Pet Articles

I found a lump on my animal's skin. Is it cancer?

Lumps and Bumps in your Pet

Finding a lump or a bump in your pet which you have never noticed before, can cause serious worry for pet owners. This article will highlight what to watch out for, when to take your pet to the vet and the process veterinarians follow when approaching any lump found on a pet.

Firstly, it is always important to remember that you can never tell how serious a mass on your pet is by simply feeling it and judging by its size. Dynamite can often come in small packages and some of the most aggressive skin cancers may present as a simple small raised area on the skin. Generally lumps on a cat tend to be more dangerous and they are not something to be ignored. All growths have to start small but may grow very rapidly. Lumps come in all shapes and sizes and for that reason it is always best to get any lump on the skin or underneath the skin checked by the veterinarian as soon as you discover it. This will provide peace of mind to you as an owner if it is simply a dermal cyst or a small wart-like growth, both of which will not cause any major health issues for your pet. Alternatively, if it is something more aggressive and dangerous, it is always better to start treatment as soon as possible. If it is determined to be a bad type of growth (malignant), the sooner it is diagnosed the better the prognosis for both removing it surgically or starting any other form of treatment.



Can I, or my dogs or cats contract bird flu from my pet birds?

Avian Influenza South Africa 2017

The information provided here is not an official statement but is meant to provide some general information on bird flu because of the break out of bird flu in September 2017 in South Africa.

Bird flu or Avian Influenza (AI) is a family of influenza viruses that mainly affect birds. They are named according to two proteins on the surface of the virus (Haemagglutinin and Neuraminidase). The only ones of commercial concern are the H1, H5 and H7 types. There are dangerous (HP or highly pathogenic) and LP (low pathogen) strains. So when you see someone talking about HPAI H5N8 that means the dangerous type of H5N8 avian influenza.



I love the mean look a dog with cropped ears have

Ear cropping in dogs - Why vets do not do it anymore

Ear cropping in dogs was a procedure done by vets in the previous century whenever dog owners requested it. Cropping is the removal of part, or all, of the outer ear, or the pinnae (external visible flap) of the ear of an animal. Cropping the ears also involved taping the ears up after the surgery, to make the ears pointy.

Why was ear cropping done in the past?

Ear cropping was historically done on working dogs to reduce the risk of medical conditions like infections or haematoma. An othaematoma is when a small blood vessel in the ear bursts when dogs shake their heads (with ears flapping from side to side against the top and bottom of the dog’s head) and which causes the ear to “balloon” out with a blood-filled pocket in the ear. Although these initial reasons for doing cropping were sound, it turned into a cosmetic procedure over time and became more about “the looks” of the animal, rather than anything else. The surgical procedure of ear cropping was no longer done for functional reasons and was purely done for aesthetic reasons – “to give a dog that mean look”.



My cat is damaging my furniture by scratching it

Should I declaw my cat?

Many people think that declawing a cat means that you cut the nails really, really short, so that they do not have the capacity to grow again. Nothing could be further from the truth. When a cat is declawed, the greater part of the last digit of its toe is amputated. Cats’ nails are attached to the last digit on their feet and one cannot effectively remove the nail, without also removing the greater part of the digit itself. There are muscles and tendons attaching to the bone of the last digit and some of the bone should be left intact for the foot to function normally after the procedure. If one was to do a similar procedure in a human, it will be like removing the tip of your finger just in front of the first knuckle.



My Boerboel with its long tail really looks strange. I much prefer a Boerboel with a short tail.

Tail Docking in dogs - Why we as vets do not routinely do it anymore

To start off with let’s define what we are talking about when we are talking about tail docking in dogs.

Tail docking from a veterinary perspective refers to a surgical procedure done to puppies between the ages of 3 to 5 days old, where a portion, or partial length of the tail is amputated or cut off with a scalpel or surgical scissors, bleeding is stopped by cauterisation or tying off of bleeding blood vessels with absorbable suture material, and placing a suture or sutures in the skin to close off the wound.



What is the brownish yellow discolouration on my pet's teeth?

Discoloured teeth in dogs and cats

Just like humans, dogs and cats have two different sets of teeth. The first set, known as the deciduous teeth or “baby teeth", erupt between three to six weeks of age. The permanent or “adult” teeth start erupting around three months of age and are all present around six months of age.

The teeth are also very similar in structure to human teeth, with the crown that sits above the gum line and the root which is located below the gum line. All teeth are made up of an outer protective coating of enamel. Enamel is a very hard structure that protects the more sensitive dentin. The dentin sits over the even more sensitive pulp cavity which contains nerves and bloods vessels, which nourish the tooth.



My dog makes a strange snorting sound with funny gagging movements almost like something is stuck in his/her throat.

Reverse Sneezing in dogs

What is reverse sneeze?

Reverse sneezing is repetitive, forceful inspiratory (breathing in) efforts generally caused by irritation of the lining of the naso-pharynx or area at the back of the mouth and nose where these two openings join into one. Unlike a normal sneeze where air is forcefully pushed out the nose to clear the irritation, a reverse sneeze involves air being pulled forcefully and rapidly into the nose. This is commonly seen in small and toy breeds breeds with long thin nasal passages like Miniature Pinchers, Toy Poms, Chihuahuas, Malteses, Dachshunds, Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers and other Terriers, etc., and brachycephalic (short nose) breeds like Pugs, Boston Terriers, Shih Tsus, Pekingeses, etc.



I found a loose stool with blood and what looks like jelly on the kitchen floor this morning - what do I do?

Acute and Chronic colitis in dogs and cats

What is Acute Colitis?

Acute colitis is a common condition in pets and is characterised by a sudden onset colonic inflammation with a diarrhoea that may contain mucous and/or fresh blood.

Clinical signs

The most common symptoms are straining when defecating, mucous (the jelly you noticed) and/or blood in the stool, and increased frequency of defecation. Systemic signs of illness are generally absent and most animals are still alert, active and have normal appetites in spite of having colitis.



Is Tick Fever and Tick Bite Fever the same disease in dogs?

Erlichiosis (Tick bite fever) in dogs

It is not. Tick fever or Babesios in dogs, is not the same disease as Tick bite fever or Erlichioses. Both diseases are transmitted to dogs by ticks, but they are caused by two totally different organisms or parasites and the clinical signs, progress and treatment are very different.

To further confuse the matter, Tick Bite Fever in humans is not the same as Tick Bite Fever in dogs and once again, although transmitted by ticks, is caused by a complete difference parasite. Tick Bite Fever in dogs is not transmissible to humans or vice versa.



What do I feed my dog, how much and when?

Nutrition in dogs: guidelines to a well-fed pooch

Feeding your dog an appropriate well balanced diet for its life stage is vital to good health and wellbeing. Nutrient requirements differ depending on the breed and age of the dog and there are a few important factors to take into consideration.

Many people see dogs and cats as a similar kind of animal and therefore it is useful to understand the difference between the two species to better understand how to feed your dog properly.



My dog's stomach is suddenly very bloated and he is very uncomfortable

The dreaded Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) Syndrome - Twisted Stomach

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) is a rapidly progressive life-threatening condition in dogs characterised by bloating and twisting of the stomach. Patients admitted with suspected GDV are treated as an emergency as the condition is life threatening. Treatment may require medical and surgical intervention. It is commonly associated with large or giant breed, deep-chested animals between 2 and 10 years of age. Some breeds affected are German Shepherds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Great Danes, Dobermans, Irish Setters and Basset hounds but any breed and age can be affected.



My pet was hit by a car on its hindquarters

Pelvic Fractures

This article gives a simple overview of what to expect when a pet has a pelvic fracture, what are the most common causes and associated injuries, and what treatment options are available.

Pelvic Fractures are a fairly common occurrence and it is something veterinarians in private practice are faced with almost on a weekly basis. The pelvis is an essential part of a pet’s skeletal structure and forms the framework around which their hind limbs move and function. Not only is it essential to our pets ability to walk but there are some very sensitive and important structures that lie in and around the pelvis which can easily be damaged in the event of a pelvic fracture. This will be explained in more detail later on in the article.



Can spaying your dog save her life?

Pyometra in dogs - the reason for spaying

Pyometra is a condition of unsterilised females, usually older than 6 years of age. “Pyo” refers to pus, and “metra” to the uterus. Litterally translated, it would mean “bad of pus”. It is a very serious condition and if left untreated for too long, can have deadly consequences. It can be treated very effectively if caught early and taking your animal to the vet when signs first appear can save its life.



Do animals also get cataracts?

Cataracts in dogs

Have you ever wondered if animals are also affected by cataracts just like humans? The answer is, YES, as with most human diseases and conditions, animals are also affected by this condition. In this article we will look at how dogs are affected by cataracts, what causes it, the prevention and treatment, and the consequences if left untreated.

What is a cataract?

The lens is the structure within the eye that enables us and animals to see far and near and to focus. A cataract is an opacity within the lens or lens capsule which reduces the passage of light through the lens that can affect vision and will eventually cause blindness. Cataracts prevent light from reaching the nerve centre of the eye, known as the retina. A cataract may start as a small cloudiness within the lens that gradually enlarges as it matures. It is very difficult to predict the progression of the cataract but it most often results in blindness. 



Can my kitten make me sick?

Cat Scratch Disease

There are many diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. These diseases are called zoonotic diseases. Although the list below is by no means comprehensive, some of the more common diseases that we can get from our household pets are:

  • Ringworm, which is a fungal infection of the skin
  • Hook worm, roundworm and tapeworm infection
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Cat scratch disease
  • Scabies, a mite that causes severe itchiness and skin lesions

In this article we are going to look at cat scratch disease (CSD), the cause of it, the symptoms and how to prevent it. Cat scratch disease, or cat scratch fever, is caused by an organism called Bartonella henselae or formerly called Rochalimaea henselae. It is a small anaerobic (organism which does not need oxygen to survive), gram-negative, non-motile bacterium. Domestic cats are the natural hosts for this organism and the animal from which humans can contract the disease (also known as the vector). If a cat harbors this bacterium, the cat very rarely shows any signs of the disease which is described as asymptomatic. It is therefore impossible to tell if a cat is infected with this organism without further testing. Fleas are the organism responsible for transmission of the disease between cats and therefore flea control is one of the best ways to prevent this disease. The infection rate is much higher in a population of cats that are flea ridden and can be as high as 61%. As a cat scratches and bites at fleas, the organism gets stuck between their teeth and under their nails. Kittens younger than 12 months are 15 times more likely to carry the infection than adult cats.



My dog did not go out of the yard and is now limping lame on one of his hind legs

Anterior cruciate ligament rupture in dogs

Often time vets are confronted with this situation in veterinary clinics. As far as the owner knows their dog would not have been subject to any trauma, yet they can hardly take weight on one of their back legs. There are many possible causes but by far one of the most common reasons for this situation occurring is a tear of the major small ligament inside the knee.



My dog is scooting on its backside and I think it has worms

Anal sac disease in dogs

Many veterinarians are presented by concerned pet owners about the animal’s scooting or dragging their backsides along the ground by holding the back legs up in the air and pulling themselves forward by the front legs whilst remaining in a seated position. The owner often thinks that the animal may have worms and is trying to get the worms out their backside by dragging it along the ground. Although this is quite possible to be the case, especially in the case of tapeworm infestation, it is unlikely to be the cause. The most common cause for this behaviour is uncomfortable anal glands.



My pet is not responding to me

Deafness in pets

Pets are known to have an acute sense of hearing. What would cause them to lose this ability? How will they cope with deafness? To answer these questions we first have to look at the normal anatomy of the ear.

Dog and cats ears, much like humans, can be divided into three areas: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear.

  • The outer ear consists of the external earflap called the pinna, and the ear canal which is a narrow tube through which sound vibrations enter the ear.
  • The middle ear contains the eardrum, a membrane that vibrates correspondingly to the incoming sound waves, and the small little bones on the inside of the eardrum called the auditory ossicles. These small bones transmit the eardrum vibrations to the inner ear.
  • The inner ear, located deeper within the skull, contains the cochlea, a snail-shaped structure containing nerve endings that receive the vibrations and pass nervous system signals along to the brain, thereby enabling hearing.



Is your pet safe?

Fatal Diseases that can easily be prevented

Fatal Diseases that can easily be prevented

There are some fairly common fatal diseases in animals which can and should be prevented wherever possible. This article looks at how these diseases present, what they lead to and most importantly how they could be prevented. Today we have more information about our animals and the diseases they may suffer from than ever before. With this knowledge comes the means of preventing these conditions that years ago would have meant certain death to our beloved pets. The most important means of disease prevention readily available to us is vaccination. A simple annual health check and vaccinations can help ensure your pet lives a long and healthy life. Other important means of prevention includes regular deworming as well as tick and flea treatment.



A sugar substitute fit for humans, which can be lethal to your dog

Xylitol Toxicity

What is xylitol and where can it be found?

Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol that is commonly used as a sugar substitute in human foods. It is found in and extracted from corn fiber, birch trees, hardwood trees as well as other fruits and vegetables.

Xylitol is a sugar substitute most commonly found in chewing gum, candies, breath mints, baked goods, cough syrup, children’s edible vitamins, mouth wash and tooth paste (all of the sugar free variety). There are many more human products on the market that may contain xylitol. It may also be purchased in a granulated form to be used for baking, or as a sweetener over cereals and in beverages. As society’s pressure to look lean and slim, and the need to diet increases, this sugar free alternative has grown drastically in popularity over the last decade.



False Pregnancy

Pregnancy

False pregnancy, also known as Phantom pregnancy or Pseudo-pregnancy, is a condition of both dogs and cats, whereby the unsterilised female animal (regardless of whether she was mated or not) shows some or all of the typical signs of pregnancy but is not really pregnant. In other words, she shows mammary gland development (with or without milk production) but does not produce any offspring.



Lameness in old dogs

Lameness

As a dog gets older, he or she may start to struggle to get up or get a little slower on walks. You may notice that they are worse in winter than in summer or after resting for a prolonged period. Sometimes they may not to be able to place any weight on a leg at all and this may happen quite suddenly. Lameness in older dogs can be broadly placed in three categories:



Lameness in young dogs

Lameness

Getting home to find your puppy or young dog not placing weight on a leg is always a concern. There are many different reasons why a young dog may limp, some more serious than others. Causes of lameness can be broadly placed into three different categories:

  • Lameness due to trauma
  • Developmental and congenital (inherited) lameness
  • Infectious causes of lameness and cancer

Because the causes of lameness can be so wide and varied, it is important to have your puppy looked at by the veterinarian sooner rather than later when you notice any signs of limping or lameness. 



Proptosis

Displacement of the eyeball

Proptosis is defined, as the forward displacement of the globe (eyeball) out of the socket, with the eyelids trapped behind the globe.

Proptosis is an ophthalmic emergency. Any suspected trauma to your pet’s eye warrants a visit to your veterinarian immediately.

Let us first have a look at the normal eye anatomy:

Predisposing factors: Breed predisposition

Proptosis is a condition more commonly seen in Brachycephalic breeds (dogs with prominent bulging eyes, short noses and shallow eye sockets). Pekingese, Pug, Boston terrier and Shihtzu are over represented.



Breeding with your dog

Breeding

Understanding the female’s cycle

A female dog will only come into heat for the first time between the age of seven months and anytime up to a year of age. Occasionally this period may be longer. The age at which they first come into heat is governed by a combination of factors but usually smaller breeds start at a slightly younger age than the larger breeds. This is by no means a set rule as there is a great variation. Once she has started to cycle, a female dog will then come into heat every 4 to 7 months but your giant breed dogs may only cycle once every 12 to 18 months. It can take up to 2 years for them to develop regular cycles. Once started the heat cycle can last 2 to 3 weeks. There are two main parts to a female’s cycles namely pro-oestrous and oestrous. Pro-oestrous is the period during which her vulva will be very swollen, she may have a bloody discharge (volume varies greatly) and she will not allow any males to mount her. This is essentially the non-receptive part of her cycle. The second part is known as oestrous. At this point her vulva is still swollen, any bleeding has stopped and most importantly this is the period during which she is receptive to males and will allow mating. It is essential to understand this to avoid unwanted pregnancy. It is only when the bleeding stops that she is in full heat and at her most fertile.



Bones: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Bones

Although most of us grew up with the assumption that bones are good for our pets this is in fact a fallacy, one that more pet owners should be made aware of.  Let’s look at some effects and risks involved when feeding bones to pets.

The Good:

The unfortunate truth is that the only good thing about feeding your dog bones is that they like it and it keeps them busy, especially if they have a tendency to chew. Sadly just as we all enjoy our McDonalds, KFC and pizza we know these foods are not good for our health and the same applies to bones for your dog. They carry no nutritional value and are indigestible. Perhaps the only part of the bone a dog may actually eat and digest would be bone marrow.



My cat has pimples!

Feline Acne

Feline acne is a common skin condition in cats. Cats of any age can be affected, and there is no breed or sex predisposition.

Cats are often presented to the veterinarian with the complaint of ‘dirt on the cat’s chin, that the owner cannot remove after attempts to clean it’ or ‘bumps on the cats chin’.

How does feline acne develop?

Hair follicles on the chin become blocked with secretions from small fat glands called sebaceous glands in the skin. This gives rise to multiple blackheads otherwise known as comedones on the chin, giving the chin the so-called ‘dirty appearance’. These comedones may also be associated with small red blisters or pimples and crusts on the surface of the chin.



What is trichobezoar?

Hairballs in cats

The elusive and very unpleasant hairball is something that every cat owner will experience at some point. Cats in general are very clean and well-kept animals and grooming is an essential routine for them to ensure their cleanliness. A healthy cat is one that grooms.  Hairballs are simply a by-product of your cat’s hygiene.

A trichobezoar, commonly known as a hairball, is a clump of indigestible hair, moistened by bile and digestive fluid that may or may not contain bits of food or other foreign material. Hairballs are not usually round in shape but rather drawn-out and the shape of a sausage. This is due to their passage through the oesophagus, the tube connecting the stomach to the mouth, which is long and cylindrical. Hairballs can occasionally resemble faeces but on closer examination one will notice it is made up of hair. It also does not smell like faeces although it does not have a particularly pleasant odour.



What causes back pain in dogs?

Disc disease in dogs

Introduction

Intervertebral disc disease is a term that describes the condition in which the softer cartilage like material in between the bones of the spine, called an intervertebral disc, pushes onto the spinal cord, causing clinical signs that varies from slight back pain and discomfort to complete paralysis of limbs. Even with the slightest clinical signs, your pet should be examined by the vet to establish how serious the condition is and be treated accordingly. The earlier this is attended to, the better the overall outcome. 



Is your male pet missing testicles?

Cryptorchidism

Cryptorchidism is a condition where the male dog or cat’s testicles have not descended into the scrotum. Descended in this context means that the testicles has come from inside the dog or cat’s belly and are visibly sitting in the ball sack (scrotum).

In the embryo, when the kitten or puppy is being formed in the mother’s womb, the testicles develop inside the puppy or kitten’s abdomen (stomach cavity) behind the kidneys. As the embryo matures, the testicles then move from the inside to the outside of the animal’s abdomen.



Old man's gland - Do dogs have the same problems as humans?

Prostate disease in the dog

The prostate is the only accessory sex gland in the male dog. It is a butterfly shaped structure that surrounds the urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the outside). Due to the location of the prostate, it can affect the urinary system, the colon and the hind legs, as well as having some systemic effects. Prostatic fluid is produced continuously in the dog. Prostatic fluid makes up most of the volume of seminal fluid (the fluid that carries semen). The prostate has many nerves and blood vessels running to it but is surrounded by a thick capsule, which sometimes makes it difficult for some drugs to get deep down into the prostate. Normal prostatic function is dependent on circulating testosterone. The prostate can develop a few conditions that can result in debilitating disease in the dog.



Can I treat my pet's wound at home?

Wound Care at Home

When managing wounds at home it is important to always contact your veterinarian for assistance. Many home and even human wound remedies are not suitable for use in pets. Determining factors in deciding whether a wound can be treated at home or needs veterinary care includes the severity and age of the wound, the cause and location of the wound, and most importantly if the pet is leaving the wound alone. In most instances the safest and most effective way to deal with it is to take the injured pet to the veterinarian for initial treatment and advice on continued care at home. In this article we will go over some of the major components of wound treatment and care as well as giving you guidelines on when to visit the vet.



Pregnant women have to watch out for this bug carried by cats

Toxoplasmosis

Introduction

Toxoplasma gondii is a tiny organism, slightly bigger than a bacterium, called a protozoa. This parasite has a worldwide distribution, except in the absence of cats. Cats are the only animals capable of completing the life cycle of this organism. Other warm blooded animals, including cats can serve as intermediate hosts for the parasite. The organism has a very high prevalence, but rarely causes clinical disease in dogs and cats. This is an important parasite to be aware of due to the fact that it is an important zoonosis, meaning it is an animal disease that can be transmitted to humans.



Why is my dog limping with his hind leg?

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation is a condition where the knee cap does not run in its groove but slips off to the side. Luxation is a learned word for “slipping”. It is a condition which is regularly encountered in dogs and more commonly in toy breeds. The condition can be developmental or traumatic in origin.

To understand the condition better, it helps to know what the anatomy of the knee looks like. The patella is commonly known as the knee cap and sits at the bottom of the big muscle group of the upper front part of the hind leg called the quadriceps. The patella makes up the front part of the knee and glides in the middle groove of the big bone of the upper part of the hind leg, the femur. This groove is known as the trochlear groove. The groove looks like a valley with two mountain ridges on either side. The ridges on either side of the groove are known as the trochlear ridges. The ridge on the inner part of the leg is known as the medial trochlear ridge and the one on the outer part is known as the lateral trochlear ridge. The knee cap or patella fits nicely in between these two ridges and glides up and down the groove as the knee bends. The patella is stabilised by the big muscle group to the top of it, the strong ligament to the bottom of it and the ligaments and connective tissue to the sides of it. The patella ligament which sits below the patella, implants onto the front of the top part of the bone underneath the femur, the tibia, also known as the shin bone.  



My young cat seems ill

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a serious and most often fatal disease affecting cats. It is most commonly seen in young cats between the ages of six months and two years. It has been found to affect male cats more commonly than females and purebred cats particularly the Asian breeds are more susceptible. It is characterised by fluid build-up in body cavities such as the chest and abdomen and neurological signs. It can affect all major organs and inevitably results in death. It may be referred to as Feline coronavirus polyserositis (wet or effusive form) or granulomatous feline infectious peritonitis (dry or non effusive form).



Can humans get worms from dogs and cats?

Zoonotic helminths – Worms which humans can get from pets

Have you ever wondered if humans can get worms from dogs and cats? You don’t have to wonder any longer, the answer is ‘yes’.  In this overview we look at which worms can be transmitted between pets and humans, what diseases they cause and how to prevent this potential health risk.

Firstly when a disease or parasite can be transmitted from animals to humans it is called a zoonosis. It is often a concern when a pet is diagnosed with intestinal worms whether the family is at risk of contracting the parasite. The concern is valid but the good news is that it is easily managed with education, proper precautions and a well organised deworming program for your pets.



My pet has red urine - what does it mean?

Bladder Stones

Bladder stones is a condition that occurs in dogs and cats of various ages, sex and breeds. Bladder stones are also called urinary calculi or uroliths. These are mineral like formations that form anywhere in the urinary tract, including kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. The most frequent location is the bladder. 


Clinical signs of bladder stones to look out for

Dogs with bladder stones often present like dogs with a bladder infection. Both of these conditions will show frequent urination as well as discomfort, particularly when urinating. The animal will squat to urinate frequently, often only passing small amounts of urine while straining. The owner might also see a red discoloration in the urine and in some cases the urine can be a dark red colour. Because the stones rub against the bladder wall it causes irritation and inflammation of the bladder wall that leads to bleeding. Some dogs will show discomfort and pain when walking, with the hindquarters tucked in, while cats can become very vocal when in pain. In some cases the stones may still be very small and can leave the bladder and enter the urethra. The urethra is the tube that directs urine from the bladder to the outside. If the stone is not small enough to pass, it will become lodged in the urethra, blocking urine flow completely. The pressure will build up in the bladder and the kidneys, and if this is not corrected quickly, the bladder can rupture. This will cause severe illness and if quick intervention is not done it may lead to death. 



Do cats bite for no reason?

Aggression in cats

Cats are often seen as less aggressive animals than dogs but they have five sharp ends that can be used at a moments notice. Cats may also be seen as more instinctive than dogs, mimicking some of the behaviour seen in their wild counterparts. This is obviously on a much smaller level. Aggression can be directed towards people, cats, other species such as dogs, rabbits and birds or inanimate objects, which would include toys or furniture. The most common causes of aggression in cats can be described under the following categories:



Does your puppy have good manners?

House training your new puppy

It is important to plan ahead for house training. Always ensure everyone in the house is involved and that everyone knows what the plan is. It is important to have consistency when training puppies so as not to confuse them. Routine is essential for achieving the desired goal of having a puppy with “good manners”. Puppies, as with human babies, benefit greatly from a fixed routine, they feel safer and it helps the learning process. 



Do dogs bite for no reason?

Aggression in dogs

Aggression is one of the most common behavioural problems in dogs. Aggression is often easy to diagnose but difficult to manage, because it is often multifactorial. There are several different categories of aggression. Let's look at the different types of aggression in dogs.

Aggression in dogs

Aggression can be classified into several different categories. Fighting amongst dogs in the same household is probably the most common aggression problem, followed by aggression to unfamiliar people. It is not always possible to prevent aggression but it can usually be controlled with effective management. In some cases, re-homing an aggressive animal may be a suitable solution and in a few cases, euthanasia may be the only option.



A new puppy - happiest days or worst nightmare?

New puppy

Having a new puppy join your family can be one of the most exhilarating experiences for a family but if not done the right way it can have disastrous consequences. People often let emotions get the better of them and don’t make informed decisions. A new puppy will become part of the family for the rest of its life and you will be responsible for its wellbeing. Before getting a new puppy, there are a number of things one has to consider.



Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) infection in cats

Feline Leukaemia

Introduction

Feline leukaemia (FELV) is a disease of cats caused by a virus called a retrovirus. It is called a retrovirus because of the method it uses to replicate inside the cat. It is the same type of virus as the human immunodeficiency virus and although there are a lot of disease similarities, several studies have shown that the disease is not transmissible to humans. FeLV is one of the most dangerous diseases that affect cats and is a major cause of death in cats. Fortunately the prevalence of the disease has decreased in recent years due to the use of vaccines against the disease and the ability of vets to diagnose the disease early and accurately.



Cat Aids

Feline Immuno Deficiency Virus

How does Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) compare to Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV)?

Feline immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) has similar building blocks and is related to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), but very importantly, it cannot be passed between cats and humans. The virus can also not be transmitted from cats to dogs. Both FIV and HIV viruses share a similar pattern of disease progression. Both viruses are classified as Lentivirus, which means they have a long period of showing very few clinical signs during which time the immune system deteriorates. Eventually Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) develops and this is accompanied by opportunistic infections, systemic disease and cancer. The close relationship between FIV and HIV has meant that FIV has been used as an animal study model to better understand HIV in humans.



My cat is eating like crazy but stays thin - What is the deal?

Hyperthyroidism in cats

What is Hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism refers to an overactive thyroid gland. The thyroid gland can be considered the engine room of the cat’s body, which is responsible for the metabolism in the body and responsible for determining the speed at which all processes in the body works. It is an important part of the endocrine or hormonal messenger system in the body and affects all the organ systems including the liver, kidneys, heart, nervous system, intestines and even the skin. The primary hormone produced by the thyroid gland is thyroxin also referred to as T4 hormone. It is the overproduction of this hormone that causes hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland is situated at the beginning of the windpipe just behind the throat in the upper part of the cat’s neck and consists of two main lobes linked together. Thyroxin or T4 is inactive when released, and is transformed into a biologically active form, T3, or otherwise called iodothyronine.



"Crocodile Mite" skin disease in dogs and cats.

Demodectic mange in dogs and cats

Demodex is a mite that lives in the hair follicles of most mammals. It is species specific which means that different types of animals, including humans, have their own type of mite. It is a normal inhabitant of the skin and is most commonly not contagious. The mite is usually passed on to puppies from their mother in the first 72 hours of life. The puppy's immune system usually copes to contain the mite but sometimes an overgrowth of the mites occurs and this is when symptoms of demodicosis also referred to as mange are seen. Mange is a collective name for skin disease caused by different types of mites of which the Demodex mite is only one.



Understanding congestive heart failure in your pet

Heart Failure

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) is a very common condition affecting our pets, and is more often seen in dogs than cats. Although it is a serious condition, and a major concern for a pet owner, it can be easily diagnosed and once diagnosed, it can be managed effectively. The important thing is to make an early diagnosis and start treatment immediately. Congestive Heart Failure can occur in pets of any age, but is more common in older animals. For this reason it is important to have annual checks done on older generation pets. First, let’s have a look at how the heart works to be able to understand this condition better.



When is it more than just a tummy ache?

Pancreatitis

The pancreas is a small gland that is situated next to the stomach and first part of the small intestine in the front of the abdomen. As in humans, it performs two main functions in dogs and cats.

  1. It is responsible for producing some of the special chemicals called enzymes which aid in the digestion of food. Enzymes are usually inactive within the pancreas. They are activated when they are released into the small intestine through ducts. Enzymes break down the food into smaller particles which can then be absorbed through the intestinal wall into the blood stream.
  2. The other main function of the pancreas is to help regulate blood sugar. The pancreas produces special messengers called hormones. Insulin is one such hormone. These hormones tell the body when to release or store glucose into the cells.

Sometimes the digestive enzymes are released within the pancreas, instead of within the small intestine. When this happens, it causes severe inflammation and death of some of the pancreatic cells. This can affect surrounding abdominal organs, such as the liver. When inflammation occurs it is usually very painful and is described as pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be acute, where the inflammation is not associated with permanent damage or it can be chronic. A chronic pancreatitis results in the pancreas becoming smaller and harder than normal and this affects the function of this important organ. Pancreatitis can become very severe very quickly and cause your pet to suffer with intense pain so it is important for your pet to receive veterinary attention as soon as you suspect there may be something wrong.



Tis The Season To Be Jolly

Guidelines for Keeping Your Pet Safe This Christmas

As the end of the year draws to a close, most businesses start to slow down in anticipation of a well-needed rest. The veterinary world however, braces itself for its busiest time. The holiday season comes with a multitude of risks for animals. This occurs for many reasons, some of them are out of our control, including climatic changes and prevalence of certain parasites, but many of them can be guarded against if the pet owner is aware and vigilant.



Kidney Failure

Kidney Failure in Dogs and Cats

The kidneys are very important organs of the animal body and play an important role in the normal day to day functioning of the body. They act like a specialised type of filter by retaining the appropriate amount of different salts (electrolytes) to maintain fluid balance in the body. They secrete a hormone which is involved in the production of red blood cells. The kidneys are also responsible for getting rid of waste products through the urine, especially those that are produced by the breakdown of protein in food. Kidney failure starts as soon as the kidneys are damaged due to disease, damage or old age, however in animals most owners only start seeing the clinical symptoms of kidney failure once more than 70 to 75 % of the kidneys have been destroyed or damaged. This means that of two kidneys, as little as only half of one is functioning normally before the signs of kidney failure become evident.  At this stage the kidneys can no longer adapt to maintain a normal fluid and electrolyte balance in the body, and are no longer able to expel toxins as efficiently as before. The challenge with treating kidney disease is that the kidneys do not have the capacity to regenerate like other organs like the liver. This means that it is very important to look out for the symptoms of kidney failure so treatment can commence as soon as possible to preserve as much of the kidneys as possible.



Socialisation - The Critical Period

Socialisation of pets

Vets recognise the importance of looking at animals not only from a health point of view, but from a holistic point of view where the animal’s health is but one part of the overall wellbeing of the animal. Aspects like nutrition, shelter, behaviour and training form as an important part of an animal’s overall wellbeing as the physical and medical condition of the animal. Our domestic pets are kept as companions and the success of a pet in a household is not only measured by its longevity and health, but also how it fits into the home and interacts with the rest of the members of the household. More importantly, most pets do not stay confined to their home all the time, but often go out with the owner and interact with other animals and human beings. Just as there are rules for humans for good and acceptable public behaviour, so there are rules for good animal behaviour.



Hand Rearing Young Animals - A Basic Guideline

Hand Rearing Animals

The birth of a litter is a very exciting event, but it is also a huge responsibility for the owner, as many things can go wrong. Besides the birth process itself, problems can occur with the young animals due to birth defects, infections, or insufficient mothering care. In these cases hand rearing may be necessary.

There is a huge amount of commitment required for hand rearing. The main principles of concern are providing correct nutrition; temperature control; good hygiene; and monitoring urination and defecation.



Ear Infections in Your Pet

Ear infection

Ear infections are common in dogs, and to a lesser degree in cats. The anatomy of the animal predisposes them to this condition. The ear canal of the dog and cat follows the shape of an “L”, going first downwards and then horisontally. This shape makes it difficult for debris and water that go into the ear to come out, against the force of gravity.



Do cats get colds?

Snuffles - Feline Rhinotracheitis

Just like humans and most other domestic animal species, cats can also catch colds. In cats, this disease is referred to as Snuffles – quite an apt name for all the sniffing and snorting associated with this disease. The learned name for this disease is Feline Rhinotracheitis. This name describes the disease well;



Do Dogs get colds?

What is cracking with Kennel Cough?

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, or as it is more commonly known, Kennel Cough, is an upper respiratory tract disease of dogs that is found throughout the world. Breaking down the names of disease gives an indication as to how, and which parts of, the respiratory tract are involved.



The Hype about Hyperadrenocortism

Cushings Syndrome in animals

Hyperadrenocorticism, or Cushing’s Disease, is a condition whereby the level of cortisol in the body is too high.  It is a condition which is also found in humans and the name Cushing’s Disease or also commonly known as Cushing’s Syndrome comes from Harvey Cushing, who in 1912, was one of the first physicians to report a patient affected with excessive cortisol hormone also otherwise known as glucocorticoid.



Diabetes Defined

Diabetes in dogs and cats

The pancreas is an organ in the body which is closely associated with the segment of intestine that leaves the stomach.  The pancreas releases enzymes involved in digestion as well as hormones with specific functions.  One of these hormones is insulin.  Insulin is released from the pancreas in response to the intake of food, especially carbohydrates and to a lesser degree fats and protein.  Insulin circulates in the bloodstream and facilitates the uptake of the ingested nutrients into the body’s own stores of energy.  



My pet is having a fit! - Seizures in Pets

Seizures in Pets

Anyone who has ever seen an animal experiencing a seizure will know that it is a “hair raising” event. Seizures or ‘fits’ is a well described phenomenon in domestic pets. The way in which a fit or seizure presents can vary significantly, from what seems to be a brief moment of absent mindedness to full blown body contractions where the animal is semi-conscious and lying on the ground shivering, shaking and convulsing, with foam coming out the mouth and looking like it is busy dying. Owners, and even vets who may have seen such seizures in pets quite often, still find it disturbing at the best of times.  



Cancer in pets - Part 2 of 2

Cancer

The treatment of cancer in pets has become a significant part of the therapy provided by veterinarians to keep our pet population healthy and thriving. Depending on the modality used, the type and extent of cancer treated, and the size and the nature of the animal involved, cancer treatment can be very expensive. Therefore, as with any disease, the principle of prevention is better than cure holds true. Not all cancers can be prevented but there are certain types of cancers which can be prevented and others that, if treated early on, require much less invasive treatment and therapy, than cancers which are left to develop.



Children and pets

Children

Children and pets are synonymous. Most families at some point in time acquire a pet for their children. Be it goldfish, pocket pets like hamsters, mice, gerbils or guiney pigs, birds, dogs, cats, rabbits or even something exotic like a snake, a tortoise, bearded dragon or iguana. Pets come in all shapes and sizes and often times they are given to a child as a gift. Sometimes the child has not asked for a pet and receives one without receiving proper instructions on how to care for it. Many times children will beg and nag their parents for a certain type of pet, and eventually wear the parents down with their continuous nagging to the point where the parents cave in to the demands of the child to preserve the peace. This peace only last for a very brief moment before the parents realise that they made a big mistake.



Cancer in pets - Part 1 of 2

Cancer

The battle against cancer in humans is as old as mankind itself. Since veterinary medicine became a fully-fledged discipline in the previous century, this battle has been extended to animals, and more so than any other area of veterinary medicine, to our pets. Many animal owners who are confronted with cancer in their pet for the first time, are somewhat surprised to find out that cancer is as prevalent in animals as it is in humans. Once they have overcome the initial shock, they find it even more surprising that cancer in animals is treated very much the same way in animals as in humans.



Smelling as fresh as a spring breeze

How to bath your pet


Human hygiene and animal hygiene are worlds apart. Whatever is considered to be clean for humans is totally something else for our pets. Dirt may easily be disguised in the thick (or thin) coat of a pet and only once the animal is washed do we really see how dirty they are.



Fireworks and Thunderstorms and your pet

Anxiety Attacks in pets

Anxiety and angst is as much part of the animal world as it is of the human world. As humans, the way in which we manage stress and anxiety is largely related to our understanding of our environment and an interpretation of cause and effect. Unfortunately this is not the same for animals. A human who is about to set off a large fire cracker can warn all those around them of the impending bang, and prepare everyone for the impact. However explaining to a dog or cat that the glitter of a burning fuse will lead to a thunderous crack to which they should not respond, is impossible. Add to that the anatomy of animals’ ears which have been specifically designed to amplify sounds by turning the ears towards sounds, and you have a recipe for disaster when it comes to shooting off fireworks in the vicinity of animals.



New puppies and kittens - Part 3 of 3

Breeding with my dog or cat – Should I or should I not?

Nobody will dispute the cuteness of puppies or kittens. These adorable little creatures really pull at the heart strings and appeal to young and old. However spending some time in a puppy or kitten shelter and seeing what undernourished or uncared for puppies or kittens look like, will make anyone who is serious about the well being of animals think twice about indiscriminate breeding.



Frequently Asked Questions about Rabies

Rabies

How often must I vaccinate my dog?
Puppies should be vaccinated at 3 months old with a booster vaccination required a month later and a booster given within 12 months of original vaccination . Thereafter animals  who live in Rabies endemic areas like KwaZulu Natal should be given a rabies vaccination every year and animals living in non-Rabies endemic areas every 3 years by law,  but preferably also yearly, because in places like Johannesburg which is non-Rabies endemic there have been several outbreaks of Rabies in the past few years.



Rabies

Important information about Rabies and who to prevent it

Rabies, a fatal disease of humans and all other mammals, is caused by a virus which has been associated with animal bites for more than 3 000 years and it is the oldest infectious disease known to medical science. Dogs have long been recognised as the main transmitters of the disease to people. When compared with other formidable human diseases such as Bubonic Plague and Smallpox, and animal diseases such as Rinderpest and Anthrax, Rabies has probably never caused comparably high numbers of deaths in humans and animals. However, the horrendous manner in which Rabies manifests itself in its victims continues to attract the attention of scientists, health and veterinary workers. The true scale of Rabies in South Africa remains clouded by the many thousands of people protected by post-exposure treatment each year after Rabies exposure and the undiagnosed human and animal Rabies cases not reflected in official statistics.



New puppies and kittens - Part 2 of 3

Pregnancy, birth and aftercare

Gestation (Pregnancy)

Dogs are on average pregnant for 63 days after fertilisation has taken place. It may be difficult to determine exactly when a bitch fell pregnant if multiple matings took place over a number of days and therefore pregnancy may seem to be longer than 63 days, sometimes up to 72 days. Sperm can also stay alive in the female genital track for a few days and therefore fertilisation may happen a day or two or even up to a few days after mating.



New puppies and kittens - Part 1 of 3

Heat and Mating in dogs and cats

Few things in life are cuter than a puppy or kitten! If you would like to let your dog or cat have a litter of puppies or kittens there are a number of things you need to know in preparation for the process.

The Heat Period

“Coming into season” or “going on heat”, is the time in a female dog (bitch) or cat’s (queen’s) life when they are receptive to a male animal and can mate to reproduce. Dogs and cats normally come on heat for the first time somewhere between the ages of 5 to 9 months. Smaller dog breeds mature earlier than larger or giant breeds, and will usually come on heat between 5 and 6 months of age. Large and giant dog breeds will usually come on heat after 6 months, sometimes only around 9 months of age. Cats on the other hand may in actually fact come into season as young as 4 months of age and therefore proper “family planning” is very important.  



Urination problems in cats - Part 2 of 2

Territorial marking and Urine elimination

In part 1 of this article we looked at the difference between urine marking and inappropriate elimination in cats, and urine marking was discussed in more depth. In this article we will look at the reasons for inappropriate elimination as well as the diagnosis and treatment of both inappropriate elimination and urine marking.  



Urination problems in cats - Part 1 of 2

Territorial marking and Urine elimination

Ask any cat owner and they will tell you that cats are not just small little dogs. So naturally a fair amount of the medical problems cats suffer from are unique to this species. In this two part series we are going to explore one of the more common problems that affect cats.



Getting the most from your visit to the vet

Visit to the vet

Everybody wants value for money. No one will deny that it is no different when taking your pets to the vet. We love our four legged and feathered friends dearly, but like everything else in life, most of us have to budget for their expenses, and make sure we derive as much value out of a visit to the vet as possible.

The starting point of deriving value for money is to be courteous to the staff working in a veterinary practice. Being rude and obnoxious with the staff of the veterinary practice (especially the reception and support staff) will not endear you or your pets to them, and if you get their hackles up before the vets have even seen your animal, the total experience of visiting the vet is likely to be compromised in the long run.



Poisoning in Pets - Part 2 of 2

Poisoning

We know that rat poison will kill a rat, but….., “Will it harm my cat or dog?” people often ask the vet? The answer is an emphatic YES. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few other common household items which can be lethal for dogs, cats, pet birds and pocket pets like hamsters and mice.

Conventional Poisons

  • Rat Poison (warfarin)

There are many different rat poisons available on the market but the most common variety is the anticoagulation type. It prevents blood from clotting. It has a slow onset and eventually in higher and repeated doses will cause the animal to start bleeding internally and lead to death. Both short and long acting formulations are available and signs of poisoning can be seen 5 – 7 days after the patient ate rat poison. Outward signs of bleeding, such as nose bleeds may be seen, however many animals will bleed internally into the chest or abdominal cavity without any signs of external bleeding. Death eventually results from suffocation (bleeding into the lungs) and/or the shock from blood loss.



Poisoning in Pets - Part 1 of 2

Poisoning

“Surely if a medicine is safe for use in humans it should be safe for use in my pet”, vets often hear from pet owners. Nothing could be further from the truth and some human medicines and even some fruit and vegetables and sweets daily eaten by humans, can be deadly to our dogs, cats, pet birds and pocket pets like hamsters and mice.



Battle of the Bulge

Obesity

Most people, at some point in time, struggle to shed some extra weight. Obesity in humans has reached epidemic proportions and in a study released two years ago, South Africans were classified as the third fattest people on earth. Worse than this, is the fact that obesity in pets is following this trend and fast becoming a disease on its own. Some studies show that more than 50 % of pets are overweight. This alarming figure effectively means we are “killing out pets with kindness.” Obesity is defined as an accumulation of excessive amounts of body fat. Body fat increases when the amount of energy taken in (by eating food) exceeds the amount of energy used (by exercising). Vets classify a pet as obese if the animal weighs more than 15 to 20 % of his/her ideal body weight.  Body Mass Index or BMI which is commonly used in humans to define obesity, is not commonly used in animals, because there is such huge variation between and within different breeds. In animals a Body Condition Score or BCS is referred to in terms of the animal’s ideal weight.



Tiny but deadly

Ticks

Living in a warm and sunny country is great, but with it comes all the parasites and diseases associated with a warm and/or tropical climate. One of these little scourges can be found nearly all over South Africa, namely ticks. Most people have at some or other time encountered a tick on their pet. This can be quite distressing – especially if you consider a disease like biliary (tick fever).



Arthritis Treatment and prevention - Part 2 of 2

Arthritis

In part one of this two part article, we looked at the signs and diagnoses of arthritis in pets. In this part of the article, we will look at the treatment and prevention of arthritis in pets. With the advancement of technology and medicine, arthritis is no longer a death sentence. Our beloved pets can benefit from a range of surgical and medical treatment. As mentioned in part one, it can never be stopped or cured but arthritis can definitely be managed and symptoms relieved to give your pet a pain free life.



We're all going on a Summer Holiday

Traveling with your pets

Going on holiday is always fun but we must never forget or neglect our pets in the excitement leading up to a well deserved vacation.

When going on holiday find someone to look after your pets while you are away. It will be a good idea either to get a house sitter or place your pets in a kennel over the holidays as medical problems can just as easily arise when you are not at home. Giving the vet notice of your impending holiday and making arrangements for someone to take your pets there in case of an emergency is an important part of your holiday planning. Also stock up on enough food and make sure your pet has enough medicine if they are on chronic medication.



Arthritis Signs and Diagnoses - Part 1 of 2

Arthritis

So what happens when your beloved canine friend does not want to go for his walk anymore because he is too sore the next morning?

Unfortunately older pets, and these days even puppies, get afflicted by a condition commonly known as joint disease. This is the same problem we as humans suffer from as well, better known as arthritis. In dogs and cats and more commonly in larger breed dogs, it is concentrated in the hip, knee, shoulder and elbow joints. The spinal column and back vertebrae (back bones) can also be affected.



Scratch scratch scratch - Part 2 of 2

Skin conditions

In the first part of this two part series we looked at the complexity of itching and scratching in pets and the fact that although the symptoms eventually manifest in the same way i.e. itching and scratching,  there could be many different causes for it. Itching or pruritis, as vets call it, can be described as the sensation that elicits the desire to scratch. The skin, being the biggest organ in the body and acting as a sort of outer nervous system, provides feedback to the brain of things like temperature, touch, pain and itching through a network of nerve endings.



Scratch scratch scratch - Part 1 of 2

Skin conditions

Vets often hear this complaint in the examination room, where clients complain about the incessant itching and scratching of their pets. This is a more common complaint with dogs where the nightly thump, thump, thump of a hind limb hitting the floor keeps the owner and the dog awake for hours. If it is irritating and hard wearing on the owner, then equally so, if not so much more for the affected pet. Skin problems in dogs and cats make up by far the biggest number of cases seen by vets. This is understandable given the fact that the skin is the biggest organ in the body. By definition it is also the organ which has the greatest exposure to the environment.



A killer disease with a misleading name

Catflu

The name of a particular disease is often influenced by the circumstances around the original occurrence of such a disease. For example “sleeping disease” in humans was originally associated with the green fever trees found in low lying areas around South Africa. As time went by and a better understanding of the disease became apparent, it became clear that the disease was transmitted by Tsetse flies and had nothing to do with the trees. Similarly there is a killer disease in dogs with a misleading name – CATFLU. When the disease was first diagnosed in the late 1970’s, it was thought to be a disease transmitted from cats to dogs. Later it was discovered that cats did not harbour the offending organism causing the disease, but an extremely small yet resilient virus called, Parvo virus in actual fact is responsible for the disease.



Animal Emergencies

Emergencies

An animal emergency can roughly be defined as an incident or condition which, once it occurs, if left untreated for more than an hour, will lead to death. Most emergencies have an acute nature or onset and leave little room for preparation and decision making. We therefore have to prepare for them in advance, and be ready to take action as soon as the emergency occurs. For one thing, it will mean that you will have to have the vet’s emergency number on your mobile phone or readily available. The sooner you can get in touch with the veterinary practice and alert them to the fact that you have an emergency and they need to be on standby and ready to assist as soon as you arrive at the veterinary practice, the better the chances of survival of your animal.



Your pet's once a year health check-up

Annual Check up

Many people wonder why vets recommend having a once a year check-up for pets. There are many reasons but probably the most important is that the average dog or cat ages by approximately seven “dog/cat years” for every human year. It may differ slightly from breed to breed and usually cats and small breed dogs age slower than large breed dogs. The average life expectancy of a large breed dog is about twelve years whereas cats and smaller breed dogs can quite comfortably live to eighteen years. Just like in humans where the average life expectancy has increased dramatically over the last twenty years because of better healthcare, proper nutrition and a general improvement in living conditions, so has the life expectancy of our pets. Animals which are kept as domestic pets live a much more sheltered lifestyle than their wild counterparts, where there is little protection from natural predators and harsh environmental conditions. Nutrition for pets has also become a much more advanced science than in years gone by and these days it is quite common to find specialised diets for life stages, breed types and conditions. The average quality of life and life expectancy in large breed dogs who suffer from arthritis has been substantially increased because of specialised diets catering for their particular needs.



Behaviour difficulties

Behaviour

“Man’s best friend.” The reason why dogs have been described like this over centuries is because of their unwavering loyalty and their good nature towards humans. However now and again, behavioural problems crop up in pet dogs which cause many people to dispute whether dogs are really man’s best friend. Behavioural problems can range from aggression, to destructive behaviour like chewing and digging, to house soiling. Some of these problems can be blamed on uninformed and uninvolved owners who do not spend the time to properly socialise and do basic training when they first acquire their dogs as puppies.



Spaying / Neutering your pet

Spaying & Neutering

People will often refer to sterilising an animal or alternatively called spaying or neutering of a pet as a “snip-snip”. This makes it sound like it is a quick, outpatient procedure, which only takes a few minutes and only cost a few rand. Nothing could be further away from the truth. Spaying or neutering pets is a full blown surgical operation which requires a general anaesthetic.



Vaccinating your puppy and kitten

Vaccination

Getting a new puppy or kitten is always exciting and most of us just want to cuddle this cute little bundle of fur. It would be lovely if this were enough to keep them healthy and disease free forever but unfortunately it isn't. Just like human children, animal babies also need immunization when they are very young.

A newborn puppy or kitten isn't naturally immune. They do have some antibody protection that they received through the mother's blood via the placenta, but this is roughly only 10%. The other 90% is through the first milk they take in from their mother. This milk is called first milk or colostrum because only the milk produced in the first two days after birth contain antibodies (called maternal antibodies). These antibodies are like little soldiers standing ready to counter any attack from a virus (the enemy). The intestinal lining of the newborn starts changing 6 hours after birth and starts losing the ability to absorb these antibodies.  It is therefore very important for new puppies and kittens to start suckling as soon as possible after birth. The newborn is only able to absorb these maternal antibodies for the first two days of its' life. Proper vaccination of the mother will ensure that she has proper antibodies levels which can then be passed on to her babies. If for some reason the puppy or kitten did not receive this precious colostrum (fostered pets, bottle fed pets or perhaps failure of the mother to produce milk), they will be at a greater risk of contracting disease.



The worm you did not know about - Spirocerca lupi

Worms

Most people do not know about this little worm. It has a strange and difficult name and an equally strange life-cycle. Normal deworming remedies do not kill this parasite and most people do not even know when their dog is infected with it. This article will try and shed some light on the how, what and where of Spirocerca lupi.

Spirocerca lupi is a roundworm. It is red in colour and 40 – 70 mm long. The eggs contain the larvae and have the shape of a paperclip. The eggs and larvae are passed from one host to another and this process normally starts when an animal passes the eggs in its stools. For example, a dung beetle ingests the eggs while working with or rolling in infected stools. The larvae then hatch inside the dung beetle and develop into more mature forms. A bird, lizard or another small animal might eat the dung beetle and then become infected with the larvae. Your dog will then become infected by eating the bird or lizard, called an intermediate host. This disease has not yet been seen in cats.



Periodontal disease in dogs and cats

Dental Care

“My dog/cat has bad breath!” This is probably one of the most common complaints vets hear from pet owners. Halitosis (bad breath) can be caused by many things, but is most often related to dental disease.

Nowadays pets are part of the family. They sit next to us on the couch when we watch television, they sleep with us in our beds and we even take them on holiday – they are practically human! This means we take better care of them and they therefore live much longer. Fortunately, as a result of this close relationship, we notice problems like bad breath much earlier (one cannot help but smell something if you share your pillow with a furry friend) and we can do something about it so much sooner.



The infallible flea

Fleas

Fleas are the most common pests on our pets. The immature stages (larvae, pupae) can survive for a long time in crevices, sofas, dog beds and carpets, just waiting for the right circumstances (e.g. heat, humidity) to hatch and cause mayhem. Then they not only irritate our pets but can also cause discomfort in humans. Many people will tell you that getting rid of a flea infestation in your home can be quite difficult and costly.



The no-good, the bad and the ugly

Worms

Few people can hear the word “worms” without cringing – especially if it is related to a beloved pet. Unfortunately parasites living in the stomach and intestines occur all too common in our dogs and cats. These parasites live in the digestive tract, causing damage and robbing your pet of much naeeded nutrients. The amount of damage they cause depends on the type and number of worms your pet has.