Category: Cats (page 2 of 5)

The Hairy Truth About Hairballs

from www.tvacres.com

from www.tvacres.com

Horf horf horf, ack!  Ah yes, the sound you might hear at 3am and don’t make the connection until you wake up in the morning and step in it.  You know, the cold wet clump of fur your cat brought up a few hours ago.  For some cats and their owners, it has just been written off as a part of life.  But for others though, hairballs might be a sign of a larger problem.

In many cases, we can point the finger of blame to evolution whereby we got the joy of long haired cats on Earth and later we can thank the Egyptians thousands of ears ago for worshipping these glorious felines.  From that those days on, cats decided to make us their servants and remind us of our place…  What better way to do this than to make us clean up their recycled hair in a wet, clumped format?  It’s not just long haired cats that provide us with hairballs however as my own domestic shorthair Gremlin almost daily now reminds me with a small gift on my side of the bed.  (It turns out, she was actually constipated and once that was addressed the hairballs stopped!)

from www.vetoquinol.ca

from www.vetoquinol.ca

Hairballs, or trichobezoars, in most cases are the product of grooming as part of kitty’s normal cleaning habits.  Typically, they might only have an episode every few weeks to months and this is not so problematic.  Brushing your cat (if they’ll let you!) can help remove dead hairs and minimize how much they are ingesting.  For cats that aren’t amenable to brushing or if it still isn’t enough, many veterinarians will recommend using a gooey flavored paste (Laxatone or Tonic-Lax are 2 common products) that can help bind up hairs and grease up the insides a bit to help them pass more easily out the back end.

Sometimes though, hairballs are much more frequent than expected.  But why?  Over-grooming can be a common cause but is often linked to other issues.  Cats may over-groom if they are stressed for behavioral reasons.  Another cause is underlying skin issues such as allergies or infections.  I’ve even seen a few cats lick their bellies clean of fur and they were found to have problems on the inside such as bladder infections or stones and in one case an intestinal tumor.  The most likely thought is the inflammation was so uncomfortable that the licking was almost as if they were trying to relieve the discomfort on the inside.  But then again, they can’t talk to us so maybe their obsessive behaviors in those cases were them telling us there was a problem.

Hairball noted by arrows, Morgan Animal Hospital, Ontario

Hairball noted by arrows, Morgan Animal Hospital, Ontario

Another cause to consider would be gastrointestinal issues.  We know cats eat their own hair, and who wouldn’t like silky smooth hair?  That hair may sit in the stomach for a prolonged time if there is a motility issue such as delayed emptying of the stomach or an excessive amount of tissue that prevents things from passing into the intestine.  On occasion, these clumps of hair can join with other ingested material and cause an obstruction which might involve surgery to remove.  To help with these issues, your veterinarian may recommend a hairball control diet which has certain amounts of digestible fiber to stimulate intestinal movement or, if needed, medications can also be used to help keep a normal flow.  If there is an increased frequency of hairballs, it may often be linked to inflammatory bowel disease.

As I try to tell people, a one time incident in these cases isn’t usually a cause for alarm.  Multiple times or increasing frequency deserves a trip to your trusted veterinarian.  So next time you step in a hairball, maybe you cat is trying to tell you something and you should listen.  Or they’re just getting revenge for that horrible outfit you made them wear at Halloween.

www.metzgercartoons.com

www.metzgercartoons.com

Disclaimer:  Blog posts may contain opinions which are my own and do not reflect that of any current or former employers.

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Cars, Planes, Cats & Dogs – Traveling with a Pet

Cars, Planes, Cats & Dogs – Traveling with a Pet

The arrival of the spring-summer travel season is upon us and perhaps you’re getting ready to take some time off with the family including the pets.  Traveling with pets can be lots of fun but also can be an anxious endeavor for both you and them.  Before you hit the open road or take to the skies, let’s do our part to make it a safe and enjoyable time for everyone.  Edie the Pug and I are back to help share some tips for your upcoming adventures!

Edie wants you to be safe & loves car rides!

Edie wants you to be safe & loves car rides!

Safety in the car just isn’t for you; your pets have to be safe also.  We’re talking about restraint.  Cats should always be in a carrier.  Preferably the carrier should be large enough for them to stand up and walk around in (though my cat prefers to curl up) but small enough to fit on the floor behind a seat which is the safest place.  For longer trips you may need a larger type crate (if space allows) for a litterbox and water or food dishes.  Dogs should wear seatbelt harnesses unless they are a toy breed then they should be in a carrier.  Seatbelt harnesses should be comfortable, well fitting, and sturdy.  One such recommendation is the Sleepypod Clickit Sport harness.  There may be other restraint devices out there but they may not have been tested for safety ratings.  For more safety info, you can visit the Center for Pet Safety website where they have tested many types (using crash test dummies).

SleepyPod Clickit Sport harness (from Sleepypod.com)

SleepyPod Clickit Sport harness (from Sleepypod.com)

What about when you fly?  Carriers will have different requirements if you are flying on an airplane so you will need to check with the airline.  If your pet is going in cargo, make sure the carrier has a screw type of closure, not clips as we wouldn’t want anyone escaping!cat in carrier2

A common request I get is about sedation for the trip.  Many dogs don’t seem to be bothered by a car trip but some do mind and there is a fair chance that many cats will vocalize.  In some cases they’re just talking but sometimes it’s more of a concern or bother for the other passengers especially if kitty is frantic in the carrier.  As mentioned before, by no means would I suggest that your cat get free roam of the car as it is a safety hazard to everyone.

pillsI must first stress you should never give any over the counter or prescription medication without the advice of a veterinarian.  Sedatives or anti-anxiety medications can vary from homeopathic to mild common medications to heavy tranquilization.  It is best to look into any type of medication at least a few weeks before your trip as I prefer to start on a benign medication (something that won’t affect heart rate or blood pressure) or start on a lower dose of a mid-grade medication.  Each pet will be different and may require different drugs.  When traveling on a plane, I do not recommend heavy medications that would normally require monitoring unless nothing else will work and we have no other choice.

These are the two main points to focus on when traveling with your pets.  There is much more but we will touch on them briefly here.

Nausea : Some animals can get car sick just like people!  If they do, it may be best if they are fasted before a trip or only feed them a small meal.  Alternatively, your veterinarian can recommend or prescribe something to help.

Identification & Records : Before leaving, make sure your pets tags or microchip information is up to date in case of a separation.  If you will be gone for awhile or if your pet has a medical condition, it may be useful to bring a copy of pertinent records or information should they need medical attention.

First aid kit : Particularly if you’re camping, this may be a necessity.  Bandage material, antibiotic ointment, tick removers, peroxide, and eye wash are just a few of the items that might be handy.

Pit stops : Take a break every few hours on longer trips!  Stretch your legs and let your dog do the same.  For cats, this might be a good time to set a litterbox in the back of a vehicle for them to try to use though some cats may be too stressed.  I would also suggest having a leash & harness on cats just as another aid in keeping them from escaping or getting under seats.

Well that’s the basics of pet travel and we didn’t even talk about moving overseas!  Plan ahead and be safe. Remember, it’s not just a vacation; it’s an adventure!

Gremlin napping during a trip

Gremlin napping during a trip

Disclaimer: Blog posts may be opinions which are my own and do not reflect on those of my current or any former employers.  I did not receive any compensation from SleepyPod or the Center for Pet Safety.

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Declawing Cats – Why I’m Stopping

Declawing Cats – Why I’m Stopping

It is highly unlikely that there is a more controversial or debated topic amongst animal lovers even in the veterinary community.  I personally had not given it much thought until I met my colleague at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Jaime Buchanan.  She mentioned that I should watch “The Paw Project” (which is readily available on Netflix).  I watched it this past weekend and here’s my thoughts on onychectomy (the proper name for declawing).

my sweet cat Gremlin

my sweet cat Gremlin

I’ve been in practice as a veterinarian for almost 9 years now and I’ve declawed a number of cats.  I’ll admit, I even had my own cat, Gremlin, declawed almost 14 years ago.  Like many other people, I didn’t give it a second thought at the time as I had a waterbed and lived in a rented apartment where my roommates dog had already torn out a chunk of carpet.  Also like many other people, I didn’t really know what declawing was when I was a young first time cat owner who had not gone to veterinary school.  In actuality, it is the amputation of the third phalange of each digit (toe) – basically from the tip of your finger to the first joint.

film to end declawing

Paw Project movie poster

Watching “The Paw Project”, I was baffled why anyone, let alone who, would declaw a lion, panther, or other wild cats.  There were visible physical deformities that when watching, I attributed to a very poorly done surgery.  Namely, nails regrowing which is often the result of incomplete amputation of the bone the nail grows from.  Then they turned to domestic house cats as the focus.  This is not to say that house cats do not have any problems after a declawing surgery.  Undoubtedly, there is always a risk for complications such as open wounds, infections, remainders of bone left behind, damage to paw pads, or residual pain despite analgesics (pain meds).

pic from www.gopixpic.com

pic from www.gopixpic.com

What about the psychological or behavioral implications?  Well, this is part of the major dilemma.  Cats are typically declawed to avoid unwanted behaviors, namely furniture destruction.  Declawing a cat doesn’t remove that behavior…I see Gremlin making the same motions on a step stool all the time.  Opponents of declawing argue that declawed cats have more instances of biting and can be more instances of inappropriate elimination. Personally, I can agree with the biting aspect but find difficulty accepting the inappropriate elimination aspect as I see that almost daily in non-declawed cats and find the causes are infections, stress, or bladder crystals.  Yes, there are studies out there that discuss this but they are primarily retrospective studies involving asking pet owners.  Several of these are cited on pawproject.org under the FAQs.

Now Gremlin does not harbor any ill-will toward me because I had her declawed; she is bonded to me and very rarely is social with other people.  But for many people and their cats, the relationship may change.  That relationship is what leads owners to elect for a declaw procedure in the first place.  They think that by removing the cat’s ability to destroy furniture or scratch people that all will be good in the house.  Unfortunately, some cats who do begin to bite more as a way of defending themselves or communicating are very likely to end up outside, in a shelter, or euthanized.  Outside, they are even more helpless against other animals.

Plenty of color choices! pic from Wenn.com

Plenty of color choices! pic from Wenn.com

Nowadays, there are alternatives to declawing aside from nail trims though trimming a cat’s nails is much easier than black nails of a dog.  I always recommend to new pet owners to start playing with their kittens feet to get them used to being handled and also to start trimming every couple of weeks while they are young.  Soft Paws are plastic coated nail covers which can be applied with an adhesive and will last for several weeks.  The old standby is scratching posts.  Cats can be taught to go after the scratching post instead of your furniture by rubbing catnip into the material.  It’s best to let your cat choose the post, so give them a few options – carpet covered, rope, cardboard, etc.  Another product I became aware of is called Sticky Paws which is a double sided adhesive that can be stuck on objects you don’t want scratched and when the cat goes after that object the material will be unsatisfying to them and they can be taught to avoid it.

Let’s briefly look at the other pets in the house – dogs.  Dogs have been known to rip up carpets, chew couches, scratch up doorways but nobody ever considers taking off the dogs toes or removing all their teeth.  So why have we gotten into this acceptance of declawing for cats?  When I think about it this way, it becomes clear to me.

We have to start to make a change somewhere.  As of today, I am declaring that I will cease to do elective declaws on cats (this includes another type of procedure called a tenotomy).  The only situation that I would still do such a procedure would be if a medical reason for the cat to have a toe amputated was given (such as a tumor).  Next time you’re in to your veterinarian, maybe ask them how they feel and maybe it will make them step back and think.  As of 2014, declawing was banned in at least 30 countries and at least 8 US cities all in California (per The Paw Project).  The State of New York is also currently considering a law to join in the ban.  Someday maybe this procedure will be illegal elsewhere but until then, inform yourself and bond with your cat.

declawing is chopping off finger tips

Disclaimer: All blog posts are personally written and my opinion and do not reflect those of current or former employers.

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