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A Quick Cosmo Update

Apr 5, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

If you missed it read about Cosmo’s Big Adventure

Prior to starting radiation he had to have CT scan to determine the plan where he would receive his radiation therapy.  So, no food after midnight since he would have anesthesia.  Always harder than it sounds with 3 cats.

We were up early and Cosmo was then placed in the carrier.  He has always been good about this and I grateful that we started early in life.  The other 2 are then easily fed. I get a call that all went well.  The CT is sent to Calgary for the radiologist to make the plan. A week later we get a call and they are ready to start at any time.

So now it begins., 18 treatments in total.  18 anesthesias.  Sounds overwhelming.  My main issue would be getting him to the facility in the morning and then getting him in the evening.  With my schedule I do not usually leave until 8 in the evening.  Fortunately, the center can keep him overnight.  I am so grateful since we only have about 2 awake hours together. We will start on a Wednesday and finish on a Friday 2 weeks later.

They do not do treatments on the weekend so on Friday I go get him.  I was told to be prepared that the radiation could burn his neck and he might not be able to eat.  Cosmo is one of those cats that lives to eat.  If he did get burned, he might need a feeding tube.  This would have to be tube directly into his stomach and not his neck due to the location of the treatment.

I get him and am prepared for the worst. Happily I had worried needlessly.  He gets home and goes straight for the food bowl. Same old Cosmo especially after he goes and bugs his sister.  Sunday night it will start all over again.  No food after midnight.

Fortunately the next 2 weeks go very well with no issues.  On his last night, he was given a scarf that he graduated from radiation therapy.  I liked the scarf better than he did, but was so grateful for all the good care he received.

Towards the end of treatment, I spoke with his oncologist.  I learned that cats have far fewer issues with radiation than humans.  I also learned that dogs have much harder time than humans.  We also discussed since we had come this far we might want to consider chemotherapy for Cosmo also.  This would be the last step and would be done 3 weeks apart.  The first one would happen during the last week of treatment.  I decide to go ahead given that we had come this far.  He needed blood work to be sure that he had enough white blood cells.

I will keep you posted on how he handles this part of his adventure.  He seems to be enjoying himself and loves seeing people at the clinic.  At this moment, I am happy with my decision since Cosmo seems to be very happy with it.

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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Feline Sense and Scents-ability: Taste and Smell (Part 2 of 4)

Mar 31, 2013 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Tips & Advice

If you missed it: Feline Sense and Scents-ability: Hearing (Part 1 of 4)

Cats rarely chew on plants, compared to dogs, because the main draw that plants provide is their sweet sugar content. Cats not only fail to taste sweet things, they also deal with sugars poorly in other ways – among other things, they lack a sugar digestion enzyme that both dogs and people have called “glucokinase” which helps break down sugars inside the cells.

Because cats can’t taste sweets, they don’t really “enjoy” sugary snacks the way we would. The inclusion of carbohydrates in cat food has become a very “hot topic” in feline nutrition – while corn and other carbohydrate sources, blueberries, kelp and cranberries may contain many beneficial nutrients, cats likely do not appreciate the flavor, and in some cases it is not certain how well they digest these ingredients.

Most cats prefer canned diets in which the first several ingredients are meat-based. Canned food is better for cats than dry diets because it contains a high water content (about 80%), which helps maintain a lower urine specific gravity (less “stuff” in the urine), which helps protect the kidneys and can help prevent urinary crystals and stones. Most of the cats that we see at Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital who are urinating outside the box and have bladder stones or uncomfortable crystals in their urine are eating a dry-food-only diet.

Something else to note – cats do not like bitter taste any more than people do. If you use baking soda in your litter box as a deodorizer and your cat starts eliminating elsewhere, you might stop adding the baking soda to the box. It is quite bitter in taste, and while cats don’t eat litter, they do groom their paws after using the box, so can associate the bad taste of the baking soda with using the litter!

In 2005, a study was done that discovered the entire cat family is lacking the gene for tasting the flavor “sweet”. They have taste buds in that region of the tongue, but they do not function. Cats do taste salty, sour and bitter. Their favorite tastes are salty and sour. Some cats are drawn to “sweet” foods, but it is likely the fat content vs. the flavor that they like.

Their sense of taste is much duller than ours as well – where a human tongue has over 9,000 taste buds, a cat has only 473! The cat may make up for this lack of taste buds with the small Jacobson’s organ at the front of its mouth – a “vomeronasal” organ which is slightly different than either smell or taste. You can see the ducts leading to this organ in the roof of your cat’s mouth behind the upper incisors. The organ sits right at the front of the mouth and connects to the nasal passages. Snakes, elephants and horses also have this organ, among other animals. Humans, it seems, do not have a working vomeronasal organ. To use it most effectively, the cat passes air over the front of the tongue and then touches the tongue to this sensory organ to deposit pheromone molecules there. You can see your cat using this organ when it wrinkles its lips, opens its mouth and slightly sticks its tongue out when “smelling” an area where it finds an interesting smell.

With 200 million odor-sensitive cells in its nose, compared to a human’s paltry five million, a cat’s sense of smell is much more sensitive than ours. However, they don’t hold a candle to a dog’s smelling ability. Dogs have between 149 million and 300 million receptors. Still, smell is one of a cat’s more important senses. Because smell is so important to cats, a stuffed up nose can be extremely detrimental! If a cat can’t smell his food, he is highly likely to turn his nose up at it. Conversely, a scented litter that we find to be pleasantly fresh-smelling is like drowning in perfume to a cat’s sensitive schnozz.

Dr Steven Bailey

Dr. Steven J. Bailey founded Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital in 1992. He obtained his Bachelor of Science and Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Michigan State University in June of 1986. After graduation, Dr. Bailey practiced emergency medicine for 8 years prior to establishing Exclusively Cats. Dr. Bailey is one of two veterinarians in the state of Michigan and the only veterinarian in Southeastern Michigan that has been board certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners as a Feline Specialist (ABVP). His special interests include complicated medical/surgical cases as well as critical care, advanced dentistry, and behavioral medicine. Dr. Bailey is an active member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), he is a current council member of the Southeastern Michigan Veterinary Medical Association (SEMVMA). He is also an Associate Editor of the Feline Internal Medicine Board on the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), invited member of VMG #18 (The only feline exclusive Veterinary Management Group) and MOM’s group (Macomb/Oakland Management Group). In his free time, Dr. Bailey is an avid kayaker (some may even call him “obsessed”) and an instructor in both canoe and kayaking sports. He also enjoys running and spending time with his family. Dr. Bailey and his wife Liz have 2 adult children, Christopher and Kayla, 3 cats, Tic Tic, Sapphire and Lacey, and one dog, Charlotte.

Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital

6650 Highland Road

Waterford, MI 48327

Phone: 248-666-5287

Fax ‎206-333-1135


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Feline Sense and Scents-ability: Hearing (Part 1 of 4)

Mar 28, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

Cat ears

Even though cats have the same five senses humans do, their perception of the world is much different. Sometimes, trying to understand a cat’s point of view can help shed some light on problems you may be having with your cat.

Feline hearing is functionally the same as human hearing. The pinna, or outer portion of the ear, collects sound waves and translates them down the ear canal. In humans, the ear canal is a straight shot to the ear drum, while cats have a vertical canal connected to a horizontal canal in an “L” shape from the top of the head, straight down and then turning inward. Once the sound waves have rounded the corner of the ear canal, they cause the eardrum to vibrate, stimulating the ossicles of the middle ear (tiny bones called the malleus, incus and stapes – otherwise known as the hammer, anvil and stirrup). These ossicles transmit the sound waves to the cochlea.

The cochlea is a fluid-filled structure in the middle ear. The sound waves are translated to fluid waves in the cochlea that are then sensed by nerves connected to fine hairs that float in the fluid and is then sent on to the brain for interpretation. This is the area that a human “cochlear implant” stimulates to help correct hearing loss. The feline cochlea has 3 complete turns while the human cochlea only has 2.75 turns. They have 10,000 more auditory nerves than humans. Near the cochlea is another fluid- and carbonate crystal-filled structure called the vestibular apparatus that is in charge of balance.

Cats are exquisitely adept at locating prey. They can distinguish between two different sound sources 8 cm apart (shorter than the length of an iPhone) at 2 yards and 40cm apart (about 1 foot, or a little longer than 3 iPhones) at 20 yards. They can hear a rustling mouse 20-30 yards away. They can hear 10 distinct octaves of notes vs. humans’ 8.5 octaves. They even hear one octave above their canine counterparts.

There are 4 sets of muscles that control the motion of the cat’s external ear flap, or pinna, and allow it to rotate 180 degrees to catch a sound and orient on it. You can use this information to make playtime more interesting for your cat. Make “hide and seek” with toys more challenging by using quieter, less obvious “prey”. Test your cat’s auditory awareness with a tiny crinkle from a crinkle-toy. See if they notice.

Even though you think they can’t hear you, don’t yell at your cat! He can hear you, he just isn’t listening to you.

When your cat is sleeping it is still attentively listening, scanning for audible information, which is why your “soundly sleeping cat” is standing right at your feet the second you open a can of food.

Dr Steven Bailey

Dr. Steven J. Bailey founded Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital in 1992. He obtained his Bachelor of Science and Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Michigan State University in June of 1986. After graduation, Dr. Bailey practiced emergency medicine for 8 years prior to establishing Exclusively Cats. Dr. Bailey is one of two veterinarians in the state of Michigan and the only veterinarian in Southeastern Michigan that has been board certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners as a Feline Specialist (ABVP). His special interests include complicated medical/surgical cases as well as critical care, advanced dentistry, and behavioral medicine. Dr. Bailey is an active member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), he is a current council member of the Southeastern Michigan Veterinary Medical Association (SEMVMA). He is also an Associate Editor of the Feline Internal Medicine Board on the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), invited member of VMG #18 (The only feline exclusive Veterinary Management Group) and MOM’s group (Macomb/Oakland Management Group). In his free time, Dr. Bailey is an avid kayaker (some may even call him “obsessed”) and an instructor in both canoe and kayaking sports. He also enjoys running and spending time with his family. Dr. Bailey and his wife Liz have 2 adult children, Christopher and Kayla, 3 cats, Tic Tic, Sapphire and Lacey, and one dog, Charlotte.

Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital

6650 Highland Road

Waterford, MI 48327

Phone: 248-666-5287

Fax ‎206-333-1135


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Does Pancreatitis Mean the End?

Mar 21, 2013 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

I wrote last time about the choice my client Louis had to make to end the life of his beloved cat, Nadia. It is always a struggle for the owner and his/her veterinarian to make these decisions. Worse, of course, for the client because of the years of love and companionship that have transpired. The strongest desire of the cat owner facing the loss of a beloved companion is to do what is best for the kitty.  Sometimes, the outcome that seems the least likely though, can mean a new reality for a cat and his owner. Let’s talk this time about Garfield.

Garfield, no surprise, is an orange tabby about 15 years old. He came in 6 months ago, just not feeling right. His bloodwork and urinalysis were not completely normal and it was obvious that he had severe pancreatitis. We started his treatment for that and he got somewhat better but just not quite back to normal. Perhaps we had not gotten to the bottom of the problem!

We did another ultrasound and, no surprise, his pancreas looked abnormal but everything was otherwise fine. A few days later and quite suddenly, Garfield took a turn for the worse. This time his bloodwork was far less normal; the white part of his eyes looked a tiny bit yellow;  and, his ultrasound showed a large blocked gall bladder and a little fluid around his liver. The findings had changed a great deal in a very short time.

We contacted our favorite surgeon, one that I had been very happy with for many years. That afternoon, Garfield went to Dr. Griffin’s practice, 100 miles away. The next day, he had a complicated surgery to connect his gall bladder to his small intestine to allow his pancreas to heal and give his gall bladder a safe way to empty.  A tube was placed in his esophagus to allow for adequate nutrition and administration of medicine. He came home with antibiotics, pain medication, liver supportive medication and more. We worked with the client to make sure he received adequate calories through the tube and got all of his medications.

As each day went by, Garfield got a little bit better. He began to gain weight and started to eat a little on his own. After three weeks, he was eating enough on his own that we removed the tube in his esophagus. We monitored him carefully for several months, both by examination and laboratory values. He is doing just fine.

The message of Garfield for me is that, even when things look complicated and very, very serious, good things can and do happen. We all need to stay optimistic and realistic, making sure not to allow for suffering or discomfort. If we maintain Quality of Life during a severe illness, we can be proud of our work together. The owner is the single most important member of the healthcare team. We are here to help make sure that is always true.

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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Me, What? What Your Cat’s Meow is Really Saying

Mar 17, 2013 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Tips & Advice

Bet your cat knows how to tell you when she’s hungry. Most cats have very dramatic and prolonged meows that let their humans know when it’s time for dinner—and translation assistance is definitely not needed! Those demanding meows tell us exactly what our cats are thinking.

And it turns out that is precisely their point.

Here is the funny thing about those meows…they’re only meant for us. If you have more than one cat, pay attention to the way they interact. Communication is fairly complicated in the feline family, and your cats will talk to one another by using growls, trills, hisses, prrrrps, chirps and even yowls. But what you won’t hear is one meowing to another.

Cats also communicate through scent—they head butt, rub against each other, and mark their homes with invisible scent: a feline “X marks the spot” so all other cats will know who lives there. All these unique signposts and signals make up feline language and are how cats talk with one another.

But sometime during those thousands of years of domestication, our favorite species has evolved a highly-sophisticated secondary speech that is reserved only for its communication and interaction with humans. When your cat meows at you, she is actually “managing” you, and generally making a request or a complaint.

Of course we pay attention—what good cat parent wouldn’t? And when we respond, our cats learn which meow tone and volume is most effective at eliciting a desired behavior from us. Basically, what this means is our cats are training us to do their bidding. Surprised? Didn’t think so. Most of us are very aware that our cats can easily get us to do things for them. But knowing that our cats have a whole different language just for humans? That’s a little scary. Who knows what will come next! World domination?

Tiny kittens will meow at their mother to get attention, but once they are grown, that type of communication stops. So why do cats continue to meow to people? Because it works. Researchers at Cornell University have determined that cats shape and adjust their meows to get what they want from their humans, whether that is food, attention or access to something they desire.

So what makes up an “effective” meow? How does your cat manage your emotions and manipulate you to her own devices? Generally, the louder and more urgent the meow, the less pleasant we people find it, and the faster we jump to attention. These meows tend to be more drawn out, with more force toward the end of the sound, like: Meee-O-O-O-W-W! This is the “I want” frequency. A more pleasant, simple, softer MEE-ow, is a “hello, how are you” greeting. Your cat might say that when you come home from work or when you walk into a room where your cat is resting.

The tone of your cat’s meow is carefully calculated to be at a frequency that is most likely to elicit a response from us. So my little chatty cat has his own secondary language “dialect” that is reserved just for me and my husband. He knows exactly what is needed to make us do what he wants. Your cat has your number as well, but his or her meow tone might be very different because that particular meow is crafted specifically for you.

Most of us humans learn pretty quickly what each individual variation on the demanding meow means. I’d say in general we’re motivated and fast learners, and our cats must be pleased with our progress. Who knows what they’ll get us to do in the next thousand years? My guess is it won’t be just sit and stay!

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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Are Treats Always Bad?

Mar 3, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

My answer is no – treats can be a good thing.

When my cats were kittens, I started giving them treats in their carrier, every day, and I continue to do this. My cat Athena just looks at the treat and walks into the carrier – a tremendous accomplishment for anyone who has chased a cat around the house and then had to cancel a veterinary appointment because “I can’t catch my cat!” I know I need to be consistent and do this everyday; Athena has learned that she only gets treats in the carrier. I toss the treat in the far back corner of the carrier, so she has to walk in.

Of course, if your cat is significantly overweight, and if he gets “just a few” treats every time he asks each member of the household, then he’s getting too many. If you have many humans in the household, I recommend measuring out treats in the morning, and when the (sealed) treat container is empty, then no more for that day.

What treats do I feed my cats? They eat primarily canned food, so my cats consider t/d or Royal Canin dental dry food as their favorite treat. I count the number of pieces because these are calorie-dense; I know they are getting the dental benefit as well as something they really like. They also get a CET dental chew daily, and sometimes Ziwi Peak freeze-dried meat or chicken as a treat.

Something else that is good to introduce as a treat are “pill pockets”. These semi-moist treats are helpful in administering pills to cats, but your cat has to eat the pill pocket. If pill pockets have been introduced as a treat, before they are needed and without medicine, this can make your job of medicating your cat much easier should the need arise in the future.

So, “all things in moderation”, but if you enjoy giving treats to your cats and if they like their treats, this can be a good thing for all.

Dr Dale Rubenstein

Dr. Rubenstein opened the doors of A Cat Clinic, the first all-feline veterinary practice in Montgomery County, in 1986. She earned her BA in Biology from Oberlin College, her MS in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of Maryland and her DVM from Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine. She became board certified in feline practice, one of only 80 diplomats in the U.S., through the American Board of Veterinary Practices (ABVP) in 1996 and re-certified in 2006.

Dr. Rubenstein is also a member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Maryland Veterinary Medical Association (MVMA), Cornell Feline Health Center, Montgomery County Humane Society Feline Focus Committee, Montgomery County Veterinary Medicine Association, as well as a member of the credentialing committee of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP).

A Cat Clinic, Boyds, MD
14200 Clopper Road,
Boyds, MD 20841

Phone: 301-540-7770
Fax: 301-540-2041

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Microchips for my Cat

Feb 28, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

In Dr. Brunt’s article about when Cat Stanley went missing she mentioned that Cat Stanley was microchipped. It was the puurfect segue for me to provide information about microchipping.

A microchip is about the size of a large grain of rice and is an identifying integrated circuit that is placed under a cat or dog’s skin between its shoulder blades. The radio frequency protocols used by the chips placed in the United States are 125 kHz, 128 kHz or 134 kHz. The 134 kHz chips are also referred to as “ISO” chips, which are recognized globally. “ISO” stands for the International Standards Organization, which is an organization that developed standards for microchips to help prevent incompatibility between products. Cats traveling outside the US should always have “ISO” chips implanted. Though there was an effort in the US to move towards only implanting the 134 kHz chips, 125 kHz and 128 kHz chips are still being used. In fact, some states’ veterinary medical associations have mandated the use of 125 kHz chips. Microchip manufacturers offer different ways to register your cat’s microchip, so before your microchip your cat find out whether there is an easy way to register your cat’s chip and whether there is an annual cost to maintain your cat’s information in the registry’s database. Many manufacturers include lifetime registration when their chip is used. Sedation is not required to place the microchip. The needle used for implantation looks large, but it is sharp, so most cats and dogs hardly move when it is inserted. It is easy to have a cat microchipped during a routine office visit.

Most veterinarians and animal care and control facilities have universal scanners which are meant to pick up chips that are different frequencies. However, no one scanner can read 100% of the microchips placed in the United States. Holding the scanner at an angle when the scanner is used can affect its ability to read the chip as well. So, if your cat goes outside, a safety collar with identification and microchipping is the best way to provide a good way for your cat to find its way home if it gets lost.

Manufacturers of microchips in this country include:

  • 24PetWatch – 125 khz here in the US and 134 kHz in Canada
  • AKC Companion Animal Recovery (AKC CAR) – 128 khz
  • AVID – 125 kHz
  • Bayer ResQ – 134.2 kHz
  • Home Again – 134.2 kHz
  • InfoPet – 128 kHz
  • TruePaws – two chips are used – both 125 kHz and 134 kHz (only used by Banfield)

My thee cats and my dog are microchipped and as soon as they were chipped I made sure I registered them in the national database associated with the type of microchip I used. Yes, I recommend microchipping your pets, but my recommendation comes with a qualification. Please make sure you register your pet after it has been microchipped! Microchip manufacturers tell me that way too many owners forget to change their contact information when they move or change phone numbers preventing many lost pets from being reunited with their owners.

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

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Ultrasound or Radiographs (x-rays) – What’s The Difference?

Feb 21, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

Unlike radiographs, ultrasound uses sound waves to generate a picture of the internal organs. Ultrasound is completely safe and painless and does not require anesthesia or sedation in most cases.

Ultrasound may be recommended after a physical examination, blood test or x-ray indicates an underlying problem. Ultrasound is commonly used in both veterinary and human medicine for a wide variety of problems, including diseases of the liver, kidneys, bladder, stomach, intestines, pancreas, heart, and other organs. As with people, it can be used safely during pregnancy.

Ultrasound can “see” many things that can’t be seen on x-rays. For example, if there is fluid build-up in the chest or abdomen, the organs can’t be seen clearly on x-ray because fluid and tissue have the same density. However, they appear quite clearly on ultrasound, because we can see through the fluid. In addition, while x-rays are helpful to see the shapes and sizes of the internal organs, ultrasound can get a picture of the internal structure.

If an x-ray shows an enlarged heart, we can’t tell from the x-ray if the walls of the heart are thick with narrowed heart chambers (where the blood flows) or if the walls are thin and weak with big chambers or if there is fluid build-up between the heart and the sac that surrounds it. Ultrasound can readily give us this information, which is critical, as these scenarios represent different types of heart disease, with different prognoses and treatments.

Ultrasound is not effective at seeing through air or bone, so it does not replace x-rays but rather is complementary. In some cases both x-rays and ultrasound are needed in order to get a complete picture of what is going on with a patient.

Ultrasound equipment is specialized and quite expensive, so not all veterinary hospitals have an ultrasound machine. Many hospitals have specialists that come to perform the examinations. Other hospitals refer their patients to a hospital that can provide this level of care. In some cases of complex heart disease, evaluation by a veterinary cardiologist may be needed.

Due to the specialized nature of ultrasonic exam and evaluation, it is critical to have a veterinarian who is experienced in obtaining and reading ultrasound images to perform the examination, and make this information apply to each patient in a meaningful way in terms of prognosis and treatment recommendations.

What happens during an ultrasound?

The hair over the area to be evaluated will be shaved, as hair will interfere with the images. A gel (water soluble and safe) will be applied to the skin to help the sound waves generate a good picture. A transducer (similar in size and shape to a TV remote control) is placed on the patient’s skin and slowly moved around over the area to be examined. The ultrasound is computerized, so it can be used to accurately measure the tissues as needed. In addition, images can be stored electronically.

In order to perform a thorough exam, the patient needs to stay relatively still, though some wiggling is fine. Although some cats may be slightly anxious initially, most relax and remain calm once they realize that nothing painful is happening. For cats that are very anxious, your veterinarian may recommend a sedative.

What should I do to prepare for the ultrasound procedure?

Please do not feed your cat for 8-12 hours prior to the examination. Water is permitted. In the case of an abdominal ultrasound, an empty stomach allows for proper imaging of the area near the stomach. There are some diseases/situations where food should NOT be withheld; contact your veterinarian for specific instructions. If your cat is having an abdominal ultrasound, please try not to let your pet urinate for the 3 hours prior to your appointment. This will help get a better picture of the bladder.

What will the ultrasound tell us?

An ultrasound examination will provide a lot of information about your cat’s health. Together with the internist, we look at information from lab tests, x-rays, examinations and medical history to make medical recommendations.

  • A specific diagnosis: often ultrasound can provide us with a diagnosis (or a reason for your cat’s illness).
  • A Partial diagnosis: While ultrasound shows us the shapes and consistencies of the internal organs, it cannot see microscopic changes. This means that while an ultrasound examination can identify abnormal tissue, including growths, it cannot always determine if the tissue is cancerous or what type of cancer it is. For some patients, this information will affect how they are treated and a biopsy may be recommended. In some cases, this biopsy may be performed as an ultrasound guided needle sample under light anesthesia. In other cases, a surgical biopsy is needed.
  • No Diagnosis/ Disease Exclusion: For some patients, the organ changes are not visible enough to pinpoint the problem. We are able to exclude (or rule out) certain diseases, but are left with a list of possible diseases that are causing your cat’s illness. This can be both relieving and frustrating. We will discuss options for therapies based on the available information and will recommend the best path for additional testing to obtain a diagnosis if indicated and desired.

If you have additional questions about whether ultrasound or x-rays are appropriate for your cat, please contact your veterinarian.

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

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Play Aggression

Feb 17, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

What to do when your busy kitten or young cat is driving you crazy!

We frequently get complaints that a newly adopted kitten or young cat has found a new game that they really enjoy- attacking the feet, legs or hands of the humans in the household. Sometimes they will pester older cats in the household with playful attacks as well.  Guess what- this is really normal behavior! However, it is not very acceptable in most of our households so we need to work out some changes in the routine so every one is happy.  These guidelines are effective in most cases, but talk with your veterinarian if problems persist or are worsening.

Play aggression is usually seen in young cats and kittens. Usually stalking, pouncing, and even hopping sideways are seen. The cat will bite or occasionally scratch moving hands, feet, or the family member moving through the house. It is most common in single cat households where the cat is alone of much of the day. Playing roughly with the kitten or encouraging it to bite or swat at hands and feet also encourages play aggression. Sometimes play aggression is seen in multi-cat households when the other cat is old or debilitated or very passive. Orphan kittens that were hand- raised or weaned early are frequently play aggressive as they did not receive socialization by the queen. They do not learn to sheathe their claws or inhibit their bites.

  1. Often the easiest solution is to add a second cat or kitten of similar age and playful temperament. They will play with each other and aggressive play will be inhibited because the new companion will bite back or become defensive when play becomes too aggressive.
  2. Never use physical punishment (hitting or swatting) to stop the play aggression. This can cause the aggression to escalate and transform into fear aggression.
  3. Treatment is fairly straightforward. Increased play activity involving moving toys at least 15 minutes one to two times a day is critical.
    1. Fishing pole toys / string toys with toys at the end of a cord. These encourage pouncing and stalking. Never leave toys with strings out where the cat can reach it when not supervised to avoid string eating and possible surgery.
    2. Laser pointers: play laser tag. Do not shine directly in the cat’s eyes. You can be watching TV and playing with the cat at the same time!
    3. Hand-made toys such as old socks stuffed with crinkly paper or tissues.
    4. Mouse-in-the-house mechanical toys. These move around the house. Use Google for websites that offer these toys.
    5. Kong-type toys stuffed with kibble that the kitty bats around and is rewarded with the food being released.
  4. Play aggression may occur in certain areas of the house such as the hallway from the bedroom to the bathroom (a favorite location). Keep Ping Pong balls available to throw down the hall in front of you to redirect your cat’s attention on to an appropriate object.
  5. Keep an air canister (used to clean computer keyboards) next to the chair or sofa where attacks on a seated individual occur. A water squirt gun may also be used. When the cat is observed to be starting the aggression, spray the kitty with the water or compressed air. The point is to startle the kitten so it stops the behavior as it starts.
  6. Do not play directly with your hands or feet and your cat. Always have a toy or other object in between your hands and feet and their teeth and claws. Otherwise you are sending mixed messages to your cat and will confuse them.
  7. Do not push your cat always when it bites at you. This escalates the play to your cat and it will come right back and bite harder.
  8. Put a belled safety collar on your cat. This will help you (or the other cats in the household) detect the presence of the aggressor more easily and help you redirect its play behavior.
  9. Reward the behavior you want to have continue. Do not pet or try to cuddle or give attention to the kitty after it bites or scratches – give it a 15 minute time-out. Reward your cat with food treats and petting when it is acting calm.
  10. Playing with your cat is a reward – these kitties need active play and attention as they are usually high energy. Fifteen minutes twice a day of active play is a minimum needed and some cats need more.
  11. Medication is usually not needed to address play aggression. If another cat is the target of the play aggression, sometimes the target cat becomes anxious enough to require anti-anxiety medications.
  12. There are other types of aggression that cats can display, and sometimes more than one type is seen at the same time. Treatment may differ for these types of behavior. Please call us if problems persist. Most play aggression is resolved if sufficient moving-toy or active  play is received.
  13. Finally, the goal is to help you change the behavior of your cat to stop play aggressive behavior. Any pet can bite or scratch under certain circumstances, especially when they become fearful or are in pain. There is no treatment plan or medication that guarantees that the pet will never bite or scratch again. Use common sense and avoid trying to hold or touch an upset cat. Seek medical attention if a bite or severe scratch occurs.
  14. Please call your veterinarian as needed with updates regarding your cat’s behavior- the sooner your cat “plays nicely”, the happier everyone will be!

Dr Tammy Sadek

Dr Tammy Sadek is board certified in Feline Practice by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. Dr Sadek graduated at the top of her veterinary class at the University Of Minnesota College Of Veterinary Medicine. She has practiced feline medicine and surgery for over 25 years. Dr Sadek is the owner and founder of two cat hospitals in the Grand Rapids, MI area, the Kentwood Cat Clinic and the Cat Clinic North.

In addition to her cat hospitals, Dr Sadek hosts a website dedicated to helping cat owners prevent and correct litter box issues along with other behavioral issues with their pets.

Dr Sadek is the author of several chapters in the book Feline Internal Medicine Secrets. Her professional interests include senior cat care, internal medicine, feline behavior, and dermatology.

Dr Sadek is currently owned by 5 cats. In addition to caring for all her feline friends, Dr Sadek enjoys traveling, jewelry making, reading fantasy and science fiction, and gardening. She lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and two soon to fledge children.

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Feb 13, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

The Northeastern US has certainly received the brunt of natural disasters recently! Blinding blizzards, a horrific hurricane just a few months before that….and an untold number of animals displaced or forever lost because of a natural disaster.

Lost cats! A very scary situation. Dr. Colleran described her experience and what to look for in a previous felinedocs. com blog last month

Four months ago my own CAT Stanley became lost due to my own carelessness, and it’s taken me a long time to be able to write about it. It was postcard-worthy late afternoon in Annapolis. Autumn was approaching and the air was crisp and clear, snapping the halyards and other lines on the sailboats still in their slips. The sun warming the water made the waves slap the bulkhead, gently rocking the boats back and forth. A perfect time for a boat ride, and a perfect day for CAT Stanley to get further acclimated to travel. Instead of a perfect day, it turned into a perfectly horrible day.

As a veterinarian, I work every day to promote the value of cats, espousing the need for keeping your cat indoors, having the proper identification and conditioning it to its carrier for travel. So even though I do all that- all my pets wear snug collars with ID tags and are microchipped-AND that afternoon he even had a harness and lead- he got out of his carrier. I had been working with CAT Stanley on travel conditioning by taking a leisurely ride in my old little putt-putt boat which he’s been on before. We returned to the boat slip safe and sound, I went to the stern to tie up the boat for less than a minute, and when I turned around he was GONE! He had been seemingly so comfortable I’d neglected to properly secure the carrier flap. Nowhere to be found- not under the floor boards even after removing the attached seats, not along the docks and all around the boat yard…. that night was very long as I combed, roamed and called for him in a ten  square block area on both sides of the creek.  I could only imagine how frightened he must have been, and that made me both sad and very angry with myself.

Forty-six agonizing and unlucky days. Though, in a sense, through all that I felt lucky. After four reprints of various versions of scores of signs and flyers, feeding stations, friends, faith and “fingers crossed” were the only “f” words I used. And while fatigue was another, I choose to override it and any nagging negatives by keeping the desired outcome top of mind- for CAT Stanley to be back home again!

The outpouring and support of the community was uplifting and made me grateful to live where I do. “I saw your sign and I think I saw your cat…” was the most common theme of the countless cell phone calls. And surprise! There are several orange tabby and white cats around town, and a one or two even looked like CAT Stanley. One school child used his mother’s phone and called me, breathless-“is your cat a kitten?” And after I told him Stanley was three, he texted me a picture of an adorable tiny orange tabby (no white) that you could hold in one hand- how sweet is that?

Others offered helpful suggestions. “Here’s a link to the City Government Facebook page and they have over 56,000 friends…” Then another- “I know the person who manages the city’s Facebook page and I’ll have them share it..,” “did you post him on Craig’s list?” and even “beware of this old lady who traps stray cats…” And I’m really happy to report that our county animal control shelter is a model of efficiency and empathy- escorting me through the various cat holding and adoption rooms, helping me fill out the lost pet form, and lending me two Have-a -Heart traps. And even after three hunts with a scent tracking dog and her handler, I remained optimistic as I followed her lead  for placing the traps and a scent trail of items or material (even used cat litter!) related to Stanley’s feline friends and me (excepting the cat litter…).

The situation also gave me an opportunity to walk around town and meet some wonderful people face to face. Almost everyone had seen the signs and most agreed to take a picture of the flyer with their cell phone so they would have the information with them in case they spotted CAT Stanley when they were out and about.  I especially remember one bittersweet conversation with a man on his evening run. “I’ve seen your signs and my wife and I have been keeping an eye out….” (Thank you!). And then his follow-up comment that smacked- “he’ll probably be OK- cats can take care of themselves…” No, they can’t! Cats need people was my initial response.  That’s why CAT Stanley has a microchip (and have you seen that the UK is requiring all dogs get microchipped? Hopefully our day will come for dogs AND cats…)

Thankfully, I immediately recognized he was merely trying to make me feel better. But it gave me even more resolve to raise the bar for cat care and welfare in my own community and beyond.

So my vigil continued. I remained diligent and methodical, seeking, searching, calling and following up on every lead. And after forty-four days he was spotted- very close to the home that called me with the first sighting! Within two days he was back home- skinny, initially scared, with collar and tag intact. His housemates gave him the once-over and obligatory nasal-anal assessment (aka butt sniff), CAT Stanley ran upstairs to his favorite hangout, and all was good.

I’m a veterinarian and advocate for cats, and this still happened to me! I was lucky, and even with no “natural disaster” excuses such as snowstorms and hurricanes, tornados or fires, people need to be reminded that we all get careless.  Sometimes there are little or no consequences.  But sometimes the consequences are disasters and end up breaking your heart.

Don’t wait for a disaster. If you haven’t yet taken these steps,  please do them NOW:

  • Microchip your cat and register it! The apps and other support services are very helpful!
  • Keep current close up full-body photos on your computer
  • Make sure when outdoors they are fully supervised
  • Keep them current on their yearly exams, appropriate vaccines and parasite prevention program
  • Give them lots of love and care….so they will want to come home again.

We need cats…they need us!

Dr Jane Brunt

Dr. Jane Brunt, founder of Cat Hospital at Towson (CHAT), is the pioneer of feline exclusive practice in Maryland. She received her DVM from Kansas State University (go, Cats!), and since 1984 has advocated the necessity of an outstanding facility and staff dedicated to practicing the highest quality of cats only care and medicine at CHAT.

She is a Past-President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association. In 1997, Dr. Brunt was named one of Baltimore’s “Top Vets” and featured on the cover of Baltimore Magazine, and in 1998 she served as Chair of the Host Committee for the AVMA Annual Convention in Baltimore (attended by a record 8,000 veterinary professionals and supporters), receiving several awards and accolades. A national advisor on feline medicine, she is also an active supporter of local, state, and national feline organizations, especially of the new generation of veterinary professionals.

Building on her clinical cat commitments and organizational passions, she serves as the Executive Director of CATalyst Council, a not-for-profit coalition of organizations and individuals committed to changing the way society cares for cats, “Promoting the Power of Purr…” across veterinary, sheltering, and public/civic communities. She owns a wayward standard poodle named Luka and three hilarious, keyboard-keen cats- Paddy, Freddie and CAT Stanley!

Cat Hospital at Towson
6701 York Road
Baltimore, MD 21212

Phone: (410) 377-7900

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