In December 2020, we asked our fans to anonymously submit their pet concerns to Dr. Trudie Prinsloo.

Dr. Prinsloo is a qualified veterinarian and lawyer. In 2015, she started Legalvet services in order to provide legal advice to the animal and veterinary industries in South Africa – and now she’s teamed up with us to give you answers to your most pressing issues.

While Dr. Prinsloo is a qualified veterinarian, she cannot diagnose pets’ conditions remotely.

The answers provided to these questions asked are intended for informational purposes only and should in no way be regarded as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

dotsure.co.za is not responsible or liable for any advice or any other information provided herein. If you are concerned about your pet’s condition, the best course of action is to consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. 

Over the past few months, my dog has started scratching herself more and more. I’ve checked for ticks and fleas but can’t find anything – what could the problem be?

Itchy skin is a common problem in dogs, but it’s not always easy to find the cause.  There are many things that can lead to chronic itchiness. Parasites such as fleas and ticks should be the first thing to rule out, as you have done.

However, some dogs are allergic to flea bites and even one flea (which can be almost impossible to find on a dog!) could cause the allergic reaction. Mites are small parasites that can also cause an itchy skin, but they are not visible to the human eye.

Allergies in dogs often cause itchiness. Food allergies, drug allergies, and allergies to inhaled pollens, can all lead to an itchy skin. Dogs can also be allergic to grass or surfaces they come into contact with.  Allergies will get worse over time if not treated. Some allergies are seasonal, just as in humans.

If you have ruled out the presence of ticks and fleas, then you should consult your veterinarian. You can assist your veterinarian by giving a good history. Pay attention to the following:

  • Details of what you are feeding your dog and if you have changed to different food or have started giving new treats recently.
  • Is there any pattern that you can notice? It might be seasonal, or you notice it after you have taken your dog to the park, or a specific time of day, etc.
  • When did you first notice it?
  • Has there been an increase in frequency and intensity?
  • Has your dog been treated for it before and how did she respond to the previous treatment?

In chronic, difficult cases, keeping a detailed diary could be useful to identify the cause. Remember that allergic conditions can require long term treatment and permanent avoidance of the cause of the allergy.

My Yorkie becomes terrified when the weather changes (for example, rain or thunder). I stay in bed with him, but I can’t calm his shaking or ease his fear. Please advise?

This is called a noise phobia, and it can get worse over time.

It is wonderful that you can be with your dog during such stressful times to reassure him or her but it is also important that it is done in the correct way. Your behaviour should not reinforce the dog’s idea that something is wrong.

The best thing to do would be to consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviour specialist.  They can advise you on how to react during these situations and prescribe medication if necessary.

A very handy and safe tool that is available nowadays is calming collars. These collars contain a substance called a calming pheromone. It is released by the animal’s body heat when it wears the collar.

Pheromone are substances naturally released by animals that affect the behaviour of other animals. These collars have synthetic pheromones that basically tells a dog to stay calm and can be used in conditions that are stressful to dogs, including noise phobias. The collars are considered to be safe and are effective for about 30 days.

One advantage that these collars have in the management of noise phobias is that the dog can wear it constantly during the rainy season. However, if your dog has a serious phobia, the collar alone might not be sufficient to manage it.

My daughter and her two cats (male and female) moved in with me and my male cat in July 2020. The cats are still fighting, especially her female and my male. Both males have now taken to marking in the house. What can I do?

This is obviously a stressful situation for all the cats involved and not unusual when new cats are introduced. If possible, it would be best if the cats could be separated in such a way that they each have their own sections of the household so that they do not have to interact.

If the cats have not been neutered, neutering them could solve the problem. Unfortunately, it is not a guaranteed cure, especially under these stressful circumstances.

Calming collars for all the cats can be useful in these situations. It might have to be used for an extended period. If this does not help, please consult your veterinarian.

There are many ways to deter cats from spraying in specific areas, but without solving the underlying problem, the cats will only find another area to spray.

My doggie is 9 and a half and has been diagnosed with kidney disease. How much longer can I expect her to live comfortably, and how do I know when it is right to have her euthanized?

I am very sorry to hear that your doggy has kidney disease. There are different stages of kidney disease and unfortunately, I do not have any details. However, if kidney disease is not too severe and is well managed, your doggy can still live a few happy years.

The question about the right time to euthanize a pet, is always very difficult for an outsider to answer.

In my opinion you as the owner close to the pet, together with your veterinarian who has been providing long term treatment are in the best position to make this decision. Personally, I believe that one should not extend a pet’s life when its quality of life is very poor, and it is suffering without the reasonable hope of recovering.

Can dogs suffer from epilepsy? And is it dangerous and contagious?

Epilepsy is the result of abnormal nerve cell activity in the brain that causes sensory disturbances and seizures, sometimes followed by an unconscious period. There are numerous causes, ranging from abnormalities that animals are born with, to inflammation and physical injury of the brain.

Epilepsy by itself is not contagious. However, one of the infectious diseases in dogs that could ultimately cause epilepsy, is canine distemper. This is a viral disease that is very infectious. However, it is only one of many causes of epilepsy. Canine distemper is a disease that is easily preventable by vaccinating puppies and adult dogs.

Epilepsy can get progressively worse if not treated and managed. Seizures are dangerous episodes during which dogs can die if not treated. If your dog has epilepsy, please consult with your veterinarian.

I need to take my cat to the vet for his annual vaccines. How does payment/claiming with dotsure.co.za work?

dotsure.co.za offers various plans tailored to cats (and your budget) starting from R77 per month, but only the Superior and Ultimate plans offer a Wellness Benefit, which includes vaccinations, deworming, microchipping, flea control and more.

If your cat is on the Superior or Ultimate plan, simply take your cat to the vet, pay your bill, send us the invoice and we’ll reimburse you within 48 hours* of receiving your claim.

If you aren’t on one of these two plans, this benefit is unfortunately not covered.

To find out whether a treatment is covered, or if you want to upgrade your plan, you can log onto the Manage Portal, call 0861 368 7873 or email u2us@dotsure.co.za.

What would happen to my dog should he bite an intruder or burglar on our property?

It is normal for a dog to defend himself, his owners, and their property. If a dog bites someone who is there unlawfully, an owner will have a defense against any claim for damages by such a person. It follows that nothing should happen to the dog in these circumstances.

In extreme circumstances where the dog’s behaviour is regarded as excessively aggressive and dangerous, the owners may be asked to hand the dog over for euthanasia. If the owners refuse, the authorities may approach a court to order the owners to hand the dog over.

To protect yourself and your dog, always make sure that you have visible signs warning people in more than one language that there is an aggressive dog on the premises.

*T&Cs apply and reimbursement subject to the submission of a valid claim.

Don’t see your question answered here? Look out for Part 2 next month, where Dr. Prinsloo will be answering more of the questions we received!