Dog suffering from fits to buying a gerbil — your pet queries answered

HE is on a mission to help our pets  . . . and is here to answer YOUR questions.

Sean, who is the head vet at tailored pet food firm, has helped with owners’ queries for ten years. He says: “If your pet is acting funny or is under the weather, or you want to know about nutrition or exercise, just ask. I can help keep pets happy and healthy.”

A Maltese dog appears to be having more frequent fits


A Maltese dog appears to be having more frequent fitsCredit: Alamy

Q) I AM concerned about my female Maltese dog Poppy, who is nearly eight and appears to be having more frequent fits.

She had four this year up until August, spaced out over a few months. But in November alone she had three, just after she recovered from kennel cough.

The fits usually occur while she is sleeping or resting. But on two occasions they have been while out walking around the park. She just collapsed and went rigid on all four limbs, arched her head back and let out some almighty screeches.

Another time it was after getting excited when I came home after being out for a short while.

All the incidents follow the same pattern, which lasts between 20 and 30 seconds. She then recovers within one minute. My vet has told me to monitor the fits. Can you give any more advice.

DAVE WILLIAMS Grantham, Lincs

Sean says: Sorry to hear this Dave. Poor Poppy’s fits are getting much more frequent lately, which is always a flag for concern.

You don’t mention whether she’s ever been on anti-seizure medication or not, but one of the criteria to start a trial would be several fits in the space of a week or so, certainly if she’s had more than one in a day or if they last for more than a minute or so at a time too.

Go back to your vet and they can talk through options for further testing or a medication trial.

Q) MY six-year-old son wants a gerbil for Christmas.

Are they the best option for a first pet? We live in a flat so I don’t think a dog or a cat would be a great idea. But I am worried the gerbil may be hard work.

SARAH FOSTER Archway, North London

Sean says: Gerbils make OK pets for kids but they are pretty hands off for small children as they are very fast and also a little delicate to handle. They are also social, so you need to keep them in same-sex pairs or groups. And they need a complex environment, preferably in a large tank where they can burrow as they do in the wild.

Perhaps a better option for a six- year-old would be a couple of guinea pigs. They do need more space as they are larger but they tolerate handling very well, are more interactive and do cute little squeals and calls for food. Whatever pet you choose will ultimately require most of the work from you, of course.

Sean McCormack, head vet at, promises he can 'help keep pets happy and healthy'


Sean McCormack, head vet at, promises he can ‘help keep pets happy and healthy’Credit: Doug Seeburg – The Sun

Q) WE moved eight weeks ago and our adopted ex-working sprocker Herbie has started to howl every time we leave the house.

We have used a pet camera to monitor him. In some videos he just lies down howling and in others he moves about howling.

It’s stressing me out and I even gave up work. It’s ruling my life. He even whinges in the car so I don’t take him out.

I’m at a loss. He’s very clingy to me suddenly. He used to live in a barn on a farm with 22 other cockers.


Sean says: Sounds like Herbie has a complex past and has developed separation anxiety in a bad way.

The best approach is to get a qualified animal behaviourist to get to know you and Herbie and observe you both in action. They will be able to give you specific advice and identify subtle factors that may be making the problem worse.

Look for APBC or ASAB accredited behaviourists in your area.

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