tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)TOA PAYOH VETS

Date:   15 February, 2010  
Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pig & rabbits.

Toa Payoh Vets Clinical Research
Making veterinary surgery alive
to a veterinary student studying in Australia
using real case studies and pictures

2004 tips for pet lovers in Singapore -
Coughs and cold, diarrhoea, smelly ears.
breast tumours and itchy backsides
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS. First written in 30 Dec 2004
Update:  15 February, 2010

Excerpts from the book, "How your puppy can live longer."  Dr Sing Kong Yuen 
Be Kind To Pets
Veterinary Education
Project 2010-0129
Younger Dogs Older Dogs
Kennel Cough
Coughing was a common complaint of newly purchased puppies in the 1994-77 period as Singaporeans buy imported puppies from Australia and more pet shops are established.  In 2002, there were around 140 pet shops. In 2005, the number is around 260 shops.  

Purchased from a Singapore Pet Dealer, the Australian imported 2-month-old puppy was inactive Photo-1most of the day. Sleepy, not eating much, coughing and diarrhoea. Symptoms suggestive of a viral infection of a upper respiratory system and the gastrointestinal infection too.  The epiphora (eye tearing) might be due to non-infectious causes.   An Australian-imported puppy recovering in the a veterinary surgery, 12 hours after treatment for diarrhoea. It was presented with acute gastroenteritis. It could not stand for more than few seconds but now it wanted to play after rehydration and injections.

The teenage owners could not sleep and had delayed treatment for 12 hours. The rectal temperature was slightly below normal, the greenish black diarrhoea was smelly but the puppy recovered.

The pet dealer agreed that the puppy be treated by outside veterinarians as his veterinarian had closed in the afternoon. The puppy would be eating only one brand of dry food and should be producing normal stools and go home within next 2 days. Puppies less than 3 months old are now not allowed by the Singapore veterinary authorities to be imported with effect from 2002.

Advices to new veterinarians:
It is not advisable to ward puppies longer than few days, as they may have relapses or other sicknesses as their vaccination status is unknown generally. Some pet dealers have their own vets and may pay for the treatment but many will not.

Photo-2Acute gastroenteritis
The diarrhoea in a newly purchased puppy may be due to sudden changes of diet, viral infections or worms.  Seek prompt veterinary treatment before the puppy collapses due to lack of nutrients and dehydration from the passing of loose stools several times a day.

This 2-month old Australian-imported puppy died within 2 days of purchase. Eye discharge, coughing, fever and not eating and not active were the only signs. Pet dealer refused to refund the money or take back the puppy.  The Buyer quickly cancelled his credit card payment.

The puppy was recommended by his veterinarian to be treated by the dealer's veterinarian as the dealer persistently refused to return the money, saying "eye discharge" is common and could be treated.

It died within 2 days in the dealer's veterinary surgeon's clinic and was diagnosed as due to "viral cause".

Pet dealers are generally reluctant to take back the puppies as they don't know what have been fed to them or what treatments had been given by the Owner.

Some Singapore Owners give the Chinese "bo chai" pills and Pannadol for diarrhoea and fever when rehydration is much more important. Taking back the puppy means death and financial losses.

A 24-hour veterinary inspection and money-back guarantee may be to the advantage of the buyer.

The incubation periods of viral infection is 7-14 days. Symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting may then appear, despite the veterinary inspection of good health on the first 2 days after import into Singapore. Therefore, owners who bought a newly imported puppy which looked healthy might still get surprised when it started coughing or have diarrhoea 7-14 days later.

Expatriates & pet lovers:
Since many will buy puppies for their children from pet shops, we hope the following tips may help to prevent distress to the young ones when a new pup dies within 7 days of purchase.

  • Buying imported puppies. Most puppies sold in pet shops are imported from Australia at 2 months or less of age. They may not have time to recover from the stress of travel and new environment. Many easily fall ill. Pet shops are most popular as a source of puppies as they have a variety of breeds. Since 1998, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore prohibits imports of less than 3-month old puppies.
  • Buy from a reputable pet dealer. Cost of an imported pedigree from Australia range from S$800 without pedigree papers to $2,000 for those with pedigree papers.
  • Get a dealer's guarantee that you can return the puppy within 24 hours and get your money back if the veterinary inspection is unsatisfactory. You may encounter great difficulty in getting your money back. Avoid such pet dealers. Get referrals from friends.
  • Buy local breds. Local-bred dogs sold at pet shops are also subjected to similar infections if their parents do not have regular viral vaccination boosters. Local-breds are usually advertised by individuals in the Straits Times. There is not much breeding in Singapore compared to 10 years ago and you may buy a cross-bred small breed which may not be what you want. Cross-breds cost around S$300 but they may grow up to be very handsome looking or very ugly.
  • Feed the puppy with approved food and this area is where first-time puppy buyers fail to observe or the pet dealer has forgotten to advise the new owner.  Many feed with home-cooked food/snacks and buy other food, upsetting the intestine and causing diarrhoea.  The puppy became less active as the diarrhoea continued. It could still eat but looked lethargic. When it can't stand on four legs, the veterinarian is consulted. By then, it is too late as the puppy becomes dehydrated, lying flat on its side and its body temperature drops to below 37 degrees Celsius.   
  • Send the sick puppy within 12 hours to the vet instead of procrastinating. Sickness include vomiting, diarrhoea (most common), coughing, not active anymore, not eating, fainted, sleeping most of the time and "crying". Many Singaporeans tend to wait and see, till the puppy collapses before going to the vet.
  • Deworm the puppy after it has been home for 7 days and have not shown any signs of illness (eating well and active). Give deworming syrup for 3 days and then repeat after 10 days (depending on veterinary instructions). Deworm regularly e.g. 6-monthly.
  • Vaccination usually at 8 weeks, with 2 booster vaccinations one month later, then yearly vaccination. 90% of Singaporeans forget the yearly booster but it this is important as your dog may get exposed to viruses later when boarded or exposed to other dogs.

  • Regular grooming of dog is important for long-coated breeds.
Photo-3Otitis externa
Vinegar-smell in dog ears. Long-eared dogs have no ventilation and need regular cleaning. Otherwise, a strong smell and pus gather in the ear canal, causing dog to be shaking ears and very irritated.

Photo-4Anal sacculitis
Tail biting and chasing as if bitten by mosquitoes or ants. Normally anal sac (left and right) produce a light yellow "cooking oil" type daily but if the sacs are blocked or infected, the oil cannot be released. It accumulates and become dark green, then brown to black as in this case. If not treated, the oil solidifies to become dry brown granules or clay. The dog's anal skin areas will be inflamed to become brown and then black with hair loss.  The dog owner may need to pull up tail and squeeze the oil out from the sacs.

  • Ear cleaning of floppy-eared breeds is usually neglected but it is important. The Spaniel and Poodle are examples of floppy-ear breeds.  Do not pour ear powder and oil into the ear canal, a common practice of several Singapore dog groomers.  These will  cause obstruction of the horizontal canal part of the dog's ear.
  • Tail chasing, biting and scooting may look hilarious but usually indicates some problems of infection of hind area or anal sac impaction.  The dog has 2 anal glands on either side and below the left and right of the anus.

    Most Singaporeans think it is due to "mosquito bite" when they see the dog running in circles and biting its back or tail. Sometimes the Owner sees the dog rubbing its backside on the floor and think that this "scooting" action is normal but it is not.  The house can become very smelly as the dog releases part of its anal sac oil into the floor by rubbing its backside onto the floor.  


2010 Cases
Anal sacculitis or circum-anal tumour? Histopathology is needed. In private practice, many dog owners prefer to pay as low as possible. Therefore, I do not recommend histopathology as this increases he costs.

Anal sac abscess or circum-anal tumour

The hard lump and the left anal sac were surgically excised. Some tumours do recur. So the owner must be vigilant and check weekly.

Some small persistent hard lumps around the anus may be circum-anal tumours. These need to be excised early and save a lot of veterinary expenses for the owner. The case shown below was relatively high cost and very difficult to operate as the circum-anal tumours have scattered and spread all over the anal area.     

Perineal tumours being excised. Electro-incision. Shih Tzu, 12 years. Toa Payoh Vets
tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)3106. Still Alive And Kicking - Circum-anal tumours

Mammary tumours and economics
In February 2010, I went to vaccinate puppies at a pet shop. There was one dog owner who was working part-time there. She had consulted me about her Miniature Schnauzer passing blood. She told me she spent $30,000 at a veterinary practice on saving her Miniature Schnauzer. I did not ask for details but the costs included blood and plasma transfusion and hospitalisation for over many days.    

For many owners, any expenditure over $100 is deemed costly. Therefore many tests that ought to be done such as pre-anaesthetic blood tests prior to spaying don't get done due to economics and competition. Much depends on the quality of your clientele. In some practices, money is no problem.

For pet owners, veterinary costs for removal of mammary tumours are less expensive when they are removed early. Unfortunately, many don't do. The tumours still grow bigger.  Many younger Singapore dog and cat owners feel it is cruel to sterilise the pet.

Pet owners have to be alert by checking their pets daily for tumours. They should follow up 2-3 months after surgery with their vets if they want their pets to live a long life and incur less veterinary expenses.  

Bad breath

Bad breath and loose teeth are frequently ignored by many dog owners in Singapore as the rotten teeth are hidden. Such diseased teeth and gums shorten the dog's life as the bacteria and toxins spread all over the body. Much depends on the education of the owner to get the dog's mouth checked up by the vet yearly.


A yearly veterinary examination, dental scaling and check for tumours will help your pet to live longer.

Many Singapore pet owners tend to procrastinate going to the vet, bearing with the dog's bad breadth and small lumps in the breast (an indication of early breast tumours). Advert
Singapore traffic warden using a PDA - rental advert

For more Information on FREE house-hunting for expats relocating to Singapore,
email, tel: +65 9668 6468, fax: +65 6256-0501, 6254-3326. 
Be Kind To Pets
Veterinary Education
Project 2010-0129

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Clinical Research

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