My pet lost a patch of fur and developed a massive sore overnight. It looks like a burn wound.

HotSpot dog

Acute moist dermatitis is a skin ailment in pets that’s caused by a trigger like an itch or pain, and exacerbated by the pet’s scratching and licking until it becomes a large bare patch of painful skin lesion. Since the lesion is an open painful wound, it’s referred to more commonly as a hotspot.

What is a hotspot?

No, we’re not talking about public wireless internet. A hotspot is a skin condition seen far more often in dogs than in cats. It is an area of very itchy, wet, unhappy, infected skin that your dog keeps licking or nibbling at. It usually develops overnight; in a matter of hours, your dog’s healthy skin can develop a massive, sore, red or yellowish bald patch. It is constantly wet and raw as some dogs tend to lick this wound almost obsessively. These spots may have started out as something small and insignificant like a bump from an insect bite, but quickly grow larger in a short time. Usually only one spot is affected rather than several around the body, but there are exceptions to this rule.

Which breeds are more likely to develop hotspots?

Retrievers and German shepherds with longer, thicker coats tend to have this problem more often than dogs with short coats. Hotspots are also more often seen in dogs who love to swim and are always in the water. This is because skin that is always wet tends to get more easily infected with bacteria and fungi that thrive in a warm, moist environment. Something triggers the itch, so when the dog begins to scratch, the bacteria is spread and the hotspot quickly develops. People with water-loving dogs often have their dogs clipped in the warm summer months to prevent this problem.

How do hotspots start?

The initial cause will vary from one pet to another. This condition often occurs as a result of the constant scratching at an itch, such as pets with fleas, allergies or even an ear infection. They can occur anywhere on the body, but usually on a spot they can reach with their paws or mouth to scratch and nibble. The typical places for hotspots to develop are the side of the face below the ears or on the upper part of the back leg. Some spots get a little more attention than others and these get infected, leading to an itchy and sore wound that your pet won’t leave alone.

Why do hotspots grow in size?

Irrespective of the cause, hotspots tend to become infected because they are always wet and the skin is licked raw. As you can imagine, your dog’s mouth is far from the most hygienic means to clean a wound. This infection then leads to swelling and pain on top of the initial itch or discomfort. In trying to alleviate the discomfort, your dog will constantly lick the area, but the more they lick, the more widespread the irritation and infection of the skin becomes.

What can I do if my dog has a hotspot?

The most important first step is to establish the underlying cause of the problem. Was your pet itchy to start with; were they shaking their head from an ear infection? Has your pet had persistent flea infestations? Take your dog to the vet, who will help to determine where the problem may have started. It’s important to not only treat the symptoms and the hotspot itself, but to find the cause in order to prevent the condition from deteriorating or returning.

How is a hotspot treated?

A hotspot involves infected skin, so it would be wise to have it treated and to get the infection under control. The vet will examine the area and determine the extent of the infection. The area around the hotspot will be shaved to make it easier to clean and treat. The area will then be cleaned and the vet will most likely treat it with antiseptic creams or even antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. Depending on the severity of the lesion, the vet may also prescribe systemic antibiotics. In severe cases this treatment may have to be continued over a number of weeks. In some instances this condition can be excruciatingly painful and may require sedation or even a full general anaesthetic to be treated properly.

While the hotspot is healing, your most important task will be to convince your dog to leave it alone. This is not always an easy task because he is probably used to licking or scratching to try to relieve the itch and pain. The most helpful tool is the Elizabethan collar (the ‘cone of shame’), which limits the access your pooch has to that spot. The cone needs to be big enough to stop your pet from reaching the hotspot, so the edge of the cone must be longer than his nose.

Most hotspots respond well to treatment, especially if the underlying cause is treated successfully, but finding the cause is usually the tricky part.

Will a hotspot getter better by itself?

The answer is no. In most cases, the condition keeps on spreading like wildfire and, if not treated sooner rather than later, your pet may end up with significant hair loss and infected skin over large areas of his body. If this happens, the treatment becomes a lot more complex and expensive. If you suspect your dog has a hotspot, the sooner you get him to the vet, the better. 

Why is my dog prone to recurring hotspots?

If the underlying condition leading to a hotspot is not successfully addressed or treated, it will most certainly lead to a recurrence of the condition. Ear infections are a common reason for dogs to scratch the side of their face. It may seem obvious that one should treat the ear condition, but an ear infection in a dog may often be a symptom of another underlying condition. Atopic dermatitis, which is skin irritation caused by the inhaling of allergens, is a common cause of ear infection. This can be a very difficult underlying cause to treat and, in many cases, may never be successfully treated; only managed. If your dog is one of the unlucky canines to have an overactive immune system that is negatively triggered by environmental allergens, it may take a lot more to address the underlying cause of a hotspot and prevent it from recurring on a regular basis. The vet will have to spend more time in such a case to work out a plan of action for future prevention.

© 2020 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

Dental promotion September 2020

One of the best sensory triggers of the “Awwww!” factor is puppy breath. Let that cutie patootie nibble on your nose and you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about! But as your young pup grows up, they use their mouth to explore the world, eat food and treats, and… burrow in places they shouldn’t!

Eew! Bad breath!
When your pet’s breath starts to become noticeably unpleasant, it is time for a vet visit and a dental cleaning. It’s important for us to be familiar with your pet’s oral and dental health from early on because bad breath could be a sign of:

  • consuming unsavoury foods and objects like sticks and bones
  • dental or gum disease (tartar build-up, periodontal disease or tooth decay)
  • kidney disease (breath smells like ammonia or urine)
  • diabetes (sweet aroma on the breath)
  • oral tumour (can be in the form of a mass or discolouration)

A dental check-up and cleaning is a wonderful way to ensure your furry friend not only has a happy oral environment and fresh breath, but also a clean bill of health.

A proper dental cleaning and the associated procedures that go with it are surgical in nature. It is a specialised procedure performed for the benefit of your dog’s dental health and overall wellbeing.

With this in mind, we encourage you to take advantage of our Dental Month promotion, which includes a R 1 000 discount on dental cleaning procedures. In the interest of good dental health we already subsidise this procedure. For the month of September we are offering a further discount of R 1 000. Why not use the opportunity of this even further reduced cost to  focus on your dog or cat’s dental health, and to stop any potential health issues in its tracks.

There are limited appointments available, so booking is essential. To schedule a dental check-up and cleaning (or if you have any questions) give us a call on 011 887 8158.

This promotion is valid from 1 September to 30 September 2020 or until fully booked.

Kind regards
The Birnam Veterinary Clinic Team

Acral lick granuloma

Canine lick granulomaWhen a pet owner brings their animal in to the vet with a firm, raised, angry red bump on the pet’s leg or ankle, complaining that the animal (a dog more often than a cat) won’t stop licking at it, the vet knows that there is a potentially long road of diagnosis and treatment ahead. The symptoms and behaviour described here are common in what’s called acral lick granuloma

What is an acral lick granuloma?

An acral lick granuloma is a medical condition whose main feature is a raised, angry red bump on the pet’s leg. This angry bump is usually the centre of the pet’s focus, where they constantly lick the area until it is raw.

If we unpack the name of the condition, it gives us a better idea of what it is and how it is caused. Acral refers to peripheral body parts, so the extremities like legs, ankles and paws. This condition usually affects the furthest end parts of the legs; more commonly the front legs, but also the back. The lick part of the name defines the cause of the condition, namely long-term licking, which aggravates the skin and leads to irritation and ulcers. A granuloma is the body’s response to long-term irritation; in this case irritation to the skin. A granuloma comprises clumps of irritated tissue, which usually appear raised like a mushroom on the surface of the skin.

So an acral lick granuloma is a condition where the body creates a granuloma on the leg/s as a result of long-term licking.

What does an acral lick granuloma look like?

Not all acral lick granulomas look identical, but they all share some basic characteristics. They usually appear as thick, firm, raised, hairless areas on the top of the front or back legs. These areas sometimes have a ring of darker coloured skin on the edges. Pets who have this problem compulsively lick the area, even if you scold them or try to distract them. It’s as if they can’t help themselves. Acral lick granulomas develop as a result of long-term licking and develop slowly over time. Long-standing cases have ulcers that develop on the topmost surface of the granuloma. These areas often have an underlying infection, so they can appear red and angry, sometimes oozing a pussy, red or straw-coloured liquid. 

Which animals can get acral lick granulomas? 

Both dogs and cats can develop an acral lick granuloma, but it’s more prevalent in older animals than in younger animals. Retrievers and high focus breeds like Dobermans, Irish setters and German shepherds tend to get this problem more commonly than others.

What causes an acral lick granuloma?

There are several theories about what leads to the development of an acral lick granuloma. Many researchers believe that this condition is mainly caused by psychological factors; that it is stress-related. There is yet other evidence that suggests that there may be an underlying medical problem that starts the licking cycle. These conditions include pain, irritation, infection and discomfort. Conditions such as arthritis, pain related to bone conditions, infections, injuries and even itchy skin-related conditions such as allergies or parasites may kick off the animal’s need to lick.

When a pet licks the area of pain or discomfort, it releases feel-good hormones, making them want to keep licking. This soothing effect is most likely how the lick cycle is maintained once it has started, which results in compulsive licking.

In cases where an initial physical cause of the problem could not be found, studies found that many of the dogs with acral lick granuloma had a psychological origin. Many of these dogs started licking as a response to stress, anxiety or boredom. Many of them started licking after a change in their environment. Examples include dogs who were crated for longer than usual, a change in their owner’s working hours, or even the loss of a friend or family member.

I think my pet may have an acral lick granuloma, what can I do?

If you suspect that your pet has an acral lick granuloma, the best would be to discuss the condition with a veterinarian. It is important to find out what started the problem in the first place. The veterinarian will examine your pet and possibly recommend x-rays or even collect samples from the area to rule out bone or joint problems, parasite infections or even cancer. The cause of the problem needs to be addressed if there is to be any hope of a solution. Each case is unique and treatment administered will depend on the cause.

Possible treatment routes

More often than not there is infection hiding deep in an acral lick granuloma, which requires long-term antibiotic treatment. This may be for weeks or months, and requires diligent effort to maintain on the owner’s part. Resolving infection in these cases is the cornerstone to successful treatment. An important component of managing an acral lick granuloma is to limit your pet’s access to this area once treatment has started. This can be done by bandaging the area or by using a cone, or Elizabethan collar.

In cases where psychological stress is a major contributor to the condition, the veterinarian may recommend a consultation with a behavioural specialist who can assist in managing the stress-related aspect of this condition. 

Keeping an eye on when your pet licks may indicate the psychological contributor to the condition. Do they lick more when they are on their own or when surrounded by people? Do they lick when locked up in their crates during the day or night or when they are alone or bored? Do they show other symptoms related to separation anxiety, like not being able to leave your side when you are at home? 

An acral lick granuloma can be a frustrating condition to treat and manage. The granuloma develops slowly over time, so you may not know there is a problem until it is well established. An important part of treating these lick granulomas is finding and treating the initial cause. Without finding the initial cause, they tend to recur. Always speak to the vet about your concerns regarding your pets.

© 2020 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

Telemedicine

The Covid-19 pandemic has swept the world into unchartered waters. As humans and as veterinarians, we are trying to adapt to the ‘new abnormal’, which requires navigating between providing the best care to our animal patients and ensuring the safety of their humans – you – and our staff. One of the solutions available to vets, which has quickly gained traction in the human healthcare sphere, is telemedicine: providing healthcare via the internet.

Changes in veterinary practice during Covid-19

In the midst of Covid-19’s early grip on South Africa, vets issued safety protocols for clients who needed to bring their pets in for consultation and examination. It was stipulated that only essential and emergency procedures would be conducted – the rest would have to wait. This put the onus on the pet owner to determine what type of situation is deemed essential and what constitutes an emergency.

In some instances, pet owners’ queries can fortunately be answered and resolved during a phone call to the vet, especially if the vet is already very familiar with the pet patient. Where home care is prescribed (such as bland chicken and rice as well as rest for non-emergency gastric upset), this ensures that pets’ health is taken care of while lowering the risk of Covid-19 infection for pet owners, vets and veterinary staff. 

The case for telemedicine during Covid-19 

The use of online video conferencing tools like Zoom and Skype can help to maintain social distancing protocols and reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection. In an ideal telemedicine situation, you would book an appointment with the participating vet, pay in advance for the consultation and then meet the vet on camera at the time of your appointment. No need to get your dog or cat into the car or sit in a waiting room with a restless pet. As with an in-person consultation, the vet would enquire after your pet’s health and hear your specific concerns. Being on camera allows the vet to see the ill pet in question, look at any suspect lumps or rashes (high-resolution photos can also be sent via email), and assess general behaviour. Discussing symptoms and narrowing them down to find a cause can lead to a diagnosis and prescription (if necessary), which you would then collect or have delivered. 

Over the last four months in the United States, veterinary telemedicine has already seen a sharp rise in the use of apps specifically developed to provide 24/7 access to professional veterinary advice. In most cases, pet owners rely on access to vet care professionals for advice and reassurance, especially in post-operative instances, or when pets have eaten something suspect or simply don’t seem like themselves. Most pet owners just want to know that they’re doing the right thing for their furry family members and are willing to pay subscription fees for access to vet care via these apps.

Emergencies, vaccinations and diagnostic tests, however, cannot be bypassed with telemedicine.

The benefits of telemedicine in veterinary care

Vet telemedicine may be a benefit to pet owners who are geographically or economically compromised – easier online access means less time and money spent on non-emergency vet care. It also (uncannily) performs a kind of natural triaging process, where pet owners and vets can decide together whether the pet in question qualifies as an emergency case. This keeps vet care capacity available for urgent emergencies. Telemedicine also allows easier access to specialists, and it allows pet owners to show vets behavioural symptoms as they occur in real time. How many times have you taken your sick or ‘off’ pet to the vet, only to have him act totally normal during the consultation?

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, vets have had to reduce their office hours and staff attendance, which means less capacity for routine vet visits. Telemedicine has the potential to fill that gap, especially in terms of providing peace of mind that pet parents are appropriately caring for their pets’ health and wellbeing, especially in such uncertain times. At best, telemedicine is the ideal screening tool to determine whether the vet should rather see the pet patient in person.

The major caveat in vet telemedicine

The provision of telemedicine as a veterinary service comes with a whole range of professional and legal implications. Appointments via video conferencing mean that consultations can be recorded – both for posterity and as part of the pet patient’s file. This may protect vets and pet owners from the liability of misdiagnosis or incorrect treatment, but if the pet’s health is compromised in a way that could have been avoided with an in-person consultation, telemedicine cannot be entirely supported as a reliable tool or protocol for veterinary care.

Telemedicine is not a responsible way to assess first-time patients. Vets need to establish a health baseline as well as a vet-pet-owner relationship in person. The vet also has to literally get a feel for the animal patient. Veterinary medicine is very hands-on, especially since their patients cannot tell them directly what’s wrong, and pet owners’ observation of symptoms and behaviour are only hearsay and may even be coloured by subjectivity.

Consider the following

The symptoms for pancreatitis in dogs include loss of appetite, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Sometimes, these are accompanied by increased or decreased body temperature, diarrhoea, lack of energy, dehydration and irregular heartbeat. How does a pet owner confirm this? A distance diagnosis via telemedicine may result in the misdiagnosis of food toxicity, which in many cases will pass without any major illness. The dog’s body has its own way of expelling toxins and restoring balance. Pancreatitis, on the other hand, is a very serious condition and needs fast emergency treatment. By the time the dog shows symptoms, the illness may already be very advanced and the dog may be suffering unnecessarily. The use of telemedicine in a diagnostic situation would not serve this dog quickly enough.

In conclusion

Telemedicine may make it easier and more efficient for pet owners to get advice from a veterinary professional in these unprecedented times. It may also be necessary as part of the screening process to ensure vet waiting rooms remain empty and Covid-19-free. But telemedicine is not an adequate substitute for real, hands-on care from a vet who is familiar with your pet and cannot be relied on as a failsafe way of diagnosing and treating disease in animals. If you have any concerns regarding your pet’s health and wellbeing, don’t hesitate to phone the vet to ascertain your pet’s need for a consultation. And then go and see them in person. 

© 2020 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

My dog is tilting his head to the side, and seems to be off balance

The vestibular system

The vestibular system is the body’s ‘balance messenger’ – giving mammals (including humans and pets) key sensory information that allows us to stay upright and properly orientated in the world. The vestibular system is made up of two main components: the inner ear and the brain.

In the inner ear, the vestibular system is made up of tiny sensitive bones, membranes and tiny hairs, all strategically positioned to send signals about balance and where your limbs are and how your body is moving also called your spatial orientation. An example of this will, for instance, be your brain sending and receiving messages about which way your head is moving. The different parts of the brain involved in the vestibular system receive the sensory information from the ear and other body structures and help them to all function together to give you a perception of balance. The eyes, the head, the body and the legs are all included, allowing for smooth, balanced and harmonised movement. The proper functioning of the vestibular system allows you to stand on one leg and touch your finger to your nose without falling over.

What is vestibular disease?

Vestibular disease shows up as the sudden onset of balance problems in your pet. The causes of vestibular disease can originate either from the inner ear (peripheral (outside)) or from the brain (central (inside)). How it is diagnosed and treated will depend on the cause (infection, trauma, structural changes or hormonal influence) and the location (inner ear or brain).

How does vestibular disease occur?

Most cases of vestibular disease occur as a result of infection and inflammation of the inner ear (peripheral vestibular disease). Long-standing outer ear infections can progress to middle and inner ear infection leading to vestibular disease in pets. Ear infections at the best of times are difficult to treat because it in itself have many different causes. The ear canal in dogs and cats is much longer than the human ear canal and consist of two parts, the vertical ear canal and the horizontal ear canal. The long ear canal can in many cases contribute to ear infections, but sometimes ear infections are not primarily related to the ears but can be as a result of general skin allergies which then causes ear infections as a secondary problem. Because severe ear infections can lead to vestibular disease, which is a really serious condition, it is important to treat ear infections as early as possible. Other causes of peripheral vestibular disease can be due to damage to the bones protecting the inner ear as caused by head trauma, abnormal growths in this area, certain medications and even hormonal abnormalities such as low thyroid levels.

Central vestibular disease, which affects the brain, is more serious and can be caused by abnormalities in the brain or the membranes protecting it. This can result from bacterial or viral infections such as meningitis, abnormal growths, toxins or even a stroke.

What symptoms will I see in vestibular disease?

The cause of the disease will determine the signs you will see. The most common sign of both peripheral and central vestibular disease is a head tilt to one side. The head tilt almost always affects only one side; with one ear up in the air and the other pointing down. The downward ear is usually the culprit for the discomfort.

The head tilt can vary in severity – from a barely noticeable tilt to tilting all the way to the side, where your pet looks like they’ll fall over. Some pets develop instability where they tend to lean to one side or even fall and roll to the same side as the head tilt. Sometimes pets will walk in tight circles, always in the same direction toward the problematic ear. In some cases, the vertigo and dizziness can cause nausea where pets drool, lick their lips or even upend their dinner. Pets with outer ear infections often scratch their ears and shake their heads with irritation. Some pets with inner ear infections can develop signs of Horner’s Syndrome, where one side of the face may droop, one eyelid hangs, the third eyelid partially covers the eye and there is a change in the size of the pupil. Sometimes one eye appears squint and looks in a different direction to the other, especially when the pet’s head is lifted up.  

If the cause is located in the brain there will be subtle signs such as poor appetite and sleeping more than usual; as well as more frightening signs such as weakness of the legs to paralysis and seizures.

Is vestibular disease treatable?

Treating vestibular disease depends on the cause of the problem. If the problem originates with an inner ear infection, the vet can usually treat it with anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. However, if the problem is more complex and affects the brain or is caused by abnormal growths, the treatment decision would depend on what is found. If your pet is nauseated or vomiting, your vet can assist with anti-nausea medication.

What do I do if I suspect my pet might be affected?

The best option would be to bring your pet to the vet for a full checkup. The vet could first determine if vestibular disease is a problem in your pet and pinpoint the source of the problem, whether it be peripheral or central. It is important to mention to the vet when you first noticed any signs and how it has progressed over time, as well as if your pet is on any medication.

The vet will do a full check on your pet. This may include examining your pet’s ears with an otoscope, test nerve and brain responses, and the vet may even recommend x-rays to have a better idea of what is going on in the inner ear. If a brain-based problem is suspected, a Computed Tomography scan (CT or CAT scan) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan (MRI scan) might be recommended. These procedures are highly specialised and most veterinary practices do not have the equipment to do these scans in house and you may need to be referred to a veterinary specialist.

When is vestibular disease a problem?

On the basic level, vestibular disease can be a problem if your pet is falling over and hurting themselves, or even falling into the pool and unable to get out. Ear infections are uncomfortable and often painful and will not come right by itself.

On a more serious level, a head tilt can be the tip of the iceberg and may be the first sign of a very serious problem. If your pet has vestibular disease, it is something that does require further investigation and treatment – it will not simply come right on its own.

Either way, if you see your pet persistently tilting their head to the side,  please make an appointment with the veterinary practice.

© 2020 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

Is my cat ill?

Thanks to the nationwide lockdown, we’ll all be spending the next three weeks in the constant company of our furry friends. As the days go by you may start noticing some behaviours or signs in your cat that you haven’t noticed before and may wonder if these are cause for concern. This article will outline the most common signs of illness that you may notice in your cat.

Changes in appetite or drinking habits

You may notice a sudden decrease or increase in your cat’s appetite. Your cat may eat less than usual, take longer to finish her meals or even refuse to eat at all. Conversely, your cat may become ravenously hungry and gobble down anything and everything she can find. You will easily notice any changes if you feed her set meals. However, if she’s used to having food out all the time or if you have more than one pet in your household, it may be trickier. Pay attention to how frequently you have to refill the food bowls – if it suddenly becomes more or less frequent than usual it may mean that something’s up.

If your cat is sick and stops eating, she may deteriorate even more if she’s not eating. Therefore you need to take your cat to the vet sooner rather than later if you notice any changes in her eating habits.

Similarly, your cat may start drinking more or less water than usual. If she starts drinking less than usual, she’s at risk of dehydrating. A vet visit will help to determine why she’s refusing to drink and address any dehydration that may have occurred. If your cat is drinking more water than usual, it may also indicate an underlying issue that needs to be addressed, especially if it’s accompanied by more frequent urination.

Litter box issues

If a cat that is properly litter box trained starts having ‘accidents’ outside the box, it means there is a problem. Also, urinating more frequently than normal is a sign of an underlying issue that needs investigation. Take your cat to the vet if you notice these signs. If you notice your cat straining, but not producing anything, there might be a blockage somewhere which, if left untreated, may be fatal. Take your cat to the vet immediately.

Similarly, changes in your cat’s stools may also be a cause for concern. On average most cats go to the toilet once or twice a day. You should already have an idea of what is normal for your cat. If your cat has diarrhoea the stools will be loose and watery and you may notice accidents around the house. If your cat is constipated it will pass small, hard stools infrequently or even no stools at all. Take your cat to the vet if you notice any changes in the frequency, colour or consistency of your cat’s stools. 

Repeated vomiting

Many cats, especially those with long hair, will vomit up the occasional hairball, which is normal. Take your cat to the vet if you notice your cat vomiting more frequently than usual to or if the vomiting is accompanied by other signs of illness.

Blood in the urine, stools or vomit

Blood in any of your cat’s excretions is never normal and warrants investigation by the vet. Dark brown to black stools or vomit (which resemble coffee grounds) may indicate the presence of partially digested blood.

Unexplained weight gain or loss

If your cat suddenly starts losing weight it may indicate an underlying illness. It is also worth noting that the weight loss may not necessarily be accompanied by a loss of appetite – hyperthyroid cats (suffering from an overactive thyroid gland), for example, lose weight despite a voracious appetite. Remember that cats are a lot smaller than us humans, thus the loss of even a few hundred grams can amount to a significant percentage of your cat’s bodyweight. Take your cat to the vet as soon as you notice she has lost weight.

Conversely, weight gain can lead to obesity, which, in turn, can lead to health problems. The vet can help you determine why your cat is gaining weight and also help you come up with a plan to get her back to a healthy weight.

Changes in energy levels

Cats are generally lazy compared to dogs and you will probably already have an idea of your cat’s normal activity levels. Lethargy can be a very subtle sign, but if it’s noticeable, it can be a cause for concern. Take your cat to the vet if she seems more lethargic and lying around or sleeping more than normal. Conversely, if your cat becomes more active than normal it may also indicate illness. Take your cat to the vet, especially if she seems restless or paces around the house.

Changes in breathing

Although panting is normal for dogs, it’s not normal for cats. Cats sometimes start panting due to stress or excitement, but it can also indicate an underlying problem. Wheezing, shortness of breath and raspy breathing are all abnormal and should be investigated by the vet. If your cat is struggling to breathe – breathing with her mouth open, breathing very fast or taking very deep breaths – it is an emergency and she needs immediate veterinary attention.

Mobility issues

You may notice your cat limping, but also look out for the more subtle signs, such as not being able to jump up onto furniture anymore. This can indicate problems in younger cats while older cats, like humans, are at risk of developing arthritis. Your vet will be able to diagnose the problem and recommend medications or methods to make your cat more comfortable.

Behavioural changes

If your cat with an outgoing personality suddenly starts hiding all the time, or your friendly cat suddenly becomes grumpy it may mean there is a problem.  Also pay attention to how much your cat normally vocalises – if your chatterbox suddenly goes quiet or your quiet cat suddenly starts meowing a lot it may mean something’s up.

Discharges from the eyes and/or nose

These discharges may indicate an upper respiratory tract infection and may be accompanied by sneezing or sniffling. The infection may be contagious and may also make your cat feel sick and stop eating. Your vet can recommend medications to help her feel better and recover quicker.

Ear debris or discharge or changes in the shape or posture of the ears

Look out for a dark brown wax-like substance accumulating in or around the ear canal. Your cat may also shake its ears or scratch at them constantly. If your cat holds down one ear partially instead of having both ears perked as they normally are, it usually indicates a problem. If you notice these signs, your cat may have an ear infection or parasite infestation, which is very uncomfortable and sometimes even painful.

One condition that is more common in South Africa than other countries around the world, is when a cat’s ear tip is bent forward. This is usually a sign that the cat touched an electric fence with its ear. Cats do not honour the boundaries we have for our yards and will often creep through an electric fence to get into the neighbour’s yard. If they get ‘zapped’ on the ear, the tip of the ear will often become somewhat floppy and bend forward. It may take some time for such an ear to recover, if at all. 

Skin irritation, hair loss, coat changes and grooming patterns changing

Cats are susceptible to a variety of skin conditions, some of which may be painful, others itchy, or some others just merely uncomfortable. You may notice redness, scabs, bald patches, crusting or dandruff. Also look out for changes in the coat and grooming behaviour – this may indicate an underlying illness. A cat’s normal coat is smooth and glossy, so take your cat to the vet if her coat suddenly becomes dull and dry. A cat that develops a matted coat from a lack of grooming or a cat that spends more time than usual grooming itself (overgrooming) may also have an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

Bad breath

Remember that, unlike humans, cats don’t brush their teeth so a mild degree of ‘kitty breath’ is normal for them. Severe bad breath, however, is not normal, especially if it’s accompanied by drooling and bleeding from the mouth. 

Swelling

Swelling anywhere on your cat’s body should not be ignored, especially if it’s hot or painful to the touch. Cats can develop abscesses from wounds, as well as a wide variety of tumours. The vet will be able to determine what the swelling is and treat it.

Emergency situations

  • Some conditions need urgent attention and, if not addressed promptly, can be fatal. It’s always a good idea to keep the contact details of your vet’s after-hours telephone or of a 24-hour facility handy in case you ever need it. If you notice any of the below signs, rush your cat to the nearest open vet immediately.
  • Trauma, such as falling off a balcony, getting hit by a car or being mauled by a dog, even if you cannot see any open wounds on the cat. Cats’ skins are loose and tough, and a cat can sustain severe injuries not visible to the naked eye, which is all hidden under the skin. 
  • Blue, white or very pale gums
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sudden inability to walk 
  • Moderate to profuse bleeding
  • Seizures or tremors
  • Dizziness, disorientation, circling or imbalance
  • Collapse, unconsciousness or unresponsiveness
  • Severe pain (crying out loudly or excessively or acting aggressive when touched)
  • Straining to urinate, but not producing anything
  • Rectal temperature above 40°C or under 36°C

If you notice anything in your cat’s appearance or behaviour that’s worrying you, it’s always better to rather be safe than sorry. Phone the vet and they will help you decide whether it’s an emergency. Better yet, make an appointment and take your cat to the vet, for your own peace of mind and the wellbeing of your kitty.

© 2020 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

 

 

Services to be provided during lock down

During the 21 day lockdown period from 26 March 2020 onwards it will be business unusual at Birnam Veterinary Clinic.  Veterinary services have been announced to be an essential service.  Birnam Veterinary Clinic will be open and functional and we will provide consultations and diagnostic modalities like radiography, ultrasound and laboratory services for sick and also provide emergency clinical services like general anaesthesia and surgery for emergencies, as long as we have healthy staff to man the practice.

We will not be doing elective procedures, i.e. ovariohysterectomies (spays), neuters, vaccinations, cosmetic surgery, dentals, nail clipping, grooming, beak trimming etc., unless medically indicated.

If you need any chronic medication to be dispensed, please phone us with this request in advance to allow us to prepare it for you and limit your waiting time in reception. Normal Regulations determine we can only provide you with a month’s supply but given the current extra-ordinary situation we may be able to provide you with two months’ supply.

You can purchase pet food and veterinary healthcare products like tick and flea products (and much more) via our website and have it delivered to your home https://pethero.co.za/en/birnam-veterinary-clinic/?referred_by=60192

To make an appointment to bring in your animal, please phone the practice on 011 887 8158.

PROCEDURE TO BRING AN ANIMAL FOR A VISIT DURING LOCKDOWN

We work on an appointment system only and we ask that you help us in this regard during the lockdown period. Appointments can be made by phoning 011 887 8158.

Upon arrival at the practice please stay in or at your car and phone our reception to notify them of your arrival. As soon as it is your turn, we will send a staff member outside to call you. This process will enhance social distancing and prevent many people having to aggregate and be in the reception area together. If possible only one human family member should come in with the animal/s.

We request that if there is a possibility that your health has been compromised ( i.e. have been diagnosed with COVID-19, been in contact with a confirmed case or even if you are displaying flu-like symptoms), that you notify our receptionists at the time of making the appointment so that one of our vets or nursing staff can phone you back to obtain the clinical history before the animal is brought in. You can e-mail pictures relevant to the animal’s condition to birnamv@gmail.com We also request that where possible your rather arrange for a relative or friend to bring your animal to Birnam Vet Clinic.

When the person bringing in the animal arrives for the appointment please phone us from the parking lot to notify us of the arrival and stay at the car until one of our staff members come to meet you at the vehicle. Our staff will bring your animal into the hospital. Once your animal has been examined, the doctor may come to the car or alternatively phone you to discuss the diagnostic and treatment plan and costs with you.

Should your pet require hospitalisation, we will send you the hospital admission form in electronic format via e-mail which will have to be accepted so we can proceed with treatment. If it is possible to treat your pet as an outpatient, and payment is required, we will bring the card machine to your car to make the payment.

We include a pamphlet from the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations (FECAVA) here which outlines the procedure. Hyperlink to Pamphlet

 

Procedure to bring an animal for a visit during lockdown

We work on an appointment system only and we ask that you help us in this regard during the lockdown period. Appointments can be made by phoning 011 887 8158.

Upon arrival at the practice please stay in or at your car and phone our reception to notify them of your arrival. As soon as it is your turn, we will send a staff member outside to call you. This process will enhance social distancing and prevent many people having to aggregate and be in the reception area together. If possible only one human family member should come in with the animal/s.

We request that if there is a possibility that your health has been compromised ( i.e. have been diagnosed with COVID-19, been in contact with a confirmed case or even if you are displaying flu-like symptoms), that you notify our receptionists at the time of making the appointment so that one of our vets or nursing staff can phone you back to obtain the clinical history before the animal is brought in. You can e-mail pictures relevant to the animal’s condition to birnamv@gmail.com We also request that where possible your rather arrange for a relative or friend to bring your animal to Birnam Vet Clinic.

When the person bringing in the animal arrives for the appointment please phone us from the parking lot to notify us of the arrival and stay at the car until one of our staff members come to meet you at the vehicle. Our staff will bring your animal into the hospital. Once your animal has been examined, the doctor may come to the car or alternatively phone you to discuss the diagnostic and treatment plan and costs with you.

Should your pet require hospitalisation, we will send you the hospital admission form in electronic format via e-mail which will have to be accepted so we can proceed with treatment. If it is possible to treat your pet as an outpatient, and payment is required, we will bring the card machine to your car to make the payment.

We include a pamphlet from the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations (FECAVA) here which outlines the procedure. Hyperlink to Pamphlet

How to get rid of fleas

Fleas love your pets almost as much as you love them – they feed off your pet’s blood and, once they have found a tasty food source, they move in and start reproducing. They climb onto your pet on neighbourhood walks, play dates, get carried into your yard by other animals or even hitch a ride on humans and jump over to pets when the opportunity arises.

How to tell if your dog has fleas

As previously mentioned, fleas feed off your pet’s blood and this feeding causes your dog to itch. You will notice your pet scratching, biting or licking a lot and losing hair, especially near the tail base. If you run your fingers through your pet’s hair you will find flea dirt (small black granules) or even the critters themselves darting through the hair. They leave red bumps or scabs where they bit your pet to feed off it. You may even notice your pet’s behaviour changing – your pet may become restless or even seem nervous due to the constant itching and scratching.

Once you find fleas on your pet, you can assume that your home has now become their home as well. Thus, to eliminate them for good, you will have to rid both your pet and the environment of fleas and discourage the fleas from coming back.

How to treat your pet

Firstly, treat all the animals in your household for fleas as all of them will be infested. There are several products available over the counter and choosing the correct one for your pet can be daunting – your vet or the staff will be happy to help you with this. There are tablets that can be given to your dog as a treat – these work from the inside out to kill fleas and they are effective for 1 to 3 months, depending on which product you use. Flea collars are effective for up to 8 months, provided they stay on your pet for so long! Spot-on preparations are applied directly onto your pet’s skin and spread over your pet’s entire body to kill off all the fleas. Certain shampoos and sprays are also designed to kill off fleas.

Before you run to the vet shop, pop your pet onto your bathroom scale, or, if you don’t have one, take your pet along to the vet so he or she can be weighed there. All the flea treatments are dosed according to the weight of the animal and it is very important that your pet receives the correct dose – under dosing your pet makes the product less effective (essentially wasting your money and effort) and overdosing your pet can cause ill effects. If your pet is still a puppy or a kitten, make sure that he or she is old enough to be treated with the product as most of them are only regarded as safe for use after a certain age.

The tablets are generally very tasty and many dogs will gobble them up, thinking it’s a treat. If your dog picks up on your bluff you can try hiding it in his food but make sure to check that the tablet has been eaten afterwards. The last option is to open your dog’s mouth and shove the tablet down his throat.

If you opt for a collar, follow the packaging instructions when putting it on. If your pet manages to get it off it can be replaced straight away; do not let your pet chew the collar.

Similarly, follow the packaging instructions when applying a spot-on treatment. Bathing and swimming can interfere with the efficacy of spot-on treatments – the package insert will tell you when and how often your pet can be bathed or allowed to swim.

Remember that all these treatments are essentially pesticides – read the package inserts carefully before using the products, keep them away from children and wash your hands after using them. Always weigh your pet before buying a treatment so that you can make sure he or she receives the correct dose. The package insert will tell you how long the treatment is effective for and how frequently it must be used – stick to these time periods so you don’t end up overdosing your pet. Never use dog products on your cat and vice versa – some dog products contain substances that are poisonous to cats. Finally, do not use more than one treatment at the same time – it can be potentially harmful to your pet.

Brush your pet with a flea comb at least once a week to remove stragglers and dead fleas. Most local vet shops stock flea combs.

Make sure to keep the flea treatments up-to-date year-round. South African winters are not cold enough for fleas to die off so lapsing in your flea control at any time of the year poses the risk of the pesky critters coming back and you have to go through the entire process of eliminating them from scratch.

How to treat the environment

It is important to understand that the adult fleas you see on your pet are only 5% of the entire infestation – the other 95% are the eggs, larvae and pupae hiding around your house and yard. The adult fleas lay eggs on your pet’s coat, which then fall off onto your furniture, carpets, bedding and yard as your pets go about with their daily lives. Fleas like to hide where your pet spends most of its time and they prefer dark, cool environments, such as baseboards, upholstery and crevices.

Start by cleaning your house very thoroughly – think spring cleaning or in-laws-coming-to-visit cleaning. Vacuum all the floors, carpets, furniture, pet beds, nooks, crannies and crevices in your house and immediately empty your vacuum in the outside dustbin – you don’t want to give the fleas time to crawl back out. Steam clean carpets and spray flea spray onto all the areas that have been cleaned.

Machine wash all the pet beds, including covers, in hot water. Do the same for all the family bedding, bathroom rugs, towels, throw blankets and cushions. Also, tackle all the places where your pets like to sleep or lounge. Dry anything that can go into a hot dryer for 15-20 minutes.

Fog your home – buy a fogger that is effective against all flea life stages and follow the package instructions. Treat your yard with appropriate treatment and follow the package instructions. You can even consider calling in an exterminator company.

Accept the fact that it can take up to three months, or even more, of hard work to get rid of fleas for good -some unhatched eggs will, despite your best efforts, survive and hatch to start the life cycle again. Repeat the vacuuming, spraying and fogging regularly and thoroughly and wash pet bedding every week. Keep all your pets up-to-date on their flea treatments at all times and clean your car regularly – you never know how many flea passengers you may have.

 

 

 

 

How to keep flies off your dogs

In order to get rid of flies for good, you will have to treat both your dog and the environment he lives in.

Keeping your dog clean and healthy will go a long way in making him less attractive to flies. A dirty or matted fur coat will attract flies, while certain skin conditions and diarrhoea will worsen the problem even further. Regular baths and brushing will help keep your dog’s coat in top condition. If your dog is having diarrhoea, take him to the vet for examination and treatment and make sure to keep his perineum (rear end) clean during his recovery – you may need to wash the area or even consider clipping the surrounding hair if it is very long and troublesome. 

Flies are also most active during the hottest parts of the day – consider keeping your dog indoors during these times

Flies often target the ears to make painful wounds, which in turn attract even more flies. You can use some saline or dilute chlorhexidine to clean the wounds and apply a suitable ointment or repellent. Make sure the preparation is safe to use on your pet – your local vet shop or pet shop will be happy to advise you in this regard. As a general rule, never use dog preparations on cats – most of these preparations contain pyrethroids, which are toxic to cats. Also avoid any human products, essential oils or garlic (tasty for us but poisonous for pets). Some of these sprays can even be used on your dog’s bedding or resting areas – apply as often as required. Fly strips and fly traps may also help draw the flies away from your dog.

Remember that flies are scavengers – they are constantly looking for a meal in which to lay their eggs and continue their life cycle. Thus the best way of getting rid of them for good is to remove their food source, which means maintaining good hygiene in and around your home. Clean up all the waste in your yard, including food, faeces and half-chewed bones (though you shouldn’t be giving your dog bones), clean out your rubbish bins regularly so they don’t overflow and keep your dog’s food and water bowls clean. If you have a compost heap, keep it covered.

Certain herbs also repel flies in addition to being useful in the kitchen – consider planting some basil, bay leaf, mint or rosemary in your garden. Other herbs, such as lavender, sweet woodruff and tansy also repel flies while being nice for people.

Products you can use to repel flies include ExSpot, Shoo-Fly Ointment, Shoo-Fly Spray and Vets Own Repellent Shampoo.  There are many more and you can get these from our online shop.