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When to sterilise your pet

Dr Rose talks about the best time to have your pet sterilised and what behavioural issues you might encounter with your dog if you choose to delay sterilisation.

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Pet wise in the month of January

Everything you need to know about fleas

For many pet owners, January marks that time of year where left un-checked, fleas can wreak havoc on your pet’s health, as well as drive you crazy. The good thing is that it need not get to a point where you have a flea problem in the first place.

Okay, so what is a flea?

A flea is a small wingless insect that is known for its exceptional jumping ability; it can jump up to 1,000 times its own height. The “cat” flea, Ctenocephalides felis, is the most common flea species on both cats and dogs in most areas of the world. Adult fleas live permanently on the skin and feed on the blood of dogs and cats.

How do fleas affect my pets?

Large flea infestations can cause anaemia in young puppies or kittens. Fleas bite an average of ten times per day and can suck up to fifteen times their own body weight in blood. Flea bites also cause skin irritation (but we don’t need to tell you that) followed by excessive grooming by your pet that may result in skin damage and dermatitis.

Some dogs and cats become allergic to components of flea saliva and develop Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). This may cause marked hair loss on the abdomen, back of the thighs, flanks and tail due to excessive grooming and licking.

That sounds terrible – what should I be doing about it?

Fleas have a very high reproductive potential: females may lay up to fifty eggs per day for more than 100 days. Flea eggs drop off the pet’s coat and then hatch releasing larvae which crawl into carpets, under furniture and even into cracks between floorboards. They feed on flea faeces, seen as black ‘dirt’ on your pets coat. The larvae then form pupae inside which they transform into young adult fleas.

Well sheltered, they can survive here for many months, even up to a year.

Stimuli for adult fleas to break out of the pupal casing are produced when a potential host (dog, cat or human) is in the vicinity. The average length of the flea life cycle is from three to five weeks under optimal conditions (warm and humid) but it may be much longer under cold, dry conditions. Young fleas protected in pupae may survive for 6 months or more.

All-in-all, that works out to a LOT of flea bites.

What should I treat my pets with?

There are a number of different products available; some are ‘spot-on’ applications, some are sprays and some are in tasty tablet form. Your vet will be able to advise you based on the number of pets, behaviour of your animals (e.g. dogs that like to swim may benefit from a chewable tablet that can’t be washed off) and other factors to find the best solution for you. In heavy infestations, particularly where fleas are also biting humans, an environmental treatment may be advisable. These frequently contain insecticides in combination with insect growth regulators, to inhibit egg hatching and larval development.

A crucial thing to appreciate, is that controlling fleas only when they are in their adult stage, is leaving it too late. Your flea control strategy needs to take into account the thousands of potentially dormant eggs that are waiting for optimal conditions to mature.

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Pet wise in the month of December

Options for pet care for when your family is on holiday

December is typically that time of year when families look to start going on their end-of-year holidays. For pet owners, this can be an anxious time of year as to how to ensure that your pets are properly cared for while you’re away.

We present three possible options for making sure that your fur friends are well-cared while you’re on vacation.

Get a Pet sitter

Pet sitting has the added benefit of having someone look after your home while you’re away. Many veterinary practices will list the services of seasoned pet sitters on their notice boards. Your animals will feel more comfortable in their own space, and this likely imposes the least amount of stress on your animal.

Asking a neighbour or friend

If you’re only going away for a few nights, your chummy neighbour might be happy to come over daily, check on your animals, and ensure that they have sufficient food and fresh water. If you have a dog, this might be trickier, given that dogs require walking, and more attention than say, a cat would.

Kennel or cattery

If you’re not overly keen on the idea of some strange person living in your house and your last interaction with your neighbour was less than amicable, then sending your pets off to a cattery or kennel might be a good option. Be sure to book well in advance and ensure too that you understand all their rules around vaccinations. We wrote about this in our November newsletters, which you can find here.

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Pet wise in the month of November

Beat the vaccination rush!

November is the month where it suddenly dawns on pet owners that in order to have their pet accepted at their preferred kennel or  cattery, while they go off on their December break, that they need to get their pet’s vaccinations up to date.

Why this author just a few hours ago, got an sms reminder from their vet that their cat was due for its annual vaccination.

Most kennels wont accept dogs unless they’ve been vaccinated with the 5:1 annual vaccination, Rabies, and kennel cough. The 5 in 1 vaccination is for adenovirus, hepatitis, distemper, parainfluenza, and parvovirus.

The rationale is obvious and as a pet owner who does regularly vaccinate their pet, we’re quite sure that you’d value the kennel being strict on these requirements.

The kennels will require evidence from a vet that the vaccines are current and generally don’t accept pets that have just had their vaccinations administered days prior, as viruses can still spread shortly after the vaccine has been given.

So if you’re planning on sending your pet to a kennel or cattery, best to contact them now and find out their requirements and make your appointment at your local vet.

Many of the pet insurance products listed on our site offer a vaccination benefit as part of their offering, and others offer a day-to-day benefit which can be used for vaccinations too.


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Pet wise in the month of October

Spring time generally means the arrival of kittens!

As a responsible pet owner, you owe it to your pet, and every animal shelter out there who works tirelessly to care for and home stray animals, to have your pet sterilised.

By having your kitten sterilised, you’ll help control the pet homelessness epidemic that troubles South Africa, and which in turn results in the thousands of instances of euthanasia every year.

The obvious reasons aside, many people are not aware of the additional health benefits that will allow your cat or dog to live a much healthier life.

Cats that have been spayed before going into heat for the first time, have been shown to live longer, suffer from fewer uterine infections, and have a reduced likelihood to develop breast tumours. Likewise, having your male puppy neutered, helps prevent testicular cancer.

Sterilising your pets, does also help manage behavioural problems in both male and female animals. If you’ve ever owned a non-sterilised cat or dog, you’ll know what we’re talking about.

Your kitten can be sterilised at quite a young age, but best to check with your local vet as to what age they prefer to do the surgery.

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Pet wise in the month of September

The 28th of September is World Rabies Day.

Most people think of Rabies as being this incredibly rare and ‘unlikely to encounter disease’ – more akin to the bubonic plague, but unfortunately there are instances of rabies deaths in South Africa every year, and sadly it’s generally children who succumb.

Rabies is entirely preventable, but the responsibility to help eradicate this highly infectious disease, does rest with us as pet owners. Remember that it is not just dogs that carry the disease. Cats too can carry the virus.

Any dog bite or cat scratch from an animal that you don’t know its medical history, should be treated with the utmost of seriousness.

Rabies in domestic dogs has been eliminated in many first world countries, but unfortunately South Africa does still see cases. There have been 5 reported case in 2018 alone. It is only through the systematic approach to preventative vaccinations, that the disease can be eliminated.

Puppies should generally be vaccinated at the age of 4 months, and again at 1 year of age; thereafter every 3 years. In case there was any doubt in your mind as to whether this is something you wanted to do, the vaccination of cats and dogs against rabies, is required by law in South Africa.

As a country, we are trying to eliminate the disease entirely by 2030.

If you haven’t yet had your pet vaccinated against rabies, then there is no better time than the month of September.

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