From stick insects to a dog wetting the floor — your pet queries answered

  Money – The Sun  

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.”


This week Sean helps a reader with a pet stick insect

Sean McCormack, head vet at, promises he can ‘help keep pets happy and healthy’

Q) YOU recently recommended stick insects as a great starter pet for kids who like mini beasts.

Can they live alone and what do you recommend as best practice to keep them? My son Toby is critter mad and I’m thinking of getting him one.

Josie Brown, Norwich

Got a question for Sean?

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A) They can live alone, but they are more interesting to watch in a group to see how they interact.

There are various species. Indian stick insects look like thin twigs, while some of the prickly or leaf stick insects are way more dramatic in appearance.

There’s always the possibility of baby stick insects with a group, or at least eggs that you can choose to incubate in a warm area or not.

But remarkably, some species can also lay eggs that hatch into clones of themselves without ever meeting a male of their species.

Virgin birth!

Very cool creatures, interesting biology, cheap and easy to keep — it’s a yes from me for Toby’s new pet.

Q) HOW do I know if my hamster Hammy’s weight is correct?

Someone told me that if he can’t curl up in a ball to sleep it isn’t good for him. Is this true?

And how much food can hamsters store in their cheeks? He looks like he’s going to pop at times.

Kate Adams, Leicester

A) The problem is hamsters don’t really have an off switch.

They are designed to stockpile food for their deep winter slumber in the wild, which tends not to happen in our centrally heated homes.

They also live a short life, and it’s hard to keep them trim unless they have lots and lots of space to roam.

So it is important to let them do this in as large an enclosure as possible.

Most pet shop cages are far too small for a creature that covers large distances each night in the wild.

I always recommend avoiding the muesli-style mixed hamster foods as they encourage selective feeding.

Hamsters will pick out all the sweet, tasty, highly calorific elements.

So they pile on the weight, but may also be avoiding the nutritious ingredients, leading to an imbalanced diet.

Q) I HAVE had my little Maltese shih tzu Penni for seven years and she has been a little star – until around three weeks ago.

She has started wetting the kitchen floor during the night and every morning there is a puddle waiting for me. Water tests at the vet have been clear so far.

The vet has put her on a course of antibiotics but nothing has changed. I know she doesn’t like change.

We gave her a new food bowl a year ago and she has never eaten out of it. The only way she will eat now is if we place the food on the floor.

We recently painted the kitchen and changed the curtains. It sounds strange, I know, but do you think it could be down to the new decor?

Marilyn Shaw, Glasgow

A) I think those decor and bowl changes are likely to just be coincidence, to be honest Marilyn.

And if these antibiotics are making no difference to Penni then I suspect urinary incontinence.

The fact it’s overnight, when her bladder is naturally getting more full, and passive puddles where she’s lying in bed suggests an “overflow incontinence” she’s not aware of.

Your vet may suggest a medication trial to see if that stops her accidents.

This is a good example of how, as vets, we sometimes need to rule out a few medical problems first and then use a trial treatment as diagnosis.

With the bowl, did it change material, size, depth?

There are many reasons why a dog might not like a bowl.

With a shih tzu cross I’m thinking she probably has a flattish face.

Could the new bowl be too narrow or too deep perhaps?

The solution for that is, try a new bowl.

Star of the week

MEET Ragnor, the cat that thinks he’s a guard dog – and sniffs out his owner whenever she pops in for a cup of tea with her neighbours.

The five-year-old rescue puss lets himself in through doors and windows until he finds owner Holly Sum, 36 – and then accompanies her home.


Ragnor the cat that thinks he’s a guard dog

Holly, of Plympton, Devon, said: “Ragnor would make an excellent search-and-rescue cat – as he works his way up the street until he finds me.

He always likes to gatecrash a cuppa – or neighbours’ parties.

“He’ll stay and then escort me home.

“He’s very loyal and more like a guard dog than a cat”

WIN: Dog shampoo

SHAMPOO firm KinKind is offering 26 readers the chance to win a Make Me Pawsome! dog shampoo bar and storage tin worth £9.95.

The cleansing bars, which you circle directly on to your dog’s coat, are suitable for sensitive skin and contain coconut oil and special ingredients to remove any doggy odours.

To enter, send an email headed PAWSOME to

  • T&Cs apply.


PUG owners are being warned not to let them get overweight, as new research from the Royal Veterinary College reveals that one in five is obese.

In response, The Kennel Club has reviewed the Pug Breed Standard – a guide to how pugs should look and act – to be explicit on weight.


Pug owners are being warned not to let them get overweight

Globally, there has been increasing debate about flat-faced dogs, which can suffer from health and breathing problems.

The Netherlands is taking action to stop the trade and import of cats and dogs with extreme faces.

Moonpig has announced it is to stop selling cards featuring pictures of pugs and French bulldogs.

And animal rights charity Peta has called for insur­ance firm mascot Churchill, the nodding English bulldog, to be retired.

Pug experts say the public should have a choice of what dog they own, but are urging them to only use reputable breeders so health issues can be avoided.

Dr Dan O’Neill, who led the RVC research, said: “Obesity is hugely harmful for typically-shaped dogs, but the harms are much greater for flat-faced dogs.”

Hilary Linnett, of Conquell Pugs, added: “The key is for the public to do their research.

“Only use reputable breeders who health test their dogs according to the recommendations.”


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