What have you always wanted to ask about your pet?

We’ve teamed up with expert vet, Martin, to answer the most common questions asked about pet health.

Martin Stevens

Vet Surgeon

Our expert, Martin, has been a vet for 22 years and loves woodland walks with his partner and spaniels.

Often find yourself with burning questions about your dog’s or cat’s health? We all do, whether we’re seasoned dog owners or have just bought our first kitten. If you’d like some advice before deciding whether to go to your vet, we’ve got you covered. From the all-important questions about your dog’s food, right down to why cats might fear cucumbers, no question is off-limits for our pet-loving expert.

Your questions answered

Q: Can dogs get colds?

A: They can. Thankfully they won’t catch them from us, but they can get runny noses and coughs. If you’re worried about your pet, you should contact your vet.

Q: What pet should I get?

A: Tough question. But I think the best pet is one that is well-fed, well-looked after and insured.

Q: How do I get a pet passport?

A: The regulations for pet passports are constantly changing. Best bet is to contact your vet who can give you advice for taking your pet abroad, or check GOV.UK.

Q: Why do dogs bark?

A: To communicate! They can vary the tone, length and pitch of their bark to tell us different things. But trying to work out what they're saying is a different matter!

Q: What should I look for when getting pet insurance?

A: M&S Bank have lots of information regarding pet insurance on their website, including a detailed breakdown of what’s covered by M&S Bank.

Q: Are cats’ noses supposed to be wet?

A: They'll be wet from time to time. They have sweat glands in there, so they’ll get a little wet when they’re hot. If there's ever any thick discharge or crustiness, it's time to contact your vet.

Q: Why do dogs vomit?

A: This could be something really simple like a bit of tummy upset from something they’ve eaten, but it could be a bit more serious. If you're worried about your dog, I'd always advise you contact your vet.

Q: Are dogs' worms contagious to humans?

A: Unfortunately, some of them are. That's why it's really important that you have your pet wormed regularly, and always clear up dog faeces outside – especially if you have kids!

Q: Why are cats scared of cucumbers?

A: I don’t think this is entirely true, although it has been a big social media trend! They might think they're snakes, but generally they might not like something large, bright and unfamiliar being thrown at them.

Q: What can I do to keep my pet cool in hot weather?

A: Dogs should never be left in a hot car! When they’re hot, use wet towels to cool them down and give them plenty of water to drink. Try to avoid the hotter times of the day for walks, and they should have a nice safe summer.

Q: What do cats’ meows mean?

A: They can mean a variety of things. Usually they’re talking to us – that really long ‘yowl’ you hear when you're in a different room is a contact call, saying "hey, come and find me!"

Q: Will dog food make a cat sick?

A: It can do if the cat's allergic to the ingredients, but the other way around is more worrying. Cat food is higher in fat which can make dogs poorly.

Q: What Christmas treats should my pet avoid?

A: Definitely alcohol and chocolate. Raisins and grapes are actually really poisonous, which rules out Christmas pudding and Christmas cake. The best thing for a treat is to pick the meat they normally have in pet food, like beef or chicken, from your Christmas dinner, and give it to them fresh as a treat.

Q: What can I do if my pet is scared of fireworks?

A: If you can, try to desensitise them in advance. There are CDs out there which gradually make fireworks less scary for dogs. Takes a couple months to do, so it’s best to start early.

Q: Are dog fleas harmful to humans?

A: They won't live on us, but if you're allergic you'll have a little reaction – a small red bump might come up like a mosquito bite.

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Keeping your dog healthy

Dogs wriggle their way into our hearts – and occasionally worm their way into trouble. But although we never know what life will bring, there are some simple steps you can take to keep your dog happy and healthy from nose to tail:

Provide the basics. All pups need a balanced diet, fresh water and regular exercise to keep them healthy. The recommended amount of food and exercise for your dog will depend on its lifestyle, diet, age and general health, all of which your vet can help you understand.

Keep them entertained. Walks, playing fetch, chasing their tail –whatever they’re into, encourage it! Playing is vital for a dog’s mental and physical health. It’s also important for dogs to socialise – both with humans and other animals. They’re most receptive when they are puppies, so the earlier they can be socialised, the better.

Watch your food. Certain ‘human foods’ are dangerous for dogs to eat, such as chocolate, onions, garlic and grapes. Be sure not to leave these lying about the house, as we all know dogs have a habit of sniffing out forbidden snacks!

If they’re home alone… take them out on a long walk before you leave. The physical and mental stimulation should tire them out, so they’ll appreciate some quiet time when they’re home. You could also try some interactive, food-dispensing toys. But remember, dogs shouldn’t be left alone for lengthy periods of time.

Do home check-ups. While visits to the vets for regular check-ups are great, giving your dog a once-over yourself every now and again will help you spot any issues early. There are a few key areas you can check to keep your dog comfortable, such as their ears, claws, eyes and teeth.

Groom them. Depending on the breed of your dog, they may require a little TLC to help them look and feel their best – whether that’s the odd shampoo or a regular brush.

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