Feline Health

Should You Vaccinate Your Adult Cat for Distemper?

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There is no question that vaccines protect against disease – but they also present considerable risk. Sadly, far too many cats are still being over-vaccinated because too many veterinarians, and cat guardians, still think annual “shots” are necessary. Vaccines are implicated in triggering various immune-mediated and other chronic disorders (vaccinosis). Vaccines are also implicated in the high incidence of vaccine-induced sarcomas in cats. The incidence of these tumors ranges from 1 in 1000 to 1 in 10,000 cats. They can develop as quickly as 4 weeks or as late as 10 years post vaccination.

There is some compelling evidence coming from a study conducted at The Center for Companion Animal Studies at Colorado State University that shows that the common FVRCP (feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and paneleukopenia) vaccine may cause long-term damage to cats’ kidneys that increases with every booster.Continue Reading

Feline Medicine Goes High-Tech

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Advances in veterinary medicine make it possible to diagnose and treat medical conditions in cats that would have been a death sentence a decade ago. From chemotherapy to kidney transplants, MRI’s to radiation therapy, ICU care to chemotherapy, cats can now receive the same level of medical care as humans. Cutting-edge veterinary care by board-certified specialists ranging from internists to oncologists to ophtamologists is becoming more widely available than ever before.

Dr. Julie Smith is the Medical Director at AnimalScan Advanced Veterinary Imaging center just outside of Washington, DC. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) facilities is one of the most powerful and accurate diagnostic techniques available today,Continue Reading

Kitten Teeth: Everything You Need to Know

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Just like humans, cats have two sets of teeth: deciduous teeth, also known as milk teeth, and permanent teeth.

Kittens are born without teeth, but within the first two to three weeks the deciduous teeth, also known as milk teeth, baby teeth, or primary teeth, erupt. All of the deciduous teeth are present by 6 to 7 weeks of age. These milk teeth will start to fall out around 3 months of age as the permanent teeth begin to erupt. Once a kitten reaches the age of 6 or 7 months, all 30 permanent teeth should be present.Continue Reading

Feline Calicivirus: Not Your Common Cold

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Feline calicivirus, or FCV, is a viral infection causing severe upper respiratory problems in cats. Entering through the cat’s eyes, nose, or mouth, this virus possesses symptoms similar to that of a common cold. As loving cat owners, it is important to be well informed of the causes, symptoms, and prevention of this fast-spreading infection to help keep our feline friends happy and healthy.

Frequently seen in animal shelters or within multi-cat homes, the FCV infection is typically spread amongst cats that are being housed together in large numbers or kittens with weak immune systems. Once the cat is infected with FCV, they may carry the virus in their bodies for life. “Approximately 10% of household cats exhibit this ‘carrier’ state and have the chance of becoming sick again during times of stress or other illness, although many will not” said Dr. Kathy Scott, lecturer at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “They may continue to shed the virus, however, putting other cats they are near at risk of developing the infection.”Continue Reading

Tail Vaccinations May Facilitate Cancer Treatment in Cats

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When administering vaccinations to cats, most veterinarians give the injections below the elbow or knee joint in the leg, as recommended by the American Association of Feline Practitioners most recent guidelines. However, a recent study suggests that the tip of a cat’s tail appears to be as effective as vaccines at traditional sites.

Why inject vaccines into the tail?

The study was motivated by the high incidence of vaccine-induced sarcomas in cats. The incidence of these tumors ranges from 1 in 1000 to 1 in 10,000 cats. They can develop as quickly as 4 weeks or as late as 10 years post vaccination.

Typical treatment of these tumors is aggressive surgery. Since these tumors often infiltrate surrounding tissue, surgeons need to excise the tumor with a wide margin. This frequently means that the leg will need to be amputated. As a result, many cat guardians don’t pursue treatment, since this kind of extensive surgery is disfiguring, painful, and often very expensive. Injection into the tip of the tail would reduce the trauma of live saving surgery for cats who develop vaccine-induced cancers.

The study

Sixty cats were enrolled in the study. Thirty-one received vaccines in a hind leg below the knee and 20 received the same vaccines toward the back end of the tail. The researchers used a six-point scale (1 = no reaction, 6 = injection not possible) to assess the way in which the cats reacted to being vaccinated. They found “no significant differences” in the cats’ reactions to receiving injections in the tail versus the leg.

The researchers also collected blood samples from the cats to ensure that tail vaccination stimulated a good immune response.

What does it mean for your cat?

While some vets may begin tail vaccinations, it is doubtful that the veterinary community as a whole will jump on this bandwagon immediately. The study was only a pilot study and not a new recommendation for vaccine sites, as much of the media coverage would suggest.

The best vaccine plan for your cat will result from a thorough discussion with your veterinarian, taking your cat’s lifestyle and history into account, and assessing the the risks and benefits of vaccination, so you can make an informed choice for your cat.

The bigger picture

Veterinarians should be far more concerned about the high incidence of these cancers, than about the injection site itself. While vaccinations protect against disease, the emphasis should be put on avoiding adjuvanted vaccines. Adjuvants are substances added to a vaccine to enhance the immune system’s reaction, and studies suggest that they are responsible for the formation of tumors.

Reducing the frequency of vaccinations, and recommending titer testing as an alternative, should also be considered. Studies conducted at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine have shown that immunity for some vaccines last seven years or longer, which suggests that even the more conservative vaccine protocols recommended by major veterinary organizations are still too frequent.

At this point, there are a lot of unanswered questions. Not enough cats have been vaccinated in the tail to really know whether this will truly reduce the incidence of injection-site sarcomas, and additionally, these cancers can take years to develop. But if your cat’s veterinarian starts vaccinating your cat in her tail, you will know why.

This article was previously published on Answers.com and is republished with permission.

Benefits of Digestive Enzymes for Cats

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Enzymes are tiny protein molecules that are found in every living cell. They are responsible for vital chemical reactions in your cat’s body, including proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. A lack of enzymes in your cat’s system will result in digestive upsets and a less than optimal immune system.

Benefits of Enzymes

  • Aid in the digestion and absorption of the vitamins and minerals in the cat’s diet
  • Promote normal body weight
  • Support healthy cell growthContinue Reading

Feline Blood Bank Saves Lives

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Cats may need blood transfusions for a variety of reasons, such as trauma, surgery, cancer or infectious diseases. There are currently several animal blood banks in the United States, but due to the unique nature of cats, feline blood products are much harder to come by than their canine counterparts.

In order to be a blood donor, a cat needs to meet several criteria: they must be indoor only, between 1 and 8 years of age, weigh at least 10 pounds, not be on any medication and pass a number of different blood tests, including FeLV/FIV and a complete blood count and chemistry. Unlike dogs, cats must receive type-specific blood, so they must be blood typed. If a cat receives the wrong blood type, it can be life-threatening.Continue Reading

Veterinary Technicians: The Unsung Heroes of the Veterinary Profession

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When your cat goes to the veterinary hospital, chances are she’s going to spend much more time with veterinary technicians or other veterinary staff members than with the veterinarian. Veterinary technicians are educated in the latest medical advances and skilled at working alongside veterinarians to give cats the best medical care possible.

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, Inc. (NAVTA) has designated one week in October as National Veterinary Technician Week. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the veterinary technicians in your cat’s life.

I don’t really care for the term ”technician” with its connotations of working on technical equipment or doing practical work in a laboratory. While vet techs are most definitely skilled professionals, they are so much more than that. Continue Reading

Declawing Cats: Inhumane and Unneccesary

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Declawing is a topic that can elicit strong emotions, with most people coming down on the side of opposing it. Declawing is considered either illegal or inhumane in 25 countries around the world, including England, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Finland and Brazil. The United States lacks sadly behind in establishing legislation to make declawing illegal, but thankfully, more and more cat lovers, cat welfare organizations and veterinarians are speaking out against declawing, calling it inhumane and unnecessary.

Declawing is extremely painful

Declawing is not just nail trimming. The declaw surgery involves amputating the last bone of the cats’ toes. Continue Reading

AAFP Releases New Feline Vaccination Guidelines

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The American Association of Feline Practitioners updated its vaccination guidelines, previously issued in 2006.  Previous guidelines divided vaccines into core and non-core vaccines and recommended that vaccination protocols should be tailored to the individual cat’s health and lifestyle. The guidelines also addressed concerns about injection site sarcomas caused by vaccines.

I was happy to see that the new guidelines are even more conservative. They help veterinarians select appropriate vaccination schedules for their feline patients based on risk assessment. The recommendations rely on published data as much as possible, as well as on the consensus of a multidisciplinary panel of experts in immunology, infectious disease, internal medicine and clinical practice.Continue Reading

Excessive Grooming in Cats

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Excessive grooming in cats is also called psychogenic alopecia. Alopecia is the partial or complete absence of hair from areas of the body, psychogenic means having a psychological rather than a physical cause or origin.

Excessive grooming is one of the most common obsessive compulsive disorders in cats. What cat guardians typically notice is bald patches on a cat’s belly or the inside of her legs, but the areas can also extend to the flanks, tail and other parts of the cat’s body.Continue Reading