Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas Gift For You, Totally Unrelated To Cats

NPR just ran the most wonderful piece about the miniature train setups that a man does furnished all in botanical materials. The slide show is quite a treat!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pocket Pets and Zoonoses

It seems like all I do is talk about cats on this blog. But I don't want to completely forget that we serve a few pocket pet owners, too.

Most owners of rats and hamsters and such are unaware of the risk of a couple of significant zoonotic diseases they can spread: Salmonellosis and lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus.

Salmonella is a gastrointestinal bacterium that is famous for causing food poisoning. But some pets can commonly carry it - reptiles are the most common source, but rodents such as pet rats and hamsters and mice can also carry it. Never purchase pet rodents that look sick, or share a cage with ones that look sick. Always use good hygiene when handling them, washing up with soap and water afterwards.

Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) causes a serious viral infection in humans and can be acquired from mice, hamsters, and guinea pigs. As with Salmonella, good hygiene is important, as is ensuring that wild rodents cannot have contact with pet rodents. Symptoms of LCMV resemble those of influenza but can result in neurological disease and birth defects.

Christmas Holiday

Christmas is coming,
The goose is getting fat.
Please put a penny in the old man's hat!
If you haven't got a penny
A ha' penny will do;
If you haven't got a ha' penny then God bless you!


I am taking a short but much-needed total vacation (and giving my staff one, too) from Thursday Dec. 24 through Sunday Dec. 27, when we will be utterly and completely CLOSED.


You might want to review a prior post about holiday safety basics. Remember: don't keep pointsettias where cats can chew on them, keep tinsel and strings and ribbon FAR away from cats, cover the water basin for the tree tightly, and don't go feeding candy or table scraps no matter how much the little darlings beg.

Have a VERY Merry Christmas!

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Friday, December 18, 2009

Video: How to Pill a Cat

I can't figure out how to embed the videos here, so follow this link and this link to some videos over on YouTube on how to pill your cat.

Breaking News!

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

If I had a gingerbread house or three sitting at home, this would be Boochi.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Alma Mater

While fooling around on the computer I found the website for the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at my alma mater, Colorado State University. Things sure have changed since I graduated in 1982.

At the time, the VTH was almost brand new (ours was the second class to use it). In the years since, it has expanded tremendously, and the front entrance has been redesigned at least once and is apparently now being redesigned again. I hardly recognize the place!

The CSU Animal Cancer Center even has its own website.

Here's their brochure, chock full of information about the services they provide. I even see some familiar faces in there - a little older and grayer but still the fine doctors and teachers they always were.

I realize that few of my clients in Southern California will ever have need of this information, but they might know folks in Colorado with pets who don't realize what a fabulous facility is available in Fort Collins. And because the internet is such an amazing thing, many people in far off places can benefit from the information I post here.

Plus, I just feel like bragging about the place.

Oh Noes!!

Now who's gonna bring mah cheezburger on Christmas Eve???

Give Your Cat the Gift of Good Health

It's the season for giving, and in these challenging economic times we have to choose our gifts carefully to get the most out of our money. So what better way can you celebrate and show your love for your feline companions than to give them something that will help them live longer, healthier lives?

Call us to schedule an appointment for that overdue annual checkup and vaccinations. If we have sent you reminders for recommended medical procedures, such as teeth cleaning or screening lab tests or spay/neuter surgery, give us a call. This time of year we have plenty of openings.

I can't think of a better way to show your kitties how much you love them.

Here are some of our posts about the value of preventive health care.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Phone Conversation

The phone rang a little while ago. The following conversation ensued:

Receptionist: Cat's Meow Veterinary Clinic. How may I help you?

Caller: Hi. I used to bring my cat to you, but we moved up to Sacramento. I need you to send me a copy of my cat's records. We didn't leave a forwarding address.

Receptionist: Okay. Would you like me to fax the records to your new vet up there?

Caller: No, that's okay, just mail them.

Receptionist: Okay. I'll need to get your new address.

Caller: Why??

Receptionist: (long pause) Um, so I can mail the records to you?


True story. Where's that headbang smilie avatar when I need him?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

VIN News Service

Veterinary Information Network, the website I couldn't live without, has made its news service page available to the public. You can find it here.

More H1N1 Deaths in Cats

Two more cats have died of H1N1 flu, one in Pennsylvania and one in Oregon, where the first reported death occurred.

More H1N1 vaccine for humans is becoming available. If you are interested in getting this important vaccine, you can find a source by using the widget below.

Let's work to make sure there are no feline deaths due to H1N1 here in Los Angeles!

It's brand new today so I don't think they have any "Tips" loaded on there yet, but the "Updates" button has lots of good info.

One more handy time-saver so I don't have to think and type and reinvent the wheel quite so much. Thank you, FDA!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Feral Cat Colonies Discouraged

The Daily News is reporting that Superior Court Judge Thomas McKnew ruled Friday that the city had "secretly and unofficially" promoted a practice of allowing feral cats to run free, while promising to conduct an environmental review.

Given the known deleterious effects of feral cat colonies on populations of sometimes endangered native species of birds and other wildlife, and the non-native status of the domestic cat (it evolved in North Africa and the Middle East), the maintenance of feral cat colonies has never made any sense to me. They also contribute to the spread of often deadly diseases to owned cats, and pose a human health threat due to uncontrolled zoonotic diseases.

We'll see how this turns out. I predict a rather contentious legal process.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

So, You Think You Want To Become A Veterinarian?

On occasion I am asked by young people what all is involved in becoming a veterinarian. Most are aware that some higher education is required, which is a considerable improvement from the time about 25 years ago when a client asked my employer, "Where down at city hall does my (teenaged) son go to get his veterinary license? He just LOVES animals and wants to be a vet!"

CVMA has put together a list of recommended high school school classes to take to put you on the road to this very rewarding career, along with the typical university-level prerequisites for applying to vet school. You will need a solid core of science, math, and communications skills, and good grades from the very start are extremely important.

Applying to veterinary school is a highly competetive process. The human medical profession is full of physicians whose first career choice was veterinary medicine, but they couldn't get accepted to vet school. I was shocked to find this last bit out, but a few physicians have confessed as much to me in the privacy of my exam room.

AVMA also has an excellent page on careers in veterinary medicine. Here's a bit from that page:

"Students should perform well in general science and biology in junior high school and pursue a strong science, mathematics, and biology program in high school to prepare for pre-veterinary coursework at a college or university. Before applying to veterinary college/school, students must successfully complete university level undergraduate prerequisites. Each college or school of veterinary medicine establishes its own pre-veterinary requirements, but typically these include demonstrating basic language and communication skills, and completion of courses in the social sciences, humanities, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics.

"Admission to veterinary school is highly competitive with the number of qualified applicants admitted varying from year to year. Applicants may be required to take a standardized test (for example, the Graduate Record Examination).

"There are presently 28 AVMA Council on Education accredited colleges/schools of veterinary medicine in the United States, four in Canada, and nine in other countries. Each school is regularly evaluated by the Council on Education and must maintain the quality of its program to remain accredited.

"Most veterinary schools require applications through the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS). For information about application requirements, applicant data statistics, and other admissions resources, visit

"After completing the required veterinary medical curriculum (usually over four years), many graduates choose to pursue additional education in one of 20 AVMA-recognized veterinary specialties such as surgery, internal medicine, animal behavior, dentistry, ophthalmology, pathology or preventive medicine."

I personally needed four years of full-time study plus two summers to complete my BS and all the vet school prerequisites - this was at Colorado State University in the 70's. If anything, things are tougher now, so plan accordingly.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Make Food Safety Part Of Your Holiday Menu

Those of you who have known me for a while probably know that, in addition to feline medicine and surgery, and zoonotic diseases, I also have a professional interest in food safety. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the largest employer of veterinarians in the country, providing slaughter and packing facility inspection and supervision. FSIS also serves the public by providing educational outreach on food safety issues. They have published a web page on making your holiday dinner safe at this link.

If you are wondering why all the fuss about food safety, here's the FDA's web site known as The Bad Bug Book - it's all about the nasties you can catch from eating formerly living things. Our main concerns with turkey appear to be Salmonella and Campylobacter.

And be sure to keep that dangerous turkey wishbone well out of the cat's reach. I have seen them involved in near-disasters.

H1N1 Update

I was able to get my H1N1 shot this past weekend, so within a few days I won't have to worry about catching it and then passing it on to (and possibly killing) one of my patients or my own cats. Whew. What a relief.

It didn't hurt, and I feel fine.

The American Lung Association's flu locator can help you find the H1N1 vaccination if you are interested.

LA County Health Department doesn't have any more H1N1 shot clinics planned until the beginning of December, probably because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

We Need Newspaper

For the 20th time today I reminded myself to post a request for newspaper, and I finally remembered to do it!

We need your discarded clean newspaper for lining cages in the hospital ward. We don't need mountains of the stuff - just a stack of a few weeks' accumulation of LA Times is sufficient once in a while. We also only need the newsprint and NOT the glossy insert material.

Thanks for your help! I used to buy the Times every day and so we had plenty, but now I get my news off "teh intertubes" and we find ourself running out of newspapers too often.

Time To Adopt Another Cat!

It's the time of year when hearts and minds turn toward gifts. And what better gift could you get your cat (especially if it's an only kitty) than ANOTHER CAT? Please do consider adopting one of the many homeless waifs currently housed at one of the city animal shelters.

The West Valley shelter has 60 cats listed as of this moment. If you click on the hyperlink you'll find a page that helps you narrow your search by gender, age, size, and color. Please think about making this a very happy holiday season for a cat in need of a home! And remember to bring kitty in within three days of adoption for a free exam at Cat's Meow Veterinary Clinic (we suggest two days of home observation before the exam).

We're going to be adopting a new mascot sometime after the holidays and may wind up getting one from the West Valley shelter.

We Have Aquarium Of The Pacific Discount Coupons

The Aquarium of the Pacific, located in Long Beach, has a promotion on between now and March 31 2010. We have discount coupons good for one free child's admission with one paid adult admission. Quantities are limited. We will have them available at the front desk until they run out or expire, so be sure to ask about them next time you are in.

I went to the Aquarium of the Pacific a few years ago and had a wonderful time. While it is not as fabulous as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, it is quite the facility. The moon jellies and shark-petting pool are my favorite exhibits!

LA Metro can take you down to Long Beach if you don't feel like driving all that way and hassling with parking. From the Valley you take the Red or Orange line bus to the Red line subway, into downtown, then take the Blue line (light rail) to Long Beach, where local shuttles will get you around.

If the economy has forced a change in your plans and it's a "staycation" this year, the Aquarium would make a perfect holiday excursion.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Uh Oh. Like We Don't Have ENOUGH Timewasters....

Catwash. A new game for bored office workers and such. Need I say more?

Cat Declawing Banned in Los Angeles

Well, talk about being blindsided. While we were all worried about this sort of nonsense in San Francisco, Los Angeles City Council was busy behind the scenes, and without a breath of notice to affected parties such as veterinarians, plotting to outlaw a certain surgical procedure which, in my humble opinion, has saved more than a few cat's lives.

I've already expressed how I feel about meddling busybodies trying to interfere in the doctor-client-patient relationship. This has been a rare procedure at Cat's Meow Veterinary Clinic over the years. I think I have done one declaw in the past 12 months. I spend a lot of time trying to discourage it, but recognize that there are times when it is the most appropriate solution to a legitimate problem. The California Veterinary Medical Association agrees with my stand, as does the AVMA and AAFP.

So there you have it. Declaws are now illegal in the City of Los Angeles. If you don't like it, call your city councilperson to complain. And while you're at it, ask him or her why the hell Ventura Blvd is so full of potholes and cracks it is almost unsafe to drive sections of it at any speed. Or why they are backpedalling in violation of state law on medical marijuana.

Cat Dies of H1N1 Flu in Oregon

AVMA just emailed me today about the first reported feline death due to H1N1 (swine) influenza. This comes on the heels of the first reported case in cats just last week (that cat, in Iowa, recovered uneventfully). Confirmatory testing in this feline death is pending.

This just reiterates how serious some human diseases can be if they infect our pets. PLEASE, if you are at all able to get the H1N1 vaccine, do so if for no other reason than to possibly save your cats life. If you think you have flu,PLEASE practice good hygiene (handwashing, covered cough, use tissues only once then toss where kitty can't get) and DO NOT LET YOUR CAT SLEEP WITH YOU.

Additionally, because I have not had the H1N1 vaccine yet (I cannot get access because I am not in a priority group), I am at risk of catching it and then possibly spreading what is now proven to be a deadly disease on to my patients. So I DO NOT wish to be unnecessarily exposed. If you think you have the flu, or are not well on the road to recovery from it, PLEASE refrain from coming into the clinic for non-emergencies (obviously if you have a sick cat this does not apply).

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Iowa Cat Diagnosed With Swine Flu (H1N1)

It seems we have a little excitement in the news this morning - here is the text of an alert I received from the Los Angeles County Public Health Veterinarian:

On November 4, 2009, the Iowa Department of Public Health issued a press release reporting that a 13 year old indoor cat was confirmed to have contracted the H1N1 influenza virus (see attached press release). The cat became ill after two household members had developed influenza-like illness. Both the family members and cat have recovered from their illness. There was no evidence that the cat spread the infection to any people or other animals.

People who are sick with H1N1 influenza may spread the infection not only to people, but to some animals too. Recently, there were reports that swine, ferrets and turkeys have also contracted the virus from infected people. Thus, it is important for individuals with influenza-like illness to take precautions which will minimize spread of the virus to both humans and animals.

People can keep their pets healthy by washing their hands, covering their coughs and sneezes, and minimizing their contact with their pets when they are ill. If a pet becomes ill, they should consult their veterinarian. Veterinarians should report any suspected cases of influenza in animals to our program.

If you have any questions, please contact us at 877-747-2243 or 562-401-7088. Completed case reports may be faxed to 562-401-7112. Thank you for your assistance with local animal disease surveillance.

Karen Ehnert, DVM, MPVM
Senior Veterinarian
County of Los Angeles
Department of Public Health
Veterinary Public Health & Rabies Control
(phone and email deleted)


Here's the Iowa press release:

Protecting Pets from Illness
The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) remind Iowans that in addition to protecting their families, friends and neighbors from the spread of the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, it’s important to remember to protect family pets from the illness, as well. People who are sick with H1N1 can spread the virus not only to humans, but to some animals.
The Departments are sharing this message following the confirmation of a case of H1N1 in an Iowa cat.
The 13-year-old indoor cat in Iowa was brought to the Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where it tested positive for the H1N1 virus. The diagnosis is the culmination of collaborative efforts between IDPH, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Center for Advanced Host Defenses, Immunobiotics and Translational Comparative Medicine, USDA, and IDALS Animal Industry Bureau.
“Two of the three members of the family that owns the pet had suffered from influenza-like illness before the cat became ill,” said IDPH Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Ann Garvey. “This is not completely unexpected, as other strains of influenza have been found in cats in the past.” Both the cat and its owners have recovered from their illnesses.
People can keep their pets healthy by washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and minimizing contact with their pets while ill with influenza-like symptoms. If your pet exhibits signs of a respiratory illness, contact your veterinarian.
“Indoor pets that live in close proximity to someone who has been sick are at risk and it is wise to monitor their health to ensure they aren’t showing signs of illness,” said Dr. David Schmitt, State Veterinarian for Iowa.
For more information about H1N1, visit or call the Iowa Influenza Hotline at 1-800-447-1985.


Los Angeles County Health Department has put out a FAQ sheet about pets and H1N1:

What is the latest information about the H1N1 influenza virus in animals? On November 4, 2009 the Iowa Department of Public Health reported that a 13-year old pet cat had contracted the virus from its owners, who were also ill. Everyone in the household recovered completely. This was the first report of H1N1 influenza causing illness in a cat. There is no evidence that cats are carriers of the H1N1 influenza virus.

What other types of animals can catch the H1N1 influenza virus? The H1N1 influenza virus has been reported in pigs in 10 countries, turkeys in Canada and Chile, and ferrets in Oregon and Nebraska. In most cases, the infection appeared to cause mild signs. There is a separate strain of influenza that dogs can catch from other dogs called Canine Influenza H3N8. People cannot catch the Canine H3N8 Influenza virus.

What symptoms would I see in my cat if it developed H1N1 influenza infection?
Since only one cat has shown signs of illness, this question cannot be answered with certainty. Symptoms are expected to be mild and include coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, fever, and reduced appetite. Please note that there are many more common infections that can cause these same symptoms in cats and other pets.

Can I catch H1N1 influenza from my pet? At the moment there are no reports of any person contracting the H1N1 virus from a pet. Nonetheless, pet owners may take simple precautions to prevent transmission of the virus, especially if your pet is ill. Read below for details.

Can animals catch this virus from each other? Currently, there are no reports of this virus spreading from pet to pet. However, pet owners should read more below for simple steps can reduce the spread of any germs between pets.

How can I protect my pets and myself against H1N1? Good hygiene and sanitation help protect the whole family.
• Cover your cough with a sturdy tissue or sneeze into your elbow
• Wash your hands frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing, before or after touching your face, or before eating
• Wash your hands before and after handling your pet or your pet's food bowl, water bowl, bedding, or other supplies
• Keep sick pets in a separate area, away from healthy pets
• Do not allow your pet to sit or sleep close to your face, especially if you or your pet are ill
• Contact your veterinarian or veterinary clinic if your pet becomes ill.
o Call your veterinary clinic before bringing your pet in to them
• Keep your pet's bedding, food and water bowls clean
• Keep your pet up-to-date on vaccinations and other preventative care recommended by your veterinarian

Can my pet be vaccinated against H1N1? No. There is no vaccine created for pets against this virus. Human vaccines cannot safely be used on pets.


I was half expecting something like this to happen eventually. So far it's a yawner, but given the propensity of flu viruses to mutate and become more virulent, we can't afford to ignore this.

The main take-home message is THIS: Keep your kitties safe the same way you keep other people safe from your flu infection by handwashing, covering your coughs and sneezes, and social distancing. If you are home sick with the flu, don't let kitty sleep in bed with you.

A number of human cold viruses are already known to cross into cats, where they invariably dead-end with the primary cat, and don't generally cause more than mild disease.

I haven't been able to get the H1N1 vaccine yet, not being in any "high-risk" group, but I sure would like to. The last thing I want is to get sick with it and have to stay home and NOT be able to cuddle with the boys.

If anything new develops with this disease, I'll keep you advised.

Here's a link to the AVMA's page on H1N1 reports in domestic animals.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Fixing" Your Girl Kitty

We have had a minor flurry of young female cat surgeries of late. You see, it's "that time of year" - when last spring's crop of girl kittens has become old enough to neuter ("spay" is the slang term). We recommend spaying females at 6 months of age, after the kitten vaccinations have been finished, but before most females come into estrus ("heat"). By the age of 6 months, we no longer consider it to be pediatric anesthesia, so it is much safer than in a younger cat.

Back in the old days, the thinking was that going through a heat cycle or even getting pregnant and having a litter made a cat a much better pet. We now know that is simply not true. And we DO know that the more times a female cat goes through heat, the greater the chance of her developing mammary cancer down the road. So we like to beat Mother Nature to the punch, and the target date of 6 months works best when we consider all the factors involved.

Prior to making an appointment for your cat's spay, we will need to have seen her at least once for a physical exam, and also to ensure that vaccinations are complete per our hospital's protocol. We cannot schedule this surgery if we have never seen your cat - the exam is a mandatory prerequisite. Please do not ask our reception staff to waive this rule - we do this to ensure your cat gets the safest surgery experience we can deliver.

Once you have our official go-ahead on the surgery, you can make your appointment. We only do spays on weekdays. You will be instructed to withhold food (not water) at a certain time, and then be told what time to drop her off the morning of surgery (usually 8:30-9:30 AM but this can vary). Surgery will be performed that morning, and kitty will need to stay one night in the hospital for the equivalent of enforced bed rest in humans. Again, this is a safety policy and not subject to negotiation. No one is here at night, but your cat doesn't spend that night post-op because she is in critical condition - she stays so that she will be confined to a small space and forced through sheer boredom to get a good night's sleep. We never leave a patient unattended if we are not satisfied that it is completely stable and recovering normally.

The procedure itself is considered major abdominal surgery, though it is one of the less technically demanding surgeries we do. Ovaries and uterus are completely removed - this is not simply a tubal ligation. The sutures that we place in the abdominal wall and skin are absorbable, so no post-op recheck for suture removal is needed. You may, however, see a lump or knot about an inch wide at the surgery site - this is perfectly normal but varies in magnitude from cat to cat - it's just the body recognizing the wound, starting healing, and starting to absorb the suture material. Please note that drainage or worsening redness at the surgery site are NOT normal and always necessitate a recheck, as does failure to return to normal activity levels after a couple of days.

Most kitties have only a day or so of slightly subdued behavior post-op, and then get right back to bouncing off the walls. So we discourage throwing frisbees for them for at least a week. And yes, the fur WILL grow back!

The Upcoming Holidays

Well, the season is almost upon us - that time of year when it seems like every other week we have a federal holiday or religious holiday of some sort or another. I am not closed on ALL federal holidays, however, because I like giving our schoolteachers a chance to get in here for weekday procedures on kitties throughout the year and not just in the summer.

Halloween - Saturday Oct. 31 - not an official holiday but worth mention - OPEN
Veteran's Day - Wednesday Nov. 11 - OPEN
Thanksgiving - Thursday Nov. 26 - CLOSED - we WILL be open on that Friday and Saturday
Hanukkah - OPEN throughout unless it falls same time as Christmas
Christmas Eve - Thursday Dec. 24 - CLOSED EARLY at 1 PM
Christmas Day - Friday Dec. 25 - CLOSED - also closed that Saturday
New Year's Eve - Thursday Dec. 31 - CLOSED EARLY at 1 PM
New Year's Day - Friday Jan. 1 - CLOSED - also closed that Saturday

If I wind up visiting family back east at Christmas, this schedule could change, but I probably will be staying here this year.

What To Do If You Have An After-Hours Emergency

For 18 years we have referred after-hours emergencies to Animal Emergency Care Center/Animal Critical Care down at the corner of Ventura and Winnetka. One of the drawbacks to their facility is that they close at 8 AM and all patients must be either transferred directly to a daytime practice like ours or taken home. This is not always in the pet's best medical interest.

We are very happy to now be able to refer our after-hours emergencies to Veterinary Specialists of the Valley at 22123 Ventura Blvd in Woodland Hills, just west of Topanga Canyon Blvd on the north side of the street. VSV, in addition to having internal medicine and surgery specialists on staff during the day to see referral cases, provides 24/7 emergency and critical care, and has board-certified critical care specialists on duty all night and weekend. Their phone number is 818-883-8387.

Dr. Deborah Rackear is the lead internist. I have referred a number of cases to her over the years, particularly cardiac cases needing ultrasound evaluation. With a 24-hour facility I can now refer difficult cases like unstable ketoacidotic diabetics to her as well (these are not well suited to a small day practice such as Cat's Meow).

Dr. Morgan Cavanaugh is in charge of the emergency services. Emergency and Critical Care is one of the newer veterinary specialties, and one we have needed desperately in this part of the Valley.

Dr. Charisse Davidson is director of surgical services. Charisse did her surgical residency at VetSurg under Jack Henry just down the street from us, and divides her time between VSV and another surgery referral practice in the Pasadena area.

Several other veterinarians are on staff, but I didn't grab their cards when I went to the open house, so I don't have their names handy. I'm just thrilled to know that they are available for my clients.

As always, if you have an emergency during our business hours please call us first to see if we can fit you in and determine if it sounds like a genuine emergency. An exception would be if your cat JUST got hit by car or attacked by a dog and seriously injured - in that case it would be perfectly reasonable to drop everything and head straight for VSV - they do see daytime emergencies, surgeons are always either on site or on call, and they have radiography, ultrasound, and CAT capabilities on-site.

With a brand new facility, state-of-the-art equipment, and multiple specialists on staff, veterinary services at VSV are obviously not going to be at bargain-basement prices, nor should anyone expect that. Their fees are in line with equivalent services elsewhere in the area, and it is especially true here that you get what you pay for. Emergency exam fees are $70-90 depending on time of day/night, and obviously any diagnostic tests, treatment, surgery, medications etc are in addition. Please do not expect them or us to quote fees over the phone for treating a sick or injured animal they have not yet seen (this also applies when you call about coming to Cat's Meow Veterinary Clinic - we still don't have a magic crystal ball to look into and read the future).

While we sincerely hope that you will never have a medical emergency and need their services, I can sleep easier at night knowing that VSV is available.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dusty Robison (1991-2009) - In Memoriam

It is with great sadness we report the passing of Cat's Meow Veterinary Clinic's mascot of the past 10 years, Dusty. She was euthanized today after a long illness.

Born in Ft. Collins, Colorado, Dusty adopted my grandparents as a kitten and spent her first 8 years with them, demanding endless brushing and petting, chewing holes in oxygen tubing, and in general living the life of a princess. When my grandparents eventually both passed away, I was assigned the task of dealing with Dusty, so I brought her to California in late 1999.

After a few days, I decided I liked her well enough to keep her rather than place her with a new home, and because Mummy liked her too, she made an excellent mascot. So she settled in here. For many years her days were spent at the front desk, eagerly awaiting petting from anyone and everyone who came through the front door. She was especially fond of elderly men, who obviously reminded her of my grandfather. One of her favorite activities was sandpapering the skin right off you if you lingered too long at the front counter.

In 2006 we diagnosed Dusty with hyperthyroidism and kidney disease. It took quite a balancing act with multiple medications, supplemental fluids, and lots of follow-up blood and urine testing, but we were able to keep her happy and eating very well until the last few months. A grand mal seizure in the spring of this year marked the beginning of her final decline, and a week ago she stopped eating and clearly wasn't feeling well. We adjusted her treatments to buy a little more time, but it became obvious that we were reaching the end of the line.

Dusty was particularly loved for her odd meow ("that's not a meow, that's a QUACK!"), those gorgeous blue eyes looking at us in slightly cross-eyed confusion, and her total obsession with being brushed (until the past couple of years).

She will be greatly missed. In lieu of flowers, her family and friends request that you make a donation in her memory to the animal charity of your choice.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Couple More Of My Favorites

I have two new Doctor's Picks for you: one is cat-related, and one is totally off-topic.

First, my favorite humorous website is I Can Has Cheezburger, aka ICHC. Every day several captioned cat (or occasionally other animal) photos are posted. They never fail to lift my spirits, and sometimes leave me rolling on the floor.

The other is my new favorite French bakery/pastry shop. Avignon Bakery is just west down the street from us in the next block, on the north side. Their croissants and danish pastries are the best I have had outside of France, and reasonably priced. Try the raisin roll or pain au chocolat! They have a small menu with quiches and sandwiches, along with coffee. The proprietor is Vietnamese by way of France, and her baker is French. Apparently they use imported dough, and it is the flakiest and tastiest imaginable. No, I am not being paid to write this, either. Please consider spending your consumer dollars at a local business: Avignon Bakery, 19973 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills, 818-610-8478. Open 7 AM - 3 PM Tues - Sun. Closed Mondays.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

California's Catfight Over Declawing

I wish I could post here the article I just finished reading in VIN about the proposed ban on declawing cats in San Francisco and the SF-SPCA's surprising opposition to the proposal. Unfortunately, it is from a vets-only site and is copyrighted.

So, in a nutshell, SF activists are in a big rush to ban declaws before a new state law goes into effect at the first of the year making such city ordinances an illegal interference in the veterinarian-client-patient relationship. I fully support the new state law, and feel that local bans on any medical procedure are fundamentally inappropriate.

The SF-SPCA, to my utter amazement and delight, opposes the anti-declaw activists for the simple reason that cats who are truly destructive of property and cannot be made to stop are likely to be abandoned or relinquished, or even euthanized, so in many cases the daclaw saves a cat's life and keeps it in a safe, suitable home. This has always been my view, and why you won't hear me issuing any blanket condemnation of declaws.

We get occasional phone calls about our declaw policy, so I will reiterate it here. We DO perform declaws, but very infrequently, and only if I have determined that the cat is genuinely destructive, and the owner has made reasonable efforts to get it to stop. The procedure is a last resort, and definitely never a first option.

The declaw procedure consists of amputation of the last bone of all 10 front toes. It is not taken lightly, and is more prone to post-op complications than any other surgery I do. We always perform it under anesthesia, and two to three nights hospitalization are mandatory to ensure "bed rest". We administer post-op pain medications as needed, which has made it less stressful for hospital staff (when a patient is in pain, so are we!) in addition to the patient, and helps to greatly decrease complications due to waving sore paws. I have, after many years, placed severe age restrictions on my declaws - I will only perform them on cats from 6-8 months up to 3 years of age, unless there is a compelling medical reason to do so. We also will not ever declaw hind paws without a medical need in the patient such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

If you are considering declawing your cat, we recommend an office visit so we can spend the necessary time discussing alternatives and behavior modification techniques (we regret that this lengthy discussion is not suitable for a phone call). We have a lot of tricks up our sleeves anymore for training kitties to "leave the darned sofa alone!!!" (can you tell I have personal experience with this?).

Another Pet Food Recall

This time the problem is with Premium Edge, produced by Diamond Pet Foods.

Diamond Pet Foods has withdrawn from distribution the following date codes of Premium Edge Finicky Adult Cat and Premium Edge Hairball cat: RAF0501A22X 18lb., RAF0501A2X 6 lb., RAH0501A22X 18 lb., RAH0501A2X 6lb. The calls from pet owners or veterinarians regarding this issue have been centered in the Rochester, NY area. All retail outlets shipped the above lots were contacted, asking them to pull the product from the store shelves. The retailers were also asked to contact their customers via email or telephone requesting them to check the date code of the food. However, if you or anyone you know has these date codes of Premium Edge cat food, please return them to your retailer.

Symptoms displayed by an affected cat will be neurological in nature. Any cats fed these date codes that display these symptoms should be immediately taken to a veterinarian.

Product testing proved no contaminants were discovered in the cat food; however the cat foods were deficient in thiamine. Diamond tracked the vitamin premix lot number that was utilized in these particular cat foods and have performed testing on another lot of Premium Edge cat food that used the same vitamin premix, and it was not deficient in thiamine. No other neurological signs have been reported on any other product manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods.


I thought it was interesting that a few weeks ago, some veterinarians in the Northeast started asking questions about how to handle a rash of ataxic (uncoordinated) kitties. Several of them put their heads together, and one found an article online about a similar problem in the Netherlands a while back that involved thiamine-deficient food, and then they reported it to the FDA, and voila! A recall. This would have been greatly delayed if caring cat owners had not gone the extra mile with diagnosis and treatment of these puzzling cases. Eventually we private practice veterinarians, as a group, figured it out. Yay us!

Diamond has had several recalls in the past, some involving contamination with mold toxins. They need to clean up their act.

Yay, It's Fall!

Now that the weather has cooled off (and HOW!), my cats at home have become much more active and playful. Boochi has gone back to one of his favorite pastimes: yelling and bopping around my home with tail puffed, flinging toys hither and yon, and calling Hobie in an effort to get Fatty Himself to play. Dusty has even perked up a little and started batting her mousie "babies" around under my desk in the office, though at 18 1/2 her play sessions are remarkably brief.

Water consumption is down, and food consumption is up. When it's ghastly hot outside, most cats do a lot more drinking than eating, even with air conditioning on.

So if you are noticing these things, don't be alarmed. It's all normal for this time of year. Of course, if your cat is way too active for its age, or eating a whole lot while losing weight, be sure to make an appointment for an exam as a serious medical condition could be developing.

An Ounce of Prevention

I just got finished with an office visit of the sort that is unfortunately becoming all too common these days. An otherwise perfectly healthy middle-aged cat presented with severe (and painful) eye inflammation and sneezing, and wasn't eating well. Poor kitty had a fever and was simply miserable, and it didn't have to happen. And sadly, the cat didn't need to get sick enough to require costly medical attention. The culprit: feline herpesvirus, the most common respiratory virus in cats.

There was a time, just a few years ago, when I rarely saw patients for respiratory viruses, and when I did, they typically didn't need my help, just a little reassurance for the owner. But in the past two to three years, much more severe respiratory infections are becoming one of the most common things I see.

What is this about? Has a common virus suddenly become more virulent? I think not. The common thread with virtually every last one of these patients is that their annual vaccinations are overdue.

I have always recommended annual vaccinations for FVRCP (respiratory viruses and panleukopenia virus), and for many years my clients were largely compliant with my advice. But with the economic downturn and the false rumors of vaccines being terribly dangerous, an ever-decreasing percentage of my patients lacks this most basic preventive medical care.

Even though most cats are initially infected with feline herpesvirus as small kittens, like other herpesviruses, once infected, always infected. So why, you might ask, bother with a preventive vaccine? I wondered that myself, and then finally concluded after much pondering that the vaccine stimulates immunity that plays a critical role in keeping relapses of the viral infection from becoming severe. Why else would cats kept current on their FVRCP have such an obviously lower rate of respiratory infections requiring medical intervention?

This whole thing is just one more reason why it is so important to bring Kitty in for the recommended annual exam and vaccinations. The small amount you spend to do so pays big dividends when you consider how much less likely an expensive visit to deal with serious respiratory disease will be. An ounce of prevention is still a bargain after all these years.

Please make an appointment today if your cat is overdue for its annual checkup and vaccinations. It's the responsible thing to do.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Some Disturbing Food For Thought

Those of you who have known me a while probably know I have a keen interest in food security/food safety issues, and not just as they relate to veterinary medicine. Dr. Alice Villalobos, who has the veterinary cancer referral clinic down the street on Wednesdays has written an excellent article on the subject in this month's Veterinary Practice News.

While my views on the livestock industry lean more "animal welfare" than "animal rights", I agree that the film "Food, Inc." and the books "Fast Food Nation", "The Omnivore's Dilemma", and "In Defense of Food" are all well worth their acclaim.

Seasonal eating and limiting the amount of factory-farmed or unsustainably harvested animal protein in our diets are a good idea for all of us, and don't have to be terrible expensive. Heck, I know that I am not alone in needing to do a bit LESS eating, and can see an advantage to lower quantities of food and higher quality.

Feline Neuter Rate Drops With Family Income

According to an article from the JAVMA recently, about 80 percent of pet cats in the US. Not surprisingly, spay/neuter rates were higher among higher income homes and lower where income was lower. The rate approaches 97% in households with incomes over $75,000, but drops to little more than 50% in households with incomes below 35%.

Clearly there is much room for improvement in these numbers in low-income communities. Spaying and neutering doesn't have to be horribly expensive, especially since many veterinarians (myself included) offer it basically as a "loss leader" and lose money on the deal, just to encourage high rates of neutering in the community. Many communities have low-cost spay/neuter clinics, too. The City of Los Angeles provides vouchers when the budget allows, which help to subsidize the cost for city residents.

Spaying and neutering are not difficult or dangerous in most circumstances, and they help to ensure a much longer, healthier life for kitties. They also prevent undesirable behaviors and that nasty tomcat urine odor that will drive your friends away and your family to drink.

I have addressed spaying and neutering here in a previous post, but can't say enough about how critical it is that we do our pets this favor (and society, too).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

AVMA letter to the editor of Smart Money magazine regarding the article "10 Things Veterinarians Won't Tell You"

I suppose it's a good thing I missed the original article referenced in this letter. I might have blown a gasket.

I guess Rodney Dangerfield was right. Some people just can't get no respect. Unfortunately, promoting mistrust of veterinarians as a whole can only result in very real harm to pets in the long run, and in the process very real increased risk to human health.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Signs Your Cat Needs To See A Veterinarian

All right - one more handout from the ether.

I wish I could copy and paste this right into the blog post, but PDF files don't allow that. Just click on the hyperlink.

Managing Your Pet's Renal Disease

I have concluded that I am an inherently lazy writer, and really see no reason to reinvent the wheel, either. Here's another excellent handout, already nicely written for you, about renal disease management.

My treatment approach in many cases differs slightly from what is in the handout. Our phosphorus management might include administration of a Vitamin D analog, or as an alternative we might use a phosphate binder - every case is different in this regard. And we do not generally use potentially dangerous blood transfusions to manage incurable chronic diseases. Unfortunately, we have found the hormonal anemia treatments to be virtually useless.

What is remarkable is how very much kidney failure management has changed in the past ten years. We had very few options at that time - diet and fluids were pretty much IT. Times have definitely changed - it is not unusual to have patients on a renal management protocol for two or three years - our Dusty passed the three year mark a while back, and she has the additional issue of hyperthyroidism to contend with.

Chronic kidney disease has become more like diabetes, in that it is manageable. It still will eventually prove fatal in most cats, but over time clients come to accept what is happening, so it's not as traumatic for everybody as it used to be.

FAQs About Microchipping

Another handy handout from my favorite online veterinary resource, this time about those wonderful microchips for identification in case your cat gets lost. This past winter we were able to reunite two lost cats with their owners (one was slightly injured and needed medical attention). I have chipped my own kitties and feel a lot less afraid about the possibility of them escaping in case of an earthquake or other mishap (I do not allow my cats out at all).

We can place the chip most easily if your cat is already sedated/anesthetized for another procedure. When you make an appointment for a procedure, mention that you also would like a chip placed and we will be happy to do it. We currently charge $55 as an add-on, or $80 if we do it in the exam room where we must give a mild sedation/pain medication due to the large needle size. Fees are subject to change without notice.

5 Mouser Myths Debunked

This helpful handout from one of my veterinary journals helps to set the record straight on some common misconceptions about cats:

1 - Cats are aloof and antisocial
2 - Indoor cats don't need preventive health care
3 - Cats are independent and don't need medical care
4 - Cats eliminate outside of litter boxes out of spite
5 - Cats don't get heartworms

The only one of these which carries a grain of truth with it is the last - in Southern California, heartworm disease is uncommon enough that its incidence in local cats probably approaches zero, but given the big unknown of coyotes as a heartworm reservoir, that may be incorrect.

Anyway, click on the embedded link at the start to read the information sheet. And then call us to get that very overdue routine exam taken care of!

Monday, July 20, 2009

We're Havin' A Heat Wave, A Terrible Heat Wave......

Just a reminder during this very hot summer weather that our kitties need close attention to make sure they stay cool and safe.

If you have central AC, make sure your system is working well and can keep your home at 80F or less. Young, healthy cats can handle somewhat higher temps (mine at home don't wilt until it hits 88F), but elderly, sick, overweight, and stressed cats have a reduced ability to compensate for environmental issues such as extreme heat. If you have a window or wall unit, leave it on during the day so kitty has a cool spot to lay in front of it - I leave mine set at 84F, but it's very comfy and nice in that spot and I don't have to try (and fail miserably) to keep the entire place cool by running both units full blast.

Make sure your cats have clean, fresh water available at all times, and if they have increased needs due to kidney disease or diabetes, put an extra bowl down.

Don't leave your cat parked in your car alone for even a few minutes. If you have picked kitty up here or from the groomer, go straight home and then leave again to complete any necessary errands. Hot weather like we are having can kill very quickly.

For any cats who need to be in our hospital, rest assured we have excellent air conditioning, and the back of the hospital always stays nice and cool even if the waiting room gets a little warm. We have only had to clear out and close down due to power failure and AC loss once in 18 years (June 2008) and hope that never happens again!

Got drywall?

Don't everybody all fall over in a dead faint, but we now have drywall. Our long-stalled project to fix the hallway wall and insulate and replace the drywall has finally been completed. Well, except for primer and paint, which will happen eventually someday.

Given how very long it took to get this small project done, I am rethinking my plan to do the same in the waiting room and Room 1. Perhaps blown-in insulation will be a little easier and I can just DIY rather than trying to line up a contractor.

If any of my clients have experience with blown-in insulation, let me know and maybe we can work out a trade of some sort........

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

About Our Appointment Policy

Cat's Meow Veterinary Clinic is what is known as a solo practice. That means that it is staffed by ONE veterinarian: that would be me, Dr. Gayle (what many clients prefer to call me). Though modern medicine has worked many seeming miracles, it has yet to successfully clone an adult human being. Because of this, there truly is only one "me" to examine, diagnose, and perform surgery on my patients. I am therefore forced to schedule appointments for office visits and medical/surgical procedures in an attempt to avoid complete pandemonium in my hospital.

On weekdays I generally see office visits in the morning, then I do medical/surgical procedures late morning, have lunch, and then see more appointments in the afternoon. Saturdays we only see office visits and do not schedule any procedures that would require sedation/anesthesia, because it is such a short day.

We have a large number of patients to divide our time amongst, so it should come as no shock that it is not always possible for you to get the exact time slot for your appointment, on the exact day that you want, particularly if you are calling and wanting your cat to be seen THIS VERY MINUTE for something that is clearly not a medical emergency. I am sometimes in surgery, or working on a sick patient, or already in an exam room with another client (who may have brought 3 or 4 cats in at once). I may even be eating lunch (gasp). It has never been, and will never be, our policy to "bump" a client who is on time simply because another client wants the same time slot. We do not "double book".

If you want to bring Kitty in at 9:30 AM this Tuesday and we tell you that the appointment is not available (usually because another client is already booked for that time), we ask for your patience and understanding as we try to find another suitable time slot. Most importantly, we ask that you treat us the way you would wish to be treated: that is, by refraining from cursing and temper tantrums. This won't be difficult for the vast majority of our clients, so my comments are primarily directed toward prospective clients and that tiny minority of existing clients who apparently does not understand office etiquette.

Of course, if you believe your cat has a legitimate medical emergency, we will be more than happy to fit you into our schedule immediately, though it is best to call us first to make sure that I am actually physically available (and not out of the office, home sick, in surgery, or already treating another emergency).

We ask that you make every effort to be on time for your appointment so as to avoid inconveniencing the next client, and please bring your cat in a carrier for everyone's safety. If you need to cancel or reschedule, please give us as much advance notice as possible. Last minute cancellations usually result in dead time because of our inability to fill the time slot on extremely short notice, and that raises everyone's cost of care. And no-shows are, of course, not a way to cultivate a good doctor-client relationship.

There has been an unfortunate trend over the last decade or so for some people to treat veterinarians more like fast food employees than highly skilled medical professionals. Heck, some might say that it's unprofessional for me to even broach the subject, but it needs to be said: it's medical care, not a Happy Meal, and no, we don't have a drive-through window.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Internets are Amazing Things

I got a phone call first thing this morning from a Northern California county public health department employee. He had been web surfing, looking for information on feline rabies control laws and found my blog and decided to enlist my help.

He was looking for a site that listed information from all 50 states and whether or not they had a statewide feline rabies vaccination requirement. After I searched for about an hour I actually found one such site. So I emailed the information to him, and hope it helps him.

Our conversation, not surprisingly, was somewhat along these lines:
HIM: I can't believe every state in the union doesn't require rabies vaccination in cats.
ME: Tell me about it. I just don't get it. Pure foolishness.
HIM: Yeah. Sigh.
ME: Do you have rabid bats up there? We sure have a lot down here.
HIM: Yeah, lots of rabid bats.

This whole thing came at an odd time, because just yesterday we had in the hospital a cat that got exposed to a bat a couple of years ago and had to be quarantined for 6 months. It had never been vaccinated against rabies, and found a bat on the owner's balcony and brought it into the house, but then the bat escaped and could not be tested. The owners don't want any MORE quarantines, so now they keep Kitty up on his vaccinations.

We seem to have to fight the same battles against ignorance and misinformation year after year after year. At one time, I naively expected the internet to magically make every citizen an informed citizen, and preventable diseases would be a thing of the past. Sadly, you can still lead a horse to water and yet still can't make him drink.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of rabies cases reported in cats is routinely 3-4 times as that of rabies reported in cattle or dogs. Both CDC and the World Health Organization strongly recommend vaccinating ALL cats against rabies, regardless of their lifestyle (in only vs in/out). Southern California has a significant ongoing problem with endemic rabies in the local bats, and cats are highly susceptible to bites from "downer" bats due to their curious nature and predatory/play behavior. And yet the City of Los Angeles and the State of California do not see fit to pass legislation that would require protection of the public's health by vaccinating all cats against rabies. They would rather try to pass laws that would tax my profession out of business, I suppose.

Clients often ask me why all the fuss about rabies. Clearly our celebrity-obsessed, fashion-conscious, reality-tv-addicted society has lost its collective memory of the human horrors of this disease. But I for one will never forget. I have been exposed to rabies just once, in 1987, and count myself lucky to be telling of it, along with the 21 others who also did not die. And the families of the 25-30,000 people who do die of this disease EVERY YEAR in India alone will of course not forget.

I got that last statistic off the internets. The truth is out there, just waiting to be noticed. I told you it was amazing.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Evolution of House Cats

Scientific American has just published an excellent article on the evolution of the domestic cat - I highly recommend taking the time to read it.

Many of you have heard me say that our kitties descend from Felis libyca, the desert wildcat of the Middle East. Now I have a legitimate scientific source to back me up. This is why I feel that cats should not be fed fish - they simply did not evolve in an environment where fish were available to them.

I am surprised to hear that cats began to be domesticated as many as 10,000 years ago. One would think they would be acting a little less wild after that much human influence, but no...........

Saturday, June 13, 2009

LAPD Enlists Feral Cats For Rat Patrol

Those of you who have had the change to commiserate with me on the subject know that I am generally not a fan of the practice of maintaining feral cat colonies (as opposed to trap-neuter-place or euthanize), but after reading this 2007 article from the LA Times I think I have found one variety of TNR I can get behind enthusiastically.

LAPD Enlists Feral Cats For Rat Patrol

.......Unlike other strays that might rub up against a leg hoping for a crumb or a head rub, these felines are so unaccustomed to human contact that they dart away when people approach. Feral cats cannot be turned into house pets. When they end up in municipal shelters, they have little hope of coming out alive. animal welfare group has figured out a way to save their lives and put them to work in Los Angeles. The Working Cats program of Voice for the Animals, a Los Angeles-based animal advocacy and rescue group, has placed feral cats in a handful of police stations with rodent problems, just as the group placed cats in the rat-plagued downtown flower district several years ago -- to great effect


........Their reputation as furtive and successful exterminators grew after feral cats were introduced to the parking lot of the Wilshire Division nearly six years ago. Rats had been burrowing into the equipment bags that bicycle officers stored in outside cages; inside the facility, mice were sometimes scurrying across people's desks.

......."Once we got the cats, problem solved," said Cmdr. Kirk Albanese, a captain at the Wilshire station at the time. "I was almost an immediate believer."


Click on the blue-lettered link in my lead paragraph to read the entire fascinating story.

Feral cats are generally considered a public health threat (by health authorities), an environmental threat (by birders and environmentalists), and a public nuisance (by those whose property they enter and damage). But by placing them in the urban and semi-urban environments found around ost Los Angeles police stations, it is difficult to envision them posing much threat on any of those counts.

Any time a feral cat can be placed in a home or home-like environment and allowed to live out its life with some level of human caretaking, rather than forced to fend for itself entirely on the street, it's a good thing. These cats were slated for euthanasia, and now they get to "Protect and Serve" our city. Kudos to Chief Bratton and LAPD for allowing this!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Maybe It's The Full Moon......

We had a full moon earlier this week, so I will just chalk our latest insanity up to it.

Poor Alison (my trusty #1 assistant for those of you who haven't met her) had to take a phone call this morning from a woman who took offense at the fact that we do not treat dogs. Well, actually, that's putting it rather charitably. She yelled and screamed at Alison for several minutes, demanding to know WHY we didn't do dogs and cursing us and saying we had a lot of nerve, and in general behaved like a crazy person. Perhaps that's what she was.

Maybe I should say a few words about the fact that we don't treat dogs, since clients of the more sane variety frequently ask me: why a CAT hospital?

In the beginning, veterinarians treated all manner of animals and mostly livestock. After WWII the small animal vets came about because of the increased urban and suburban population which had no livestock anywhere near. So we saw "dog and cat" hospitals, but in truth cats were ever only a small percentage of the patient load. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, veterinarians began to pay attention to cats, and the first feline-exclusive practices opened. So the concept was nothing new when I opened in 1991.

I had always enjoyed working on cats, and thought about having a cat hospital, and when I had the chance to buy the former Corbin Village Veterinary Clinic (closed for remodeling and most clients gone elsewhere for good) I saw the opportunity to have my dream practice, so I brought my housecall clients with me and opened up. This place is, in my opinion, far too cramped to fit dogs into it (and all their associated equipment and drugs) anyway.

Some people assume I don't treat dogs because I don't like them, but that is not the case. I love dogs. I just love treating cats more than the alternative, which is treating (mostly) dogs and (some) cats. And as for the rabbits and pocket pets such as rats, hamsters, and guinea pigs that I see very occasionally - they fit neatly into the practice without a lot of extra equipment or drugs, and so few vets know anything at all about them that I just took pity and decided to include them. But we are for all intents and purposes a feline-exclusive practice.

I am often described by others as a feline "specialist", but you won't hear me use that term for a very important reason: its use is reserved for those with a higher level of training in the field of their specialty who can and should be held to a higher medical and legal standard than their non-specialist colleagues. I have no special cat training beyond vet school electives and many hours of continuing education lectures on feline medicine and surgery, so I have no business holding myself out to be a "specialist" and will not do so. If my clients wish to think that focusing on cats all day, every day makes me a better cat vet than someone who sees mostly dogs, that's their prerogative.

Cats especially like cat hospitals. There are never any barking dogs on our premises; no dog smells, no inquisitive noses snuffling at poor terrified cats in carriers. We enjoy the relatively peaceful environment, too, and Alison appreciates never having to clean up "parvo poop", the bane of most veterinary staff's existences.

The benefits, on the whole, far outweigh the minor disadvantage of the occasional disgruntled and hostile dog owner.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Look What The Cat Brought In!

It seems like I'm on a roll with the posts about zoonoses, so here's a reprint of an article I wrote for Pediatrics for Parents a couple of years ago:


Gayle Robison, DVM

While cats make wonderful house pets and companions, these intelligent, graceful creatures have the potential to carry several diseases that can infect their human friends. Among these are bacterial and fungal diseases, and worm infestations. Children, by virtue of their immature immune systems, are particularly susceptible to the most common of these: cat scratch disease, ringworm, and ocular/visceral larva migrans.

Cat Scratch Disease
Otherwise known as cat scratch fever or bartonellosis, this bacterial infection is most often associated with kittens, though an obvious scratch is not always involved. Human infection results in fever, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, and rarely more serious disease in immunosuppressed individuals.
Cats infected with Bartonella bacteria often have no signs of illness. They acquire the disease by means of flea bites, which spread the bacteria from other cats. When fleas subsequently feed on an infected cat, they leave bacteria-laden droppings in the cat’s fur. As the cat scratches at its fur in response to the crawling fleas, the claws pick up the flea feces, which then are inoculated into the skin of an unsuspecting person if they are scratched by the cat.
Feline bartonellosis is entirely preventable by adequate flea control, particularly while the cat is still young. Since the introduction of monthly flea control products such as fipronil and imidacloprid ten years ago, this disease has become less common, but it remains a concern for vulnerable people.
To minimize the risk of human infection, cats’ claws should be clipped short (front and back). Cats suspected of harboring the bacteria should be treated with antibiotics after consulting with a veterinarian. Children should be taught how to handle the cat or kitten so as to decrease opportunities for scratching. Aggressive flea control on pets is vital to avoid this unpleasant condition in people.

Properly called dermatophytosis, this pesky infection is caused, not by a worm, but by a common fungus that ordinarily inhabits the soil. Most people are familiar with the scaly, reddened, circular skin lesions typically seen with ringworm. The condition may or may not be itchy, and can be highly contagious.
Cats acquire ringworm infection from either the environment, another infected cat, or rarely from a person with fungal lesions. Skin lesions may not be apparent on the cat, but can be quite dramatic when they do appear, also as reddened, circular, flaky patches with a raised rim. Kittens are more commonly infected than adult cats due to their immature immune systems. Some cats have no visible skin lesions at all, and require special testing to determine whether they might be the source of a human infection.
Dermatophytosis prevention in the cat consists of avoiding contact with affected individuals and housing in a clean, dry environment. Treatment of cats, which can in some cases be prolonged and expensive, involves a combination of clipping the fur, bathing or dips, topical medication, and systemic medication. Prevention of human infection requires good hygiene (i.e. handwashing after petting the cat) and avoidance of contact with affected cats. Children especially should not hold affected cats close to their skin. Normal, healthy skin is ordinarily quite resistant to fungal infection, but minor abrasions or constantly damp skin can allow the fungus entry.

Ocular/Visceral Larva Migrans
Cats and kittens commonly harbor a variety of roundworm and hookworm intestinal parasites that can cause devastating illness and permanent injury to children. These worms, while usually only causing mild disease in their feline victims, shed their eggs in the pet’s stool to contaminate the environment. Children become infected by inadvertently ingesting the eggs, which then develop into larvae and migrate throughout the body, causing organ dysfunction and even severe damage to the eyes.
Kittens become infected during nursing (the worm eggs are passed in the queen’s milk), the worms develop inside them, and then the mature worms shed millions of eggs in the stool. These can build up in the soil to astonishing levels, and persist in the soil. Warm, moist conditions favor this ongoing environmental contamination, so we see more intestinal parasites in the southeastern United States, but they can be found everywhere. Sandboxes and loose garden soil can become special problem areas.
While roundworms and hookworms cannot be prevented in cats, they can be treated easily and cheaply. Veterinarians recommend frequent deworming of kittens beginning as early as two weeks of age. Proper disposal of fecal material from litter boxes is important. Routine deworming of adult cats may be necessary, depending on its risk of exposure to other sources of parasites such as prey ingestion.
Children should be taught to wash their hands after playing out of doors, and should avoid placing their hands in their mouths. Sandboxes should have latching lids that cannot accidentally close while the box is in use, and should be kept latched closed when not in use, as cats instinctively favor them for toilet use. The cat’s litterbox should not be accessible to small children.
In order to make our cats safe members of our families, it is important to be aware of the potential risks of the relationship, and take appropriate measures to minimize that risk. Pet cats can enrich our children’s lives in so many ways!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Plague: It Isn't a Thing of the Past

The Associated Press is reporting the season's first bubonic plague death in New Mexico:

New Mexico boy dies of plague, sister recovering

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico health officials say an 8-year-old boy has died after contracting bubonic plague and his 10-year-old sister, who also contracted the illness, is hospitalized and recovering.

The state Health Department announced the boy's death Thursday, saying the siblings' cases are the first human plague cases in the nation so far this year.

Health officials are conducting an environmental investigation at the family's Santa Fe County residence to determine if there is any ongoing risk to people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says an average of 10 to 15 persons contract the plague each year in the United States. Modern antibiotics are an effective treatment.

Most people think that plague, otherwise known as the Black Death, is a thing of medieval times and faraway places. It takes a sad story like this to remind us that we live with the very real threat of plague in the American southwest every day.

The plague bacteria came to North America sometime after Columbus, courtesy of ship rats. From there it made its way into wildlife, particularly the ground squirrel, which is our local source of endemic plague in Southern California. Interestingly, the common "roof rat" of Los Angeles is the very same rat that spread plague throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, which should give one pause.

Plague is a bacterial disease occasionally infecting cats and humans, transmitted by fleas, which means we have two ways of fighting it. First and foremost is aggressive flea control, which should be used on all cats that go outdoors at all, whether or not they are allowed to wander at large, and regardless of how much time they spend outside. It only takes one flea bite, and you have no idea who that flea bit recently that might have given it plague. Fortunately, plague is treatable with antibiotics, but that assumes your physician (or veterinarian) has figured out that you (or your cat)have plague in the first place, and that's a big assumption since it's not common in people or cats at the moment.

I recommend monthly use of Advantage or Frontline (state-of-the-art OTC flea control products), or Advantage Multi (prescription multi-parasite control). We carry Advantage and Advantage Multi but not Frontline. If you wish to purchase OTC Advantage, you need to know your cat's weight because the cutoff between product sizes is 9 lb, which is average so guessing might not work. Advantage Multi is effective against ear mites, heartworm, roundworms, and hookworms, in addition to fleas. But you need to bring your cat in for an exam and weigh-in unless we have seen it recently because it is prescription only.

I guess I might sound like a corporate shill at this point, but I thought this was a great opportunity to point out what terrible hazards lie in wait for the unsuspecting, and how easy it is at times to decrease those hazards to nearly zero. We veterinarians are at higher risk of plague than average people due to the risk of workplace exposure, so we rely in large part on our clients to be responsible pet owners and keep fleas at bay. Los Angeles lost a veterinarian to plague about 25 years ago, and that is one death too many.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rats and Rabies

This just in from the Ukraine (well, ok, it was in April): a cabbie was attacked and bitten by a rat which was later found to have rabies. I didn't believe it at first, because while rat rabies is theoretically possible, it is just extraordinarily unlikely.

So now I stand corrected. For over 25 years I have been reassuring my clients that rats pose NO rabies threat (and in the US they still have not been found to), but this case shows me to have been in error.

I can't find out whether the Ukrainian public health authorities have subtyped the virus to determine in what species it originated, but that would shed a great deal of light on how this amazing event happened. One would ordinarily expect that a rat bitten by any rabid animal would die outright or die of wound infection, and never stand a chance of surviving to develop rabies. Wonders never cease.

I seem to recall years ago hearing about a bird of some sort (raptor or vulture) that contracted rabies. That was also a stunner.

I think I'm gonna go wander off and shake my head for a while.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nutro Dry Cat Food Recall

Nutro Products Announces Voluntary Recall of Limited Range of Dry Cat Food Products

Franklin, Tennessee (May 21, 2009) -- Today, Nutro Products announced a voluntary recall of select varieties of NUTRO® NATURAL CHOICE® COMPLETE CARE® Dry Cat Foods and NUTRO® MAX® Cat Dry Foods with “Best If Used By Dates” between May 12, 2010 and August 22, 2010. The cat food is being voluntarily recalled in the United States and ten additional countries. This recall is due to incorrect levels of zinc and potassium in our finished product resulting from a production error by a US-based premix supplier.

Two mineral premixes were affected. One premix contained excessive levels of zinc and under-supplemented potassium. The second premix under-supplemented potassium. Both zinc and potassium are essential nutrients for cats and are added as nutritional supplements to NUTRO® dry cat food.

This issue was identified during an audit of our documentation from the supplier. An extensive review confirmed that only these two premixes were affected. This recall does not affect any NUTRO® dog food products, wet dog or cat food, or dog and cat treats.

Affected product was distributed to retail customers in all 50 states, as well as to customers in Canada , Mexico , Japan , Korea , Thailand , Malaysia , Singapore , Indonesia , New Zealand , and Israel . We are working with all of our distributors and retail customers, in both the US and internationally, to ensure that the recalled products are not on store shelves. These products should not be sold or distributed further.

Consumers who have purchased affected product should immediately discontinue feeding the product to their cats, and switch to another product with a balanced nutritional profile. While we have received no consumer complaints related to this issue, cat owners should monitor their cat for symptoms, including a reduction in appetite or refusal of food, weight loss, vomiting or diarrhea. If your cat is experiencing health issues or is pregnant, please contact your veterinarian.

Consumers who have purchased product affected by this voluntary recall should return it to their retailer for a full refund or exchange for another NUTRO® dry cat food product. Cat owners who have more questions about the recall should call
1-800-833-5330 between the hours 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM CST

# # #


Inadequate dietary potassium can lead to kidney dysfunction, muscle pain, muscle wasting, and anemia. The foods had low potassium levels for three months of production, which could be long enough to cause problems for the cat. If you have been feeding this food and have any concerns, please make an appointment for an exam so we can decide if any laboratory testing might be indicated.

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Take on Swine Flu

Unless you live in a cave, or have eschewed radio, TV, and internet news, you are by now aware of the outbreak of swine flu. So why, you ask, is that crazy Dr. Robison posting about it on her blog?

Well, it turns out that SWINE flu had its origins in pigs, so that falls within my jurisdiction. It is one of the many zoonotic (spread from animals to humans) diseases we veterinarians have to be aware of so we can do our part to help deter their spread and keep the public informed. Now that the bug has mutated and jumped into humans, where it is having a grand time from all reports, it's technically not my concern anymore. But given my background in microbiology prior to veterinary medicine it's still interesting to me, so you all get to listen to me expound.

First off, there is no need to panic. Your pets cannot get infected by this swine flu, and are not a source, nor are they at risk. You CAN NOT catch swine flu from eating pork or any other food. Basic respiratory hygiene and etiquette is in order: wash your hands well with soap and water frequently, especially when you go out in public; cover your mouth with your ARM when you cough or sneeze (to keep the virus off your hands); avoid touching your hands to your face, particularly the nose, eyes, and mouth; if you have flu symptoms (fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, sore throat, occasionally vomiting or diarrhea) PLEASE do not go out in public to spread it.

If you are home sick with suspected flu, PLEASE do not use the opportunity to bring your cat to us for any non-critical services - the annual vaccinations and exam can and should wait until you are well. If you suspect you have the flu and your cat needs to be seen because of serious illness or injury, please advise us of your situation when you make your appointment so we can plan accordingly to minimize risk to other people.

If I or my staff come down with suspected flu, we may have to cancel appointments on short notice. If this happens, please understand it is in the interest of public health that we do so.

There are many excellent, reliable sources of information on swine flu on the internet:



LA County Public Health

Pandemic Flu federal gov't site


We will be following this outbreak closely, and if we need to take additional measures for public health reasons, we will keep you advised.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Doctor's Pick - Local Bookstore

I realize this is a little off-topic, but given that the proprietor is a cat person, I promised to give the place a plug.

My new favorite Saturday hangout is a tiny used bookstore up in Canoga Park called Next Chapter Books. Located at 7140 Owensmouth Ave, it is open Monday through Saturday from 11 AM to 6 PM. Phone number is 818-704-5864. They have a large selection of mysteries, sci fi, and fantasy paperbacks, but also a lot of hardbacks across various genres, generally in really nice condition. They take books in good condition in trade, of course (which is half the point of a used bookstore).

Here's the website:

Check it out next time you're in the area. The owner is a very pleasant man who knows the importance of personal service and building a relationship with his customers to help meet their needs.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Our Mascot, Dusty

Everyone always wants to know about Dusty, so this is as good a place as any to tell her story for all to read.

Back in 1999 my grandmother was nearing the end of her life and my sister assigned me the task of dealing with Gramie's cat. I flew to Colorado for a final visit and made arrangements to return with her, with the intention of placing her with a good client, since I wasn't in the market for one more cat. Well, just a few days later Gramie passed away, and I got cold feet about giving away what seemed like the last living part of her. So Dusty has been with us ever since.

She lives at the clinic, where until a couple of years ago she preferred to spend her time at the front desk, waiting for attention from clients. When she developed arthritis she quit jumping on countertops and now spends most of he time at my feet in the office, tucked into her little bed. Change of any sort causes her great distress, so I am not highly motivated to bring her home and she is content where she is. Though she got along well enough with Mummy and Boochi, she is afraid of other cats and prefers to do her job solo.

Dusty recently celebrated her 18th birthday. In spite of hyperthyroidism and renal failure for the past three or more years, and half a dozen medications, and fluid treatments three times a week, she just keeps ticking. She's our own in-house "energizer bunny". No longer a fan of daily brushings, she looks less tidy than in years past, and has lost a little weight. But she still stomps around, fussing about every little thing and staring at us when she wants catnip.

She might even come to the front desk to say hi the next time you stop in.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Recommended Reading: Dewey

I try not to read every dog or cat book that comes along, mainly because there simply aren't enough hours in the day. But also because they pretty much always end the same way: with euthanasia or natural death. I deal with death plenty on the job as it is, and don't need to be reading and crying about it on my off-hours, too.

But I was recently loaned a copy of Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched The World by Vicki Myron, and it came with a glowing recommendation. So after sitting on it a couple of weeks and finishing up a Wendell Berry book of essays and while still not half done with rereading Aldo Leopold, I decided to make a marathon weekend project of it.

This book really struck a chord with me, probably because we have had many of our own mascots here at Cat's Meow Veterinary Clinic over the years, and in part also because it reminded me a great deal of how my cat Eddie came to his end last December. So I went through a whole lot of tissues at the end.

I'm gonna rate this book a Must Read for all but the most hard-hearted and leave the rest for you to discover. It's a wonderful story. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I managed to miss this cat when he was in the news during the 90's - I probably had my face buried in some veterinary journal at the time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Please Pardon Our Mess!

We are starting work on our minor renovation project in the hallway on the way to the exam rooms. We will be removing the ancient plaster wall on the east side and installing fiberglass insulation prior to replacement with nice, modern drywall. The old plaster wall was cracked and repaired after the Northridge quake, but has steadily worsened as plaster is inclined to do.

All the work will be done after hours, so you shouldn't be inconvenienced. The most dusty phase of the job should be completed after this coming weekend, and then drywall installation should progress quickly. We are anticipating much less heat penetrating from the outside during warmer months, which is a very good thing! If we are satisfied with the results, the next project will be to do the same thing on the east (exterior) wall of Exam Room 1.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Doctor's Pick: Grooming Implements

Whether your cat has long, medium, or even short hair, eventually it's going to need some level of grooming. Bathing is usually a bad idea (cats hate water) and is generally unnecessary in a housecat. Even cats who go outdoors tend to keep themselves pretty clean. But the problem of loose fur is always with us, and we're heading into shedding season soon, where it escalates into a real problem for some cats.

Here at Cat's Meow Veterinary Clinic we utilize three different grooming tools, depending on the length of the cat's fur. The Zoom Groom (last pic), a rubber-fingered implement, is great at grabbing and loosening fur from deep in the coat, and it works best in short- and medium-haired cats. We follow up with a deep combing with the shedding comb (third pic, left), which has alternating long and short teeth. Then we clean up the surface with the slicker brush (second pic), which has hundreds of short, tiny sire teeth in a grid. For nail trims we use the cat claw scissor (top).
We normally carry these grooming tools at the clinic. If we are out, you can sometimes find them at pet stores, but the shedding comb is hard to find.
Note: Anybody who knows how to put the pictures where I want them in the post, and not where the Blog Machine wants them, please let me know. I'm having difficulties, to say the least.

Doctor's Pick: Cat Litter Scoop

Wow, you say! Doctor Robison has really turned into a control freak. Now she's trying to tell me what kind of cat litter scoop to use!!

Well, I have used and discarded just about every kind of litter scoop made in the past 30 years, and it took until a couple of years ago to find a real keeper. I just love the heavy-duty steel Durascoop with the squared corners (rather than those with the useless curved corners) that I found at Petco (disclaimer: PetSmart probably has them, too, and I don't care where you shop since I don't own stock in any pet stores anyway). Mine is enamel painted which may wear off over time. The newer ones are stainless steel.

Yes, they are expensive, but well worth it. No more broken scoops from trying to pick up too much at once. And the best part is how well it gets into the corners. Next time you need a new scoop, give this a try. You'll never want to go back to the old oval "pancake turner".

Thursday, February 19, 2009

We Won!!!!

Thanks to the combined efforts of the CVMA, AVMA, veterinarians, pet owners, livestock owners, and friends of animals across the United States, Governor Schwarzenegger's ill-conceived plan to tax veteinary medical services has gone down to defeat. The proposal would have increased the cost of care by 10% and caused untold suffering in addition to jeopardizing food safety and public health. Thanks to all of our clients who helped with the phone and letter campaign.

We all need to be vigilant, however - the state budget could be revised in the future and we may have to fight this battle all over again. And there is still very quiet talk about removing the sales tax exemption from veterinary prescription drugs and diets.
CVMA especially deserves thanks for spearheading the opposition to this tax. You may email letters of appreciation to them at: Click on the "contact us" button in the upper left corner

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cornell's Videos: How to Give Your Cat Medication

A picture is worth a thousand words. Cornell Feline Health Center has been kind enough to develop and post a cat-pilling video.

I don't like to wrap my patients in a towel to pill them - most are fine without it. I will either scruff the back of the cat's head or grasp the whole head from above, depending on the cat's temperament. You just need to experiment with a few variables to see what works best in your individual case.

If you have to give several different pills, we carry gelatin capsules that you can often stuff everything into so you only have to pill the cat once.

Cornell also has a video on how to give a cat liquid medication:

I just have ONE question: How did we ever survive without the wonders of the internet??