Ask the expert: Diabetes and dogs

Yes, dogs also suffer from diabetes, and no, if your dog has it, you can’t just ignore it and hope that it will go away. We had a quick chat to our in-house vet, Louis Boag, to find out what to look out for and how to ensure that your diabetic dog can live a normal, happy life.


Diabetes 101

What exactly is diabetes? Well, let’s break it down really simply. When a dog or human eats, the food is broken down into various smaller components — one of the components being glucose (a form of sugar). Glucose is absorbed into the blood but needs to enter cells to be stored and converted into energy.

In order to get into cells, glucose needs the help of insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas. When no insulin is produced by the pancreas or the cells do not react to insulin, the glucose remains in the bloodstream, but cannot be converted into energy. This over-presence of glucose or sugar in the bloodstream is known as high blood sugar or hyperglycemia. Prolonged high blood sugar is called diabetes mellitus, or simply diabetes.


Type 1 and type 2

Like humans, dogs also suffer from two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is when your pancreas simply does not produce insulin. This disease normally has its onset quite early in a dog’s life and is more common in dogs than type 2, especially in some breeds like Golden Retrievers, Schnauzers, Dachshunds, Australian Shepherds, Keeshonds and Samoyeds. Type 1 diabetes is not curable but a dog with type 1 diabetes can live a normal, happy life as long as it gets insulin injections after every meal for the rest of their lives.

Type 2 diabetes is when insulin is produced, but not enough, or when the cells don’t respond to insulin the way they should. Type 2 diabetes is actually more common in cats, but certain dogs are prone to suffer from this type of diabetes later in their life — normally from 6 years onwards and are mostly caused by obesity and a lack of exercise. The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be treated and often cured through the correct diet, weight loss and adequate exercise.


How do I know my dog has diabetes?

The onset of diabetes (especially type 2) can be quite slow, so it’s important to note changes in your dog over time. If your pooch can’t seem to drink enough water, loses weight even though it seems to be eating more, or urinates like crazy, diabetes might be the cause.

Diabetes can also cause lethargy and dehydration, which in turn can cause urinary tract infection. If your dog seems to experience pain when relieving itself and licks its genitals more than usual, you should be concerned. In some cases, diabetes might also lead to cataracts in the eyes. Another common symptom is sweet-smelling urine or a fruity breath.

However, the only person that can diagnose your dog with diabetes is a qualified veterinarian. He or she will listen to what you have to say about any warning signs you may have noted, but will also perform blood tests and collect a urine sample.


Can my dog live with diabetes?

Of course, it can — provided that it receives the right treatment. In serious cases, your dog might have to be hospitalised to stabilise its condition. In others, some oral medication and a specialised diet will be introduced to stabilise glucose levels in the blood. The owners of dogs with diet will be introduced to stabilise glucose levels in the blood. The owners of dogs with type 1 diabetes will be educated on how to do home insulin injections after every meal, while type 2 diabetic dogs will often respond well to a healthier eating plan and increased exercise. It’s a fact that overweight dogs are more at risk to develop a range of health risks, including diabetes.

Unfortunately, the global occurrence of obesity in dogs is on the increase, with owners often not aware of the obesity their cute four-legged friends are suffering from.  If you suspect your dog might be suffering from obesity, it’s always a good idea to read up about it.

However, with a healthy lifestyle that includes daily exercise and a nutritional, balanced diet that contains the right amount of protein, you will not only decrease the risk of your dog developing diabetes, you will also greatly improve your dog’s quality of life, allowing him or her to be his happy, tail-wagging self.


Ask the expert: Early signs of cancer

When we think of our beloved dogs, the last thing we want to imagine is them suffering from a potentially fatal disease like cancer. Yet, as in humans, it’s a reality that’s becoming more and more prevalent. The biggest reason is that because we take better care of our dogs and keep them in protected environments, they tend to live longer and longer. Fifty years ago, a dog would stand a much better chance of getting run over by a car or dying of a common illness before reaching the age where the risk of cancer is higher.

Simply put, cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Research has shown that about 50% of dogs over the age of 10 develop some form of cancer. The good news is that cancer is treatable and curable if it’s diagnosed early. Our in-house vet, Louis Boag identifies some early cancer warning signs to look out for.

1. Lumps or bumps

Stroking and touching your dog on a regular basis is not only good for the psychological health of both you and your dog, it also helps to identify any irregularities in your dog’s skin and lymph nodes. Not all growths are malignant, but spotting it early and getting your vet’s expert opinion will either set your mind at ease or help you to start treatment early if it is indeed cancer in its early stages.

2. Weight loss

A radical change in weight or appearance is a tell-tale sign that something is wrong. It might be due to a number of reasons, but cancer should definitely not be left out of the equation.

3. Wounds that don’t heal

It sounds quite obvious but any wound that does not heal is not a good sign, and might be an indication of skin cancer.

4. Lethargy

As dogs get older, they’re bound to have less energy. Yet it should not be confused with levels of enthusiasm. If your sidekick suddenly fails to greet you when you get home, loses interest in his favourite toy or sleeps for days on end, something’s up and it’s best to take him to the vet to get checked out.

5. Offensive odour

We’ve written before about dog’s amazing ability to sniff out cancer in humans, and although our sense of smell is not a patch on dogs’, a noticeable offensive odour from your pooch’s body is a sure sign that all’s not well. Mouth cancers are quite common in dogs, and a bad breath could be an early warning sign. And even if it’s not cancer, you’ll save big on vet bills later if you take a pro-active approach to your dog’s dental health.

6. Bleeding and unusual discharge

A bleeding nose or weird eye discharge should be something to be concerned about and are often early warning signs of eye or skin cancer. Similarly, any other bloody or unusual discharge from any other body opening should be treated with circumspection as it could be a symptom of a various ailments or diseases, including cancer.

7. Vomiting and diarrhoea 

We witness our dogs’ rare output on a daily basis and for this reason, it’s quite a handy way of interpreting our dogs’ general wealth. Any change that continues for a long period of time, is something to definitely be concerned about. Even if it’s not a symptom of intestinal or other forms of cancer, unhealthy poop (whether it’s diarrhoea or bloody, hard stool accompanied with straining), or regular vomiting are things that should be treated by your vet in any case.

Not a death sentence

In the worst-case scenario of your dog being diagnosed with cancer, chances are good that the cancer will be cured completely, especially if it is detected early. According to American veterinary oncologist, Dr Dave Ruslander, more than 60 percent of malignancies in the USA is treated successfully. Most canine cancers can be removed surgically and most of the cancer treatments available to humans, like radiation therapy and chemotherapy are also available as last resorts to help save and prolong a dog’s life.

It’s a fact of life that all dogs die at some stage, but being aware of the warning signs can greatly increase the happy days you spend with your loyal, loving friend. Enjoy every moment!

ATX Your dog's body Language - JOCK Dog FOOD

Your dog’s body language from head to tail: a quick overview

So there’s this amazing new app that’s able to read a dog’s body language! All you do is you open it on your smartphone and take a snapshot of your dog and voila! Results within seconds.


Okay, maybe not quite yet. But with a few handy key indicators to look out for, you can take the guessing out of what your dog, or any other dog, is trying to say to you without words. As with people’s body language, it’s never only about a single visual cue, but about interpreting a combination of signs as a whole. A wagging tail, for instance, can mean friendliness or playfulness, but a high, stiff moving tail is actually a sign that a dog is ‘flagging’ another dog or person and is ready to attack if necessary.


The first rule of reading a dog’s body language is to actually pay attention to what you’re seeing. This is a skill that will stand you in good stead in your interactions with people too. It’s amazing how much meaning people actually convey in their body language and tone of voice. The famous study by Professor Albert Mehrabian of the University of California in the 1970s actually concluded that only 7% of human communication is actually about what’s being said. Body language (55%) and tone of voice (38%) are the most important conveyors of meaning. I guess we’re not so different from dogs after all.


But let’s get back to our little crash course in canine body language. The first thing to distinguish is whether a dog looks relaxed or stressed. If it’s stressed, it’s guaranteed to show one of three responses: fight, flight or avoidance. But how does one tell? One of the most basic things to look for is the height of the dog’s head and tail. If they’re raised high, the dog’s feeling confident and dominant. If it’s lower than the rest of the body, it’s feeling submissive or uncertain, and possibly afraid.


The dog behavioural guru, Cesar Milan, talks about analysing this in combination with the tension in a dog’s hind legs. Take a dog in the well-known playful bow pose, for instance. Its head is lower than its body, but its back legs and tail are high — therefore, it’s submissive but relaxed, and inviting you or another dog to engage with it. An aggressive dog will have the opposite balance of energy: hind legs down and tense and ready to release energy, and its head higher or in line with its body.


The tales the tail tells

The other, and perhaps most obvious, things to look at are your dog’s tail movement and the position of its ears. Tail up = excited. Tail in natural position = relaxed. Tail tucked between its legs = uncertain and submissive. A tail wagging in a wide motion indicates playfulness and affection. The smaller the movement, the less certain and relaxed a dog is. If the tail is held stiff and high or quivering, it’s a dead give-way that the dog is aggressive and warning the perceived threat to back off.


Interestingly, dogs with docked tails like Bulldogs tend to sometimes be treated with distrust by other dogs in the park at first because they can’t ‘read’ their tail language. Similarly, dogs that tend to carry their tails upright or curled on their back tend to get more hostile reactions from dominant dogs as it’s perceived as dominant body language.


Hey, listen, I’m telling you something with my ears!

Interpreting ‘ear’ language is not all that hard at all. Of course, dogs’ ears differ greatly. But the general cues are as follows: naturally positioned ears = dog is relaxed. Upright ears = dog is attentive and tuning in. Ears held higher or more forward = dog is feeling aggressive. Ears back and flat or sticking straight out to the side = dog is nervous or scared.


The displacement tactic

If you’ve ever had a mischievous dog that demanded a stern voice, you might have noticed some peculiar behaviour as soon as you start reprimanding it. It might start scratching its head in earnest or suddenly feel the need to yawn. This is a sign that it’s trying to divert attention away from itself and get out of harm’s way. The good old dog shake could mean that he’s just woken up, but it’s also a way of naturally getting rid of tension and you’ll often notice this when your dog picks up on your anxiety or anger. Interestingly, that sulky, guilty look your pooch gets when you’ve just caught him destroying your slipper, is not guilt at all (dogs don’t experience guilt) but pure fear in reaction to your anger. Which is why punishment rarely works with dogs, but positive reinforcement works wonders.


Eye contact

A last note is about eye contact in dogs. The golden rule is that, in the dog world, direct eye contact is seen as a challenge. Dogs rarely look each other straight in the eyes, although they might be more willing to engage in eye contact with people, especially their owners. Squinted or narrowed eyes might indicate that your dog is not feeling well or is experiencing pain. Larger than normal eyes with lots of white showing is a good indication that it’s anxious and feels threatened. A direct stare from a dog means that it is challenging you and if it’s a strange, aggressive dog, it’s best to look away to indicate that you’re not challenging it.


A calm, loving direct gaze from your best friend, however, simply means that he’s interested in you and expressing curiosity in your strange human behaviour. After all, your dog is probably trying to figure out your body language just as hard as you’re trying to figure out his.

ATX - Your dog's body language - JOCK

Ask The Expert: The incredible truth about medical dog detectives

“Write a story about dogs that can detect illnesses”.

“Write a story about WHAT?”

For me, a natural sceptic, this was on more or less the same level as that debunked theory about water molecules reacting to human emotions and tarot cards. I mean, yes, I know dogs are acute observers. (In the morning, Lord Charles, my whippet, lies under the duvet with his nose sticking out and doesn’t move until the exact moment when he knows I’m finally ready to take him for his walk. Like a sixth sense almost.) But dogs detecting illnesses? Come on now…


But I’m willing to do anything legal for cash so I spoke to Jock’s in-house vet Louis Boag about the subject and, low and behold, there seems to be real scientific evidence out there that dogs’ acute sense of smell helps them to detect several health conditions.


One such case, documented by the BBC, was Maureen Burns and Max, her 9 and a half-year-old red Border Collie cross. Max started acting funny around Maureen and refused to go near her and show her the affection he used to — around the same time she discovered a lump in her breast. Initial mammograms and scans came back negative. Yet Max kept touching her breast with this paw and backing away as if to tell her something. Eventually, a surgical biopsy revealed that the lump was indeed cancerous. After it was successfully removed, Max became his old self again.

Although this may seem like a mere coincidence at first, several studies show that dogs can detect cancerous cells with their smell. One controlled study conducted by Italian researchers even found that trained dogs can detect prostate cancer cells in urine with 98% accuracy. Not surprising if you consider that they have 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses and can detect the equivalent of one teaspoon of sugar in a mass of water the size of two Olympian swimming pools.


Currently, the challenge is to find more effective ways to utilise this amazing skill to combine with technology to help detect cancer earlier than we currently can.


Another medical condition for which dogs’ sniffing habits have a use is serious (type 1) diabetes. People suffering from this form of diabetes experience sudden dangerous drops in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) which can be life threatening. Amazingly enough, medical detection dogs, or bio detection dogs as they are sometimes called, are trained to help these people, much like guide dogs are already helping blind people.


How does it work? Well, a severe drop in blood sugar levels can easily be smelt in the breath and sweat by these dogs who can then alert their owners even before they themselves know their blood sugar levels have dropped. Additionally, these dogs are also trained to raise alarm by barking and can even be trained to fetch glucose tablets or an emergency phone if their owners pass out.


Another related field is the use of dogs to help people who suffer from epilepsy. The dogs, called seizure dogs, are trained to alert other people or even to activate an alarm when the adult or child in their care has a seizure.


So, there you have it. Medical detection dogs do exist! And I’m more than happy that I have been proven wrong on this subject. Now I just need to train Lord Charles to alert me when I am about to overdose on caffeine while writing interesting stories about strange dog behaviour…



Written by: Eckhard Cloete





Ask The Expert - Dog training for dummies - JOCK Dog Food

Ask the expert: Dog training for dummies

Okay, so you’ve decided to take the big step and get a puppy or adopt a rescue dog. Now how do you make it do those doggy tricks that all dogs do?

Ask the expert: dog training for dummies

Okay, so you’ve decided to take the big step and get a puppy or adopt a rescue dog. Now how do you make it do those doggy tricks that all dogs do?

The first thing you should know is that almost no behaviour comes naturally for your pup. Eating comes naturally, as well as running and barking and pooping. But sitting — not so much. If a dog was allowed to behave naturally, it would cause total havoc in most households. Which is why training your dog consistently from a very early age is the way to go.

There is an abundance of information about dog training (including the advice you’ll get from just about every eccentric dog owner at your local park). But let’s start with some basic tips and a few sneaky tricks to get you started on the journey.


The bait

This is like dog training 101: module 1. Use a food treat to reward your dog for good behaviour. It’s as simple as that. Dogs respond to reward. They figure out that if they do something, they get the goodies. Negative reinforcement or punishment will often do way more damage than good. The treat  — that’s what they’re after.



The most basic of commands and probably the first thing that every person tries to say to a dog. Yet it can be a little harder than you think. There’s nothing as frustrating as watching your dog have no response at all to this command except drooling more for the treat. The trick? Keep the treat in your hand and hold it close to your dog’s nose. Then, and here’s the important part, raise it above and a little behind its nose. Its nose and head will follow, causing its lower half to go down. Try it. It works.


The whoopsies

Yes, there will be accidents and quite a few of them to start off with. A puppy will want to relieve itself just about every 10 minutes at first. But over time it does get better. Hang in there. The golden, uhm, rule is to never scold or punish your dog when it has made a mess.

Firstly, a dog has no concept of guilt — that look of ‘guilt’ is merely a reaction of fear to your anger. Secondly, positive reinforcement is what works. Praise little Coco or Beast every time he does it where he is supposed to (be it the garden or a handy training pad you get at most pet stores). Do it every time and with enthusiasm. You will be amazed out how much your dog will want to please you.

Another insider tip is to never interrupt a number 2 once it’s started. It will just cause an even bigger mess. Once your dog has started, it’s too late. A number 1, though, can be interrupted by picking the puppy up in the act. It should stop, and restart the action at the desired location with a little bit of encouragement.


Patience, and then some

Whatever training goals you set for your dog, remember that you are its leader and that he or she will look up to you for assurance and guidance. Your dog is more sensitive to your emotions than you might think. Anxiety, exasperation and panic will be picked up on easily and your dog will respond to these cues. Be realistic about your expectations. Success will depend on your attitude, and on repetition and consistency.  Be positive, assertive, friendly and patient and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by your furry friend’s capacity to learn and please you. Have fun!



By: Eckhard Cloete


Ask the expert: Are you ready for a dog?

If you think too long about this question, the answer is probably the same as the answer to another question — when is the average male ready for marriage? Not ever. Yet while the circumstances might never be perfect for getting a dog, the decision is one of the biggest ones you’ll make in your life. Sure, there are bigger decisions, like choosing a life partner, deciding to have a child, or accepting a new job. But that’s about it.

When you get a dog, you are taking responsibility for a living, breathing, feeling being. And one that will, on average, be part of your life for at least a decade. The sad reality is that animal charity organisations’ websites are full of stories of abandoned dogs looking for homes. Many of these are cute puppies that did have a home for a short while, only to be rejected by their owners once the full responsibility of having a dog dawned on them.

If you’re reading this article, chances are good that you are already thinking about and researching the level of commitment it takes. Let’s take a look at some of the things one should consider before taking the big step of allowing a little bundle of fur and good will into your life. Answering the following questions truthfully will help you make an informed decision.


Is it an impulse decision?

We all know that feeling of benevolence that takes hold of us when we see that adorable little breath of life with its clunky paws and puppy breath. Often a pic on the internet is enough to want to make you get in your car and go get it. If you feel the grip of love tighten around your heart, my advice is this: STEP AWAY FROM THE PUPPY!  That’s right: step away. Sleep on it. Do your research. Make a list of everything that’s required to properly care for a puppy. Sleep on it again. If you’ve considered all the pros and cons, given yourself time to calm down and made sure all the requirements for ownership of a dog have been met, then, and only then can you give in.


Whose responsibility will it be?

One of the biggest mistakes new dog owners make is to assume that responsibility for your dog will be taken by their partners or family members. Sure, in a lot of cases the duties of dog ownership can be shared, but be very clear about who the primary owner of the dog will be. If a couple decides to get a dog together, and they break up later, what happens to the dog? Also, consider that your income and living arrangements might change over time. Would you still be able to take care of your beloved dog if you unexpectedly earn less money for a while or have to move to a different house or apartment?


Have you thoroughly researched the type of dog you’re getting?

Of course, not all dogs are purebred, but the size and temperament of a dog greatly influence its owner’s ability to properly care for it. Read up about certain breeds’ propensity to bark, or be aggressive or shed hair, or interact with children and other dogs. It’s simply no excuse to say “I had no idea Dachshunds were so vocal” or “Geez, my boxer is so adorable but he really does require more exercise than I thought.” If you want to find out more about a certain dog breed, have a look at our “Know Your Breed” section on our website.

This is especially true when deciding to get bigger and naturally more dominant and aggressive breeds. A big, dominant dog needs a firm, strong and experienced owner. If you can’t control your dog, it becomes a nuisance and even a danger to other people — which can result in a reluctance to take your dog out, which will frustrate it and cause behavioural problems. Choose a dog that will suit your lifestyle and personality. Also, make sure that no one in your home is allergic to dog hair.


Is everything in place ALREADY?

If you decide to get a dog that requires a big yard, have a big yard already. If you plan to go freelance and work from home to spend time with your dog, make sure you’ve already established your new lifestyle before getting the puppy. Wishful thinking is not only irresponsible, it also places stress on you, which will make you less likely to provide a secure and safe home for a dog.


Can I afford it?

Being able to afford a dog is not simply having the cash to actually buy the puppy. There will be vaccinations, toys, a bed, doggy day care (if you work during the day) and vet bills. There is no way you can predict whether your dog will have unexpected medical issues — even the most healthy dogs require a visit to the vet now and then. Look at your budget and allow for contingencies like unexpected illness or booking your dog into a kennel when away. You can get rough guide to the frequency of vet visits a dog would require in this article.


Tick all the boxes?

Then breathe in, breathe out and embark on a life-changing journey!


By Eckhard Cloete


Ask The Expert: What to do with dogs that chew

I know a guy who’s ‘lost’ so many shoes to his little Jack Russell’s chewing habits that he actually contemplated starting a new line of shoes for dog owners. It was going to be called Haute Couchew — basically a line of shoes that’s already ‘worn-in’ and frayed, almost like the deconstructed denim look. And the more your dog chews on it, the cooler it becomes.

Needless to say, his cutting-edge idea never quite took off.  Yet his dilemma is one that almost every dog owner had to deal with at some point. And it doesn’t stop at shoes: handbags, scatter cushions, imported Persian rugs, garden irrigations systems — it seems that nothing is beyond the tastes of a motivated chewer. In this article, I’ll discuss the possible causes for your dog’s gnawing habits, and also look at some tried and tested ways on how to prevent it.

The first thing to remember is that dogs will do what dogs will do, and one of the most natural things a dog will do is to chew. It’s pretty much ingrained in his DNA. However, there are also some factors that can amplify the destructive habit.


Puppy teething

The most obvious and well-known one is that all puppies go through a teething phase. At about 3 weeks the first milk teeth appear, and these increase until about 8 weeks, when the milk teeth start making way for the 42 permanent teeth that should all be in place at around 7 months. During this time, your puppy’ gums will often be in a slightly irritated state, which will result in the habit of getting hold of anything it can get its paws on. This is completely natural.

The best way to prevent your pup from chewing on your treasured possessions is to make sure he or she has enough other acceptable things to sink its teeth into. There are many chewy toys available at your local pet store or supermarket. Some dogs have a favourite toy that it keeps going back to, while others quickly get bored and constantly need new interesting chewy things. In my experience, raw meat bones have the highest satisfaction rating although tough rubber toys last the longest (Remember that dogs should only ever be fed raw bones that don’t splinter easily. Cooked bones and thin chicken bones can be very harmful to your dog’s health).



The second reason dogs, and especially adult dogs chew more than normally is out of sheer boredom. So make sure that your furry friend gets enough exercise every day and gets adequate play time with other dogs if possible. Highly intelligent breeds will also need consistent mental stimulation to keep them out of trouble.


Separation anxiety

A third reason for excessive chewing is that it’s a symptom of separation anxiety. Coming back to a wrecked lounge after leaving your dog alone for a couple of hours is a sure sign that he or she is not comfortable with being left alone. Luckily, there are ways to minimise the anxiety your dog experience. Dog behaviourist Cesar Millan recommends the ‘no touch, no talk, no eye contact’ rule before leaving the house. This way you communicate to your dog that it’s no big deal that you’re leaving. Another trick is to gradually increase the time you leave him alone. Start with 5 minutes and don’t make a big deal of it. What your dog wants more than anything is a calm assertive leader.


About ‘guilt’ and breaking the cycle

We all that look just after your dog has been caught chewing your slipper: head down, ears back, body slouching as if to disappear into the background. We humans naturally interpret this as guilt. Surely, he knows he’s just misbehaved! However, that’s a classic case of projecting human feelings onto our dogs. Dogs do not experience guilt at all! In fact, studies show that this is the exact same body language dogs show one another when they’re trying to avoid a fight. Basically, that recognisable ‘guilty’ look is just a scared reaction to your harsh words and your beloved dog is just trying to calm you down.


Dogs also have very short memories. Scolding a dog hours or even minutes after the sin basically only serves to confuse it. The best time to break the habit of chewing is when you catch your dog in the act. A consistent “Leave!” command will, over time, teach your dog which objects are acceptable chewy toys. Never forget that dogs learn by conditioning. Therefore, one of the best ways to prevent chewing is by treating non-chewable objects with non-toxic but bad tasting sprays. There are several sprays on the market precisely for this reason and really is a saving grace for frustrated owners.

To sum up, here are four things to remember about dog chewing, which I call the C-H-E-W rules:


C — Chewy toys: make sure there are enough acceptable toys to play with.

H — How you react: don’t scold your dog after the fact. Always interrupt him in the act by distracting him and providing an acceptable toy as an alternative.

E — Exercise: enough of it on a regular basis.

W — Watch what you leave lying around. Avoid temptation.


Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go teach my dog that he’s only allowed to disembowel the bad books, not the good ones. Wish me luck.



by Eckhard Cloete

Ask The Expert: How often should my dog go to the vet?

If there’s one thing I’ve never heard about, it’s a hypochondriac dog. Dogs hate to be sick, and they’re terrible actors. So when something’s wrong with your paw pal, you’ll see it in his demeanour very quickly. If your dog suddenly eats less, drinks a lot more water than usual, sleeps like crazy, or doesn’t want to go for his daily walk, chances are good something is wrong.

The problem though is that dogs don’t talk (well, at least not in as descriptive terms as we do), so they can’t tell us exactly why they’re feeling unwell or which part of them are hurting. Luckily, there are qualified vets who’ve studied for years so they can recognise the symptoms and offer a proper diagnosis. The golden rule is: use your common sense. If he looks a little down, it might be okay to monitor him for a day to see if he gets better. Dogs are notoriously good at handling an upset stomach with a quick vomit or one or two loose poops. But if it looks serious and you’re worried, or if the problem persists for more than a day, rather be on the cautious side and take him for a trip to your local vet. After all, when you are sick, you go to the doctor, right?

Apart from episodic incidents of illness, there are, however, also certain routine check-ups and vaccinations that your dog will have to get. And these are not negotiable.

In South Africa, there is a standard vaccination programme that all dogs should follow. There are four core vaccines that all puppies get. These cover rabies, canine distemper, adenovirus infections and parvovirus infection. A vet might also give non-core vaccinations for diseases like kennel cough (most doggy day-care centres require this) and other viruses, depending on where you live and how much contact your dog has with other dogs. But don’t worry too much about the boring details — any qualified vet or animal clinic (including dog rescue centres and the SPCA) will know exactly which injections your puppy should get.

Basically, the following programme is followed by all vets:

  • First vaccination at 6 weeks
  • Second vaccination at 9 weeks;
  • Third vaccination at 12 weeks; includes the first rabies vaccination
  • Second rabies vaccination at 15 weeks
  • Revaccination at one year of age
  • Revaccination every 3 years, including rabies

Thus, depending on the age of your puppy, your breeder or rescue centre might have already made sure he or she got some of the vaccinations. Common practice is for every dog to have a little book (like a car service book) in which all vaccinations are noted by any vet.

After your puppy’s first year, it should get a routine check-up every year, or even every six months to make sure everything is in order. Neutering will be recommended by your vet (normally at around six months). Routine dental checks will also be performed during these visits after which your vet might recommend a professional cleaning of your dog’s teeth to avoid any future problems.  See our article “canine dental health” for more info on your doggy’s dental health. Like humans, as a dog gets older, he or she might require more vet visits as age-related health conditions arise.

If you’re concerned about the cost of all of this, do remember that medical care for dogs are still a lot cheaper than medical care for humans. Nowadays there are also several pet medical aid programmes to help you cover costs — especially unexpected big events. Just make sure you do your research in terms of what is covered and what is not.

Alright, now go on and take your furry friend for a walk. Good health, like life, is after all something that can never be taken for granted. So enjoy every moment while you can!


by Eckhard Cloete

Ask The Expert: I just howled to say I love you

Can dogs fall in love with other dogs? With St Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we thought we’d try and take a peek into the unknown territory of canine romanticism.

Now, the first thing to understand is that dogs don’t experience the same range of emotions that humans do. We might like to interpret that misty-eyed look on our border collie’s face as a sure sign of infatuation with that spritely young French poodle prancing around the park, but in reality, that’s projection on our part. Sure, it has been proven that dogs can experience a variety of emotions which include happiness, excitement, love towards their owners and even jealousy towards other dogs. But when it comes to romantic love as we know it, well, there is very little evidence to suggest that dogs fall in love the way we do.

The reason for this is simple: dogs are animals of instinct. And the notion of romantic love as we know it is a human cultural construct. As any dog owner who has had a bitch in heat will know, there’s very little discretion involved when a dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do. Since dogs release more than one egg during ovulation, females can even give birth to a litter with more than one daddy dog (called a multiple-sired litter)!

And although there are a fair number of species in the wild that do pair off for life or simply for one mating season — like penguins, swans, Gibbon monkeys and beavers — dogs are essentially pack animals, which means that the survival of the species is the most primary concern — and not the feelings of Mrs Poodle.

Interestingly, the domestic dog’s closest living relative, the grey wolf, is actually monogamous. Wolves form mating pairs and become the alpha male and alpha female in a pack consisting of all of their offspring. Yet only the alpha male and female are allowed to mate…  until some of the braver young ones decide to leave the pack and start their own family. Sound familiar?

Yet one shouldn’t be as shallow as to equate the big L-word to mere carnal pleasure. Canine love is about much more than the dog you choose to make whoopee with. A simple dip into the bottomless pool called Youtube reveals countless ‘love’ affairs between dogs and cats, dogs and parrots, dogs and elephants (remember our story about Ellie the elephant and Duma), dogs and kangaroos, etc…

Dogs also form amazing bonds with their owners, and with other dogs. Dogs who live together tend to form a kind of a pack and will go to great lengths to protect each other. And then there’s also the casual friendships formed daily all across dog parks across the country… the cautious approach, the wagging tail, the polite sniffing of snout and business end… and then the exuberance of finding a playmate who understands the unadulterated pleasure of romping across the lawn at full speed or tumbling about in a showcase of skilful acrobatics. According to me, this is the purest form of dog love… finding that playmate that’s just on the same wavelength. And my heart breaks every time I need eventually to separate my dog from his true (temporary) soulmate.

So this Valentine’s Day, instead of buying your beloved companion her favourite treat, take her to the park or field and let her play with her dog bestie for as long as her heart desires. Ag, what the heck, buy her a treat and a new pillow too… it’s the month of love after all!


by Eckhard Cloete