The Maltese stopped breathing just before the spay
surgery. Her tongue was a dried maroon blue colour with
more red hues. There was time to revive her. I grasped her
chest with my right hand. A few breaths. Then no breathing
movements. Her tongue was still the same colour. I could
feel her faint heart beats.
"Disconnect the general anaesthesia," I said to my
assistant. I put the endotracheal tube into my mouth and
blew air into her lungs three times and compressed her
chest three times. A sweetish smell of anaesthetic gas
came out of the Maltese mouth. She was responding slowly.
Her breathing started.
The rest of the surgery was uneventful as the dog breathed
regularly. I incised the skin about 2.5 cm from the
umbilicus. I could see the dark brown lobes of the liver.
I inserted the spay hook and hooked out the left ovary. I
thanked the owner for presenting a female dog that was not
on heat. Spaying a female dog during heat was risky as
there would be much bleeding as the fragile blood vessel
and womb tissue break when clamped by the artery forceps.
Lots of bleeding and maybe death later. But this case was
a dream boat. No bleeding.
I reduced the anaesthesia to 0.5% and then to zero 5
minutes before the end of surgery. This was a thin Maltese
weighing around 3.5 kg and the usual 2% maintenance dose
was not necessary. The Maltese woke up 2 minutes later as
if she had a nap.
At 5 p.m, the young lady owner came to pick up the
Maltese. I had some time to do some research on how
Singaporeans keep dogs and invited the lady to sit down
and talked about the subject she loved most, besides her
"How did you toilet-train your Maltese during the first
week?" I asked.
"It was so long ago," she said as she took out the puppy
papers from a folder. "I put newspapers covering the whole
floor of the kitchen and the bathroom nearby. Then I
removed the newspapers gradually till only the bathroom
had newspapers. I want the puppy to eliminate in the
"How long did you take to successfully paper-train her?" I
presumed she had success in paper-training.
"Can't remember," the lady said. "Now she is 2 years and 4
months old. She goes to the bathroom floor near the
kitchen to eliminate. My maid will then hose the urine
The lady made a surprising statement: "The Maltese
purposely pees outside the door of the bathroom sometimes.
Especially after midnight and when nobody
is at home. But this would not be done regularly."
I thought: "This must be urine marking. Female dogs seldom
do it but I am sure that some will urine marking. Maybe
alpha female dogs?"
Yet this was the only spot that the Maltese would pee
deliberately. As an adult dog, I presumed she would know
better than to soil the place.
I put a piece of paper for the lady to sketch the floor
plan of the bathroom and the kitchen and explained the
routine of the Maltese.
Why would this Maltese behave so strangely, especially
after midnight? She sleeps in the master bedroom but would
never go the master bathroom.
When she needed to pee, she would run out and just pees
outside the door of the kitchen bathroom.
Why this unusual canine behaviour?
"I don't think there is much space inside the bathroom," I
noted from the sketch and from my visits to the typical
HDB (Housing and Development Board) apartment. "Most
likely, the dog just did not want to dirty her paws by
stepping into the kitchen bathroom which could be soiled
with urine at, say, 9 p.m. Do you or your maid hose the
bathroom before you go to bed?"
"Too tired to do that," the lady in her late 20s shook her
head. She worked long hours as she climbed the corporate
ladder of a famous multinational company.
"So, the answer for this
'misbehaviour' could most probably be that the Maltese disliked
peeing on the soiled floor. All dogs don't like to dirty
themselves if they can help it.
It was a surprising revelation for both of us.
"Use a rag. Dip it in white vinegar:water 1:3 and neutralise the
urine smell outside the kitchen bathroom. Hose the floor before
you sleep. Do let me know in 3 months' time if you are
successful." Case closed. Time to go home.
But there was another strange behaviour of this active Maltese who
would not step into the veterinary surgery when she reached the
place, according to the owner.
"She drinks her urine for the past 6 months," the
lady said. "She had never done it as a puppy."
"That is strange," I said. "I have heard of some puppies drinking
their urine during my research in toilet training. Adult dogs eat
poo. But this is the first time I hear an adult dog
Why and when?
"The Maltese goes to the kitchen bathroom before bedtime, around
11 p.m," the lady owner said. "I say 'Go shee shee' and she would
go to the bathroom. I close the sliding door. Even if she has no
urine, she would try to do it. I could see her licking her urine
sometimes. Why would she do it?"
I had no instant answer. This Maltese was obedient.
I suggested, "Place a puppy diaper on the kitchen bathroom floor.
This absorbs all urine and she would not be able to lick them.
Otherwise she would persist and the vice would be hard to
eliminate. A diaper costs money and it may be changed every 2 days
in the case of the puppy. But your dog is an adult and may need
regular daily changes."
My solution did not seem practical or appealing.
"You could buy those human diapers for incontinent people. They
are much cheaper." I said.
"Won't the dog shred it?" the lady asked.
"The puppy diapers with stick-on tapes would be more lasting. They
have a urine smell to attract the puppy to pee onto it."
"Oh," the lady remembered. "The puppy training aid (liquid) was so
disgustingly smelly that the Maltese hated it when I used it to
toilet train her on newspapers!"
Somehow she had gone on a different train of thought. I had better
not get distracted too.
"Since the Maltese finds that you scold or get angry if she licks
urine, she could be seeking attention. The more she does it, the
more she gets scolded. Any attention is better than none since you
work long hours." I had another brainwave.
So what's the solution?
No puppy diapers. No scolding. Hose the floor before bedtime.
Neutralise the floor outside the kitchen bathroom. Do NOT
force the adult dog to go to the bathroom before bedtime.
I don't know how much of my advices will be useful and whether
this lady would feedback to me the progress in 3 months' time.
This was an educated and well informed owner. I was glad that her
then boyfriend had purchased this Maltese as a birthday present
for her. I hope all 3 live happily ever after.