Coffee Slice and Nelson are one year old Guinea Pigs

Coffee Slice and Nelson are one year old Guinea Pigs

When Tracey saw two Guinea Pigs in a pet shop, she fell in love with them, and soon she had them installed in a large hutch in her home. She created the ideal Guinea Pig environment for them, making sure that they had a good diet, with daily Vitamin C supplementation, a unique requirement of Guinea Pigs due to a quirk of their metabolism. Tracey was a student on a course in Animal Care at a college in Bray, so she’s learning about health and sickness in animals as part of the curriculum. When Coffee Slice stopped squeaking in his normal chatty way, she thought something might be amiss. When he then stopped eating and developed diarrhoea recently, she realised that it was time to bring him to the vet. When I saw him, it was obvious at once to me that there was something seriously wrong. He had always been the same size as his brother, but now he was visibly much smaller. When I felt his body, his bones were protruding, yet his abdomen felt strangely lumpy. He seemed very well in other ways: in particular, he had strong, healthy teeth. Guinea Pigs, like all herbivores, need to grind their fibrous food to a pulp before swallowing it. It’s common for illness to follow dental problems, and sometimes teeth need to be filed down or extracted. I used a special scope to examine Coffee Slice’s teeth, and they were perfect. It can be difficult to investigate illnesses of small animals like Guinea Pigs, but the principles are the same as when bigger pets like dogs or cats...
Loeki the Cockatoo and Duncan the Ferret

Loeki the Cockatoo and Duncan the Ferret

Silver is originally from the Netherlands, but she’s been living in Ireland for many years. She originally visited this country on holiday, and she felt so much at home here that she never wanted to leave. She has a day job in the civil service, but nearly all of her spare time is spent looking after rescued animals and promoting the message about good ferret and parrot care. She’s always been enthusiastic about animals. As a child, she used to spend weekends and holidays at pet farms and pet shops, helping in any way that she could. On leaving school, she found a job at the famous Artis Zoo in Amsterdam, working with a wide range of creatures, from flamingoes to elephants. It was here that she developed affection for weasel-like creatures and soon after, she began to rescue unwanted ferrets. Although they’re now often kept as pets, ferrets have traditionally been used primarily for hunting. Silver discovered that many hunting ferrets were being abandoned if they were not doing their job effectively. She offered to take these ferrets in, and she soon had over fifty of them in her house. She took a break from ferret rescue when she moved to Ireland, focusing on her career instead, but in 2001, she found herself being drawn back into animal rescue work. She now shares her home with over twenty ferrets, and in recent years, she’s branched out into rescuing large birds such as parrots and cockatoos. She’s fascinated by their behaviour and intelligence, and she’s gathered a flock of twenty “rescued” birds around her. Silver feels that ferrets and large...
Amelie the 6 year old cat was putting on weight

Amelie the 6 year old cat was putting on weight

When Marion brought Amelie to see me for her annual health check and vaccination recently, it was obvious that she’d turned into a bit of a “fat cat” : she was 25% heavier than her last check-up. I asked Marion what had changed, and she explained the background to the problem, as well as the answer that she has in mind. The simple cause of Amelie’s weight gain is that an unknown neighbour has been giving her extra meals. Excessive weight didn’t used to be a problem for Amelie: she was an indoor cat for the first five years of her life, and Marion kept strict control over her food intake, avoiding spoiling her with treats. When she moved to a house with a garden in Shankill, Marion decided that it was time to allow Amelie to experience freedom. She started to allow her to go out in the daytime, although for safety reasons, she has continued to call her indoors at night. Marion does shift work, so she’s away at different times during the day, and she felt that life would be more enjoyable for Amelie if she spent less time at home on her own. When Amelie started to go outside, she lost weight at first. The new physical activity meant that she was burning up extra calories and getting fitter. She enjoys her outdoor activities, jumping up onto the shed in the back garden, along the wall and down the other side. Marion doesn’t know exactly where she goes, but she sees her with other cats, enjoying a social life for the first time. It was...
Jaffe a 4 year old male Pekingese

Jaffe a 4 year old male Pekingese

Poor Jaffe’s world has just been badly shaken. He had lived in Alessandra’s home since he was a puppy, and this summer, major building works were undertaken. The house was completely renovated and rebuilt inside, with a large extension. The ground floor, where Jaffe spends all his time, has been completely changed, with new walls, doorways and windows. He used to sleep in the kitchen or the living room, with a comfortable bed in each place, but both of these rooms are now non-existent. Jaffe was unaware that these changes were happening. At the end of April, before the work commenced, he moved into Alessandra’s mother-in-law’s house, which was already his second home. He was used to visiting her every Sunday, and he stayed with her when his own family went overseas on holidays. He was very comfortable and relaxed there, and he had an enjoyable summer. The renovations were completed two weeks ago. Alessandra left Jaffe with her mother-in-law while she cleaned the house and prepared it for normal life. Last Saturday, she brought Jaffe back, planning  to spend the weekend there with him, getting him used to his new environment. Jaffe was clearly delighted to be returning to his old home. As they walked up the driveway together, he had a spring in his step, wagging his tail, bouncing up to the front door. But after the door was opened, and they stepped into the hall, his demeanor changed completely. He looked around, saw at once that everything was different, and he sat down, refusing to move.  He looked nervously at Alessandra, and he began to pant,...
Macy is a 3 year old Bearded Collie

Macy is a 3 year old Bearded Collie

Mel and her husband have been enthusiasts about Bearded Collies for many years. The couple have three bitches and three dogs, and they travel across the UK and Ireland with them, attending dog shows. They’re passionate about Bearded Collies, but there’s one problem with the breed’s long woolly coat: it’s prone to getting mucky on walks. The long hair on the lower legs inevitably gets wet and dirty as the dogs run through parks and puddles. This can cause messy problems at home, creating a mud bath on the kitchen or utility floor. Even if Mel leaves the dogs outside until they’ve dried off, there’s still an issue: the dried mud drops off the dogs in the form of thick, clingy dust that needs to be swept up. The problem is much the same in the car. A few years ago, Mel was browsing the internet when she found the answer to this perennial problem: an American woman had invented a device for cleaning dogs’ lower limbs after walks. She was the owner of a Wheaten Terrier, another hairy breed, and she lived in New York, walking her dog in Central Park. On wet winter days, she found it impossible to keep her smart apartment clean when returning with a mucky dog, so she worked with a local craftsman to create a way of solving her problem. Her invention was named the “Paw Plunger”. The device looks like a large plastic mug that has a firmly fitting lid with a hole in its centre. It’s filled with warm water before use, and then each of the dog’s feet is...