Ask The Vet

Q: Hi there, I would like a professional opinion on cat claws, please. Facebook and other media channels have been advertising these soft gel claw caps for cats, that get glued on their claws so they don’t scratch your furniture. Apparently, they grow off. A lot of people, however, seem to have a huge issue with this, and say that its cruel and unnatural. Is this uncomfortable for cats and does it hurt them?

Scratching is a natural behaviour for cats, largely used for territory marking by leaving both physical marks as well as a scent produced by glands on their paws. The behaviour also serves other functions such as conditioning the claws and exercising the muscles and tendons involved in claw use. The application of soft gel claw caps is said to allow normal scratching behaviour to continue with the added benefit that the scratching won’t damage any household items. The gel tips are manually applied to each individual nail and grow off the nail in one to two months (or however long it takes for the caw to chew it off when grooming). While there are very few negative reviews of gel claw caps, veterinarians who are knowledgeable of the product do recommend that the nails are properly maintained between gel tip applications as nail dirt or overgrown nails could lead to discomfort and claw problems over time. As always, it would probably be best to begin using the gel tips under the guidance of a veterinarian who knows what they’re doing to avoid any negative consequences.

Q: I have 3 medium sized dogs who all eat Vets Choice Lite. I also have a Yorkie and I feed him Royal Canin. One of my medium size dogs eats the other dogs poop. She is the only one that does that. She is not bothered with strange dog’s poop, she has never done it when we go for walks. Besides their pellets, I also cook for them, rice with carrots and either chicken or red meat in the evenings. What could be the reason for her doing this?

Eating faeces (or coprophagia to use the scientific term) is actually a common behaviour in dogs. A recent study at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine revealed that up to 16% of dogs (almost one in six) are “frequent” stool eaters, meaning that the owners had noticed them eating stools at least six times. That same study found no link between coprophagia and diet, age or trainability. It’s hypothesised that this behaviour has been passed down from their wolf ancestors and was a way of keeping the living den clean, which reduced the burden of faecal-borne parasites. Dogs labelled as “greedy eaters” and dogs from multi-dog   households tend to be the most common offenders. While many people have speculated whether the behaviour is linked to a deficiency in the diet, this is probably untrue in most cases. According to the study; food additives and supplements did little to discourage the habit.

Q: I would like to find out what the best way is for transporting my cat to the vet. My cat gets upset as soon as I take out the cat carrier. She knows where we’re going when I take that out. Even after the vet visit she is usually skittish and not thrilled with me. What is the best way to reduce the “trauma” of going to the vet for cats?

First off; the reason she gets so skittish around the carrier is because she can only associate it with negative experiences. It would help to keep the carrier around where she will become familiar with it in a more positive light. Make a bed in it for her, or even feed her in it occasionally. During the car ride it’s important to ensure that your cat and her carrier are properly secured. You don’t want her bumping around in a carrier that’s sliding backwards and forwards over the back seat. Also make sure the fan or     heater isn’t blowing directly into the carrier. Once at the vet, try reducing your cat’s exposure to other animals as far as possible, perhaps even waiting outside if the reception area is very busy. Once in the consult room, keep your voice calm and re-assuring while talking to your cat and stroke them in their favourite spots, provided this doesn’t interfere with the examination.

The use of pheromone products (such as Feliway) in the car can be fast acting and there is evidence to support their use. Other drugs such as gabapentin or alprazolam can be used as an absolute last resort to reduce anxiety in cats during vet visits. These, however, are schedule drugs that may have side effects and should not be used in animals that are sick.

Q: My 4-year-old female cross breed seems to have trouble urinating. Should I be concerned? If it’s bladder infection will it clear itself up or should I give her something to drink? She is fine in all other aspects of health.

There are several causes of difficult urination and your vet would have to examine your dog and evaluate her urine to figure out what the cause of her problem could be. Any animal showing any discomfort while urinating should be seen by a vet as soon as possible. Since urine is one of the ways the body rids itself of toxins, the inability to urinate can cause a build-up of poisons within the body that can quickly become life threatening. While this problem is most common in male cats; dogs and female cats can be affected as well. Regarding your dog specifically, a bladder infection is certainly possible, and would require antibiotic treatment to clear it up. Bladder infections that are not treated increase the risk of your dog developing bladder stones which are not only painful but can also result in bladder blockages.




Ask The Vet

Q: My 6-year-old male cat has recently started getting fussy about his food. They get dry food pellets in the morning according to the required measurements on the pack and then again at night with a small amount of wet pouch food as a treat. He refused to eat the dry pellets, but eats the wet food and then begs for food from our plates. (I occasionally spoil them with small pieces of meat or fish). Should I just ignore this and feed him the pellets, or could this be instinct kicking in to tell us that the food doesn’t taste right? My other cat doesn’t seem to have the same problem. 


A: When an animal suddenly goes off their usual food but will still happily eat other food it may be an alarm that there is something wrong with the food. If there was something wrong with the food, however, it would be reasonable to assume that the other cat would also be refusing to eat it, or would at least be getting sick from eating it. The more likely scenario is that your cat is choosing not to eat the food. It may be that he is becoming fussy, or learning that he can “train” his owner to feed him nicer food if he holds out on the pellets. It’s also important to note that cats with dental disease may also go off their pellets, but continue to eat softer varieties of food. It would, therefore, be recommended for you to take your cat for a check-up at your vet to check his tooth and gum health. Poor mouth hygiene not only affects their ability to eat, but can have a negative impact on their health in general. Only after he’s been given the all-clear should you consider changing his food to something a little more suited to his taste.


Q: My dog recently went on holiday with us on a farm. When we got back home I saw a tick on her neck. My   husband took some tweezers and pulled the tick out   completely, but I’m worried about tick fever. What is the correct way to remove a tick and should we be giving our dog any medication after such an incident to avoid tick fever?


A: Tick bite fever is not caused by the tick itself, it is caused by microscopic parasites which grow in the tick’s salivary glands and are transferred to a dog whenever a tick attaches to feed. The longer a tick is attached, the more likely it is to transfer the parasite into your dog’s blood stream. When a tick is forcibly removed, there is always a risk that a part will be left behind, attached to the dog’s skin. This is why tick and flea control products are the most important part of preventing tick bite fever as they contain active ingredients that not only kill ticks, but cause them to detach from their hosts as well.

The signs of tick bite fever include: loss of appetite, lethargy, pale gums, vomiting and fever. If your dog starts showing any of these symptoms please see your vet. The drugs used to treat tick bite fever can be harmful and must only be used once the condition has been accurately diagnosed. For this reason; home use of these drugs is never recommended.


Q: My dog keeps scratching himself, but I can’t see any fleas. He’s wearing a Sorresto Collar, which I bought about 3 months ago. The collars usually last up to 9 months. The scratching started after a bath about a week ago, but the shampoo is the same we’ve been using for almost a year. Could he have started to get allergic to it now, or could it be that he’s allergic to something else? Is it safe to give him Allergex to see if it clears up?


A: Tick and flea control is definitely the first step towards controlling itching, so the Seresto collar was a good choice. Unfortunately, parasites are not the only cause of itching. A dog’s skin is exposed to many potential allergens, both from the environment and in the food that they eat, and any combination could cause itching. Bathing him with a shampoo that is formulated to soothe itchy skin might be a step in the right direction, and weekly bathing with the correct shampoo can be very therapeutic. Allergex, on its own, doesn’t seem to help much. If an allergy is suspected, there are several effective treatments available including: special diets, topical cortisone sprays and essential fatty acid supplements. These often have to be used in combination, and it would be best to contact your vet to work out which combination would be best suited for your dog.


Q: Hi there, I’m considering getting a parrot. I was thinking to either get an African grey or Ringneck. What are the  veterinary needs of these birds? Do they also get             vaccinated yearly? I’m just curious as this will be my first time owning one.


A: For a first time bird owner, I would definitely recommend a Ringneck parakeet rather than an African Grey. A lot of African Greys can be a bit nervous and highly strung, which can make them challenging pets. They can be grumpy at times, and sometimes bite their owners, which leads to a lot
of them ending up permanently caged and never taken out by their owners. Of course, some of them have wonderful temperaments, but you never know what you’re going to get.

Ringnecks are smaller, easier to house and handle and can be real clowns. They love people and make great pets. The only downside is they can be noisy, so one always has to consider your home environment before buying one.

Regardless of the bird you eventually choose, always wean them onto a good quality pellet food. The majority of health problems we treat are related to poor diet such as seed mixes. No annual vaccinations are necessary, although regular de-worming is not a bad idea. Remember to keep the wing feathers clipped so you don’t lose your bird, but get a professional to do it and show you which feathers to clip, as poorly clipped wings can lead to injury.



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