Ask the Vet: Your pet health questions are answered

The Mail's new online feature, Ask the Vet, in association with the Ash Tree Veterinary Practice.
The Mail's new online feature, Ask the Vet, in association with the Ash Tree Veterinary Practice.

Welcome to the Mail’s Ask the Vet feature where readers can get there pet health questions answered.

The website feature sees resident veterinary expert Nigel Jacklin, from Ash Tree Veterinary Practice in Northampton Road, Harborough, answer your pet queries.

Ask the Vet...a new Harborough Mail online feature. Pictured is vet Nigel Jacklin and Poppy

Ask the Vet...a new Harborough Mail online feature. Pictured is vet Nigel Jacklin and Poppy

Here are this week’s questions answered.

Chris Prior asked: “One of our cats is excessively licking and biting his tummy and legs and is looking very bare in some places particularly his tummy. He does not have mites or fleas. He has had a course of antibiotics which have not helped. Is there a cream which we could apply to put him off biting and licking and would help with regrowth? I wondered about calamine lotion but do not want to do anything which would upset his insides.

Thanking you in anticipation.”

Nigel said: “Over-grooming in cats can be due to all sorts of reasons including skin irritation (secondary to various problems including fleas, allergies etc) and psychological issues.

“The hair loss may give the appearance of it being a primary skin problem but this is not always so. It is important that a full clinical examination is performed by the vet to try to ascertain the likely causes.

“In all cases good flea control is imperative. Anti-inflammatories may be appropriate for a primary skin problem whereas things to alleviate stress (such as a Feliway, which is a cat-friendly pheromone) may be effective for psychological causes.

“Care is required when using locally-applied products due to the tendency of cats to lick them off again. A full veterinary check-up is required to assess the situation.”

Mike Dooley asked: “Four months ago I got a healthy five-year-old neutered male from the Border Collie Trust. Inside the house and garden he is a lovely dog, friendly and obedient and seems to trust me completely. However, when we go out he becomes frantic and tries to attack cars. He is also very unsettled in a car. I can only let him off the lead in a large open area where I can check there are no people or dogs. I have tried using a Halti which he can get off, a choke-chain which he grabs with his teeth and may break a tooth, or a harness, but he sometimes moves so violently that he may pull me over and get free. I am experienced with Border collies as I have always had this breed over the last 40 years. What can I do to overcome his fears?”

Nigel said: “Dog behavioural problems can be a proverbial can of worms I’m afraid. Border Collies, as you know, are very intelligent dogs and if issues have persisted in a five-year-old dog then specialist behavioural therapy is recommended. It is helpful to have a veterinary check first to rule out any medical issues that may be underlying the problem. Assuming there are none, the general principals of positive re-enforcement and de-sensitisation to certain situations can be employed. We tend to refer dogs with behavioural issues to Wit’s End in Aylestone, Leicester, where they have the time & expertise to advise on such problems.”

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Susan Moncton, writing all the way from New Brunswick in Canada, asked: “I have a miniature black lab/border collie mix. She will be three years old in June. She has the stinkiest breath in town. What can I do to cure this situation. Also, she is very hyper and jumps all over people when they come to the house. How can I stop this? I have tried spraying her but she just turns around and laps it up out of the air. Please help me before she gets hurt jumping on the wrong person.”

Nigel said: “Regarding your pet’s bad breath – I would recommend a veterinary check-up to assess the state of her teeth and skin around her lips as they are the most likely cause for the smell.

“The jumping-up-when-greeting behaviour is something that she has been allowed to learn while growing up. It is probably because she has not been actively taught to do anything different. Telling a dog not to do something is not as helpful as telling them what they are to do and rewarding them for it. One option is getting friends to come to the house with treats in their pockets and perhaps greeting them while on a lead and collar. Only when she sits nicely should she get their attention or a treat (which are both forms of ‘dog-currency’). I would suggest you contact some local dog-training classes.”

And Richard and Sue Langton asked: “Our dog Wilf has suddenly developed a trembling motion in one of his back legs - is this something to be worried about or is it merely due to old age?”

Nigel said: “Any (sudden) change is always worth a full veterinary check-up. As you suggest, it may be a degenerative problem associated with just getting older but may indicate the beginnings of another problem. It is not unusual for older dogs to have localised trembling at times. If the signs are continuing I think you should get Wilf checked over by a vet.”

Veterinary expert Nigel is an experienced vet in all aspects of pet health, with particular interests in orthopaedics and cardiology.

He has worked exclusively with pets since he qualified from Cambridge University nearly 20 years ago and has always practised in the East Midlands, with the last seven years spent at Ash Tree Vets.

He splits his time between Ash Tree’s main surgery in Market Harborough and the branch surgeries in Kibworth, Desborough and Rothwell.

Nigel (pictured, inset, with his pet dog Poppy) lives in the district with his two cats, Thomas and Lucy, his West Highland White terrier Poppy and not forgetting his wife and three children.

Whether your concern is your dog’s drinking habits or your cat’s coughing, Nigel will be on hand to give his first-class opinion.

To submit a question to the Mail’s Ask the Vet online feature, email your question to or

The Mail will publish the best questions on our website towards the end of each week and then pick the best questions each month for a newspaper column.

Nigel looks forward to hearing from you.