Coronavirus and your pets

Now that the coronavirus has hit South Africa's shores, and several people have been confirmed to have the disease, COVID-19, there are many pet owners who are concerned about how COVID-19 will affect them and their pets.

Background

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The source of the coronavirus is believed to be a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan, China, which sold both dead and live animals including fish and birds. Currently, there is no evidence suggesting a specific animal host as a virus reservoir, and further investigations are ongoing.

How is COVID-19 spread?

The disease is spread from person to person via respiratory droplets produced from the airways, often during coughing or sneezing. Symptoms appear between two and 14 days (with an average of five days) from the time of first exposure and contraction of the disease. As with most viral infections, some people will contract the disease while others who have been exposed to the same virus will not contract the disease. This is usually as a result of the immune status and health of the individual.

Symptoms of COVID-19 infection

The symptoms of COVID-19 are very similar to the flu we have become accustomed to in winter and include a fever, a dry cough, weakness and fatigue, and shortness of breath. Sneezing, a runny nose and a sore throat are less common. The disease usually causes only mild symptoms, but in immune compromised or older people, it can progress to pneumonia and multi organ failure.

Can pets contract Coronavirus?

Currently, there is no evidence that companion animals can be infected with or spread COVID-19.

However, there are several coronaviruses that affect our pets and that can cause disease in animals.

It is very important to understand that when we speak about ‘coronavirus’, we are actually speaking about a large family of viruses and not a single virus. To this end there are a number of coronaviruses that can affect people and animals.

Coronaviruses belong to the family Coronaviridae. Alpha- and beta-coronaviruses usually infect mammals, while gamma and delta coronaviruses usually infect birds and fish. Canine coronavirus, which can cause mild diarrhoea, and feline coronavirus, which can cause feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), are both alpha-coronaviruses. These coronaviruses are not associated with the current coronavirus outbreak. Until the appearance of SARS-CoV-2, which belongs to the beta-coronaviruses, there were only six known coronaviruses capable of infecting humans and causing respiratory disease, including the severe acute respiratory syndrome, coronavirus SARS-CoV (identified in 2002/2003) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus MERS-CoV (identified in 2012). SARS-CoV-2 is genetically more related to SARS-CoV than MERS-CoV, but both are beta-coronaviruses with their origins in bats. While it is not known whether COVID-19 will behave the same way as SARS and MERS, the information from both of these earlier coronaviruses can inform recommendations concerning COVID-19.

Can I get COVID-19 from my pets?

Recently, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) announced that a pet dog of a COVID-19 infected patient has tested ‘weak positive’ for the virus, however, further tests are currently being carried out to determine if it is a true infection or if it is due to environmental contamination of its mouth and nose. In a statement, AFCD said that the dog had not shown any symptoms and there was no evidence to suggest that pets could contract the coronavirus or be a source of infection in people.

In the last few weeks, rapid progress had been made in the identification of viral etiology, isolation of infectious virus and the development of diagnostic tools. However, there are still many important questions that remain to be answered. For now, the information available indicates that we cannot get the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes COVID-19, from our pets.

It is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.

Should I avoid contact with pets or other animals if I am sick with COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following: “You should restrict contact with pets and other animals while you are sick with COVID-19, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.

When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with pets and wear a facemask.”

If my pet has been in contact with someone who is sick from COVID-19, can it spread the disease to other people?

While we do not yet know for sure, there is no evidence that companion animals can be infected with or spread SARS-CoV-2. We also do not know if they could get sick from this new coronavirus.

Additionally, there is currently no evidence that companion animals could be a source of infection to people. This is a rapidly evolving situation and this information may change.

What should I do if my pet develops an unexplained illness and was around a person with documented COVID-19 infection?

We don’t yet know if companion animals can get infected by SARS-CoV-2 or develop the COVID-19 disease. If your pet develops an unexplained illness and has been exposed to a person infected with COVID-19, talk to the public health official working with the person infected with COVID-19. If your area has a state veterinarian, the public health official can consult with them or another appropriate official. If the state veterinarian, or other public health official, advises you to take your pet to a veterinary clinic, call us before you come in to let us know that you are bringing a sick pet that has been exposed to a person infected with COVID-19. This will allow us time to prepare an isolation area. Do not bring the animal to our veterinary facility unless you are instructed to do so by a public health official.

What are the concerns regarding pets that have been in contact with people infected with this virus?

While COVID-19 seems to have emerged from an animal source, it is now spreading from person to person. Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people.

Importantly, there is no evidence at this point in time (March 2020) that companion animals including pets such as dogs and cats, can become infected with COVID-19.

What should be done with pets in areas where the virus is active?

Currently there is no evidence that pets can be infected with this new coronavirus. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, until we know more, pet owners should avoid contact with animals they are unfamiliar with and always wash their hands before and after they interact with animals.  As stated before in this article, if owners are sick with COVID-19, they should avoid contact with animals in their household, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If they need to care for their pet or be around animals while they are sick, they should wash their hands before and after they interact with them and wear a facemask.

Should my vet vaccinate my dogs against canine coronavirus because of the risk of SARS-Cov-2?

The canine coronavirus vaccines are intended to protect against enteric coronavirus infection in dogs and are NOT licensed for protection against respiratory infections. In the face of the current outbreak, some dog owners may propose that there may be some form of cross-protection against COVID-19 and may think that it will be of benefit to have their dogs vaccinated with the current coronavirus vaccine to be better protected. There is absolutely no evidence that vaccinating dogs with commercially available vaccines will provide cross-protection against the infection by SARS-CoV-2, since the enteric and respiratory viruses are distinctly different variants of coronavirus. No vaccines are currently available in any market for respiratory coronavirus infection in dogs.

What can I do to protect myself and my pets against COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, experts recommend everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay at home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the rubbish bin.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Where can I find more information on COVID-19?

The most up-to-date information and advice on human infection can be found on the following websites:

• World Health Organisation (WHO) (see here)

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (see here)

The most up-to-date information related to animal health can be found on the following website:

• World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) (see here)

 

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

 

 

 

My little dog is coughing often and sometimes seems to struggle to breathe.

What is tracheal collapse?

Tracheal collapse is a common cause of coughing and airway obstruction in dogs. The trachea, which is also known as the “windpipe”, provides the air supply from the outside to the lungs. The trachea can be thought of as resembling a vacuum cleaner pipe. It is a flexible but firm tube that is reinforced by strong cartilage rings. These rings are not complete but rather “c-shaped”, with the open end of the “c” facing to the inside of the neck with a ligament attaching from the one end of the C to the other. Sometimes these cartilage rings weaken and cannot hold their shape causing the trachea to narrow or even close, making it more difficult for air to pass through.

Which dogs are prone to tracheal collapse?

The small and toy breed dogs are most commonly affected by this condition.  Yorkshire terriers, Toy Pomeranians, Poodles and Chihuahuas are some of the most commonly affected breeds. Young dogs can be affected but the condition is more commonly seen in middle-aged to older patients. These dogs are often overweight and living in a household that has smokers often exacerbates the condition.

What are the signs of tracheal collapse?

  • The dog often has a characteristic “goose honking” cough.
  • The dog may cough when picked up or pulled on a collar.
  • Some dogs may have difficulty breathing and some turn blue when excited.
  • There is usually a degree of exercise intolerance and a wheezy noise may be heard when the animal breathes in.
  • The cough and other signs are often worsened with excitement, eating, drinking, tracheal irritants such as smoke, dust or pollution, obesity, exercise and hot and humid weather.

Diagnosing tracheal collapse

The clinical signs and breed of dog make a diagnosis of tracheal collapse highly likely. X-rays can be helpful in making a diagnosis but the collapse of the trachea is often dynamic so may not be seen all the time. Fluoroscopy is a moving x-ray and is beneficial in that the trachea can be visualised over a short period of time. Unfortunately, fluoroscopy is usually only available at veterinary teaching hospitals and some veterinary referral centres. Using a scope is the only way one can see what is happening within the trachea and may also be useful as swabs and cultures can be taken to make sure there is not a secondary infection present concurrently.

Can tracheal collapse be confused with other conditions?

Tracheal collapse can definitely be confused with other upper respiratory tract conditions of which the most common one in toy breeds is arguably reverse sneeze. Kennel cough, an infectious viral condition of the upper respiratory tract is another. Allergies are another common cause of upper respiratory tract conditions. A foreign body like a grass awn which gets stuck somewhere in the upper or lower respiratory tract is another possibility. To differentiate which condition your dog may be suffering with will most likely require a thorough clinical examination and diagnostic workup by the vet.  

Can tracheal collapse be cured?

Unfortunately, tracheal collapse cannot be cured but it can be managed relatively successfully. Medical management includes medication to suppress the cough, reduce airway inflammation and spasms, and reduce anxiety. Weight loss is probably the most important aspect of management in overweight pets as obesity greatly exacerbates the condition.

In some cases, surgery may be an option to help support the trachea. It is a specialist procedure and an animal will still need to be managed medically afterwards. Surgery does come with its own risk so it is important to speak to an experienced surgeon before travelling down this route. It is also important to remember that not all animals will be ideal candidates.

At present, there is no known way to prevent tracheal collapse but maintaining an ideal weight and reducing exposure to airway irritants such as smoke have been found to help. Patients may be managed relatively efficiently with medical management and it is estimated that more than two-thirds of dogs will show some improvement. About three-quarters of dogs will improve with surgical treatment but the surgery does also carry its own risks. Older dogs may also have laryngeal or bronchial disease. This also comes with complications and does reduce the long-term prognosis for management.  Weight management and control of the cough is vital for a good outcome and it is important to remember that medical management is still instrumental even after surgical treatment. 

There is a strong school of thought that suggests tracheal collapse may be inheritable because it is related to the shape and confirmation of the trachea. Just like you may find some dogs have longer legs and some have shorter legs, so some of the toy breeds may have narrower tracheas than others. It would certainly stand you in good stead to do some proper research before buying a highly pedigreed toy breed of dog.

If you are not sure if your dog may be suffering with tracheal collapse, visit the vet and have a proper exam done. It may just improve the quality of life of your best friend.

© 2019 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

 

My cat is eating like crazy and not picking up weight

What is hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism is a condition that arises from an excessive production and secretion of active thyroid hormones by an abnormally functioning thyroid gland. First recognised in the late 1970’s, the frequency of diagnosis has escalated dramatically – currently it is the most common endocrine (hormone system) disease in cats and also one of the more frequently diagnosed disorders in the veterinary field. The condition is estimated to affect 1 in 300 cats.

What causes hyperthyroidism?

Despite several studies, the exact cause of the disease remains unknown. Recent studies have found that there is no breed association with risk. Other studies have found cats fed mostly tinned cat food, especially fish or liver and giblet flavour, and cats using cat litter are at increased risk.

Soybeans have also been implicated as a potential culprit as it is used as a protein source in some commercial cat foods. Furthermore, the thyroid gland contains more selenium than any other tissue, which suggests this trace element may play an important role.

Which cats are affected?

The disease typically affects middle-aged to older cats, with an average age of onset at 12-13 years.  Rarely can it affect cats as young as 4 years of age. There is no breed or gender predilection.

What are the clinical signs of hyperthyroidism?

Thyroid hormones are involved in a wide variety of functions in the body, including the regulation of heat production, metabolism and interaction with the nervous system. Therefore almost any organ system can be affected and subsequently a wide variety of clinical signs are possible.

Typically the signs start out very subtle and slowly progress, causing most owners to not notice them for several months. Some owners may also put these signs down to the normal “ageing” process.

The most common clinical sign is weight loss, despite a voracious appetite. Affected cats may seem constantly hungry and “finicky eaters” stop being “finicky”, eating everything that is offered to them or that they can get to.

Affected cats often gobble down their own food before going on to eat all the other pets in the household’s food as well; they may even try to steal your food off your plate if given the chance. Remember that cats are a lot smaller than us humans – losing for example 500g is not significant weight loss for a human but for a cat it’s about 10-20% of their total body weight and definitely a cause for concern.

Affected cats also become hyperactive – they may seem restless, anxious and irritable, constantly moving or even pacing, sleeping for short periods only and wakening easily. When brought to the vet these cats typically won’t sit for the vet to examine them and become aggressive when attempts are made to restrain them.

Affected cats are also weak and tire very quickly – you may notice it can’t jump as well as it used to. They also can’t cope with stress – short car rides, bathing, boarding or vet visits may weaken them severely or even cause them to collapse.

The digestive system may also be affected, causing vomiting, soft, bulky, stinky stools and sometimes even diarrhoea.

How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?

Hyperthyroidism can cause a wide variety of clinical signs, many of which can be caused by several other disease processes as well. Vets may perform several tests on your cat to rule out, amongst others, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, pancreatic disease and cancer. These tests may include blood tests, urine analysis, X-rays and even an electrocardiogram or ECG.

The diagnosis is confirmed by measuring the amount of thyroid hormone circulating in the cat’s blood.   Affected cats’ values may be up to 19 times more than the top normal value.

It is worth noting that up to 10% of affected cats may have borderline or even normal levels of thyroid hormone. These cats are either mildly affected or are suffering from another non related concurrent illness which is suppressing the thyroid levels. Therefore, the vet may decide that a single measurement is not enough to either rule in or – out thyroid disease and may recommend additional tests.

How is hyperthyroidism in cats treated?

Affected cats are generally started on anti-thyroid medication to stop the excessive secretion of thyroid hormones. The medication can be given between one and three times a day. The vet will typically start on a certain dose and repeat the thyroid hormone levels by doing a blood test after two weeks from commencing treatment.

Depending on the result, the dose may be increased or decreased and the blood tests repeated again after two weeks. This process will continue until the thyroid hormone levels return to the normal range. Once this is achieved, thyroid blood levels will need to be retested every 3 to 6 months or whenever otherwise indicated. 

The success of the therapy will mostly depend on you, the owner, as you will be the one tasked with administering the medication. It is important that you stick to the prescribed dosage and return to the vet for scheduled follow-ups or whenever your cat shows any signs of illness.

Cats are notoriously hard to pill! If you find it impossible to administer the medication, let the vet know as soon as possible – we will be happy to show you how to give the medication or help you come up with an alternative.

In some cases the vet may opt to surgically remove either one or both of the thyroid glands. Generally, the procedure cures the disease, but there is always a risk of it recurring – therefor the vet may want to monitor the progression of the disease every 6 to 12 months; if it recurs the cat will have to go onto medication again.

The vet may also recommend a diet change as there are therapeutic diets which have been specifically developed for this condition.

The last option is destruction of the thyroid gland via radioactive iodine, which is currently not readily available in South Africa.

What’s the connection between hyperthyroidism and kidney disease?

Hyperthyroid cats are predisposed to kidney disease due to the effects of the higher metabolism on the kidneys. Conversely, the higher metabolism also masks the signs of kidney failure. Consequently these cats often start showing signs of kidney failure once their thyroid condition is brought under control.

The vet may decide to monitor you cat’s kidney enzyme levels along with the thyroid levels in order to diagnose kidney failure as early as possible.

What’s the connection between hyperthyroidism and heart disease?

Hyperthyroid cats are prone to developing heart murmurs, abnormally fast heart rates and abnormal heart rhythms. The vet may notice these abnormalities when listening to the heart with a stethoscope.

The excessive amount of circulating thyroid hormone makes the heart work harder than normal, which is further worsened by having to keep up with the cat’s higher metabolic rate. Over time the heart muscle starts thickening and/or the heart chambers start dilating to increase their size in an attempt to cope with the increased workload.

Congestive heart failure sets in eventually when the heart cannot keep up anymore fluids starts building up in the lungs and/or the abdomen.

If the vet suspects heart disease, he or she may decide to investigate further with ECGs, ultrasonic heart scans and X-rays. Depending on the findings, the cat may have to go onto heart medication as well.

What is the prognosis for hyperthyroidism in my cat?

The prognosis will depend on the cat’s physical condition, age, and whether other diseases are present. When treated, the average survival rate is 2 years and the quality of life is acceptable.

© 2019 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

My dog’s nose seems to be all clogged up and hard and he is not well at all

Canine distemper

Following recent outbreaks of Distemper (Hondesiekte in Afrikaans) in Kwa Zulu Natal and Gauteng, it is important to have an understanding of this disease which is fatal in half of all cases of dogs that contract the disease.

What causes Distemper?

Distemper is a virus disease caused by the Canine Distemper Virus or CDV. This virus is a morbillivirus in the Paramyxoviridae family which is a virus group that affects humans, vertebrates and birds. This specific virus is not transmissible to humans but specifically targets dogs hence the name “Canine” Distemper Virus. The virus is closely related to measles virus in humans, and also to rinderpest virus in cattle, which at the beginning of the previous century almost killed the entire cattle population of Southern Africa. It’s a nasty virus.

What are the symptoms of Distemper?

The virus attacks mainly the respiratory system (from the nose right into the lungs), the gastro-intestinal system (from the mouth, through the stomach into the small and large intestines) and the central nervous system (mainly the brain). This means that the symptoms associated with the disease will be related to problems with these three main systems. In acute to subacute infections the dog will usually develop a fever within a day or two from being infected. The dog will go off its food and become weak and lethargic

Respiratory system symptoms may include a clogged up nose typically with mucous or slime that becomes hard, and hardening of the nose itself. This is a very telling symptom of Distemper but is by no means the only, or most typical, presentation of the disease. A dog with distemper may have a perfectly normal nose and still have the disease. Many times there will also be a discharge in the corners of the eyes. Other respiratory symptoms include coughing, sneezing and difficult breathing if the virus attacks the lungs.

If the gastrointestinal systems is affected you may see vomiting and/or diarrhoea.

If the central nervous system is involved you may have muscle tremors, a dog which seems disorientated and walks around as if they are drunk (ataxia), hind limbs which are dragged or seem lazy (paresis), a dog which cannot get up or falls down when they do get up (paralysis), and even seizures. Other symptoms which are not immediately visible and which only the vet may be able to pick up are lesions on the retina at the back of the eye, or an inflammation in the front of the eye called anterior uveitis. Hardening of the footpads  (hyperkeratosis) was previously quite common because of the strains of virus involved, but seem to be less common these days.

How is Distemper diagnosed?

There are several blood tests which can be done by the vet, but it is a difficult disease to diagnose because unlike a disease like biliary or tick fever in dogs where you can see the parasite in the blood with a bloodsmear, in Distemper, as with all other virus diseases, you cannot see the virus as it is simply too small. The trouble with the blood tests are that they are often not conclusive. The reason for this is that some of the tests, test if the dog is building up antibodies (“soldier”) against the virus. However a dog that may previously have been vaccinated may show antibodies and not have the disease. Sometimes the dog may die acutely before the body was able to produce neutralising antibodies, so in that case the test may be negative, yet the dog still had the disease.

Another type of blood test where the white and red blood cells are counted and where the white cells are less than usual, called lymphopenia,  may give an indication that the dog has a virus disease but it will not tell which virus the dog has.

If the dog has central nervous system symptoms, the fluid around the brain and spine called Cerebro Spinal Fluid (CSF) may contain antibodies but once again it may not be 100% diagnostic. There are other tests which can be run on the CSF (cell or protein content) which may be indicative, but does not conclusively confirm that the dog has Distemper.

There are a number of other diseases which can present with similar symptoms which the vet will have to rule out. On the respiratory side there is Kennel Cough or other upper respiratory tract infections. On the intestinal side there is Parvovirus and Coronavirus, parasitism like worms or Giardia, bacterial infections, toxin ingestion or inflammatory bowel disease. On the neurological side there is granulomatous meningoencephalitis, protozoal encephalitis (toxoplasmosis, neosporosis, babesia), cryptococcus or other infections (meningitis, Ehrlichiosis), pug dog encephalitis and lead or other poisoning.

Clearly Distemper is not a simple disease to diagnose and the vet will often have to rely on the age of the dog, its history, the results of the clinical tests and the appearance of the clinical symptoms, to make a diagnosis of Distemper.

How is Distemper transferred?

The virus is typically inhaled through the air from other sick dogs and also from physical contact with infected animals. The virus can survive for a period of time in the environment and if a dog which carries the virus sniffed around or spent time in a certain environment, it will leave tiny, tiny droplets (aerosol) which contain the virus in that area, which can then infect other dogs. A dog which is infected will inhale or ingest the virus and the virus will quickly spread through the mucous membranes to the local lymphnodes (these are like the remote “army bases” of the body which has to protect the body against invasions) where it will multiply and within one week the whole body will be infected.

How is Distemper treated?

Vets have over the years tried antiviral drugs of which there are very few anyway,  and none have been effective. As with almost all virus diseases one has to support the body in its own fight against the virus because it is only once the body has been successful to produce antibodies (the “soldier cells” which kill the “terrorist” or virus), that the dog will be able to overcome the disease. Often, when the body is attacked by viruses and the immune system is fighting hard to overcome the infection, bacteria will cause a secondary infection and make the whole situation worse. Therefore antibiotics are often administered even though it will do nothing against the virus, but at least it will help the body fight off opportunistic bacterial infections and help the body to overcome the disease. Other treatment depends largely on which systems are affected and to what extent. The vet will typically give symptomatic treatment, for example if the dog has seizures, the vet may administer a drug to help contain the seizures and make them less violent. Certain drugs should not be given and it is important to consult with the vet in case you think your dog may suffer from Distemper.

Can Distemper spread to humans or cats?

In the past it was suspected that the Canine Distemper Virus can cause Multiple Sclerosis in humans. However this has been proven NOT to be the case and as far as we know the disease cannot spread from dogs to humans. Similarly, as far as we know, this disease cannot be transferred to domestic cats.

What is the prognosis should my dog contract Distemper?

Unfortunately the prognosis is not good and the mortality rate is 50%. It will be very difficult for the vet to tell whether your dog will fall in the 50% that will survive or the 50% that will not make it. The vet will have to assess the extent and severity of the clinical symptoms and the progression of the disease and based on that, will advise you whether treatment has any chance of success or not. An important thing to remember is that even though the disease may not appear to be very far advanced when you first present your dog to the vet, and there seems to be early good response to treatment, like the clogging of the nose and the discharge in the eyes clearing up, the dog may still develop fatal central nervous system signs later on. It is important to understand that the vet has no control over which way the disease may go and will do his or her best with your animal’s best interest at heart, when recommending treatment or not.

Can Distemper be prevented?

A resounding yes! Vaccination has been hugely effective in almost eradicating this disease and all dogs should be vaccinated, preferably yearly at the same time as their annual health exam. Your vet will give you more specific advice related to the area you live in and the risk factors involved and should the vet think that annual vaccination is not necessary, the vet will advise you accordingly.

Puppies and old dogs are more commonly affected and all puppies should go through an initial vaccination program from 6 weeks onwards to provide protection. Puppies born from mothers who were vaccinated and had antibodies will get this protection from the initial milk or colostrum from the mother in the first few days after birth. The protection provided through the mother’s milk will start waning after six weeks and this is why vets normally start vaccinating at this time, and repeating the vaccination three or four times with booster vaccinations with monthly intervals and then yearly thereafter.

What do I do if I suspect my dog to have Distemper?

Get them to the vet as soon as you can. Home remedies or treatment is unlikely to give your dog a fighting chance. Proper supportive and secondary infection treatment remains the mainstay of treatment.

Most importantly, have your dog vaccinated. Prevention is always better than cure!

© 2019 The Code Company Vetwebsites

My older German Shepherd Dog seems to be getting weak in its hindquarters

This article outlines a genetic disorder that mainly German Shepherd dogs are prone to. There are other breeds affected by this condition too like Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Corgis, Boxers, Wirehaired Fox Terriers and Rhodesian Ridgebacks, however, the disease is mostly seen in German Shepherds.

If one breaks down the name of the disease it describes what happens with the disease. Degeneration refers to a breaking down or deterioration of something. That “something” in this case is myelin which is the insulating sheath around neurons in the spinal cord. Neurons are the “electrical wires” of the nervous system and one can compare myelin to the insulating plastic around the wires, almost like one would find with an electrical cord. Whenever a term is followed by “pathy” it refers to a disease or disorder in a certain part of the body. In this case the spinal cord.

Degenerative Myelopathy is a debilitating condition for which there is no cure but only the potential to slow down the progress.

The occurs typically in older German Shepherd Dogs. The average age at which clinical signs start and progress is from 8 to 12 years of age. This is not a condition with rapid onset but instead is slowly progressive with clinical signs worsening with time. Degenerative myelopathy starts out as a very slowly progressive hind limb weakness and loss of function of the back legs called paresis. It is commonly confused with hip pain because the symptoms can mimic hip dysplasia, another debilitating condition with a high incidence in German Shepherds.

The condition is the result of a demyelination (loss of protective cover) and nerve degeneration of the spinal cord in the region of the mid to hind back. This degeneration is something referred to as an ascending lesion meaning that it starts at the tail end of the spinal cord and works its way towards the head. The underlying cause of the disease is thought to be a genetic mutation (change) of the SOD1 gene. This gene is responsible for the protection of cells against certain particles that damage the DNA of cells. The name given to the damaging particles are free radicles. Under normal circumstances the SOD1 gene produces a free radicle scavenger i.e. it helps to clean up the system and prevents damage to the sheath surrounding the nerves.

The way in which the defect is inherited determines whether a particular dog is at a high risk of getting the disease or if they are a carrier of the genetic mutation without showing clinical signs. An individual dog has to carry 2 copies of the mutation in the genes of the cells of their bodies for it to cause the disease. There is no sex predilection, so male or female dogs may be affected equally. What is interesting about the disease is that even if an individual dog has both copies of the mutated gene and they are at very high risk of developing the disease, there are still other factors that influence whether or not they do contract the disease and to what extent they do.  

As mentioned previously this a slowly progressive condition that has a time frame of about 3 years before severe debilitating disease sets in. The clinical signs noticed in dogs include the following:

After 6 to 12 months of contracting the disease, you will notice weakness and partial loss of function of the back legs. Your dog may seem weak and wobbly on the back legs and they may struggle to get up or be slower to get up that what they used to be. When they run, their back legs may sway abnormally.

After 9 to 18 months on contracting the disease, the back legs start to get even weaker and collapse under the dog from time to time. If one assesses the reflexes in the back legs like the patella reflex, you will find that they are abnormal and weakened.

After 12 to 24 months of contracting the disease, the front legs start to become affected and you may notice that your dog starts losing their normal co-ordination and function. By this point, the hind legs are very weak and your dog may struggle to stand and use their legs correctly. Unfortunately, the nerve degeneration also influences bladder and bowel control and they will start to urinate and defecate involuntarily. This is known as urine and faecal incontinence.

After 24 to 36 month of contracting the disease, and if the dog was able to come this far and still cope with the disease, they develop tetraplegia or quadriplegia which is a paralysis that causes partial or total loss of use of all their limbs and body. The loss is usually sensory and motor, which means that both sensation and control are lost, or put a different way, the dog does not know where its legs are and even if they did, they do not have the ability to correct it. Clearly a very unhappy situation.

The way in which this condition is diagnosed by the vet is through a number of tests as well as the typical clinical signs and also the breed of your dog. These, together with the thorough history of the condition, should provide the veterinarian with some very important clues to what is going on with your dog. The important diseases or differential diagnoses to rule out are spinal disc disease (like a slipped disc) and conditions affecting the lower part of the spine where the hips meet the spine, like hip dysplasia or joint disease. The biggest difference with degenerative myelopathy and the other conditions is that degenerative myelopathy is painless because it is the loss of sensation and function which underlies this disease. Special tests such as MRI’s may be done to visualise the damage within the spinal cord and there is also a DNA test available to check if your dog has the genetic mutation discussed earlier.

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment available. Certain supplements can be used in an attempt to slow down the condition, such as vitamin E and aminocaproic acid. The vitamin E is an essential vitamin which helps various systems in the body to protect it from these damaging free radicles. The aminocaproic acid is an agent used to prevent the breakdown of clots in the bloodstream. The reasoning behind using this is that it is believed that the spinal cord may be indirectly attacked by the body’s own immune system. Antibodies in the bloodstream attach to the foreign material within the bloodstream forming complexes and these stimulate a response from the immune system. These complexes are usually removed by the liver and spleen. Sometimes they can stick to the walls of blood vessels, damage the walls and stimulate the formation of blood clots. The breakdown of these clots are associated with inflammation and this may result in damage to the surrounding tissues, so-called collateral damage. If this happens in the sensitive tissues of the spinal cord, the damage is devastating because the nervous tissue is not able to regenerate and repair itself. The thinking behind using aminocaproic acid is to inhibit clot breakdown in these delicate tissues.

Lastly and most importantly, the most effective treatment for this condition and the only one proven to actually slow down the progress is the use of physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. Another key factor is, the sooner the dog is diagnosed and treatment started, the better the progress of the disease can be slowed, and the more time the vet can give you with your dog. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that eventually, the disease will lead to complete paralysis and eventually, in most cases, euthanasia.

Genetic disorders like degenerative myelopathy can only be prevented by not breeding with animals where there is a family history of the disease. Make sure if you buy a puppy, that you get references on a breeder before you buy.

©2018 Vetwebsites The Code Company (Pty) Ltd

I found a lump on my animal’s skin. Is it cancer?

Finding a lump or a bump in your pet which you have never noticed before, can cause serious worry for pet owners. This article will highlight what to watch out for when to take your pet to the vet and the process veterinarians follow when approaching any lump found on a pet.

Firstly, it is always important to remember that you can never tell how serious a mass on your pet is by simply feeling it and judging by its size. Dynamite can often come in small packages and some of the most aggressive skin cancers may present as a simple small raised area on the skin. Generally, lumps on a cat tend to be more dangerous and they are not something to be ignored. All growths have to start small but may grow very rapidly. Lumps come in all shapes and sizes and for that reason, it is always best to get any lump on the skin or underneath the skin checked by the veterinarian as soon as you discover it. This will provide peace of mind to you as an owner if it is simply a dermal cyst or a small wart-like growth, both of which will not cause any major health issues for your pet. Alternatively, if it is something more aggressive and dangerous, it is always better to start treatment as soon as possible. If it is determined to be a bad type of growth (malignant), the sooner it is diagnosed the better the prognosis for both removing it surgically or starting any other form of treatment.

When you bring your animal to the vet there are a few questions the vet will ask that are essential to determine when and if the lump will be removed.

1. When did you notice the mass and has it grown since noticing it? Masses that grow quickly will invariably need to be removed regardless of the cells that make up the mass. The reason for this is that it will only continue to enlarge and may eventually lead to impaired function of the area of the body it is growing from or may cause discomfort and become more difficult to remove later on.

2. Is the lump bothering your pet, are they scratching, biting or licking it? Any lump that bothers your pet is causing them discomfort and this is the last thing we want. It also predisposes them to infections in the area as the licking and scratching will traumatise the mass with a subsequent breakdown in the skin’s protective barrier.

3. Has your pet ever had any other masses that were of concern? Certain growths on the skin, mast cell tumours for example, do have a tendency to regrow or spread to other areas. Once the vet has gained sufficient information from the pet owner, a more in-depth assessment of the lump will commence.

Usually, a visit to the vet will start with the vet obtaining a history from you regarding the pet’s health which will then be followed by a physical clinical examination of your pet. The vet will then examine the appearance of the lump and determine if there are any other lumps present on or under the skin. The appearance of a mass may give a clue as to what the mass might be. A small round firm lump may simply be a cyst. Small superficial wart-like growths on the skin surface are often benign and only need to be monitored. If they are injured or bleed, they may have to be removed. A dermal cyst may eventually rupture discharging its contents and resolve on its own.  A dermal cyst may however re-occur and the only way to get rid of it for good will be to surgically remove it. Once the vet has had a look at the appearance of the mass they will then most likely perform a fine needle aspirate. This procedure involves placing a needle into the mass with a syringe attached to the needle. The plunger of the syringe is drawn back and with some luck, a small sample of the cells making up the lump will be drawn into the needle. Once this small sample of cells is obtained it is sprayed onto a glass slide for fixing, staining and observation under a microscope. It is rare for the vet to make a definitive diagnosis of what type of growth and how aggressive it is with a single or even multiple fine needle aspirates. However, the small sample of cells obtained may give the vet an idea of the type of cells making up the growth and how urgently it needs to be removed, if at all. There are three types of lumps which can generally be identified more accurately based on these small samples which are, lipomas (which is a benign fatty growth not considered to be a cancer), mast cell tumours (which is a bad type of cancer) and a melanomas (which is a really bad type of cancer). The exclusion of these three types of growths already helps somewhat in determining a prognosis. If it does turn out to be a mast cell tumour or a melanoma, the grade and the subtype of these masses will still need to be determined so just identifying it is not enough. Generally, the vet can determine the type of cells present, for example, a round cell tumour, which may be present in a number of specific growths, but the final diagnosis of which type of round cell tumour and the stage cancer can only be definitively identified by histopathology. Histopathology is where either the full growth or a portion of it is removed surgically and sent to a specialist pathologist who then examines the tissue sample sent with high-resolution microscopy and makes a definitive diagnosis. Round cell tumours generally have to be removed surgically as they grow quickly and are locally invasive into surrounding tissues. Other cell types that may be seen are spindle cells, epithelial cells, glandular cells, fat cells etc. If a cyst is aspirated then one will only see cyst material or debris and no obvious cells. If these lumps are subsequently gently squeezed, the contents of the cysts will be extruded.

Any lump or bump which is cancerous should be surgically removed and sent for histopathology for definitive diagnosis and grading. This is also important to ensure that the surgical margins are clear which means that all cancer cells were removed and none of the growth was left behind. This is particularly important for very aggressive tumours such as mast cell tumours, as they invade the surrounding tissue easily and to a large extent. To remove these tumours, a margin of 3 cm around the entire mass, and 2 tissue planes deep have to be removed by the surgeon. The resulting wound to be closed after surgical removal of a tumour can be very extensive with a high risk of post-operative complications. It is with these masses, as you could imagine, that the smaller the growth, the better it is to catch it early.

Instances where you would not remove lumps and bumps include

  1. cases of wart-like growths on the skin called adenoma’s. Unless they have been traumatised by the animal scratching, biting or licking them or where they have grown too large, it does not have to be removed.
  2. dermal cysts come and go and unless the owner wants them permanently removed, they do not need to be surgically removed.
  3. the very common growth known as a lipoma, which is a soft lump underneath the skin which is usually not firmly attached to the underlying tissues and do not seem to bother the animal at all. A lipoma is, in essence, a tumour of fatty tissue, but it is benign and only grows locally.

Lipomas are generally benign, well-encapsulated growths which do not invade surrounding tissues and they can sometimes grow very large, sometimes up to the size of a rugby ball, without posing any systemic risk to the animal. The problem is that they become a physical problem which interferes with the animal’s sitting or lying down or movement. Smaller lipomas can initially be monitored and not removed, but should they continue to grow, it is advisable to get them surgically removed before they start to interfere with your pets ability to move and live a normal comfortable life.

In conclusion, when you find a lump or bump on your pet, rather take them to the vet to have it checked out so that it can be diagnosed and treated. If advised by the veterinarian to remove the growth, it is always better to do it sooner rather than later. Lastly, remember that no growth is too small to be ignored.

© 2018 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty) Ltd

Can my kitten make me sick?

There are many diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. These diseases are called zoonotic diseases. Although the list below is by no means comprehensive, some of the more common diseases that we can get from our household pets are:

  • Ringworm, which is a fungal infection of the skin
  • Hook worm, roundworm and tapeworm infection
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Cat scratch disease
  • Scabies, a mite that causes severe itchiness and skin lesions

In this article we are going to look at cat scratch disease (CSD), the cause of it, the symptoms and how to prevent it. Cat scratch disease, or cat scratch fever, is caused by an organism called Bartonella henselae or formerly called Rochalimaea henselae. It is a small anaerobic (organism which does not need oxygen to survive), gram-negative, non-motile bacterium. Domestic cats are the natural hosts for this organism and the animal from which humans can contract the disease (also known as the vector). If a cat harbors this bacterium, the cat very rarely shows any signs of the disease which is described as asymptomatic. It is therefore impossible to tell if a cat is infected with this organism without further testing. Fleas are the organism responsible for transmission of the disease between cats and therefore flea control is one of the best ways to prevent this disease. The infection rate is much higher in a population of cats that are flea ridden and can be as high as 61%. As a cat scratches and bites at fleas, the organism gets stuck between their teeth and under their nails. Kittens younger than 12 months are 15 times more likely to carry the infection than adult cats.

Cats transmit the disease to humans when they bite or scratch a person, causing a break in the skin. There is no evidence to suggest that fleas can transmit the disease directly to humans through a flea bite. Bacteria are also found on the coat of infected cats and can be transmitted to a person with open wounds on their skin by just stroking or holding an infected cat. Bacteria enter the wound of the affected human and causes local inflammation with swelling and redness of the area. A vesicle or an erythematous papule (a small blister almost like a pimple) may form at the site of initial infection during the progression of the infection. Soon after the initial bite or scratch, people develop signs of fever, headaches, decreased appetite, nausea, muscle pain, chills and joint pain. There is a swelling of the lymph glands closest to the area where the initial bite occurred. This is also known as a regional lymphadenopathy. The lymph glands become enlarged and painful and the nodes glands most commonly affected are in the armpit, the groin and the junction between the neck and jaw.

Cat scratch fever is a self-limiting disease in people with a healthy immune system. The disease resolves without specific treatment within 6 to 12 weeks. In children younger than 5 years as well as immune compromised people, complications can occur. Impaired immune systems can be the result of HIV infection or cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. In these cases treatment is necessary and this entails putting the patient on a course of antibiotic tablets which has to be prescribed by a medical doctor. Complications that can occur in patients with weakened immune systems are the following:

  • Meningoencephalitis (infection of the membrane around the brain)
  • Encephalopathy (infection of the brain itself)
  • Seizures
  • Endocarditis (infection of the heart)
  • Granulomatous conjunctivitis (infection in the eye)
  • Optic neuritis (damage to the main nerve running from the brain to the eye)

The best way to avoid this disease is to avoid situations where you can be bitten by a cat. Kittens are often playful and rough play frequently results in scratches or even bites. When bitten or scratched, it is important to wash the wound thoroughly under running water and cleaning it with a disinfectant. Never let cats lick open wounds on your skin. Since the disease is transmitted to cats by fleas, good tick and flea control is very important in your cat. It is important to take note that you should treat all your animals (dogs, cats and any other animals you may have) for fleas, even if you find just one flea on only one animal in your household. It is often difficult to see fleas on your cat because by grooming themselves they actually often catch and shallow fleas during the process. It is advised that people with weakened immune systems adopt cats that are older than one year of age, since kittens are the most likely carriers of the disease. Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed can also help prevent infection.

If you experience any of the above named symptoms after being bitten or scratched by your cat, it is strongly advised that you see your doctor.

© 2018 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty.) Ltd.

My dog is scooting on its backside and I think it has worms

Many veterinarians are presented by concerned pet owners about the animal’s scooting or dragging their backsides along the ground by holding the back legs up in the air and pulling themselves forward by the front legs whilst remaining in a seated position. The owner often thinks that the animal may have worms and is trying to get the worms out their backside by dragging it along the ground. Although this is quite possible to be the case, especially in the case of tapeworm infestation, it is unlikely to be the cause. The most common cause for this behaviour is uncomfortable anal glands.

Anal sac disease is the most common disease entity of the anal region in dogs. The anal sacs, commonly referred to as anal glands, are located on either side of the anus at 4 ’o clock and 8 ’o clock and are present in cats and dogs. The sacs are reservoirs for a secretion produced by glands within the wall of the sacs. The sacs have little ducts, which open just within the anus and connect the sacs to the outside. The secretion is released when the animal passes stool or when they are scared or nervous. It is often yellowy brown to grey and foul smelling to us, but it is an important scent marker in dogs. These are the same glands that are responsible for the foul smell secreted by skunks when they are threatened.

The sacs can become inflamed, infected and blocked and occasionally tumours can form within them. Small breed dogs appear predisposed to anal sac disease, although medium and large breed dogs can be affected too.

Why do the anal sacs cause a problem in dogs?

Anal sac disease is relatively common in dogs. The anal glands become blocked or impacted due to the ducts becoming inflamed. The anal gland secretion thickens and the sacs become full and swollen. The glands can be described as being inspissated. It can become painful for the animal to pass a stool or defaecate. If the sac is not emptied, the contents are a perfect medium for bacterial growth and for an abscess to form. The abscess will appear as a red, painful and swollen area on one or both sides of the anus. Sometimes, the abscess can burst. If left untreated, the abscess can spread infection to the anus and rectum.

What clinical signs can you expect?

Clinical signs are associated with pain when the patient sits or passes a stool. Commonly, anal gland disease will present with the dog licking the area around the anus, scooting (rubbing the anus along the ground) and the animal may experience pain when passing stool. Sometimes, an abscess may form that then bursts. Blood or pus may be seen around the anus.

What treatment is there for anal sac disease?

On clinical examination, the veterinarian will perform a digital exam of the rectum. This is very useful as the sacs can be nicely felt or palpated. The vet will try and express the glands. If there is an abscess or a tumour, this is not always possible. Normal anal sac fluid is thin and the sacs are easily expressed. The anal sac fluid can become very thick and difficult to express. If the sacs are just inflamed, they may need to be expressed manually over a few days. In the case of an abscess, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories may be required. Sometimes, antibiotics may be instilled into the sac for a few days. In some very severe cases and in the case of anal sac tumours the sac and duct will need to be removed surgically by a veterinary surgeon.

Can anal sac disease become a chronic problem?

Some dogs can have recurrent anal sac impactions or abscess. Overweight dogs tend to be overrepresented, as the sacs do not always empty completely. With each impaction or abscess, the sacs can become scarred and so making emptying even more difficult. The anal sacs may need to be manually expressed more regularly and in chronic cases surgically removing the gland may be an option. Adding fibre to the diet to bulk up the faeces may assist in emptying the sacs as the stool passes through the anus. Speak to your vet about your pet’s nutrition to ensure you are using the best diet possible to counter this disease.

Although the anal sac secretion is an important territorial scent marker, it is not important in the domestic dog, so removing the sac should not cause any adverse effects if done correctly.

Even though anal sac disease is the most common reason dogs scoot, one has to always ensure that it is not in actual fact worms that cause this behaviour. It is sound practice to deworm your dogs and cats at least three to four times a year with a good broad spectrum dewormer you can get from the vet.

© 2018 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty.) Ltd.

Is your pet safe?

Fatal Diseases that can easily be prevented

There are some fairly common fatal diseases in animals which can and should be prevented wherever possible. This article looks at how these diseases present, what they lead to and most importantly how they could be prevented. Today we have more information about our animals and the diseases they may suffer from than ever before. With this knowledge comes the means of preventing these conditions that years ago would have meant certain death to our beloved pets. The most important means of disease prevention readily available to us is vaccination. A simple annual health check and vaccinations can help ensure your pet lives a long and healthy life. Other important means of prevention includes regular deworming as well as tick and flea treatment.

Here are just a few of the conditions our animals can be prevented from getting:

Rabies (affects dogs and cats)

Rabies is a viral disease affecting the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including cats, dogs and importantly humans as well. This is a fatal condition for which there is no cure once infection has taken hold. It is important to remember that the idea we have of rabies and how an infected animal may present and act may only be half the story.  A rabies infected animal (domestic and wild animals alike) can present in one of two forms – the commonly known aggressive form, and the lesser known ‘dumb’ form. The aggressive form will be the animal that appears very aggressive, tries to bite and often is salivating at the mouth. The ‘dumb’ form is unusual and not well known because animals appear tame, calm, docile and even slightly sedated. These animals may have excessive salivation but not always. This animal appears calm until approached and then will just as easily bite you. Both forms have the same end result for the infected animal or human – severe inflammation and damage to the nervous system resulting in death. Rabies is transmitted through contact with an infected animal’s saliva, most often through a bite but other contact may also result in infection. In the event contact is made with any body fluids of an infected animal there is a risk for infection.

Treatment: None

Prevention: Vaccination

Distemper (this is a disease that only affects dogs)

Distemper is a serious viral disease that is highly contagious and for which there is no known treatment. This virus is transmitted through direct or indirect contact with infected animals, and may even be transmitted via the air. This virus first attacks the tonsils and lymphatic system (the body’s drainage and filter system) and then spreads to the gastrointestinal, respiratory, urogenital (kidneys and bladder system) and nervous systems. Initially the dog is feverish and un-well and there may be vomiting and diarrhea. Later there is progression to involve other internal organs and systems including the brain which may lead to seizures, behavioural changes, paralysis etc. Animals may also develop hard thickened foot pads. Most animals diagnosed with distemper need to be euthanised.

Treatment: None

Prevention: Vaccination

Parvoviral infection (CatFlu) in dogs

Parvovirus infection is mainly a problem in young unvaccinated puppies but can also affect dogs of any age if they have not been vaccinated. Initially is was thought that dogs contracted this disease from cats but this is not true and cats are not affected by this disease at all. The small and very tough virus that causes this disease attacks and destroys the intestines, resulting in vomiting, lack of appetite, and a severe watery bloody diarrhea. Even with intensive treatment puppies often succumb to dehydration with loss of nutrients and electrolytes essential for life. Treatment is costly, intensive and can still result in the death of your pup. Parvo is a preventable disease, with adequate vaccination of mom, ensuring she passes on essential protective antibodies to her pups. Once the pups are born they have to undergo a complete puppy vaccination program from 6 weeks of age onwards to ensure they remain protected at all times.

Treatment: Intensive therapy with intravenous fluids by having the dog on a drip, antibiotics (which cannot kill the virus but protect against bacteria infecting the animal whilst the virus is causing damage, drugs to prevent vomiting, electrolyte supplementation, nasogastric tube feeding and monitoring of electrolytes, proteins and blood counts

Prevention: Vaccination

Infectious Canine Hepatitis (affects dogs)

Infectious canine hepatitis (ICH) is a worldwide, contagious disease of dogs with clinical signs varying from a mild fever and red mucous membranes to severe depression, white blood cells deficiency, and bleeding tendencies. It is also carried by a number of wild canids (dog like animals) such as foxes, wolves and others. These carriers don’t often show clinical signs of the disease but are important in its spread to our dogs. As suggested by the name this virus attacks the liver primarily and results in varying degrees of damage which leads to clinical disease. The disease in a dog can vary from a mild fever from which they can potentially recover with supportive treatment, to death (especially in younger animals). The main route of infection occurs through ingestion (either directly/indirectly) of urine, feces, or saliva of infected dogs. Dogs that have survived infection shed the virus in their urine for more than 6 months. 

Treatment: Supportive and symptomatic treatment which includes fluid therapy (placing them on a drip), antibiotics to prevent secondary invasion of the body by bacteria and controlling the bleeding tendencies that result from the damaged liver which amongst other things produce the clotting factors which prevent an animal from bleeding spontaneously.

Prevention: In recent years there has been a reduction in the incidence of this disease as a direct result of active vaccination programs. Vaccination is the only sure way of preventing the disease and with the many carriers of the disease it is important our animals are continuously protected.

Feline Panleukopenia (affects cats)

Feline panleukopenia is a highly contagious, often fatal, viral disease of cats that is seen worldwide with kittens being the most severely affected. The virus is very resistant and can persist in the environment for a long time. Cats are infected by exposure to the stools or other secretions of infected animals or contaminated objects. The virus infects and destroys actively dividing cells in bone marrow, lymphoid tissues, intestinal cells, and in young animals the nervous system. It may also lead to abortions in pregnant cats. Animals infected with this virus may die acutely, or may present with fever, weakness and later vomiting and diarrhea. On examination they often have painful abdomens. They can also appear anemic (pale). Eventually affected animals become systemically ill and septic, eventually resulting in their death. In young kittens affected with the virus they can show a variety of nervous signs such as ataxia and tremors with increasing severity depending on the age of the kitten when infected and the extent of damage to the nervous tissue.

Treatment: Supportive and symptomatic treatment with fluid therapy, antibiotics (to prevent secondary bacterial infection), checking electrolytes and other body systems on an ongoing basis until the animal is better. Some animals may even require blood transfusions with severely anemia. The outcome of treatment cannot be guaranteed.

Prevention: Vaccination.

If you are in any doubt as to when your animals should be vaccinated or what diseases they should be vaccinated against, please phone the veterinarian to book an appointment and to make sure you keep your animals safe from potentially fatal diseases.

© 2018 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty.) Ltd.

Frequently Asked Questions about Rabies

Aggressive Cat with 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.

My child was bitten by a mouse (shrew, rat or monkey). Must he or she receive anti-rabies treatment?
If bitten by shrew or rat then contracting rabies is not likely, however, seek medical attention to treat bite wound as they can become infected. If bitten by a monkey, depending on the behaviour of the animal, anti-rabies treatment may be indicated, seek medical attention.

Must I have my cat vaccinated against rabies?
Yes. Rabies vaccination is required by law every 3 years, however preferably should be done annually.

I have been bitten by a dog. The dog is very aggressive and frequently bites people. What must I do?
Treat the wound immediately by flushing the wound for 5 – 10 minutes. Seek medical attention immediately where the doctor will determine whether vaccination and RIG therapy is required. Whereabouts and description of the aggressive dog should be reported to the authorities as a dog has bitten many people and is a risk to the population.  

I was bitten by a rabid dog four days ago and I was given rabies vaccine within a day of the incident but no RIG was administered. What must I do now?
RIG therapy is required. It can be given up to 7 days after the 1st vaccination. A person that has received RIG therapy should be observed afterwards for an hour for any harmful side effects

My farm staff dug up the carcass of a rabies-positive cow that had been buried a day ago. The staff then consumed the meat of this carcass. What must be done now?
Seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY. The farm staff will probably require vaccinations and RIG therapy. Destroy the remaining meat from the rabies positive cow by either burning or burying.

We have been drinking the milk of a rabid cow up to the day she was destroyed. What should be done?
Seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY.  Vaccination and RIG will post probably be indicated. Bury the remaining milk from the rabies positive cow.

What is the earliest age that I may vaccinate my puppy or kitten of rabies?
3 months

Is it safe to give rabies vaccine at the same time as other dog vaccines, e.g. distemper, parvo and hepatitis?
Yes

What side-effects will rabies vaccination have on my animal?
Animals may vomit,  have facial swelling, fever or lethargy. In rare instances, animals may experience anaphylactic shock, paralysis or death. However, the side effects of the rabies vaccine rarely occur and should not prevent you from getting your animals vaccinated regularly.

One of my dogs is positive for rabies. What should I do about my other animals?
It depends on your remaining dogs’ vaccination history. If your dogs have had no vaccinations then they will be humanely destroyed. If they have had rabies vaccinations by a registered veterinarian or authorised official and you have proof of these vaccinations, then the dogs will receive a rabies vaccination booster on day 0 and day 3, the dogs will be placed in quarantine for 6 months, and if there is no change in behaviour, then the dogs can be released from quarantine.

How soon after vaccination are my dogs protected against rabies?
7 – 10 days

Should wild animals which are kept as pets be vaccinated against rabies?
Wild animals should be vaccinated against rabies however the immune response would be unknown as current rabies vaccine is tested for domestic animals.

My cow was positive for rabies. What must I do about this cow’s calf and the other cattle that were in contact with this cow?
Contact your state veterinarian. He/she will decide if humane slaughter or isolation and vaccination is necessary.

My dog and cat were vaccinated during a rabies campaign. However, I do not have any documentary proof that vaccination was done. Should there be contact with rabid animals, what is their vaccination status?
Your dogs’ and cats’ vaccination history is considered unknown and would, therefore, be considered not up to date. Blood can be taken and a rabies titre determined. If greater then 0.5iu/ml then this indicates that the animal has adequate protection against rabies, and should be kept isolated from other animals for 6 months, if there is no change in behaviour then the animal can be released.  If the titre is less then 0.5iu/ml, contact your State Veterinarian to find out the next step as there was the only contact between your pets and a rabid animal and no report of a bite. The next step could be quarantine or humane destruction.  Getting and keeping a formal record of Rabies vaccination is critically important and as it is governed by law it is like driving without a driver’s licence.

Can rabies be transmitted between people?
Yes but only if a rabid human bites another person or receives an organ/blood transfusion from a rabid human.

I was bitten by a mongoose two weeks ago. What should I do?
Seek medical attention immediately even 2 weeks after the bite. Wound treatment, vaccination and RIG therapy can be started.

Can birds contract rabies?
No

What part do bats play in rabies transmission in South Africa?
The risk of rabies transmission is highest in bats that feed on blood. Vampire bats are not found in South Africa. It is unlikely that a bat that usually feeds on fruit, insects or pollen would contract rabies. However, bats are mammals and can, therefore, contract Rabies and an accidental scratch or bite from infected bats could potentially cause rabies in a person.  Rabid animals lose their fear of humans and as unsolicited aggression is a known symptom of Rabies, it should always be considered a possibility if a human is bitten by a bat.

Can clinical rabies in humans be treated?
The treatment for clinical rabies involves sedation, pain management, and the maintenance of fluid and electrolyte balance. There is no cure for clinical rabies in humans and in most cases the disease is fatal. Family members should be informed of the poor prognosis and receive the necessary counselling and support that they need.

© 2018 Vetwebsites – The Code Company Trading (Pty.) Ltd.