Archive from September, 2012

Law of survival – Why Cat’s Don’t Cry in Pain

Sep 30, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Pain is a basic sensation, an indicator of physical distress. To a small animal in the wild, the exhibition of pain can be life threatening-an indication of weakness which could make it the target of a predator. This pain-hiding survival skill remains even though most of our beloved cats have moved inside. As a result, it is not easy to answer the question, “Is my cat in pain?”

For example, an owner may be surprised when an oral exam reveals significant dental disease, even though their cat is still eating well and has not lost weight . Nevertheless, when the doctor gently touches a tooth with an explorer, the kitty’s teeth begin to chatter, indicating pain. Owners wonder how could they have not known. Two components of feline behavior make pain assessment subtle.

Your cat lives in the present- another survival skill. In a cat’s mind: This is how I am today. This the norm. Your cat does not know that this is a new situation. It accepts the present and moves on. It does not remember less pain one month or one year ago. In addition, your cat more commonly shows pain via behavioral changes and less frequently by crying out. If it hurts to do something, your cat will try to stop doing that activity.

As your cat ages, arthritis may develop. The subsequent loss of mobility and stiffness build gradually. Your cat adapts by changing its lifestyle. You might interpret the changes as benign effects of old age, but they may be caused by pain.

To judge if your cat is in pain, look for behavioral changes such as the following:

  • decreased grooming behavior which could be due to a loose tooth or other mouth discomfort, or due to difficulty bending to groom along its back;
  • defecation outside the box which may be due to discomfort in hips and knees when trying to maintain the defecation posture or feeling unstable on a smooth litter box surface;
  • getting cranky or snapping during your grooming or petting sessions which may be due to inadvertently increasing pressure over tender joints or sore teeth;
  • increased time sleeping on the bed which may be due to general discomfort; and
  • becoming a loner as a new behavior which may be the result of the instinct to withdraw to avoid both physical pain and predation.

Chronic pain is neither something that a cat must learn to accept, nor is it only found in older cats. Dental disease can occur at any age. A previous injury or congenital abnormality may cause arthritis to develop early in a your cat’s life. A thorough examination by your veterinarian will reveal any physical signs of pain. These findings in conjunction with your observations regarding behavioral changes will help the doctor to fully assess the situation and make treatment recommendations. Oral pain can usually be resolved with professional dental care and follow-up home treatment. Arthritis can be managed in many ways. Your doctor can tailor a pain management program that will be best for your cat. It is possible to minimize pain in your cat’s 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
Email: thefelinehospital@gmail.com

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What? The laundry basket isn’t my toilet?

Sep 26, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Inappropriate elimination (urinating and/or defecating outside the litter box) is one of the most common behavior issues for which veterinarians are consulted.  It also is one of the number one reasons why cats are relinquished by owners to a shelter.

Causes for inappropriate elimination are numerous and include- preference or aversion for certain types of litter boxes, location of the box, and litter substrates. Other causes include litter cleanliness issues, aversion secondary to a painful or stressful event, and inadequate access either caused by physical inabilities or aggressor cats in the household.

Inappropriate elimination should not be confused with urine spraying, though in some cases urine spraying can be present in addition to inappropriate elimination issues.

Initially there may be physical problems associated with the inappropriate elimination; therefore, a urinalysis should be performed in all cases and sometimes fecal testing is required.  In some cases blood work to screen for diseases such as kidney disease, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism should be performed.

Once underlying disease is ruled out or addressed, appropriate changes need to be made regarding the environment.  These may consist of moving the box to a new location, addition of a new box, removing the hood or any liners, offering a different type of litter, addressing actual care and cleaning of the box, and addressing stressors in the environment such as bully cats, remodeling or other changes to the environment, new animals or people to the household, etc.

In the majority of cases hoods and liners should be removed.  Hoods trap odor in the box and also provide limited access in and out of the box which can be perceived as a risk in the multi cat household.  Most cats prefer unscented litters and litters that are soft.  However, some cats prefer one substrate for urination and a different one for defecation.  Clues can be gained by observing what surfaces the cat gravitates towards for urination/defecation within the house.

The box(es) should be scooped at least once daily and the litter should be completely changed and the box washed every week to 2 weeks.  The litter boxes should be placed in quiet, less trafficked areas of the house.  Laundry rooms (a common location for boxes) are usually noisy and more heavily trafficked so often they are not a good location. A good rule of thumb is one box per cat group plus one – where a group is one or more cats that like each other.  So, if there are 3 cats in the house, and only two like each other, there should be 3 boxes.  These should be placed in multiple locations throughout the house, on different levels in multi-level houses, and away from food and water sources.

Changes may need to be made in the environment such as adding additional cat trees or vertical spaces for cats to improve social interaction in multi-cat households. Clients may need to experiment with the depth of the litter as well.  Older cats often have difficulty with deeper litter due to arthritis and boxes with higher sides can make access difficult.

If there are complex interactions between cats in the household, Feliway diffusers, collars with bells on the aggressor cats, or even medication may be needed.

Your veterinarian will take a thorough history and will usually want a schematic of the house that includes areas where your cat is inappropriately urinating or defecating, where the cat or cats spend most of their time sleeping, and locations of food, water, and the boxes.  In addition, a history of care of the box, interactions between cats in the household, and any changes in the environment will be discussed.  Medical issues will be ruled out and changes made based on lab findings and history.

Because of the complex and multi-factorial causes surrounding inappropriate elimination these cases can be difficult to diagnose and often require several changes to rectify the situation. The longer the behavior is left unchecked, the more difficult it can be to correct. As always, your veterinarian is the best resource when dealing with inappropriate elimination issues.

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
Email: vets@justcatsvets.com

Website: http://www.justcatsvets.com/
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The SKINNY on FATTENING Food

Sep 22, 2012 by     15 Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Obesity is the most common health problem in our pet cats. One of the reasons is the TYPE of food being fed, not necessarily the number of calories. Cats are desert creatures and are true carnivores. In nature, cats eat mice, birds, reptiles, and bugs to build a healthy diet. Dogs and people are omnivores, meat and plant eaters.

Cats are unable to properly digest carbohydrates. Most dry foods have high carbohydrate levels due to the grain that is required to form the product.

A young healthy cat should be eating a diet similar to his wild cousins – one that is high in protein, high in fats, and low in carbohydrates. A mouse is composed of about 40-45% protein, 40-45% fat, and only 3-5% carbohydrates.

High carbohydrate diets may cause obesity and health problems.

Carbohydrates cause overproduction of insulin, increased hunger, and weight gain. There are health concerns related to this weight gain, not the least of which is diabetes. A cat with a high carbohydrate diet often has a flakey coat (some owners think this is dandruff) or some may be greasy. Overweight cats often are not able to groom as well, sometimes culminating in poor bathroom grooming behaviors. Weight can affect your cat’s joints causing them to forgo jumping, or they may be less willing to play.  It is not uncommon to have an obese cat newly diagnosed with diabetes who can be converted to a non-diabetic state just by altering the diet. The key is to significantly decrease the carbohydrate content in their diet and begin a slow weight loss program.

Cats are desert creatures and in nature derive a large portion of their water from the food they eat.

Canned food has a much higher water content than dry food. Cats should be encouraged to drink fresh water daily, with the use of kitty fountains or running water taps, to properly dilute their urine.

There is little evidence to suggest that dry food plays a significant role in maintaining oral health.

The research suggesting that dry food is better for oral health was done on dogs, not cats. A cat’s jaw does not go side-to-side as a person’s would, so there can be no true chewing. Cats use their teeth in the wild to catch and tear their food, and in the process mechanically clean their teeth. The food pieces are then swallowed whole.  Commercial dry kibble is throat sized, so our domestic cats have little opportunity to rip and tear into their food!

Canned foods have much lower levels of carbohydrates because they lack the grain needed to process the dry kibble. There are many good commercial brands of canned foods available. If your cat does not like canned food, there are a few brands of dry kibble that are lower in carbohydrates.

During your cat’s physical exam pre-existing medical conditions, sex, breed, and age are evaluated to allow us to make specific diet recommendations for your cat.

MYTH BUSTERS – Canned food is NOT fattening. Most brands of dry kibble do NOT help the teeth.

Dr Elyse Kent

Dr. Elyse Kent graduated from Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1980 and completed an Internship at West Los Angeles Veterinary Medical Group in 1981.

In her early years in practice, Dr. Kent began to see a need for a separate medical facility just for cats, where fear and stress would be reduced for feline patients. In 1985, in a former home in Santa Monica, Dr. Kent opened the only exclusively feline veterinary clinic in Los Angeles, Westside Hospital for Cats (WHFC). Along with other forward-thinking feline practitioners from across North America, Dr. Kent founded the Academy of Feline Medicine in 1991. Through the efforts of these practitioners, feline medicine and surgery became a certifiable species specialty through the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). Dr. Kent became board certified in Feline Practice in the first group to sit for the Feline exam in 1995. She certified for an additional ten (10) years in 2005. There are now 78 feline specialists in the world. Dr. Kent served as the Feline Regent and Officer on the Council of Regents for 9 years. She is currently the immediate Past President of the ABVP, which certifies all species specialists. She also heads up a task force joining certain efforts of the ABVP with The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). She currently serves as a Director on the Executive Board of The American Association of Feline Practitioners.

The present day WHFC facility opened in 2000. It was the fulfillment of a vision for a spacious, delightful, state of the art, full service cat medical center that Dr. Kent had dreamed of and planned for over many years.

Westside Hospital for Cats
2317 Cotner Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Phone: 310-479-2428

Website: http://www.westsidehospitalforcats.com/
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Cat Got Your Tongue? – Some Like it Rough

Sep 15, 2012 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Tips & Advice

A wet, sloppy kiss from a dog can be like a gentle, warm embrace, but when our cats get friendly and try grooming us, the sensation is decidedly different!

Why do cat tongues feel so rough and harsh?  My three cats love to lick, and when they get going, it can feel almost like they are scraping through the skin.  You have to admire their commitment to keeping mom clean and well-groomed, but a little of that kind of licking goes a long way!

The reason our cats have such abrasive tongues is because the tops of their tongues are covered in tiny barbs.  These backwards-pointing hooks help carry food or whatever our cats are eating down the throat and into the stomach.   All members of the feline family, from big tigers to tiny domestic short hairs, have barbs on their tongues.  And although I’ve never been licked by a lion or tiger, I’d imagine the sensation would be size-appropriate and significantly amplified.    The skin scouring this would cause might make a big cat assume that there is more than one way to skin a human!

One other function of those barbs on our cats’s tongues is to help with grooming and keeping their coats tidy.  Cats are incredibly fastidious—it’s not unusual for your cat to spend upwards of one third of their waking hours grooming and keeping themselves clean.  In fact, if cats have fleas or lice or other parasites of the skin, they actually can consume a very large percentage through that meticulous grooming, which means that even if your cat has fleas, it can be difficult to find one!

Cats who have allergies are often itchy, and they sometimes lick excessively to try and relieve that itch.  The barbs on the tongue can literally shave hair off—sometimes it seems as though your cat can become bald overnight—and your plush feline can suddenly start resembling an action hero with three-day stubble.

We’re all familiar with hairballs, and the reason cats can have problems with them is that when they groom themselves (or their other cat buddies!), the barbs on their tongue snag the hair and physically move it down to the back of the throat, where the hair gets swallowed and transported into the stomach.  Depending on how much hair gets ingested and how irritating it is in the stomach, a cat might hack it up as the oh-so-familiar hairball, or the hair can pass through the other end via defecation.

The barbs on a cat’s tongue are formed by keratin, which is a fibrous protein structure that is present in skin, hair and nails.  Keratin is very tough, and that is why a cat’s tongue feels so rough—the barbs hold their shape when rubbed against something, much like a fingernail does.  Keratin is one of the strongest substances in the animal kingdom, and just like your own fingernails, those barbs on your cat’s tongue will never get dull or soften over time.

Another interesting tongue tidbit is that the barbs might play a role in whether a cat likes a certain food or not.  The shape of food affects how the tongue reacts to it, and that is why dry cat foods come in so many different shapes and forms.  Some cats like rounded shapes, while others seem to prefer more squared edges.  With wet food, some cats prefer the sloppier textured foods, and others seem more drawn to the pate varieties.  Cats use their tongue to pick up foods, and the barbs affect how the food sits on the tongue.

Barbed and ready for action, the fascinating and unique cat tongue is just one other reason why our favorite species is so special!

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
Email: email@city-kitty.com

Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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How do Indoor Cats Get Worms? And Can They Get Worms from Eating Flies?

Sep 12, 2012 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Tips & Advice

That is a great question from one of our readers.

I have 3 indoor cats and live on the 8tth floor of a high rise. Do I worry about them getting worms?  I take the proper precautions to make sure that they do not get parasites. They are currently on a monthly topical preventative.  However, Indoor cats can get parasites from insects. The insects can run across their food or the cats can eat them. These insects can have the parasite eggs on their legs. Some insects or other animals such as snails can be vectors for parasites.  In other words, the parasites live part of their life cycle in these animals.

I have a very responsible client who has a cat that got lungworms in suburban Virginia.  He responded beautifully from deworming. He came to us coughing and looking like he was going was on death’s door.  He had lost 2 pounds.  His radiographs looked like either asthma or cancer.  It was terrible. Fortunately, he responded beautifully to 10 days of Panacur, deworming.  He is normal with no coughing after treatment.

Parasites have developed great survival strategies. Over millions of years they have worked on these sneaky mechanisms of survival.  The Companion Parasites Animal Council (CAPC) has great recommendations on how to protect yourself and your family. They recommend twice yearly deworming for indoor only cats.

These parasites could potentially infect your children, BUT with proper easy deworming this can be easily prevented.  A relationship with your veterinarian is your first defense.  As veterinarians we are here to help you tailor your cat’s medical needs to you and your cat’s lifestyle.

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
Email: novacatclinic@gmail.com

Website: http://novacatclinic.com/
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Loss of a Cat

Sep 3, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion

When Louis brought Nadia for her dental cleaning and evaluation, he was pleased to know her bloodwork and blood pressure were good and that we could help with her bad breath. As he left, he spoke softly to her, stroked her head, smiled and wished her luck. We never imagined that we would find a mass under her tongue that would end her life.

After her diagnosis, we talked to Louis about his choices. He decided he could be her nurse for awhile but wouldn’t do any more surgery. We started hospice care at home. Nadia had been with him longer than many of his friends and family. His wife said that Nadia was Joined “at the hip” to Louis and would spend every waking minute with him if she could. They were soulmates she told us.

After a time, the tumor became larger and she lost interest in eating. Louis knew the time had come but wished with all his heart that he did not have to make this choice. He hoped and hoped that she would die on her own, without suffering. Then he knew she would not.

They came to the hospital together one last time. Louis is a very tall man with giant hands that stroked her fur as we gave her the last injection. As her breath left her body, he sobbed for awhile. We hugged and sat and talked about her. He told me stories and showed me pictures. Finally, he felt strong enough to leave though we both knew how much it hurt to leave without her.

The loss of a pet can be as devastating as the loss of a child or spouse.  Yet often there is no one who understands how devastating it can be. Having to make the choice to end a life can often leave people feeling guilty or angry. Unlike people, there is usually no ritual to help us through the process.  There are funerals, memorials, and other rituals that would be acknowledged by most everyone for the loss of a person. Often society doesn’t acknowledge the legitimate emotional needs after the loss of a cat. It can feel very lonely and isolating when people say things like “it was just a cat.”

Finding a way to memorialize your beloved cat is one way to deal with feelings that can be so powerful that they feel like physical pain.  My beloved cat is buried underneath a rose bush I can see from my kitchen window. Every time it blooms it is as if she has visited. There are “grief hotlines” in several of the veterinary schools staffed by students who are trained to help and to listen. Grief counselors can be your advocate.

Sit with someone who knows you well and will understand how lonely you are feeling. The depth of your loss is real. You deserve to have the solace that comes of talking it through. The loss of a beloved family member, no matter the number of legs, can feel catastrophic.  Take the best care of yourself and your heart. Do whatever you need to heal. Don’t be reluctant or afraid to ask for help. Don’t mourn alone.

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

Website: http://chicocats.com/
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Cat Hospital of Portland
8065 SE 13th Ave
Portland, OR 97202

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

Website: http://portlandcats.net/
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