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 our 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 a 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 (backbones) 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 contains 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.