Tag: pets

Why Does My Bird Keep Plucking Its Feathers Out?

Feather plucking in birds is a reasonably common medical complaint that is fielded by veterinarians. Besides making them look pretty rough, many birds appear to be in significant discomfort when they self-traumatise. There may be as many as thirty different causes of feather plucking in birds. Broadly speaking, we divide our causes into two main categories, these being medical and behavioural.

Medical Causes

Medical causes of feather plucking can include skin parasites, poor diet, and skin infections. Your veterinarian will likely recommend testing or treatment trials to differentiate between these problems. We recommend a good quality pelleted diet such as the Vetafarm range. Additionally, we recommend treating your birds for parasites with an effective registered product.

Behavioural Causes

Behavioural causes of feather plucking are very common in birds. It’s called ‘psychogenic’ feather plucking. In this instance, the feather plucking is a self-trauma due to anxiety and frustration. It is the ‘bird version’ of the neurotic pacing you see in some captive zoo animals. Some species of birds, such as Cockatoos or African Grey Parrots, can have very high IQs that easily surpass those of dogs or cats.

In the wild, these birds fly over long ranges in the fresh air and sunshine, engage in complex social behaviours, develop a lifetime pair-bond with their partner, sleep for ten to twelve hours a day, build nests, and continually forage for food. We take these animals that are genetically wired for the above behaviours and put them in a small, occasionally dirty cage, often completely alone. It’s no wonder that they can find this a very distressing situation to be in.  So our best treatments are to provide an environment that gives them enough stimulation, social interaction and rest, that it satisfies their natural instincts.

These treatments may include:

Fresh air and plenty of natural light

Try getting as large a cage or aviary as you possibly can. This even goes for Canaries and Cockatiels. If they are in a cage, make sure it’s put in an area where they can feel the breeze and watch the outdoors, but be sure that larger predator birds and cats cannot get them. 

Increased socialization

Most birds pair-bond for life, build a nest, and raise chicks. If there are no other birds around, they may instead bond strongly to their human. This can result in them getting anxious if their human leaves the house, or getting defensive and aggressive if someone, such as the human’s partner, approaches their human.  Once formed these bonds can be challenging to break.

If you have a lone bird, you can consider testing to determine their gender and then getting a mate for them. The gender testing may require a feather DNA test, as appearance often isn’t enough to differentiate gender alone. Some patients have good success with this, however sometimes they refuse to re-bond to another bird. Sometimes they’ll stay bonded with their human instead.

If your bird doesn’t pair-bond with another bird, then separation can be extremely stressful. If your lifestyle allows, try to maintain as much contact as you can with your bird.

Reduced boredom

Many wild parrots will forage for around six hours per day to find food. This helps to keep them stimulated and engaged. A good way to mimic this behavior is to hide their food in bird puzzle toys. Alternatively, you can hide food in crumpled paper cups, tied up coffee filters, and PCV pipes in gradually increasing complexity. If there is enough space, a large tree with food hidden in multiple spaces/PVC pipes also can provide good foraging stimulus.

Another great way to stave off boredom is to spend time training your bird. There are many YouTube videos of people demonstrating how to train your bird to talk, do tricks, or even solve very complex puzzles. Try teaching these tricks, and you’ll have a happy, stimulated bird. You might even have the next internet star!

Get plenty of sleep

Most birds in the wild will sleep for ten to twelve hours per day. This is in stark contrast to us, who are well adapted to strong artificial light in the evening. Make sure they are in a dark, quiet place for 12 hours per day in order for them to experience a prolonged, restful sleep.


Some tropical birds are used to experiencing daily light rain showers, and can start to feel dirty with prolonged dry periods. Try gently spraying them with a spray bottle to help them bathe and feel clean.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Diets high in flax seed, which provide omega 3 fatty acids, may help to reduce feather plucking in some birds.

See the vet

Sometimes, it can be very difficult to provide what nature does for your bird. Some birds need to be placed on medication to reduce anxiety-related self-harm. As always, environmental management is a pillar of psychogenic feather plucking in birds. If your bird has psychogenic feather plucking unresponsive to thorough environmental management, speak to your vet about what medications may improve their well-being.


Visit the Cairns Veterinary Clinic’s website here. 



How Can I Stop My Dog From Running Away When We Take His Lead Off?

We’ve all been there – one minute we take the lead off our dog, the next minute they’ve picked up a scent and are off! Being unable to recall your dog is a potential danger to both your dog and other people. Your dog may get lost, a car may accidentally hit them, or other dogs may attack them. Having a consistent and reliable recall is an important skill that every dog exercised (off lead) needs to develop. Thankfully, the training is fun and rewarding!

Choose a recall word and provide consistent, positive reward

“Come” is a commonly chosen recall word. Additionally you could use your pets name. Use a friendly, positive voice, and when they come give them an instant, positive reward in the form of treat. Never call your dog to come in order to discipline them.. Never use a growl or an angry voice, as both of these can act as deterrents.

Start in a quiet area and gradually increase the amount of distractions

You can start recall training at home. When you’re in the house, randomly call your dog using your chosen command. As soon as they come provide them with a treat. Once they’ve picked this up, you can try training in your backyard for short, five minute sessions. Let them sniff around the backyard and get distracted, then call them using their command. When they come, give them a treat straight away.  Once they’ve mastered this, you can do this practice in a quiet part of an off-lead area in public. Note that in Queensland every public area is on-lead by default, unless it is clearly designated as being an off-lead area.

Once you’ve mastered the recall in a quiet public place, you can try it in a  much more distracting environment of a busy, off-lead area. Some dogs get too excited to recall. If this is the case, an intense run in the backyard before going into public can help to burn off some of this excitability.

What if they don’t come back?

If your dog doesn’t come back when you call them, sometimes getting their attention then running away from them can encourage them to catch up to you. Avoid the temptation to get angry or growl at them when they eventually return, as this provides negative feedback.

What if I don’t want to keep giving them treats?

When your dog is well trained, you can also try  teaching them a release command. This gives them permission to go and play. Eventually the release command can be used as the instant reward instead of the treat! If they return, give them a verbal reward, “good boy” for example. Then say, “okay, go!” and let them get back to their play.

Usually with enough time, consistency, and a increased exposure to more and more distracting environments, we can keep our dogs under control while they have fun in public.

You can read more helpful advice article on the Cairns Veterinary Clinic’s website

Read more of PakMag’s Cairns Vet expert blogs here



Help, My Cat Keeps Marking Its Territory!

Urine marking can land your cat straight into the bad books. Even some furniture and shoes in particular can often be permanently ruined by a smelly territorial mark. Thankfully, there are many treatments and preventative strategies to reduce the incidence and severity of this noxious behaviour. 

In general cats tend to mark in the wild to define their territory to reduce violent overlap with other cat’s territories. Feral cats can have natural ranges of anywhere between 2.5 and 700 acres. So if you think about it, we’re taking animals that are genetically geared to roam hundreds of acres by themselves, and putting them into tiny apartments in close proximity with other cats. No wonder it can be very stressful for them.  

In response to the stress mentioned above, cats are prone to developing urinary tract inflammation and crystals. For this reason, abnormal marking is a problem where you should visit the vet first. Ideally, bring in a fresh urine sample for testing. A visit is essential to check for infection, urinary crystals, stress cystitis, and kidney failure, amongst other problems.

If your cat gets the all-clear after being checked, then their marking problem is likely behavioural. So how do we reduce this behaviour? 

Take your number of cats, plus one, and that’s how many litter trays you need. 

Got two cats? Get three litter trays. Got three cats? Get four litter trays. Cats prefer fresh, clean litter, so encourage them to use their litter tray by changing it regularly. You can even try offering different types of litter to see if there’s one they prefer. By making the litter as appealing as possible, you’re helping encourage them to urinate where they’re meant to. 

Restrict access to the area, and clean the area immediately. 

One of the best ways to break the marking habit is to remove access to the item or area they’re marking. This may mean closing off the lounge room door, or moving your shoes from the floor. Clean the area they’ve marked immediately with a urease-containing cleaner (“urine-off”) to reduce the scent trigger for them to re-mark the area.  

Have plenty of hidey holes and space. 

Many cats prefer their own company, and find social interaction with other cats quite stressful. Try making sure they have plenty of places to hide and relax around the house. Boxes, cat towers, and cupboards, can all be used as hiding places. 

Try pheromone sprays and diffusers.

“Feliway” sprays and diffusers contain artificial pheromones that help to reduce stress related marking behaviour. The spray can be sprayed daily on problem areas, such as the couch, whereas a diffuser will treat a whole room for around 30 days. 

Try some Zylkene.

“Zylkene” is a milk protein that seems to help relax stressed-out kitties. The powder is sprinkled onto their food and they tend to eat it enthusiastically. It has the main benefit of being a safe and simple treatment to reduce stress. 

Consider environmental adjustment.

Installing an outdoor cat run can take time and effort, but your cat will thank you when they can go outside and enjoy some space, sun, and fresh air. You won’t have to worry about them going missing, hunting wildlife, or getting into fights. This can help to increase their available space and reduce their stress levels. 

Try some cat nip toys.

Many cats respond positively to catnip toys or fresh catnip. We can use this in their environment to help keep them relaxed. 

Use separate water and food bowls.

Cats can find sharing food and water pretty stressful! Try placing food and water bowls around the house so they can eat where and when they want. 

Consider veterinary treatments.

Vets can provide advice on the best diets to reduce stress and reduce crystal formation in cats. We can also discuss stronger ways to reduce stress-related behaviour, such as antidepressant use. It is always necessary to address environmental problems alongside medical treatment.  


You can find more expert advice on the Cairns Veterinary Clinic website



The Benefits of Getting an Air Purifier

Healthy air is not something that the majority of us probably think about. But it’s definitely something we should. There are often so many pollutants in our air without us even realising. These can affect asthma, allergies and more. Yes, they might be invisible and tiny, but they can still be enough to be harmful to your health or aggravate any health issues you already have. In small spaces, particularly in homes and offices, the air is being shared between multiple people. This spreads around anything harmful and pollutants that are present. Cleaning the space often and well, washing your hands, covering your mouth before coughing and other precautions are great to practice, but there is more you can do – by getting an air purifier. 

Medical grade air purifiers like the ones from Andatech help to purify our indoor air. In general they get rid of these harmful pollutants and bacteria. Using a UV light, the air purifier can inactivate microbes such as bacteria and viruses that are trapped on its filters.

Getting an air purifier is an easy way to ensure you are taking that extra step to help keep the air cleaner. This is particularly important if you’re a parent of small children (who we all know aren’t being their cleanest at the best of times). Or, maybe you share a space with an immunocompromised person. 

Having pets also means you most likely have a lot more of their dander in the house than you realise. So, if you have family members with allergies then this can become a problem. Unfortunately, vacuuming doesn’t tend to remove all of the pollutants, and can end up recirculating them. Plus, asthma is very common, and even more common are the triggers that can cause asthma attacks. These include allergens such as tree and grass pollen, animal dander, and irritants such as smoke, strong odours and chemical fumes. Opening windows for fresh air is a good idea in theory. However, it doesn’t quite work as the best solution either, considering that doing so can allow more triggers to enter inside.

Air purifiers that come with a HEPA filter draw in dust, hair, gases and chemicals and trap them. This prevents them staying airborne. If you have pets or live with a person that has asthma, it’s a good idea to look into getting an air purifier. Even if you’re someone who simply doesn’t like strong odours or you have a relative that smokes, an air purifier can reduce smells for you.

You can find stylish, simple yet high functioning air purifiers, as well as breathalysers and other handy tools here. Use Code PAKMAG10 at checkout for 10% off the selected products.

About Andatech

 Andatech is a 100% Australian owned company. They design supplies, supports and services safety products such as breathalysers, as well as consumer safety and health products. With a focus on indoor air quality, Andatech’s distribution channel offers a range of highly reviewed and award-winning products. These include dehumidifiers, air purifiers and humidifiers that help to greatly improve air quality at home.


You can read more Andatech blogs from PaMag HERE.  




How Can I Stop My Cat From Meowing at Night?

Cairns Vet Clinic

Dear Dr Richard Thomas, how can I stop my cat from meowing at night?

Play with them, and keep them engaged during the day. Cats are most active during dawn and dusk, so play with them during these times.

Ensure they have clean litter trays and fresh food and water. Cats are naturally fastidious, and will often express their discontent if their litter isn’t clean.

Desex them. When cats are on heat or it is mating season, they will stay up all night. Senility, arthritis, and hyperthyroidism are medical problems that can result in night vocalization. Medications can help.

Call the clinic on 4032 9999

Learn more about why cats meow at night below. 







How To Prevent Your Pet From Getting Heatstroke

Heatstroke is a real risk during summer in the tropics. Caused by the elevation of core body temperature, heatstroke results in heat injury to the bodies tissues and is a life threatening condition. Pay close attention to short nosed breeds such as Bulldogs and Pugs etc, heavy coated breeds and pets with heart or respiratory problems in hot weather as they are more at risk of heat stroke.

During the summer months it’s essential to ensure your pet has access to fresh cool drinking water and shady areas so they can retreat out of the summer heat.

Our other top tips for keeping your pet cool include:

  1. Add ice cubes to their water to keep it cool.
  2. Keep your pet inside in air conditioning or close to a fan is best in extreme heatwaves.
  3. Dampen your pets blanket to create a cool resting spot to sleep or purchase a cooling mat or jacket.
  4. Bathing in lukewarm water will instantly cool them down.
  5. Doggy paddling pools are awesome at assisting you in keeping your pets cool and entertained on a hot summer’s day.
  6. Pupsicles! Frozen treats are a great way to cool down and keep your pets occupied. Get creative, stuff a Kong or treat dispenser with delicious treats and then freeze.
  7. Slip Slop Slap! Slip on a UV shirt. Slop on sunscreen especially if your pet is smooth/thin haired or has white coloured ears or nose and slap on some doggles to protect the eyes. Not only will your pet look super cool they will be protected from skin cancers too!
  8. Never ever leave your pet in the car! Even a few minutes whilst you nip into the shop for that last minute gift can be deadly.
  9. Be mindful of the intensity of the summer heat and schedule your dog walks for sunrise and sunset rather than in the middle of the day. Walk your pooch on grass rather than hot concrete to avoid burning their paw pads. Always remember to carry a water bottle and collapsible bowl to prevent dehydration.

It’s important for pet parents to be aware of the symptoms of heatstroke and seek veterinary immediate attention if their pet is showing any signs of distress. 

Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, dark or bright red tongue and gums, staggering, lethargy, seizures, rapid heartbeat and bloody diarrhea or vomiting.

These signs may not appear immediately, but come on a few hours after exercise.

Heatstroke can be fatal so if your pet begins to show any symptom, early diagnosis and treatment gives them the best chance of recovery. Don’t delay contact us day or night on 4032 9999

Cairns Veterinary Clinic is proud to have been caring for Cairns furry family members since 1966. With 2 convenient locations, Pease Street and Norman Street, Gordonvale, our clinics are staffed by a great team of hard working and dedicated veterinary professionals who treat your pets as if they are their own.   With a vet available 24/7 365 days per year, we are always here when you need us. Contact our friendly staff for all your pet’s healthcare needs.