Archive from July, 2012

But she never goes outdoors… Why indoor cats still need to visit the veterinarian

Jul 25, 2012 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Puss in Boots - ready to go outside

A cat food ad states “We know what every indoor cat needs- a big window, sunshine, healthy skin and fur” The pretty kitty sitting in a window may give the appearance of being healthy and safe; but there are dangers to his health, even if he never goes outdoors. The person who really knows what your indoor cat needs to enjoy life to the fullest is your veterinarian. Your cat’s doctor will make sure he is healthy both inside and out.

One misconception is that indoor cats do not need to receive vaccinations. An indoor cat needs to be protected against diseases that can come in even if he does not go out. Rabies is the most serious of the viruses to which an indoor cat can be exposed. The most common carrier is a bat. Many owners have come home to discover their cat has cornered or killed a bat. An unvaccinated cat needs to be quarantined. If the bat tests positive and the cat is not current on its rabies vaccine, the authorities’ first recommendation would be to have the cat euthanized. The other option is strict isolation for three months in a facility equipped to handle those stringent requirements. Then three months of strict home confinement. Indoor cats also can become ill by exposure to upper respiratory viruses, which are very hardy and can live outside the body for 10 to 14 days. There are cats that shed virus but show no signs of illness. An owner may pet a seemingly healthy cat and bring the virus home.

Infectious diseases are not the only risks for an indoor cat. Some issues are more common if a cat lives indoors: obesity, psychological disorders resulting from boredom ( for example-overgrooming or destructive behavior). Your doctor will make recommendations to prevent or correct these problems. ( See previous blog, “ Do we really know what it takes to keep a cat happy”.) Many health concerns, such as diabetes, thyroid disease, arthritis, or intestinal disorders can remain undetected until they are so severe they are obvious, even to an untrained eye. Unfortunately, the cat may have been in pain for quite a while or it may be too late to treat the illness successfully or without great expense.

Keeping your cat indoors increases the likelihood that he will live a long life. However Abraham Lincoln’s bromide that “in the end it is not just the years in a life that count, but the life in the years” applies to our feline friends too. Regular veterinary care will maximize the probability that your indoor cat will live not just the longest but the best possible life

Dr Kathleen Keefe Ternes

Dr. Kathleen Keefe Ternes grew up in western Massachusetts. She received an undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1974; a BS degree in 1978 and a DVM in 1979 from Michigan State University. Dr. Keefe Ternes returned home to New England in April 1980. In 1984, she achieved one of her professional goals by opening The Feline Hospital in Salem, MA. . Dr. Keefe Ternes, a diplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP), initially certified as a companion animal specialist in 1990. She became certified as a feline specialist in 2000 and recertified in 2010. Dr. Keefe Ternes is a member of AAFP, the AVMA, the MVMA, and her local organization, the Veterinary Association of the North Shore (VANS). Her involvement in organized medicine includes having been a past president of VANS and current member of the board of directors. She is also a case reviewer for the ABVP and recently joined the Feline Welfare Committee of the AAFP.

Dr. Keefe Ternes lives in Salem with her husband and two college age daughters. Her two senior cats Toby and Petunia keep her on her toes medically.

The Feline Hospital
81 Webb St
Salem, MA 01970

Phone: 978-744-8020
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Introducing a New Cat to your Home

Jul 21, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Buddy had lived with May since he was a kitten. About four years later, May thought she was getting too busy to spend an adequate amount of time with Buddy. She adopted a one year old neutered male, Bubbah. She put food, water and a bed on one end of the guest room and a litterbox at the other. Bubbah settled in and May spent as much time as she could becoming friends. She bought special toys and a special climbing tree just for him.

The introduction of a new cat into the household must be done carefully. Cats who live in colonies in the wild drive away strangers. Buddy’s instinct will be the same. After a time in separate quarters, slow introductions can be made. A door that is open enough for the cats to see one another (but not touch) is a good first step. The extra resources – feeding place, water bowl, cat tree, resting place – are important. Each cat should have everything he needs and no need to share. As solitary hunters, sharing isn’t a concept they are willing to accept.

Supervised “dates” come next, as the cats are introduced to each other. If there is nervousness, an escape route is key. Food helps as a distraction. If they ignore each other that is the best outcome. Slowly increasing the time they are allowed to be in the same part of the house over time will reduce the stress of the “foreign” cat occupying the “home range” of the previously “only” cat. This is seen as an invasion if it takes place too quickly and the natural reflex to either drive the stranger away or flee himself can be prevented.

It is important to have realistic expectations. These two cats will likely tolerate one another and divide up the house into a timesharing arrangement. It is rare for two unrelated adults to become bonded, though it is not impossible.

Dr Elizabeth Colleran

Diplomate ABVP Specialty in Feline Practice

Dr Colleran attained both her Masters (in Animals and Public Policy) and Doctorate from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. She opened Chico Hospital for Cats in 1998 and the Cat Hospital of Portland in 2003. In 2011, she became President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Dr Colleran is a member with: American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association, and American Association of Feline Practitionesr.

Chico Hospital for Cats
548 W East Ave,
Chico, CA

Phone: 530-892-2287‎

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Cat Hospital of Portland
8065 SE 13th Ave
Portland, OR 97202

Phone: 503-235-7005
Fax: 503-234-0042

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So Why Not the Carrier?!? Part 3 of 3

Jul 18, 2012 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Tips & Advice

You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

To overcoming barriers to taking cats to the veterinary clinic, we need to better understand the cat and why they react as they do, reduce the stress of transporting the cat, and making the cat and the client more comfortable at the clinic.  The benefits include increased cat visits and client compliance, increased job satisfaction and safety, and a financially more successful practice.  It’s not enough anymore to have excellent surgical and medical knowledge – our clients don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care – for them and their cats.


Cats have retained many behaviors of their wild ancestors. They are excellent hunters, with a strong ability to sense and avoid danger. In order to protect themselves, cats don’t display pain and illness as dogs and humans do.

Cats don’t like change – unless it is something they choose to do. Trips to the veterinary hospital, the hospital environment, and handling by unfamiliar people are huge changes for cats.

Cats are social animals, though their social structure is different from humans and dogs. If sufficient food resources, cats choose to live in social or colonies. Females live together cooperatively, nursing and raising the young. Cats choose affiliates with whom they are social.

The cat’s perceives its world through its senses, most of which are highly sensitive compared with ours.  Cats also communicate with their senses, providing scent marking, visual and auditory cues. The primary goal of cat communication is to prevent altercations; cats fight only as a last resort, when other communications have failed.

Sarah Heath:  One of the important feline coping strategies in terms of social stress is to hide and in many modern multi- cat households this is often not possible due to the human preference for floor to ceiling furniture and open plan rooms! Lack of access to retreats can result in cats feeling exposed and vulnerable and when coupled with insufficient supply of other vital resources, such as food and water, the result can be chronic stress which leads to self directed behaviours such as over grooming.

Let’s now develop a plan for one of the more challenging situations that you as cat owners have – getting your cat to the veterinary hospital.  We know that veterinary care is tremendously important for your cat, but how do we make the visits more familiar and allow the cat to have control?  It’s actually not that hard if we remember to follow the Happy Cat Rules, and break our plan down into steps to help our cats have what they need to cope.  And the underlying concepts can be used with any care at home, and when introducing your cat to new situations or people.

The absolutely most important step is to bring your carrier out of the basement, garage, or closet, and move it permanently to a room where your cat likes to be.  For example, the cats that “own” my husband and me hang out in the kitchen when we are home, and their carriers are in the kitchen.  Place a fleece jacket – or other soft piece of clothing that has your scent on it, or a blanket or soft cat bed that your cat loves to sleep on, into the carrier.  This provides a comfortable place for your cat to rest, and a safe haven – cats feel more secure if they have a hiding place in unfamiliar situations.

It may take awhile for your cat to get used to the carrier because of previous negative experiences associated with it.  Remain calm, and toss some favorite treats – either dry kibble or food treats that your cat likes, or catnip – into the carrier every day.  If you need to use treats, use the most favorite ones, and only for the carrier experience, at least until your cat comfortably rests or sleeps in the carrier on its own.

If your cat is afraid of the carrier because of previous negative experiences, start by tossing the favored treats in front of the carrier.  Then walk away.  Let the cat choose to go into the carrier itself.  He or she may start at night, when they know that you cannot close them into the carrier – that is a success!  It may take 2 weeks, but if done calmly on your part, it can lead to a calmer and more content kitty in our busy households, and less stressful travel and veterinary visits for your cat – and you!

Once your cat is routinely going into the carrier, calmly close the door and give a treat.  After several days of this, close the door and move the carrier to another room.  Reward.  Eventually, get your cat comfortable with car rides, and “friendly” visits to the vet, where your cat can get treats and go home.  It’s best to call before you come to schedule a time when it isn’t too busy so that it will be easier on your cat.

Bring favorite treats and toys whenever you bring your cat to the veterinary hospital.  Again this helps with familiarity.  Also it allows you to calmly distract your cat from other things happening at the vet.

Make sure to separate your cat from unfamiliar cats while at the clinic.  Although cats are social animals, with some more outgoing than others (like people!), even the most curious and outgoing cat is likely to be frightened by others in an unfamiliar environment such as the veterinary hospital, where there are unfamiliar smells, sounds, and sights of unknown cats and people.

Try to remain calm yourself to help keep your cat calm.  Cats are intuitive, and they pick up on our fear and anxiety.   Also, watch your cat’s body language for signs of fear – ears back, even if slightly; pupils dilated; body tense, fur standing up, or crouching position – and calmly cover the carrier to allow your cat a comfortable and familiar hiding place.

If your cat is still anxious during car rides or veterinary visits, talk to your veterinarian about Feli-way, a synthetic feline cheek pheromone, which helps calm most cats and makes the an environment more familiar.  There are also anti-anxiety medications that can be prescribed, or anti-nausea for the car sick kitty.

Dr Ilona Rodan

Dr. Ilona Rodan, ABVP Certified in Feline Practice
Medical Director and Owner, Cat Care Clinic, Madison, WI
Feline Behavior Consultant

Dr. Ilona Rodan has been a leader in the field of feline medicine for more than 25 years. She started the Cat Care Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin in 1987 to provide the best feline health care individualized to each patient in a compassionate environment that is more comfortable for cats and cat lovers, and where cats are better understood and handled in a respectful manner. With her extensive knowledge of feline behavior, she also understands the cats’ needs at home, and strives to enhance and prolong the relationship between cats and the people who love them. Our clients frequently tell us that our knowledge and caring has increased their cat’s length of life, often by several years.

When Dr. Rodan is not practicing and teaching at the clinic, she lectures internationally
and writes about feline-friendly hospitals, cat behavior and prevention of behavior problems, and recognizing and treating pain in cats. She has been active in the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) since 1982, and has served in every office, including President. She is most proud of her accomplishments in helping to establish guidelines for feline medicine, which include retrovirus testing, vaccinations, senior care, feline life stages, behavior, pain management, and feline handling guidelines (the latter published in 2011). Dr. Rodan was also an ambassador in the development of a specialist category in feline medicine.

In 1995, she became one of the first board-certified feline practitioners. Her hospital is an AAHA-Accredited Feline Specialty Hospital. She and her team are involved in community service, including free spays and neuters for Friends of Ferals. Dr. Rodan also lectures to the public and staff members of the local shelter, Dane County Humane Society.

Dr. Rodan received the national Friskie’s award for outstanding accomplishments in feline medicine in 1998. In 2005, she was chosen from 70,000 veterinarians to receive the most prestigious award given to a veterinarian, the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Award, This award was given to Dr. Rodan for her work locally and nationally to enhance the welfare of cats through medical and behavioral advancements, and her contributions to community and society. Dr. Rodan’s passion and desire to help both cats and their people is unwavering.

Dr. Rodan continues to be well trained by the two feline family members she lives with, their predecessors, and the cats she has treated for more than 30 years. They have taught her how to respectfully handle and work with cats, to understand that the needs of cat’s in their home is an important part of their healthcare, and to ensure that they have the best quality and length of life.

Cat Care Clinic
322 Junction Road
Madison, WI 53717

Phone: (608) 833-9750
Fax: (608) 829-0345

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Rabies: Risks and Remedies

Jul 14, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

“Why does my inside cat need a rabies vaccine?”  I hear this question many times a week at my practice, and certainly the chance that Fluffy will break out of the house and get into a bloody battle with a rabid raccoon or fox is pretty slim.  Then why do our pampered house cats need to get these vaccines?

One reason we want all pets protected against rabies is that if they become infected, they can spread that disease to people.  This is why most states mandate through law that pets must be vaccinated against rabies, and also that pets will be quarantined if they are unvaccinated and either bite someone or are exposed to a rabies suspect.

Most of us are familiar with rabies.  It is a terrible, horrible disease that is uniformly fatal unless treatment is started immediately.  It is transmitted from an infected animal through a bite wound—more specifically, through that infected animal’s saliva.  The rabies virus infects the brain and nervous system, and the classic image of a person or animal convulsing and in a “rage” state is what happens once that virus follows its deadly path.

Clearly, even though rabies is relatively uncommon, it is not something any of us wants to experience, and also not anything we’d want our cats to get exposed to. But because complications can occur with any medical procedure, including giving a vaccine, we might hesitate if we believe that the likelihood of an infection or exposure to rabies is rare.  We know that there can be a risk of an adverse reaction with common, everyday immunizations.  Even if we adjust that cost/benefit scale because rabies is so lethal, is the potential risk associated with vaccination worth the protection?

I vaccinate my three indoor cats against rabies.  I do this to protect them, but also to protect my family.  Why is this important?  For me, it is really not that I believe the cats are going to get out of the house, but that I know something is more likely to get in…

Bats are the biggest carrier of rabies in North America, and I can’t tell you the number of times bats have been swooping around inside my house, and inside many of my client’s homes.  All of our cats react the same way:  party time!  A bat is the ultimate animated cat toy.  And sometimes that “cat toy” is carrying a dangerous and lethal virus.  All it takes is one bite.  Rabies vaccines are really, really effective, and dying from rabies is not at all pleasant.

And sometimes wacky things do happen.  Last week one of my clients told me that he walked into his kitchen to get some coffee and found his cat sharing her food bowl with a raccoon!  Evidently this raccoon had come into the house through the pet door, and decided things looked good enough to hang around.  Happily, Sheba was vaccinated and didn’t need to spend 6 months quarantined (yet another reason to keep your cat protected!)

So, please protect your cats!  There are intelligent reasons to do so, and the safe and effective vaccines available today make that decision much simpler.

Dr Cathy Lund

Cathy Lund, DVM, owns and operates City Kitty Veterinary Care for Cats, a cat practice located in Providence, RI. She is also the board president and founder of the Companion Animal Foundation, a statewide, veterinary-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income pet owners afford essential veterinary care. She lives in Providence, and serves on several architectural and preservation commissions in the city, and is on the board of directors of WRNI, RI’s own NPR station. But her favorite activity is to promote the countless virtues of the “purr-fect” pet, the cat!

City Kitty
18 Imperial Pl # 1B
Providence, RI 02903-4642

Phone: (401) 831-6369

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The Heart Of The Matter

Jul 11, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

examining a cat

Probably one of the most frustrating things to come out of my mouth are the words “ I hear a heart murmur and it may or may not be a problem. “  So why can’t I just tell you straight up if there’s trouble or not? Well, just like that recent movie title, it’s complicated.  Why is it so frustrating?  Because it’s really important to know if the cat in front of you has a problem and you can’t tell that without doing more stuff.  About 40% of the cats with murmurs or gallops have significant disease. That may mean that you need to treat, manage other disease and anesthesia differently, or avoid anesthesia all together.  The other 60% have murmurs for other reasons and those cats may be just fine. You may even know people who are walking around with murmurs that don’t have a sick heart. But the thing is, you don’t know which cats are which on the exam table.  Cats are very different than other creatures in how they show you that they’re in trouble. While a dog or person might have a gradual onset of signs like cough, exercise intolerance or swollen legs, cats are fine one minute and in a crisis the next.  It is the primary reason to find a cat dead with no warning. It’s pretty easy to push a cat into heart failure if there’s significant disease with too much fluid, certain medicines and stress, so if your cat has a murmur,  your vet will  want to know what’s going on before doing certain treatment plans or surgery. And they look just fine before there’s trouble. There are a lot of cats out there with significant heart disease that don’t even have murmurs or gallops. Just like a cat, to hide every sign of illness it can.

On top of everything else, getting an accurate diagnosis of just what’s going on in your cat’s heart isn’t easy. The only definitive test is a cardiac ultrasound performed by someone who is thoroughly familiar with cat hearts. X rays, ECGs and some newer blood tests can pick up sick hearts if they’ve progressed far enough into the disease, but those tests can be normal even when there’s a problem. So for my money, if I really need to know the status of my patient’s heart, I’m going to tell you to get a heart ultrasound so that you know for sure. Then we can develop a treatment plan that best manages the situation. Or.. go celebrate because everything looks great.

You can stop reading now if you want. But if you are a detail person and need a little more explanation about what’s going on, keep going.

Vets get that worried look on their brow if they hear any kind of abnormality when they are listening to your cat’s heart. Most of the time, that abnormality is in the form of a heart murmur or a three beat rhythm called a gallop. A murmur just means that you can hear the turbulence of blood as it courses through the heart.  You get it any time a flowing liquid meets up with an obstacle.  I kind of like the babbling brook analogy.  Water running through a nice clear PVC pipe doesn’t make much noise, but water running in a stream bed full of pretty rocks and boulders makes a pleasant, relaxing babbling sound. That stream has a murmur. How does that happen in a heart? In cats, the usual culprit is blood slapping up against a bulge of muscle that occurs when the heart contracts. Other things can happen too and the type of problem that causes it can be very different from animal to animal. When the heart muscle gets big, it’s called hypertrophy.  Parts of the heart can get so big that it actually impedes the out flow of blood and that’s when your cat gets in trouble.  Now sometimes, the electrical current that runs through the heart that coordinates all the opening and shutting of the valves, gets all messed up because of the muscle hypertrophy. That’s when you can hear the funny 3 beat rate called a gallop. That probably happens because the big heart muscle doesn’t let the electrical current pass through it evenly. So the valves may not close in tandem, and voila, you get 3 clear heart sounds.  Most of the time the pump (the heart), is doing its job trying to keep pushing blood through. But with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, one of the most common heart diseases,  the problem really is that the amount of blood that can be pumped out is so low because the big, stiff heart muscle getting in the way. It may be fine when a cat is resting, but when that heart rate increases, the muscle scrunches up and doesn’t let any blood get through.

So there you have it. That’s why I’m going to tell you that your cat may or may not have significant heart disease. But I’m always going to recommend that you get it checked out because I don’t want your cat to be in that 40% that needs special attention.  I’m a happy vet when the ultrasound report says no problem.

Dr Eliza Sundahl

Dr. Eliza Sundahl completed her veterinary studies at Kansas State University in 1978 after graduating from Boston University. She has spent a great deal of her professional life promoting feline medicine and continues to do so. She has held many positions in The American Association of Feline Practitioners, including 2 years as president. She was involved in establishing board certification in feline medicine through the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners and worked with that organization for many years to help veterinarians through the certification process.

Dr. Sundahl started at the KC Cat Clinic in 1978 and became owner in 1979. She has been happily working with the wonderful clients and patients at the clinic ever since. She feels like she has the best job in the world. She shares the clinic with Boo and Simon and her home with Babycat, Ferrous, Boo (another one), and Angelo.

Kansas City Cat Clinic
7107 Main St.
Kansas City, MO 64114

Phone: 816-361-4888

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Is My Cat Driving Me Crazy?

Jul 7, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion


Dear Dr. Brown;

My boyfriend sent me this article today… can you please address when you have a moment?

Many thanks,

Robin : )


Thank you for the question Robin. There have been many sensationalize eye-catching headlines about this (This seems to be the next zombie apocalypse). It is always important to separate the science from the hysteria. No one wants to contract a parasite.

The current literature states that Toxoplasma, defined by NIH and the Mayo Clinic, is of concern only for pregnant women and immune suppressed people. For most everyone else, the infection is latent and does not cause any problems.

There have been 3 recent articles that have fanned fears about toxoplasmosis. We have to remember that the work on this will be continuing and these studies need to be reviewed and duplicated.

  1. The first study is a rat study from Stanford and postulated that Toxoplasmosis can affect the behavior of rats.
    Read the article →
  2. The second study is from the University of Maryland.  It is a retrospective study of 45,000 Danish women and suicide rates.
    Read the article →
  3. The third article is from Atlantic Monthly and it features a Czech biologist who feels that Toxoplasmosis may alter human behavior.  All of these are provocative and make for great headlines.  Time will tell and more study will show if there is a correlation.
    Read the article →

The best way to prevent any problems is to avoid infection:

  • Most people get Toxoplasmosis from improperly cooked meat. The CDC recommends cooking meat properly. I am providing a link to the CDC to help define properly cooked meat.
  • Freezing meet to sub-zero temperatures for several days decreases the chances for infection.
  • Always be sure to peel and wash fruits and vegetable before eating.
  • Be sure to washing cutting boards and utensils with hot soapy water after contact with raw meat, or unwashed fruits or vegetables.
  • Wash your hands frequently.

What about my cat?

If you feed commercially prepared or cooked foods it decreases your cat’s chances of becoming exposed to Toxoplasmosis.  Keeping your cat indoors also decreases his/her chance of acquiring the parasite.

Cats are the definitive host for Toxoplasmosis or to borrow from Dr Robert Yolken from Johns Hopkins University.  The world for the parasite is divided into two parts – Cats and Non-Cats.

Toxoplasma wants to be in cats because it leads its entire lifecycle in cats, but not in non-cats.  Again from Dr Yolken – “Now toxoplasma gets into another animal, it’s still alive, but it’s not very happy. What I’m fond of saying is that it’s kind of like a young person living in New Jersey. The person is alive but perhaps would rather be somewhere else… so in New York City or Philadelphia or Washington. Somewhere…”

My apologies to any readers in the Garden State.

Cats only shed the Toxoplasmosis eggs one week in their entire lives.  The eggs need 48 hours to “hatch”.  Frequent cleaning of the litter box with gloves can help decrease the chance of getting infected.  Washing your hands is very important.

Hopefully some common sense and good hygiene habits will help protect you from many pathogens.  It seems to come down to all the good habits you were taught, as child will help protect you.

Separating the facts from fiction or pseudoscience is very important to eliminate needless fear.

You can read the full NPR interview here.

Dr Marcus Brown

Dr. Brown, founder of the NOVA Cat Clinic and co-founder of the NOVA Cat Clinic, received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1986 from the University of Illinois. Currently the medical director for Alley Cat Allies and is an active supporter in local, state and national feline organizations such as: American Veterinary Dental Society, American Association of Feline Practitioners, American Veterinary Medical Association and American Animal Hospital Association. Dr. Brown also contributed the creation of the Association of Feline Practitioners’ 2009 Wellness Guidelines for Feline Practitioners.

Dr. Brown enjoys continuing education and regularly attends seminars and conferences across the country focusing on the advancement in feline veterinary care. Dr. Brown also utilizes on-line discussion groups and veterinary networks to assist the clinic in maintaining the highest level of care and providing the newest treatments available in feline medicine.

NOVA Cat Clinic
923 N. Kenmore St.
Arlington VA 22201

Phone: 703-525-1955
Fax: 703-525-1957

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How to Administer Subcutaneous Fluids

Jul 2, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Administration of supplemental fluids can benefit cats with a variety of medical conditions. Most commonly, this is recommended for cats with kidney disease. We recommend that you learn this technique for your cat. Don’t be alarmed – it is normal to feel apprehension about this. Giving injections is outside the comfort zone for most everyone outside the medical profession. However, fluid administration is not nearly as difficult as it sounds and often easier than orally medicating. The benefits provided to your cat will make it well worth your time to learn this simple technique.

What equipment is involved?

The equipment consists of a bag of fluids, a drip set, and a needle. The drip set is simply a tube that connects the fluid bag to the needle. You will eventually become comfortable with the steps involved.

  1. Remove the inner bag from the outer protective bag.
  2. Remove the drip set from its packaging.
  3. Pull the protective covering from the exit port on the bottom end of the fluid bag. This will expose a hole that will accept the pointed end of the drip set.
  4. The top end of the drip set has a large, pointed end with a protective cap. Remove this cap, but do not allow it to become contaminated. IT SHOULD NOT TOUCH ANYTHING.
  5. Push the pointed end of the drip set into the open hole of the fluid bag. It must be seated firmly to prevent leaks.
  6. Remove the protective cap from the lower end of the drip set, but do not discard it. Do not allow it to become contaminated. IT SHOULD NOT TOUCH ANYTHING.
  7. Close the lock in the middle of the drip set tubing by moving the roller. (The lock on a new drip set is often already in the open position.)
  8. Gently squeeze and release the bulb at the top of the drip set until the bulb chamber is about half full with fluid.
  9. Open the lock (roller) on the tubing and then hold or suspend the fluid bag; fluid should flow freely.
  10. Be sure that all air bubbles run out of the tubing.
  11. Close the lock on the drip set line by rolling the roller downward.
  12. Remove the protective cap on the lower end of the drip set.
  13. Break the protective covering around the needle so that the open end (not the sharp end) is exposed. Do not allow it to become contaminated by allowing it to touch ANYTHING.
  14. Remove the protective cap from the lower end of the drip set, and place the open end of the needle on it. Seat it firmly.

How is the needle inserted?

Insert the needle just under the skin in one of several locations that have unusually loose skin. These include:

  • At the level of the shoulder blades, just to the right and to the left of midline.
  • At the level of the back legs, just to the right and to the left of midline.

What is the correct technique?

  1. Choose a location where you will treat your cat. This may be on a table, countertop, or on your lap.
  2. Hang the fluid bag about 3 feet (1 meter) above the level of your cat’s head.
  3. Place your cat in the treatment location. Be sure both of you are in a position that will be comfortable for about 10-15 minutes. The end of the drip set should easily reach your cat.
  4. Pick up a roll of loose skin in one of the above locations.
  5. Lay the point of the needle at the base of the roll of skin with the needle horizontal and pointing to the cat’s head. This assumes that the cat is in an upright position.
  6. Advance the needle slightly forward while pulling the roll of skin backward. That should place the point of the needle under the skin.
  7. Release the roll of skin. The point of the needle should remain under the skin.
  8. Grasp the drip set lock in one hand. Begin the flow of fluids by rolling the roller upward.
  9. NOTE: Some cats are more cooperative if they are placed in a box or bed not much larger than the cat. A cardboard cat carrier or regular cat bed are often the correct size.

How much fluid should I give each time?

You will be given instructions by the veterinarian that tell how much to give for your specific situation. As a rule, the average sized cat should receive 100-150 ml of fluids at one time. If you are using two spots, you should give half of that amount in each location.

When you have given the prescribed amount, complete the following steps:

  1. Stop the flow of fluids by rolling the roller in the drip set lock downward firmly. If you do not close it well and the bag is left hanging, fluid will drip out.
  2. Remove the needle from the skin and replace its protective cap.
  3. PLACE A NEW, STERILE NEEDLE ON THE DRIP SET AS SOON AS YOU ARE THROUGH. This keeps bacteria that were picked up on the old needle from migrating into the fluids. You should properly dispose of the needles in a sharps container.
  4. Store the equipment in a safe place until the next fluid administration.

What other tips do I need to know?

It is not necessary to “sterilize” the skin with alcohol before inserting the needle. In reality, wiping a little alcohol on the skin does not really sterilize it, and the odor and feel of alcohol may aggravate your cat. Many cats will taste the alcohol and begin to drool profusely. Most cats tolerate fluid administration quite well. However, if the fluids are unusually cold or hot, they may be uncomfortable. Ideally, they should be at about body temperature. However, as long as they are at room temperature most cats are fine. Do not refrigerate them. As the fluids are running, a lump will form under the skin. Do not be alarmed; this is the pocket of fluid that will be absorbed over several hours. If absorption is slow, gravity may cause the fluids to migrate downward. They could move under the skin of the front or rear legs. However, if this happens, they will still be absorbed.

There is no problem if a few bubbles of air are injected under the skin. If quite a bit of air gets under the skin, you may feel a crackling sound when you push on the skin, and your cat may experience mild discomfort for a couple of hours, but no real harm will occur. The body will eventually absorb the air.

What to do if the fluids stop running:

This often happens when the end of the needle moves against the skin or the underlying tissue. Do not remove the needle; rather, gently reposition it until the fluids begin to flow again. Experiment with the needle’s position until the fluids flow freely. Twisting the needle will change the position of the bevel. This may be all that is needed.

What to do if the fluid runs slowly on subsequent treatments:

When you are finished giving fluids, you should close the lock firmly. However, closing the lock firmly may crush the tubing so that fluid will not flow well on subsequent use. If this happens, move the lock to another place on the IV tubing, and open the crushed area of the tube by pinching it with your fingers.

What to do if the fluids become cloudy in appearance:

If any cloudiness or discoloration occurs, do not use the bag. It usually means that the fluids have become contaminated with bacteria. If you administer these fluids to your cat, a serious infection may occur under the skin.

Dr Cindy McManis

Dr. Cynthia McManis received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Texas A&M University in 1985. She developed her interest in cats during her first year post-graduation. She began to actively pursue more education and information regarding feline health care and joined the Academy of Feline Medicine in 1989. When the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners approved feline practice as a specialty board in 1995, she was in the first class to sit for the exam. She is 1 of 90 board certified feline practitioners in the country at this time. Dr. McManis founded Just Cats Veterinary Services in 1994.

Outside of her clinic cases, she is a feline internal medicine consultant for Veterinary Information Network, a web based resource for veterinarians all over the world. She has also served on several committees within the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). She established an ABVP residency site at Just Cats in 2008 and mentors new graduates as well as seasoned practitioners who are interested in achieving ABVP certification.

Dr. McManis is an avid triathlete and is constantly training for races. She completed her first Iron Man in May of 2012. She is owned by 2 home kitties- Amante (“Monty”) and La Mariquita (“Mari”), and 2 hospital kitties- Momma Kitty and O’Malley.

Just Cats Veterinary Services
1015 Evergreen Circle
The Woodlands, TX 77380

Phone: (281) 367-2287

Directions: Google | MapQuest | Yahoo!

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