Date:   06 April, 2008    
Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters & rabbits.


Monday, September 3, 2007

42. 2.5-year-old Maltese purposely pees outside the kitchen bathroom and drinks urine inside

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.

Sep 1, 2007. All Singapore dogs must be microchipped and licensed. Toa Payoh Vets

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 husband.

"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 bathroom."

"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 away."

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 drinking urine!"

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?

Adult Maltese drinks urine for past 6 months. Toa Payoh Vets

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.

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Revised: April 06, 2008

Community Education:  Be Kind To Pets