The Nelly Story – Meet Dr Stephanie

Nelly had to spend several days isolated in intensive care. She was diagnosed with a severe case of sarcoptic mange, also known as canine scabies, which is a highly contagious infestation of Sarcoptes scabiei, a burrowing mite. The canine sarcoptic mite also infests cats, pigs, horses, sheep, and various other species, which is why she had to spend time in isolation. Nelly’s mange condition was exacerbated by a weakened immune system, due to malnutrition. She was not vaccinated or sterilized yet, but the priority was to improve her health before she could be scheduled for surgery.

Medication Trial

Nelly had to undergo a medication trial which consisted of treating the sarcoptic mange and observing for resolution of the signs within 2 to 4 weeks. There are several treatments available for mange, many too expensive for primary healthcare. Nelly was given Bravecto, which takes a little bit longer. She had to be monitored, weighed regularly and given a special diet to boost her recovery. A few weeks later, she was still shy, not able to face the world yet, but she was ready for surgery.

Meet Dr Stephanie

She brings international and private practice experience and expertise to the Cape of Good Hope SPCA. “I have always wanted to become a vet.  It is such an interesting field, you could become a general practitioner (GP) vet or work with livestock, wildlife and one can specialize in a specific organ where you can specialize in ophthalmology or reproduction.  It is very similar as you would have for human practice” – says Dr Stephanie

Quality of care

In terms of surgeries, our quality of care is of high clinical standard aligned with international practice.  We see a lot of cases, we get a lot of experience.  Our hospital has several hundred cages essentially overseen by four veterinarians.  In private practice, there could be up to seven full time veterinarians overseeing a fraction of our caseload.   We have a huge amount of work, each veterinarian can oversee 80 to a 100 cases per day of which about 15 to 20 of those are surgeries. We are fortunate to have a lower cadre of Paraprofessionals and assistants that help free up our professional time” – says Dr Stephanie 


Lower cadre paraprofessionals are a significant cost saving strategy in terms of professional time and contributes to job creation as well as career pathing for young adults with a credit bearing qualification. Paraprofessionals need to be registered with the veterinary council under the supervision of the Chief Veterinarian of a facility.  They can assist with administering injections, taking blood samples and doing blood smears, administering certain tests as well as compiling the clinical information for the veterinarian to make diagnoses and prescribe treatment. Taking the work up and treatment of a diabetic case as example, the paraprofessionals can oversee and manage that which frees the veterinarians professional time to focus on complex clinical cases and surgeries.

Top surgeries and causes

We perform 15 to 20 surgeries on an average day per veterinarian and there are busier days. These surgeries can range from bones stuck in the abdomen, which is quite an invasive procedure to cut those bones out and also requires an extended hospital stay to aid recovery and monitor for post-operation complications. Another example is a blocked bladder caused by stones that formed in the bladder, also an invasive procedure to enter the bladder and remove those stones to clear obstruction so that the animal can urinate again”. – said, Dr Stephanie

Bite wounds are quite common we get dozens of them, says Dr Stephanie. She lists her top five surgeries performed daily as 1) Bite wounds, 2) Sterilizations, 3) Lump removals, 4) Lacerations; and 5) Removal of foreign bodies from the digestive tract.   

Many owners do not consider the cost of having a pet and do not set aside money for treatment in the event something should go wrong.  Cape of Good Hope SPCA is not Government funded it is donor-driven and we reply completely on donations to enable us to perform very complex clinical procedures at times.  An uncomplicated fracture would in private practice easily cost upward of R7 000.  Owners of animals treated at the SPCA cannot afford that cost of care in the current economic climate” – says Dr Stephanie

The main cause of the disease is infectious diseases which can easily be avoided by early vaccination. Owners need to be aware of what basic care requirements are.  She encourages owners to stay up to date with vaccinations, do regular deworming, make sure animals are sterilized to minimize the risk of tumors and cancers.  Taking these basic steps significantly reduce the chances of your animals becoming sick.  

Follow #TheNellyStory Episode 4 – Nelly bounces back to life. We chat to the animal behaviourist who helped rebuild Nelly’s confidence.

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