Welcome to our page that answers your questions about pet health. Just click on the "More.." button for detailed information.
|Dental Home Care for your Pet|
|Special Needs of Senior Pets|
Infectious diseases develop when micro-organisms like viruses, bacteria or protozoa enter and grow in our pets' bodies. They can cause severe inflammation and malfunction of various body organs, causing severe illness or even death.
Many infectious diseases can be prevented by immunizing our pets, utilizing a weakened strain of the disease-causing organism to stimulate immunity before the body becomes exposed to a wild version of the disease. This is especially important for virus diseases, which can usually not be treated specifically, but where healing depends on supportive treatment to keep the pet alive while it develops its own antibodies to eliminate the virus. Antibiotics can cure most bacterial disease, so immunization is less important than for viruses. Some of these diseases are almost always fatal, e.g. distemper or rabies, besides the danger that a disease like rabies poses to the human family members!
Young un-weaned puppies and kittens are protected from a lot of diseases by antibodies they receive through mother's milk in the first 24 hours of their life (passive immunity). The strength of this immunity depends largely on the mother's level of immunity, as well as on the amount and timing of colostrum (first milk) taken in. Depending on these factors, the passive immunity wanes between 6-18 weeks of life as the antibodies are used up, and they become susceptible to very serious and potentially fatal diseases like Parvo and Distemper. Kittens can contract "Cat-flu" or "Snuffles". It is imperative to replace this passive immunity with a stronger and long-lasting active immunity.
This is the reason why puppies and kittens
should receive their first vaccination between the ages of 6 and 8 weeks
of age. It is imperative that they are healthy and growing well when
vaccinated. Severe worm burdens and malnutrition, for example, will
make the immunization less effective. This is also a good time to ensure
there are no genetic or conformational problems with your new pet, so
a thorough checkup by your vet is a good investment.
After the initial series of immunizations,
we recommend an annual health check and booster vaccination. It is no
longer considered necessary to vaccinate against all diseases every
year, and your pets' vaccination protocols should be individualized
depending on their circumstances.
For dogs that are likely to require kenneling we may advise adding the Kennel Cough Vaccine. In multi-cat households, we would also strongly advise adding Feline Leukaemia Vaccine to the program. Modern versions of this vaccine are much more effective and safe than before, and considering the prevalence of the disease, it could even be classified as a core vaccine.
We consider annual health checks/vaccinations
very important, to hopefully detect problems before they become serious.
Remember that, on average, one human year equates to seven years in
your pet's life, i.e. this equates to a human visiting their doctor
for health checks only once in 7 years! Especially older pets need regular
checkups, even though vaccines may not be given every time.
Fleas are a huge problem for pets and their owners in the hot, humid climate of the Kwa-Zulu Natal South Coast. Flea-related problems are by far the most common reason for visits to the vet! Fleas are responsible for causing general itching and discomfort. They can cause FAD (Flea Allergy Dermatitis, an intense skin reaction caused by hypersensitivity to flea saliva. One flea bite can be enough to trigger the disease), besides aggravating other skin problems, transmitting tapeworms, etc. We have even seen deaths in dogs caused purely by extreme flea infestations sucking so much blood that dogs have died of anaemia!
To control fleas effectively, it is important to understand the flea life cycle:
1. Adult fleas hatch, and infest an animal. The flea is very small at this stage, but starts biting and sucking blood within seconds of jumping onto a pet. Fleas stay on one animal for the rest of their life, and will generally not move from one animal to another, unless they are accidentally dislodged by the pet's scratching. Fleas produce visible black granules on the pet: this is flea faeces, essentially the pet's blood, which has been digested and passed through the flea's digestive tract. The adult flea is the biggest problem for our pets' comfort, and the natural tendency of owners is to focus on eliminating this stage of the life cycle.
2. Adult fleas start laying eggs, which are tiny white granules, within 24 hours, and continue adding more eggs until they die. Eggs are laid on the pet. They do not stick to the pet's coat, but roll off wherever the pet spends time, especially if scratching. Female fleas can lay 30-50 eggs per day! As few as 10 fleas on your pet will result in 500 eggs infesting your house every day! HUGE potential for population explosion!
3. Eggs hatch after 2-3 days. The tiny larvae (similar to miniature silkworms) are photophobic, moving away from light, and burrow deeper into carpets, cracks in wooden floors and under furniture, making them hard to reach by vacuuming. The larval stage, where they moult 3 times, lasts roughly 10 days.
4. The larvae then become pupae, and will
spin a cocoon much like silkworms do. This is an extremely hardy stage,
which is almost impossible to eradicate. The pupa can hatch within 7
days under ideal conditions (total life cycle can be complete in as
little as 3 weeks!), or the pupa can lie dormant for 6 months. They
require 70% humidity to survive and hatch, conditions which are present
in our coastal area virtually throughout the year. Pupae will remain
inside their cocoon until stimulated to hatch by sensing increased carbon
dioxide and vibration when a pet walks right past them, the whole process
of infesting the pet finished in seconds!
"The best time to treat your pet for fleas is when you see no fleas at all"
One common myth is the existence of "sand
fleas". The fleas we see on our pets are Ctenocephaledes felis,
or cat fleas. Dog fleas, human fleas, etc. have been squeezed out by
the tougher cat flea, which breeds much faster, and takes over other
flea colonies. If pets spend a lot of time lying in hollows they dig
for themselves in sterile sandy areas of our gardens, flea eggs will
be shed in this sand, the life cycle will continue there, and the fleas
that hatch out of the sand will infest the dogs. However, they are still
cat fleas, no different from fleas that have developed in carpets, bedding
or elsewhere in or around our houses.
There are two tick species of importance
for dogs on the Natal South Coast:
Ticks have long life cycles compared to
fleas (years rather than weeks). Adult females (the big grey ticks that
we see on our pets) produce 10-20 thousand eggs. The adult female will
suck blood for about one week, then drop off, crawl into a safe place,
lay its mound of eggs and die. The eggs soon hatch into tiny, almost
microscopic tick larvae, which have only 3 pairs of legs. The larvae
will wait for a host animal, often smaller mammals, climb on and start
sucking blood. After feeding for roughly a week they drop off, find
a safe environment and moult into tick nymphs, who repeat this process
and emerge as adult ticks. Each of the 3 crawling life stages is slightly
larger than the previous stage. Each can survive for long periods (up
to 2 years) on grass lawns just waiting for a host to pass by. They
have been known to survive more than 2 years without taking a blood
meal! The ticks "quest" for a host, they crawl onto a blade
of grass, hanging out their front legs as antennae to sense increased
temperatures, CO2, vibrations and host odours - all indications of a
host nearby. Once on the host they attach themselves to the skin by
ripping and tearing the delicate membranes and small blood vessels and
feed on the fluids exuded into this wound. Each stage of the ticks is
similar to the previous stage, just larger. Adult ticks are either male
or female (no sex difference in the larval or nymph stage). Males and
females look similar at first, but females attach and suck blood, their
abdomen swelling to the big blue-grey ticks that are then more visible
on our pets.
| The three major
types of worms that cause problems here in KZN are hook-, round- and tapeworm.
All puppies and kittens are infested with hookworm and roundworm at birth. They are infested through the placenta or the mother's milk. Worm larvae migrate through the puppy/kitten's body from the initial site of entry, until they reach the intestine. Migrating immature stages are very difficult to kill, so puppies and kittens should ideally be dewormed at 2 weeks of age and twice more at 2 weekly intervals after that. Youngsters should also be dewormed at every vaccination, 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 6 months old. Thereafter deworming should be done 1 to 3 times a year, depending on lifestyle and environment.
Good hygiene can contribute hugely to worm
control: Worm eggs are passed in pet faeces, they develop into ineffective
larvae after 2 days and crawl out onto grass, where they will wait for
a passing pet, to infect a new victim. Regular removal of pet faeces
(at least every second day) to an area inaccessible to pets, will largely
prevent re-infestation, and helps to reduce need for chemical worm control.
Tapeworms: the most common tapeworm in
pets is Dipylidium, which is transmitted by fleas. The worm is not dangerous,
but irritating to the pet. Worm segments crawl out of the pet's anus
causing itching and "scooting". The segments dry up, are eaten
by flea larvae, worm cysts develop in the flea, and then the adult flea
hatches and jumps on the pet. When your pet happens to swallow a flea
while grooming itself , the tapeworm cysts inside the flea grow into
tapeworms in the pet's small intestine. These worms are quite difficult
to kill, and an effective tapeworm remedy is needed. Even then, the
pet could swallow another infested flea the following day, resulting
in a new tapeworm growing and starting to shed new segments within 3-4
Other tapeworms are rare in modern urban dogs due to good controlled modern diets. Echinococcus and Taenia species are transmitted to carnivore pets by eating raw meat (beef or mutton) containing worm cysts. These worms are extremely dangerous to humans, who can become accidental intermediate hosts. Luckily these worms are only a problem where dogs eat carcasses in the field, e.g. jackal faeces would be potentially very dangerous to handle.
|Part of being a
responsible pet owner is the duty to have your pet sterilized. There is
enough proof, both medical and behavioral, that pets benefit form sterilization
at a young age. At our practice we prefer to do the procedure in both
sexes at 6 months of age, which will normally be before the first heat
in the female pet.
Sterilization in male dogs and cats is called neuter.
In male dogs and cats neutering will have the following behavioral benefits: roaming, fighting and urine marking, all due to the male hormone testosterone, are drastically reduced. In the male dog the removal of the testicles and the resultant drop in testosterone levels cause the prostate to shrink and prevents the enlargement or infection of the prostate that can occur in older dogs. In cats the benefits are mostly behavioral The behavior of your pet in relation to playfulness, socialization with and affection for their owners is not changed. If your pet is neutered at a more mature age, these changes can take a few weeks to become apparent as the hormone levels need time to settle.
In a neuter the testicles of the male pet are removed under anaesthesia by making a small incision in the scrotum, tying and cutting the cords. In cats the incision is very small and no stitches are inserted but the male dog generally needs a stitch or two.
Sterilization in female dogs and cats is called spay.
In female dogs and cats the main reason for sterilization is the prevention of unwanted puppies and kittens and the prevention of mammary cancer. In female dogs that have had two heats the risk of mammary cancer becomes high (25%) and spaying your dog before her first heat reduces this risk to near 0%). Another potentially fatal disease common in older female dogs that have not been sterilized is Pyometra. This occurs when bacteria get into the uterus and causes infection. The uterus, filled with bacteria, pus, toxins and dying tissue swells dramatically and without swift treatment (including spaying) your pet may die. Female cats and dogs will not display drastic changes in their behavior as they behave spayed for most of the year when they are not on heat. Spaying will however reduce their metabolism and with the loss of oestrogen (which is a appetite suppressor), it may be a good idea to reduce your pets food intake to prevent her from gaining weight.
In a spay both the ovaries and the uterus are removed under anaesthesia. Both cats and dogs will have stitches that need to be removed after ten days.
At our clinics spays and neuters are done in one day. The patient will come in at eight o clock in the morning after not having eaten anything since ten o clock the night before. The patient will be weighed and dogs will be given a premed injection to calm them. Your pet is then placed in his/her own hospital kennel to await surgery. After being anaesthetized, the operation site is shaved and disinfected. Your pet then goes to the operating theater where the needed surgery is performed under sterile conditions. Your pet is transferred back to his hospital bed where they are monitored till fully awake. You can collect your pet late in the afternoon when he/she will be awake and ready to go home with you. Feed small meals for the first 24 hours as some pets may experience nausea from the anaesthetic. It is advisable to keep them quiet for the rest of the day and that night and they should be up and about the next day.
DENTAL: Home dental care for your pet
I From the Rogz Pet Insurance Website I
Home Dental Care for Your Pet
A scary 85% of pets over the age of three will have some degree of periodontal disease. Although dogs and cats do not suffer like us with cavities, they can get tartar build up, inflamed gums, gum recession, infection and tooth root abscesses. All good reasons to take better care of your pet's teeth.
Its not just your pets mouth that can be affected by bad teeth; bacteria from the mouth can end up in the blood stream and affect the heart and other organs. A sore mouth can prevent your pet from eating, leading to anorexia, loss of weight and body condition.
If your pets mouth looks or smells scary, go to see your vet. A professional dental check-up is advisable before beginning home care. It may be necessary to book your pet in to the hospital for a full dental procedure; scale and polish and extraction of any damaged or diseased teeth. Allow at least seven days after a dental before starting any home dental care.
Home oral care can make a big difference to your pets comfort and health. There are several options, some more effective than others, but every little bit helps. No home dental care will remove tartar that has already built up on the teeth.
Toys and Treats
Simple things such as regular play with toys that have ropes, knobbles and ridges will have an abrasive action on the teeth while chewed, acting like a brush removing plaque. To entice chewing you can coat the toy with something tasty like a little marmite or peanut butter but even better would be pet tooth paste which is usually tasty. It is important that play time is supervised.
We all like to treat our pets and if you use the right treats it could be good for them too. Treats such as rawhide, Greenies and Denta Deli will help with home dental care. These have to be of adequate size so they have to be chewed and not swallowed whole, and ideally they need to get one per day. Remember treats do contain calories so if you are treating daily you may need to reduce the amount of food being fed. It is important to remember that bones and ox hooves are not suitable treats; they are hard and can break the teeth.
Dry pet foods, especially the premium brands are formulated to keep the teeth as clean as they can, either by the way that they break when crunched or by a special digest sprayed, containing an anti-tartar poly-phosphate on the outside. Bigger kibbles are better as they must be chewed rather than swallowed whole. There are even specific dental care foods. For those that feed a cheaper brand or mix wet or human foods in their pets diet, they are likely to see quicker build- up of tartar.
Sprays, Gels, Rinses and Water Additives
There is a huge range of sprays, gels, rinses and water additives on the market for pet oral health care. Many of these are chlorhexidine based, which is safe for pets. The chlorhexidine binds with the surface of the teeth and gums and is gently released in to the mouth as an anti-plaque treatment. It can taste bitter and some pets will not accept it. Sprays and rinses are squirted in to the mouth daily. The gels are smeared on the teeth daily, allowing the tongue to spread it throughout the mouth. Water additives are added to drinking water every day. These can help prevent the build-up of tartar by reducing the amount of plaque formed.
For those serious about their pets oral health, daily brushing is the best option. Whatever age your pet is, it is important to start slowly. Most dogs and some cats can be trained to accept teeth brushing.
You will need:
A relaxed pet (after a walk or play time
when they are a little sleepy!)
Get your pet used to having their mouth handled. Take this stage slowly; you dont want to traumatise them or get yourself bitten. Gently hold their mouth closed and slide your finger up inside the side of their lip. If you can, gently rub your finger along the teeth and gums. You can add some of the tooth paste to your finger after a day or two.
It is only necessary to clean the outside (cheek side) of the teeth; the inside (tongue side) is cleaned with saliva. If you look at a dog with tartar on the teeth, it is almost 100% on the cheek side of the teeth.
To get them comfortable with this stage could take a week or two. Be gently persistent and give lots of praise and rewards.
When your pet is comfortable with your finger cleaning their cheek teeth, you can start with the brush. Dont wave the brush around near their face; you can offer them a little tooth paste on it for them to lick off, just to introduce the brush. Do as you have been doing but this time gently introduce the brush where your finger was. Be careful to have control of the brush so you dont jab it in. If you sense that brushing is painful for your pet, take them to their vet for a check-up before continuing as they may need professional dental care.
The angle of the brush allows you to get to the teeth you need to without putting excess pressure on the gums or teeth.
There are finger tooth brushes, a little abrasive sheath that fits over your finger. Although these can be useful for pets that wont accept a toothbrush, there is a tendency to push too hard and damage the gums.
About Dr Terri Shields
Dr Terri qualified in 2004 and has worked in both mixed and small animal practices in South Africa as well as having worked overseas. She joined Valley Farm in October 2010. Her particular veterinary interest is small animal medicine. She also has an interest in dentistry and is one of their two dental doctors.
Dr Terri particularly likes working with cats. She has two cats of her own, Fudge Pop and Sonic, as well as a Bapsfontein rescue dog called Rascal and a Valley Farm adoptee called Kiki. In her spare time she rides her horse Rocket and also mountain bikes with Brad, her fiancé.
For more information visit Valley Farm Animal Hospital or contact us on (012) 991 3573.
Dr Terri Shields
|DENTAL: Give your Pet a Healthy Smile|
(As printed in SA Pet Pages)
In my final year at Onderstepoort many years ago, I had the priviledge to work on a Maltese poodle that had bad breath and some loose teeth. After cleaning its teeth I extracted a premolar tooth that was very loose - and that was it. Strange that often major changes in our lives come about by a small or sometimes insignificant event. Today I know that dog suffered from periodontitis, just like so many patients we see do.
Being the son of a carpenter and bricklayer I was possibly alwaysdestined to do something with my hands. Surgery varies from brutal carpentry sometimes to pure art at other times. Within this realm I found that I could express myself and get fulfillment in what I do. Being a surgeon also means that we make an instant impact and never is this truer than with dentristry and maxillofacial surgery. When Mrs. Ellis drops her doggie off, she was horrified at the awful smell emanating from his mouth. "He sleeps between me and my husband and we just cannot stand his breath anymore" is a common complaint I get. The joy of uniting patient with owner in the afternoon and seeing the cuddles and yes... unconditional kisses because there are fresh breaths all around is very rewarding. What I do is not just looking after your pet, it is indeed fostering and enhancing the, oh so special, human - animal bond.
Veterinary dentristry is slowly gaining ground and will in the very near future hopefully asume its rightful place in the holistic approach to caring for your pet's health. Brushing your dog or cat's teeth are as important as brushing your own. Plaque (containing lots of bacteria) is the white fluffy material that accumulates first on our teeth. This happens within hours after brushing you teeth. If left untreated (unbrushed) plaque will rapidly get incorporated with minerals (like calcium) and within 24 - 48 hours transform to calculus (the hard substance on the teeth that cannot be brushed away).
Starting to do this is never too late. I am the first to acknowledge that it may not always be the easiest thing to do, especially if you are a cat owner. However, think back to when you first tried to brush your pet's coat. Since it was quite foreign to your pet, it probably went hand-in-hand with some kind of treats, cuddles etc. Toothbrushing should be approached in a similar fashion. Do not force the pet to do anything, they will resent it and never come back for more ora lhygiene. Find a place that is comfortable for you. Trying to crawl all around the floor and brushing cats teeth under the couch is not a good idea. Put your pet either on your lap, or on the grooming table. Gently lift the lip while holding the head firmly, do not try to wrench the mouth open-wide!
Their tongues are rather coarse and normally the inside of the teeth are quite clean. You just need to clean the outside. Initially you can use anything on the toothbrush that tastes nice for the pet, beefstock for dogs and maybe even tuna oil for cats. Clean one tooth on the first day and let the pet go. They are learning a few things:
So the more pleasurable the experience the bigger the chance of repeating this tomorrow. By doing this and taking about 3 weeks till you can eventually brush all the teeth, you are giving you and your pet the biggest chace of success. If you unfortunately have a pet that just will not allow it, you need to consult with your veterinarian to find ways, excluding tooth brushing, to look after your pet's mouth, but remember if there was an easy way of looking after teeth - you and I would be doing it!
SPECIAL NEEDS OF SENIOR PETS
Published in Rogz Pet Insurance April 2017
Monthly Wellness Emailer
Special Needs of Senior
Senior pets, which are classified as large dogs over seven years of age and smaller dogs and cats over nine years of age, have very special needs.
As we age our body changes, with various body systems changing at different rates. It is the same with our pets. Their bodys needs also change; metabolism slows which may need a dietary change, their calorie requirement decreases so they should be fed less food or food with a lower calorie density, their ability to regulate their body temperature is affected so a more temperature controlled environment is needed for their comfort, and immunity is decreased with a likelihood that they will pick up more infections or infectious diseases.
Here are a few signs of aging, top to toe, most of which can be treated or supported to allow for comfortable, pain free golden years. The sooner you notice the symptoms and seek veterinary assistance, or make life style changes, the better it will be for your pet.
Changes to Look Out For:
Cognitive dysfunction can creep up slowly
with owners putting signs such as less responsive pets, the odd toileting
accident or restlessness down to just old age or something else. As
pets age nerve cells die off and start to malfunction leading to senility.
For more information visit Valley Farm Animal Hospital or contact them on (012) 991 3573.
Valley Farm Animal Hospital
What, Why, How?