Dear PDSA Vet,

Our dog Boris is very excitable and loves to say hello and make a fuss when we have guests round. With Christmas approaching, how can we keep him calm when visitors arrive? Graham

Dear Graham

Boris thinks this is the correct way to behave when visitors arrive but he needs to learn that some people don’t enjoy this behaviour when they come through the door. You and your visitors should ignore any excitable behaviour, such as jumping up, and only give Boris attention when he behaves calmly. Make a cosy, quiet ‘den’ where he feels comfortable and won’t be disturbed. Reward him when he spends time there, so he builds positive associations. If you have lots of visitors due, keep Boris in his den until people have finished arriving, then let him greet everyone once people are settled. In the long term, training will help him understand how to behave when he meets new people. You can seek advice for an accredited trainer who will be able to help with such issues.

Dear PDSA Vet,

I’d like to include my two-year-old Bichon Frise in our Christmas dinner. I know dogs can’t eat chocolate, but can he have a bit of turkey and pudding? Eileen

Dear Eileen

There are two things to watch out for when considering Christmas treats for pets. Firstly, foods such as chocolate, onions, raisins and sultanas can make pets quite ill, and can even cause fatal poisoning. So avoid giving Christmas cake, pudding, mince pies, stuffing and gravy, and keep chocolate gifts and advent calendars well out of reach. Secondly, pets need far fewer calories than people – a small treat for a human could provide as many as one third of a dog’s daily calorie requirement. A slither of lean turkey on Christmas Day will be fine, but otherwise stick to his usual diet. Pets don’t need food treats to know you love them – playing together with a new toy, going for a winter walk or giving extra fuss and attention are wonderful ways of showing just how much they mean to you too.

Dear PDSA Vet,

I brush my long-haired golden retriever regularly, but no matter how much I brush him, he always seems to be matted. Is there any special type of shampoo or brushes that I can use? Ludlow

Dear Ludlow

Long-haired dogs should really be groomed daily. If your pet’s coat has become severely matted, these tangles may need to be cut out, and you may wish to ask a professional dog groomer to do this for you. If the mats are really bad then he may need to go to the vets to have this done. Your vets or groomers can also advise on the different types of brushes that are available, some of which are designed to help prevent mats from developing. Different types of shampoo are unlikely to have an effect once the fur is already matted, but keeping the coat clean with dog-safe products can help to keep them comfortable. There is no set rule for how often your dog needs to be bathed, and it can depend on many factors.. But washing together with daily brushing should help to prevent matted fur. If you still have problems ask your vet for further advice. In some cases there may be a medical cause for a poorly maintained coat; for example, if a dog has back or neck pain so is unable to reach around to lick clean certain areas.

Dear PDSA Vet,

I have a Syrian hamster and he hasn’t been out of bed for a couple of days now. He has a swollen cheek and scab over his eye. What could be wrong? Joanna

Dear Joanna

There are quite a few different things that could cause these symptoms, including eye infections, something in his eye that shouldn’t be there such as fine sawdust, or a respiratory infection. Respiratory infections are a reasonably common illness in hamsters and will cause them to be lethargic and hide in a corner of the cage, with discharge from their eyes and nose. Just like humans, hamsters can also catch common colds so this could be a factor to think about. As there are several possible causes and your hamster sounds quite poorly, he needs to be seen by a vet. They can assess and diagnose the problem so any necessary treatment or medication can begin.