by Dr Lizinda Spies




We all love doggy and kitty kisses, but when they start to develop gum and tooth disease, it could become unpleasant not only for us, but also for them. Dental disease (gingivitis and periodontitis) is a very common disease as it can be quite challenging to keep our fury friends’ teeth sparkly clean as they do not brush and floss as we do (if you are ever curious to what happens if teeth go for years without brushing, you only have to look at your pets teeth!).

Research has shown that at the age of 3, 80% of pet’s already have some degree of dental disease. Taking care of our pets teeth, doesn’t only freshen their breath, but also improve’s their quality of life.


In a normal mouth, the teeth are clean and white and the gums attach smoothly to the tooth surface. There is no redness or discoloration or tartar.

The tooth is bathed in saliva, bacteria and food particles called plaque (colourless film), but if this is brushed away, it never mineralizes into tartar (gritty hard material). If we do not regularly disinfect our mouths and brush away the plaque, it will also mineralize into tartar. This tartar being solid and gritty, blocks oxygen from bathing the outer tooth and thus changes the nature of the bacteria that can live around the teeth (some nasty bacteria can’t survive when exposed to oxygen, thus making this protective cocoon favourable for their growth). This leads to inflammation and tenderness around the gingival sulcus (space between tooth and gum), causing gingivitis (red, swollen gums).

As this progresses, the tartar creates more and more inflammation, start to cover the crown of the tooth and destroy the tissue around the tooth.

The tartar accumulate under the gum and start to separate it from the teeth, forming pockets or spaces under the teeth that can foster even more bacterial growth. The gum tissue can even start to recede, exposing the tooth root.

Eventually the attachment between the tooth and bone (jaw socket) is destroyed. This leads to premature tooth loss and even weakening of the jaw bone that can potentially fracture or even disintegrate (a serious problem in toy breeds). But worse still, the bacteria of the mouth can seed to other areas of the body leading to infection, commonly of the heart valves and kidneys.

This condition is serious, but not to worry! Dental disease is preventable and treatable in most pets.

There are some factors that can contribute to dental disease:

  • AGE – more common in our golden oldies
  • BREED – small dog breeds are more prone to have overcrowded (residual baby teeth – whenpuppy teeth don’t fall out) and misaligned teeth that are difficult to keep clean and result in easier tartar build-up.
  • FOOD – feeding a diet mainly consisting out of sticky soft food leading to more rapid plaquebuild-up
  • EXCESSIVE GROOMING due to other disease like skin allergies – hair can get lodged between teeth


The first sign we usually notice, is a SMELLY BREATH. As the disease progress, you may notice signs like;

  • Red, swollen gums that bleed easily
  • painful mouth
    • difficult eating, and even losing weight
    • pawing/rubbing at the mouth,
    • dropping/spitting out food,
    • dribbling/excessive drooling
    • wanting to eat but then just turn away from food
  •  loose or missing teeth,
  • Yellow/brown tartar on teeth.



It’s very important to address dental disease early, as the gingivitis stage are reversible, but once bone loss occur’s, we won’t be able to reverse the process.


This is a very important step in controlling and preventing periodontitis in our pets as home dental care is never perfect and periodically tartar must be removed properly and the tooth surface polished and disinfected. It is advisable to clean pets’ teeth every 6-12 months or earlier depending on individual patient’s needs.

During this procedure, each patient receives general anaesthesia to ensure proper cleaning and polishing of each tooth and extraction of any diseased or loose teeth. Gross tartar is firstly removed with special instruments, where after the more delicate tartar deposits are removed with a scaling tip. Finally the enamel surface is polished with fine gritty toothpaste to remove any unevenness left by tartar removal. The mouth is then disinfected to decrease the bacterial load.


Daily brushing and home care is ideal and needed to control existing gingivitis, but even brushing three times a week can remove most (but unfortunately not all) plaque before it becomes mineralized as tartar. Not all pets are amenable to hands-on oral care and not every one’s schedule allow daily brushing.

It’s always good to become familiarized with opening and inspecting your pet’s mouth.Gently lift the lip and look at the teeth, but pay attention to the back teeth (molars) as well. Then open the mouth and look at the inside of the teeth and the tongue.

It’s now time for brushing! The fibres of a toothbrush are able to reach the spaces between the teeth and pick out any food deposits under the gum line. Always try to use a pet toothbrush if possible as these are specifically designed for doggy and kitty mouths. BUT NEVER USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE: these contain foaming agents that are not meant to be swallowed. Animal toothpastes are also flavoured with special flavours like malt and chicken, to enhance compliance.

Some animals are not going to allow brushing, especially those with tender gums. In these patients, you can either use dental wipes to wipe of plaque from the tooth surface (but unable to remove food from gum socket) or oral rinses and gels.


Chewing on a dental chew like a Greenie@, can substantially decrease the build-up of plaque by up to 69%. Not only does chewing on these products produce saliva with natural occurring enzymes, but they also contain ingredients that prevent mineralization of plaque and helps with bad breath.

When using chew treats, it is important to use chews of appropriate sizes to prevent swallowing and choking and even intestinal obstruction. Also remember that pets with diseased teeth, may actually break teeth on hard treats. COW HOOVES AND BONES ARE NOT APPROPRIATE CHEW TREATS AS THESE ARE TOO HARD AND READILY BREAK AND DAMAGE TEETH.


These foods have a larger kibble size, forcing the pet to chew rather than just swallow. They are also high in fibre, which means the food don’t shatter when chewed but instead thetooth sinks into the kibble allowing plaque to be mechanically scrubbed away. It is also important to realize that these food are helpful in cleaning the chewing teeth (molar and premolars) and not the canines or incisors.

At the end of the day, it’s never too late to start a dental care plan. By keeping our pets’ mouth’s clean, we not only improve their quality of life but also their general health. Please come and speak to us about your fur baby’s toothy situation and make use of our special Dental health months to keep our pets healthy and happy – and that’s the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth.

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened – Dr Seuss

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened (Dr Seuss)

by Dr. Christa Schmidt

AS owner’s of Fur Kids, one of the most difficult decisions, that lie ahead of us, is deciding when it is time to let go of our beloved Pet. This will be the last respect we show to our pet companion for all the love and companionship he/she has shown us over the year’s. Very often, it is the loss of quality of life, as our beloved pet ages, that necessitates our decision, however sometimes it is a life-threatening illness that forces us to decide in a younger pet. Mature Pet’s, who will emotionally suffer the loss of their human companion might also be the one’s we need to decide about.

As Vet’s we are often asked if this is the hardest part of our job, but realising that we are helping a pet die in a dignified manner and relieving it of it’s pain makes it more bearable.

How do we know if our companion has lost it’s quality of life?

The HHHHHMM scale to determine quality of life: (score 0 – 10; 10 being the ideal; a total above 35 points denotes that quality of life is still acceptable)

  • H: Hurt:  Adequate pain control and breathing easily are of main concern – trouble breathing outweighs all concerns; and is the pain managed well enough? Are there unbearable symptoms that can’t be controlled e.g vomiting? Does your pet pace around the house and has it’s overall condition changed recently?
  • H: Hunger: Has your pet’s appetite changed – is your pet eating enough, does he need to be hand fed or need a feeding tube?
  • H: Hydration: Is your pet drinking enough fluids and staying hydrated, has water intake changed?
  • H: Hygiene: Can your pet still cope with getting up to urinate or defecate and maintain it’s basic hygiene or must you as pet parent become more involved with this? Have urination and bowel movements stayed the same? Is your pet sleeping comfortably or developing bed sores because it lies mostly?
  • H: Happiness: Does your pet express joy and interest, or does she isolate herself and appear depressed or anxious or lonely. Does she still partake in activities she loved, still hate the things she hated (still hates the mailman/doesn’t bark at the mailman anymore) and interact normally with family or other pets. Is she more aggressive? Does she seem apathetic or confused and are nighttime activities normal?
  • M: Mobility: Can your pet get up without assistance, can she walk without assistance, does she still enjoy walks, or is she stumbling or having seizures?
  • M: More Good Day’s than Bad: When bad day’s outnumber the good, quality of life might be compromised. If your pet is suffering, the decision to euthenase needs to be made.

You should also address the family’s concerns – important questions to ask yourself are:

  • What did I hope the life expectancy of my pet will be and what do I think it will be?
  • Are you concerned about your pet’s suffering and of your pet dying alone?
  • Are you able to perform nursing care for your pet?
  • Are you concerned about other family member’s and other pet’s in the household?

Still you are unsure – and that is an understatement – You know it’s time and then you really don’t; you feel as if you are taking a life into your own hand’s. On the day you decide, your fur-kid might have a “good day” and you feel guilty about making such a decision, yet if you leave it too long, the realisation may sink in, that your companion has suffered.

Although we are saddened by the decision to euthenase our companion, nobody has ever shown regret. Remember, we as Veterinarians are only there to guide you and we are trained to see the suffering of our patient, BUT you as owner have the final say about euthanasia. If time allows, give yourself and your family time to say goodbye before finally deciding and also give yourselves time to grieve afterwards – this is after all the companion you raised, shared so much with and adored unconditionally…….

Euthenasia comes from greek terminology and literally means “Good Death” and the term “Putting to Sleep” is often also used – presumeably taken from the state the pet falls into after the solution is administered. The solution that is administered is usually a barbiturate, an anaesthetic agent, which quickly effects painless inhibition of nerve sensations and complete muscle relaxation. When nerve conduction is inhibited, there is loss of sensation, thought and movement. Your pet will transfer into a state of anaesthesia within six to ten seconds of administering the solution and then into complete relaxation and stopping of the heart muscles. We, as the owner’s are fully aware that this is the end and final and that is why it is so emotional, which it should be – for your companion, it is a relief and the same sensation as going under anaesthesia – The solution is only available on license to Veterinarians.

Owner’s are often concerned that it will be painful – however as the solution is administered intravenously the only sensation your pet will feel is the Vet assistant bringing up the vein and a small prick when the needle is inserted.

As owner’s we need to know that our pet’s will be fine-tuned into our emotions and that they might react to this if you as owner should wish to stay for the procedure.

It might be a good idea to call up the Vet before you go for the final appointment and find out which times are quieter if this will suit you, it might also be a good idea to keep your pet in the car while you wait to be called in to the vet.

At Animaland, we value respect of LIFE highly. If we are of opinion, that euthenasia is not the right choice at that stage, we will endeavour to make your pet as comfortable as we can and make suggestions too, as to how you as owner can too. We want to make sure that your Pet’s last visit is as pain-free and peaceful as we can possibly provide, and we want to be sure, that the last farewell is respectful.

We work with a reputable service provider – Envirocin – who collect the bodies and then cremate them. At an additional cost, you can ask the ashes to be returned for home burial or a keep-sake. Owner’s are often surprised that the ashes are so light, but remember 75% of the body is made up of water.

Municipal by-laws have become very strict regarding the disposal of animal bodies and dumping is not allowed UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!



by Dr. Lizinda Spies


With winter wrapping its chilly arms around us, it’s not only us struggling to get up in the mornings but also our furry friends. Arthritis is a common and well known condition, and Dr Christa touched on this topic in her awesome article ‘The Aging Pet’ in last month’s newsletter. We will discuss arthritis in a little bit more detail here.


Also known as degenerative joint disease, arthritis occurs when a joint is unstable causing the bones to move abnormally within the joint. This instability can be due to developmental/inherited bone conditions, previous injuries or a normal aging process. Over time this abnormal movement erodes the protective cartilage that lines the joints as well as decreasing the lubricating joint fluid, eventually causing bone to rub against bone.

In the early stages, this abnormality leads to chronic inflammation which in turn leads to new bone being laid down in the joint in an attempt to repair itself. Unfortunately this remodelling of the joint is not for the better, as the new bony deposits restrict the movement of the affected joint.

Seen more commonly in middle aged to senior pets (…and even cats, they are just better in hiding it!), arthritis can also affect younger animals under the right circumstances.

Developmental and inherited conditions like hip dysplasia (=joint laxity of hip joint; more commonly in large breed dogs like golden retrievers, Labradors and Rottweilers), elbow dysplasia (=most common source of pain in growing dogs with a forelimb lameness and arthritis of elbow joint), luxation of the patella (=most common bone disease of small dogs) and rupture of cruciate ligaments in the knee (=mostly due to skeletal disorders, affecting middle-aged large breed dogs) to name only a few, can lead to chronic arthritis and pain if left untreated.


Typically the first signs are stiffness when getting up after a long rest, such as first thing in the morning after a night’s sleep. You may see this when your pet stretches in a tentative manner and takes stiff, stilted steps. In the early stages, this stiffness ease within minutes as they get moving and the joints warm up. But with progression and more advanced cases, either the pain or physical changes in the joints mean the stiffness becomes more permanent.

You may also notice that your pet is slowing down, takes longer to recover after playing, difficulty getting up or down stairs, onto or off the furniture or in and out of the car. They may also be reluctant to jump.

Others signs include long-term lameness/limping on a particular leg. Some pets may lick constantly at a painful joint to ease the aching discomfort. Some may even be so painful that they are reluctant to be touched and may move away or even growl/snap or be irritable.

As cats aren’t usually as active as dogs, their signs are usually subtle. Cats with arthritis may start to urinate or defecate outside the litterbox as it’s too painful to climb into the box. These kitty cats may also be reluctant to jump off high furniture like a table and rather jump onto the chair. They are also less likely to play and may show excessive grooming over a painful joint.


It is important to determine if the cause of arthritis in your pet can be treated with corrective surgery. If not, there are a couple of management options to relieve and control pain.

    Always provide soft, padded bedding and keep in mind the height of doggy beds. Consider non-slip surfaces and ramps at stairs. Changes in temperature (cold weather), humidity and barometric pressure have been reported to influence pain perceived from arthritic joints in humans. By keeping pets in a weather-controlled environment may also minimize the impact of weather conditions.
    Although it may be difficult for our arthritic dogs and cats to move as easily as before, exercise is still an important part of your pet’s life. In a study comparing overweight Labradors to Labradors with ideal body condition, the leaner group lived 1.8 years longer. For both groups, however the lack of mobility late in life due to arthritis was the dominant cause of euthanasia. This study proved that arthritis progressed more slowly and was more easily controlled in lighter dogs.     Gentle, controlled movement (like daily walks for 10min) keeps the joints smooth and helps to   prevent stiffness and increase limb strength – but please avoid strenuous activities like jumping up, chasing, retrieving and playing with other dogs. Swimming is often a popular exercise alternative, as long as your dog is comfortable swimming. Special joint diets have multiple benefits – helping patients to lose weight and therefore decreasing the strain on painful joints, as well as containing joint supplements to decrease inflammation and pain.
    Supplementing ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin and green-lipped mussel helps to nourish and protect the joint cartilage, which often helps the pet to experience less pain. These products typically takes 1-2 months before improvement is obvious and are safe on kidney and liver function. Omega 3 fatty acids also helps to decrease inflammation, swelling and pain in joints.
    The mainstay of treatment is anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs like Rimadyl, Metacam, Previcox) which work on the peripheral inflammation (= in the joints). There are numerous products available in this class, some in chewable tablets others as liquid formulations.

As in all forms of chronic pain, a syndrome called ‘peripheral sensitization and spinal cord wind-up’ occurs. This roughly means the body’s pain threshold has been changed and patients become more painful to minor painful stimuli. These patients then become partially or non-responsive to standard painkillers – a multimodal pain treatment plan by combining different classes of drugs, may then be indicated.

    Cold therapy/icing, heat therapy and massage may also have a pain relieving effect on joints. Icing provides direct pain relief by decreasing nerve conduction and decreasing swelling. This might be helpful after a period of exercise or before bedtime, but always make sure the patient is not uncomfortable. Heating may help to decrease stiffness and increase tissue extensibility.

Range of motion and stretching exercises are extremely important to achieve improved motion of joints, as it helps to increase flexibility of joints and preventing stiffness.


Each pet’s treatment plan is unique. Some patients will respond better to certain therapies and not to others. It’s therefor important to speak to your veterinarian and determine what therapies will be better suited for your pet. Please come and speak to us to help you to take to ‘ouch’ out of winter for our furry companions.

THE AGEING PET by Dr. Christa Schmidt



Dr Christa Schmidt


The thought of our Pet’s becoming older, is difficult for most of us and one we would rather avoid – BUT this is the time we should be considering how we can ease our trusted companions into their “Golden Year’s”.

If we all just had $50 000 – like Barbara Streisand – to clone our beloved Pet – albeit still a very controversial subject?!

So while, in human year’s “7“ is still considered a child – in our Furkid’s this would already be considered middle-aged, if we take the common calculation of multiplying our Pet’s years by 7 – but different breeds age differently – while small breeds and cat’s living a healthy lifestyle can generally become 15-20 year’s old, large breeds such as St Bernard and Great Dane can expect to live 8-9 year’s and medium breeds somewhere in-between.

The record holder for the longest living dog, belonged to an Australian Cattle Dog – ”Bluey”, who lived 29 year’s and 5 months! The oldest cat recorded was “Creme Puff”- a whole 38 year’s!

But just like humans, there are factor’s that influence our Pet’s longevity, such as good genes and enviromental factors.

In the above photo is Ziggy with Liané – they are both 7 years old in human years

In the photo below Ziggy poses with his “mommy” and they are the same age in doggy years.


Here are a few factors to look out for in your ageing Pet – twice a year Vet check-ups are recommended:

  1. Difficulty Getting Up and moving around: Naps become more appealing than playing or running. For most of us, this is one of the most difficult factor’s to adjust to, if our active Pet becomes sedentary and getting up becomes difficult, especially if we enjoyed our walk’s and activities together – there is no reason to still be active, but take it at an easier pace – in fact – moving helps loosen the joints – speak to your Vet regrading Supplement’s such as Omega 3 & 6 acids and Joint stabiliser’s and if necessary anti-inflammatories, especially now that Winter is creeping up on us! Arthritis is characterised by signs of discomfort, lameness or pain and difficulty rising from rest. Additionally consider specialised and warmer bedding.
  2. Loss of eyesight: Deteriorating eye loss is part of the normal ageing process – if you notice your Pet bumping into things or that it seems worse at night, be sure to take it to your Vet to exclude eye problems such as cataracts, retinal degeneration (night blindness), glaucoma and dry eye syndrome-all which are treatable.
  3. Dental Health: Regrettably – this is the one area – that Vet’s see that owner’s neglect their ageing Pet’s! It should be obvious, that if your Pet’s breath smell’s, the first place to look at is IN THE MOUTH! Year’s of tartar build-up is, at the very least very smelly and would prevent you from wanting to cuddle your pet, but the truth is, it contains year’s and year’s of bacteria, which cause dental decay (constant tooth ache), as well as the real possibility of intoxicating the bloodstream eventually leading to Heart and Kidney Failure. The fear of giving your ageing Pet a light anaesthetic, should not be the reason for not having it’s teeth cleaned!
  4. Lumps and Bumps: Just as year’s of sun exposure can affect our skin – and only be visible when we are older – so too it can become an issue when our Pet’s age, especially those with a fair coat, who loved to sun tan! White haired Pets are invariably more prone to skin growths and even skin cancer and older male dog’s tend to get fatty growths (lipoma’s). Hormonal changes can also cause hair loss -talk to your Vet about treatment options.
  5. Loss of Bladder control or urinating with difficulty: this could be a symptom of an underlying disease like Kidney Failure or Diabetes, Prostrate problems in older male dogs or hormonal changes in older female changes – don’t let this problem affect your demeanour towards your older Pet – speak to your Vet about how to regulate these issues.
  6. Weight gain or loss: a more sedentary lifestyle could lead to weight gain, however, just as humans become smaller and shorter when they age, so too animal’s become catabolic and we need to adjust their diet to accomadate these changes. Weight loss could also be an indicator of underlying disease such as cancer or typically in Cat’s an overactive thyroid.
  7. Behavioural Changes: as our Pet’s live longer lives, we see that they also struggle with memory loss and cognitive dysfuction. Symptoms of this could be personality changes, irritability, unusual pacing, signs of disorientation and confusion – like difficulty finding it’s bed or barking for no reason. Luckily dietary supplements and medication is available to alleviate these symptoms.
  8. Coughing and shortness of breath: your pet tires more easily – this could be an indicator of heart disease – so make sure to have your Pet examined.

Something to think about: Studies have shown that feeding your Pet a Veterinary Diet compared to a commercial variant can extend it’s life-span by 24 months!

Hills Science Diet has just launched a diet for the bridging year’s from adult to senior for Pet’s from the age of 7 years; by “likeing and Leaving a comment” on our article on Facebook, 4 reader’s each stand the chance of winning a sample bag of Hills Youthful Vitality – one of each up for grabs: Cat, small dog, medium dog and large dog!


Dog Ageing Diagram 


Cat Ageing Diagram

The Dangers of Easter for our Pets by Dr Lizinda Spies

Marshmallow Eggs,

Chocolate Bunnies


The Dangers of Easter for our Pets

by Dr Lizinda Spies

We all celebrate the time during Easter differently, even around the world. Whether it’s to go on Easter egg hunts and handing out chocolate bunnies or going to church or flying colourful kites like in some countries, we must be vigilant to the potential dangers of traditional Easter treats to our four-legged friends. Here are a few potential dangers to look out for during the Easter season, but also during the rest of the year.

  • CHOCOLATE…do not give

We all love chocolate, and so do our furry friends (pets fed small amounts may develop a taste for it and actively seek out chocolate, leading to intoxication). Chocolate comes in many forms, such as bakers chocolate, candy, chocolate baked goods like cake and brownies. The main toxic ingredient is METHYLXANTHINES, which consists out of caffeine and theobromine (primary causative agent). The highest concentration of these toxins are found in cocoa powder, bakers chocolate, semisweet chocolate and dark chocolate. Less is found in white chocolate and milk chocolate.

In dogs, even a very small dose of theobromine can result in clinical signs as early as 6- 12hours after ingestion. The earliest sign of toxicity is usually an increase in thirst, which can be followed by vomiting and diarrhoea. Because this is a stimulant, the patient can start to show signs of agitation or restlessness/nervousness (at any dose). But more dangerous, is the effect on the HEART and NERVOUS SYSTEM. These patients can show an increase in heart rate (tachycardia), which can progress to fatal cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms). Eventually some can have seizures, muscle tremors or incoordination.

In addition to the toxic effect of chocolate, the high fat and sugar content can also cause problems like nausea, diarrhoea or even pancreatitis.

  • RAISINS…be careful & rather not feed

Nothing is more traditional during Easter than the hot cross bun. Delicious and lovely baked goodies to share between family and friends….BUT BE CAREFUL FOR OUR PETS. These baked goods contain RAISINS which has been associated with the development of ACUTE KIDNEY FAILURE in especially dogs, but there are anecdotal reports that cats and ferrets can also be affected. Some toxicologists think that cooked raisins (like in raisin bread, hot cross buns) are not toxic, but this has not been confirmed and some dogs have developed kidney damage after eating baked goods. As little as 5 grapes, can lead to toxicity in an 8kg dog – AND RAISINS ARE 4.5 TIMES MORE CONCENTRATED THAN GRAPES.

          Not all dogs that ingest raisins, consistently develop signs of renal injury…

          …but this is a risk not worth taking, as the possible consequences can be so serious.

These patients develop vomiting and acute injury / damage to the kidneys within 24 hours after ingestion. Some of these patients can be helped if treated very early (<18 hours after ingestion), but prognosis is guarded once the kidneys have sustained injury.

  • XYLITOL…don’t give

With the Banting evolution, the sugar substitute xylitol, has become more utilized in various foods. It is used as a sweetener in puddings, cakes, baked goods and beverages. And during Easter, true Banters will also be looking out for sugar-free alternatives, commonly containing xylitol. This is very dangerous to especially dogs.

After a dog consumes xylitol, the body releases a large amount of insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels), which leads to a rapid and dangerous onset of HYPOGLYCAEMIA (low blood sugar). This drop in blood sugar can happen as soon as 15-30 minutes after ingestion! These patients start to vomit, followed by weakness, incoordination, collapse, seizures and even death. Some patients can even develop liver failure as early as 12-48hours.

Also be careful that common household products like toothpaste and oral rinses, medication, sugar-free gums and sweets, some nut butters like peanut butter can also contain xylitol. READ THE LABELS (especially sugar-free products) AND LOOK OUT FOR THIS, SOMETIMES REFERRED TO AS SUGAR ALCOHOL.

  • MACADAMIA NUTS…be careful

These nuts are commonly found in baked cookies, or just chocolate covered as a sweet treat. Dogs can develop weakness (commonly of the hind limbs) and muscle tremors if ingesting more than 2g/kg of these nuts. Because these nuts are also high in fat content, pancreatitis (a painful and dangerous inflammation of the pancreas) is also a possible sequel.

These are just a few food-related dangers to look out for this season. If you suspect that your pet ingested any of these substances, or you accidentally fed it to your pet, please seek veterinary help as soon as possible. Rather stick to pet-friendly and safer alternative when treating your furry friends.

Allergies in Pet’s

Allergies in Pet’s. Yes, they have allergies too!

When I just started studying veterinary science, my siamese cat “Tovja” had her kittens in my room.

Out of the blue, I started getting severe asthma attacks and rashes and hives – and for a short while, I had to reconsider continuing my studies, if this was the way I would react to my patients!

The alternative study recommendations were not appealing to me and armed with my antihista- mines and asthma medicine I soldiered on in my veterinary studies and it seems my immune system managed to cope – although from time to time I still get asthma and some patient’s fur makes me itch.

Allergies to pet’s which humans suffer from is well known, as are allergies in humans in general, but few people realise that pet’s can have allergies too.

In Human’s, allergies mainly present with sneezing and watery eyes and itchiness, and although we sometimes see these symptoms in animals, their allergies usually present as severe rash in certain areas of the body and ears and on the feet and paws – the other difference is, that human’s respond relatively well to antihistamine medication, where this is not so with pet’s.

These are the most common causes of allergies in Pet’s:

  1. Flea Allergies: This is the most common allergy in Pet’s. It does not mean, that your pet has a lot of fleas, it mean’s that your pet is reacting severely to the saliva the flea injected into it’s body when it was bitten!While fleas on their own are very irritating to a pet and us – some pet’s will react more severely than other’s when bitten. In dog’s this mainly presents as a severe rash on the lower back and base of the tail, and in cat’s behind the ears and under the chin.Getting rid of the flea’s will be the number one priority in such a case, but because certain reactions took place in the pet’s system due to an overreaction of white blood cells, it will also be necessary to treat the patient with short term cortisone, supplemented with antihistamines.

    Flea control though, should NOT just be aimed on the one pet-but all pet’s in the household, as well as environmentally controlled. Talk to you Veterinarian for options!

  2. Atopic Allergies: These are reactions to allergens that Pet’s inhale, similar to our hay-fever. Unfortunately not as easy to control as drinking one antihistamine daily. The Pet has more wide-spread areas over the body which are itchy.Although there are now blood tests available to test what your pet is allergic to, costs still are inhibitive in performing these readily. The next obstacle is that often it will be impossible to restrict your pet from inhaling or having contact with these allergens, which often forces us to just try and alleviate the symptoms.What we have found out so far though, is that most allergic pet’s are allergic to a multitude of allergens and not just one – sometimes up to more than 20!

    Regrettably the safer treatment options – e.g. making patient specific vaccines and cyclosporine (a safer and stronger anti-inflammatory than cortisone), is also very expensive and we often end up controlling the symptoms with more affordable, albeit not always the safest options i.e. cortisone combined with antihistamines.

  3. Food Allergies:
  • A Pet can be eating the same brand of food for year’s and out of the blue develop an allergy to it! A rash can develop all over the body and specifically the ear’s.
  • Constant licking and biting the feet might also be a symptom.
  • Another symptom- although rare, could be an upset stomach.

Again there are blood tests available to determine to which ingredient your pet is allergic to, which could help us determine which ingredients to avoid, but as mentioned these are cost restrictive.

Just changing your pet’s diet is not sufficient, it would have to be changed to a specific diet for at least 3 months and avoiding ANY treats or xtra’s which could have been contributing to the allergy.

Just recently we had a cat patient, that out of the blue became allergic to chicken (try finding a cat diet that is not predominantly chicken based?)!

Veterinary food companies have however come up with a multitude of dietary options to help these allergic patients – from hypoallergenic food (I.e foods that contain proteins and grains that would normally not be found in pet food like duck or lamb and beetroot) to foods where antihistamines are added in the food to food where the protein – although a “normal” protein like chicken is altered to a form in which the body will not react to it – which one to try will best be discussed with your veterinarian. There are even treats available in these ranges!

  1. Contact Allergies: These are often quite easy to figure out and easy to correct. Very often when a pet received a new-mostly plastic, and mostly RED coloured food bowl, it will develop a rash around the mouth or facial area, as will they develop a tummy rash after getting a new blanket or a rash on the paws after using a new detergent for your floor – removing the allergy causing object or substance will often lead to resolution of the allergic reaction ( initially with a little medical intervention by your vet).Although grass allergies would theoretically fall into this category, they are not so easily managed and will fall into the `atopy` section (unless you would be willing to replace your lawn with an artificial substrate?).
  2. Bacterial Allergies: These are documented in specific species like Bull Terrier’s, Pit Bull Terrier’s, Staffordshire Terriers and Boerboel, where the body reacts severely to bacteria in the skin – mostly a staphylococcus, causing a lifetime of discomfort for patient and owner.These patients tend to end up using antibiotics almost non stop with cortisone added to the mix. There is an option now to also develop a vaccine specifically for an individual patient – this they will also need to use life-long!

So, Pet Allergies are not so straight forward to control and talking to your vet about which options             would suit your life-style and budget best and realising that there will be fall backs from time to time and remain open-minded that no individual will respond the same to one specific treatment is the best way to approach it when your pet has allergies. Also that treatment will most probably be life-long!

This article focusses purely on chronic allergies in pet’s that need to be controlled, chronically. For acute allergies e.g. bee-stings and wasp stings refer to our article ‘Basic First Aid for Pets – Part 2” of March 2016

It is always so sad to hear, that people avoid getting pet’s for their children because of the fear of allergic reactions. There are so many benefits to a child growing up with a pet! The benefits of the human-animal bond could far outweigh the possibility of treating allergies!

If controlling the allergy – which your child will most probably outgrow – with antihistamines is not an option for you, then consider getting a dog or cat that are hypoallergenic.

President Obama from the U.S. was at the forefront of this and instead of not getting a dog because he is allergic, he got a Portuguese water dog, which they all as a family could enjoy.

Here are some breeds of Dog’s and Cat’s (hypoallergenic) to consider when concerned about allergies:

  • Cat’s:Balinese, Russian Blue, Bengal, Cornish Rex, Devon Rex, Sphynx, Oriental Short Hair
  • Dog’s:Poodles (toy, miniature and standard), Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, Schnauzer (miniature and giant), Shih Tzu, West Highland White Terrier, Bichon Frise, Airedale Terrier, Greyhound, Bouvier, Chinese Crested, Basenji.

Keep in mind, that often the allergen is not directly the pet, but the dander and irritants that it carries around in it’s hair and that measures can be taken to reduce the allergens e.g. bathing your pet regularly. Clean the house frequently and thoroughly (specific vacuum cleaners available), wash pet bedding and couch and cushion covers often. Remove carpets that accumulate allergic substances.

It might also be worthwhile determining if you are actually allergic to your pet or something it accidentally carries around in it’s coat e.g a pollen from a tree when walking your dog?





For us, summertime is synonymous with socializing & braai, swimming & sunbathing. But what does this mean for our four-legged companions? There are a few risks for our pets. Not only are they more predisposed to infectious & parasitic diseases, seasonal allergies but also sunburn & skin cancers. But a potential lethal complication, is …


Heatstroke is an elevation in body temperature not associated with fever/inflammation/infection, which occurs when a patient’s own heat-dissipating mechanisms cannot cope with excessive external heat. This is typically associated with temperatures of 41 degrees Celsius or higher, & is potentially fatal as it leads to failure of multiple organ systems.

    • Cats & dogs cannot respond to heat in the same way we do, as we have sweat glands all over our bodies that help with temperature regulation, they only have a few in their feet & around their noses.
    • Many animals rely on panting & external cooling to loose heat.
    • Excessive environmental heat & humidity – this can be due to a very hot day (like we recently experienced) or being enclosed in an unventilated space like a room or CAR.
    • Inadequate shade & drinking water
    • Narrow upper airways or disease of the nose, nasal passages, throat &/or windpipe that inhibits effective breathing.
      • Here our brachycephalic breeds (short-nosed, flat-faced) breeds like bulldogs, pugs & Persian cats are at risk
    • Obese patients, very old or young patients, thick hair coats
    • Underlying heart or lung disease/conditions
    • Excessive exercise in warm weather


    • BEHAVIOUR – in cats we can see restless behaviour & excessive grooming in an attempt to cool down, dogs can appear distressed/anxious
    • MOUTH – heavy panting, excessive drooling (thick & sticky saliva), red/purple gums & tongue, vomiting (can contain blood), excessive thirst
    • EYES – glassy eyes, fearful expression
    • HEART/LUNGS – racing heartbeat, irregular heart rhythm, difficult breathing
    • BODY – high temperature, dehydration, bloody/black diarrhoea
    • LEGS – collapsing or staggering, falling down, appear drunk
    • BRAIN – seizures/fits, unconsciousness
    • Remove dog/cat from hot area
    • START COOLING AT HOME/ON WAY TO VETERINARIAN – spraying down with cool water, immerse entire body in cool water, wrap in cool wet towels, place a bag of ice/frozen veggies between the legs. Apply convection cooling with a fan.
      • It’s important to note to NOT USE ICE OR VERY COLD WATER – this will cause the little blood vessels on the surface of body to constrict & prevent heat loss
      • A shivering response is also undesirable as it generates more internal heat
      • Avoid cooling too rapidly or too quick, as this can lead to other health issues
    • Blood clotting disorders, kidney failure, brain swelling to name a few.
  • PREVENTIONKeep pets with predisposing conditions (heart disease, obesity, old age, breathing problems) in a cool, well-ventilated space with adequate shade.
    • Provide access to cool, clean water at all times
      • As some dogs have the tendency to knock over bowls, always have few extra water bowls in different places
    • Provide adequate shade for pets living outside
    • NEVER EVER LEAVE YOUR PET IN A HOT PARKED CAR, EVEN IF IN THE SHADE OR FOR SHORT TIMES – the temperature in a car can quickly reach 60 degrees Celsius!!!
    • On a hot day, restrict exercise & don’t take your dog jogging with you
      • When exercising, carry a collapsible water dish at all times
    • Only take walks early in morning or late evening

Prevention is better than cure, as we can lose up to 50% of patients diagnosed with heatstroke. Only a small increase of 2 degrees Celsius in our pets’ temperature, can predispose them to heatstroke, & a patient can die within 15 minutes of heatstroke. Shocking!!!! Please be vigilant & aware of this lethal complication of summer.





Getting your Pet Holiday Friendly

Last week an interesting conversation with a stranger all started with a bag: I was having lunch at one of my favourite spots in Johannesburg, when I spotted an elderly energetic lady passing by with a “Harrods” bag in hand – It interested me, as I have always been envious about these bags ; and the bag had a cat motif on.

She must have seen the inquisitiveness in my face, as she stopped and invariably a conversation about animal’s was struck up.

She and I agreed, that although most people are excited about the approaching festive season, it was indeed a stressful time for pets and animals ( she is a widow who drives through the streets of Johannesburg and picks up lost pets).

Unfortunately in South Africa, the welfare system is not adequately equipped with the massive influx of stray animals over this period and we often read of the very sad stories, where a beloved pet was not claimed in time as the owners had not properly identified it and it was invariably put to sleep.

We are the Pet owners and it is our responsibility to make sure our animal’s are safe when we are away on holiday and of course as well as when we are fortunate enough to take our pet’s with us on holiday!

(Last Christmas one of our Client’s lost their gorgeous German Shepherd Dog on route to their holiday destination, as the dog was on the back of the open bakkie and jumped off at some stage; similarly a client lost her beloved cat, when she was involved in a Motor Vehicle accident en route to her holiday destination).

So the most important matter is IDENTIFY YOUR PET! You may think it is impossible, but any well behaved, well contained pet could make a run for it!

First and foremost at least put a collar and tag on your pet – an additional measure is to write a contact number on the inside of the collar with permanent marker. Cat’s should have safety collars on, so that if they get caught it can snap off!

In addition, you should consider microchipping your pet, as all Vet’s and welfare organisations have a system in place to quickly identify the pet and locate it’s owner. Be cautious though, that it is a reputable chip with a reputable and updated data system!( how frustrating it can be if we get a microchipped pet in, only to find out it is not on any of the databases)!

If your pet is microchipped, have it scanned before you leave and go onto the microchip company’s database, so that you are sure everything is updated and in order!

There are even tag’s available, which are trackable with your cellphone – regrettably still a bit expensive.

We often worry about the fact that we will be away for a certain period of time and that our pet will feel depressed, this is a human thought, as it has been shown, that a pet has no sense of time, BUT we can make it as Normal as possible for our pet’s that stay behind:

Find a reputable pet sitter and inform that person of your pet’s routine and habits, dietary needs, and have your Vet’s number close by. (Also arrange with your Vet to be able to see your pet in your absence and be sure to inform the Vet what your expectations and limitations will be, should they struggle to reach you).

If your Pet needs to be medicated have enough medication available so that is doesn’t run out and make sure that the Pet Sitter knows when to give it and how to give it.

In the event of uncertainty, rather book your pet in at a reputable Boarding facility.

In this case, your Pet’s vaccinations will need to be up to date and additional vaccinations might be required by the Kennels. Deworm your pet before and after boarding and make sure to use a Tick and Flea Prevention, as a lot of Boarding Facilities are in more rural areas.

The same information to be conveyed to your pet sitter, should be conveyed to the boarding kennel!

You could leave a T-shirt with your smell on for familiarity- at home or at the kennels.

It would be better to keep your pet on it’s current diet , than just let it eat what the kennel has to offer.

Remember that this is also the time of year, where loud noises – Thunderstorm and Fire Crackers are more prevalent. Know how your pet responds to this and have the best suited calming agent available – this is unfortunately not something which should be “spur-of-the-moment”, as different animals respond differently to different medications and it might be necessary to start up with the treatment timeously as well as permanently!

Have a safe place where there is calm and quiet , where your pet can hide if it is necessary.

You could keep your pet occupied, by having Stimulating Toy’s available, e.g where treats are hidden inside.

Also remember, that however confident your pet is around a pool, to rather cover it up, especially when you are away, accidents do happen!

If you are staying at home and expecting guests, be sure that your Pet can also move to a quiet space if necessary, and inform your guests of your pet’s social skills, what you would prefer them not to treat your pet with, as well as not to leave dangerous substances e.g. medication lying around!

Hopefully you will not have guests complaining about cats hair’s on the couch – these are not true friends!

If you are travelling with your pet, be sure, that it can handle the stress of the trip, as some pet’s become anxious and get travel sickness.

There are products available from your vet, which could help with this, but once again, don’t leave it last minute!

It might be a good idea to keep your pet in a comfortable carrier on on a seat-belt leash.

Make sure that water is readily available and never leave your pet unoccupied in a closed Motor Vehicle for any length of time – even when the windows are slightly turned down!

Be sure to stretch your dog’s legs as often as you stretch your’s, but do it safely – always on a leash – preferably on a harnass!

Remember, however cute or enticing it may seem to gift a Pet, please make sure, that the receiver is actually wanting and willing to take care of and take responsibility for their needy gift!

Wishing you and your Pet’s HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

The Long and Short of Disc Disease – by Dr. Lizinda Spies

Disc disease, also known as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) or slipped disc, is a common and often a very painful and distressing condition, not only for our beloved pets but also for the owner.

What is a disc?

To understand this condition, it’s important to know that the spine of a dog (extending from the scull to the pelvis) consists out of numerous smaller bones (vertebrae) through which the spinal cord (nerve highway) runs and is protected in the vertebral column. The fact that the spine consists out of multiple vertebrae, allows it to be flexible. The discs act as special cushions in between the vertebral bones, like little shock absorbers. It consists out of a firm, fibrous outer capsule/shell called the annulus fibrosis, and an inner gelatinous, jelly-like centre, the nucleus pulposus. Above and below these discs run ligaments, with the dorsal one being particularly rich in sensitive nerves.

What happens to these discs during disc disease?

Disc disease can be classified broadly into two types of processes leading to the painful compression of a disc onto the sensitive spinal cord and resulting in clinical signs.

  • HANSEN TYPE 1 DISC DISEASE – in this type, the jelly-like centre/nucleus becomes dehydrated and mineralized. By becoming rock hard, any wrong jumping (jumping of a bed or out of a car), causes this disc to suddenly rupture through its capsule, pushing onto the dorsal ligament, as well as the spinal cord. This leads to painful inflammation and swelling of the spinal cord and its surrounding ligaments, and can lead to serious damage.


    • This type of disc disease is commonly seen in our younger (average age 2-7 years) patients, and especially those that are classified as “chondrodystrophic” – short legs and long backs, under which the dachshund, Pekingese and basset hound are commonly affected
  • HANSEN TYPE 2 DISC DISEASE – this is a slower, more chronic and degenerative process of the capsule of the disc where the capsule starts to soften and thicken, especially dorsally. This thickening leads to bulging of the capsule, resulting in painful compression on the spinal cord, and sometimes spinal nerve roots.


    • This is commonly seen in our older patients, especially breeds like the German Shepard dog.

These unstable discs can herniated anywhere, but commonly in the area between the rib cage (thoracic) and lower back (lumbar) between the 11th and 12th thoracic vertebrae (T11-T12) and between the 2nd and 3rd lumbar vertebrae (L2-L3). Discs can also herniate in the neck and these are generally more painful with more loss of neurological function.

What clinical signs will you see with disc disease?

These patients can present with a variety of signs, depending on the type of disc extrusion/prolapse and severity. Mainly we can identify 2 types of syndromes

  • NON-NEUROLOGICAL = PAIN – these patients commonly cry when picked up, refuse to use stairs or jump onto furniture, yelp if moving around, shivering/trembling, head held high or nose to the ground, reluctant to walk and will sit a lot, walk with arched back and tense tummy muscles, not normal perky self
  • NEUROLOGICAL = NERVE INVOLVEMENT – neurological involvement can range from mild (swaying or unbalanced/clumsy gait, knuckling of paws, nails scuffling) to more severe signs (partial or complete paralysis of the legs, loss of bladder control, loss of tail wag, loss of pain sensation).How to diagnose disc disease?A diagnosis of IVDD can be made by a combination of clinical signs, breed presentation, neurological examination, radiology or MRI/CT scan. A plain radiograph can rule out other conditions mimicking IVDD, but is not as sensitive as an MRI/CT scan, as it can only show a compressed disc space or mineralized disc but not the spinal cord nor confirm IVDD. MRI and CT scans are available at various referral practices.Can my pet with disc disease be treated?Definitely YES!!! Disc disease is not the end of the road and the treatment of these patients can be very rewarding, although sometimes for lengthy periods. Depending on the severity of signs and nerve involvement, your veterinarian might suggest either medical, conservative treatment (painkillers, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, cage rest and physiotherapy) or referral to a specialist for decompressive spinal surgery.

Under any circumstances, it is difficult to accurately predict the outcome of many cases, as dogs vary tremendously in their ability to heal. The spinal cord takes weeks to recover, and sometimes we need to monitor these patients for 2-6 weeks to see improvement or progression.

Please don’t hesitate to speak to a veterinarian if you suspect disc disease – for the best treatment options, tailored specifically to your four-legged friend.

Your pet’s hearing superpower – by Dr. Carli Pretorius

Did you know that our pets have an entirely different acoustic view of this world than what we do? 
When dogs and cats hear a sound, they will move their ears towards it in order to maximise reception. Ears can tilt and rotate, as they are controlled by at least 18 muscles in the dog. The ear’s shape also allows the sound to amplified. Many breeds often have upright and curved ears, which direct and amplify sounds. The ear canal of the dog is much deeper than that of people and creates a better funnel to carry sound to the ear drum. The average dog can hear the same sound about 4 times better than the average person.
Most of us know about the dog whistle, but we forget that there are constantly sounds out of our hearing range that our pets are acutely aware of.
Hearing range describes the audible range of frequencies. Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz), the number of sonic waves (sound pressure level vibrations) per second – the higher the frequency, the higher the pitch of the sound.
The human hearing range is normally from 20 to 20 000 Hz.
Dogs hear from 67 to 45 000 Hz!
Cats hear from 55 to 79 000 Hz!
Festive season fears
Unfortunately, as with all superheroes, any power also has its weakness.  While many people are enjoying fireworks and crackers over the festive season, your pet might be paralysed from fear. 
How can we help?
First and foremost – keep your pet indoors! This prevents most injuries sustained in moments of panic. Minimise harsh lighting and put on soft calming music. Your pet might also need medication to help it cope, especially if it suffers from severe noise phobia. Your veterinarian can assist you in finding the best option for your pet. It is advisable to start with treatment a few days before the worst events, so that you can communicate with your vet should the dosage need to be adjusted.