Heat will bring turtle out of his shell

A pond slider turtle. (Jan. 26, 2012)

A pond slider turtle. (Jan. 26, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Q We got a young red-eared slider turtle over the summer, and he has been happy living in a large tank in our living room. Now with the weather cooler, I notice that he no longer comes out of the water very much and eats only infrequently. A friend tells me that he is hibernating and that we should just leave him alone until he wakes up and becomes active in the spring. What do you think of this? --Marshall Claytor, East Islip

A Red-eared slider turtles can and do hibernate but true hibernation for these guys cannot be accomplished in your living room.

When hibernating in a natural setting, they are totally dormant at the bottom of a pond or lake that is covered with ice. They do not even breathe naturally during this time as they may be totally submerged in freezing water for many weeks at a time.

The conditions in your living room are not like this -- or at least I hope not.

The air in your living room is colder now than it was in the summer. Turtles are cold-blooded reptiles. Your turtle's body temperature is the same as the current room temperature. This temperature is too cool to allow him to eat and process food and yet too warm for him to enter true hibernation, so he is sort of between worlds right now.

This can be dangerous. Since he is not eating and not dormant, he will use up all his bodily reserves, and his immune system will suffer.

Since true hibernation is not practical for him there, you must put a heat lamp over his tank and a submersible aquarium heater in his water so that the air and water temperature around him is the same as it was in the summer months. He then will snap out of the passive mode, become active and eat regularly again.

Q The hound mix we adopted from the shelter was scratching at his skin from the moment we brought him home. Our vet has been working on the dog for the last two years now. We have a long list of foods that the dog is allergic to as well as his many environmental allergies. So he is on a very restricted prescription diet. The itching comes and goes. Can you suggest anything that I could bathe him with or put on his skin when the itching is really bad? --TJ Brennan, Smithtown

A Pet stores are full of oatmeal shampoos and other soothing baths as well as sprays for dogs like yours -- but this really is a medical question. There are several things your vet can prescribe that are more effective than anything you could buy over the counter.

I've found that plain old dry cornstarch dusted on an itchy area can provide a pet safe, temporary relief. Try this until you can get the dog back to your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Q My guinea pig is 6 years old and needs his nails trimmed frequently. I notice that the bottom of his feet are very dry and rough. Is there anything that I can rub on his feet to help soften the calluses? --Debbie West, Southampton

A There are lots of foot lotions for people, but none that I know of for guinea pigs. However there is a product called Musher's Secret that is sold in most pet stores that is a balm of various waxes that dog mushers use to protect the pads of their sled dogs. I have found this to work very well on my guinea pigs and birds, too. You might also try vitamin E oil on your guinea pig's feet. It just leaves more of a residue than Musher's Secret does.