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Kind to Pet: Community education project
"He is losing hair and getting bald" said
Ms Jasmine Chan, a 12-year old girl with a
heart-shaped face, cropped black hair. She had just completed her Primary
Six School Leaving Examination and her father had bought her a 3-month-old
miniature Schnauzer imported from Australia by a pet shop.
This puppy was a hyperactive ball of fun. Full of circular patches of hair loss, some bigger than a 50-cent coin, presented all over the body. Its appetite was excellent and its hyperactive energy level did not diminish though. It just could not stand still.
"Your puppy has a ringworm infection." I said, as I took some hair samples to examine under the microscope.
"You mean he's got worms all over the body?" queried Jasmine.
"No, it is a fungus which causes ring-like bald patches on the head, ears, paw and back," I explained.
"What options are available?" the Daddy enquired. He was concerned about the veterinary cost as he had already consulted two vets earlier and had been retrenched at short notice by the multinational company. The winds of recession hit Singapore hard post 9/11, Iraqi War, SARS and the movement of multinational companies from Singapore to China had led to retrenchment.
Jasmine was wearing shorts, a practical and popular attire in hot and humid Singapore.
"Did you consult your doctor about the red spots on your daughter's right thigh?" I asked her father.
"Oh, those are mosquito bites," he said nonchalantly. Mosquitoes have been considerably eliminated by the monthly insecticide fogging in his condominium, but they are still around. There is another ringworm infection of your daughter's right hand near the wrist," I pointed to the area.
Mr Chan widened his eyes and frowned. A canine disease infecting people is a serious matter.
"I should put the puppy to sleep as two other members of the family have similar skin lesions." he said.
"Ringworm is a contagious disease, but it does not kill the puppy or people in the vast majority of cases," I said.
"How much it would cost to treat ringworm? I had already paid for 2 visits to a veterinarian," Mr Chan asked.
"Chronic dermatophytosis or long-standing ringworm skin diseases are costly to treat as they require several consultations. It takes a long time, sometimes several weeks to get a cure," I explained to Mr Chan.
Many Singaporeans dislike paying for more than one veterinary treatment. Preferably a one-visit-cure. I guess this would be the universal feeling. If one treatment was not sufficient, so be it.
But this puppy was bought for $1,200. A lethal injection would mean writing off a lot of money and maybe traumatic to Jasmine who had looked after the dog for a month.
"Ringworm fungal spores invade the outer layer of the skin and hair shafts," Groomer Ken said. "In your puppy, some infected hair follicles had ruptured and the fungal spores had invaded the tissues beneath the skin. They produce a firm, painful and itchy nodules called "pseudomycetoma."
The puppy had been licking its ringworm lesions to relieve itself of the intense itchiness.
Mr Chan was not impressed with medical terms. What he wanted to know was whether there was a cure and how much would be the treatment. No technical jargon.
"Is it a curable skin disease and how much it would cost to treat the Schnauzer? I have some itchy rashes on my arms and my wife has them too."
If Mr Chan had his way, he would rather put the puppy to sleep. After all, he could buy another one.
He was one of those New Age sensitive guys who would need to consult his wife and he phoned her using his mobile. The older patriarchs in the Singaporean Chinese family of the 1970s don't consult the wife.
Jasmine did not say anything. Chinese daughters at this age usually don't voice their comments unlike their Caucasian counter parts.
Treatment was decided.
First of all, the hair had to be shaved off to reduce the amount of infected hair.
The Schnauzer would be given anti-fungal drugs daily for at least 42 days and an anti-fungal shampoo wash thrice a week for 3 weeks first.
The grooming brushes, cage and sleeping blankets for the
puppy need to be de-contaminated by washing with hot water and the anti-fungal solution.
decided that Groomer Ken should treat the puppy.