educational stories for pet lovers,
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No third chance for a vet
diseases require more than one veterinary
visit," I said to Mr Chow who put a dog with
itchy ears on the examination table.
Mr Chow replied in his patient voice. "I had
seen the veterinarian twice. She did skin
scrapings, examined them under the microscope and
said there were no mange mites seen. She gave me
anti-flea capsules for the dog to take orally and
two bottles of shampoos. My dog still scratches day and
He continued, "I went to my groomer to
clip the coat and the groomer says that my dog is
suffering from mange."
"As many as six to twelve skin scrapings of
various spots of infested skin may reveal no
mange mites but this does not mean that your dog
is not suffering from Sarcoptes scabiei var.
canis mange," I tried to educate Mr Chow, a man who loved
his grey and white dog very much and could feel the discomfort
of continuous itchiness in his dog's scratching sounds, day and
"Based on the distribution of the areas
infected, your dog is suffering from Sarcoptic
Mange" I said as I pointed to the prominent
crusting of the ear margins, the hair loss around
the eyelids, nose and belly rashes which looked very much like
the bacteria Staphyloccocus infection. It was possible that the
bacteria had infected the skin too, after much damage by the
I continued, "I will need to take skin
scrapings deeper into the skin surface as the
mites tunnel into the deeper layer of the stratum
corneum, lay eggs in the skin tunnel and die
there. They may or may not be present on the skin
surface and therefore deep scrapings will be
necessary. There will be bleeding. Is that all
right with you?" Some owners can't
bear to see traumatic injuries to their pets and
just opt for the anti-mite injections and
Mr Chow said it was all right. He just wanted his
dog to be cured of the intense itch. He just
could not bear to see his dog suffering every day
and night. And he had seen a veterinarian twice
but his dog was suffering from intense itch.
Sarcoptic mange mites are sometimes called the
"itch mite" as they provoke intense
skin inflammation by their tunnelling and laying
eggs inside the tunnels. Bacteria infects the
skin forming pus and there would be more
scratching until the serum (the clear component
of blood) seeps out of the tunnels to the surface
of the skin. The serum dries up and form thick
crusty skin scabs which are obvious in this dog's
The female mites burrows into the skin, lay eggs
and die. The eggs hatch into larvae which molt
into nymph stage and then become adult mites on
the surface of the skin, feeding on the serum.
The male and female mites mate and repeat the
life cycle. Dogs get infested by direct contact
with another dog and dogs with poor immune
systems are more likely to get mange.
I took only two skin scrapings instead of at
least six as I did not want to traumatise the dog
further. There was bleeding as I scraped deep at
the edge of the ear margins where the mites are
active mating and to get the female mites inside
the honey-comb of extensive spread of skin
No mange mites were seen under the microscope as
the dog had an anti-flea insecticide treatment
although I should have taken at least 6 - 12 skin
scrapings. In private practice, the owner and
family members would be more traumatised to see
so many bleeding scraped areas in his beloved pet
and therefore I had to restrain myself.
Diagnosis would best be confirmed by seeing the
presence of the mites although the distribution
of the skin lesions and rashes were typical of a
Sarcoptic Mange infestation.
"The anti-mite injection may or may not need
to be repeated in 7 days' time," I said.
"Please telephone for a
Once the mites are killed by the insecticide
injection, the constant scratching which results
in hair loss and damage to the skin by
self-mutilation will cease. If not, the mites
will infest the whole body besides the thinly
haired areas such as the ears, muzzle and around
When Mr Chow left, I reviewed the skin scrapings
under the microscope again. Hidden amongst the
hair, red blood cells and skin cells, a plump
globular mite with six legs moved nonchalantly.
"Bloody s.o.b (son of a bitch)," I
cursed although the mite might be female scrapped
out from the skin tunnels.
It would be better if Mr Chow had seen this mite. I
phoned Mr Chow to confirm the presence of
Sarcoptic Mange. Since I did not see him after
seven days, I presumed his dog must be
recovering. There would be no second chance for
me if the dog was not cured.
The dog did recover in 2 weeks as Mr Chow came for a second
injection. Most Singapore owners do not follow up when they see
their dog recovering. Mr Chow was one of those who had time for
his dog to get the second injection and to review the results of
the dog still sleeping in the same area? And you are still using
the same brush to groom the dog?" I asked.
"Yes," Mr Chow said to both questions. It never
occurred to him that the mites would be present in these areas
and would cause a problem.
is best to move the dog away from its present area for 1-2
months, as the mites may still be alive on the bedding and
brushes. You can sun the brushes and mop the floor but it helps
to avoid such areas and equipment for 2 months " I
it may be re-infested by mites again." Mr Chow appeared
satisfied with his dog's recovery from the pesky microscopic
mites which could never be seen by the human eyes.
Recently, a Singapore doctor specialising in
arthritis mentioned in the Straits Times the
tendency of Singaporeans to practise doctor
hopping. I guess veterinarian hopping is equally
as common. If the cure is not immediate, there
will be no second chance!
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