Troubles is a 4 year old Guinea Pig

Troubles is a 4 year old Guinea Pig

Paddy was given an instant “family” of pets by a classmate at school who was returning to Canada and could not take his animals with him. There were three guinea pigs and one rabbit, who all lived happily together. Strictly speaking, rabbits are not meant to be kept with guinea pigs because they don’t always get on, but all four animals seemed to be good friends, so Paddy decided to continue to keep them all together.  The creatures came with their own purpose-built two-storey hutch, which includes four separate bedrooms (one for each animal). It has a secure, fenced-in, steel run attached, so that animals are safe from predators while they graze on the lawn. The hutch is cleaned out every couple of weeks, and the run is moved on to a new area ever week, so the little animals never run out of fresh grazing. Paddy had been told that all four of his new pets were boys, and he had no reason to think otherwise: in the past three years, there had been no sign of any babies. The guinea pigs, especially, are playful creatures, often running and jumping together. Paddy had noticed that the two other ones often seemed to pick on Troubles, jumping on his back, but he presumed that this was just the way that guinea pigs played, and Troubles never seemed to mind. This summer, the family went away for a couple of weeks on holiday, so Paddy’s grandparents were caring for his pets. When Paddy went to collect them after the holiday, he noticed was that Troubles had put on weight. He...
Bluebell is a ten year old cat

Bluebell is a ten year old cat

As an older cat, Bluebell lives a calm, quiet life. She spends her day snoozing in the sunshine or strolling around the garden, never venturing far from the house. She usually stays in at night too, although she is free to come and go as she pleases through the cat flap. The family live in a bungalow, and last Monday night, Marguerite was woken at three in the morning by  the sound of a fearsome cat fight immediately outside her bedroom window. The caterwauling of the two animals was astonishingly loud, with screeches, wails and screams. Marguerite opened the window, and Bluebell jumped straight in, as if she had been waiting for an escape route. The security light outside had been activated by the cats, and Marguerite could clearly see a large, well-fed, grey tabby cat skulking off into the night. He looked like a pampered pet cat rather than a lean hungry feral animal, but he was obviously no less aggressive for his posh background. At first, Bluebell seemed completely unfazed by the incident: she was in good form, behaving normally, with a good appetite. It was as if nothing had happened. But thirty-six hours later – the morning after the morning after – she developed a dramatic lameness. She was unable to put any weight on her left foreleg, and she was limping around the house, holding it in the air. Marguerite brought her in to see me. The story of the cat fight gave me a useful clue about the cause of Bluebell’s lameness: cat bites are the most common cause of painful legs in cats....
Zola is a 2 year old Siberian Husky

Zola is a 2 year old Siberian Husky

Siberian Huskies have become popular dogs in Ireland in recent years: there’s something about their wolf-like appearance that appeals to people. They can be a challenging breed: they are strong-willed, with loads of energy, and they don’t always fit in well with a typical modern Irish household. Adam had done his research before getting Zola. He makes sure that he takes her for two hour-long walks every day, and this is enough to wear her out. The long, dense coat of a Husky can be another challenge: it’s designed for Arctic winters, not Irish summers, and in warm weather, it can provide a bit too much insulation for a dog’s comfort. Adam has adapted Zola’s routine to make sure that she never over-heats: he takes her for walks early in the morning and late in the evening, and he makes sure that she always has somewhere cool to relax. If she is in the house, he’ll often find her stretched out on the tiled floor in the kitchen. And if she’s outside, she has a favourite corner in a shady, concrete-lined laneway at the side of the house.  She always has fresh water nearby, and on the hottest days, Adam has given her a special treat: ice cubes: she likes crunching these up. Until recently, Zola had a dog’s traditional twice yearly coat-moulting pattern: losing her winter coat in the late spring, growing a lighter, summer coat. Then in the autumn, her summer coat fell out, being replaced by a thick, insulating winter coat. This year, her moulting pattern has changed: she lost her winter coat in spring, but...
Tora is an 11 year old Shiba Inu

Tora is an 11 year old Shiba Inu

The signs of Tora’s deafness developed suddenly. One day in June, she stopped responding when Suzanne went out into the back garden to bring her inside. Tora had always been a very responsive dog. As soon as she heard the back door open, she’d rush to greet Suzanne: there was no need to call her name. But on this occasion, Suzanne found that she had to go looking for her. Even when she repeatedly called her name, Tora seemed to be ignoring her. At first, Suzanne thought that Tora might just be in a stubborn mood: she’s a strong willed dog who does exactly what she wants to do. If she was allowed off the leash on a walk, she would often refuse to come back: that was just the way she had always been. Maybe she had now decided that she wanted to stay out in the garden. Suzanne continued to call Tora, and eventually she found her at the foot of the garden, facing the opposite direction. Suzanne approached her, still calling her name, and Tora wouldn’t even turn her head to acknowledge her. It was only when Suzanne reached out and touched Tora’s rear end that she spun around, and then she greeted Suzanne enthusiastically. Suzanne realised that there was only one possible explanation for this: she had gone deaf. She did a few more tests, clapping her hands when Tora was looking away, and even blowing a whistle to see if she reacted. There was no response at all. Tora had definitely gone completely deaf. Suzanne presumed that the deafness was caused by old age:...
Flash is a 5 year old Beagle

Flash is a 5 year old Beagle

Beagles are a popular breed, but many people don’t realise that as well as having charming personalities, they also tend to have some challenging behaviours. First, they are often escape artists who love roaming (and so they need to be carefully enclosed so that they cannot get out). And second, they have a rich sense of smell, and they love exploring the world with their nose, eating anything remotely edible that they come across. When Flash is taken for walks, she heads off straining at the leash, with her nose pressed to the ground. When she picks up a scent, she follows it with determination: nothing Maureen can do will distract her from it.  And if she finds anything interesting while she is sniffing around, she eats it at once, so that Maureen never has time to stop her. She’ll eat food that’s been dropped to the ground, rotten leaves, wildlife carcasses, mushrooms, plants and pieces of wood. She’ll also chew any litter that’s lying around. In fact, Maureen feels that there’s very little that Flash won’t try to eat. There’s another reason why Maureen is nervous about letting Flash off the leash: she is not good about coming back when called, and she barks at other dogs. In public areas where there are other people and dogs around, it’s too risky to let her run free, but if Maureen finds an empty field, she will let Flash off the leash for a run. There’s another issue when she does this: it’s even more difficult to control Flash’s scavenging when she is running free. When Flash was younger, these...