How to make your indoor cat a happy cat - 09/05/2012
Keeping your cats indoors will protect them from infectious diseases and trauma from other cats and motor vehicles, but sometimes can lead to boredom and stress due to a lack of stimulation and inability to express natural predatory behavior. The end result of this can include obesity, predatory behavior toward people, over-grooming, litterbox problems or a painful bladder condition often referred to as Feline Interstitial Cystitis or idiopathic Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. Luckily these conditions are preventable or can be managed once they occur by making some simple changes in the house and in your cats’ daily routine. Here are some tips for how to make your indoor cat a happy cat:
Room with a view– Giving cats a view to the outside world provides stimulation. You can provide access to a windowsill, a couch placed next to the window or a commercial perch that can be purchased from pet stores and attached to a windowsill to provide more room for your cat.
Scratching post– Scratching is a normal part of a cat’s behavior. Because they are leaving a scent when they do this, it is ideal to keep the scratching posts in an area they would want to mark as their own, such as a public location or near a door. Some cats are particular about scratching on horizontal or vertical surfaces so it is important to give your cats both options until you determine their individual preference. Make sure the post is stable; if it tips when a cat leans on it, they won’t want to use it. Scratching posts are incorporated into cat condos and often are made of sisal rope, carpet or cardboard.
Toys– Cats prefer a variety of toys and the more engaging the better. The simplest toys include a balled up piece of paper and bird feathers. Cats also like toys that squeak, bounce and roll (ping pong balls are great) or move on their own. Many cats also love to chase the dot from a laser pointer. Just make sure that the toys do not have strings that they can pull off and eat. Periodically rotating the toys you leave out will add variety and keep them from getting bored.
Feliway– This product is a man-made version of a pheromone produced by glands on a cat’s face that are deposited when they rub against objects (such as your leg). These pheromones mark their territory and let cats know that they are “home.” Feliway can be sprayed in carriers, on towels or can be purchased as a plug-in diffuser which will provide continuous levels of the pheromone for a small room.
If you want to provide some fresh air for your kitty, you can put a harness on them and walk them on a leash.
For more information and tips, please check the website for the Indoor Pet Initiative.
Common Household Toxins - 08/09/2012
Did you know that some of the items that you have around and outside your house can be fatal to your pets? Here is a list of a few of the more common household toxicities that we see:
Over the counter pain medications (Ibuprofen, Aleve, Motrin, naproxen, Naprosyn)– These drugs (called NSAIDs for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) are great for pain relief IN PEOPLE, but are highly toxic to dogs and cats. Because their livers metabolize the drugs completely differently from ours, these drugs can be fatal to your pet. As little as one Aleve pill can cause vomiting in an 80 pound dog and kidney failure in a 20 pound dog. Make sure never to intentionally give your dog or cat one of these drugs for pain. Also make sure to keep your supplies of these medications out of reach. We have seen several dogs that have rooted through their owner’s purses and chewed open a bottle of ibuprofen. Never give your pet a human medication unless specifically directed to by your veterinarian. Effects of the drugs include vomiting, ulceration of the stomach, kidney failure and liver disease.
Xylitol (an artificial sweetener)– Xylitol is an artificial sweetener present in many sugar-free gums, candies and desserts. As of the writing of this article in August 2012, Extra gum did not contain xylitol, but Trident did. Because products and formulas change, the important thing is to READ THE LABEL. Xylitol causes insulin release which leads to low blood sugar which can lead to seizures. Larger exposures can also cause liver failure up to 3 days after they eat the sweetener. Treatment involves inducing vomiting if they have eaten the product in the previous few hours. Intravenous fluids with sugar are given to combat hypoglycemia and bloodwork is evaluated to monitor liver enzymes.
Sago palm– these ornamental plants are frequently found in landscaping in the Houston area and can cause vomiting and liver failure if ingested. Although the whole plant is toxic, the seeds have the highest amount of the toxic ingredient. There is no effective treatment that can reverse the liver problems if they occur so identifying and removing these plants from your house and yard is the best way to prevent toxicity.
Lilies (esp Easter lilies, day lilies)- These plants cause kidney failure in cats when eaten. All parts of the plant are toxic. Treatment with IV fluids can help but is not always successful so keeping these plants out of your house is the only way to prevent illness.
Some household items that are non-toxic (or may just cause temporary gastrointestinal upset) include toilet bowl water with the blue cleaner, poinsettia plants and the silica desiccant gel packs that say DO NOT EAT.
For more information on what’s toxic and what’s not, visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center webpage.
My dog’s eye is hazy, is that a cataract? - 07/12/2012
We get this question a lot, especially in older dogs. There are several things that can cause your dog’s eye to be hazy. Sometimes it’s part of the normal aging process and sometimes it’s more serious.
The most common cause in older dogs (over the age of 7) is nuclear sclerosis, also called lenticular sclerosis. This is an age related change in the lens which occurs in most senior dogs. Continuous production of the transparent fibers which make up the lens eventually results in compression of the existing lens fibers in the center of the cornea. This has no or possibly little effect on vision and is translucent, meaning that light will pass through the haze and the back of the eye can be seen through it. In contrast, a cataract is a lens opacity so light cannot pass through the density and the back of the eye is obscured. Cataracts and nuclear sclerosis can be easily differentiated on a routine veterinary examination. The most common causes of cataracts are genetics (breed-related), diabetes, previous trauma to the eye and retinal degeneration. There is no treatment for nuclear sclerosis but because the condition does not affect vision, no treatment is needed. Small cataracts can be monitored for changes in size. Cataracts can be treated with surgery by a veterinary ophthalmologist if they threaten vision.
In addition the eye can appear hazy due to a problem with the surface of the eye called the cornea. This is usually due to corneal edema which is fluid accumulating in between the layers of the cornea. Corneal edema can occur due to an abrasion (called an ulcer), glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye), and a problem with the layers of the cornea that allows fluid to accumulate there. Corneal edema is a more serious condition, so if your pet’s eye is painful, red or they are squinting you should seek veterinary attention right away.
July 4th Dangers - 07/03/2012
We hope everyone has a very safe and happy July 4th holiday! There are some particular problems that occur more commonly around this time so I wanted to mention them and help you try to avoid them.
Heat stroke: I discussed this in a previous blog post so you can look back there for more details Her are the important points: Make sure your dogs have access to shade and water and avoid exercising them in the heat. If they are overweight, have heart or respiratory problems or are a short-faced breed like a pug or bulldog then make sure to keep them inside away from the heat. Signs of heat stroke include heavy panting, reduced alertness, weakness or inability to walk and a high body temperature usually over 106 degrees. If you suspect your pet has heat stroke wet them with room temperature (NOT cold) water, put a fan on them and take them to an emergency clinic for further treatment.
Fireworks: Many pets are scared by loud noises like fireworks or thunder. If your pet doesn’t like these noises, make sure to contact us BEFORE the holiday so we can help you manage them. An easy solution is to use oral melatonin which has some mild anti-anxiety and sedative effects. Benadryl has some mild sedative effects but is usually not strong enough to help much. Other treatments include sedatives like acepromazine and other anti-anxiety medications. Sometimes putting a shirt or sweater on them can calm an anxious dog.
Table food: Everyone loves a good July 4th cookout, but the burgers, hot dogs and barbecue should be for you and your human friends but not for your dogs and cats! When pets eat people food they can suffer from vomiting, diarrhea (who wants to clean that up?) and even a potentially life-threatening condition called pancreatitis. Bones can cause intestinal obstruction, perforation or even cause painful constipation when the bones are partially digested and lodge in the colon. Dogs tend to be pretty sneaky so make sure they don’t have access to trash cans and make sure all your party guests know not to feed your pets, or they will surely fall victim to Fluffy’s puppy dog eyes and give her a steak!
Have a great day off and we hope not to see you on Thursday!
Dog Flu - 06/19/2012
The canine influenza (dog flu) virus mutated from the horse flu virus around 2004 and initially affected racing greyhounds. Although there have been only a few suspected cases in the pet dog population in Houston, the flu virus was suspected of causing an outbreak of respiratory infections at the Gulf Greyhound Park in La Marque in April 2012 and there was an outbreak at a boarding facility in San Antonio in September 2011. The virus causes a dry non-productive cough, and sometimes lethargy, decreased appetite and fever. In rare cases it can cause pneumonia. Due to the lack of immunity in most dogs, infection usually spread rapidly between dogs kept in close contact. Unfortunately testing is best done before a dog starts coughing since the virus rapidly disappears from the body.
Dogs that should receive the influenza vaccine include those dogs that come into contact with other dogs through boarding, grooming, at dog parks or by traveling to dog shows or flyball or agility competitions. Some Houston boarding kennels are requiring the flu vaccine so make sure to check with your boarding facility to see what their requirements are. Your dog can be protected with 2 doses given 3 weeks apart and then an annual booster vaccine. Give us a call at 713-774-9731 to schedule an appointment for your dog’s flu shot!