Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Feline Dental Health - It's Always Important

Every February, several veterinary groups, including The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) and the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) designate the month as Pet Dental Health Month. During this time, the importance of regular dental care is emphasized.

While the official Pet Dental Health Month is drawing to a close this year, the effec
ts of gingivitis and periodontal disease in cats can be so far-reaching it seems as though every month should be dedicated to dental health. According to the AVDS, 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age three, and 85% of all adult pets have periodontal disease. Left untreated, harmful bacteria from the oral cavity can spread throughout the bloodstream to infect the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.

Dental disease is the most common disease in cats, and studies confirm a strong relationship between the presence of dental disease and poor general health. Even though cats are very good at hiding any problems, dental disease is a painful condition. Left untreated, many pets suffer silently and age prematurely. As several of our recent Cases of the Week illustrate (see: Bianca; Tommy; Sweetheart), preventing and treating dental disease will keep your cat healthier and improve his quality of

Dental disease begins when a combination of food, bacteria and saliva combine to form plaque on the teeth. If plaque is not removed, it mineralizes and forms calculus. As plaque and calculus build up, they lead to gingivitis, an inflammation along the gum line. This is painful for your cat and encourages bacterial toxins to form along the gum. At this stage, gingivitis is reversible with professional dental cleaning and oral home care.

If gingivitis is untreated, there will be a progression to periodontal disease, a destructive process causing a breakdown of the supporting structure of the teeth. This will cause oral pain, loose teeth, and more severe oral infection. As periodontal disease progresses, the gums recede and become more permeable. This allows bacteria to enter and travel through the bloodstream leading to heart, liver, and kidney disease.

Whether your cat is a youngster with shiny white teeth or has advanced dental disease and halitosis, the combination of your good home care and our medical treatment will ensure a healthy mouth and body for your cat. Your cat will live a happier, more comfortable, and longer life.

The first step to ensuring your cat's dental health is a visit to your veterinarian for a
thorough exam of the mouth and the entire body. If tartar, calculus, gingivitis, or periodontal disease is already present, your cat will need dental treatment. During the exam, home dental care will also be discussed. If the tartar and gingivitis is moderate to severe, a professional dental cleaning will be needed.

To perform a thorough, safe, and comfortable dental treatment, your cat must be anesthetized. In many cases, the veterinarian can only determine which teeth may have lesions and/or need extraction after the teeth are cleaned and dental xrays are reviewed.

Many cat owners are understandably concerned with having their cats anesthetized.
While there is a slight risk with anesthesia, there is much greater likelihood that continued dental infection will adversely impact your cat's health and comfort. Healthy teeth are well worth the risk of general anesthesia. At Scottsdale Cat Clinic, your cat's safety and comfort are our primary concern during anesthesia. We use very safe anesthetic agents and monitor your cat closely throughout the procedure.

Please contact us if you would like more information about our dental care and cleanings. You may reach us by phone at 480.970.1175 or by email at info@scottsdalecatclinic.com

Friday, February 18, 2011

New Year's Resolution: Make New Friends

Friends are a great addition to anyone's life, and the best friend of all is one that can guarantee unconditional love and acceptance. Animals are the perfect example of this. They don't judge us when we have a bad day, or tsk when we sneak that extra helping of ice cream or cookies. And after a long day, there are few things more rewarding than a purring bundle of fur sitting on your lap, or even just near you on the couch.

Making New Friends Method 1 - Adopt a Cat
If you are considering adopting a cat, consider adopting an older cat instead of a kitten. As anyone can tell you, rescue organizations are in the difficult situation of having to turn away cats that are found and/or need to be surrendered. In a few short months, "kitten season" will begin and organizations will be inundated with litters and litters of kittens.

There is no denying that kittens are adorable and are a blast. But they are babies, and like any baby, they require a great deal of attention and energy. Because many people who are looking to adopt a cat want a kitten, older adult cats are often overlooked and stay in shelters longer. And yet, for many families an adult cat would be a better fit.

Adult cats will most likely require less energy in caring for them as they are already up to date on vaccines, neutered and litter box trained. Since cats generally reach their social maturity around 3 years of age, you will already have a good idea of an adult cat's personality. An adorable kitten could grow up to be a grumpy adult. In addition, you won't have to "kitten proof" your house, watching them constantly to make sure they don't try to eat every foreign object they come across. And if you already have a cat in your home, an older cat introduced properly will present less stress as they come in cautiously, unlike kittens who seem to have no fear in new territory.

Making New Friends Method 2 - Foster a Cat
If adopting a cat is not feasible for you right now, consider fostering one. One of the greatest needs many rescue organizations face is the space to help all of the cats who need them. If a rescue does not have a physical facility, the number of cats they can help is limited to the number of foster volunteers they have.

Fostering is not for everyone, especially if you are prone to bonding with every cat you meet! Giving up the cat to her new permanent home can be heart wrenching, even while you have the satisfaction of knowing you gave her the time she needed to find them. Additionally, some rescues cannot financially support all the day-to-day needs, relying on their fosters to provide food, litter, etc. If you already have other animals, you will need to make sure they are fully vaccinated, and that you can keep your foster and your family animals separate.

While fostering is a crucial part of most rescue organizations, think carefully before diving in. Do your research, both in terms of general requirements for fostering and the specific requirements of the rescue you are interested in helping. Discuss the options thoroughly with family and with the rescue, and make your decision from there.

Making New Friends Method 3 - Volunteer
If you cannot adopt or foster right now, consider volunteering with a rescue organization. Rescues that have a physical facility, or shelter, generally need volunteers to help with the care of the animals in their charge. These needs can range from social interactions with the cats to physically keeping the shelter clean.

Even organizations that do not have a physical facility have need for volunteers. Many need people to help participate in events, providing support at information tables or fundraisers. Do you have a particular skill such as photography? Offer to take photos of the cats in their care to help get them adopted. Even purchasing food and other supplies, or a straightforward cash donation can help rescues continue their important work.

Volunteering with a rescue organization can help you meet some amazing cats who will greatly benefit from your help. You will also have an opportunity to meet some amazing animal-loving people, and you never know who might become your new best friend.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Year's Resolution: Quit Smoking

Are you a smoker? We don't need to tell you the health risks associated with smoking. We probably don't even need to tell you about how bad second-hand smoke is too. But have you realized how bad it is to smoke around your cat?

While there has been extensive, long-term research on the effects of cigarette smoke and nicotine on humans, there hasn't been much documenting the effects on our feline friends. However, recent research has revealed some startling information about second-hand smoke and our cats.

Based on a 7-year study at Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine, cats in smoking households seem to be at a much higher risk of developing lymphoma, a type of cancer, than cats that live in smoke-free environments. This study also determined that cats who live in homes with one smoker have twice the risk of developing lymphoma and cats who live in households with two ore more smo
kers have four times the risk. Also, cats who are exposed to a smoking environment for over 5 years and those who live in households with over 100 cigarettes smoked per day are also at a significantly higher risk. The exact cause of this increase risk of lymphoma is not known at this time.

New studies suggest that cats are also at increased risk of feline oral squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) when exposed to environments with tobacco smoke. This may result from smoke and nicotine residue landing on the cat's fur. The fastidious nature of cats and their grooming habits cause oral exposure to the carcinogens.

In addition to an increased risk of developing cancer, cats that live in smoking environments are also predisposed to
lung disease and eye irritation. Although second-hand smoke alone has not been shown to cause the lung disease or eye irritation, the primary culprit is thought to be chronic exposure to smoke in poorly ventilated areas. If you think about it, smokers don't spend their entire day inside. Most people do spend some time outside. But most cats do not, and thus are forced to breathe and rebreathe the same stagnant, contaminated air. Therefore, environmental tobacco smoke cannot be entirely filtered out through ventilation systems or special fans. It can take many hours for the smoke of a single cigarette to clear.

There are also other dangers to your cat from the nicotine itself. If you leave ashtrays around with cigarette butts, your cat may accidentally ingest one, or part of one if it decides the butt is a toy to bat around. Your cat may also try to eat nicotine replacement gum or patches.

Obviously the best option for everyone would be to simply quit. However ideal that may be, it's not always easy. If you cannot quit smoking, even for your cat, here are some tips to minimize her exposure to the dangers and to improve her health:

  • Designate smoke free areas: Consider smoking outside, or smoke only in rooms where pets are not allowed. The less the exposure, the greater the changes your cat will stay healthy. The smoke-free area should include your car. If you are transporting your cat anywhere, don't smoke while she is in the car.
  • Use air filters: Air filters may help remove harmful chemicals in the air, reducing how much your cat is breathing into her lungs.
  • Clean your pet and your house: Regular baths, or at the very least wipe-downs with a damp cloth, can help remove smoke residue from cat fur. Vacuum and keep all cigarette butts, tobacco products and even nicotine patches out of sight and reach to prevent accidental illness, poisoning or even death.
  • Look for symptoms: Excessive drooling or difficulty eating are symptoms of oral cancer, while labored breathing is a sign of lung cancer. Observe your cat frequently, as catching as early as possible always helps with treatment. If something is out of the ordinary, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Case of the Week: Amadeus

For our case this week, we look at a trembling cat and learn what we discovered when we investigated this minor change in behavior.

Amadeus is a four-year-old domestic shorthair that has been coming to the clinic for two years. On his first visit, he weighed seventeen pounds and had a body score of 8/9. A body score of 5/9 is ideal and 9/9 is obese, so Amadeus was quite portly. We started him on a prescription diet food and he began losing weight well. He developed constipation but did well with a regular stool softener added to his food. Over two years, he eventually lost four pounds and decreased to a body score of 6/9.

In December, he came in for an exam before going off to college with his owner. She had noticed him trembling in the past few days and wanted to have him checked out before they left town. He also was not eating as well and seemed constipated again. When I examined him, I did not find any neurological problems or any other medical problems except that his colon was very full with stool. We gave him an enema, which was, to put it delicately, very successful.

We also ran a full blood panel to check his overall medical health. His blood counts and thyroid level were normal. However, his blood chemistry test showed that both of his kidney values were increased and his potassium level was a little low. Muscles need potassium to function well so the low potassium was likely the cause of Amadeus' trembling. The kidney values could have been elevated due to dehydration associated with the constipation or an indication of kidney disease. This would be unusual in such a young cat so we needed to do more tests.

A urine sample showed that Amadeus' kidneys were not concentrating his urine properly. Normally, cats have very high urine concentration, called specific gravity. Amadeus' urine was mildly concentrated but nowhere near what is normal for a cat.

We suspected something was wrong with his kidneys. We had Dr. Green, an internal medicine specialist, perform an ultrasound of Amadeus' abdomen at our clinic. He found stones in each of Amadeus' kidneys but the structure of the kidneys appeared normal. The stones could have formed because of early onset kidney disease or due to diet related factors. We do not typically remove kidney stones in cats because of the high rate of complications with the surgery and most cats do not pass the stones. A special diet and increasing fluid intake can be used to prevent the growth of the stones and help slow kidney decline.

We started Amadeus on a potassium supplement and a prescription urinary diet. We showed his owner how to give him fluids under the skin and she will give him fluids twice weekly. The trembling could also be due to discomfort from the stones. If it does not stop with the potassium supplement, we will see if pain medications help. We will need to examine him and check his blood levels regularly to monitor his kidneys and see if other medications are needed.

Although kidney disease occurs much more frequently in older cats, it can develop in young cats as well. Cats are very good at hiding symptoms and often owners do not know that there is a medical problem developing. Amadeus' owner was right to be worried about an apparently minor change in behavior. The sooner we diagnose kidney disease and other medical problems, the more we are able to do to treat the disease. We recommend that all cats be examined every six to twelve months by their veterinarian. A full blood panel should be done at least once after the cat's first year and then regularly starting at six or seven years of age.

Dr. Judy Karnia

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Year's Resolution: Get More Exercise

We all have made the resolution to exercise more at least once in our lives, especially after the holidays. And this is a great resolution to share with your kitty too. Domestication of cats into indoor house pets has removed the need for cats to hunt for live prey, decreasing their exercise and their mental stimulation. This has led to weight gain, boredom, and stress in our cats' daily lives.

Kittens seem to have the natural ability to keep themselves entertained and will exercise themselves silly. However, some cats seem to lose that ability as they get older and will need your help to keep them engaged with stimulating exercising. While it is nor
mal for a cat to sleep eighteen or more hours a day, we still need to ensure that her daily life is mentally stimulating and that she is getting daily exercise. Dedicating some time every day, even ten to fifteen minutes, to play with your cat and providing opportunities to "hunt" will help keep her healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally as well as strengthen the bond between you.

Here are some quick tips to help your cat get more exercise:

  • Toys: Homemade or pet shop toys help to encourage your cat to get moving. Every cat has different tastes in toys so it may take a few purchases to find her favorite. It's also good to rotate toys every week to keep her from becoming bored with them.
  • "Catch the Light": Shine a flashlight or laser light on the floor and walls and let your cat play.
  • Boxing: Let your cat play in a box or paper bag. You can interact with her during this game by scratching at the outsides to get her to punch the sides.
  • "Hunting": Put your cat's food in different places each day (including on top of tall furniture) and bring out her inner huntress.

Another great idea, courtesy of petfit.com, is to incorporate ways to engage your cat to exercise with you. Not only will you both get a good workout, but you will both have a good time, strengthening your relationship. Celebrity fitness coach Gunnar Peterson has come up with three great ways to exercise with your cat:

  • "Light" Cardio: Everyone knows that many cats love to chase beams of light so why not get your heart rate up at the same time? Try jumping an invisible rope while holding flashlights or laser lights in your hands. You and your cat are sure to get a solid workout. The light should move up and down the wall and in circles, so your cat can have a blast trying to catch it.
  • "Light" Abs: Ever do sit-ups with a flashlight or laser light in your hands? When you get to the top of the sit-up, hold your position and crunch your abs for a few seconds while moving the light beams on your wall.
  • Curious Cat Curls: Tie an elastic band to a toy around your dumbbells. As you curl, watch your cat go crazy trying to catch the toy as it ascends and descends. Just make sure you keep the elastic band out of reach when not playing so your cat doesn't accidentally swallow it.

Click here to see demonstration videos for these great exercises. The cat videos are about halfway down the page.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Case of the Week - Trosper

For this case study, I'm going to discuss the rather smelly end of the veterinary profession. We've all cleaned up the final product of our cats' daily business. It's mildly unpleasant, but usually routine. In this case, we'll learn a bit about what can happen when that process no longer goes smoothly.

Trosper is an eight year-old Turkish Angora that first came to the clinic nine months ago in distress. He had been having constipation and had needed multiple enemas in the past. When I examined him at the clinic, he was again severely constipated. In addition, his anal sacs were very full. These scent glands are located right inside the anus and create a very strong smelling liquid secretion that cats use to mark their territory. They typically express regularly with defecation or when a cat is nervous. In some cats, the secretion does not get released and starts to build up inside the sacs. The secretion can thicken and build until the sacs are very distended. When this happens, the cat feels discomfort and irritation, especially during defecation. This can then lead to less frequent defecation and finally constipation. I express these glands by basically doing a rectal exam and squeezing them from the inside.

We expressed Trosper's anal sacs to remove all the built-up secretion and gave him an enema. Unfortunately, the enema was not enough to allow Trosper to defecate because of the severity of his constipation. We had to anesthetize him so that I could manually remove the feces from his colon. I was able to push his feces to the end of his colon so I could then pull it out through his anus. (This might qualify me for the Dirtiest Jobs show)

Trosper had been on Lactulose, a stool softener, and Cisapride, a medication that increases the muscle strength of the colon. When a cat is prone to constipation, I have the owner adjust the dose of the Lactulose so that the stool stays soft but formed and the cat is defecating daily. I had Trosper's owner increase these medications to every 8 hours instead of every 12 hours, and increase the dose of the Lactulose.

Trosper took a few days to recover his appetite completely but has been doing well since. He has come in every four months to have his anal sacs expressed so that they do not build up too much and cause him discomfort. On the last check, the sacs were quite full so we will check him every three months now. He is still on his medications and has been defecating very regularly. We've also been working with his owner to get Trosper to lose weight. In otherwise healthy cats, constipation occurs more commonly if cats are overweight. His weight loss is not going as well as hoped, but he has lost a little. We can also see constipation in cats that have other medical problems that frequently lead to dehydration such as kidney disease or intestinal disease. Cats with recurrent constipation should be tested for underlying disorders.

Constipation can cause serious problems beyond just the pain, so it's important to treat it seriously. Just like in your house, when the plumbing isn't working, nothing else seems that important.

Dr. Judy Karnia