Browsing"Tips & Advice"

The Diet That Suddenly Works

Dec 5, 2012 by     4 Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

My last blog was about dieting, but a more serious concern is the diet that suddenly starts producing results without having changed your cat’s dietary routine. Diets don’t suddenly start working on their own and you cannot wish those pounds away (or we all might be “svelte”). Basically we are talking about what we call “unexplained weight loss”.

Unexplained weight loss is exactly that. Weight loss without a good (or known) cause. The list of causes of unexplained weight loss is fairly long, however, we can usually narrow it down with a little detective work.

Cats, by nature, are stoic and they will not tell you that they are sick until they have to, so you need to be a detective at home as well. Very often the only sign of illness is weight loss. Your cat will try to tell you that everything is fine, but the scale will tell you otherwise.

Being a veterinary detective, we start with the obvious- diet. Have you changed how and what you are feeding your cat? If so, did this change result in fewer calories fed?

Is your cat choosing to eat less on his/her own? A decreased appetite is not specific to any particular disease, but is important information. Is your cat having difficulty eating? This could indicate and underlying dental problem (although most cats will continue to eat normally in the face of advanced dental disease).

Is your cat having intestinal upset (vomiting and/or diarrhea)? This will interfere with proper digestion of food.

Is your cat drinking and urinating more than usual? This could indicate (most commonly) diabetes or an underlying kidney infection.

Is your cat eating more and/or stealing food, yet losing weight? This can be consistent with an overactive thyroid gland or diabetes.

Is your cat on a regular deworming program? Has your cat had a recent fecal test? Parasites can cause weight loss, however, unless there is an overwhelming infection, they are unlikely to cause a drastic weight loss.

These observations are very important and should be shared with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will need to perform a comprehensive examination on your feline friend. Very often a comprehensive examination along with a detailed history will help narrow the list of suspected diseases help develop a plan to uncover the problem.

In most cases an internal organ screen (blood and urine test) will be necessary. These screening tests give your veterinarian a lot of information – almost like an internal examination.

In some cases radiographs (x-rays) are needed. One of the causes of unexplained weight loss in seemingly healthy cats includes tumors in the chest. The chest is one area that cannot be palpated (or felt) during the examination because it is protected by the rib cage. Chest tumors can grow to a substantial size before causing obvious outward symptoms. An x-ray is necessary to check for chest tumors.

Once the screening test results are in hand, your veterinarian can either start treatment or discuss what additional testing (if any) is necessary. In most cases, if you have screened the blood, urine and stool and have normal x-rays and have still not found the cause of the weight loss, the next step is an abdominal ultrasound.

Ultrasound is a safe and painless way to evaluate internal organs in more detail. While x-rays show us the shape and position of the internal organs, an ultrasound can give us details of the internal parts of the organs. In cases of unexplained weight loss, we are especially concerned about the intestinal tract (one area where blood tests can’t accurately evaluate). The ultrasound can detect changes in the intestines and other organs and help pinpoint problems. While ultrasound will not always give you an exact diagnosis (a biopsy may be needed for this), it will provide a great deal of information and can help direct treatment, provide a prognosis (an idea of what to expect in the future) and other options to obtain a specific diagnosis.

Sometimes it is hard for cat owners to decide how far to go with testing. If you are unsure if you want to pursue an ultrasound and/or biopsy you need to discuss this with your veterinarian. Ultimately, the decision is yours. Our role as veterinarians is to help you make educated decisions about health care for your cats. Make a list of your questions and your concerns to review in your discussion. The most common question I get is “what will we do differently based on the results?” It isn’t possible to discuss treatments for every possible outcome of the testing, but it’s important to know that the results will be helpful.

So please watch your cat’s weight and be a veterinary detective at home. If your cat experiences unexplained weight loss, gather information and make an appointment with your veterinarian. It is much better for you and your cat if we can detect and treat a disease earlier than if we wait for your cat to show signs of illness. Unsure if your cat’s weight has changed? Most bathroom scales are not accurate enough to detect small changes in weight for cats. Either purchase an infant scale to use at home or call your veterinarian to see if you can bring your cat in to be weighed.

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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How to Tell When a Cat is in Pain

Dec 1, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

I was asked the other day how can you tell when a cat is in pain.  As I sit here with my left foot wrapped in a bandage and throbbing, I think what a great question.

Anyone who looks at me can tell that I am uncomfortable and in pain.  But when my 18 year old cat has a hard time getting up on the bed is he in pain?

So we need to go back to how humans evolved and how cats evolve.  Early humans formed groups to help each other hunt and protect themselves.  With my swollen foot, I would not be much help and could actually alert predators to our location. It is good thing that everyone can tell I am not up to speed and that I should stay home.

Cats evolved as solitary hunters.  They did not hunt in groups.  They are small prey to larger animals.  Their strategy of looking like they are on top of the world was a great one.

In modern times, this strategy makes it extremely challenging to tell when our cats need our help. Many times there is not a clue until things are very advanced.

As veterinarians, we know that surgery is painful.  We treat preemptively and ensure that our patients do not sure any hurt. This seems to be a smart and reasonable thing to do and we can use many of the techniques that are used for humans.

What about chronic pain?  This is where it gets harder.  First, it is challenging to see the pain because of that solitary hunter strategy.

Sometimes if things seem different – such as not getting on the bed. Other signs could be not using the litter box. You may want to discuss trying pain management for your cat.

Contact your veterinarian to find out about all the different modalities available to help your cat be pain free.

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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Cat Toys – How Curiosity Kills the Roll

Nov 28, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

My cat Bo has an irritating behavior that I have learned to live with. When he can, he will unravel all the toilet paper on the dispenser and spread it all over the floor of the bathroom. He does it because it is fun and each time he grabs the roll more paper unravels which is reward enough to keep doing it. He never tires of the trick.

Toys for cats should be like that, interesting and rewarding. Playing with your cat is not only a pleasure for you but an important part of life for your cat. Some people complain that their cat will walk away after playing for only a few minutes. Play is a mimic for the hunting behavior that is part of all cats’ normal repertoire. Each hunt is brief and intense, so play periods should be the same. He is not losing interest, just taking a break. Many short play periods through the day are just what they need to spend big bursts of energy. Playing for a little while and often is perfect.

Cats are naturally curious. Anything that looks different, moves rapidly or sounds intriguing are worthy of investigation. A variety of toys that move or sound like mice or birds can keep their attention. Many toys are free and quite satisfying for a cat. A paper bag on the floor can be just the thing to climb into and investigate.

Play is essential, almost as much as eating and drinking. Stimulating toys available in safe places in the house are key.  A scratching post with toys attached, a cat tree high enough to play safely away from unfamiliar animals or people, and interactive play with people make a great difference in quality of life for cats indoors.

Our domesticated cats are closer to their original ancestors from 10,000 years ago than any other domesticated animal. That means they are the same wild cats just in a dramatically different  environment, our homes. So providing them the opportunity to act out their normal feline behavior in ways that are safe and acceptable to us is a critical part of life and mean that our cats will have wonderful, emotionally satisfying lives.

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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On the First Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me

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

… a Cat in a Christmas Tree: Helping your Cat avoid the Emergency Room this Holiday (pt. 1):

While most people enjoy the holiday season of friends, family, feasting and frivolity, your cat may not feel the same way. The holidays are a time when we are busier than usual, so our cats may be bored and looking for excitement. In addition, we bring lots of new fun (and hazardous) toys into the house. What a perfect opportunity for your cat to get into some mischief!

Here are some of the top holiday items that cats love to play with (but shouldn’t!):

Ribbons

Cats love to play with ribbons and tinsel, but they can be devastating if swallowed, knotting up and clogging the intestinal tract. Tinsel, especially the loose “icicle” type, should be avoided if you have cats in your household.

Any ribbon-play should be supervised. Make sure that all package-wrapping materials are put away where the cat cannot access them when you are done wrapping. Once the packages are wrapped, make sure the cat is not nibbling at the ribbons and bows under the tree, or wherever the presents are displayed.

If you notice a string or ribbon hanging out of your cat’s mouth or rear end, do not attempt to pull it out. If the string is knotted up inside, tugging on it can cause devastating trauma to the intestinal tract. Seek a veterinarian’s care immediately if you suspect your cat has swallowed a length of ribbon, string or tinsel.

Signs that your cat may have been “Naughty” instead of “Nice” include vomiting, especially multiple times in a row, or unproductive vomiting, lethargy, depression, fever, poor appetite or refusal of food, or a tense or painful abdomen (vocalization when picked up, sitting in unusual positions, hiding).

Ornaments

Fragile ornaments, especially those made of glass, may be broken and ingested, as can the ribbon, hooks or wire holding the ornaments on the tree. If you have a young cat, it is best to put a tree up first, before decorating it. If the kitten shows any inclination to climb the tree, you may want to minimize how many family heirlooms you hang on it! Also, you may want to stabilize the tree by attaching a guide wire to the wall so that the cat doesn’t knock it over. If it is possible to keep your tree behind closed doors, all the better, but many cats do begin to ignore the tree after they have thoroughly investigated it. Hang the most non-breakable and “boring” ornaments at the bottom of the tree where they are in the cat’s line of sight, and the most interesting ones where the cat is less likely to see them. Ornaments that move on their own should be avoided, unless your cat is uninterested in the tree as they are more tempting than regular ornaments.

Liquid Potpourri

Liquid potpourri can be toxic to the liver as well as causing burns if heated. Additionally, the cationic detergent in liquid potpourri is a corrosive substance and can cause severe chemical burns to the skin or eyes. Part of the concern about liquid potpourri is that it is an oily substance that is not easy to remove quickly and will remain on the skin and hair coat, continuing to cause damage as you try to remove it. Cats that have skin contact with liquid potpourri should be immediately bathed in mild liquid dishwashing soap, with special attention paid to the area between the toes since they may have walked in the potpourri. It should be assumed that if the cat has potpourri on its skin, it has probably tried to groom itself and will likely have eaten some, which is a much more critical problem. Liquid potpourri can cause severe ulceration of the mouth, tongue and esophagus, some of which may not become apparent until several hours after exposure. Cats that have been affected with liquid potpourri should see a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Candles

Candle flames are hypnotizing to cats and look like great toys to a cat. Make sure they are placed in areas where the cat cannot play with them and burn a paw, singe off all its eyebrow whiskers, or knock them over and start a fire. For those with extra-curious cats, a battery-operated candle may be a better option.

Cords

Electric light cords may also be tempting to cats but can cause serious burns in the mouth if chewed. Keeping cords hidden and out of reach will help. “Bitter Apple” is a spray that is available at most pet stores that has a bitter taste to discourage your cat from chewing on cords. You can also wrap dangling cords with bubble wrap or double-sided tape to discourage chewing. Cords can also be a strangulation hazard.

Walk around your house with your cat in mind, and remove possible hazards from temptation. Make sure to take a few extra moments each day and spend some time with your cat. Keeping your cat feeling like he is still the center of the universe will help prevent boredom and the need to find new things to play with. The holidays are a busy time, but a few extra moments’ consideration can save you and your cat from a devastating situation.

Continue to Part 2: On the Second Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me

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

ecvh@exclusivelycats.com

Website: http://www.exclusivelycats.com

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Steroid Use in Cats: Is it Dangerous?

Nov 11, 2012 by     38 Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Ms. Worry set up a consultation with me, Dr. Catz, to discuss the use of Prednisolone in her cat, Hershey Squirts.  My manager, Ms. E. Calm held the phone far away from her ear as Ms. Worry screamed that she thought the prescription from Dr. Catz for steroids would shorten Squirts’ life. Ms. Worry said her mother’s face had become permanently bloated and she had terrible mood swings when she was prescribed steroids for her asthma.

What are steroids?

Steroids are natural substances produced by the adrenal glands.

Corticosteroids are the type used for therapy in cats. Anabolic (performance-enhancing) steroids are not used in feline practice.

There are also synthetic steroids that are used to treat a variety of feline diseases.  The most common steroids used in feline medicine are prednisolone, dexamethasone, triamcinolone and budesonide.  Methylprednisolone is a slow release “repositol” steroid that is largely no longer used in cats since the risk is much greater for potential adverse effects than with thee shorter acting oral steroids.  Once given, a long acting injection can’t be reversed.

Steroids have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effects.

Some of the allergic conditions treated successfully with steroids in cats:

  • Allergic reactions to environmental stimuli, either by contact or inhalation
  • Flea allergic dermatitis
  • Allergic bronchitis
  • Allergic reactions to bee stings or spider bites

Inflammation causing acute or chronic pain can be treated with steroids:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Trauma, especially to the head
  • Disc problems
  • Soft tissue injuries like sprains or strains
  • Gingivitis

Prednisolone is often used in combination with other drugs for cancer treatment in cats.

Steroids may be used to stop the process of immune-destruction by slightly reducing an overactive immune response.

Some of the diseases in this category are:

  • Stomatitis (inflammation in the mouth)
  • Pemphigus (skin disease affecting ears, nose and anus)
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
  • Certain kidney diseases

Corticosteroids are not “strong” medicines and are commonly used very effectively in treating many disorders in feline medicine, ranging from minor to life-threatening problems.

Most of the time, relatively high doses are used initially to achieve an effect, then tapered to the lowest dose and frequency needed to keep clinical signs at bay. Tapering allows the body to adapt to having the steroids removed from the body. Sometimes steroids can be stopped entirely at the end of the taper and other times are they are required long term. Some are started up as needed on a “pulse” or temporary basis when a disease “flares up”

Fortunately, cats are extremely resistant to the side effects of steroids.

The annoying side effects that dogs may experience rarely if ever occur in cats unless a profound overdose of steroids are prescribed.  The common side effects in dogs are increased hunger, thirst and urination, panting, pot-bellied appearance, lethargy,  and thinning of the skin.

Adverse effects of steroids in cats are relatively uncommon and almost always reversible.

The most common potential adverse effect of steroids in cats is diabetes mellitus.  This usually only occurs in cats that are already predisposed to diabetes, especially in those who are obese and/or on high carbohydrate diets. A feline doctor will require a baseline blood glucose level prior to starting corticosteroids and will monitor blood glucose levels periodically as long as the drug is continued.  The interval between glucose tests is dependent on the risks in a given patient as well as the dose required to control disease in that cat. If diabetes does show up secondary to steroid use, it will almost always go away after the drug is tapered and discontinued.   Some steroids have less systemic (whole body) side effects, notably budesonide when compared to the more commonly used prednisolone, and can still be used safely in some patients who have become diabetic while on prednisolone.  Also, steroid inhalers used for allergic bronchitis (Feline Asthma) have fewer systemic effects than oral steroids.

A less common side effect of corticosteroid use is to uncover hidden congestive heart failure (CHF).   If heart disease is undetected (occult), especially if a heart murmur is not heard, fluid can rapidly fill up the lungs causing labored breathing and distress after a steroid injection is given. If the patient is promptly seen by a vet on an emergency basis and CHF is diagnosed by a chest x-ray, oxygen therapy and diuretic injections generally cause the fluid to be urinated out and an echocardiogram can be performed to further define the heart condition.

One additional potential adverse effect is infection due to immunosuppression if high doses of steroids are needed to control an overactive/destructive immune response (diseases described earlier).  Infections may develop due to less than optimal immunity. Frequently these are upper respiratory infections (cold symptoms).  The combination of tapering and discontinuing use of the steroid and adding in antibiotics generally lead to resolution of the infection without complications.

Ms. Calm directed Ms. Worry to read this blog entry prior to her consult with Dr. Catz.  Ms. Worry reluctantly started prednisolone daily for 14 days and Squirt’s diarrhea resolved.  At his two week recheck, Dr. Catz began to taper the dose and frequency of  Squirt’s medication and explained that half the original dose given every 48 to 72 hours is likely to be well tolerated without serious side effects for the rest of Squirt’s life.

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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I am Marcus and I Have Arthritis.

Nov 8, 2012 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

September, 2012

Hi, my name is Marcus. I am 13 years old, and the grumpy old man of my household. I used to be the baby of the house, but now I have 3 younger sibling cats “ the brats”. They annoy me tremendously.  As I have gotten older, my joints ache. I am a lot stiffer. It is hard to get up and down the stairs. It is also harder to jump up to my favorite place by the window on the sofa back. I spend most of my time hanging out under the chairs and in the closet where the younger cats don’t bother me. If they do find me I usually hiss at them and if they really bug me I will take a swat at them. When the weather is cold, or pressure changes occur, I hurt more. I am NOT going to show anyone especially my 3 younger nemeses that I am painful because they will harass me more. If I went outside some bigger predator would catch me and eat me.

I am not usually going to limp. I am just not going to move around very much. When I am really uncomfortable I will sometimes pee or poop outside the box. I have a hard time squatting low enough to keep everything inside the box so sometimes I go over the edge. It is also hard for me to get down to the basement to the litter box. I hate the clay gravelly litter my people give me because it hurts my arthritic feet. It is also hard for me to get into the small hooded box. Sometimes I don’t even go down to the box because I don’t want to go by the ratty younger cats. Then I go in a corner. I don’t groom myself much and sometimes get mats or greasy fur because I can’t turn around very well or reach my belly and back end.  I even get a little cranky when my mom picks me up because it hurts my back. She just told me she is taking me to the vet because I am 13 and need a tune up. I think the vet was nagging her too.

November, 2012

I am king of my home again! I have to admit; I really am not too keen on the whole vet visit. I have got to admit, though, that my vet does tell me how great I am. She really has helped my mom help me feel better!  I know I am not alone with my arthritis- the vet said 92% of older cats have some arthritis. My mom gives me a new food called J/D that over the last couple months has made me almost as flexible as when I was a young cat about town. It tastes pretty good, and it also makes my coat look great. The vet said it is because of the really high levels of omega 3 fatty acids in the food. On the days when my joints are the most painful, my mom also gives me prescription pain medication (aspirin and acetaminophen are poisonous to all cats). I know that if I start losing ground and become more painful, my mom is going to start me on a glucosamine oral supplement in my canned food as well. If I don’t like it, she said I would get Adequan injections at home as well. Adequan helps cartilage heal itself. I also love the fact that my mom put a litter box with soft unscented clumping litter upstairs for me as well so I don’t have to go up and down the stairs. (The brats like it too). She put a heated pet bed where I like to sleep too. Now I feel good enough to sleep on my mom’s bed again. I even play with those young cats (they are a little bratty though). I can hear then coming since my mom put break away belled collars on them.  Most important, I feel good! Old cats rule, young ones drool!

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 www.litterboxguru.com 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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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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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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