Dogs are nicknamed Man’s Best Friend because our two species get along so well together and the current pandemic has once again highlighted the power of pets.
As loving and caring for our furry friends is a joy and a challenge, and vets spend their working lives understanding animals, we asked four Malaysian vets to share a tip each.
The shelters are full of dogs desperate for a home, and so responsible dog owners typically have their female dogs spayed to prevent them from having pups. However, neutering is a life quality enhancer for male dogs as well.
“As your dog ages, the prostate gland swells up, and that causes issues, ” says Dr Gopinathan Gangadharan, president of the Malaysian Small Animal Veterinary Association. “As it expands, you will see there’s blood in the urine and there may be constipation issues too. This is uncomfortable for your pet.
“The swelling also means more chance of infections. Plus, these issues can also lead to prostate cancer. This cancer starts in the prostate but then spreads to the stomach and will kill your pet.
“If you’re not breeding, then you should neuter your male dog. For best results, do it when your pup is six or seven months old. When it’s done at that young age, you maintain good hormonal balance. You can do it when dogs are older, but even at two and three years old, you may already run into issues.”
Living in the tropics means we’re all aware of the benefits of timing doggy exercise. Even so, it only takes a few minutes for dogs to overheat – and some breeds are more susceptible than others.
“We humans keep cool by perspiring through our skin but dogs don’t work that way, “ explains Dr Nur Aishah, a vet practising in Subang Jaya, Selangor. “For your dog, it is their coat that insulates them. Your pet’s fur keeps them both cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather.
“Dogs do have sweat glands. These are located in the pads of their feet and in their ear canals. Once their body temperature rises, dogs sweat through their paw pads.
“However, sweating plays a minor role in regulating canine body temperature. A dog’s main method for cooling down is panting; this kind of breathing helps them circulate the necessary air through their bodies.
“For dogs with short faces, like Pugs and Shih Tzus (called brachiocephalic, to be technical) this is an issue. Their squashed faces mean their upper airways are structured in such a way that panting isn’t very effective.
“As these little dogs have trouble cooling themselves down, they don’t do well in high temperatures. So be careful your pet doesn’t overheat.
“If you do see them pant and realise they’re too hot, put them in a cool room, like a tiled bathroom and give them a drink of water.”
Whether you live in the city or the country, in an air-conditioned home or with traditional ceiling fans, hygiene is an issue because of the heat and humidity.
“We see a lot of skin problems arising from allergies, fungal, bacterial and parasites, “ Dr Dennis C. W. Lim, a vet practising in Sabah, points out. “Early signs include your dog scratching a lot or having dandruff. If not treated, these problems can damage the skin, causing bumps, rashes and then affecting the fur.
“As dogs have different needs, the one piece of general advice is to make sure your pet is kept clean and dry. Also, make sure your dog eats properly.
“In addition, do your research so that you know what special care your pet needs. For example, some breeds are prone to skin issues. Others have double coats that are shed twice a year. For them, all those dead hairs must be removed properly or it may get skin issues that lead to dermatitis.
“As for bathing your dog, do understand that there’s no such thing as a perfect shampoo. Your pet’s skin and fur needs will change as they grow from pups to adults to elderly dogs. How you groom them should be continuously evolving.
“Also, you may find that one dog does well with one type of shampoo and another dog prefers another. If your pet has an issue, talk to your vet, build a continuous relationship to find out the real reasons behind the conditions and get the right match for your pet’s fur and skin. If your dog has skin diseases, keep strict medical records just in case you choose to visit different veterinarians.”
Dogs adore a game of fetch, and running around is the best time ever. However, when your pet is out and about, jumping around and suddenly yelps in pain, it could be a pulled muscle – or a sign of a different health issue.
“If you are taking your pet out of a walk and it shows signs of pain or lameness, stop walking immediately, ” Dr Phua Kia Yaw, a vet practising in Kuantan, explains. “Examine the feet for obvious signs of injuries, like cuts and thorns. If the dog is OK to walk and it’s not far, then walk them back home or to your car. Otherwise, carry them.
“If there’s continuous yelping and severe pain, then you must go straight to the vet. Lameness can sometimes be due to a slipped disc or something spinal, which is serious.
“But if it’s a stiffness and there is an obvious ‘spot’ like a knee, try a cold compression for a day and rest. If it’s not gone by then or getting worse, then go talk to your vet.
“As for old dogs, they have weaker muscles, so be careful about the environment. Make sure it’s not slippery, avoid steep slopes that tax the joints, and take it easy.”
Need to visit the vet?
Current standard operating procedure is avoid having people crowding together. Therefore, visiting the vet takes a bit of planning, in addition to the usual mask, temperature-taking and squirt of sanitiser.
1 Call ahead for an appointment. There is a limit on how many people are allowed inside the clinic, so most are open by appointment only. Some surgeries do this by phone and others by WhatsApp. Call ahead or check their website.
2 Include a very short explanation of what you need, so that the vet knows how much time to allocate you. For example, 10 minutes for a quick vaccination but a mystery skin issue will need longer.
3 Be on time. Vets have to clean and disinfect the surgery and the waiting room in between clients. So be certain to be on time because managing visits is an extra burden on clinic staff.
4 Wait outside. Because of the limits on people per square metre, you will probably have to queue outside at least part of the time. To avoid standing in the hot street, plan to wait outside in an air-conditioned car if you can – and don’t forget to text when you’ve arrived!
5 But also be prepared to wait. If an animal is in pain or there is an unexpected extra issue, appointments will run on. Also, the extra cleaning means a lot more work. Please be patient.
6 Don’t bring friends and helpers. Every extra person means more risk and more cleaning, so leave your support system in the car.
Note: This guide to the "new normal" is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice.
Kylo is vaccinated, neutered and healthy.
Unlike his devious namesake in Star Wars, this Kylo is a good boy who loves belly scratches and playing with his doggy friends in foster care.
He likes chasing squirrels, birds and frogs in the garden. He also has a ratty old T-shirt that he takes everywhere.
Kylo is super-friendly but is also very good at sounding the alarm when he spots strangers.
He’s looking for a family of his own to love. Interested adopters please contact Sherrina (mobile: 012-202 6384) in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
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