Archive from October, 2012

Let’s Get Specific About Urine

Oct 27, 2012 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Tips & Advice

Both human and veterinary doctors who practice internal medicine, consider urine to be  “liquid gold”. What is it about urine that makes it so valuable? It is readily available, usually easy to collect, relatively inexpensive to test, and provides a wealth of information.   Urine is one of the end products of metabolism (the other is stool).

The composition of urine is a direct reflection a body’s health.  A basic urinalysis consists of three parts. The first is a chemical test- the dipstick. Within a minute, a doctor can tell if there is blood, sugar, bilirubin or protein present. A positive test for any of these can mean internal trouble, for example that a cat has become diabetic. The next part is to look at the urine under a microscope. This is important; up to fifty percent of abnormalities may be missed if there is no microscopic exam.  The doctor will evaluate: the types of cells present( white or red blood cells,other cells shed from the kidney or bladder),  whether there are crystals and if so what kind, and, what kind of casts, if any, show up. Casts are tiny tube-shaped structures made in the kidneys.  Different crystals and casts carry different degrees of significance, but may be a clue to what is making a cat ill. For the last part, a test will be done to determine the urine concentration.

The strength of a cat’s urine concentration is measured on a scale called specific gravity. The scale runs from 1.000 (water) to 1.080.  If the concentration registers 1.040 or greater, then the cat probably has adequate kidney function regardless of his blood test values.

To understand how a body regulates hydration think of yourself.  When you get up in the morning, you usually urinate a small amount of dark strong concentrated urine. There is a small set of cells in your brain that act like a sponge.  While you are sleeping and not taking in liquids, the cells begin to “dry up.” They send a message to the kidneys to “close all the floodgates “ to conserve water and minimize urine production. On a hot day or if you are exercising, you drink a lot, and the cells begin”to swell.” Now they send a message to the kidneys “We’re drowning in here; open all the floodgates and make all the urine you can”.  As a result, you urinate a large volume of clear dilute urine.   The little set of “sponge” cells in the brain almost never fail. However, as a cat ages,the kidneys can fail.  They no longer respond to the message sent from the brain. Therefore, the kidneys  make urine at a relatively steady rate independent of the patient’s hydration status and brain messages. In order to avoid dehydration, the cat drinks more water to compensate for his increased urine output.  In discussing kidney issues, clients often believe that because their cat is producing a good volume of urine, then the kidneys must be working well.  In fact it is just the opposite.   Therefore, it is important that older cats who can no longer concentrate their urine, have plenty of fresh water available at all times to prevent dehydration.   One  potentially reversible reason for a cat to have dilute urine is an infection.  If the urine sample was sterile, then it will be cultured to see if there is an infection and to identify the proper antibiotics to successfully treat it.  In some cases, once the infection is gone, the specific gravity will return  to normal.

At the other end of the spectrum, a cat’s ability to concentrate urine can predispose him to bladder problems.  Because their  ancestors were from desert regions, cats are very good at conserving water. When a cat has healthy kidneys, he does not make much urine and he urinates infrequently- relative to people or dogs. If for some reason, a cat is unhappy,  because of environmental stresses ( owners away, rocky relationship with another cat) or issues with the litter box (unclean, wrong litter, location, or size), he may hold his urine for long periods of time. Very concentrated urine sitting in contact with the bladder wall can result in inflammation.  Another inflammatory situation occurs when some cats produce an excess amount of crystals in their urine. As they pass lots of crystals with a small amount of liquid urine, their bladder and urethra get irritated. Inflammation is the underlying cause for symptoms of bladder problems including: frequent urination, urination outside the box, bloody urine and straining to urinate. Part of the treatment for these conditions is to make the urine more dilute, that is to lower the specific gravity. Your veterinarian will help you accomplish this when discussing the treatment options.

Urine specific gravity relays not only information about the  health of  both the upper (kidneys) and lower ( bladder) urinary tract, but also the general internal health of your cat.  Just like Goldilocks and porridge, the ideal urine concentration for optimal health is not too high and not too low, but just right.

 

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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Mismatched Metabolisms: The Case of “Big Boy” and “Miss Princess”

Oct 24, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

“But Doc, how can I get ‘Big Boy’ to lose weight when ‘Miss Princess’ needs extra food to maintain her weight?!” I get this question often. Of course the names have been changed to protect the innocent, but it is a common problem. What to do, what to do…

There are several ways to approach this problem of mismatched metabolisms, but the bottom line is that you have to do something different than what you have been doing. Sorry- it is just not working. Keep it up, and Big Boy may be seeing his veterinarian more often for diabetes management and other maladies. I will try to give you some simple practical advice. Of course, it is your job to carry it out, so chose a method that will work on a daily basis for your household.

Step one: consult your veterinarian for nutritional advice. This includes not only what to feed, but how much.  It is likely that if you are not already feeding a large percentage of canned food as the diet, your veterinarian will recommend doing so. Canned food is lower in carbohydrates than dry and is much better for combating and preventing obesity in cats. (See The Skinny on Fattening Foods).

Step two: make a plan that works in your household. It is critical that the entire family agrees to the plan and that the plan be as easy as possible. You will most likely need to measure how much you are feeding. Having small, easy to use measuring scoops (if you are feeding dry food) makes it easier. In our house, we use a metal 1/8th cup scoop. It’s hard to cheat using one of these.  If several people feed the cats, measure out the daily food allowance into a container (or separate containers) and have family members feed from this. Once it’s gone, no refills until the next day!

Step Three: Follow up at regular intervals on an accurate scale. Most bathroom scales will not be accurate enough to detect small changes (less than 1 lb.). I recommend that you bring your cat to your veterinarian to be weighed or that you purchase an infant scale to use at home (these are readily available on line). I recommend weighing every 4 weeks initially. Not every cat fits the average profile. When I first put my chubby cat on a diet, he actually gained weight! The poor guy has a low metabolism, so we had to adjust his daily intake. Conversely, we don’t want our cats to lose weight too quickly.

What about Miss Princess?

The simple fact is that with Big Boy in the house, you can no longer provide the free access “all day buffet”.  Here are some options along with pointers:

  1. Continue the “all day buffet” for Miss Princess and feed Big Boy separately. Some clients find an area that the bigger cat cannot reach. This might be a high surface or small access area. You can get creative with more technical solutions, including indoor invisible fencing to keep Big Boy out of the buffet room or a coded magnet on Miss Princess’s collar that will open a cat door to allow access to a room or crate/carrier with her food (magnetic collar and matching door available on line).
  2. Gradually transition all cats to meal feeding and feed them separately. Two to three meals a day works well for most cats. This is best done by first removing the food at night. Next, remove it for a few hours during the middle of the day then gradually make this period longer. Nighttime may be more difficult, if your cats wake you up asking for food, but be strong!
  3. If your veterinarian recommends a reduced calorie diet and you cannot feed different foods, in most cases it is easier to feed for the cat that needs to lose weight and then supplement the lighter cat as needed. Big Boy is eating more to begin with, so the change in food will affect him more than Miss Princess.
  4. Treats are not “free”! If you give your cats treats or table food on a daily basis, discuss this with your veterinarian. These calories add up over time and can de-rail a diet in no time. On average, one extra tablespoon of dry food every day for 1 year will put on 1 lb. of weight.
  5. Exercise is always helpful in any weight loss program – both mentally and physically. Make your cat work for his food. Have him chase the laser light to find a hidden bowl of food. If you are feeding dry food, give it to your cat in a “food toy” so he has to work to get it and eat slowly. This will be fun for you too!
  6. Slow weight loss is critical in cats. Small changes over time will be successful. Rapid, severe weight loss in cats can cause serious illness.  Be consistent and know that you are helping your cat be happier and healthier in the long run.

Good luck and be strong!

 

Dr Diana Lafer

Dr. Diana Lafer founded Cats Limited in 1995. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Wesleyan University and her veterinary degree from Cornell University. Dr. Lafer has a cat (Sparky), and a dog (Lucy). She enjoys spending time with her daughters, horseback riding, skiing, hiking, participating in triathlons, and volunteering for the Lakeville Pony Club.

Cats Limited Hospital
1260 New Britain Avenue
West Hartford, CT 06110

Phone: (860) 561-9885
Email: cats@catslimited.com

Website: http://www.catslimited.com/
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Food Recalls

Oct 20, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion

In 2007, a large food recall took place as a result of melamine contamination. Both dogs and cats were affected. This raised a safety concern about pet food that has not been helped by ten reports of national food recalls from March 2009 to March 2010. In the month of March 2010, there were more than 45 recalls of human food products with Salmonella as a common inciting cause.  Now, there are many people who wish to home cook for their cats.

Other safety issues I hear are artificial preservatives, colors, and flavoring. Many fear that food additives play a role in cancer incidence, allergies or autoimmune disorders. The FDA governs the use of these additives and evaluates them for safety. “Who trusts the government?” is the response I hear to my assurances.

The desire to home cook for your cat is deserving of a measured response, one that reflects the complexity of cooking for a carnivore and the difficulty of uncovering adequate information about many products.

Food preferences in the cat are both instinctive and acquired. Taste receptors in cats are specialized for eating meat. Kittens acquire taste preferences from exposure to flavors transmitted in the uterus and in milk. They also learn appropriate food choices from their mother. These include food texture and odor as well as taste.

The balance of vitamins and minerals must be balanced correctly. In a study of home-prepared diets calcium-phosphorus ratios, Vitamin A and E levels along with potassium, copper and zinc were inadequate. Everyone has good intentions but not always a good outcome.

As long as you work with a veterinary nutritionist, there is minimal risk. You must follow all the ingredient and additive instructions to the letter. Many veterinary nutritionists are available for phone consultation and are able to analyze individual diets for nutritional adequacy. That does not guarantee that the flavor, texture or odor will be acceptable to your cat, however. Serious illness can result when a cat refuses to eat. Make sure your beloved companion likes the food well enough to take in adequate calories for the longterm which may require multiple foods to avoid monotony.

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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Litter Mates – Can’t We All Get Along?

Oct 16, 2012 by     14 Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

Reader Question:

“I have two litter mates that are 2 years old.  They get along great.  My previous cats were also littermates, and got along famously until they were 3.  Then the fighting started and lasted over 15 years.  Why did this happen and what can I do to prevent it?”

I am sorry to hear that you had fighting between your last pair of cats.  Thank you for your question and trying to prevent the problem for the 2 kitties you have now.

Cats who like eachotherFirst, for the record, adopting siblings together is a great idea.  They are already bonded together, and they have similar energy levels so that they can play as much as they wish.  People often ask which is best to get, males or females.  Both are great, but there is information to suggest that 2 males are best together, followed by a male and female, and lastly 2 females.  This is of course a general statement and I personally have seen 2 females, Cleo and Sheba, get along well for the 20 years that they were together!

There are some steps that we can take to provide the pair with the best situation, but unfortunately, there are other situations that we may not have control over.  For example, I saw one pair of female cats that were so affectionate together until they were 11 years old; at that age, one of the cats saw a strange cat sitting outside a window and screamed.  The sibling came running to see what was the matter, and a case of redirected aggression occurred – the cat that saw the strange cat attacked her sibling since she couldn’t get at the cat outdoors.  For the rest of their lives, they avoided and even hissed at each other.  Other examples of situations we cannot avoid are often a loud noise outside or something else that frightens one of the cats that we have no control over  – and often it happens when we aren’t present to recognize what caused the problem.

Sometimes kittens that have been best buddies will prefer not to be together (or at least as much) when they reach social maturity, which in cats is between 2-4 years of age.  Providing separate cat beds and more than one place to perch will allow them to have their own space, and choose when to be together with the other.

In addition, reward them for any positive interactions together.   Never force the cats to be together or look at each other because that will only backfire!  And I can tell you from my own experience early on that pampering a cat that “gets picked on” can reinforce that cat to act the victim so that they can get the attention.  Once, I came home early from work because I was sick.  I saw my cats sleeping together.  As soon as they saw me, they hissed at each other and went their different directions!  From that day forward, I ignored the one when she acted like the victim, and rewarded any positive interactions, and they became best buds.

Do your cats get along?  If not, questions are welcome.

 

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
Email: catcare@catcareclinic.net

Website: http://www.catcareclinic.net/
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The Fur is Flying! Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow!

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

Does your cat go into a shedding frenzy whenever he gets into his carrier or arrives at the vet’s office? Ever wonder what was creating that tidal wave of loose hair?

We joke at my practice that by the end of a day’s appointments we could literally create another cat just by using all that discarded hair! Sometimes so much fur comes off these cats that their owners worry that there might be a problem, especially if they don’t normally see a lot of shedding at home.

Who’d ever think that this reaction is related to cutting-edge science? That massive, all-at-once hair shed is based on the same reaction that creates sweaty foot pads in our nervous felines. This is similar to when our own hands get clammy in response to scary or stressful events like speaking in public or opening a letter from the IRS.

Adrenaline is what makes this particular reaction happen, and this nervous system hormone, which is responsible for the body’s pronounced response to fear and danger, has been in the news recently (and not just in use during the Presidential debates!).

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded this year to two scientists who did groundbreaking work on how receptor cells receive and transmit information about compounds like adrenaline and histamine. This has enormous impact on the development of medications, but it also can give us some insight into why those compounds cause the reactions that they do.

One of the reactions that adrenaline can produce is the release of hair from follicles that are in the resting or dormant stage of their cycle. These are generally the older hairs that are in the process of being replaced through shedding. Shedding is usually a gradual and ongoing process but during an adrenaline-fueled reaction, these dormant hairs get suddenly released, resulting in our cats looking like they are at risk of becoming bald.

Adrenaline has many strange effects on hair follicles. In fact, one of the more curious occurrences we see can happen during tornados. Chickens exposed to the winds and atmospheric changes associated with those storms can literally be plucked clean. The strong winds are thought to scare the chickens and result in a classic “fight or flight” response. All feathers, which are the bird equivalent of hair, loosen and come off, leaving a completely naked bird.

Happily, nothing on this level occurs when our cats get stressed or fearful. But the amount of hair that comes off can still be pretty impressive!

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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Take Me Along

Oct 5, 2012 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

I love traveling with my cats, but my Sphynx cat, affectionately referred to as “Naked”, gets car sick within minutes of starting a car ride. I thought I’d share what I do to try to keep Velvet from vomiting and almost always defecating during the trip.

  1. I try my best to make sure she hasn’t eaten for 6 -8 hours prior to her being placed in her cat carrier.
  2. About 30 minutes before she goes in her carrier I give her ½ of a .25mg alprazolam tablet along with ¼ of a tablet of Cerenia. The alprazolam is to keep her calm and the Cerenia is to stop nausea. I always make sure I follow the medication with a little water to help make sure the medication reaches her stomach quickly and doesn’t irritate her esophagus as she is swallowing.

If this doesn’t work for a cat of yours that gets motion sickness, consider having your veterinarian prescribe acepromazine. It is also given about 30 minutes before traveling and is a great sedative. Your cat’s third eyelid will likely show and your cat might look pretty loopy, so don’t be surprised when your notice an unfamiliar facial expression on your cat when the medication is in your cat’s system.

Another option is to give Dramamine which you can purchase at your local pharmacy. A typical 10 pound cat should get ¼ – ½ of a 50mg tablet. It should also make you cat drowsy. Meclizine (Bonine) is another over the counter motion sickness medication that is doses at 12.5mg per 10 pound cat. For really severe car sickness you can add in a little Cerenia.

Try these medications when you have an opportunity to take a short car ride so you can test dosing and drug combinations. Your veterinarian is your best source when deciding which drugs to use since he or she will know your cat best.

Whichever drugs you use, make sure you are prepared when traveling with a cat that gets motion sickness. I always keep a harness on my cat when she is in her carrier in case a clean-up is needed. I attach a leash before she is allowed out or her carrier that is always lined with an absorbable puppy pad before my trip commences. I have waterless soap for me and even keep disposable exam gloves in my car. Disposable wipes like Clorox wipes work well to clean the carrier and of course, I keep plastic bags in the car as well for storing soiled puppy pads and used wipes until I find an available trash can.

Yes, it takes preparation and patience if you decide to travel with a cat that gets sick in the car, but it is well worth it when you reach your destination and your trip is made that much more enjoyable by having your cat along!

Dr Diane Eigner

Diane Eigner graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School in 1980. Dr. Eigner established her exclusively feline practice, The Cat Doctor, in Philadelphia in 1983, and began offering house call services at the Jersey Shore in 1991. She is a past president of the University of Pennsylvania’s Veterinary School Alumni Society, a Past President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and is a member of the advisory board of Harcum Junior College’s Veterinary Technical School. Diane has been the consulting veterinarian for the Morris Animal Refuge since 1983. Doctor Eigner’s column “Ask The Cat Doctor” appeared in the Cat Fancier’s Almanac from 1996-2000. Diane joined the Catalyst Council’s board as the American Association of Feline Practitioner’s representative in 2009. She is now serving as the immediate past-chair of the Catalyst Council.

An avid Sailor, Diane loves nothing better than to be at the Jersey shore where she keeps her sailboat, Purrfect, and where she has a second home. Since meeting her husband, Fred Turoff, Temple University’s Men’s gymnastics team head coach, her family life has been dominated by men’s gymnastics. Her son Evan is a level ten gymnast that competes nationally and will join her husband’s division I men’s gymnastics team in the fall.. Diane also shares her life with three very entertaining cats. Though she shouldn’t have a favorite, her Sphynx cat, Velvet, which she rescued at the shelter where she consults, is the cat love of her life. Her integrated home also includes a Welsh Corgi named Twinks, two Cornish Rex cats, Naui and Padi and a Russian Tortoise.

The Cat Doctor
535 North 22nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Phone: (215) 561-7668
Fax: (215) 561-3616
Email: meow@thecatdr.com

Website: http://www.thecatdr.com
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