Ask a vet: excessive barking, scratchy cats and more

Have a question or two about your furry pals? Pets Central’s veterinarian Dr. Pauline Taylor answers your questions.

Q. “When will the howling and barking at night stop?” 

If excessive barking is your problem, consider the age of your dog—young dogs bark for very different reasons than seniors. Some dogs bark for a reward, attention, out of fear, anxiety, caregiving and even to play. Older dogs may show endless repetitive barking as part of aging and medical disease, doggy Alzheimer’s. Dogs have been human companions for thousands of years, acting as guardians of humans and their property. If you can’t find a simple answer to why your dog is barking at night, talk to a veterinary behaviourist, or your vet.

Q. “How do I stop our cat scratching all our furniture?”

Young cats naturally exhibit play and exploratory behaviours. Direct your cat away from the problem areas and items and towards those you want him or her to use. Provide perching areas for exploration, scratching and climbing, and toys that stimulate your cat’s IQ by encouraging manipulation to get a food reward (or hide catnip in containers around the house). Supervise playtime and use hand clapping, water pistols, or whistles to interrupt undesirable actions.

Scratching of upright objects like furniture is normal and done to keep their predatory apparatus in good order. But it can be destructive in your home and cause family arguments. It is one reason that many cats are handed over to rehoming centres—“It’s me or the cat” is something I’ve heard many times. In such situations seek preventative counseling and help.   

Q. “What are some of the symptoms of tumours in dogs?”

Tumours may be benign or malignant—if the latter, action needs to be taken as soon as possible to stop it spreading. Nowadays “cancer” is curable in many cases, and controllable in many more. Not all tumours are visible on the body, but where they are, the area with a tumour will look and feel different to what it used to e.g. in colour, shape, or there may be a mass present. Tumours commonly appear on the external surfaces of dogs and cats, especially in aging pets. Internal tumours cannot be seen and are suspected typically because of other signs, e.g. in behaviour, weight gain or loss. Some tumours cause very little change that can go unnoticed for some time. As pet parents we need to be aware of the signs. In these cases is to consult your vet.

Got a question for Dr. Pauline? Email