From dog digging holes to snake in pain — your pet queries answered

HE is on a mission to help our pets  . . . and is here to answer YOUR questions.

Sean, who is the head vet at tailored pet food firm, has helped with owners’ queries for ten years. He says: “If your pet is acting funny or is under the weather, or you want to know about nutrition or exercise, just ask. I can help keep pets happy and healthy.”

Q) MY puss Charlie Catlin is obsessed with Match Of The Day and other football programmes. He tries to chase the ball but in so doing, he gets in the way of me watching my beloved “green army”, Plymouth Argyle. Any advice?


Sean says: There is only one solution here: Get a second TV and toddle off upstairs to watch the game on your own while Charlie gets the bigger TV for his footballing antics.

Either that or you get him a football table so he can play in real life. If you must, find other games like fishing-rod toys or a laser pointer to keep him occupied.

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Got a question for Sean?

SEND your queries to [email protected]

Q) RUFO, our eight-year-old rescue collie Alsatian cross from Spain, recently started to dig holes in our garden borders. He has a lovely warm house to sleep in at night but prefers to lie in the large holes he has dug, even in the pouring rain. We’ve had him for two years and are concerned. Can we get him out of this habit?

LINDA JONES, Prestatyn, Denbighs

Sean says: Digging holes is what dogs do. And it can be a tricky habit to break. Think about how you can channel that behaviour in less destructive ways — like having a dedicated sand pit and hiding toys in there that Rufo has to dig out in order to earn treats.

At the same time, you want to prevent him performing the unwanted behaviour by reducing access, at least temporarily. The more a behaviour is practised and rewarded through pleasure, the harder it is to eliminate.

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So cordon off the borders for now and practise your “off” and “come to me” commands with an intermittent medium and high-value treat schedule so you can call him away from his digging when needed because you’re way more interesting and rewarding than a hole in the ground.

Q) MY female corn snake Red is 17 years old and for some time she has had shedding problems, and has lost a lot of her weight and muscle mass.

She is very floppy and occasionally regurgitates after eating but does not appear to be in pain. We are not sure about her quality of life and we don’t know what to do. Our vet has suggested putting her to sleep. Could you give me some advice?


Sean says: How do you tell if a snake is in pain? They hide it well and are quite hard for us people, as mammals, to read and relate to.

From the other issues you mention, it sounds like things are starting to function just a little less well. And 17 is a good age for a corn snake.

You’ve done well with Red. If she is no longer keeping down food or retaining her body condition and getting weaker, do consider whether putting her to sleep might be kindest.

But without examining her and talking it through, I can’t advise the right decision. Have a chat with your vet again and explain your concerns.

Q) OUR 12-year-old border collie Tia has started having seizures. For the past ten days she has been on medication for that condition and for her liver. We are at our wits’ end.

She had a scan and an X-ray which were both OK. Can you give us any advice?

ANGELA MARMAN, Spilsby, Lincs

Sean says: I know it’s hard not to worry but hopefully the medication keeps the seizures under control and Tia well in herself.

The fact the scan and X-ray were clear is a good sign and if it is a case of epilepsy, there are several ways to manage it going forward. It’s a manageable disease, though often there is no cure available.

But many dogs go on to lead a perfectly good quality of life for many years after their initial diagnosis. Your vet will be best placed to help you manage Tia into old age.

Star of the week

HODGE is Southwark Cathedral’s pet cat, head mouser and social media star, after being rescued from the streets.

He came to his new home in the capital from the Catcuddles Sanctuary in Abbey Wood, South East London, and follows in the paw steps of Doorkins Magnificat, who went from being a stray to meeting The Queen.

Visitor manager Jon Dollin said: “Everyone who meets Hodge is smitten. We are delighted to give him his ‘for ever’ home.” The Very Reverend Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark, added: “He is a reminder to me of all those to whom, and for whom, we have a duty of care and a vocation to love.”

  • Follow @HodgeTheCat on Twitter.

Win a dog bed

LET your sleeping dog lie in the lap of luxury.

We have joined forces with online pet gear supplier Dogs Dogs Dogs to offer readers a chance to win one of four Earth-bound luxury tweed dog beds, worth up to £131.99.

To enter, send an email with the heading DOGS to [email protected] by May 22, stating the preferred bed size for your dog, from S to XL.

For product info see T&Cs apply.

Can your pet earn the big bucks?

YOUR pet could help boost your income as the cost of living soars.

Some pet influencers are even earning more than their owners, says Jo Gordon of animal talent agency Urban Paws UK.

Jo said: “We work with major luxury brands and clients all over the world. The more followers pet owners have, the more money they can earn.

“Pet influencers need to have a high engagement rate, have a following of over 10,000 and be active on their social media. Owners must be able to film (their pets) so brands can be promoted.”

Photographer Ursula Aitchison’s business was hit hard by the pandemic when she was no longer able to do photoshoots with owners and their pets.

But when she began posting photos of her golden retrievers Hugo and Huxley on Instagram @HugoandUrsula, they evolved into influencers earning double her salary. Ursula, 33, of South West London, said: “I’d use my dogs to practise for my photography business.

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“Then I realised they were brilliant in front of the camera. They are now models for commercials and get paid to advertise on Instagram.”

In the first year of Covid, her annual income plunged to £20,000 while her dogs earned £40,000. In the second, she made £30,000 and her dogs £70,000.

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