veterinarian

Prescription Diets May Not Be a Good Nutritional Choice for Your Cat

cat_eating

You’ve probably seen them on the shelves at your local veterinary hospital, or maybe your cat is currently eating one of these foods: so-called prescription diets that are formulated for cats with specific health conditions ranging from allergies to gastro-intestinal problems to kidney disease. Also known as therapeutic diets, you would think that these diets are high quality diets that are good for your cats, right?

You couldn’t be further from the truth. The majority of these diets are very high in carbohydrates and contain wheat, corn and soy – ingredients that have no logical place in the diet of an obligate carnivore like the cat. They also generally contain a high amount of by-products.Continue Reading

Conscious Cat Sunday: Zoobiquity presents a vision of One Health

Zoobiqity cover

I recently reviewed Dr. Michael Fox’s book Healing Animals and The Vision of One Health: Earth Care and Human Care, a fascinating vision of a world where the healing of animals, care for the earth, and a revolution of our food and health care systems all work together to create One Health, driven by an integrative and holistic approach. I have since become very interested in this concept of One Health, and as a result, I was intrigued when I came across Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing by Barbara Hatterson-Horowitz, M.D. and Katherine Bowers.

Zoobiquity is a simple idea—animals and humans get the same diseases, yet physicians and veterinarians almost never talk to each other.  Zoobiquity is a new approach to medicine that brings together human doctors and animal doctors to treat the diseases shared by patients of many species.Continue Reading

Book review: Healing Animals and The Vision of One Health by Michael W. Fox

Healing_Animals_and_the_Vision_of-One_Health

Let me start this review by saying that Healing Animals and The Vision of One Health: Earth Care and Human Care is not a cat book. So why am I reviewing it here? Because it is an amazing book that touches on so many things that matter a great deal to me: conscious living, animal health, human health, the health of our planet, the health care crisis for both animals and humans, and the many pitfalls of commercial pet food, to name just a few.

Michael Fox is a veterinarian best known for his syndicated “Animal Doctor” column. Born in England, the former vice president of The Humane Society of the United States and the author of more than 40 adult and children’s books on animal care, animal behavior and bioethics, is a renowned advocate of animal rights and a sharp and eloquent critic of the biotechnology industry. As a professor, bioethicist and veterinarian, Dr. Fox has spearheaded the movement to foster the ethical treatment of animals and the environment since 1967.

His new book presents a vision of a worldContinue Reading

Review and giveaway: Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual by Dr. Marty Becker

Your_Cat_The_Owner's_Manual_Dr._Marty_Becker

When I look at cat care guides, I typically review them to see if they are something I would recommend to other cat owners. I’ve spent almost three decades either caring for cats, working with cats, or writing about cats. I spend a good part of each day educating myself about the lastest in cat health and cat care. I love to learn about cats, and I learn something new every day –  but I don’t expect to learn much I haven’t read or heard about before from a basic cat care book.

At the same time, I knew that Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual: Hundreds of Secrets, Surprises, and Solutions for Raising a Happy, Healthy Cat wouldn’t be just another cat care book. After all, it was written by America’s veterinarian, Dr. Marty Becker, the veterinary contributor to ABC’s Good Morning America and The Dr. Oz Show, and his writing partner, Gina Spadafori, a veteran journalist who has been writing about pet care for decades.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

Take You Cat to the Vet Week Contest winner

Vet Confidential veterinarian how to find a vet

Congratulations, Michelle!
Your story about Mickey Jagger is the winner of our
“Take Your Cat to the Vet Week” contest!

I hope you’ll enjoy Vet Confidential: An Insider’s Guide to Protecting Your Pet’s Health. Look for an e-mail from The Conscious Cat.

I actually used a random number generator to pick the winner, because all the stories were great, and it was too hard to pick one any other way. I encourage you to read all the great stories, and remember, cats need veterinary care once or twice a year, not just during “Take Your Cat to the Vet Week!”

Feline Nutrition: Who Bears the Responsibility?

Guest Post by Kymythy R. Schultze

At this point in my investigative journey to decide what to feed my cats, the commercial, processed pet-food products were definitely not coming up roses — or even catnip. But let me state for the record that I don’t think the manufacturers are purposely trying to harm our cats. I don’t think there’s a cigar-smoking executive sitting behind his desk (in a corner office with a big window) doing a Snidely Whiplash impression while chanting: “I’m going to hurt some kitties today,” followed by evil laughter, of course. No, it’s not that personal — it’s just business. It’s like any other industry that makes billions of dollars every year: The bottom line is the top dollar.
 
I’m not faulting these companies for trying to make lots of money, but I don’t have to approve of the way they do it. I’m certainly not a fan of animal testing, low-quality ingredients, components that aren’t even appropriate for felines, too-frequent recalls, and questionable marketing tactics. But hey, when it comes down to it, my cat’s health isn’t really their responsibility.
 
Is my cat’s health my veterinarian’s responsibility? Not really. Yes, I go to vets for their professional opinions, which are very important to me. I respect their experience and education in most areas of animal health. But unless they’ve taken it upon themselves to study animal nutrition in an unbiased forum, they may not be the best source of advice for species-appropriate food for my cats. At veterinary schools, they receive very little education on this subject, and what they do get is mostly taught by employees of the larger pet-food companies. The little time devoted to nutrition usually involves the incomplete research we discussed earlier and heavy product pushing — not information about real food.
 
I have very dear friends who are veterinarians. Through their wisdom and my own experience and research, I’ve come to understand better why vets aren’t always the best source of unbiased nutritional information. You see, when I was studying animal nutrition at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine a few years ago, only a couple of my professors weren’t paid employees of pet-food companies.
 
I’ll never forget one particular lecture where the teacher/veterinarian was discussing the different forms of pet-food products — dry, canned, and so on. While she was talking about the semi-moist products, she mentioned in an offhand way that she would never feed them to her pets. Then she quickly laughed and said, “Oh, my boss would kill me if he heard me say that!”
 
I didn’t find it amusing. It was painfully clear that she was repeating (except for her slip-up) what the pet-food company wanted the students to hear — not unbiased information or her actual opinion.
 
The biggest pet-food companies hire brilliant marketers to sell their products. After all, what could be better than having experts (veterinarians) endorse your product? How did this come about? Well, one of the parent companies that’s become very involved with vets also makes toothpaste. Do you remember the old advertisement that boasted eight out of ten dentists recommend a particular brand? It was a brilliant campaign and put this firm at the top of toothpaste sales.
 
At the time, the company also had a very small pet-food division they were about to sell, but an executive came forward with a great idea: If they could use the same tactic with this branch as they had with their toothpaste, they’d be equally successful. So they used the pharmaceutical industry’s practice of spending tons of money to woo doctors. In fact, a retired sales executive from the pet-food company commented on why this marketing strategy works so well: “It’s just like taking drugs: You go to the doctor, and he prescribes something for you, and you don’t much question what the doctor says. It’s the same with animals.”
 
They know that the trust cat guardians have in vets is so strong that they’ll feed what they’re told without question. So the manufacturer spends a great deal of money enforcing that connection. In fact, other than universities, this company is the country’s largest employer of vets.  They fund research and nutrition courses and professorships at veterinary colleges and offer a formal nutrition-certification program for technicians. They’ve also written a widely used textbook on animal nutrition that’s given free of charge to veterinary students, who also receive stipends and get products at zero or almost-zero charge.
 
This relationship doesn’t end after graduation. The corporation sends veterinarians to seminars on how to better sell their products, provides sales-goal-oriented promotions, gives them lots of promotional tools, and offers big discounts so that vets make more money on product sales.
 
There’s really no point in naming names in this situation because these practices aren’t confined to a single pet-food company. Although one or two used to have a corner on the veterinary market, others have now reaped the rewards of employing similar strategies. It’s genius, really, and I can understand that many veterinarians have busy practices and may feel that they don’t have time to investigate pet-foods more closely. It certainly must be easier and less time-consuming to simply suggest a familiar product and be done with it, but if they’ve got such an extremely close association with a pet-food company, we may reasonably assume that it might be difficult for them to offer an unbiased opinion on nutrition to their clients.
 
Please understand that there are more and more vets today who are taking the time to learn about real-food nutrition. And with their busy schedules, I truly respect the ones who do; and I like to support these independent, open-minded individuals who enjoy continuing their education.
 
The bottom line is that my cat’s health is my responsibility, and your cat’s health is your responsibility. We choose which veterinarian to take our cats to. We choose to follow our vets’ advice or not. We choose which type of food to feed our cats. All the choices are up to us, so choose wisely, grasshopper (my cats love to eat those guys)!
 
Kymythy R. Schultze has been a trailblazer in the field of animal nutrition for nearly two decades. She’s a Clinical Nutritionist, a Certified Nutritional Consultant and one of the world’s leading experts on nutrition and care for cats. Visit her at Kymythy.com.

 

How to Choose the Right Vet for Your Pet

For most people, choosing the right vet for their pets is much harder than choosing the right physician for themselves.   When choosing a vet, you’re not just looking for  someone with exceptional medical skills, but also for someone with excellent people skills who understands you and your pet.  And since most veterinarians work with a team of professional support staff, you’ll want to evaluate them, too, as you look for the best fit for you and your furry family members. 

The worst time to find a vet is when your pet has a medical emergency, so plan ahead and do your research before you need one.   The following suggestions can help you in your search.

Yellow Pages/internet search

While this is a good start, I think this should only be a first step.  Proximity to your home will certainly be a factor in your decision, but it shouldn’t be the only one.  A good vet is well worth driving a few extra miles.  If you’re using the internet to look for a vet, use common sense if you’re visiting review sites such as Yelp.  The opinions posted there are only that – opinions.   Do your own research and make up your own mind after visiting potential vets. 

Word of mouth/referral from friends, neighbors or family members

With most service businesses, word of mouth is usually the best way to find a provider.  But a word of caution:  make sure that the person referring you shares your philosophy when it comes to how to care for a pet.  Not all pet owners consider pets members of the family, and even among the ones who do, there are varying degrees.   Don’t necessarily trust a referral from someone you just met.  When I got Feebee, who was my first cat, I was not only clueless when it came to how to select a vet, I was also new to the area, so I did what most people would do – I asked a neighbor who had a dog and a cat and didn’t pursue any other recommendations, nor did I research the clinic myself.  I later found out that the vet I took Feebee to had a reputation for cutting corners during anesthetic procedures, especially in the area of pain control.  Sadly, I didn’t find this out until after Feebee had already been neutered and had had a dental cleaning.

Membership in the American Animal Hospital Association

Member hospitals voluntarily pursue and meet AAHA‘s standards in areas of quality medical care, facility and equipment. 

For cats – look for a feline vet

If at all possible, look for a vet specializing in cats.  Cats are not small dogs, and feline vets can address your cat’s special needs better.  Your cat’s vet visit may also be less stressful in a feline-only hospital.  (Read Is Your Vet Cat-Friendly for more on this topic).  For a listing of feline veterinarians, use the Find a Feline Practitioner search on the American Association of Feline Practioners’ website.

Facility

Does the hospital have separate cat and dog waiting areas?  Is the hospital clean and odor-free? Is the staff dressed in clean uniforms and lab coats?  Don’t rule out an older looking hospital – a fancy new facility doesn’t always guarantee that your pet will also get top-of-the line medical care. 

Make an appointment without your pet

I think this is the best way to evaluate a veterinary practice.  Make an appointment and ask for a tour of the facility.  By going to see potential vets without your pet, you will be more relaxed and it will give you a chance to evaluate not only facility, but also the practice philosophy of the clinic.  If you want to speak to a veterinarian during this trial visit, offer to pay for an office visit.  Most vets will not charge you for an introductory visit, but it sets the right tone for a future relationship of mutual respect.  Come prepared with a list of questions that are important to you.  For example, if you’re holistically oriented, make sure that your vet is, too, or at the very least, is open to holistic modalities even if he or she doesn’t practice them.

Other questions to ask:

  • How many veterinarians are at the practice?
  • Will my pet always see the same veterinarian?
  • Are appointments required?
  • What happens if I have an emergency after clinic hours?
  • Are dogs and cats housed in separate areas?
  • Are diagnostic services such as x-rays, blood work, ultrasound, EKG, endoscopy done in-house, or will they be referred to a specialist?

Cost

While the cost of veterinary care is most certainly a factor in the decision pocess, I don’t believe that it should be the determining one.   When we bring pets into our lives, we know that they will need veterinary care – that’s part of being a responsible pet parent.  Even if we’re fortunate that they never get sick, they’ll still need preventive care.  Depending on what part of the country you’re in, routine veterinary care can run anywhere from $500-1500 a year.  These numbers can include annual wellness exams, parasite control, labwork, dental care, and more. 

If you do use price as a determining factor in your search for a vet, be aware that simply asking for prices for certain services does not necessarily tell the whole story.  For example, prices for spay/neuter surgeries can vary widely between practices – sometimes, the disaparities are due the difference in the level of care your pet will receive.

Finding the right vet for your pet is one of the most important decisions you’ll make – there is nothing more reassuring than having a vet you know you can trust and rely on throughout your pet’s life.

How to Make Your Cat’s Trip to the Vet Less Stressful

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Most cats hate going to the vet’s.  What’s to like?  They’ll get stuck in a carrier, then they’ll get poked and prodded and stuck with needles.  Taking a cat to the vet can also be stressful for the cat’s human – none of us want our kitties to be scared and stressed, and what’s even worse is that, in the case of a vet visit, in the cat’s mind, we’re the ones who are putting them through this ordeal!  The ideal solution for many cats is a vet who makes housecalls (to find one in your area, visit the website of the American Association of Housecall and Mobile Veterinarians).  If that’s not an option, make sure that the vet you take your cat to is cat friendly.

You can make the actual trip to the vet’s office less stressful by following these tips:

Make sure the carrier is big enough for your cat to be able to stand up and turn around.  Carriers that allow access from the front and the top make getting your cat in and out of the carrier easier than carriers that only open in the front.

Get cats used to the carrier.  Keep the carrier out and open in a place where your cats can easily access it.   Some cats will actually like to use the carrier as a periodic sleeping place.

Get your cat used to car travel.  If feasible, take your cat on short rides in the car and offer rewards after the trip.  This may help create a positive association with travel, and that way, your cat won’t expect a vet visit at the end of each trip.

Use a calming/pheromone spray such as Comfort Zone with Feliway in the carrier on a regular basis, and also prior to placing kitty in it for transport.

Withhold food prior to transport.  This may help prevent motion sickness, and may also make cats more receptive to treats at the vet’s office, thus creating a somewhat more positive association.

Put a piece of clothing with your scent on it in the carrier prior to transport.  The familiar scent may help comfort your cat.

Cover the carrier with a blanket or towel while in the car – this may make some cats feel safer during transport.

Unfortunately, unless you have a very mellow cat, kitty may still hold a grudge for a little while after returning from one of these, in your cat’s mind completely unnecessary, outings.  Thankfully, our cats do forgive us quickly and all is forgotten – until the next vet visit!

Everybody’s Gone Surfin’ (Part Two)

cat-on-computer

How to Effectively Communicate with Your Veterinarian

Guest Post by Nancy Kay, DVM

I happen to enjoy hearing about what my clients are learning online.  I sometimes come away with valuable new information, and I’m invariably amused by some of the extraordinary things they tell me- who knew that hip dysplasia is caused by global warming!  Surf to your heart’s content, but be forewarned, not all veterinarians feel as I do.  Some have a hard time not “rolling their eyes” or quickly interrupting the moment the conversation turns to Internet research.  Who can blame them- they’ve grown weary of spending valuable office visit or telephone time talking their clients out of crazy cyberspace notions and reining them in from online wild goose chases.  How unfortunate this is.  Nowadays, people rapidly and reflexively reach for their keyboards to learn more about their pet’s symptoms or disease diagnosis online.  It’s only natural (and in their pet’s best interest) that they will want to discuss what they’ve learned with their veterinarian.

Is there an effective way to communicate with your vet about your online research that is neither irritating to her nor intimidating for you?  I truly believe it is possible, but it involves some work and planning on your part!  Listed below are some secrets for success- things you can do to converse about your Internet research in a manner that is comfortable for you and your vet and, most importantly, beneficial for your pet’s health.

-I may be preaching to the choir, but I cannot overemphasize the importance of working with a vet who is happy and willing to participate in two-way, collaborative dialogue with you. Your opinions, feelings, and questions are held in high regard and enough time is allowed during the office visit to hear them. A veterinarian who practices this “relationship centered” style of communication is far more likely to want to hear about your online research than the veterinarian who practices “paternalistic care” (far more interested in telling you what to do than hearing about your thoughts, questions, or concerns).  Remember, when it comes to veterinarian/client communication styles, you have a choice. It’s up to you to make the right choice!

-Let your vet know that you appreciate her willingness and patience in helping you understand how best to utilize what you’ve learned online.

Ask your veterinarian for her Web site recommendations– those that have already been “vetted”.  This is a collaborative approach that lets her know you intend to spend some time learning more, plus a respectful recognition of the fact that she is the one who has spent her career learning about your dog’s health issues. 

Wait for the appropriate time during the office visit to discuss what you’ve learned on line.  Allow your veterinarian to ask questions of you and examine your precious poopsie rather than “tackling” her with questions and discussion about your Internet research questions the moment she sets foot in the exam room.

Be brief and “to the point” with your questions.  Remember, most office visits are scheduled for 15 to 20 minutes, max. 

Let your veterinarian know that you’ve learned how to be a discriminating surfer!  You know how to differentiate between valuable online resources and “cyber-fluff”. You ignore anecdotal vignettes and Web sites trying to sell their products in favor of credible information provided by veterinary college Web sites and forums that are hosted by well-educated moderators who provide cited research references that support their recommendations.  If you need a little refresher course on how to be a “selective surfer,” I encourage you to read Part One of this article.  When you begin conversation about your Internet research, I encourage you to choose your wording wisely.  Communicate in a respectful fashion that invites conversation as opposed to  “telling” your vet what you want to do. Most veterinarians don’t like being told what to do by their clients, and who can blame them?  After all, we expect veterinarians to provide a collaborative approach- it’s only fair that they expect the same from their clients.  Consider the following conversation starters about Internet research:

Approach one:  “I’m wondering what you think about mixing some canned pumpkin in with Sophie’s food.  I’ve been doing some Internet research about diarrhea and this suggestion seems to comes up frequently.”

Approach two:  “I’ve been doing some online research and learned about the benefits of canned pumpkin.  I want to begin mixing this in with Sophie’s food.”

Approach three:  “I’d like to give Sophie some canned pumpkin for her diarrhea.  A moderator from an online forum suggested I do this.”

Approach four:  “I’ve been following an online forum about canine diarrhea. One of the moderators suggested I consider adding canned pumpkin to Sophie’s diet.  How do you feel about this?”

Which of these approaches sound like invitations for discussion? Which are more likely to be a “turnoff” for your veterinarian? If you’ve selected approaches one and four as successful ways for broaching the topic of Internet research with your vet, well done!  Give your dog a hug and yourself a pat on the back!

In the Internet, we have an extraordinary tool at our fingertips. I encourage you to be critical when choosing which Web sites you intend to take seriously and which ones you wish to visit for a good chuckle.  Approach conversations with your vet about your Internet research thoughtfully and tactfully. These strategies are bound to create a win-win-win situation- for you, your veterinarian and your beloved best buddy! 

Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health,

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

speaking for spot coverPlease visit http://www.speakingforspot.com/ to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Order  a copy of Speaking for Spot personally signed by Dr. Kay – http://www.speakingforspot.com/purchase.html

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Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross