Health -

Cats & Dogs

Many pets get sick during the holidays because of rich food and other attractions in the house. Be prepared! Read article

Many illnesses can be prevented, or can be cured by early intervention. Teach yourself to recognise signs of illness.

Basic health rules that help prevent illness:        

Feed the dog well

Pick up the dog poos daily & dispose of them out of the yard.

Taking the dog out for daily walks will improve his physical & mental health. (And your health!)

Attend to regular de-worming, inoculations and tick and flea control.



AIDS  Cats can get AIDS from other cats, in the same way as one human can transmit it to another. It destroys the immune system, making the cat vulnerable to any illness.


Allergy Dogs can be allergic to many things eg grass, nylon carpets, food additives. A skin rash can sometimes be soothed with petroleum jelly. Try to find the cause of the allergy by elimination. Try a different kind of food for a month to see if there is any improvement. A flea bite can cause an allergic reaction, so make sure your dog is always protected against fleas. Internal worms can also cause irritations so deworm your dog regularly.


Babesiosis (Biliary) is a tick-borne illness.  Always protect your dog from ticks, especially in hot, wet weather. Not every tick that bites your dog makes it sick - but don't become complacent! Some ticks carry a smaller organism which passes into the dog's blood stream causing anaemia, loss of appetite, white gums, swollen stomach and sometimes death.


Bad Breath can be caused by tooth decay and gum disease. The bacteria breeding in the dog's mouth can spread to infect his vital organs. Ask your vet to check teeth every time you go. Dogs over the age of three years start to get tooth trouble. Bad breath can also be caused by whatever food has been eaten. Sometimes a change of diet helps. Crunching dry biscuits can help to scrape the tartar of the teeth.


Bee Sting A sting can be fatal. Keep a close watch on your dog if stung. If his tongue or nose swells he may be unable to breathe. Be ready to rush him to the vet.


Biliary is caused by ticks. It can be prevented by applying Frontline or similar every month. When a tick bites a dog, cat, or other animal, it injects a micro-organism into the dog's bloodstream. This eats the red blood cells, causing anemia, which is detected by white or pale gums & eyeballs. In females the whiteness can also be seen by opening the vulva. The dog becomes weaker, unable to eat, may vomit & have diarrhea. Inability to walk & distended stomach may follow. Complications like jaundice may follow. (yellow gums). Often the dog may be worse after treatment while the battle rages. If caught in time, the dog can be saved. Feeding liver may help recovery. 

Bleeding  If injured, a dog can produce an alarming amount of blood! Avoid places where there may be broken glass, rusty tins, and thorns. A small cut should heal by itself. The dog keeps it clean and germ-free by licking it. But if the bleeding does not stop, stitches may be required. The vet may administer antibiotics to prevent infection in the wound. Slow clotting and von Willebrand’s disease can lead to the dog loosing too much blood, so do not leave a dog alone if the bleeding is profuse.

Blindness Test eyesight by moving your hand at each side of his head to see if he notices movement. Some dogs become "night blind" and cannot see well at night. This may be caused by damage to the retina. It sometimes progresses to total blindness. Always place the food dishes in the same spot so the dog can find them. Blind dogs can live a happy, contented life in a familiar environment. 

Bloat, Bloated Tummy A swollen stomach can be due to a blockage in the intestines. A vet described bloat this way: the stomach was almost like
a hammock, and once full, could 'swing' around on itself, thereby cutting off incoming blood supply and also cutting off gases building up. Hence bloat, and the stomach starts of die off due to lack of blood.

Feeding large meals could weigh the stomach down and make it much easier to swing - and any excitement or a knock to the dog could cause the twisting turn, and then bloat.

Feeding several small meals a day instead of one large one can help to prevent bloat. The dog should rest and avoid running and horse-play after meals.

Sometimes when a dog has a swollen tummy, the dog tries to vomit and nothing comes out. He has a dreamy look. This can be caused by worm infestation. Deworming may work wonders. A swollen spleen can be a sign of biliary.  If in doubt, ask the vet without delay. A swollen stomach is serious!  See also torsion.  


Bone trouble. Keep the dog's weight down, and avoid steps and jumping. Gentle exercise is OK. A cheerful atmosphere in the home will help to keep a dog healthy! (and all the members of the family.) "A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, & good news gives health to the bones."  King Solomon of Israel. Proverbs 15, 30


Bordetella see cough


Bronchitis Canine bronchitis, characterised by a cough, can be highly infectious. The dog must be isolated from other dogs and allowed to rest. The vet may prescribe a cough suppressant and antibiotics. Viruses attack the windpipe and lungs causing an irritating cough.  Inoculations can prevent this illness. 


Cancer is said to be the most common cause of death in dogs. Black pigmentation in the skin helps to prevent skin cancer but shade is still vital. White dogs are prone to skin cancer, especially those who sunbathe lying on their backs with tummy exposed.

Pink spots on a baby pup’s nose could become sunburned, but they normally become darker on maturity. 

Canine Hepatitis This is not the same as human hepatitis. A dog can be dead within 24 hours of our noticing that it is sick. It starts with diarrhea and vomiting. Another sign is a blue, cloudy, far-away look in the dog’s eyes. (When breeds normally have brown eyes, a baby puppy’s eyes are sometimes blue at birth but they should turn brown by 7 weeks approximately.)  

Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis see bronchitis.


Car Sickness Don't feed the dog prior to going in the car. Always carry newspaper and cloths to clean up any mess. It can be helpful to put the dog in a travel crate. Try to get the dog accustomed to the car by taking him for short trips to pleasant places like a park. Vomiting can be triggered by fear.


Cat Flu See Parvovirus  


Cherry Eye A red cyst-like growth on the rim of the eyelid that looks like a cherry needs to be removed surgically as it can grow bigger until it obscures the eyesight and causes blindness. If the tear duct is prolapsed, it may need the skill of an eye specialist as removal of the duct will result in dry eye: the eyelid sticks to the eyeball.  


Coccidiosis Minute internal parasites can cause diarrhoea, loss of appetite, thinness, and anorexia. Blood is often seen in the stool.


Constipation  Ask the vet for a high fibre diet food for the dog. If this does not work, here are some home remedies you can try mixing with the food: bran, pumpkin or other vegetables, apple sauce or stewed apples (not too much or it can make matters worse!)  Try wetting the dry dog pellets. Make sure the dog has plenty clean water and gets lots of exercise. Constant straining can cause perineal hernia, which will need to be operated on.  Straining can also be caused by a blockage in the intestine. The dog may have swallowed a stone, bone, or toy. Worms can block the intestine so try a dose of worm medicine.


Coprophagia If your dog is eating faeces (dog poo) he will probably come to no harm except in the event of the poos being from a sick animal. Dogs sometimes detect some nutritional stuff that has not been digested and have a second meal of food that has passed through the body. Dogs usually grow out of this habit. Make sure your dog is getting enough to eat. Giving the dog something to gnaw on may also satisfy his desire to eat. Remember to deworm your dog regularly as worms sap a dog's strength, causing him to need more food. Sprinkling curry powder on fresh faeces may give him a nasty shock and put him off trying to eat them in future.


Canine flu is a contagious illness, the signs of which are coughing, fever, gagging and runny nose. It can be deadly if not treated promptly with antibiotics. The dog should be isolated from other dogs as germs can be spread through coughing, in the same way that humans spread flu to each other. Hands should be washed after handling a sick dog. Germs can also be carried on clothes and shoes.

Tracheobronchitis is commonly called "Kennel Cough," though it has nothing to do with kennels! It is spread by a germ which the dog can get anywhere. In places where kennels are indoors, with air conditioning, it's something that the owners of boarding kennels dread. If a dog that has a cough is admitted to the kennel, all the dogs can get it! Dogs catch it when they go to places where they mix with other dogs, like parks, etc. All inoculations should be up to date before the dog is taken to a boarding kennel to ensure that the dog is protected from other dogs' germs and viruses. There is a vaccine to prevent kennel cough. It is sometimes called bordetella as it is caused by the bordetalla bronchiseptica bacteria.   Disinfect the dog's environment twice daily with water & disinfectant. Mop up any accidents at once. 


Cough, continued. Coughing is not always a sign of illness. A dog may cough to dislodge something from its throat or stomach. Try offering something interesting to drink to wash the impediment out. If the dog won't drink, a piece of dry bread may dislodge the foreign body from the throat. Never force-feed, though!

A dog may eat grass and cough it up again to clean out the stomach. It may cough up yellow bile or froth. These things are natural. 

Some dogs start coughing when excited. This is not an illness. But a persistent cough may be a sign of illness. It can be a sign of heart trouble. Tonsillitis can also cause a gagging cough. So can a collapsing trachea - usually in small breeds.
 See also bronchitis


Cataract Dogs sometimes get cataracts over the eyes, same as humans. These can be removed easily.


Diabetes in Dogs   When too little insulin is present, the body can't use glucose for energy. It is forced to break down fat for energy. The body produces ketones (acids) and releases them into the blood and urine. When animals with diabetes do not take enough insulin, especially in times of stress or illness, ketones are produced. Ketones warn the diabetes may be out of control.
Diet is important, do not give any food other than what is specified by vet.  Healthy dogs can go for days without food, but if a diabetic dog skips two meals, - call the vet. Vomiting is another sign of trouble.
 If dog is slow, sluggish, appears confused, with staggering walk, it could be insulin shock.
Increased exercise lowers the blood sugar.
No treats, in case they contain sugar 
Be very careful when dispensing the insulin, use exact amount only.

Must have water at all times. 

Dogs can live for years on insulin.  

Diabetes in Cats
  The onset of the first symptoms are very subtle and usually occur over a long period of time (6-8 months 
- The cat will be drinking copious amounts of water and excreting a lot of urine at the same rate;
- She will begin to lose weight and become lethargic (even depressed),
- Despite the fact that she is always voraciously hungry - she'll lose interest in playing and opt for sleeping almost round the clock;
- Her breath will be foul-smelling, even if you've just had her in for a dental clean;
- Her coat will become dull and she will take little interest in grooming herself;
- She may begin deliberately not to use her sand tray - this is her way of trying to tell you something's wrong (the same applies for neutered toms who often suffer from a blocked urethra due to crystals collecting there)
- She will always try to lie in a warm place, even if it's the middle of summer - she will sit, for example, very close to a heater;
- Because diabetes is so closely linked to the kidneys (who bear the brunt of it), any irregular toilet habits must taken seriously.  - A change in the colour of the urine from the normal light yellow to darker, sometimes even pinkish when there is blood present. It will have a foul smell too. To test the colour and odour of the urine, try to catch her in the act and quickly slip a wad of toilet paper underneath her to check colour and odour.
Ask a vet to test the urine for kidney failure. If the symptoms are presenting very strongly, ask your vet to do blood tests.
If you can diagnose (even in an elderly cat) diabetes in the early stages, you have a very good chance of managing the disease effectively. 


Diarrhea can be a sign of many illnesses. It can be caused by fear or stress. If the dog is normal in every other way, try offering mashed pumpkin or yoghurt to settle the tummy. Cooked, deboned chicken & boiled rice may tempt a picky eater. Never force-feed. If the diarrhea persists then get a vet. Puppies are especially at risk from dehydration. There is no time to loose in the case of a puppy! Blood in diarrrhea

Ear complaints If the dog is scratching its ear constantly, it could have an ear infection. Look for wet matter inside the ear, or a foul smell. It can usually be rectified with ear drops. 

If the dogs are shaking their heads constantly, they could have ear mites. Mites can breed inside dogs' ears (and cats' ears) and cause itchiness. Mites leave a dark, gritty discharge in the ear. They can only be seen with a microscope. Mites can travel from pet to pet, so treat all your pets if one has mites.

A little wax inside the ear is nothing to worry about. Don't poke things inside the ear as it may damage the eardrum.

Walking with the head tilted to one side, or walking in circles, may indicate ear trouble, like vestibular disease, which causes dizziness disorientation, and nausea. Restless eyeballs is another indication of this. But it could also have been caused by a stroke or brain damage.


Eating Dog Poo see Coprophagia

Ectropion  means outward turning eyelids. Entropion  means inward-turning eyelids. Your vet may advise a minor operation to correct these conditions, which commonly occur in dogs.

Eye infection If eyes get an infection, yellow matter might be seen coming from the eye. This can often be cured easily with eye ointment from the pharmacy.

        The matter might be a sign of something else, though, like worms, ticks, fleas or a cold. Wipe the matter off the eyes with wet cotton wool or soft tissue. Use a separate tissue for each eye to prevent the spread of infection.

        It could also be caused by an irritation. Peel back the eyelids to see if there is a hair growing towards the eyeball, or a small growth like a pimple. A small op can save years of irritation and possible loss of sight.  

Fleas Tapeworm is spread by fleas and can be transmitted to humans. Some dogs are allergic to flea bites and come out in a rash. Fortunately there are many products on the market to keep fleas at bay. The kennel and bedding need to be treated as well as the dog. More about fleas


FUS - feline urinary syndrome is often easily treated with the amino acid 'methionine' which restores Ph in the urine and prevents the build up of crystals.
Remember, if your cat is 'blocked' she can die within a matter of hours.
In the advanced stage, it will feel as though there is a tennis ball in the cat's belly - this is in fact a bladder that's so full it's about to burst.


Giardia Diarrhoea caused by an internal parasite. This parasite likes wet conditions, so keep the dog kennel dry and the garden as puddle-free as possible.

Glaucoma  is an eye illness caused by fluid build-up in the eyeball. It leads to blindness. A dog with glaucoma should not be bred from, as it can be hereditary.

Heat Stroke  Don’t leave a dog in a parked car. The shade moves and the car heats up fast and can kill.  Don't exercise the dog in hot weather.

Shade must be provided in the garden.

When a dog over-heats, damage to internal organs may occur. The dog may collapse, pant, and have a wild look in his eyes. Douse him down with a hosepipe or plunge him into cool or cold water. Wet the groin. Ice will cause the arteries to contract and is to be avoided. The dog may lie on a wet towel, but don't cover him with the towel. It is better to allow the water to evaporate which has a cooling effect. 

Dogs with short noses, like pugs & bulldogs are prone to heat-stroke. So are fat & old dogs.

Hepatitis see Canine Hepatitis.


Hip/elbow Dysplasia (Slack or loose hip or elbow joints) is common in large, active breeds like German Shepherds. Movement becomes gradually more and more painful.  Good nutrition from puppyhood can help. Special foods have been developed for large breeds. This condition may or may not be hereditary, so some breeders have their dogs tested and get a certificate to show that their breeding stock is HD free. Hip replacement surgery is available.


Human medicine  Never give pets human medicine. An animal's metabolism is different to ours and human medicine can make matters worse. Never give aspirin to cats. Throw away medicine that is past the expiry date.

Hypothyroidism Scotties, Beagles, and other dogs sometimes develop underactive thyroids, making them slow and lacking in energy. They dislike the cold as they cannot heat themselves. The hair may fall out. It can also cause reproductive problems. A hormone prescribed by a vet easily rectifies this.

Juvenile Pyoderma Insanitary living conditions contribute to pyoderma in puppies, so change puppy litter often and disinfect whelping boxes. Pick up all excrement from the garden or wherever puppies go. Signs include abscesses & pimples inside ears and on face. The head may swell. Pus may be seen inside ears. The throat or nose may swell and cause breathing difficulties, hence the other name for the condition "puppy strangles." Juvenile pyoderma is contagious. It can be transferred to other pups, but not adult dogs. Any pup with pyoderma should be separated from other puppies. The signs should clear up after a few weeks with the aid of antibiotics, but it can be an indication that the puppy has a poor immune system. Pups who have had puppy strangles should not be used for breeding. 

Kennel Cough see bronchitis  


Leptospirosis (Lepto) Dogs, cattle, pigs & humans can get Leptospirosis from the urine of wild animals like mice.  It is a bacterial infection which can take up to 26 days to incubate. Signs can include loss of appetite, fever, muscle pain, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea,jaundice, sore stomach, and bleeding. It is difficult to diagnose! It can be fatal, but can be cured with antibiotics if caught in time. There are various strains of lepto, so some vets feel that inoculations are ineffective.


Mange is caused by mites. Bald patches may appear. The dog may scratch and break the skin which can then become infected. Sores may develop.  The vet can take a skin scraping to determine which kind of mange it is. Demodetic mange is a mite that is transferred usually only around the time of nursing and weaning. The mite lives naturally on dogs (a similar mite lives on humans.) This mite rarely becomes a problem in adult dogs unless immune compromised. 

Sarcoptic mange it is transmissible and may pose a problem to other dogs. It may also temporarily live on people where it will cause a skin rash but the mites don't thrive. (Sarcoptic manage that affects people is referred to as scabies can be transferred to other people)

The vet can supply a special dip to treat mange. The dip should not be rinsed off. The dipping may need to be continued for 5 weeks. Antibiotics may be required if infection has set in. A weekly antibacterial shampoo will help. Shampoo the dog on a different day to dipping. Use left-over dip to soak the dog bedding & to wash kennels. Kennels & bed can be sprayed with insecticide.

Obesity is a killer. Being overweight puts too much stress on the heart, the spine, and the legs. It can cripple. Take your dog for short walks each day and cut out table scraps. God intended for dogs to be constantly on the go, hunting for food. They often had to travel great distances to find food and expended lots of energy on the kill. Nowadays the loll around and get overfed. Most dog pellets are completely balanced and the dog does not need table food as well.


Paneosteitis (Pano for short) The dog may limp and have pain in one leg. The pain may then shift to another leg. It is often noticed in puppies aged from 6 to 18 months. We say the pup has growing pains. Avoid unnecessary stress on the legs, like going up & down stairs, jumping off furniture & beds. Rest should help. It may be helpful to contain the puppy in a crate to ensure adequate rest. Do not let the dog become overweight.


Passive smoking. Dogs from smoking families have presented with malignant nasal tumours. Dogs (especially puppies) will eat cigarettes and cigarette ends dropped in the garden, so do consider pets before deciding to smoke.  


Pills Some dogs swallow pills easily. Pop it in the mouth, keep mouth shut and the pill is gone! Other dogs refuse to swallow and it may help to hide a pill in tasty food. Test to see if pet will eat the food before putting the pill in it.  marshmallows, cream cheese or ordinary cheese, tinned dog food, sandwiches, wors/sausage, peanut butter, or macaroni. If the dog spits the pill out, crush it and mix it with food. If food is too wet, the pill becomes soggy & can't be used again if spat out, so the drier the better.


Poison Many household & garden products are toxic to pets, eg chocolate & cocoa garden mulch.


Puppy strangles. See Juvenile Pyoderma


Red growth on eyelid see Cherry eye.


Rabies. Caused by a virus that can be spread by one animal biting, licking, or scratching another.  The pet dog or cat may turn aggressive and must be kept away from other pets until a diagnosis is confirmed. The pet may need to be euthanased. If a human is bitten by a rabid animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap & water and go to nearest hospital. In South Africa it's the law that all pets must be inoculated against rabies.


Snakebite Some snakes, like puff adder, are poisonous and one bite can kill a dog. If you are unable to identify the snake, take the dead snake with you to the vet. Treatment differs according to the type of snake. A poisonous snakebite is an emergency. The dog must be rushed to the vet and may have to be hospitalised. If you think the snake is harmless, keep a close watch on the dog for several hours to make sure the dog is recovering.


Stomach Ulcer. This can be caused by prolonged medication, or other causes. Black stools, sometimes tarry in appearance, vomiting blood, and lethargy are signs.


Torsion is characterised by a hard, swollen stomach. It is very dangerous and can be fatal. To avoid torsion, feed the dog two small meals, morning and evening instead of giving one large meal. Avoid exercise and horse-play after eating.  See also, Bloat


Urine problems. Blood in the urine is a bad sign. Loss of appetite, increase in water intake, increase in frequency of urinating, and vomiting, can be signs of kidney trouble. This can be fatal if not treated.

Elderly dogs become incontinent. Consider installing a doggy door so the dog can get outside quickly. Incontinence may be caused by UTI, urinary tract infection. Antibiotics should help. If the dog is unable to pass urine, the bladder could burst. The urethra may be blocked with kidney/bladder stones. A vet should be consulted without delay. A special diet may help prevent this.


Von Willebrand's Disease. Some dog's suffer from a bleeding disorder. The blood is slow to clot and they loose a lot of blood if injured. Avoid exercising the dog in places where there may be broken glass, rusty tins, thorns, barbed wire, or other dogs that may fight. The condition is hereditary and affected dogs must not breed.


Worms Dogs are host to several types of worms. A tasteless worm medicine can be bought at the supermarket. It is mixed with the dog’s food. There are different strengths for dogs of different weights. To weigh your dog, first weigh yourself, then pick up the dog and weigh yourself and the dog together. The difference is the weight of the dog. If in doubt, let the vet deworm the dog. Worms may become immune if the same brand is always used. Your vet can supply you with different brands.

Worms can block a dog’s intestine and some can be transferred to humans, especially children.  


Zoonotic illnesses are those that can be passed from cats, dogs, birds etc, to humans.


If your pet is sick, the best person to consult is a vet. You can pray for your pet, because God is interested in everything that worries us. Jesus healed many sick people who had different kinds of diseases. Mark 1, 34

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