Breaking the Heartworm Disease Cycle

Heartworm disease, also known as dirofilariasis, is a potentially fatal illness in pets worldwide. Heartworms living in the heart, lungs and related blood vessels of infected pets can eventually cause cardiac failure, lung disease and impair other vital organs in the body.

Adult female heartworms residing in an infected dog or cat, breed microfilaria, which are microscopic baby worms that pass into the bloodstream.

As a female mosquito bites and feeds on the blood of an infected animal, it ingests the microfilaria. Within 10 to 30 days, they mature into “infective stage” larvae inside the mosquito. When the infected mosquito bites another animal, the infective larvae passes into the pet’s system.

The infested larvae pass into the bloodstream, moving to the heart, lungs and surrounding blood vessels where they develop into adult heartworms over a period of roughly seven months. Adult heartworms can survive for up to 7 years in dogs whilst they can only live for up to 3 years in cats. A dog may carry as many as 250 worms in its body and they can measure up to 30 centimetres in length.

Infection in Dogs and Cats Compared
Heartworms thrive in a dog’s system because they can develop into adults and reproduce in their host. Heartworms cannot grow to adulthood in cats and therefore don’t survive as long. However, even baby worms can cause a severe condition in cats called heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). Medication that efficiently treats heartworm in dogs, doesn’t render itself as effective in cats, therefore prevention is key when safeguarding cats from heartworm disease.

Signs and Symptoms:

DOGS: Infected dogs will usually have a mild, unproductive cough as well as reduced appetite that leads to weight loss. A sudden intolerance to exercise may be experienced, marked by shortness of breath and fatigue, even with regular exercise.

As heartworm advances, heart failure may result as well as a swollen abdomen because of excess fluid therein. Caval syndrome is when the blood flow in the heart is severely constricted when dogs are infected by large numbers of heartworms and this can ultimately lead to cardiovascular collapse. Death is almost a certainty if the heartworm blockage isn’t removed quickly.

CATS: Infected cats may display reactions associated with an asthma attack along with intermittent vomiting. They may have fainting spells or seizures and experience trouble walking. Reduced appetite also leads to weight loss. A build-up of fluid in their abdomen is also a possibility, however, in some cases, the initial symptom is sudden collapse followed by death.

Heartworm Testing

DOGS: Even if your dog is on preventative medication, testing for heartworm should be conducted annually. Testing requires a non-invasive blood test administered by your veterinarian that identifies the existence of heartworm proteins. Positive results from the initial test will necessitate further testing.

CATS: Detecting the presence of heartworms in cats involves using both an antigen and an antibody. X-rays or ultrasounds may also be an option. Prevention of heartworm disease in cats is essential as there is currently no approved treatment available.

Treatment for Dogs?
Several treatments of medication called melarsomine hydrochloride (Immiticid®), are required to eradicate adult worms. The treatment is injected into the lower back muscle, but the associated pain is excruciating which is why patients are ideally admitted to hospital for 1 – 2 days to receive pain control, anti-inflammatory medication as well as intravenous fluid therapy.

The majority of microfilariae are only killed when a second injection is given to the host roughly one month after the initial treatment.

Your pooch will then need to begin a year-round heartworm preventative medication. If a dog has been severely laden with heartworm disease, they are likely to have permanent heart damage which will demand long-term therapy.

Caval syndrome, as mentioned above, necessitates the mature heartworms be removed surgically via a surgically cut opening in the jugular vein. This can almost always be avoided through early diagnosis and treatment.

If a dog is undergoing treatment for heartworm disease, it’s imperative that they are kept calm and quiet at all times, and exercise is prohibited for a full month after the treatment has been administered.

A mild cough can be expected for two months after treatment if a dog was heavily infected. However, if they display shortness of breath, heavy coughing, depression and fever, consult your vet immediately.

The good news is that heartworm disease is preventable in both dogs and cats. The bad news is that current heartworm preventative medication is ineffective on adult heartworms so it’s crucial to eradicate heartworms before they mature into adults. Heartworm preventative medication must be given according to a precise schedule, so not to give baby worms (or microfilaria) a chance to develop into adults.

Heartworm disease is easily preventable but expensive to treat. Unfortunately, in contrast to their canine counterparts, there is currently no conclusive cure available for cats. With this said, the best approach to defeating heartworm disease is by safeguarding your cats and dogs with heartworm preventative medicines that your vet will prescribe to you.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

Sidestepping the Perils of your Garden Plants

There is a surprisingly large number of plant species that render themselves poisonous to our furry companions. Although some are more toxic than others, it’s important to survey your garden, identify these perilous plants and either restrict or remove them for the safety and wellbeing of your pet.

Did you know that by either adding bran flakes to your pets’ food or including more vegetable fibres in their diet, they may be less inclined to seek out your garden vegetation?

A practical way to assess the most common of these poisonous plants is to classify them according to which system in the body they affect:


Melia azedarach (Syringa berry tree)
Alternative common names:
Seringa; Persian lilac; bead tree; berry tree; Cape lilac; China berry; China tree; white cedar (English), maksering; sering; bessieboom (Afrikaans), umsilinga (isiZulu)
Why?: The leaves, bark, flowers and ripe fruits of the Syringa berry tree are poisonous, with the berries containing the highest concentration of meliatoxins, causing a high mortality rate in affected animals who eat the fallen berries.






Cannabis sativa
Alternative common names: “Marijuana” or Dagga” plant
Why?: It’s the THC in the plants leaves that cause intoxication in animals when they either ingest the actual plant, or ingest the owners supply of the dried leaves, or products make form the leaves like cookies or other edibles. Second hand Marijuana smoke is effects pets.






Amanita Pantherina
Alternative common names: Panther Cap and False Blusher
Why?: Amanita Pantherina or “Panther Cap” is extremely poisonous. They grow under large trees in South Africa and are thought to have been accidentally introduced with trees imported from Europe. They typically flush when the temperature drops after good rain.






Datura (Moonflower)
Alternative common names:
Devil’s trumpets, Moonflowers, Jimsonweed, Devil’s Weed, Hell’s Bells, Thorn-apple
Why?: An annual weed with prickly fruit consisting of tiny pitted seeds. All species of Datura are poisonous, especially their seeds and flowers.
Did you know? Angel trumpets (Brugmansia spp.) are closely related to Daturas and are also highly toxic. These beautiful woody trees and shrubs are nevertheless popular ornamentals throughout the world.






Brunfelsia pauciflora (Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow)
Alternative common names:
Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow, Morning-noon-and-night, Kiss Me Quick, Brazil Raintree
Brunfelsia pauciflora is a species of flowering plant in the family Solanaceae, the nightshades. All parts of this plant can be poisonous to pets but it is often the seed pods falling off the tree that are particularly attractive and often eaten.






Clinical symptoms:

  • muscle tremors and/or spasms
  • restlessness
  • respiratory difficulties
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • excitement alternating with depression
  • excessive barking
  • agitation
  • hallucinations
  • staggering gait
  • dry mucous membranes of the eyes and mouth
  • increased respiration rate or constant panting
  • ataxia (loss of coordination of the limbs, head, and/or trunk)
  • paralysis
  • digestive upsets
  • drowsiness
  • seizures


Ornithogalum thyrsoides
Alternative common names:
Chincherinchee, Star-of-Bethlehem or Wonder-flower, Tjienkerientjee, Tjienk, Wit-tjienk, Viooltjie (Afr.)
Why?: A bulbous plant species that is endemic to the Cape Province in South Africa. Pets are effected when they chew on the plant and ingest it.






Ricinus communis (Castor-oil plant)
Alternative names:
Castor Bean, Castor-oil-plant, Mole Bean Plant, African Wonder Tree
Castor seed is the source of castor oil, which has a wide variety of uses. The seeds contains ricin, a highly toxic component that inhibits protein synthesis; ingestion of as little as one ounce of seeds can be lethal. Ricin is also present in lower concentrations throughout the plant and is toxic to dogs, cats and horses.






Araceae family:
All the plants in the Araceae family contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals in their leaves and stems. Chewing or biting into this plants leaves or stem release sharp crystals which become embedded in the mucous membranes of their mouth and tongue causing severe pain and irritation of the mouth and GI tract.

Toxic plants included in this family are:

– Elephants Ear (Caladium, Malanga)






Dumb Cane (Charming Dieffenbachia, Giant Dumb Cane, Tropic Snow, Exotica, Spotted Dumb Cane, Exotica Perfection)






Delicious Monster






Arum Lily (Calla Lily, Pig Lily, White Arum, Trumpet Lily, Florist’s Calla, Garden Calla)






Alternative names:
kaffir lily, caffre lily, cape clivia, and klivia
The flowers contain lycorine and other alkaloids that are toxic to cats when ingested. Although the bulb is considered the most toxic part of the plant, cat owners should not allow their cat to eat any part of this dangerous plant. Large quantities must be ingested to cause symptoms of toxicity however it’s estimated that complete kidney failure can occur within 24 to 72 hours after ingestion. Because of this, it is imperative you take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as you recognize any of these symptoms or if you catch him in the act of eating the plant. There is no antidote for clivia poisoning, but there are other effective treatment methods available.  






Clinical symptoms:

  • vomiting
  • acute diarrhoea
  • bloating
  • cramping
  • blindness
  • multiple organ failure
  • severe pain
  • paralysis of the tongue
  • excessive salivation
  • difficulty swallowing because of a numb mouth and throat


Alternative names:
Sago Palm, Fern Palm
Cycad palms produce three toxins: cycasin, beta-methylamino-L-alanine, and an unidentified toxin. All parts of the plant are toxic, but the seeds contain higher levels of cycasin than other parts of the plant. Dogs usually ingest the seeds. Although toxic, the young leaves are palatable.






Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae)
Alternative names:
The most common species being Microcystis. Dogs are exposed to this species by drinking or swimming in water contaminated with it. Intoxication occurs when they groom themselves, subsequently ingesting the toxic algae.






Amanita phalloides
Alternative names:
Death cap mushroom
One of the most poisonous of all know mushrooms, the death cap is extremely toxic to animals even when only a small amount is ingested. It’s toxins cause acute liver failure and can also damage other organs such as the kidneys and the intestinal tract. These toxic mushrooms resemble several edible species (caesar’s mushroom and the straw mushroom) commonly consumed by humans, increasing the risk of accidental poisoning. Amatoxins, the class of toxins found in these mushrooms, are thermostable: they resist changes due to heat, so their toxic effects are not reduced by cooking. Found growing under large trees like oak, chestnut and pine.






Clinical symptoms:

  • appetite loss
  • excessive salivation
  • depression
  • early symptoms can manifest themselves as gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting, salivation and diarrhea
  • permanent liver damage



All Lilies are toxic to cats so owners should make sure that their cats never have access to these plants. The entire plant is toxic and toxicity may occur when mouthing on or ingesting parts of the plant. Ingesting any part of the plant can cause kidney failure within 36 – 72 hours.

Toxic plants included in this family are:

– Asiatic lily





– Calla lily






– Day lily





– Easter lily





– Peace lily
The Peace lily is mildly toxic to animals when ingested. The peace lily is not a true lily from the Liliaceae family. True lilies are far more  toxic to cats and dogs. The Peace lily contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause skin irritation, a burning sensation in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and nausea.





– Tiger lily





– Lily of the valley






Clinical Symptoms:
Nephrotoxin in the above mentioned lilies can lead to renal failure within 24-72 hours of consumption. It only takes ingestion of one leaf to commence renal decline.

  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drooling
  • Increased urination, followed by a drastic reduction in urination for 1 – 2 days.


Oleander family of plants:

Nerium oleander
Alternative names:
Nerium, Oleander
Nerium oleander is one of the most poisonous commonly grown garden pants and is toxic in all its parts






Yellow oleander
Alternative names:
Lucky nut
All parts of the Yellow oleander plant are toxic to most vertebrates as they contain cardiac glycosides.






Digitalis (Foxgloves)
Alternative names: Foxgloves, Dead man’s bells, Witch’s gloves
Depending on the species, the Digitalis plant may contain several deadly physiological and chemically related cardiac and steroidal glycosides.  The entire plant is toxic (including the roots and seeds).






Lily of the valley
Alternative names:
May bells, Our Lady’s tears, Mary’s tears
The bulbs, flowers and berries of the Lily of the valley are poisonous. The whole plant has toxic levels of cardiac glycosides, but the bulbs contain the highest levels. Nearly 40 different cardiac glycosides have been found within the Lily of the valley plant. They also contain saponins, which is also toxic to cats and dogs.






Clinical symptoms:

  • Early indications of ingestion manifest themselves in the onset of gastrointestinal tract symptoms, such as diarrhoea, vomiting and excess salivation.
  • More severe signs subsequently follow including acute heart and respiratory distress, disturbances in cardiac rhythm and heart failure.
  • low blood pressure
  • seizures
  • coma


All  onions, raw or cooked are dangerous. They contain thiosulphate which is toxic to cats and dogs. The ingestion of onions causes a condition called hemolytic anemia, which is characterized by damage to the red blood cells. Onion toxicity can cause the red blood cells circulating through your pet’s body to burst.






Clinical symptoms:

  • anaemia
  • jaundice


Rubber euphorbia (Poinsettias)
Poinsettias, of which there are many varieties, contain a milky latex in the stem that is severely irritating to the skin, mucous membranes and gastrointestinal tract. The toxic principles in the latex of euphorbias are diterpenoid esters. These plants are sometimes regarded more of an irritant rather than toxic, however, poisoning by poinsettias is more frequently encountered in cats.






Dianthus caryophyllus (Carnations)
Alternative names: Carnation, Clove Pink, Pinks, Wild Carnation, Sweet William
Why: Particularly in cats when their skin comes into contact with the flower.






Grass seeds:
Grasses such as Spear grass, Rooigras (Themeda triandra), Assegaaigras and Bur Bristle grass (Setaria verticillata) have seeds that can penetrate the animals skin. This is most common between the toes of the animal but the seeds can also penetrate the skin, nose, eyes, eyelids, ears, gums or soft palate. Once the seed has penetrated the skin, they are able to migrate far inside the body.






Clinical symptoms:

  • Symptoms associated with grass seeds and awns are determined by the shape of the seed and are specific to where it has lodged itself on the pet:
  • Eyes may become inflamed and red.
  • Sneezing or nasal discharge.
  • Scratching the ear or shaking of the head.
  • Chewing on an agitated area of skin may result in abscesses developing.
  • dermatitis

What to do if your Pet is Poisoned?

  1. Have your veterinarian’s contact details along with an ER vet and Pet Poison Helpline pre-saved on your phone so it’s always available in case of an emergency.
  2. As soon as you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, remove them from the area where the suspected intoxication occurred.
  3. Remove any residual poisonous substances from other pets or your children’s reach.
  4. Call your veterinarian or the national 24-hour Poisons Information Helpline on 086 155 5777.
  5. Ensure your pet is breathing and acting normally.
  6. Keep a sample of the toxic material and any other information that may be useful to the vet or the Pet Poison Helpline expert.
  7. Do not give your pet any form of prescription or over-the-counter medication to try remedy the situation without your vet’s consent.
  8. Do not feed your pet milk, oil, salt or any other home remedies.
  9. Never induce vomiting without first consulting your veterinarian.

Keep in mind that there is a narrow window period when professionals can induce vomiting or pump the stomach of toxins to save your pet. Your reaction time may make the ultimate difference in saving your loved one’s life, so act immediately.

The severity of the associated symptoms fully depends on the quantity of toxin that has been ingested and how promptly they are treated thereafter. Plant poisoning in our pet pals is uncommon, but there have been reported cases of related fatalities. By being aware of the types of plants you have in your garden, you can prevent an unnecessary incident or tragedy from happening.

Additional toxic plants to keep your pet away from:

  • Azalea
  • Baby’s breath
  • Begonia
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Cyclamen
  • Gladiola
  • Hosta
  • Ivy including the following: California, Branching, Glacier, Needlepoint, Sweetheart and English.
  • Milkweed
  • Morning glory
  • Pothos
  • Tulip/Narcissus

Avoid Other Forms of Pet Poisoning @ Home:

  • Store all household cleaning material, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, paint-related items, chemicals and vehicle-related products in secured cabinets out of your pet’s reach.
  • Even small doses of medication such as antidepressants, vitamins, pain killers, cold medicines and diet pills can be deadly to cats and dogs so keep them out of reach from your pets.
  • Only use pest baits or traps (for rats, mice, snails or cockroaches) in areas that are inaccessible to pets.
  • Only administer prescribed medication from your vet to your dog or cat as many human medications can be fatal to animals.
  • Everyday household items can cause serious harm to your pets, so keep the following inaccessible to them:
  • Consult your vet before applying a flea prevention product to sick, old or pregnant dogs.
  • Do not use products intended for dogs on cats, and vice versa.
  • Restrict your pets from accessing areas that have undergone insecticidal fogging or house sprays as indicated on the instructions.
  • Restrict your pets from gardens that have been treated with herbicides, fertilisers or insecticides until they have dried entirely.
  • Consult with a product’s manufacturer if you are unsure how to use it safely in your house.


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 physician or other qualified health 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.

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

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.

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.

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.



Seven dogs poisoned in Centurion in one weekend

The most common dog poison is ‘two-step’, with which meat and sausages are usually laced.

A Centurion veterinarian has warned locals dog owners to lookout for sausages or meat thrown on to their properties.

Dr Sally Rackham of Pierre van Ryneveld veterinary clinic warned these could be laced with poison, after seven dogs were poisoned at the weekend, Centurion Rekord reports.

Rackham said the symptoms of poisoning included severe vomiting, seizures and listlessness.

She said the most common dog poison was “two-step”, with which the meat and sausages were laced.

“All it takes is ingesting less than half a teaspoon of two-step and any animal or toddler is more than likely to die a horrible, painful death with the nervous system being affected and death by asphyxiation.”

If not treated within 30 minutes, it is fatal to dogs.

“People need to be more vigilant and inspect any activity that could possibly get their dog’s attention,” she said.

Rackham said it was devastating that animals had to be harmed in such a way by criminals who wanted access to residential properties.

Wierdabrug police spokesperson Captain Agnes Huma could not provide any information on poisonings.

In August last year, it was reported that motorbike theft could be the reason behind a string of dog-poisoning cases in Centurion, according to police.

In the past few months, Centurion Rekord reported several dog poisonings east of Pretoria.

Residents were urged to rather keep their dogs in the backyard for their safety, and to take them for obedience training so that they would not accept food from strangers.

“Also, feed your dogs at night so they are not inclined to eat the poisoned bait.”

Source: The Citizen

‘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


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



Revolting against 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.


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


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.


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.


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


Epilepsy or seizure – What should you do?


Stomach Twisting in Dogs - What to look out for

Epilepsy or seizure – What should you do?

Many bulldog owners are familiar with Idiopathic head tremors, and while many new bulldog owners or bulldog owners who experience it for the first time, often get a big fright when it happens, these tremors are not actually seizures.

Idiopathic head tremors and seizures are two distinct medical conditions that affect the nervous system. While both conditions can cause involuntary movements, they differ in their underlying causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain, which can result in a wide range of symptoms such as temporary confusion, changes in behavior, staring spells, uncontrollable jerking movements of the legs and arms, frothing from the mouth, loss of consciousness or awareness, and more. Seizures are indicative of an underlying neurological problem and can be brief or long-term.

However, idiopathic head tremors are characterized by involuntary shaking of the head that typically lasts for 1-3 minutes. The primary differential for idiopathic head tremors is focal seizure activity. However, the absence of autonomic signs, ability to stop the tremor by providing a distraction, and the lack of response to conventional anti-epileptic medications argue against seizure activity.

In summary, while both idiopathic head tremors and seizures involve involuntary movements, they differ in their underlying causes and symptoms.

But where does Epilepsy fit in? and when should your dog be placed on epilepsy medication? Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects the brain and causes recurring seizures without a known cause. It is estimated to affect approximately 0.75% of dogs. A seizure is caused by excessive electrical activity in the cortex of the brain. In dogs with epilepsy, the brain will appear structurally normal, but it functions abnormally.

Symptoms of epilepsy in dogs include sudden and uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity in the brain, which can cause seizures. Seizures can last from less than a minute to several minutes and can look like a twitch or uncontrollable shaking. Other symptoms include excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth, frenzied barking or whining, head shaking, incontinence (loss of normal bowel/urinary control), and irregular seizure patterns.

Epilepsy Epilepsy

If you suspect that your dog has epilepsy, it is important to consult with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic tests such as blood tests, urinalysis, and imaging studies to rule out other causes of seizures. Treatment for epilepsy in dogs typically involves medication to control seizures.


Seeing your dog have any kind of seizure can be extremely stressful and emotional. However, it is important to try and stay calm. The calmer you are the less stressful it will be on your dog. Move all sharp objects or anything that can hurt your dog out of the way, so they can’t involuntarily bump into anything. A clear space is a safe space.

While some may disagree, it is believed that talking to your dog in a soft calm voice and letting them know you are near, helps them to relax and overcome the seizure activity quicker. It is comforting for them to know they are not alone while experiencing this very confusing moment.

Avoid touching your dog’s face and head. Keep your hands and fingers clear of your dog’s mouth. The involuntary movements may result in your dog nipping you if your hands are inside his mouth. Dogs also can not swallow their own tongue, so there is no need to try and prevent that from happening.

The most important part is to time the seizures. There are amazing apps you can download if your dog has regular seizures to track how often they happen and for how long the seizures last. Knowing this information is of great assistance to your vet. If your dog has been diagnosed with Epilepsy, doing this will help determine if the medication is making a difference at all.

Just try and remember, the calmer you are, the better you will be able to remember and execute these important steps.

Source: English & French Bulldog Rescue SA – November 2023 Newsletter