Von Willebrand Disease – An Inherited Bleeding Disorder

Von Willebrand

Von Willebrand Disease – What is it?

When an organ like the skin is cut, it bleeds. The body has systems in place to try and stop the bleeding. Platelets are cells that help form an initial blood clot. Circulating in the blood, platelets are recruited to the site of injury. There they adhere to collagen from damaged cells. A special protein called von Willebrand factor (vWF) facilitates the link between platelets and collagen. Von Willebrand factor comes from the damaged cells, as well as from platelets themselves. See the video below for an excellent animation of blood clot formation.

There are three forms of von Willebrand disease (Type I, Type 2, and Type 3, respectively). These variants are defined by the quantify and structure of vWF in affected animals. When there isn’t enough vWF and/or when the vWF has an abnormal structure, clinical signs of disease develop.

Von Willebrand Disease – What does it look like?

As I mentioned above, there are three types of von Willebrand disease:

  • Type 1 – this type is characterized by a low concentration of vWF that has a normal structure
  • Type 2 – this type is characterized by a low concentration of vWF that has an abnormal structure
  • Type 3 – this type if characterized by an affected pet having essentially no vWF

For each type, certain breeds are affected:

  • Type 1 – Shetland sheepdogs, Poodles, Pembroke Welsh corgis, Irish wolfhounds, Golden retrievers, Greyhounds, Airedales, Akitas, Bernese mountain dogs, Dachshunds, and Doberman pinschers
  • Type 2 – German shorthair pointers; German wirehaired pointers, Collies, German longhair points, Chinese crested dogs; Deutsch drahthaar
  • Type 3 – Scottish terriers, Shetland sheepdogs, Chesapeake Bay retrievers, and Dutch kooikers
Von Willebrand

Scottish Terriers may be affected by Type 3 vWD. Photo by Cheryl Brand

Research has shown Doberman pinschers are the most commonly affected dog breed. As they tend to have Type 1 disease, their clinical signs are often quite mild. Those with Type 3 disease often develop life-threatening bleeding tendencies.

Von Willebrand

Doberman Pinschers are most commonly affected by Type 1 vWD. Photo by Andrew Kraker

Clinical signs observed in patients with von Willebrand disease are quite variable. Some dogs have no abnormal bleeding tendencies while others may spontaneously bleed. When it occurs, spontaneous bleeding may often be seen:

  • From the nose and mouth (i.e.: gums)
  • In the urine
  • In feces
  • After giving birth
  • After trauma
  • During surgery

Von Willebrand Disease – How is it diagnosed?

In breeds known to be at risk for developing von Willebrand disease, a veterinarian can perform simple screening blood tests in a clinic setting. These tests are called a buccal mucosal bleeding time (BMBT) and platelet function analysis. The BMBT is unquestionably the most screening test for vWD. To perform this test, a special device makes a very small and superficial cut in a patient’s lip. The cut subsequently bleeds. One then measures the time it takes for the bleeding to stop. A prolonged bleeding time raises concern for vWD.

For patients with prolonged BMBTs, a veterinarian can submit a blood sample to quantify the amount of vWF. This test is called a von Willebrand factor antigen assay (vWF:Ag), and simply measures the concentration of vWF in a blood sample. Pets with vWF:Ag levels less than 50% are at risk for both transmitting an abnormal von Willebrand gene to offspring and developing clinical sings. Dogs with vWF:Ag below 15% are most severely affected with Type 3 patients have values less than 1%.

The doctor may also recommend submitted a blood sample for genetic testing. This type of analysis can tell one the type of vWD with which a patient is living. Type 1 vWD is the most common.

Von Willebrand Disease – How is it treated?

To date, von Willebrand disease can’t be cured. It can only be managed. The goals of treatment are to:

  • Control bleeding
  • Limit the number of bleeding events
  • Address any concurrent conditions that may affect bleeding

To treat vWD, one must either replace von Willebrand factor and/or induce the release of more it. There is no drug or supplement that currently increases the production of vWF. Affected patients may be given an intravenous infusion a special fluid called cryoprecipitate or fresh frozen plasma, both of which contain vWF. Prior to a necessary surgical procedure, a veterinarian may administer a medication called desmopressin (also called DDAVP). This drug can stimulate the release of vWF from structures called Weibel-Palade bodies found inside cells that line blood vessels (call endothelial cells). Desmopressin also strengthens the bond between platelets and collagen on injured cells. Unfortunately, desmopressin doesn’t work for every affected pet. Long-term use of DDAVP is not currently recommended.

An under-appreciated component of therapy of vWD is avoidance of drugs that may impair proper blood clotting. Medications that should be avoided in patients with von Wllebrand disease include:

  • Heparin
  • Clopidogrel (Plavix®)
  • Aspirin
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like carprofen/Rimadyl™, firocoxib/Previcox™, deracoxib/Deramaxx™, ibuprofen
  • Theophylline
  • Ampicillin, amoxicillin, and penicillins
  • Sulfa-based antibiotics
  • Antihistamines

Interestingly, bleeding events in human patients with vWD may be induced by emotional stress. Whether a similar association exists in dogs and cats is not known. Nevertheless, pet parents are encouraged to minimize stress in their pet’s lives, and to be vigilant in their monitoring for bruises during and after stressful events.

The take-away message about Von Willebrand disease…

Von Willebrand disease is an inherited bleeding disorder that affects dogs and rarely cats. Affected pets may spontaneously bleed depending on the structure and concentration of a special protein called von Willebxrand factor. Treatment includes replacing this protein, increasing its release from endothelial cells, and minimizing stress as much as possible.

Wishing you wet-nosed kisses,


Horner’s Syndrome

Khayelitsha animal clinic offers free vaccinations for World Rabies Day

World Rabies Day

A local animal clinic in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, has offered free vaccinations to community members in a bid to prevent the spread of rabies.

The offer comes ahead of World Rabies Day on Saturday.

The Mdzananda Animal Clinic said it aimed to vaccinate 200 dogs on the day. The clinic said it was important to offer the vaccination because rabies was a deadly virus that could easily spread to people from the saliva of infected animals.

“99% of human cases result from dog bites and are fatal once symptoms occur,” the clinic said in a statement.

The virus causes extreme pain and discomfort in humans, and also leads to the death of the infected dog.

According to the clinic’s fundraising and communications manager, Marcelle du Plessis, the clinic will offer the vaccination despite the Western Cape not being a rabies hot spot.

“This does however not mean that we shouldn’t prepare against it. All it takes is for one infected dog to come into our community for the virus to spread rapidly,” said Du Plessis.

She said neighbouring provinces had previously reported cases of rabies which had forced them to be vigilant and strive to make Khayelitsha an immune community in the event of the area being affected by the virus.

“Dogs and cats should first be vaccinated for rabies between four and six months of age. They need a booster one year from that date. Thereafter they need to be vaccinated once every three years,” said Du Plessis.

Du Plessis said the majority of the pets that would be vaccinated would be first-timers, and their owners would receive vaccination cards indicating when to bring their pets for their booster shots.

Despite providing free vaccinations, the clinic has asked for donations to cover the costs of administering the vaccinations, including needles, syringes, gloves and veterinarian time.

The Mdzananda Clinic has received the vaccines free from the state vet.

Apart from just administering rabies shots, each pet will receive a vaccination against deadly diseases including the Parvo virus, distemper, parainfluenza and adenovirus.

Source: Times Live

Feline Infectious Peritonitis – What the FIP?!

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

What is feline infectious peritonitis?

Feline infectious peritonitis – more commonly referred to as FIP – is caused by a virus called feline coronavirus (FCoV or FCV). The most common form of disease is feline enteric coronavirus. It’s readily transmitted between cats through contact with infected feces. Watch the video below to learn more about how cats are infected with feline coronavirus.

Inside the body, the FCoV enters a type of white blood cell called monocytes. Once monocytes are invaded by FCoV, there are two potential outcomes – either monocytes kill the virus, or they become infected. The latter happens for reasons not yet completely understood.

Feline Infectious Peritonitus

Microscopic appearance of feline coronavirus. Image courtesy of Stylisticat.

In 5-10% of cats, either the virus mutates and/or a cat’s immune system responds aberrantly to cause progression to clinical FIP. At this point, the virus is now referred to a feline infectious peritonitis virus or FIPV. Factors that increase the chance of coronavirus mutation include:

  • Genetics
  • Early weaning
  • Overcrowding
  • Age at the time of coronavirus infection
  • Surgery stress
  • Sharing litter box with other cats

When the FCoV virus hijacks the immune system to become FIPV, the result is an intense inflammatory response. Infected monocytes secrete chemicals that induce changes to cells lining blood vessels (called endothelial cells). One of these changes is to make endothelial cells stickier. Sticky endothelial cells capture circulating infected monocytes, causing them to roll along the endothelial cell surface and eventually stop. The monocytes continue to secrete chemicals that causes the junctions between endothelial cells to breakdown, allowing monocytes to enter the surrounding tissue. In this location, infected monocytes become macrophages. Macrophages continue to secrete chemicals that attract more inflammatory cells, including monocytes, neutrophils, and lymphocytes. These cells, too, enter tissues to form structures called pyogranulomas, the hallmark feature of FIP. Check out the video below for more information about the process.

Wet vs. dry form…

Feline infectious peritonitis has both acute and chronic forms. The former is characterized by intense inflammation that causes extensive damage to endothelial cells throughout the body. The damage is associated fluid flooding into body cavities. This form of FIP is called the wet or effusive form. When damage happens in abdominal organs, fluid accumulates in the abdominal cavity. Affected cats develop a pot-bellied appearance. When this process occurs in the chest cavity, fluid accumulates in the space between the lungs and body wall – this is called pleural effusion. Cats with pleural effusion often take short and shallow breaths, and they can develop life-threatening respiratory distress.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

A cat with fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity due to the wet or effusive form of FIP. Note the pot-bellied appearance. Photo courtesy of Steve Dale.

The chronic form of FIP is not associated with fluid accumulation in body cavities and so is called dry or non-effusive FIP. The clinical signs noted in affected cats are quite variable, and may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Reduced (or loss of) appetite
  • Dull hair coat
  • Fever
  • Icterus / jaundice
  • Eye changes – including iris color changes, white precipitates in the cornea, inflammation in the anterior chamber (called uveitis), changes to blood vessels in the retina
  • Lethargy
  • Enlarged kidneys
  • Neurologic deficits – including ataxia (unsteadiness while walking), tremors, abnormal eye movements

How is it diagnosed?

There is no age, sex, or breed predisposition for developing FIP. However, more than 50% of infected cats are less than two years of age. A common component to an infected cat’s medical history is a history of stress within several weeks of developing clinical signs. To date, there is no simple diagnostic test for FIP. The only way to definitively diagnose FIP is via biopsy or examination of tissues during a necropsy (the animal equivalent of an autopsy). Given this situation, veterinarians must use clinical signs as mentioned above, as well as data from a variety of tests, to make a clinical diagnosis of FIP. These tests include:

Analysis of Effusions – Effusions associated with FIP are clear to cloudy and have a viscous consistency similar to egg-white. The protein level in the fluid is high, and there is a meaningful cellular component, particularly macrophages, neutrophils, and to a lesser extent, lymphocytes. Unfortunately, these characteristics are not definitively diagnostic for FIP.

Abdominal Sonography – This non-invasive test may show changes to the liver, spleen, kidneys, and/or enlarged intra-abdominal lymph nodes. Of course, patients with the effusive or wet form of FIP have abdominal effusion. None of these findings are specific for FIP but raise suspicion when considered along with considerate clinical signs.

Albumin:Globulin Ratios – When the prevalence of FIP is low, a high albumin:globulin ratio (A:G ratio) is useful to rule out FIP. However, a low A:G ratio is not helpful in making a diagnosis of FIP.

Serum Protein Electrophoresis – Many cats with FIP have elevated total protein and/or globulin levels. Serum protein electrophoresis (SPE) provides more information about globulins, and many cats with inflammatory and/or infectious conditions have changes to gamma globulins. Cats with FIP can have both polyclonal (think foothills of a mountain) and monoclonal (think one single mountain peak) elevations, so this test can’t be used to definitively diagnose FIP.

Feline Coronavirus Antibody Titers – These tests detect the presence of coronavirus antibodies. Antibodies are unique proteins the body makes when they’ve been exposed to foreign material, including infectious agents like feline coronaviruses. Available antibody tests are enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), immunofluorescent antibody (IFA), and virus-neutralization tests. A positive result means a cat has been exposed to any feline coronaviruses, but not necessarily to one that causes FIP. In addition, cats vaccinated with some types of modified live virus vaccines can develop antibodies against bovine serum components used in vaccine virus cultures. These antibodies can cross react in some test systems producing a false-positive test result. Cats vaccinated with the Felocell FIP vaccine can develop antibodies that react positively with this test. Test methodologies differ from laboratory to laboratory; this means feline coronavirus antibody titers from different laboratories can’t be accurately compared.

One antibody test called the 7B protein ELISA (Antech Laboratories) detects the 7B protein. The makers of this test claim the 7B protein is only produced by FIP-producing feline coronaviruses. Unfortunately, further studies showed not all FIP-producing strains of feline coronavirus produce the 7B protein; furthermore, some non-FIP coronaviruses do produce 7B, so this test is not specific for FIP-producing coronaviruses.

Alpha-1-Acid Glycoprotein (AGP) – This protein is hyposialyted in some cats with FIP but not in normal cats or cats with other diseases

Rivalta Test – A few drops of effusion are mixed with a weak acetic acid solution; the appearance of a white flocculent material is a positive test

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) – Real time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) detects viral genetic material in tissue or body fluid. The PCR test detects messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) of the M gene of all know feline coronavirus strains. Only detection of mRNA outside of the intestinal tract is supportive of FIP because active viral replication occurs in circulating monocytes.

Immunostaining Methods – Immunostaining of infected tissues (called immunohistochemistry or IHC) or effusions by immunofluorescence or immunoperoxidase methods can be helpful. Immunohistochemistry is considered accurate for a definitive diagnosis of FIP, but false-negatives are possible depending on the quality of tissues tested and reagents used in the test.

Understandably, making a clinical diagnosis of FIP is challenging. Pet owners may find it helpful to partner with a board-certified veterinary internal medicine specialist to help them develop a logical and cost-effective diagnostic plan.

How is it treated?

Feline infectious peritonitis is ultimately a fatal disease at this time. There is no known cure or effective long-term treatment to date. Traditionally, therapy has been considered palliative with a goal of suppressing the immune-complex component of the disease. One of the most common treatments is a combination of prednisolone and cyclophosphamide. Other potential therapies are:

Anti-Viral Drugs – Several drugs, including cyclosporine, itraconazole, various antibiotics, and several herbal extracts, inhibit FIP virus in cell-culture. Unfortunately, the amount of drug required to achieve the needed level of virus inhibition is toxic and damaging to cells and thus to infected cats. The antiviral drug called adenine arabinoside (Vidarabine®) also appears to be effective against FIPV.  

Non-Specific Immunostimulants – These types of immunostimulants include substances such as Staphylococcal A protein, ImmunoRegulin (Propriobacterium acnes), Acemannan (mucopolysaccharide extract of aloe vera leaves) and Imulan (lymphocyte T-cell immunomodulator). There is no evidence that these biologics have any beneficial effect on actual cases of FIP.

A newer product – polyprenyl immunostimulant – improves the number of helper T lymphocytes, thus enhancing a patient’s immune response against the coronavirus. This medication is labeled for feline herpes virus infection but has also shown success in treating the non-effusive form of FIP.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Specific Immunostimulants – Recombinant DNA human alpha and beta interferons, as well as feline interferon omega (Virbagen Omega®), have significant antiviral effects against FIPV. The latter is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but small quantities (less than three months use) may be imported based on the Regulatory Procedures Manual, section 9-2. Although an initial study with feline interferon omega showed efficacy, a large double-blinded and placebo-controlled drug trial did not confirm efficacy.  

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Researchers at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine and the University of California – Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and investigated two novel drugs – GC376 and GS-441524. Based on initial clinical findings, a company called Anivive purchased the rights for GC376, and they’re pursuing FDA approval in the United States. The second drug – GS-441524 – also showed promise in the treatment of FIP. The treatment period for naturally occurring FIP is a minimum of 12 weeks. If you’re interested in learning about preliminary clinical results for treatment with GS-441524, click here.

To date, neither GC376 nor GS-44154 is legally available in the United States. As such, there’s a growing black market for these drugs given their initial impressive clinical results. Both are being illegally produced in China, and there is an active Facebook community called FIP Warriors wherein members discuss all things GS-441524, including helping owners of FIP cats obtain this drug. One should note veterinarians don’t know the purity or biological activity of black-market compounds.

How can I prevent FIP?

Minimizing exposure to infectious agents decreases the likelihood of cats developing FIP in multi-cat environments. Litter boxes should be cleaned regularly, and they should be located away from food and water dishes. Newly acquired cats (and any cats suspected of being infected) should be separated from other cats. Overcrowding should be minimized, and cats should be fed a well-balanced diet.

There is one approved vaccine available against FIP – Felocell FIP made Zoetis (previously known as Primucell FIP). It’s a temperature-sensitive, modified-live virus designed to grow only at the cooler temperatures of the upper respiratory tract. The vaccine virus will not replicate at core body temperatures, so it’s effective only if exposure is via the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth. The vaccine is administered in the nose, and protection is apparently mediated by secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) produced at the level of the upper respiratory tract and oral mucous membranes combined with an enhanced cell-mediated immune response. The efficacy in preventing FIP has not been established, and the vaccine is not recommended by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Vaccine Guidelines Group. Cat owners should consult their veterinarian to help them decide if their cat should be vaccinated.

The take-away message about feline infectious peritonitis?

Feline infectious peritonitis or FIP is a deadly infectious disease caused by specific strains of feline coronavirus. When white blood cells called monocytes become infected with an FIP-producing strain, the result is an intense inflammatory reaction. To date, there is no known effective long-term treatment, but some novel drugs have shown exciting promise.    

Critical Care DVM

Horner’s Syndrome

Medical alert dog shows owner when it’s time to take medicine

Medical alert dog

Photo: Facebook / Honey’s Garden Medical Alert Dogs SA

 A sniff of her leg and Hazel the Greyhound can pick up whether it’s time for Melanie Basson to take her medication.

Should Basson’s blood sugar level be too low, Hazel will alert her with the touch of a paw.

“Her paw on me is different from any other gesture. She just turned 1, and she’s wonderful,” Basson said.

Basson, 40, from Cape Town, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes two years ago.

Having to test her blood sugar level at least 12 times a day, she decided to research medic alert dogs and found they were difficult to find in South Africa.

She then discovered Honey’s Garden Medical Alert Dogs SA, which provides task-trained service dogs.

The dogs include diabetic alert dogs, seizure response dogs and psychiatric service dogs.

After making contact with the non-profit organisation’s founder and director, Lucy Breytenbach, Basson was told there was a possibility a donor would cover the R100 000 to train Hazel.

Medical alert

Hazel the Greyhound and Melanie Basson. Photo: Facebook

When the sponsorship came through, Basson was delighted. She and Hazel have been inseparable for the past month and a bit.

Hazel, who sniffs sweat, saliva and body fluid, can detect a drop in Basson’s blood sugar level.

“My family loves her, but they are not allowed to treat her as if she is their pet. She is a medic dog, my medic dog. Only I can pet and cuddle her, and I do so all the time,” Basson said.

Hazel is still being trained to sniff Basson according to a schedule. This includes sniffs at 1am and 5am.

Basson sets her alarm for those hours, and Hazel gets up with her. “I give it two months until she goes on autopilot and wakes me without the alarm sounding. She is helping to improve my quality of life.”

Hazel is great outdoors, and enjoys a healthy dose of exercise a few times a week. She already knows and responds to 25 commands.

Breytenbach, who moved to South Africa from the UK, said it costs between R80 000 and R100 000 to train and place a service dog with a disabled person, depending on what type of dog is needed.

“In Hazel’s case, a donor found it in their heart to sponsor the R100 000 it took to train Hazel. There are more than 100 people on the waiting list for a medic dog,” Breytenbach said.

To find out more about the organisation or to make a donation, visit www.medicalalertdogs.co.za/home

Medical alert

Source: IOL

Does having pet insurance really make financial sense?

Does having pet insurance really make financial sense?

Image: Pixabay

The global pet insurance market was valued at $ 3.2 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach $ 7.1 billion by the end of 2023, flourishing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.4% during the forecast period.

According to the South African Veterinary Association guideline fee schedule which is issued annually, 2018 saw a 15% increase in these suggested veterinary fees, with a 10% increase the year before. 

Veterinarian Dr Ingrid de Wet says the prices charged by veterinary practices are determined by many variables. Equipment alone for an average Veterinary practice costs about R1 million and is equivalent to what you’d find in many hospitals. 

Their medicine and consumables bills can be as high as R250,000 to R300,000 a month, and these costs are constantly increasing because most of their drugs are imported and dependent on the Rand-Dollar exchange rate.

It is very clear that the cost of owning a pet can have a big impact on your budget. Sterilisation and deworming can cost up to R2,500. A round of vaccinations approx. R500 and a three-month course for flea and tick control approx. another R500. 

Fixing a broken leg can cost up to R15,000, cataract surgery about R20,000 and x-rays R6,000 per year. If your dog or cat gets out of the yard, for example, and is hit by a car, it could cost up to R40,000 in vet bills to save his/her life. As a result, many South Africans choose to put their ailing pets to sleep rather than pay for expensive treatments, experts say.

Though “economic euthanasia” isn’t tracked in South Africa, experts say that in America, two-thirds of the pets put to sleep every week are euthanized for economic reasons.

Pet ownership is on the rise in South Africa due to the growing number of single professionals, empty-nesters, couples who delay having children and families who need additional guard dogs. In 2016, there were an estimated 9.2 million dogs living in SA households, ranking South Africa the ninth highest in the world.

In a still-struggling economy with the rising cost of owning and caring for pets, pet insurance is becoming increasingly popular particularly with dog and cat owners in South Africa as some pet policies provide up to R53,000 in cover annually.  

Dr Jack Stephens, a veterinarian from Boise, Idaho, started the first pet insurance policy in 1981. He was haunted by a dog he had to put down because the owners could not afford treatment. Stephens founded PetsBest insurance (USA), which covers about 80,000 pets as of 2018. 

dotsure.co.za, a top rated South African pet insurance provider that covers dogs and cats is also the first and only to insure both exotic pets (any pet that is not a dog, cat, or farm animal, such as reptiles, birds, bunnies, turtles and tortoises) and senior pets in South Africa (dogs and cats older than 8 years). 

Since dotsure.co.zalaunched its very prominent television advertising campaign in 2018 featuring testimonials from existing customers, the demand for the product has increased dramatically. 

According to a local SEO specialist, “the interest in the pet insurance-related search terms on Google has trebled in the year following the campaign’s introduction and this trend shows no sign of slowing.”

“We have covered more than 100,000 South African pets,” says David Roache, Managing Director of dotsure.co.za. “But we know that we are just starting to see South African’s begin to trust and understand this type of cover. Our campaigns have been designed around educating South Africans that pet insurance actually exists.  Remember, until recently, this was a relatively unknown concept and to those that knew about it, there were very few affordable options for them.” 

According to Roache, the company has paid out more than 30,000 claims in the last 3 years, saving pet owners millions of Rands in vet bills.

Amongst breeds, the Jack Russel Terrier is the most popular enrolled dog, the Domestic Short-Hair the most popular cat and the African Grey parrot the most popular exotic pet. Dogs make up 85% of enrolled pets.

dotsure.co.za offer a unique benefit called Name Your Price, which enables customers to decide how much they can afford to pay monthly for pet insurance. Insurance that is actually controlled by the customer and not the other way around like it is with so many Insurance companies. 

According to Roache, “we do this to provide a better outcome to consumers when protecting the things, they care about most. Our customers are always at the very heart of everything we do, and our aim is to create fans, not policy holders”.

Another area often overlooked is the risk of your pet damaging someone else’s property, or even causing bodily harm to them or their pet. In a recent Eastern Cape High Court case, the victim of a vicious dog attack sued the dog’s owner for R2.4 million, when three dogs escaped from the dog owner’s property and attacked the plaintiff. dotsure.co.za provides all its customers with third-party liability cover to protect them against the financial burden of such incidents within the borders of South Africa.

dotsure.co.za has various benefits that clients can enjoy. According to Roache, “dotsure.co.za has worked closely with a number of practicing veterinarians, as well as real pet lovers and breeders alike in order to develop what we truly believe is not only South Africa’s best pet insurance product, but one that is right up there with the very best available on our planet”.

According to the South African Pet Care Industry Landscape Report, 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 Insight Survey. As result of this, South African pet owners have become more attentive in their purchases of pet care products, opting for products and services that treat pets as part of the family.

Pet insurance is a growing market, and for good reason. Our pets are considered to be our family and we should be ready to provide them with the best care should they become seriously injured or ill. Pet insurance provides you with the opportunity to give them the care they deserve for their loyal companionship and unconditional love. The numbers have decided. Protect your pet, and your wallet with pet insurance.

Source: IOL

What the Pet Technology Boom Tells Us About the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Pet Technology

Pet technology is the latest industry to embody our IoT future.

Currently, we’re in the midst of what many are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution refers to a number of technologies that are blurring the boundaries between the physical and the digital: artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, big data and cloud computing are some of the most central elements. It’s causing massive changes in manufacturing, technology, transportation and plenty of other sectors. Now, it’s coming for pets.

The pet industry may be a traditionally low-tech space, but a slew of new companies are working to leverage Industry 4.0 innovations and create a burgeoning space that can only be described as the ‘pet tech industry.’ The products they’re bringing to market may be a peek into the future of many other industries – and they show us how Industry 4.0 will turn almost every aspect of our lives into a quantifiable data stream, allowing us to manage everything from air conditioning to water consumption from one single interface. 

The rise of American pets

Naturally, this new wave of innovation didn’t come out of nowhere. 

Pets have been on the rise in America throughout recent decades. Studies show that more than 85 million families have at least one furry friend, with pet ownership growing 12% throughout the past thirty years. And it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The past couple of years have seen a boom, and the industry currently enjoys a 14% CAGR. By 2023, industry sales are expected to reach $281 billion in North America alone. 

The growth is even more dramatic among Millennials. Millennials attach a special significance to their pets, and that’s likely due to the differences in mentality and life choices they make compared to older generations. Millennials are getting married much later than previous generations and aren’t having children at a young age. As a result, they’re adopting pets instead of starting families, which has caused a spike in consumer demand both for pets and pet products and services. So much so that younger generations own more pets than older ones: of pets in the U.S., 62% belong to younger generations while only 32% belong to Baby Boomers. 

Millennials are also naturally more technologically inclined. They better understand how to use digital and software-based solutions, and it feels natural for them to look to software platforms and apps to run their personal lives. Pets are no different, and many are now seeking digital pet services. 

Finally, Millennials spend money on their pets. 84% of Millennial pet owners experience separation anxiety, frequently worrying about their pts when apart, and 92% purchase gifts for their pets on a regular basis. Combined with the fact that Millennials now own most pets, this creates an injection of new revenue in the pet services market that’s ready to be claimed by innovative new companies. 

Pet companies become venture capital’s pet companies

All these factors have triggered a spur of investment in pet technology. More than half a billion dollars were invested into the pet startup space in 2018 alone, and leading players like dog walking app Wag! have racked up hundreds of millions in funding. The pet technology industry is expected to match and raise that amount in 2019, making it one of the hottest sectors in the global technology industry. 

Most of this data comes from the U.S. and North America, but it’s worth noting that Asian and European markets have also seen increases and are expected to follow a similar growth trajectory. This demonstrates that Industry 4.0 is infiltrating the pet industry on a global scale, and it also heightens the stakes for VC-backed companies: the sooner these startups are able to find product market fit and expand, the better chance they have at penetrating and claiming foreign market share. 

The secret future of pets

Money is flooding into the pet technology industry. So what is it funding?

Many of the leading pet tech companies are applying solutions and frameworks to pets that have already worked in other industries. Wag!, the previously-mentioned dog walking app, takes a cue from the sharing economy by establishing a platform that’s essentially ‘Uber for dog walkers.’ There are even pet ‘wearables’ like FitBark ($125,000 in funding), an activity monitor similar to FitBit, but for your dog. 

Others are using technology to create new-and-improved versions of old products. CleverPet Hub ($1.4 million in funding) is a smartphone-controlled “gaming console” for pets that offers simple games to engage and train pets while their owners are out of the house, while Sure PetCare (acquired by Allflex Group) has created a smart doggy door that only opens when it senses your pet’s implanted RFID microchip. Meanwhile, several companies have designed smart food bowls, water dishes and self-cleaning litter boxes that can measure, monitor and control your pet’s daily intake (and output) of nutrition.

In addition to these piecemeal products, other pet tech startups are attempting to design a centralized, all-in-one solution for managing a pet’s care on a digital platform. BabelBark ($8.4 million in funding) is an early leader here, with a fully four-sided digital platform aiming to offer a comprehensive, data-driven solution to pet care, complete with separate (but integrated) terminals for pet owners, veterinarians, pet businesses, and pet shelters. On one level, the platform helps pet owners keep track of important things like feeding histories, medical records, and medication schedules. But it’s also built to connect and share data between different user groups. For example, veterinarians can see feeding history or data from a wearable pet health monitor, while pet-focused businesses can see individual pet and owner preferences to customize their service offerings. 

What the pet technology industry can tell us about the future

The significance of all this is obvious if you’re a pet owner, and for entrepreneurs, all signs show that pet tech is a big, juicy market that’s still young enough to have a wealth of new opportunities. But watching the evolution of pet technology, especially in this early stage, can tell us a lot about how we can expect the Fourth Industrial Revolution to play out in various areas of our lives – and that provides helpful goalposts for entrepreneurs.

First, smart pet products give us a glimpse into how the Internet of Things will soon come to rule our homes. We already have Twitter-connected fridges, and now even the dog bowl has an internet connection. This means virtually anything that hasn’t been converted to ‘smart’ technology could present an opportunity: a smart water bottle that tracks daily water consumption, a smart coffee table with built-in digital board games, a smart kitchen thermometer that texts you once the chicken reaches 165ºF. If you can get the economics right, there’s probably a market for making just about anything in a home ‘smart.’

As these smart devices come online, the sources and volume of data we produce and interact with in our lives will skyrocket. The future is quantified: all those smart water bottles and wifi-connected dog bowls will produce new streams of data that we can measure, monitor and manipulate. As this explosion of ‘everyday data’ progresses, we may even expect to see predictive AIs or algorithms, trained on big data, that can alert us when our daily water consumption drops below the acceptable level or when our dog’s feeding patterns indicate she may need to see the vet. 

And just like in the pet tech industry, we’ll see many companies emerging with piecemeal products for Industry 4.0 – but perhaps the biggest opportunity arises from bringing all of this together. BabelBark wants to create one central hub that collects, analyzes, and organizes the many aspects (and smart devices) of caring for a pet. We’ll likely see the same thing in other sectors: for example, a digital home management platform that allows you to monitor and control your air conditioning, electricity, water consumption, security system, smart fridge, smart water bottle, and any other smart appliances in your home. 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is generating an explosion of innovation in the pet industry, and pet tech startups are designing new solutions to bring pet care into the 21st century. But this is just one small element of a much larger, broader change in how we live. 

Industry 4.0 and the new developments that are driving it will transform our homes, our cars, our possessions, and how we interact with all of it. Entrepreneurs who get in the game now have access to enormous opportunities – and if you’re looking for a map of the future to base your plans off of, the booming pet tech industry provides a good one. 

Source: business.com


SA Guide Dog Association to roll out awareness campaign

SA Guide

Pieter van Niekerk and his guide dog, Shogun, ham it up for the camera at the SA Guide Dog Association in Paulshof, northern Johannesburg. Picture: Kevin Ritchie

Many people still think service dogs are just pets and treat them as such, even barring them from access to their business premises with their owners.

They are not allowed to – in fact, the Constitution prohibits it.

Now the SA Guide Dog Association intends rolling out an awareness campaign to educate people on exactly that.

“It’s quite clear there is a lack of understanding and knowledge about what a working dog is and what their role is when accompanying someone with a disability,” says the association’s head of marketing, Nadia Sands.

“Many people think it’s just a pet, that it’s unhygienic or could bite you. This is definitely not the case when it comes to our dogs. They are highly trained and socialised so they can accompany their owner to any venue.

“Although there are legal repercussions for people who deny people with working dogs access, our aim is to use the campaign as a learning rather than a punitive tool. However, should an organisation not comply, we will assist our clients with taking legal action.”

The association is the only accredited organisation in South Africa that trains guide, service and autism support dogs. The waiting list is long. According to last census, South Africa has more than 1.5million visually impaired people, but the association can only provide 40 dogs a year because it depends totally on the public’s goodwill.

“Our clients are amazing. They run marathons, participate in the Paralympics, cycle races in tandem.

“The dogs don’t participate with them, but they do assist them to get to and from their training fields and clubs,” says Pieter van Niekerk, the association’s head of public relations and a guide dog owner.

“Then there is the unwavering companionship that the dogs offer to their owners. Their presence breaks down social barriers and opens up the door for conversation and interaction with people who would normally feel awkward around a person with a disability.

“It’s the way we were taught growing up. ‘Don’t stare, don’t look’ whenever you saw someone with a disability. People are naturally drawn to an animal. Although it does pose its challenges when you are trying to get somewhere and you are stopped every two minutes because someone wants to say hi to your dog, it’s still a wonderful experience to have so many people show an interest in you rather than shy away and say ‘ag, shame’.

“Everyone goes to work, goes shopping, enjoys quality time with friends and family at places like restaurants and other attractions. The dogs are trained to be able to assist our clients with getting on with their daily life in a safe and efficient manner.

“We have a client who is employed by a large company in Sandton. He travels from Centurion on the Gautrain every day to work and back. His only assistant is his guide dog.”

The biggest work the association does, though, is not with dogs, but with humans, through its College of Orientation and Mobility. It provides training to people to become orientation and mobility practitioners to go into townships and rural areas.

“The orientation and mobility practitioners are trained at our Seta- registered institute and qualify with an NQF Level 5 diploma. These practitioners teach visually impaired people life skills such as cooking, cleaning, dressing themselves, identifying items such as money, route-finding and cane skills,” says Sands.

“One of the practitioners who operates in rural areas came across a young boy who was visually impaired. His parents would keep him in a crib locked inside the house while they were at work during the day, hoping to keep him safe. After a few months of working with the practitioner, the little boy was able to safely find his way around his house, go outside and even play with friends.”

SA Guide

Leigh de Beaufort, the head of kennels and puppy raising at the SA Guide Dog Association, cuddles a week-old Labrador puppy.

Children on the low-level autism disorder spectrum have also made immense progress after receiving support dogs.

“Where they would typically hide away from any interaction and not make eye contact with or speak to anyone, they become only too happy to tell anyone interested in listening about their dog. We have even had a case where a child that had never spoken a word by the age of 7 started speaking to his dog,” says Sands.

The association follows a responsible breeding programme at Onderstepoort, Pretoria, using imported semen from the US to artificially inseminate its carefully-selected brood bitches.

From birth to graduation, all dogs undergo extensive screening and testing for any possible health issues, such as hip or elbow dysplasia and allergies, and follow a rigid maintenance programme to ensure each dog has a perfect bill of health when they graduate as a working dog.

The process, including training, runs into hundreds of thousands of rand which is entirely met by the association – the qualifying client pays a nominal amount of R5 to activate the contract between the association and the new owner.

The association places strict requirements on owning a dog to ensure it remains happy, healthy and safe in service. It remains part of the dog’s life, visiting at least once a year – even beyond its retirement.

The puppies are kept on the premises, in the “puppy block”, from birth until 8 weeks, when they are placed with volunteer puppy raisers who keep them at their homes, socialising them and taking them to the association every week for training. At around 16 months, the dogs go back for four to eight months of “boarding school”, being released back to the puppy raisers on weekends.

Service dogs, guide dogs and autism support dogs are trained to perform different tasks. During the advanced stages of training, the dogs will be trained to perform special activities based on the particular requirements their possible new owner may have.

The working dogs do more than just assist a person to move around safely or retrieve, fetch, push, pull and open and close things – they are also trusted companions, which may be why autism support dogs have made life-changing differences to their young owners.

Once a dog is qualified and has passed all training requirements, they are matched with the possible new owner. If the match is successful, the handover process begins. For two weeks, the new owner will stay at the training centre, culminating in a graduation ceremony attended by puppy raisers, trainers, graduates, sponsors, friends and family. The handover training continues at the client’s home.

It is 66 years since Gladys Evans, after training in the UK, returned to South Africa with the country’s first guide dog and started the association, to try to give every blind person the same gift she had received, that changed her life.

“We could do so much more, we need to do so much more, but we are wholly dependent on donations,” says executive director Vernon Tutton. “The more we get, the more dogs we can breed and train, the further we can reach out to the visually impaired and the more lives we can change.”

For more, visit The SA Guide Dog Association.

Source: IOL

Spain’s Supreme Court Puts An End To Torture Of Bulls At ‘Toro de la Vega’ Festival

Torture Of Bulls

The Spanish Supreme Court has recently delivered a historic verdict banning all activities relates to bull torture at the “Toro de la Vega” festival, thus saving countless animals from great suffering.

“Toro de la Vega” festival was a tradition for men to stab young bulls with spears at the festival in Castilla y León for almost 500 years.

As a result of the pressure put on by Spanish animal welfare organizations such as PACMA and PETA on those responsible, in 2016, the regional government of Castilla y León banned the stabbing of bulls at the festival. But shortly after this groundbreaking decision, Tordesillas City Council appealed to the Supreme Court. Allegedly, there was no reason to prohibit the killings.

This time the Spanish Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal and put an end to the almost 500-year-old animal torture tradition once and for all. The bulls are not only tortured with arrows and spears on the celebration but finally also stabbed. Before that, the tail is cut off alive. In the end, the city council gave the person who killed the suffering animal a ceremonial spear and a medal.

This success is an important milestone in the context of a far-reaching movement that is spreading throughout Spain. More and more people do not want to attend festivals and other events where bulls are tortured in the name of entertainment. Over 100 cities have already banned bullfights. According to a survey, 80% of Spaniards are against these cruel events.

It’s great that more and more cities and regions are banning bullfighting events. But there are still countless bulls suffering for human entertainment. In the case of the so-called “fire bull”, for example, a bull is poured over its head with bad luck and set on fire. Please take part in our call for action against this cruelty to animals.

Source: Epicalyptic

Aspiration Pneumonia in Pets – Going Down the Wrong Pipe!

Aspiration Pneumonia

Photo by Brett Hondow

Aspiration Pneumonia – What is it?

The lungs have multiple lobes with numerous branches. This arborization ultimately leads to alveoli, grape-like sacs where oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange occurs between the lungs and bloodstream. This exchange occurs through a very thin membrane called the blood-air barrier. Anything that impairs or obstructs this barrier prevents adequate oxygen exchange, and affected pets can develop life-threatening respiratory distress.

Aspiration Pneumonia

Illustration of the blood-air barrier.

There are multiple potential reasons for impairment of the blood-air barrier. Some of the reasons resulting in aspiration pneumonia are the inappropriate and inadvertent introduction of mouth secretions, stomach contents (via vomiting), and even some medications (i.e.: barium) into the airway. When any of these fluids are aspirated into the lung, the result is variable degrees of inflammation and possibly infection.

Aspiration Pneumonia – What causes it?

Through a tremendous amount of scientific study, several factors have been identified that increase the risk of aspiration pneumonia:

  • Disease of the esophagus (tubular structure that connected the mouth to the stomach), including megaesophagus
  • Gastrointestinal disease, including inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diseases of the larynx (voice box), including laryngeal paralysis
  • Forced feeding
  • Forced administration of liquid medications
  • Altered level of consciousness due to neurologic disease
  • Sedation/anesthesia (especially the use of narcotics)
Aspiration Pneumonia

Chest radiograph (x-ray) of a dog with aspiration of barium, a liquid contrast agent. Image courtesy of Dr. Lorrie Gaschen

Aspiration Pneumonia – What does it look like?

Any breed can develop aspiration pneumonia. Large and giant breed dogs appear to be affected most commonly. Further, some dog breeds are over-represented, including:

  • German shepherds
  • Golden retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers

Middle-aged and geriatric dogs and cats are more often affected although pets of any age may develop aspiration pneumonia. Dogs and cats frequently cough, and may produce sputum because of their coughing. Other encountered clinical signs include:

  • Lethargy
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Nasal discharge
  • Abnormal breathing noises
  • Respiratory distress

Physical examination by a veterinarian may identify obvious respiratory concerns. Patients may breathe rapidly, have elevated heart rates, have fevers, and be in distress. Some pets, however, have minimal physical changes. Lungs may sound abnormal when a veterinarian listens to them with a stethoscope.

Aspiration Pneumonia – How is it diagnosed?

In patients in whom aspiration pneumonia is suspected based on clinical signs and physical examination, further diagnostic testing is indicated. Veterinarians will initially recommend evaluation chest radiographs (x-rays) in patients suspected of living with aspiration pneumonia. As I mentioned earlier, dogs and cats have multiple lung lobes. Certain lobes are affected more commonly than others based on their anatomic location, particularly the right middle lung lobe, right cranial lung lobe, and left cranial lung lobe.

Veterinarians will also recommend evaluating a patient’s blood oxygen level and ability to saturate hemoglobin (the body’s oxygen transport protein). These evaluations are achieved via arterial blood gas evaluation and pulse oximetry, respectively. The former is a minimally invasive test that involves sampling a small volume of blood from an artery. The latter is a painless and non-invasive assessment that utilizes a special probe placed on various body parts.

Sampling of the abnormal fluid in the lower airway can be profoundly helpful. Possible sampling procedures include tracheal washing and bronchoalveolar lavage. Such testing rules out other possible causes of a patient’s clinical signs and radiographic changes, and confirms a diagnosis of aspiration pneumonia. Furthermore, the results also provide information that can help guide antibiotic therapy. These minimally invasive procedures require specialized training, and many family veterinarians will refer families to a board-certified veterinary internal medicine specialist. Below is a video of a bronchoalveolar lavage being performed via tracheobronchoscopy.

Aspiration Pneumonia – How is it treated?

Treatment of aspiration pneumonia requires effectively treating the underlying cause(s) and ensuring pets can adequately oxygenate tissues. Possible therapies include:

  • Oxygen supplementation
  • Antibiotic therapy to treat suspected or confirmed infection
  • Anti-nausea medications to reduce (and hopefully prevent) vomiting
  • Medications to promote proper gastrointestinal motility
  • Intravenous fluid therapy to help maintain proper hydration
  • Chest physiotherapy to help moisten respiration secretions and encourage pets to cough them up

Many patients with aspiration pneumonia are initially quite sick. Some patients may be critically ill, and require temporary mechanical ventilation to support their breathing. These pets need around-the-clock care in veterinary specialty hospitals under the care of board-certified veterinary emergency and critical care specialists.

The take-away message about aspiration pneumonia in pets…

Aspiration pneumonia is airway inflammation and infection induced by the inappropriate introduction of oral secretions, stomach contents, and/or medications in the lungs. Accurate diagnosis requires a combination of physical examination, chest imaging, and airway sampling. Collaborating with board-certified veterinary internal medicine and emergency and critical care specialists can be helpful to maximize the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Wishing you wet-nosed kisses,


Horner’s Syndrome


Stay on top of your dog’s dental health

Dental Health

As a proud dog owner, it’s important to prioritise your dog’s dental health or risk having to deal with gum disease or tooth decay, which can lead to bad breath, bleeding gums and tooth loss.

Be aware of bad breath. Do not ignore the harsh, musky scent coming from your dog’s mouth. This could be a warning that your furry friend might have a periodontal (gum) disease or stomatitis, which is the inflammation of soft tissue in the mouth.

Pedigree recommends five steps on how to maintain your dog’s dental health.

  1. Brush your dog’s teeth – It might seem hard to do and requires patience, but the rewards are worth it. You can turn tooth brushing into a bonding session with your furry friend. Slowly try to work your way to brushing each side of the mouth for a few seconds. Do not use human toothpaste, as it is not safe for pets. Rather consult your veterinarian for a viable alternative.
  2. Diet – If brushing your dog’s teeth ends in blood, sweat and tears, there are alternative options to maintaining and improving your dog’s oral health. Crunchy kibbles are better for your dog’s teeth than soft food. The firmer food is less likely to stick to the teeth and cause decay.
  3. Dental treats – Did you know that four out of five dogs over the age of three have gum disease caused by plaque and tartar build up around the gums? Pedigree Dentastix are clinically proven to improve oral health by reducing plaque and tartar build-up. With the unique X shape, texture and special ingredients, when fed daily, Dentastix can reduce tartare build up by up to 80%. Keep your pooch’s teeth and gums clean, strong and healthy with a yummy Dentastix daily.
  4. Veterinarian check-ups – Humans are not the only ones who need to have their teeth checked by a professional. Your dog needs regular check-ups too. Even if they have healthy teeth, your dogs should have their teeth checked by a professional every six to twelve months. Request a dental exam from your veterinarian find out if your pooch has any existing or potential dental concerns. Your dog will be anaesthetised while undergoing dental work or teeth cleaning.\
  5. Encourage your dog to chew a lot – Avoid chews that have hard and solid surfaces such as cow hooves and antlers, because they can cause cracked teeth. Opt for safer objects such as chew toys as they are designed to strengthen your dogs’ gums and teeth without causing damage.

Source: Pedigree