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Putting a Halt on Feline Halitosis

Having your beloved cat go under the extreme lengths of anaesthesia for a mere teeth cleaning procedure is a stressful ordeal for you both. Then after all the trauma and perhaps a few tooth extractions along the way, your cat often still suffers from the foul-smelling breath they started with.

Read on as there is far more than meets the eye when it comes to feline halitosis…

What causes feline halitosis?

One of the main causes of feline halitosis is the accumulation of bacteria on teeth that emits an unpleasant odour. Plaque is produced when this bacteria bonds with the teeth and, if not removed in time, it will develop into tartar. Tartar is far more challenging to eradicate from the teeth than plaque. This conglomeration of plaque and tartar can quickly progress to halitosis if overlooked.

Your cat’s diet could also be a contributing factor to the unwanted onset of halitosis and it could be as simple as an allergy to the ingredients in what they’re consuming. Halitosis could also merely be caused by a piece of food stuck in the teeth. Baby teeth could also be lurking in your adult cat’s mouth, harbouring unwanted plaque and bacteria.

Some cats are predisposed to inflammation and infection of the gums. Bacteria plagues the gums as well as the supporting tissues of the teeth, resulting in gingivitis or periodontal disease which also contributes to halitosis.

Whilst halitosis is usually quite manageable, it also could be a warning that something more sinister is disrupting your cat’s health and may become a critical medical problem if not treated. Conditions such as cancer, metabolic disorders (sugar diabetes), respiratory, gastrointestinal, liver and kidney problems may manifest as halitosis and these conditions should be investigated.

What symptoms should I be cautious of?

  • Unusual smelling breath:
    • Abnormal sweet or fruity breath could indicate diabetes, especially if your cat has unusually increased their fluid consumption or urination frequency.
    • Urine-smelling breath can be a sign of kidney disease.
    • A peculiar foul odour associated with yellowing of the corneas and/or gums, vomiting or loss of appetite could indicate a possible liver problem.
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Loss of mouth control, difficulty opening or closing
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhoea
  • Excessive brownish tartar on your cat’s teeth

If your cat is displaying any of these signs, consult your veterinarian straight away.

Treating feline halitosis:

Treatment of halitosis is determined by the root cause/s thereof. If halitosis is triggered by periodontal disease, the vet will probably schedule your cat in for a dental cleaning procedure because tooth loss may result if left unattended. In some cases, tooth extractions may have to be performed if the supporting bone and tissue have lost significant volume. The vet may also prescribe odour reducing medication that controls the bacteria production in the mouth. 

If periodontal disease is not a contributing factor to your cat’s halitosis, the vet will then need to run tests to discount any other possible triggers. The appropriate treatment plan will depend on the underlying cause/s identified. 

Preventing feline halitosis:

It’s essential to be proactive rather than reactive regarding your cat’s health and wellbeing by adhering to the following preventative tips:

  • Frequently monitor your cat’s breath and the associated symptoms of halitosis
  • Schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian so they can observe and track your cat’s dental condition.
  • Brush your cat’s teeth daily to prevent plaque build-up (tips on Brushing Your Feline Friend’s Teeth)
  • Ask your vet about supplementary oral health products that you can use at home.
  • Discuss with your vet a diet that will assist in keeping halitosis at bay.

You know your cat best, so any changes in odours or behaviour should immediately be reported to your vet so that you allow your cat a healthy, prosperous life. Don’t underestimate the significance of your feline friend’s “bad breath”, it could be far more ominous than you realise.

For Your Infurmaton:

Small cat breeds and brachycephalic breeds, for instance Persians and Himalayans, have closely set teeth and are consequently most predisposed to periodontal disease.

 

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

Did you know that Listeria can affect your dogs too?

The Listeria Outbreak in South Africa isn’t only affecting humans. It can affect your beloved pets as well so this is what to do to prevent it or treat it.

Listeriosis (or Listeria) is a serious, but treatable and preventable disease caused by the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes and is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water and vegetation. Furthermore, animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can be contaminated from these sources.

The bacterium doesn’t only affect humans, it can affect your dog as well.

Big retailers have already pulled the specific meats and issued a list of precautionary foods that they are recalling and refunding in preventative measures against the listeriosis outbreak in South Africa. These foods need to be disposed of correctly and not fed to any of your animals (writing it down seems weird but people are actually feeding this processed meat to their pets, causing many too get sick).

There is also a warning that has been put out that if your dog eats a raw diet instead of dog pellets, they are at a higher risk of becoming infected. Just as it is in humans, the young and old are more likely to be affected, so if you have a puppy or a senior dog, keep an eye on them.

In dogs, Listeria can be fatal if not treated immediately. These are the symptoms to look out for and should your dog show signs of them, take them to the vet immediately.

  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Muscle soreness
  • Lethargy
  • Stiff neck
  • Skin infections

If your dog is taken to the vet for any of these symptoms, be sure to disclose the fact that you either feed your pet a raw diet or that they are given table scraps as both could be causes. Keep an eye out on the websites linked to your dog’s pellets as well because sometimes the dry food can also be contaminated and the suppliers will do a recall.

Your dog’s treatment, should they become ill, will vary depending on the severity of the infection. They may be treated with simple medication or need to be hospitalised for in-depth care.

If your dog is diagnosed, it is important to follow the veterinarian’s exact treatment plan. If the dog worsens, they should be rushed back to the vet soonest. A follow up after the infection should also occur just to confirm that all illness has passed.

Source: Goodthingsguy

Prehistoric Puppy May Be Earliest Evidence of Pet-Human Bonding

A new analysis of 14,000-year-old canine reveals the earliest evidence for an emotional attachment with man’s best friend.

A re-examination of a 14,000-year-old puppy burial reveals the dog was cared for through multiple bouts of illness.

Dogs may have been man’s best friend — and treated as such— since the earliest days of domestication.

According to a study published recently in the Journal of Archaeological Science, prehistoric people likely cared for a sick puppy for weeks before it died, suggesting an emotional attachment to the animal.

Member of the Pack

In 1914, workers uncovered a grave at Oberkassel, today a suburb of Bonn, Germany. The remains — a dog, a man, and woman, along with several decorated objects made from antler, bone, and teeth — date back to the Paleolithic era, around 14,000 years ago.

Telltale signs on the puppy’s teeth show that it likely contracted canine distemper at about 19 weeks old.

 

It is the oldest known grave where humans and dogs were buried together and provides some of the earliest evidence of domestication.

Now, new analyses show this puppy was not only domesticated, it also appears to have been well cared for.

In examining the remains, veterinarian and Leiden University PhD candidate Luc Janssens noticed problems with the teeth that had not been previously reported.

“I’m lucky because I am both a veterinarian and an archaeologist,” says Janssens. “Archaeologists aren’t always looking for evidence of disease or thinking about the clinical implications, but as a vet, I have had a lot of experience looking for these things in modern dogs.”

The puppy was about 28 weeks old when it died. Telltale signs on the animal’s teeth revealed it probably contracted canine distemper virus at about 19 weeks old, and may have suffered two or three periods of serious illness lasting five to six weeks.

Early symptoms of distemper include fever, not eating, dehydration, lethargy, diarrhea, and vomiting. Neurological signs like seizures can occur during the third week.

“Since distemper is a life-threatening sickness with very high mortality rates, the dog must have been perniciously ill between the ages of 19 and 23 weeks,” says Liane Giemsch, paper co-author and curator at the Archäologisches Museum Frankfurt. “It probably could only have survived thanks to intensive and long-lasting human care and nursing.”

This might have included keeping the puppy warm and clean and providing it with water and food. Without this care, the authors conclude, the puppy would not have survived.

Prehistoric Pets

The exact time and place where dogs were first domesticated is unknown.

“On the basis of current data, which is not fantastically copious, it’s clear we had domestic dogs by at least 15,000 years ago,” says Keith Dobney, an archaeologist at the University of Liverpool who was not involved in the study. “How much earlier domestic dogs existed is up for debate, with some people saying they might go back to 30,000 years ago.”

Human motivation for domesticating dogs is also not fully understood. Most theories revolve around the many uses humans have for dogs, like hunting, guarding, and herding. But the remains of the Bonn-Oberkassel dog hint at more.

“We suggest that at least some Paleolithic humans regarded some of their dogs not merely materialistically, in terms of their utilitarian value, but already had a strong emotional bond with these animals,” says Giemsch.

Janssen, Giemsch and their colleagues say this puppy represents the earliest known evidence of dogs being regarded and treated as pets (a domesticated animal kept for pleasure rather than utility). The care it received while it was ill and of no use to people appears to have been driven by compassion or empathy; in other words, an emotional bond.

“For me, it’s not a real surprise,” says Matthijs van Kolfschoten, an archaeologist at Leiden University who was not involved in the study. “I grew up on a farm with animals all around, and with all these animals you had emotional bonds. If you work or live closely with animals, you have this bond.”

That this dog was treated with such care tells us more about human behavior than anything else, says Dobney.

“The evidence suggests this dog must have been special to somebody, and that these kinds of emotional relationships existed 14,000 years ago,” says Dobney.

It seems that ever since wolves became dogs, humans have been suffering from a case of puppy love.

Source: National Geographic

 

 

 

 

Having a Hairy Time with Hairballs?

Image: Pixabay

We have you covered:

As your fur child throws itself into a session of serious grooming or is nursing that bad habit of constantly licking itself, you know the chances are pretty high that they’ll eventually be delivering you a present of fuzzy tufts.  Hairballs are a reality for most cat owners as their feline friends, are by nature, accustomed to constantly sprucing up their appearance, however dogs with medium to long coats can also develop hairballs just as frequently.

Hairballs, otherwise known as tricholiths or trichobezoars, are clumps of entangled hair that is difficult to digest, thereby becoming wedged in a pet’s stomach, oesophagus or intestine.

If you would like to get better acquainted with the causes, symptoms and remedies for managing these hairy occurrences in your beloved pet, then read on…

Causes of Hairballs in Pets

Your furry companion’s grooming habits are the primary reason why they develop hairballs in the first place.

Cats are known to spend up to 50% of their time awake grooming. This is instinctive behaviour and they do it for several reasons. They groom to remove food and odors from their fur so they are not potential targets for predators. They groom to cool themselves down. Licking their fur distributes natural oils evenly around their coats which also seals in the heat. It is also thought that cat saliva contains certain enzymes that turn it into a natural antibiotic. By licking wounds, it may be guarding against infection. Cats groom to relax and take comfort in the ritual of cleaning head to tail. As the book by Jake M. Lewis states: When in Doubt Wash: A Mother Cat’s Advice to her kitten. A cat’s tongue is covered with tiny, bristle-like hairs and provides stimulation to the skin and increases blood flow when they lick and groom.

So with all these good reasons to groom, cats accumulate a lot of hair in their systems.

Canines however may engage in excessive grooming rituals during winter months when their skin becomes dry and irritated or if they develop skin problems such as allergies, ticks and fleas. Shedding season can also contribute to the occurrence of hairballs if they are left to tend to their own grooming devices. Luckily, during this process, much of the dead hair caught on the surface of the tongue is easily passed on as fecal matter. However, some stubborn hair left behind in the stomach may be expelled in the form of hairballs through the oesophagus.

Risks associated with hairballs depend on the amount of and duration the hair has been present in the gastrointestinal tract. Pets with a healthy elimination rate will easily expel moderate amounts of hair, however those with slower rates of elimination or those that are sick or weak, will endure problems even if small quantities of hair are ingested. If the hair has settled in your pet’s stomach for some time, chances are that the hairball has grown hard and large, thereby causing an obstruction in the stomach.

Symptoms

The physical symptoms such as gagging, vomiting and retching which occur when your pet ejects a hairball can be upsetting for a pet parent to watch but it’s important that you monitor this process closely to check if it has caused any blockages.

A veterinarian should be contacted immediately if a potential obstruction overlaps with the following symptoms:

  • loss of appetite
  • persistent vomiting without the ejection of hairballs
  • weakness and lethargy
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • bloated stomach (regarding more severe cases)

Treatment

In most cases, hairballs that are moderate in size can be ejected via the mouth and should not warrant a cause for concern for pet parents. However, if these hairballs grow too big and become unable to pass through the intestines, this could subsequently be cause for alarm. In the incident that a hairball causes an obstruction within the digestive system, a veterinarian may prescribe laxatives to your furry friend to resolve the issue. However, if the obstruction is severe enough in nature and has the potential to lead to further complications, then surgery may be the way forward.

Management

It is not possible to completely prevent hairballs, yet pet owners can take some simple steps to minimize the occurrence thereof:

  • Regular Grooming: By ensuring your loyal buddy is well-groomed with routine combing or brushing sessions, you will not only reduce the chances of hairballs developing but you can consider this special bonding time with your treasured fur baby. Grooming frequency should increase as your pet’s shedding rate increases. You can also wipe them down with a damp cloth to rid any excess hair. Throw the loose hairs away in a closed bin so they are inaccessible to your pet.
  • Feed your pet a healthy diet: A diet naturally high in fibre and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, enhances the quality of your pet’s coat and can also assist in reducing the chances of developing hairballs.
  • Speak to your veterinarian about giving your pet mild laxatives that can contribute to smoothly guiding a hairball through the digestive tract. Note: The use of laxatives for pets should only be used under a professional veterinarian’s supervision.
  • Any excessive grooming behaviour on your pet’s part should be monitored closely to find out the actual causes thereof. If your pet has been chewing at or licking their skin more than usual, it could be possible that they are suffering from allergies, in which case your vet can best prescribe something to treat the irritation.
  • Protect your pet from ticks or fleas to avoid them having to gnaw and lick in response to the related aggravation. Ticks and fleas should be treated immediately to prevent further problems from unfolding. read about Flea and Tick Prevention in Dogs
  • Keep your pet hydrated. Hydration is the key to a healthy gut so ensure your pet has constant access to water. This will also support easier elimination in your fur ball friend.
  • Ensure your pet is stimulated: Some pets gnaw and lick themselves relentlessly merely out of boredom or anxiety so ensure you keep them occupied and happy with toy puzzles, chew toys, regular walks and spending enough quality time with them.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

 

Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.

Brain Tumours in Dogs

Image: Pixabay

The brain of both humans and animals is a complicated and delicate organ. Unfortunately, our understanding of the intricacies of this structure is still relatively limited and when the brain is plagued by cancer, this ignorance becomes even more exasperating because the root cause of and definitive cure for brain cancer and tumours remain uncertain.

What are Brain Tumours?
A tumour is as an uncharacteristic growth of cells that can be categorised as either primary or secondary. A primary tumour is one which originates within the brain itself, while in the case of a secondary tumour, the cancer is spread to the brain from another part of the body in a process otherwise known as metastasis.

Causes of Brain Tumours
Research into the causes of this condition has yielded inconclusive results however; some studies have shown that various breeds are prone to developing tumours in different biological origins. Meningiomas are brain tumours originating from membranes covering the brain. These tumors are more likely to be found in dolichocephalic breeds of dogs, which have long, slender heads and snouts, such as Collies.  Contrarily, gliomas, which are tumours that develop in the interstitial tissue of the central nervous system, are more frequently identified in brachycephalic breeds of dogs, which have short-noses and flat-faces such as Boston Terriers, Pit Bull Terriers and Boxers. While it is possible for a canine to be diagnosed with a tumour at any age, a greater incidence has been observed in dogs over 5 years old.

Various genetic, chemical, immune system, dietary and environmental influences are considered to play a part in the cause thereof, but again, the results are uncertain.

Symptoms
The primary symptom of brain tumours in dogs is the onset of seizures. Other clinical signs may also begin to emerge either gradually or rapidly depending on the location, type, aggressiveness and size of the tumour. These symptoms include:

  • unsteady gait or ‘drunken’ walking
  • issues with vision and/or blindness
  • weakness and lethargy
  • uncharacteristic behaviour such as aggression
  • difficulty in breathing or dyspnea
  • open mouth breathing or panting
  • hypersensitivity to the neck area
  • loss of appetite or anorexia
  • nose bleeds
  • lack of coordination in movement
  • inappropriate urination
  • head rotation and circling
  • sneezing

Diagnosis
A veterinarian would most likely initiate the diagnostic procedure by conducting a physical examination of the dog, which could be followed by complete blood work, X-rays and a MRI and CT scan to examine the extent to which the disease has spread within the body.

Treatment
If the severity of symptoms is extensive, a vet may opt for emergency treatment first. There are three major treatment options available currently which include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Each of these options will be utilised depending upon individual cases to either remove the tumour or reduce its size as well as manage associated secondary effects such as fluid accumulation on the brain.

It’s best to include a reputable veterinary oncologist and neurologist as part of your pets consultations to best weigh up your treatment options. Some pet parents may devastatingly reserve euthanasia as a last resort to ease and alleviate the suffering of their fur child if the cancer is too advanced. A vet may also design a medical management plan to address seizures and prescribe steroids to reduce swelling of the brain.

Management
Remember, that your pup needs you now, more than ever and you need to vigilant in managing this condition. Frequent communication and physical examinations with your veterinarian, oncologist or neurologist as well as additional CT and MRI scans, are essential for pooches with brain tumours. It’s vital to consistently observe your pup for any associated or escalating problems such as an increase in the occurrence of seizures experienced.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

 

Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.

 

 

‘Head-pressing’ could be a sign of severe health disorders in pets

Head pressing

Image: Pixabay

This behaviour in dogs and cats is indicative of neural damage or nervous system disorders, and will not go away on its own.

While this behaviour may appear funny or cute, ‘head pressing’ is actually a sign of ill health, possibly severe neural damage, reports Zululand Observer.

Head-pressing is one of the early abnormal behavioural signs that indicate ill health in a dog or cat. Other signs include lethargy, weakness, and personality changes.

When an animal head-presses, it usually stands near a wall or corner, hanging its head low and not moving.

The animal need not press its head against a wall to exhibit head-pressing, but this often also occurs.

Head-pressing is indicative that something is wrong with the animal’s nervous system.

This could indicate a nervous system-specific ailment, or be the result of an existing condition that has progressed to neurological involvement.

This behaviour is not normal and will not go away on its own.

Should a pet exhibit head-pressing behaviour, urgent veterinary intervention is required.

Head-pressing could also be the result of the animal being under the influence of a toxin.

Symptoms in dogs

  • Pressing the head against stable objects for no obvious reason (ie not scratching an itch),
  • Exhibiting reduced reflexes,
  • Compulsive pacing,
  • Often developing sores from excessive pacing in a small area,
  • Seizures,
  • Drastic changes in behaviour,
  • Visual problems, such as trouble with identifying objects or obstacles.

Symptoms in cats

  • Pacing,
  • Circling,
  • Vision problems,
  • Seizures,
  • Slow reflexes,
  • Head injuries from forcefully pressing head into objects,
  • Sores on feet from pacing.

Cats are more difficult to diagnose than dogs, as their behaviour often involves sleeping face down, or rubbing their faces up against something. If your cat presses their head against a wall while awake and clearly anxious, this is cause for concern.

However, if your cat is sleeping or relaxing in an awkward position, this is just them being their cute selves.

Source: The Citizen

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

Diagnosis

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

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.

Diet

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

 

 

Revolting against Rabies

Rabies

Just the mere mention of the word “rabies” is enough to trigger alarm and panic amongst pet lovers, given the fatality rate associated with this horrific virus. However, it is important for all responsible pet owners to recognise that rabies is preventable and with a deeper understanding, you will be empowered to protect your furry friend from the merciless hands of this viral disease.

Causes of Rabies in Cats and Dogs

Rabies can be transmitted to felines and canines when they are exposed to the saliva of an infected animal through a bite. Even though it is less likely, transmission is also possible through a scratch or if your pet’s mucous membranes or open wounds become exposed to the saliva of an animal with rabies. Wild animals in South Africa, such as bats, black-backed jackals, bat-eared foxes and mongooses are common carriers of this unrelenting virus.

Symptoms

Initially, the infected pet may portray extreme behavioural modifications that are contrary to their normal character such as anxiety, agitation and aggression. Energetic and enthusiastic pets may become meek and depressed, whilst jovial and peaceful pets may become cantankerous.

The infected pet may lash out at or attack anything alive or inanimate. They may also be inclined to incessantly lick, chew or bite the area of their body that was bitten. Oversensitivity to sound, light and touch can also be experienced as the virus advances.

Other symptoms of rabies in cats and dogs are:

  • Fever
  • Paralysis – especially that of the tongue, throat, jaw and legs causing the notorious symptom of foaming from the mouth.
  • Pica – consumption of non-food substances such as dirt or rocks
  • Seizures
  • Drooling
  • Chewing stones
  • Wandering around aimlessly
  • Disorientation
  • Incoordination
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Hypersalivation

Diagnosis

If your pet is projecting these associated symptoms after a vicious attack by or contact with a rabid or wild animal, contact your veterinarian immediately. As the virus has an incubation period of as short as ten days, the vet may quarantine your pet to confirm the case of rabies. Fluid testing of saliva, skin and urine are some of the preferred diagnostic methods. However, the most accurate diagnosis is received through the “direct fluorescent antibody test” which unfortunately, can only be performed after an animal passes away because this diagnostic procedure requires tissue from the brain.

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for rabies in cats and dogs. Confirmed cases of rabies in unvaccinated animals must be reported to the local public health authorities who may quarantine the animal or devastatingly, euthanise it based on the regulations in the relevant region.

Prevention

Ensuring that your pets are properly vaccinated is not only important for them, it is also important for your safety as a pet owner and those around you. Indoor animals have a lower chance of being subjected to vicious attacks or being exposed to rabid animals. Humans must exercise caution when encountering a pet potentially carrying the virus and any places which may have been infected, should be thoroughly sterilised by using an appropriate bleaching solution.

Plan of Action if your Pet’s been in Contact with a Rabid Animal

  1. Consult your veterinarian immediately!
  2. Alert your local health department of the incident and carefully follow their instructions.
  3. Alert your local animal control officer if the rabid animal is still roaming free so they can professionally and safely catch the animal.
  4. The rabies virus may remain active on your pet’s skin for two hours after the incident, so wear gloves and protective clothing when handling them within this time frame.
  5. If your pet has been bitten by a rabid animal and was luckily vaccinated beforehand, a rabies booster should be administered as soon as possible, and they should be closely monitored for 45 days thereafter.

 

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson