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My Cat is Healthy – Or is it?

Feb 21, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Personal Opinion, Tips & Advice

Cat owners know their cats better than anyone, and as a cat owner, you are in a position to hugely impact the health and happiness of your cat. Here are a few hints to help you recognize if there is a problem early on.

Cats are fascinating creatures and are important family members. But they are not small dogs and they are not small people! They differ from people and dogs in that they have needed to survive on their own for approximately 10,000 years.1,2 Being solitary survivors, they have adapted to appear strong and healthy when they may not be.2 They also may not like another cat in the household, but they will rarely fight.3,4 These behaviors all work to prevent injury by their prey or another cat. Even though many now live in wonderful homes, they still maintain these behaviors.2

Fortunately, you know your cat better than anyone, and can pick up problems with these tips:

If your cat shows a change in its normal routines or behaviors, it is time for a check-up. An example is Herman who always loved to jump and climb, and raced up and down the stairs faster than the fastest Olympic skier (well maybe). His behavior changed, and although he still climbed the steps pretty quickly, he was much slower going down. He also didn’t go to his high perches anymore. His owner saw him looking at a perch and hesitating as to whether he should jump. Although the owner wasn’t sure whether he was just getting old, she brought him in for a checkup. Herman was diagnosed with severe arthritis in his knees and shoulders, and treatment was started after making sure he was otherwise healthy. His owner called me the other day to say that Herman is back up on his favorite high spots, and everyone moves aside when the “zoom-cat” goes up and down the stairs! Herman’s family was so happy to have the Herman that they loved and knew so well back.

Here is a list of changes in a cat’s normal patterns or behaviors, as well as abnormal behaviors, that can indicate that there is pain or sickness.5,6,7,8,9 The important word here is changes:

Changes in normal behaviors:

  • Appetite – decrease or increase
  • Grooming – overgrooming in one or more areas or not grooming so that matts are forming
  • Sleep – sleeping more or not as well
  • Activity – decrease or increase
  • Vocalizing – yowling and keeping you up at night when they never did; not meowing for treats or food as usual
  • Play – decreased

Abnormal behaviors:

  • Accidents outside the litter box – either over the edge or in another place. This can be either or both urine and stool, but usually it is one or the other
  • Aggressive with you or another pet – This may occur with touching or handling or at any time.
  • Getting on counters to get people food when they didn’t previously
  • Destroying furniture

One other tip – put a picture of your cat on the refrigerator or elsewhere where you can see it frequently. Each year, put another picture up. When you see a difference, contact your veterinarian. Years go by and we don’t notice the subtle changes – unless they hit us in the face. Please note the pictures of my Watson, who I adored and did everything for, but only put the pictures together after his death. In this case, I was giving 9 medications a day, so it was a matter of making a difficult decision that I would have made earlier if I had noticed the changes in the pictures.

Please contact your veterinarian if you notice any of these signs. Usually these can be avoided with routine preventive check-ups, which can identify other problems, such as hidden kidney or thyroid disease or dental disease before any signs occur. However, the combination of veterinary care and your detective work ensures the best for your cat. Herman’s family is happy they can keep him comfortable for much longer.

– Ilona Rodan
In memory of my friend, Jim, and Watson: Old age is not a disease.

 


References:

  1. Driscoll CA, Menotti-Raymond M, RocaAL et a l.: The Near Eastern origin of cat domestication, Science 317:519, 2007.
  2. Bradshaw JWS, Casey RA, and Brown SL, The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat, 2nd edition, CABI Publ, 2012.
  3. Griffin B, Hume KR: Recognition and management of stress in housed cats, in August J (ed): Consultations in Feline Internal Medicine, vol 5. St. Louis, Elsevier, pp 717-734, 2006.
  4. Notari L:Stress in veterinary behavioural medicine, in Horwitz D, Mills D (eds): BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behavioural Medicine, ed 2. Gloucester, British Small Animal Veterinary Association, pp 136-145, 2009.
  5. Sparkes AH, et al., ISFM and AAFP Consensus Guidelines: Long-term Use of NSAIDs in Cats, J Fel Med & Surg, 2010 (12)521-538.
  6. Robertson SA, Lascelles BDX, Long-Term Pain in Cats: How Much Do We Know about This Important Welfare Issue? J Fel Med & Surg, 2010 (12) 188-189.
  7. Benito J, Gruen ME, et al., Owner-assessed indices of quality of life in cats and the relationship to the presence of degenerative joint disease, J Fel Med & Surg, 2012 (14) 863-870.
  8. Lascelles BDX, et al. Evaluation of a digitally integrated accelerometer-based activity monitor for the measurement of activity in cats, Vet Anaesth Analg, 2008 (35) 173-183.
  9. Bennett D, Osteoarthritis in the Cat: 1. How common is it and how easy to recognize, J Fel Med & Surg, 2012, (14) 65-75.

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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Overgrooming – or, My Cat is Licking Itself Bald!

May 9, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

Almost every day I examine a cat that has areas of hair loss. Sometimes people think that their cat’s hair is falling out. Sometimes people see the cat licking itself or find clumps of hair on the floor. What causes hair loss in cats?

The most common cause is allergies. Cat allergies usually cause itchy skin. Allergic cats can also sneeze or wheeze or have ear infections or diarrhea as well. Cats lick at their itchy skin and because of their raspy tongues are able to break off their fur. This leaves a little stubble on the skin, and often the skin itself is a little pinker than normal. Some cats are “closet lickers” and only overgroom when no one is around.

What can cats be allergic to? The same types of things that bother us – pollens, dust mites, and foods. In particular, cats react to flea bites. When fleas bite, they inject their saliva to keep the blood from clotting. The cat becomes allergic to the saliva and just one bite can make the cat itch to the point of licking or plucking their fur. Many times we can’t even find the fleas because the cat licks so much it swallows the flea (which can transmit tapeworms, another topic).

What do we do to treat allergies in cats? Ideally we allergy test and use desensitizing injections or oral drops. Sometimes we use antihistamines, fatty acid supplements, or hypoallergenic foods. We will almost always use a broad spectrum flea and mite product as well. In severe cases, we will need to use injectable or oral steroids. We now have another medication called cyclosporine, which can also help control itching and overgrooming with fewer potential side effects. There are some anti-anxiety medications that reduce itching as well. In years past we used to think that stress caused overgrooming, but now we know that most of the time the stress is aggravating the allergic disease and making the overgrooming worse.

Other things that can cause hair loss in cats are Demodex mites, fungal infections, and occasionally hormonal problems or cancers. So if your cat’s coat has lost its normal luster or has patches of hair loss it is time for your cat to see your veterinarian!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Kathleen Keefe Ternes

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

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

The Feline Hospital
81 Webb St
Salem, MA 01970

Phone: 978-744-8020
Email: thefelinehospital@gmail.com

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Cat Got Your Tongue? – Some Like it Rough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Cathy Lund

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

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

Phone: (401) 831-6369
Email: email@city-kitty.com

Website: http://www.city-kitty.com/
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Pleasant Pet Visits

Jun 6, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

How can I get my cat into the carrier and to the vet?

Fear is the primary cause of misbehavior. Knowing this can help prevent problematic veterinary visits.

GETTING YOUR CAT INTO THE CARRIER

  1. Keep the carrier out in the home. Put treats inside. Train cats to view the carrier as a safe haven and “home away from home.” A quick response is crucial in case of disaster or emergency.
  2. Carriers that have both a top and a front opening are best. Top-loading carriers allow for stress-free placement and removal of the cat. A removable carrier top enables cats to be examined while remaining in the bottom half of the carrier. Do not “dump” a cat out of the carrier.

ADJUSTING TO CAR RIDES

  1. Always put the cat in a carrier or other safe container.
  2. Take the cat for regular car rides, beginning with very short ones, to places other than the veterinary hospital.
  3. To prevent car sickness, do not feed before traveling.
  4. Reward verbally, with positive attention, and with treats.

VETERINARY VISITS

  1. Bring along the cat’s favorite treats, toys, and blanket.
  2. Perform regular home maintenance procedures, including grooming, nail trimming, teeth brushing.
  3. ”Play vet” procedures that mimic temperature taking, ear cleaning, and pilling can help cats better adjust to the veterinary hospital and to future home care when necessary.
  4. Regular trips to the veterinary hospital for “fun” visits involving no examinations or procedures provide owners and staff with the opportunity to reward the cat with praise and food treats.

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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