Top questions pet owners ask

Dr Catherine Tiplady answers some commonly asked questions that many pet owners have about their furry friends.

Should I leave the TV on when I'm out? 

This is up to you. Some pets may become calm with the television left on however, it could be upsetting for others, so see what your pet prefers. Pets have very sensitive ears so choose a quiet television show with the volume down low rather than a violent and noisy movie. Playing classical music has also been found to be effective in relaxing dogs in a shelter, which is an easy and cheap option to leave the radio on a quiet classical music channel. 

Is it normal for my pet to eat grass? 

It is normal for cats and dogs to eat grass occasionally. Some pet owners find that their animal vomits after eating grass but overall, it is a common behaviour seen in pets that doesn’t cause any issues. Just ensure any grass your pet has access to hasn’t been treated with chemicals. You can buy potted grass for your pet from plant nurseries if you have an indoor pet.

How can I prevent fleas and ticks on my pet?

Fleas and ticks are common in Australia and can cause serious illness, leaving both your pet and yourself in distress. Fleas can cause skin irritation, blood loss and anaemia in pets, which can affect your pet’s quality of life. Ticks can spread disease and can even be fatal. in the case of the paralysis tick. 

One of the key responsibilities of owning a pet is providing the health care they need when they need it. The good news is there are now a range of easy-to-use options to control fleas and ticks. These include chew tablets and spot-on liquid that’s applied to the skin on your pet’s neck. Your vet will happily recommend the best option for your pet. 

Remember to check your pet every day for fleas and ticks and never use a product for dogs on your cat, as it can prove toxic. Contact a pest control professional for advice when it comes to environmental control of fleas in and around your house.

How do I keep my pet's teeth clean? 

Just like us humans, pets need regular dental care. If your pet has smelly breath, is drooling, pawing at their mouth, or has trouble eating, they may have a dental disease. Make an appointment to see your vet for a check-up. To fully determine the extent of dental disease in your pet, your vet may need to check your pet’s mouth after giving them an anaesthetic, or perform blood tests or x-rays. Many pets need scaling and polishing, and teeth which are infected or broken may need to be removed. 

How much exercise does my pet need? 

All pets are different in their personalities and exercise requirements. Dogs will benefit from walks once or twice daily, however, cats are more likely to be happy with home-based playing, climbing and exploring. Some cats enjoy walks on a harness, and an outdoor enclosed patio for cats (known as a ‘catio’) is a great way to allow them the chance to enjoy fresh air in a safe way. 

Speak to your vet about whether your pet would benefit from a specific exercise plan and if there are any risks to your pet. Pets who are overweight, very young, very old or short nosed (brachycephalic) struggle more than other pets in hot weather or when exercising.

Just like us, a physical health check is a great idea before embarking on a new fitness regime. Start off easy and see how your pet reacts to short play or exercise sessions twice a day. Playing at home is possible too using environmental enrichment, for example, cat trees, cardboard boxes, puzzle feeder toys, and chase toys. 

Why does my dog keep licking my hands and feet? 

Dogs have an incredibly powerful sense of smell and love to be close to us. Although it may seem strange to us, many dogs like to lick our hands and feet. Sweaty or dirty feet and hands can be very attractive to dogs. Reasons include communicating their love, seeking attention, cleaning or grooming us, as well as getting familiar with the smell and taste of our skin.

Never punish this behaviour. If you don’t like it, speak to your vet or a dog trainer about positive reinforcement training. If you have any wounds or cuts on your hands or feet, avoid letting your dog lick your skin to prevent infection.

Is my dog getting cranky in old age?

Many dogs suffer from ailments in old age that can cause some cranky moments. Always consider that your pet may be in pain so take them for vet check-ups regularly. Never leave children and dogs together unsupervised – even the gentlest of dogs can react if they are in pain and/or are treated in a rough manner. 

Can my pet catch a cold from me?

The common cold experienced by humans is caused by a viral infection and it is unlikely that you will infect your pet. 

Dogs can experience a range of respiratory illnesses, but these are specific to them, such as canine cough.

Always practice good hygiene when you are unwell and if you are worried about diseases which can spread between animals and humans, such as zoonotic diseases, seek medical advice. 

Why does my pet follow me everywhere?

One of the great benefits of owning a pet is that they are such good company.

Many people view cats as aloof, but they are social animals and many become close to their human family. Cats may follow you because they like being with you, because they want something, such as food, attention or because they are just curious.

Dogs evolved to live in packs and quite simply, consider you are a member of their pack. By keeping close to you they are protected, are more likely to see what you are up to, and potentially get attention and treats. In some cases, pets can have separation anxiety issues and if you are worried about this, speak to your vet for advice. 

Getting to know your pet

Understanding more about your pet is one way to support their health and well-being. With pet insurance, you can help protect them further from accidental injury and illness, so they can receive the care they need. Visit the Real Pet Insurance page to get a quote and find the right policy today.