Monday, May 20, 2013

1424. "Expiry date" of a Cocker Spaniel - to euthanase or not?

Case of euthanasia or not?  May 20, 2013. 8 pm duty. Dr Sing Kong Yuen


14-year-old.male Cocker Spaniel. 
Profuse salivation and "bad breath" now.

"He keeps drooling and he has bad breath. Is it worth treating him?" the gentleman owner consulted me for the first time at 7.30 pm on Monday May 20, 2013, half hour before my closing time. ""I read from the internet that Cocker Spaniels live up to 12 years and he is already 14 years old."
"This Cocker Spaniel is active. Is he eating or not?" I wanted to confirm. 
"He eats a lot," the man said.

"One of the main reasons Singaporean dog owners put an old sick dog to sleep is financial," I said.

"Oh, I can afford the fees. Is it value for money? Will there be more medical problems down the road if you treat this drooling?"

"The decision to euthanase has to be made by the owner," I replied. "If he is my dog, I will get him treated for drooling and bad breath." Actually, there was no loud stench. I reviewed the medical records as the dog had been treated by my associate vets in the past 2 years. In April 2012, my associate vet had operated on the right ear for aural haematoma, excised a big skin wart and did dental scaling under anaesthesia. The costs amounted to $751. In May 2012, the dog was hospitalised 7 days for a ruptured skin abscess, costing $315. So, in 2012, the owner had spent around $1000 whereas for the past 11 years of the dog's life, he did not have to pay for veterinary costs except for the $35 annual vaccination from 2009 - 2012. In April 2013, he paid around $744 for dental and removal of skin lumps. Now there is profuse salivation.   
So, I can understand that he is worried that there will be more veterinary bills and since the Cocker Spaniel is expected to live for 12 years, his dog had exceeded the life expectancy. So, he asked me whether he ought to euthanase him. The cost of living had shot up incredibly high with car, rental and property prices too high as there seemed to be a group of rich consumers. Many heartlanders are affected and so are their pet's health care treatment being delayed.

It is like my 8-year-old car. It cost me a bomb to repair the leaked radiator and yet after spending $6,000 over a period of one year, the radiator system still leaked. I had to rent cars while it was in the workshop. Recently, I scrapped it as the leak continued.

But this dog was drooling for the first time. What was the cause?
"If the dog does not drool till Christmas, it will be great," the owner said.
"Why not give him 2 weeks' chance?" I asked. "I give the medication and you stop feeding dog treats. Just canned food - no dry food and water for two weeks."
"Are you sure you can stop the drooling permanently?" the man asked.
"I don't know. If the gum ulcers heal and you don't feed abrasive food or treats, there may be a chance."
This was the live or die situation for this friendly big-sized Cocker Spaniel with white beard. At 13 kg, he was thin and he had a rectal temperature of 39.5C which might be a sign of fever. Due to economic reasons, I did not ask for a blood test to screen his health. I gave two injections and medication. "Strictly just canned food and water for the next 2 weeks." I said. "This is his last chance to live."

The next sunny blue sky morning of Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 10 am, I phoned the gentleman. His sleepy voice over the phone told me that the dog had considerably reduced his drooling. "Last night, he did not drool at all. Maybe a drop or two! Wait, I will check him now."

He examined the dog and replied: "The drooling absolutely stopped. Will this be permanent?"
"Much depends on the cause of the gum ulreration," I said. This viscous salivation reminds me of cats being given some drugs they dislike and so they produce viscous salivation and drooling.

"Did you use alcoholic wipes to clean your dog's mouth?" I asked by the way.
"Yes, I do," he had bought some commercial wipes. "But there is no alcohol."
"Are those the baby backside wipes?" I asked.
"Yes," he said.
So, this follow up is useful in that the cause of salivation could be his habit of wiping the dog's mouth twice a day to clean him. The chemicals inside the wipe cause gum ulcers and evoked viscous salivation. There would be a smell of "bad breath."
"Do you think the wipes cause this drooling?" the man asked me.
"It is possible. Stop all wipes. Use paper towel or tissue paper."

I have to wait and see for 2 weeks. If there is no more drooling, this dog has a reprieve and may live up to 20 years of age. Much past his expiry date of 12 years according to the internet.


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