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Pet articles

Urination problems in cats – Part 1 of 2

Ask any cat owner and they will tell you that cats are not just small little dogs. So naturally a fair amount of the medical problems cats suffer from are unique to this species. In this two part series we are going to explore one of the more common problems that affect cats.

portrait of a oriental cat who marking his territory in front of white background

portrait of a oriental cat who marking his territory in front of white background

Feline elimination problems (spraying or inappropriate elimination) are one of the most common behavioural problems seen in cats. Spraying (urine marking) refers to an action which relays a message to other cats about territory. Inappropriate elimination on the other hand refers to urinating or defecating on or in a place other than the litter box or outside in the garden, not related to the marking of territory. Continue reading

Getting the most from your visit to the vet

Everybody wants value for money. No one will deny that it is no different when taking your pets to the vet. We love our four legged and feathered friends dearly, but like everything else in life, most of us have to budget for their expenses, and make sure we derive as much value out of a visit to the vet as possible. Continue reading

Poisoning in Pets – Part 2 of 2

We know that rat poison will kill a rat, but….., “Will it harm my cat or dog?” people often ask the vet? The answer is an emphatic YES. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few other common household items which can be lethal for dogs, cats, pet birds and pocket pets like hamsters and mice.

Conventional Poisons

  • Rat Poison (warfarin)

There are many different rat poisons available on the market but the most common variety is the anticoagulation type. It prevents blood from clotting. It has a slow onset and eventually in higher and repeated doses will cause the animal to start bleeding internally and lead to death. Both short and long acting formulations are available and signs of poisoning can be seen 5 – 7 days after the patient ate rat poison. Outward signs of bleeding, such as nose bleeds may be seen, however many animals will bleed internally into the chest or abdominal cavity without any signs of external bleeding. Death eventually results from suffocation (bleeding into the lungs) and/or the shock from blood loss.

Rat poison has been made very palatable and tasty to lure rats to eat it. Most dogs, for the same reason, cannot resist it. If you see your dog eating rat poison, take him/her to the vet straight away. The vet can induce vomiting and start your dog on vitamin K treatment, which counters the effect of the rat poison and assists the body to help the blood clot. Treatment may have to last as long as 4 to 6 weeks, depending on what type of poison was ingested. Critically ill animals that have already started bleeding may need blood transfusions. Laboratory tests can also determine how badly affected an animal’s clotting ability is after eating rat poison.

  • Anti-Flea and Tick products

Dips containing Amitraz and tick and flea collars or spot-on treatments containing Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids may have a toxic effect on the nervous system of animals. They cause an over stimulation of nerve points resulting in muscle tremors and seizures. Always read the label on any product used to kill ticks and fleas and make sure which species it is intended for! Cats are extremely sensitive to these products and will die if such products are consumed. Never use a product on a cat that has been registered for use in dogs only. It will kill your cat.

  • Insecticides, pesticides and solvents

Products like the pesticide Temik which contain carbamates, causes over stimulation of the central nervous system, as they block the production of an enzyme that stops the breakdown of a neurotransmitter (a substance which conveys neurological impulses between nerve points). This leads to excessive nerve stimulation which results in muscle twitching, tremors and seizures. Dogs that have been poisoned may vomit, have diarrhoea, have a slower heart rate and have extreme difficulty in breathing. They usually die as a result of suffocation. Treatment consists of supportive care, as no antidote exists.



Other products, which are commonly kept around the house for maintaining the garden or house, like many of the insecticides, pesticides and solvents which contain organophosphates may be highly lethal to pets. The symptoms are similar to the symptoms for the carbamates, but if the poisoning is detected early, it can be treated with an antidote and supportive therapy.

  • Antifreeze (ethylene glycol)

This is one of the most dangerous poisons kept in almost every household with a car, and cats and dogs will drink it readily because it has a sweet taste. A teaspoon of antifreeze  can kill a cat! Ethylene glycol is metabolised in the liver to a substance that binds calcium in the blood, and forms crystals in the kidney. These crystals cause damage to the kidneys which results in acute kidney failure. This happens extremely fast. Within an hour after pets have drunk the antifreeze, the first signs may appear. Pets appear drunk, are disorientated, can vomit and are very listless. Within a day their hearts suffer damage, and within 3 days, they have irreversible kidney damage. They will stop urinating and go into a coma and die.

Patients can be successfully treated but treatment must be instituted within the first 8 hours after ingestion. Initial treatment will be tomake the animal vomit and dose them with activated charcoal to prevent further absorption of antifreeze. A substance will then be administered which competes with the active ingredient in antifreeze and prevents the effects of ethylene glycol further damaging the body. Fluids and supportive care will be administered during the whole treatment process. Sadly, most pets are treated too late, and have to be humanely put to sleep, as their kidneys fail. Store this product far away from your pets.

It is always best to rather be safe than sorry. Never give your pet medicines that have not been prescribed to them by the vet. Feed your animal a properly formulated pet food only, and always ask the vet or the veterinary team at the practice which products are safe for use on your animal.

© 2012 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty.) Ltd.

Poisoning in Pets – Part 1 of 2

“Surely if a medicine is safe for use in humans it should be safe for use in my pet”, vets often hear from pet owners. Nothing could be further from the truth and some human medicines and even some fruit and vegetables and sweets daily eaten by humans, can be deadly to our dogs, cats, pet birds and pocket pets like hamsters and mice. Continue reading

We’re all going on a Summer Holiday

pet holidayGoing 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. Continue reading

Arthritis Treatment and prevention – Part 2 of 2

catIn 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. Continue reading

Arthritis Signs and Diagnoses – Part 1 of 2

dogSo 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 (back bones) can also be affected. Continue reading

Scratch scratch scratch – Part 2 of 2

two humans waiting their puppy basset hound because he's scratching on a beach

two humans waiting their puppy basset hound because he’s scratching on a beach

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. Continue reading

Scratch scratch scratch – Part 1 of 2

two humans waiting their puppy basset hound because he's scratching on a beach

two humans waiting their puppy basset hound because he’s scratching on a beach

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. Continue reading

A killer disease with a misleading name

Sick dog facing wide angle camera on white background

Sick dog facing wide angle camera on white background

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. Continue reading

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