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A quick scan of most communities in the UAE will show at least a couple of veterinary centres, a pet goods store, and possibly a boarding and play centre for dogs. This is a country that adores animals — and doesn’t mind spending big on them.

However, the searing temperatures, dust storms and sand pose serious challenges to keeping animals fit and healthy — as well as those natural ailments caused by age.

Here are some of the main issues to know about, along with the pioneering treatments that can help.

Parasites

Parasites are basically organisms that live inside the animal and make it sick. Symptoms might include fever, muscle aches, and diarrhoea and most can be treated easily with oral medication and close monitoring. However, in the UAE vets are seeing some new parasites, says Dr Katrin Jahn, Head Veterinarian at German Veterinary Clinic.

“We are especially seeing a blood parasite called Ehrlichia, which affects dogs and is transmitted by ticks. We have some new tick preventative medication on the market as older treatments such as Frontline are no longer as effective against the UAE’s ticks.

Newer and more effective products are a chew tablet called Bravecto, which is given every three months, or collars such as Seresto and Scalibor, which are effective for six to eight months.”

Dental disease

Dental disease in pets is also on the rise in the UAE with vets noticing many cats and dogs with chronic dental issues that need cleaning and surgical extractions. “We are recommending annual cleaning as a preventative measure to ensure that pets keep the majority of their teeth into old age,” says Dr Jahn.
 
If your pet has bad breath, look deep into the mouth, advises Dr Elizabeth Thomas, veterinary surgeon and CEO of Pets Oasis. “It could be due to the inflammation of the gums called gingivitis, which is quite common with cats and dogs.”
 
“Dogs by the age of three may start showing dental plaque and dental tartar. If left unattended it leads to infections and the discomfort can be severe enough to cause your pet to stop eating and even begin to lose weight. Besides being a persistent source of pain for your pet, dental disease can also cause more serious systemic illnesses such as kidney disease and possibly heart disease.

“Cats that are FIV positive can have persistent gum issues. Maintaining the oral hygiene of your pet with regular check-ups with the vet will help greatly.”

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the term referring to a form of chronic joint inflammation caused by deterioration of joint cartilage. Painful osteoarthritis is very common in dogs and cats and affects many of the UAE’s pets, with older dogs being at the highest risk.

Dr Jahn points out K-laser treatment as an innovative way of managing this conservatively as it helps to reduce the amount of pain killers and other medication required.

A grade-4 medical laser, it treats pain and inflammation and is very good at promoting wound healing. Vets are increasingly using K-laser in many osteoarthritis cases, as well as for complicated wounds, dental disease and more.

Ear problems

The heat and humidity in this region are major factors for triggering ear problems — particularly with long-eared dogs, explains Dr Thomas at Pets Oasis.

“They start with occasional scratching followed by rubbing of the ear, shaking of the head and sometimes you will also notice a tilted head,” she says.

“The ears go red and hot, are sensitive to touch — indicating pain — and you may notice an odour too. Most ear infections are either bacterial or because of yeast. Ears can also get infected because of moisture due to swimming, grooming or bathing.

“Dogs with dermatitis also show ear issues. Ear mites are another cause of ear problems, more usually seen with cats. Ear issues should not be neglected, take your pet to the vet as soon as you notice any discomfort for treatment.”

Cancer

As with humans, cancer is quite common among pets too. “If you notice any growth or lump, visit your vet straight away,” says Dr Thomas. “This doesn’t mean all growths are cancerous, but sores that don’t heal should be taken seriously.

Unusual weight loss is very often indicative of the vital organs involvement. Difficulty in breathing, exercise intolerance with lack of appetite asks for investigations.”

While not all cancers can be prevented, experts say there are certain steps by pet owners that can help their dogs and cats have a lower risk of developing one. For example, having your dog or cat spayed or neutered can help prevent reproductive cancers. Healthy nutrition and exercise are also believed to help prevent cancer from developing.

Behavioural issues

Interestingly, some UAE vets report seeing a rise in behavioural problems in both dogs and cats in the UAE. These can include aggression, excess barking, biting or chewing.

Dr Jahn says the need for correct training for dogs as well as behaviour consultations and advice is definitely a new trend for her clinic. “I am training to become a veterinary behaviour expert at the moment to tackle this.”