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.