Owners: A young Singaporean working couple in their late twenties.
Date of report: 17 April 2007.
"Doc, my 11-month-old Cocker Spaniel dribbled urine in the living area for 3 to 4 times. Could it be a lower urinary tract infection (LUTI)?" the lady owner in her late twenties put the dog on the consultation table.
Sunlight streaming through the glass window separating the reception room from my consultation room bounced onto the glossy coat of a young pretty American Cocker female on this sunny Sunday morning.
This gentle "girl" was toilet-trained would just go to the toilet to eliminate on the newspapers but recently soiled the living area as urine dribbled here and there. The dog was normal except for this "regression in toilet-training."
I palpated the bladder. It was as round as but bigger than a golf ball. There seemed to be a with-holding of the urine due to pain in urination. Or the bladder was half full.
I took out the thermometer from her rectum. The rectal temperature was normal but that did not mean that there was no infection of the urinary system.
However, the private parts
were more than 20 times swollen. The
onset of heat was 1 month ago and the swelling should be much
This vulval swelling was due to continual licking. One common sign would be the darker skin areas outside the vulval lips. It was usually due to hyperpigmentation from constant irritation by licking.
I swabbed the inside of the vulval lips with a piece of tissue paper. A blob of yellowish-brown stain of pus stuck on the tissue paper impressed the young couple. Visual evidence speaks loudly than words. Pus is not always seen in LUTI.
The owners had diagnosed correctly that she was suffering a LUTI.
Now, how to resolve her medical problem quickly before she messed up the whole apartment. Firstly, the history of toilet training would be needed.
HISTORY OF TOILET TRAINING.
This female dog was paper-trained and had always used the common bathroom as the toilet. Her routine was as follows:
7 am breakfast.
Has peed and pooped overnight on newspapers on the common bathroom near the kitchen.
1-2pm. Pee once.
Poop if given food treats when the lady owner was a home-maker. Now she has gone back to work. In Singapore, the high cost of living necessitates dual-income.
7pm dinner. Pee once. Poop sometimes.
11pm. Bed-time. Sleeps inside the common bathroom. Pee and poop overnight on the newspapers.
She had never dribbled urine in the living area for the past months. She was a very clean dog. So she had a medical problem and the owners were knowledgeable to bring her to consult the veterinarian.
PAPER TRAINING METHOD.
100% newspapers in the kitchen, reducing the area covered by newspapers by identifying the paper-area where the puppy eliminates. Then the puppy was put in the common bathroom which included the shower stall. The floor was covered by 100% newspapers and then the paper-area was reduced gradually. After a month, the puppy just went to the papers to pee and poop.
"Which area of the toilet is used?" I asked.
"She positioned herself in the centre of the toilet floor, just behind the door and in front and between the shower stall and Water Closet. This location was spacious.
"Your advice to make the stools distasteful to the puppy worked" the young lady owner laughed. "We sprinkled some hot chilli powder on the stools. She stopped eating after a while. We also gave her more food."
Coprophagia is a headache with many first-time puppy owners in Singapore and some dogs continue this anti-social habit into adulthood. This was a success story.
HEARTWORM BLOOD TEST. The owners had given heart worm medicine they purchased somewhere. They just wanted a heartworm blood test. I placed the dog on the elevated table. Groomer Mark held the fore leg vein out for me the take the blood.
"Pinch the skin near the vein for a minute," I said as I withdrew the syringe after sucking out a small amount of blood. The Spaniel was co-operative and happy.
Mark pinched the cephalic vein area for a minute. But blood suddenly gushed out as he let go. The lady owner gasped as redness flooded the injection area. "It is not a serious problem," I assured her. I stopped the bleeding by pinching the skin. The heartworm test was negative for heartworms. It was good news.
WHEN TO SPAY?
"When should I send the dog in for spaying?" the couple enquired.
I said: "Female dogs can be spayed at 6 months of age. Many owners spay when the dogs had vulval bleeding during the heat period.
In the interest of the female dog, my recommendation to all owners is 2 to 4 months (average at 3 months) after the heat period as the blood vessels of the womb and ovaries would have shrunken back to normal. There would be considerably less bleeding during surgery and much safer for the dog. The owners accepted my advice.
Many times, such advices lead to loss of a client as other veterinarians provide immediate service for spaying whether the female dog is on heat or off.
It was pleasant and nice to have educated owners who want to establish a good relationship with a veterinarian and was not rushing to get spay done during the heat period.
FOLLOW-UP ON "REGRESSION".
On day 3 after antibiotic treatment and injection on day 1, I phoned the owner.
She said: "Thanks for call. The Cocker Spaniel now is able to control her bladder and dutifully goes to the bathroom to do her business."
This case has been mis-interpreted by many dog owners as "regression" in toilet training.
Some owners think: "She is seeking attention --- so she pees onto the living area. A few spankings on her backside and scolding would teach her to behave!" Had this been done, the Cocker Spaniel would run and hide. The infection would persist and may continue up into the womb or kidneys.
Prompt veterinary treatment was the solution for this was not a case of "regression" in toilet-training.