on the market where the active ingredients are modified or ‘killed’. These still offer some level of protection and might be more suited to your new kitten.

Does your dog have weepy eyes?

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This article contains: dog eyes infection weeping

Q: My five-year-old Springer Spaniel is prone to weepy eyes. Should I take him to a vet or just keep cleaning his eyes with cooled boiled water?

A: If the discharge is clear or brownish in colour, it’s normal tear production – possibly excessive because of irritation or allergy. If the discharge is yellow, it’s a bacterial infection that will need antibiotic medication from your vet.

Many owners report that their dogs have weepy eyes during early spring, possibly associated with the increase in pollens and dust in the atmosphere. A good wipe clean with cooled boiled water would be a perfect way to keep your Springer’s eyes clean and clear, so continue as you are unless infection does become apparent.

Why your dog keeps scratching itself

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This article contains: dog skin scratch irritation

Q: My Manchester Terrier cross is constantly nibbling and scratching herself, mainly on her lower back. The vet cleaned the glands near her tail, but this hasn’t helped. What can you suggest?

A: Many dogs’ skin irritations are due to pollen, but there could be medical causes, such as pain, or behavioural reasons, such as stress. Skin problems are notoriously difficult to deal with, but your first port of call has to be back to the vet.

Have you been vigilant with your flea treatment? Even one bite can cause some dogs a lot of irritation.

Keep a diary of when and how often your terrier is nibbling. Giving your vet as much information as possible will mean they’re more likely to determine whether the problem is medical or potentially behavioural.

Should I use a choke chain on my dog?

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This article contains: dog training lead choke chain

Q: My dog is always pulling on her lead and a dog trainer I’ve consulted says I should use a choke chain and jerk her back. I’m not at all keen to do this, but do you think it’s a case of me being too soft?

A: No, you are being very sensible. Choke chains are a very old-fashioned method of training dogs. They can cause pain and even damage the dog’s neck.

I suggest that you find a trainer who uses reward-based techniques. Go along to watch a class and make sure you’re happy with the methods used.

You should also take note of whether the dogs and their owners are enjoying the class, because training should be fun and pleasurable for both dog and owner. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers is a voluntary organisation that advocates kind methods, and lists its members on its website (www.apdt.co.uk).

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