Ask the vet: rabbits, cockatiels and guinea pigs

Our resident vet Dr Michael Lazaris is on hand to answer questions about your pet’s wellbeing...

Vet Dr Michael Lazaris

by Bianca Castro |

'Hi, I’m Dr Michael. I studied veterinary medicine and zoology at the University of Edinburgh, then completed a small animal and exotics internship. I now work as a small animal vet in London — and I love it!'

At what age should I start feeding my dog senior food? And is it worth it?

Dogs over eight need around 20 per cent less energy as their activity levels drop and muscle mass decreases. This is often when we see dogs putting on weight, because they’re being fed the same food (type and amount) even though they’re burning less energy. Senior diets often have a lower calorie content to match your dog’s needs and can have some beneficial ingredients to support joints and brain function. Every dog is different though, so chat with your vet before the switch.

Recently, our cockatiel flew into a window. He chipped a bit of his beak and there was a little blood. He seems fine otherwise – should I be concerned?

Ouch! If the bleeding has stopped and you can’t see any damage to the beak, he should be fine. Make sure he is able to crack open seeds and eat normally too. If he can’t, then a trip to the vet is in need, although I’m sure a nose job won’t be necessary!

Ask the vet

My guinea pig is off his food, has diarrhoea and swollen feet. I’m getting worried. What could be causing it?

I would take him to your vet ASAP, as sick piggies can go downhill very quickly. We often see sick guinea pigs due to inappropriate husbandry (diet, bedding etc), and they can get Vitamin C deficiencies which weaken the immune system (like pirates with scurvy). Those swollen feet could also be a sign of painful infections.

My dog is almost ten, and I know arthritis is common in older pups. What signs should I look for? And any tips to stop her developing it?

You’re right, this horrible disease is prevalent in older dogs and can have a huge impact on their quality of life. Signs include stiffness after rest or exercise, limping, changes in behaviour (even aggression) and over-licking certain joints. Unfortunately, you can’t always prevent arthritis from developing, but keeping your pooch lean, allowing daily exercise and giving them joint supplements like green-lipped mussel (rich in omega fatty acids) can definitely help your pooch continue into old age.

I’ve noticed a crusty lesion in my rabbit’s inner ear, and there’s hair loss in the surrounding area. What could be causing it?

This is probably caused by rabbit ear mites, so make sure you apply an anti-parasite spot-on to your bunny to kill the parasites. If this doesn’t make a difference, or you notice a head tilt, lots of discharge or an unpleasant smell, take him to your vet for a check-up as something else could be causing the issue, like a bacterial infection.

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