Ruby is an 18 month old Miniature Dachshund

Ruby is an 18 month old Miniature Dachshund

James has owned Ruby since she was a pup, and she’s been a healthy little dog, with no need to visit the vet. A few weeks ago, she became quieter than normal, not wanting to go for walks with her usual enthusiasm. She normally enjoyed playing with toys, especially squeaky ones, but she lost interest in these. She was still eating, but with less gusto. James watched her closely, and it now seemed obvious that she had some type of toothache, just like a human. She began to press the side of her head along the ground, as if she was trying to rub a sore area. And, as if to make it very clear, she started lifting her paw to the left side of her face, whining. When James brought her in to see me, it was easy to make a diagnosis of her problem. When I lifted up her upper lip, I could see at once that she’d fractured one of her teeth. There was now an open channel up the middle of the broken tooth into the pain sensitive nerves of the tooth root. If the tooth had been a permanent, adult one, we might have discussed carrying out some type of root canal treatment, although this is rarely done in dogs. As it happened, there was a simpler answer: the broken tooth was a temporary, “baby” tooth. It was not meant to be present in an adult dog’s mouth anyway, and it had broken because it was weaker than the permanent teeth. Complete extraction of the damaged tooth was needed. Dogs – and cats –...
Fletcher is a 3 year old Green Iguana

Fletcher is a 3 year old Green Iguana

Alice came across Fletcher on an internet “for sale” website. He’d originally been bought for someone who couldn’t keep him, and he’d been sidelined out to a garage where he never saw humans. When he arrived in Alice’s home, he was frightened of people. He used to dash about the place, swishing his tail and snapping at the air in fear. Visitors were sometimes frightened of him, but he never bit or scratched anyone; he was just trying to run away. He was less nervous on a one-to-one basis, and Alice spent time with him every day, reassuring him and getting him used to being petted. He’s now been with her for nearly a year, and he’s become a calm, relaxed individual. He lives in a large, heated, wardrobe-sized vivarium in Alice’s living room. She’s done the research, and she’s made sure that he has an environment that’s just right for him, including a special ultra-violet light for him to bask beneath. He’s a big lizard, and even a large vivarium has limited space for movement, so Alice lets him out every day for exercise. He enjoys a swim in the morning, stretching out in the family bathtub, paddling around in foot-deep warm water. He can keep his head beneath the surface of the water for up to half an hour; the soaking helps to maintain the correct level of hydration in his body. Fletcher always has a healthy breakfast after his swim, and he’s a pure herbivore. He enjoys greenery, including leaves from broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, dandelions and carrots. He also eats fruit, such as apple and...
Ruby is a rose breasted Cockatoo

Ruby is a rose breasted Cockatoo

Pat originally bought Ruby as a present for his wife, but as time passed, the bird took a strong liking to himself. These days, Ruby’s definitely Pat’s bird. She talks to him, greeting him with “Hello” in the morning, and shrieking “Goodbye” when he gets his keys to head out to work. Ruby lives in a large cage, but she’s only in it for a small part of each day. She has a busy out-of-cage routine, and sometimes things can go a little wrong. The mornings are straightforward. She flies around the house, doing a circular circuit, from one room to another, swooping in one door and out of another. She’s worked out the geography of the house, and she’ll happily spend ten minutes exercising herself by whooshing around, dipping up and down as she goes. She reliably comes back to sit on Pat’s shoulder when he calls her, so it’s easy for him to get her back into her cage when it’s time to stop.. Ruby can be a mischievous bird, chewing shoes, furniture and anything else that she can get her beak around. Pat realised at an early stage that it’d be useful to find a safe way to burn up more of her energy. He decided to let her enjoy longer flights by taking her outside. He first took her out on a pleasant sunny day. He let her go out for a short flight, and called her back immediately. She seemed to enjoy this so much he began to allow her to have longer flights, heading off for a hundred yards or more to the...
Snowflake was found wandering in the countryside

Snowflake was found wandering in the countryside

The problem of stray dogs and cats is well known, but Snowflake is an example of an unusual phenomenon: he was a stray hamster. One evening last Easter, a friend of Simon’s family, Angela, was driving through the Wicklow countryside. She was in a forested area on a narrow, winding road in a remote part of the Glencree valley, several miles from the nearest human habitation. Angela is a wildlife enthusiast, and she was driving slowly, with her headlights on in the dim light of dusk, looking for any sign of deer on the road. When she saw a tiny creature scuttle out from the verge into her path, she stopped and had a good look at it. She knew at once that the tiny animal was a hamster, even from a distance. It was something to do with his small spikey tail, the way he sat up, looking around, and his style of walking. As Angela says, rats, mice and other small wild mammals move in a different way, scuttling along on all fours rather than intermittently sitting on their rear end in that uniquely hamster way. She jumped out of the car, and went up to him: he didn’t run away, and was easy to catch. She had some trail mix in her pocket, and he ate this hungrily when offered a small amount. She brought him home to Simon’s house, and asked his family if they’d look after him. He was put into a hamster cage, and he settled in immediately, as if he’d come home. He was soon named Snowflake, but he’s also known as...
Sam the terrier had a tick problem

Sam the terrier had a tick problem

Last autumn, Sam was jumping out of the car after a walk, when he seemed to knock or twist his right hind leg. He yelped, and then refused to put any weight on the leg. He started to walk on three legs, not even touching his right hind leg to the ground. Andy checked him over, but there was no obvious injury or cut. He thought that perhaps Sam had bruised it or sprained a joint. When Sam was still carrying the leg the next day, it was obviously something more complicated than a mild injury, so Andy brought him in to see me. I examined Sam carefully, flexing and extending his joints, trying to pinpoint the source of the pain. He was calm and relaxed until I reached his foot, and every time I touched this area, he yelped and whimpered, pulling his foot away. This was obviously the painful area, and I was concerned that there might be something seriously wrong. Could he have an underlying bone disease that had caused a crack or a fracture of a foot bone as he jumped out of the car? In an older dog, there are a number of conditions that can weaken the bones, including cancer. I gave him a sedative so that he’d lie still while I took an x-ray to rule this out. The xray showed that there was nothing sinister going on. Sam had arthritis in his ankle joint, but this is common in twelve year old dogs, and it wasn’t severe enough to cause him to be so lame. So what was going on? Why...
Thumper the rat had a lump on his neck

Thumper the rat had a lump on his neck

Rats don’t live for nearly as long as other pets such as cats, dogs or even rabbits. Their normal expected life span is two to four years, which makes one human year the approximate equivalent to twenty “rat years”. If a rat develops serious health problems at the age of two or three, it can be difficult to justify intensive treatment, because they’re often close to the end of their natural years. But when Thumper developed a problem, he still had most of his natural life ahead of him. At six months of age, he was just reaching young adulthood. If he could be restored to full health, he’d be able to enjoy several more years of enjoyable life. The problem seemed to develop suddenly: one day, Stephen noticed that Thumper had a large swelling on the left side of his neck. He brought him in to see me straight away. The lump measured around 1cm in diameter: around the same size as a marble. It was a firm lump, and it did not seem to be painful in any way, but it was large enough to cause a nuisance, preventing Thumper from scurrying around his cage in his normal graceful way. It was impossible to tell what had caused the lump to appear. It could have been some type of tumour (rats and mice are prone to various types of cancer, often from a young age). Or it could have been an abscess (if a rat suffers a small injury, it can become infected, forming the basis for a pus-filled abscess). I pushed a fine needle into the...