Feline Heartworm Disease

Most people think of heartworm disease as a problem that affects only dogs, but even though cats are more resistant hosts to heartworms, and they typically have fewer and smaller worms than dogs with a shorter lifespan, it is considered a more serious threat in cats and can lead to significant pulmonary damage and even sudden death.

What causes heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite that is carried by mosquitoes, and cats become infected when a mosquito bites into a cat for a blood meal and deposits heartworm larvae into the cat’s bloodstream.  These larvae migrate and mature through several lifestages into adult worms.  At about 3-4 months, they usually settle into the arteries and blood vessels of the cat’s lungs, where they continue to mature into adult worms for another 4-5 months.  Worms do not have to develop into adults to cause symptoms.

Which cats can be affected?

While outdoor cats are more susceptible, even indoor cats can be affected (all it takes is one mosquito bite).  Studies have shown infection rates as high as 10-14% in endemic areas.

What are the clinical signs of heartworm infection?

Symptoms can be non-specific and are often similar to those of other feline diseases.  Affected cats may exhibit general signs of illness such as intermittent vomiting, lack of appetite, coughing, and asthma-like signs such as difficulty breathing or wheezing.  Some cats may show acute symptoms, often related to the organs where the adult worms are thriving.  Cats with an acute onset of symptoms may die quickly without allowing sufficient time for diagnosis or treatment.

How is heartworm disease diagnosed?

Heartworm disease in cats is much harder to diagnose than in dogs, once again proving the old adage that cats are not small dogs.  Physical examination will often be non-specific.  Further diagnostics may include x-rays, echocardiogram, and blood testing.   Diagnostics have limitations, and sometimes, even a negative test cannot rule out infection.

How is heartworm disease treated?

Currently, there are no medications approved in the United States for treatment of feline heartworm disease.  Cats who don’t show any clinical signs will often simply be monitored periodically and given time for a spontaneous cure.  Monitoring through x-rays every 6-12 months may be all that is needed.  If there is evidence of the disease in the lungs or blood vessels, treatment is generally focused on supportive care, sometimes using gradually decreasing doses of prednisone, a steroid.  Cats with severe manifestation of infection may require additional supportive care such as intravenous fluids, oxygen therapy, antibiotics, cardiovascular drugs, and restricted activity through cage confinement.

Can heartworm disease be prevented?

Currently, there are four heartworm preventive products approved for use in cats:  Heartguard for Cats (Merial), Revolution (Pfizer), and Advantage Multi for Cats (Bayer).  Heartguard is taken orally, Revolution and Advantage are topical products.  All of these products come with known side-effects, and deciding whether to use them for your cat will require an informed risk assessment in conjunction with your veterinarian.   It is recommended that cats are tested for antibodies and antigens prior to beginning use of these preventatives.  Never give heartworm or any other parasite prevention product for dogs to cats.

As with all parasites, it is believed that a healthy immune system makes cats more resistant to them.  A healthy diet is key to a healthy immune system.  Feeding a species-appropriate grain-free canned or raw diet may help prevent heartworms and other parasites.

New Dr. Goodpet banner

Book Review: Chapter and Hearse by Lorna Barrett

Even if I wasn’t already a fan of Lorna Barrett’s Booktown Mystery series, I would have picked this book up just based on the cover design.  I think it’s one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen in a while and it contains everything I love:   a cat, books, coffee, and a bright, cozy spot by a window to sit and enjoy all of them.  Can’t you just picture yourself there?   

In Chapter and Hearse, the fourth book in the series, we return to Stoneham, New Hampshire, a small town where not much remains a secret.  We find Tricia Miles, the owner of the Haven’t Got a Clue mystery book store, at the Cookery, Stoneham’s cookbook store owned by Tricia sister Angelica, who views herself as the next celebrity chef and is hosting a launch party for her newly released first book, Easy-Does-It Cooking.   The event appears to be jinxed – not only is it lacking in guests, but a nearby gas explosion injures Angelica’s boyfriend Bob Kelly, the head of the Stoneham Chamber of Commerce, and kills the owner of the town’s history bookstore. 

Tricia suspects foul play when she finds Bob being tight-lipped about the incident, and she gets drawn into investigating the murder.  As the list of suspects grows to include the victim’s mother and Angelica’s employees at her restaurant Booked for Lunch,  Tricia still seems no closer to identifying the murderer.  Then a series of strange occurrences on Angelica’s book tour have Tricia increasingly worried about her sister’s safety and raise the stakes in finding the murderer before he or she can strike again.  Filled with surprising plot twists and turns and well-developed secondary characters, including Tricia’s lovely cat Miss Marple, the story builds to a surprising ending.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it very hard to put down. 

As a bonus, the book includes Angelica’s recipes for Hacienda Tacos, Coconut Cake, Blueberry Muffins, Cinnamon Coffee Cake and Lemon Bars. 

Chapter and Hearse was released on August 3.  The first book, Murder Is Binding, was published in April 2008. The second book, Bookmarked for Death, was a February 2009 release, and the third, Bookplate Special, was released last October.  If you love books, cats and food, you will love this series! 

You can learn more about Lorna Barrett by visiting her website.  You can also find her at her delightful blog Dazed and Confused.

Look for an interview with Lorna Barrett here on The Conscious Cat next week.  Lorna will talk to us about writing, her cats, and more!

I received an ARC of this book from the author.

Euthanasia: How to Know When It’s Time

Making a decision about whether or when the time is right for euthanasia is one of the hardest things someone loving a pet will ever go through. Unlike human medicine, veterinary medicine is fortunate to be able to legally offer the option of gently ending suffering when there seems to be no hope for recovery. It is a difficult decision to make at best, and it can be nearly impossible for some pet owners. There are so many factors that play into it. The term that is used the most in this context is “quality of life.” But what does that really mean? Are there hard and fast rules as to what constitutes good quality of life? Of course not. Quality of life means something different for every person, and for every animal.

There are some fairly obvious markers. Pain is one of them. No pet owner wants to see a beloved pet suffer. Animals, especially cats, are masters at masking pain, so this can be difficult to detect. Another marker is appetite. For most pet owners, the first indication that something is wrong is usually when a pet stops eating. A third important marker is dignity. Is the pet still able to relieve herself on her own, or does she need assistance with urination and defecation?

But even these three markers are not always helpful when trying to make a decision. Pain can be managed with medication. Some pets stop eating or eat very little but are still happy and are enjoying life. And who is to say that the dog that needs assistance with being carried outside to urinate or the cat who needs help to get into the litter box and needs to be cleaned off afterwards does not appreciate this level of care from his loving human and is otherwise happy and content?  Each pet is different, and each relationship between human and animal is unique.  There is no one right answer.

It is often said that making the decision to euthanize a pet is the final gift of love we can give our animals. I wholeheartedly believe that, but it still does not make the decision process any easier. Love and denial can be intricately linked, and it can sometimes be difficult to separate one from the other.

It is often said that we will just “know” when the time is right.  And I believe that when we do connect with the essence of our animals and manage to set aside worry and fear for even just a few moments at a time, we will know.  It takes courage to set aside our fears, and to tune in to the animal and really “hear”  them.  Ultimately, the only way any of us can make this decision is by listening to our animal friends with our hearts, not with our heads. It becomes a decision of love, not something to be reasoned out on an analytical and intellectual level.

And the Winner Is….Vote for The Conscious Cat!

We are very excited to have been nominated for Best Cat Blog in the Pettie Awards!  A big, heartfelt thank you to all of you who helped make this happen.  Now comes the next step:  please take a moment to vote for us!  And when you’re done, please tell all your friends to vote for us, too!

You’ll have to vote in all four categories in order for your vote to be counted.  If you’re not familiar with the other blogs, or don’t want to take the time to check them out, please give your vote to our friends:

Best PET Blog:  pawcurious.com 

Best DOG Blog:  championofmyheart.com

Best CAUSE RELATED Blog:  coveredincathair.com

Please click here to vote! 

Voting ends August 20.

 

We would also like to congratulate our friend Sparkle the Designer Cat  for her nomination in the Best Cat Blog category! 

Adventures in Veterinary Medicine – Ingrid

Yes, you read right.   This Adventures in Veterinary Medicine post is about me, not one of the animals I encountered in my years of working in the profession. 

In Buckley’s Story, I share my story of how Buckley helped me take the leap to start my own business.  But this wasn’t the first step on my journey toward finding my bliss.  Prior to starting my Healing Hands business, I worked in various facets of the veterinary profession for twelve years. 

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I started my professional life by translating manuals for a computer manufacturer.  Then I wrote and translated ad copy for a magazine about diesel and gas turbines.  After that, I worked as a travel agent for a while.  Eventually, I ended up at a financial services corporation, beginning as a receptionist and working my way up into middle management.  After fifteen years in corporate America, I had enough.  At that point in my life, I was looking for purpose and meaning in all areas of my life, including my work.  That’s where veterinary medicine came in. 

Feebee, my first cat and the love of my life for almost sixteen years, who got me through a period of great upheaval in my life in the mid-90’s when my marriage of thirteen years ended and my mother died, all within a four month period, developed bladder stones (most likely, as a result of trying to absorb some of my stress).  We ended up spending a lot of time at various veterinary hospitals while he was going through treatment, and ultimately surgery (he fully recovered and lived for many more years).  One afternoon, I was sitting in the waiting room of an animal hospital while they were taking x-rays of Feebee in the back, and I looked around and found myself wondering what it might be like to work in an environment like that.  The thought wouldn’t let go.  I started to do some research, and saw an ad for an office manager position at a nearby vet clinic.  I knew I was well-qualified for the position from a business perspective, even though I knew very little about the inner workings of a veterinary practice at the time.  I applied, and was invited for an interview.  The clinic’s owner offered me the position.    Sadly, I couldn’t afford to take it at the time.  The one aspect of veterinary medicine I hadn’t researched very well ahead of time was the pay – the salary offered was not enough to support myself.   So, instead, I asked whether I could volunteer at the clinic .  The clinic’s owner laughed and said sure, why not!

My first day as a volunteer at the clinic arrived.  I was so excited.  I didn’t really know what to expect.  I was introduced to the head technician, who I was going to be shadowing all day.  I was told that, due to insurance restrictions, I wasn’t allowed to touch any of the animals there, which was a bit of a disappointment.  I had sort of figured that if I was going to be allowed to do anything, it wouldn’t be too terribly glamorous.  I was prepared to do lowly things like cleaning cages and emptying trash if that’s what it took.  I just wanted to be in a clinic environment and learn as much as I could through observation and by osmosis.  

The first thing the technician showed me how to do was to set up a fecal test.  In retrospect, I think it was a test on her part to see how dedicated I was to this volunteering gig.  She showed me how to separate out a small amount of stool from the (giant! smelly!) sample the dog’s owner had dropped off, and how to set it up in a small plastic vial with a solution that would allow any parasites that might be in the sample to float to the top.  Icky, stinky, nasty work.  I was in heaven.  That’s when I realized it – I had found my bliss.  If I could feel this happy playing with a fecal sample, surely I had found my calling!  

It was the beginning of a twelve year journey.  I was eventually hired as a part-time receptionist at this clinic, then went to work part-time at my own vet’s clinic, where I was trained as a veterinary assistant.  I did everything from cleaning cages to answering phones to giving injections and monitoring anesthesia.   I reduced my hours at the day job as a business analyst at a financial services corporation to part-time status, and for the next three years, I worked pretty much seven days a week at either the day job or the vet clinic.  Being at the vet clinic never felt like work, no matter how many hours I spent there – another sign that I had found my passion.  In 1998, I quit the day job and took a hospital manager position at a vet clinic, in essence combining my business background with my newfound love for veterinary medicine.   It was the beginning of my adventures in veterinary medicine.

You really can find your bliss in the most unexpected places.

Book Review: The World Is Still Your Litter Box by Quasi

The World Is Still Your Litter Box by Quasi, as typed by Steve Fisher, is a “how to” manual for cats, as dictated to Steve Fisher by Quasi, a lovable big white cat with a curious mind and a biting sense of humor.  The book picks up where his first, The World Is Your Litter Box, leaves off, offering more wit and wisdom for cats on topics such as ways to annoy your human just for fun, what to do if your human puts you on a diet, and how to make sure your human keeps your litter box clean.

Quasi understands that humans, no matter how crazy they may be about cats (refer to the chapter on How to Tell if Your Human Is a True Cat Nut!), need a lot of guidance on how to truly appreciate, take care, and serve the needs of the cats who shares their lives.  And who better to enlighten them then Quasi.  This book will have you look at your own feline companions with greater understanding (and perhaps, a bit of trepidation, as you wonder what they’re cooking up behind those innocent looks they’re giving you…).  From sharing 20 reasons why cats are smarter than humans to words and phrases that are not in a cat’s vocabulary (knowing these will save humans much time and frustration!), this book is not only the perfect gift for first time cat parents, but will  have veteran cat lovers laugh out loud as they recognize their own feline companions in some of the pages. 

This is a thoroughly delightful book for all cat lovers.

Quasi is a charming and intelligent 18-pound cat, white with baby blue eyes. Part Siamese, he has an extensive vocabulary and is not shy about using it to get what he wants. Although he admits to being slightly rotund, he will resoundingly hiss at anyone who calls him “fat.” Like all cats, Quasi possesses the wisdom of the ages and an overabundance of kitty cuteness. He lives in Burbank, California with his human, Steve, Steve’s female, Judy, and his recently arrived kitty compadres Bo Diddley and Piglet.

Steve Fisher, Quasi’s Co-Author and Typist,  grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to Southern California in 1980. At various points, he was a musician, a radio disc jockey and a record producer before finding his true path as a writer.  In addition to helping Quasi with The World Is Your Litter Box and The World Is STILL Your Litter Box, Steve has written approximately 50 short stories and one yet-to-be-published novel. He “works” long hours at his computer and (according to Quasi) does not appear to have a real job. A confirmed cat nut, Steve lives in Burbank, California with his wife, Judy, and of course, Quasi, Bo Diddley and Piglet.

You can learn more about Quasi, Steve and their books on their website and their blog.

This book was sent to me for review by the author.

Allegra’s World: Big Girl

It’s been a while since I last wrote here, and I need to catch you up on what’s been happening in my world.  Yesterday was my almost birthday – I’m eleven months old now!  I’m almost a big girl!  I don’t really know what birthday means, but Mom says next month, when it’s my real birthday, we’ll have a little celebration and there will be presents.  I think I know what presents are – I think it’s the new toys that have been appearing here occasionally.  I can’t believe there might be more!  Wee!!!

Since I am a big girl now, I’ve been trying to act more grown up, too.  Well, maybe not quite grown up, but I am trying to be a good girl.  Mom says I’ve been doing really well with some of the things we’ve been working on together . I didn’t realize we were working on them together, but whatever – let her think that!  I may just be a kitten, but I’m still the one who decides what I do, make no mistake about that!  Anyway, I let her pet me for longer and longer periods of time now, and I don’t nip at her near as much.  I really don’t know why I even still do it, but it’s like I have all this extra energy that needs to be discharged somehow, and nipping is a way for me to do that.  It’s like I don’t really want to do it, it just happens.  I think Mom understands that, and she knows I’m not nipping at her to hurt her.  I love that she gets that.  I love her a lot, and I’d hate for her to think that I’m doing it on purpose.  I also don’t like that she simply walks away from me when I do nip at her, so I’m starting to put two and two together.  I’m a smart kitten!

I’m learning to be brave, too.  When I first came to live here, loud noises, especially the big trash trucks that go by our house every day, would send me running for safety under the sofa.  Now, I just watch them go by from the window – I know they can’t hurt me.  I still don’t like the noise of the lawn mowers that come every other week.  Why do humans need to have their lawns mowed anyway?  Don’t they know it scares little kittens like me?  Last week, I discovered a cool new spot to hide when scary noises happen (I still haven’t been able to make Mom stop what she calls thunderstorms – she keeps explaining to me that she has no control over the weather, but she seems to control so much else in our house, I’m not sure I believe her – after all, she can open cans!).  Anyway, I went behind the shower curtain in the downstairs bathroom.  It was nice and dark and I couldn’t hear the loud noise from the thunder as much down there.  When Mom found me there, she started to cry.  Turns out that this was Amber‘s safe place, too, and I guess seeing me there made her miss Amber a lot right then.

I can tell that Mom still gets sad a lot.  I don’t really know what to do when that happens, I’m just a kitten, but I want to help her!  So sometimes when she’s sad, I curl up next to her and just sit with her, even though that much closeness is still a little bit overwhelming for me, but I do it for my Mom, because I know it makes her feel better.  I know she’d like me to do more of it, and I will, but on my own time.  I love that Mom understands that.

Anyway, that’s all.   It’s time for a nap now, and maybe I’ll dream about this birthday that’s going to happen next month!  More toys!  Wee!!!

How to Control Fleas Without Chemicals

Many of the flea and tick treatments available today contain toxic chemicals that can be hazardous to pets and to people. Even when these products are used according to the manufacturer’s directions, these chemicals are not safe for pets or humans. The Environmental Protection Agency, in coordination with the Food and Drug Administrations Center for Veterinary Medicine, is pursuing a series of actions to increase the safety of spot-on products for pets. These actions are designed to help consumers use these pesticides safely. However, many pet owners prefer to not use these products at all and are looking for safer, more natural alternatives instead.

There are safer, natural ways to control fleas. They may require a bit more effort on your part, but isn’t that effort worth it if it’s safer for you and your pet?

Combing

Use a good flea comb with tightly spaced teeth. Comb your pet daily during flea season and drop any fleas you find into a bowl of soapy water to kill them.

Bathing

Bathe your pet with a gentle shampoo such as oatmeal. You don’t need to use harsh flea shampoos – most of them have chemicals in them, which is what you’re trying to avoid by not using the pesticide spot-ons in the first place.  Fleas tend to accummulate in bedding, so wash your pet’s bedding as well.

Vacuuming

Vacuum thoroughly, including on and under furniture and in crevices and near baseboards. Discard the vacuum bag immediately after vacuuming to prevent fleas and eggs from reinfesting your home. Severe infestations may require professional steam cleaning.

Diet

Feeding a high quality, varied diet can help prevent fleas. A stronger diet leads to a stronger immune system, and it is believed that this can contribute to your pet being more resistant to fleas. Pet owners who feed raw or homemade diets have reported that their pets no longer have flea problems.

Maintain Outdoor Areas

Keep your grass mowed and keep shrubbery trimmed short in areas where your pet spends time. This will increase sunlight and dryness, which will help reduce the flea problem. Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in your yard to cut down on the flea population. Diatomaceous earth also makes a great natural pantry bug killer, it works for all insects. It’s reported to be safe around pets, but don’t sprinkle it directly on your pet. Be sure to use “food grade” diatomaceous earth only.

Natural Flea Control Products

There are numerous natural flea control products on the market, but not all of them are safe for pets.  In particular, avoid using products containing essential oils such as Pennyroyal, Tea Tree or Citrus oils.  None of these are safe to use around pets, especially around cats. Some manufacturers of essential oils claim that their oils are pure and safe to use around cats, but quite frankly, I wouldn’t take any chances on statements of that nature unless they’re backed up by research by an independent toxicologist.

The National Resource Defense Concil’s Green Paws website has a comprehensive directory of flea and tick products, including natural products, and lists ingredients and toxicity warnings.

If you’re using natural products to control fleas for your pets, please share with us what has worked for you in a comment.

Warning: Garlic is highly toxic to cats

Editors  Note: Multiple comments have suggested using garlic to prevent fleas. While it is true that fleas dislike the taste of garlic, it is highly toxic to cats. Garlic, as well as onions, shallots and chives, has been shown to cause damage to feline red blood cells which can result in hemolytic anemia and eventual death.

New Dr. Goodpet banner

Benefits of a Raw Diet for Cats

Did you miss yesterday’s teleseminar on feline nutrition with a specific focus on Benefits of a Raw Diet for Cats with Margaret Gates, Executive Director. If so, you missed an inspirational hour filled with wonderful discussions about special needs pets and the amazing lessons they teach us. 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). Feline Nutrition Education Society? If so, you missed a lot of great information on feline nutrition and the special dietary needs of an obligate carnivore like the cat.  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).

Benefits of a Raw Diet for Cats

Thanks to everyone who joined us on the call!

Book Review: Cat House by Lucille Dumbrava

Cat House:  My Love Affair With Cats is aptly subtitled, because the book is just that – the story of one woman’s lifelong love affair with her cats.  From her first childhood cat Boots to the cats that help her through the loss of her husband and her own illness later in life, this book celebrates cats and all they bring to our lives.  Dumbrava shares her cats, and her life, through stories ranging from camping trips with cats to travels to foreign countries with cats (one of her well-traveled cats, Tiger, takes Spain, and the hearts of the chamber maids at the hotel by storm, earning the nickname “El Tigrito”), to the challenges of life-changing moves with cats. 

You will most likely recognize some of your own cats in these stories as the author shares her cats’ particular likes, dislikes, habits and antics.  You will laugh out loud at Koala, the cat who washes her toys in the water bowl, much to the annoyance of one of her feline housemates.  You will nod your head in recognition as Dumbrava tells us about favorite napping spots, bedtime rituals and her cats’ love of sunshine.  You will cry as the author has to say goodbye to beloved cats.  And of course I was particulary intrigued to get to know the tortie on the cover, aptly named Pinky after the pink streak on her nose.

Dumbrava wraps up this lovely collection of stories with a hearbreaking piece titled “The Shelter Cat” and a reflection on how a lifetime spent with cats has enriched her life – something that will resonate with every cat lover.  

Lucille Dumbrava is a retired teacher/counselor whose love of cats and love of writing started when she was a child. Many of her stories about the cats in her life have been collected in a book entitled Cat House, now available from Amazon, Alibris , http://www.bookstandpublishing.com, and Northern California bookstores. You can also order directly from Lucille by e-mailing her. 

This book was sent to me for review by the author.

1 349 350 351 352 353 377