Tuesday, March 16, 2010

We Never Stop Learning

We at the Scottsdale Cat Clinic are dedicated to continuing education for all our staff. Indeed, we go far beyond the minimum requirements. To remain licensed in Arizona, a veterinarian is required to attend 10 hours of education a year. So far this year, while at the Western Veterinary Conference in Last Vegas in February, Dr. Karnia attended 24 hours of lectures and spent many hours in the exhibit hall learning about new products. Last year, Dr. Karnia earned over 60 hours of education at conferences and webinars. In addition, she reads leading veterinary journals including Journal of American Veterinary Medicine and The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery among others. When she needs a specific answer for a difficult case, she consults the Veterinary Information Networks, a team of experts that answer questions from other vets. It's no stretch to say that Dr. Karnia is a part-time student as well as a doctor. A good veterinarian never leaves school.

At the WVC in Las Vegas, over 6000 veterinarians gather for five days of continuing education on medical, behavioral, and management issues for all types of animals. In the past, the industry skewed toward the treatment of dogs - a frustrating experience for people like Dr. Karnia. But in the last few years, veterinary conferences have increasingly added lectures focused exclusively on feline medicine.

During this conference, Dr. Karnia attended lectures about chronic sinusitis, feline heartworm, kitten behavior, Herpes virus, inflammatory bowel disease, anesthesia, and many other disease processes. At the lecture about feline heartworm disease, vivid pictures showed the damage to the lung tissue due to exposure to the heartworm larva even when the cat's body is able to fight off the worm from forming in the heart. Dr. Karnia also learned a new technique for clicker training to assist with difficult introductions of a new cat to the household.

Our continuing education doesn't stop with Dr. Karnia. The SCC team constantly learns about patient medical care and client care by attending lunch seminars with our product representatives and specialists in various fields, reading journals and veterinary websites, and taking online courses through veterinary education sites. Dr. Karnia also holds staff meetings at least monthly to review information and discuss proper patient and client care. Our team members are also very interested in the individual patients. Dr. Karnia will often discuss test results, treatments and procedures with the staff, ensuring that all our employees are conversant with the medicine we practice.

Our goal is to be the most knowledgeable feline practice and provide high quality medical care for all of our patients. We hope to pass that knowledge along to our clients so they can take the best care of their cat family.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring: A Time of Renewal and Danger

Spring is in the air. The weather is warming and the smell of blooming flowers is apparent the moment you step outside. This is the season of renewal. It's also a time that can present dangers to your cat, even in common household items.

Spring and Easter bouquets are lovely to receive this time of year, especially ones with lilies. However, many varieties of lily - including Easter lilies, Tiger lilies and others - are extremely toxic to your cat. While the exact toxin within lilies isn't known, it is known that every part of the plant is harmful and deadly. The smallest nibble of a leaf is enough to cause a poisoning reaction. The best option is to simply not have lilies as a part of any floral decorations or arrangements in the house, especially since cats have a tendency to be very curious toward new objects and some are even drawn to the fragrance of flowers.

If you do have lilies in or outside your home and you are not sure if your cat has ingested part of the plant or not, signs of lily toxicosis become present within the first two to six hours. Intestinal upset will manifest itself through vomiting, loss of appetite and depression. If you notice these signs, it is best to bring your cat to your veterinarian immediately. These initial signs could possibly subside, but that does not mean your cat is in the clear. In the next twelve to eighteen hours kidney damage will develop. Your veterinarian can induce vomiting to remove the plant matter from your cat's system if ingestion was within a few hours. IV fluids and other medications will likely need to be administered. If a cat is not treated within the first eighteen hours of ingestion, kidney failure and death can occur. Immediate care is required to prevent permanent kidney damage. If proper aggressive veterinary care is administered, a full recovery is possible. If no treatment is given, death will usually occur within three to seven days.

For more information on lily toxicosis, including photos of various types of lilies, you can visit the Cat Fanciers' Association article on this subject. In addition, they have a helpful list of other plants that are dangerous for cats. And since part of many folks' spring renewal includes a good "spring cleaning", here is a helpful room-by-room checklist of ways to make your home safer for your cats (and other pets, too).

And lastly, here are a few Animal Poison Control contacts: -Pet Poison Helpline by phone: 800.213.6680 or on the web www.petpoisonhelpline.com (please note there is a per incident fee for their services) -The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center by phone at 888.426.4435 or on their website. (they also note a fee for services, see their website for more info)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is Stress Having an Impact on Your Cat?

Stress. Our lives are filled with it. Or at least that's how it seems based on how much is written on the subject, both in terms of how to avoid it, its deleterious effects on our mental and physical well-being, and how to minimize that impact. But have you ever thought about whether your cat is stressed too, and how that stress affects her? It does sound a little silly, doesn't it? A stressed-out cat. All cats do is sleep and play. Sounds like a great life. Many cats are fortunate enough to have good homes where all their needs are met, so they don't even have obvious stresses such as where to find their next meal or a safe place to sleep. So how can a cat be stressed?

According to several recent studies, not only do cats feel stress but they are also susceptible to the negative physical and mental effects of it. A summary of papers presented at the NAVC Conference 2010 in Orlando was published in a supplement by the professional journal Clinician's Brief. Both papers presented in the supplement Stress - The Silent Player in Feline Disease discuss how cats' stressor responses are related to their evolutionary make up and how they do - or don't - adapt to being brought indoors. The success of their adaptation to being our indoor companions relates to their ability to handle stress and whether or not it will effect them physically and mentally.

In his paper Internal and External Influences on Disease Risk, Tony Buffington of Ohio State University states that indoor cats will still behave as if they were in the wild in terms of their drives to hunt, hide and defend their territories. If we don't understand these behaviors for what they are, we frequently misinterpret the meaning behind them, thinking they are acts of deliberate hostility or spite. The behaviors most commonly misinterpreted are biting, scratching, climbing and marking. In our misunderstanding, our responses to these behavior can create external sources of stress for cats, which in turn can create internal problems. Dr. Buffington concludes his paper saying that because our current knowledge base is limited with regard to the internal factors that cause physical stress, we as owners need to focus on the external factors that we can control and positively enhance.

Sarah Heath, a veterinarian and behaviorist from Chester, England, discusses in her paper Happy, Healthy Cats: How to Minimize Stress in the Modern Domestic Environment, how being indoor companions can actually compromise natural behavior for a cat. These lead to creating stress for cats, and again, can have a direct impact on their health. Dr. Heath discusses our preference for multi-cat household consisting of unrelated cats, as well as how people have different interaction expectations from cats versus how cats are more accustomed to interaction amongst themselves. Even if there is not outright aggression or fighting amongst cats in a multi-cat household, low-grade stress and tension can still be present, which can lead to behavioral issues and may even contribute to physical illness.

While it might seem that the best answer would be to let your cat roam unsupervised outdoors to relieve his or her stress at being indoors, this is definitely not the answer. The outdoor presents many dangers for cats including parasites, diseases, predators and cars. Keeping cats indoors is still the best option for a long and happy life.

Both Dr. Buffington and Dr. Heath offer suggestions for helping reduce external stressors for cats by providing proper environmental enrichment in the home. These include each cat having his or her own space away from other cats in the house; providing several "food and water" stations around the house so there isn't a sense of competition for these; providing several litter boxes, again to reduce a sense of competition, and maintaining the cleanliness of the box; and providing adequate physical and mental exercise that stimulates their normal "in the wild" behaviors. More suggestions can be found at the Ohio State University's Indoor Cat Project. Because cats can be so skilled at hiding signs of tension or stress until the effects have become detrimental, here at Scottsdale Cat Clinic we recommend implementing these environmental enrichments. Even if your cat is happy and healthy, these are wonderful ways to ensure she stays that way.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010