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Frequently asked questions

There are long term health benefits to your pet when it is spayed or neutered. Ask your veterinarian to explain these. Obviously, the primary benefit is controlling the pet population and reducing the numbers of unplanned, unwanted pets.

Spay and neuter procedures are major surgery for your pet. The procedure requires the time of a veterinarian, newly-sterilized surgical instruments, general anesthesia, drapes, suture material, and hospitalization.

When measured against the cost of feeding and nurturing unwanted kittens or puppies, spaying/neutering is much more cost-effective.


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Not only is it unethical and illegal to prescribe for an animal that hasn’t been physically examined by a veterinarian, it is also impossible to come up with an accurate diagnosis and rational plan of treatment.

A veterinarian can’t make a diagnoses based on symptoms only as observed by an owner. The outward signs may be an indication of any number of internal causes with a wide variety of clinical treatments. A complete physical examination and other diagnostic tests are required to determine the cause of the symptoms and best course of treatment.

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

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Yes. Rabies vaccination is required by law every 3 years, however preferably should be done annually.

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Most likely, yes. However, it is very important to schedule a visit to the veterinarian. In rare cases, some diseases or situations can cause bad breath in the absence of, or in addition to, tooth/gum disease.

Conditions such as kidney failure, diabetes, nasal or facial skin infections, oral cancers, or situations where the animal is ingesting feces or other materials, can cause bad breath with or without periodontal disease.

What actually causes the bad breath when tooth/gum disease is present?

Bad breath, medically known as “halitosis,” results from the bacterial infection of the gums (gingiva) and supporting tissues seen with periodontal disease (periodontal = occurring around a tooth).

What is the difference between plaque and tartar?

Plaque is a colony of bacteria, mixed with saliva, blood cell, and other bacterial components.

Plaque often leads to tooth and gum disease. Dental tartar, or calculus, occurs when plaque becomes mineralized (hard) and firmly adheres to the tooth enamel then erodes the gingival tissue.

What can happen if my pet’s teeth aren’t cleaned?

Both plaque and tartar damage the teeth and gums. Disease starts with the gums (gingiva). They become inflamed – red, swollen, and sore. The gums finally separate from the teeth, creating pockets where more bacteria, plaque, and tartar build up. This in turn causes more damage, and finally tooth and bone loss.

This affects the whole body, too. Bacteria from these inflamed oral areas can enter the bloodstream and affect major body organs. The liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs are most commonly affected. Antibiotics are used prior to and after a dental cleaning to prevent bacterial spread through the blood stream.

But my pet is only 3 years old. Isn’t this an “old dog/cat disease”?

No – dental disease is not just for senior pets. Each pet has individual factors- age, diet, dental anatomy – that play a role in the development of dental plaque and tartar.

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

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

There are two main categories of worms that can infect people, round worms and tapeworms. For both these worm types humans can act as either definitive (or final) hosts, intermediate hosts or paratenic hosts. The definitive host is the host when the worms are adults in the intestinal system and when they shed eggs. The intermediate host occurs when the eggs are ingested and form cysts in various organs and tissues of the body. A paratenic host is one that is not necessary for the life cycle of the worm but is similar to an intermediate host in that it is a temporary host where the worm does not develop further in its life cycle until such time it can find a suitable permanent host where it can complete its life cycle. Certain larva can also penetrate and migrate through the skin. All hosts are infected by larva which are the immature parasite that come from eggs.

Prevention of worm infections

A regular and up to date deworming program is one of the best ways to prevent your pets and family from getting infected with worms. Puppies and kittens are extremely susceptible to worm infections. The mother should be dewormed prior to having a litter and all the babies should be dewormed at weaning before they are sent off to their new homes. With each puppy/kitten vaccinations they should be dewormed. From then on all animals should be dewormed every three to six months. This is dependent on their exposure to potentially contaminated areas as well as other animals. Should you walk your dogs frequently, allowing them to interact with other dogs in the park or running off the lead unattended, they should be dewormed every three months. The same applies to cats, the more cats they potentially come into contact with and the more roaming they are allowed to do, the more frequently they should be dewormed. Apart from tablets given by mouth there are also spot-ons available for deworming cats. This makes the process of deworming a cat a bit easier. If between these periods you are concerned about your pet being infected with worms, you can ask the veterinarian to check for worms by performing a stool exam called a faecal flotation and prescribing a suitable treatment.

Controlling fleas on your animals, as well as in their environment, is an important preventative measure for worm infections. There are a variety of top spot, shampoo and tablet flea treatments and with so many options one can find the one that will most suit your lifestyle and environment. The majority of the tablet and shampoo flea treatments do not have a long lasting or residual effect and only kill fleas which are on your pet at the time. It does not have any impact on the fleas in the environment or the thousands of flea eggs which are waiting to hatch. The top spots tend to last for up to four weeks.

The courteous and correct thing to do is to clean up after your pets when taking your dogs for a walk or to the park. Stools should be picked up and disposed of correctly.

All sand boxes and pits should be covered and regularly cleaned. Do not allow children to play in areas contaminated by animal waste.

It is essential that your children are taught to wash their hands after playing outside or handling animals. This promotes good hygiene and prevents the transmission of disease, including worms.

Do not feed your pets raw meat or organs as these may be a source of Tapeworms.

It is always a good idea to deworm yourself and your family on a yearly basis especially when you have young children. Should you be concerned about any risk or illness you think may be associated with worms, you should contact your medical professional for information and treatment.

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Even on cooler days, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures

Even when parked in the shade on a warm day, animals (or kids or the elderly) can succumb to heatstroke or death if left in the car unattended. Sadly, it happens every year.

Tips on how you can help

  • If you know who the owner is, a friendly “hey, your pet is hot” or some other means of striking up conversation will alert the owner to the dangers of leaving their pet in the car. Keeping some “Don’t Leave Me in Here — It’s Hot!” flyers in your car are also a great way of spreading the word.
  • Usually though, the car is in a parking lot and the dog is alone. In this case, speak with a store manager. I have found store managers to be very helpful in locating the owner or calling animal control. They do not want a tragedy happening in their parking lot.
  • Call your local animal control or the police for assistance. My friend is an animal control officer. We were discussing the “pet left in a car” problem. I felt that surely, by now, the message would be out about the dangers of leaving pets (or children) in cars on warm days. No, she assured me that they get calls every year responding to distressed animals in left in cars. Some animals still die from heatstroke, even when animal control is called. Minutes count.
  • Keep your local animal control phone number in your cell phone. Many areas provide parking lot assistance or patrols for animals in cars.


But it’s summer! I want to take my dog with me.

Pets are part of the family. We frequently take our dogs with us on outings. And, no matter how prepared, it seems we always have to run a quick errand or two on the way to wherever we are going.

We solve this problem by parking in the shade, leashing or kenneling the dogs, and family members staying with the car and the dogs, keeping doors and windows open.

If you are alone, the above scenario isn’t possible and more creativity is needed. Here are some ideas.

  • Use the drive-up if possible. This works for some restaurants, banks, and pharmacies.
  • Shop in pet-welcome stores. Pet stores typically allow pets, and they do carry “human” items like candy and snacks if you are in a hurry.
  • Utilize a travel kennel outside the car, in the shade, if possible. NOTE: Please use this tip judiciously and with caution; not for use in parking lots, not in an area where your pet could be pestered by bystanders, etc., etc. In general, travel kennels are a great way to keep your pet safe while in fresh air, with cool water, and so on.

I feel that bystanders are the “eyes and ears” to aid in preventing animal (and child) abuse and neglect. Getting involved does make a difference, especially for those who may not have a voice. If you are uncomfortable reporting a problem, please find assistance through a store manager, animal control, friend or family member to assist those in need.

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Imagine not being able to shed your winter clothes on a hot summer day, and your only means of cooling off was by panting. Dogs and cats have little choice when it comes to keeping cool in summer heat. Recognizing the signs of heatstroke will allow for prompt treatment; and time is of the essence when treating this condition.

Answer: Signs of heat stroke

Signs include (but are not limited to):

  • body temperatures of 40-43 degrees
  • excessive panting
  • dark or bright red tongue and gums
  • sticky or dry tongue and gums
  • staggering
  • stupor
  • seizures
  • bloody diarrhea or vomiting
  • coma
  • death

It is wise to learn how to take your pet’s temperature in the event of an emergency.

Brachycephalic breeds (the short-nosed breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs), large heavy-coated breeds, and those dogs with heart or respiratory problems are more at risk for heat stroke.

If You Suspect Heat Stroke

If you suspect heat stroke in your pet, seek veterinary attention immediately!

  • Find some shade. Get your pet out of the heat.
  • Use cool water, not ice water, to cool your pet. (Very cold water will cause constriction of the blood vessels and impede cooling.)
  • Cool wet cloths on feet and around head.
  • Do not aid body cooling below 39 degrees – some animals can actually get HYPOthermic, too cold.
  • Offer ice cubes for the animal to lick on until you can reach your veterinarian, but do not force ice or water to your pet.

Just because your animal is cooled and “appears” OK, do NOT assume everything is fine.

Internal organs such as liver, kidneys, brain, and other organs are definitely affected by body temperature elevation, and blood tests and veterinary examination are needed to assess this.

There is also a complex blood problem, called DIC (Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation) that can be a secondary complication to heat stroke that may be fatal.

Heatstoke is Deadly in a Short Amount of Time

If you have any questions about heatstroke in your pet or a pet you find locked in a parked car, please contact your veterinarian or local animal authorities immediately. This is a very time critical condition.

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Animals often have a “sweet tooth” too
While recent studies have shown that chocolate may be beneficial for human health, it is important to know that chocolate can be toxic, and sometimes even fatal, for animals.

Dogs are most commonly affected, due to their ability to find it and the common ‘sweet tooth’ they seem to have. It is important to remember that cats and other species are susceptible to the toxic effects of chocolate, too.

What makes chocolate toxic, anyway?
Chocolate is made from the fruit (beans) of the cacao tree. Theobromine, a component of chocolate, is a toxic compound in chocolate. Caffeine is also present in chocolate and a toxic component, but in much smaller amounts than Theobromine. Both Theobromine and Caffeine are members of a drug class called Methylxanines.

Theobromine and caffeine effects on the body:

  • Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulant
  • Cardiovascular stimulant
  • Increase blood pressure (mild)
  • Nausea and vomiting

Why isn’t chocolate toxic to humans?
Humans can break down and excrete Theobromine much more efficiently than dogs. The half life of Theobromine in the dog is long; approximately 17.5 hours.

Are some chocolates more toxic than others?
Yes. Unsweetened (baker’s) chocolate contains 8-10 times the amount of Theobromine as milk chocolate. Semi-sweet chocolate falls roughly in between the two for Theobromine content. White chocolate contains Theobromine, but in such small amounts that Theobromine poisoning is unlikely.

Caffeine is present in chocolate, but less than Theobromine.




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