Feline Health

Kidney Failure and Diet in Cats

cat eating bowl

Guest post by Darren Hawks, DVM

Renal insufficiency, or kidney failure, is very common as our cats age. Early signs are subtle, seen only as increased drinking and urination. More advanced signs are weight loss, poor appetite, vomiting, and dull coat. Problems occur as the kidneys can no longer reabsorb water, leading to excessive urination and chronic dehydration. As problems progress, the kidneys cannot handle the breakdown products of excess protein, leading to the buildup of toxins in the blood (azotemia). This is reflected in an increased BUN and creatinine on blood work.Continue Reading

Celebrate the veterinary technician in your cat’s life

cat veterinary technician woman holding cat

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. They are an integral part of your cat’s medical team.

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, Inc. (NAVTA) has designated October 9 through 15 as National Veterinary Technician Week.Continue Reading

Acupuncture For Cats

yin yang cats acupuncture chinese medicine

Acupuncture is one of the branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a medical stystem that has been used to treat animals in China for thousands of years. The other three branches of TCM are herbal therapy, food therapy, and Tui-Na (massage).

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, disease is viewed as an imbalance in the body rather than a specific physiological disturbance. This imbalance is caused by either a disruption of the flow of chi (life energy) or an excess of chi in the patient’s body. Chi flows through the body through energetic channels called meridians. Continue Reading

Convenia for Cats: Sacrificing Safety for Convenience?

cat injection vaccination veterinarian

Most cat owners know that medicating a cat can be challenging. That’s probably why many veterinarians as well as cat owners celebrated when Convenia, a long-acting, injectable antibiotic, came on the market in 2008. Convenia is manufactured by Zoetis, formerly Pfizer Animal Health.

The idea of a one-time injection, instead of giving regular anitibiotics in pill or liquid form once or twice a day for two weeks or more, seemed like a great solution to the problem.

However, contrary to regular antibiotics, which are rapidly cleared from the body, Convenia stays in the body for two months or longer following injection, even though the antibacterial effects only last for two weeks. Continue Reading

Could your stress make your cat sick?

stressed cat

Stress, whether physiological or emotional, is the root cause of illness for humans as well as pets. We may wonder, as we look at our feline charges sleeping the day away on the sofa, what in the world could possibly cause them to be stressed out?

Actually, a lot of things.  Since most cats prefer familiar routines, anything from other cats in the household to a new baby, a move, remodeling, or even just furniture being moved around can create feline stress.Continue Reading

National Holistic Pet Day

cat box grass yard

Did you know that today is National Holistic Pet Day? Who knew, right? It seems like if you look hard enough, there’s a “holiday” for just about anything these days.

Since holistic medicine and health are subjects I consider important, I decided to look into this particular “holiday” a littlemore. I actually don’t like the term holistic health all that much since it is often interpreted as only encompassing what are considered “alternative” therapies such as acupuncture, massage, Reiki and more. I prefer the term “integrative.” Integrative medicine is defined by The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) at the National Institutes of Health, as “combining mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.” That, to me, is a truly holistic approach: combining the best of all worlds.

National Holistic Pet Day was originally founded by Colleen Paige of the Animal Miracle Foundation and Network. And apparently, I’m not the only one who didn’t know about this day. 90% of the more than 700 pet owners surveyed by Halo Purely for Pets didn’t know about it, either.

Halo’s survey uncovered some interesting data. Of the 700 pet owners surveyed,

73.2% exercise their pets regularly

28.7% learn about holistic living at their local pet food or natural food store

62.2% use non-toxic household products

48.9% use natural supplements for skin, coat or digestive care

38.7% take their pets for regular dental check ups

55.5% play mind stimulating activities and games with their pets

6.7%  take their pets for acupuncture

48.7% help a local rescue or shelter

41.5% use all natural shampoo and grooming products

When asked what they would do to celebrate National Holistic Pet Day (now that they know there is such a thing),

37.7% plan to switch to all natural pet food

52.7% committed to getting their pet regular exercise

34.2% will visit their local pet food or natural food store to learn more

49% plan to avoid ingredients prohibited for humans (such as chicken meal)

38.5% plan to switch to non-toxic household products

40.5% would like to try mind-stimulating games with their dog and/or cat

7.7% would like to try acupuncture

28% will switch to an all-natural shampoo or grooming product

Dr. Donna Spector, HALO’s consulting vet and frequent guest on the Ellen Show, offers 10 ways to celebrate National Holistic Pet Day – from feeding an all natural food to regular dental care to living chemical free.

I suspect that if I surveyed our readers, the percentages of those who already do some or most of these things would be much higher than those in Halo’s survey. I’d love to hear your experiences with holistic or alternative therapies – please share them in a comment!

You may also enjoy reading:

Integrative medicine for your cat

An introduction to Spirit Essences, and an exclusive discount for Conscious Cat readers

Book review: The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care by Celeste Yarnall and Jean Hofve, DVM

Living with cat allergies, and cats

black and white cat with flowers

When someone is allergic to cats, the most common advice given by physicians is to get rid of the cat. Allergies are also one of the top five reasons why cats are returned to shelters. However, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, nearly 10 million people choose to share their homes with cats and dogs despite being allergic.

Contrary to what most people believe, cat allergies are not caused by cat hair, but  by a protein found in a cat’s saliva, urine and dander (dried flakes of skin). How could one tiny little protein cause the wheezing, sneezing, runny eyes, hives, asthma and even breathing problems that some people experience when they’re around cats? People with allergies have oversensitive immune systems that mistake harmless things like cat dander for dangerous invaders, and mount the same response as they would against bacteria or viruses. The symptoms of the allergy are the side effects of the body’s battle against the perceived threat.

Even though you may never be able to get rid of your allergy symptoms, you don’t have to give up your cat. There are a lot of things you can do to help you cope with allergy symptoms and still enjoy the love and companionship of your cat.

Petfinder.com offers the following tips:

    1. Designate your bedroom as a cat-free zone. Begin your program of allergen reduction by washing bedding, drapes and pillows. Better yet, replace them. Use plastic covers that are designed to prevent allergens from penetrating on your mattress and pillows. Allergen-proof covers are available from medical supply outlets. Don’t expect results overnight. Cat allergens are one-sixth the size of pollens, and it may take months to reduce them significantly.
    2. Restrict your cat’s access to designated areas inside your home. If you have a safe outdoor enclosure, allow your cat some time outside where dander will waft away in the wind. Brush your cat in the fresh-air enclosure to prevent loose, allergen-carrying hair from dispersing through your home.
    3. Eliminate allergen traps such as upholstered furniture and rugs. Carpet can accumulate up to 100 times the amount of cat allergens as hardwood flooring, so replacing the wall-to-wall with wood will keep allergens from accumulating as much. If ripping up the carpet is not an option, have it steam cleaned as often as needed.
    4. Vacuuming blows as many allergens through the air as it removes, so when you vacuum, use an allergen-proof vacuum cleaner bag or a vacuum cleaner with a high efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) filter.
    5. Get some fresh air. Highly insulated homes trap allergens as well as heat, so open the windows to increase the ventilation in your home, and run window fans on exhaust. (But remember to always screen windows so kitty stays safely indoors.) Also, clean the air inside your home. Although nothing will remove all of the allergens present, running an air cleaner with a HEPA filter will help.
    6. Wipe the dander away. Bathing a cat often is suggested as a way to reduce the dander, but experts disagree on its effectiveness. “Bathing a cat was once believed to be helpful,” say Dr. Robert Zuckerman, an allergy and asthma specialist in Harrisburg, PA, “but the cat would have to be washed almost daily.” Instead, daily use of products such as Pal’s Quick Cleansing Wipes™ will remove saliva and dander from your cat’s hair and are less stressful for felines who prefer not to be rubbed in the tub.
    7. Spray allergens away. Anti-allergen sprays are a convenient way to deactivate allergens, including those produced by pets. Allersearch ADS, made from plant-based, non-toxic substances, can be sprayed throughout the house to take the sting out of household dust by rendering allergens harmless.
    8. Clean the cat box. Cat allergen is found in urine and is left in the litter box when your cat makes a deposit. To help prevent allergic reactions to the litter box, use a brand of litter that is less dusty and have someone in the household who is not allergenic clean the box.
    9. Take your medicine. Over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines, decongestants, eye drops and aerosol inhalers will help reduce the symptoms, although they do not eliminate the allergy. If you prefer to take a holistic approach, try Nettle tea, a bioflavinoid called quercetin or acupuncture. In recent studies antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E have demonstrated significant anti-allergen effects.
    10. Get tested. An allergy specialist can determine the exact source of your allergic reactions by a simple prick of the skin on your arm or back.
    11. Look at the whole picture. Because allergies rarely come individually wrapped, other culprits, such as dust mites and pollen, may be causing reactions, too. “An individual rarely has a single allergy,” says Zuckerman. “A cat owner may be able to tolerate contact with the cat in winter, but when spring arrives, all the allergies together may prove unbearable.”
    12. Build up resistance. There is no cure for allergy to cats, but immunotherapy may help increase your tolerance. Immunotherapy involves getting allergy shots once or twice weekly for up to six months, then monthly boosters for three to five years. Some individuals develop complete immunity, while others continue to need shots, and still others find no relief at all.

There may also be hope in the form of a vaccine for allergy sufferers. Science Daily reports that researchers have developed a vaccine that successfully treats people with an allergy to cats. The vaccine, developed by immunologist Mark Larché, professor in the Department of Medicine in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and Canada Research Chair in Allergy & Immune Tolerance, is said to be effective and safe with no side effects. Read the entire report about the vaccine on Science Daily’s website.

Are you living with cat allergies and cats? What has helped you?

Image: morguefile.com

Related reading:

Natural allergy relief

Allergy relief from a Neti Pot

 

Take Your Cat to the Vet Week Contest: Share your stories

cat vet stethoscope veterinary exam

August 22 through August 28, 2011 is National Take Your Cat to the Vet Week. Created by the makers of Feline Pine in 2009, National Take Your Cat to the Vet Week is sponsored by Petfinder.com this year. The purpose of this campaign is to remind cat parents to take their cats to the vet for regular physical exams.

Why is there a need for this campaign? According to statistics, cats are substantially underserved when it comes to veterinary care.  Even though cat owners consider their cats just as much members of the family as dog owners do, a 2006 study showed that dogs were taken to veterinarians more than twice as often as cats, averaging 2.3 times a year, compared with 1.1 times a year for cats, and significantly more dogs (58%) than cats (28%) were seen by a veterinarian one or more times a year.  Cat owners often express a belief that cats “do not need medical care.”   According to Dr. Michele Gaspar, DVM, DABVP (Feline), Feline Pine’s in house veterinarian, “there is a misconception that cats are independent and they don’t need the level of care that dogs do.  Cats also don’t show disease well. We can have cats who look normal but they are covering up a serious illness.”

The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends annual wellness exams for cats of all ages, with more frequent exams for seniors, geriatrics and cats with known medical conditions. I recommend bi-annual exams for cats age 7 and older. Cats are masters at hiding discomfort, and annual or bi-annual exams are the best way to detect problems early. Once a cat shows symptoms, treatment may be much more extensive, not as effective, and will also cost more.

One barrier to regular vet visits for many cat parents is the fact that vet visits can be very stressful for cats. During National Take Your Cat to the Vet, Petfinder.com will provide tips for making vet visits easier for cats and for getting the most out of your visit. Be sure to like Petfinder’s Facebook page so you don’t miss any of their tips.

 Vet Confidential pet health

We’re holding a contest during National Take Your Cat to the Vet week to help spread the word about this important campaign. Share a story of your cat’s vet visit in a comment. Allegra, Ruby and I will judge the entries, and the best story will win a copy of Vet Confidential: An Insider’s Guide to Protecting Your Pet’s Health by Louise Murray, DVM. Contest ends August 29. For an additional chance to win, share this contest on Facebook or Twitter, and post the link in a separate comment.

Related reading:

Is your vet cat-friendly?

How to make your cat’s trip to the vet less stressful

Can classical music lead to better veterinary care for you cat?

Your cat may not be as old as you think

Your cat may not be as old as you think

 Bengal kitten Maine Coon Cat Zee Zoey Mia

At least not in human years. Conventional wisdom used to be that cats age seven human years for every feline year. The limitations of this calculation become particularly obvious on the high and low ends of the age spectrum. With advances in veterinary care, some cats now life well into their teens and even into their twenties, which, using the old paradigm, would make a 15-year-old cat 105 years old, a 20-year-old cat 140 years! On the low end of the age spectrum, a 9-month-old kitten would be the equivalent of a 5-year-old child. If you’ve ever had a 9-month-old kitten, you know that they act much more like a teenager than a young child.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recognizes that there is a better way to classify feline life stages. Individual cats and individual body systems age at different rates, and while any type of age grouping is inevitably arbitrary, they felt that the new age designations take physical and behavioral changes that occur at different ages into account (for example, congenital defects in kittens, obesity prevention in young cats). Of course, aging is a process that is influenced by many factors, including diet, preventive care, genetics, and environment.

The following chart was developed by the AAFP’s Feline Advisory Bureau, and may give you a better indication of where on the human age spectrum your cat falls: 

feline life stages how old is a cat in human years

Why is this important? Cats need different levels of health care at different ages. The AAFP recommends a minimum of annual wellness exams for cats of all ages, with more frequent exams for seniors, geriatrics and cats with known medical conditions. I recommend bi-annual exams for cats age 7 and older. Cats are masters at hiding discomfort, and annual or bi-annual exams are the best way to detect problems early. Once a cat shows symptoms, treatment may be much more extensive, not as effective, and will also cost more.

According to this chart, Allegra and Ruby are both Juniors. Allegra is almost two in feline years, and Ruby is almost a year, which makes her fall right into the middle of the teenage years in human years. Yup – I’d say that’s an accurate assessment!

Photo ©Dan Power. See more stunning cat photos like this one over at Zee & Zoey’s Chronicle Connection, nominated for a Pettie for Best Blog Design.

Lifestages table from the AAFP’s 2010 Feline Lifestages Guidelines.

Related reading:

Feline-friendly handling guidelines to make vet visits easier for cats

Minimizing stress for cats can decrease illness

How to care for your older cat

An Introduction to Spirit Essences

Spirit Essences flower essences holistic remedies for pets

I have previously written about the gentle healing power of flower essences. Flower essences provide vibrational healing for body, mind and spirit. The most widely-known flower essence is probably Rescue Remedy, a blend of several Bach Flower Essences. Rescue Remedy helps with stressful situations, for both pets and people.

I’ve used flower essences for quite some time, both for my cats and for myself, with good success. I’ve found the essences to be particularly helpful with emotional and behavioral issues.

When Allegra first came to me, I used Green Hope Farm Essences to help with her play aggression and her fear of loud noises. I also used traditional behavior modification techniques and play therapy. I don’t believe that we would have made progress as quickly as we did with just the traditional therapies alone.

A couple of months ago, I was introduced to Spirit Essences. Spirit Essences is owned by nationally known feline behaviorist and star of Animal Planet’s “My Cat from Hell,” Jackson Galaxy. The company was founded in 1995 by Dr. Jean Hofve, a holistic veteriarian. Spirit Essences are the only veterinarian-formulated essences in the world.  Dr. Hofve  has more than a dozen years’ experience working with essences in a wide variety of species and settings. Jackson Galaxy has helped develop and refine the remedies based on his experience and the needs of his own clients.

Spirit Essences use only pure Eldorado Natural Spring Water from a cold-water artesian spring in Eldorado Canyon near Boulder, Colorado. This water is then enhanced with Full Color Spectrum Light, Reiki Energy (something that, as a Reiki Master Practitioner, appeals to me), and gem enhanced base water. They continuously review and update all their remedies as they add new essences to their inventory of over 300 essences. They also constantly fine-tune these formulas based on feedback from clients as well as clinical and personal experience.

Spirit Essences for cats Safe Space for Cats

I’ve used two of Spirit Essences’ formulas for Allegra over the past two months, and the results have been far more dramatic than any other essence line I’ve used.

Allegra came to me with a strong fear of outside noises – whether it was a trash truck going by, a neighbor mowing the lawn, heavy rain, or anything unusual and odd sounding outside. These sounds would send her into hiding into either her safe space in the downstairs shower stall, or inside the kitchen cabinets. When I started using Spirit Essences’s Safe Space for Cats for her, she became noticeably more confident. About a week after I started her on the remedy, she no longer ran to one of her hiding places when the trash trucks went by. In fact, she actually ran to the window to watch what! She hasn’t been inside the kitchen cabinets once since I started her on this remedy.

We’re still dealing with her fear of storms, especially those accompanied by heavy rain. For some reason, the sound of the rain hitting the house seems to scare her far more than the sound of thunder. For those times, I use Stress Stopper, Spirit Essences’ equivalent to Rescue Remedy. I’ve found it more effective for her than Rescue Remedy. She still hides during storms, but she comes out much quicker once the storm has passed, and she doesn’t look nearly as terrified as she used to.

Have you used flower essences for your cats? Please share your experience!

For more information about Spirit Essences, and to order, please visit SpiritEssences.com.

FTC full disclosure: I am an affiliate partner of Spirit Essences.

You may also enjoy reading:

Flower power for your cat: gentle healing from flower essences

Book review: The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care by Celeste Yarnall and Jean Hofve, DVM

Up close and purrsonal with Jackson Galaxy, star of Animal Planet’s “My Cat from Hell”