Monday, November 15, 2010

Otitis Kittens

This week's case of the week is actually about two young cats from two different families with a similar problem that we saw in the past week. Both of the cats had ear mites and had been treated for them but were still scratching at their ears. The owners were concerned that their cats still had the ear mites.

When I examined each of them, the ear canals were so full of waxy discharge that I could barely see into the ears. We looked at the discharge under the microscope but could not find any mites. We then did a smear of the discharge and put on a stain that helps us see any cells, bacteria, or yeast. By looking at these under the microscope, I found that both cats had large numbers of yeast. We cleaned the ears well and I prescribed medication to place into the ears, which will clear up the infection.

Ear mites are parasites, called Otodectes, that live in the ear canals of cats, dogs, rabbits and ferrets. They are very contagious and are spread with close contact of animals. They cause itching of the ears, which can be quite severe in some cats. A large amount of wax builds up in the ear canals. When the cat scratches at his ears with his hind claws, he can cause damage to the skin, from small scabs to deep scratches that can become infected.

In some cats, I can see the ear mites moving around in the canal when I look in with my otoscope. If I can't see them but I suspect they are there, we take some of the discharge and place it on a slide so we can look under the microscope. If ear mites are present, we can see them moving on the slide. In some cases, we will also see the mite eggs under the microscope.

Ear mites are usually easily treated with medications prescribed by a veterinarian. There are medications that go directly into the ear or onto the skin, which then spreads to the ears to kill the mites. These products are very effective and I rarely see a case where the mites are not completely resolved after one treatment. I have, however, seen many cases in which an over-the-counter medication was tried and did not kill the mites. These over-the-counter drugs are not nearly as effective as the medications available from a veterinarian.

Ear mites, however, can still cause problems even after they are gone. It is not uncommon to see cases like these two kittens in which the cat continues to scratch after ear mite treatment. These are usually due to bacterial or yeast infections. These will occur because of the moist environment in the canals resulting from the waxy build-up cause by the mites. These are a little more difficult to treat but usually resolve well with ear cleaning and the proper medication applied into the ears for several days.

There are other problems as well that cause ear discomfort and discharge. If you notice discharge or see your cat scratching at her ears or shaking her head, have your veterinarian examine your cat and look at the discharge under the microscope (called cytology). Many over-the-counter medications do not work or cause further irritation and may not be addressing the real cause of the problem. It is better for your veterinarian to determine the cause and prescribe the proper treatment so you can resolve your cat's discomfort.

You can find more information in the LifeLearn Library on our website.

Dr. Judy Karnia

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Diabetes In Cats Defined

Because of the increase in cases of diabetes in people, the American Diabetes Association declared November to be Diabetes Awareness Month. Sadly, veterinarians are seeing a steady increase of diabetes in pets as well. That's the bad news. The good news is that it is a condition that can be successfully treated with commitment from the veterinarian and the owner.

Diabetes Mellitus is the most common form of diabetes found in cats, and is the second most common endocrine disease in cats. It is estimated to affect one in 400 cats, is found in more males than females, and is a common ailment of middle-aged to senior cats.

Diabetes is a disease of the pancreas. In cats with normal glucose metabolism, food is broken down into components that can be used by the body. Carbohydrates are converted into various sugars including glucose. Glucose is absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream, providing the body cells with energy. Glucose can only enter most cells if the hormone insulin in present. There are specific cells, called beta cells, located within the pancreas that manufacture insulin.

Diabetes mellitus, or "sugar diabetes" as it is sometimes called, is caused by a lack of insulin available to the cells in the body. This is due either to insufficient insulin production by the pancreas, or by the body cells failing to respond to the insulin. As a result, blood glucose levels are too high and the body cells cannot absorb enough to provide adequate energy.

The most common type of diabetes mellitus found in cats is Type II, in which some insulin producing cells remain in the pancreas. They are either not producing enough insulin for the body to adequately process glucose, the secretion of insulin is delayed, or the cells are resistant to it. Just as with humans, obesity is a predisposing factor to diabetes. The tremendous increase in overweight and obese cats means that more and more cases of diabetes are being diagnosed. It's important to remember that a cat just three pounds over ideal weight is considered obese.

There are clinical (observable) signs that may indicate your cat has, or is developing, diabetes. The most common sign is drinking a lot of water and an increase in urination. There may also be increased incidents of inappropriate urination outside the litterbox and/or on furniture. Sudden weight loss, especially with an increase in appetite, can be a warning sign. As the disease advances, the cat will become increasingly lethargic and will have a dull coat.

If you are concerned that your cat may have diabetes, you should contact your veterinarian. During the appointment, it's important that you relay accurate information about your cat's signs and symptoms and are able to list all the medications and supplements your cat is currently taking. Your veterinarian will be able to do a complete physical exam and run lab work to help properly diagnose your cat.

If your cat is diagnosed with diabetes, it is very important to maintain a good relationship with your veterinarian and the entire team at your animal hospital. With a combined commitment from you and your veterinarian, your cat's diabetes can be easily treated.
Coming Next Time: Diagnosis and Treatment of Diabetes