tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)TOA PAYOH VETS

Date:   08 May, 2011  
Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs & rabbits
The Dog Can't Recognise His Owner
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
Date:   08 May, 2011  
Case was first recorded: Around 2000 
Be Kind To Pets
Veterinary Education
Project 2010-0129

"Should I put the old dog to sleep and how much do you charge? His urine is dribbling all over the house and you had said that his bad breadth would go away after all the decayed teeth had been removed by you and I had spent over two hundred dollars." Mrs Tan said. "In fact, the smell is worse than before!"  

I must remember never to be optimistic and give more or less a guarantee that old dogs would not have bad breadth after dental extraction and antibiotics ten months ago.  

In this 15-year-old Pomeranian, the bad breadth could be due to the poor health leading to stomach, kidney and liver problems. The bad smell from the dog's body would be due to the inability of the body to get rid of toxins in the blood.

Sometimes, it is the veterinarian against the economics of the owner. Blood tests would be useful but Mrs Tan did not want to spend more money on her dog and the telephone consultation was free of charge.

"Shall I let the dog go out of the house and be lost?" she asked me. No veterinarian would say yes. 

"Euthanasia would be kinder" I said over the phone. There was not a case of money as Mrs Tan could well afford the $30.00 for the euthanasia.  

"It would affect my daughter as her final examinations are just four weeks away.  If the dog was lost, she would not be so distressed as the dog had been lost before."  Children are kinder towards the old dogs and cats and have saved many from euthanasia by their parents. 

Old Singapore shophomeWhat could be done in this case? The parents had put up with the urine incontinence for so many months. The domestic worker was getting tired of cleaning up. The dog was prohibited from entering the daughter's room owing to the strong stench. Would it be kinder to put the dog to sleep? Old dogs and cats, unlike old shophouses, cannot be destroyed as there are always the children's feelings to be considered. 

Children nowadays are knowledgeable and parents may not realise that they understand the economics of veterinary treatment and the dilemmas of living with a senile pet more than we give them credit for. Be frank with them but they will resist euthanasia.

They cannot force parents to seek veterinary treatment but how the parents treat the aged family pet may be a role model for how the parents will be treated later when they grow senile.  


The following major signs of cognitive dysfunction in the cat and dog are:

Disorientation - leads to incontinence if the cat is unable to find its litter tray.

Non-responsiveness - no longer greeting the owner

Disruption of sleep patterns.

Hypervocalisation. Previously quiet, becoming noisy for no obvious reason.

The brain uses chemical energy and chemical signals to power its thought process.

These chemicals are called neurotransmitters, e.g. dopamine, serotonin and nor-epinephrine. As the cat ages, the normal balance of these chemicals is disrupted and result in a brain disease syndrome known as cognitive dysfunction. 

Since the problem is chemical deficiency, there is a potential to correct the imbalance by boosting levels with the use of drugs which increase their production or reduce the rate they are broken down.  

There are drugs used in humans to improve the blood supply to the brain and to alter the level of certain neurotransmitters, but none are licensed for use in the dog and cat. They do improve the quality of life of some elderly ones. However, few Singapore owners are willing to pay for the drugs and review the use of the drugs with their veterinarians. 


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Be Kind To Pets
Veterinary Education
Project 2010-0129
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