+ 1. My dog is scratching his ears constantly Â– what can I get over the counter for him?
Unfortunately there isn’t anything that you can get over the counter to help with itchy ears. The reason is that there are a lot of different causes for a dog scratching its ears. From a simple skin allergy which may just need oral anti-inflammatory medication to ear mites or even various micro-organisms like bacteria, fungi or yeast. This is why most of the time, when you bring your dog in with itchy ears; the vet will make a smear of the wax from the ears to examine under a microscope and determine the cause. This is a very important test because different ear ointments are effective against different organisms and knowing which one is the cause is important in giving the right medication. It is also very important not to just try and get medication over the counter because the vet needs to look inside the ears with an otoscope and examine the ear drum. If it has ruptured then the outer ear infection has become a middle ear infection and if left untreated or treated with the wrong ointment the dog can actually become permanently deaf. That is why it is in the best interest of your pet when your vet DOESN’T just give you medication over the counter and insists on seeing them first. For more information please see our article “Ear Problems” on our website.
+ 2. My dog itches a lot and seems to have a rash on his belly Â– what can I do to relieve the irritation?
If your dog has a skin rash or is licking and scratching a lot at a particular part of his/her body then you can use either cortisone based cream or anti-histamine based cream and rub it into the affected area. Human creams are fine to use. Spend a minute to actually rub the cream into the skin so that most of it will be absorbed before the dog starts licking again otherwise he will simply lick most of it off. HOWEVER take note that these creams will only provide temporary relief and are for symptomatic relief – they simply make the skin less itchy. The underlying cause of the itchy skin will still need to be treated! The most common cause of itchy skin in dogs and cats is fleas, so make sure to check thoroughly for these little parasites and remember that if your dog has long or dark hair it may be very difficult to see them. So often, a good starting point is to buy a good flea treatment over the counter from our vet shop. If however this does not seem to help then the next step would be to make an appointment for your dog to see a veterinarian because there are many other parasites (like mange mites) or micro-organisms (like bacteria, fungi or yeast) or allergies (to either food or something in the environment) that could be causing an itchy skin. Your vet will need to do some tests on the skin in order to try and determine what the primary cause of the itchy skin is because the treatment for each of these conditions is slightly different. For more information please see our articles “Allergy in Your Pets” and “About Ticks and Fleas” on our website.
+ 3. Why annual vaccinations?
Yearly vaccinations are a vital part of keeping your pet healthy and preventing serious and often fatal diseases (like Parvo virus or Distemper) as well as diseases which can be fatal to humans if contracted from our animal friends (like Rabies). When you consider the cost of treating a disease like Parvo virus (also known as Cat Flu or Katgriep), which can easily cost several thousand Rands, then the cost of your pet’s yearly vaccinations doesn’t seem so expensive by comparison. After all prevention is better than cure. The reason vaccinations may seem unnecessary, and often owners don’t realise this, is that each vaccination visit includes a health check on your pet in addition to the vaccine itself. And this is more than just checking the temperature or listening to the heart. Very often the vet will be checking and feeling your pet while talking to you, this may include feeling the lymph nodes, palpating the abdomen, checking hydration status, checking the eyes, nostrils, ears and teeth, etc. An experienced veterinarian can perform all these checks quite quickly and a lot of them may go unnoticed or it may look like your vet is simply rubbing and patting your pet. But next time you take your pet for their vaccination, watch your vet’s hands closely and you will see that their movements are a lot more deliberate. Or if you’d like, ask them to tell you what they are checking as they perform each step of the examination, our friendly vets will be happy to explain them to you.
Vaccinations work by containing dead proteins of the various viruses against which we are trying to protect, because they are dead they cannot cause the disease itself though. But the body still recognises the proteins as foreign and so mounts an immune response. The bone marrow is stimulated to produce white blood cells known as T cells and B cells which are responsible for fighting off infections both directly and by producing antibodies. Therefore after a vaccination the numbers of white blood cells and antibodies in the blood are very high and will protect the animal if they are infected with the live virus. However with time the number of these cells and antibodies will slowly decline, which is why your vet will recommend bringing your pet every year for a “booster” vaccination, to boost the immune system again and keep the levels of cells and antibodies high. The diseases that are protected against as part of the routine yearly vaccinations for dogs are Parvo virus, Distemper, Canine Hepatitis (Adeno virus 1 and 2) and Parainfluenza as well as Rabies. Additional vaccines are available on request or for special circumstances (like when your dog goes to kennels), these are Leptospirosis and Kennel Cough. The diseases that are protected against as part of the routine yearly vaccinations for cats are Feline Herpes, Calici virus and Panleukopaenia virus as well as Rabies. Additional vaccines are available on request or for special circumstances (like when your cat goes in for boarding), these are Snuffles and Feline Aids and Feline Leukemia virus. For more information please see our articles “Understanding Parvo/Catflu in your Puppy” and “Rabies and Your Pets” on our website.
+ 4. My dog is constipated Â– what can I do for him?
If you have noticed that your dog strains when trying to pass a stool then he is most likely constipated. There are several potential causes of constipation and these are important to eliminate as part of the treatment. The most common cause is often getting bones to eat; these are chewed up fine by the dog and pass undigested into the large intestine where they cause the stool to become very hard and difficult to pass. DO NOT dose oil or liquid paraffin into your dog’s mouth because the risk of getting some down the windpipe and causing pneumonia is very high. Also it is not very effective in relieving the constipation – it simply passes around the hard stool and comes out the back without much effect. In this situation a mild laxative (this works by drawing water into the large intestine and softening the stool), which is available over the counter at your vet, can be attempted first and obviously avoid giving your dog bones in the future. If however this does not provide relief for your dog or their condition deteriorates (especially if they start vomiting or stop eating) then it is advisable to take your dog for an examination by your vet. There are other, more serious, causes of constipation like a foreign body being stuck in the intestines, back pain, an enlarged prostate in male dogs, etc and your vet will need to try and determine which of these is the cause of constipation so that proper treatment can be given. Aside from resolving the primary cause, this may involve performing an enema under sedation and giving a stronger laxative to give at home.
+ 5. Will my pet be alright under anaesthetic for his/ her procedure?
Any anaesthetic carries some degree of risk but in a young, healthy animal this risk is quite low. Every animal that is admitted at our hospital for a procedure involving anaesthetic will have a full examination by a vet to ensure they are healthy enough to handle the anaesthetic. If the vet feels there are any greater-than-usual risks for anaesthetic they will discuss these risks with you and might even suggest a pre-anaesthetic blood test to check kidney and liver function before proceeding with the anaesthetic. This may also be recommended in very old patients even if they are otherwise healthy, just to ensure that there are no undue risks taken with your beloved pet’s life. The anaesthetic drugs we use are also quite safe and while under anaesthetic your pet will be monitored continuously by a qualified veterinary nurse to ensure that their vitals remain stable at all times
+ 6. How do I stop my dog from digging holes in the garden?
First you must understand that digging is a natural instinct for your dog (especially for young animals) and therefore trying to stop the behaviour entirely can be very difficult. However there are some tips that you can try to stop them digging in certain places (like your expensive Clivias) and redirect this behaviour to a more acceptable location. By providing your dog with a small patch in the garden where they are allowed to dig it is much easier to get them to stop digging where you don’t want them to dig. Make this small patch a nice place for them to dig by providing soft soil and you can even mix a little bone meal into the soil to make it smell interesting. To get them to stop digging in areas where you don’t want them to dig there are several tricks you can try. You can mix their own faeces into the soil in that area; you can lightly sprinkle some Cayenne pepper over the soil in that area; you can purchase a commercial product (like Footsack or Avert) from your vet and spray that over the soil in that area. Sometimes a combination of the above is necessary but remember that the best chance of success is achieved when you provide an alternative area for your dog to carry out their natural urges.
+ 7. Do I need to clean my petÂ’s wound after their surgery?
No, this is not normally necessary. Any wound that has had sutures placed in it will not need to be cleaned – there may be a little bit of blood seepage on the first day after surgery and this is normal, provided that it is not actively dripping out, this can just be cleaned with some warm water and a clean tissue. Some wounds however may have been infected before surgery and either left open or closed with a drain placed in the wound and these wounds will definitely need to be kept clean or flushed regularly but your vet will give you specific instructions on how to do this and what to use based on each individual case.
+ 8. My dogÂ’s eye is tearing excessively/it has a yellow discharge/he is pinching it closed like it is sore Â– can I get an ointment over the counter?
This is not a good idea because there are many different eye problems, all of which could possibly show the above symptoms. These problems could range from simple irritation/infection of the pink mucous membrane around the eye or conjunctiva (called conjunctivitis) to much more serious conditions like an ulcer on the surface of the eye or infection within the eye itself (called uveitis) or increased pressure within the eye (called glaucoma) and even cancer of the eye or eyelids. These are only a few of the possible problems which could cause the above symptoms but as you can see they vary quite dramatically in terms of cause and severity, and so does their treatment. This is why your vet may be reluctant to just give you an ointment over the counter without seeing your dog first and possibly doing some tests on the eye, because if the wrong ointment is given then best case scenario it will not be effective and the condition will continue to deteriorate and worst case scenario the wrong ointment could actually aggravate certain conditions. Either way without a proper diagnosis and correct treatment promptly your beloved pet could end up losing their eye. If you see the above symptoms in your pet please make an appointment for your vet to have a look at their eye as soon as possible.
+ 9. My dog is sick the same as last time and the medicine given last time worked well Â– can I just come and pick up more tablets?
Firstly many different diseases can present with the same symptoms (like not eating, lethargy, vomiting, pale gums, etc – even though most often these symptoms seen in your dog will probably mean they have biliary or tick bite fever, there are many other diseases which can cause the same symptoms). Some of these diseases could be life-threatening if left untreated or if treated with the wrong medicine because of an assumption that the dog has the same disease as last time because he has the same symptoms as last time. For this reason it is not in the best interest of your pet to simply get medicine over the counter. Secondly many of the medications which we use as veterinarians are schedule drugs and are controlled by the same authorities (Medicine Controls Council) as the human medication which doctors use. It is therefore illegal for us to dispense medication over the counter without a prescription or a veterinarian having seen the animal and if we did this we could lose our license to practice. To illustrate this point better consider if you got a runny nose, a sore throat and a cough, even though you most likely just have a common cold you would not be able to walk in to a pharmacy and ask for antibiotics. They will need to see a prescription from a doctor for legal reasons and those laws are there to protect you, because you may have something more serious than just a cold, like bronchitis. Those same laws apply to veterinarians and are also there to protect your pet.
+ 10. My dog is limping Â– can I give human pain medication or just get pain medication over the counter?
Even though your dog may simply be limping because he twisted his leg and strained some ligaments and after examining your pet the veterinarian might just dispense pain medication, which is what you asked for anyway, limping and pain can obviously be caused by much more serious problems such as broken bones, torn ligaments or even cancer in the limbs and often these problems will need to be treated with surgery in order to permanently fix them. Firstly In these cases just giving pain medication may help relieve pain but will not solve the problem and if anything, delaying surgery. This may make it more difficult to operate later and possibly more expensive too. Secondly many of the medications which we use as veterinarians are schedule drugs and are controlled by the same authorities (Medicine Controls Council) as the human medication which doctors use. It is therefore illegal for us to dispense medication over the counter without a prescription or a veterinarian having seen the animal and if we did this we could lose our license to practice.
+ 11. How much will the procedure, that the vet has recommended, cost?
This is a difficult question to answer as obviously every case is different and often unique, so costs may vary quite considerably depending on what work needs to be done. However for any procedure your vet should offer you a rough estimate of costs for the recommended procedure, or if they haven’t you are more than welcome to request a quote before work commences and they will be happy to give you an itemised quote detailing everything that makes up the final amount. There are however also certain procedures which have a fixed price such as spays and castrations, vaccinations and consultations and if you would like to know what these are before making an appointment you are welcome to contact our friendly reception staff.
+ 12. Can I pay my account off?
Vetland Animal Hospital does not offer a credit facility. Our advised option is for you to consider getting a pet medical aid for you pets that covers up to 100% of the veterinary bills. Please be informed, too, that you will be requested to pay a deposit before treatment commences
+ 13. When can I have my pet spayed/neutered?
We recommend sterilising all your animals (cats or dogs) at 6 months of age. This allows enough time for proper development and growth before surgery is performed and also your pet is then old enough to safely handle anaesthesia. However, it is also before the females come into season for the first time (normally between 7-9 months) and before the males start lifting their legs against the furniture, etc. Therefore by spaying/castrating at this age you avoid the possibility of any unwanted pregnancies as well as unwanted behaviour or aggression. All surgeries are performed in the morning during week days and appointments will have to be made with our reception staff. For more information please see our articles “Sterilisation1” and “Sterilisation2” on our website.
+ 14. If there are no other pets on my property is it still necessary to sterilise my pet?
Even in the situation where you only have one pet, or where all your pets are males or all females, so the chance of unwanted pregnancy is nil anyway, we would still recommend sterilisation for medical reasons. By having your female spayed before her first heat cycle you reduce the risk of mammary cancer later in her life by more than 50% and also remove the risk entirely of her getting a uterus infection (called pyometra) a disease which is very common in unspayed older females. By having your male castrated you greatly reduce the risk of prostatic disease (including cancer) later in his life. For more information please see our articles “Sterilisation1” and “Sterilisation2” on our website.
+ 15. When is my petÂ’s next vaccination due?
If you have a vaccination booklet then the date of your pet’s next vaccination should be written down somewhere in there. Puppies and kittens receive several vaccinations one after another 4 weeks apart when they are young. For puppies starting at 6 weeks (this vaccination will often have been done by the breeder but always check to make sure), then again at 10 weeks, 14 weeks and 18 weeks. Kittens often get their first vaccination at 8 weeks (but you can start as early as 6 weeks too), then again at 12 weeks and 16 weeks. Thereafter for both your kitten and your puppy their next vaccination will be in a year’s time and continue to have boosters (annual vaccination) annually after that. If you have an adult dog/cat then their next vaccination will be a year after their last vaccination. If, however, they have never had any vaccinations then take them to your vet as soon as possible so that they can receive their first vaccination, because they are at a high risk of contracting those disease against which the vaccines protect. They will then have to receive a booster vaccination 4 weeks after the initial vaccination and then annually thereafter. The same rule applies if your adult pet has had several yearly vaccinations already, but his last one was several years ago. Though he is not at the same risk as a completely unvaccinated dog, your vet will often still advise that he receive one set of vaccinations now and another booster in 4 weeks’ time and then annually thereafter.
+ 16. I found a stray dog / cat Â– do you have kennelling facilities to board him or her?
Unfortunately we are unable to take in strays. Our wards are designed to accommodate hospitalised patients; as a result strays become disruptive for our sick and recovering hospitalised patients. As we are unable to adequately isolate these pets and we don’t know their health status, there is the increased risk of diseases being spread. We will, however, continue to take in sick or injured strays and do our best to track down their owners.
+ 17. What should I do if I find a healthy stray dog or cat?
Wetnose Animal Rescue: 013 932 3941
SPCA Silverton: 012 803 5219
SPCA Centurion: 012 662 5644
Puppy Haven: 011 440 2404
Catpals: 083 327 0365
Cats Nine Lives: 012 460 5059
Kitten Corner: 074 2151490
To prevent your pet of ever becoming a stray, please make sure they are kept in a secure area, that they have a collar with an identity disc and, very importantly, that they are microchipped!
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