In this week’s Q&A, PDSA vet Sian answers your concerns about looking after pets around children, keeping them well behaved and managing pet stress. As ever, make sure to get in touch to have your concerns answered next week!

Dear PDSA Vet

I’m thinking of getting a hamster for my daughter. What types of food should I avoid and are there any which are poisonous? Colette

Providing a balanced diet is important, so feeding a complete pellet food for hamsters is ideal, supplemented with small amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, but be careful not to give too much in one go as they can store the food and it soon spoils.

Foods to keep well out of reach of hamsters include the leafy green stalks on tomatoes, fatty meat, chocolate, kidney beans and raw potatoes. Like dogs, hamsters can be poisoned by onion, garlic, almond nuts and citrus fruit.

Beware feeding too many sunflower seeds, a hamster’s particular favourite, as these can cause them to become overweight. You can find more advice at

Dear PDSA Vet

I’m pregnant and my young spaniel, Honey, who went to training classes and was always well behaved, has suddenly started to bark a lot, and become aggressive. With my baby due in a few months, how can I put a stop to this? Sian

Dogs have very heightened senses and are able to pick up on hormonal changes as well as changes in the atmosphere at home.

It’s not unusual for a dog’s behaviour to alter in unison with a woman’s pregnancy; they can become unsettled, affectionate or protective of the mum-to-be, and may even display signs of aggression.

Get Honey checked over by your vet, to make sure there isn’t a medical problem. Pain and fear are usually the root causes of aggression. Your vet may recommend referring her to a pet behaviour counsellor, and will discuss kind and effective methods to address it.

Dear PDSA Vet

Our elderly cat, Peter, has a large bald patch along his spine. We think it is because of excessive licking or possibly stress. Is there anything we can do for him? Kathryn

It’s important to have Peter checked over by his vet to rule out any possible medical issue.

It’s also worth just checking the basics; make sure that he is up to date with his flea treatments because pets that are very sensitive to fleas can develop sore, bald areas.

If fleas aren’t an issue, then over-grooming can be a sign of stress. Cats are very susceptible to stress and over-grooming is often a good indicator.

Causes include changes to ‘normal life’, such as building work, a new pet, new baby or even a new cat in the neighbourhood. For advice on how to reduce stress for cats in multi-cat households, visit