Responsible animal ownership begins with primary preventative health care. This includes:
- flea and tick control
Common parasites in dogs and cats
Fleas are a huge problem in the Port Elizabeth area. We have the ideal climate-warmth and humidity. Fleas thrive in dirt, dust and leaf litter.
The lifecycle of the flea is complicated and makes fleas very difficult to get rid of. The lifecycle consists of an egg, larva, pupa and adult flea. We only see the adult flea and sometimes the eggs-what we see is only 15 % of the actual problem. An adult flea can lay 50 eggs a day which equates to 2000 eggs in her life time. The lifecycle takes 2-4 weeks to complete especially in the ideal climate. The larva can persist in the environment for a very long time. The black dirt we see on the pets turns red when it gets wet. This is the excretion of the flea and is made up mostly of blood.
Why do fleas cause a problem?
Fleas cause a mild to severe irritation to your dog or cat. They can cause the animal to ‘scoot' or pull themselves along the floor. Fleas can cause a very severe allergic skin problem (dermatitis) and can cause anaemia (blood loss) which can make your pet very ill.
In dogs fleas will often be seen around the base of the tail and behind the ears. In cats they are often seen under the chin, behind the ears and around the anus.
Flea allergic dermatitis (FAD):
This can become a very major problem for your pet and is a lifelong condition. It accounts for most of the itchy dogs and cats that are seen by vets. FAD tends to get worse every year and is most problematic in summer. The signs are continuous itching and scratching. In dogs it always occurs on the dogs back and tail base and in cats can present as a very itchy face/sores around the head and hair loss on their back. Some breeds of dogs-especially large dogs with thick fur, often get ‘hotspots' which are large very red sores that develop quickly.
It is very important to have an integrated approach in order to control fleas effectively. This consists of treating all your animals, the environment and preventing re-infestation. It is very important to treat all the dogs and cats in your household with a reliable flea product. There are various flea products available eg. Bravecto, Seresto and Nexgard. Make sure it has both an adulticide to kill the adult fleas, and a growth regulator to prevent the eggs from hatching in your home. Use environmental sprays in the home to kill the eggs eg.*Fleago and Ultrum Ultimate. *These products are available in our practice shop.
If your dog has very long, thick hair you can have the hair cut or shaved.
Do not bath the animals too regularly. This just washes all the flea products out of their coat. The products need the natural oils in the skin to work effectively.
If your dog swims regularly make sure that you use products that allow for this eg. tablets like Bravecto
Use a reliable product regularly - as recommended
- Not treating all the dogs and cats in the home
- Use the product at the correct dosing intervals as recommended by the manufacturer
- Make sure the product is the right strength for the animal. This depends on their size and weight.
- Use the correct formulation for the coat type .g. Sprays work better in long haired dogs.
Important: Make sure the product bought is safe for the species you are going to use it on. Cats are very susceptible to poisoning. Make sure that it is safe for puppies and kittens
- Sweep, clean and vacuum regularly.
- Clean in all cracks and gaps
- Clean your car regularly if you take your pets out in it often
- Clean your pet's bedding and sleeping areas thoroughly.
- Get the neighbours to treat their animals too.
Veterinary flea products
These are products that are sold by veterinarians that have very thorough products research and safely trials and back up product support. The veterinary staff are trained about the use and safety of these products in dogs and cats. Some examples include *Bravecto, Seresto, Revolution.
There are four common worms in dogs and cats
Roundworm is very common in puppies and kittens. They can sometimes been seen in the faeces and look like ‘spaghetti'.
Hookworm can affect people and can cause skin rashes.
Tapeworm can often be seen as small white ‘rice grains' on the hair around the dog or cat's anus. Tapeworm is carried by fleas and can affect people.
Very young, old and sickly animals are more prone to worms. Puppies and kitten can get them from their mother while suckling so it is important to treat pregnant animals with a safe dewormer.
Why do worms cause problems?
Worms suck blood from animals. They can use up a lot of the animal's nutrients and can make the animals very ill. Anaemia can occur- this is when a lot of blood loss has occurred and the animal's blood becomes thin. They become tired, get fast breathing and can die. Worms can also cause gastroenteritis problems like vomiting, loss of appetite and diarrhoea. As previously mentioned this can affect people too.
Choosing a dewormer:
- Make sure you buy it from a reliable source.
- Make sure it safe to use on your dog or cat
- If you have a puppy or a kitten, make sure the dewormer is safe to use on them.
Make sure you give the correct dose. Dewomers depend on the weight of the animals so have some idea of your pet's weight before you buy the dewormer.
- Make sure it treats all the different types of worms
How often should I deworm my pets?
Puppies and kittens can be dewormed with some dewormers from two weeks of age. They should be dewormed every 2 weeks. They will normally be done by the vet with their vaccinations. Animals up to the age of one year should be dewormed every three months after their initial two weekly dosing and then should be done every 4 months. If you have flea problems you must deal with this too, as fleas carry tapeworm and can become difficult to control.
Ticks occur in the Eastern Cape and tend to be worse in summer-although they occur all year round.
There are two types of ticks that can affect dogs and cats.
1. The kennel tick
2. The yellow dog tick.
The small red ticks seen are the male of the species and the large grey ones are the females - full of eggs. The kennel ticks likes to hide in cracks and crevices and in kennels. Ticks suck blood from dogs and cats and can cause diseases.
Why should I worry about ticks?
Ticks cause the animal irritation. They suck blood and can cause anaemia. Ticks also carry tick bite fever which can affect people. Both dogs and cats can get ticks bite fever. These diseases are not contagious and the animal or persons must be bitten by the tick in order to contract the disease.
Tick bite fever in dogs: This is also known as Biliary. This is a life threatening disease. The dog usually loses its appetite, becomes lethargic and the gums may become pale.
Ehrlichiosis in dogs: This is also known as ‘bosluis byt koors'. This is less well know than biliary but can cause an equally serious disease. It is a much more chronic disease and can cause anaemia and severe changes in the dog's immune system and blood count.
Tick bite fever in cats: This is a disease that is fairly unique to the Eastern Cape. It is carried by ticks although the tick is rarely seen as cats often remove them themselves. It can cause a slow weight loss, lethargy and anaemia of the cat and they can become very yellow (icteric).
If you suspect any of these diseases you must take your pet to the vet as they are all life-threatening.
How do I control ticks?
Use a reliable tick product regularly. Be very careful that it is safe to use one your animal as many products can cause poisoning. Products come in sprays, topspots and collars eg. Fronline,Advantix or Preventic.
Keep the grass at home short.
You may need to use an environmental product to treat the environment if you have a severe tick problem
Avoid areas where you know there are lots of ticks.
Vaccinations in dogs and cats
What are vaccinations?
Vaccines are specially prepared biological products that activate your pet's immune system to fight certain diseases. When the animal is then challenged by the disease the immune system will recognise it and stop it developing.
Vaccines are normally against viral diseases that have no cure. Most of these diseases are life-threatening.
Diseases that we vaccinate against in dogs
Parvovirus: also known as ‘cat flu' or ‘kat-griep'
It is very contagious and normally attacks young puppies. The virus can live in the environment for 6 months and is very hard to get rid of. It causes loss of appetite, continual vomiting, pain and bloody diarrhoea. Puppies can die within 24 hours. They need intensive medical treatment to keep them alive.
Distemper: also known as ‘honde-siekte'
This affects dogs of all ages. It is airborne and spreads easily. The disease has two stages. The dog first gets a very high fever, pus in the eyes and nose, a cough and vomiting or diarrhoea. They can recover from this only to develop brain signs such as muscle twitches and convulsions. Dogs with these symptoms cannot be cured.
This causes fever, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, severe pain and jaundice. Dogs with hepatitis die very easily.
It is actually law in South Africa to have all dogs and cats regularly vaccinated against rabies. Rabies is a disease that people can get and it is very serious. Rabies is carried by dogs and in Port Elizabeth the mongoose can carry it.
This is not a life-threatening disease but it is highly contagious. Dogs get a dry hacking cough for 7-10 days and the cough spreads through all the dogs in the household. If dogs are going to the kennels then they need this extra vaccination.
Age of Vaccination
1st: 6-8 weeks of age
2nd: 10-12 weeks of age
3rd: 14-16 weeks of age
Thereafter an annual booster.
It is very important that a puppy gets all 3 initial vaccinations and then their annual booster.
It is very important to keep puppies away from public areas until 10 days after their 3rd vaccination as until then they are not fully protected.
Vaccinations in cats
Cats are equally susceptible to contagious diseases. These diseases are mostly different to dog diseases with the exception of rabies. Cat diseases often spread easily as they are transferred by fighting and biting or through food bowls and litter trays.
Feline Panleukopaenia virus:
This mostly affects young cats and spreads very easily. It causes severe vomiting, depression, pain and bloody diarrhoea. Cats can die easily.
‘Snuffles' consists of a few diseases that cause similar symptoms. The diseases include Herpes virus, Calici virus, Chlamydia and Bordetella.
Sneezing, coughing and runny eyes are the main symptoms. The cats can become very depressed and stop eating and drinking. ‘Snuffles' is highly contagious and can recur throughout the cat's life.
Feline Leukaemia virus:
This is a viral disease that can cause a variety of symptoms. It can be transmitted from a mother cat during pregnancy. It is also transmitted through fighting and biting and through shared bowls and litter trays. Outdoor cats are at an increased risk to this disease.
Leukaemia virus can cause loss of appetite, high fever, weight loss, anaemia and can develop into various forms of cancer. There is no cure for feline Leukaemia virus.
Feline Immunodeficiency virus: ‘Cat Aids'
This is a viral disease that causes a suppression of the cat's immune system and thus makes the cat susceptible to a large variety of diseases. It is also a fatal disease and is transmitted through fighting and biting.
Age of vaccination
1st: 8-10 weeks of age
2nd: 12-14 weeks of age
3rd: 16-18 weeks of age
Thereafter an annual booster maintains their immunity.
Remember: Prevention is better than cure and sometimes there is no cure!