Until now, only cats sold commercially have had to be identified by microchip and registered, as have changes of ownership. However, as of 2017 all cats and kittens throughout Belgium will be subject to this law, and are now required to be identified, whether or not they go outside, before the age of twelve weeks. This legal requirement has two aims: the first is to allow a found cat to be efficiently identified, and the second is to enable better implementation of existing legislation concerning the sterilization of cats, and in the long term to reduce the excessive feline population and the number of cats euthanized in animal shelters



Hello Doctor, it’s the autumn ! 

When September comes and school starts, at the end of the summer, they are back : it’s flea time !

During the holidays your dog has dodged borreliosis, leishmaniasis, kennel cough etc … because you were well-prepared, your vet took all necessary preventive steps and, thanks to him or her, your cat didn’t get cat flu, ringworm or other leucosis.

However, the fight against fleas is a constant one : they will never disappear ! It’s not that they are resistant to certain medications, but rather they have a fearsome reproduction cycle. While you destroy some, the eggs will hatch and the cycle goes on : younger generations appear on your floorboards.

In fact their reproductive cycle takes place on the floor of your home (a flea can jump at most 30 cm high) : consequently, you will only see adult fleas on our pets, especially on the back and at the base of the tail. You can also see flea excrements between the hair : tiny black worms that make a crunching sound between the fingers and redden when in contact with water (if you rub your cat’s coat over a wet sink, the excrements will turn into bloody-looking stains).

Male and female fleas are stinging insects that feed on blood. They live for 10 days, after which they die spontaneously, but a female flea can lay between 10 and 50 eggs a day ! You can work out what that adds up to.

After 10 days the egg will hatch and give rise to a tiny pink larva. At this larva stage our flea feeds on proglottis of dipylidium. These « bits » of taenia are full of eggs of taenia which will migrate to the salivary glands of the future flea. 10 days later, the larva changes into an adult flea ready to sting and inject the taenia egg under the skin of our pets.

The reproductive cycle is thus between 20 days and 3 weeks long.

In some mysetrious cases the larva will mutate and cover itself in a very resitant thick cocoon. In this, the future young flea can live up to 1 year, well-protected between the boards of the floor, and then suddenly spontaneously hatch by the hundreds in a space of a few minutes. In fact, the vibrations produced by your companion’s paws is what will wake them up in their cocoons !

To treat our dogs, cats, rabbits ….suffering from pulicosis. Their are numerous products on the pharmaceutical market :

The most fashionable ones are sold as “spot on” pipettes that are applied on the skin of the neck. This has to be reapplied every month.

Other products are impregnated in anti-parasitic collars. To see how long they last, please read the manufacturer’s instructions on the package.

There are also some oral treatments for your cat or dog to swallow. This systemic medication kills fleas that come to feed and stops them from reproducing ; this is also to be administered every month.

Don’t forget to also regularly worm our friends, especially if they have suffered from pulicosis. 

After this choice of treatments, don’t forget that the reproductive cycle takes place under your very feet, on the floor of our homes : do carefully vacuum-clean as every little space is a flea shelter. After meticulously doing sot, throw away the vacuum cleaner’s bag. It has been proven in labs that the fleas exit again through the vacuum’s tube and enter your cupboard ! Don’t try to drown them : fleas can swim up to 72 hours.

Global warming again : because of climate change or due to central heating in our homes, the flea season is no longer limited to the autumn. We see them year-round in our surgery : in other words, we have to fight them from 1st January until 31st December !



This is not the first time that we mention tilt and turn windows, but it is useful to remind cat owners of just how dangerous these windows are for their cats. We are often called by distraught adopters who are devastated at having caused the death of their beloved cat.

I can assure you that it’s a slow death, involving horrible suffering.

All new buildings have these kinds of windows now and, if you want to replace old windows, you will automatically be provided with turn and tilt windows.

Cats will be tempted by the fresh air outside and will try to get out at all cost. They can get stuck in these V-shaped windows, and they won’t be able to go back or forward, given that the material is smooth and they can’t sink their claws into it.

If you are a DIY person, you can build a flat angle, perhaps with wood, to place in the window opening. This would give your cat a flat support surface for better stability. But, in any case, do try to avoid using this kind of window if your cat roams around freely at home. Let’s think for our felines, and let’s inform people around us about this danger. Advice needs to be shared and repeated. An accident happens so quickly and this one is particularly stupid!

Hello doctor, why do we need to vaccinate our pets?

According to statistics, less than 50% of our pets receive medical attention. This means that far too many pets are not protected against contagious diseases.

Like for all mammals, puppies and kitten receive antibodies in their mother’s milk, which protect them for approximately 8 months against contagious diseases. To extend this defence, it is absolutely necessary to inoculate them with vaccinations, which contain a certain quantity of virus or bacteria that have been either “weakened” or “killed” in order to stimulate the immune system into producing antibodies for varying  lengths of time.

It is crucial to administer the vaccine preventively as it will be too late, once the illness has appeared. Only wormed and healthy animals should be vaccinated! When your vet notes the vaccine in your pet’s passport, he/she will put certain stickers  étiquettes which, thanks to a code, indicate which vaccines have been administered.

                  USUAL VACCINES FOR DOGS

Distemper : étiquette C or D

This infectious disease is due to a virus of the paramyxoviridae family, related to human measles, which affects all canids (dogs, foxes,…) and all mustelids (ferrets, otters, …) The virus is inhaled through the puppy’s nose and mouth when in contact with a sick animal. This virus is unable to survive in the outside environment; contact is needed for it to spread. The virus enters the body through the respiratory system, then invades the digestive and nervous systems through the bloodstream, and causes death 2 to 4 weeks after contamination. Dogs who didn’t get booster shots may directly develop neurological symptoms, such as epileptic crises as a sequel of viral encephalitis.

Parvorirosis: étiquette P

This is caused by the Parvovirus, related to feline typhus (Panleucopenia). The virus spreads in the external environment through diarrhea from a sick dog. The virus can resist for months, if climatic conditions are favourable. This digestive virus propagates into the bone marrow, destroys stem cells, and leads to a swift death.

Infectious hepatitis : étiquette H (Rubarth’s disease)

This adenovirus is spread through the secretions of sick dogs: saliva, urine and stool. Contamination leads to great fatigue. This illness is also called “blue eyes disease” because the eyes cloud over.

Leptospirosis : étiquette L

The bacteria responsible for this disease are the spirochete bacteria which can only survive in aqueous environments. The culprits are rats. Diseased animals eliminate bacteria through their urine and thus contaminate other animals and, occasionally, humans!

About ten years ago, new serotypes made their appearance in Belgium and, consequently, vaccines have recently evolved so as to protect against  1.Canicola 2.Icterohaemorrhagiae 3.Bratislava 4.Grippotyphosa.

These bacteria enter the body either via the skin or the mucusa. They cause generalised vasculitis and destroy the kidneys and liver and lead to rapid death.

Kennel cough 

This is a respiratory infection due to the association between a canine parainfluenza virus: étiquette Pi and Bordetella Bronchiseptica bacteria: étiquette Bb It occurs mainly when several dogs are in contact in a restricted area such as in dog training courses, dog boarding facilities, kennels or when sharing balls or sticks.

There are two kind of vaccines on the market:

  1. administered intra-nasally: in such case, dogs have to be vaccinated at least 72 hours before a risk period, followed by an annual booster.
  2. administered subcutaneously: in such case, two injections are given a month apart, followed by an annual booster.

Rabies:   étiquette R

Rabies is spread by saliva: either through biting or licking wounds. All mammals (including humans) are at risk, as are birds. After contamination, the virus reaches the brain and follows the nerve paths and causes death by muscular paralysis. It is prohibited by law to treat an animal with rabies. Instead, it must be euthanised. Vaccination is compulsory for any stay abroad, south of the Sambre and Meuse rivers or while camping in Belgium.

The main moments in time when your puppy will receive his/her first vaccines:

1st :     between 6 and 8 weeks

2nd :   between 12 and 16 weeks

3rd :     when turning 1 year

Thereafter, boosters will be needed to strengthen immunity.


Typhus or panleucopenia : étiquette P

The parvovirus, related to the canine parvovirus, is responsible for this disease ; it is highly resistant to the outside environment. In cats, too, this virus first destroys the cells of the digestive system, then of the bone marrow. When a non-vaccinated female cat is contaminated during pregnancy, her kitten will be born ataxic because of cerebellar hypoplasia, i.e. they won’t be able to walk or stand up.

“Feline coryza” : is due to the association of two viruses and bacteria

The Rhinotracheitis virus (feline herpes) : étiquette R and the feline calicivirus : étiquette C are passed from one cat to another by saliva when growling or sneezing. The virus is then in the ambient air and quickly causes respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and conjunctivitis. The calicivirus, in particular, causes very painful canker sores inside the mouth which stop the cat from eating. After having recovered, some cats continue to carry the disease which can then resurface in times of stress or other illness.

Chlamydia infection : étiquette CH

This bacterial illness is due to chlamydia psittaci and can complicate the respiratory symptoms of coryza, worsen conjunctivitis, and invade the digestive and reproductive systems.

Leukaemia : étiquette Felv

This is caused by a leukaemogenic virus which is a retrovirus of the oncovirus group. It causes immunodeficiency symptoms and tumors in the lymphatic system. It spreads from cat to cat by bites, mating or even in utero. Symptoms appear several months or years following contamination and the virus attacks all body systems. The disease is incurable and fatal. Primary vaccination is done in 2 doses 3 or 4 weeks apart, followed by annual boosters.

Currently, there are no vaccines:

  1. against the Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or “feline aids”. This virus is spread through bites, mating or in utero and replicates in the T lymphocytes and macrophages. In a colony of infected cats, two years after the start of the epidemic 20% will have died, 50% will be asymptomatic and the others will be carriers.
  2. Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). This is caused by the coronavirus which replicates in the upper respiratory system. It is then transported throughout the body via macrophages and will cause a generalised perivascular inflammation of all blood vessels. There is a dry or pyogranulomatous type and a humid type by abdominal effusion.

The main stages of vaccinations for cats are:

1st   primary vaccination between 6 and 8 weeks

2nd first booster dose between 12 and 16 weeks

3rd second booster at about 1 year.

Up to you to check with you usual vet whether your animal is up to date with its vaccinations!

Dr. Vet. Med. Christiane LOEMAN

Administrator at HELP ANIMALS

Hippotherapy: horses listening to humans


Hippotherapy: horses to the rescue of souls

Horses are humankind’s most noble conquest…

No doubt horses are far more than that. They left a mark on history and greatly contributed to humanity’s progress for millennia. Horses still hold a special place in our hearts today. All the more when they come to the rescue of different, often fragile, beings.

Horses are so sensitive that they mirror our own feelings. Being strong and fast, horses fascinate us; they are able to feel our emotions and analyse our attitude, without any judgment. Horses adapt their behaviour and base their trust in us on what they feel and thus on the deep feelings that drive us. They read us like an open book. It’s impossible to lie to a horse!

Hippotherapy is based on these exceptional qualities to create a privileged relationship between a horse and a vulnerable person, with the assistance of a therapist. This special encounter enables an adult or a child to experience new sensory stimulations and to open up to new, so far unknown, emotions in a relationship. Children with psychological or physical pain are particularly receptive to relationships with animals as body language is more important than verbal language.

The positive impact on vulnerable people is clear and undisputed, but how do horses react in the face of such expectations?

To answer this question, we went to Ophain in Walloon Brabant to meet Gaëlle Godefroid, an experienced hippotherapist.

This specialised equestrian centre is located at the facilities of the non-profit organisation Armandia, an institution that every day welcomes adults and children with a difference.

Gaëlle, an experienced rider, is a psychomotricity and psychopedagogy assistant also trained in hippotherapy.

You can’t improvise being a hippotherapist, a lot is at stake!

Several years of experience in different specialised equestrian centres enabled her to set up her own organisation in October 2013: “Hippo’Sens”.

Our arrival elicits the curiosity of the children playing in the inner courtyard behind the main building. Their welcome is warm and resounding with “Hellos”.

Once the introductions are over, we go to the meadow where two horses wait impatiently to be led away.

How many horses do you work with?

Normally we have four, but one of them has just undergone minor surgery and is currently resting. Another, who is 22 years old, was retired only a few days ago.

The children are not shy in expressing their enthusiasm as soon as Selecto, Gaëlle’s personal horse, and Twiggy, a mare from a shelter, appear.

The first task consists of brushing the horses. The children are doing this in a rather dissipated way, but without reluctance. Despite the excitement surrounding them, Selecto and Twiggy are impressively calm and display no sign of distrust or bad mood.

As soon as the saddle pad, the reins and a specific maintenance system are installed, the first rider is ready to mount Selecto, with Gaëlle’s help and by stepping on a stool.

The young rider concentrates and appreciates the exercises proposed by Gaëlle, who constantly looks after the safety of the child under her care. The girl is clearly proud and that is one of the benefits of hippotherapy: providing a person, who is different, with an enhanced self-image.

In the meantime, one after the other, the children lead Twiggy on a walk, under the supervision of one of our host’s colleagues.

It’s very rewarding to see the sincere and spontaneous cuddles between the children and the horses and they provide a boost to the therapeutic approach of these highly specialised educators.

Do you also welcome adults?

Yes, and their reaction is just as positive. For one of them, for example, horse riding is one of the only times when he can relax. It’s very surprising.

You also organise different events…

Yes, children’s birthdays… family Sundays at the farm as we also have goats, rabbits, chicken, …

This is a visit we won’t forget anytime soon. Clearly, not all horses are able to put up with so much attention from children who don’t always control their movements well. It’s not a question of “training” these horses to make them docile, but to choose them smartly on the basis of their character and their natural empathy towards human beings.

Relations between humans and animals are a source of well-being and we are only beginning to measure their true benefits.

Hippotherapy is part of this movement and enables certain psychological hurdles to be overcome, provided the person in pain respects horses as they are.

Christian De Meyer

Gaëlle Godefroid    Hippo’Sens   Rue du Try, 3     OPHAIN