How much would you spend to save your pet?

Image: Pixabay

Betsy Boyd had a tough decision to make. The Baltimore college professor’s 17-year-old cat Stanley had stage 4 kidney failure and faced a dire prognosis. Boyd was considering a kidney transplant for her long-time best friend, but was weighing the cost of putting the cat through such a risky procedure. She was also, of course, concerned about the financial expense.

“I asked myself if I could make such an exorbitant sacrifice for my best friend,” Boyd wrote, explaining the situation. “Even though I’m a college writing professor and freelance editor — and my paychecks reflect as much — even though my semi-retired freelance journalist husband and I have twin sons, age 3, a voice inside said, ‘You can, and you must — this is Stanley.'”

Friends tried to stage an intervention, saying the money should be used for her children’s education.

“Then I talked to Stanley. I explained how much I wanted him to live but said I didn’t know what I should do,” she wrote. “He purred a lot. He wanted to live, I believed. But he wouldn’t, couldn’t — not with a bum couple of shriveled kidneys.”

Boyd opted to have the surgery for Stanley. His donor was a homeless cat that the family adopted after the procedure. The bill came in just under $17,000.

The cost of pet ownership

Image: Pixabay

We all know there are going to be expenses when we bring home a pet.

The annual cost of owning a dog or cat (or other non-human friend) varies, depending on its species and its size, according to estimates from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (ASPCA). That means roughly $737 for a small dog, $894 for a medium dog, $1,040 for a large dog, and $809 for a cat. That excludes one-time expenses like spaying/neutering and equipment like crates or carriers.

Out of those annual expenses, owners typically spend between $210 and $260 on recurring annual medical expenses. Those include regular checkups, vaccinations and preventative medications like heartworm pills and flea and tick medicine.

But the unexpected can happen and then you’re back at the vet for an ear infection, skin allergies or something more serious.

Nationwide pet insurance policyholders spent more than $96 million in 2017 to treat the 10 most common medical conditions affecting pets.

At an average cost of $255 per dog, skin allergies were the most common health issue among insured canines. Bladder/urinary tract disease was the most common concern for cats with an average cost of $495. The most expensive medical condition on the list for dogs is dental disease ($400) and diabetes ($889) for cats.

Where to draw the line

Image: Pixabay

A 2013 study by the American Humane Association found that one in 10 pets adopted from a shelter was no longer in the home six months later. One of the main reasons given for the animals’ return was the cost of pet ownership.

Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, our pets have the ability to live longer than ever before, but that comes with a hefty price tag. While some people don’t hesitate when faced with diagnostic tests, transfusions or chemotherapy, others have a finite number they’re willing to spend.

A 2017 poll of 250 dog owners and 250 cat owners by online lending resource LendEDU found that the average dog owner is willing to spend more than $10,000 to save their pet’s life. Cat owners, on average, will spend just shy of $3,500.

Some will spend way more, which seems like great news for pets … and vets. But not all vets think it’s a great idea.

“It’s wonderful that people are willing to spend $10,000 or $20,000 to deal with their sick pet, but ethically it puts us in quicksand,” Douglas Aspros, the former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the manager of a veterinary clinic in White Plains, New York, tells Slate.

“If a client wants me to do a $20,000 surgery on a cat, the practicality has to go beyond, ‘There’s someone willing to pay for it.’ As a society, should we be promoting that?” Some veterinary practices, he says, use companies that will offer credit with very high interest rates to people with low incomes, just so they can afford their pets’ vet bills.

“How much responsibility do we have for getting them into that?”

Roxanne Hawn of Golden, Colorado, spent nearly $31,000 in 23 months to save her dog, Lilly. “Probably not the best financial decision I ever made,” says Hawn, author of “Heart Dog: Surviving the Loss of Your Canine Soul Mate.”

Her blog follows Lilly’s illness and details her veterinary bills and how she paid them. “I did not have anyone to tell me where this might end up,” Hawn says. “When you’re in the crisis, it’s easy to hand over your credit card and say, ‘Save my dog!’ But once you start on a path like this, if it’s going to be a lengthy or even lifelong battle, then it becomes harder to stop.”

Source: Mother Nature Network

Neuropathic Pain in Dogs

Neuropathic Pain in Dogs - image

Neuropathic Pain in Dogs can take on many forms, and our beloved pooches can’t express to us in words how they’re feeling, so it remains our responsibility as pet parents to watch out for any changes in their behaviour that indicate they are in physical pain and take them to an experienced veterinarian to identify the primary source of the pain and advise on the correct treatment. By doing this we can ensure vet care is provided at the earliest possible opportunity, saving our dogs from what could be intense and prolonged physical pain.

What is Neuropathic Pain in Dogs?

Neuropathic pain is when a sense of pain transfers from the initial source and neural pathways become abnormally sensitised. The pain can occur with or without provocation.

Causes of Neuropathic Pain in Dogs

The most widely known causes of neuropathic pain in dogs can be associated with any disease (such as a tumour) or injury which impacts the functioning of the spinal cord and the nervous system. Any irregularity in the normal functioning of the peripheral or central nervous system can be attributed to this pain. The following are other potential causes of neuropathic pain:

  • phantom pain caused from amputation of a limb
  • hyperthyroidism
  • diabetes (link to
  • intervertebral disc herniation


If the pain is a result of tissue or nerve damage, pet owners will notice that a light touch to the affected area will intensify the pain for their pooches (allodynia). Their dog may also experience increased sensitivity to the area (hyperalgesia) and move away from them because of the heightened sensitivity to touch (hyperpathia).

However, if this condition is a result of spinal cord related issues, then the most common symptoms would most likely manifest as mobility issues. Pet parents may notice the emergence of the following symptoms:

  • muscle wasting or atrophy
  • persistent limping or dragging of limbs
  • low tolerance for any form of exercise
  • change in mood and behaviour
  • unwillingness to engage in physical activity such as exercise
  • significant change in posture
  • crying out or vocalisation of pain
  • loss of appetite
  • urination and defecation in unsuitable places
  • consistently chewing or licking the affected area


Because your pooch is unable to communicate their pain, it’s difficult for pet parents to assess the origin or severity of their chronic (continuous) pain, so taking your pet to the vet as soon as you observe associated signs of this condition is essential as your pup certainly doesn’t deserve to endure this distress.

Your vet will usually initiate a diagnostic procedure starting with an examination of the medical history of your beloved canine. You know your pooch best and because they cannot verbalise how they feel, as their pet parent you are their voice and it is your responsibility to communicate clearly with your vet during this process, describing in great detail any observations you may have picked up. The veterinarian may ask questions about the length and intensity of the associated pain or out of character behaviour, recent or past injuries, illnesses and any areas where the pain may be originating from. Reflex tests, basic blood tests and x-rays may also be performed to identify and rule out probable causes of the issue, such as spinal cord tumours.

There are a few key techniques used for diagnosing a neuropathic state in dogs, such as applying hot/cold temperatures, gently patting with cotton, applying pressure or even a pinprick to an affected area. When such methods are applied to a healthy dog, not much pain may be inflicted, but they sure can be excruciating to pooches suffering from neuropathic pain so prepare yourself.


Veterinarians will prescribe pain relievers or analgesic medicine for your beloved companion to ease the intensity of the pain to acquire relief. Dosage types may change until the optimal effect of the medication is achieved. Based on the causes of the chronic pain, an effective treatment framework would comprise of non-pharmacological therapy such as massage and acupuncture along with medication which may comprise of opioids, anti-inflammatories and anti-epileptics. Your pooch’s quality of life depends upon how effectively the chronic pain management is implemented and monitored.


Schedule daily or weekly follow ups with your veterinarian to ensure your pooch is responding favourably to the medication tailored to their individual needs. It’s of vital importance to monitor and report any positive or negative changes your dog is experiencing under the treatment to your veterinarian. Remember that unfortunately, neuropathic pain doesn’t disappear but with the proper pain management plan, your pooch can still have the happy, pain-free life they ought to have.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson



The Wonder of Service Dogs

The Wonder of Service Dogs - image

Service dogs are truly inspirational! Being furry guardian angels to people with disabilities, these selfless creatures devote themselves wholeheartedly to their owners, ensuring they can meet all their daily needs and tasks efficiently.

What are Service Dogs?

Service dogs are canines that have been through intensive training with the purpose of assisting a physically or mentally disabled individual by conducting day to day tasks that they would be otherwise unable to perform. Various types of service dogs are specially trained for serving people with specific purposes, for instance those who are vision and hearing impaired as well as patients who have been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders, diabetes and epilepsy.

Types of Service Dogs

  • Visual Service Dogs
    These service dogs are specifically trained to support their visually impaired handlers in conducting day to day activities. Also known as “Guide Dogs” or “Leader Dogs”, these canine companions are supposed to wear a white guide dog harness, purposely designed for use by individuals that require visual assistance. Sturdy breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Labradors and German Shepherds are popular candidates for this area of specialisation.

  • Hearing Service Dogs
    These special canines are specifically trained to respond to their handler’s surrounding sounds such as doorbells, phones, cars, alarms and impressively, their name! This capability enables the dog to alert their hearing-impaired handler.

  • Psychiatric Service Dog (PSDs)
    PSDs are specialised in assisting and supporting their handlers suffering from depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Autism, Schizophrenia, Panic and eating disorders as well as Social Anxiety Disorder and Agoraphobia. Their scope of tasks can range from reminding their handler when to take their medication, to calming them down when on the verge of or during a manic or panic attack. They’re also able to intervene and interrupt their handler’s OCD behaviours and are also specially trained to disrupt a traumatic memory or hallucination of their handler suffering from PTSD.

  • Seizure Response Dogs
    The responsibility of these canines is to perform specific tasks for handlers prone to seizures. Commonly delivered tasks include alerting someone in case their owner experiences a seizure, fetching medicine and applying deep pressure for ending a seizure episode. While service dogs can be trained for promptly performing these tasks, they incredibly only develop the skill to intuitively sense the onset of a seizure as the bond between their handler and them strengthens over time.

  • Diabetic Alert Dogs (DADs)
    Also known as “Blood Sugar Alert Dogs”, these responsible companions are well-trained to use their special K9 alert devices for placing a 911 call if their handler experiences abnormally high or low blood sugar levels. Most DADs have handlers from different age ranges that may not necessarily present signs of any disability.

Service Dog Training Process

  • Puppy Raising
    A puppy raiser is a service doggie-term for a foster parent. Puppy raisers are people with specialised training to nurture and rear puppies until they reach 14-16 months of age. From here, they commence with service dog training programs.

  • Pre-Screening
    Pre-screening is required for all potential service dogs and this process takes approximately two weeks. During this time, dogs are X-rayed and tested for possible medical and/or behavioural issues. Pups that pass the pre-screening phase then proceed to the next training stage.

  • First Term
    After a three-month period, these dogs are expected to have polished up on their response skills to basic obedience and command training learnt as puppies. In addition, they learn retrieval commands as well as to work and be around a wheelchair. Dogs surpassing the training criteria of the first term advance to the next semester whilst those that don’t seem to be ideally suited to the task are adopted by loving families, very often being the puppy raisers.

  • Second Term
    This challenging block of training runs over another three-months where dogs are taught over 40 different commands. They are also prepared to perform efficiently in varying environments, so they are more adaptable to meeting a diversity of people.

    Again, at this stage, not all dogs are considered ready, while those that are will continue to the next training phase, bringing them closer to their service dog qualification. By this stage, the trainer is so familiar with the pooch that they are easily able to identify the perfect owner for him or her.

  • Team Training
    This phase takes place over two weeks, in which the dog’s new handler is educated in handling their doggie devotee. A graduation ceremony is then hosted where the trainers entrust the leash to the new owner.

Applying for a Service Dog

Individuals over the age of 18 years who demonstrate physical limitations in performing daily tasks can apply for a service dog. All prospective handlers must pay a small fee of R5.00 upon the satisfactory completion of the training course which shall also mark their first day as the canine’s owner.

We highly commend the trainers of these incredibly intuitive service dogs for their commitment to educating these canines with the objective of improving the lives of those who suffer from disabilities. Great respect and gratitude is especially owed to all the service dogs out there, selflessly sacrificing their time for the sole purpose of enriching their disabled human companions’ existence. Thanks to these saving graces, the phrase “Man’s best friend” has never rung truer.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson



Diabetes in Dogs – all you need to know

Diabetes in dogs - image

As is the case with humans, diabetes in canines is a manageable disease. With the appropriate lifestyle changes such as dietary control, exercise and effective treatment, your dog’s quality of life can be significantly enhanced, restoring their activity levels and contributing to their overall sense of well-being.


Diabetes mellitus in dogs is categorised under Type 1 and Type 2, where the former is an insulin deficiency while the latter is marked by insulin resistance. The primary cause of Type 1 diabetes in canines is associated with pancreatitis, a condition that leads to damaging of the cells responsible for producing insulin in the pancreas. Research indicates that certain dog breeds such as Samoyeds and Keeshonds have a higher likelihood of developing Type 1 diabetes.

The causes of Type 2 diabetes in canines are similar to that of humans and are associated with obesity, Cushing’s disease and the use of steroid medications. Female dogs which have not been spayed also have a higher susceptibility to Type 2 diabetes.


Symptoms of diabetes in canines start to emerge gradually. Dogs with high glucose levels urinate excessively and in large quantities which leads to dehydration and thirst. Other signs that are linked to diabetes are:

  • accidental urination
  • painful or bloody urination
  • smelly urination
  • glaucoma leading to loss of vision
  • too much licking of the genitals
  • increased appetite
  • weight loss


Fortunately, the diagnostic procedure for canine diabetes is straightforward as veterinarians will be able to provide an initial diagnosis based on the emergence of the abovementioned symptoms. Diabetes mellitus is a condition which leads to the accumulation of unprocessed sugars in the blood stream when they cannot be properly metabolised by the body. This is known as “hyperglycemia”. Accordingly, “glycosuria” defines the traces of this component which are found in the urine. Blood and urine tests can be administered to check whether your pet has diabetes. These tests will usually require your pet to fast for a specific period.


If the diagnosis for diabetes is positive, the pooch’s blood sugar levels will have to be determined over a 12–24hour period to develop a “curve”. The dog will most likely have to stay overnight so that the vet can assess the curve in relation to their feeding and insulin injection times, thereby establishing a control against which to compare blood sugar levels in the future.

The treatment plan for the disease depends on its category. Canines with Type 1 diabetes need insulin following each meal, making it necessary for pet parents to learn how to administer insulin successfully. A vet will prescribe the dosage and type of insulin based on the dog’s condition. Associated symptoms may reappear or deteriorate over time needing the vet to re-adjust the insulin dosages accordingly. This may take months to come up with the most effective treatment plan owing to the vast availability of various types of insulin for your dog’s specific age, size, gender, and activity level, particularly if the disease in still in the early stages. Dogs with non-insulin dependent or Type 2 diabetes maybe prescribed medications in addition to the injections.


Managing diabetes takes a considerable amount of attention to detail. Besides giving your dog their insulin injection, you are also required to track their blood glucose levels, twice daily at a minimum. This entails pricking your pooch’s ear for a small sample of blood with a glucometer. Pet owners are advised to immediately contact their veterinarian if their pet’s blood sugar levels drop to extremely low levels.

If diabetes has emerged because of obesity, an effective dietary plan that is high in fibre can assist in managing the condition. A consistent and realistic exercise plan should also be integrated in your dog’s daily routine to keep their weight under control.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson



Cataracts in Cats

Cataracts in Cats

We all know that a happy, healthy feline friend makes for a contented pet parent, so having to witness your fur baby suffering from a visual problem can be a heartbreaking and stressful experience, to say the least. Fortunately, cataracts in cats are not as prevalent as it is in their canine counterparts, but it is still vital to stay informed about the disease, so you can take timely action in the ill-fated case that your cat develops it.

Causes of Cataracts in Cats

Cataracts refer to the appearance of murkiness in the eye’s crystalline lens that may lead to partial or absolute opacity. The root cause of this disease in felines is attributable to heredity, with breeds such as Himalayans and Persians having a greater likelihood of developing this problem. Accordingly, senior cats have greater chances of developing this eye disease, while it remains inconclusive as to whether gender plays any role in its appearance. Research has indicated that lack of proper nutrition, inadequate calcium levels (hypocalcemia), diabetes, old age, trauma and exposure to radiation can also contribute to cataracts.


Regardless of the underlying reasons for developing cataracts, the disease presents itself with similar symptoms while the majority of cases are linked to genetics. The most visible external sign of cataracts are cloudy pupils which present themselves as frosted ‘blue chips’. Other symptoms may include:

  • uncoordinated or abnormal walking
  • tripping and bumping into objects
  • squinting
  • watery discharge from eyes
  • changes in the eye – noticeably eye colour, shape and pupil
  • inability to recognise familiar faces
  • miscalculating distances
  • decrease in spatial awareness


If you notice the emergence of the abovementioned symptoms in addition to a cloudy appearance of your feline friend’s eyes, consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet will conduct standard diagnostic tests after taking your pet’s medical history into account. Tests such as complete blood count and urinalysis are needed for ruling out causes such as diabetes. An ultrasound may also be prescribed for gauging the severity of the issue thereby directing the doctor towards an effective treatment plan.


If cataracts emerge in very young kittens or is still in the early stages, treatment options may be avoided altogether with a simple over-the-counter anti-inflammatory eye drop prescribed to address any associated discomfort. If, however, the issue is related to nutritional deficiencies, your vet can recommend a complete dietary plan to improve your kitty’s eye condition or delay the progression of cataracts by proactively taking adequate measures. However, if the case is serious in nature and causes any vision impairment or eventual loss in sight, then surgical removal of the cataracts will most probably be the recommended treatment method.Great advancements have been made with regards to surgical techniques, with increasingly positive results leading to full vision retrieval. Unfortunately, surgery is costly, and the success rate cannot always be assured. In addition, surgery comes with a multitude of risk factors, such as glaucoma, retinal detachment and infection, which pet owners must consider before deciding on the surgical route.


The progression and severity of the disease coincides with its contributory causes and the animal’s age. Felines having undergone surgery to address the issue, should be taken care of as per the vet’s recommendations during the recovery period which maybe long and intensive. Periodic visits to the vet are recommended to keep track of your cat’s condition and monitor improvements. Cats with complete or partial vision loss must not be allowed to venture outdoors unsupervised. They will feel vulnerable in unfamiliar or noisy environments causing them to panic and potentially leading them into a hazardous situation that any pet parent would rather avoid entirely. Chaperoning your cat into the garden for some fresh air and exercise will come as a great treat to them. Speak to them in a soothing, gentle voice so they are comforted knowing you are there with them. Training them to walk on a leash is also a great way to expand their horizons, despite their visual impairment.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson



Ceasing Sudden Weight Loss in Cats

Ceasing Sudden Weight Loss in Cats

Ceasing Sudden Weight Loss in Cats

Just like us humans, your feline friend’s weight (whether over or underweight) is an indicator of existing or impending medical conditions, and any associated indications should be addressed in a timely manner. As pet parents, we seem to worry more about the weight our feline friends are accumulating than the weight they may suddenly be losing. Sudden weight loss or cachexia in cats should be managed with the same level of concern as drastic weight gain.

If you witness a sharp fall in your cat’s weight which exceeds ten percent of their usual body weight (when fluid loss is not responsible), this should be a cause for alarm. Read on to find out why drastic weight loss in your cat is menacing to their health and how to stop those shedding kilo’s in their tracks before causing permanent damage.

Causes of Weight Loss in Cats

If you notice a sudden drop in your purry pal’s appetite and they have simultaneously experienced drastic weight loss, chances are that they may be suffering from anorexia. This is a concerning medical situation for your feline friend as anorexia leaves feline’s prone to developing fatty liver syndrome, a potentially fatal condition in which the liver is required to metabolise large quantities of stored fat to provide the body with the energy it needs to function adequately.

In some cases, a cat might continue to retain their normal appetite and still undergo weight loss which may seem inexplicable. However, a number of reasons could clarify this mysterious observation. Excessive noise, dirty food bowls, bowls being too close to the litter tray, or other pets being present in your cat’s feeding quarters could set off psychological issues in these sensitive creatures, such as depression and stress, that could spur on sudden weight loss.

Medical conditions that could be related to this case include:

  • neurologic disorders making it challenging for them to pick up or swallow food
  • oesophagus paralysis
  • fever
  • diabetes
  • heart, liver or kidney failure
  • intestinal parasites
  • gastrointestinal problems such as obstructions
  • cancer
  • hyperthyroidism
  • dental problems
  • chronic blood loss
  • pet food or diet quality
  • feline infectious peritonitis
  • pancreatic disease
  • gallbladder disease
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • surgical removal of segments of the bowel
  • infections (bacterial, viral, fungal or chronic etc)
  • Addison’s disease (where the adrenal glands underproduce the necessary corticosteroid hormones the body require)
  • pregnancy or nursing
  • prolonged exposure to cold
  • skin lesions leading to significant loss of protein


Weight loss itself is a symptom of an underlying medical condition. A viable diagnosis will allow your vet to establish the root cause behind this symptom and how it presents itself with other clinical signs.


Your veterinarian will initiate their diagnostic examination with a series of tests to identify the primary cause for the weight loss. After conducting a general check-up of your feline companion, your vet may prescribe one or more of the following tests:

  • ultrasound of abdomen, liver and gall bladder
  • fecal studies
  • biopsy
  • detailed assessment of the pancreas
  • bile acids test
  • X-rays to check the condition of heart, abdominal organs and lungs
  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)
  • urinalysis
  • comprehensive biochemical profile


Based on the results of the physical exams and prescribed diagnostic tests, your vet may proceed to treat your kitty’s symptoms if they are too severe in nature for your cat to endure. Nonetheless, a treatment for the condition which is contributing to the weight loss will also be prescribed. This treatment will most likely be administered in association with dietary modifications to restore your cat’s physique to the optimal weight it once was. If your cat is experiencing conditions that make absorbing food challenging, your vet will recommend an easily-digestible dietary solution. Similarly, if your kitty is allergic to certain ingredients contained in their food, removing the offensive components could solve the weight loss problem entirely.    

Continue Reading Below

If your kitty has lost their appetite and is consequently losing weight, it may even be necessary to intervene by way of force-feeding your cat with feeding tubes or intravenously to ensure they receive the necessary nutrients until the vet can treat the cause of anorexia. Appetite stimulants may also be prescribed to trigger hunger pangs.


As a responsible pet parent, ensure that you schedule regular physical examinations with your vet. Follow-up visits are also essential to closely monitor any changes in weight and keep track of your kitty’s treatment progress.


Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

Is your Cat’s Hair Falling Out, Wearing Out and Tearing Out?

 is your Cat’s Hair Falling Out, Wearing Out and Tearing Out?

Stroking your feline friend’s soft coat is a pastime many pet parents obviously enjoy, but you may find yourself a little bewildered upon noticing the gradual thinning of your purry pal’s fur volume. If your cat is losing a reasonable amount of hair because of shedding season, then you can breathe as this is rather normal. However, a sudden and drastic loss of hair is a problem that you should address immediately.

Causes of Hair Loss or Alopecia in Cats

If you’ve noticed that your kitty has become abnormally engrossed in chewing and licking their fur of late rather than spending their time playing, sleeping or eating, various reasons could be triggering this unusual behaviour…

Cancer, especially in older felines, along with allergies to food, dust, pollen, medicines and insect bites can contribute to the emergence of bald spots. In an attempt to relieve the irritability, your furry feline may consistently lick the area of irritation until hair growth in that region is compromised. Your vet may also be able to identify whether the hair loss is a consequence of a hormonal imbalance due to an overactive thyroid or excessive levels of steroids.

Alopecia can also be attributed to diabetes or immune system issues so it’s vital you describe to your vet in detail what your kitty’s diet consists of, and any current behaviourial or environmental changes they may recently have experienced to help him diagnose the root cause thereof.

Parasites, for instance ticks, fleas and mice as well as fungal infections such as ringworm appearing as a dry, scabby hairless ring, are also common triggers of hair loss.

Continuous licking of the same spot may also be your cat’s way of relieving pain caused by arthritis.

Like humans, stressed and anxious felines can develop obsessive behaviours such as over-grooming, picking on their skin as well as scratching and licking which is known as “psychogenic alopecia”.

Certain feline breeds, such as Bengals and Himalayans tend to experience a higher likelihood of hair loss and are more prone to developing alopecia.


The most common symptoms of alopecia appear in the form of:

  • partial or extensive hair loss
  • bald spots
  • scabbing
  • redness
  • itching

In some cases, the hair loss presents itself in wide-ranging patterns on the feline’s body, while in other scenarios, it appears more symmetrical.


To identify the cause of alopecia, your vet may conduct a skin biopsy or culture to categorise any skin issues and related conditions. Any hormonal problems or imbalances are discovered by conducting a blood serum chemistry panel. Moreover, an ultrasound or X-ray maybe recommended for pinning down diseases such as cancer that could be contributing to the hair loss.  


The treatment plan for alopecia depends on your pet’s diagnosis report. Causes such as hormonal imbalances and various skin conditions that contribute to hair loss can be treated with the prescription of topical medications. If, however, alopecia is a consequence of stress and anxiety, the vet may recommend behavioural management and training to control this problem in addition to anti-anxiety or antidepressant treatment.


To manage your cat’s hair loss effectively, be sure to monitor their habits such as excessive licking, biting, scratching and chewing on parts of their body to ensure that they do not become more severe despite being treated with prescribed medication. Remember to consult with your vet periodically to report your feline friend’s progress and discuss any concerns related to their condition. Unfortunately, treatment options for hair loss are fairly restricted and effective prevention techniques are not yet available.

You know your purry pal best, so picking up on any changes in their behaviour and hair volume early on is vital to ensure you get to the bottom of the problem and receive the best treatment for it. This will ensure you have a higher possibility of restoring your full-volumed fluffy feline to their happy, healthy self.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson


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

Taking Feline Diabetes Down

Feline diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is being found in a startling number of cats and if left untreated, the consequences can be fatal. It’s essential to be attentive of the signs potentially suggesting the presence of this condition so you can give your cat the best possible treatment at a chance of a quality life.

What is diabetes mellitus?

In a healthy cat, sugar in the form of glucose, is required by the body for energy. The pancreas produces the hormone, insulin, which attaches to cells and indicates when to absorb glucose. This absorption provides essential fuel to the liver, muscles and cells in fat deposits, simultaneously reducing the glucose levels in the blood. Diabetes mellitus is a disease in which some feline bodies are unable to produce or respond to the hormone insulin, thereby causing a dangerous surge in sugar glucose levels.

Type I diabetes is when the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient levels of insulin, resulting in higher concentrations of glucose. Type II diabetes is caused by the body’s cells’ inefficiency to respond properly to insulin. Cats with diabetes typically suffer from Type II.

Clinical Signs

  • Weight loss irrespective of increased appetite
  • Excessive thirst and urination, thereby causing a possibility of dehydration
  • In neglected cases, nerve damage to the hind limbs may occur
  • Depression
  • Coma
  • Death


Your vet will not only enquire about potential symptoms your cat maybe experiencing, as mentioned above, but they will need to test blood and urine to establish the glucose concentrations therein. Although these symptoms could signal your kitty has diabetes, they may also be the result of several other diseases.

Blood tests to diagnosis diabetes are not always clear-cut because even healthy cats may display elevated glucose levels in their blood, resulting from stress onset by a veterinarian visit, otherwise known as hyperglycemia. Therefore, healthy cats that don’t have diabetes, may have temporary heightened blood glucose concentrations when tested by a vet. To avoid this misconception, veterinarians will alternatively measure the levels of fructosamine in the blood. Cats with acute diabetes will show increased levels of fructosamine which is assumed not to be considerably influenced by stress levels. Fructosamine levels are therefore, accurate in ascertaining the valid blood glucose measures, thereby establishing an accurate diagnosis of diabetes in cats.


Treatment of cats with diabetes aims to:

  • Reduce and/or prevent any further weight loss
  • Reduce and/or prevent any further indications of excess thirst and urination
  • Regulate appetite
  • Re-establish blood glucose to normal levels

Insulin Therapy

Diabetic cats are typically treated with injectable insulin and owners can learn to execute the procedure at home. With practice, owners and cats will feel more at ease with the process. Insulin preparations vary in terms of duration and the outcomes associated with fluctuations of blood glucose. Your vet will periodically administer insulin over a duration of between 12 – 24 hours, as a control to determine the type of insulin and dosage rate that ideally manages your cat’s particular blood glucose concentrations.


Low carbohydrate diets have proven to control blood glucose concentrations in the body. If your cat is underweight, because of the diabetes, ensure to feed them numerous meals a day or allow them unlimited access to their food, both day and night. On the other end of the spectrum, ask your vet to prescribe a diet suitable for an overweight cat which will likely assist their bodies in maintaining more balanced glucose levels.

Management and Monitoring

Although there is no cure for feline diabetes, it can be managed if the owner is well-informed and dedicated to treating the condition. If the disease is treated with commitment, a cat can live a high-quality life for an extended number of years. In some cases, cats may go into remission, no longer depending on insulin treatments. However, owners should still be consistently vigilant of any clinical symptoms of diabetes and maintain a low carbohydrate diet.

Parents of diabetic cats should closely watch their purry pal’s appetite, body weight, water consumption, urination frequency, the quantity of insulin given as well as blood or urine glucose levels. All this information should be recorded and conveyed to your veterinarian on a regular basis. Weakness, lethargy, tremors, seizures and vomiting are signs of hypoglycaemia. In such cases, a glucose solution, dextrose gel or honey should be smeared onto your kitty’s gums followed by an immediate consult with your veterinarian.

As daunting as feline diabetes appears, it really is manageable, and your cat can still live a long, high quality life. With some research and education from reputable sources; commitment to administering the necessary treatments and keeping a watchful eye on your kitty, you’ll be able to take feline diabetes down!

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson



Understanding pet diabetes

Globally, and in South Africa, pet diabetes is on the rise, and pet owners are looking for health management plans to keep their fur babies happy, healthy and living longer lives.

“It’s so important for pet owners to understand that diabetes is not a death sentence for their pet,” says Tarryn Dent, Diagnostic and Technical Manager at Zoetis South Africa, a global animal health company

“We’ve found that a lack of awareness can either lead to a missed diagnosis because pet owners don’t know what to look for or, if a pet is diagnosed with diabetes, many owners think that there is nothing left for them to do when the reverse is true. With consistent management, diabetes should have a minimal impact on pet owners and their pets’ daily routines.”

This management includes at-home blood glucose monitoring, insulin, diet and an exercise plan, through which every pet can live an active and happy life with diabetes.

Proactive health management

Type I and Type II diabetes in pets is more common than many pet owners think. Indications that could point to pet diabetes include unexplained fatigue or weakness, excessive thirst, frequent urination, an increased appetite and sudden weight loss.

“Pet owners who recognise any of these signs should ask their veterinarian to check for diabetes,” says Dent. “It’s a simple blood or urine test, and then a management plan can be put in place.”

Dent has long advocated for proactive diagnostics for pets, and diabetes screening is a perfect example of how beneficial diagnostics can be for pet owners whose pets are members of the family.

“Annual screenings can track if there have been any changes, particularly in insulin and glucose levels. The sooner an issue is picked up, the sooner it can be managed.”

Home screening is another option for pet owners who know that their pets experience elevated levels of stress at the vet or outside their normal routines, as stress can cause non-routine blood spikes in sugar levels.

4 simple steps to managing pet diabetes

The goal of any diabetes treatment is to control the amount of glucose in a cat or dog’s blood, which will reduce symptoms and help minimise or prevent complications.

Each diabetes plan is personalised to the pet and its owner and could include all or some of these protocols:

1. Insulin injections

Insulin dosing involves giving a pet a small insulin injection based on a specific dose and schedule. The injection is painless but it’s important to keep track of the time and amount of insulin that a pet receives.

2. Diet

Diets that eliminate or reduce sugar surges are usually preferred and can help pets lead long and healthy lives. Any changes in diet should be monitored, however, and the amount of food and water consumed should be tracked, as this will help a veterinarian determine if the diet is having a positive impact on an animal’s diabetes.

3. Exercise

Consistency in a pet’s daily exercise schedule is critical for diabetes management. If daily activity levels vary, an animal may require different amounts of insulin. Weekly weight checks can also monitor a pet’s health.

4. Blood glucose monitoring

Monitoring a diabetic pet’s blood glucose gives veterinarians the data they need to better manage a diabetes treatment plan. Typically, a veterinarian will either need to take several readings over a specified time frame, or a pet owner can take the readings at home using an at-home glucose monitor. Although it may initially appear daunting to a pet owner to be monitoring their pet’s glucose levels at home, there are benefits to this. Stress, and changes in an animal’s eating regime can have significant effects on glucose levels. Home testing allows veterinarians to get a complete picture of the pet’s glucose in their natural environment, eliminating the effects of being in hospital.

Fortunately, there are animal-specific, accurate and, most importantly, easy-to-use glucometers available that require a very small sample size to help pet owners easily do at-home testing for their diabetic animals.

Getting the most accurate representation of an animal’s glucose throughout the day allows a veterinarian to put the best management plan in place, which helps to minimise or avoid emergency room expenses and long-term diabetes complications.

A long, healthy life

According to Dent, with consistent management, diabetes should have minimal impact on the daily lives and routines of pets and their owners. “Veterinarians work closely with pet owners to ensure the health and wellness of their pets, and there are a range of diagnostic tools to support them. Diabetes is thankfully completely manageable, and pets with Type I and Type II diabetes can live long and happy lives.”  

Source: East Coast Radio