Most pet owners understand the need to spend time and money on grooming, feeding and exercising their pet, yet the majority appear to underestimate the importance of oral care. As a result oral disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed pet health problems and, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society, affects over 80% of dogs and cats aged four and older.
August, national Hill’s Pet Dental Month, is time to brush up on your pet’s health as a lack of regular oral care can have serious implications for its health and well-being. Various veterinary studies have associated many systemic conditions, including heart, kidney and liver problems to poor oral health.
“Oral disease can be painful and, if untreated, can be potentially life-threatening,” says veterinarian Dr Guy Fyvie, spokesman for Hill’s Pet Dental Month, “Yet it is easily prevented with a regular dental routine which includes brushing the pet’s teeth regularly and / or feeding a food that is clinically proven to clean the teeth.”
Obesity is the single biggest health issue facing domestic animals and can be regarded as a form of abuse, according to delegates at an international conference held recently in London. Dr Guy Fyvie, a local veterinarian invited to attend, warned “Obesity amongst pets in South Africa is at a similar crisis level”.
More than half (55%) of conference attendees said that they knew of a pet that had to be euthanased because it was suffering from an obesity related disease or was too obese for routine surgery. An earlier study1 has shown that the life of an over-weight dog is shortened by at least two years (equivalent to a life expectancy shortfall in humans of about 15 years). “An overweight animal is at higher risk of co-morbidities such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer which literally take years off its life,” said Dr Fyvie. “Furthermore the extra weight can cause arthritis and mobility problems that can be extremely painful.”
The Pet Obesity Epidemic Conference (28 Feb 2008), which was sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, brought together vets, specialists in both human and animal obesity as well as animal welfare representatives, in an endeavour to examine the causes and consequences of the “epidemic” and deliver strategies to get pets back on track to better health.
Load shedding takes on a whole new meaning when it applies to your pet. Putting your pet on a diet can add years to its life; a recent study has shown that a dog at optimum weight can outlive an overweight dog by two years1! Other studies have shown that excess weight increases a pet’s risk of developing heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and even cancer.
“It’s difficult for owners to be objective,” says Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary advisor at Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “Our research indicates that only 14% of cat owners & 13% of dog owners believe their pet to be overweight, but local vets say that up to 50% of animals they treat weigh more than is healthy.
“Most veterinary practices offer free weight checks, so take your pet in for a professional and objective assessment,” he advises. “If your pet is overweight the vet can rule out underlying medical conditions, and give advice on diet, exercise and lifestyle changes that will help your pet shed the excess kilos.”
It’s not just people who should ‘brush up’ for the sake of good health. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society 80% of dogs and 70% of cats already have signs of oral disease by age three. “Oral disease is painful and potentially life-threatening,” says veterinarian Dr Guy Fyvie, spokesman for Hill’s Pet Dental Month, “yet it can be prevented with a simple pet dental routine.”
Dr Fyvie says that oral disease is caused by a build up of plaque. “If it is not removed, either by brushing the pet’s teeth or feeding special oral care foods, plaque can cause irritation and gum disease.”
“If your pet has discoloured teeth, smelly breath, tender and bleeding gums, pain, tooth decay and / or tooth loss they may already have oral disease. It is important to act quickly as the bacteria and toxins in an infected mouth can enter the bloodstream and affect vital organs, causing serious illnesses such as heart and kidney disease.”
In South Africa an estimated 40% of pets are classified seniors, aged around seven and older. And because in fact pets are living longer these days, vets are encountering more age related ailments, such as cancer, canine cognitive disorder (doggy Alzheimer’s), arthritis, cataracts and kidney disease.
June is national Hill’s Senior Pet Month, an annual nationwide campaign to educate owners on how best to care for pets aged around seven and older. According to veterinarian Dr Guy Fyvie, spokesman for national Hill’s Senior Pet Month, studies have shown that many diseases can be delayed or prevented with age-appropriate care.
“These days, with the advanced veterinary care and nutrition available, it is not uncommon for a dog or cat to reach the equivalent of over a hundred years old in human terms,” says Dr Fyvie. “Feeding a diet specifically formulated for senior pets can help add year’s to your best friend’s life, and help delay, and even prevent, many health problems.”
Cat flu is like a human cold – it can cause a runny nose and eyes, and a sore throat. Other symptoms include aches and pains in the muscles and joints, mouth ulcers, dribbling, sneezing, loss of voice and fever. Cat flu is not usually serious in adult cats, although they can be quite ill. All cats with symptoms of cat flu should see the vet.
Cat flu can be serious, even fatal, in kittens, and in adult cats with other serious underlying illnesses. There is a risk of lasting damage to the eye, even in animals which otherwise seem mildly affected. Eye ulcers are often found and, particularly in kittens, can progress to cause serious damage and even lead to the loss of an eye. If your cat or kitten has a sore looking or partially closed eye seek immediate veterinary attention.
Dogs with separation anxiety cannot bear to be parted from their owners, and often exhibit problem behaviour when left alone. Putting your relationship on a more independent footing is the first step towards a more confident and happy dog.
Reasons for separation problems
There are many reasons why dogs exhibit problem behaviour when left alone. For example, boredom may be a key factor or young dogs may not have learned that it is unacceptable to bark, dig or chew household items. Others may behave in an unacceptable fashion because they cannot cope with being separated from their owners and become anxious. The advice in this leaflet is designed specifically to provide help for dogs that suffer from anxieties and insecurities when left alone.
The vet says my cat has a tumour – is it cancer?
The language surrounding cancer can be confusing and definitions are difficult. Tumours (also called growths) can be cancerous or non-cancerous, depending on what they do within the body. A tumour is the uncontrolled growth of microscopic body components (known as cells). This causes disease, often by forming a lump within the organs of the body and disrupting their normal layout so they cannot function properly. Some tumours stay in the tissue where they started; these are generally described as a “benign” and are not actually cancers. Others can spread within the body; these are described as “malignant” and are called cancers.
What causes cancer? Could I have done something to prevent it?
There are some factors that statistically make certain cancers more likely to occur.White cats are more at risk of skin cancer from sunlight exposure. Infection with some viruses, including feline immunodeficiency virus, may increase the chances of getting cancer. Spaying a female cat when she is young greatly reduces the chances of breast cancer.
The vet says my dog has a tumour – is it cancer?
The language surrounding cancer can be confusing and definitions are difficult. Tumours (also called growths) can be cancerous, or non-cancerous, depending on what they do within the body. A tumour is the uncontrolled growth of microscopic body components (known as cells). This causes disease, often by forming a lump within the organs of the body and disrupting their normal layout so that they cannot function properly. Some tumours stay in the tissue where they have started; these are generally described as a “benign” and are not actually cancers. Others can spread within the body; these are described as “malignant” and are called cancers.
What causes cancer? Could I have done something to prevent it?
There are some things that appear to make cancer more likely, and statistically, some breeds appear to be more at risk from certain types of cancer. It is known that spaying a bitch before two years of age reduces her risk of breast tumours, but straightforward links with diet and lifestyle have not so far been fully researched in dogs.
Vomiting and diarrhoea
In young or elderly cats the risk of dehydration is greater and tummy upsets can be very dangerous. Consult a vet as soon as possible. Any pet that has been vomiting for more than 24 hours should see a vet. If vomiting is not severe or frequent, you can try not feeding your cat for 12 hours, although still allow access to water. Do not feed the cat until at least 12 hours after vomiting has stopped. Then offer a teaspoonful of boiled skinned chicken or white fish, such as cod or coley. If this is tolerated, give a little more after two hours. Keep this diet going for a couple of days, then gradually mix with normal food. For pets with diarrhoea, withhold food for 12 hours, then feed as outlined above. Consult your vet if diarrhoea persists for more than two days or if your pet seems dull or weak and does not want to eat.
Cat flu is a viral disease with symptoms similar to that of a bad cold. It is not usually dangerous except in kittens, but you should still take your pet to the vet. Cats with the virus may get mouth ulcers which make swallowing difficult. Ulcers can form on the eyes as well, so if the eye is closed up or there is a lot of discharge, see a vet. Also, the smell of food stimulates appetite, therefore a cat with a bunged-up nose may not want to eat. Wipe any discharge from the nose or eyes with warm salt water (a teaspoon of salt in a pint of water). Many decongestants are toxic to cats but olbas oil is safe – given either in a vaporiser or as a couple of drops on bedding. Avoid direct contact with the skin as it can be an irritant.