SINGAPORE - In this fortnightly column, veterinarians from the National Parks Board answer questions about pet health and behaviour.
Pet pooch's post-grooming tremors
My dog is seven years old and I have observed that he shivers a lot after a grooming session. For the next few days, his behaviour and movements show a lack of confidence, but he goes back to normal after that. This has happened twice. How can I help him?
Your dog's behaviour is likely to be a sign of stress or anxiety associated with the grooming session. This can arise from various aspects of the grooming experience, such as interacting with unfamiliar people or animals, having its body handled in unfamiliar ways, or encountering loud noises from various tools.
Socialisation for young dogs will help them feel more at ease when they are exposed to different situations.
There are many things owners can still do at home to help older dogs cope with grooming sessions.
For instance, when your dog is feeling more relaxed and confident, try getting it to be accustomed to the sights and sounds of a grooming experience at home.
Slowly introduce objects, such as a hair dryer, and get your dog used to having its ears, paws or other sensitive areas handled in similar ways like how a groomer would.
Do so in a gentle and controlled manner and reward it with treats along the way. This can help it associate grooming with a positive experience in the long term.
It is also a good idea to provide a quiet place at home for your dog to rest after each grooming session.
Apart from stress or anxiety, there may also be underlying medical conditions that can cause tremors in dogs. Speak to your vet for more advice if the behaviour persists or worsens, or if you spot any wounds.
Dry, flaky skin on dog
My 14-year-old cocker spaniel has dry, flaky skin which bleeds when scratched. This problem has persisted for more than 10 years despite various treatments by a few vets. He has three meals a day comprising cooked chicken or pork with vegetables and fruit. What can be causing this skin problem?
Tan Boon San
There are many different causes of skin issues in dogs. Some of the more common ones include infestation by parasites, such as fleas and mites; bacterial or yeast infections; allergies; and hormonal conditions.
They cause varying degrees of itch, which leads to dogs scratching, licking or chewing themselves. The self-inflicted damage on the skin in turn allows for infection to set in.
Without proper treatment, skin problems can cause discomfort and pain, and have a negative impact on an animal's quality of life. It is therefore important to identify the root cause and work out a comprehensive management plan with your vet.
For a start, ensure your dog is up-to-date with preventative parasite treatments. A thorough physical examination by a vet will be needed, and skin or hair samples may be taken for further analysis. Parasite and skin infections, if present, must be treated first.
To rule out allergies, your dog may need to undergo a strict diet over a period of time or have specialised blood and skin tests, so that the allergen can be identified and avoided. It may also need to be screened for underlying hormonal conditions.
Ruling out the numerous causes of skin issues and working out an effective management plan that best suits you and your dog take time and commitment. Some conditions require long-term treatment, along with regular check-ups at the vet.
Discuss the various treatment options with your vet and follow the treatment plan prescribed as far as possible.
Answers by Dr Christine Lee, a veterinarian at the Animal & Veterinary Service who graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom.
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