Community

SNAP Cats goal is to save lives of special needs cats. Whether it’s providing rescue and care, public education, or a rewarding volunteer experience, SNAP Cats offers a wealth of opportunity for everyone to become involved.

THE VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE

You can view and download our Volunteer Manual, which details the wide range of volunteer opportunities and programs, here

At SNAP Cats, you’re more than just a “volunteer.” You’re a trainer, therapist and care giver to cats that need more than just attention – they need your love and commitment to help them overcome the challenges they face everyday. If you’re looking for a challenging yet very rewarding experience, SNAP Cats is your opportunity.

All interested volunteers must attend a New Volunteer Orientation Meeting. Age requirements, qualifications, and hours for responsibilities vary and will be explained in the meeting. If you’re interested in any of the following positions please email us and we’ll inform you of our next New Volunteer Orientation Meeting.

CAT CARE TECHNICIAN
At SNAP Cats, you’re more than just a “cat cuddler.” You’re a trainer, therapist and care giver to cats that need more than just attention — they need your love and commitment to help them overcome the difficulties they face everyday. If you’re looking for a challenging yet very rewarding experience, SNAP Cats is your opportunity.

FOSTER CARE FAMILY
As a foster family you’ll provide in-home care to SNAP Cats recovering from injuries/surgeries, cats in need of socializing (in a family environment outside of our campus), and possibly bottle feeding kittens who’ve lost their mother. Foster Care Families receive all animal care supplies for SNAP Cats and can determine the types of animals they are willing to care for. Click here to download our Foster Care Program Information.

FACILITY MAINTENANCE
As a maintenance Volunteer you’ll assist SNAP Cats staff in keeping our campus clean and organized for our cats and the public. You’ll help by assisting with laundry, washing dishes, gardening, painting, organizing storage, general cleaning and various other tasks as needed. A clean environment is essential in keeping everyone happy and healthy.

ANIMAL TRANSPORTATION
Drop off and pick up SNAP Cats from local venues (vets, mobile adoptions, events, etc.), or longer distance transfers to/from other shelters, rescues and sanctuaries.

SOCIAL MEDIA
Help our SNAP Cats get noticed/adopted. Photograph our cats to post on our website, AdoptAPet.com, Petfinder.com, SNAP Cats Newsletters, etc; update social media web pages; advertise our animals via the Internet; and create flyers/posters to be placed around your community to publicize both our cats and campus.

OFFICE
As an Office Volunteer you’ll be responsible for answering phones, assisting the public, facilitating adoptions, and various other administrative tasks as needed.

GENERAL
If you just want to help out in any capacity, that’s great, too. Whether it’s in the office, in our cat rooms, helping to transport cats, or working on your computer, we’ll always need and appreciate your help to take care of our wonderful cats.

You can view and download our Volunteer Manual, which details the wide range of volunteer opportunities and programs, here

RESCUE & CARE

Our primary focus is to rescue and care for Special Needs cats that are scheduled to be killed anywhere in the world. Animal shelters, rescues and sanctuaries are full. Innocent cats are being killed due to lack of space and/or funds. The first cats to be killed are special needs, elderly and feral cats, or cats who aren’t deemed “adoptable.” That’s unacceptable.

SNAP Cats rescues these cats, houses them, then finds them loving homes. We believe, if given a few more days or weeks or months, an older or special needs or feral cat can find the home that they deserve.

All cats at SNAP Cats, regardless of health, age or temperament, are available for adoption or foster care. Those who are not adopted, due to age, illness or temperament, will be live out the remainder of their natural lives in a peaceful, healthy, serene environment, free from judgment or harm.

PUBLIC EDUCATION

SNAP Cats provides the community much needed information and education about often misunderstood topics, such as FIV, “feral” or “community” cats, and caring for specific special needs. This information is available on this website, and will also be discussed in free public classes at the future SNAP Cats facility. We are also available for free feline health and behavior consultation on most subjects during working hours.

Now that we’re in our new SNAP Cats facility in santa Rosa, we will be offering the opportunity for group visits, i.e. school field trips, community groups and organizations. If you’re interested in bringing a group out to SNAP Cats please email us at info@snapcats.org. There is no fee to experience our wonderful world of special needs cats.

Local Resources

Recommended Merchandise


SNAP Wraps


Leggings for Life

24 – Hour Emergency Clinics

There are many veterinarians in Sonoma County. The following are emergency centers.

VCA Animal Care Center
6470 Redwood Drive
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
707.584.4343
accsonoma.com

Pet Care Emergency Hospital
1370 Fulton Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
707.579.5900
pcvh.com

Pet Care Emergency Hospital
2425 Mendocino Blvd.
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
707.584.6969
pcvh.com

Redwood Veterinary Clinic
1946 Santa Rosa Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95407
707.542.4012
redwoodvetclinic.com

Animal Control Numbers

City of Santa Rosa: 707.565.7100
Cloverdale: Police 707.894.2150
Cotati: Police 707.792.4611
County: 707.565.7100
Healdsburg: 707.280.9632
Petaluma: 707.778.4396
Rohnert Park: Police 707.584.2600
Sebastopol: Police 707.829.4400
Sonoma: Police 707.996.3601

Animal Shelters & Welfare Organizations

Sonoma County

Bird Rescue Center
3430 Chanate Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
707.523.2473
birdrescuecenter.org
Receives injured/stray birds from Sonoma County

California Animal Rescue
707.293.4470
car.rescuegroups.org
Dogs*Puppies*Cats*Kittens

Forgotten Felines of Sonoma Country
P.O. Box 6672
Santa Rosa, CA 95406
707.576.7999
forgottenfelines.com
Discounted spay/neuter services for feral cats

Friends of Animals In the Redwood Empire (FAIRE)
P.O Box 2001
Rohnert Park, CA 94927
707.538-9098
faireonline.org

Healdsburg Center (Shelter)
14242 Bacchus Landing Way
Healdsburg, CA 95448
707.280.9632
sonomahumane.org/about-us/healdsburg-center

Humane Society of Sonoma County
5345 Highway 12
Santa Rosa, CA 95407
707.542.0882
sonomahumane.org

Native Songbird Care & Conservation
8050 Elphick Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472
707.484.6502
nativesongbirdcare.org
Receives injured/stray native songbirds from Sonoma County

Petaluma Animal Services
840 Hopper Street
Petaluma, CA 94952
707.778.PETS
petalumaanimalshelter.org
Receives strays from Petaluma

Pets Lifeline
19686 8th Street East
Sonoma, CA 95476
707.996.4577
petslifeline.org
Receives strays from Sonoma Valley (as space permits)

Rohnert Park Animal Shelter
301 J. Roger’s Lane
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
707.584.1582
rpanimalshelter.org

Sadie’s Haven Horse Rescue
2951 Thorn Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472
707.206-1892
sadieshaven.org
Care and shelter for equines that are neglected, abused and/or abandoned.

Sonoma County Animal Services
1247 Century Court
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
707.565.7100
sonoma-county.org/shelter
Receives strays from Santa Rosa, Windsor, Penngrove, Cloverdale, and all unincorporated areas

Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue
403 Mecham Road
Petaluma, CA 94952
707.544.6713
scwildliferescue.org
Receives injured/stray wildlife from Sonoma County

Wildlife Fawn Rescue
19201 Highway 12 # 105
Sonoma, CA 95476
707.833.6727
fawnrescue.org

Marin County

Marin Humane Society
171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd
Novato, CA 94949
415.883.4621
marinhumanesociety.org
Receives strays from all Marin County and Cities

Napa County

County of Napa Animal Shelter
942 Hartle Court
Napa, CA 94558
707.253.4382
countyofnapa.org/animalshelter
Receives strays from Napa County

We Care Animal Rescue
1345 Charter Oak Avenue
Saint Helena, CA 94574
707.963-7044
wecareanimalrescue.org
Receives strays from Napa County (as space permits)

Zoonotic Diseases

Provided by the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University

What is a zoonotic disease?
While most feline infectious diseases affect only cats, and most human infectious diseases affect only humans, it is important to be aware that some of these diseases-called zoonotic diseases-can be transmitted between cats and people. You are much more likely to contract ailments from other humans than you are from your cat. However, simple precautions, common sense, and good hygiene, including careful handling of litter boxes and treating cats with fleas and other parasites, can further reduce the risk of zoonotic disease.

How are zoonotic diseases transmitted?
Transmission of a zoonotic disease can potentially occur when a person comes into direct contact with secretions or excretions-such as saliva or feces-from an infected cat. Additionally, a disease may be contracted through contact with water or food that has been contaminated by an infected cat. Many zoonotic diseases can be transmitted from fleas or ticks (called vectors) to a person or a cat from another animal.

Who is at risk?
Most zoonotic diseases pose minimal threat; however, some humans are particularly at risk. Those with immature or weakened immune systems, such as infants, individuals with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the elderly, and people undergoing cancer therapy, are more susceptible to zoonotic infections than others.

What are some common zoonotic diseases?
Bacterial Infections
Cat-scratch disease, also called bartonellosis, is by far the most common zoonotic disease associated with cats. Approximately 25,000 people are diagnosed every year in the United States. Cat-scratch disease can occur when a person is bitten or scratched by an infected cat. Fleas may also play a role in the transmission of infection. People with cat-scratch disease usually have swollen lymph nodes, especially around the head, neck, and upper limbs. They may also experience fever, headache, sore muscles and joints, fatigue, and poor appetite. Healthy adults generally recover with no lasting effects, but it may take several months for the disease to go away completely. People with compromised immune systems may suffer more severe, even fatal, consequences.

Some healthy cats are continuously or intermittently infected with cat-scratch disease bacteria, but antibiotics do not reliably cure infection in these cats and are not currently recommended. However, avoiding scratches and bites (for example, by not allowing children to play roughly with cats), controlling fleas, and keeping cats indoors all reduce the risk of cat-scratch disease. Because most cases of cat-scratch disease result from contact with kittens, immunosuppressed people should avoid such contact.

Salmonellosis, another common bacterial disease, can cause diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain beginning one to three days after infection. Salmonellosis usually resolves on its own. However, some people require medical attention because the diarrhea is severe or the infection is affecting other organs. People usually get salmonellosis by eating contaminated food, such as undercooked chicken or eggs. However, cats and other animals-even those that appear healthy-can carry and pass salmonella bacteria in their stool. Salmonella bacteria are more commonly harbored by cats that feed on raw meat or wild birds and animals. Feline infection can be prevented by keeping cats indoors and feeding them cooked or commercially processed food. Human infection can be prevented by wearing gloves and washing hands thoroughly after cleaning litter boxes (especially if used by a cat with diarrhea).

Parasitic Infections
Fleas are the most common external parasite of cats. While fleas cannot thrive on humans, their bites can cause itching and inflammation. Fleas may also serve as vectors for cat-scratch and other zoonotic diseases. Flea-infested cats may become infected with tapeworms from fleas ingested while grooming. Children, albeit rarely, can also become infected with tapeworms from inadvertently ingesting fleas.

Some feline intestinal parasites, including roundworms and hookworms, can also cause disease in people. Children are particularly at risk due to their higher likelihood of contact with contaminated soil. Visceral larva migrans, a potentially serious disease that can affect the eyes and other organs, results from inadvertent consumption of roundworm eggs (e.g. when soiled fingers are placed in the mouth). Cutaneous larva migrans, an itchy skin disease, is caused by contact with hookworm-contaminated soil. Proper hygiene, including washing hands before meals, cleaning soil from vegetables, and reducing exposure to cat feces (e.g., by covering children’s sandboxes when not in use) can prevent infection. Anti-parasite medications for kittens and annual fecal exams for adult cats can reduce environmental contamination and the risk of human infection.

Fungal Infections
Ringworm is not caused by a worm at all; it is a skin infection caused by a group of fungi. Infected cats most often come from environments housing large numbers of animals. In cats, ringworm appears as a dry, gray, scaly patch on the skin. In humans, ringworm often appears as a round, red, itchy lesion with a ring of scale around the edge. Ringworm is transmitted by contact with an infected animal’s skin or fur, either directly or from a contaminated environment. Infected cats continuously drop fungal spores from their skin and fur; these spores, which remain capable of causing infection for many months, are difficult to eradicate from a household. Children are particularly at risk of infection. To reduce environmental contamination, confine infected cats to one room until they are free of infection; then thoroughly clean and disinfect the household.

Protozoal Infections
Protozoans are single-celled organisms. The three most common protozoal diseases in cats and humans are cryptosporidiosisgiardiasis, and toxoplasmosis. Cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis can cause diarrhea in both cats and people, who usually become infected by a common source-for example, contaminated water-not by each other. To prevent the spread of infection, schedule annual fecal examinations for your cats, and medicate infected cats as directed by your veterinarian. Other preventive measures include wearing gloves while handling feces-contaminated material, washing hands afterwards, and boiling or filtering any surface water used for drinking.

Toxoplasmosis is caused by the parasitic protozoan Toxolasma gondii. People with weakened immune systems, or infants whose mothers are infected during pregnancy, can develop severe illness. People commonly become infected by eating undercooked or raw meat, or by inadvertently consuming contaminated soil on unwashed or undercooked vegetables. Unfortunately, pregnant women or immunosuppressed individuals are often mistakenly advised to remove cats from the household to reduce the risk of toxoplasmosis. However, people are highly unlikely to become infected from direct contact with their cats.

Cats can become infected by eating infected rodents, birds, or anything contaminated with feces from another infected cat. An infected cat can shed the parasite in its feces for up to two weeks. The parasite must then mature for one to five days before it becomes capable of causing infection. However, it can persist in the environment for many months and continue to contaminate soil, water, gardens, sandboxes, or any place where an infected cat has defecated.

Basic hygiene can prevent toxoplasmosis. Wear gloves when handling potentially contaminated material (for example, when gardening or handling raw meat), and be sure to wash your hands afterwards. Avoid eating undercooked meat, and thoroughly wash fruit and vegetables before eating. Surface water should be boiled or filtered prior to drinking, and children’s sandboxes should be covered when not in use to prevent wandering cats from defecating in them. Scoop litter boxes daily while wearing gloves, and wash your hands afterwards. Pregnant women or immunosuppressed individuals are safest when other household members clean the litter box.

Viral Infections
Most viruses infect only their natural host species. Human viruses, like those that cause the common cold, infect only humans, while feline immunodeficiency virus, feline infectious peritonitis virus, and feline leukemia virus infect only cats. However, one virus that can be passed from cats to humans is rabies, a viral disease resulting from the bite of an infected animal. Cats are highly susceptible to rabies, which attacks the central nervous system, causing a variety of signs. Rabies is almost always fatal. In people, rabies infections usually occur when an infected animal bites a person. In order to protect human health, rabies vaccination of cats is required by law in many areas. Even if your cat is kept indoors, it is important to keep rabies vaccines current because cats occasionally escape outdoors, and because rabid animals such as bats and raccoons occasionally enter houses. To further reduce your risk of rabies, avoid contact with wildlife and stray animals. See a doctor immediately if you have been bitten by an animal.

What can I do to protect my cat and myself?
Common sense and good hygiene will go a long way toward keeping you, your family, and your cat free of zoonotic diseases. Here are a few simple precautions:

  • Wash hands before eating and after handling cats.
  • Schedule annual checkups and fecal exams for your cat.
  • Seek veterinary care for sick cats.
  • Keep rabies vaccinations current.
  • Maintain appropriate flea and tick control.
  • Avoid letting your cat lick your face, food utensils, or plate.
  • Consider keeping cats indoors.
  • Seek medical attention for cat bites.
  • Feed cats cooked or commercially processed food.
  • Scoop litter boxes to remove fecal material daily.
  • Periodically clean litter boxes with scalding water and detergent.
  • Wear gloves when gardening or handling raw meat; wash hands afterwards.
  • Cover children’s sandboxes when not in use.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Filter or boil surface water before consuming.
  • Cook meat to 160°F or 80°C (medium-well-done).
  • Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

    If you notice your cat attempting to urinate frequently with little result, if you observe blood in the urine, or if your cat uses areas outside the litter box such as sinks, bathtubs or floors, your cat could be having a urinary tract issue. Veterinary attention is important. The veterinarian will perform urinalysis to diagnose the problem and provide treatment.

    Considerations
    Female cats are more prone to bladder infections than male cats, while male cats are more likely to have a urethral blockage issue than female cats.

    Types
    A change in diet to acidify the urine to the proper pH value of 6 to 6.5 should be ongoing for cat urinary tract health. Antibiotics may be prescribed or immediate treatment may be necessary, if the infection is connected to a blockage of the urethra or to kidney stones.

    Time Frame
    A blocked urethra could result in death within 24 hours, if left untreated by a qualified veterinarian. Treatment for crystals in the urine and recovery from a blocked condition may take 8 weeks or more.

    Function
    Antibiotics are prescribed for bacterial infections of the bladder and kidneys. Catheterization due to obstruction of the urethra allows urine to pass out of the body and clears impacted crystallized minerals and sloughed dead cells that are causing the blockage. A change in diet is prescribed for increasing the acidity of the urine produced by the kidneys, in an effort to break up magnesium ammonium phosphate crystals.

    Prevention/Solution
    Make fresh water available to your cat at all times to encourage hydration. Keep litter boxes clean; cats do not like to use a dirty litter box and may hold onto urine too long, leading to irritation of the bladder wall and infection. Feed your cat a diet designed for urinary tract health. Feed your cat several small meals through the day or allow free feeding on dry food, rather than one or two large meals.

    Theories/Speculation
    Urinary tract infection (UTI) issues are more common in a cat undergoing stress, such as moving to a new home. A stressed cat is likely to hide and not drink water or use the litter box as often as the cat would when not stressed. These actions put a strain on the urinary tract and can lead to infection or irritation of the bladder and urethral tissues.

    Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)

    A cat’s upper respiratory tract-the nose, throat and sinus area-is susceptible to infections caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria.

    What Causes Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats?
    By far, viruses are the most common causes of upper respiratory infections (URIs) in cats. Feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus account for 80 to 90 percent of all contagious upper respiratory problems, and are prevalent in shelters, catteries and multi-cat households. These viruses can be transmitted from cat to cat through sneezing, coughing, or while grooming or sharing food and water bowls. Once infected, cats can become carriers for life, and though they may not show clinical signs, they can still transmit the viruses to others. Cats often develop bacterial infections secondary to these common viral infections.

    There are also upper respiratory infections in cats that are primarily caused by bacteria. Chlamydia and Bordetella – also commonly found in shelters and areas with multiple cats – are two such bacterial infections. Less common in cats than dogs, Bordetella is usually associated with stress and overcrowded living conditions.

    What Are the General Symptoms of Upper respiratory Infections?
    Symptoms differ depending on the cause and location of the infection, but some common clinical signs of upper respiratory problems in cats include:

  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Clear to colored nasal discharge
  • Gagging, drooling
  • Fever
  • Loss of or decreased appetite
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nasal and oral ulcers
  • Squinting or rubbing eyes
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Depression
  • Are Certain Cats Prone to Upper Respiratory Infections?
    Age, vaccination status and physical condition all play a role in a cat’s susceptibility to upper respiratory infections, but cats who live in multi-cat households or shelters are most susceptible. Veterinarians have found that stress plays a role in causing outbreaks of URI, and cats in any shelter, cattery or boarding facility are generally experiencing high levels of stress. Cats who have recovered from URI can become carriers, and may experience recurrences when stressed. Certain breeds like Persians and other flat-faced breeds have a predisposition to develop upper respiratory infections due to their facial structure.

    What Should I Do If I Think My Cat Has an Upper Respiratory Infection?
    It’s important to bring your cat to a veterinarian if you think she may be suffering from an upper respiratory infection. A brief exam by a veterinarian will help to determine if your cat requires medication, has a fever or is dehydrated. Avoid self-diagnosis, since your cat may be infectious and require isolation, antibiotics or additional veterinary care.

    How Are Upper Respiratory Infections Treated in Cats?
    Your veterinarian will prescribe the best course of treatment for your cat, which may include medications, isolation, rest and support with fluids and nutritional support.

    What Happens If an Upper Respiratory Infection Is Left Untreated?
    Left untreated, some upper respiratory infections can progress to pneumonia or have other serious complications, such as blindness or chronic breathing difficulties.

    How Can I Prevent My Cat from Getting Upper Respiratory Infections?

  • Keep your cat indoors to minimize the risk of exposure to infected animals.
  • Properly isolate infected cats to protect other pets living in the same environment.
  • Minimize stress.
  • Keep your cat up to date on vaccines as recommended by your vet. Vaccines for upper respiratory disease in cats may not actually prevent infection, but they help lessen the severity of the disease in some cases.
  • Regular veterinary exams and preventive care can help catch and treat problems early. A cat’s best defense against upper respiratory infection is a healthy immune system.
  • Practice good hygiene and wash your hands thoroughly when handling multiple cats.
  •  

    Toxoplasmosis

    Provided by the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University

    What is toxoplasmosis?
    Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii). Toxoplasmosis is one of the most common parasitic diseases and has been found in nearly all warm-blooded animals, including pets and humans. Despite the high prevalence of T. gondii infection, the parasite rarely causes significant clinical disease in cats-or any species.

    What causes toxoplasmosis?
    The life cycle of Toxoplasma gondii is complex and involves two types of host-definitive and intermediate. Cats, both wild and domestic, are the only definitive hosts for Toxoplasma gondii. This means that the parasite can only produce oocysts (eggs) when infecting a cat. When a cat ingests an infected prey (or other infected raw meat) the parasite is released into the cat’s digestive tract. The organisms then multiply in the wall of the small intestine and produce oocysts during what is known as the intraintestinal infection cycle. These oocysts are then excreted in great numbers in the cat’s feces. Cats previously unexposed to T. gondii will usually begin shedding oocysts between three and 10 days after ingestion of infected tissue, and continue shedding for around 10 to 14 days, during which time many millions of oocysts may be produced. Oocysts are very resistant and may survive in the environment for well over a year.

    During the intraintestinal infection cycle in the cat, some T. gondii organisms released from the ingested cysts penetrate more deeply into the wall of the intestine and multiply as tachyzoite forms. These forms then spread out from the intestine to other parts of the cat’s body, starting the extraintestinal infection cycle. Eventually, the cat’s immune system restrains this stage of the organism, which then enters a dormant or “resting” stage by forming cysts in muscles and brain. These cysts contain bradyzoites, or slowly multiplying organisms.

    Other animals, including humans, are intermediate hosts of Toxoplasma gondii. These hosts can become infected but do not produce oocysts. Oocysts passed in a cat’s feces are not immediately infectious to other animals. They must first go through a process called sporulation, which takes one to five days depending on environmental conditions. Once sporulated, oocysts are infectious to cats, people, and other intermediate hosts. Intermediate hosts become infected through ingestion of sporulated oocysts, and this infection results in formation of tissue cysts in various tissues of the body. Tissue cysts remain in the intermediate host for life and are infectious to cats, people and other intermediate hosts if the cyst-containing tissue is eaten.

    How will toxoplasmosis affect my cat?
    Most cats infected with T. gondii will not show any symptoms. Occasionally, however, clinical disease-toxoplasmosis-occurs. When disease does occur, it may develop when the cat’s immune response is not adequate to stop the spread of tachyzoite forms. The disease is more likely to occur in cats with suppressed immune systems, including young kittens and cats with feline leukemia virus (FELV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

    The most common symptoms of toxoplasmosis include fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Other symptoms may occur depending on whether the infection is acute or chronic, and where the parasite is found in the body. In the lungs, T. gondii infection can lead to pneumonia, which will cause respiratory distress of gradually increasing severity. Toxoplasmosis can also affect the eyes and central nervous system, producing inflammation of the retina or anterior ocular chamber, abnormal pupil size and responsiveness to light, blindness, incoordination, heightened sensitivity to touch, personality changes, circling, head pressing, twitching of the ears, difficulty in chewing and swallowing food, seizures, and loss of control over urination and defecation.

    How is toxoplasmosis diagnosed in cats?
    Toxoplasmosis is usually diagnosed based on the history, signs of illness, and the results of supportive laboratory tests. Measurement of IgG and IgM antibodies to Toxoplasma gondii in the blood can help diagnose toxoplasmosis. The presence of significant IgG antibodies to T. gondii in a healthy cat suggests that the cat has been previously infected and now is most likely immune and not excreting oocysts. The presence of significant IgM antibodies to T. gondii, however, suggests an active infection of the cat. The absence of T. gondii antibodies of both types in a healthy cat suggests that the cat is susceptible to infection and thus would shed oocysts for one to two weeks following infection.

    Sometimes the oocysts can be found in the feces, but this is not a reliable method of diagnosis because they look similar to some other parasites. Also, cats shed the oocysts for only a short period of time and often are not shedding the oocysts when they are showing signs of disease. A definitive diagnosis requires microscopic examination of tissues or tissue impression smears for distinctive pathologic changes and the presence of tachyzoites.

    Can toxoplasmosis be treated?
    Most cats that have toxoplasmosis can recover with treatment. Treatment usually involves a course of an antibiotic called Clindamycin. Other drugs that are used include pyrimethamine and sulfadiazine, which act together to inhibit T. gondii reproduction. Treatment must be started as soon as possible after diagnosis and continued for several days after signs have disappeared. In acute illness, treatment is sometimes started on the basis of a high antibody titer in the first test. If clinical improvement is not seen within two to three days, the diagnosis of toxoplasmosis should be questioned.

    No vaccine is as yet available to prevent either T. gondii infection or toxoplasmosis in cats, humans, or other species.

    Can I “catch” toxoplasmosis from my cat?
    Because cats only shed the organism for a few days in their entire life, the chance of human exposure is small. Owning a cat does not mean you will be infected with the disease. It is unlikely that you would be exposed to the parasite by touching an infected cat, because cats usually do not carry the parasite on their fur. It is also unlikely that you can become infected through cat bites or scratches. In addition, cats kept indoors that do not hunt prey or are not fed raw meat are not likely to be infected with T. gondii.

    In the United States, people are much more likely to become infected through eating raw meat and unwashed fruits and vegetables than from handling cat feces.

    How are people infected with Toxoplasma gondii?
    Contact with oocyst-contaminated soil is probably the major means by which many different species-rodents, ground-feeding birds, sheep, goats, pigs, and cattle, as well as humans living in developing countries-are exposed to Toxoplasma gondii. In the industrialized nations, most transmission to humans is probably due to eating undercooked infected meat, particularly lamb and pork. People also become infected by eating unwashed fruits and vegetables. The organism can sometimes be present in some unpasteurized dairy products, such as goat’s milk. Toxoplasma gondii can also be transmitted directly from pregnant woman to unborn child when the mother becomes infected during pregnancy.

    There are two populations at high risk for infection with Toxoplasma gondii; pregnant women and immunodeficient individuals. Congenital infection is of greatest concern in humans. About one-third to one-half of human infants born to mothers who have acquired Toxoplasma during that pregnancy are infected. The vast majority of women infected during pregnancy have no symptoms of the infection themselves. The majority of infected infants will show no symptoms of toxoplasmosis at birth, but many are likely to develop signs of infection later in life. Loss of vision, mental retardation, loss of hearing, and death in severe cases, are the symptoms of toxoplasmosis in congenitally infected children.

    In immunodeficient people-those undergoing immunosuppressive therapy (e.g., for cancer or organ transplantation) or those with an immunosuppressive disease such as AIDS-enlargement of the lymph nodes, ocular and central nervous-system disturbances, respiratory disease, and heart disease are among the more characteristic symptoms. In these patients-especially those with AIDS-relapses of the disease are common, and the mortality rate is high. In the past, immunodeficient people and pregnant women were advised to avoid cats. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now advises that this is not necessary.

    What can I do to prevent toxoplasmosis?
    There are several general sanitation and food safety steps you can take to reduce your chances of becoming infected with Toxoplasma:

  • Do not eat raw or undercooked meat. Meat should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160°F for 20 minutes.
  • Do not drink unpasteurized milk.
  • Do not eat unwashed fruits and vegetables.
  • Wash hands and food preparation surfaces with warm soapy water after handling raw meat.
  • Wear gloves when gardening. Wash hands after gardening.
  • Wash hands before eating (especially for children).
  • Keep children’s sandboxes covered.
  • Do not drink water from the environment unless it is boiled.
  • Do not feed raw meat or undercooked meat to cats. Also, do not give them unpasteurized milk.
  • Do not allow cats to hunt or roam.
  • Do not allow cats to use a garden or children’s play area as their litter box.
  • Remove feces from the litter box daily and clean with boiling or scalding water.
  • Pregnant women, and persons with suppressed immune systems, should not clean the litter box.
  • Control rodent populations and other potential intermediate hosts.
  • Synechiae

    Adhesions of the Iris of the Eye in Cats

    Synechiae are adhesions between the iris and other structures in the eye. They are the result of inflammation in the iris and are particularly common with anterior uveitis (inflammation of the dark tissues of the eye) and trauma to the eye. Synechiae can occur in both dogs and cats.

    Symptoms and Types

    Synechiae may be anterior or posterior.

  • Anterior synechiae is defined as an adhesion between the iris and the cornea. The cornea is the transparent cover of the front of the eye.
  • Posterior synechiae is the adherence of the iris to the capsule surrounding the lens of the eye.
  • Symptoms seen with synechiae include:

  • Squinting
  • Corneal lesions, such as ulcers
  • Excessive tearing
  • Glaucoma
  • Variation in the color of the iris
  • Opacity of the lens
  • Uveitis
  • Decreased papillary reaction to light
  • Causes

  • Cat fight injury
  • Chronic infection
  • Corneal ulcer
  • Foreign body injury to the eye
  • Hyphema (bleeding in the front part of the eye)
  • Penetrating wounds to the eye
  • Surgery
  • Diagnosis
    Diagnosis is based on an ophthalmic examination, which involves examining the structures of the eye. In addition, dyes may be used on the cornea to detect corneal injuries. Tonometry may be performed to measure the intraocular pressure (the pressure within the eyeball.)

    Treatment
    In many cases, no treatment is necessary. If an underlying cause is diagnosed, it should be treated appropriately. In cases where glaucoma is present, laser surgery to repair the synechiae may be attempted.

     

    Senior Cats

    Provided by the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University

    Just as people are living longer than they did in the past, cats are living longer too. In fact, the percentage of cats over six years of age has nearly doubled in just over a decade, and there is every reason to expect that the “graying” cat population will continue to grow.

    So how old is my cat, really?
    Cats are individuals and, like people, they experience advancing years in their own unique ways. Many cats begin to encounter age-related physical changes between seven and ten years of age, and most do so by the time they are 12. The commonly held belief that every “cat year” is worth seven “human years” is not entirely accurate. In reality, a one-year-old cat is physiologically similar to a 16-year-old human, and a two-year-old cat is like a person of 21. For every year thereafter, each cat year is worth about four human years. Using this formula, a ten-year-old cat is similar age wise to a 53-year-old person, a 12-year-old cat to a 61-year-old person, and a 15-year-old cat to a person of 73.

    Advancing age is not a disease
    Aging is a natural process. Although many complex physical changes accompany advancing years, age in and of itself is not a disease. Even though many conditions that affect older cats are not correctable, they can often be controlled. The key to making sure your senior cat has the healthiest and highest quality of life possible is to recognize and reduce factors that may be health risks, detect disease as early as possible, correct or delay the progression of disease, and improve or maintain the health of the body’s systems.

    What happens as my cat ages?
    The aging process is accompanied by many physical and behavioral changes:

  • Compared to younger cats, the immune system of older cats is less able to fend off foreign invaders. Chronic diseases often associated with aging can impair immune function even further.
  • Dehydration, a consequence of many diseases common to older cats, further diminishes blood circulation and immunity.
  • The skin of an older cat is thinner and less elastic, has reduced blood circulation, and is more prone to infection.
  • Older cats groom themselves less effectively than do younger cats, sometimes resulting in hair matting, skin odor, and inflammation.
  • The claws of aging felines are often overgrown, thick, and brittle.
  • In humans, aging changes in the brain contribute to a loss of memory and alterations in personality commonly referred to as senility. Similar symptoms are seen in elderly cats: wandering, excessive meowing, apparent disorientation, and avoidance of social interaction.
  • For various reasons, hearing loss is common in cats of advanced age.
  • Aging is also accompanied by many changes in the eyes. A slight haziness of the lens and a lacy appearance to the iris (the colored part of the eye) are both common age-related changes, but neither seems to decrease a cat’s vision to any appreciable extent. However, several diseases-especially those associated with high blood pressure-can seriously and irreversibly impair a cat’s ability to see.
  • Dental disease is extremely common in older cats and can hinder eating and cause significant pain.
  • Although many different diseases can cause a loss of appetite, in healthy senior cats, a decreased sense of smell may be partially responsible for a loss of interest in eating. However, the discomfort associated with dental disease is a more likely cause of reluctance to eat.
  • Feline kidneys undergo a number of age-related changes that may ultimately lead to impaired function; kidney failure is a common disease in older cats, and its symptoms are extremely varied.
  • Degenerative joint disease, or arthritis, is common in older cats. Although most arthritic cats don’t become overtly lame, they may have difficulty gaining access to litter boxes and food and water dishes, particularly if they have to jump or climb stairs to get to them.
  • Hyperthyroidism (often resulting in overactivity); hypertension (high blood pressure, usually a result of either kidney failure or hyperthyroidism), diabetes mellitus; inflammatory bowel disease; and cancer are all examples of conditions that, though sometimes seen in younger cats, become more prevalent in cats as they age.
  • Is my cat sick, or is it just old age?
    Owners of older cats often notice changes in their cat’s behavior, but consider these changes an inevitable and untreatable result of aging, and fail to report them to their veterinarian. Failure to use the litter box, changes in activity levels, and alterations in eating, drinking, or sleeping habits are examples. While veterinarians believe that some behavior problems are due to the diminishing mental abilities of aging cats, it is a mistake to automatically attribute all such changes to old age. In fact, the possibility of some underlying medical condition should always be the first consideration. Disease of virtually any organ system, or any condition that causes pain or impairs mobility can contribute to changes in behavior. For example:

  • A fearful cat may not become aggressive until it is in pain (e.g., from dental disease) or less mobile (e.g., from arthritis).
  • The increased urine production that often results from diseases common to aging cats (e.g., kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, or hyperthyroidism) may cause the litter box to become soiled more quickly than expected. The increased soil and odor may cause cats to find a bathroom more to their liking. v Many cats that do not mark their territory with urine, even if exposed to intruding cats, may begin to do so if a condition like hyperthyroidism develops.
  • Cats with painful arthritis may have difficulty gaining access to a litter box, especially if negotiating stairs is required. Even climbing into the box may be painful for such cats; urinating or defecating in an inappropriate location is the natural result.
  • Older cats may be more sensitive to changes in the household since their ability to adapt to unfamiliar situations diminishes with age.
  • The take-home message? Never assume that changes you see in your older cat are simply due to old age, and therefore untreatable. Any alteration in your cat’s behavior or physical condition should alert you to contact your veterinarian.

    How can I help keep my senior cat healthy?
    Close observation is one of the most important tools you have to help keep your senior cat healthy. You may wish to perform a mini-physical examination on a weekly basis. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to do it and what to look for. You will find it easier if you just make the examination an extension of the way you normally interact with your cat. For example, while you are rubbing your cat’s head or scratching its chin, gently raise the upper lips with your thumb or forefinger so you can examine the teeth and gums. In the same way, you can lift the ear flaps and examine the ear canals. While you are stroking your cat’s fur, you can check for abnormal lumps or bumps, and evaluate the health of the skin and coat.

    Daily Brushing
    Daily brushing or combing removes loose hairs, preventing them from being swallowed and forming hair balls. Brushing also stimulates blood circulation and sebaceous gland secretions, resulting in a healthier skin and coat. Older cats may not use scratching posts as frequently as they did when they were younger; therefore, nails should be checked weekly and trimmed if necessary.

    Proper Nutrition
    Many cats tend towards obesity as they age. If your cat is overweight, you should ask your veterinarian to help you modify the diet so that a normal body condition can be restored. Other cats actually become too thin as they get older, apparently as part of the normal aging process. But progressive weight loss can also be caused by serious medical problems such as kidney failure, cancer, diabetes mellitus, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, hyperthyroidism, or some other condition. Subtle changes in weight are often the first sign of disease; ideally you should weigh your cat every month on a scale sensitive enough to detect such small changes. Keep a record of the weight, and notify your veterinarian of any significant changes. To ensure proper nutrition, select a nutritionally balanced and complete diet for your cat’s stage of life, and one that is formulated according to guidelines established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Specific dietary changes may be necessary for cats with certain medical conditions. Your veterinarian can be of invaluable assistance in helping you select the most appropriate diet for your senior cat.

    Exercise
    Exercise is important, not only for weight control but overall health. Older cats frequently become less agile as arthritis develops and muscles begin to atrophy. Regularly engaging your cat in moderate play can promote muscle tone and suppleness, increase blood circulation, and help reduce weight in cats that are too heavy. During times of exercise, be alert to labored breathing or rapid tiring that may suggest the cat has a disease. It may also be necessary to relocate litter boxes to more accessible locations to prevent elderly cats from eliminating in inappropriate locations. Purchasing a litter box with low sides, cutting down high sides, or constructing a ramp around the box may help older cats gain entry more easily.

    Reducing Stress
    Reducing environmental stress whenever possible is very important since older cats are usually less adaptable to change. Special provisions should be made for older cats that must be boarded for a period of time. Having a familiar object, such as a blanket or toy, may prevent the cat from becoming too distraught in a strange environment. A better alternative is to have the older cat cared for at home by a neighbor, friend, or relative. Introducing a new pet may be a traumatic experience for older cats, and should be avoided whenever possible. Moving to a new home can be equally stressful. However, some stress can be alleviated by giving the older cat more affection and attention during times of emotional upheaval.

    Cats are experts at hiding illness, and elderly cats are no exception. It is common for a cat to have a serious medical problem, yet not show any sign of it until the condition is quite advanced. Since most diseases can be managed more successfully when detected and treated early in their course, it is important for owners of senior cats to carefully monitor their behavior and health.

    If you can’t answer “yes” to all of the following statements, please call your veterinarian as soon as possible.

    My cat:

  • is acting normally; seems active and in good spirits
  • does not tire easily with moderate exercise
  • does not have seizures or fainting episodes
  • has a normal appetite
  • has had no significant change in weight
  • has a normal level of thirst and drinks the usual amount of water (about an ounce per pound of body weight per day, or less)
  • does not vomit often
  • does not regurgitate undigested food
  • has no difficulty eating or swallowing
  • has normal appearing bowel movements (formed and firm with no blood or mucus)
  • defecates without difficulty
  • urinates in normal amounts and with normal frequency; urine color is normal
  • urinates without difficulty
  • always uses a clean litter box
  • has not developed any new offensive behavioral tendencies (such as aggression or urine spraying)
  • has gums that are pink with no redness, swelling, or bleeding
  • does not sneeze and has no nasal discharge
  • has eyes that are bright, clear, and free of discharge
  • has a coat that is full, glossy, and free of bald spots and mats; no excessive shedding is evident
  • doesn’t scratch, lick, or chew excessively
  • has skin that is not greasy and has no offensive odor
  • is free of fleas, ticks, lice, and mites
  • has no persistent abnormal swellings
  • has no sores that do not heal
  • has no bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  • has ears that are clean and odor free
  • doesn’t shake its head or scratch its ears
  • hears normally and reacts as usual to its environment
  • walks without stiffness, pain, or difficulty
  • has feet that appear healthy, and has claws of normal length
  • breathes normally without straining or coughing
  • How can my veterinarian help?
    Just as your observations can help detect disease in the early stages, so too can regular veterinary examinations. Your veterinarian may suggest evaluating your healthy senior cat more frequently than a younger cat-for example, every six months instead of once a year. If your cat has a medical condition, more frequent evaluations may be necessary. During your cat’s examination, the veterinarian will gather a complete medical and behavioral history, perform a thorough physical examination in order to evaluate every organ system, check your cat’s weight and body condition, and compare them to previous evaluations. At least once a year, certain tests-including blood tests, fecal examination, and urine analysis-will be suggested. In this way, disorders can be found and treated early, and ongoing medical conditions can be appraised. Both are necessary to keep your senior cat in the best possible health for the longest possible time.

     

    Feline Rhinotracheitis

    Feline rhinotracheitis is an acute upper respiratory virus. Although there are many causes of feline upper respiratory infections, rhinotracheitis is known to be the culprit of roughly 80% of all infections. The virus is very contagious and is known to produce secondary infections, such as chlamydia, feline reovirus and pneumonia. If severe enough, rhinotracheitis can cause death by pneumonia in young kittens. It can also cause the spontaneous abortion of a litter around the 6 week mark.

    What Causes Feline Rhinotracheitis Virus?
    Feline Rhinotracheitis is caused by the Feline Herpesvirus Type 1, also known as FHV-1. The virus grows in the nasal and tonsil tissues, making any secretions from saliva, the eyes or nasal passages extremely contagious. Feline Rhinotracheitis is spread through the air and through direct contact with an infected cat. The incubation period, from exposure to clinical signs, can be anywhere from 2 to 20 days. However, the active infection may only last from 7 to 10 days. As the virus spreads during the incubation period and the time of active infection, the owner can be completely unaware of how many other cats in their household have been affected.

    Symptoms of Feline Rhinotracheitis
    The symptoms of rhinotracheitis are similar to feline influenza. A cat may exhibit all of these symptoms, or only a few.

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal lining)
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the membrane lining the eyelid)
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Common Reasons for Contraction of Feline Rhinotracheitis
    There are some cats that will be more susceptible to developing the feline rhinotracheitis virus. Although there is not a specific breed of cat that this more susceptible, there are some situations which can produce increased opportunity for contraction. Some of those environments or situations include:

  • Kittens (when the mother is infected with the virus)
  • Cats living in a multi-cat household
  • Cats who live in shelters or catteries
  • Sick cats with already weakened immune systems
  • Sick cats with already pronounced auto-immune disorders
  • Cats that have not been vaccinated
  • Treatment and Diagnosis of Feline Rhinotracheitis
    While there is no treatment or cure for the virus itself, there are oral antibiotics available to help prevent or treat a secondary bacterial infection. Because rhinotracheitis is known to produce secondary bacterial infections, antibiotics can be an important step in recovery. Decongestants can also be prescribed to aid in breathing and to help clear the nasal passages.

    Additionally, providing loving support to your animal can boost their mental state and make them feel more secure in their time of need. It is important to always make sure that your cat is eating and drinking, and that a comfortable, temperate area is provided. A vaporizer can help them to breathe more clearly by putting humidity back into the air. Keeping secretions of the nasal passages and eyes can limit the spread of infection and re-infection. Isolation of an infected cat is the best way to stop the spread of the virus.

    Because there is no clinical test that can indefinitely conclude a diagnosis of feline rhinotracheitis, it can sometimes be difficult to identify. However, a review of medical history and current symptoms can help to diagnose an infected cat.

    Because many cats are carriers of the FHV-1 virus, cleanliness and limited exposure to other cats can greatly help to reduce the possibility of contracting the virus.

    Prevention of Feline Rhinotracheitis
    The only way to attempt to prevent the contraction of rhinotracheitis is to have your cat vaccinated. There are three types of vaccinations for feline rhinotracheitis: a modified live injectable vaccine, a modified live vaccine given in the nose, and an injectable killed vaccine. Regardless of which vaccine is given, it is simply important to make sure that the vaccination is given. Although a vaccination may not entirely prevent the infection from developing, it can reduce the possibly of the infection rising to a more serious level.

     

    Feline Rhinitis

    Rhinitis

    Feline Rhinitis symptoms are easy to spot and consist of a few easily seen symptoms. The condition can be treated, so the cat feels more comfortable.

    Feline Rhinitis Symptoms
    A cat affected by rhinitis will present symptoms such as:

  • Persistent sneezing
  • Difficulties when breathing through her nose and nasal discharge (running nose)
  • Inflammation of the nose
  • Inflammation of the membrane lining the eyelid (conjunctivitis)
  • If your cat has the above mentioned symptoms, she might suffer from chronic rhinitis and you should contact your veterinarian. Although the symptoms of rhinitis might temporarily go away, if left untreated, it can cause damage to the nasal cartilage or lead to bronchitis or pneumonia. Also, a viral infection signaled by the symptoms of rhinitis might affect pregnancy.

    Causes of Rhinitis in Cats
    Viral infections are among the leading causes of chronic rhinitis in cats. As viral infections are contagious, it is recommended that you isolate the affected pet from others until your veterinarian can run blood tests and give further recommendations.

    Chronic rhinitis can also be triggered by the presence of a small object (such as a blade of grass collected from outdoors), or a developing growth in the cat’s nasal passage. The sneezing is, in this case, the body’s way of trying to eliminate the object.

    Other causes of chronic rhinitis might be a fungal infection or allergies to elements of the environment such as smoke, mold, birds or bird feces, detergents or other chemicals in the household.

    Chronic rhinitis can be found cats of any age or breed, although the causes are likely to vary depending on age. While in younger cats the causes of rhinitis are more likely to be viral, older cats will more often experience the symptoms of chronic rhinitis due to a tumor or other disease.

    Nursing and Treatment
    If your cat is experiencing the symptoms of chronic rhinitis general nursing is essential. Keep her hydrated, warm and comfortable. Gently wipe its eyes and nose with a damp piece of cotton wool and contact your veterinarian.

    In case of a viral infection your veterinarian might prescribe repeated antibiotics treatments in order to entirely eliminate the infection.

    If the rhinitis is fungus related, antifungal medication will be prescribed either to be given orally or to be surgically implanted into the sinuses. Also, in allergic rhinitis or immune deficiency cases, corticosteroids might also be administered.

    Some cats might need a rhinotomy — the surgical removal of infected tissue, polyps or tumors. You should also bear in mind that your cat is more vulnerable to chronic rhinitis if under stress or already having a weakened immune system.

    Prevention of Rhinitis
    Changing your cat’s litter frequently as well as keeping her teeth and nostrils clean will help prevent chronic rhinitis. Also, it has been noted that cigarette smoke and mold in a cat’s environment are allergens likely to trigger rhinitis. Viral infection risks with can be reduced, though not entirely eliminated, through regular vaccination.

     

    Feline Renal Failure

    Renal (Kidney) failure is the inability of the kidneys to remove waste products from the blood. The buildup of toxic wastes produces the signs and symptoms of uremic poisoning. Kidney failure can come on acutely or occur gradually over weeks or months. Chronic renal failure is a leading cause of death in pet cats.

    Causes of acute kidney failure include the following:

  • A blockage in the lower urinary tract associated with feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) or a congenital bladder defect
  • Trauma to the abdomen, especially when accompanied by pelvic fracture and rupture of the bladder or urethra
  • Shock, when due to sudden blood loss or rapid dehydration
  • Arterial thromboembolism (a blood clot blocking the artery), particularly when both renal arteries are obstructed
  • Heart failure, when associated with a persistently low blood pressure and reduced blood flow to the kidneys
  • Poisoning, especially from ingesting antifreeze or Easter lilies
  • Causes of chronic kidney failure include these:

  • Nephritis and nephrosis, in which case the failure is usually of the renal tubules, not the glomeruli.
  • Infectious diseases, especially feline infectious peritonitis and feline leukemia.
  • The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), especially during periods of hypotension (low blood pressure such as occurs during anesthesia).
  • Various toxins. Antibiotics that are poisonous to the kidneys when given for prolonged periods or in high doses include polymyxin B, gentamicin, amphotericin B, and kanamycin. The heavy metals mercury, lead, and thallium are also toxic to the kidneys.
  • Most elderly cats, if they live long enough, will have some degree of kidney insufficiency.
  • Chronic renal failure and hyperthyroidism seem to often go hand in hand, since they are both geriatric diseases. Treatment of hyperthyroidism may unmask underlying chronic renal failure.

    Cats with kidney diseases do not begin to show signs of uremia until about 70 percent of their nephrons are destroyed. Thus, a considerable amount of damage occurs before any signs are noted. The degree of renal failure can be determined by looking at laboratory data and tracking the progression of certain parameters.

    One of the first signs of kidney failure is an increase in the frequency of voiding. Because the cat is voiding frequently, it might be assumed that her kidneys are functioning properly. Actually, the kidneys are no longer able to conserve water efficiently. Cats will go to the litter box several times a day and may also begin to urinate outside the box, since the box is getting dirty faster. This large urine output must be compensated for by increased fluid intake, and the cat will drink a lot more than usual. Also, because the urine is dilute (not concentrated), bacterial infections of the bladder and kidneys are much more common.

    As renal function continues to deteriorate, the cat begins to retain ammonia, nitrogen, acids, and other waste products in the bloodstream and tissues (uremic poisoning). Blood chemistries will determine the exact levels of these metabolic products. Cats in the later stages of kidney failure may produce less urine than normal and, eventually, no urine at all, which leads to rapid decline.

    Signs of uremia include apathy and sluggishness, loss of appetite and weight, dry haircoat, a brownish discoloration to the surface of the tongue, and ulcers on the gums and tongue. The breath may have an ammonia-like odor. Vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and episodes of gastrointestinal bleeding can occur. Eventually, the cat falls into a coma and dies.

    Diagnosing kidney failure may require a number of techniques. X-rays, with or without dye studies, along with ultrasound evaluations, can be important. Blood work, especially blood chemistry panels that look for toxic waste levels in the blood, should be done. Many cats will show increased levels of BUN (blood urea nitrogen), creatinine, and phosphorus. Anemia will show up in cats with chronic renal failure.

    A urinalysis will show if the kidneys can still filter and concentrate the urine. Looking at urine sediment may suggest a cause for the kidney failure. ERD-HealthScreen is an early detection test that looks for the protein albumin in the urine (microalbuminuria). It is hoped that with early detection and treatment, the progression of kidney failure can be slowed. However, many inflammatory conditions, such as gingivitis, may also cause microalbuminuria.

    TREATMENT

    Acute kidney failure can be reversed if the underlying cause can be corrected before it permanently damages the nephrons. If the insult is severe, hemodialysis (more commonly called dialysis) may be necessary to try to give the kidneys a chance to heal. Dialysis is most commonly used short term to treat acute renal failure or toxicities, or while a search is conducted for a transplant candidate. Dialysis is extremely expensive, can only be done at a few veterinary referral centers, and still requires extensive medical management of the cat in addition to the dialysis sessions.

    Most cases of chronic kidney failure occur in cats who have sustained irreversible damage to the kidneys. However, these cats may still have many happy months or years of life ahead, with proper treatment. It is extremely important to be sure these cats take in enough water to compensate for their large urine output. A supply of fresh, clean water should be available at all times. Many cats will need supplemental fluids, given either intravenously at the veterinary hospital or subcutaneously at home.

    The diet of a uremic cat should include protein of high quality, but lower in total amount, to minimize the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen that must be excreted by the kidneys. Special diets are available through your veterinarian. Canned foods are better than dry foods, because the canned food adds fluid to the diet. Prescription diets that are used for cats with kidney failure include Eukanuba MultiStage Renal, Purina Veterinary NF, Hill’s Science Diet k/d, Royal Canin Modified Formula, and Royal Canin Renal LP 21. Your veterinarian can also guide you to appropriate homemade diets.

    Phosphorous restriction in the diet is important, although phosphate binders, such as aluminum hydroxide salt (Amphogel) can also be given. Vetoquinol has produced a veterinary product called Epakitin that is a palatable powder that also binds phosphates. However, this product also contains calcium, which may be contraindicated in the later stages of renal failure. Large amounts of B vitamins are lost in the urine of uremic cats. These losses should be replaced by giving vitamin B supplements. Sodium bicarbonate tablets may be indicated to correct an acid-base imbalance. Potassium may also need to be supplemented. The kidneys are also important in the production of vitamin D. Cats in chronic renal failure may benefit from the addition of calcitriol to their therapeutic regimen. Your veterinarian may need to order special compounded versions of calcitriol to get the appropriate dosage for a cat.

    Vomiting may need to be controlled with medications such as famotidine, ranitidine, omeprazole, or others, until the renal condition is stabilized.

    Erythropoietin may be used to help counteract the anemia associated with long-term renal failure. Currently, human recombinant erythropoietin is used, which may lead to immune-based destruction of red blood cells and a renewal of the anemia over time. Research is continuing for a safe feline alternative.

    Cats with hypertension will need therapy to lower their blood pressure.

    A uremic cat who becomes ill, dehydrated, or fails to drink enough water may suddenly decompensate; this is known as a uremic crisis. The cat should be hospitalized and rehydrated with appropriate intravenous fluids and balanced electrolyte solutions.

    Some exercise is good for a uremic cat, but stressful activity should be avoided.

    KIDNEY TRANSPLANT

    Another option to consider for cats with terminal kidney failure is a kidney transplant. Kidney transplants are only done at a few veterinary referral centers but are becoming more common. As with human transplant patients, drugs must be given post-transplant to prevent rejection problems. These drugs are quite expensive and must be carefully calibrated to minimize side effects. Also, it was recently reported that cats are at a higher risk for developing diabetes due to the use of these drugs.

    The current method for finding kidney donors is to test shelter cats for tissue compatibility. The shelter cat then donates one kidney-cats, like people, can do fine with just one healthy kidney. The shelter cat is then adopted by the family of the recipient cat, who must agree ahead of time to provide a home for the donor cat for the rest of her life.

     

    Feline Parasites

    Provided by the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University

    Gastrointestinal parasitism is a common problem in cats, with prevalence rates as high as 45 percent. The parasites can be wormlike (e.g., stomach worms, roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms) or one-celled (e.g., Isospora, Giardia, Toxoplasma) organisms. The signs associated with parasite infections are fairly nonspecific, such as a dull hair coat, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, mucoid or bloody feces, loss of appetite, pale mucous membranes, or a pot-bellied appearance. The vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, and dehydration caused by intestinal parasites will weaken a cat, making it more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections and diseases; thus robbing your cat of good health. Furthermore, some parasites have the potential of infecting humans.

    Wormlike Parasite

    Roundworms
    Roundworms (Toxascaris leonina and Toxocara cati) are the most common intestinal parasite of cats, with an estimated prevalence of 25% to 75%, and often higher in kittens. The adult roundworms are 3 to 5 inches long, cream-colored, and live in the cat’s intestine. The adult female worm produces fertile eggs that are passed in the infected cat’s feces. The eggs require several days to several weeks to develop into the infective larva stage.

    Cats become infected with Toxocara cati by ingesting eggs or by eating rodents (transport hosts) that have larvae in their tissues. Kittens can become infected by larvae that are passed through an infected queen’s milk. In those cases, it is possible for kittens to become infected soon after birth. Cats become infected with Toxascaris leonina in a manner similar to Toxocara cati, but unlike Toxocara, the parasite is not transmitted through the milk.

    Roundworm infections can potentially become life-threatening if the numbers are so great that intestinal blockage occurs. Usually, roundworm infections are relatively benign when compared to other intestinal parasites. However, infected kittens are in serious danger if left untreated. Diagnosis is confirmed by finding parasite eggs in the stool during microscopic examination. Many medications are effective, but reducing exposure to the feces of an infected cats and prohibiting hunting are the best means of prevention. Treatment of queens prior to breeding reduces the likelihood that the parasite will infect kittens.

    Visceral larval migrans and ocular larval migrans are diseases caused by the migration of Toxocara larvae through the tissue of people, particularly children. Although these diseases are rare, they can be quite serious, especially when they occur in young children. They can be easily avoided by preventing ingestion of Toxocara eggs in contaminated soil or on the hands.

    Hookworms
    Hookworms (Ancylostoma and Uncinaria) are less than 1/2 inch long, slender, thread-like worms that as adults live in the cat’s intestine. Because of their small size, they usually are not visible in the feces of infected cats. Hookworms are long-lived and are capable of living as long as the cat. Less common than roundworm infections, the prevalence of hookworm infections in North America is estimated to be between 10% and 60%.

    Adult cats usually become infected by larvae that penetrate their skin or that are ingested. Once the larvae gain entrance into the host, they migrate to the lungs and then to the intestines to develop into adult worms. It is uncertain whether cats can become infected by eating rodents containing larvae in their tissues, or ingesting queen’s milk that contain larvae.

    Severe parasitism can cause anemia due to blood loss from the intestines where the worms attach themselves. The cat’s feces will appear black and tarry due to blood in the feces. If too much blood is lost, the cat can become anemic and may die if left untreated. Fortunately, like roundworms, these worms are easily diagnosed and treated. Good sanitation and daily cleaning of the litter box are keys to controlling hookworm infections.

    Hookworm larvae can penetrate human skin. As they migrate under the skin, they cause a dermatitis called cutaneous larval migrans.

    Tapeworms
    Tapeworms (cestodes) have long flattened bodies that resemble a tape or ribbon. The body is comprised of a small head connected to a series of segments that are filled with eggs. The adult tapeworm lives in the small intestine with its head embedded in the mucosa. As the segments farthest from the head become fully mature, they break off and are passed in the feces. These segments can be observed near the cat’s tail and rectum, or in the feces. The segments are about one-quarter inch long, flat, and resemble grains of rice when fresh or sesame seeds when dry. When still alive they will usually move by increasing and decreasing in length. Microscopic examination of fecal samples may not always reveal the presence of tapeworms, because eggs are not passed singly, but as a group in the segments. Although the discovery of tapeworm segments can be quite alarming to cat owners, tapeworm infections only rarely cause significant disease in cats.

    Cats usually become infected with tapeworms by ingesting infected fleas while grooming or by eating infected rodents. Fleas and rodents become infected by eating the tapeworm eggs that are in the environment. Modern medications are highly successful in treating tapeworm infections, but reinfection is common. Controlling the flea and rodent populations will reduce the risk of tapeworm infection in cats.

    Some tapeworm species that infect cats can cause disease in humans if the eggs are accidentally ingested; but good hygiene virtually eliminates any risk of human infection.

    Whipworms
    Whipworms are an uncommon parasite of cats in the United States. Adult whipworms reside in the large intestine of infected cats but do not cause serious disease.

    Stomach Worms
    Ollanulus tricuspis and Physaloptera species are worms that can inhabit the feline stomach. Ollanulus infections occur only sporadically in the United States and are more common in free-roaming cats and those housed in multiple-cat facilities. Cats become infected by ingesting the parasite-laden vomitus of another cat. Chronic vomiting and loss of appetite, along with weight loss and malnutrition may be seen, although some infected cats show no signs of disease. Diagnosis of Ollanulus infection can be difficult, and depends upon detecting parasite larvae in the vomitus. The most effective treatment is not known; avoiding exposure to another cat’s vomitus is the most effective means of controlling infection.

    Physaloptera infections are even more rare than Ollanulus infections. Adult female worms attached to the stomach lining pass eggs that are subsequently ingested by an appropriate intermediate host, usually a species of cockroach or cricket. After further development within the intermediate host, the parasite is capable of causing infection when a cat ingests the insect or another animal (a transport host), such as a mouse, that has eaten an infected insect. Cats infected with Physaloptera may experience vomiting and loss of appetite. Diagnosis relies upon microscopic detection of parasite eggs in the stool, or seeing the parasite in the vomitus. Effective treatment exists, and infection can be prevented by limiting exposure to intermediate and transport hosts.

    Neither Ollanulus nor Physaloptera are capable of causing disease in humans.

    Protozoan Parasites

    Isospora
    Isospora sp. (coccidia) are microscopic one-celled organisms causing the disease coccidiosis. Virtually all cats become infected with Isospora felis during their life. Cats become infected with this parasite by eating the cyst (thick-walled, egg-like stage) that has been passed in the feces and has matured in the soil. The cysts can be infective within six hours after being excreted in the feces.

    Isospora infections usually cause no problems in adult cats, but evidence suggests that the parasite can cause significant disease in kittens. In infected kittens, the coccidia destroy the lining of the intestine and cause diarrhea with often contains mucous. Serious infections may develop in crowded environments. Good sanitation and hygiene will help control coccidia, but accurate diagnosis and effective treatment can only be achieved with your veterinarian’s assistance. Isospora of cats cannot cause disease in humans.

    Giardia
    Giardia are flagellated protozoa (one-celled organism) that parasitize the small intestine of cats. The prevalence of feline giardia infection (giardiasis) is estimated to be less than 5% but can be much higher in some environments. Cats become infected by ingesting giardia cysts present in the feces of another infected animal, usually a littermate or chronic carrier cat. Giardiasis is more common in multiple-cat households and catteries due to its mode of transmission. Also, the infection rate is greater in cats less than one year old.

    The cysts are very resistant to freezing. Also chlorination of municipal water does not destroy the cysts. After ingesting of Giardia cysts, it takes 5 to 16 days before the cat will show signs of diarrhea. Acute or chronic, and continuous or intermittent diarrhea is the most common sign of infection, although the majority of Giardia-infected cats are free of disease. They do, however, remain a source of infection to other cats. The cat probably requires several exposures to the organism before infection actually occurs.

    Diagnosis of giardiasis depends upon microscopic identification of cysts in the stool. For accurate diagnosis, several fecal samples may need to be evaluated since cysts are not continuously shed in the stool. Several effective medications are available, but resistance is common. Elimination of Giardia infections from households of cats may be difficult and depends on proper treatment and sanitation.

    It is uncertain whether species of Giardia that infect cats are contagious to humans or vice versa. Careful hygiene will eliminate the risk of accidental ingestion of cysts.

    Toxoplasma
    Cats are the definitive host for the Toxoplasma organism. Infection with this protozoan parasite is fairly common, but actual disease caused by this parasite is relatively rare in cats. Cats can become infected by Toxoplasma by eating any of the three infective stages of the parasites. The most common route of infection is probably by ingestion of tissue cysts in infected prey or in other raw meat. Toxoplasma multiply in the small intestines and in approximately two to three weeks the oocysts are excreted in the infected cat’s feces. (For more detailed information on this parasite, see Toxoplasmosis.)

    Treatment
    Treatment may require administering one or more dosages of the medication prescribed by your veterinarian. Whenever using medications, be sure to carefully follow the directions provided by your veterinarian.

    Parasite re-infections are very common, but can be prevented. Parasite control begins with good sanitation procedures. This includes daily removal of feces; washing the litter box with a disinfectant (e.g., diluted household bleach) on a regular basis; avoiding overcrowded conditions; avoiding diets with raw meats; and controlling intermediate hosts (fleas, ticks, and rodents). Good parasite control is the key to a healthier cat.

    Megacolon

    Constipation is a common problem in cats and in a severe form called “megacolon,” the large intestine actually becomes enlarged and filled with hard fecal material.

    What are constipation and megacolon?
    Constipation actually refers to a condition in which the time it takes for the ingested food to travel through the digestive system is prolonged. As a result, the feces are usually dry and hard. The term “obstipation” refers to prolonged constipation. In some cats, megacolon develops, in which the large intestine becomes enlarged and filled with hard fecal material.

    What causes megacolon?
    There are multiple causes of constipation and megacolon. In almost two-thirds of the cases, the condition is termed “idiopathic megacolon” because the cause cannot be found, however, it is thought to be due to an abnormality in the smooth muscle of the large intestine. Other causes include a narrowing of the pelvic area (often due to pelvic fractures), nerve injury, or spinal cord deformities seen especially in Manx cats. Much more rare causes include cancer and inflammation.

    What are the risk factors for constipation and megacolon in the cat?
    Constipation and megacolon may be seen in cats of any age, breed and gender, however they are more commonly seen in middle-age cats and domestic shorthair cats. Male cats appear to be twice as likely to develop these conditions when compared to female cats. Some feel that a sedentary lifestyle may contribute to the development of constipation and ultimately megacolon. Obesity may adversely affect the course of the disease.

    What are the symptoms of constipation and megacolon in cats?
    The symptoms found in cats with constipation and megacolon depend upon the severity of the condition. In almost all cases, the owner will notice the stool is reduced or absent and is hard and dry. The cat may be found straining in the litter box. Some cats will spend long periods of time simply standing in the litter box or may continue to return to the litter box to try to defecate. The cat may defecate outside of the litter box. If there’s severe straining, mucous or blood may be passed. Occasionally a cat will develop diarrhea because the feces are irritating the intestine. The cat may vomit, and even vomit while he is straining to pass stool. As the condition becomes more severe, the appetite may be decreased and weight loss is often noted. Ultimately, the cat may become lethargic and dehydrated. If the cat has pelvic or nerve injuries, urinary incontinence may be seen.

    How are constipation and megacolon diagnosed?
    The diagnosis of constipation and megacolon are usually based on the history as well as results of a physical examination, including a complete neurological exam. A complete blood count (CBC), chemistry panel, and urinalysis are performed to rule out other health problems. Usually a thyroid test is recommended as well. Abdominal radiographs (x-rays) are evaluated to identify predisposing factors such as a narrowing of the pelvis or foreign bodies within the intestine. A barium series may be recommended, as well as a colonoscopy, which would require anesthesia.

    How are constipation and megacolon treated?
    The treatment of constipation and megacolon will depend upon the severity of the condition. Simple constipation may resolve on its own with time. Mild constipation generally responds to a diet change in which more fiber is added to the diet. This may be accomplished by switching the cat to a commercial diet with increased fiber, or alternatively, adding psyllium, wheat bran, or pumpkin to each meal. It’s very important that cats drink more water when they are on these diets. Suppositories may also be used.

    If the constipation becomes more severe or recurs, the cat usually needs to be hospitalized so the dehydration can be corrected. The cat may require several anesthesias as he receives enemas to remove the hardened fecal material. Enemas should only be given by a veterinarian, and sodium phosphate enemas (such as Fleet brand) should never be used as they can be deadly to cats. Usually, the cat will be started on an oral medication called “cisapride,” which is given to stimulate the movement of food through the digestive tract. It’s not available as a commercial product, but is available by prescription through compounding pharmacies. Cisapride is in a class of medications called “colonic prokinetic agents.” Other drugs in this class include ranitidine and nizatidine. Another medication called “lactulose” may also be administered. Lactulose is a type of laxative and also softens the stool. If the cat does not respond to this treatment, other laxatives may be tried. In addition, a diet that is highly digestible and will result in less fecal material should be used instead of the fiber-supplemented diet. High fiber diets should not be used in cats with chronic constipation or megacolon; instead all-meat diets are recommended.

    Many cats diagnosed with megacolon do not respond adequately, and surgery is the only option. A colectomy, or removal of the colon is performed. In general, the prognosis is favorable, although some cats may experience diarrhea for weeks to months after the surgery. For cats with abnormal narrowing of the pelvis, surgery can be performed to make the pelvic opening wider.

    Manx Syndrome

    Manx cats are a fairly hearty breed, though they’re prone to Manx Syndrome, a spinal disorder that can occur as a result of the genetic mutation that causes taillessness. In Manx Syndrome, the tail winds up too short, leading to often fatal spinal defects. Fused vertebrae, gaps between vertebrae and spina bifida. Symptoms appear between birth and four months of age.

    Symptoms of Manx Syndrome include:

  • Missing vertebrae
  • Fused vertebrae
  • Spina bifida
  • Malformed sacral bone
  • Malformed pelvic bone
  • Shortened vertebrae
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Constipation
  • Stoppage of the bowel
  • Bladder problems
  • Hind leg paralysis
  • Crippled gait
  • Manx Syndrome isn’t as common today as it once was, thanks to the efforts of Manx breeders to eliminate this condition from the breed. Today’s breeders wait until kittens are at least four months old before selling them, to ensure that they kittens aren’t going to develop Manx Syndrome.

     

    Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

    Provided by the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University

    There are few things more frustrating than having a cat that is suffering chronic bouts of vomiting and diarrhea. Vomiting and diarrhea cause dehydration, and if left untreated, can become a life-threatening situation. Therefore, any cat displaying those signs should be examined by a veterinarian. There are many possible causes of vomiting and diarrhea, but inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a common cause of gastrointestinal problems in the cat. Although cats of any age can be affected, middle-aged or older cats are more susceptible to IBD.

    IBD describes a group of chronic gastrointestinal disorders. Microscopically the disease is characterized by the infiltration of inflammatory cells into the lining (mucosa) of the digestive tract. The cause of IBD is unknown, but the microscopic changes in the tissues (histopathology) imply that immunologic factors play an important role. The scientific names given to the different forms of the disease are tongue-twisters, but they actually describe the features of the disease. For example, the most common form of IBD in cats is called lymphocytic-plasmacytic enterocolitis. Translated this means that lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) and plasma cells (cells that produce antibody) are the primary types of inflammatory cells present in the mucosa. Less common forms are called eosinophilic, neutrophilic, and granulomatous, depending upon the predominant inflammatory cell present. Enterocolitis refers to the inflammation of the large and small intestines that occurs in this form of IBD. In cases where inflammation occurs only in the small intestines, it is called enteritis; in cases of only large intestine inflammation, it is called colitis; and gastritis in those cases where inflammation of the stomach predominates.

    Diagnosis
    To rule out other causes of gastrointestinal disease, your veterinarian will perform diagnostic tests that may include a complete blood cell count, serum biochemistries, serum thyroxine level, tests for feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), urinalysis, fecal examinations for parasitic and bacterial agents, dietary trials, and abdominal radiographs and/or ultrasound.

    The most definitive of the diagnostic tests is the microscopic examination of small pieces of the intestinal lining (mucosal biopsy). Tissue samples can be obtained during abdominal surgery (e.g. laparotomy) or during endoscopic examination. Although both procedures require general anesthesia, the choice of methods depends upon a number of factors, including the availability of equipment and the part of the gastrointestinal tract suspected to be involved.

    Treatment
    A combination of dietary management and medical therapy will successfully manage IBD in most cats. Because there is no single best treatment, your veterinarian may need to try several different combinations in order to determine the best therapy for your cat.

    Dietary Management
    Sensitivity to food antigens contributes to the gastrointestinal inflammation in some cats, so a change in diet often provides symptomatic relief. Several balanced commercial diets have been advocated as effective in treating IBD. Homemade diets are an alternative for cats that refuse to eat a commercial diet. Your veterinarian can provide you with an appropriate recipe. Ideally, the diet should contain a single source of protein not normally consumed by the cat. The addition of dietary fiber is beneficial to some cats. It may take several weeks or longer for cats to improve after a diet change, and during this trial feeding period, all other food sources (like table food, and flavored medications and treats) must be eliminated from the diet.

    Medical Therapy
    Corticosteroids are commonly used to treat cats with IBD. These drugs have potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties with relatively few side effects in cats. Additionally, corticosteroids may stimulate the appetite and enhance intestinal sodium and water absorption. Oral prednisone is the corticosteroid used most frequently because of its short duration of action and availability in appropriate tablet sizes. If necessary, injectable corticosteroid therapy can be used in cats that are too difficult to medicate orally or if vomiting and malabsorption is severe.

    Antibiotics, such as metronidazole or tylosin, can be helpful when combinations of dietary management and corticosteroid therapy have failed to adequately control the disease. Side effects to metronidazole therapy are uncommon at low dosages, but loss of appetite and vomiting may occur. Excessive salivation is a common reaction of cats after receiving the pill. This is probably a response to the unpleasant taste of the medication. Sulfasalazine is a medication that is often used if large bowel inflammation (colitis) is the predominate problem.

    If none of these medications successfully control the signs, more potent immunosuppressive drugs may be necessary, but they necessitate closer monitoring by your veterinarian.

    Prognosis
    It is rarely possible to cure inflammatory bowel disease, but most cases can be satisfactorily controlled by medication and dietary management. Relapses can occur if the treatment regimen is not followed completely.

    Hyperthyroidism

    What Is Hyperthyroidism?
    Hyperthyroidism is the most common glandular disorder in cats. It is most frequently caused by an excessive concentration of circulating thyroxine-a thyroid hormone better known as T4-in the bloodstream.

    What Are the Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism?
    Weight loss and increased appetite are among the most common clinical signs of this condition. Weight loss is seen in 95 to 98 percent of hyperthyroid cats, and a hearty appetite in 67 to 81 percent. Excessive thirst, increased urination, hyperactivity, unkempt appearance, panting, diarrhea and increased shedding have also been reported. Vomiting is seen in about 50 percent of affected cats. Clinical signs are a result of the effect of increased T4 levels on various organ systems.

    What Breeds/Ages Are Prone to Hyperthyroidism?
    Hyperthyroidism can occur in any breed of cat, male or female, but occurs almost exclusively in older animals. Less than 6 percent of cases are younger than 10 years of age; the average age at onset is between 12 and 13 years.

    How Is Hyperthyroidism Diagnosed?
    Because several common diseases of older cats-diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal cancer and chronic kidney failure-share some of the clinical signs of hyperthyroidism, a battery of tests is in order. A CBC, chemistry panel and urinalysis alone will not diagnose hyperthyroidism, but they can certainly rule out diabetes and kidney failure. Hyperthyroid cats may have normal findings on the CBC and urinalysis, but the chemistry panel often shows elevation of several liver enzymes.

    In the vast majority of cases, a definitive diagnosis of hyperthyroidism is based on a simple blood test that shows elevated T4 levels in the bloodstream. Unfortunately, between 2 percent and 10 percent of cats with hyperthyroidism will have normal T4 levels. One possible explanation for this is that in mild cases, T4 levels can fluctuate in and out of the normal range. Another is that concurrent illness will suppress elevated T4 levels, lowering them into the normal or high-normal range and fooling the veterinarian into thinking that the cat’s thyroid status is normal. Because these are geriatric cats, concurrent illness is fairly common, and diagnosis of hyperthyroidism in these cats can be tricky.

    How Is Hyperthyroidism Treated?
    Several treatment options for hyperthyroidism exist, each with advantages and disadvantages. Oral administration of antithyroid medication. Methimazole (brand name TapazoleTM) has long been the mainstay of drug therapy for feline hyperthyroidism. It is highly effective in correcting the condition, often within two to three weeks. Unfortunately, about 10%-15% of cats will suffer side effects, such as loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, and occasionally blood cell abnormalities. Rare but more serious side effects include severe facial itching with self-induced trauma, blood clotting disorders, or liver problems. Most side effects are mild and eventually resolve, although some necessitate discontinuation of the medication. Lifelong daily medication is required, which is a disadvantage to owners whose cats resist pilling. CBC and T4 levels need to be rechecked regularly for the remainder of the cat’s life.

    Surgical removal of the thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism is usually caused by a benign tumor called a thyroid adenoma that involves one or, more often, both thyroid glands. Fortunately, most hyperthyroid cats have benign, well-encapsulated tumors that are easily removed. Surgery usually results in a palliation and not a cure, but anesthesia can be challenging in these older patients whose disease may have affected their hearts and other organs. Although surgery may seem costly, it often ends up being less expensive than years of oral medication and regular bloodwork rechecks.

    Radioactive iodine therapy. This is probably the safest and most effective treatment option. Radioactive iodine, given by injection, becomes concentrated in the thyroid gland, where it irradiates and destroys the hyperfunctioning tissue. No anesthesia or surgery is required, and only one treatment is usually needed to achieve a cure. It used to be that radioiodine treatment was performed only in specialized, licensed facilities, but many private treatment facilities are now found throughout the country. Hospitalization may be prolonged; depending on local or state ordinances, cats may need to be kept at the treatment facility for 10 to 14 days until the level of radioactivity in their urine and feces decreases to an acceptable level. Also, radioiodine therapy is costly. The price tag has come down from about $1,200 to between $500 and $800-but this is still prohibitive for many cat owners.

    Feline Heart Murmurs

    Extra heart vibrations that are produced as a result of a disturbance in the blood flow – enough, in fact, to produce audible noise – are referred to as murmurs. Often, the murmurs are classified according to a variety of characteristics, including their timing. Systolic murmurs, for example, occur when the heart muscle contracts; diastolic murmurs occur when the heart muscle relaxes between beats; and continuous and to-and-fro murmurs occur throughout all or most of the cardiac cycle.

    Symptoms and Types
    The symptoms associated with murmurs depend on a variety of characteristics, including their grade, configuration, and location. If, however, the murmur is associated with structural heart disease, your cat may display signs of congestive heart failure such as coughing, weakness, or exercise intolerance.

    Grading Scale for Murmurs

  • Grade I—barely audible
  • Grade II—soft, but easily heard with a stethoscope
  • Grade III—intermediate loudness; most murmurs which are related to the mechanics of blood circulation are at least grade III
  • Grade IV—loud murmur that radiates widely, often including opposite side of chest
  • Grade V—very loud, audible with stethoscope barely touching the chest; the vibration is also strong enough to be felt through the animal’s chest wall
  • Grade VI—very loud, audible with stethoscope barely touching the chest; the vibration is also strong enough to be felt through the animal’s chest wall
  • Configuration

  • Plateau murmurs have uniform loudness and are typical of blood regurgitation through an abnormal valvular orifice (regurgitant murmurs).
  • Crescendo-decrescendo murmurs get louder and then softer and are typical of ejection murmurs due to turbulent forward flow.
  • Decrescendo murmurs start loud and then get softer and are typical of diastolic murmurs.
  • Causes
    Murmurs are caused by the following:

  • Disturbed blood flow associated with high flow through normal or abnormal valves or with structures vibrating in the blood flow.
  • Flow disturbances associated with outflow obstruction or forward flow through diseased valves or into a dilated great vessel.
  • Flow disturbances associated with regurgitant flow due to an incompetent valve, patent ductus arteriosus, or a defect in the septum (the wall that separates the heart’s left and right sides).
  • More specifically, the following are some conditions and diseases that may bring on murmurs:

    Systolic Murmurs

  • Anemia
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Heartworm disease
  • Mitral and tricuspid valve heart failure
  • Cardiomyopathy and aortic valve insufficiency
  • Mitral and tricuspid valve dysplasia
  • Systolic anterior mitral motion (SAM)
  • Dynamic right ventricular outflow obstruction
  • Dynamic subaortic stenosis
  • Aortic stenosis
  • Pulmonic stenosis
  • Atrial and ventricular septal defect
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Mitral and tricuspid valve endocarditis (inflammation of the inner part of the heart)
  • Continuous or To-and-Fro Murmurs

  • Patent ductus arteriosus
  • Ventricular septal defect with aortic regurgitation
  • Aortic stenosis with aortic regurgitation
  • Diastolic Murmurs

  • Mitral and tricuspid valve stenosis
  • Aortic and pulmonic valve endocarditis (inflammation of the inner layer of the heart)
  • Diagnosis
    In order to determine exactly what is causing the symptoms, your veterinarian must differentiate between a wide range of abnormal heart sounds — split sounds, ejection sounds, gallop rhythms, and clicks, for example. He or she also must differentiate between abnormal lung and heart sounds, and listen to see if timing of abnormal sound is correlated with respiration or heartbeat.

    The location and radiation of the murmur, as well as the timing during cardiac cycle, is another way to determine the underlying cause. This can be accomplished by conducting a variety of tests, including chest X-rays, Doppler studies, and echocardiography. A complete blood count, meanwhile, is one of the preferred methods for confirming anemic murmurs.

    Treatment
    Unless heart failure is evident, your cat will be treated as an outpatient. The course of treatment will be determined based on the associated clinical signs. Kittens with low grade murmurs, for example, may require little or no treatment and the murmur may resolve itself within six months. Routine diagnostic imaging is recommended for cats with murmurs.

     

    Head Tilt

    Head tilt is a medical condition that may be indicative of a serious underlying disorder, usually of the vestibular system. If a cat is tilting its head frequently to either side of the body (away from its orientation with the trunk and limbs), this is an indication that the cat feels imbalanced. The cat may even struggle to retain a balanced posture and fall.

    A common cause of head tilting in cats are disorders of the vestibular system, a sensory system located in the inner ear which provides information needed to hold the body in an upright position and move about confidently. In essence, the vestibular system “tells the body where it is in relation to earth — whether it is upright, up-side-down, moving, being still, etc.

    Symptoms and Types

  • Abnormal head posture
  • Head tilt to either side
  • Stumbling, lack of coordination (ataxia)
  • Constantly falling over
  • Eye movements erratic, apparent inability to focus
  • Circling (turning in circles)
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Causes

    Although the underlying cause for vestibular disease is unknown, the following factors may contribute to the condition:

  • Ear injury
  • Brain disease
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Neoplasia (abnormal tissue growth)
  • Nutritional deficiencies (e.g., thiamine deficiency)
  • Toxicity (e.g., use of toxic antibiotics in the ear)
  • Inflammation of the central and inner ear canal due to bacterial, parasitic, or other type of infection
  • Diagnosis

    Your veterinarian will perform a complete standard physical exam, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and an electrolyte panel. You will also need to give a thorough background history of your cat’s health leading up to the onset of symptoms. The results of the blood tests are usually normal, though changes may be present depending on whether there is an existing disease, such as an infection. Further tests will be required to diagnose underlying systemic diseases like thyroid problems, and infections.

    Nutritional status will be evaluated, and you will need to recount your cat’s normal diet, along with supplements or additional foods you may have fed to your cat. Thiamine deficiency, for example, can be the result of feeding your cat food that does not have B1, the source for thiamine, in its ingredients. Thiamine deficiency can also result from over consumption of raw meats and fish.

    To determine if an ear infection is present, your veterinarian will thoroughly examine your cat’s ear canal and will take a sample of the material present within the ear canal for further testing. Visual diagnostic tools, X-rays, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be required to confirm a middle ear disease. Another important test used to diagnose this disease is a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis. (CSF is a clear, watery liquid that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord.) The results of a CSF analysis is useful in the diagnosis of inflammation and/or infection within brain. A bone biopsy may also be performed is an advanced test to confirm the involvement of the bone due to tumor or infection.

     

    Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

    Provided by the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University

    What is feline leukemia virus?
    Feline leukemia virus (FeLV), a retrovirus, so named because of the way it behaves within infected cells. All retroviruses, including feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), produce an enzyme, reverse transcriptase, which permits them to insert copies of their own genetic material into that of the cells they have infected. Although related, FeLV and FIV differ in many ways, including their shape: FeLV is more circular while FIV is elongated. The two viruses are also quite different genetically, and their protein constituents are dissimilar in size and composition. Although many of the diseases caused by FeLV and FIV are similar, the specific ways in which they are caused differs.

    How common is the infection?
    FeLV-infected cats are found worldwide, but the prevalence of infection varies greatly depending on their age, health, environment, and lifestyle. In the United States, approximately 2 to 3% of all cats are infected with FeLV. Rates rise significantly – 13% or more – in cats that are ill, very young, or otherwise at high risk of infection.

    How is FeLV spread?
    Cats persistently infected with FeLV serve as sources of infection. Virus is shed in very high quantities in saliva and nasal secretions, but also in urine, feces, and milk from infected cats. Cat-to-cat transfer of virus may occur from a bite wound, during mutual grooming, and (though rarely) through the shared use of litter boxes and feeding dishes. Transmission can also take place from an infected mother cat to her kittens, either before they are born or while they are nursing. FeLV doesn’t survive long outside a cat’s body – probably less than a few hours under normal household conditions.

    What cats are at greatest risk of infection?
    Cats at greatest risk of infection are those that may be exposed to infected cats, either via prolonged close contact or through bite wounds. Such cats include:

  • Cats living with infected cats or with cats of unknown infection status
  • Cats allowed outdoors unsupervised, where they may be bitten by an infected cat
  • Kittens born to infected mothers
  • Kittens are much more susceptible to infection than are adult cats, and therefore are at the greatest risk of infection if exposed. But accompanying their progression to maturity is an increasing resistance to FeLV infection. For example, the degree of virus exposure sufficient to infect 100% of young kittens will infect only 30% or fewer adults. Nonetheless, even healthy adult cats can become infected if sufficiently exposed.

    What does FeLV do to a cat?
    Feline leukemia virus adversely affects the cat’s body in many ways. It’s the most common cause of cancer in cats, it may cause various blood disorders, and it may lead to a state of immune deficiency that hinders the cat’s ability to protect itself against other infections. The same bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi that may be found in the everyday environment – where they usually do not affect healthy animals – can cause severe illness in those with weakened immune systems. These secondary infections are responsible for many of the diseases associated with FeLV.

    What are the signs of disease caused by FeLV?
    During the early stages of infection, it’s common for cats to exhibit no signs of disease at all. However, over time – weeks, months, or even years – the cat’s health may progressively deteriorate or be characterized by recurrent illness interspersed with periods of relative health. Signs can include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Slow but progressive weight loss, followed by severe wasting late in the disease process
  • Poor coat condition
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Persistent fever
  • Pale gums and other mucus membranes
  • Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and mouth (stomatitis)
  • Infections of the skin, urinary bladder, and upper respiratory tract
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Seizures, behavior changes, and other neurological disorders
  • A variety of eye conditions
  • In unspayed female cats, abortion of kittens or other reproductive failures
  • What are the two stages of FeLV infection?
    FeLV is present in the blood (a condition called viremia) during two different stages of infection:

  • Primary viremia, an early stage of virus infection. During this stage some cats are able to mount an effective immune response, eliminate the virus from the bloodstream, and halt progression to the secondary viremia stage.
  • Secondary viremia, a later stage characterized by persistent infection of the bone marrow and other tissue. If FeLV infection progresses to this stage it has passed a point of no return: the overwhelming majority of cats with secondary viremia will be infected for the remainder of their lives.
  • How is infection diagnosed?
    Two types of FeLV blood tests are in common use. Both detect a protein component of the virus as it circulates in the bloodstream.

  • ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and similar tests can be performed in your veterinarian’s office. ELISA-type tests detect both primary and secondary stages of viremia.
  • IFA (indirect immunofluorescent antibody assay) tests must be sent out to a diagnostic laboratory. IFA tests detect secondary viremia only, so the majority of positive-testing cats remain infected for life. Each testing method has strengths and weaknesses. Your veterinarian will likely suggest an ELISA-type test first, but in some cases, both tests must be performed – and perhaps repeated – to clarify a cat’s true infection status.
  • How can I keep my cat from becoming infected?
    The only sure way to protect cats is to prevent their exposure to FeLV-infected cats.

  • Keep cats indoors, away from potentially infected cats that might bite them. If you do allow your cats outdoor access, provide supervision or place them in a secure enclosure to prevent wandering and fighting.
  • Adopt only infection-free cats into households with uninfected cats.
  • House infection-free cats separately from infected cats, and don’t allow infected cats to share food and water bowls or litter boxes with uninfected cats.
  • Consider FeLV vaccination of uninfected cats. (FeLV vaccination of infected cats is not beneficial.) Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of vaccination with your veterinarian. FeLV vaccines are widely available, but since not all vaccinated cats will be protected, preventing exposure remains important even for vaccinated pets. FeLV vaccines will not cause cats to receive false positive results on ELISA, IFA, or any other available FeLV tests.
  • I just discovered that one of my cats has FeLV, yet I have other cats as well. What should I do?
    Unfortunately, many FeLV-infected cats are not diagnosed until after they have lived with other cats. In such cases, all other cats in the household should be tested for FeLV. Ideally, infected and non-infected cats should then be separated to eliminate the potential for FeLV transmission.

    How should FeLV-infected cats be managed?

  • Confine FeLV-infected cats indoors to reduce their exposure to other infectious agents carried by animals, and to prevent the spread of infection to other cats in the neighborhood.
  • Spay or neuter FeLV-infected cats.
  • Feed nutritionally complete and balanced diets.
  • Avoid uncooked food, such as raw meat and eggs, and unpasteurized dairy products because the risk of food-borne bacterial and parasitic infections is much higher in immunosuppressed cats.
  • Schedule wellness visits with your veterinarian at least once every six months. Although a detailed physical examination of all body systems should be performed, your veterinarian should pay special attention to the health of the gums, eyes, skin, and lymph nodes. A complete blood count, serum biochemical analysis, and a urine analysis should be performed at every examination. Additionally, your cat’s weight should be accurately measured and recorded, as weight loss is often the first sign of deterioration.
  • Closely monitor the health and behavior of your FeLV-infected cat. Alert your veterinarian to any changes in your cat’s health immediately.
  • There is no scientific evidence that alternative, immunomodulator, or antiviral medications have any positive benefits on the health or longevity of healthy infected cats.
  • How long can I expect my FeLV-infected cat to live?
    It’s impossible to accurately predict the life expectancy of a cat infected with FeLV. With appropriate care and under ideal conditions, infected cats can remain in apparent good health for many months, although most succumb to a FeLV-related disease within two or three years after becoming infected. If your cat has already experienced one or more severe illnesses as a result of FeLV infection, or if persistent fever, weight loss, or cancer is present, a much shorter survival time can be expected.

    My FeLV-infected cat died recently after a long illness. How should I clean my home before bringing in a new cat?
    Feline leukemia virus will not survive outside the cat for more than a few hours in most environments. However, FeLV-infected cats are frequently infected with other hardier infectious agents, and these may pose some threat to a newcomer. Thoroughly clean and disinfect or replace food and water dishes, bedding, litter pans and toys. A dilute solution of household bleach (4 ounces of bleach in a gallon of water) makes an excellent disinfectant. Vacuum carpets and mop floors. Any new cats or kittens should be properly vaccinated before entering the household.

    Can people become infected with FeLV?
    Epidemiological and laboratory studies have failed to provide evidence that FeLV can be transmitted from infected cats to humans. Regardless, FeLV-infected cats may carry other diseases. At greatest risk of infection are elderly or immunosuppressed people (e.g., those with AIDS, or receiving immunosuppressive medications such as chemotherapy), infants, and unborn children. It’s recommended that pregnant women, people with suppressed immune systems, the very young, and the very old avoid contact with FeLV-infected cats.

     

    Feline Interstitial Cystitis (FIC)

    Feline interstitial cystitis, sometimes called feline idiopathic cystitis or FIC, is an inflammation of the bladder that causes symptoms of lower urinary tract disease. However, in the case of interstitial cystitis, a definitive cause for the disease cannot be identified.

    Feline interstitial cystitis can occur in both female and male cats. It is a chronic disease that can be difficult to treat and frustrating for cats and cat owners alike.

    Symptoms and Types
    Symptoms associated with interstitial cystitis include:

  • Frequent attempts to urinate
  • Straining to urinate
  • Urinating in inappropriate places in the house
  • Crying out during attempts to urinate
  • Blood-tinged urine
  • Causes
    Though the cause of feline interstitial cystitis is not fully understood, stress and the changes inherent in the body as a result of stress are thought to play a large part in interstitial cystitis. Some researchers believe that interstitial cystitis is only one of the manifestations seen in cats suffering from stress and may only be the “tip of iceberg” in terms of symptoms that may be caused by stress. Abnormalities have also been found in the nervous, endocrine and cardiovascular systems of cats in addition to the urinary system. It remains unknown why some cats develop symptoms of FIC and others do not.

    Diagnosis
    Diagnosis relies on ruling out other diseases that may cause similar symptoms, such as urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and other bladder abnormalities in cats. Testing that is frequently performed include:

  • A blood screen, including a complete blood cell count (which examines the different types of cells circulating in the blood stream, such as red blood cells and white blood cells) and chemistry profile (which is useful in evaluating the function of major organs such as the liver and kidneys)
  • A urinalysis, which checks for abnormalities in the urine, including blood, crystals, protein and other abnormal substances as well as testing the pH (which determines how acidic the urine is), and the urine specific gravity (which determines whether the urine is concentrated or not)
  • An abdominal X-ray and/or an ultrasound exam of the bladder to rule out stones and other abnormal structures in the bladder
  • Treatment
    Treatment consists primarily of modifying the environment to help reduce stress levels, dietary modifications, medications for pain, and other pharmaceuticals that may alter your cat’s mental state.

    Multi-modal environmental modifications (MEMO) is the term that is used to describe altering the cat’s environment in an attempt to reduce the cat’s stress level. See the Living and Management section below for more information about MEMO.

    Pain medications are often used in treating interstitial cystitis to relieve the discomfort caused by the inflammation within the bladder and urinary tract and make your cat more comfortable while urinating.

    Dietary modifications are often necessary and you should follow your veterinarian’s directions if a special diet is recommended. Increasing water consumption is an important part of treatment and feeding canned food, when possible, will help increase the moisture content in your cat’s diet.

    Pheromones such as Feliway are often recommended to help reduce stress levels for your cat.

    Other medications that your veterinarian may advise include amitriptyline, clomipramine or fluoxetine, all of which are antidepressants. These medications are generally reserved for cases where MEMO, dietary modifications and pain medications have failed to help.

    Living and Management
    MEMO involves providing for all of your cat’s basic needs.

    Litter box management is a necessary part of environmental modification.

  • Provide an adequate number of litter boxes. There should be one more litter box than the number of cats in the household.
  • Most cats prefer a large litter box over a smaller one.
  • Make sure the sides of the litter boxes are not too high for your cat. This is especially important for older cats that may suffer from arthritis or other mobility issues and for young kittens.
  • Choose an appropriate litter for your cat. The ideal litter is dust-free and fragrance-free. Strongly scented litters may be pleasant for you but not for your cat. You may have experiment with different types of litters to find the one your cat prefers.
  • Be sure to clean the litter boxes frequently.
  • Place all litter boxes in a quiet location where your cat will not be disturbed or frightened when using the box.
  • Provide feeding and water stations that are accessible for all cats in your household. If you have more than one cat, you may need to provide more than one feeding and water station.
  • Cats prefer perches, preferably at eye-level or above, on which to rest and observe their surroundings. Be sure to provide an adequate number of perches for all the cats in your household. Consider placing one or more of these perches near a window for your cat’s enjoyment.

    All cats need hiding places. Your cat should have a place to retreat where he will not be disturbed by people or by other pets. In a multi-cat household, be sure there is an adequate number of hiding places for all cats.

    Provide interactive toys for your cat. Food puzzles are also helpful to provide distraction for your cat and also provide exercise.

     

    Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

    Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease of cats caused by certain strains of a virus called the feline coronavirus. Most strains of feline coronavirus are avirulent, which means that they do not cause disease, and are referred to as feline enteric coronavirus. Cats infected with a feline coronavirus generally do not show any symptoms during the initial viral infection, and an immune response occurs with the development of antiviral antibodies. In a small percent of infected cats (5 to 10 percent), either by a mutation of the virus or by an aberration of the immune response, the infection progresses into clinical FIP. The virus is then referred to as feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIPV). With the assistance of the antibodies that are supposed to protect the cat, white blood cells are infected with virus, and these cells then transport the virus throughout the cat’s body. An intense inflammatory reaction occurs around vessels in the tissues where these infected cells locate, often in the abdomen, kidney, or brain. It is this interaction between the body’s own immune system and the virus that is responsible for the disease. Once a cat develops clinical FIP involving one or many systems of the cat’s body, the disease is progressive and is almost always fatal. The way clinical FIP develops as an immunemediated disease is unique, unlike any other viral disease of animals or humans.

    Is my cat at risk for developing FIP?
    Any cat that carries any coronavirus is potentially at risk for developing FIP. However, cats with weak immune systems are most likely to develop the disease, including kittens, cats already infected with feline leukemia virus (FeLV), and geriatric cats. Most cats that develop FIP are under two years of age, but cats of any age may develop the disease. FIP is not a highly contagious disease, since by the time the cat develops clinical disease only a small amount of virus is being shed. Feline coronavirus can be found in large quantities in the saliva and feces of cats during the acute infection, and to a lesser extent in recovered or carrier cats, so it can be transmitted through cat-to-cat contact and exposure to feces. The virus can also live in the environment for several weeks. The most common transmission of feline coronavirus occurs when infected female cats pass along the virus to their kittens, usually when the kittens are between five and eight weeks of age. FIP is relatively uncommon in the general cat population. However, the disease rate is much higher in multiple-cat populations, such as some shelters and catteries. FIP has also been shown to be more common in certain breeds, but the research is still unclear as to whether these breeds are more susceptible because of their genetics or whether they are exposed to feline coronavirus more often because many of them come from catteries.

    What are the symptoms of FIP?
    Cats that have been initially exposed to the feline coronavirus usually show no obvious symptoms. Some cats may show mild upper respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal discharge. Other cats may experience a mild intestinal disease and show symptoms such as diarrhea. Only a small percentage of cats that are exposed to the feline coronavirus develop FIP—and this can occur weeks, months, or even years after initial exposure. In cats that develop FIP, the symptoms can appear to be sudden since cats have an amazing ability to mask disease until they are in a crisis state. Once symptoms develop, often there is increasing severity over the course of several weeks, ending in death. Generally, these cats first develop nonspecific symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, rough hair coat, and fever. There are two major forms of FIP, an effusive, or “wet” form, and a noneffusive, or “dry” form. Generally, cats will exhibit the signs of the noneffusive form FIP more slowly than the effusive form. Symptoms generally include chronic weight loss, depression, anemia, and a persistent fever that does not respond to antibiotic therapy. The effusive form of FIP is characterized by an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, or less commonly in the chest. Early in the disease, the cat may exhibit similar symptoms to the dry form, including weight loss, fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy. The wet form of the disease often progresses rapidly, and the cat may quickly appear pot-bellied due to fluid accumulation in the abdomen. When the fluid accumulation becomes excessive, it may become difficult for the cat to breathe normally. FIP can be difficult to diagnose because each cat can display different symptoms that are similar to those of many other diseases.

    Can my cat be tested for FIP?
    One of the most difficult aspects of FIP is that there is no simple diagnostic test. The ELISA, IFA, and virusneutralization tests detect the presence of coronavirus antibodies in a cat, but these tests cannot differentiate between the various strains of feline coronavirus. A positive result means only that the cat has had a prior exposure to coronavirus, but not necessarily one that causes FIP. The number that is reported from these tests is called an antibody titer. Low titers indicate a small amount of coronavirus antibodies, while high titers indicate much greater amounts of antibodies. A healthy cat with a high titer, however, is not necessarily more likely to develop FIP or be a carrier of an FIP–causing coronavirus than a cat with a low titer. A cat with a high titer is also not necessarily protected against developing FIP in the future. Other tests have been developed that can detect parts of the virus itself. The immunoperoxidase test detects virus-infected cells in the tissue, but a biopsy of affected tissue is necessary for evaluation. Another antigen test uses polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect viral genetic material in tissue or body fluid. Although this test shows promise, PCR is presently only capable of detecting coronaviruses in general, not necessarily those that cause FIP. To date, there is no way to screen healthy cats for the risk of developing FIP, and the only way to definitively diagnose FIP is by biopsy, or examination of tissues at autopsy. Generally, veterinarians may rely on a presumptive diagnosis, which can be made with a relatively high degree of confidence by evaluation of the cat’s history, presenting symptoms, examination of fluid if it is present, and the results of supporting laboratory tests including a positive coronavirus antibody titer.

    Can FIP be treated?
    Unfortunately, there is no known cure or effective treatment for FIP at this time. Some treatments may induce short-term remissions in a small percentage of cats; however, FIP is a fatal disease. Treatment is generally aimed at supportive care, such as good nursing care and nutrition, and alleviating the inflammatory response of the disease. Cats with FIP are often treated with corticosteroids, cytotoxic drugs, and antibiotics. Supportive care may also include fluid therapy, draining accumulated fluids, and blood transfusions. Research is ongoing to find other immunosuppressive drugs that may slow down the progress of the disease. Attempts are also being made to find antiviral drugs that will prevent or slow down the replication of the virus. One promising approach currently being studied combines both an antiviral agent and an immune response modifier.

    Can I protect my cat from getting FIP?
    In multiple cat environments, keeping cats as healthy as possible and minimizing exposure to infectious agents decreases the likelihood of cats developing FIP. Litter boxes should be kept clean and located away from food and water dishes. Litter should be cleansed of feces daily, and the box should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected regularly. Newly acquired cats and any cats that are suspected of being infected should be separated from other cats. Preventing overcrowding, keeping cats current on vaccinations, and providing proper nutrition can also help decrease the occurrence of FIP in groups of cats. There is only one licensed FIP vaccine available; however, this vaccine has minimal if any effectiveness in preventing FIP, and it is not generally recommended by the American Association of Feline Practitioners Feline Vaccine Advisory Panel. Primucell FIP, produced by Pfizer Animal Health, is a temperature-sensitive, modified-live virus vaccine that is given as an intranasal vaccine, and is licensed for use in cats at least 16 weeks of age. The vaccine appears to be safe, but the risks and benefits of vaccination should be weighed carefully. Cat owners should consult their veterinarian to help them decide if their cat should be vaccinated.

    Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

    (Reprinted with permission from Cornell Feline Health Center)

    New conclusions about FIV-infected and non-infected cats living together:
    Study #1
    Study #2

    What is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus?
    Virologists classify feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) as a lentivirus (or “slow virus”). FIV is in the same retrovirus family as feline leukemia virus (FeLV), but the viruses differ in many ways including their shape. FIV is elongated, while FeLV is more circular. The two viruses are also quite different genetically, and the proteins that compose them are dissimilar in size and composition. The specific ways in which they cause disease differ, as well.

    How common is the infection?
    FIV-infected cats are found worldwide, but the prevalence of infection varies greatly. In the United States, approximately 1.5 to 3 percent of healthy cats are infected with FIV. Rates rise significantly -15 percent or more – in cats that are sick or at high risk of infection. Because biting is the most efficient means of viral transmission, free-roaming, aggressive male cats are the most frequently infected, while cats housed exclusively indoors are much less likely to be infected.

    How is FIV spread?
    The primary mode of transmission is through bite wounds. Casual, non-aggressive contact does not appear to be an efficient route of spreading FIV; as a result, cats in households with stable social structures where housemates do not fight are at little risk for acquiring FIV infections. On rare occasions infection is transmitted from an infected mother cat to her kittens, usually during passage through the birth canal or when the newborn kittens ingest infected milk. Sexual contact is not a major means of spreading FIV.

    What does FIV do to a cat?
    Infected cats may appear normal for years. However, infection eventually leads to a state of immune deficiency that hinders the cat’s ability to protect itself against other infections. The same bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi that may be found in the everyday environment–where they usually do not affect healthy animals–can cause severe illness in those with weakened immune systems. These secondary infections are responsible for many of the diseases associated with FIV.

    What are the signs of disease caused by FIV?
    Early in the course of infection, the virus is carried to nearby lymph nodes, where it reproduces in white blood cells known as T-lymphocytes. The virus then spreads to other lymph nodes throughout the body, resulting in a generalized but usually temporary enlargement of the lymph nodes, often accompanied by fever. This stage of infection may pass unnoticed unless the lymph nodes are greatly enlarged.

    An infected cat’s health may deteriorate progressively or be characterized by recurrent illness interspersed with periods of relative health. Sometimes not appearing for years after infection, signs of immunodeficiency can appear anywhere throughout the body.

  • Poor coat condition and persistent fever with a loss of appetite are commonly seen.
  • Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and mouth (stomatitis) and chronic or recurrent infections of the skin, urinary bladder, and upper respiratory tract are often present.
  • Persistent diarrhea can also be a problem, as can a variety of eye conditions.
  • Slow but progressive weight loss is common, followed by severe wasting late in the disease process.
  • Various kinds of cancer and blood diseases are much more common in cats infected with FIV, too.
  • In unspayed female cats, abortion of kittens or other reproductive failures have been noted.
  • Some infected cats experience seizures, behavior changes, and other neurological disorders.
  • How is infection diagnosed?
    Antibody tests detect the presence of antibody in the blood of infected cats.

    Positive Results

  • Because few, if any, cats ever eliminate infection, the presence of antibody indicates that a cat is infected with FIV. This test can be performed by most veterinary diagnostic laboratories and also is available in kit form for use in veterinary clinics. Since false-positive results may occur, veterinarians recommend that positive results be confirmed using a test with a different format.
  • Infected mother cats transfer FIV antibodies to nursing kittens, so kittens born to infected mothers may receive positive test results for several months after birth. However, few of these kittens actually are or will become infected. To clarify their infection status, kittens younger than six months of age receiving positive results should be retested at 60-day intervals until they are at least six months old.
  • Negative Results

  • A negative test result indicates that antibodies directed against FIV have not been detected, and, in most cases, this implies that the cat is not infected. Nevertheless, it takes eight to 12 weeks after infection (and sometimes even longer) before detectable levels of antibody appear, so if the test is performed during this interval, inaccurate results might be obtained. Therefore, antibody-negative cats with either an unknown or a known exposure to FIV-infected cats-such as through the bite of an unknown cat-should be retested a minimum of 60 days after their most recent exposure in order to allow adequate time for development of antibodies.
  • On very rare occasions, cats in the later stages of FIV infection may test negative because their immune systems are so compromised that they no longer produce detectable levels of antibody. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are designed to detect short segments of a virus’s genetic material. While antibody-based tests are ideal screening tests for infection, in certain situations (such as confirming infection in antibody-positive kittens or determining infection of cats vaccinated with antibody-producing FIV vaccines), PCR-based tests, in theory, would be superior. Although PCR testing methods offer promise and are being actively explored, at this time unacceptable numbers of false-positive and false-negative results prevent them from routinely being recommended.
  • How can I keep my cat from becoming infected?
    The only sure way to protect cats is to prevent their exposure to the virus. Cat bites are the major way infection is transmitted, so keeping cats indoors – and away from potentially infected cats that might bite them – markedly reduces their likelihood of contracting FIV infection. For the safety of the resident cats, only infection-free cats should be adopted into a household with uninfected cats.

    Vaccines to help protect against FIV infection are now available. However, not all vaccinated cats will be protected by the vaccine, so preventing exposure will remain important, even for vaccinated pets. In addition, vaccination may have an impact on future FIV test results. It is important that you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of vaccination with your veterinarian to help you decide whether FIV vaccines should be administered to your cat.

    I just discovered that one of my cats has FIV, yet I have other cats as well. What do I do now?
    Unfortunately, many FIV-infected cats are not diagnosed until after they have lived for years with other cats. In such cases, all the other cats in the household should be tested, as well. Ideally, all infected cats should be separated from the non-infected ones to eliminate the potential for FIV transmission. If this is not possible – and if fighting or rough play is not taking place – the risk to the non-infected cats appears to be very low.

    How should FIV-infected cats be managed?

  • FIV-infected cats should be confined indoors to prevent spread of FIV infection to other cats in the neighborhood and to reduce their exposure to infectious agents carried by other animals.
  • FIV-infected cats should be spayed or neutered.
  • They should be fed nutritionally complete and balanced diets.
  • Uncooked food, such as raw meat and eggs, and unpasteurized dairy products should not be fed to FIV-infected cats because the risk of food-borne bacterial and parasitic infections is much higher in immunosuppressed cats.
  • Wellness visits for FIV-infected cats should be scheduled with your veterinarian at least every six months. Although a detailed physical examination of all body systems will be performed, your veterinarian will pay special attention to the health of the gums, eyes, skin, and lymph nodes. Your cat’s weight will be measured accurately and recorded, because weight loss is often the first sign of deterioration. A complete blood count, serum biochemical analysis, and a urine analysis should be performed annually.
  • Vigilance and close monitoring of the health and behavior of FIV-infected cats is even more important than it is for uninfected cats. Alert your veterinarian to any changes in your cat’s health as soon as possible.
  • There is no evidence from controlled scientific studies to show that immunomodulator, alternative, or antiviral medications have any positive benefits on the health or longevity of healthy FIV-infected cats. However, some antiviral therapies have been shown to benefit some FIV-infected cats with seizures or stomatitis.
  • How long can I expect my FIV-infected cat to live?
    It is impossible to accurately predict the life expectancy of a cat infected with FIV. With appropriate care and under ideal conditions, infected cats can live a normal life span. If your cat has already had one or more severe illnesses as a result of FIV infection, or if persistent fever and weight loss are present, a much shorter survival time can be expected.

    My FIV-infected cat died recently after a long illness. How should I clean my home before bringing in a new cat?
    Feline immunodeficiency virus will not survive outside the cat for more than a few hours in most environments. However, FIV-infected cats are frequently infected with other infectious agents that may pose some threat to a newcomer. Thoroughly clean and disinfect or replace food and water dishes, bedding, litter pans, and toys. A dilute solution of household bleach (four ounces of bleach in 1 gallon of water) makes an excellent disinfectant. Vacuum carpets and mop floors with an appropriate cleanser. Any new cats or kittens should be properly vaccinated against other infectious agents before entering the household.

    Can I become infected with FIV?
    Although FIV is a lentivirus similar to HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus) and causes a disease in cats similar to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) in humans, it is a highly species-specific virus that infects only felines. A number of studies have failed to show any evidence that FIV can infect or cause disease in people.

    Why should I have my cat tested?
    Early detection will help you maintain the health of your own cat and also allow you to prevent spreading infection to other cats.

    Under what circumstances should FIV testing be performed?

  • If your cat has never been tested.
  • If your cat is sick, even if it tested free of infection in the past but subsequent exposure can’t be ruled out.
  • When cats are newly adopted, whether or not they will be entering a household with other cats.
  • If your cat has recently been exposed to an infected cat.
  • If your cat is exposed to cats that may be infected (for example, if your cat goes outdoors unsupervised or lives with other cats that might be infected). Your veterinarian may suggest testing periodically (yearly) as long as your cat is exposed to potentially infected cats.
  • If you’re considering vaccinating with an FIV vaccine.
  •  

    Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (FHS)

    Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome (FHS), also known as “twitch-skin syndrome” and “psychomotor epilepsy,” is an obscure cat disorder resulting in intense biting or licking of the back, tail, and pelvic limbs. The nervous and neuromuscular systems, along with the skin, are affected. Symptoms may occur any age and can develop in any breed of cat. Purebreds – especially Siamese, Abyssinians, Burmese, and Himalayans – seem to be predisposed to develop the syndrome.

    Symptoms and Types
    Symptoms of FHS typically appear in episodes, which can last from seconds to several minutes. A cat will behave normally between episodes, and then display the signs associated with FHS. These symptoms include twitching skin, violent swishing of the tail, and repeated biting or licking of the back, tail, and pelvic limbs. Affected cats often have dilated pupils, appear agitated, and express erratic behavior.

    A physical exam usually reveals no neurological problems or major abnormalities, other than damaged hair and hair follicles that have fallen out due to the cat’s own violent licking. It has been reported that stimulation of the muscles in the back irritates some cats and may elicit an episode.

    Causes
    This is a rare syndrome and the exact cause is not known. It may develop due to an underlying behavioral problem, a seizure disorder, or other neurotic problem. Nervous or hyperactive cats are believed to be at greater risk. Environmental stress may also trigger the syndrome.

    It is speculated there may be multiple factors contributing to the symptoms associated with FHS.

    Diagnosis
    As there is no known distinct physical cause for the disorder, diagnosis is difficult and is primarily based on the cat’s characteristic history and exclusion of other diseases that cause similar symptoms. There is no specific test to provide a definitive diagnosis.

    Other diagnoses that can exclude feline hyperesthesia syndrome include skin conditions and diseases in the forebrain which cause behavioral changes or seizures. Imaging processes, such as MRI, can pinpoint such neurological problems.

    Treatment
    There is no specific medical treatment or cure available for FHS. However, various drugs have been administered to suppress the episodes, and behavior modification has proved useful in at least reducing problems in some cats.

    Living and Management
    Environmental elements or events at home that appear to bring on episodes should be eliminated. If self-mutilation due to excessive licking is severe, an Elizabethan collar or tail bandage may be necessary for your cat.

    Prevention
    As there is no known cause for the disorder, prevention entails the removal of any stressful elements in the cat’s environment.

    Feline Rhinotracheitis

    Feline rhinotracheitis is an acute upper respiratory virus. Although there are many causes of feline upper respiratory infections, rhinotracheitis is known to be the culprit of roughly 80% of all infections. The virus is very contagious and is known to produce secondary infections, such as chlamydia, feline reovirus and pneumonia. If severe enough, rhinotracheitis can cause death by pneumonia in young kittens. It can also cause the spontaneous abortion of a litter around the 6 week mark.

    What Causes Feline Rhinotracheitis Virus?
    Feline Rhinotracheitis is caused by the Feline Herpesvirus Type 1, also known as FHV-1. The virus grows in the nasal and tonsil tissues, making any secretions from saliva, the eyes or nasal passages extremely contagious. Feline Rhinotracheitis is spread through the air and through direct contact with an infected cat. The incubation period, from exposure to clinical signs, can be anywhere from 2 to 20 days. However, the active infection may only last from 7 to 10 days. As the virus spreads during the incubation period and the time of active infection, the owner can be completely unaware of how many other cats in their household have been affected.

    Symptoms of Feline Rhinotracheitis
    The symptoms of rhinotracheitis are similar to feline influenza. A cat may exhibit all of these symptoms, or only a few.

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal lining)
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the membrane lining the eyelid)
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Common Reasons for Contraction of Feline Rhinotracheitis
    There are some cats that will be more susceptible to developing the feline rhinotracheitis virus. Although there is not a specific breed of cat that this more susceptible, there are some situations which can produce increased opportunity for contraction. Some of those environments or situations include:

  • Kittens (when the mother is infected with the virus)
  • Cats living in a multi-cat household
  • Cats who live in shelters or catteries
  • Sick cats with already weakened immune systems
  • Sick cats with already pronounced auto-immune disorders
  • Cats that have not been vaccinated
  • Treatment and Diagnosis of Feline Rhinotracheitis
    While there is no treatment or cure for the virus itself, there are oral antibiotics available to help prevent or treat a secondary bacterial infection. Because rhinotracheitis is known to produce secondary bacterial infections, antibiotics can be an important step in recovery. Decongestants can also be prescribed to aid in breathing and to help clear the nasal passages.

    Additionally, providing loving support to your animal can boost their mental state and make them feel more secure in their time of need. It is important to always make sure that your cat is eating and drinking, and that a comfortable, temperate area is provided. A vaporizer can help them to breathe more clearly by putting humidity back into the air. Keeping secretions of the nasal passages and eyes can limit the spread of infection and re-infection. Isolation of an infected cat is the best way to stop the spread of the virus.

    Because there is no clinical test that can indefinitely conclude a diagnosis of feline rhinotracheitis, it can sometimes be difficult to identify. However, a review of medical history and current symptoms can help to diagnose an infected cat.

    Because many cats are carriers of the FHV-1 virus, cleanliness and limited exposure to other cats can greatly help to reduce the possibility of contracting the virus.

    Prevention of Feline Rhinotracheitis
    The only way to attempt to prevent the contraction of rhinotracheitis is to have your cat vaccinated. There are three types of vaccinations for feline rhinotracheitis: a modified live injectable vaccine, a modified live vaccine given in the nose, and an injectable killed vaccine. Regardless of which vaccine is given, it is simply important to make sure that the vaccination is given. Although a vaccination may not entirely prevent the infection from developing, it can reduce the possibly of the infection rising to a more serious level.

     

    Feline Entropion

    Entropion in cats is a condition which causes the eyelids to turn inward, rather than lying flush and round with the eyeball. Although the condition is not common for cats, it does tend to have a higher rate of occurrence in purebred cats. Both the Burmese and the Persian are two particular purebreds that are known to be afflicted by entropion more commonly than any other cat breed. Entropion is not a life-threatening condition, but it can cause moderate amounts of irritation and can affect the ability of a cat to see normally.

    Detecting Entropion
    Entropion can occur in both the upper and lower eyelids in cats. However, it seems to occur most commonly in the lower eyelids. Entropion can be seen throughout any stage of a cat’s life. If a cat is born with entropion as a congenital defect, it will soon become recognizable in the months following birth. Because entropion is not always genetic, it can develop later in life at the onset of changes within the eye, which is actually more common than cases of genetic entropion. The following signs can all be indicative of entropion in a cat:

  • Change in appearance of the eyelids
  • Tearing and squinting
  • Light sensitivity
  • Red and swollen appear of the eyelids
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Underlying Causes
    Because entropion can occur on two different levels, either at birth or later in life, the causes associated are very different. When entropion develops later in life, it usually signifies a change in the condition of the eye or an underlying health condition. Naturally, entropion alone leaves the eye susceptible to irritation and infection, so identifying the underlying cause is very important in determining a treatment regimen.

    Corneal ulcers appear to be the main cause of developing entropion in cats. Because there is a great deal of pain associated with these types of ulcers, the eyelid can sometimes spasm in response, leaving it turned inward. In addition, other infectious diseases or trauma to the eye can also cause the onset of entropion.

    Regardless of the cause, it needs to be identified. The condition of entropion alone is not life-threatening, but the inward turn of the eyelid can lead to significant rubbing of the cornea, eventually causing infection, as well as a decrease or complete loss of sight.

    Treatment
    The most common procedure for resolve of entropion is surgery. During surgery, the eyelid is actually rolled outwards and returned to its normal position. Although, surgery may not always be indicative depending on what caused the entropion to occur. If a secondary infection is present, antibiotic medications may clear up the infection, and the condition of the eyelids may return to normal. The only downfall to surgical entropion correction is that spasms of the eyelid can still occur, regardless of whether or not the underlying condition is treated.

     

    Feline Diabetes

    Provided by the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University

    What is diabetes mellitus?
    Diabetes mellitus-also known as “sugar” diabetes-is a complex but common disease in which a cat’s body either doesn’t produce or doesn’t properly use insulin. During digestion, the fats, carbohydrates, and proteins that are consumed in the diet are broken down into smaller components that can be utilized by cells in the body. One component is glucose, a fuel that provides the energy needed to sustain life.

    Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas, is responsible for regulating the flow of glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. When insulin is deficient or ineffective, the cat’s body starts breaking down fat and protein stores to use as alternative energy sources. As a result, the cat eats more yet loses weight. Additionally, the cat develops high levels of sugar in the bloodstream, which is eliminated in the urine. In turn, sugar in the urine leads to excessive urination and thirst. Cat owners often notice these four classical signs of diabetes mellitus: ravenous appetite, weight loss, increased urination, and increased water consumption.

    Diabetes mellitus is generally divided into two different types in cats: insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM)], and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM)]. Approximately one-half to three-quarters of diabetic cats have and thus require insulin injections as soon as the disease is diagnosed. The rest have NIDDM; however, most ultimately require insulin injections to control their disease.

    While diabetes mellitus can affect any cat, it most often occurs in older, obese cats. Male cats are more commonly afflicted than females. The exact cause of the disease in cats is not known, although obesity (the major predisposing condition), chronic pancreatitis, other hormonal diseases (e.g., hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s disease, and acromegaly), and certain medications (e.g., megestrol acetate and corticosteroids like prednisolone) have all been linked to the disease. Burmese cats in New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom are prone to developing to diabetes, but this doesn’t appear to be the case in North America.

    How is diabetes diagnosed?
    Diabetes mellitus is diagnosed based on the cat’s signs, physical examination findings, laboratory test results, and the persistent presence of abnormally high levels of sugar in the blood and urine. Once diabetes has been diagnosed, immediate treatment is necessary.

    Left untreated, diabetes will shorten a cat’s lifespan. A dangerous, sometimes fatal condition called ketoacidosis may develop, indicated by loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, dehydration, and breathing abnormalities. Additionally, diabetes can lead to an unhealthy skin and coat, liver disease, and secondary bacterial infections. A diabetes-related disorder called diabetic neuropathy may cause cats to become progressively weaker, especially in the hind legs, impairing their ability to jump and causing them to walk with their hocks touching the ground.

    Diabetes treatment is based on the severity of the disease. Cats with ketoacidosis require prompt intensive care, which usually includes fluid therapy and short-acting insulin injections. For cats that are not severely ill, your veterinarian may recommend a treatment plan that includes insulin injections or oral medications, along with dietary changes.

    What is involved in treating a diabetic cat at home?
    Each diabetic cat is an individual, and each responds differently to treatment. Some diabetic cats are easy to regulate; others are not. Some can be treated with oral medications, while others require insulin injections. Some cats’ diabetes is transient-reversing course with the passage of time-while others will require treatment for the remainder of their lives. Different cats respond best to different types of insulin. Regardless of this variability, all diabetic cats do best with consistent medication, consistent feeding, and a stable, stress-free lifestyle.

    Insulin
    Most diabetic cats require insulin injections administered under their skin twice daily. The injections can be given at home, preferably at the same time each day. Your veterinarian will show you how to give these injections, which are not painful-in fact, most cats are unaware that the injection is being given. Because each is different, the proper type of insulin, dose, and frequency of administration needs to be determined by your veterinarian. Ideally, this is based on an 18- to 24-hour blood glucose profile, obtained through a veterinarian-administered insulin injection and subsequent testing of blood sugar levels at regular intervals throughout the day. Insulin dosage may change with time and may need to be adjusted based on new blood glucose profiles, the results of intermittent blood tests and urine sugar measurements, and the cat’s response to therapy.

    Oral Hypoglycemic Medications
    Healthy diabetic cats can sometimes be successfully treated with glipizide, an orally administered hypoglycemic medication that lowers blood glucose. Adverse side effects, although uncommon, include vomiting, loss of appetite, and liver damage. If you use glipizide, have your cat’s glucose levels checked regularly to verify medication’s efficacy. Although glipizide works for some diabetic cats, most require insulin injections to successfully control their disease. In addition, the administration of oral medication on a long-term basis is difficult for many cats and their owners; insulin injections may be a better choice for them.

    Diet
    In addition to medication, an important step in treating diabetes is to alter your cat’s diet. Obesity is a major factor in insulin sensitivity, so if your cat is overweight, you will need to help him lose weight gradually. Your veterinarian can tailor a safe weight-loss program, in which your cat loses weight gradually. A high-fiber, high-complex carbohydrate diet not only can achieve weight loss if necessary, but is believed to help control blood sugar levels after eating. (Underweight cats should initially be fed a high calorie diet until they reach their ideal body weight.) Other diabetic cats respond well to carbohydrate-restricted diets. Although diabetic cats have been successfully managed with both types of diets, some cats respond better to high-fiber diets and others to low-carbohydrate diets. Trial and error can help determine the best diet for your cat.

    Your cat’s feeding routine is also important. While many cats are “free-choice” feeders (i.e., food is left out for them to eat whenever they want), this may not be the ideal routine for a diabetic cat. Ideally, a cat receiving insulin should be fed half its daily food requirement at the time of each injection, with the unconsumed remainder available throughout the day. The timing of feedings is less critical for cats receiving glipizide; nevertheless, food intake should be closely monitored.

    What are the potential complications of treating a diabetic cat?
    Hypoglycemia-low blood sugar-is a potentially dangerous complication, usually caused by a relative overdose of insulin. Hypoglycemia signs include weakness, listlessness, lack of coordination, convulsions, and coma. Left untreated, hypoglycemia can be fatal. If hypoglycemia develops, the cat should immediately be offered its normal food. If the cat is unable to eat, rub some corn syrup onto the gums or, if the cat can swallow, slowly administer it by syringe into the mouth. Never force fingers, food, or fluids into the mouth of a convulsing or comatose cat. Contact your veterinarian immediately for further instructions if your cat exhibits signs of hypoglycemia.

    How do I monitor my diabetic pet?
    Monitoring your diabetic cat is a joint effort between you and your veterinarian. Because your cat’s insulin requirements may change over time, periodic checking of blood glucose or serum fructosamine levels is essential. Seek veterinary treatment at the first reappearance of diabetes signs (increased thirst, increased weight loss, increased appetite, or increased urination).

    Some cat owners are willing and able to take on the task of measuring their cat’s blood glucose levels at home rather than in a veterinary hospital-a potentially less expensive and more accurate monitoring method. Ask your veterinarian whether home glucose testing might be suitable for you and your cat. More information can be found online at www.sugarcats.net/sites/harry/bgtest.htm.

    At home, you’ll need to be constantly aware of your cat’s appetite, weight, water consumption, and urine output. It is important to feed a consistent amount and type of food at the same times each day, so that you can be aware of days that your cat either does not eat or is unusually hungry after the feeding. Additionally, since water consumption is highly variable from one cat to another, monitoring your cat’s water consumption for a few weeks will allow you to establish what is normal for your cat. Urine output can be roughly estimated by determining the amount of litter that is scooped out of the litter box. This is less accurate if more than one cat uses the litter box, but changes can still be meaningful. Any significant variation in your cat’s food intake, weight, water intake, or urine output can be a sign that the diabetes is recurring and immediate veterinary care is needed.

    What is the prognosis for a diabetic cat?
    There is no cure for diabetes mellitus. However, some diabetic cats may lose the need for insulin, months or years after diagnosis. If diabetes has resulted from obesity, it is likely to improve a great deal-or even completely resolve-once the cat’s weight is under control. If obesity or some other disorder is not a factor, the diabetes probably will not go away; however, it can be successfully managed. The serious chronic complications that afflict people with diabetes mellitus (such as kidney disease, blood vessel disease, and coronary artery disease) are uncommon in diabetic cats. Once control is attained with proper treatment and home care, a diabetic cat can live many healthy years. Nonetheless, successfully managing a diabetic cat requires much dedication and communication between you and your veterinarian.

    Feline Calicivirus

    Feline calicivirus infection is a common respiratory disease in cats. The virus attacks the respiratory tract — lungs and nasal passages — the mouth, with ulceration of the tongue, the intestines, and the musculoskeletal system. It is highly communicable in unvaccinated cats, and is commonly seen in multicat facilities, shelters, poorly ventilated households, and breeding catteries.

    While vaccination against the calicivirus is strongly advised, vaccinations have failed to decrease the prevalence of the disease. This infection can occur in cat of any age, but young kittens older than six weeks have been found to be most susceptible.

    Symptoms and Types
    The following symptoms typically present themselves suddenly:

  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Eye discharge
  • Nasal discharge
  • Development of ulcers on tongue, hard palate, tip of nose, lips or around claws
  • Pneumonia
  • Difficult breathing after development of pneumonia
  • Arthritis (inflammation of joints)
  • Lameness
  • Painful walk
  • Fever
  • Bleeding from various sites

  • Cause
    Cats typically acquire feline calcivirus (FCV) after coming into contact with other infected cats, such as in a shelter, cattery, or boarding facility. But because FCV is resistant to disinfectants, cats may come into contact with the virus in almost any environment. Lack of vaccination or improper vaccination is thought be an important risk factor, as well as a lowered immune response due to pre-existing infections or diseases.

    Diagnosis
    You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your cat’s health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents or conditions that might have led to this condition. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam to evaluate all body systems along with the overall health of your cat. A complete blood profile will also be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. The results of these tests, however, are often non-specific and do not provide consistent findings for an initial diagnosis.

    The more reliable diagnostic test involves identifying a buildup of FCV antibodies. These antibody tests can be used to detect and measure the levels of feline calcivirus antigen and/or antibodies corresponding to the viral antigen (feline calcivirus). A more advanced test that may be used involves growing the isolated viruses under controlled conditions using a technique called cell culture.

    Diagnostic imaging can be used to determine any damage to the lungs; chest X-rays may show changes in the lung tissue, including consolidation of lung tissue in cats with pneumonia.

    Treatment
    Your cat will need to be hospitalized for intensive care and treatment if it has developed pneumonia or is experiencing severe life-threatening hemorrhages. Oxygen will be given if your cat is unable to breathe comfortably due to pneumonia. While there is no specific medication that is given for viral infections of this type, broad spectrum antibiotics are given to prevent or treat the secondary bacterial infections that are commonly seen with viral infections. Ophthalmic antibiotics are prescribed for use in the affected eyes, and pain killers can be prescribed for patients with painful walking.

    Living and Management
    Your cat requires good nursing care while recovering from the calicivirus infection. This may include cleaning the cat’s eyes and nose to prevent accumulation of secretions. Your veterinarian will recommend a food diet made up of highly nutritious and easily digestible foods, to be given at regular intervals so as to maintain a positive energy balance and to prevent malnutrition. If your cat is suffering from oral ulcers, it will need to be given soft foods.

    Respiratory discomfort and breathing difficulties is also common, so advise your veterinarian if they should develop.

    Even though vaccinations have not successfully decreased the prevalence of this virus, a FCV vaccine is still the best preventative for your cat, and may reduce the symptoms should your cat acquire the virus.

    Your cat’s overall prognosis depends on the severity of the symptoms. Cats with uncomplicated cases of pneumonia, for example, typically recover within three to four days. However, severe pneumonia may be life-threatening. Oral ulcers and arthritis symptoms, on the other hand, generally resolve without complications.

     

    Ataxia

    There are three clinical types of ataxia: sensory (proprioceptive), vestibular, and cerebellar. All three types produce changes in limb coordination, but vestibular and cerebellar ataxia also produce changes in head and neck movement. Ataxia, in general, is a condition relating to a sensory dysfunction that produces loss of coordination of the limbs, head, and/or trunk.

    Sensory (proprioceptive) ataxia occurs when the spinal cord is slowly compressed. A typical outward symptom of sensory ataxia is misplacing the feet, accompanied by a progressive weakness as the disease advances. Sensory ataxia can occur with spinal cord, brain stem (the lower part of the brain near the neck), and cerebral locations of lesions.

    The vestibulocochlear nerve carries information concerning balance from the inner ear to the brain. Damage to the vestibulocochlear nerve can cause changes in head and neck position, as the affected animal may feel a false sense of movement, or may be having problems with hearing. Outward symptoms include leaning, tipping, falling, or even rolling over. Central vestibular signs usually have changing types of eye movements, sensory deficits, weakness in the legs (all or one sided), multiple cranial nerve signs, and drowsiness, stupor, or coma. Peripheral vestibular signs do not include changes in mental status, vertical eye movements, sensory deficits, or weakness in the legs.

    Cerebellar ataxia is reflected in uncoordinated motor activity of the limbs, head and neck, taking large steps, stepping oddly, head tremors, body tremors and swaying of the torso. There is an inadequacy in the performance of motor activity and in strength preservation.

    Symptoms and Types

  • Weakness of the limbs
  • May affect one, two, or all of the limbs
  • May affect only the hind legs, or the legs on one side of the body
  • Tilting head to one side
  • Trouble hearing – non-responsive to being called to at normal voice pitch
  • Stumbling, tipping over, swaying
  • Excessive drowsiness or stupor
  • Changes in behavior
  • Abnormal eye movements – may be due to false feeling of movement, vertigo
  • Lack of appetite due to nausea (symptom of motion sickness from loss of internal equilibrium [balance])
  • Causes

  • Neurologic
  • Cerebellar
  • Degenerative:
  • Abiotrophy (prematurely the cerebellum loses function)
  • Anomalous:
  • Underdevelopment secondary to perinatal infection with panleukopenia virus in cats
  • A cyst located near fourth ventricle
  • Cancer
  • Infectious – feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
  • Inflammatory, unknown causes, immune-mediated
  • Toxic
  • Vestibular – central nervous system (CNS)
  • Infectious:
  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), rickettsial diseases
  • Inflammatory, unknown causes, immune-mediated
  • Toxic
  • Vestibular—Peripheral nervous system
  • Infectious:
  • Middle ear
  • Fungal
  • Diseases of unknown cause
  • Metabolic
  • Cancer
  • Traumatic
  • Spinal Cord
  • Degeneration of the nerve roots and spinal cords
  • Vascular:
  • Loss of blood to nervous system due to blockage of blood vessels by a blood clot
  • Anomalous:
  • Spinal cord and vertebral malformation
  • Spinal cyst
  • Cancer
  • Infectious
  • Traumatic
  • Metabolic
  • Anemia
  • Electrolyte disturbances – low potassium and low blood sugar
  • Diagnosis You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your cat’s health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition. Your veterinarian will order standard tests, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and an electrolyte panel.

    Imaging is crucial for determining whether the disease is localized to the peripheral vestibular system, the spinal cord, or the cerebellum. Computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), myelography and spinal X-rays can all be useful diagnostic tools for non-invasive internal examinations. Chest and abdominal X-rays are also important for determining if cancer or systemic fungal infection is present. An abdominal ultrasound should be done to check liver, kidney, adrenal or pancreatic functions.

    If the source of the disease is suspected to be in the nervous system, a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) will be taken for laboratory analysis.

     

    Feline Aggression

    Feline Aggression

    Provided by the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University

    Aggression in cats can be a complicated and upsetting problem for owners to solve. An aggressive cat can be very dangerous, especially toward children who may not be able to recognize the physical cues that are the warning signs of aggression. Additionally, cat bites and scratches are painful and can transmit disease.

    The different types of aggression are not mutually exclusive. Your cat may show more than one type of aggression, and the problems may be more or less serious than those described below. However, some general principles apply to all types and levels of aggression:

  • Early intervention is best, before your cat’s aggressive behavior becomes a habit.
  • Physical punishment, even a light tap on the nose, increases your cat’s fear and anxiety. Some cats may even see it as a challenge, and become more aggressive.
  • Certain medications can help, but only in conjunction with behavior modification and environmental changes.
  • Recognizing the signs of aggression, then startling your cat without making physical contact are effective in curbing most aggression problems.
  • Whenever possible, avoid situations that increase your cat’s aggression.
  • Separate cats that have aggression issues and re-introduce them slowly.
  • Food treats can be used to effectively reward non-aggressive behavior.
  • My cat is aggressive toward me and my other cat. What should I do?
    Because aggression may be caused by a medical problem, first take your cat to your veterinarian, who will perform a physical examination and appropriate diagnostic tests. Painful conditions, like arthritis and dental disease, as well as central nervous system conditions and hyperthyroidism, have all been implicated in aggression. Alleviation of underlying medical conditions often resolves the aggressive behavior. Once medical causes have been ruled out, it is important to determine what kind of aggression your cat is displaying in order to formulate a management strategy, and ultimately, a solution.

    My kitten sometimes bites and scratches me when we play. I know kittens love to play, but her attacks are painful.
    Biting and scratching during play are typical of play aggression, a behavior most commonly observed in young cats and kittens. Kittens raised with littermates learn how to bite and scratch with reduced intensity, because play that is too rough causes pain to a playmate, resulting in either retaliation or the cessation of play. Consequently, play aggression is usually seen in kittens that were not raised with littermates or playmates, are under-stimulated, or lack appropriate play outlets.

    Play aggression can usually be recognized in a kitten’s body posture. The tail lashes back and forth, the ears flatten against the head, and the pupils (the black part of the eyes) dilate. This sort of posture usually develops from normal play and is followed by biting and scratching. Kittens that stalk moving objects, like your hands and feet, are also displaying play aggression. Play aggressive cats often stalk or hide, then jump out and attack as you pass.

    Try keeping a record of when this occurs to see if there is a pattern. You may learn, for example, that your kitten tends to hide under your bed and jump out as you’re getting ready to go to sleep. By anticipating this, and encouraging play prior to the attack, you may be able to curb this behavior. A bell on a breakaway collar around your cat’s neck clues you in to his whereabouts. You may need to deny him access to his favorite stalking places in order to stop this behavior.

    Another management technique is to use noise deterrents, such as a human-generated hiss, or a blast from a compressed air canister. These must be used within the first few seconds of the onset of aggression to startle, rather than scare the cat, into ceasing his behavior. Do not physically punish your cat, even with a slight tap on the nose. The pain of being struck can lead to more aggressive behavior, and your kitten will learn to fear and avoid you. Additionally, any physical contact may be interpreted as play, which rewards your kitten’s rambunctious behavior. Simply walking away and ignoring your kitten is much more effective; it teaches him that the consequence of rough play is no play.

    All of your play objects should be at a distance from your hands, so your cat has no opportunity to bite or scratch you. For example:

  • Toss moving objects like ping-pong balls, walnuts, or aluminum foil balls for your cat to chase.
  • Provide climbing perches, scratching posts, and ball toys that deliver food when batted about.
  • Buy a fishing pole toy with feathers on the end to dangle in front of your cat.
  • My ordinarily nice cat gets very agitated whenever anyone new comes into the house; she has even attacked some visitors.
    These are signs of fear aggression a defensive behavior toward unfamiliar stimuli, like people, animals, and noises. Unpleasant experiences, like a trip to the veterinarian’s office, may also trigger fear aggression. A cat displaying this sort of aggression hisses, bares her teeth, and crouches low with her tail and legs tucked under her body. Her ears are flat against her head, her pupils are dilated, and her fur stands on end.

    The management of this problem involves identification and, if possible, avoidance of fear-eliciting stimuli. You can attempt a gradual desensitization program, in which your cat is exposed to such stimuli a safe distance away for short periods of time, then rewarded with food treats for non-aggressive behavior. For example, if your cat has a fear of men, a man might stand at a distance that does not trigger aggressive behavior in your cat. Your cat gets a treat for her calm demeanor. With each session, the man moves closer, and gradually, the cat learns to associate the man’s presence with a tasty treat.

    There are two important things not to do with a fear aggressive cat:

  • Do not console her. Kind words and petting communicate your approval of her inappropriate behavior.
  • Visitors to your home should not retreat or show fear in front of a fear aggressive cat, because this teaches the cat that her behavior can make unwanted visitors go away. Lack of attention is a better strategy.
  • My cat kills outside mice and birds. I worry that he will attack our pet gerbil.
    A normal, instinctive desire to hunt prey, predatory aggression includes the stalking, chasing, and attacking of rodents and birds. This behavior is inappropriate when directed toward humans, and can be disturbing when directed toward wildlife or small indoor pets.

    A cat on the prowl shows hunting body postures. He slinks with a lowered head and a twitching tail, and lunges when the prey is within reach. Because this behavior is instinctive, it is especially hard to control. There are, however, some effective management strategies.

    If your cat shows predatory aggression toward indoor pets like gerbils, hamsters, or pet birds, it is wise to deny him access to those animals. If you do not want your cat to hunt wildlife, consider keeping him indoors. Some wildlife can also be deterred from your property by removing bird feeders and using tightly sealed garbage containers.

    Putting a bell on a breakaway collar around your cat’s neck so you know his whereabouts can help foil his sneak attacks on people. Take precautions with infants and toddlers, who are especially vulnerable to predatory aggression.

    My arthritic cat growls and hisses when I pick her up to give her medicine. I don’t want to hurt her, or be hurt, but I have to give her pills.
    A cat that dislikes being touched in a painful area may display pain-induced aggression in an attempt to stop you from handling her. This behavior can also be associated with past trauma. For example, a cat whose tail was once caught in a door may continue to resent any touching of his tail long after the pain is gone.

    Resolving or alleviating the pain is the best way to manage this problem. However, like the arthritic cat described above, you may need to handle a cat in pain in order to treat her. If so, handle her as gently as possible, wear gloves if necessary, and give her food treats so that she associates your touch with a tasty reward. If she acts aggressive while you are handling her, do not reward her with kind words and petting; this demonstrates that aggressive behavior is acceptable. Finally, ask your veterinarian about medications that can help your cat cope with her pain.

    Sometimes when I approach my cat while he’s on the windowsill looking outside, he turns around and swats at me, unprovoked. Why?
    Redirected aggression typically occurs when a cat is aroused by one stimulus, but another pet or person intervenes. In the example above, a bird outside the window may have stimulated the cat, but the unsuspecting owner became the recipient of the lashing instead. A cat exhibiting redirected aggression may growl and pace; his hair stands on end, his tail swishes, and his pupils dilate.

    Avoid the cat until he is calm. Interaction can lead to injury, and any attention, including punishment, may encourage his behavior. You may have to gently herd your cat to a quiet, dark room for a “time-out;” if necessary, use a thick, folded blanket or a board to protect yourself from injury. Periodically, enter the room, turn on the light, and put down a bowl of food. If your cat is still aggressive, turn the light off and leave. If he is calm, pet and praise him.

    If your cat has exhibited redirected aggression toward another cat in the house, re-introduce the two cats slowly, once the aggressor has calmed. Place the cats on opposite ends of the room and feed them; if necessary, you can place each cat in a carrier to ensure their safety. This will allow both cats to associate food with the other’s presence. Such behavior modification techniques are important for maintaining household harmony; if severe redirected aggression occurs regularly, your two cats will learn to fight whenever they are together.

    You may be able to prevent your cat’s redirected aggression if you can identify the stimulus that sets him off. However, if the stimulus is an outdoor noise, smell, or sight, you may have to block your cat’s exposure to the outside world. You can install electronic mats that deliver a harmless, mild shock, or put sticky tape on your windowsills. Window blinds are also effective deterrents. You can discourage outdoor animals from coming near your house by installing motion-activated sprinklers, removing bird feeders, and using well-sealed garbage containers.

    Finally, you can interrupt redirected aggression between cats by immediately startling them with a water gun or shaking a jar of pennies. This sort of remote punishment keeps you from getting hurt, and if consistent, may discourage further attacks.

    My cat begs for attention, but when I pet him for too long, he lashes out and runs away.
    A cat exhibiting petting-induced aggression will usually seek out attention, but at some point while being petted, he acts as though he’s had too much, and he attacks.

    Although a tensed body, flattened ears, and lashing tail are typical of the warning signs a cat gives before an attack, cat owners must learn to recognize signs that are particular to his or her cat. Young children are especially at risk because they may be unable to read a cat’s body language.

    To manage this problem, examine the ways in which you handle your cat. Try holding or touching your cat only when he seeks you out; avoid uninvited handling, physical punishment, or picking up your cat when he’s eating. When petting your cat, do not use physical restraint; this can increase his anxiety.

    You can systematically discourage your cat’s petting-induced aggression with the following tactics: Entice your cat onto your lap with a tasty treat, and lightly stroke him. Well before you detect his aggressive warning signs, place him on the floor with a treat to reward his peaceful behavior. Gradually increase the length of time you spend petting him, and he will learn that calm interactions are followed by treats.

    The hardest part of dealing with petting-induced aggression is accepting that your cat has limits to what he will tolerate. Yours may never be a cuddly cat, but he can learn to interact without violence.

    Our cat growls and hisses when we try to move her off our bed, although she constantly seeks our attention.
    This cat is attempting to control the situation through status-induced aggression. Other examples include cats that block doorways, or solicit attention from their owner or another cat by biting or swatting them as they pass, often with unsheathed claws. The signs of this kind of aggression include tail swishing, flattened ears, dilated pupils, growling, and hissing.

    To manage this cat, the owners must ignore the cat’s demands for play, food and attention; such rewards must only be given when the cat is relaxed. A relaxed cat holds her tail up, has normal sized pupils, and does not swat. Owners should never physically punish their cat; even a harmless tap on the nose may be viewed as a challenge and the cat may become even more aggressive. The most effective reaction to status-induced aggression is to ignore the cat completely.

    My cat has been very nasty toward the new cat I just brought home. They have violent interactions and I worry that they’ll hurt each other.
    Cats tend to defend their territory by exhibiting territorial aggression when a new cat is added to the household, and even when a resident cat returns from a hospital stay bearing unfamiliar smells. Owners often observe the territorial aggressive cat swatting, chasing, and attacking the new or returning cat.

    The most effective management of territorial aggression is to prevent it from occurring when first bringing home a new cat. However, the following steps can be taken even if you have already introduced a new cat and your cats are brawling. All of the following steps should be taken slowly; rushed introductions are the most common cause of failure.

  • Your new cat should be confined to his own room with litter, food, and water. The two cats should be able to smell and hear each other through the closed door, but there should be no physical contact.
  • After a few days, switch the positions of the cats. Allow your cat to investigate the smells of the newcomer, while the new cat explores the house and the scent of his new playmate. Expect some hissing. Switch them back after they have had some time to explore.
  • The next step is place them on opposite ends of the same room, either in carriers or restrained with harnesses and leashes. Both cats should be fed, so that they learn to associate the pleasure of eating with each other’s presence. If the cats won’t eat, or seem anxious or aggressive, they are probably too close together. However, if they eat and seem relaxed, they can be moved closer together at the next feeding session.
  • The final step is to release them from their carriers and feed them, still keeping them far apart. Monitor them for anxiety and aggression.
  • This whole process can proceed only as quickly as your cats allow, and can take weeks or even months. Signs of anxiety or aggression usually indicate that the introductions are proceeding too quickly. If the territorial aggression still cannot be controlled, your veterinarian may prescribe medication for both the aggressor and the victim. Keep in mind that medication is only part of the solution; it must be used in conjunction with slow introductions and consistent rewards for peaceful behavior.
  • We took in a pregnant stray cat that recently gave birth. The mother cat gets very agitated and hisses if we try to approach her or the kittens.
    The mother cat has maternal aggression. This behavior usually subsides as the kittens age. In the meantime, it is best to provide a low stress environment, keep visitors to a minimum, and avoid approaching or handling either the mother or her kittens if you are met with maternal aggression.

    If you must handle the mother cat during this time, she can be muzzled or gently restrained. If the kittens need to be held, try to entice the mother away with some tasty food.

    Our two male cats wake us up with fighting and hissing.
    Male cats are often involved in inter-cat aggression, which usually erupts as one cat reaches social maturity at two to four years of age. Although this type of aggression is usually seen in males due to hormone-driven competition for mates, it can occur between cats of any sex when territorial conflicts occur. Such cats exhibit the typical signs of aggression: flattened ears, puffed-up hair, hissing, and howling.

    Because there is a hormonal component, the first step toward alleviating this aggression is to neuter or spay all cats involved. If this has already been done, the cats should be separated, each with their own food, water, and litter box, whenever they are unsupervised. When you are monitoring them, they should be rewarded with treats for peaceful interactions. Put distinct sounding bells on breakaway collars on each cat so that you know their whereabouts. Immediately startle them with a loud noise (i.e. a compressed air canister, or shaken jar of pennies) or a squirt from a water gun whenever they behave aggressively.

    Suggested Products

    Cleaners/Deodorizers

    Anti-Icky-Poo (AIP)
    Bug-A-Boo Chemicals
    11924 NE Sumner
    Portland, OR 97220

    Nature’s Miracle
    Pets ‘N People Inc.
    27520 Hawthorne Boulevard, Suite 125
    Rolling Hills Estates, CA 90274
    (Also available at most major pet stores)

    Outright Stain and Odor Removal Products
    The Bramton Company
    P.O. Box 655450
    Dallas, TX 75265-5450

    Oxyfresh Pet Deodorizer
    Oxyfresh USA, Inc.
    P.O. Box 3723
    Spokane, WA 99220

    Pheromone Spray

    Feliway
    Abbott Laboratories
    1401 North Sheridan Road
    North Chicago, IL 60064

    Electronic Mats

    Scatmat/Scarecrow Motion Activated Sprinklers
    Contech Electronics, Inc.
    P.O. Box 115
    Saanichton, British Columbia
    Canada V8M 2C3

    PetMat Radio Systems Corporation
    5008 National Drive
    Knoxville, TN 37914

    Motion Detectors

    Scarecrow
    The Dog’s Outfitter
    1 Maplewood Drive
    Hazleton, PA 18201
    (Motion detector that turns on a sprinkler when activated)

     

    Cat Vomit

    Vomitting

    Vomiting is a very common problem in dogs and cats. There are many causes of vomiting. Primary or gastric causes of vomiting are those that are due to diseases of the stomach and upper intestinal tract. Secondary or non-gastric causes of vomiting are caused by diseases of other organs that cause an accumulation of toxic substances in the blood. These toxic substances stimulate the vomiting center in the brain causing the animal to vomit.

    A problem that can be confused with vomiting is regurgitation. Vomiting is the ejection of contents of the stomach and upper intestine; regurgitation is the ejection of contents of the esophagus. The esophagus is a narrow, muscular tube that food passes through on its way to the stomach. In health, food moves quickly through the esophagus to the stomach. If the muscle of the esophagus loses tone, the esophagus dilates, a condition called megaesophagus. A dilated esophagus does not effectively move food to the stomach and the animal will regurgitate food usually shortly after eating. The food may also be inhaled into the airways causing pneumonia and cough.

    When you present your pet to the veterinarian because he or she is vomiting, the veterinarian will ask questions in attempt to differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation and to try to determine if your pet is vomiting due to gastric or non gastric disease. Vomiting is an active process. The pet is apprehensive and heaves and retches to vomit. If food is present in vomit, it is partially digested and a yellow fluid, bile may be present. Regurgitation is fairly passive. The animal lowers its head and food is expelled without effort. The food brought up by regurgitation is usually undigested, may have a tubular shape, and is often covered with a slimy mucus. The pet will often try to eat the regurgitated material. You may bring a fresh sample of “vomit” for the veterinarian to examine. The pH of vomit containing food is acid, the pH of regurgitated materials is higher. Your ability to answer questions about your pet’s activity, habits and environment will help the veterinarian decide which causes of vomiting are most likely in your pet. A history of any drugs your pet is receiving is important. Over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen can cause severe stomach ulcers in dogs depending upon the dose and duration of treatment. The veterinarian may ask you to describe the appearance of the vomit, as well as describe how your pet looks when it vomits and the relation ship of vomiting to eating. If the vomit contains blood it may be fresh, red blood or look like coffee grounds if the blood is digested. Blood is most often seen with stomach ulcers, stomach cancer or uremia (a collection of signs including vomiting seen in pets with kidney failure). Stomach ulcers can be caused by drugs or the presence of a mast cell cancer in the skin. Mast cell cancers release histamine that leads to stomach ulcers. Regurgitation often, but not always, happens right after eating and the pet will try to eat the regurgitated food. Vomiting occurs a variable time after eating or may occur in a pet who is off food. Animals with a twisted stomach, gastric dilation-torsion, may make frequent attempts to vomit without producing anything. Pets with a hacking cough may retch and sometime vomit at the end of an episode of forceful coughing. An accurate description in this case would lead to an investigation of the causes of coughing, rather than vomiting.

    If your pet vomits just occasionally and has a specific series of actions associated with vomiting, you may consider video taping an episode of vomiting to help describe the episodes to the veterinarian.

    The physical examination of the vomiting pet can also provide information to narrow the list of possible causes. The presence of fever, abdominal pain, jaundice, anemia or abnormal masses in the abdomen will help the veterinarian make a more specific diagnosis. The mouth should be carefully examined as some foreign objects such as string can wind around the base of the tongue with the rest of the object extending into the stomach or small intestine. A nodule may be palpated in the neck of cats with hyperthyroidism.

    The list of non-gastric causes of vomiting is long.

    Pancreatitis in the dog causes vomiting that is sudden in onset and often severe. The dog may have a painful belly. Pets with pancreatitis often have a history of eating garbage or fatty table scraps. Tumors of the pancreas can cause similar signs to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis occurs in the cat but the signs are subtle and non specific and often don’t include vomiting.

    Kidney failure is a common cause of vomiting in dogs and cats. The kidneys can be acutely (suddenly) damaged by poisons such as antifreeze or by severe dehydration. Waste products that the kidneys normally get rid of, rise to high levels in just a few days. The kidneys can also gradually lose their ability to remove waste products from the body as the pet ages. Early signs of kidney failure include drinking and urinating large amounts called polyuria and polydipsia or PU-PD. PU-PD may be present for months to years before the kidney failure is severe enough to lead to waste product accumulation and vomiting. Vomiting in chronic kidney failure may began as occasional episodes and progress to severe, frequent vomiting. The pet with chronic kidney failure will often lose body condition and may have pale gums due to anemia.

    Non-spayed, middle aged female pets can develop a uterine infection called pyometra. Pyometra occurs within 2 months after a heat cycle and often results in discharge of pus from the vagina. The pet may frequently lick the vagina so discharge may not be seen. Dogs develop pyometra more often than cats. Other signs may include PU-PD and depression.

    Liver failure causes vomiting as well as other signs depending on the type of liver disease. Other signs of liver disease may include seizures, jaundice (a yellow discoloration of the areas of skin not covered by fur), PU-PD and fluid accumulation in the belly or legs. Bladder obstruction or rupture will cause a sudden onset of vomiting. The urethra that leads from the bladder to the outside can get plugged by stones or tumors. The animal will strain and pass just a few drops of urine or none at all. They will also have a painful belly. Bladder obstruction if not corrected, is fatal in just a few days. The bladder can be ruptured by blunt trauma such as being hit by a car or kicked.

    A form of diabetes called ketoacidosis will cause vomiting along with depression and PU-PD.

    Addison’s disease is a deficiency of hormones from the adrenal gland and causes vomiting, diarrhea and weakness. Addison’s disease occurs most commonly in young to middle aged dogs, most of which are female. Addison’s is rare in the cat. The signs of Addison’s disease may be intermittent or may be very severe and constant.

    Diseases of the inner ear can cause vomiting accompanied by incoordination, circling and tilting of the head to the side. Motion during car rides stimulates the inner ear and can cause vomiting.

    A sudden onset of vomiting in young, poorly vaccinated pets may be caused by infectious agents including canine distemper, canine parvovirus and feline panleukopenia virus.

    There are many toxins including lead, insecticides, antifreeze and other chemicals that can cause vomiting.

    Cats with elevated thyroid function, hyperthyroidism, may vomit in addition to other signs including, increased appetite, weight loss, hyperactivity and a poorly kept coat. Heartworm disease in cats may cause vomiting in addition to coughing, respiratory distress, weight loss and depression.

    Primary causes of vomiting include acute gastritis often due to eating garbage or other types of dietary indiscretions; the ingestion of large amounts of hair during grooming; ulcers of the stomach; stomach or upper intestinal cancer; parasites; food allergies; the presence of a foreign body stuck in the stomach or upper intestine; twisting and dilation of the stomach; and intussusception which is a telescoping of one part of the intestine into another piece of intestine.

    The stomach is usually empty 6 to 8 hours after eating. Vomiting of food when the stomach should be empty suggests an obstruction of the stomach or abnormal motion of the stomach muscles that normally grind food and push the ground food out of the stomach.

    Tests to differentiate primary causes of vomiting include x-rays or ultrasound of the abdomen and endoscopy. Endoscopy is the technique of passing a flexible scope into the stomach and upper intestine to examine the inside of these structures. It may be possible to remove a foreign body with endoscopy and small biopsies of the lining of the stomach and intestine can be taken for microscopic evaluation. Endoscopy requires general anesthesia.

    If the pet vomits sporadically, the results of all tests may be normal. Many healthy dogs and cats vomit occasionally without identifying a cause. Sometimes the cause of vomiting is as simple as the pet eating too fast. The treatment for vomiting depends upon the cause. Nonspecific treatment for vomiting includes fasting, and fluids to correct or prevent dehydration. In episodes of sudden onset of vomiting, food is withheld for 24 – 48 hours and water for 24 hours. Water should never be withheld from an animal with known or suspected kidney disease without replacing fluids intravenously or subcutaneously (under the skin). If vomiting stops, small amounts of a bland low-fat food are fed 3 to 6 times daily for a few days, with a gradual increase in the amount fed and a gradual transition to the pet’s normal diet. Water is also reintroduced in small amounts on the second day. You may start with ice cubes and then gradually increase the amount of water over the day if vomiting does not reoccur.

    If the pet is bright and alert and has had no previous health problems, episodes of acute vomiting may be managed at home, although veterinary consultation prior to home treatment is advised. Consultation with a veterinarian in your region may reveal a recent outbreak of an infectious disease causing vomiting or identify a cluster of recent poisonings. With this type of knowledge you will want to have your pet evaluated rather than waiting a few days. Dogs and cats who vomit for longer than a few days or are depressed or dehydrated should be presented for veterinary evaluation.