I have a four-year-old female Yorkshire terrier who was recently mated, but it turned out she had a phantom pregnancy. Any advice on this? Gilliam Wood, Dorset
Phantom pregnancies (pseudopregnancy) regularly occur in unspayed females after they have had their season, whether they've been mated or not. The signs vary greatly but may involve some of the following: loss of appetite, milk production, shivering, mothering inanimate objects and territorial aggression. She should settle down in 14 to 20 days, but if any of the glands become swollen, warm, red or painful, you should take her to the vet immediately, because this could be an infection of the mammary glands.
I love the idea of having birds as pets - but is this cruel? Gertrude Price, Staines
I think it's cruel and irresponsible to keep birds that have been caught in the wild and taken from their natural habitat. Domestically bred birds make great pets as long as you give them the care and attention they need. Large birds make excellent companions, but they are often loud, messy and more demanding than smaller species. Some birds love to be handled out of their cage, others prefer not to be touched. If you acquire a small one, you may consider clipping its wings, which will give the bird freedom to fly a few feet without injuring itself. If a bird panics, it can fly into windows or mirrors. Some people think it's cruel to clip their wings but it can give them a better quality of life.
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