Should rats be allowed to join in the Christmas feast?
Q. Every Christmas, I give my pet rats a special meal, including turkey, then Christmas pudding and cake. Now I’ve heard that the raisins could poison them. Is this true?
Pete Wedderburn: Grapes – and raisins – are known to cause kidney failure in dogs, cats and ferrets, so should be avoided in these species.
The toxic agent is still a mystery but it’s suspected to be mycotoxin, produced by fungal growth on grapes. While rats have not been identified as susceptible to this, I wouldn’t take a chance.
Small pieces of turkey bone would be a better “dessert” for rats: they enjoy crunching them up and extracting the marrow.
Why is my greyhound biting herself?
Q. Our nine-year-old greyhound loves to be stroked. But recently, when we pet her, we’ve noticed that her back leg starts bicycling like fury, and she turns her head back to nip at herself. Should we worry?
Pete: This is a phenomenon known as the “scratch reflex”. It’s an involuntary reaction which happens when you stimulate sensory nerves in her skin as you pet her.
The nerves send an impulse to the spinal cord which sends a message back to the back leg to kick and scratch at the area that you’ve tickled.
It’s an effective normal reflex to remove insects or irritants from the skin. If a dog suddenly develops an exaggerated scratch reflex, you should check carefully for parasites such as fleas.
Is it a good idea to put cat bowls in the dishwasher?
Q. I wouldn’t dream of washing my cat bowls by hand along with my own dishes, but I happily put them into the dishwasher with my dinner plates. Is this hygienic?
LC, Herne Bay
Pete: As long as you use the setting that takes the temperature to 65C, a dishwasher is the ideal way to clean your pets’ dishes.
While pet food bowls may carry a film of food and germs, the high temperatures (55C-75C) in a dishwasher are effective at killing any bacteria and parasites.
Most people feel uncomfortable with temperatures over 40C when washing dishes, with a significant number of dish sponges and cloths harbouring bacteria.
A virtual vet for Christmas?
Pawsquad is a new app that offers online RCVS registered vets for video consultations at £15 for 15 minutes, 6am to midnight, every day, even over the holidays.
To comment, visit Pete's Facebook page: Pete the Vet
All sick animals should, of course, be taken to a vet