Saturday, December 13, 2008

December 12. 2008

This is Wolsey. The best Maine Coon ever. The better part of my heart died with him.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

December 7, 2008

Well the holidays are upon us and I hope all of you are enjoying the season. The month of November just seemed to fly by. I did suffer the loss of one of my kitties, Nemo. I had to have him euthanized on November 20. He had been tentatively diagnosed with a nasal tumor about 2 months prior to this. As the options for treating nasal tumors are not that good, I decided to forgo any further testing and give him palliative treatment. He was not in any pain but did have a runny and stuffy nose on and off. That last morning when I got up, he was lost and could not get down off the sofa on his own. He was almost acting like he was blind, but it was more than that as he didn't respond to his name or anything. He also kept pressing his head against the wall. I brought him into my vet and he felt that the mass had grown into his brain at this point and he had suffered some devastating brain injury with no hope for recovery. So I made the decision to let Nemo go as the Nemo that I had known and loved was already for all intents and purposes gone.

This is never an easy decision to make even when it is the right one. Having as many pets as I have had I've had to make this decision way too many times. It can also be hard when you feel like you are dealing with it alone. A lot of friends or co- workers just can't understand how devastating this sort of loss can be. It's also a difficult loss for an elderly person to suffer as often this may be their only home companion. No one should have to go through this alone so I've decided to utilize part of my nursing background (my specialties were gerontology and psychiatric) and offer grief support as one of my services.

I also want to give a plug to Final Gift. They are the crematory who handled Nemo and they are just wonderful. His ashes were returned on the 24th . Included in the bag with his urn was a pawprint ornament with Nemo's pawprint and his name on it. Since there was no further info on it I had thought it was done by Final Gift, however due to tragic circumstances I just found out that it was actually done by my veterinary clinic NorthPaws Veterinary Center.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

November 9, 2008

I've just been so very busy these past couple of weeks, I've barely had time to sleep much less anything else. Bella and the kittens I am fostering came down with upper respiratory infections two weeks ago. It started with runny eyes and a couple of sneezes from the mom, Bella. I separated out the kittens right away hoping they wouldn't get a full blown case of it. Bella's infection wasn't too bad in that she did keep eating but she was very sneezy and she had some conjunctivitis. Only one of the kittens seemed to get a passing infection. He spiked a temp one night and was a bit under the weather but was good by the next day. I did call my vet and get them all on some antibiotics as a precautionary measure.

Upper respiratory infections in cats (the cat flu) is usually caused by a virus. The most common viruses are the herpes virus, the calici virus and the chlamydia virus. Most cats are vaccinated against these viruses when they are kittens along with the feline distemper virus. However even cats that are vaccinated may get the infection though it is a much milder infection. The virus is spread through nasal and eye discharge. It can be spread by direct contact, contact with food dishes, litter boxes or other inanimate objects that are contaminated and aerosol exposure from the infected cat sneezing. It can also be spread by the owner when handling the sick cat and then handling other cats without proper hand washing. More simply put it spreads much like a cold in a daycare spreads.

The symptoms of URI are many and include watery reddened eyes, sneezing, sometimes coughing, a runny or stuffy nose and mouth ulcers. The mouth ulcers are usually indicative of calici while the herpes causes more eye problems. The eye discharge may start out watery then progress to thicker with pus in it. The nasal discharge also starts out runny and then gets thicker and more purulent. Some cats even get thick dried discharge around their eyes and nose. Cats may even be forced to breathe through their mouths when they get this stuffy.

Much of the treatment is symptomatic. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics, mostly to prevent or treat any superimposed bacterial infection. One of the most important things is to keep kitty eating. A cat with a stuffy nose cannot smell its food and as a result will usually not eat. Try feeding really smelly fishy wet food and you can warm it up a bit to make it smell more. Try coaxing your cat to eat with jarred all meat baby foods (make sure it is all meat and has no onions in it). With the baby food you can add a full fat unflavored yogurt 50/50. This helps the bowels when taking antibiotics and also has a lot of fat for the kitty who may not be getting lots of calories at this time. Keep the area around the eyes and nose clean and free of discharge. Your vet may prescribe an eye ointment if your cat has conjunctivitis. You can use saline nose drops to keep nasal secretions thinner, you can also ask your vet about using infant nose drops if kitty's nose is extremely stuffy. I do steam treatments by placing the cat either in the bathroom when the shower is running or if you do have a separate room to isolate kitty you can use a vaporizer. If kitty has mouth ulcers that makes it painful to eat, make a soft mush of the food and add water in it to make it even more soupy. Some cats become so sick that they have to be force fed. This is something that can be done at home, ask your vet to show you what to do.

Most cats recover well but this disease can be very serious especially among the very young and the very old. It is also dangerous if your cat is already compromised because of some other health condition. If you have any doubts or concerns about your cats condition, I feel it is always best to err on the side of caution and get them in to see the vet.

The kittens recovered very quickly, only one ever had any outward symptoms. Bella is recovering a bit slower, still has an occasional sneeze but is doing much better.

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian; I am sharing my thoughts and experiences from my years of having pets. Information from me should never replace the advice of your pet's veterinarian.

Monday, October 20, 2008

October 20. 2008

This past week has been very busy for me as I've been dealing with a few sick kitties. Jonas has continued to do well though he's on some pretty hefty doses of prednisone and also a bronchodilator. We'll start the weaning down of the steroid dose in another week and see how he does.

The kittens are doing very well. They are so active, everything you give them is a toy. They are absolutely fascinated with one of those stuffed mice that has the microchip that squeaks whenever they move it. Of course mom Bella used to bring them dead chipmunks and things so they are used to "real prey". The photo for today is the little sister of the trio, she has got the sweetest little face.

I wanted to speak a bit on the proper diet for cats. If anything good has come out of the pet food problems it may be that people are taking a greater interest in what they are feeding their pets. For way too many years now people have been feeding dry kibble to cats. There is also an overabundance of overweight animals and also greatly increased incidences of diabetes, urinary tract disease and other diseases that have a strong dietary component. If you read the ingredients that are listed for almost any dry food you'll find the first ingredient is almost always corn. When would you ever see a cat in the wild eating corn? Cats evolved as obligate carnivores, they have to eat meat to survive. Left on their own they eat small mammals and birds. The only vegetables and grains a cat will eat are whatever remains in the stomach of their victim. Dry kibble is very, very high in carbohydrate content; something that a cat's pancreas was just not designed to handle. With these high doses of carbs a cat's pancreas just cannot produce enough insulin to deal with it and the cat winds up diabetic. Lots of cats, if fed the proper "catkins diet" that is high in protein and low in carbs can actually become diet controlled diabetics and come off of the insulin! I have dealt with a few diabetic cats that when their diet was changed their need for exogenous insulin was greatly reduced or eliminated all together.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about how diet affects your cats health can read more about it in Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins new book "Your Cat". This vet spent years working for the pet food industry so she knows what goes on "behind the curtain". When you read it you'll see just how much of it is common sense and you'll wonder why this isn't taught in veterinary school. This book is definitely on my recommended reading list!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 14, 2008

Just some quick info on feline asthma. When the airway of a cat is sensitive to allergens, exposure to these agents can lead to narrowing of the airways. Some of the allergens that cause this response are the same ones that lead to problems in humans such as inhaled stimuli-- cat litter dust, smoke, pollens, molds, fungus, perfumes, and sprayed chemicals such as cleansers. Different viruses and bacteria may also cause a problem along with parasites such as lungworm and heartworm. Different times of the year may be worse for an asthmatic cat depending on what the trigger allergens may be (Jonas is worse in the fall, could be ragweed, the molds associated with fallen leaves, etc). The most common symptom of asthma in cats is coughing and respiratory distress. A lot of cats will assume a squatting position with the neck and head stretched forward while coughing. Accessory mucles in the stomach may be used during respiration, open mouth breathing is always a very serious sign and the cat should be seen immediately by a vet.

Vets use different diagnostic tests to check for asthma. They may do a complete blood workup, heartworm test, Feleuk and Aids test and chest xrays. They can also do a bronchoscopy (direct visual exam of the airway). Of course when your cat is in acute respiratory distress, they first stabilize the kitty and may then proceed with testing. Some owners may decline to have a lot of tests done and instead treat the cat conservatively with meds to see if kitty responds.

Meds used to treat the cat are a lot of the same meds used to treat people. Oral steroids and bronchodilators can be used as can inhaled steroids and bronchodilators. There is a special chamber and face mask (called the Aerocat) that is made specifically for use in cats. Jonas has one. It does take some getting used to for the cat as initially I found Jonas panicked and was uncomfortable with the mask placed over his face. It's so hard as we can't explain to them that this will make them feel better. My husband has COPD and he had told me that nothing in his life has felt scarier than the feeling of not being able to breathe. You don't like the feeling of anything placed over your face, though as a human we realize that the O2 mask is going to help us.

Some of the things you can do at home are the same things you do for anybody with asthma or allergies. Avoidance of anything known to trigger the problem. Jonas has his own room with a super HEPA filter air cleaner. There are no rugs in his room, I wash his bedding down often and don't use any aeorsol cleaners in his room. Any cleaning is done with him out of the room and I use a "green cleaner". Low dust cat litter is a must. A lot of these same things I was already doing because of my husband. When you think about it, it's really a good idea for all of us to be breathing in less chemicals, pollen and dust, whether we have allergies or not.

Asthma does not have to be a death sentence, it can be treated and managed. I do think it is on the uprise in cats, or maybe it is just being diagnosed more. Allergies and breathing difficulties is on the uprise in people so why should our pets be any different. Airtight houses may be good as far as saving on your energy bills but they can also cause problems. But them you wonder about the outside air---- I guess it's a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't!

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian; I am sharing my thoughts and experiences from my years of having pets. Information from me should never replace the advice of your pet's veterinarian.

Monday, October 13, 2008

October 13. 2008

Sure enough I had to take Jonas in as an emergency yesterday morning. He was still having a lot of difficulty breathing; very wheezy and open mouth breathing on and off. He was at the vet for about 5 hours and got an injectable steroid and injectable aminophylline. He was also getting oxygen. They did a chest xray to make sure he wasn't having any cardiac difficulty but that came back okay so it was definitely his asthma. This time of year seems to be very bad for any animals that have allergies. I'm thinking next year I'm going to start medicating him with preventative steroids at the beginning of September. My husband has COPD, and he is usually worse at this time of the year also.

I don't think I'll ever find a home for Jonas; it's tough enough trying to adopt out healthy animals, never mind an animal with a chronic health condition. I also think a lot of people would not even recognize the early symptoms of asthma, most people would just chalk up the coughing to a "hairball".

I hope everybody is having a nice holiday today; the weather is beautiful!! I only worked a half day today at the kennel so I'll get to enjoy some of the day anyways.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

October 11, 2008

Catlover Pet Sitting has been in existence for about a year now. It's growing slowly some of that due to the economy and some due to my mostly wanting to concentrate on cats. There are still a lot of people out there who feel cats can be left alone with a couple of bowls of food and water. Here in RI there is an overabundance of "hobby" sitters who charge ridiculously low prices, are most probably not insured and may not be in business a couple of months from now. It's all a case of you get what you pay for.

Right now I'm working with a customer who rescued a momma cat and some kittens in her yard. After 3 of the kittens vanished overnight, she called me to come and get them and keep them safe until homes can be found. Three little tiger beauties, two boys and a girl. Momma is with them and all are doing well. This photo is the two boys. The white faced guy is definitely the ringleader of the trio!

My asthmatic foster cat Jonas has had a rough couple of days. He's back on prednisone and also needing his inhaler twice daily. Even with the treatment he's still a bit wheezy. If I remember correctly he was bad at this time last year. It must have something to do with mold and leaf fall at this time of year. Of course it's got to happen on the long holiday weekend when my regular vet is closed till Tuesday; if he's not better by tomorrow I may have to consider a trip to the emergency vet.