SA’s pet care industry on the rise

Image: Pixabay

Many a pet owner treats their furry companions as vital members of the family. According to a 2017 study by Boomerang Africa conducted in six countries, including South Africa, 72% of South African families laugh at least once a day because of something their pet does, such as kissing, licking or chasing someone or something.

It is no surprise then that pet owners want to do the best they can for their “fur kids”.

“The global trends of pet parenting and pet humanisation whereby pet owners regard pets as members of the family has filtered down to the South African pet care industry, encouraging consumers to spend more on pet products, spoiling their pets as one might spoil a child,” reads the South African Pet Care Industry Landscape Report from Insight Survey.

“As result of this, South African pet owners have become more vigilant in their purchases of pet care products, opting for products and services that treat pets as part of the family.”

While the pet food industry has taken off locally, there are booming opportunities for other sorts of businesses.

Pet insurance

This service, says Juanita Aitkenhead, founder and Editor of the Pet Health Care website, provides financial cover for a medical procedure or emergency on a dog or cat. Some plans also offer a limit on routine care like vaccinations.

“It definitely has grown over the past five years because people have realised they need insurance because vet care has become so expensive,” she says.

One visit to the vet can cost R800-R4 500, she says, depending on what type of pet you have and what is wrong.

Along with improved veterinary technology, she says, vets needs to understand the anatomy of many animals so their education is more intense compared to a normal doctor.

She advises people to read the fine print of their cover carefully and to take out insurance immediately on getting a pet. “People must keep in mind and understand once an animal is diagnosed with any illness, that will be excluded from the pet insurance cover if you get cover after the diagnosis.”

Pet-specific products: ‘Catios’

Morne Combrink saw a gap in the market in 2012 when he met many pet owners through an animal charity who asked for a way to keep their pets safe while they were outdoors. “People wanted to protect their pets from getting lost or killed in an accident,” he says.

He started Pet Safety Solutions last year and specialises in constructing enclosures for pets. These enclosures can be an extension from a window or any access point from the house. A “catio”, he says, is a concept from the USA and Europe that is gaining popularity in SA. Simply put, it is enclosing an existing patio for specifically, you guessed it, a cat.

Completed a large catio today. The rain did hamper us a little bit, but we got the roof done just in time ???

Posted by Pet Safety Solutions on Saturday, 20 October 2018

“I’d say 80% of what I build are for cats because it is so difficult to keep cats in your property,” Combrink  says. “Dog enclosures have been less popular. I am getting a lot of requests from shelters to upgrade their existing infrastructure.”

With a two-week waiting list of clients, he says he’s noticed that this is taking off in SA. Each of his jobs are custom-built to cater to the property and home. “It must be aesthetically pleasing and blend in with the property. It must also be built so it can be easily removed.”

Pet-specific: cat ‘wine’

An American company, Apollo Peak, also specialises in a non-alcoholic “wine” for cats. Though not yet available in SA, The Pinot Meow – yes, really – is made from organically grown cat nip, fresh beetroot and natural preservatives to help hold the taste and colour.

SA's pet care

Pet sitters and other accommodation

When pet owners go on holiday, someone has to look after their pets. If there is no family member or friend available to help out, options include taking the pet to a hotel, kennel or cattery or hiring a pet sitter.

“People now have a luxury touch to kennels and catteries,” observes Aitkenhead. She says it is a wonderful opportunity for people who love animals and want to start business around pets.

However, people need to do their research, she advises, and know how to maintain high levels of hygiene to keep disease from spreading, or know when to limit the number of pets, and how to separate different types of animals.

Much like a baby sitter operates, a pet sitter will either visit a pet owner’s home when they are away to take care of the pet (services include feeding the pet, cleaning the poop and so on), or stay at the owner’s home to do the same thing.

“Pet owners like when the sitter send feedback, photos of the dog or cat – that increases the credibility with the owner,” says Aitkenhead

“Some sitters charge R60 for visit, and it can go up R450 a day if they are staying over.”

She advises people who are looking for pet sitters to be specific about their requirements and then to get a quote.


Joburg is teeming with wild animals, and this vet takes care of them for free

Joburg wild animals vet care free

The belief by some foreigners that the streets of Johannesburg are roamed by wildlife is often ridiculed as ignorance.

Which is, of course, partly true. One is not often chased by a cheetah as you make your way to the Gautrain station.

But behind the city’s many shrubs, in its leafy trees and suburban gardens, lurk a plethora of wild creatures feasting on the city’s many offerings – from rats and mice to Parktown prawns and smaller insects.

Bats and owls are commonly spotted in the city’s suburbs, but foxes, genets, meerkats, and the odd porcupine or caracal make the busy city of gold their homes.

Add to that the many exotic wild animals that are kept as pets and you find a city living up to its reputation of one of the world’s biggest urban jungles.

On the outskirts of the city, in Glenferness, close to Midrand, after passing upmarket shopping centres and corporate buildings, one finds a short stretch of a dirt road that leads to the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Centre (JWVC) – the first of its kind in that it funds a wildlife veterinary hospital that exclusively treats indigenous wildlife, free of charge.

It is an unassuming place at first glance, with no obvious indication of the sheer variety of wildlife being nursed in its many enclosures.

Dr Karin Lourens is the centre’s resident veterinarian and one of the founders of the JWVC, along with wildlife rehabilitation specialists Penelope Morkel and Nicci Wright, opening its doors in March last year.

In addition to Lourens, Morkel and Wright, assistants and volunteers also contribute to the running of the hospital. 

While Lourens had been a suburban veterinarian for close to two decades, she has specialised in wild animals for the past seven years and is reading toward her master’s degree that focuses on the normal serum chemistry and haematology levels in the African pangolin.

Lourens is keen to introduce the many creatures she and her team of rehabilitation experts and assistants care for.

But on the otter side…

The first is a six-month-old African clawless otter that emerges from her shelter, keenly embracing her human visitors. She brushes up to one almost like a domestic cat, curls with pleasure as she receives belly rubs while nibbling at one’s fingers like a canine pup.

“She was kept on a leash by her owners and taken for walks in shopping centres in Fouriesburg before she was confiscated by the SPCA,” Lourens says.    

The otter was then taken in by the JWVC, where the process of readying her for an independent existence can take up to two years.

“They stay with their mums for two years [in nature] and have to be taught to eat and swim.”

Once she is a year old, she would be introduced to a larger, pre-release enclosure, Lourens explains. After some encouragement, she would ultimately just reintegrate into the wild.

And this is what the centre does for all its animals. It is not a petting zoo or exotic pet shop. Each animal that can be nursed back to health or raised to an appropriate age is released into the wild.

According to Lourens, wild animals, especially mammals, are never really imprinted, meaning that they never become fully tame or accept humans. “They wild up quite quickly.”

The centre currently hosts around 60 animals ranging from tortoises and bats to a porcupine and pangolins.

Most animals confiscated

“Most of the animals have been confiscated,” Lourens says.

Meerkats, especially, are popular pets until they become aggressive and troublesome. “People don’t realise that these are herd animals, they like to be together.” This explains why they become aggressive when kept on their own, often attacking other domestic pets and humans. And reintroducing them to other meerkats can take as long as eight months because they are some of the most aggressive animals on earth, believe it or not.

Around the corner of the meerkat enclosure is a Cape fox, kept by people who thought it was a jackal. After it was mauled by its owners’ domestic dogs, she was taken to a Fourways vet before landing up at the JWVH.

Joburg wild animals vet care free

The Cape fox. (Supplied.)

Not all wild animals are confiscated, though.

“We’ve found foxes in Soweto, for example.”

In another enclosure, a juvenile genet curiously approaches us, effortlessly making its way down a branch to inspect her unknown visitors. She is one of four currently kept at the centre.

As her three mates look on, the only genet brave enough to approach us brushes its head against my hand and welcomes a few strokes to its soft spotted fur. Its mannerisms could easily be compared to that of felines, but they are not family of cats by a long shot.  

“Genets are found all over Joburg,” Lourens says.

“They are nocturnal and live in trees. They feed on rodents and especially Parktown prawns. Those are their favourites. People who keep chickens find them problematic, though. It’s like a KFC for them.”

Killed for body parts

A pair of vervet monkeys welcome us next, although the male takes great displeasure in my presence.

“He knows you are male,” explains Lourens.

“He doesn’t like you being here. If you had a beard, it would be even worse.”

I’m silently relieved that I took a shave the day before. 

Apart from being kept as pets, vervet monkeys are often also killed for their body parts by sangomas.

“Sometimes their arms are cut off while they’re still alive.”

The monkeys were brought here following a sting operation in collaboration with the SPCA and the SAPS.

The monkeys end up at a rehabilitation centre in Tzaneen, which specialises in primates. 

Here they are kept in quarantine for a month to ensure they don’t have tuberculosis – a disease they contract from contact with humans.

Joburg wild animals vet care free

A young porcupine being bottle-fed. (Supplied.)

A baby Nile crocodile peeks from its enclosure. Bought as an exotic pet, this reptile is one of many that end up at rehab centres once owners realise they can’t take care of them – especially when they grow up. “When they reach about 1.5 metres, people call us in a panic to come and fetch them… They are very dangerous. They end up eating people’s cats, for example.”

The problem, according to Lourens, is that people don’t need permits to keep exotic animals as pets.

“You can keep a tiger if you want. You only need permits for indigenous animals.”

Lourens can’t hide her dislike for institutions that “rehabilitate” wild animals but don’t release them back into the wild, instead using the animals as tourist attractions.

‘A sanctuary is just a zoo’

“While many of these have good intentions, it’s never a good idea to raise wild animals to be petted and touched by the public. A sanctuary is just another name for a zoo.

“Every animal we take in must be released into the wild. If it cannot be nursed back to health, it unfortunately needs to be euthanised.”

My 13-year-old companion and I are shown a trio of barn owls, one of a few owl species being treated at the centre.

“Owls are great at pest control because they feed on mice and rats.”

In a separate enclosure, some spotted eagle owls stare at us with huge, piercing, bright eyes.

These are often spotted in Joburg.

“Urban areas attract a lot of wild animals because it is so filthy here. It attracts vermin and these animals feed on it.”

After being shown a variety of different species of bat, my young companion and I are introduced to Porcie, a young porcupine who curiously nibbles at the points of my shoes. It scurries about and I take care to stay out of way of its quills.

“They don’t shoot their quills like arrows,” Lourens puts my mind at ease.

“They would push themselves into whatever threatens them, and the quills remain behind.”  

Lourens’ true love is the pangolin, an animal that she has been studying closely and is passionate about conserving. On the wall of the surgery hangs an impressive painting of the animal etched against the African sunset, signed by Johan Lourens – our guide’s father.

Lourens opens a large wooden box and in it, for the first time, I lay my eyes on the elusive, magnificent creature. This particular specimen was confiscated from a man who wanted to sell it for R1 million.

Joburg wild animals vet care free

Dr Karin Lourens with a pangolin. (Supplied.)

Pangolins are poached at an alarming rate, according to Lourens, as their scales are considered medicinal in Asian countries – much like rhino horn.

Getting close to a pangolin is a surreal experience. It lies curled up in its wooden container and raises its head slightly as I run my hand across its scales. Its scales have an unfamiliar feel to the touch, like hundreds of oversized toenails. Which, ironically, is a fair comparison, as its scales and human nails are made of the same substance – keratin. 

“This year alone, 60 tons of scales were found – that’s 400 000 individual animals that were killed,” Lourens says.

“Combine elephant, rhino, lions… you don’t get close to that number.”

According to Lourens, it is impossible to determine how many pangolins are left in the world. They are nocturnal and live underground and in enclosed areas such as caves.

“Their scales are so tough that an adult lion can’t penetrate them. That’s how they have survived for 80 million years, because they have no natural predator.

“They now have only one enemy – humans.”

The JWVH relies only on donations for its survival and needs at least R80 000 per month to keep its doors open. Taking care of the pangolins alone costs R1 000 per day per animal. These donations all come from private individuals.

“Our big aim is to find a corporate sponsor to get involved. We’re using our own vehicles [to relocate animals] and we have expensive equipment.”

Lourens says she loves her work. “Every day is different. It’s never boring. I love everything about it.”

Taking the dirt road back to Main Road and quickly driving past a Pick n Pay and KFC outlet in Lone Hill, it feels surreal to have, minutes before, been surrounded by a zoological motley crew, right in the middle of Johannesburg, who – through the sheer dedication of Lourens and her team – will soon be back where they belong: in nature.

If you would like to get involved, find the JWVH here and here.

Source: News 24

Doggie Dementia

Doggie Dementia

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCD) is a heart-breaking condition where a dog’s brain undergoes the process of ageing which may bring about a decline in their level of awareness, learning and memory capacity as well as their reaction to stimuli. The onset of symptoms is generally minor, but over time, they get progressively worse. Unfortunately, 50% of dogs older than 11 years of age display clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction. By the age of 15 years, 68% of dogs show at least one sign.

Signs and Symptoms

  • anxiety
  • increased irritability
  • reduced interest in playing
  • appetite loss
  • changes in sleeping patterns
  • disorientation and confusion
  • reduced learning capabilities
  • failure to recall learned house rules and training
  • urinary and faecal incontinence
  • reduced interest in self-grooming
  • unnecessary licking

Symptoms of CCD can coincide with age-related issues such as diabetes, arthritis, kidney conditions, cancer as well as sight and hearing loss so it’s important that you distinguish between the actual reasons your dog isn’t behaving as they used to. Perhaps they’ve stopped chasing their tail due to painful aches. On the other hand, it could be due to a progressive cognitive decline.

A very helpful acronym that helps pet parents decipher if there’s more than meets the eye to their pooch’s condition is DISHA. DISHA was created to assist owners in distinguishing the obvious CCD symptoms and changes.

  • Disorientation and Spacial Awareness Issues – One of the most common signs is when a dog gets confused in their familiar environment. They may crawl behind an object and be unable to get out from behind it; they may enter or exit through the wrong door or stare blankly at a wall instead of doing something they’d typically do at that time of day.
  • Interactions: Your pooch might usually be the social butterfly on the block, but you gradually notice that they begin snapping or growling at dogs or children they used to be friendly to. In order to discount any physical conditions that could potentially be causing them pain, such as diabetes or arthritis, your vet will need to take blood tests, X-rays and ultrasounds. Your pooch may not show as much enthusiasm towards activities or treats that they once used to.
  • Sleep-Wake Cycle Changes A change in normal sleep patterns is a common symptom of CCD. Many pooches appear to interchange their daytime activities with their night time activities. If, for example, your dog used to sleep soundly but now paces most of the night, try leaving a light on for them or playing white noise for them. If this is unsuccessful in aiding their sleep issues, consult your vet for medication that may restore their sleep pattern.
  • House Soiling If your pooch is house-trained and suddenly begins “doing their business” indoors, this could be a vivid indication of CCD. Your dog has most probably lost the ability to control their elimination or forgotten where to eliminate entirely. If diabetes, bladder infections or kidney issues have been discounted from the equation, one can presume there’s been a cognitive decline.
  • Activity Level Although most dogs tend to become less active with age, those with CCD exhibit changes in how they respond to people, sounds and other stimuli in their environment. They may not find the enthusiasm to greet or play with you as they once did, they may display repetitive motions such as walking in circles, bobbing of the head or shaking of the legs. This behaviour is usually linked to deterioration of the brain and less likely to be confused with other conditions. Pet parents should also acknowledge that something isn’t right if their usually serene pooch begins barking unexpectedly and unnecessarily.

If you notice anything peculiar along these abovementioned lines, consult your veterinarian immediately.


Your veterinarian will require a thorough account of your dog’s medical history as well as when you initially noticed associated symptoms and the nature thereof. It’s also useful to mention any likely occurrences that may have triggered the abnormal behaviour or complications. Once a physical examination has been conducted by your vet to assess your pooch’s overall health and cognitive performance, ultrasounds, X-rays and blood tests will be carried out to discount other conditions that may be linked to cognitive dysfunction syndrome.


Unfortunately, there is no way to stop cognitive deterioration, but it is possible to decelerate the process so that the number of problems that potentially arise can be minimised.

By feeding your pooch a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants, vitamin C and E, flavonoids, beta carotenoids, selenium and carnitine carotene as well as enhancing your furry loves one’s environment, you may increase their chance of cognitive improvement. Keeping your fur child mentally and physically stimulated with food puzzles, frequent scheduled play sessions, walks and socialising with other dogs, are vital to arouse their brain activity and enhance their learning and memory capabilities.

Your veterinarian may also prescribe psychoactive medication and dietary supplements to hinder your pooch’s cognitive decline. This will be introduced in accordance with your dog’s medical history and current health status.


Your pooch should be regularly assessed by your veterinarian to evaluate how they are responding to treatment as well as if there have been any developments in their symptoms. You will need to update your vet immediately if any further changes in their behaviour arise. If, however, your dog’s behaviour appears stable, bi-annual check-ups will suffice unless further issues surface.  

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

Pedigree: Get Active With Your Dogs on Take a Walk in the Park Day

Pedigree walk


What better way to spend Take a Walk in the Park Day on 30 March than with your dogs at one of Johannesburg’s many dog walking parks? Not only will you and your canine companion get physically active, you will escape Joburg’s frenetic pace for a little while.

Senior Brand Manager for Pedigree at Mars Africa, Ashleigh Sanderson, says Johannesburg has some beautiful parks where trained and socialised dogs can run, explore and meet other canine friends. “Most of the parks are large and scattered around the city, which means there is somewhere for everyone to take their dogs.

“The recent rain also means the parks are particularly lush at the moment, giving park-goers the opportunity to commune with nature and release some of the stress of their daily lives,” she adds.

Because Pedigree Dentastix loves dogs so much, it has identified a few dog-friendly parks in Joburg that will get pooches straining on the leash to run, sniff around and generally have fun.

Emmarentia Dam

The Greenside-based park is a mere six kilometres from Joburg’s city centre and a popular spot to give dogs free reign to explore the open spaces and frolic in the water. The park is open seven days a week, from 08:00 to 18:00. Dog owners are welcome to take a picnic basket or enjoy light refreshments at the café on the grounds. Parking attendants patrol the main parking areas.

For more information, call (011) 782 1193 or (011) 782 7064

Sandton Field and Study Centre

Another great park for pooches and their owners is the Sandton Field and Study Centre in Parkmore with its impressive trees and major Joburg waterway – the Braamfontein Spruit – running through it. Entrance is free, security 24/7 and visiting times are from sunrise to sunset. Dogs will delight in the space, with their leashes on or off, and there’s a dog-friendly Field Market on the first Saturday of the month.

For more information, call (011) 783 7407

Kingfisher Park (Fourways)

If you’re looking for some a little more intimate, Kingfisher Park in Fourways offers a smaller 12-hectare park that allows dogs to be on or off their leashes. It is open from 08:00 to 18:00 and dogs will delight at the opportunity to run, chase a ball or just sniff around happily.

For more information, call (011) 712 6600

Huddle Park Golf & Recreation

If you and your furry friends enjoy working up a sweat on a walking or running trail (up to 10km), then Huddle Park in Linksfield is the perfect place for you. The entrance fee for a group of four (people and dogs) is R50 and trained and socialised dogs can run free in the dog walking park. In autumn and winter, the park is open from 08:00 to 17:00 on Mondays and from 06:30 to 17:00 from Tuesdays to Sundays. In spring and summer, the park is open from 08:00 to 18:00 on Mondays and from 06:30 to 18:00 from Tuesdays to Sundays. There is also a restaurant where water bowls are available for four-legged friends.

For more information, call (011) 640 4456

Sanderson says there are many more parks in Johannesburg that welcome dogs – on or off their leashes. “It really is just a matter of exploring your neighbourhood and finding out which parks are dog-friendly. Even if you have a relatively big garden, dogs gain some much from a walk, sniffing around and socialising with other dogs – it’s like doggie Facebook for them.”

Source: Mars Africa

Story Behind Viral ‘Giant’ Cow Is Actually Really Sad

Giant’ Cow

Story Behind Viral ‘Giant’ Cow Is Actually Really Sad

There’s no denying that this cow stands out from the herd.

Towering over his cow friends at 6 feet 4 inches tall, Knickers the Holstein is a lovable giant who stole the hearts of people all over the world this week after his story went viral.

But the truth behind his story is much more heartbreaking, says Susie Coston, national shelter director of Farm Sanctuary.

Knickers actually isn’t a giant — it’s just that people don’t usually get to see an adult, full-grown Holstein like him. They’re usually slaughtered right after their second birthdays, Coston said.

“People freak out when they see our adult Holsteins in person,” Coston said. “They’ve never been around cows so big. They are outstanding animals.”

If a Holstein does reach adulthood, like 7-year-old Knickers, then they’re simply too large to fit through the butchering equipment. That’s the reason Knickers has been spared by his owner, Geoff Pearson, a cattle farmer from Australia.

Pearson says the steer is the clear patriarch of his herd, often showing the smaller cows where they should walk and graze, and protecting them from danger.

In Coston’s experience, Holstein steers are some of the gentlest and sweetest animals — and often become herd leaders because of it. But Knickers’ role will likely have a devastating toll on him, Coston says.

“I’m sure Knickers is happy to be with other cows, but the sad part is those animals will just keep being sent away [to slaughter],” Coston said. “I can’t even put into words how heartbreaking that must be for him. These are herd animals; their herd is their family. ”


These Are The ‘Smartest’ Dog Breeds, According to a Canine Psychologist

Smartest dog breeds

There’s no easy way to rate dog intelligence. It can be focused on more than one thing.

As canine psychologist Stanley Coren wrote back in the ’90s, there’s adaptive intelligence (i.e., figuring stuff out), working intelligence (i.e. following orders), and instinctive intelligence (i.e. innate talent) – not to mention spatial intelligence, kinesthetic intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, and more.

Indeed, as animal behaviourist Frans de Waal has argued, humans tend to judge animal intelligence in limited and unfair terms and often bungle the experiment.

While labs at Yale, Duke, and around the world are studying this question, for now, we do at least have data on one metric: working intelligence.

Coren, in his book, The Intelligence of Dogs, featured the results of a lengthy survey of 199 dog obedience judges.

The responses, he said, were remarkably consistent; however, he noted that many judges pointed out that there are exceptions in every breed and that a lot comes down to training.

Here’s what he found:

Top tier – the brightest working dogs, who tend to learn a new command in less than five exposures and obey at least 95 percent of the time.

'Smartest' Dog Breeds, According to a Canine Psychologist

1. Border collie
2. Poodle
3. German shepherd
4. Golden retriever
5. Doberman pinscher
6. Shetland sheepdog
7. Labrador retriever
8. Papillon
9. Rottweiler
10. Australian cattle dog

Second tier – excellent working dogs, who tend to learn a new command in five to 15 exposures and obey at least 85 percent of the time.

Smartest dog breeds

11. Pembroke Welsh corgi
12. Miniature schnauzer
13. English springer spaniel
14. Belgian Tervuren
15. Schipperke, Belgian sheepdog
16. Collie Keeshond
17. German short-haired pointer
18. Flat-coated retriever, English cocker spaniel, Standard schnauzer
19. Brittany spaniel
20. Cocker spaniel, Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever
21. Weimaraner
22. Belgian Malinois, Bernese mountain dog
23. Pomeranian
24. Irish water spaniel
25. Vizsla
26. Cardigan Welsh corgi

Third tier – above-average working dogs, who tend to learn a new trick in 15 to 25 repetitions and obey at least 70 percent of the time.

27. Chesapeake Bay retriever, Puli, Yorkshire terrier
28. Giant schnauzer, Portuguese water dog
29. Airedale, Bouv Flandres
30. Border terrier, Briard
31. Welsh springer spaniel
32. Manchester terrier
33. Samoyed
34. Field spaniel, Newfoundland, Australian terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Gordon setter, Bearded collie
35. American Eskimo dog, Cairn terrier, Kerry blue terrier, Irish setter
36. Norwegian elkhound
37. Affenpinscher, Silky terrier, Miniature pinscher, English setter, Pharaoh hound, Clumber spaniel
38. Norwich terrier
39. Dalmatian

Fourth tier – average working dogs, who tend to learn a new trick in 25 to 40 repetitions and obey at least 50 percent of the time.

Smartest dog breeds

40. Soft-coated wheaten terrier, Bedlington terrier, Smooth-haired fox terrier
41. Curly-coated retriever, Irish wolfhound
42. Kuvasz, Australian shepherd
44. Cavalier King Charles spaniel, German wirehaired pointer, Black-and-tan coonhound, American water spaniel
45. Siberian husky, Bichon Frise, English toy spaniel
46. Tibetan spaniel, English foxhound, Otterhound, American foxhound, Greyhound, Harrier, Parson Russel terrier, Wirehaired pointing griffon
47. West Highland white terrier, Havanese, Scottish deerhound
48. Boxer, Great Dane
49. Dachshund, Staffordshire bull terrier, Shiba Inu
50. Malamute
51. Whippet, Wirehaired fox terrier
52. Rhodesian ridgeback
53. Ibizan hound, Welsh terrier, Irish terrier
54. Boston terrier, Akita

Fifth tier – fair working dogs, who tend to learn a new trick in 40 to 80 repetitions and respond about 40 percent of the time.

Smartest dog breeds

55. Skye terrier
56. Norfolk terrier, Sealyham terrier
57. Pug
58. French bulldog
59. Brussels griffon, Maltese terrier
60. Italian greyhound
61. Chinese crested
62. Dandie Dinmont terrier, Vendeen, Tibetan terrier, Japanese chin, Lakeland terrier
63. Old English sheepdog
64. Great Pyrenees
65. Scottish terrier, Saint Bernard
66. Bull terrier, Petite Basset Griffon, Vendeen
67. Chihuahua
68. Lhasa apso
69. Bullmastiff

Sixth tier – the least effective working dogs, who may learn a new trick after more than 100 repetitions and obey around 30 percent of the time.

Smartest dog breeds

70. Shih Tzu
71. Basset hound
73. Pekingese
74. Bloodhound
75. Borzoi
76. Chow chow
77. Bulldog
78. Basenji
79. Afghan hound

There are, again, exceptions. Coren talks in his book about a trainer who managed to win obedience competitions with multiple Staffordshire bull terriers (#49).

There are also, again, other ways of measuring intelligence.

Coren tells us about a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (#20) he owned that was in some ways too smart for competitions.

“He was so bright and attentive that he read my every motion, head turn, and even the direction that I was looking with my eyes, as a command,” he writes by email.

“That made him very difficult to compete with in obedience trials, since, for instance, a glance with my eyes in the direction of the high jump might be interpreted by him as a command and that would send him off, taking the jump beautifully of course, but nonetheless disqualifying us from that round of competition.”

De Waal, in Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? spoke in defence of the Afghan hound (#79), noting that they may not be unintelligent but rather independent-mined, stubborn, and unwilling to follow orders.

“Afghans,” he wrote, “are perhaps more like cats, which are not beholden to anyone.”

Source: Science Alert

Pets on the Move: Alleviate the Stress of Moving Homes

Pets move

Contrary to what most people think, moving homes is just as stressful for pets as it is for their human parents. Leaving a familiar environment where they’ve created so many memories and struck a level of comfort can be a challenging adjustment. Fortunately, pet owners can take certain measures to ensure that the move is as smooth sailing for their loyal companions by planning ahead and preparing them for the impending changes that lie before them.

Pre-Moving Considerations           

A successful move into your new abode with your beloved pet is all about planning and seeing the move from your pet’s perspective – a pet’s home is not only their safe haven, but instinctively their piece of territory, so moving for them is a big deal! Keep in mind that cats are more sensitive to change than dogs as they are not usually socialised from a young age like their canine counterparts, thereby helping them adapt to new people, pets, situations and smells.  

Do your homework prior to moving:

  • Have you checked pet-related local laws that are applicable in the suburb, city or province you are about to move to?
  • Have you explored veterinarians in the new area who can become the new medical guardian angels to your beloved companion?
  • Do you know if your pet is comfortable in a carrier so that they are at ease being transported in one to their new home?

In the hustle and bustle of the move, it’s possible that your furry friend may, out of curiosity, venture into their new neighbourhood, consequently getting lost. It’s therefore critical to make sure that your pet has proper identification such as ID tags and veterinarian microchips updated with your new address and contact details.

Prepping and Packing

Whether you’re moving across country or to the neighbourhood next door, you can guarantee your kitty’s safety whilst being in a carrier. Gradually introduce them to the carrier by placing a cosy blanket and yummy treats inside, leave the door open and ensure they start to feel at ease with the experience. When this is achieved, begin with 10-minute drives and then progress to 20-minute drives so kitty becomes less anxious as they acclimatise to the new sights, scents and sounds of travelling in a car.

Proactively manage your pet’s stress-related behaviours that are likely to surface when they witness the entire house emptying by the day. ­

They may associate the boxes and suitcases with potentially being abandoned so leave any signs of moving material out ahead of time, so they become accustomed to the changes.

Allow your pet to roam around and inspect your home rather than locking them up for your own convenience.

A new home may demand new rules that your pet must learn to abide by, so training them beforehand will make the transition easier for everyone involved. If your new neighbours are in a much closer proximity to you than your last home, training your pooch not to bark before the move is a beneficial tactic. If a doggie-door isn’t an option, ensure to introduce a toilet routine ahead of time.

If you’re moving to a nearby neighbourhood, try taking your furry mate on frequent walks around the area and into your new home so that they can familiarise themselves with their new surroundings and smells while introducing them to all the new friends they’re about to make!

Long-Distance Moves

If you’re driving a fair distance, research pet-friendly overnight stopovers beforehand and book ahead of time. If you’re flying, contact the respective airline and enquire about anything they or your pet may require when flying with them. Their medical records should be accessible to you at all times on the flight. You may also have your vet prescribe calming medication to appease any anxiety they may experience during the trip.

Moving Day

When D-day arrives, your cay will be safest and happiest in their carrier, placed in the car – provided it’s not too hot or cold. Alternatively, put them in a quiet bathroom, with the door locked and ensure they have access to their litter box, food and water.

It’s probably wisest to ask a responsible and familiar family member or friend to take care of your pooch on moving day.

Whilst embarking on the trip, make sure that you’ve packed all your pet’s supplies as they should be readily accessible at all times. If they have a sensitive stomach, don’t feed them too much before the ride as it may disturb them during the trip. Most importantly, keep your pet safe, secure, well ventilated and hydrated throughout the journey.

When you finally make it to your new home, be sure that the place is pet-proofed to avoid any mishaps. Garden fences should have no holes in them and pools should be covered or fenced off if your pet is unfamiliar with them.

Welcoming Kitty to their New Home Sweet Home

On arrival, inspect the house for any holes your cat could disappear into and ensure to keep all doors and windows closed.

Cats are sensitive souls and may react to their surroundings by withdrawing into their carrier, cupboards, or under beds. They may also temporarily lose their appetite and their ability to use the litter box. 

Provide your cat with their own sanctuary kitted out with food, water, scratch post, litter box and all the other trifles they find comfort in. Only once they are comfortable, allow them to explore their new home one room at a time and place a litter box where you plan to keep it permanently. They’ll eventually come to realise that their family forms part of these new surroundings and will begin to accept it as home.


Welcoming your Pooch to their New Home Sweet Home

Your pooch will take to the new home more confidently if initially walked around the property on a leash by your side. They may take a while to acclimatise to a smaller property, but by instilling a routine as soon as possible, they are bound to feel at home in no time. Try to keep as close to your previous schedule as possible: walk, meal and grooming times should be approximately the same time as they were at your previous home. Ensure your canine companion is supervised at all times in case they make an attempt to break out in search of their familiar terrain.                                                                                  

With some planning, patience and perseverance, you can have peace of mind knowing that your furry loved one will take to the move with ease and resilience, making a potentially stressful transition, uncomplicated and exciting.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

Dead Sharks Litter the Shores of Gansbaai

Dead sharks litter the shores of Gansbaai

On Tuesday the 5th March at 9 am, Anthony Fouche of Gansbaai documented the carcasses of eight large bronze whaler sharks at Die Plaat, Gansbaai. The Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) / Marine Dynamics team were notified in the late afternoon and made their way down to the site to collect them. The bronze whaler poses no threat to humans and are one of the many stars of the sardine run.

On arrival, the team found three of the eight dead sharks. It is assumed that the rest were taken away to be sold, as the bronze whaler is a commercially fished species.

Fishing matters are often complicated and the bronze whalers are in fact a commercially fished species (sadly) but this was a case of bycatch that was discarded. Even though bronze whalers are generally regarded as low value there is a market for both their meat and fins for export in South Africa.

Video Footage by Anthony Fouche

Of the three shark carcasses left on the beach, the DICT team were able to confirm that all were reproductively mature, measuring around 3 meters each. One was a heavily pregnant female with the tail of a pup expelled from her cloaca.

The team removed the pup and decided to open the mother shark to attempt to save any other remaining pups. Another 13 full grown shark pups were found, likely just days away from birth, but unfortunately all the pups were deceased due to the extent of time the shark had been dead.

Bronze whaler sharks do not reach maturity until approx. 20 years old and this information is important as it supports the fact that the Walker Bay waters, similar to False Bay, are being utilised as feeding areas for pregnant sharks and even possibly a nursery area for this IUCN near threatened species. Another pregnant female carcass washed up in Walker Bay on the morning of the 7th.

Bronze whaler sharks

The bronze whaler shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus), also known as the Copper shark, is a frequent visitor to the Western Cape coast specifically in summer months when small pelagic fish such as sardine and anchovy are most abundant. These sharks were likely entangled in the nets of the purse seine vessels while catching anchovy in Walker Bay. Some sharks had gaff marks on their tails, a hook-like boat tool that would be used to pull these sharks from the nets. During the week, up to 30 vessels were fishing in the region.

“The bronze whaler shark has been visiting shark cage diving vessels over the last few years, in the absence of great white shark presence, and has enthralled international tourists with their active group behaviour. Shark eco-tourism is a non-consumptive industry where the economic value of live sharks is worth more to South Africa than fishermen can make from a dead shark,” says Wilfred Chivell, founder of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust and CEO of Marine Dynamics, based in Gansbaai.

The shark carcasses will be necropsied by the DICT team and samples will be shared for various scientific projects on the species including genetic and diet studies.

Source: Zig Zag


Tracheal Collapse in Canines

trach collapse

The trachea is a tube that transports air from the nose and throat to the tiny air passages leading to the lungs. The trachea is kept open with the support of small C-shaped rings of cartilage, with the opened sections facing upwards. The dorsal membrane is tissue that lines the upper opening of the C-rings.

Collapsing of the trachea is caused by constriction of the trachea opening when the affected dog breathes.

Trachea collapse is a chronic, progressive disease that predominantly affects certain small breeds of dogs such as Yorkshire terriers, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Miniature poodles and Maltese, Pugs, Lhasa apsos, and Shih Tzus along with other toy breeds.


Tracheal collapse can be either congenital, meaning it’s been there since birth, or it can be acquired.

When the disease is congenital, the cartilage rings have either not fully developed at birth or they deteriorate and gradually mutate from a rounder C-shape to a flatter U-shape. The cartilage rings gradually get flatter as the dorsal membrane expands, until the trachea gives way and collapses. The dog is then left having to try inhale air through what can be described as a closed straw. This can be caused by deficiencies in calcium, chondroitin, glycoproteins and glycosaminoglycans in certain parts of the cartilage rings.

When tracheal collapse is acquired, it’s often triggered by chronic respiratory disease, heart disease or Cushing’s disease.

When the dog breathes air, the trachea cavity begins narrowing and this can affect the section of the trachea in either the neck or the chest. Trachea collapse in the neck occurs when the dog inhales and collapse of the trachea in the chest occurs when the dog exhales. Often, the collapse implicates the bronchi that ultimately sends air to the lungs, leading to critical obstruction in the dog’s air passage.

Tracheal collapse is commonly caused by cases where dogs are obese.


An early sign indicating the onset of trachea collapse can be an abrupt dry coughing spell resembling that of a honking sound that gradually develops into a more persistent cough when placing pressure on the dog’s trachea. Progression of the disease can lead to exercise intolerance, respiratory distress along with retching when eating or drinking.

Symptoms associated with trachea collapse are intensified by exercise, heat, excitement or obesity.

When dogs appear to make a wheezing sound when inhaling, they may be suffering from both tracheal collapse as well as laryngeal paralysis.

Other associated symptoms appear in the form of: 

  • breathing difficulties
  • gagging
  • unusually rapid breathing
  • unusual breathing sounds
  • resistance to routine exercises
  • blue coloured membranes
  • sudden loss of consciousness
  • constant laboured breathing can lead to secondary heart disease


The narrowing of the tracheal cavity can sometimes be observed on a standard X-ray, however a moving X-ray, called a fluoroscopy or alternatively a bronchoscope, better enables the vet to accurately scrutinise the trachea whilst the dog inhales and exhales.

An endoscopy provides the vet with the most efficient way to view the inside of the airway by using a little camera to observe the inside of the trachea. The vet can simultaneously take tissue samples of the trachea for culture and sensitivity testing or additional analysis.

An echocardiogram may be recommended in cases where there is concern about the functioning of the heart.

Tracheal collapse can often be confused by any disease related to the upper or lower air passages such as a foreign object trapped in the air passage, laryngeal paralysis, an elongated soft palate, trachea or lung infection, heart failure, tumours or even polyps. It’s therefore important that your vet gives you a conclusive diagnosis.


Because coughing triggers more coughing as it agitates the air passages, it’s imperative to bring the coughing cycle to an end. 

Approximately 70% of dogs with mild to moderate cases can be treated successfully with cough suppressants, antispasmodics, bronchodilators as well as sedatives to ease coughing spasms and any anxiety associated with breathing difficulties.

Cartilage building supplements can also be administered to sustain the tracheal cartilage’s structural integrity.

Any identified infection will be addressed immediately, whilst obese dogs will be promptly put on a strict eating plan to lose weight.

In more serious instances where dogs don’t respond favourably to medical treatment, surgery may be required. This is a highly-specialised procedure and depending on whether the tracheal collapse occurs in the neck or the chest, plastic rings are either surgically inserted around the inside of the trachea or a stent is surgically placed in the trachea to hold it open. Ensure your vet is extensively experienced in performing this intricate procedure, as it brings with it potential complications.

Serious symptoms and breathing difficulties render hospitalisation a necessity where dogs will be given oxygen therapy. Sedation may also be required to alleviate any associated suffering and to prevent any resistance from the dog when administered treatments. Until the dog is stabilised, they must be kept as still as possible.


Whilst recovering, patients should be resting as much as possible. Gentle exercise and a healthy diet are highly recommended to support weight loss for the long-term maintenance of your pup. Consult your vet about a suitable eating plan to assist your dog in reaching their ideal weight.

Avoid getting your dog too excited as this may exasperate an already comprised breathing problem.

Use a harness as opposed to a collar around the neck as any undue pressure on the trachea will further contribute to breathing difficulties.

Ensure your dog’s environment is free from smoke and environmental impurities.

With the appropriate treatment, weight and management plans in place, tracheal collapse can be managed effectively and the possibility of remission from the disease is positive.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

Inside South African Zoos

Zoos are popular facilities where wild animals are locked up in cages and behind glass displays for public entertainment and education. But increasingly international conservation experts are questioning the usefulness and ethics of keeping these animals in captivity. In South Africa, there have been rising reports of animal cruelty in zoos, as municipalities struggle to manage them effectively. Carte Blanche goes inside some of the country’s most controversial menageries.