Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Online Resources: Part 1 - General Feline Wellness

AAFP's most recent Feline Lifestyle Guidelines have a great listing of web resources for cat owners. I'm dividing them into three separate posts grouped according to general subject. First we will cover general wellness, including dental issues.

Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB) WellCat - Wellcat Log - this is an organization in the UK so they word some things differently than we do in the US. But it's a good document anyway.

Morris Animal Foundation - Happy Healthy Cat Campaign - they have an ancillary site, Catster, and some videos I like.

Veterinary Partner - This is a fabulous resource with lots of new information being added all the time. Brought to you by VIN, the best web resource for veterinarians.

CATalyst Council - Click on "Facts, Fun, & Resources" - more great videos.

AAHA's Healthy Pet website (feline section)

Veterinary Oral Health Council - fair warning - there is a nasty photo of a dog's neglected mouth on the front page. Click on "What is periodontal disease?" over on the left side.

That ought to keep you busy for a while. There will be a quiz in July, so read up and take notes!!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The "Green" Litter Box

At the risk of making half of you think I have again jumped the shark, I'm going to delve into cat sanitation with an eye toward environmental issues. I first thought about this back around Earth Day, but in my longstanding tradition of procrastination, I'm only now getting around to it.

Choice of cat litter:

I've always felt that clay litter was the most environmentally appropriate litter choice, being basically a natural mineral (bentonite) that is harmless in the environment. My only problem with it is when it gets flushed. Scoopable and regular clay litters can clog toilets, leading to major plumbing repair bills. I have noticed that if I just put the scoop litter-covered feces in the toilet bowl and let them sit a few minutes, the tiny bits of clay hydrate nicely and suspend in the water just fine, so I will flush the feces. I NEVER EVER flush the urine clumps, however, because that much dirt of any kind at one time is sure to clog up the works. And of course the larger pieces of litter in regular clay litter (non-scoop) cannot be trusted to soften up appreciably.

Other litters, such as the wheat or corn based, are probably flushable if the label makes that claim, but I would always be worrying about clogs, so would only flush feces if I were using them.

Let cat poop light the night:

You might ask why I bother to flush cat feces instead of landfilling them - it's because of THIS. LA DWP operates the Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant and the biogas-fueled electricity generating station that the sewage sludge fuels. So your cat's poop (and yours, too) helps to keep the power on. Hyperion has been operating in this way for over 50 years, and I would venture a guess that the majority of Angelenos haven't a clue.

If we toss cat feces in landfills, two major problems arise. First, if the feces harbor Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan parasite, and rainwater washes through the landfill and runs to the sea (pretty much a given at times), that Toxoplasma winds up in the ocean where it is known to kill our very own beloved sea otters. I realize that feral cats probably contribute far more to any Toxo risk to wildlife than pet housecats do, but that's no excuse for us being lackadaisical and contributing to the problem unnecessarily.

Second, cat feces in a landfill are going to produce methane - that's a given. But in that landfill, there is no way to capture and utilize the methane gas - it just goes up into the atmosphere where it contributes to the greenhouse effect. In lovely weather like we are having right now, it's hard to get concerned about global warming, but the safest course of action is to act in a way right now that we know does less harm and requires no additional expense or effort , and we can debate about the magnitude of the problem at leisure.

Disposal of litter box scoopings:
I used to use all those plastic grocery bags for tossing my scoopings, but since I avoid them like the plague these days in favor of cloth totes, I have had to improvise. Fortunately, plenty of plastic bags still come through my doors in the form of grocery produce bags, ziploc food packaging, plastic wraps on magazines, bags from dried beans and rice and pasta, and just about every other food you can think of. It's ALL packaged in plastic. I also have found that I can twist a bag shut and store it under the bathroom sink with the litter scoop and other supplies, and use it for about 2 or 3 days' worth for my two cats (YMMV) without the slightest odor problem (I use PetSmart's Exquisicat Scoop brand), so I get great mileage out of the bags I DO use. And unlike the el cheapo flimsy white plastic grocery bags, my produce bags and such don't always seem to have HOLES IN THE BOTTOM. Oh, and I tie an overhand knot in my bags or zip them shut before tossing, so they don't stink up the wastebasket.

And just FYI and slightly off topic: I STILL hate those electric self-cleaning monstrosities.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Our Electrical/Phone Problem Today

If any of you tried to call the office today before 11 AM, the phone probably just rang and rang. You can thank the local miscreants who vandalized our fusebox outside and cut all electrical power to us (and did a number on the print shop's electricity, too).

Our telephones depend on electricity, so when we lose one we automatically lose the other.

All I knew was that the power was off, so I called DWP. They eventually showed up and informed me that the building was missing a key piece of equipment and that it was the owner's problem and not DWP's. So I called my landlord and an electrician. My eagle-eyed landlord found the missing piece of equipment out by the dumpster, slightly damaged by being thrown, and the electrician reinstalled it, which is a good thing, because a replacement would have cost $1200. So we finally had power again, but the morning was mostly shot.

Can somebody explain to me why on earth anyone feels that doing this sort of damage to someone else's property is a productive use of their time and energy? I just don't get it. I never have.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Why Insurance For Kitty Might Be A Good Idea

One of my longstanding clients was recently laid off and is facing an uncertain future. He nonetheless took it upon himself to bring one of his older cats in for its annual vaccinations and recommended laboratory tests. I was a bit surprised to uncover a serious but unsuspected kidney problem, and so was the client. But he's not losing sleep over the costs because he has faithfully paid for pet insurance for a few years, knowing that this day could come. A large portion of the diagnostic lab tests and medications and ongoing treatment will be covered by his policy.

I have always told my clients that the best insurance out there is good preventive medical care. But in spite of our best efforts and responsible pet parenting, bad luck has a way of happening, and at all the wrong times. In this difficult economy, I am more enthusiastic about pet insurance than I have been. It helps that there are more and more companies involved as years go by.

Here's a list of current pet insurance providers with web links:
Hartville Group Inc.
Embrace Pet Insurance
Pet First Healthcare
Petplan USA
Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI)
Pet Partners Inc.
Pets Best Insurance
24Petwatch Insurance
Purinacare Pet Health Insurance

We do not recommend or endorse any particular company or companies. VPI has been around the longest. The consumer needs to carefully evaluate insurance plans and find what fits best with their budget and needs. But when lightning strikes, it's nice to know some of the costs will be covered.

Monday, June 14, 2010

First Aid Tips For Pet Owners

AVMA has a great page on first aid for pets. It would be a good idea to bookmark it for quick reference down the road. You might also copy and paste the information relevant to your own pet(s) into a Word document, or maybe a note in Outlook.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

RECALL: Iams ProActive Health Canned Cat and Kitten Food

P&G Recalls Specific Canned Cat Foods Due to Low Levels of Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

CINCINNATI, June 9, 2010 - The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) (NYSE:PG) is voluntarily recalling specific lots of its Iams canned cat food in North America as a precautionary measure. Diagnostic testing indicated that the product may contain insufficient levels of thiamine (Vitamin B1), which is essential for cats. Cats that were fed these canned products as their only food are at greater risk for developing signs of thiamine deficiency.

The following Iams canned cat foods are included:

Product Name: Iams ProActive Health canned Cat and Kitten Food - all varieties of 3 oz & 5.5 oz cans

Date on Bottom of Can: 09/2011 to 06/2012

This recall is limited to only Iams canned cat food distributed in North America. No other Iams pet food is involved.

Early signs of thiamine deficiency may include loss of appetite, salivation, vomiting and weight loss. In advanced cases, signs may include ventroflexion (downward curving) of the neck, wobbly gait, falling, circling and seizures. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your cat is displaying any of these signs. If treated promptly, thiamine deficiency is typically reversible.

Consumers who have purchased canned cat food with these codes should discard it. For further information or a product refund call P&G toll-free at 877-340-8826 (Monday - Friday, 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM EST).

Media Contact: Jason Taylor 513-622-3205


That's NINE MONTHS' output of product. Shame on P&G for not detecting this MUCH sooner.

On the up side, if your cat is eating primarily a high quality kibble food, and you rotate brands/flavors/styles of canned food, a deficiency leading to illness is unlikely.

Like the press release says, if you have been feeding a significant amount of the food listed and your cat has any of the listed symptoms, be sure to get it looked at sooner rather than later.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Stuff We Need

In our continual efforts to Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle, we have ongoing modest needs for the following:

Newspapers - clean, unyellowed used Los Angeles Times or New York Times (others seem to have lots of colored ink or ink that smears too much) - just the newsprint, not the glossy inserts. We use it to line the cats' cages in the hospital ward (it's amazingly absorbent and insulative).

Plastic grocery bags - you know, those accursed things that we try not to get in the first place and so we all use cloth tote bags now - these are what we have always used for sending bags of cat food and larger prescription items home in - I know some of you still use them all the time, and we love re-using them.

Unwanted terrycloth bath towels - unfrayed, clean please - stained or with bleach spots is ok - standard bath towel size is best

We don't need huge amounts of these things, but if you have some you are thinking of throwing in the trash or blue recycling bin, please think of us first. Call and talk to Alison about current needs before loading anything up to bring here in case we get an overwhelming response to this post.

Thank you in advance for your generosity!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June Is Adopt-A-Cat Month

From the CATalyst Council:

"Approximately 4 million cats end up in shelters every year, including thousands born every spring and summer during “kitten season.” To help promote adoptions of these fun, affectionate animals, American Humane celebrates Adopt-A-Cat Month each June.

"Your local shelter is brimming with cats of every breed, age and personality just waiting for a loving home. Whether you prefer young and frisky or mature and mellow, you’re sure to find the perfect cat companion during Adopt-A-Cat Month!"

Over at their website they have some excellent educational materials:

CATegorical Care: An Owner's Guide to America's #1 Pet (PDF)

Connecting With Cats (PDF), a children's coloring book

About the American Humane Association (PDF)

Feline resources from the AVMA

Adopt-A-Cat Month recognized in Congress

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

WSU's Green Glove Dance Video - An Instant Classic!

When I think back on my time in vet school, most my memories are of endless hard work, both physical and intellectual, of nights with inadequate or no sleep, of impossible amounts of medical knowledge to comprehend and assimilate, and of exams and more exams, and fear of not passing, and, well, you probably get it. Stress enough to kill most mortals.

But then there were those odd moments of fun and games: admitting a june bug to ICU and presenting the case in rounds (those all-nighters could get dull and we just wanted to perk things up), of practical jokes on professors, and of course at the student banquet my senior year, the student-made film (back in the days before digital video) "Mr. Bill Goes To CSU-VTH" (cue the falsetto voice crying "OH, NO!!!").

I never thought that last one would be topped, but it finally has been. I present to you, without further comment, this stellar effort from the WSU DVM Class of 2011:

And yes, that DOES appear to be the faculty and staff of their Veterinary Teaching Hospital!