Ask The Vet: If my pet appears healthy, is an annual visit to the vet still necessary?

Hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs are generally known as "pocket pets" because of their small size.
Hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs are generally known as "pocket pets" because of their small size.PHOTO: NPARKS

SINGAPORE - In this fortnightly column, veterinarians from the National Parks Board answer questions about pet health and behaviour.

Healthy animals still need check-ups

If a pet appears to be healthy and does not have medical issues, is it still necessary to take it to a veterinarian at least once a year?

An annual visit to the veterinarian for pets is encouraged as part of preventative healthcare.

It generally involves a wellness check-up, where health problems such as dental disease, kidney disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism and obesity can be picked up and treated early.

The veterinarian will also discuss various important aspects of your pet's overall health and risks of disease or other problems, as part of a preventive healthcare plan.

Based on factors such as your pet's age, diet and lifestyle, the veterinarian can provide recommendations on appropriate diet and nutrition, dental care, vaccinations and parasite prevention.

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Regular visits to the veterinarian help ensure that your pet remains healthy and happy, while early detection of disease can increase the likelihood of successful treatment.

'Pocket pets' are fragile and need proper care

Small mammals such as hamsters and rabbits are said to make good pets for young children. Should parents then get them for their children?

Owning a pet has many advantages, such as learning about responsibility, and having fun playing with and caring for pets.

However, before you make your decision, understand that owning a pet is a lifelong responsibility and the decision should not be taken lightly.

Hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs are generally known as "pocket pets" because of their small size.

These animals have specific dietary requirements to maintain optimum health and prevent disease that can significantly affect their quality of life.

For example, rabbits have continuously growing front teeth that have to be regularly worn down by eating long hay and leafy vegetables.

Feeding a rabbit only pellets can cause dental issues such as overgrown front teeth, resulting in discomfort and the inability to eat.

Small animals such as hamsters may also be more easily injured by children, as well as adults who do not have experience in handling animals of their size.

A common issue is when a child accidentally uses too much force when holding these small animals or dropping them from a height, resulting in traumatic injuries that can be life-threatening.

All potential pet owners should do research on caring for pets before getting them, and parents have to supervise and teach children how to properly handle pets.

Like other pet animals, pocket pets fall sick from time to time and require visits to the veterinarian.

So, consider the costs involved in pet care, such as veterinary visits, toys, food and enclosures, when making your decision to get a pet.

  • Questions and answers by Dr Shawn Chia, a veterinarian from the Animal and Veterinary Service under the National Parks Board.

Have a query about your pet? Write in with clear, high-resolution pictures of at least 1MB of your pet as well as details about its age and breed. E-mail them with your full name to The Straits Times Life. We reserve the right to edit and reject questions.