Arthritis, a condition that affects as many as 1 in 3 adults, also affects our pets. It is a condition in which an animal’s joints become inflamed. It is accompanied by pain, heat, and swelling in the joints, and it usually results in increasing stiffness and immobility. Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis in animals as well as in humans. Over time, the cartilage that cushions joints wears down and bones start rubbing against each other. As the condition progresses, the friction can wear down and damage the bones themselves. This kind of arthritis is most common and causes the most pain in the weight-bearing joints like the shoulders, hips, elbows, knees, and ankles.
Osteoarthritis is a common, but under-recognized condition in senior cats. The signs are often subtle, and can can be hard to distinguish – cats can’t complain about their aching joints, so all that pet owners see is a response to pain. Cats with arthritis might avoid the activities they used to enjoy, some may become depressed or change their eating habits, others may simply seem grumpier than usual. Since these symptoms can also indicate other very serious problems, a veterinary visit is imperative to ensure proper diagnosis.
There is no cure for arthritis, but it can be managed holistically:
Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements such as Cosequin and omega-3-fatty acids can be useful in cats with mild to moderate disease.
Adjust your cat’s environment – add steps or ramps to allow easier access to favorite sleeping areas, use litter boxes with a low entry for easy access and high sides for cats that can no longer sqat, use a fine consistency litter that’s easier on the paws.
Manage obesity to reduce additional stress on your cat’s joints.
Gently massage the large muscles around joints if your cat will tolerate it.
Acupuncture can be an affective treatment if your cat tolerates the visits to the acupuncturists’s office and the needles.
I’ve found Reiki to be a wonderful modality to help alleviate the pain and stiffness that can come with arthritis, especially in advanced cases when massage can be too painful.
I recently started Amber, who has some mild arthritis in her hindlegs, on a Flower Essence Blend called “Run and Play.” She seems to be a bit more playful since I started her on it, so I’m going to keep going with it.
For severe cases, your veterinarian can prescribe anti-inflammatory or pain medications.
By being aware of subtle changes in your cat and making the necessary adjustments, arthritis does not need to become a debilitating condition, and you can do much to keep your arthritic cat comfortable.
Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock
This book is a deeply moving story of the powerful connection between the author and her soulmate dog Maggie. This kind of a relationship tends to happen only once in a lifetime, and those of us who have been fortunate enough to share such a special relationship with an animal will find ourselves going down our own memory lane as we savor this book. Maggie enriched the author’s life in ways she never could have imagined when she took that little black Lab puppy home with her. Maggie’s joyful exuberant spirit touches all who come into contact with her. Maggie opens the author’s heart and teaches her about trusting her intuition and listening with her heart. Interspersed with well-researched information about pet health care and advice on how to deal with the grieving process following the loss of a pet, this book shows us that animals are so much more than just pets. They are spiritual beings who are on this planet to teach us about joy.
Please join me in welcoming Dawn Kairns to The Conscious Cat!
Dawn, “Maggie” is your first book. How did you become a writer?
Writing was always a natural way for me to express myself, really, even as a child. When I felt my parents didn’t understand me, I wrote letters to express my feelings in ways I couldn’t always do verbally. I had a diary, of course! I have written informally in journals for years, more as a spiritual and personal growth practice. In my 30s I began the practice of writing all of my dreams in notebooks.
I did write and have published several articles in nursing and health journals when I was an R.N. and as a family nurse practitioner. After Maggie died, I began writing articles about dog behavior, and of course began my book in her honor, even though in those first days after Maggie died, I didn’t realize I was starting a book. I was merely writing everything I could remember about her as a way to cope with my grief. It was only over the next several months that I decided to turn my writings about my life with Maggie into a book. It was in that time that I knew my writing needed some work, and I took a course through the Institute for Children’s Literature. But I think it was in the writing, editing, and re-editing of Maggie that I found my voice as a writer.
What was the process of writing about Maggie like for you?
Writing about Maggie was a Godsend after she died. It was the way I stayed most connected with her; it is what got me through those first excruciating days. I loved the writing of it, and the editing of it less so because I had to be more objective.
What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?
I have several hopes for readers. I hope readers will begin to look at dogs/animals as equal or different beings, not lesser than or below humans, to see them as the incredible spiritual beings of light that they are; I hope readers will open themselves to the sixth sense communication our animals are capable of if they don’t already recognize that their animals are capable of reading their thoughts.
My hope is for readers to trust their intuition with their pets even if their inner voice is in disagreement with an expert’s diagnoses. No one knows our pets like we do and I want readers to trust themselves enough to advocate for their pets with their veterinarians.
I really want readers to question commercial pet food and recognize its potential role in the health problems many of our pets develop; I want them to explore alternative diets such as balanced home-cooked foods and healthier, holistic pet foods with meat ( not meat byproducts) as the primary ingredient, and with minimal or no carbohydrates.
I want readers to become aware of the messages their dreams can hold for them; and to recognize that they, too, probably have clairvoyant dreams but may just not be aware of it.
Finally, I want those suffering from that deep pain of losing a cherished pet to feel understood and supported in their grief, and that yes, it can be as bad as or even worse than losing a loved human. I want them to know that intense pain will ease in time and they will love again.
In your book, you share the emotional toll Maggie’s diagnosis took on you. What was most difficult for you during that time?
The most difficult part for me after learning Maggie’s diagnosis was that I simply couldn’t begin to imagine her not being in my life – we were so much a part of each of our souls. (Even as I speak these words, tears come from the memory of that deep connection, even though it’s been 8 years since she passed!) What made it harder was that I felt some part of me had known she had cancer and I hadn’t honored my intuition, and that I was losing Maggie several years earlier than I otherwise may have.
How did you deal with the many challenges such a diagnosis brings?
Maggie’s cancer was pretty advanced by the time she was correctly diagnosed. She was a dog so full of life that doing anything at this point to compromise her aliveness, such as radiation and its side effects, was not a choice we were comfortable with. What seemed most important to both my husband and I were making Maggie’s remaining days as loving and quality as possible, and spending as much fun time together as possible.
Do you have any tips for others who are faced with a cancer diagnosis for their pet?
First, I want to talk prevention. So many things about whether or not our pet gets cancer are out of our hands, like genetic and environmental causes, but the diet we feed our pets is one element we can control. My first tip is to really educate yourself about pet nutrition and feed a diet of whole, quality foods (this can include a high-quality pet food) to support your pet’s immune system and overall health, rather than feed a highly processed, even veterinary recommended commercial brand.
Once a cancer diagnosis is given for your pet, I would definitely research and explore all of your “traditional’ treatment options, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation depending on the age of your pet. Know who you are and who your dog is and what choices you can and can’t live with. Occasionally, a surgery can be “curative” (three years without recurrence is common with thyroid cancer if caught in the nodular stage) as it very possibly would have been in Maggie’s case had she been diagnosed correctly. Some of my reading has suggested that chemotherapy in animals does not have the negative effects that it often does in humans. Talk to cancer experts, including an animal oncologist and organizations like the Morris Animal Foundation and Canine Cancer Research who devote themselves to finding cures for cancer.
If you choose to do surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation with your pet, I encourage alternative treatment modalities to support your animal’s natural healing abilities. These can include Reiki therapy, acupuncture, Tellington Touch, and massage therapy. I recommend these complementary modalities even if you choose not to do surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, as they support your animals’ overall sense of well-being and health. At this point I’d seek out a vet or practitioner with a vibrational medicine approach to work with the energy frequencies of the health issue.
Finally, be sure you get the support you need because the grief process can begin the moment your pet is diagnosed with cancer. Nurture yourself with the type of body and energy therapies I recommended for your pet. Turn to loving, supportive friends and family. Create quiet and alone time to feel what’s going on in to listen within. Spend as much quality time as you can with your pet.
Who or what inspires you?
Oh, so many things inspire me! Animals inspire me in their glorious presence and unconditional love. Nature is one of my greatest inspirations: hiking through the heart of the mountains and hearing and seeing her streams, meadows of wildflowers, hummingbirds, songbirds, the breathing in and out of the ocean, a sunrise, a sunset! Synchronicity and messages from the other side inspire me. People helping people, people helping animals, animals helping people, animals helping animals – these all inspire me.
I know I can’t possibly name all the people who have inspired me in my life, but to name a few, I’ll start with my father, Oprah Winfrey, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, & Wayne Dyer.
What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?
At my library presentation earlier this month in Parker, Colorado, it was the way the audience came into their hearts and opened up with their own stories during my book presentation of Maggie: the dog who changed my life; and the way most of them stayed seated even when my presentation was finished. I experienced once again how speaking of our animals magically brings people to a level of genuine being with themselves and each other, a place no one is in a hurry to walk away from.
Are you planning on writing another book?
I do have an idea for a next book, but no immediate plans to start it as I am still pretty busy with MAGGIE!
What are you reading at the moment?
It’s always been hard for me to read just one book at a time, so I have several going: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, Handbook for the Soul edited by Richard Carlson & Benjamin Shield, & The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle awaits me on my nightstand, but I don’t dare start it yet!
Thank you so much for this opportunity, Dawn!
Thank you, Ingrid, for your time and interest in my journey with MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life!
I love reading murder mysteries that feature cats, and this series is one of my favorites. “Probable Claws” is the fourth in the series, the other three are “Mew is for Murder“, “Cattery Row” and “Cries and Whiskers“. All feature cat and rock and roll loving freelance writer Theda Krakow and her black and white tuxedo cat Musetta.
In “Probable Claws”, Theda finds herself the prime suspect for the murder of a shelter veterinarian, with Musetta as the only witness to what really happened. Theda is released on bail thanks to the connections of her former cop boyfriend Bill. Now she has to find the real killer before she and Musetta become the next victims.
The plot is exceptionally well-crafted, the characters are multi-dimensional and likeable, and you find yourself wanting to savor the story while at the same time wanting to race to the finish to find out who did it.
You might want to consider reading the entire series from start to finish. One of the things I enjoyed about all four books, almost more than the actual plot lines, was the character development. By the time you’re into the second book, you feel like you’re reconnecting with old friends. I sure hope that “Probable Claws” won’t be the last in this series.
Regular veterinary exams are important at any age, but they become even more important as your cat ages. Typically, veterinarians recommend annual exams for healthy pets up to age 6 or 7. There is some controversy in the profession regarding the frequency of exams in younger cats, but most experts agree that even healthy senior cats should be examined at 6-month intervals. This is important because:
Many disease conditions begin to develop in cats in middle age.
Health changes in cats can occur very quickly, and cats age faster than humans.
Cats are masters at masking disesase and by the time symptoms appear, they can present as acutely ill.
Cat parents may not always recognize the existence or importance of sublte changes, especially in multi-cat households.
Early detection of disease results in easier management and better quality of life.
A typical senior wellness visit will include the following:
Obtaining information from the cat’s person regarding any behavior changes, changes in activity or litter box habits, changes in eating or drinking, current diet and supplements, and more.
A thorough physical exam that includes checking weight, skin and haircoat quality, oral cavity, ears, eyes, thyroid gland palpitation, listening to the heart, abdominal palpitation, checking of joints and muscle tone.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners has completed an updated version of the Senior Care Guidelines. The guidelines will be published in the September issue of The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. They address a broad range of issues including medical, behavioral and lifestyle considerations and will help veterinarians deliver consistent high quality care for older cats. I’ll be sharing some of the highlights from these guidelines over the next weeks to help you make informed decisions about care for your own cats.
While there is no specific age at which a cat becomes a “senior” since individual animals age at different rates, the AAFP uses the following definitions: “mature or middle-aged” (7-10 years), “senior” (11-14 years), and “geriatric” (15+ years). The guidelines use the term “senior” to include all of these age groups.
The guidelines address the recommended frequency of wellness visits, the minimum database of lab values such as bloodwork and urinalysis that should be obtained at each visit, routine wellness care, nutrition and weight management, dental care, anesthesia and the special needs of the older cat, and monitoring and managing specific diseases.
The guidelines are dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jim Richards, the famed “kitty doctor” and former director of the Cornell Feline Health Center, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2007. Two of his favorite quotes were “Cats are masters at hiding illness” and “Age is not a disease.”
Look for more information on the Senior Care Guidelines in future posts.
About a month ago, I talked about how making a conscious decision to get happy can really make a difference in how we feel and how we approach our life. But some days, our mood and energetic vibration just seem to be such that even getting to the place where we can make that decision can be a bit of a stretch.
For those days, it helps to have a ready list of thoughts, images and actions that can help to shift your mood and vibration almost instantly. You can’t think of something beautiful or someone you really love and not feel better. Picture a place where you’ve always felt good in the past, and just thinking about that place will change your mood. Put on a beautiful piece of music and your vibration will change.
Here are some of my “vibration shifters:”
Watching Amber sleep in her sunny spot.
Listening to music – depending on what mood I’m trying to change, it can be anything from symphonic power metal to Jimmy Buffett.
Imagining myself walking along the beach at sunrise.
Reading a favorite passage in a favorite book.
Ice cream – preferably Ben and Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough or Cherry Garcia.
Just writing these down shifted my energy into a better feeling place. What are your mood shifters?
Today’s book review is about one of the best dog books I ever read, “Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog” by Ted Kerasote. I think cat lovers will enjoy this book just as much as dog lovers – and there is a cat in the book as well!
Books about dogs are everywhere – from understanding and training them to stories about them. But no other book presents the unique blend of being both a moving love story between a dog and his human, and fascinating and well-researched information about how dogs think, communicate, and interact with their world.
The story begins when Merle, a big, reddish dog, appears out of nowhere near the San Juan River, where Ted Kerasote, a well-known nature writer, is on a rafting trip. Merle chooses Ted as his human, and Ted takes Merle home to Wyoming. Thus begins a 13-year relationship built on that initial freedom of choice for both dog and man – a choice that enriched both their lives in ways neither of them could have imagined.
What follows is the story of a deep and balanced human-animal bond. This is a relationship based on equality and freedom – Kerasote never subjects Merle to his wishes, but always offers him choices. The door, a real dog door that Kerasote installs for Merle, becomes a metaphor for the opening of a whole new way of looking at how dogs view the world. It shows how dogs, if given the opportunity to utilize their innate intelligence, can become fully realized beings with their own emotions, interests and thoughts, rather than the eternal puppies so many pet dogs turn into.
The door metaphor also extends to what the book really is – a love story. It symbolizes the opening to loving fully. Heart-touching, funny, moving and absorbing, it takes the reader on the 13-year journey of Merle and Ted’s relationship. If you’re not weeping by the end of the journey, your heart is made of stone. No matter how many times I’ve read the book, I still cry at the end.
The book is packed full of interesting facts about dogs, from the latest research on wolves to explaining how sharing leadership with your dog, rather than treating him as your subordinate, can help create happier and healthier canine companions. It is a must read for any animal lover – it will change the way you look at how animals communicate and deepen the bond with your own canine companion.
Few people are happy to endure the the sounds of a severe thunderstorm, complete with darkening skies, strong winds, flashes of lightning and crashing thunder. Some become extremely anxious, and for some, the fear of thunderstorms turns into a full-blown phobia.
Some pets, especially dogs, are also affected by thunderstorm anxiety to varying degrees. While some pets may tremble, whine, pace or hide under the bed during storms, in more severe cases, panicking dogs have been known to destroy furniture, jump through windows or otherwise harm themselves during storms. In either case, this type of behavior is the sign of a very unhappy pet.
Fear is a normal response to a fear-inducing situation, whereas phobias are irrational, extreme reactions in which the fearful response is magnified to the point of dysfunction. Behaviorists are not sure which part of the storm frightens pets the most – the lightning flashes and thunder, the winds blowing around the house or the sound of rain hitting the roof. Some dogs even show signs of anxiety an hour or more before a storm hits, leading to the theory that they are reacting to changes in barometric pressure.
Many cats become nervous during storms and generally hide from the disturbance under beds or in dark, quiet corners. Unlike dogs, they tend to not progress to the phobic stage – they simply wait out the storm in their safe place and come out of hiding when the storm has passed.
The 5 Tips to Help Your Pet Deal With Thunderstorm Anxiety
So what can you do to help your pet deal with thunderstorm anxiety?
Probably the best treatment is avoidance. If there’s a place where your pet feels safe, be it a kennel or crate or a finished basement that is relatively light and sound proof, you can have your pet ride out the storm in his safe place.
Another option is desensitization. This approach gradually retrains your pet by exposing her to gentle reminders of a thunderstorm such as a recording of distant thunder, and rewarding her for staying calm. The idea is that over time, the response to the stimulus decreases.
3. Natural remedies
There are a number of natural remedies that work well for mild cases of thunderstorm anxiety. My favorite is Rescue Remedy, a Bach Flower Essence blend. There are other natural calming aids available, Holistic Pet Info offers a good selection along with some good advice on how to handle situations that cause stress for your pet.
4. Remain Calm
It is important that you remain calm when your pet is afraid. Our pets pick up on our emotions, and if we’re anxious, they’ll be anxious as well. While it’s tempting to cuddle and comfort your pet during a storm, in your pet’s mind, this rewards the fearful behavior. It’s much better to provide your pet with a safe, familiar place where he can ride out the storm.
5. Anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication
In severe cases, a visit to your veterinarian is in order. Your veterinarian can prescribe anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication to help keep your pet calm during storms.
Amber hates thunderstorms. She chooses the shower stall in our small, windowless bathroom in the basement as her safe place during storms. I’ve tried to sit with her during storms and comfort and reassure her, but she much prefers to be there by herself. Once the storm passes, she comes back upstairs. She would like to add that she particularly hates storms that come through during breakfast or dinner time.
This is one of the most moving and heartfelt books about the bond between a cat and her person that I have read in a long time. The relationship between the author and Tatianna is one of those soulmate relationships with an animal that come once in a lifetime. Tatianna, through her joyful spirit and unwavering courage, teaches the author about love, devotion and spiritual expansion. In addition to sharing her journey with Tatianna, the author provides well-researched information on how to live with and care for a cat with kidney disease. The book is a triumph of the spirit, both feline and human, and a testament to the truth that we are all eternal beings.
Please join me in welcoming Linda Mohr to The Conscious Cat!
Linda, “Tatianna” is your first book. How did you become a writer?
When I was in high school, I entered an essay contest sponsored by Rural Electric Area Cooperative. Winning writers won an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. I still have the essay and a photo album full of memories! In my mid-twenties, I worked on a college text on the psychology of clothing, but the publisher decided against it. I taught microwave cooking classes in Palm Beach County, and I have unpublished chapters of a microwave cookbook. I wrote Bobbin’ Along sewing column for a local newspaper during that decade as well.
So I have dabbled in writing for a long time. My mother recalls me announcing when I was younger that someday I would write a book. Decades later, Tatianna was placed in my life to finally help me accomplish that goal. The best part is that my mother sat next to me at my book signings!
What was the process of writing about Tatianna like for you?
I did not make a conscious decision to write this book. A Higher Being decided for me. The day after Tatianna passed away I was compelled to sit down with a spiral notebook and write. The pen was flying across the pages. I did not know where the thoughts were coming from. But I stayed with it. A few days later I realized I had a message to get out to people and their pets.
What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?
Animals are a sacred gift, and they deserve our love and respect. We are all connected. Miracles can be accomplished by love and an enduring belief in God. My hope is that the timing is right for this book and that it contains all the best ingredients for learning, laughing, grieving, and growing that makes us better people—to counteract animal cruelty and disregard for animal life that permeates part of our society. Ultimately, I want to make a difference in the lives of people and pets.
In your book, you share what it was like for you to live with and care for a cat with kidney disease. What was most challenging for you during those years, and what was most rewarding? Do you have any tips for others whose cats are dealing with this disease?
The most challenging aspect was dealing with a disease that does not have a cure. Managing the progression of the disease was tiring, and there were ups and downs, good days and bad days—for Tatianna and me. However, the most rewarding part was seeing the disease could be kept at bay for several years—if I was willing to make a commitment. For Tatianna, that commitment was daily fluid therapy, herbal therapy, customized meals, vet visits for periodic blood work, and acupuncture. But the payoff was immense because our bond deepened day by day.
The best tip I have is to catch the disease early. That is tricky since more than two-thirds of the kidney function can be destroyed before a cat shows physical symptoms. But if you have regular diagnostic work done starting when the animal is 6 or 7 years old, that will give you a baseline to compare from year to year. If you notice any changes such as drinking more water, losing weight, vomiting, or not eating, immediately go to the veterinarian. Sometimes, we think the cat will get back to normal in a few days and do nothing. But in a few days, the cat could be in a critical state.
Who or what inspires you?
Three things: My cats (past and present), my home office, and restaurants. Tatianna’s spiritual presence continues to inspire me along with the spirits of all her other fur buddies including Noelle, Taittinger, Marnie, and Katarina. My constant companion is Lexie Lee, a beautiful Norwegian Forest cat mix who blew into my yard after a hurricane. My special writing space is on the third story with tropical breezes blowing through light-spilling windows. I had extra wide window sills made for Lexie Lee, and she loves them! When she’s not on the window sill, she stretches out on the glass top desk, right up against my laptop. Every once in a while she hits a key! When I want a change of pace, I head off to Greek, French, or Italian restaurants all within five minutes of my house!
What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?
My eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Kice, came to my hometown book signing in Kahoka, Missouri. She had something for me and pulled a glass out of her handbag.
“You gave this to me for Christmas when you were an eighth grader. It’s been on my desk all these years! I think it’s time I returned it to you.”
I was astounded she had saved the gift. I recognized it as one of my craft projects. The six inch clear goblet on a short footed pedestal was decorated with pink and white hearts around the rim along with three sets of pink and white cloverleaves above the pedestal.
One of my favorite teacher quotes is by Henry Brooks Adams–A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. It occurred to me when I saw Mrs.Kice that her effect on the world will continue to ripple with each person that reads the book.
Are you planning on writing another book?
That is a popular question! My focus right now is marketing and getting Tatianna’s message into as many paws as possible! I also write weekly Catnip Connection blogs for my Web site and Seattle Post-Intelligencer.com and enter little writing contests. So these activities keep me busy. Last summer my sister and I compiled a cookbook for our mother’s 90th birthday. I also was involved in another cookbook project this past year. My profile and a family recipe, Apple Crisp, appear in Literary Feast—The Famous Authors Cookbook that was just released this spring. It is a beautiful cookbook featuring 90 authors and stories about their recipes. Sales benefit the King County Library System in Washington.
I am interested in the topic of the loss of our fur friends and the grief process. So I could see doing a book like that in the future. I am also interested in writing shorter booklets on different cat topics. I would also love to see Tatianna in a children’s book!
What are you reading at the moment?
Middlemarch by George Eliot (807 pages!), Perfect Cupcakes (can’t wait to try Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcakes), Dog Years by Mark Doty (did I really say dog?—just have to keep the book hidden from Lexie Lee!). I just revisited Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success—I love that little gem.
Thank you so much for this opportunity, Linda!
Thank you for inviting me to The Conscious Cat, Ingrid. I appreciate the time with you. Warm Purrs!