Making ‘Scents’ of Essential Oils and Cats

The alluring fragrance that essential oils emit in our homes cannot be disputed, however they aren’t as compelling or harmless to our feline friends. Not only do cats have a far keener sense of smell than humans, but essential oils from which these heavenly fragrances come from, are potentially detrimental to them so we must introduce essential oils into our homes responsibly.

Symptoms of Toxic Poisoning:
Feline livers struggle to metabolise certain components found in most essential oils as they do not have the necessary detoxifying enzymes in which to do so. This causes toxicity levels in the bloodstream to rise, ultimately leading to poisoning or death. Toxins can accumulate over an extended period, so symptoms of poisoning may not be apparent immediately.

The following are associated symptoms of toxic poisoning:

  • disorientation
  • partially paralysed
  • vomiting
  • drooling
  • convulsions

Methods of Toxic Poisoning
Although inhalation isn’t ideal, toxicity is most rife when essential oils are ingested. This happens when a cat grooms itself and subsequently licks essential oils that may have accidentally spilled onto their fur. Inhalation of essential oils can aggravate ailments such as asthma or other respiratory illnesses that your cat may suffer from.

Essential Oils Considered Poisonous to Cats:

  • Bergamot (bitter orange) (Citrus aurantium spp. bergamia)
  • Birch (Betula spp.)
  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
  • Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
  • Fir (Abies spp.)
  • Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)
  • Lavender (Lavandula)
  • Lemon (Citrus limonum)
  • Lime (Citrus aurantifolia)
  • Melaleuca (Melaleucaalternifolia), also known as Tea Tree
  • Mandarin Orange (Citrus reticulata)
  • Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia)
  • Orange (sweet) (Citrus silences)
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
  • Peppermint (Mentha Piperita)
  • Pine (Pinus spp.)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Tangerine (Citrus reticulate)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
  • Any other oils comprising phenol

* spp. is the abbreviation for “species”.

Please note that just because an oil is excluded from this list, does not mean that it’s considered safe for felines. Have your fur baby’s best interests at heart by making certain that you are purchasing an essential oil that will not affect them negatively.

Toxicology reports have discovered that cats are far more vulnerable than other mammals to two constituents in essential oils called pinene and limonene. These components are found in pine and citrus essential oils and make up ingredients in natural pine and citrus cleaning products as well as natural repellents for ticks and fleas.

Pawtionary (Cautionary) Measures:

  • Ensure that essential oils don’t rub off your skin and onto your cat.
  • Regardless of certain product instructions, never apply essential oils directly onto your cat. They may attempt to lick it off when grooming and ingestion is the most dangerous route for toxins to plague the feline body.
  • Ensure any materials cleaned with essential oils are stored out of reach from your cat.
  • Store all your oils away from your cat’s reach. Essential oil bottle lids can leak and this could wreak havoc to your cat’s health if ingested by them.
  • Where possible, dilute your essential oils so that if your cat does ingest them, the consequences will be far less dire than if consumed in higher concentrations.
  • As soon as you notice a leaking diffusor, safely dispose of it in a place that’s out of your cat’s nosy reach.
  • Always keep the local poison control centre’s contact number at hand in case of emergencies.        

Safer Alternatives to Using Essential Oils:

  • Oil burners aren’t the best substitute because the risk factors associated with them are too high. Cats can either knock them over causing a fire, burning themselves or ingesting the spattered oil.
  • Aerosol diffusors and those containing hydrosols instead of essential oils are considered safer alternatives as the scent is released in the form of a mist which is more diluted and challenging for inquisitive furry felines to access.

If you choose to use essential oils in your home for any reason, do so with the utmost caution as these seemingly harmless oils could be detrimental to your four-legged baby.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson

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

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

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.


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.


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)


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.


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.

How To Know When It’s More Than Just Your Dog’s Bad Breath

Image: Pixabay

It’s unlikely that your dog’s breath will ever smell like a bunch of roses, but if it carries a stench that makes you want to pass out, something may be amiss.

“So many dog owners forget to check the condition of their pet’s teeth. Bad breath is often ‘brushed over’, when in fact, if left untreated, can lead to the deterioration of your dog’s health and standard of life,” said Ashleigh Sanderson, senior brand manager at Dog Portfolio.

Smelly breath can be a sign that your pooch suffers from gum disease and cavities. However, persistent bad breath can also indicate larger medical problems in the mouth, respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, or internal organs, according to Pets WebMD

“Your dog uses his teeth for much more than just eating. He uses them where we would use our hands – to hold, carry and play,” said Sanderson, and this is why it’s important for a pet owner to get to the bottom of what’s causing the odour.

When to see the vet:

  • Breath that smells like urine can be a sign of kidney disease.
  • An unusually foul odour accompanied by vomiting, lack of appetite, and yellow-tinged corneas or gums could signal a liver problem.
  • Unusually sweet or fruity breath could indicate diabetes, particularly if your dog has been drinking and urinating more frequently than usual.

Some other underlying clues include red, inflamed or bleeding gums, a receding gum line and tooth root exposure, loose teeth, tartar build up and in severe cases, a change in eating behaviour – such as preferring softer foods or chewing more on one side of the mouth.

You can take an active role in your pet’s dental care by:

1. Brushing your pet’s teeth. It is recommended that all pets be trained early on to accept simple tooth brushing as part of their daily (at the very least, weekly) routine.

2. Regular dental cleanings by your vet. Your vet will carefully clean every tooth surface and remove plaque and tartar from hard-to-reach recesses below the gums and between teeth.

3. Ask for other dental care routines outside of brushing your dog’s teeth. For example, daily oral swishes and rinses, chew treats containing anti-plaque ingredients, and specialised teeth-cleaning diets.

Source: Huffington Post

How And Why Do Cats Clean Themselves? A Guide To Grooming, Licking, Biting, And Self-Bathing

How And Why Do Cats Clean Themselves? A Guide To Grooming, Licking, Biting, And Self-Bathing

Image: Pixabay

Can cats clean themselves? Why is your kitty constantly licking itself? Why do felines bite their fur?

When it comes to hygiene, feline furballs of all breeds and ages can be seen licking, biting, and grooming themselves on daily basis.

The act of cleaning is not only a hygiene practice, but also a bonding experience for cats when they clean each other.

Mothers lick their kittens in order to clean them as well as to provide a sense of comfort. Cats that are close to their owners might lick their pet parents. Many felines living under the same roof will lick each other, thus expressing affection.

But how do cats clean themselves? The cleaning process features the tongue, front paws, and teeth. Their barbed and bristled tongues are suited for catching any dirt, debris, and fallen hair. They also wet their paws with saliva and use them as a washcloth substitute.

Moreover, they use their teeth when cleaning themselves. Their incisor teeth come in handy for nibbling through tangled hair and through foreign particles stuck to their fur.

So, that’s the basic how, why and what of cat cleaning themselves. They do groom themselves a variety of ways, they can groom each other, and oh, they’ll probably make sure to do it in front of you because, well, they’re cats.

But what about things we have to help them with?

What Can’t Cats Clean?

Don’t get us wrong. Out of all popular domesticated animals, including dogs, cats are most definitely the cleanest. However, there are certain things which they simply can’t deal with, no matter how determined.


As your cat is trying to untangle its matted fur, it’s also shedding it. Furthermore, it’s also swallowing hairballs, which lead to vomiting, gastrointestinal issues, and other problems.

On top of that, the cat hair falling from your pet’s body isn’t 100% clean just because your cat has licked it. It’s still carrying allergen agents, dust, oils, and debris.

Make sure to brush or use a deshedding tool regularly on your kitty to help make sure she doesn’t suffer from hairballs.


No matter how thoroughly your furball is nibbling through its fur, it can never fully get rid of ticks, fleas, and other parasites.

As clean as cats are, they can easily contract worms and other internal parasites. Your furry pal’s inborn instincts for hygiene won’t tell it that it’s not supposed to wander around a dirty spot, sniff infected feces, or eat an infected rodent.

Dental Problems

Cats can’t brush their teeth. They will eat grass when they want to induce vomiting in order to clean their stomach. However, they won’t do anything to clean their pearly whites, since the natural eating process usually helps keep them clean. If you’ve got an inside cat that doesn’t eat dry food, consider getting some dental chews or feed dry food once in awhile to help clean the teeth.

Getting rid of tartar build-up, bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease, and food leftovers aren’t your furball’s priority. And even if you’re the proud owner of an overall healthy breed, your pet is still prone to suffering from dental problems.

They Can’t Thoroughly Clean Their Fur

Regardless of the effort your precious pet is putting into licking itself, it can never fully clean its fur. Grooming the cat manually is a must for every single pet parent out there. It doesn’t matter if you own a long or shorthaired cat.

Some breeds will need weekly brushing, whereas others will need it on a daily basis.

Moreover, all cat breeds require bathing. It’s a well-known fact that most felines out there aren’t big fans of the water and they act aggressively during bath time, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bathe your pet. Not all cats hate water. Some simply dislike it, while others get petrified in the bathtub. Of course, some even enjoy it, such as the Turkish Van cat.

Regardless of your feline furball’s breed, age, and fur coat, you should groom it manually. Don’t rely on its own self-cleaning techniques, otherwise you’ll compromise its physical health.

Source: Catological

Vanquish the Hostile Takeover of Canine Halitosis

Vanquish the Hostile Takeover of Canine Halitosis

Image: Pixabay

Getting up-close-and-personal is your furry friend’s way of showing their unconditional love and affection for you and the last thing you want is to shy away from them just because they have a disagreeable breath. You may think it insignificant, but halitosis could be the culprit for this unpleasant odour and should be investigated promptly.


Halitosis is the condition of accumulated odour-producing bacteria in the mouth which results in bad breath.

Periodontal disease (gum or dental disease) is most notably responsible for our canine companion’s bad breath and this occurs most frequently in smaller dogs who are particularly susceptible to plaque and tartar.

Breath that remains unrelentingly offensive could be an indication of something more serious than just a need for a professional dental clean. Halitosis can be a red flag for problems associated with severe medical issues in the mouth, liver, kidneys, respiratory system, inflammation of the throat, tonsillitis, gastrointestinal tract or even metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus. Cancer or foreign matter in the body can also play a role in producing bad breath as they result in disease.

Bacterial, fungal and viral infections within the body can be responsible for emitting foul odours, as can dietary-related problems. Consider that when your hungry hound eats foods that have naturally offensive odours, their breath will automatically smell bad. Some pooches display behaviour known as coprophagia, where they eat faeces and will, similarly, have the same foul-smelling breath thereof.

Trauma associated with an electric cord injury may also be a possible cause of halitosis.


  • If there is no indication of critical issues, the offensive smell may be the solitary symptom of halitosis.
  • If a disease in the mouth is the cause, the following symptoms could appear:
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Severely reduced appetite
  • Losing teeth
  • Drooling excessively which could have traces of blood therein
  • A peculiar sweet and fruity-smelling breath, could be a potential warning for diabetes, especially if your pup is consuming water and urinating more than usual.
  • An ammonia-like or urine-smelling breath could be indicative of kidney disease.
  • Liver problems could be the trigger when the following symptoms are displayed:
    • Foul smelling breath
    • Vomiting
    • Severely reduced appetite
    • Yellow-shaded corneas or gums


Treatment will vary according to what’s causing the halitosis. If halitosis is brought about by periodontal disease, a dental cleaning procedure is likely to be scheduled as your pup may lose some teeth if the procedure is delayed. A professional dental clean involves scaling your dog’s teeth to eliminate any plaque or tartar accumulation along with polishing those pearly whites. Teeth appearing to have above 50 percent chance of losing the supporting gum and bone may have to be extracted. Your furry pal will undergo general anaesthesia during the clean so ensure they fast the night before and chat to your vet about any concerns you may have with regards to having them endure anaesthesia. Your veterinarian may thereafter, prescribe medication that regulates the bacteria production in the mouth, enabling a reduction in the associated odour.

If your pooch’s halitosis is triggered by something other than periodontal disease, physical examinations will have to be conducted by your veterinarian to establish whether the root cause could be attributable to a condition such as diabetes, liver, digestive or kidney problems. The subsequent treatment plan will then depend on the identified cause thereof.

Don’t hesitate to visit your veterinarian as soon as you discover any suspicious symptoms relating to halitosis so to discount any chance of them developing into critical health issues down the line. 


Why allow your furry pal to endure the unpleasantries or dangers of halitosis when you can take the initiative in preventing it in the first place?

  • Schedule regular veterinarian checkups to be made aware of or prevent any imminent medical issues that could be triggering halitosis.
  • Ensure that both you and your vet actively monitor the condition of your dog’s teeth and breath.
  • Ensure your pup is well nourished with a high-quality diet that is easily digestible.
  • Feed your pooch specially formulated treats that reduce bad breath and tartar.
  • Brush your fur ball’s pearly whites weekly, if not daily. Use a vet-recommended toothpaste especially formulated for dogs because cat or human toothpastes can cause upset stomachs in canines.
  • Allow your dog’s teeth to be cleaned naturally, by giving them safe and tough chew toys to gnaw on.
  • There is a plethora of oral products on the market so chat to your veterinarian about the most appropriate ones for your special canine companion.

Interesting Fact
Dog breeds with flat-faced, short-nosed characteristics, also known as brachycephalic breeds, such as Boston Terriers, Pugs, Pekingese, are more inclined to periodontal diseases and conditions associated with the mouth since their little teeth are set so closely together

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.

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