Category: Medical & Chronic Health (page 2 of 6)

Diabetic Cats – Yes They Can Change!

Sal in hospital

Sal in hospital

The following is a true story (used with permission) of how diabetic cats can change their insulin requirements.

Sal is a 13 year old domestic shorthair cat who was diagnosed with diabetes in 2010.  He had been showing the initial signs of increased urination and having accidents outside the litterbox.  These signs, along with weight loss and increased drinking, are some of the most commonly noted first symptoms of diabetes or an alert to a pet owner that something is wrong.  Some cats may vomit, have a decrease in their appetite, or start to walk in a flat-footed position.  In later stages of not being diagnosed or treated, diabetic cats can have labored breathing and lethargy.

Insulin varieties

Insulin varieties

Back to Sal…  At the time of his diagnosis, he was started on insulin and his diet was changed to a higher protein, lower carbohydrate diet.  He had been doing well for a number of years and was considered to be a well controlled diabetic.  As part of our continuing care of these patients, we recommend doing a glucose curve every 6-12 months as part of their annual examination.  For some cats, we realize that the stress of the clinic setting might be too much for them and encourage home testing (which can be quite easy and most veterinarians will show you how!).  For cats that home testing is difficult either for the patient or the family (not everyone can stand the sight of blood), we do this testing in hospital.  Sal was one of these cats who fit into the latter category.

Hypoglycemia in diabetic cats

Hypoglycemia

Life happens and things don’t always get to go as planned; work or family obligations change, moving might happen, or the budget might be a little tight at times.  That’s okay and can be understandable…it even happens to us as vets too with our own pets and families.  Sal had been delayed in coming in for his annual check up.  His owner brought him in because he was seeming weak and hadn’t been eating well.  I examined him and checked his blood glucose level which was 1.2 (or 21.7 depending on your units)!  The average normal range for a cat is 4.0 – 9.7 (72.6 – 176).

So why did Sal present like this?  His signs were easily attributed to his low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) but his insulin dose had not been increased.  Well, it’s been known for some cats to convert to not needing insulin and their diabetes may be controlled by diet.  This is exactly what happened to Sal.  As he converted, his previously needed insulin dose essentially became that of an overdose.

Normal blood glucose

Normal blood glucose

Rest easy everyone.  Sal is doing fine.  We admitted him to the hospital and put him on intravenous fluids that contained dextrose to help bring his glucose levels up and remove the risk of seizures.  We checked his glucose levels without him getting insulin as well and he never went above the high end of normal so 2 days later he got to go home and now doesn’t need insulin injections!  For now he is doing well, but his family is still going to keep a close eye on him because there may come a time when he might need to start the injections again so he’ll be getting regular checkups from now on.

Disclaimer: All blog posts may contain opinions which are my own and may not reflect those of any current or former employers.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget you can subscribe on the right side to get new posts directly to your email!  And I’m now on Instagram @drryanllera and as always on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Senior Pet Care – How You Can Help

senior pet dogPeople everyday are getting a new puppy, kitten, or other pet to join their family.  And yes, most of the time these new additions are just in their first few months of a long life.  For a few of these pets, we as veterinarians will see them for their initial vaccines, adoption exams, maybe a spay or neuter surgery.  Some of them will make annual visits for a check up while others we may not see for several years once they are much older or only if they are sick.  It’s these senior pets that we often can make the most difference in their quality of life.

I cannot stress enough the importance of an annual examination, or in the case of pets with chronic illnesses every 6 months.  This should start from the time they are young adult animals until their final days.  Early detection of a condition can save lives and keep pets healthier for longer.  Who wouldn’t want their furry kid to have a happy life for as long as possible?  That’s the first step you can do to help your pets with the aid of your veterinarian.  Yet, there are somethings you can do yourself or that you should pay special attention to help them out in their golden years.

buzby toe grips

www.toegrips.com

Mobility issues can be quite difficult to overcome but can make a significant improvement in how a pet feels.  Signs can be obvious from a noticeable limp to more subtle signs such as dragging a foot, difficulty with stairs, or a decreased appetite.  While some patients will benefit from supportive medications, the most important thing you can do is to keep them at a healthy weight!  If you have slippery floors, you should look at adding some area rugs or another idea is a product called Dr. Buzby’s Toe Grips.  These grips fit onto the nails on your dog and help them in getting traction so they can walk around better.  Another quick tip: If you’ve got stairs, consider a ramp.

cytology from a lump aspiration

cytology from a lump aspiration

Lumps and bumps are often seen as a part of growing old.  Sometimes these lumps can be benign but that means there’s also a potential chance for them to be malignant.  The tendency for many people tends to be watching the lump to see if it changes in size, color, temperature, or texture.  The problem is when those lumps grow in areas such as the legs which make it difficult to remove them entirely or not without a higher risk of complications.  Another risk if is the pet chews on the lumps or if they burst.  Let’s be honest for a moment…when someone tells me the lump wasn’t there yesterday, that can only be the truth less than 20% of the time.  So as my colleague Dr. Sue Cancer Vet says, “Why wait? Aspirate!”  Basically, if a lump is there for more than a month and is larger than a pea, you should get it checked out before it’s too late.

from dogs-looking-like-people.tumblr.com

from dogs-looking-like-people.tumblr.com

Much like people, senior pets can show signs changes in their behavior similar to Alzheimers disease in people.  In cats & dogs, we call this cognitive dysfunction.  There are no definitively effective treatments unfortunately but there are some things that can help.  In particular, some specialty prescription diets can help protect the brain from free radicals which can lead to oxidation of cells in the brain.  Hence, the idea of antioxidants can help to reduce this damage by blocking the reactions.  Something else to consider would be to go against the adage of “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and work/play with them to give their brains something to be challenged by.  Studies show that for people doing activities like crossword puzzles that encourage thought processes can delay or help fight the onset these changes so maybe there’s some hope that it could work for pets too.  Some ideas to work on are scent or food detection (think the object is under one of three bowls sleight of hand trick) or even reinforcing previously learned behaviors or tricks.

corneal disease

corneal disease

Other changes that you might notice might be with their eyes.  Some eye conditions may affect vision but could possibly be painful as well.  For some breeds such as brachycephalics (pugs, pekingese, shih tzus), they will often develop a condition called dry eye which while not necessarily painful, can be uncomfortable and cause a pigmentation of the cornea.  If they are going blind, just don’t rearrange the furniture.  Moving to the back end of the pet, incontinence is often over-represented as a presenting complaint when pets arrive at the clinic.  Yes, they may be leaking urine but in reality, the odds of a urinary tract infection, kidney disease, or diabetes creating urine overflow are much more likely.

Your pets aren’t “just getting old.”  While they are aging, they are living longer than they did 20 years ago and that means we’ll see more health problems.  There are many facets to the care of your senior pet.  You are their biggest advocate and need to be the watchdog over their health.  By noticing subtle changes and having them addressed as soon as possible, you can keep things from getting worse and making treatment less difficult & more promising.  A general rule of thumb is a check up every 6-12 months.  Senior pets are just like our older relatives, treasured companions that are still full of love; so be sure to take care of them!

Disclaimer: All blog posts may contain opinions which are my own and may not reflect those of any current or former employers.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget you can subscribe on the right side to get new posts directly to your email!  And I’m now on Instagram @drryanllera and as always on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

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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