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

Fractured Bones In Kittens

When Toby (now named Rooney) was found and taken to Mount Pleasant (Mandai), he suffered from a fractured hind leg. His whiskers looked like they had been burnt with a lighter. Still, he trusts humans and is such a joy to be with. Dr Loh Hui Qian fostered Toby for a period of time before he left for The Cat Museum, Muses & Mansion of Singapore where he met his forever family. In this article, Dr Loh shares about young animals’ higher propensity of healing.

1 Aug 2016: All is well now, Toby. You are safe in Dr Kitty Huang’s hands!

Immature animals heal much faster than adults as the fracture sites have a relatively greater blood supply and more pre-existing osteoblasts (cells with bone-forming potential). Older animals or those with concurrent systemic disease (e.g. renal insufficiency or Cushing’s disease) may take longer to heal than young healthy patients.

week 1

Toby is a 4-month-old stray kitten found with a limp on the right hind leg. Upon presentation, Toby was toe-touching on the right hind leg but he was still very active. Radiography revealed a displaced, simple, complete transverse fracture of the mid femur. There were no radiographic signs of osteomyelitis noted.

At that point in time, first intention healing via surgical correction with either a bone plate or intra-medullary pin was recommended to the stray feeders who found Toby. However cost was a concern for  them and they needed time to consider.

Toby was then placed on strict cage rest. During this time, he was very comfortable with his fractured leg & not reliant on pain relief.

week 3

A repeat radiograph was taken and a big bony callus had developed between the two fracture ends. The option of breaking the callus to realign the femur and inserting a bone plate or intramedullary pin was explored. However this approach seemed too invasive for a kitten and because the stray feeders still bore financial constraints, a decision was made to let the bone callus stabilise the fracture and allow secondary healing.

week 5

A third radiograph was taken and an exuberant amount of firm bony callus had been formed. The callus was drawing the two fracture ends to an even closer proximity. The soft tissue swelling had also completely resolved and Toby was using his right hind leg as per normal with no signs of pain or discomfort.

Toby Superpower! Put together by Ai Lin of Mount Pleasant (Mandai).

Toby’s speedy recovery from a complete femur fracture further affirms that young animals have a higher propensity of healing. Cats are also usually able to compensate for an impaired function very well. Toby is now prancing around happily, just like any other kittens.

Living it up at Dr Loh’s house while she was fostering him.

Hanging out with Rao Rao before moving to The Cat Museum, Muses & Mansion of Singapore where he met his forever family!

“One HAPPY FAMILY!!! Look at cutie Rooney’s face!” Photo & caption from The Cat Museum, Muses & Mansion of Singapore. Thank you Serene, John, Sarah & JK for giving little footballer his very own home!

“You made this house just for me?!!! Love you!” Photo & caption from The Cat Museum, Muses & Mansion of Singapore

Discovering hidden talents? Haha! Photo from Instagram @rooney.thecat

Rooney’s family celebrated his 1st birthday on 1 April 2017 with his favourite can of cake! Photo from Instagram @rooney.thecat

Happy Birthday Rooney! We are so glad you have a wonderful family of your own. Live well & be healthy & happy! Photo from Instagram @rooney.thecat

Dr Loh Hui Qian with Faye Faye our Mandai resident cat who has since crossed the rainbow bridge.

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.

Elle: Liver Flukes In Cats

Five years ago, a stray cat strolled into Hasnah’s house and decided it is a good place to stay. He never left. Everyone thought he was a girl and named him Elle.

On 22 October, Elle was rushed to our After Hours Emergency Clinic. He was lethargic, vomited once and had been eating very little for four days.


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“I got what?” You’ve got liver flukes, Elle. Good to see you feeling much better already!

what is liver fluke?

The cat liver fluke is a parasitic worm that infects the liver and pancreas of cats. Outdoor cats who hunt are most at risk of liver fluke infection.

Flukes spread when infected cats pass their eggs in faeces. The eggs are consumed by snails which may then be consumed by secondary hosts such as toads or lizards. If your cat eats an infected lizard, he becomes infected with the parasite.

Some cats do not display any symptoms until they become heavily infected
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Distended abdomen
  • Enlarged liver
  • Jaundice or icterus (yellowing of eyes or skin) which occurs when bilirubin accumulates in the blood
Diagnosis
  • Thorough physical examination
  • Blood tests to evaluate liver function
  • X-rays to evaluate liver health and check for other symptoms
  • Check stool sample for liver fluke eggs
  • Collect fluid and tissue samples from liver for laboratory analysis
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The cat liver fluke is a hepatic fluke – it affects the bile duct, small intestines, pancreatic duct & liver.

Treatment

Severely ill cats like Elle need to be hospitalised and hydrated intravenously. A feeding tube was surgically placed to ensure Elle receives proper nutrition and medication to clear his body of the liver fluke parasite.

Medication that kill parasitic worms, such as praziquantel, can be given to eliminate the parasites from your cat’s body. Additional medications may be prescribed to lessen inflammation and prevent infections. In severe infections where the bile ducts are blocked, surgery may be required.

When appropriate treatment is given before severe damage has occurred in the liver or gallbladder, your cat can recover. Some cats may progressively develop liver cirrhosis and liver failure.

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The sight of your cat or dog with a feeding tube might be unpleasant. However, 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.

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If your cat does not eat for as little as forty-eight hours, she can develop a potentially life-threatening form of liver malfunction known as hepatic lipidosis. Read more about the importance of feeding tubes.

Preventing Liver Fluke Infection in Your Cat

Keep your cat indoors to reduce the risk of infection. Discourage your cat from hunting and eating lizards. If your cat does go outside and is a hunter by nature, watch out for signs such as appetite loss and weight loss.

A dirty house attracts small insects or bugs, which in turn attract lizards. Clear food waste properly and keep your house clean, bright and airy. Try home remedies (like egg shells or garlic) to keep lizards out of your house.

Many animals do not display pain or signs of diseases until it has progressed to later stages. Consider sending your cat for regular health screens and blood tests. Early detection and treatment can prolong the quality of your beloved pet’s life!

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Hasnah jokes: “Elle is back from ‘reservist’ at Mount Pleasant Central! He is eating well & getting active again.” At the rate Elle is going, any weight loss will be put back in no time!

Thank You Amanda, Song, Daffin!

Today we say THANK YOU to Amanda, Song and Daffin of Mount Pleasant Central Vet Clinic (Whitley)!

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“I joined Mount Pleasant 3 years ago. I’ve always wanted to work with animals. I have pets since young, they are like my best friends.” ~ Song with Marc, Vanessa & Panda at Mount Pleasant Central Vet Clinic (Whitley)

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“It’s so rewarding when I see animals recover & go home & when they are very happy to see you when they come back for review. However, we also see animals who are neglected & not properly taken care of by their families.”

song

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“Max my Japanese Spitz ix 11 years old. I adopted him when he was 1. His owner was posted overseas for work & couldn’t take him along. Dawn my Schnauzer is about 8 years old. She was an ex-breeding farm dog & I adopted her on the very day she was rescued. She makes me realise that dogs who have gone through hardship can be the sweetest when they finally find someone who cares about them.”

“Max and Dawn are the reasons I am working in the veterinary line. I want to learn more about animals and how to better take care of them. I enjoy fishing. But for me, the best way to de-stress is spending time with Max and Dawn!”


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“I joined Mount Pleasant 3 years ago. Working with animals & helping them feel better is something I always wanted to do.” ~ Amanda

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Tinker & Mingster!

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“Tinker used to belong to my sister but because of her busy lifestyle, Tinker grew closer to me over time. She follows me everywhere. My husband fell in love with Mika the conure at first sight. Tinker & Mika didn’t mind each other from the moment they met. They go on daily walks together.”

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Kasumi & Mingster ~ just chilling….

“Kasumi was our rescued resident cat. I fell in love with her the day I came for interview. I always wanted a cat but my mom is against the idea. When I finally have my own home, I decided Kasumi will come live with me.

Being an older cat and seeing so many dogs coming in and out of the clinic everyday, she is always very chill even with dogs barking around her. So I know she is the best fit for Tinker. They got along from day one. Kasumi also doesn’t mind Mingster hanging out with her!”

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Amanda’s mini zoo! “I like reading & sometimes I paint. But I don’t have much free time as I’m currently studying for my Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing. If I am not a vet nurse, maybe I’ll be a zookeeper. I always wanted to work with large animals. I also aspire to be like Prof Noel Fitzpatrick!”

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With part of the team at Mount Pleasant Central Vet Clinic (Whitley)


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“I joined Mount Pleasant in July 2014. Animals make me happy & make life less stressful. I’m here to learn as much as I can.” ~ Daffin with the super cute & chubby resident cat Ginger Boy! He’s 13 years old.

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“It feels really good when we see our patients recover & then discharging them back to their happy families. It’s also a joy to see families come in with their new puppy or kitten for the first general health check.”

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“My dog Hoki teaches me to be more responsible. He brings so much happiness to me & my family. I love art & craft. I studied design & Hoki was my model in one of my graduation projects.”

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daffin

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“I have awesome colleagues & it’s a bonus to be able to bring our dogs to work some days.”

‘Such short little lives our pets have to live with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.’ ~ John Grogan. 

“The loyalty of our pets inspire me the most. They will always be there to welcome you home no matter how bad their day might be. There are those who are very sick and weak but they would still happily wag their tails when their families come to visit.”

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The big family at Mount Pleasant Central Vet Clinic (Whitley)!

At Mount Pleasant Central Vet Clinic, our hospitalised patients - your best friends and family members - will never have to be alone after our day clinic closes. We now offer 24-Hour Monitoring with Vet Technicians and Nurses like Verg and Annie watching over our patients throughout the dark hours. Mountpleasant.com.sg/central/ is located at 232 Whitley Road. Our After Hours Emergency Clinic is situated at the same location with a vet on duty to accept new emergencies.

At Mount Pleasant Central Vet Clinic, our hospitalised patients – your best friends & family members – will never have to be alone after our day clinic closes. We now offer 24-Hour Monitoring with a Vet Technician or Nurse watching over our patients throughout the dark hours. Mount Pleasant Central Vet Clinic is located at 232 Whitley Road. Our After Hours Emergency Clinic is situated at the same location with a vet on duty to accept new emergencies.

Mount Pleasant Gives Back: Christmas 2015

We believe in giving back to community.

Under our new initiative Mount Pleasant Community Outreach – Animal Welfare, we are delighted to give back to the people who are helping our community animals.

Beginning from Christmas month till January 2016, our clinics provided free medical treatment and sterilisation to over 45 animals from independent rescuers and animal welfare groups like Cat Welfare Society, Animal Lovers League, Noah’ s Ark CARES, House Rabbit Society and Purely Adoptions.

 

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Living with 700 rescued dogs and cats at a no-kill shelter running purely on donations, sometimes you have to wait your turn to see the vet. 15-year-old Kiki from Animal Lovers League – ALL Authorised Page had chronic ear infection with an ulcerated mass which has become impossible for the workers to control. Dr Dennis Choi and team at Mount Pleasant (Gelenggang) were prepared to perform a total ear canal ablation so that Kiki can enjoy her golden years in comfort. Unfortunately, X-rays revealed multiple tumours in her lungs. With her old age, body condition and the fact that multiple lung tumours are usually metastatic, we decided together not to put Kiki through surgery. She might not make it through. ALL had been keeping Kiki happy and comfortable, till she crossed the the rainbow bridge in April.

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Mdm Chua has been helping community animals for 50 years. She and her daughter Suan Eng give a large part of their heart and soul to homeless cats and dogs. Kindness beams from their eyes. ❤️ Female cats come into their first heat at around 6 months. Being polyestrus, they continue the heat cycle every 2 to 3 weeks unless they become pregnant. 1 female cat can produce more than 10 kittens in a year so responsible feeding and active sterilisation is very important. Funds are not easy to come by especially when you work silently behind the scenes. Dr Pauline Fong and team at Mount Pleasant (Changi) sterilised Mdm Chua’s rescued cats under #mountpleasantgivesback. Together, we can reduce stray over-population and improve the lives of animals, pet or rescue!

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Cat Welfare Society has been helping community cats since 1999. Strong in their belief that population control is best done through education and ultimately sterilisation – not destruction. “At Cat Welfare Society, we believe every cat should live a life free from fear and suffering. This is why we exist, to help those who can’t help themselves.” Dr Cheryl Ho and her team at Mount Pleasant Central Vet Clinic (Whitley) supported CWS’ mission by providing free sterilisation for community cats. We hope our efforts brought some relief to Thenuga and her CWS team.

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Over 2 months, Dr Cheryl Ho and team at Mount Pleasant (Whitley) sterilised 20 community cats for Cat Welfare Society under Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage (TNRM). It has been such a blessing to give back! Thank you for trusting us to take care of your best friends.

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Noah’s Ark CARES and Noah’s Ark Natural Animal Sanctuary have been helping animals in Singapore and Malaysia since 1995. Under Project Industrial Dogs (PID), they help control our stray population through sterilisation. Catching strays for sterilisation can be an emotional affair. Especially when the dogs are fearful like Little Brown and don’t understand your intentions. But the work must go on if we hope to prevent unwanted births and unnecessary deaths through culling. Dr Simon Quek and team from Mount Pleasant Animal Medical Centre (Clementi) supported Noah’s Ark by sterilising 5 rescued strays.

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“She is from a scrap metal factory. Previous litter of 6 all died. Many boys were fighting over her. Thank goodness we caught her this time.” Noah’s Ark CARES and Dr Simon Quek’s team at Mount Pleasant (Clementi) rejoice over the news that mommy dog was finally caught and sterilised! No more puppies. Dead or alive. No more injuries from dog fights. One less worry for rescuers. Mommy dog, we wish you a safe and healthy life.

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Since 2002, House Rabbit Society Singapore (HRSS) has been improving rabbits’ lives through education, adoption and sterilisation. Many bunnies are rescued from a life in tiny cages, along corridors, exposed to the elements. Others taken in from the streets, parks, void decks where they were abandoned. In the joy of giving, Dr Heng Yee Ling and team at Mount Pleasant (Farrer) supported HRSS by sterilising 10 bunnies who are ready for rehoming. It takes a community to help community animals. Rescuers, educators, fosterers, vets, nurses and sometimes Flash the resident cat who watches over the bunnies after surgery.

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Button, ex-breeding farm dog. Dirty, smelly, bad teeth, long nails, dangling teats from having several litters, pus dripping from vagina. She is one of the forgotten ones, rescued from a dreary life, a puppy-making machine. And sadly, she is considered “not so bad” compared to other rescues. Dr Chan Munling and her team at Mount Pleasant (Bedok) supported the selfless work of the rescuer by spaying and treating Button for free. 11 teeth were extracted. Blood tests were done to ensure Button is healthy and ready to be rehomed.

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Last year, Winnie’s adopted dog Happy went through surgery to remove a thyroid mass. Before that, she had surgeries for cataracts and pyometra. Despite the finances committed to Happy, Winnie still cares for community cats. Especially when an elderly strayfeeder passed on. As part of #mountpleasantgivesback, Dr Sandhya Nair and team at Mount Pleasant Animal Clinic (North) sterilised Mao Mao, a new cat in Winnie’s community. Spaying helps to control our pet population, prevents diseases of the reproductive tract and reduces the chances of mammary cancer. We appreciate responsible caregivers like Winnie. Thank you for helping Mao Mao and friends!

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Unneutered male cats tend to roam, spray foul-smelling urine and get into fights over females and territories. That’s exactly what happened with Ah Boy. Siew Kheng has rescued and rehomed several community cats. She noticed this new cat with an injured eye and brought him to Mount Pleasant Animal Clinic (North) for treatment. Ah Boy is sterilised under #mountpleasantgivesback and stayed indoors until he was fit to be released to the community. Neutered cats are less likely to develop prostate cancer, perineal hernia or hormone-induced cancers. Thanks to responsible caregivers like Siew Kheng, Ah Boy will live a longer, happier and healthier life!

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When 10-year-old Snow the Cocker Spaniel was given up by her family in December, she had urinary tract infection, bad skin, ears and eyes. With TLC from Purely Adoptions and her fosterer, Snow was already looking much better. Dr Gloria Lee, Dr Kitty Huang and team at Mount Pleasant Vet Centre (Mandai) performed a cystotomy to remove 2 large stones in Snow’s bladder. “Snow is our rescue case now and we will look for a good home for her. We do our best for every dog.” The new year is the best time for second chances. We are delighted to give back to rescuers like Purely Adoptions and be part of Snow’s new chapter in life. She’s one of the sweetest girls ever.

And Doggy Makes Two, Three or More!

By Kang Nee, Cheerful Dogs
PhD, CPDT-KA, Low Stress Handling Certified Silver, Pet First Aid Certified, Puppy Start Right Instructor
Nee


It’s the holiday season, and your brain is working overtime to think of a special gift. Ah-ha! How about adopting a puppy or dog from a shelter?  To save a dog, as a present for Mum, or keep dear Rover company when he’s home alone…..

STOP! Your intentions are certainly good, but they can go awry when the recipient of your well-meaning gift is unprepared. Giving a dog a home, especially one that has never been in one, is a kind act. But it would be kinder if Mum or Rover are just as enthusiastic about it as you, and are part of the decision-making process.

If everyone is on board – congratulations! How do you settle your new dog? How do you help Rover get along with the new dog and vice versa? And…..what do you do to make the upcoming holiday get-together enjoyable for your dog(s) and friends?

Here are some tips to get you started:

First Impressions

-> You don’t have a dog and have just adopted Sally.

TIP #1
Even before Sally comes home, dog-proof your house to prevent the honeymoon from turning sour.

Sally is a dog and will do doggy things like chew on your shoes, disembowel the floor mat, scavenge in rubbish bins, make confetti out of toilet rolls etc. Keep forbidden items out of reach, block access securely if you need to. Prevention is better than cure, so be pre-emptive rather than reactive.

Get ready good quality chew toys. Make them interesting by stuffing them with small pieces of delicious food. Play with Sally with these toys, encouraging her to chew on them. Everyone needs to be on board with this game. * Your hands are not chew toys.  Avoid using your hands to bat Sally away or grab her mouth.

TIP #2
Agree on house rules beforehand and implement them as soon as Sally comes home.

Dogs do better when their world is predictable. It doesn’t work if Dad doesn’t allow jumping and you like Sally to jump but not when her paws are muddy or when you’re wearing new clothes. Such inconsistency causes stress to Sally and stress can lead to other behaviour problems.

Decide beforehand rules such as:

  • who will feed Sally (when, where and what)
  • who will walk her (when and where)
  • who will be in charge of Sally’s potty training (how and where)
  • where will she sleep
  • what are considered toys and what are not (e.g. hands, feet)

TIP #3
Canine social etiquette is very different from ours.

A person would find it very odd if you avoid eye contact, shun a hand-shake and stand a good distance away while conversing with your body and head turned away.

To a dog, direct eye contact, approaching head-on to invade her personal space, petting on the head, hugging and reaching out, can be threatening.

So take your cue from your new canine family member. Let Sally approach when she’s ready, speak in a calm and cheerful (not too loud) voice. Whenever she responds positively to your voice, reward her with a small food treat. This is the start of building trust in your budding relationship.

TIP #4
Doing less is more.

Take it easy on family introductions. Sally will be tired, perhaps stressed from the journey home. Save the meetings with your extended family and excited friends for another time, and spread them out over several occasions. Follow Tip #3!

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FOR THE LONG HAUL

TIP #5
Give Sally an education. Every interaction you have with Sally is a training moment and it’s probably better that you train her, rather than she trains you.

While there are many training approaches, dogs do best when taught in a kind, humane manner, using force-free, reward-based training methods.

Focus on encouraging Sally’s good behaviours, rather than correcting her for unwanted behaviours. Leave that choke chain, prong collar, shock collar, pack leader mambo-jumbo where they belong – out of your home! These punitive training methods are outdated and have no place in modern dog training which is solidly based on the science of how dogs learn.

Join a puppy kindergarten or socialisation class, a dog socialisation, obedience or tricks class, conducted by good force-free dog trainers. Have fun! Then take what you’ve learnt on the road, but remember, what Sally finds easy to do at home (with little or no distractions) can be more difficult in a novel place (with more distractions) so don’t expect full marks from her straight-away.

Instead, work in a quieter place. Revise Sally’s skills with lots of praise and rewards. Then gradually increase the level of distraction. When you do this wherever you go, Sally learns to apply her life and social skills with you, her family.

Canine Buddies

-> You already have a resident dog, Rover, and would like to bring home a second dog, Buddy. How do you help the two dogs get along?

TIP #6
Not every dog is comfortable being with another dog.

Even a dog that’s sociable and has a circle of canine friends, may not enjoy being with another dog 24/7. Before you decide to bring Buddy home for Rover, assess if Rover and Buddy are suitable as potential house-mates.

Here are a few pointers to consider:

(a) Make sure your resident dog, Rover, is dog-friendly.
By dog-friendly, I mean that when he meets another dog, he’s neither too excited nor too intimidated by the other dog. He’s willing to engage in play or just chill out. Stress signals are minimal.

(b) Make sure your potential second dog is also dog-friendly, and compatible in terms of age, size and energy levels with Rover.

(c) Introduce Rover and Buddy in a large fenced area, at a neutral location.
Have Rover on a long leash at one end and have someone else bring Buddy in, also on a long leash. Watch their body language – if they’re barking, lunging and snapping at each other, stop the interaction and seek professional help. If they’re loose and waggy or slightly alert, you may proceed.

Once each dog notices the other, start feeding small pieces of delicious food treats in a continuous stream until both dogs relax and remain attentive to their handler. Then slow down on the feeding so that Rover and Buddy can glance at each other, then back at their handlers to get their well-deserved treat.

If both dogs are relaxed, drop the leashes, allow a brief greeting (like a 3-second sniff) and then move the dogs away for more treats. When Rover and Buddy are relaxed with brief greetings, you may remove their leashes but still interrupt their interactions now and then to refocus their attention on you.

(d) If all seems well, repeat the same introduction process at home – either in your garden, or a neutral location nearby, before introducing them indoors.

(e) The most important step after introduction is accomplished, is to train and manage for success as an on-going process.

Many dog guardians forget this, assuming that the dogs will be “fine”. Use baby gates to provide separate areas for Rover and Buddy, as each dog will still need their “alone” time with you, or down time by himself. If you’re unable to supervise them, keep them separate when they’re left alone. If you’re not sure whether they would guard food, toys or space from each other, feed them in separate areas. Make sure there are enough toys and space for both dogs.

Besides supervising Rover and Buddy and managing the environment, get started with a good force-free trainer so that both dogs learn good canine manners, both inside and outside their home.

(f) Having more than one dog can be wonderful for you, but it has to be wonderful for your dogs as well.

Noodles (the Maltipoo) is a shy dog & was initially afraid of my dog, Kiyo (the Golden Retriever).

Noodles (the Maltipoo) is a shy dog & was initially afraid of my dog, Kiyo (the Golden Retriever).

Through carefully staged introductions done over several sessions, Noodles is now comfortable enough to actively approach & interact with Kiyo. You would use a similar process to introduce a new dog to your resident dog. Photos of Noodles are used with kind permission of Dionne Sim, her guardian.

Through carefully staged introductions done over several sessions, Noodles is now comfortable enough to actively approach & interact with Kiyo. You would use a similar process to introduce a new dog to your resident dog. Photos of Noodles are used with kind permission of Dionne Sim, her guardian.

Socialise!

-> You’ve heard it again and again. You must socialise your dog! It’s the holiday season, and what better way to socialise Sally (or Rover, or Buddy) than to meet your friends and their kids at a party? 

TIP #7
With appropriate planning, management and training, it can be a great success. Otherwise, it could be disaster!

(a) Train, train, train.
Sally relies on you for her education, to teach her what to do, e.g. sit instead of jump when your guests arrive; chew on a food-stuffed toy instead of counter-surfing; lie on a mat instead of leaping on the couch; chill out and relax in a safe room alone instead of barking for attention or in anxiety. So make sure you brush up these skills, before you even plan a party that can be challenging for Sally.

(b) Manage and set ground rules for Sally and guests.
Even the best-behaved dog can be overwhelmed by the many distractions that occur at a party, e.g. food scraps left on a plate, unfamiliar people who may actively encourage jumping, kids running around who look like fun toys to chase and nip.

Don’t force Sally on non-dog people, and don’t allow dog people to force themselves on her. Politely but firmly let your guests (even the ardent dog lovers) know what interactions are appropriate and what are not. Active adult supervision is a must when children are present. Watch out for signs that things may be getting too much for Sally to tolerate. Calmly bring her to her safe room and give her a stash of favourite toys, food puzzles, chew bones to work on. Turn on soft, soothing music and let her relax while the party continues.

(c) Remember, while a party may be one way for Sally to practise her social skills, the lesson is only as successful as you have set it up to be.

Simply exposing Sally repeatedly to lots of people (or dogs) is not socialisation, even if that’s what many people tell you to do.  Proper socialisation involves making each interaction short, sweet and enjoyable. That means you don’t overwhelm her, you watch for behavioural signs that she’s still enjoying herself, and you pair each interaction with something that Sally loves – a super yummy treat. Food helps Sally form a positive conditioned emotional response to something she may be unsure of. When used properly, it is a powerful training tool for fearful and reactive dogs.

Here’s how Don and Louise Mackay set Elliot and Korn up for success when they have visitors. Both dogs were adopted from SPCA Singapore.

Elliot (left) & Korn settle on their mat. It’s a useful behaviour to teach your dog! Photo courtesy of Louise Mackay.

Elliot (left) & Korn settle on their mat. It’s a useful behaviour to teach your dog! Photo courtesy of Louise Mackay.

When we have new visitors, we introduce them to Elliot and Korn outside, one dog at a time. Then we return together to the apartment. I explain the things that the dogs are unsure of with unfamiliar people, e.g. direct eye contact and petting on the head.

While the visitors are staying with us, we work with both dogs by practising games we normally do, like “go to mat”, where they settle down with their food-stuffed toys. Most importantly, we have frequent breaks for both visitors and dogs.”

Set Up For Success

-> No matter how many dogs you’ve had, every dog is different and comes with his/her individual needs that must be addressed to make for a happy integration into your family.

The various tips outlined in this article provide a starting point for nurturing a bond with your dog(s) that goes beyond just expecting and commanding obedience. Your dog isn’t “plug-and-play”, ready to fit into your lifestyle, so take the time to learn together using force-free training methods that set your dog up to succeed and have fun at the same time. Your dog will thank you for your choice!

If your dog is fearful or reactive, or you’re unsure about how to help your dog, seek professional help from a qualified and certified dog trainer, behaviour consultant or animal behaviourist.


Kang Nee is a behavioural ecologist and certified professional dog trainer. Even whilst busy training dogs, she writes articles on dog behaviour modification and training for local and international magazines. Contact Nee at kangnee999@yahoo.com 

Dandelion’s Enucleation (Eye Removal)

Dandelion (formerly named Baileys) the Shih Tzu was bought from a petshop as a puppy. When she developed pneumonia and severe ulceration of her left cornea, her family wanted to give her up to a shelter.

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One night, Baileys could hardly move & was rushed to Mount Pleasant After Hours Emergency Clinic. Baileys’ family did not want her anymore. Thankfully, she was adopted by Ms Wong Fang Juin & for a new beginning, renamed Dandelion.

The cornea is the outermost covering of the eye. Corneal ulcers are painful wounds to one or more layers of the cornea. They are often caused by abrasions or scratches. Read more about corneal ulcers here

Other causes of corneal ulcers include:

  • entropion (rolling in of eyelashes)
  • ectopic cilia (abnormal eyelashes rubbing on cornea)
  • keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eyes)

When deep ulcers cause scarring or perforation of the cornea, the eye may need to be surgically removed. The eye may also need to be removed due to other conditions like:

  • uncontrolled painful glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye)
  • severe trauma or injury (puncture or perforation of eyeball)
  • cancer of the eye

The surgical removal of an eyeball is called enucleation.

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Brachycephalic breeds like Shih Tzus, Pekingeses, Bulldogs & Persian cats are more vulnerable to corneal damage due to their flat faces, shallow eye sockets & prominent eyes.

Symptoms of corneal ulcers include:

  • red or watery eyes
  • squinting
  • eye discharge
  • rubbing eyes with paws (which causes further trauma)
Some of you have asked if little Emma's right eye is still any good. Here you can see the extent of scarring on her right cornea. There is no reflex to light or objects.

Another Shih Tzu, Emma, was rescued from a breeding farm 3 years ago. Due to deplorable conditions & lack of veterinary care, dogs like Emma live with various health issues left unattended. You can see the extent of scarring on her right cornea. There is no reflex to light or objects.

Little Emma, we thought maybe, possibly, you still have some sight in your eyes. But today it is confirmed that you are totally blind. Your left eye is dead and dried up like a prune. You need special eyedrops for your bulging right eye, to bring down the pressure.

Dr Heng Yee Ling, Mount Pleasant Animal Medical Centre (Farrer), examined Emma. Her left eyeball has already ruptured & shrivelled up. Due to increasing intraocular pressure in her right eye, Emma later went through enucleation to remove both eye balls.

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(Dandelion) In surgery, the eye is removed & the eyelids are permanently sutured closed. An Elizabethan collar should be put on to prevent rubbing or scratching of the area. The stitches are removed 10 to 14 days post-surgery.

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(Emma) There will be swelling and bruising of the eye area which will subside with time. Some owners will choose to have a sterile prosthetic sphere inserted into the eye socket (orbit) mainly for cosmetic reasons. It is not recommended for patients with eye infections, cancer or very shallow eye sockets.

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Over time, the swelling will subside & the socket will flatten out. Hair will grow back over the area.

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Pets like Emma will need some time to adjust to their blindness & learn to find their way around. Avoid startling them. Be patient & let them know you are approaching by calling their names or lightly clapping your hands. Cats who have gone through enucleation should be kept as indoor pets.


LOSING AN EYE OR TWO doesn’t seem to matter much to Dandelion, Mei Mei or Emma. Life goes on for them, happily, one day at a time!
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“Dandelion adapted well. She doesn’t seem to know that she has lost an eye.” ~ Ms Wong

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“I have adopted another Shih Tzu, Yuki, 13 years old She is also blind in her left eye like Dandelion.” ~ Ms Wong

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“If you have blind dogs, you should not have too much furniture in the house. Avoid moving the furniture around.”  ~ Ms Wong

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Most blind dogs and cats learn to form a mental map of their environment. Help them adjust with the following tips:
  • Keep your blind pets safe in smaller areas until they are more comfortable to explore.
  • Remove extra furniture or potentially hazardous objects.
  • Keep the layout of your house constant. Avoid moving furniture around.
  • Leave food, water bowls and litter trays (for cats) at the same place.
  • Water fountains may be helpful. Your pets can hear and locate the water source more easily.
  • Use scent markers or tactile clues (floor mats) at certain areas.
  • Before petting or picking up your blind pets, let them know you are approaching by calling their names or clapping your hands.
  • Create a quiet and safe spot where your blind pets can retreat.
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Mei Mei the one-eyed Pekingese. Her enucleation was performed by Dr Sandhya Nair, Mount Pleasant Animal Clinic (North).

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Emma may not be able to see the world but she is having a wonderful life with Florence Bong. We are inspired by adopters who go beyond looks & age when it comes to adopting a best friend. Emma was 8 years old when Florence gave her a home.

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Emma is a very spunky gal with a hearty appetite & good sense of humour. Watch the video of her taking a walk outdoors!

Babe & Georgie – A Matter Of Time (Hemangiosarcoma)

How would you live, if you are told you only have a few months left?

This question sits on the minds of Babe and Georgie’s families. These two boys went through splenectomy recently. Both are diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma.

Babe is 11. Georgie is 7. They are not expected to live for more than 4 months. [* Babe passed on in Dec 2015]


what is hemangiosarcoma?

Hemangiosarcoma is a cancer of cells that line blood vessels (endothelial cells). The tumours are highly malignant and commonly develop in organs like the spleen, liver and heart.

Splenic masses (benign or malignant) tend to rupture and bleed profusely and splenectomy is needed to stop life-threatening haemorrhage. Unfortunately, in the case of hemangiosarcoma, the average life expectancy for dogs after surgery is less than 6 months. Even with chemotherapy, few survive longer than a year.

FUNCTIONS OF The spleen

The spleen is located near the stomach and has a similar consistency as the liver.

  • Contains a reservoir of red blood cells and platelets which is released like a “transfusion” when there is profuse bleeding.
  • Contains white blood cells to fight infections as part of the immune system.
  • Filters old or damaged red blood cells from the circulation.
Ref: Atlas of Veterinary Clinical Anatomy

Many dogs live a normal life without a spleen although they may be more vulnerable to infections. Ref: Atlas of Veterinary Clinical Anatomy

symptoms of hemangiosarcoma

Hemangiosarcoma generally develops slowly with no signs of the disease in early stages. Small ruptures in the tumours may cause some dogs to be lethargic and weak now and then. If the enlarged spleen puts pressure on the stomach, there may be vomiting and loss of appetite.

Owners often do not notice any abnormalities until a large mass ruptures and internal bleeding causes the dog to “crash”. Life-threatening signs of haemorrhage include:

  • Sudden weakness
  • Pale gums
  • Rapid heart rate & weak pulse
  • Distended abdomen
  • Collapse
Red Flag: unexplained Weight loss -> If your dog loses more than 10% of body weight, schedule a health check immediately. 
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“Babe is greedy by nature so his appetite loss was a huge red flag.” ~ Rachel with Babe before surgery

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“Georgie always loves food. When he walked away from dinner on Sunday night & vomited few hours later, we knew something was wrong.” Even dogs like Georgie with large tumours show no symptoms until the tumour ruptures.

HOW Is hemangiosarcoma DIAGNOSED?

An enlarged spleen can be detected by:

  • Physical Examination
  • X-Ray
  • Ultrasound
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A large firm mass in the abdomen may be palpable (felt by hands). Pale gums & the presence of an abdominal mass may indicate a ruptured splenic mass. The abdomen may also feel distended & fluid-filled if there is internal bleeding.

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Dr Sebastian Monier performs an abdominal ultrasound on Babe. When a splenic mass is detected, it is not possible to confirm if it is benign (hemangioma) or malignant (hemangiosarcoma). The vet will send the mass for a biopsy after splenectomy. It is advisable for dogs above 7 years old to have a health check every 6 months, including an ultrasound to detect any abnormalities of internal organs.

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Georgie’s ultrasound revealed severe splenomegaly (enlarged spleen) & a mass measuring about 15cm diameter with multiple cavities. Just a small part of normal tissue is left in the head of the spleen. The capsule is ruptured.

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Georgie’s Complete Blood Count revealed anemia (decreased red blood cells) & thrombocytopenia (decreased platelets for clotting).

treatment of hemangiosarcoma – splenectomy (surgical removal of spleen) 

Splenectomy is usually performed only if there is splenic torsion, trauma or tumour. For hemangiosarcoma, splenectomy is the treatment of choice.

Removing the spleen does not cure the disease as the cancer would have already spread (metastasised) to other tissues before diagnosis, commonly the liver, heart, lungs. Surgery, however, may slow the progress and give the animal (and family) some good days ahead. 

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Because of the aggressive nature of this tumour, the average life expectancy after surgery is about 3 months.

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Hemangiosarcomas can cause very large tumours. The mass in Georgie’s spleen measures 15cm long & weighs about 2kg. Some dogs may require blood transfusion after surgery.

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Dogs with splenic hemangiosarcoma tend to develop cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heart beat). An electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors the electrical activity of the heart. Georgie’s ECG detected ventricular premature contractions which is controlled with heart medications.

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“After the tumour was removed, Babe looked like he felt much better. We figured we have done all we could to give him a second chance at living.” ~ Rachel & Gordon

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“To us, the toughest part of this journey will be deciding when to let Babe leave in dignity.” * Babe passed on in December 2015.


few days after discharge…..
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After the splenic tumour is removed, it is sent to the laboratory for examination by a veterinary pathologist. Histopathology gives us a definitive diagnosis.

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“When the lab report confirmed Babe has hemangiosarcoma, we had mixed feelings. We decided before surgery that we would not make him go through chemotherapy. Prolonging his life may not be his wish. Who is to say if ‘we are treating Babe or treating ourselves’?” Babe & Jeno, both adopted.

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“I just want Babe to live his remaining days feeling loved & happy. It was devastating to know he may only have 4 months to live. Although it is heart wrenching to race against time, maybe it is a blessing to know how long you have with your loved ones. ” ~ Rachel

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“It’s hard to accept especially when this jolly greedy face in front of you is drooling for more treats. We are prepared for good days like this & not so good days. Made a deal with Georgie – no sighing or whining (from us humans!), no ‘oh you so poor thing’, no sad photos!” * Georgie is still alive & well 18 months after surgery.

So how would you live, if you know you only have a few months left? For Babe and Georgie, I guess the answer is simple. Eat more. Love all. Live happy. One day at a time. 

As their vet Dr Dennis Choi says, “Georgie doesn’t know what is wrong or how long he’s got. He just wants to go home and is happy to feel better again. Just keep that up.”  

 

Cody The Diabetic Puppy

Lynette Chia rescued Cody the Singapore Special when he was 2 months young. Rehomed but returned due to his health condition, Cody is now back in Lynette’s life.

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“I started volunteering with dog welfare group SOSD in 2012. Cody was initially adopted but at about 6 months, we found out he has diabetes. His adopters could not cope with the amount of care needed to control his illness. Cody was eventually returned to the shelter.” ~ Lynette

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“Cody was diagnosed with diabetes mellitus on his pre-anaesthetic blood tests at his regular vets, who started him on insulin therapy. He was referred to me at 1 year 3 months, when adequate control was not achieved & he developed ketoacidosis as a consequence. He was severely dehydrated & had profuse vomiting & diarrhea at the time of presentation.” ~ Dr Nathalee Prakash, Mount Pleasant Veterinary Centre (Gelenggang)

diabetes mellitus

In the body, glucose levels are controlled by insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas. Insulin facilitates movement of glucose in the blood into respective cells to be stored or used.

In diabetes mellitus (DM), there can be either:

  • a deficiency in insulin production by the pancreas (type 1)
  • a resistance of the cells to the effects of insulin (type 2)
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“Cody is actually easy to care for if his diabetes is under control. However when he gets sick, a lot of time is needed to take him for vet reviews to make sure his condition does not worsen.” ~ Lynette

Juvenile diabetes typically arises from insufficient insulin production and can be accompanied by other pancreatic enzyme deficiencies.

The inability of glucose to enter and be used by cells results in dramatic weight loss. The glucose that remains in the blood stream gets filtered into urine and causes increased drinking and urination. The high glucose levels may result in liver disease, cataract formation and an immunocompromised state.

ketoacidosis

In situations where DM is poorly controlled, or complicated by other disease, the metabolic derangements further escalates, resulting in ketoacidosis, which can be life threatening.

Ketoacidosis: When the body is unable to burn glucose for energy, it starts to break down fat cells which produces fatty acids. These fatty acids are converted to ketones. High levels of ketones can lead to diabetic coma or death. Symptoms include weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal breath. 

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“Cody needed to a home environment to get better. We found a foster home but he again was returned because the fosterers could not cope. I felt Cody’s chance of finding a home is slim. So I decided to take him home & care for him.” ~ Lynette

Symptoms of diabetes
  • excessive thirst (polydipsia)
  • increased urination (polyuria)
  • increased food consumption (polyphagia) but maintains or loses weight
  • cloudy eyes (diabetic cataracts)
tests for diabetes
  • Blood test to detect increased blood glucose level
  • Urinalysis to measure presence of glucose and ketones (urine from healthy dogs does not contain any glucose)
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Cody’s ketoacidosis was corrected & he is currently being managed with insulin injections twice a day. When diabetes is not regulated, it is usually due to insulin not administered properly. Have your vet demonstrate & then observe you injecting the insulin to make sure you are doing it correctly.

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Cody improved in body condition from 11.6 kg at the time of presentation to a current 14.8 kg.

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“The current aims are to fine-tune Cody’s insulin dose, after which he would only require revisits 2 to 3 times a year. Ongoing monitoring for management of infections (e.g. urinary tract infections) has also been advised.” ~ Dr Nathalee Prakash

For patients living with diabetes, consistent, unchanging and constant are keywords to remember for lifestyle, diet and treatment.

Ideally, a diabetic dog should be fed the same type of food, same amount, at the same time each day. A regular schedule of 2 meals a day will help minimise fluctuations in blood glucose so that the amount of insulin needed remains the same. Once the diabetes is properly regulated, dogs like Cody can live relatively normal lives. 


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“Fostering Cody has been a joy despite the tiredness on some days. Caring for him teaches us to manage our time better & having to inject him makes us more gung-ho.” ~ Lynette

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“Cody has changed us all for the better. My family & housemate have been very supportive & helpful. We grew closer as a family & are ecstatic when Cody gets well!”

"Fostering Cody has been a joy despite the tiredness on some days. My family & house mate have been supportive & very helpful in this journey with Cody." ~ Lynette

Cody watching TV with Lynette’s other foster dog Bloch!

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“Volunteering is a commitment to the dogs. We need to make it a part of our lifestyle in order to sustain the long run. To me, the joy & love the dogs give us in return makes everything worth it.” ~ Lynette