For Dedicated Pet Health Care

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Parasite Control

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.
This primary vaccination starts the process of active immunization, but gives only a weak and temporary immunity; therefore, booster vaccinations are absolutely essential, according to a protocol that will be individualized for each pet based on its particular circumstances. Booster vaccines "remind" the pet's immune system of "invaders" they have been exposed to before (during primary vaccination), and this results in a strong and fast defense against these diseases.
The first rabies vaccination is usually included with the booster at roughly 3 months age. The initial series for puppies will usually consist of 3 vaccinations, while kittens generally receive vaccinations twice. As mentioned above, these protocols should not be cast in stone, but rather individualized for each pet, both regarding the timing and selection of vaccine to be given. Good scientific principles should guide these decisions.

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.
Annual Rabies vaccinations are compulsory on the Natal South Coast (in our opinion this should be applied everywhere in South Africa!). Other vaccines are grouped into "core" (essential) or "non-core" vaccines. Core vaccines for dogs are: Parvo, distemper, hepatitis and rabies. Non-core vaccines include kennel cough, leptospirosis, coronavirus, and there is also a new vaccine against biliary fever. For cats, the core vaccines are rabies, panleukopaenia (cat flu), and snuffles, while non-core vaccines include Chlamydophila, Feline leukaemia virus and Feline Immunodeficiency virus ("cat aids")

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!
This is also the reason why houses that have been closed for a while often seem infested with fleas: these were all dormant in pupal form one moment, then all hatched simultaneously when the first person walked into the house (CO2 and vibration), resulting in fleas swarming up peoples' legs.

Graphic representation showing the proportions of different life stages of the flea


1) Traditional flea control has aimed at the adult flea: killing the adult fleas reduces irritation, and helps prevent re-infestation by preventing eggs from being laid. This approach used in isolation unfortunately seems mostly ultimately doomed to failure/disappointment, as fleas have the uncanny ability to develop resistance to insecticides, resulting in ever stronger chemicals being needed for their control. While there are many excellent adult flea killers available, there is no perfect product that works every time. The most effective products of the past decade (since 1998) are administered as spot treatments on the pet's neck, from where the chemicals spread by diffusion in the skin's oil layer to cover the whole body. Dips, powders, collars and shampoos are less effective. We have been very fortunate to receive a whole host of new highly-effective products since the end of 2013. Amongst these are two new long-acting flea tablets as well as a spot-on product that works systemically rather than depending on a healthy skin oil layer.
2) As fleas lay so many eggs, any flea that survives longer than 24 hours will add to the problem. For each adult flea on the pets, there will be hundreds of immature stages (eggs, larvae and pupae) in the pet's environment.
However, development of chemicals aimed at these immature stages has resulted in much better control being possible. As fleas cannot lay eggs without first sucking blood, this gives us the opportunity to apply these measures on our pets, i.e. expose the eggs to chemicals which prevent them from hatching. These can be given either as topical products like sprays or spot treatments, or in the form of Program tablets, all administered monthly. The IGR (insect growth regulators) can also be sprayed on carpets and areas that pets frequent, preventing any larval development. Use of these IGR's has radically improved flea control, to the extent that it is now possible to achieve TOTAL flea control within a defined area.
Bearing in mind that our coastal climate favors immature flea development (never dry enough to cause pupae to die) it is important to realize that flea breeding goes on all year in our area. We see the worst flea infestations in August every year, when climatic conditions do not seem ideal. This is usually due to pet owners relaxing their vigil during the winter months, causing a buildup of dormant pupae, which then all hatch out simultaneously when climatic conditions improve.
Even if you see no fleas on your pets, regular monthly treatment must be maintained, alternatively the house and pets' sleeping areas treated regularly with an IGR.
Persistence and commitment to REGULAR treatment is the most important factor which will determine success or failure, not the selection of one product over another.

"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.
Control of these "sand fleas" is just the same: important to break the cycle. There are, however, no effective long-lasting chemicals that can be sprayed in the sand. Coarse salt sprinkled into the sand can help to dessicate the pupae in an attempt to kill them before they hatch out. Breaking the cycle by using effective IGR's on the dogs is far more effective and should eradicate fleas within about 6 months of REGULAR use.





There are two tick species of importance for dogs on the Natal South Coast:
1. Ripicephalus sanguineus (Brown dog tick / kennel tick) - the most common, as it has adapted to living in urban areas, in and around houses. They secrete toxins, cause irritation, and can transmit a disease called Ehrlichiosis, and more rarely transmit Babesiosis)
2. Haemaphysalis elliptica (Yellow dog tick, previously known as H. leachi) - found more in open veld with long grass. Very important, as they transmit the common and highly dangerous biliary fever (Babesiosis)

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.
Tick bites can cause irritation and itching and in severe infestations blood loss can be significant. ) Significant tick burdens can result in anaemia, as each tick can consume up to 4 or 5 ml of blood. Parasite (Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis) transmission usually occurs roughly 3 days after attachment, and therefore the tick control method you use should kill ticks within 48 hours of attaching to the host. Biliary fever can be transmitted stage-to-stage, e.g. a tick nymph bites a sick dog, then the next stage (adult) bites another dog and transmits the disease. Even worse, parasites can be transmitted transovarially: if an adult female tick bites a sick dog, the biliary parasites can be transmitted through the eggs to the tick larvae. As the adult female lays tens of thousands of eggs, huge numbers of tick larvae can then carry the parasites and cause disease in the dogs they bite!
Ticks are generally easier to kill than fleas. However, as they do not lay eggs on the host, it is not possible to break the breeding cycle by aiming at control of the eggs. As each stage is on the dog for 7 days, weekly treatment with an effective chemical will soon eradicate ticks from an area. Dips, collars and spot products containing amitraz are most effective in preventing disease transmission, as the ticks are paralyzed before they attach.

Fleas are usually a bigger problem than ticks in our area. Some products will effectively control both parasites (e.g. Frontline, Advantix, Certifect, Promeris Duo, Prac-tic and Ultrum Ultimate.) A new tablet (for dogs only) launched in 2014 now kills ticks (and fleas) for 3 months, and there is a collar (dogs and cats) which lasts for 8 months, killing both ticks and fleas for a prolonged period

Ticks in cats are less common, and are usually seen around the eyelids. Feline babesiosis is a highly dangerous cat disease, not uncommon in our area, and is transmitted by a specific cat tick. There is only one safe spot-on tick treatment for cats, i.e. Frontline, but it has to be applied more frequently if ticks are a problem (every 2 weeks) The new Seresto collars last for 8 months on cats, and have a safety catch to prevent accidents in case the collar catches on any objects like branches/fences, etc.

Hookworm Roundworm Tapeworm


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.
Roundworms and hookworms are a significant risk to pet owners, especially children. Hookworms in humans causes the highly-irritating "sandworm" lesions where worm larvae crawl in tracts under our skin. Roundworms are more dangerous, and can migrate around in our bodies, causing liver disease ("visceral larva migrans"), blindness ("ocular larva migrans") or epilepsy if the reach the brain. Teaching children good hygiene from an early age (wash hands after playing with pets, keep hands away from mouth) will help a lot. However, pets in contact with young children should be dewormed more frequently (every 3 months). Deworming humans at the same time as pets does NOT contribute much, as medications generally are ineffective against migrating tissue stages.

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 weeks.
Flea tapeworms are about the size of a cooked rice grain, and are the only worms that once can see (other than roundworms that are shed after killing them with deworming) Flea control helps a little, but more important is immediate deworming when tapeworm segments are seen, to prevent contamination of the environment and continuation of the life cycle.

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.

Routine dewormers should contain combinations of medications to kill the various worm species. It is also good practice to alternate products so that worms (especially hookworms) do not become immune. Please beware of supermarket brands, many will be effective only against large roundworms, which is only really important in young puppies. In our opinion, this constitutes a waste of money, and can be dangerous as it lulls one into a false sense of security. Rather contact us for advice on effective medication.

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 pet’s 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
I Author: Dr Terri Shields, BSc, BVSc I

Home Dental Care for Your Pet
When did you last look at your pet’s teeth? Are they stained and brown, are there lumps of tartar on the teeth, or are the gums looking red? Just imagine if you had not brushed your teeth for 8 years what a state your mouth would be in.

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.

It’s not just your pet’s 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 pet’s 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 pet’s 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 pet’s 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 pet’s 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!)
Pet tooth paste, these are flavoured to make them more acceptable. Never use human tooth paste it contains foaming agents that pets should not swallow.
Pet toothbrush, a specific pet tooth brush with an angled head is the best option.
Allow your pet to taste the tooth paste, smear on a favourite chew toy or for cats, put a little on their foot so they can lick it off.

Get your pet used to having their mouth handled. Take this stage slowly; you don’t 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. Don’t 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 don’t 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 won’t 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
Valley Farm Animal Hospital

DENTAL: Give your Pet a Healthy Smile

(As printed in SA Pet Pages)
| Author: Dr Gerhard Steenkamp |

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:

  • Even though you are fiddling in their mouth, it is not painful.

  • What the toothbrush feels like rubbing on their gums and teeth.

  • And as a bonus that it tastes nice.

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!


Published in Rogz Pet Insurance April 2017 Monthly Wellness Emailer
With the kind permission of:
Author: Dr Arpana Bhagwan BVSc
Valley Farm Animal Hospital

Special Needs of Senior Pets

Just like people, as our pets age, so their needs change as well.

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 body’s 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”.
Eyes can become cloudy which could be nuclear sclerosis (can still see) or cataracts (reduced vision or blind). They can also be affected by glaucoma which can lead to blindness.
Hearing loss is hard to evaluate if only partial and often is almost total before owners become aware of it. Pets experiencing hearing loss may well be startled and therefore aggressive if touched or approached too quickly. They may miss usual cues such as food being poured in to bowls or leads jingling.
Poor dental hygiene is a fact for pets that reach old age and have not received home dental care or regular dental scale and polishes. Not only will they have smelly breath but teeth and gums can be painful and infected, which can spread infection throughout the body, affecting organs and generally making your pet unwell.
Heart disease is more common in some breeds than others. The heart loses it’s elasticity and the heart valves function less well as the heart ages. The blood is pumped less efficiently around the body, reducing stamina and leading to fluid accumulation in the tissues such as the lungs.
A loss of kidney function is fairly common in the cat. Often clinical signs such as increased thirst, urination and decreased appetite are only seen when the disease has progressed to a serious level.
Liver function does reduce with age and as the liver is the organ that metabolises various toxins that enter the body, it is essential that it is in good working order.
There are various glands within our pet's bodies that regulate all sorts of metabolic process to keep their bodies in balance. If these glands become damaged with old age, a whole variety of diseases can result. Some of the more common ones are Diabetes, Cushing's and Hyperthyroidism.
Skin and coat can become dull or thinner, and hair especially around the muzzle may go grey. Heavy dogs may develop calluses on their elbows from lying on hard floors. Toe nails can become brittle and foot pads thickened.
Joint pain from Arthritis is very common and can result in an inactive pet, which in turn will lead to muscle atrophy and weakness. Often these pets gain weight due to the inactivity which in turn exacerbates the joint pain.
Obesity or excess weight is probably one of the biggest issues affecting senior pets and puts extra strain on already sore joints, weakened muscles, ailing heart and can lead to conditions such as Diabetes.
Senior pets do need special care and should get a vet check at least once every year so that any potential problems can be detected sooner rather than later. Your vet may suggest urine tests, blood tests, x-rays or sonar examination if they have specific concerns. These tests and examinations allow them to pin point specific diseases and help you start treatment or make life style changes to support your pet.

For more information visit Valley Farm Animal Hospital or contact them on (012) 991 3573.

Valley Farm Animal Hospital

To Contact Us:    
Margate Vet Hospital  
Bulwer Street Vet Hospital
Phone: 039-312 2151
Fax: 039-317 1426
E-mail: info.margate@scvets.co.za
039-682 2522
039-682 3980

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