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Pet articles

Cancer in pets – Part 2 of 2

Ready for visit to vetThe treatment of cancer in pets has become a significant part of the therapy provided by veterinarians to keep our pet population healthy and thriving. Depending on the modality used, the type and extent of cancer treated, and the size and the nature of the animal involved, cancer treatment can be very expensive. Therefore, as with any disease, the principle of prevention is better than cure holds true. Not all cancers can be prevented but there are certain types of cancers which can be prevented and others that, if treated early on, require much less invasive treatment and therapy, than cancers which are left to develop. Continue reading

Children and pets

Boys on grass with family dogChildren and pets are synonymous. Most families at some point in time acquire a pet for their children. Be it goldfish, pocket pets like hamsters, mice, gerbils or guiney pigs, birds, dogs, cats, rabbits or even something exotic like a snake, a tortoise, bearded dragon or iguana. Pets come in all shapes and sizes and often times they are given to a child as a gift. Sometimes the child has not asked for a pet and receives one without receiving proper instructions on how to care for it. Many times children will beg and nag their parents for a certain type of pet, and eventually wear the parents down with their continuous nagging to the point where the parents cave in to the demands of the child to preserve the peace. This peace only last for a very brief moment before the parents realise that they made a big mistake.

Anyone who has ever had to care for a pet will agree that owning and caring for a pet carries a huge responsibility. One should therefore be very aware of your child’s level of maturity before acquiring just any kind of pet for them.

Important considerations to keep in mind when acquiring a pet are:

  1. It is a huge responsibility which requires a certain level of intelligence and maturity from all parties concerned. “All parties” refer to all members of the family including domestic helpers. Caring for a pet requires everyone to “buy into” the animal being acquired, even though they may not be involved in the day to day care of the pet;
  2. It is an on-going responsibility which in most cases require a daily routine of care regardless of vacations, public holidays and other activities;
  3. The initial expense for a pet is not even a fraction of the on-going expenses required to keep and care for a pet;
  4. The responsibility of caring for a pet can never rest on the shoulders of a child alone. Children do not own cars nor do they have drivers licences to take a sick animal to the vet;
  5. Circumstances change and children grow up. Many pets have long life spans and a pet which was originally acquired as a gift for a child, will most likely end up being cared for by the parents of that child, once the child leaves home;
  6. The  novelty of a new  pet very quickly wears off and when reality sets in and the child’s attention is grabbed by the next best thing, the pet is not simply something which can be stuck in a cupboard and be forgotten;
  7. The type of pet acquired for a child needs to match the child’s personality as much as it needs to match their age and their ability to take care of it;
  8. The responsibility of caring for a pet goes beyond feeding it and cleaning its living space. Depending on the type of animal, it may also need training, socialization and emotional care;
  9. Many people acquire a baby animal for their child because “it is so cute” or “they can grow up together”. Problem is that expecting a young child to care for a young animal is like letting a young child care for a new born baby. Young animals require much more care and involvement than older animals, and expecting a young inexperienced child to provide this level of care is simply looking for trouble;
  10. Have a backup plan ready right from the start. If the relationship between the child and the animal does not gel, you have to have a strategy and plan for dealing with it, without just simply making it someone else’s problem. An unexpected allergy may also require you to fall back onto your backup plan.

Before you decide to get your child a pet, ask the following questions and make sure you have figured out the answers well and truly, before you take the step of getting an animal or family pet:

  1. Why do I want to get my child a pet? If the motivation to get a pet is to offer a long term caring home to a pet, be it from a breeder, a petshop or an animal shelter, then it warrants the acquisition. If the motivation is because the adorable pet is irresistible, then the motivation is probably wrong and you should refrain from acquiring the pet.
  2. Are we ready for a long term commitment? If you are not ready to commit to the long term care of the animal, which in most cases will be a decade or two depending on the type of pet you will be getting, then maybe you should think twice.
  3. Does your family have the financial resources to care for a pet in both good and bad times? The good times refer to providing preventative veterinary health care which includes yearly vaccinations and feeding your animal the best food you can afford. It also includes spaying or neutering (surgical or chemical sterilisation of the pet at the appropriate age).The correct and proper diet forms a major part of the good health of any animal. The bad times refer to your pet falling ill and needing special care and possibly expensive veterinary treatment and/or a specialised prescription veterinary diet.
  4. What can my child and our family offer a pet? Is your child the correct match for the pet you have in mind, or do you need to wait a year or two until the child is older and can assume some more of the responsibilities of caring for the pet?
  5. Do you have the space for the particular pet you have in mind?
  6. Do you have the time available to attend to all the pet’s needs –  for example if you decide to get a dog, is your child old enough and will you have the time to take them to attend puppy training classes, attend to grooming, and take the dog for a regular walk?
  7. Will your home need special modifications to deal with the pet’s needs eg. a dog or cat flap, or a modified room or a terrarium for a reptile?
  8. Will the pet you have in mind require a special permit or licence to be kept and are you willing to comply with all the legislative requirements like municipal bylaws?
  9. Have I done enough research to pick the best pet for my child? Pet related magazines and books, as well as the internet, offer a wealth of information, but be careful that the resources you consult are reputable and preferably peer reviewed. Your vet remains one of the most authoritative and knowledgeable sources of information and should always be consulted when in doubt.  

Girl with her cat

Final thoughts:

  1. If possible avoid making the decision to acquire a pet as a gift for a child around the time of a special occasion like Christmas or a birthday. At the best of time our judgement is clouded during these times because we love the element of surprise. The acquisition of a pet for a child should preferably never be done without discussing it with the child and preparing them emotionally and mentally for the long term commitment required from them in turn.
  2. Do proper research and consult widely. If you are considering a dog or cat as a pet, make sure the breed you have in mind will be personable, affectionate and have a good nature which will match the child’s personality. A mixed breed can often make a really good pet and it will be a good idea to establish what the parents are like before you acquire such an animal.  If you are considering an exotic pet, make sure the child will be comfortable with the handling, feeding and the special care such an animal requires.
  3. If you are introducing a young animal to your children, make sure the animal has been weaned. In the case of dogs and cats this age is around six to eight weeks of age. Teach your children to be gentle with animals especially young and very small animals.
  4. Be realistic and understand that even with the best intentions, the bulk of the responsibility for the care of the pet you are getting for your child, will rest on your shoulders. Your example of caring for your family’s pet will leave an indelible impression on your children, so use the opportunity to educate and raise your children to be responsible adults.
  5. Never leave small children alone with pets and make sure that they are supervised at all times by a responsible adult.  

Pets are certainly part of the family and the human animal bond is worth nurturing from a young age. Show your children what  gentle caring love for animals look like, and they too will become responsible pet owners, giving our their pets the love they deserve, and receiving the joys only animals can provide, up to a ripe old age.

© 2013 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty.) Ltd.

Continue reading

Cancer in pets – Part 1 of 2

X-ray(1)The battle against cancer in humans is as old as mankind itself. Since veterinary medicine became a fully-fledged discipline in the previous century, this battle has been extended to animals, and more so than any other area of veterinary medicine, to our pets. Many animal owners who are confronted with cancer in their pet for the first time, are somewhat surprised to find out that cancer is as prevalent in animals as it is in humans. Once they have overcome the initial shock, they find it even more surprising that cancer in animals is treated very much the same way in animals as in humans. Continue reading

Smelling as fresh as a spring breeze

A wet chocolate havanese puppy dog after bath is dressed in a peach towel isolated on white background

A wet chocolate havanese puppy dog after bath is dressed in a peach towel isolated on white background

Human hygiene and animal hygiene are worlds apart. Whatever is considered to be clean for humans is totally something else for our pets. Dirt may easily be disguised in the thick (or thin) coat of a pet and only once the animal is washed do we really see how dirty they are.

Cats spend their days and nights grooming themselves. However many cats love taking a dust bath and will revel in the opportunity to curl and then wriggle on their back from side to side on a nice patch of bare soil. Continue reading

Fireworks and Thunderstorms and your pet

Brightly colorful fireworks and salute of various colors in the night sky

Brightly colorful fireworks and salute of various colors in the night sky

Anxiety and angst is as much part of the animal world as it is of the human world. As humans, the way in which we manage stress and anxiety is largely related to our understanding of our environment and an interpretation of cause and effect. Unfortunately this is not the same for animals. A human who is about to set off a large fire cracker can warn all those around them of the impending bang, and prepare everyone for the impact. However explaining to a dog or cat that the glitter of a burning fuse will lead to a thunderous crack to which they should not respond, is impossible. Add to that the anatomy of animals’ ears which have been specifically designed to amplify sounds by turning the ears towards sounds, and you have a recipe for disaster when it comes to shooting off fireworks in the vicinity of animals. Continue reading

Frequently Asked Questions about Rabies

Aggressive Cat RabiesHow often must I vaccinate my dog?
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. Continue reading

Rabies

Aggressive_dog_RabiesRabies, a fatal disease of humans and all other mammals, is caused by a virus which has been associated with animal bites for more than 3 000 years and it is the oldest infectious disease known to medical science. Dogs have long been recognised as the main transmitters of the disease to people. When compared with other formidable human diseases such as Bubonic Plague and Smallpox, and animal diseases such as Rinderpest and Anthrax, Rabies has probably never caused comparably high numbers of deaths in humans and animals. However, the horrendous manner in which Rabies manifests itself in its victims continues to attract the attention of scientists, health and veterinary workers. The true scale of Rabies in South Africa remains clouded by the many thousands of people protected by post-exposure treatment each year after Rabies exposure and the undiagnosed human and animal Rabies cases not reflected in official statistics. Continue reading

New puppies and kittens – Part 2 of 3

Gestation (Pregnancy)

Friends - small dog and cat together

Friends – small dog and cat together

Dogs are on average pregnant for 63 days after fertilisation has taken place. It may be difficult to determine exactly when a bitch fell pregnant if multiple matings took place over a number of days and therefore pregnancy may seem to be longer than 63 days, sometimes up to 72 days. Sperm can also stay alive in the female genital track for a few days and therefore fertilisation may happen a day or two or even up to a few days after mating. Continue reading

Urination problems in cats – Part 2 of 2

Cat in litterboxIn part 1 of this article we looked at the difference between urine marking and inappropriate elimination in cats, and urine marking was discussed in more depth. In this article we will look at the reasons for inappropriate elimination as well as the diagnosis and treatment of both inappropriate elimination and urine marking.   Continue reading

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