Pet Talk: March 15
Columns, Pet Talk

Pet Talk: March 15

March 15, 2017

By Maneka Gandhi

In this week’s Pet Talk,  Maneka speaks about the diet for baby tortoise and squirrels and explains how to bathe a cow and how to look after a bird with an injured wing; how to stop a puppy from biting shoes, slippers etc.

Why does a wasp sting hurt more than a bee sting?

Bees can only sting once and die following the sting, Wasps are able to sting multiple times and also have a more toxic venom. Wasp venoms have enzymes that break down cell membranes, as well as neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and serotonin, which get nerves firing. They also have substances that trigger the release of histamine, producing an intense allergy-like reaction.

How do I bathe my cows?

  1. Wait for a warm day, unless you have access to warm water, to wash the cow. Cows hate cold water.
  2. Secure the cow outside with a halter or rope tied to the collar. If possible, tie the cow to a wall, or the side of a building and not a post, so the cow can’t walk in circles or get tangled up in the rope. Leave no more than 50 cm (1.5 feet) of rope, so the cow has just enough room to eat hay or grass from the ground. If your cow has never been washed before, or has a poor disposition, try tying her with a shorter rope.
  3. Begin by wetting the entire cow, starting with the legs and moving up to the back. Be extremely careful at the beginning, as you can never be sure how your cow will react to the water. If you want to clean the head and face, save that until later and be very careful not to get water in the ears, or soap in the eyes.
  4. Soap up the cow. This can be done one side at a time, then the legs and feet. Baby shampoo works well, but there are many products available specifically for washing animals. Using your hands usually works fine for most of the cow’s body and upper legs but a brush works nicely around the feet and a curry comb can help loosen up dirt on the back.
  5. Once the cow is all soaped up, rinse it all off, starting at the backline and moving down to the legs. Don’t leave any soap in the fur.
  6. Leave the cow out in the sun, or walk her around to dry off. If she lies down on straw still wet, the bedding will stick to her and she won’t stay clean.

Do lizards bite?

Lizards are just wall-clinging reptiles and don’t bite generally. Some lizards give a warning before biting — if a lizard opens its mouth wide, swells and hisses at the same time, this is a warning. The wall lizard or gecko, found in most homes, is not poisonous at all. It only keeps the insect population in check.

What should I feed a baby tortoise?

You need to identify the species as each has its own specific dietary needs. Desert tortoises should be fed a combination of grasses, leafy greens, and cactus flowers, with a small amount of fruit. Grassland grazers should be fed a variety of grasses and leafy green vegetables. You should not feed them other vegetables, fruits, or meat. Domestic tortoises could be given lettuce, kale, cabbage, parsley and carrot tops, coarse mixed grasses, flowers and weeds, such as dandelion and nettle, that grow wild in fields and backyards. Domestic tortoises can also eat fruit, but it should be given to them very sparingly, as consuming excessive amounts of sweet foods can cause tortoises to develop intestinal problems. Pears, apples and mangoes can be given in very small amounts.


You should not be keeping any tortoises, as it is illegal under the Wildlife Protection Act and the penalty is jail.

Can snakes be kept as a house pet?

No. They are strictly forbidden under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. In any case, a snake is not a friendly animal. It needs wide spaces to move and live animals to eat. It cannot be petted and certainly is not a companion in any sense of the word. It is likely to get hurt if allowed freedom in the house and certainly killed if it escapes.

How to look after a bird with an injured wing?

  1. Cover the bird with a towel or blanket. Before trying to move the bird, cover it with cloth to help calm it.
  2. Put the bird in a box which has tiny holes in it for ventilation. Close the lid, and cover it with the towel. Keep the bird in a warm, quiet place.
  3. A cotton ball or tissue dipped in warm water is an effective way to cleanse the wound. After cleaning the wound, put some disinfectant cream on it to prevent bacteria from getting into the cut.
  4. Be as gentle as possible, and do not touch the bone; they are extremely delicate. Make the bird as comfortable as you can, on a blanket or towel (and a pillow if possible), in a cardboard box. Take the bird to a vet.
  5. Avoid feeding the bird. Provide a lot of water.

What kind of food do squirrels eat?

Squirrels are omnivores. They mainly eat fungi, seeds, nuts and fruits, but they will also munch on eggs, small insects, caterpillars, small animals and even young snakes.

How do I stop the entry of mice in my house?

Mice find ways to enter homes through tiny cracks and holes. They make nests in unused corners, and they can exist on crumbs. You may not even notice the presence of one or two, but if you aren’t careful you could end up with a full-blown infestation on your hands. The key to preventing mice from coming inside is to seal your home, clean out places where mice like to nest and remove their food sources.

  1. Let a cat spend time on your property. Cats are mice’s natural predators, and their presence will go a long way toward keeping the mice population on your property under control. Both indoor and outdoor cats are excellent mouse deterrents.
  2. Employ mouse repellent. Certain substances are known to repel mice. Place one of these items in the corners of your basement, closets, doors, and other places you suspect mice may be entering:
  • Mint. Mint plants planted around your windows and doors will repel mice. You could also sprinkle peppermint, or spearmint essential oil, around your house.
  • Bay leaves. Tuck them into the corners of your pantry and cabinets, or crush them up and sprinkle them in your windowsills.
  • Set traps near the outside of your home. Place them in areas where you think mice are entering, or have entered your home.
  • Try live traps, both inside and outside. Mice are lured inside by peanut butter or cheese, and when the door closes behind them they can’t get back out. Release live mice in an area away from your home.
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My puppy is teething and he keeps biting all shoes, slippers etc. What can I give him to help him during this process?

A teething puppy can be uncomfortable and cranky, and soothing his gums and giving him the right kind of ‘teething toys’ can help make him feel better.

  1. Get your puppy plenty of safe, sturdy chew toys to play with. These will help soothe his sore gums, satisfy his urge to chew, and help protect your furniture, shoes and home from his determined chewing efforts.
  2. Discourage him from sharpening his little teeth (or soothing his gums) on you or your possessions. A sharp NO, and taking away the object, will train him.

What happens when a horse gets colic?

Colic is a term for equine gastrointestinal issues. While many horses recover from mild cases, colic still kills many of its victims. If you suspect your horse has colic, contact your Vet at once. Colic isn’t just one disease. Flatulent colic occurs when there’s too much gas in the intestinal tract; while impaction colic occurs when something the horse ate can’t pass through his intestines. Gastrointestinal inflammation causes colic symptoms, as can ulceration of the GI tract. Broodmares might experience pregnancy and foaling-related colic. These types of colic can generally be treated with medication and fluids. If a horse suffers a displacement, or twisted gut, in which one part of his intestine telescopes into another, emergency surgery is necessary. While there’s no 100 percent, sure-fire way to prevent colic, there are measures you can take to reduce the incidence. Keep your horse on a veterinarian-recommended deworming and dental care programme. Make any feeding changes gradually. Your horse should have constant access to grass or hay to keep his gut moving.

Why does my hamster keep squeaking?

Hamsters squeak to express emotion. This emotion can be excitement, surprise, fear, distress or anxiety. A hamster can squeak briefly to express interest in a new toy or treat, or it can squeak persistently when afraid. Hamsters also squeak during territory disputes with other hamsters. If a hamster squeaks persistently, without a clear reason for the behaviour, the hamster could be in pain or feeling ill. Take the hamster to the veterinarian right away if it shows signs of abnormal behaviour, such as unusual vocalization, hunched posture, dull eyes, lethargy or a lack of interest in food.

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