Feline Health

Book Review and Giveaway: Complete Care for Your Aging Cat by Amy Shojai

Cats are living longer than ever before. More cats are being kept exclusively indoors, thus avoiding many of the health risks encountered by outdoor cats. More and more cat owners are understanding the importance of a healthy, species-appropriate diet as a foundation for good health. Advances in veterinary medicine now allow cat owners to pursue sophisticated treatments for diseases that would have been a death sentence in the past. But older cats (most commonly defined as cats age seven and older) have special needs when it comes to maintaining their health.

Amy Shojai’s Complete Care for Your Aging Cat was first published in 2003 and quickly became the “old cat bible.” However, seven years is a long time when you’re talking about health related topics. This newly released edition has been updated to reflect changes in veterinary medicine and includes a wealth of resources about treatment options, products and research, complete with links to websites when appropriate. The e-book version of the book includes hotlinks to relevant information.

This book is an invaluable resource for cat owners. Shojai covers basic information on how age affects your cat’s body in great detail. She explains how to look for changes that might signal health problems in older cats (for an excerpt, read Amy’s guest post Caring for Your Older Cat).  She discusses home nursing care to help older cats through various health issues, and presents advanced care options and how to make informed choices, including a section on making end of life decisions which is presented with great sensitivity, yet covers all the facts a cat owner needs to know when faced with this difficult choice.

The most valuable section of the book is the extensive and comprehensive listing of feline health conditions, ranging from arthritis to heart disease to kidney failures. Each section provides information on symptoms, reducing risk, and treatment options. I read a lot of cat health books,and I have yet to find another one that is as well organized and easy to use as a reference guide as this one.

But it’s not all hard facts and information. Each section of the book contains a “Golden Moments” segment, which contains heartwarming stories of real cat owners who share their lives with older cats and are continuing to enjoy life while dealing with typical issues common for senior cats. These touching, and often inspirational stories make this book more than just a reference guide.

I loved almost everything about this book. The one area that didn’t resonate with me was the author’s take on nutrition.  Pet nutrition is a controversial subject.  While the material is as well-researched and well-documented as the rest of the book, Shojai’s recommendations focus on senior diets and prescription diets.  I’ve written extensively about feline nutrition and won’t belabor the issue here.  You can read more about why I don’t believe these diets are the best choice for cats of any age here.

Even though I disagree with the author’s recommendations in this one area, I nevetheless highly recommend this book to all  cat owners, regardless of how old your cat may be.   This is a must read for anyone who wants to keep their cats happy and healthy well into their golden years.

Amy Shojai has generously offered to give away one copy of this book to one lucky winner.  If you’d like a chance to win the book, please share your story of your senior cat, or a friend’s senior cat in a comment.  The contest will run until Friday, December 10.  Share the contest on Facebook and Twitter and include the link in a separate comment for an extra chance to win.  Winners will be able to choose between an autographed hard copy of the book, or an e-book.

Amy Shojai is a nationally known authority on pet care and behavior, and the award-winning author of nearly two dozen nonfiction pet books, including Complete Kitten Care and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog.  She can be reached at her website http://www.shojai.com

The biggest dangers to pets on Thanksgiving

Guest Post by Diana Guerrero

Do you give in to cute pesky pets at the dinner table? This Thanksgiving holiday pet lovers are urged to resist the intense gazes and vocal demands of pleading pets to keep them safe. Learn about the seven biggest risks to pets on Thanksgiving.

There can be deadly consequences for animals during the holidays. Holiday threats to animals can include seasonal decorations, ornamental lighting, ingestion of inappropriate or toxic items, excessive consumption of rich foods or harmful food, candle flames, and many other hazards.

Before you sit down to feast, take away temptation–from both guests and pets. If you feed pets before the guests arrive you reduce the temptation for begging and stealing. You can also use a pet gate or play pen to house the pet nearby, but provide a safety barrier.

One of the easiest ways to avoid trouble is to make sure your guests know the pet rules and discourage them from feeding critters scraps from the table. The best approach is to make sure any animal is occupied with a chewy or playmates in another room. Once the table is cleared, make sure pets cannot get to scraps or bones.

The biggest hazards to pets on Thanksgiving include:

  • Rich, fatty foods (turkey skins, gravy, etc,) can contribute to pancreatitis. This gland inflammation is painful and can be serious-requiring emergency veterinary assistance.
  • Cooked bones can splinter and cause tears or obstruction in a pet’s digestive tract.
  • Baking strings, if ingested, can create trouble if ingested by your pet.
  • Onions in holiday stuffing can lead to canine anemia if consumed by your dog.
  • Grapes and raisin toxins can cause kidney failure in pets.
  • Ingesting chocolate can cause seizures or kill your pet.
  • Caffeine and alcohol are also toxic for pets.

The solution? Keep all goodies out of reach!

Preventative safety measures are the best strategies so store leftover food out of reach and in tightly closed containers.  Next, make sure garbage cans are secured to keep critters out.

What can you do instead?

Pet households should consider providing appropriate chew toys or food occupation devices for pets during the holiday activities.  The Kong Company produces great products and there is a goodie dispenser that keeps dogs occupied which is purr-fect.  Look for great bird and cat toys that provide similar activity as most pet stores carry these products.

The investment and preparation can insure that you and your pets have a happy and healthy holiday.  Finally, just in case you have a problem, it never hurts to keep your emergency vet clinic or veterinary hospital number handy.  You never know when you will encounter a disaster during holiday festivities.

Diana L Guerrero is an animal expert with over 30 years of experience with both wild and domestic animals. Based in California, the Ark Lady runs multiple websites and works as a pet parenting coach, freelance writer, and professional speaker. Guerrero is often featured in the media as a pet expert and is the author of What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality: Inspiring Lessons of Wild & Tame Creatures and Blessing of the Animals: Prayers & Other Ceremonies Celebrating Pets & Other Creatures.

Caring for your aging cat

Guest Post by Amy Shojai

Older cats that become ill typically try to hide how they feel. They also tend to become more seriously ill more quickly, and take longer to recover. “The earlier we see these animals, the more we can do something for them,” says Sheila McCullough, DVM, an internist at the University of Illinois. It is vital to pay attention to your cat as she ages, to catch problems before they turn serious.

A good way to keep in mind the special needs of your aging cat is simply to use the acronym L.O.V.E.  That stands for Listen With Your Heart; Observe for Changes; Visit the Veterinarian; and Enrich the Environment.

Listen With Your Heart

Never discount that odd “feeling” that something’s different, not right. Listen with your heart and your cat will shout louder than words how she feels. That’s when you make the extra visit to the veterinarian and explain your concerns. “It’s more of an intuitive thing,” says Susan G. Wynn, DVM, a holistic veterinarian in private practice in Atlanta. Because of the love and close relationship you share, you have an advantage when it comes to “knowing” when something’s wrong.

A change in behavior is the number one way your cat tells you she’s feeling bad from either a physical problem or an emotional upset. Changes in behavior may be sudden and obvious, or may develop slowly and subtly over time.

Think of these changes as a feline cry for help. You need to have a good grasp of what’s normal for your cat in order to be able to recognize this shift in the status quo. That includes regularly observing your cat for changes.

Regular veterinary visits are a must. Any time you have an intuitive feeling or a more concrete observation that something’s not quite right, validate your concerns with a veterinary visit.

Finally, the environment your cat lives in impacts everything about her. When she begins to age, you have to make appropriate enrichments to her nutrition, exercise, grooming needs, and home life. Don’t forget to enrich her mind as well as her body. Follow the L.O.V.E. plan to keep her healthy and happy throughout her golden years.

Observe for Changes: Home Health Alerts

 Healthy aging cats see the veterinarian only a couple of times a year. You live with her every day, and you know your cat best. In almost all cases, you will be the first to notice when something is wrong.

Close proximity to your pet allows you to immediately notice any changes that can point to a potential health problem. The major disadvantage to this closeness is that you may overlook subtle changes, or those that have a slow, gradual onset. Veterinarians call sudden problems “acute” and those are the easiest for owners to spot. But conditions that develop slowly over a long period of time, called chronic problems, are more insidious. Changes of a chronic nature creep up on you, day by day, in such small increments that you aren’t likely to notice anything’s wrong. By the time a problem becomes obvious, the disease may have been simmering for months or even years, and the damage may be permanent.

The classic emergency I see is the 12-year-old cat that is feeling badly, and deteriorated over the last 24-48 hours,” says Steven L. Marks, BVSc, an internist and surgeon at North Carolina State University. “The assumption is that the pet has become sick in the last two days when in fact, chronic renal failure has been going on for months and maybe years. Now the body can’t compensate anymore and the pet’s suddenly sick and it’s an emergency.”

One of the best ways to stay on top of things is to create a log of your cat’s normal behaviors. A home health report card provides you with baseline measures against which to compare even the subtle changes in your cat’s health. For example, monitor how much your cat weighs. “Even a small amount of weight loss, an ounce or two, will really catch my attention in an elderly cat,” says Susan Little, DVM, a feline specialist in Ottawa, Canada. Should your cat at some point in the future be diagnosed with a particular condition, a home health report card also can help you measure how well the treatment works. That in turn helps the veterinarian make informed decisions if adjustments to the therapy are needed.

Once you have your list and a benchmark description of “normal,” review the home health report card on a monthly basis to check for any behavior or physical changes. If your cat has been diagnosed with a disease for which she’s receiving treatment, a weekly or even daily check to monitor changes may be better. 

Behavior Cues

Generate a list of as many of your cat’s normal behaviors as possible. The categories will vary somewhat from cat to cat. Be as specific as possible. Examples of categories follow, but don’t limit yourself to my suggestions. If your cat gets in the sink every day, for example, or enjoys chasing the dog, include that as a category and describe her routine. Any changes to routine might indicate a health concern that needs attention. For instance, if she wakes you every single day at five and then suddenly lets you oversleep, perhaps her joints hurt too much from arthritis to jump onto the bed.

  • Favorite Activity (games, how often, duration)
  • Vocabulary (reaction to known words)
  • Vocalization (increase/decrease)
  • Interactions/Personality
  • Sleep Cycles
  • Habits/Routines

Body Warnings

Generate a list of your cat’s normal body functions. Be as specific as possible. Examples of categories follow, but don’t limit yourself to my suggestions. “I’d rather see a case that doesn’t need to be seen as an emergency than not see one that needed to be,” says Dr. Marks.

  • Appetite
  • Weight Loss/Gain
  • Water Intake
  • Urination and Defecation (color, increase/decrease, “accidents”)
  • Skin, Fur And Claws (dandruff, sores, shiny fur, mats, etc.)
  • Eyes (clear, watery, squinting)
  • Ears (clean, smell, scratching)
  • Nose
  • Respiration
  • Gait/Movement 

This post is an excerpt from Amy Shojai’s Complete Cate for Your Aging Cat, winner of the Cat Writers’ Association HARTZ Award (for best entry on aging cats) and MERIAL Human-Animal Bond Award. The updated, revised 2010 edition is now available in paperback, and Amazon Kindle Edition with “hot links” to the experts cited in the book.

Amy Shojai, CABC is the award-winning author of 23 dog and cat care and behavior books, and can be reached at her website http://www.shojai.com

Coming Soon

A chance to win an autographed copy or e-book version of
Complete Care for Your Aging Cat
here on The Conscious Cat!

Diabetes in Cats: Treatment and Prevention

Diabetes in humans has reached epidemic proportions.  Statistics from the Centers of Disease Control show that in 2007, nearly 24 million Americans had diabetes.  Statistics are no less alarming when it comes to cats.  Just as for humans, there has been a tremendous increase in diabetes in cats over the past decade.   Diabetes affects as many as 1 in 50 cats, with overweight cats being especially prone to the disease.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes results from inadequate production of insulin by the pancreas or an inadequate response of the cells to insulin.  Without insulin, the body can’t utilize glucose.  This results in elevated blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia).  In diabetic cats, excess glucose is eliminated by the kidneys,  producing frequent urination.  This in turn leads to increased water consumption to compensate for the increased urination.

There are three types of diabetes in cats:

Type I:  Cats are insulin dependent and need to receive daily insulin injections because the beta cells of their pancreases are not making enough insulin.

Type II:  The pancreas may make enough insulin but the body cannot utilize it properly.  This is the most common type of feline diabetes.  Some of these cats will require insulin as well, but others may get by on dietary changes and oral drugs to control blood glucose.

Type III:  This is known as transient diabetes. These are type II cats who present as diabetics and require insulin initially, but over time, their system re-regulates so they can go off insulin.

Symptoms

While diabetes can affect any cat, it mostly presents in older, or overweight cats.  The four classic signs noticed by most cat owners are an increased, almost ravenous appetite, weight loss, increased urination, and increased water consumption.

Diagnosis

Diabetes is diagnosed with a thorough physical exam and laboratory testing of blood and urine.  If the cat’s glucose is elevated, a second blood test, called a fructosamine, will provide more information.  This test measures the average level of glucose control over the past few weeks.

Treatment

Diabetes is treated with a combination of diet, insulin, or oral glucose medications.

What causes diabetes in cats?

While diabetes can affect any cat, it occurs more frequently in middle-aged and older, obese cats.  It is more common in male cats.  The exact cause of the disease in cats is not known,  but obesity and poor diet seem to be major factors.  Other causes may include chronic pancreatitis, other hormonal diseases such as hyperthyroidism, and certain medications such as steroids.

The link between diet and diabetes

More and more evidence shows that diabetes in the cat is a preventable disease, and is most likely caused by the high carbohydrate content of most commercial pet foods, especially dry foods.  Since so many cats eat primarily dry food, these poor-quality, highly processed, carbohydrate rich diets that are the equivalent of sugared breakfast cereals are increasingly thought to be the major culprit for the epidemic increase in diabetes in cats.

A diet high in meat-based protein and free of grains and carbohydrates, either raw or canned, is not only the ideal diet for cats to prevent diabetes in the first place, but should also be the diet of choice for a diabetic cat.  Veterinarians vary in their approach when it comes to diets for diabetic cats.  Many traditional veterinarians still use high-fiber diets for these cats, but more and more holistic vets as well as feline vets have turned away from this approach.  Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins makes a convincing case for how a grain-free diet can help diabetic cats and reduce, or even eliminate, the need for insulin.  Her website Your Diabetic Cat provides a wealth of information on the connection between diet and diabetes.

There is no cure for diabetes.  However, with proper dietary management, some cats may no longer need insulin.  If diabetes has resulted from consumption of a poor quality diet and/or obesity, it is likely to improve or even completely resolve once the cat’s weight is under control.

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Feline Leukemia Does Not Have to Be a Death Sentence

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is the second leading cause of death in cats, killing 85% of infected cats within three years of diagnosis. The virus affects the cat’s blood, causing various blood diseases.  It also suppresses the cat’s immune system, making it harder to protect against infection by bacteria, viruses or fungi found in our everyday environment that wouldn’t affect healthy cats.  However, feline leukemia does not have to be a death sentence; about 70% of cats who encounter the virus are able to resist infection or eliminate the virus on their own.

How is the virus transmitted?

The virus is transmitted through direct contact from cat to cat.  It only affects cats and cannot be passed to people or other animals.  The primary route of transmission is through saliva and nasal secretions, but it is also present in the urine and feces of infected cats.  Cat-to-cat transfer can occur through bite wounds, but also through grooming.  The virus only lives outside its host for a few hours, and because of this, transference through shared use of litter boxes and food dishes is not as common, but it can occur.

Which cats are affected?

Cats living with infected cats, or with cats with an unknown infection status, are at the greatest risk for contracting the virus, which is why it’s important to always get a new cat tested before exposing her to your exisiting feline family members.  Kittens and young adults are more susceptible than older cats, it appears that resistance to the virus increases with age.

Symptoms

Infected cats show one or more of the following symptoms:

– pale gums
– yellow color in the mouth and whites of eyes
– enlarged lymph nodes
– bladder, skin, or upper respiratory infections
– kidney disease
– weight loss and/or loss of appetite
– poor coat condition
– recurring or chronic illness
– progressive weakness and lethargy
– fever
– diarrhea
– breathing difficulty

Diagnosis

FeLV is diagnosed through a blood test called an ELISA test, which tests for the presence of FeLV antigens in the blood.  This test is highly sensitive and can identify cats with very early infections. Many of these cats will manage to clear the infection within a few months and will subsequently test negative.  A second blood test called IFA detects the second phase of the infection, and the majority of cats with positive results for this test remain infected for life and have a poorer long-term prognosis.

Treatment

There is currently no cure for feline leukemia, and in the past, euthanasia was usually recommended for these cats.  85% of cats infected die within three years of diagnosis, but with regular veterinary check ups and preventive health care, these cats can live with good quality of life for quite some time.

A healthy diet is a requirement as a good foundation.  Conventional veterinary wisdom suggests that feeding a raw diet to immunocompromised cats is contra-indicated due to the potential risk of bacteria or parasites in the diet; however, many holistic veterinarians now recommend a raw diet.   If raw feeding exceeds yours or your vet’s comfort level, a grain-free canned diet is the next best thing.  Other holistic approaches such as high doses of vitamin C, homeopathic remedies or Chinese Herbs can help boost the cat’s immune system.

Conventional medical treatment may include steroids, antiviral drugs such as interferon, chemotherapy drugs, and blood transfusions.  Steroids are used to potentially decrease the number of cancerous lymphocytes in the blood, but since they can also depress the immune system, they may make the cat vulnerable to other diseases.   Antiviral agents may reduce the amount of virus present in the blood of the cat, and they are easier on the body than chemotherapy.  All of these treatments will require assessing the risks of the treatment versus the benefits, and they can put a cat in remission, but will not get rid of the virus.

Prevention and protection

Keeping your cat indoors is the only way to completely protect your cat from the feline leukemia virus.  Outdoor cats and indoor/outdoor cats should be vaccinated with a non-adjuvanted leukemia vaccine to minimize the risk of injection site sarcomas.  New cats or kittens over eight weeks of age should be tested before being introduced into a multicat household.

A positive feline leukemia test does not have to be a death sentence.  Some cats may clear the virus themselves, and for others, proper care can lead to good quality of life for many years.

Photo by Kim Newberg, Public Domain Pictures

Ask the Vet Episode 2 with Fern Crist, DVM

Did you miss last night’s Ask the Vet teleseminar with Dr. Fern Crist? If so, you missed a fantastic hour packed with cat health information every cat parent should know. Dr. Crist answered questions about cat allergies, vaccines, constipation, and kidney failure. But not to worry! You can still listen to the interview by clicking on the link below. You can also save the recording to disk so you can listen to it on the media player of your choice by right clicking on the link, and then selecting “save target as” (for PC’s) or “save link as” (for Mac’s).

Thanks to everyone who joined us on the call, and for asking such great questions!

Ask the Vet Episode 2 with Fern Crist, DVM

No Scaredy Cats this Halloween – Safety Tips for Your Pets

black_cat_with_pumpkin_Halloween

It’s that time of year again – as ghost and goblins delight us with their spooky mischief and thoughts turn to trick or treating, the ASPCA offers the following tips to keep your furry family members safe this Halloween.

1.  No tricks, no treats: That bowlful of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy.  Chocolate in all forms – especially dark or baking chocolate – can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Symptoms of significant chocolate ingestion may include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, increased thirst, urination and heart rate-and even seizures.  Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol sweetener can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, which leads to depression, lack of coordination and seizures. In cases of significantly low blood sugar, liver failure has been known to occur.  Ingesting tin foil and cellophane candy wrappers can pose a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockage.

2. Popular Halloween plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn are considered to be relatively nontoxic, yet they can produce gastrointestinal upset should pets ingest them. Intestinal blockage could even occur if large pieces are swallowed.

3. Keep wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet could experience damage to his mouth from shards of glass or plastic, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

4. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise extreme caution if you choose to add a candle. Pets can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious kittens especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.

5. Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets. Please don’t put your dog or cat in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it (yup, a few pets are real hams!). For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume can cause undue stress.

6. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement or hearing, or impede his ability to breathe, bark or meow. Also try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au naturale or donning a festive bandana.

7. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume and make sure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he could choke on. Also, ill-fitting outfits can get twisted on external objects or your pet, leading to injury.

8. All but the most social dogs and cats should be kept in a separate room away from the front door during peak trick-or-treat visiting hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pets.

9. When opening the door for trick-or-treaters, take care that your cat or dog doesn’t dart outside.

10. IDs, please! Always make sure your dog or cat has proper identification. If for any reason your pet escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can increase the chances that he or she will be returned to you.

The ASPCA works to rescue animals from abuse, pass humane laws and share resources with shelters nationwide. Learn more about them by visiting http://www.aspca.org.

Photo by Alisha Vargas, Flickr Creative Commons

Free Teleseminar October 28 – Ask the Vet with Fern Crist, DVM

Join us for our second “Ask the Vet” Teleseminar
on Thursday, October 28 at 8:00pm Eastern

Back by popular demand!  We are delighted to announce that we are hosting Dr. Fern Crist for our second  Ask the Vet teleseminar on Thursday, October 28, at 8pm Eastern Daylight Time.   If you’re unable to attend the seminar, you may submit your questions to me ahead of time via e-mail, and we’ll try to get as many of them answered during the seminar as we can.  Seminar participants will take priority.

Dr. Crist has been practicing veterinary medicine since 1982, and has been working exclusively with cats since 1993.  She served on the board of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.  Dr. Crist is married with five children, two of which are not fuzzy.

The seminar is free, but long distance phone charges may apply.  To participate in the conference, dial 1-712-432-3100.  When prompted, enter conference code 674470.

Cats and Reiki – A Purrfect Combination

Amber receiving Reiki 2

Reiki is a hands-on healing method that originated in Japan.  The practitioner channels healing energy through her hands to a person or a pet through a light touch either directly on the body or from a distance.  The word Reiki (pronounced “ray-key”) is a Japanese composite word usually translated as “universal life energy”. It is based on the idea that all living beings have life energy flowing through them. When life energy is high, you and your pets are healthy and balanced, more relaxed and less likely to get sick. When it is low, pets and humans alike will be more easily affected by stress and less resistant to illness.

Animals, especially cats, are naturally receptive to the Reiki energy and tend to gravitate toward it readily.  Although it may be a little far-fetched, some people even say cats invented Reiki.   Cats are sensitive to energy, and because of this, they are ideal recipients for any kind of energy therapy, including Reiki.  A relaxed cat is the embodiment of balanced energy, harmony, and contentment.  Cats also seem to have the ability to transmute negative energy into something peaceful and calming – another reason why they’re such a good match for energy healing.

As a Reiki Master Practitioner, I work with both animals and humans, and more than half of my current clients are feline.   I work with cats both in person and via distance treatments.  The concept of distance healing can be a bit of a leap for some people (although never for the cats!), but keep in mind that Reiki is energy, and energy works regardless of physical proximity.  For more details on distance, or  remote healing, read Distance Healing for You and Your Pet.

I work with cats for various issues.  I treat feline clients with diseases ranging from asthma to kidney disease to diabetes to cancer.  Reiki can be beneficial for behavior challenges such as integrating a new cat into the household.  Reiki is particularly helpful for older cats with arthritis.  Cats are masters at hiding pain, and their caretakers often don’t recognize the signs of arthritis until it is fairly advanced and causes the cat great discomfort.  Reiki is a gentle modality that can greatly enhance comfort and help with pain control.

Many cats prefer Reiki at a slight distance, even during an in-person session.  Due to their great sensitivity to energy, hands-on treatments can be too intense.  Reiki still works.   I’ve done Reiki for a cat that never came out from under the bed for her entire session, but she pulled the energy with amazing intensity, and her human noticed improvements after just one session.

My most dramatic experience with how cats utilize Reiki happened when a woman who fosters cats for a local rescue group asked me to come work on one of her cats for a specific problem.  I was vaguely aware that there were quite a few cats in the house, and I saw some out of the corner of my eye in the next room, but once I began the session, I focused on the cat I was asked to work on, and had my back turned to the rest of the room.  When I finished the session, and turned around, there were six or seven cats zonked out in various states of relaxation behind me.  They had gotten an energy “hit”  just from being in the same room during the session.  One cat got up, walked up to me, and rubbed her face against my hand.  The woman was amazed – this was a feral cat that she had barely been able to touch herself.   That’s how powerful Reiki can be, and how receptive cats are to it – even though I directed the energy at one specific cat, the other cats still knew what to do with the residual energy.

For more information about Reiki for pets, please visit my Healing Hands website, or contact me for more information or to schedule a session for your cat.

Photo is of Amber receiving Reiki.

You may also enjoy listening to a recent teleseminar Simple Energy Techniques for Happy, Healthy Cats.

Reiki and other energy therapies are not a substitute for veterinary care.

LIVESTRONG Day

If your life hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way, you’re in a very small, and very fortunate, minority.  Most of us have a family member, friend, or co-worker who has been afflicted by some form of the disease.  And of course, our pets aren’t immune to cancer, either.  Cancer is the leading cause of death in cats and dogs over ten years old.  

There are probably hundreds of worthwhile organizations that provide support for cancer patients, but for me, Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG© Foundation has always had a special significance.  

In 2001, at age 78, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Lance Armstrong, and his battle with testicular cancer, provided the inspiration that helped my dad conquer the disease.  A lifelong fan of cycling, and of the Tour de France in particular, my dad was fascinated with Lance Armstrong. When my dad told me about his diagnosis and that he had to undergo six weeks of radiation treatments, one of the first things he said was “I’m going to beat this.  If Lance Armstrong can beat cancer and win the Tour de France, I can go through this and get better, too!”  And he did, and enjoyed three more happy and relatively healthy years until he died in 2004. 

While my dad was going through his treatments, I wrote to Lance’s Foundation.  I thought they’d enjoy hearing the story of an old man in Germany being inspired by Lance Armstrong.  They responded by sending a lovely, personalized package to my dad – a photo autographed by Lance, a LIVESTRONG© t-shirt, and several informational pamphlets.  My dad was touched and thrilled, as was I.  

The foundation designated October 2, the anniversary of Lance’s cancer diagnosis, as LIVESTRONG© Day 2010.  It is meant to be a day of global action, a day to celebrate survivorship and to commit to working toward a world without cancer.  It is meant to raise awareness of the millions of people around the world who live with cancer. 

And because cancer affects cats, too, Milo and Alfie, two mellow, yellow cats from England, are spreading the word about LIVESTRONG Day 2010 on their blog, The Cat’s Meow

I’m not much for wearing colored bracelets to show my support for one cause or another, and yellow is not my color, so I won’t be wearing yellow on October 2 to support this event.  But I will spend some time remembering, and celebrating, all the friends and family members, both human and furry, who have been affected by cancer.  I will be remembering my dad.  And I will say a prayer of gratitude for Lance Armstrong, for inspiring an old man halfway around the world to live a few more years.  

Graphic created by Milo and Alfie.

You may also enjoy reading Lance Armstrong and the Power of Belief.

Feline Pancreatitis

Guest post by Julio Lopez, DVM

Cats can be affected by inflammation of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen located very close to the stomach, intestines and liver. The pancreas has multiple jobs that are very important to every day life. It produces insulin which is necessary for keeping the body’s blood sugar stable and it also produces important products necessary to properly digest food. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the products that it makes to help digest food in the intestines are activated within the pancreas and the pancreas basically begins to “eat/dissolve” itself.

Usually the cause of pancreatitis in cats is not found. Some causes are believed to include trauma, infection and some medications. Chronic pancreatitis is more common in cats; the acute form occurs more commonly in dogs. Signs of pancreatitis are very nonspecific and can be hard to notice. 80-100% of cats have decreased energy/actvity, 87-97% stop eating and 54% are dehydrated. In contrast to dogs and humans, vomiting (35%) and abdominal pain (25%) are not common signs in cats. Other conditions that occur with pancreatitis include hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD-inflammation of the intestines), diabetes and inflammation/infection of the bile tract and liver.

Abdominal ultrasound is considered more useful than x-rays for the diagnosis of pancreatitis, and should be the next test performed if x-rays of the abdomen do not provide a definitive diagnosis. A recent new blood test (fPLI-feline serum pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity) is being used to identify cats with pancreatitis. The only way to definitively diagnose pancreatitis is via biopsy, but this procedure is expensive and requires general anesthesia in patients that may be at higher risk complications. By using a combination of clinical signs, blood tests and ultrasound, a strong suspicion that pancreatitis is affecting your cat can be attained.

If a cause for the pancreatitis is found, that cause must be treated. Other treatments are not directly targeted at the pancreatitis but more at helping the cat feel more comfortable and assist in balancing any secondary complications. This consists of providing intravenous fluids via a catheter to provide adequate hydration, electrolytes and blood flow to the pancreas. Medications that provide relief of nausea and vomiting as well as pain medications are given. In severe cases, protein levels drop and blood clots may form which require transfusions of plasma. Cats that have not been eating for a few days and do not begin to eat shortly after treatment is started may require a temporary feeding tube to be able to provide adequate nutrition. Cats that have inflammatory conditions of the liver/gallbladder (cholangiohepatitis) or intestines (IBD) may require steroids to decrease the inflammation. If infection of the liver or gallbladder is suspected antibiotics may be administered.

The prognosis is very variable, as some cases are more severe than others. Because pancreatitis in cats is usually chronic, other bouts of pancreatitis will most likely occur at some point in time. If enough pancreatic tissue is  damaged, secondary complications can occur. One is diabetes, as the insulin producing cells are damaged, and the second is exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, as the cells that make products that assist in digesting food are damaged. Sometimes the inflammation of the pancreas is so severe that the bile duct becomes obstructed.

Because cats hide disease so well, by the time they are showing signs they may already be very sick. It is important to remember that if you notice any non-specific signs such as lethargy or loss of appetite which do not improve after a day or two make sure you see your veterinarian. Pancreatitis may be only one of many possible diseases making your cat sick.

Dr. Julio Lopez practices at the world renowned California Animal Hospital Veterinary Specialty Group in West Los Angeles. He is a graduate of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University.  You can learn more about Dr. Lopez on his blog, ExpertVet.