Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Healthy Holiday Gifts for Your Pet

This excellent article is from the AVMA and I couldn't agree more with it. Give the gift of good health to your furry family members - an annual checkup, vaccinations, and purchasing pet health insurance could make the difference between premature tragedy and a long, healthy life.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Goldie is available for adoption!

Goldie, the little girl cat found out behind the clinic a couple of weeks ago, is available to a good forever home. She is a DSH orange tabby about 3 years old, spayed, and very friendly and affectionate. I think she'd be fine with another cat - she is curious about Cleo (who is very rude to her).

I'd like her to be strictly indoors, of course.

If you are interested or know someone who is, give us a call at 818-346-7161.

Update: Goldie was placed in a perfect forever home in early December and is adjusting beautifully. She has 2 dogs to play with and 3 humans, one of whom is a developmentally disabled adult who just adores her!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I've Been Published!

       An essay I wrote recently has finally been published in Imprints, the new literary journal of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University (my alma mater). All the contributors are faculty, staff, students, or alumni of the College. It consists mostly of photos and fine art (drawings, paintings, other visual arts), but there are some poems and 4 essays. Mine is the first. I have the right to publish it independently online or in print, so here it is (when an online link is available that shows the actual page image I will link to that - probably in October):


Thousands of years ago, in a place of rocks and sea and cerulean skies, men and women gazed with terror upon the face of evil: wolves and dogs and men seemingly made mad by the gods. The Greeks called on Artemis, beseeching her to intervene against the illness known as rabies as she was said to do. But Artemis always had better things to do than listen to their pleas – not a single biting, shrieking, drooling victim lived to tell of her power in all the long centuries of pleas. And their true foe, a microscopic machine which exists only to make more copies of itself, worked unseen and uncomprehended until one man deduced a means to fend off this hideous destroyer of the mind.
We reap the benefits of Louis Pasteur’s work even now. This French scientist brought us not only vaccines to prevent rabies infection outright, but developed post-exposure prophylaxis, and all without ever seeing his enemy. The ancient Greeks had another god, one who guarded against the onset of the spreading madness: Aristaios; and they might consider Pasteur to be his specially favored son.
Rather than blaming this disease on angry gods, in recent centuries man has rewritten the myth in various literary horror themes. Werewolves, vampires, zombies, alien invaders – on cursory inspection these are stories with Freudian or Victorian themes, or merely moneymaking fantasies which owe their proliferation to the availability of cheap pulp paper for dime store novels, and later on the blossoming film industry. But they all derive from a single fear unique to humans: the utter obliteration of self, transmissible to others.
As a lifelong fan of the horror genre, I find the zombie myth to come the closest to the reality of rabies. This has perhaps been aided by my up close and personal encounter with this ancient scourge fairly early in my career. A cat - every muscle finely trembling - grasping blindly at the air just beyond its carrier door – pupils dilated as in death – a single drop of saliva poised on lower lip. It had ceased to be a cat and been instead transformed into an automaton with only one purpose: that of transforming all other living creatures within reach into identical violent automatons. Given the opportunity it would have shredded everyone in the exam room into ragged, bloody walking dead.
My immediate and visceral reaction upon seeing this poor doomed creature felt more like instinct than objective medical evaluation. I knew that I was in the presence of Death. It may be that we as a species have lived and evolved in proximity to this particular lyssavirus for millions of years and in so doing can recognize and fear its handiwork almost as readily as we do the hissing of snakes.
One would expect that the prospect of such a terrible disease would cause veterinarians everywhere to rise up as one and shout from the rooftops about the need to immunize our domestic house pets against rabies even today. Certainly many have done so, and we can attribute the vanishing of canine rabies from the United States to successful public health campaigns involving private practice veterinarians. But here in Southern California I find myself and many of my colleagues doing battle against an uninformed public and veterinarians who apparently consider rabies, common in our local bat population, as mythical a threat these days as the aforementioned zombie and friends. It is more common for a new client to tell me that their prior veterinarian specifically told them to avoid rabies vaccination than for them to be able to tell me their cat has even once received it.
So we who recognize the danger soldier on – we, who serve as priestesses and priests of Aristaios. We perform the rituals of unwrapping syringes and mixing diluent into lyophilized powders and injecting them into our willing supplicants, and all that is lacking in our endeavors are incense and chanting and long linen robes. With each injection we offer up a silent prayer that our nostrums do their magic, and that the evil be kept at bay for another year, and another, and yet another. And we teach – or at least we try. We are the new Greeks.

Apologies for the double spacing. I can't seem to fix it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I just realized I hadn't posted here in a while, and it's been MORE than a little while. But you can find Cat's Meow Veterinary Clinic over on Facebook where I like to post news links relevant to feline medicine.

 In other news, LA County Veterinary Public Health issued a press release today regarding the major increase in bat rabies in the county this year. You can read about it here.

 Here'e the text of the press release (please excuse the formatting problems - I can't seem to improve it):

 For Immediate Release: September 10, 2012

Increase in rabid bats in LA County prompts health concerns Avoid contact with bats; keep your pets’ rabies vaccine up-to-date

 LOS ANGELES – A record-high of 45 rabid bats have been confirmed in Los Angeles County this year. The Department of Public Health is reminding all residents to avoid touching any bats or wild animals. Previously, the highest number of rabid bats seen in the county was 38 in 2011. “The reason for the increase in rabid bats is unclear. Regardless, it is important that everyone understand the potential dangers posed to themselves and their pets as most of these rabid bats have been found in and around homes,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. “Children and teens especially should avoid handling bats or other wildlife, even if their intentions are to nurse an injured or ill animal back to health. If a bat is found near a home, a school, or another area frequented by people or pets it must be reported to the local animal control agency so rabies testing of the bat can be arranged.”

Since the beginning of 2012, several individuals and pets in various parts of the county have encountered rabid bats in public areas, in their front or back yards, and, occasionally, inside their homes. It is unusual to see bats on the ground or flying during daylight hours as healthy bats tend to stay away from humans. Individuals exposed to any bat or wildlife should seek immediate medical attention. A bite from a bat can be difficult to see on the skin, or on a pet, as bats have very small, very sharp teeth. Infection with the rabies virus can ultimately cause disease in the brain and death. “Thankfully, we have very effective post-exposure treatment and vaccine, which means there has not been a locally-acquired case of human rabies in Los Angeles County in over 50 years. Exposure to rabies is not contagious; people cannot transmit rabies to other people unless they themselves are sick with rabies,” said Dr. Fielding.

On average there are usually only 10 positive rabid bats discovered per year. The majority of bats do not carry rabies and these animals play an important environmental role by feeding on insects and controlling insect populations. Bat colonies found in a home’s attic, a commercial building, or other non-living space are protected by federal law and can only be removed by humane exclusion (release), and not by extermination. For more information about bat exclusions, visit

To reduce your risk of rabies:  Make sure all pets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. Unvaccinated dogs and cats exposed to rabid bats may need to be euthanized or may need to undergo a six-month quarantine at the owner’s expense.  If you think you have been bitten by a bat or other wild animal, immediately wash the bite area with soap and water, and contact your doctor or health care provider to determine if you need post-exposure treatment. If possible, safely contain the animal and - 1 - - 2 - contact the local animal control agency to arrange for rabies observation and quarantine of the animal or rabies testing.  If you find a bat on the ground near your home or in an area frequented by people and pets, do not attempt to touch the bat or capture it with your hands. Cover it with a bucket or box, keep children and pets away from the animal, and contact the local animal control agency.  If a bat found inside a home may have had access to pets or areas where people were sleeping, do not release it outside; if possible put a small box or container over it. Contact the local animal control agency. For more information about rabies and rabid bats, visit the department’s Veterinary Public Health webpage at

The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises nearly 4,000 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do please visit, visit our YouTube channel at, find us on Facebook at, or follow us on Twitter: LAPublicHealth. # # #

Friday, June 22, 2012

Urgent Press Release From LA County Public Health Re Rabid Bat At Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health sent out the attached press release today. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release: June 22, 2012 Persons who may have had contact with rabid bat sought: Bat found at Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area in Irwindale LOS ANGELES – County health officials are seeking help from the community in locating anyone who may have touched or had contact with a bat found at the Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area in Irwindale on Saturday, June 9, 2012. The bat was found clinging to the side of a rock column inside the snack area near the boat and bike rental concession. A crowd of people, including children, were gathered around the bat for about 30 minutes before park officials intervened. The bat was captured and tested positive for rabies. “It is very important that any individuals who touched or had contact with this bat contact our department. We can help determine if you will need to receive urgent rabies preventive treatment,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. Individuals who touched or may have had contact with the bat found at the Santa Fe Dam Recreational Area on June 9th should contact Public Health’s Acute Communicable Disease Control unit at (213) 240-7941 for evaluation. Eleven rabid bats have been found in Los Angeles County so far this year, suggesting that the disease is increasing in bats. Although the vast majority of bats in nature do not have rabies, on average, about eight to 12 rabid bats are detected per year. Public health officials have not determined why there is an increase. Any contact with bats and other wild animals should be avoided, as it is not always possible to visually determine if an animal has rabies. A bite from a rabid animal could cause rabies infection in people or other animals. “Bat bites can be undetectable as they have very small, very sharp teeth. No one should touch or handle bats found near or on the ground, and children should be taught to avoid touching bats or other wild animals,” said Dr. Fielding. “Make sure you maintain current rabies vaccines for your pets as well. If a bat may have bitten a person or a pet, contain the bat as safely as possible without touching it and contact your local animal control department. Individuals or pets who may have been bitten should seek immediate medical attention.” The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises nearly 4,000 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do please visit, visit our YouTube channel at, find us on Facebook at, or follow us on Twitter: LAPublicHealth. _______________________________________________________________________________ This press release may be shared freely. Please help us spread the word about rabies and find those who might have had contact with the rabid bat. Additional information about local bat rabies, including maps showing where they have been found, is posted on the Veterinary Public Health website:: Program web site: 2012 Bat Rabies info:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I wanted to give Miss Cleo Crankybutt, our newest mascot, her own special blog post including photos. She is settling into her role nicely, though she is obviously a one-person cat and I am that one person. She has little interest in meeting clients, and does not like other cats (hence the buspirone we give her). Sometimes she will come up to the front desk to see who is here, but her favorite place is either in my lap in the office, or on a box in the ward just around the corner from the office. She was donated to us in February by an elderly gentleman who could no longer keep her.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Keep Fluffy Away From That Medical Cannabis

Here's an excellent article from Boulder, CO (of course) about the hazards of marijuana in dogs and cats. This had sort of dropped off my radar, since I just do cats and they aren't often poisoned because of their discriminating taste buds, but young cats especially might be tempted to ingest the edible form. I've only seen one patient in my career that got into trouble with cannabis - a young dog, probably over 25 years ago, was presented for lethargy and stumbling around. The owner was reluctant to talk about what had happened but eventually confessed to having left something tasty out where the dog found it. I assured him I wasn't going to call the police, and the dog didn't require hospital care. These days, with so many people using medical cannabis the risk to pets is going to be higher. Be safe with your meds and keep them out of the reach of pets at all times, just like you would for children.

Memorial Day Weekend Hours

We will be open on Saturday May 26 until noon only. We will be closed Sunday like always, and Monday in observation of Memorial Day. Regular hours will resume on Tuesday. Have a pleasant holiday weekend!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

VERY big news day in the area of feline kidney disease!

Scientists in China have found a feline morbillivirus (that's the family of viruses that includes canine distemper and human measles) that appears to be connected to a significant percentage of kidney failure cases in cats. Because vaccines can be made easily for morbilliviruses, and they work REALLY well, this could be a huge breakthrough in the actual PREVENTION of this common cat disease.

For so many years we have had to shrug and admit we just don't know when people ask what causes so much kidney failure in cats. Some cases are due to a congenital genetic disorder, but most were always just a mystery.

I am really excited by this news and hope it turns out to be reproducible research, and most importantly that a vaccine is swiftly developed. I have lost too many patients and cats of my own to kidney failure.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Our phone appears to be out today.

No wonder it's not ringing. I am contacting Time Warner about it - my internet is fine. Hmmmm.

1:45 PM update: tech guy on the phone hasn't gotten back to me YET about the service tech's ETA. They can't fix it remotely. Sigh.

3:15 PM update: We have phones again. Phone modem died of old age (it was 18 months old). TWC needs to work on their hardware quality control.

Mar 12 update: Voicemail is out today, no way to leave us a message.

Mar 13 update: Voicemail restored. Time Warned Business Class unilaterally and without prior notice decided that I didn't HAVE voicemail. It took some very loud, angry discussion on my part to get them to accept that I had, in fact, had it for a year (since my account began). And that I am paying for it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Kidney Disease in Cats

A couple of clients recently requested that I post about kidney disease in cats. It's been a while since I have done so.

I previously wrote THIS about renal disease management but it was really just a few words about somebody else's handout that I linked to.

There were two specific questions I wanted to answer for starters.

#1 - Why are the kidneys so trouble-prone in cats? We don't know. Cats, being desert animals, have a huge reserve of kidney function built in, which is important because, unlike the liver which can regrow functional tissue, when kidney tissue dies it is not replaced. In nature, kidneys only need to last long enough to ensure propagation of the species, which as you know can be accomplished several times by cats before they are two years old. So when we see kidney disease in older cats it may just be that it's a part wearing out, like tires on a car.

But we also know certain things can contribute to premature loss of kidney tissue and a decline in function. Untreated bacterial infections (most commonly dental disease) can cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream where they are filtered out by the kidneys and set up housekeeping. Some cats have a genetic kidney defect known as polycystic kidney disease (PKD) that leads to renal failure in middle age - Persians and Himalayans are especially prone to this. Some cats develop renal lymphoma, a type of cancer formerly associated with feline leukemia virus infection but now most commonly seen in cats whose owners smoke. There is also a theory that certain vaccines which use a cell line derived from feline kidneys might be leading to an immune system attack on kidney tissue (we do not use those particular brands of vaccine).

#2 - How much urine do healthy cats normally produce and how can an owner quantify their own cat's urine output in the real world? Normal urine output in the cat is under 50 ml/kg/day. That's about (ok doing math in my head now) 8 oz for an 11 lb cat, more-or-less. Of course with cat's using a litter box it can be hard to tell how much a cat is urinating (volume) and how often, which is one major reason I strongly suggest using scoopable litter.

Urine balls can be easily quantified, and over time you can get a sense of how many times a day your cat urinates and how big the balls tend to be. What's important is that you make not of changes and bring them to your veterinarian's attention. My own cats normally urinate 2-3 times a day, and the bigger cat has bigger urine balls than the smaller one so I can often tell whose is whose.

If you notice that your cat is producing larger urine balls, and more of them, the two things that come to mind that we have to rule out are kidney disease and diabetes. If the urine balls are smaller and more numerous we need to rule out Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, which sometimes means an infection is present (but not always).

Here at Cat's Meow Veterinary Clinic we do not measure urine output directly - cats don't tend to go along with such plans. We measure urine specific gravity (concentration) - cats that produce dilute urine are automatically going to produce a higher volume of urine, but the number we track is USG. The exception is in terminal end-stage renal failure where only scant amounts of very dilute urine are produced, right before none at all is produced - cats are typically euthanized before things reach this point.

I hope this sheds some light on the subject. Kidney disease is one of the most common things I manage in my older patients.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

This Hinky Blog Format

Try as I might, I simply CAN NOT get this format to do what I want. So in order to see ALL my lists and gadgets you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and look on the right side for the Donate to Cat's Meow Charitable Fund button, my Favorite Links list, Recommended Reading list, and the gadget to subscribe to my blog.

I'm sorry. Complain to Blogspot. They are just weird.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Upper Respiratory Infections - Human and Feline

As I sit at home this holiday weekend, trying with marginal success to fight off this nasty cold/bronchitis/laryngitis, I thought I would address some of the issues my clients express concern about with human and feline "colds".

Firstly, I did NOT catch this bug from any of my patients. Humans cannot catch feline upper respiratory viruses - most of those are due to FELINE herpesvirus, and most of the rest are due to FELINE calicivirus. I almost certainly caught my illness from the sick toddler I sat next to on the flight from LAX to Minneapolis, or perhaps in one of the three airports I was in that day, or even at the very busy shopping mall the next day.

Secondly, I am always a little concerned about spreading this sort of thing to my patients or my own cats because it IS possible for a few of the hundreds of human cold viruses to be spread to cats. This is known as a reverse zoonosis or an (and I like this word better, it's so scientific-sounding) anthroponosis. Fortunately, if a cat should be unlucky enough to catch it from me, it would tend to be fairly mild and self-limiting, and would not be able to spread on to other cats or back into humans - it would come to a dead end in that particular cat.

Thirdly, if this had been influenza instead of a cold (it's far too mild to be flu), I would have some serious concerns about spread to cats, but only if I had failed to get immunized against H1N1 influenza. That is the strain that was in the news so much a couple of years ago - I was vaccinated against it then, and I noted that it is also a component of this years routine annual flu shot. H1N1 has in the past spread to an unfortunate few cats and had a mortality rate of about 50%, so I consider it imperative that I protect myself as a way of protecting my patients and my own pets, along with humans.

Lastly, let's go back to that nasty feline herpesvirus. This is the bug that causes the majority of feline upper respiratory disease AND nontraumatic eye disease. It is probably the most common pathogen in cats, and one we have vaccinated cats against for decades. Being a herpesvirus, cats can only catch it once - then they have it, for life. So one would think that vaccinations at that point would have no value. But it turns out that cats with strong immunity to the virus from annual vaccinations do a better job of fighting the darned thing when they have those seemingly inevitable "recrudescences". Back before the recession, when most of my patients were current on their annual FVRCP-C vaccination, I rarely saw cats with upper respiratory or herpes-related eye problems that warranted any treatment whatsoever. But now that so many cats are overdue on vaccinations and their immunity is waning, medical intervention and good home nursing care are much more necessary.

So I guess the gist of this post is (big surprise here): get your annual flu shot, and get your cat vaccinated annually, too. The alternative is much bigger vet bills, and often a much sicker cat.

Here is my current likely nemesis - a picornavirus (actually, a whole cluster of the little devils - if you look close you can even see their horns and cloven feet):