"The dog does bite,"
Mrs Tan said as the 23-kg white and black cross-bred
crashed into her. She tripped her and tumbled onto the
concrete floor outside the surgery. Was she
I had suggested that her dog be examined outside the
surgery as it would not feel so threatened. Mrs
Tan was not able to control it. It was best that
the dog not be handled by me or the veterinary staff as
that would make him more fearful.
Mrs Tan struggled to get up and to hold on to the dog's
leash to prevent him from escaping, as a horse groomer
would hold onto a hyper-excited racehorse from bolting.
This dog could smell a vet 10 km away and was not going
inside to be injected. His luscious thick white collar
hairs stood on end. No threatening growl to warn the
vet. I could see small bumps on the whole back.
This could be urticarial lumps due to allergies or goose
pimples from a scared dog.
What should be done in this situation? "Can your son
restrain this dog?" I asked Mrs Tan. Her sun-burnt
teenaged son had glued his mobile phone to his left ear.
A young man in a hurry. He wanted to go back as soon as
possible and here, I was waiting for the dog to settle
down so that I could see his bright red rashes under his
belly and arm pits. This took at least ten
"My son will not be able to restrain the dog," Mrs Tan
said. "Don't worry about his grouchiness. He's going
back to the army camp and wanted to hurry back to see
his girl friend." As an ex-National Service
full-time person, I could understand the precious last
two hours of a Sunday before being confined to another
week in the camp.
"It is nice of him to accompany his mother to the vet."
I complimented Mrs Tan. "I should hurry up so that he
can romance his sweet heart before the army forced him
to stay in the barracks for the next six days."
Yet, this dog was not docile and rushing him meant more
haste, less speed.
Mrs Tan had said that an injection by another vet had
been effective in stopping the itchiness. However,
the practice was not opened on this Sunday. Besides, her
favourite vet worked only twice a week. "He had
suffered a stroke," she said.
"The vet had a mild stroke and should have
recovered," I said, in case she wanted to see him.
"I had to wait a very long time before I could consult
him. The second visit, I was referred to his colleague
who prescribed the medications. One of them is for
fungal infections. This fungal infection has recurred
and the tablets would resolve his itchiness."
She met me yesterday at a dinner gathering of old
friends of my wife on May Day. I told her that the
anti-fungal tablets might not work if the dog had no
fungal infection. Her complaint was that the dog was
getting itchier every day for the past week.
Therefore, it was best to re-examine the dog.
The dog refused to enter the surgery. Mrs Tan and
her son would not be able to restrain him. So, was this
a case that could not be closed? Would she have to
go home now?
"Do you have a cage so that my dog could enter it and be
given an injection? The other vet had this cage."
Mrs Tan asked.
"An injection is needed to reduce the itchiness," I had
told Mrs Tan at the party yesterday.
All dog owners judge a vet by the results. The vet with
the stroke had reduced the dog's itchiness and therefore
was her favourite first-choice vet.
Performance counts for all service providers. Customers
seldom give you a second chance. "It is not that the vet
from the first practice you went to was incompetent," I
said to Mrs Tan. "Sometimes, it is the dosage,
compliance with taking the medication and the need for
re-examination within 10 days of treatment. Many
owners seldom go to the vet for a review of the progress
of the skin disease."
Mrs Tan retorted, "I had seen that vet three times but
my dog was still itchy. That was why I switched to
another practice. The vet (with the stroke) is
Now, the dog was already ready to fight. Saliva
spitted from his mouth. It would fight to the end to
avoid entering the cage if I had one. So, what
should I do? The dog was family and the genteel
and fair lady owner was not able to control it well. I
was worried that she might get bitten.
Yet, the dog needed an anti-itch injection.
Muzzling him was out of question. He was strong and
massive. His rounded body and broad chest with weight
gain, after being neutered by Mrs Tan's favourite 5
years ago and subsequent good appetite made him a
How to restrain him without Mrs Tan feeling that he was
roughly handled? This dog was family. A "son" with
strong jaws and powerful legs.
"I am not in a hurry," Mrs Tan said. Her son was
checking me to see how long it would take. Mrs Tan
said, "Ignore his grouchiness. His girl friend is in my
house!" Mrs Tan is the type who could read minds,
the type of people with that extra sensory perception.
She assumed correctly that I was worried that her
son was had to meet his girl friend somewhere.
I squatted down to view the dog. He had settled down. I
could see the deep redness of the belly and the arm pits
as the dog eyed me suspiciously. There was no
physical contact. "I will go inside the surgery to
get the injection." I told Mrs Tan.
The dog refused to budge as I asked Mrs Tan to bring the
dog to an iron pole on a 3-meter wide pavement outside
the surgery. This pole was constructed by the
authorities to prevent cyclist from using the pavement.
I could wind the leash round the pole till the dog's head was pulled closer to the pole and he
would not be able to turn and bite while I injected his
The theory was sound. The dog just would not be tethered
to the pole. "Just gently push him closer," I asked Mrs
Tan. Ms Ho, an 18-year-old pre-university student
who wanted to be a vet was seeing practice.
This was a chance for her to learn animal husbandry and
to experience the risks of being a canine veterinarian.
Yet, would the dog bite her? Would I be sued if the dog
bit her? Should I just let her be an observer on the
side-line? Yet, how could a person learn just by
merely watching and not being hands-on?
Ms Ho's heart must be beating three times faster. I
could see her eye pupils dilated as she was not brought
up with dogs. Now, she was handling a canine
Mrs Tan observed her, "My dear, you can't be a vet if
you are frightened of dogs."
Mrs Tan asked me, "Have you been bitten by dogs?"
I nodded my head, trying to focus on this tiger whose
tongue was turning purplish as I tightened the leash.
"Ms Ho would learn how to handle animals during the
veterinary studies. In fact, I had no experience of dogs
before I went to Glasgow University to study veterinary
medicine," I said.
Many Singaporeans have no chance to keep dogs as pets if
their parents disapprove or harsh family economic
conditions prohibit. Ms Ho lived in a 2-bedroom
Housing & Development Board apartment, the smallest of
all HDB apartments.
UPDATE IN SEP 6, 2008
Mrs Tan's dog did not have any skin allergies. Ms Tan had
given him another brand and type of dry dog food. So, I have
not seen Ms Tan for the past 2-3 years. In this case, the
allergy would be due to the eating of certain ingredients in
the dry dog food given earlier. Once the allergen is removed,
the dog no longer itches. As to which ingredient in the dry
dog food, it is very hard to say.
What is an allergen?
Any substance, such as pollen, mold,
chemical or animal dander, that can trigger an allergic response.
How do you test for
To determine which specific
substances are triggering your allergies, your vet will test your dog's
skin, or sometimes its blood, using tiny amounts of commonly troublesome
There are several types of tests:
What's the best way to avoid
The best way to cope with spring
allergies is to avoid contact with the allergens.
What medications are used to
Antihistamines are used to prevent
or relieve the symptoms of allergic rhinitis and other allergies. They
work by preventing the production of histamine, a substance produced by
the body during an allergic reaction.
Decongestants are used to treat
nasal congestion and other symptoms associated with colds and allergies.
They work by narrowing blood vessels, leading to the clearing of nasal
congestion. Steroid nasal sprays reduce nasal inflammation and the
accompanying congestion, sneezing and runny nose.
Steroids are given by injection or orally to reduce inflammation.
What is immunotherapy?
Treatment may include immunotherapy,
better known as allergy shots, which work by desensitizing the immune
system to a specific allergen through periodic injections of the offending
substance in gradually increasing amounts. Injections, which are usually
given monthly for up to five years, typically begin to take effect within
three to six months. Immunotherapy is ultimately successful in up to 90
percent of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis and up to 80 percent
with perennial allergic rhinitis.
What's the link between
allergies and asthma?
So-called allergic asthma accounts
for about 60 percent of all asthma cases. It is triggered, not
surprisingly, by an allergen — be it pollen, dust, mold or animal dander.
When an allergic person is exposed to an allergen, a series of reactions
is set off.
First, antibodies in the immune
system whose purpose is to capture unwanted invaders are produced. These
antibodies, dubbed IgE, journey through the bloodstream and lock onto the
surface of so-called mast cells, plentiful in the nose, eyes, lungs and
gastrointestinal tract. Then they lie silently in wait until the allergen
strikes again. The IgE antibodies, now poised, jump on and gobble up the
allergens, triggering the release of inflammatory chemicals such as
histamine and prostaglandin.
The airways become inflamed, boggy
and red — very much like the skin of an eczema patient. This, in turn,
causes the airways to narrow, or bronchospasm. The victim begins to
wheeze, cough, even lose his breath.
What is the major risk
factor for contact dermatitis?
A family history of allergies is the
single most important factor that predisposes a dog to develop allergic
Can weather influence
contact dermatitis symptoms?
No, unless the cause is air-borne.
Allergy symptoms are often minimal on days that are rainy, cloudy or
windless, because pollen does not move about during these conditions. Hot,
dry and windy weather signals greater pollen and mold distribution and
thus, increased allergy symptoms.
What about locale?
If your dog is allergic to plants in
your area, you may believe that moving to another area of the country with
different plants will help to lessen your dog's symptoms. However, many
pollens from the grasses, molds and related plants can also trigger the
As a result, many who move to a new
region to escape their allergies find that their dogs acquire allergies to
new air-borne allergens prevalent in their area within one to two years.
Therefore, moving to another part of the country to escape allergies is
Skin diseases are sometimes very difficult to treat and costs the
owner a lot of money. Avoidance of allergens is impossible if the nature
of the allergens is unknown. Many Singapore dog owners are fed up with the
veterinarian as cure is not achieved within a week or two.
Generalised and chronic skin diseases are costly to treat and there is a
need to do many tests which the owner may not want to pay for. Performing
such tests may also not result in finding a permanent cure. Such owners
abandon the dog and are not happy.