Corkscrew Tail Amputation

Note: The following surgery images may be unpleasant for some readers.

Ingrown or corkscrew tail is an abnormal inward growth of the tail commonly seen in brachycephalic or flat-faced dogs such as Pugs and Bulldogs. Due to the tight and deep folds, a corkscrew tail often results in repeated skin infection that leads to irritation, pain and odour.

Dog breeds with corkscrew tails include Boston Terriers, Pugs, Bulldogs & French Bulldogs like 5-year-old Boris.

Dogs with screw tails are prone to itchy & painful skin infections, especially where the curls are very tight & the folds are deep.

The deeper the folds, the worse the skin fold dermatitis which typically manifests as moist, inflamed & painful skin. Mild dermatitis can be treated with daily cleaning & antibiotics. However, the warm moist conditions are a breeding ground for bacteria, making the infection difficult to treat medically.

If the case is severe & there is constant itch, pain & odour, amputation of the affected tail is necessary. Dr Dennis Choi, Mount Pleasant (Gelenggang), proceeds with a surgical resection of Boris’ infected corkscrew tail.

The tail & infected tissues are carefully removed.

Sufficient skin is left for the area to be stitched up properly.

Post-surgery: No more constant tail cleaning or bacterial infections to deal with.

2 months after surgery, the surgical site has healed nicely & fur has grown back. Boris is healthy & well with a clean rear end – no more itchy irritated butt – thanks to his family’s decision & good care!

Boris with his lovely guardian Zoan. We love the cheerful playful nature of Frenchies! However, many are predisposed to health issues such as brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome due to their flat faces & pinched nostrils. Fortunately, Boris does not have breathing problems. If you are intent on purchasing a Frenchie puppy, choose only responsible breeders who understand the underlying health issues of the breed. Consider adoption.

Dogs And Cats – Normal Vital Signs

To know what’s abnormal in our pets, we have to first know what’s normal. Three important vital signs to check: temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate. Vital signs in our dogs and cats are affected by their state of anxiety , life stage and activity as well as external factors such as room temperature. These reference numbers are to serve as a general guide.

DOGS: NORMAL VITAL SIGNS
Heart rate per minute 80 – 120
Respiratory rate per minute 15 – 30
Temperature 37.5 – 39.2 Celcius
CATS: NORMAL VITAL SIGNS
Heart rate per minute 100 – 140
Respiratory rate per minute 20 – 30
Temperature 37.8 – 39.5 Celcius
How to CHECK Temperature

The most accurate way to take our dog’s or cat’s temperature is with a digital thermometer inserted rectally. Lubricate the thermometer with a water-based lubricant like KY jelly. Insert the thermometer gently into the rectum, located just below the base of the tail, and leave it in place until it beeps.

You may have to gradually condition your dog or cat to allow this. Do it slowly & gently. Someone to hold onto your pet is helpful too.

How to MEASURE Heart Rate

The average heart rate of dogs and cats may vary according to breed and size, so it is important to know what is normal for your dog and cat when they are relaxed and at rest. Count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply by 4 to get the heart rate in beats per minute (bpm).

Small dogs generally have faster heart rates while large dogs & those in good physical condition have slower rates. Dr Iin, Mount Pleasant (East), with Batman the Chihuahua.

Heart rates may also be higher when your dogs & cats are in the clinics or at events, due to anxiety & excitement. Dr Janson Tano, Mount Pleasant (North), providing complimentary health check to Tobi the Maltipoo at Happy Pets Happy ‘Hood.

Feel your dog’s heartbeat with one hand over the left side, just behind the front leg.

You can also check the heart rate by locating the femoral artery near the top of the inner thigh. Kent Soon, vet student, while on attachment at Mount Pleasant (Mandai).

How to MEASURE Respiratory Rate

The chest rises with inspiration and falls with expiration. One cycle of inspiration and expiration equals one breath. When your dogs or cats are at rest, check their respiratory rate by counting the number of breaths for 1 minute. 

Practise these steps at home until you are familiar with your pets’ normal vital signs and know when they seem “off” and require vet attention.


WHEN DOES MY PET NEED EMERGENCY VET ATTENTION?

Always seek veterinary advice when your pets display signs of pain or discomfort. The earlier the problem is identified and treated, the better the outcome. Your pet needs emergency medical attention if you observe the following symptoms:

  • not breathing or there is no heartbeat
  • struggling to breathe, gagging or trying to vomit
  • having seizures or fits
  • showing signs of extreme pain (e.g. whining, trembling)
  • heatstroke (e.g. panting, weakness, high temperature)
  • vomiting or having diarrhea for more than 24 hours
  • straining or unable to urinate or defecate
  • bleeding from the eyes, nose, mouth
  • ingested toxic substances (e.g. rat poison, insecticide, medication, household cleaners)
  • sudden loss of vision or bumping in things
  • difficulty in giving birth
  • swollen abdomen (could be life-threatening condition called bloat or gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV) – “stomach twisting”)

READ MORE here.

Our After Hours Emergency Clinic is situated at the same location as Mount Pleasant Central Vet Clinic at 232 Whitley Road S297824, Tel 6250 8333.

Comparing Radiography (X-Ray) And Ultrasonography

By Dr Chua Hui Li
Mount Pleasant Animal Medical Centre (Clementi)

Radiography, or commonly known as X-Ray, along with ultrasonography are two most common diagnostic imaging tools vets use to help reach a diagnosis of your pet’s problems. So what exactly is radiography and ultrasonography, and how are they different from each other in their uses?

main differences between radiography and ultrasonography

The main difference between radiography and ultrasonography lies in the different technology used to acquire the images that we see. They also have different advantages and disadvantages in their use to diagnose a problem. Different disease conditions may also require different imaging modalities for diagnosis or further investigation.

when do we use radiography?

Radiography uses ionising electromagnetic waves (radiation or “X-Rays”) to produce a still shadow image of the internal body parts including bones. Radiography allows the vet to assess the entire animal in a single image.

On a radiograph, bone & other very dense structures appear white, soft tissues such as fluid & organs show up in shades of grey, while air appears black. If your cat is vomiting, your vet may take X-rays to check for intestinal obstruction or foreign bodies. If your dog is limping, X-rays can reveal causes such as bone fractures, degeneration or dislocations.

We use radiography to help diagnose:

  • bone fractures or abnormal growths from bones
  • bone diseases, arthritis or other joint problems
  • slipped discs and certain spinal problems such as Wobblers
  • lung diseases
  • enlarged hearts
  • certain tumours and their spread to the lungs or bones in particular
  • diaphragmatic hernias
  • certain foreign objects in the body
  • bladder or kidney stones
  • late pregnancies
  • dental disease
  • middle ear disease
  • problems relating to the stomach or intestines

Some body parts such as the brain, nasal sinuses, blood vessels, the reproductive tract and gall bladder cannot be seen on radiographs. Radiography may allow us to see the shape, size and location of these body parts but does not provide information on the appearance of these organs, their internal structures or movement as well as blood flow.

when do we use ultrasonography?

Ultrasonography uses ultrasound waves (transmitted into the body via a probe/transducer) to produce real-time images of the internal organs on a screen, with details of their structure and function.

For an abdominal ultrasound, the fur on the abdomen will be clipped. A conducive gel is placed on the probe/transducer that is attached to the ultrasound machine. The procedure is painless & non-invasive.

Ultrasonography allows us to:

  • capture movement and internal structure of the certain organs such as the heart, making it possible for us to assess how well it is functioning.
  • detect early pregnancies, predicting when the foetuses are due as well as the viability of the foetuses.
  • assess the appearance of internal organs such as liver and spleen to determine if they are abnormal looking due to infection, inflammation or growths.
  • look at the bladder in greater detail where the bladder wall and its contents are seen and evaluated for stones and masses.

Other common uses, just to name a few, include the detection of pyometra (uterine infection), fluid accumulation in body cavities, smaller tumours not visible on radiographs, origins of tumours seen on radiographs, and certain kidney diseases such as renal cysts or kidney blockage.

Ultrasonography, cannot evaluate the skeletal system or lungs as bone and air reflect most of the ultrasound waves to produce a black shadow image.

Despite their differences, radiography and ultrasound may be used as complementary tests for the same section of the body. Depending on the animal’s case and circumstances, one may be chosen over the other.


other types of veterinary diagnostic imaging
  • Computed Tomography (CT) 
    Combines the use of X-Rays with the latest computer technology to show different levels of tissue density, produce cross-sectional images of the body part being scanned and provide more detailed information than X-Rays. CT scans are often used to detect structural changes deep within an animal’s body, e.g. tumours, fractures, lung and chest problems.

Sedation is not required for animals undergoing X-rays or ultrasound, unless the animal is anxious, boisterous or in pain. However, general anaesthesia is required for CT scans as the animal must be kept still for several minutes inside the scanner. CT scans can be performed at Mount Pleasant Vet Centre (Gelenggang).

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
    Commonly used to evaluate tissue disease or injury of the brain and spinal cord. Animals have to be under general anaesthesia because they have to remain still during the procedure. MRI uses a powerful magnetic field and pulses of radio waves to create detailed anatomic images of the body part being scanned.
  • Fluoroscopy
    Uses a continuous series of X-Ray beams to capture real-time images on a monitor. With the “X-Ray movie”, we see the inside of a body in motion. In orthopaedic surgery, fluoroscopy allows us to see bones in numerous angles and improves the accuracy of incision, aids in the positioning of plates and minimises tissue trauma.

    Fluoroscopy allows Dr Patrick Maguire, Mount Pleasant (Gelenggang), to operate on Brownie’s fractured leg using less invasive surgical techniques so that there is minimal trauma to the tissues & Brownie can recover faster.

Overcoming Canine Separation Anxiety – A Tale of Empathy, Commitment and Resilience

By Dr Kang Nee, cheerfuldogs.com
CPDT-KA, CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), CPACP (Certified Professional Animal Care Provider), Low Stress Handling Certified Silver.

This is the story of a brave woman, Yvonne, and her equally brave Singapore Special, Princess. Yvonne had adopted two-year-old Princess from the SPCA Singapore in April 2014. Aware that Princess was noise-sensitive and dog-dog reactive, Yvonne embarked on the behaviour modification programme with me, to address these challenges. Little did she expect that she would have to rise to extraordinary heights to help Princess overcome an even greater and more distressing challenge.

Yvonne with Princess (Photo: Darren Yau)

“It is odd to recall life before separation anxiety. The training programme was straightforward on paper, but consumed life so swiftly and in such unexpected ways, it felt like I was suddenly plunged into a different life.

The first year was filled with a sense of entrapment in my own home, cancelled appointments, shirked obligations and perpetual juggling of dog-sitting schedules. Without exaggeration, the one thing that made it possible was the humbling extent of generosity, support and encouragement I received, for which I am truly thankful.

On occasion I was asked if all this was worth it, and it was a surprisingly easy answer when I imagined the life of a dog with separation anxiety: imagine your worst phobia, your absolute worst, one you would jump through a glass window or tear down a door to escape from, one that could make you scream for hours or throw up in fear, and then imagine facing it for ten hours daily. It is hard to compare any of my inconveniences to that.

It has been a rough road, but I got a chance to return a fraction of the love and loyalty that Princess shows me all day, every single day.

what separation anxiety is not

To understand what separation anxiety is, one has to know what it is not. A dog who is suffering from separation anxiety, is not being angry, spiteful or disobedient to get back at its guardians for leaving it alone. It is not acting out to seek attention, or for want of “pack leadership”. And separation anxiety is not a condition that a dog can “get over” on its own.

what is separation anxiety?

The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that 15% of the 72 million dogs in the United States suffer from some level of separation anxiety. Dogs with “milder” symptoms, such as whining, pacing and intermittent barking are often untreated, and continue to go through a daily ordeal of heightened anxiety. Those with severe symptoms, such as prolonged barking and howling, escapism, significant destructive chewing of property and self-mutilation, are not always so lucky as to remain in their current homes. They face a fate where they may be relinquished to a shelter to wait an uncertain future. For others, euthanasia is a potential and sadly common outcome.

Separation anxiety is a behaviour disorder, where a dog is terrified of being left alone, and it is not something that the dog is able to control. The exact cause(s) of separation anxiety are not defined, but like many behaviour disorders, genetic, physiological and environmental factors may play a role. The onset of separation anxiety may be triggered by, for example, a frightening experience when the dog had been left alone, relocation, changes in the family, a traumatic incident, or because the dog had been regularly left alone for excessively long periods of time. Dogs who are particularly anxious, noise-sensitive or have been rehomed multiple times, may be predisposed to developing separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety (SA) dogs display a range of external behaviours, and the specific behaviours shown vary from individual to individual. They are hyper-vigilant and watch their guardians carefully for signs of their leaving. When left alone, they may bark, whine or howl incessantly, drool and pant excessively, and eliminate when they are usually reliable in their house-training. They may damage doors and windows as they scrabble or gnaw at the structures to escape, or injure themselves in the attempt, ripping out nails or breaking teeth.

Internally, an SA dog is in a constant state of panic – its body is flooded with stress-inducing chemicals, it becomes incapable of coping with being home alone.

Imagine if you were mortally afraid of water and you were thrown into the deep end of a pool. That utter terror of drowning is analogous to the panic that an SA dog experiences, every day that it is left alone at home.

An SA dog experiences terror at being left alone, in the same way a person who is afraid of water, is terrified of drowning. (Photo: Dreamstime)

what about the human?

Resentment, anger, frustration, incomprehension, distress, heartbreak – these are the emotions that swirl endlessly in the minds and hearts of guardians of SA dogs. Incomprehension – after all, we always come back, so why is Fido anxious? Anger and frustration – when they return to a scene of costly destruction and angry complaints from neighbours. Heartbreak – when they finally understand what their dog is going through daily, and tough decisions have to be made.

In the case of Yvonne, she was initially unaware of Princess’ separation anxiety – there were no complaints from the neighbours, Princess appeared to be happy when Yvonne returned from work, and all seemed normal. One day, she noticed raw patches of skin on Princess’ front paws, and found bloodstains on the floor by the front door. A videocam captured the full extent of Princess’ panic in the 8-10 hours she was home alone each day. Within one minute of Yvonne’s departure, Princess whined and paced between the front door and a bedroom. She stood or laid by the front door and scrabbled frantically at the door for minutes at a time. Panting heavily, she paced again, rarely settling for more than a few seconds before the entire scene repeated itself until Yvonne returned, like a video caught in an infinite loop. When Yvonne returned, Princess greeted her with wild delirium. Her body language indicated that she was not just excited, she was highly stressed.

Princess in panic mode: she scrabbles frantically at the door, injuring her paws and leaving blood stains on the floor. (Photos: Yvonne Chia)

empathy, commitment, resilience.

The path to resolving separation anxiety is a journey that seldom marches along in a straight line to success. It dips, climbs, twists and turns like a roller-coaster track. This is a natural part of the learning process for any dog, and even more so for an SA dog. It calls for Herculean levels of empathy, commitment and resilience from an SA dog guardian.

Evaluating a dog for separation anxiety begins with ruling out other possible causes for the behaviours shown, e.g. are the potty accidents due to incomplete house training? Is the dog barking in a crate because of confinement distress or because it has not been crate trained appropriately (see Nee Kang, “Slaying the Crate Monster”, SPCA Bulletin, Oct – Dec 2013 Issue)? Does the dog receive sufficient and appropriate physical exercise and mental enrichment to rule out boredom-related behaviours? For senior dogs, is canine cognitive dysfunction a contributing factor?

Once separation anxiety is identified, each training session is crafted to set the dog up to succeed as its guardian(s) execute their planned departures and absences. This is done through a process of systematic desensitisation designed to keep the dog below its anxiety threshold when the guardian(s) leaves the house. If the dog is kept below its anxiety threshold, it will not panic and therefore, it will not exhibit the undesired behaviours. Over time, it begins to relax during the guardian’s absence.

S.O.S.! To help resolve separation anxiety, an SA dog needs a community of support working in tandem with systematic desensitisation protocols. The training goal is to always keep a dog below its stress and anxiety thresholds so that it is no longer panicking, and can learn to relax for increasing lengths of time. This means that other than during training sessions, the dog must never be left alone for longer than it can cope with at any time. Yvonne’s support community includes friends and animal care professionals like dog sitter, Jeffrey Lee of cheerfuldogswalking.com, who has to be reliable and punctual in arriving at 6.30am every morning before Yvonne leaves for work (Photo: Darren Yau)

In Princess’ case, her initial anxiety threshold was below one minute, thus we started with Yvonne making extremely short absences of a few seconds. We also identified those actions made by Yvonne (known as pre-departure cues) which provided salient signs to Princess that Yvonne was about to leave, e.g. picking up her bag and keys, opening and closing the front door, locking it, the sound of her putting on her shoes, the sound of her departing footsteps, the sound of the elevator, etc, and weaved these salient pre-departure cues into the training sessions.

Based on Princess’ responses in a training session, the next session is designed to increase, decrease or maintain the duration of Yvonne’s next absence. The entire process is extremely dynamic, with Yvonne, Princess and I working closely as a team, almost on a daily basis. Our barometer of progress is Princess – her body language tells us if we are setting goals at an achievable level and pace for her.

By setting goals that match her pace of learning, Princess is relaxed enough to nap during a training session, instead of scrabbling at the door in panic when Yvonne leaves.
(Photo: Yvonne Chia)

Progress and success hinge on one extremely critical commitment from an SA dog guardian – an unbreakable “promise” that the guardian must not and will never leave her dog alone for a longer duration than it can handle.

Thus if today, an SA dog can only manage one minute being left alone at home without panicking, its guardian must not leave it alone for more than one minute. Over time, as the dog is able to consistently relax, the duration of the guardian’s absences is systematically increased in a way that ensures these increases do not trigger an anxious reaction from the dog. A guardian must also never take a huge leap in the training process, i.e. assuming that if their dog is able to cope with being alone for 30 minutes, that it will be “fine” if they leave it for one hour. When guardians take leaps in the training that are beyond what their SA dog can handle, they risk causing their dog to regress and panic again.

This requirement to suspend absences understandably causes consternation for any guardian – what about those times when they do have to leave the home to work, run errands, go to the gym, collect mail, meet friends for dinner, etc? How would they live their life, if they were never to leave their dog alone at home?

Working with your CSAT (certified separation anxiety trainer) is like having your personal coach, strategist, cheerleader rolled into one. (Photo: Dreamstime)

We come full circle to Yvonne’s heartfelt sense of “entrapment in her own home”, an emotional and financial toll which would have driven many dog guardians to abandon the training altogether. But despite ups and downs, Yvonne, and other SA dog guardians from around the world, have found it in themselves to dig deeper into their compassion, empathy and love for their dog to rise above and beyond the usual level of duty of care. They find ways to galvanise a support network that is akin to the best crowd-sourcing effort – a village of empathetic friends, family members, pet care professionals and volunteers to keep their SA dog company for those hours when they are absent from home. As a CSAT, I am part of this village for Yvonne and Princess – as trainer, strategist, personal coach and cheerleader. Together we ride out the rough bits and cheer when we cruise along.

For an SA dog like Princess, we do not yet know where the journey to resolving her separation anxiety would end. Princess has been making progress, and at the time of writing this story, she showed that she could be comfortable being left alone for 35 minutes. Some dogs overcome it faster than others and never look back. Other dogs need the help of medication to kick-start the learning process. Some dogs may need someone to be there to break up a long day. But as long as we work within the anxiety thresholds of each SA dog, we will see accumulative progress, resilience and improvement in the quality of life for both dog and guardian. Every success is celebrated because every tiny second or minute that becomes anxiety-free for an SA dog, means that the guardian is no longer completely house-bound. A 30-minute anxiety-free absence means that the guardian can grab a quick meal at the coffee shop downstairs, or take a short walk. A one-hour anxiety-free absence – a small world of possibilities begins to beckon.

For Yvonne, “The positive emotions that came with working with Princess’ separation anxiety were less conspicuous, so I was often taken by surprise by their depth and intensity. I felt pride and a sense of achievement at seeing this little dog conquer her fear in a way few of us would ever even attempt to do. I learned to treasure her every happy moment, and in turn I was happy too. Most of all, helping Princess taught me love and true acceptance – even if she struggles with what other dogs find easy, even if she is imperfect by that definition, Princess has always been the best dog in the world to me. Never had I expected to get as much as I gave to our separation anxiety training programme. To my surprise, it made my world a brighter place.”

Princess in a happy moment. (Photo: Yvonne Chia)

For more information about separation anxiety – visit http://malenademartini.com

An extract of this story was published in The Pet Professional Guild’s “BARKS from the Guild, Issue No. 23, March 2017, pages 38-40” at https://issuu.com/petprofessionalguild/docs/bftg_mar_2017_online_opt


Dr Kang Nee, certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA), and certified separation anxiety trainer (CSAT), specializes in the treatment of canine separation anxiety. Together with separation anxiety expert, Malena DeMartini and a team of 36 CSAT colleagues around the world, Dr Kang hopes to alleviate the stress and frustration of SA dogs and their guardians.

Email: kangnee999@yahoo.com  | Website: cheerfuldogs.com   |   Facebook: cheerfuldogsTraining/© Copyright 2017. Kang Nee, cheerfuldogs.com

Why Is My Pet Drinking So Much Water?

Have you been filling up your dogs’ water bowls more often? Taking them out more frequently to pee? Or scooping a lot more wet cat litter? Polyuria and polydipsia is defined as urinating and drinking more than usual. It is a clue our pets are having health problems.

Our pets cannot tell us what is bothering them. If you notice your dog or cat drinking & urinating more than usual, bring them in for a health check. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the earlier we can start appropriate treatment.

how much is too much?

Excessive drinking in our dog or cat is defined as:

  • consuming more than 100ml/kg per day for dogs (e.g. Your 10kg dog is drinking more than 1L of water per day)
  • consuming more than 60ml/kg per day for cats (e.g. your 4kg cat is drinking more than 240ml of water per day)

Excessive urination is defined as more than 45 to 50ml of urine/kg per day (for both dogs & cats) but it is difficult for pet owners to measure. Watch out for behavioural signs such as going to the litter tray more often, waking up at night to urinate, accidents inside the house.

common diseases that cause polyuria and polydipsia (pu/pd)
  • Hyperthyroidism (common in older cats, rare in dogs)
  • Cushing’s disease (common in older dogs, rare in cats)
  • Hypercalcaemia 
  • Diabetes mellitus 
  • Acute or chronic kidney (renal) insufficiency
  • Liver (hepatic) disease
  • Uterine infection (Spaying your female dog/cat will prevent pyometra, a serious infection of the uterus.)
  • Lower urinary tract disease => Read about Bladder Stones

Read about Cody the diabetic puppy here

Few things to observe at home which may help with the diagnosis of your pet’s condition 

Measure the amount of water intake at home over a few days to determine if your pet is really drinking excessive amounts. Sometimes, a diet change (especially from wet to dry food) or foods/treats high in sodium content can cause your pet to drink more.

  1. Is the PU/PD sudden or gradual?
  2. Is there difficulty with urination, e.g. straining or passing blood?
  3. Is your pet eating the same amount but losing weight?
  4. Has your pet been vomiting?
  5. Has your pet been taking steroids (like prednisone) which are known to cause PU/PD?
take your pet for a vet check if you determine that water intake is indeed excessive

Complete Physical Examination

Your pet’s body condition, temperature, mucous membrane colour, breath odour, heart rate and abdominal palpation will shed more light on the possible underlying cause of PU/PD.

  • Pets with renal failure may present with a uremic/foul breath.
  • Pets with liver disease may present with liver enlargement and jaundice (yellow discolouration of gums and skin).
  • Pets with Cushing’s disease may present with a pot-bellied appearance , hair loss and thinning of skin.

Full Blood Tests & Urine Test

  • Kidney markers, liver markers, thyroid hormone and blood glucose can rule in or out renal disease, liver disease, hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus.
  • A urinalysis (urine test) can also determine the presence of a lower urinary tract infection or other underlying diseases.

Depending on initial test results, other diagnostic tests may be recommended. E.g. An ultrasound to diagnose uterine infections, Cushing’s disease & severity of kidney or liver disease.

Treatment can start once a diagnosis is made

In many cases, PU/PD will resolve when the underlying conditions are regulated. In renal disease, PU/PD is usually a permanent state. Never restrict your pet’s water intake. Provide ample water at all times to prevent dehydration.

Caring For Our Arthritic Dogs

Is your dog moving around more slowly? Is he having difficulty lying down and getting up? Is she reluctant to climb stairs or hop into cars? Your dog may be suffering from osteoarthritis – a painful degenerative joint disease.  Osteoarthritis is more common in older, larger and working dogs due to wear and tear. It can also arise from obesity, trauma or birth defects such as abnormally formed hips. 


SIGNS OF PAIN can be SUBTLE AND DIFFICULT TO DIAGNOSE

Chronic pain due to age-related disorders like osteoarthritis usually develops slowly. It can be hard to detect because some animals learn to tolerate and live with the pain.

Chronic pain can create a “stress response” associated with elevations of cortisol. This may reduce the patient’s immune response, leading to infection & slower healing.

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease occurs with age when the cartilage between bones wears down over time.

OUR PETS CANNOT TELL US IN WORDS WHEN THEY ARE IN PAIN

Watch our pets closely to detect signs of arthritic pain:

  • reluctance to walk or play
  • stiffness and lameness
  • difficulty lying down or getting up
  • difficulty climbing stairs
  • unusually quiet or withdrawn
  • biting or snapping when touched
  • appetite loss

Have your vet perform a physical examination & take X-rays to check for degenerative joint changes.

SPEAK WITH YOUR VET ABOUT MANAGING ARTHRITIS WITH:
  • Medications (anti-inflammatories and pain relief)
  • Cartrophen injections (a disease modifying drug to reduce adverse effects of osteoarthritis)
  • Supplements (e.g. glucosamine, chondroitin, omega oils)
  • Physical therapy (e.g. hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, massage)
  • Acupuncture

“Acupuncture has been used in animals for at least 3000 years. It is commonly used to manage conditions such as degenerative joint disease (arthritis) and intervertebral disc disease. A typical session, including a physical checkup, lasts up to 30 minutes.”

Acupuncture is available at Mount Pleasant (East) with Dr Audrey Loi, Mount Pleasant (Changi) with Dr Pauline Fong and Mount Pleasant (North) with Dr Jimson Chan. Read more about veterinary acupuncture

Hydrotherapy with trained hydrotherapists can help your arthritic dogs lose weight (if they are overweight) & strengthen leg muscles. The buoyancy of water reduces stress on joints & relieves pain & stiffness.

IF YOUR dog SUFFERS FROM CHRONIC arthritic PAIN, BASIC LIFESTYLE CHANGES CAN OFFER RELIEF.

  • Extra weight increases stress on the joints. Keep your dogs trim with a healthy diet and low impact exercises.
  • Provide gently-sloped ramps to access gardens or get in and out of cars.
  • Raise food and water bowls to a comfortable level to reduce neck or back strain.
  • Lay non-slip mats around the house to help your dog get up and walk more easily .
  • Provide comfortable and supportive beds.

There are ready-made elevated bowls & stands or you can place the bowls on non-slip stools.

A note on EXERCISe – too little or too much
  • Regardless of age or extent of arthritis, it is important to keep our dogs fit and mobile. Engage your dogs in regular low impact exercises to reduce stiffness and improve flexibility. Massage their muscles daily to relieve any tightness.
  • Follow your dog’s pace.. Take it slow and easy. It is better to do a few short sessions of exercise (e.g. three 10-minute sessions a day) rather than one long session.

Do not over-exert our dogs no matter how enthusiastic they appear. Excessive running, jumping or swimming can cause injuries to joints & bones.

Check & trim your dog’s nails regularly. Overgrown nails can cause pain, change the way your dog walks & place abnormal stress on the joints. Take your dog to the vet or groomer if you are inexperienced in nail trimming.

5-month-young Capers went through a surgery called Juvenile Pubic Symphysiodesis

Some puppies, unfortunately, are genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia. Capers’ hind legs were stiff and he was bunny hopping more frequently. X-rays confirmed he had mild hip dysplasia which can lead to painful arthritic hip degeneration in later years. Treated early, dogs like Capers can lead a full life. Get behind the scenes here.

(Left): Dog with normal hips versus (Right): Dog with osteoarthritis

“Prevention is better than cure” is especially true for senior pets as age predisposes them to certain diseases. At Mount Pleasant, we emphasise total wellness & preventive healthcare so that our pets live longer, healthier lives. Speak with our vets about annual health screens for our cats & dogs.

Kennel Cough In Dogs

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, commonly known as kennel cough, is a contagious respiratory tract infection in dogs. It is actually a complex of infections. The chief agent is a bacteria called Bordetella bronchiseptica and it is usually accompanied by at least one other infectious agent, commonly Canine Parainfluenza Virus or Canine Adenovirus Type 2.

A normal respiratory tract enables debris and infectious agents to be trapped and moved upwards towards the throat where they are coughed up and/or swallowed. Your dog can develop kennel cough when the defense mechanisms are damaged by factors such as:

  • crowding stress
  • poor ventilation
  • heavy dust exposuure
  • infectious agents

Kennel cough is characterised by a harsh, high-pitched hacking cough often described as a “goose honk”. The cough can be dry or productive and is followed by a gag, swallowing action and production of foamy mucus.

Kennel cough is diagnosed with a combination of history of exposure to areas crowded with dogs, a complete physical examination (e.g. coughing on tracheal palpation) as well as diagnostic tests (e.g. radiography).

Common risk areas of infections are boarding kennels, shelters, grooming centres, local parks & vet clinic waiting areas.

Kennel cough usually resolves without medication but severe cases may require antibiotics and cough suppressants to provide comfort during recovery. The dog will improve partially after a week of treatment. However, a failure of kennel cough to resolve suggests an underlying condition and a re-check examination is necessary.

An infected dog can shed the Bordetella organism to other dogs for 2 to 3 months post-recovery. Dogs who have recovered from the infection are usually immune to re-infection for 6 to 12 months.

Kennel cough is contagious. If you suspect your dog has kennel cough, isolate him from other dogs to prevent it from spreading. Vaccination is recommended at least 5 days prior to possible exposure to infection (e.g. if your dog is going to a boarding kennel). Speak with your vet about your dog’s individual needs.

Vaccination against kennel cough is not expected to completely prevent the risk of infection but will minimise the symptoms of illness. Some dogs may experience sneezing or nasal discharge following vaccination which should clear up on its own.

Contributed by Dr Jade Lim, Mount Pleasant Vet Centre (Mandai)

Caring For Your Pregnant Dog

If you are caring for a pregnant dog, discuss with your vet about a high-quality and well-balanced diet to meet the increased energy needs for milk production and growth of puppies. As the pregnancy advances, the mother dog requires more food but will not be able to eat as much in one go as the growing pups take up more space in her abdomen. Offer her smaller and more frequent meals. Supplements or medications should only be given to pregnant dogs as prescribed by your vet.

The whelping date can be estimated by calculating 63 days from date of mating (if it is known). Speak with your vet about suitable dewormers to prevent intestinal parasites from being passed on to the puppies.

Normal gestation period

  • Approximately 63 days with each trimester lasting about 21 days.
  • Most dogs show no signs of pregnancy in the first trimester.
  • Continue the daily walks but avoid strenuous exercises.
  • Avoid overfeeding as an obese pregnant dog will have birthing difficulties.
AFTER DAY 28
  • Weight gain becomes noticeable.
  • An ultrasound can be done to confirm pregnancy by detecting fetal movement and heart beat.
  • Abdominal palpation can also be done by an experienced vet and if the mother dog is cooperative.

around day 40

  • The mother dog’s abdomen, mammary glands (breasts) and teats (nipples) are visibly larger.
  • There may be some milky discharge from the nipples.
around day 45
  • X-rays can be taken to estimate the litter size so you know if all puppies are successfully delivered during birth.
  • During the last 2 weeks of pregnancy, you can see and feel the puppies moving inside their mother’s belly.

Pregnant dogs like Angel (rescued stray) will deliver their pups about 63 days after mating. From day 45, X-rays can estimate the litter size when the pups’  skulls & spines are sufficiently mineralised.

One week before estimated whelping date
  • Take rectal temperature twice daily. A drop in temperature by 1 degree Celsius indicates that labour may follow in the next 24 hours.
  • Your dog’s behaviour may change prior to labour => e.g. more restless, lose appetite, licking vulva
  • Nesting behaviour => e.g. looking for secure spot, digging up bedding materials
normal delivery
  • Abdominal muscular contractions commence and the mother dog will strain and make heaving motions.
  • The mother dog will usually chew through the umbilical cord and lick the pup to remove fetal membranes to initiate breathing.
  • If the mother dog fails to do so, gently remove the membranes and wipe the pup’s mouth and nostril to clear the airway. Gently rub the pup with a towel until it starts to whimper and breathe normally.
  • The delivery time between each pup is about 10 to 30 minutes.

A post whelping check is recommended 24 to 48 hours after birth so that your vet can thoroughly assess the condition of mother & newborn pups. Your vet can also make sure no placentas or dead puppies are retained which can cause metritis, an infection of the uterus.

difficult birth and emergency delivery
  • Gestation lasts more than 64 days with no signs of labour.
  • Foul-smelling, dark green discharge from vagina.
  • No pups delivered after 60 minutes of active contractions.
  • Delivery time between each pup exceeds 30 to 60 minutes.
  • A pup becomes stuck halfway during birth.

If you notice any of these signs, seek veterinary attention immediately. Emergency caesarean section may be required to ensure the mother and pups survive. Our Mount Pleasant After Hours Emergency Clinic is situated at 232 Whitley Road S297824. Tel 6250 8333. 

after birth complications

Mother dogs who develop after birth problems such as mastitis and milk fever require immediate vet attention. Their puppies have to be hand-reared while they rest and recover.

  • Mastitis: The mammary glands can be infected from a blocked milk duct, scratch or cut and become hot, hard and painful. Milk secretion may be thicker and tinged with blood. Do not allow puppies to nurse from an infected gland. The mother dog requires immediate medical attention to prevent serious bacterial infection in her blood stream.
  • Eclampsia or “Milk Fever”: This is a life-threatening disease caused by low blood calcium levels (hypocalcaemia) in the mother dog’s body. She may appear anxious and restless with muscle tremors, convulsions and seizures.  It is more common in small dogs with large litters.

Didn’t plan for the pregnancy?

  • Accidents do happen. If your unsterilised dogs mate and your family is not prepared to care for puppies, speak with your vet about terminating the pregnancy safely.
  • Please consider sterilising your pets to prevent unwanted litters in future.
  • Sterilisation also prevents serious health conditions such as pyometra (infected uterus) and reduces the risk of mammary cancers in female dogs and prostate diseases in male dogs.

If you are thinking of letting your family witness the miracle of birth before sterilising your dogs or cats, do reconsider. Thousands of street & shelter animals are waiting for homes. Speak with our vets about sterilisation.

Palliative Or End Of Life Care For Our Pets

Every season serves a purpose. Even or especially the last one we walk with our best friends. A season of profound lessons. Of accepting “there is nothing we can do” about the disease. But knowing “there is always something we can do” to make our best friends feel more comfortable. And pain-free.


what is palliative care?

As our animal friends approach their golden years (some in their younger days), they may develop terminal illnesses like kidney failure, heart disease or cancer.  When we understand that the condition is not treatable or the decision is made not to treat it – yet our pet still has “that light in her eyes” – then we talk about palliative care.

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Some animals are not good candidates for surgery or chemotherapy. Palliative care provides an alternative to premature euthanasia.

The primary aim of palliative care is to provide comfort to the terminally ill. Relieve pain for the dying. Maximise quality of life in the final days. Until death occurs naturally or humane euthanasia becomes necessary.

It is about a moral duty to offer compassionate comfort care but not prolong the suffering of animals who are in pain or experiencing poor quality of life.

It is about learning to provide home care, manage chronic wounds, administer oral and injectable medications, supplements, fluids and special diets (if necessary).

It is about knowing when to start and realising it is time to stop.

managing pain

Pain is debilitating. Chronic pain can create a “stress response” associated with elevations of cortisol, reducing your pet’s immune response, leading to infections and slower healing.

In palliative care, we manage pain with various drugs (e.g. steroids, opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and holistic therapies (e.g. acupuncture, massage, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy).

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Consider acupuncture to relieve pain from old-age conditions like osteoarthritis. Acupuncture may also relieve nausea which may then improve your pet’s appetite.

How do i know if my pet is in pain?

Firstly, animals tend to hide their pain – an instinctive survival advantage. Secondly, they cannot verbally communicate their pain. We have to watch our pets closely to detect any changes in behaviour. They may be in pain if they are:

  • unusually quiet or withdrawn
  • restless, pacing around or trembling
  • hiding and avoiding human interaction
  • whining or whimpering
  • biting or snapping when touched
  • licking or biting a body part excessively
  • limping or exhibiting stiff body movements
  • having difficulty lying down or sleeping
  • refusing food

** Read more about MANAGING PAIN.

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A “preemptive” approach to pain – using analgesics before the onset of pain – is most effective. Animals who receive post-surgery pain control heal faster & eat sooner than those who don’t.

my pet is not eating, what can i do?

We tend to get upset when our pets will not eat. And the immediate urge is to force feed them so they do not go hungry or lose weight. But this might make them even more averse to eating.

Most of the time, our pets are feeling pain or nausea which makes them withdraw from food. It takes a combination of appetite stimulants, medications to relieve pain and nausea, and novel ideas to tempt them to eat.

  • If you are feeding dry kibbles, start by soaking kibbles in water or broth to soften it or mixing in canned food to make it more appealing and easier to eat (especially for senior pets with dental problems)
  • Warm up the food to make it smell tastier
  • Feed small amounts throughout the day instead of one big meal
  • Offer strong-smelling foods like cheese or tuna or even small amounts of burgers and bacon if your main aim is to have your pet eat something (always consult your vet about appropriate diet for your pet’s condition)
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Feeding tubes are very useful for animals who are ill & have lost their appetite, or are keen to eat but have difficulties swallowing or keeping food down. For chronically ill animals, discuss with your vet if force-feeding or tube-feeding will actually improve quality of life.

my pet is not drinking enough water

Dehydrated animals will lose elasticity in their skin. Their gums become pale and dry, the saliva is thick and sticky. They are listless and their eyes may appear sunken. If not corrected quickly, the condition becomes life-threatening.

  • Flavouring the water with some broth may tempt your pets to drink more
  • Syringe-feed fluids at regular intervals throughout the day
  • Hydrate your pet subcutaneously, especially for animals who are losing water from frequent urination, diarrhea or vomiting. 
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Some cats & dogs prefer to drink from automatic water fountains

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Your vet can teach you how to administer subcutaneous fluids at home & depending on the medical condition, advise if fluid administration will make your pet feel better or worse.

stay as active as possible

When our pets are ill, they tend to rest a lot more. However, light regular activity is important to keep them mobile, increase circulation and prevent pressure/bed sores.

Engaging in day to day activities also keeps them mentally alert. So continue short play sessions and go on leisurely walks if your pets are up to it. Drive them to the parks and beaches or simply enjoy the car rides. Pick up yummy treats along the way!

Some basic lifestyle changes can offer relief for pets suffering from chronic pain which affects mobility:

  • Control weight and incorporate light exercises (e.g. hydrotherapy) to decrease joint stress and improve muscular support of the joints.
  • Provide easy access to litter boxes or garden for elimination (e.g. gently-sloped ramp)
  • Raise food and water bowls to a comfortable level (e.g. place bowls on non-slip stools)
  • Provide non-slip floor surfaces to help your arthritic pets get up and walk more easily (e.g. yoga mats)
  • Provide comfortable but firm beds for your arthritic pets
  • Use body harnesses, slings, wheel chairs or carts for animals who have trouble getting around

keep clean and comfortable 

Maintain your pets’ grooming routine to keep them clean and happy. Use pee pads or diapers if they are incontinent. Brush their fur and clean their face and body daily with a warm damp cloth, especially for cats who have stopped grooming themselves regularly.

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Prepare comfortable sleeping spots in quiet areas & keep them clean & dry (especially if your pets are incontinent). Surround your pets with their favourite blankets & toys.

prevention is really better than cure

Very often, we only take our pets to the vet when signs of illness become obvious. Sometimes, that can be a little too late. As our pets enter their senior years, frequent health screenings can help us detect age-related diseases at an early stage.

** Read more about HEALTH SCREENING FOR OUR PETS.

when to let go – choosing Euthanasia

There is a period of time between the first thought of euthanasia and actually choosing it. When we are unsure if it is the right thing to do (for moral or religious reasons). When we wonder if we should wait awhile longer because he looks brighter today. When we simply need time for closure with our beloved pets who have shared our life for the past 15 years.

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We all know one day death will come. But perhaps, we are not prepared for how dying looks like.

We may say that based on medical tests and reports, your vet knows best when is the right time to euthanise. We may also say that based on years of living so closely with your animal friends, who knows better than you?

Because we are so emotionally bonded with our pets and fearful of the flood of grief that follows, it helps to have a daily record of their activities so we can be objective in deciding when it is time to end life.

When our animal friend is no longer responsive to his surroundings nor recognise us. When she refuses to drink or eat, even her most favourite food. When they are constantly crying in pain. When breathing becomes laboured. When they seem anxious and confused. When the bad days outnumber the good.

You see, living longer does not always mean living better. As much as we want our best friends to have a good life, it is just as important for them to have a good death. Love them enough to give them that.

What You Need To Know About Heartworm Disease

Chili Pepper came to Singapore with her family in 2012. During a health check with Dr Sarah Wong, Mount Pleasant (East), we discovered through a blood test that she was infected with heartworms. With strict exercise restriction and treatment, Chili Pepper recovered. She is 10 this year.

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“Chili Pepper is a present for our wedding in 2006. I went to London to pick her up when she was 3 months young & we lived in Roma, Italy till 2012. She is adorable. Loves toys & food.” ~ Tatiana

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“I like the name Chili. My husband likes Pepper. So here we have Chili Pepper!”

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“Chili Pepper loves water! She can swim all day long. She’s a dog fish!”


What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is a serious, progressive and potentially fatal disease. It is caused by a parasite Dirofilaria immitis which is transmitted by mosquitoes. Heartworm disease occurs mostly in dogs and less commonly in cats. Early detection is essential for successful treatment.

How is Heartworm disease transmitted?
dogs-heartworm-disease1

Ref: dogaware.com

When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it picks up microscopic baby worms called microfilariae in the blood, which then develop into “infective stage” larvae. When this infected mosquito bites a dog, the larvae are deposited under the dog’s skin. It takes about 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms which lodge in the heart, lungs and surrounding blood vessels where they reproduce.

which DOGS are MORE at risk?

All dogs who are not on heartworm prevention are at risk of heartworm infection. Dogs living in landed properties and those who regularly walk in mosquito-prone areas are at higher risk.

How does heartworm disease affect my dog’s health?

Heartworms live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels where they mature and reproduce. In the early stage, your dog may not show any symptoms. As the number of worms increases, signs of heart failure develop. E.g. weakness, exercise intolerance, coughing, decreased appetite, weight loss. 

heartworms

An adult heartworm can grow up to 30cm long.

what happens when heartworm disease is untreated?
  • Some dogs may harbour several hundred worms which cause lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries.
  • In severe cases, the abdomen and legs will swell from fluid accumulation.
  • The disease can also lead to liver or kidney failure causing jaundice, anaemia and accumulation of toxins.
  • Severely affected dogs can develop a sudden blockage of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse called caval syndrome.
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Ascites (fluid accumulation in abdominal cavity) giving your dog a pot-bellied appearance.

How is heartworm disease treated?

Most dogs with heartworm disease can be successfully treated, especially in the early stages. The goal is to kill the microfilariae as well as adult worms through a series of injections while minimising the side effects of treatment. The adulticide drug is given by deep intramuscular injection into the lumbar (lower back) muscles of the dog. Dogs with advanced heartworm disease may require antibiotics, pain relief medications, diuretics to remove fluid accumulation and drugs to improve heart function.

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“It was a nightmare when we discovered Chili Pepper had heartworms. Dr Sarah Wong helped me understand the disease & gave me the support needed. An amazing person & vet. Chili Pepper went through treatment & we restricted her activity strictly. She put up a good fight & won!”

complete rest is essential during treatment

During treatment, it is very important to restrict exercise to decrease the chance of complications, especially pulmonary thromboembolism (clots in the vessels) as the worms die off. Signs of embolism include coughing, low grade fever and sudden breathing difficulty. 

  • No running, playing, jumping.  
  • Slow and short walks on leash.
  • Active, playful dogs need to be strictly confined to rest.
  • Some dogs need to be hospitalised for a few days.

A heartworm test will be done 6 months after treatment to confirm that all heartworms have been eliminated. Even after heartworm treatment, some dogs may require lifetime medication for heart failure.

How can we prevent heartworm disease in our dogs?

Prevention is always better than cure. The earlier the disease is detected, the better the chances of your dog’s recovery.

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“Chili Pepper is 10 years old now. We love her like one of our kids. We understand that even when all the worms are eliminated, the heart may already be damaged. Since the treatment, Dr Sarah has been monitoring Chili Pepper’s heart. “

 

  • Preventive Medication: Consult your vet on the appropriate heartworm preventives for your dog, e.g. pill, spot-on topical medication or injection to eliminate immature heartworm parasites. If you choose not to put your dog on heartworm prevention, a periodic blood test should be done to detect any infection before it causes heart failure.
  • Blood Tests: All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection as part of preventive care. If your dogs are older than 6 months and not on heartworm preventive, a simple and quick blood test is done to ensure they are not already infected by the parasite before starting preventive medication.

Because no preventive medicine is 100% effective, annual testing is necessary to ensure the preventive medicine is working and to detect any infection in the early stage. 

  • Mosquito Control: Remove any empty containers that may collect water. Clean out rain gutters regularly. Keep the grass short and rake up fallen leaves (which can hold water) to reduce breeding sites.
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“Chili Pepper is currently on heartworm preventives & heart medications. She is responding well. Happy & playful at home. We hope it will be like this for a long long time.”