"If you can help these remaining 11
puppies, " Ms Too
pursed her lips and wiped the tears off
her face with her right hand. "I will be eternally grateful to you."
She clasped the limp body of a Miniature Schnauzer puppy that had
died after a short illness of high fever, runny nose and very smelly diarrhoea,
"You keep half the income when the puppies are sold (as
remuneration for veterinary services)."
She had her own worries as her mother had been hospitalised at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital for
high fever, muscle pain and difficulty in breathing. The doctor was
not saying what was wrong. But the signs and symptoms resembled
those mentioned in the newspapers' headlines. A new
frightening disease called "SARS (Severe Acute
Respiratory Syndrome)" virus had
infected some Singaporeans for the first time. She was worried about
her son, a second-year of junior college who kept late nights with
his friends almost every night.
A few of Ms Too's puppies died every week
for the past 2 months. Could the deadly SARS virus affect
puppies as well as people? No such cases were reported in dogs.
I had advised Ms Too to take the remaining puppies to a new place. To
quarantine them far away from the breeding kennel. But she asked me to
ward them at my Surgery. That was not possible. I could not put them in my Veterinary
Surgery as they would infect other dogs and puppies.
breeding kennel had one or more infectious and contagious disease of
dogs. She had three hundred and fifty Schnauzers and the
puppies were dying as they grew up to around 6 weeks of age.
Schnauzers puppies were normal before that. At
around 5 weeks old, a few stopped eating. Some were sleepy,
lost weight, had runny nose with green discharge. Every 2-5 days, a
puppy would die after fainting from fits or after passing
pure red bloody or black smelly stools.
The eleven puppies looked healthy
when I visited the kennels. Bouncing balls of dynamo wanting to
play. They were kept with their 3 mothers in 3 cages just next
to each other and had been weaned to eat dry puppy food. It
was a hopeless situation. It was none of my business. Or was
"Doc, if it is not too much trouble, don't let them die in the
kennels," an 18-year-old boy came out from the kennels. "The Miniature Schnauzers are being stalked by invisible
killers. They might survive if you could take them to a new
virus-free environment. It can't be your surgery as there are no
isolation facilities. How about your house? I will help you take
care of them." I looked up at his young man who was one head
taller than me. This must be Ms Too's son. He had
inherited her hot lips and her genteel manners.
"Do you really have time to help me since you are seldom at home?" He was
in junior college and most evenings he would put on his contact
lens, gel his hair, put on his T-shirt with patterns and spend late
nights out with his friends. This was one of those rare occasions I saw him
helping his mother.
There was a need to isolate the
puppies. But there were no special isolation and intensive
care facilities for so such situations in puppies. Besides it
would be prohibitively costly. It was too costly for any
breeder or veterinarian to implement the strict isolation and
hygiene practices of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
practised at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital which was designated as the
SARS hospital in Singapore to contain the spread of infection to all
Care-givers wore space-man like suits to attend to the infected
I housed them at home, in separate boxes with separate drinking and
Four puppies suddenly went into fits, eye white rolling up as if
they were knocked in the head and suffered a coma. They died within
2 days after crying non-stop due to internal pain. These were
probable nervous signs of the distemper viral infection. Others had green runny nose, passed smelly black
stools, vomited and cried non-stop due to abdominal pain. They died. The parvoviral
infection of the intestines were confirmed using test kits. The
killers were invisible but extremely lethal and virulent viruses of
puppies. It was very traumatic to see young healthy puppies
dying one by one over ten days. Only 3 puppies survived the 14 days.
Two of them are shown in
the picture here.
Too could not remember whether the dams had been vaccinated or not.
Or they had been given dud vaccines which would not be effective. No
puppies were vaccinated before they were eight weeks old and in any
case, there was no proper planning for vaccination of the breeding
stock or puppies.
After the deaths of these puppies, the next batch of weaned
puppies were kept in a distant area far away from the breeding
kennels when they were six weeks old for the next 12 months..
The breeding stock were vaccinated. Two subsequent batches of four
6-week-old puppies vomited, had yellowish diarrhoea and died. These
were the only losses and coronaviral infection was suspected.
Ms Too had no more mass deaths for the last 15 months.
She used the 9-in-one vaccines according to the vaccination schedule
recommended below. Distemper and parvovirus were the
invisible killers of Ms Too's puppies. Coronaviruses might be
present but there were no electronic microscopic facilities to
confirm their presence in dogs in Singapore.
Unlike the human SARS virus, the distemper, parvoviral and
coronavirus causing infectious diseases in puppies can easily and
effectively be prevented just by vaccination.
Hard foot pads, the later signs of distemper, were present in
other older ones of puppies kept by Ms Too at her pet shop. In
this case, the signs and symptoms especially the nervous signs of
infection led to a likelihood of distemper virus as the main stalker
of the puppies.
Prior to 2003,
there were 3 bigger breeding operations reporting mass puppy deaths
in Singapore reported to me as anecdotes. As much as $50,000
losses were reported by a breeder.
* One was attributed to parvoviral infections. The Rottweiler
puppies were growing up well and received their first vaccination.
They died from "parvoviral" infections.
* The other two were said by the breeders to be due to dud vaccines.
This could not be substantiated as there were no investigations.
Since 2003, vaccinations were done by some vets visiting the
breeding farms and pet shops. Breeders were well informed and
educated in 2005.
http://www.asiahomes.com/distemper.htm. Controversies and
vaccination schedule for puppies in Singapore, from Toa Payoh Vets.