The Vets for Life team outlines some of the medical ramifications of owning a pet in Singapore. What do you need to consider when adopting a dog or a cat, and if you already own one, what else can you do to care for them?
To sterilise or not to sterilise?
Most veterinarians recommend sterilisation, for many reasons – mainly to avoid unwanted pregnancies that contribute to so many dogs and cats needing homes.
Female dogs: Sterilisation in female dogs decreases the risk of mammary tumours (breast cancers, which can also spread to the lungs). If an animal is left unsterilised, there’s a one in four chance of this disease, but if sterilisation is carried out before the first heat, this drops to 0.5 percent, and to 8 percent if it’s done before the second heat.
Without sterilisation, female dogs are more susceptible to pyometra, a condition where the uterus fills up with pus; this usually requires surgical removal of the uterus as it is potentially fatal. Another problem is recurrent “pseudo-pregnancies”, where the animal starts lactating, this is inconvenient for owner and dog, and it can also cause mastitis.
The only known disadvantage of sterilisation is a predisposition to urinary incontinence at an earlier age, and cranial cruciate disease, which affects the knees.
Male dogs (and tomcats): Castration in young dogs can reduce aggression when combined with behavioural training. It also helps to prevent a plethora of prostate-related diseases, especially prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate), which can put pressure on the bladder and cause urination difficulties and constipation. With tomcats, castration reduces their need to fight, which prevents injury and possible transmission of contagious diseases such as FIV (feline AIDS) and FeLV (feline leukemia).
The disadvantage of sterilising large breed male dogs early is that it may predispose them to immature bone development. As with any surgery, there are risks involved, but the benefits of sterilisation far outweigh that of not getting it done.
Should dogs and cats have their teeth cleaned professionally or can owners do it?
It’s best to brush pets’ teeth daily just like we do ours! Start when they’re young and get them used to brushing, though don’t use human toothpaste as the fluoride can be toxic to pets. Dog toothpastes are available in various flavours, and some are textured to help with the cleaning action. Yearly dental checkups are recommended to see if a proper clean is required under general anaesthesia, especially if there are loose teeth that require extraction.
Do certain kind of foods affect their teeth?
A pet’s diet can affect teeth greatly. Constant chewing on bones can cause accelerated wear and tear, for example. There are dental diets for both cats and dogs that help prevent tartar build-up – the large kibble size ensures the pets chew the food and, in turn, a mechanical brushing of the teeth results when the kibble is broken up. A diet of only soft or wet food can sometimes predispose a pet to tartar build-up as there is none of this brushing action.
Cats can get a disease that attacks the neck and roots of their teeth and cause severe pain. If your cat stops eating, you should always get the oral cavity checked.
We know that rabbits can have huge issues with their teeth. What are some of these and how do you tackle them?
Diet plays a big part in the dental health of rabbits. Their teeth are open-rooted, which means they grow continuously throughout their life. A fibrous diet is crucial in maintaining dental health and preventing overgrowth – so, grass hay, which is high in fibre, should always make up the majority of the diet, followed by pellets and fresh leafy greens.
Common dental problems include spurs or spikes when the cheek teeth grow unevenly and end up abrading and lacerating surrounding tissue. The pain causes the rabbit to eat less and can result in gastrointestinal disorders. Tooth root abscesses are common too, and often appear as a hardened lump on the chin; these also need to be addressed appropriately.
How Much is That Doggy?
If you’re thinking about getting a dog in Singapore, there are quite a few things to consider before you commit. The Vets for Life team helped us put together a list.
• There are plenty of dogs, and even puppies, that need a home, so look to adopt first before you head to the pet shops and breeders. Some of the breeders do have older dogs that need to be loved and there are plenty needing homes at the SPCA.
• Once you’ve chosen your new furry friend, it’s worth getting it checked by a vet for a few things first:
– Any sign of tick fever might mean your dog will not be allowed into another country when the time comes to relocate.
– It also needs to be checked for heartworm, so find out what vaccinations, if any, are required, and what else needs to be done.
– Is it sterilised? Unless you want the pitter-patter of small paws, it’s advisable to get this done.
– Luckily, there’s no rabies here, so immigration to most countries is fairly simple, though note that some countries do still request a vaccination.
• Whether your dog is a “Singapore Special” or a pedigree, you’ll need to watch for skin irritations
– they’re prevalent here because the increased humidity causes accelerated bacterial growth. Dust mites and grass are the main irritants, though some people believe irritations are linked to the type of food the dog is fed.
Vets for Life Animal Clinic has two outlets, one in the east and one on River Valley Road. Their internationally trained staff can help you get off to the right start. Our next discussion will include pet dental issues – it’s more important than you think!
Read more about having pets in our Living in Singapore section!