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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Get ‘rude’ with your pet

You mustn’t be too polite, for health’s sake
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - November 28, 2010
By: Adele Ong
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Get ‘rude’ with your pet

Our interactions with other human beings necessarily have to be polite to a reasonable extent, unless we want to live lives that are full of quarrels, fights and lawsuits. While the occasional verbal spat is unavoidable, most of us who are sane and normal will certainly steer clear of offending someone else physically or sexually.

But when it comes to our pets, we cannot always apply the same rules. Obviously, responsible pet owners will never have any intention of physically or sexually abusing their companion animals, but we cannot be “polite” with our pets in the same way that we must be with people. That is because they rely on us to ensure that all is well with their health – in every respect.

It means that you, as a responsible pet owner, will have to routinely inspect your pet’s private parts to make certain there are no abnormal growths or bleeding; routinely pull its mouth open (gently, of course) to see that its teeth, gums and tongue are in good shape; check its eyes to make sure there are no infections, irritations or changes in appearance or colour; look inside its ears to clean them and check for infections; and generally inspect it all over as part of daily grooming, so that health problems can be detected early and treated promptly.

Some pet owners love their animals so much that they treat them exactly like members of the family, as if they were human beings, and don’t want to be “rude” to them. But that will not help your pet at all, health-wise. So if you love your pets to bits, regard them as babies when it comes to grooming and health checks – inspect them all over, as if they’re helpless infants rather than adults!

It’s not about reproduction
You need not be a reproductive expert to check that all is well with your pet’s reproductive system. Pet owners should simply make regular examinations of their animal companions’ genital areas to ensure that nothing is wrong. This is not about reproduction; rather, it is about ensuring that no ailments in the reproductive system end up endangering your pet’s life.

Things to look out for include unusual discharges, lumps, growths, swelling, redness or discoloration, difficulty in urinating, or changes in toilet habits.

In males, manually check the testicles to confirm that both are of the same size, and one is not harder, lumpier or more swollen than the other. Hardening, swelling or unusual enlargement of one testicle may indicate trauma to the area, infections, or testicular cancer. If both testicles are affected, the whole scrotal area may feel harder or thicker than usual, or appear red or swollen.

In a female dog, the vaginal opening may swell when she is in heat, and she may have a blood-tinged discharge. This is normal at such times, but bleeding at the wrong times of the heat cycle could indicate serious problems, including cancer, in the reproductive system. The pet must be seen by a vet promptly.

Female cats in heat excessively groom and lick the genital area. But if they are not in heat and still lick their genital areas obsessively, it could be a sign of a urinary tract disorder. This must be treated quickly before it turns into a serious health problem.

Dogs’ reproductive systems are easier to examine and observe than some other pets’. This is because in animals like cats and rabbits, even the male genitalia are not always external or obvious, and the positions of the testicles in relation to the penis differ from those in humans or dogs. Rabbits and some rodents also may not have regular heat cycles.

So take your pet for regular general veterinary check-ups, and always see a vet promptly when in doubt.

Pet dental care
Dental problems affect animals as much as they do humans, and can have similarly far-reaching effects which may include heart failure.

Modern-day pets are pampered with treats and table scraps higher in sugar content than proper protein- or vegetable-based diets. Treats are usually also soft, and don’t clean teeth and gums as they are eaten. As a result, pets of today are prone to tooth and gum diseases.

Check your pet’s mouth regularly for signs of swollen gums, abscesses, tartar and plaque, and bad breath. An animal with periodontal problems will exhibit those signs, and probably also lose its appetite, as it will experience discomfort when it eats.

Dogs and cats should have their teeth brushed regularly – but human toothpaste makes them sick, so purchase from pet shops toothpaste and soft toothbrushes specially made to be safe for pets. These pastes will not harm your pet when consumed, and do not need to be rinsed out – your pet can lick off the remnants after brushing.

When plaque builds up, your veterinarian can scale it off, with your pet under anaesthesia. A dog or cat on a healthy diet should not need such scaling and polishing more than once every few years.

Rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and mice do not need their teeth brushed. However, because their teeth grow throughout their lives, they are prone to a different type of dental problem: malocclusion, or overgrown teeth. This happens when their food is not hard enough to wear their teeth down, and they are not given chew blocks to gnaw.

A rabbit or rodent with malocclusion trouble will salivate excessively, lose weight, be unable to eat, and even injure itself by biting into its own mouth. This is a very painful problem, and can be fatal, so it must be treated at once by a vet, who can trim the pet’s teeth. To maintain its dental health, feed it proper hay, grasses and suitable vegetables, keep treats to a strict minimum, and supply chew blocks.

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