Archive for the ‘Pet Health’ Category

Cataracts are a common disorder of the eyes, often in aging dogs, although young animals can develop them, too. Cataracts are seen less frequently in cats.

A pet owner’s first indication that their dog or cat has impaired vision may be that the pet has difficulty seeing in low light.

What is a cataract? It is an opaque* area of the lens or its outer covering (capsule.)
[*Not allowing light through.] 

A cataract may be a tiny spot or it may cover the entire lens.
A cataract can develop within a few days or over a number of years.

Cataracts can be hereditary and can lead to blindness.

Breeds often affected* include:

  • miniature poodle
  • American cocker spaniel 
  • miniature schnauzer
  • golden retriever
  • Boston Terrier
  • Siberian husky

[*The complete list is much longer.]

Though rare, cats such as the Persian, Birman, and Himalayan have also been afflicted with hereditary cataracts.

Other causes of cataracts include:

  • aging
  • diabetes
  • electric shock
  • exposure to extreme heat or radiation
  • exposure to toxins
  • injury to the eye
  • poor nutrition as pups and kittens
  • retinal degeneration
  • uveitis [a type of inflammation of the eye]

An examination by a veterinarian can help determine whether changes in the eyes are the result of cataracts, corneal damage, sclerosis [a cloudy appearance, but without vision loss], or another cause. In some cases, further diagnostics by an eye specialist [ophthalmologist] will be recommended.

Is surgery an option? It can be. We are fortunate to have veterinary ophthalmologists in our area who are able to evaluate cataracts for surgical treatment. Not all pets will qualify. In fact, if you are considering surgery for your pet, time is of the essence. As the cataract progresses, the retina and lens can become so damaged that the pet will not regain its sight even if surgery is performed.

What kind of medicine will help? Cataracts cannot be treated with medicine. However, the veterinarian may dispense medication for other disorders of the eye occurring at the same time.

What can I do? Dr. Donald Miele, a Norfolk veterinarian, has several recommendations: 

  • Try to keep furniture where it is; your pet has likely learned to navigate it well and any changes in furniture arrangements will lead to painful run-ins with chairs and tables.
  • Help your pet up and down stairs.
  • Follow your dog into the yard to make sure he doesn’t get lost or “stuck.”
  • Monitor his eyes for any changes in appearance and report changes or concerns to the doctor.

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Resources include:
Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary
Saunders Manual of Small Animal Practice
The 5 Minute Veterinary Consult

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A version of this post originally appeared on Sept. 17, 2012.

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“Mikey,” a 9-year-old Labrador, refuses to go down the short set of steps to the yard. Instead, he stays inside and urinates and defecates near the back door. 

“Jester,” a 14-year-old Siamese cat, no longer runs to the kitchen at the sound of the can opener. He sleeps during the day and spends most nights howling outside his owner’s bedroom door.

“Ginny,” a 12-year-old Cocker Spaniel, spends hours staring at the wall and has no interest in retrieving her favorite toy.

What do these three senior pets have in common? They may be suffering the usual effects of aging: arthritis for “Mikey;” hearing loss for “Jester;” and blindness for “Ginny” — or they may all have Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is the result of degenerative brain aging that leads to lost or reduced memory, ability to learn, attention span, and understanding. For comparison, CDS is thought to be similar to Alzheimer’s Disease.

What are the signs? Typical behavior in pets with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome are divided into categories labeled DISH.

  • Disorientation: the pet wanders, seems lost or confused and may not recognize familiar people; doesn’t respond to his name; he may get “stuck” in corners or behind furniture; he may stare into space or at walls
  • Interaction changes: the pet may walk away while being petted, doesn’t greet her owners, and seems aloof or detached
  • Sleep and activity changes: the pet may sleep more during the day, but stay awake at night, and no longer wants to play; he may wander or pace and have less purposeful activity
  • Housesoiling: the pet doesn’t signal the need to go out and has accidents in the house

    Is he lost in thought – or just lost?

What’s next? The veterinarian will check your pet for other medical issues that may be related to aging, such as arthritis, loss of vision or hearing, incontinence, or a disease process (kidney disease or diabetes, for example.) Some symptoms may be the result of medications that the pet is taking. Changes in the pet’s environment can also cause behavioral problems. Of course, a pet can have age-related problems at the same time he is experiencing the effects of brain aging.

Is there a cure for Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome? There is no cure, but nutritional and medical intervention can slow the progression of the disorder and return some cognitive function.

What are the options? Treatment may consist of a diet change. For instance, Hill’s Pet Nutrition has formulated its b/d Diet to address brain aging through the use of antioxidants that protect brain cells from destructive free radicals. [Learn more about free radicals here.]

Another option is Anipryl, a prescription drug that enhances dopamine production, allowing brain cells to better communicate with each other. Anipryl is not right for every dog, though, and certain endocrine function tests must be performed first, to determine suitability. Also, Anipryl is not recommended to treat aggression in dogs.

For cats, mental stimulation can help with cognitive function. Keep your cat busy climbing, exploring, searching for treats, and using its natural hunting instincts.

Where do I start? If you suspect your pet has Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, schedule a physical exam for her. Keep a journal of the pet’s behavior leading up to the visit. Contact us and ask to receive a Behavior History Form to help track your pet’s activity. Bring the form with you to your pet’s appointment.

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Resources:
“Brain Health and Behavioral Changes in Dogs,” a Hill’s Pet Nutrition publication;
Anipryl brochure, a Pfizer Animal Health publication;
“Senior Pet Care and Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome,” by David Merrick and Dr. Gary Landsberg

A version of this post originally appeared on Sept. 5, 2012.

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What is That in the Litterbox? Dealing With Diarrhea in Cats

Cat staring at camera

Is your cat trying to tell you something? (Photo by Immortal Shots, via Pexels)

By Morris Animal Foundation

Cats’ fastidious behavior when it comes to poop makes it easy to clean up, but also can mask changes in stool that would signal a potential health problem. Although diarrhea is less of a problem in cats than dogs, there are some similarities between the two species when it comes to underlying causes – as well as a few differences.

As a rule, veterinarians divide diarrhea into two broad categories based on where in the intestinal tract the diarrhea originates – small bowel (originating in the small intestine) and large bowel (originating in the large intestine). Although unpleasant, paying attention to stool quality of your pet can give your family veterinarian valuable clues to point them toward a diagnosis and best treatment.

Characteristics of small-bowel diarrhea include:
*Large volume
*Usually watery
*Frequency might or might not be increased

Diseases that cause small-bowel diarrhea in cats include intestinal viruses, intestinal parasites, cancer, hyperthyroidism and chronic enteropathy (inflammatory bowel disease)

Characteristics of large-bowel diarrhea include:
*Small volume
*Usually semi-formed or cow-patty consistency
*Increased frequency of defecation with straining
*Often contains mucus

Diseases that cause large-bowel diarrhea include stress colitis, intestinal parasites and megacolon (more on this condition later).

Sometimes, we can see characteristics of both small- and large-bowel diarrhea in a cat. This can occur when a disease process involves both the small and large bowel. We also can see this pattern when a patient starts with small-bowel diarrhea that causes secondary irritation of the large bowel.

Blood in the stool can be noted in both small- and large-bowel diarrhea.

Blood in the stool can take several forms:
*Digested blood from the stomach or small intestine results in black, tarry stools. This can be a challenge to diagnose in cats since their stools tend to normally be dark in color.

*Fresh streaks of blood mixed in the stool or coating the stool usually indicate a large-bowel problem

Concurrent vomiting is more common with small intestinal diseases although some studies suggest that vomiting occurs in 30% of cats suffering from large-bowel problems.

Hyperthyroidism in cats frequently causes diarrhea and can be easily overlooked in a diagnostic work-up for diarrhea. Many routine bloodwork panels for cats have a screening test for this disease.

Another disease seen almost exclusively in cats is megacolon. This disease begins when cats become constipated. The large intestine stretches but loses tone which leads to more constipation. Cats will often leak a little loose stool around the hard feces which can be interpreted by a cat owner as diarrhea. Megacolon is easily diagnosed on a physical examination and via X-ray.

If your cat has diarrhea, call your family veterinarian for guidance. In some cases, the loose stools will resolve without treatment. Your family veterinarian is the best person to help decide if and when further diagnostics or treatment is needed.

Morris Animal Foundation has funded more than 50 studies and invested $1.2 million dollars in studies focused on gastrointestinal tract problems. We’re on the cutting edge of gastrointestinal research, from the use of probiotics to studies looking at the gut microbiome. Check out all our studies and learn how you can help cats everywhere have longer, healthier lives.

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If you or any member of your household is using 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) cream, it is important that the medication is never within reach of your pets.

5-fluorouracil is typically prescribed to treat skin cancers and other skin disorders in people. Its mode of action, which causes cell death, can be fatal to pets that ingest the cream. 

And according to the FDA, a pet may be exposed: 

  • by chewing through the medication packaging (often a tube)
  • when licking their owner who has applied the cream on themselves
  • by coming in contact with 5-FU residue on hands, clothing, carpets, furniture
  • by ingesting residue in cloths or medication applicators
  • when grooming itself after contact with a person who uses 5-FU (more likely in cats).

Time is not on your side:

Within 30 minutes of ingestion, a pet may begin vomiting and exhibiting tremors, ataxia (loss of muscle coordination, trouble walking), and seizures. Death can occur within six hours after exposure.

Treatment may not be available or effective:

Unfortunately, “there is no defined effective treatment for 5-FU toxicosis in dogs and cats,” according to a report in Vetted™ magazine, a professional veterinary publication. Exposure to even a small amount of 5-fluorouracil can be fatal to pets, even with aggressive emergency care.

If you believe your pet has been exposed to any medication intended for humans, immediately contact an animal poison control hotline, such as

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435*    or

Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661*

*A fee will be applied to your credit card.

And be sure you know the location of the nearest pet emergency hospital. In Hampton Roads, we recommend Bay Beach and BluePearl.

Your best bet is prevention:

If you or someone in your household uses 5-fluorouracil [it may also be packaged as Carac, Efudex, or Fluoroplex], take special care to prevent your pet from any contact, no matter how small, with the drug. When discarding spent tubes, applicators, or anything that has contacted the medication, place the trash bag in an area that is inaccessible by your pets. Laundry that may contain traces of the medication should also be placed out of reach.

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Information for this article is condensed from Vetted™, August 2019, Volume 114, Number 8

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Three resources you can use to prevent or respond to
pet poisoning incidents

Thinking about sharing a meal with your pet? VetProtect can tell you which foods are unsafe for your buddy.
Photo credit: Rarnie McCudden via Pexels.

Pet poisoning incidents can happen fast. Your puppy licks antifreeze from the garage floor. Your teenager shares his garlic bread supreme pizza with the cat. Your spouse gives Tylenol to the dog, to alleviate arthritis pain.

In pet poisoning cases, time is of the essence when it comes to treatment. And knowing the right way to begin treatment is essential (for instance, should you make the pet vomit or not?)

The good news is, help is available in several forms. Here are three resources for you to know:

VetProtect – Pet Safety app — This app helps prevent pet poisonings by letting you know whether a particular food item or medication is dangerous for your pet. It can even tell you how much your vet emergency bill might be if someone does give your pet a dangerous food or drug. [Also available in Spanish.]

So you fed your Chihuahua that big bunch of grapes, even though VetProtect told you not to. Now what?

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) — The APCC is open 24 hours a day / 365 days a year to help you in a pet poison emergency. Many hospitals will contact a poison control center, such as the APCC, for guidance in treating a poisoning emergency.

Call 1-888-426-4435 for emergency advice that you can take with you to the hospital, and instructions for anything you can do at home to help your pet. Expect to be billed a consultation fee on your credit card (most recently $65, but this amount is subject to change.)*

Pet Poison Helpline (PPH) — PPH is available 24/7 to help with your pet poisoning emergencies. A $59 fee will be billed to your credit card. PPH will work with your pet’s doctor or the emergency vet to coordinate a treatment plan.

Call 1-855-764-7661 for help, any time of day or night.

*Subject to change.

And be sure you know the location of the nearest pet emergency hospital. In Hampton Roads, we recommend BluePearl and Bay Beach.

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Guest Post: Cat Eye Problems: All You Need To Know
By Pets Best Pet Health Insurance
Original article and links found here.

Discovering that your cat is squinting in one eye or that the cat’s eyes are red around the edges can be disheartening – nobody wants to see their furry friends suffer and feel uncomfortable, especially since the eyes are such a delicate part of their body.
Cat eye problems are one of the most common health issues that felines face and they can cause permanent damage in a relatively short time if left untreated.

That is why it’s so vital that you keep an “eye out” for any cat eye problems and know how to recognize the most common symptoms that could be a cause for alarm.

Are your cat’s eyes the picture of good health?

Warning Signs of Cat Eye Problems
Even though cat eye issues can be dangerous, the good news is that in most cases, you can spot them rather quickly and ensure that you provide your cat with treatment early.
If your cat is living indoors-only, it might not be as likely to develop eye problems as an outdoor cat because it’s less exposed to feral cats and diseases that they may carry,¹ but there are still risks.
Even a relatively small cat eye injury can become infected, and you may soon start noticing your cat squinting their eyes and trying to clean them.
If you notice that your cat’s eyes suddenly become runny, with colorless or even yellow or green discharge, you can be fairly certain that your cat has either a viral or a bacterial infection.² Especially if the discharge is followed by redness and respiratory symptoms, which will require urgent treatment to avoid complications.
If your cat is squinting in one or both eyes, this can also indicate an infection. Even if no other symptoms are present.
Finally, keep an eye out for your cat scratching at their eyes which may indicate a severe issue.

Common Cat Eye Problems
Since cats aren’t always vocal or expressive about health issues and may act more or less normal even when not feeling too well, you will need to look for behavioral changes which could indicate problems.
Luckily, issues involving your cat’s eyes are usually readily apparent and obvious. A simple examination of your cat’s eyes to look for irritation, redness, or squinting can be sure signs of an issue.
But what are some of the more common eye problems that cats suffer from?
One of the most common issues is conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye.” Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the mucous membrane of the eye which can cause runny eyes, swelling inside of the eye, and redness. Cat pink eye is usually a result of a viral or bacterial infection and may appear at the same time as an upper respiratory system infection.
Another common eye issue is a corneal ulcer. An ulcer can develop from an injury, because of a genetic abnormality, or even from an infection that isn’t treated promptly.³ The most common symptom of a corneal ulcer in a cat is a cloudy eye. However, it is usually accompanied by rubbing of the eyes, redness, as well as more severe discomfort for the cat.
Other common cat eye problems include irritation from allergies or various environmental factors, as well as more serious eye issues such as cataracts or glaucoma.

What Causes Cat Eye Problems?
There are a wide range of reasons that can cause cats to develop eye problems. It’s essential to know the most common cat eye issues and what symptoms to look for. It is also important to understand the causes of these issues so that you can try to prevent them from developing in your furry friends.
For instance, conjunctivitis is most frequently caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection, but there are other ways it can develop, too. It can be caused by non-infectious issues due to hereditary factors, traits of certain breeds, allergies, or tumors.²
A corneal ulcer, which often appears as a cloudy eye in a cat, is commonly the result of an injury. Whether your kitty accidentally rubbed their eye against something too strongly, or became injured by a foreign object or during a skirmish with another cat, the result will often be an ulcer that will need to be treated immediately.
Irritation, itchiness, and redness are usually caused by environmental factors such as allergies, chemicals, or a range of other factors. So it’s important to consult with a vet to determine the cause.
As for more serious conditions like glaucoma and cataracts, they can develop because of a genetic predisposition to these problems.[4,5] For cats, however, it more commonly is the result of an infection or trauma.

Eye Problem Treatment
If you notice something wrong with your cat’s eyes, it’s important to act fast. These issues will likely require diagnosis and treatment. The longer your cat goes without treatment, the greater the chance of the symptoms becoming more severe. The good news is that as long as you act quickly, the better the chance is that your cat will make a full recovery.
Issues like conjunctivitis or corneal ulcers may be treated with antibiotics since they are often caused or at least followed by an infection. In other circumstances, your vet may prescribe eye drops to reduce irritation and help the eyes heal.
In the case of glaucoma, it’s crucial to drain the fluid to relieve eye pressure as quickly as possible. This will not only reduce the discomfort and pain your cat is feels, but it will also help minimize the long-term negative effects.
Finally, your vet might not prescribe any treatment and simply recommend your cat rest to allow the issue to heal on its own. It is important to allow a licensed veterinarian to make a treatment decision like this and to never try to diagnose your pet on your own. This will ensure you pet receives the best treatment available.
And if you want to have peace of mind knowing that your cat will always have the best treatment options in case it develops eye problems, check out Pets Best’s Cat Insurance which offers complete coverage for your pet. Call us at 1-877-738-7237 today, and we’ll help you find a plan that works best for your individual needs.

1 American Humane (2016, August 25). Indoor Cats vs. Outdoor Cats. [Web blog post]. Retrieved June 28, 2019, from https://www.americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/indoor-cats-vs-outdoor-cats/
2 Ward, E. (2009). Conjunctivitis in Cats. [Web blog post]. Retrieved June 28, 2019, from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/conjunctivitis-in-cats
3 Ward, E. (2017). Corneal Ulcers in Cats. [Web blog post]. Retrieved June 28, 2019, from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/corneal-ulcers-in-cats
4 McLellan, G.J., & Miller, P.E. (2011). Feline glaucoma: A comprehensive review. Veterinary Ophthalmology, 14(1), 15-29. doi:10.1111/j.1463-5224.2011.00912.x
5 PetMD.com (2019). Cataracts in Cats. [Web blog post]. Retrieved June 28, 2019, from https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/eye/c_ct_cataract

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Use this method to make switching foods easier and gentler on your pet’s digestive system

There are a number of good reasons you might change the food your pet is eating, including:

  • Pet enters a new stage of life [puppy/kitten stage to adult, or adult to senior]
  • Pet develops a food allergy
  • Pet requires a prescription diet to manage health issues, such as obesity or liver disease
  • Pet refuses to eat its regular food
  • Pet could benefit from a higher-quality food than the one it currently eats

[Note: Before changing your pet’s diet, consult with your veterinarian.
In the case of prescription diets, your pet may need to be
on a strictly measured amount, rather than free-choice feeding.]

 

The key to making the switch is to gradually introduce the new food, so that your pet’s digestive system has time to adjust to the new ingredients.

Dr. Donald Miele, a Norfolk veterinarian at Little Creek Veterinary Clinic, recommends using this formula to introduce a new food to your pet:

Days 1 and 2: Feed 3 parts old food and 1 part new food*

Days 3 and 4: Feed 2 parts old food and 2 parts new food (i.e. half and half)

Days 5 and 6: Feed 1 part old food and 3 parts new food

Day 7: Feed only the new food

*Be sure to calculate how much of each food to give, so that you are not overfeeding.

Note: If your pet experiences loose stools during the transition, your veterinarian may recommend adding probiotics to the diet.

Questions? Clients of Little Creek Veterinary Clinic can Contact Us for more information.

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This article originally appeared on January 21, 2016.

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