Category Archives: Health

Popular Houseplants Toxic to Cats, Part 1

Groovycat has Spring fever! If only that bamboo plant were on HIS side of the window.

Yesterday was the official first day of Spring! If you have Spring fever like I do, you’re probably planning some gardening activities and taking advantage of some of the gorgeous decorative plants that bloom this time of year. Just remember that not all plants are safe for your kitties!

The ASPCA has a comprehensive list of plants that are toxic to animals on their website, but we’re going to pick some of the more popular houseplants (since our population of cats in Philadelphia is nearly 100% indoors)  and post photos and information over the next few weeks. If your cat has ingested a plant on this list (or one you’re unsure of), please contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA’s 24-hour emergency poison hotline directly at 1-888-426-4435.

Aloe

Photo by allloe on Flickr

A very common houseplant and herbal remedy for skin irritation, Aloe (scientific name Aloe Vera) can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, anorexia, and tremors.

 

 

Lilies

Photo by picturesinmylife_yls on Flickr

Keep lilies away from your cat! Every Spring, we see at least one case where a cat ingests lilies–these cases often have very sad endings. Lilies are very common in bouquets and in Easter flower arrangements, so keep an eye out! While they come in many varieties and colors, most lilies have six petals and prominent stamens. The symptoms associated with ingestion of lilies are vomiting, inappetence, lethargy, kidney failure, and death.

Caladium

Photo by kilic03 on Flickr

Caladium, sometimes known as elephant ear, is a great houseplant because it thrives in low-light situations and grows well in pots. It is an irritant to cats, however, so if your kitty likes to gnaw on plants, keep this one out of her reach. Symptoms include oral irritation, intense burning and irritation of mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing.

Do you have houseplants you’re curious about, or plants you’d like us to profile? Let us know! Also, due to the large amount of SPAM we’ve been getting on our blog, please register if you’d like to post comments, or just comment through our Facebook page! We will post another several plants before the end of the week.

 

February is National Pet Dental Health Month!

Cats have 30 teeth (12 incisors, 10 premolars, 4 canines, and 4 molars)

Why is dental care important?

Dental disease can be very painful for a kitty to endure, but that is not the only reason it is important to address periodontal disease in a timely manner. When your cat’s mouth is inflamed, bacteria from his oral cavity can become systemic, invading other organs such as his heart, liver,  and kidneys. Over time, this can cause damage to the major organ systems and the cat’s immune system. Because cats tend to mask illness, oral exams are necessary to determine the health of your cat’s mouth. If your cat has periodontal disease, a dental cleaning and potential extractions will be necessary to restore her oral health.

Periodontal disease

The extent of dental disease won't be fully evident until all the teeth are cleaned and films taken

Feline periodontal disease occurs when plaque accumulates on tooth enamel, causing inflammation of the gingival tissue. Cats might not exhibit any symptoms, though some will paw at their mouths, refuse food, have bad breath, or stop grooming. If your cat shows any of these signs, contact your veterinarian immediately. A dental cleaning and extraction of any affected teeth will be necessary to restore your kitty’s oral health.

What is a resorptive lesion?

A dental film showing resorptive lesions eating away tooth enamel

Resorptive lesions are areas in which the tooth enamel is eaten away by a type of cells called odondoclasts. The areas where the enamel has eroded fill in with painful red lesions.  These lesions can occur on the tooth root or crown, and if left untreated can eventually destroy the entire tooth. If the lesions occur on the root below the gumline, they can often only be detected on radiographs. We do not know the exact cause of resorptive lesions, but we do know that they are very prevalent, occurring in over 60% of cats over six years of age.  Resorptive lesions are extremely painful; cats will react to a dental probe touching them even when under general anesthesia. Extraction is the treatment of choice for resorptive lesions.

What is involved in a dental procedure?

Jeffy showing off his pearly whites

Dental care in cats involves scaling and polishing, as well as extraction of any teeth that are unhealthy. The gold standard for veterinary dental care involves radiographs to determine the health of the teeth below the gumline, though not all facilities have dental radiographs at their disposal. Because we can’t simply ask a cat to sit still while we use the ultrasonic scaler to clean her teeth, this is all done under general anesthesia. (To see what is involved in a dental procedure here at The Cat Doctor, please visit our Dentistry page!) After the dental cleaning, an at-home regimen will be recommended to prevent future dental issues.

What can I do at home to prevent dental disease?

Brushing your cat’s teeth is the best way to maintain a healthy mouth, but not all cats will tolerate this. We find that very few cat owners (veterinary professionals included!) actually brush their cats’ teeth. Fortunately, there are other ways to keep  Fluffy’s mouth healthy. There are a number of foods that have been formulated to promote oral health and approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. ( Despite the long-held theory to the contrary, feeding regular kibble does not seem to have any effect on oral health versus feeding a canned diet.) There are also approved water additives and treats if you cannot feed a dental-specific diet. Above all else, it is important to have your cat’s mouth examined regularly to catch any dental disease early.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month!

The American Veterinary Medical Association sponsors a Pet Dental Health Month every February, during which they work to educate pet owners about oral care in all types of pets. They’re currently running a photo contest on their Facebook Event page–check it out! They also have a podcast detailing the importance of pet dental care. Veterinarians around the country participate in this month-long event by offering discounts on dental care and working to educate their clients about preventative care.


 

Scratching Posts and Pedicures

Groovy cat needs a nail trim!

Scratching is a natural behavior in cats. Not only is it a way for your kitty to stretch and keep their claws healthy, but scratching is also a marking behavior that allows a cat to stake a claim on a territory. In today’s post, we will discuss how to redirect your kitty’s natural scratching behavior to appropriate places and how to perform a feline pedicure!

Cats like to stretch out when they scratch, so most prefer tall scratching posts

Scratching posts and pads

If you want to protect your furniture and carpets from kitty nails, you’ll want to give your cat plenty of places she’s allowed to scratch. Most cats enjoy tall scratching surfaces, such as cat trees, because they can stretch out while scratching. Kitties have different substrate preferences, so you might have to do a little experimenting to figure out what your cat’s preferred fabric type is.  The cheap corrugated cardboard scratchers are surprisingly popular with kitties, despite not offering any height for stretching.

In order to direct your cat’s scratching behavior to the proper places, you’ll want to entice her.  If your kitty has begun scratching a specific piece of furniture, you’ll want to start by placing the  scratching post or pad near the spot she’s been scratching. You can also entice her with catnip, which will make the post, tree, or scratch pad more appealing. Once she has decided that her new tree or post is the best place to scratch, you can gradually move it away from the

Sadie is crazy for catnip!

furniture to the place it will stay. Make sure to refresh the catnip scent periodically to keep your kitty interested!

Nail trim time!

Trimming your cat’s nails can seem daunting, but once you get the hang of it (and familiarize your kitty with the routine), it is something that can easily be done at home.  The first step is to familiarize your cat with having her paws handled. Cats generally don’t like having their feet touched, so this could take some time. Make sure to provide some type of positive reinforcement, such as treats, canned food, or petting, and keep the sessions brief at first. As your cat becomes more comfortable with having her paws handled, gently squeeze and manipulate her toes. Once this is tolerated, you can begin learning to trim her nails!

Applying gentle pressure just above the toenail will extend the nail

Sit your kitty on your lap or somewhere else where she’s comfortable. If you think you might require help, don’t be afraid to ask a friend to cuddle your cat while you trim her nails! Gently grasp your cat’s paw in your hand and apply slight pressure to the joint just above her nail–this will extend the nail out so that the entire surface is visible.

Cut the nail slightly below the end of the quick to avoid causing pain or bleeding

 

Once the nail is visible, look for the quick. This is a pink area that extends from the nail bed downward. You’ll want to trim the nail a few millimeters below the quick to avoid causing your kitty any pain or bleeding.

If your cat gets anxious or restless during the process, stop. You want to make the experience as pleasant as possible for all parties involved. Make sure to include treats and cuddles into the routine to keep the experience as positive as possible. If you can only trim a nail or two a day, that is fine! Most kitties will require nail trims every three to four weeks, though growing kittens usually need them more frequently.

Nail Caps

Sadie showing off her hot pink Soft Paws

Marketed under the names Soft Paws and Soft Claws, nail caps are a great way to prevent your cat from causing damage when she scratches. They come in a variety of colors, and application is simple. To apply a nail cap, simply trim your cat’s nails as usual, then load the cap with a drop of glue and slide it over the nail. They last three to four weeks for most kitties, and they’re fashionable too!

While many cats can learn to tolerate nail trimming, we appreciate that some cats are difficult to handle. Most groomers and veterinary offices will perform a nail trim for a low fee, and will even patiently walk you through the process if you want to learn how.

Diamond Joins the Biggest Loser Club!

The embarrassing "before" photo of Diamond at his highest weight

You might have read our post on feline obesity a few months ago. If you did, you saw our housecat, Diamond, showing off his rather rotund figure. Diamond hit an all-time high weight of nearly 16 pounds and was scored as a seven out of nine on the Body Condition Scale (which made him officially obese!) around Thanksgiving of 2011, so we knew we had to take action.

Diamond’s weight loss plan

After Diamond’s shocking weigh-in, a diet plan was made based on a target weight of about 15 pounds. Because he is a master at stealing food from other cats, our technicians had to make sure all cats were fed in the back of their cages, and that Diamond was never around during morning and evening treatment times, when food is often out on counters.

Body Condition Score chart: Diamond is currently a 6.5, down from a 7

Once his diet was restricted, Diamond lost weight very quickly; his first two weekly weigh-ins showed a steep drop in weight–from his initial weight of 16 pounds to 14.94 in a few weeks! This sharp downward curve brought us to the realization that our little guy was far better at stealing food from our patients than we’d realized, as we’d been fairly conservative with his diet. His weight loss leveled off after that–he’s been losing a healthy 0.2 pounds a week since his initial few weigh-ins. To date, Diamond has lost 1.75 pounds!

Obstacles Diamond faces on his journey:

Weight loss is never easy, and Diamond has been very vocal about his struggles! Not only is he a master at stealing food from patients, Diamond has also been known to nab Sadie’s breakfast and coax treats out of employees and clients alike. In order to prevent him from excessive snacking, we have to feed him in an exam room, while Archie eats in his favorite cage and Sadie in an upstairs office.  To prevent him from complaining to the front desk staff constantly, a portion of his allotted food is set aside as “treats” to be doled out throughout the day.

If only Diamond knew we were posting unflattering photos of him on the internet...

Because Diamond is a very skilled food thief, everyone in the office needs to be on their toes! He’s managed to sneak into food supplies a few times, both by stealing from patients and by ripping into bags of food for sale, and Sadie has definitely had her breakfast stolen once or twice, but for the most part, we’ve managed to prevent episodes of thievery.

Diamond’s inactive lifestyle is also a contributing factor. When he first came to us, Diamond was obsessed with playing fetch. He would chase a toy mouse for hours! These days, he’s much less active; he’ll play for a few minutes at a time every once in a while, but his activity level is nowhere near what it used to be. We’ve been making him chase his kibble “treats” by tossing one piece at a time down the hall, and we’ve discovered he loves a particular wand toy, so that is used to engage him in small bursts of exercise. We try to get him to run around for a few minutes at a time several times daily to increase his metabolism.

Diamond dreaming of food

Diamond’s progress

As of today, Diamond weighs 14.3 pounds, which is the lightest he’s been in years. Our hope is to get him down to about 12.5 pounds, though we will re-assess his goal weight at each weigh-in.

 

Why we’re publicly embarrassing our handsome friend

We see overweight and obese cats on a daily basis. We try our best to stress to owners how important it is to get their kitties to a healthy weight, but we’re often met with resistance due to a variety of circumstances. Some of the reasons people are resistant to dieting their cats include feeding more than one cat, having a cat used to eating all day long, having a very vocal cat who begs for food, changing feeding schedules from once daily or all day to several times daily, and fears that their cat will resent them. Some people even prefer their cats chunky because they feel it’s cute, despite knowing this excess weight is harmful. We hope that sharing Diamond’s story (and demonstrating that he’s adorable at any weight!) will help people who are hesitant about weight control feel confident that they can manage it.

We will be updating everyone on Diamond’s weight loss journey from time to time. We think it’s important for cat owners to realize it can be done, regardless of how many cats are in your household or how much your kitty loves to eat!

Chronic Renal Failure pt. 3: Subcutaneous Fluids

In our last two posts, we discussed Chronic Renal Failure and how it is managed. Today, we’re going to give step-by-step instructions on how to administer subcutaneous fluids, one of the key treatments for animals with renal disease. 

Ali (possibly our all-time favorite CRF kitty!) has been receiving subcutaneous fluids for several years now

Why do we give subcutaneous fluids? 

There are a number of reasons why a cat might require fluid administration under the skin at home. Chronic kidney disease is probably the most common reason because CRF kitties need extra fluids–beyond what they are able to drink–to flush renal toxins out of their systems.  Sometimes a sick patient will not reliably drink enough water and extra fluid administration is required, or perhaps an oral injury may preclude drinking and thus extra fluids are needed.  In any case, if you are reading this, fluids under the skin have probably been recommended for your pet, you have received a demonstration on fluid administration, and this guide is meant as a handy “tip sheet’ for when you are on your own at home with your pet.

*Disclaimer: Subcutaneous fluids should not be administered without the direction and supervision of a veterinarian. *

What you will need:

  • needles: Needles come in various sizes. The rule of thumb is the lower the number, the faster the flow (but this also means the needle is bigger). Find the lowest gauge your cat will tolerate.

Needles by size. The lower the gauge number, the larger the needle and the faster the fluids will flow.

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