Ask The Vet: Discoloured shells; bald patches around dog's eye

In this new fortnightly column, veterinarians from the National Parks Board answer questions about pet health and behaviour

There are currently no coronavirus screening kits for pets, nor evidence that pets have spread the coronavirus to humans.
There are currently no coronavirus screening kits for pets, nor evidence that pets have spread the coronavirus to humans.PHOTOS: ANIMAL & VETERINARY SERVICE, NATIONAL PARKS BOARD, GIN TAY, JACKSON WINIFRED YAP, JOON TEO
Dr Teo Boon Han, a veterinarian in the Animal & Veterinary Service under the National Parks Board.
Dr Teo Boon Han, a veterinarian in the Animal & Veterinary Service under the National Parks Board.PHOTOS: ANIMAL & VETERINARY SERVICE, NATIONAL PARKS BOARD, GIN TAY, JACKSON WINIFRED YAP, JOON TEO

Sliders with discoloured shells

I have a pair of two-year-old red-eared sliders that have, in the past two to three months, developed white patches on their shells. One is bigger and its shell has less discolouration. The discolouration in the smaller one's shell is about two-thirds. They live in a tank that is 2.5m by 2m and 0.23m deep, and share it with a few guppies and some aquatic plants. They are fed Hikari floating-type turtle pellets twice a day and have a rock on which they bask in the sun. Sunlight shines in through a glass sunroof. Are the white patches a fungal infection or vitamin deficiency and how can the problem be rectified?

Jackson Winifred Yap


PHOTOS: ANIMAL & VETERINARY SERVICE, NATIONAL PARKS BOARD, GIN TAY, JACKSON WINIFRED YAP, JOON TEO

The development of discolouration on the shell of red-eared sliders can be due to a variety of causes.

If the discoloured spots started and spread from a particular area, it could be a sign of bacterial or fungal infection resulting from water-quality issues or insufficient basking in sunlight.

Consider the following measures to ensure a better home for your terrapins:

• Ensure the rock is large enough for both sliders to bask on comfortably and add more basking areas if required;

• Ultraviolet (UV) rays are important for the bone and shell health of red-eared sliders. In most cases, UV rays from sunlight is adequate, although plastic or glass screens may filter out some important UV rays, such as UVB rays. You may want to position the tank to allow unfiltered sunlight for basking, while ensuring the environment is not too hot for the sliders.

• Change the water regularly and have a suitably sized tank filter (specific for reptiles) to ensure good water quality. Remove leftover food to prevent decay that would cause the water quality to deteriorate.

Mineral deficiencies, specifically the lack of calcium, can cause bone and shell issues. Vitamin D3 is also required to aid calcium absorption, although the red-eared slider can produce its own Vitamin D3 when exposed to UVB rays.

High-quality, specially formulated diets that are commercially available should be adequate, and can be supplemented with appropriate vegetables.

Consult your vet when developing a nutrition and diet plan for your sliders, and if you have concerns regarding the condition and health of your pets.

Bald patches around dog's eyes


PHOTOS: ANIMAL & VETERINARY SERVICE, NATIONAL PARKS BOARD, GIN TAY, JACKSON WINIFRED YAP, JOON TEO

I recently noticed bald patches around my dog's eyes. He is 11 this year. Is this a sign of old age or does he have an infection?

Joon Teo

Hair loss, also known as alopecia, can result from a variety of reasons, such as parasites, bacterial or fungal infections, hormonal imbalances or allergies.

Bacterial infections usually present with some discharge, which is not apparent in the photos.

To perform a thorough diagnosis, skin scrapes and hair samples will need to be obtained at the veterinary clinic.

Ageing is unlikely to be the sole cause of hair loss around the eyes. Older dogs that shed tears excessively may develop alopecia below the eye due to constant moisture in the area. Since your dog's hair loss seems to be all around the eyes, this is less likely to be the cause.

  • Fun fact

  • Did you know cats can hear better than humans and even dogs?

    Cats can move their ears 180 degrees and also move each ear independently.

    This is possible because they have 32 muscles in each ear, while humans have only six.

    They are also able to differentiate a variety of sounds and even identify their sources.

Ensure your dog is up to date with his parasite treatment to rule out infection caused by parasites such as mites. If infections have been ruled out, allergies to food or a reaction to an environmental allergen are possible diagnoses, which require a thorough examination with the vet.

A blood or urine test may also be needed to rule out other causes such as hormonal imbalances.

Can my pet contract Covid-19?

I have read reports of pets such as cats and dogs contracting Covid-19. Are there screening kits for pets in Singapore? Can they pick up viruses from surfaces such as park benches and grass plots on their walks? I keep my home scrupulously clean with disinfectant, but am worried about the outdoors.

Rosemarie Tan

The Animal & Veterinary Service has been closely monitoring developments related to animals and Covid-19.

While there have been a few reported cases worldwide where animals tested positive after being in close contact with humans infected with Covid-19, these cases remain isolated and rare.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and other national animal health organisations have maintained that to date, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, have spread the disease to humans, nor do they play a significant role in spreading the disease.

There are currently no screening kits as pet owners should seek the advice of a vet first.

We will continue to keep in close contact with the OIE to monitor and review developments as the situation is still evolving.

We are also in contact with veterinary clinics, animal welfare groups and animal-related businesses to share information and advisories on Covid-19.

In the meantime, it is recommended that people who are unwell limit their contact with pets as well as other people. Adhere to good hygiene practices when handling pets, including thorough hand washing before and after direct contact with pets and their supplies and food.

  • Write in

  • Have a query about your pet? E-mail it with clear, high-resolution pictures of at least 1MB, if any, and your full name to stlife@sph.com.sg. We reserve the right to edit and reject questions.

• Answers by Dr Teo Boon Han, a veterinarian in the Animal & Veterinary Service under the National Parks Board. Dr Teo graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in Britain and is also an adjunct lecturer in veterinary programmes at institutes of higher learning here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2020, with the headline 'Ask The Vet'. Subscribe