In the twenty-plus years that NGSDs have been raised in private homes, we have in more recent years witnessed the emergence of health issues in Singers. This pattern has become a concern for many NGSD owners.
New Guinea Singing Dogs are a naturally healthy wild canid with no known history of medical or genetic diseases. In recent years, though, NGSDs have presented with a medical issues, some becoming more frequent and sadly, a few unexpected deaths.
On this page we will regularly add health related content. We will also discuss any trends that we note from gathering singers’ medical histories, lab tests and imaging studies. So please fill out the above survey and additionally, if possible, provide us with any test results or other information that we can use to keep us all better informed and our singers healthy.
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Health Issues in Captive New Guinea Singing Dogs
When my now departed female singer, Luna, had her first of a few attacks of pancreatitis, it was an unknown in NGSDs. As an RN I was familiar with the condition and its severity, but had no idea how Luna, as a NGSD, would manage. This was over 10 years ago and sadly, since then, more singers have suffered with this terrible illness.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas and can be the result of a number of factors. The pancreas can be referred to as a ‘dual organ’ in that one part works as an exocrine gland, assisting in digestion by releasing specific enzymes. The other part of the pancreas is an endocrine gland, managing the release of the hormone insulin, which maintains proper glucose levels in the blood.
Pancreatitis in dogs usually begins quite suddenly with the affected dog losing interest in food and frequently water, too. The dog often is lethargic and may exhibit nausea/ vomiting and abdominal pain (noted by a hunched posture and abdominal tenderness.) If left untreated, pancreatitis can be fatal. Affected dogs must be seen by a veterinarian immediately and will be treated with IV fluids and kept off food and water in order to rest the pancreas so it can heal. Medications may be administered for pain and/or infection. Blood tests will be taken to monitor pancreatic enzyme levels.
Apparently some singers are more prone to pancreatitis than others, though the reason for this observation is not clear yet. What is known is that once a singer has a bout of pancreatitis, it is more at risk for repeated attacks. Multiple episodes of pancreatitis can result in extensive damage of the pancreas, leading to chronic digestive problems or diabetes. To date, a few NGSDs have developed diabetes requiring twice daily insulin injections as a result of recurrent pancreatitis. Managing a singer after an attack of pancreatitis requires feeding a low fat diet in a consistent and strict manner, avoiding human ‘treats’ and table scraps, maintaining a healthy weight and fitness level.