Wednesday, May 26, 2010

An Engineer's Guide To Cats

I have a new favorite cat video, which I present to you without comment, other than to say the obvious: NO TUNA!!!

Addendum: Well, gosh, THAT worked out well. Not. Not sure why it loaded in high speed. The original on Youtube can be found here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Trip To The Los Angeles Zoo

I went with a group of local veterinarians to the Los Angeles Zoo last Sunday. We got treated to an insider's tour of the medical facility there followed by a lecture on a couple of interesting cases: an orangutan with chronic air sacculitis and pneumonia, and an Indian rhinocerus with squamous cell carcinoma of the horn.

The hospital was gorgeous, but I was sad to hear that budget cuts have been so severe at LA Zoo that most the veterinary and nursing staff has been laid off and instead of giving each and every one of the 1100+ animals there a thorough physical every two years as they had been doing, they are reduced to practicing what we call "fire engine medicine" - in other words, when an animal becomes ill, then and only then is there any medical care. But heaven forbid the taxpayers agree to cough up a few pennies apiece to improve this cruel and deplorable situation......

On the brighter side, there are a lot of capital facilities improvements going on, lots of new construction. If I'm not mistaken, some of these were funded by a Proposition "O" and/or some of the economic stimulus funds for shovel-ready projects that benefit the environment/conservation efforts. Many exhibits are empty, however, and one can only hope that the budget allows for putting animals into the facilities that are being built/refurbished, and the staff to care for them.

The lecture was fascinating. Both cases were quite challenging but ended well. The rhino was on exhibit today and she looks great, but of course she doesn't have much of a horn anymore. She's 40 years old. The orangutan is now over 30, and he fathered a baby in about 2005 as a result of his improved health.

Of course my favorite part of any zoo experience is the cats, and I got to see one of the snow leopards up very close and actively moving about. He came right down to drink from his pond at the front of the enclosure not 5 feet from me, and then sniffed at a rock, rubbed his face on it, then turned and sprayed it with urine to make sure everyone knew it was his own personal rock! What a gorgeous animal!

The tiger and lions and serval were all snoozing and so I saw them from a distance and not doing anything. I wish they had some mountain lions and bobcats on exhibit - even though they are not exotic imports, they are fascinating and beautiful animals and people would be thrilled to see some local wildlife. One of the best zoos I've ever seen was the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ, which is a zoo full of wildlife native to the region instead of the usual big game from far away.

Go visit the LA Zoo before the weather gets too hot this summer - none of the animals are visible when it gets nasty hot. And please DO consider becoming a member to help them out financially, or even making an additional donation.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Your Cat's Anal Sacs

"My cat's WHAT???? Why are you talking about sex???"

Ok, calm down. I did not say anal sex. I am not talking about sex (true story - more than one client over the years has responded to this subject in that exact way - this is almost certainly why most vets more savvy than me call them anal "glands", albeit erroneously).

Dogs have them, and unfortunately so do cats. All I can say is, thank heavens that humans don't. These two pea-sized little structures adjacent to the anus at the 4- and 8-o'clock positions can cause a great deal of discomfort for some cats, but rarely do they cause the sort of mess they can in dogs that necessitates their surgical removal.

Anal sacs serve no discernable useful purpose, but they are analogous to a skunk's scent glands and so they may serve as a sort of scent marking device for reinforcing territorial boundaries. Whatever the case is, cats aren't talking. And most cats never have the slightest problem with them.

When anal sacs get impacted (plugged up and full of the stinky stuff they produce which is NOT feces) most cats will exhibit some sort of abnormal behavior but which varies tremendously from cat to cat. We don't usually see cats dragging their rear end across the carpet with hind feet in the air like dogs usually do. But excessive grooming is a common symptom, as is some degree of visible discomfort around the hind end.

People will probably now be asking, "How do I know if my cat has impacted or infected anal sacs?" The truth is, you probably won't. But just like any other time you think your cat doesn't look or act normal, you should get it in for an exam. Trust me - you don't want to go poking around your cat's butt too enthusiastically - anal sac "juice" has a propensity for squirting out at the most inopportune times, and it is one of the foulest substances known to man. Ask me how I know.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Why Every Cat Owner Needs A Can Of Easy Cheese In The Pantry

Ok, now those of you who know me at all know that I am seriously into REAL food and not a fan at all of processed or fake foods, at least for myself. But I am gonna go against every thing I believe in when it comes to good nutrition to make a simple recommendation that just might make the daunting task of pilling cats a whole lot easier for those of you brave enough to try it.

For a couple of years I have been hearing about the use of canned cheese food product as a vehicle for inducing cats to voluntarily consume pills. Every time I would hear it, I would say, "Wow, what a cool idea!" and then promptly forget all about it. But I had a Cheez Whiz moment today while talking about something completely unrelated with a client (don't ask what that's about - I have no idea - it just randomly came into my head) and figured I just HAD to blog about it.

So, here's what you do. Go buy a can of plain, original flavored Kraft Easy Cheese at your nearest non-Whole-Foods grocer. Start by training your cat to eat dots of it on a plate without any medication. This way you will know in advance if he/she will even eat the stuff, but from what I hear they almost all consider it on par with crack cocaine, if not better. Put three to five dabs in a row on a plate. A "dab" is probably about as big as the end of your little finger, but experiment around. You don't want to be giving kitty a meal of the stuff - it's little better than Elmer's glue or plastic in my opinion, though at least your cat won't live long enough to get sludged-up arteries from it.

Once the cat has come to anticipate the stuff and eagerly eats the dabs all in a row, then start putting the pill (or piece of pill) in the middle dab (just smush it in with your finger). From what I hear, cats are so excited by the idea of getting a couple more dabs of the stuff, they don't care that there is medication in the middle one.

Of course, this won't work with big pills like Tumil-K, but if your cat is on benazepril or famotidine or clavamox or prednisolone or anything smallish, it should work. Half a Baytril may or may not work - it's bigger.

So give it a try and let me know how it works. Just please don't take to eating it yourself. Seriously. Buy a hunk of brie if you want gluey cheese.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

About Choosing A Dog (yes, I know, this post has nothing to do with cats)

Alison, my trusty assistant, asked me to post this in view of the upcoming Disney film "Marmaduke".

It has become a sad American tradition that whenever a movie comes out that showcases a particular breed of dog, that breed skyrockets in popularity - generally to its detriment. I first remember this phenomenon with Lassie (collies) and 101 Dalmations (dalmations and cocker spaniels).

Now, with the prospect of great danes becoming the trendy new hip pet for the fashion-minded but woefully unprepared, we think it's time to speak out and say "NO!!" The vast majority of people are not suitable great dane owners. These dogs require a LOT of food to grow them to adulthood and still more to maintain them. They are a giant breed, and so they take up a lot of space and need a lot of yard to stretch their legs in. They are NOT apartment or condo dogs.

And the breed has a plethora of serious medical conditions just lurking beneath the surface: cardiomyopathy (dead dog quickly) and bone cancer (dead dog painfully) are the two I am most familiar with from my dog & cat days. Growth problems due to inappropriate nutritional choices (usually excesses rather than deficiencies) can lead to misery and permanent damage to joints and bones. And the simple fact is, as a giant breed, these dogs only live about 8-10 years on average.

So unless you really know what you are getting into, don't be tempted to get a dane just because you saw one in a movie. Go to the pound and pick up a homely but loving mutt. You'll feel better about yourself and never regret your decision.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rabid Bats In Los Angeles County So Far This Year

LA County Veterinary Public Health reports two rabid bats so far this year, one of them nearby in the San Fernando Valley.

This should serve as a reminder to keep your cats' vaccinations current, even if they are strictly indoors. There are at least two documented cases in the United States of indoor-only cats getting rabies from bats that found their way indoors - and the cats of course DIED.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Feline Arthritis

Traditionally, we veterinarians haven't been able to offer much in the way of safe, effective arthritis management for cats. They can't take much aspirin at all due to their lack of a critical liver enzyme to break it down and excrete it, and other NSAIDS like Advil and Aleve are highly toxic.

We have had an injectible form of an NSAID available (Metacam) for cats for a little while, but it can only be given one time, not repeatedly, and the oral form is a bit risky, and not approved for cats.

A couple of new developments have given us new hope, however, for helping arthritic cats: Adequan injection and Hill's Prescription Diet J/D. They both utilize glucosamine chondroitin sulfate for joint support. I have had definite success in the few cats I have used Adequan in. J/D is too new for me to have any feedback yet. It comes in both canned and dry forms.

Adequan is only approved in dogs, but being a nutritional supplement, I am not worried about its use in cats the way I would be with a pharmaceutical (and we use MANY drugs not approved in cats anyway).

According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, "......degenerative joint disease, or arthritis, is common in older cats. Although most arthritic cats don't become overtly lame, they may have difficulty gaining access to litter boxes and food and water dishes, particularly if they have to jump or climb stairs to get to them........Cats with painful arthritis may have difficulty gaining access to a litter box, especially if negotiating stairs is required. Even climbing into the box may be painful for such cats; urinating or defecating in an inappropriate location is the natural result."

If you think your older cat may have arthritis, please schedule an appointment so we can evaluate the situation and decide whether Adequan or J/D might be appropriate. It's easy to learn how to give the injectable treatment, which starts out more frequent and then tapers off to monthly or less, so it's NOT a big deal. And word from Alison's cat Trystan is that J/D canned is exceptionally yummy!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Podcast On Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

AVMA has a new podcast about lower urinary tract disease which you should all listen to - it's very helpful and informative. This is one of the more common problems I see, though it's rare in cats that do not consume fish or cheap brands of dry food (and is the main reason I nag so much about food).

Lower urinary tract disease can be life-threatening in male cats, and can be terribly expensive to treat if complications develop, so it's best to do all you can to prevent it in the first place. Persians and Himalayans have a definite predisposition to lower urinary tract disease AND complications based on my experience.

It's not a bad idea to do what you can to encourage water consumption in your cat. I let my Boochi drink out of the bathroom faucet/sink every morning (it's his current obsession). Some people buy those water fountains for cats - results are mixed - some cats WILL drink more if they have one, but some won't.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cat Allergy Doesn't Have to Mean Giving Up Kitty

Many of my clients are allergic to cats to varying degrees, but it's important to know that allergy to cats does NOT mean you have to give them up. This recent article in HealthDay discusses the problem and how many cat owners cope.

For years I have been recommending that my clients get a copy of the National Allergy Supply catalog, and now I have a link to their website (since paper catalogs are so passe). They have a very helpful air cleaner comparison chart here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

2 Cats Euthanized In Tennessee After Contact With Rabid Bat

THIS is why you want to be sure your cats have been vaccinated against rabies, even if you can't imagine that they would ever be at risk.


MURPHYSBORO - Animal control authorities are reminding residents of Jackson County to keep their pets up to date on vaccinations, this after two cats were euthanized over contact with a rabid bat.

Mark Tincher, an employee of the Murphysboro Police Department, said he was alerted of the incident Monday and sent the bat for testing. When it tested positive for rabies, the owner did not know which cat had actually carried the bat and had both put down.

"Those cats would not have been destroyed or anything if they had their rabies shots," Tincher said. "It's something I've been pushing pretty hard. I don't want to see any animal put down because of it."

This week's incident isn't an isolated one, either, he said. At least two rabid bats were found in the county last year. State law says that if an animal comes into contact with a rabid animal, it must either be put down or held at a veterinarian's office for six months, which Tincher said can become expensive


Needless tragedy. Where's my "throwing the computer across the room" smilie when I need it?