Saturday, March 26, 2011

Feline Heart Disease

For many years we thought primary heart disease was extremely uncommon in cats. After researchers figured out the critical role that insufficient taurine in cat foods was playing in the development of dilated cardiomyopathy and cat food manufacturers corrected the problem, we thought we were home free.

Other than the occasional hyperthyroid cat with secondary heart disease, we didn't think heart problems were an issue for cats. But it turns out that another heart disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, may be surprisingly common in cats. And it's my considered opinion that this disease, which has a genetic (inherited) component, may be behind many of the sudden deaths (particularly in male cats) that I have seen over the years. I even lost one of my own cats, our diabetic mascot Tiggy, to sudden death that was almost certainly cadriac in origin.

Fortunately, there is a lot we can do these days for cats with heart disease, even in the early stages before the cat becomes ill. And detection of asymptomatic heart disease is getting much easier with the new blood test for proBNP, a blood marker for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

IDEXX, our outside laboratory service provider, has a great new website full of information about feline heart disease. ALL cat owners should read it and get a little bit familiar with this disease. And don't be afraid! We have lots of patients with heart disease (on paper) who are on medication to control symptoms and possible stop progress or even reverse heart changes, and most of them live normal lives and go on to die of unrelated disease. My own Eddie was on heart medication the last three years of his life and it seemed to reverse the problem to where he had no external evidence (no murmur anymore, heart rate down to normal), and when he died of cancer at age 12 his heart was the least of his problems.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Radiation Fallout Risk for Pets?

While it doesn't cover infectious disease, this piece by Scott Weese on Worms & Germs does an excellent job of explaining the (lack of) risk to our pets from radiation due to the nuclear plant mishaps in Japan.

I was thinking this exact thing before reading his post: ".....Compared to humans, pets are probably at much lower risk of adverse effects from radiation exposure, because pets have much shorter lifespans, but the effects of radiation exposure tend to cause disease over very long periods of time....."

Of course, if significant plutonium is released from Fukushima Daiishi Reactor #3 with its MOX fuel, all bets are off. Plutonium radiation is essentially forever due to its half-life of tens or hundreds of thousands of years.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Medications Top List of Most Common Cat poisons

According to the Pet Poison Helpline, a 24/7 animal poison control center, the most common causes of poisoning in cats are:
1) Human and veterinary medicines (40%)
The problem is often with misuse/failure to follow instructions/not reading labels, in my experience. And then there was the cat I saw years ago whose owner almost killed it with cyanide poisoning from laetrile. Coma resulted in the cat's blindness, deafness, and inability to relate to its environment or even eat/drink, so we had to euthanize. All because the cat's owner wouldn't let me amputate the leg to cure its cancer, and decided that mumbo jumbo was better.
2) Poisonous plants (14%)
Lilies, of course, come to mind this time of year - ALL lilies are deadly poison to cats and can destroy their kidneys even in small doses - don't decorate with Easter lilies or any other kind.
3) Insecticides (9%)
I have seen numerous poisonings due to use (correct or incorrect, BTW) of OTC flea control products - some are intended for use in cats but are simply obsolete due to safety/effectiveness issues, and some are intended for use in dogs but for whatever reason pet owners think they can disregard this and use on cats. I have NEVER seen toxicity of any kind with proper use of Advantage, Frontline, or Revolution.
4) Household cleaners (6%)
Most household cleaning compounds are unnecessary in my opinion. I make my own cleaning concoctions such as laundry pre-spot, all-purpose cleaner, soap for handwashing delicates, and all manner of baking soda/lemon juice/vinegar combos for kitchen use, and only rarely use bleach or ammonia. I don't want these things in my home where they can spill or leak and get on kitty paws, and toxic residues can be left on surfaces. Someday I should do a blog post with my recipes for cat-safe cleaners!
5) Other poisons (31%)
One memorable poisoning I saw several years ago was the poor cat who tried to drink the liquid simmering potpourri liquid stuff, which is chemically like concentrated detergent. Poor thing had caustic burns in her mouth, which did heal, but it was a painful and expensive lesson for the owner.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wellness Canned Cat Food Recall

Wellness has announced a voluntary recall of some canned cat food due to inadequate thiamine levels (which can cause neurologic disease). The full text of their letter follows:

February 28, 2011
Dear Pet Parents,
My name is Tim Callahan and I'm the CEO of WellPet, makers of Wellness® natural pet food. Over the years, we at WellPet have worked hard to earn the reputation of being a company that does everything possible for the pets that depend on us.
WellPet is committed to delivering the very best in pet food nutrition, as nothing is more important than the well-being of our dogs and cats. So when we found through product quality testing that specific product runs of our Wellness canned cat food might contain less than adequate levels of thiamine (also known as Vitamin B1), we decided to voluntarily recall them.
Please know, the vast majority of products tested had the appropriate levels of thiamine; however, with the number of recipes we offer, we did not want to make this more confusing. Therefore to avoid confusion and in an abundance of caution, we have decided to recall all canned cat products with the specific date codes noted below. Cats fed only product with inadequate levels of thiamine for several weeks may be at risk for developing a thiamine deficiency. If treated promptly, thiamine deficiency is typically reversible.
Though the chance of developing this deficiency is remote, withdrawing these products is the right thing to do and we are removing it from retailers' shelves.
The lots involved in this voluntary recall are:
Wellness Canned Cat (all flavors and sizes) with best by dates from 14APR 13 through 30SEP13;
Wellness Canned Cat Chicken & Herring (all sizes) with best by date of 10NOV13 and 17NOV13.
If you have cat food from these lots, you should stop feeding it to your cats. You may call WellPet at 1-877-227-9587 to arrange for return of the product and reimbursement.
No other Wellness products that your pets currently enjoy are impacted, so you can continue to feed your pets Wellness with full confidence. This is an isolated situation, as we have had only one reported issue. We are taking all the necessary steps to ensure it does not happen again.
Speaking on behalf of our entire Company, I apologize for any concerns this may have caused you. As a parent of a yellow lab named Hope, I understand the sense of responsibility we all share for our dogs and cats. Rest assured, product quality and safety will always be our top priority.


Some of you may feed Wellness and be perfectly happy with it, but it's not on my "Doctor Gayle-Approved List" because it is not tested to document nutritional adequacy but rather merely formulated to meet written criteria. Nutrient bioavailability is very much an issue when that's the case, completely apart from failing to add necessary ingredients in the first place.

I still don't recommend the company. I still see lots of urinary problems associated with their products, too.