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SINGAPORE – In this 14-day column, National Parks Board veterinarians answer questions about pet health and behavior.
My dog is 10 years old and I can tell that he has slowed down on walks over the past few months. What do you advise on caring for an older dog?
Older dogs are prone to health problems. Some of the most common are osteoarthritis, vision or hearing loss, or heart disease.
Osteoarthritis, in particular, can cause stiffness, limping, enlarged or swollen joints, and a general reluctance to jump or climb stairs. It is best to take your dog to a veterinarian for an exam to see if there are any underlying medical conditions that could benefit from medical treatment.
There are many things you can do to help an older dog live healthy and happy lives. Consider giving him a soft bed to rest on at home that can help keep his joints comfortable. Place the bed in a quiet place where passers-by are out of the way.
Even if an older dog may not enjoy taking long walks as much as it used to, he still needs regular exercise to stay physically and mentally stimulated. Choose shorter routes and avoid walking if the temperature is too extreme. Watch your dog closely for signs of exhaustion and allow him to take breaks if he wants.
Older dogs can also have poor eyesight or hearing, so be aware of potential obstacles or hazards while walking. Avoid vehicles, pillars, poles and protruding objects such as branches and tire stoppers that could surprise your dog.
Monitor his or her weight closely, as changes in weight can be a sign of an underlying health problem and can increase the risk of other medical conditions. For example, being overweight can put increased pressure on the joints and make osteoarthritis worse.
Take your dog with you for regular health checks. This ensures that potential health problems are identified and that early intervention is possible.
While caring for older pets can be challenging, it can also be an enriching and meaningful experience for you. Talk to your veterinarian to learn about other things you can do to better meet your dog’s needs.
Do cats need to have their teeth brushed? How am I supposed to do it without causing them too much stress?
Cats can develop dental problems. These include inflammation of the gums and tissues surrounding your cat’s teeth, as well as tooth resorption. They can lead to pain, bad breath, excessive salivation, and tooth loss.
Bring your cat for regular checkups to assess their dental health. Your vet may recommend dental treatment under general anesthesia, which allows for a thorough cleaning of your cat’s teeth above and below the gumline.
Dental problems are usually made worse by the buildup of bacteria and plaque in the mouth. Brushing your cat’s teeth can help prevent dental disease. Ideally, this is best introduced when cats are young, but you can still get older cats used to touching their mouth and teeth.
Dental problems in cats can lead to pain, bad breath, excessive salivation, and tooth loss. PHOTO: AFP
You will need to purchase a suitable pet toothpaste and toothbrush, finger brush, or tooth cleaning cloth. Never use human toothpaste for pets.
Start by putting a small stain of toothpaste on your finger or the food bowl and offering it to your cat. You can also try putting some toothpaste on his paw to encourage him to lick it up. Repeat this until your cat is used to the smell and taste of toothpaste.
To introduce your cat to the toothbrush, gently pull back his lips and use the bristles of the brush to touch his teeth. As soon as you feel comfortable, you can make small circular movements and brush your teeth with toothpaste.
It is best to plan a regular time brushing your teeth so that it gradually becomes part of your cat’s everyday life.
Getting your cat used to brushing teeth takes time and patience. Talk to your veterinarian for more tips on brushing teeth and dental hygiene in cats.
- Questions and answers from Dr. Christine Lee, Veterinarian for the National Parks Board Veterinary and Veterinary Services
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