Your migration is complete when you welcome your pet home from quarantine. Or maybe it’s a case of knowing you’re really settled once you extend the family and take on a fur-child with an Aussie accent - maybe an iconic Blue Heeler, or do you stay true to your roots and get a Ridgeback or Boerboel?
Whichever, having a pet does wonders for your soul. But how do we keep them healthy? Are the game rules the same as in SA? Well, just as a braai is a BBQ, everything is the same but different! Ja well no fine . . .
Unfortunately there are a few nasties in this Great Southern Land, some of which are not an issue back in South Africa. Number one is Heartworm. Throughout Australia dogs need to be protected against it. It is a potentially fatal disease which fortunately is easily prevented.
However, prevention needs to be continuous and year round. This can take the form of monthly tablets, drops or the very popular Once-a-Year injection. Daily tablets are very outdated. Heartworm is a lot less common in cats but it is still sensible to protect them. Fortunately there are some good products available that protect against fleas, worms, ear mites and Heartworm all in one.
Paralysis Ticks are another potentially fatal problem. Just ONE tick can kill or permanently paralyse a dog or cat, and they can be a major seasonal and regional problem. Get local advice from your vet. In Paralysis Tick areas, be vigilant, applying tick prevention products - either sprays, drops, collars or tablets - every two weeks in spring and summer. Tick dips are not as common, or successful, in Australia as they are in SA. Country areas are generally worse for ticks than urban areas.
Fortunately there are several diseases that Australia does not have. Number one is rabies (the biggest reason for the LONG quarantine sentences imposed). So naturally regular rabies vaccination is not required. Biliary Fever, or Tick Fever, is also not a worry in Australia . But just as back in SA, annual vaccination is required against diseases like Parvo Virus Kennel Cough and Cat Flu. This is normally done at the time of their annual health check at the vet and many people ask to have the annual Heartworm injection at this same visit. For dogs the vaccination is often referred to as a C5 and for Cats an F3, F4 or F5 is used depending on the number of diseases protected.
What we know as neutering, spaying or castration is rather bluntly put in true Aussie fashion as “desexing” - call a spade a spade! Most councils will give you a heavy discount on registration if your pet has been desexed. Registration is compulsory for all dogs with some councils also limiting the number of dogs you are allowed. Some states completely ban certain breeds, with Pitbulls being illegal in Queensland. Rabbits are also forbidden in the Sunshine State.
Compulsory cat registration and curfews are becoming more common. Cats receive a lot of bad press in Australia for their impact on native wild life, but with common sense this can be dramatically reduced. Cats make ideal indoor pets in our increasingly busy lives.
Microchips are widely used in Australia and offer an excellent means to help find your pet if it strays. In some areas microchipping is already compulsory.
Cane Toads are another problem. Widespread throughout Queensland, and now the Northern Territory too, these ugly toads have a very potent toxin. It is simply absorbed through the mouth if a dog picks up or licks a cane toad. Without treatment a healthy dog can die within 30 to 60 minutes. Toad proofing your yard and keeping dogs indoors at night are the best prevention in affected areas.
Similarly several of the world’s most venomous snakes share this land with us. Mambas are replaced by Mulgas, Brown Snakes and Taipans. Not poisonous - but extremely irritating, and frustratingly difficult to get rid of, are fleas. Diligent monthly treatment is important to keep them away year round.
As a vet myself I have noticed that fees in Australia are generally higher than in SA. My best advice is to keep up with your preventative care, feed the best quality diet you can afford, and take out pet insurance. Like other first world countries such as the UK and US, private pet insurance is becoming increasingly common.
Financial services regulations prevent vets from selling or receiving commissions on pet insurance, but certainly speak to us about policies available and their differences. There are some that are head and shoulders above others and some that I would certainly steer clear of. Most people are amazed by what is covered and how affordable the policies are. Interestingly research suggests that you are four times more likely to claim on your pet insurance than your household insurance!
But whatever you do, enjoy your pets, remind them how lucky they are to live in the Lucky Country.