Feline Health

Bloodwork for Your Cat: Why it’s Important and What it Means

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Regular and routine blood testing is an important part of your cat’s preventive healthcare.

Most vets recommend annual testing for cats seven years and older, and, depending on a cat’s health history, annual or bi-annual testing for senior cats over the age of eleven. It’s also a good practice to at least get a baseline for a younger cat. It is critically important that every cat, regardless of her age, has complete bloodwork done before undergoing any kind of anesthetic procedure, even a routine dental cleaning.

Typically, your vet will run a blood chemistry panel and a complete bloodcount. For cats age seven and up, she will also run a thyroid function test.

Blood Chemistry Panel

A blood chemistry panel screens organ function for several organs. The makeup  of a chemistry panel may vary slightly depending on which laboratory runs the tests. Some of the most common parameters screened in a chemistry panelContinue Reading

Plants and foods that are toxic to cats

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Guest post by Amanda McIntosh

If your cat is anything like mine, he is curious and adventurous, and more often than not he will try to get into things he shouldn’t.

Plants

The first time I took my cat outdoors, he was fascinated by the grass in the yard. He wouldn’t stop eating it. Thinking it could potentially harm him, I discouraged him from doing it. I later found out from my vet that cats will often enjoy eating grass and it’s perfectly safe for them. You can even buy kits to plant grass for indoor cats.

However, there are other indoor and outdoor plants that aren’t as safe. My cat had a random obsession with a Dieffenbachia plant, a medium-sized houseplant with large, thick leaves. I removed it out of his reach when he started gnawing on it. I found out after the fact that Dieffenbachias are toxic to cats. Thankfully, they are not life-threatening, and he suffered no ill effects.

The good news is there are plenty of indoor plants that won’t be harmful for  cats. The ASPCA website offers a complete listContinue Reading

Feline Dementia

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Can cats get Alzheimer’s and dementia? As cats are living longer, they get diseases that are commonly associated with aging.  If your senior cat seems to be a bit forgetful at times, meows loudly or seems anxious for seemingly no reason, or appears to get lost in the house, he may be showing signs of the feline version of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Can cats get Alzheimer’s?

In 2006, scientists at the University of Edinburgh identified a protein that can build up in cats’ brain nerve cells and cause mental deterioration. “We’ve known for a long time that cats develop dementia, but this study tells us that the cat’s neural system is being compromised in a similar fashion to that we see in human Alzheimer’s sufferers,” says Danielle Gunn-Moore, one of the researchers participating in the study.  “Recent studies suggest that 28 percent of pet cats aged 11-14 years develop at least one old-age related behavior problem, and this increases to more than 50 percent for cats over the age of 15,” adds Gunn-Moore. For more on the study, please read Cats Can Get Alzheimer’s on the Washington Post website.

Symptoms of dementia

The following symptoms can be indicators for feline dementia:Continue Reading

Does your cat need supplements?

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How many times have you seen the words “complete and balanced” on a pet food label? Would this lead you to believe that the food baring this claim is all your cat will ever need to be in perfect health? If so, you may be wrong.

The claim of “complete and balanced” simply means that the pet food company making that claim for any particular food is stating that when a sample of that particular product was subjected to a chemical analysis, that sample was found to contain the currently “known to be essential” nutrients at the currently recommended levels according to the currently accepted provisions laid down by AAFCO. (Source: Dr. Billinghurst’s BARF Diet).

Sounds like a mouthful? What it means in plain English is that commercial pet food contains every nutrient that our pets require. It does not necessarily mean that it also contains all the nutrients our pets need to be in perfect, healthy balance.

I think the concept that a cat can thrive on the same food, day after day, no matter how high a quality, simply doesn’t make sense. Continue Reading

New tools to manage feline pain

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Cats are masters at not showing pain. This instinct to hide pain is a legacy of their wild origins. In the wild, an animal that appears to be sick or disabled is vulnerable to attack from predators, and survival instinct dictates to act as if  nothing is wrong, even when something most definitely is.

This presents a challenge for cat guardians trying to assess whether their cats are experiencing acute, or even chronic, pain. Often, subtle behavior changes are the only clue that something is wrong. Look for the following:

Feline Acne

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Feline acne is a common problem in cats. Cat guardians usually notice small, oily black bumps on the cat’s chin, very similar to blackheads in humans. These blackheads may become red and itchy if they get infected.

Causes

The exact cause of feline acne is not known, but it is believed that there are several contributing factors:

  • Overactive sebaceous glands
  • Stress
  • Plastic food bowls
  • Food allergies
  • Poor grooming habits

Symptoms

  • Small black bumps on the chin or lips
  • In advanced stages, red, swollen pustules that may bleedContinue Reading

New treatment for cats with feline leukemia and FIV

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Guest post by Lorie Huston, DVM

Until very recently, feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline AIDS (FIV) were both considered to be untreatable diseases, fatal once an infected cat started to show signs of disease. Recently, a new product has been introduced that may change that fact. (In all honesty, this is not really a “new” product per se, having been around since at least 2008, but one which seems to be getting a bit more attention lately.)

TCyte: A New Treatment for Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline AIDS

TCyte, a new treatment for feline leukemia and feline AIDS is a lymphocyte T-cell immune modulator. In the simplest terms, that means that TCyte works on the infected cat’s immune system to improve the cat’s ability to deal with the feline leukemia or feline AIDS infection.

TCyte is used to treat cats infected with either the feline leukemia or feline  AIDS virus who are experiencing symptoms such as red blood cell or white blood cell abnormalities and/or opportunistic infections.

How Does TCyte Work?Continue Reading

Should You Get Pet Insurance For Your Cat?

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Responsible cat guardianship includes ensuring regular health care for your cat throughout his life. All cats should have annual wellness exams, and older cats should see the veterinarian twice a year. Costs for routine exams vary; depending on what part of the country you’re in, they will range anywhere from $45 to $150 (exam only). And that’s only for well cat care. Illnesses and accidents can quickly increase these costs. The average cost for a visit to an emergency vet can easily run between $1000 and $2000, depending on the severity of the problem.

Additionally, advances in veterinary medicine make it possible to treat medical conditions in pets that would have been a death sentence a decade ago. From chemotherapy to kidney transplants, pets can now receive almost the same level of medical care as humans. Of course, all of these treatments come with a price tag.

As a result, pet insurance has become increasingly popular over the past decade. Continue Reading

Can a New Prescription Food Really Cure Your Cat’s Hyperthyroidism?

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For the past few months, the veterinary community has been bombarded with ads for a new feline prescription food that is said to cure hyperthyroidism in 3 weeks.

When the diet first came out, I was skeptical. I’m not a fan of prescription diets. While I respect the research that goes into these diets, sadly, they usually contain ingredients such as meat by-products, corn, soy and grains, none of which are optimal for an obligate carnivore like the cat.

Hyperthyroidism is a common disease that typically affects middle-aged and older cats.  It is caused by an excess production of thyroid hormones, which are produced by the thyroid gland, located inside the cat’s neck. Thyroid hormones affect nearly all organs, which is why thyroid disease can sometimes cause secondary problems such as hypertension, heart and kidney disease.

There are currently three treatment options:Continue Reading

Palliative Care for the Feline Cancer Patient

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While cancer in cats is not as common as it in dogs, it is still one of the leading causes of death in older cats. According to the Animal Cancer Foundation, 6 million cats will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States along. And because cats are masters at masking illness, it is often harder to detect.

Cancer used to be a death sentence for cats, but recent advances in feline cancer research have made treatment possible in many cases. Just like with human cancers, early detection is key to successful treatment. Depending on the type of cancer, treatment options may include sugery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

How and whether to treat cancer can be a big decision for cat parents, and factors such as the cat’s age, general health status, temperament all come into play. So do finances: cancer therapies can be expensive.

Sometimes, the right answer may be no treatment, and keeping the cat comfortable with good quality of life for as long as possible may be an appropriate choice.Continue Reading

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome

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By Dr. Karen Becker

I often write about the uniqueness of felines. Your kitty is not only very different from dogs – she stands apart from most other species.

Her physiology is distinctive. Her nutritional requirements are unique among mammals. Even the way her body is constructed – her incredible physical flexibility – is distinct from most other creatures.

Another thing that is very unusual about our kitty companions is their tendency to develop a weird disorder called feline hyperesthesia. This is a medical term for what is more commonly referred to as “rippling skin syndrome,” “rolling skin syndrome,” or “twitchy cat syndrome.” Other technical names for the condition include neuritis and atypical neurodermatitis.

Signs and Symptoms of Feline Hyperesthesia

The word hyperesthesia means “abnormally increased sensitivity of the skin.” It’s a condition in which the skin on a cat’s back ripples from the shoulders all the way to the tail. Continue Reading