Sunday, May 26, 2013

Does My Old Cat Really Need Senior Blood Work?

by Amanda L Maus DVM
Tucson, AZ
At least once a day, we are discussing senior blood work with a client for their elderly cat. Clients want to know why we should do the lab work. Will “bad” results change anything that they already do for their pet? The answer is yes! When we do blood work for a senior pet, we are looking for conditions that the pet may be hiding or for recently appearing symptoms.

Once we are able to identify certain diseases, we can develop a treatment plan that may include changing the diet and prescribing certain medications. For example, a senior cat may come in for his or her annual exam and we notice that the kitty has lost one or two pounds from the last visit. There are several diseases that can cause weight loss in senior cats such as diabetes, kidney disease or thyroid disease. Let’s say the kitty is diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland. We are fortunate to have quite a few treatments options ranging from a prescription diet, pills, or radiation therapy. By running some blood tests, we are able with certainty to address the specific cause of the cat’s weight loss and improve that patient’s quality of life!

If we can prevent or slow the progression of a disease, our senior pets are much more comfortable and can enjoy their remaining time with our families that much easier.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My Cat’s Stiffness or Limping is Just Old Age, Right?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Tucson, AZ
When senior pets come into our office for their annual wellness exam, we ask slightly different questions of our clients than we did when their pets were younger.  Is your cat having any trouble jumping – onto the couch or onto the cat perch/windowsill? Is your cat slow to get up in the morning after laying down for a long time? Has your cat seemed to slow down over the past few months? Is your cat limping? Has your cat lost interest in playing its favorite games? Is your cat slow to lay down or seem to have trouble getting comfortable? Is your cat sleeping or hiding more than usual?  Has your cat become grouchy or aggressive towards its housemates?

All of these questions are aimed at discovering signs of pain in your pet. Pets are stoic creatures and do not cry or limp unless the pain level is very high. If your answer yes to at least one of the above questions, your pet may be having signs of arthritis or degenerative joint disease. An x-ray of your pet’s legs or spine can help determine the location and extent of the disease. Luckily, we are able to address this disease with lifestyle changes and medications, similar to how it is treated in people.

First, we address your cat’s weight in the form of a body condition score on a scale of 1-5 or 1-9. If your pet is overweight, we can discuss either a change in feeding the current diet or consider changing to a diet food. Daily moderate exercise helps with maintaining an ideal body weight as well as helps keep the joints mobile.

Next, we consider the use of medications. Supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega 3 fatty acids are easy ways to help support the cartilage and natural lubrication of joints. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used under direct supervision by your veterinarian, after performing appropriate bloodwork, can be a great way to provide pain relief and decrease inflammation in the joints. Additional pain relief can be found with drugs such as gabapentin, which directly acts on nerve and chronic pain pathways.

Finally, at home you can consider massaging your cat during petting sessions and even trying range of motion exercises of the affected joint. A heated blanket or bed with padded bedding can really help soothe sore joints. Additional therapies, such as acupuncture, may also help.

Instead of just blaming old age, we can try different lifestyle changes and medications that can provide relief for your senior pet. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if you have noticed any of the above changes in your pet. Together, we can develop a plan that is specific to your pets needs as they age.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

How to Trim Your Cat's Nails

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Tucson, AZ
Nail trims can be performed by one or two people with most cats.  It is important to perform the nail trim on your lap or on a table to help make the process easier.  There are several types of nail trimmers.  Most people prefer the scissor type that can be bought at most pet stores. Trimming your cat’s nails once monthly not only trims the nails, it allows you to inspect the feet for any health issues.

In order to trim a cat’s nail, you must first push on the base of the nail to make it easier to see where you will be cutting. 

Then look for the blood supply aka quick of the nail. 

Make sure to cut the nail above the quick so you do not cause the cat any pain. 

If you accidentally cut too close to the blood supply of the nail, inspect the nail immediately and again in a few minutes in case there is delayed bleeding.  Mild bleeding may stop by applying direct pressure to the tip of the nail for 15 to 30 seconds.  Moderate bleeding may require the use of styptic powder obtained from a petstore or grooming supply company. Severe bleeding should be addressed by a veterinarian.

Repeat this process with each of the 5 nails on the front feet and each of the 4 nails on the rear feet.

You do not need to trim all 18 nails at the same session.  Some cats do better with only a few nails done at each sitting.

Some cats are not agreeable to having their nails trimmed at home.  Your veterinarian’s office offers nail trimming services and is able to complete the task quickly for most cats.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Why are my cat’s ears so itchy?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Tucson, AZ

There are several reasons that cats can have itchy ears.  The most common reason that people think of when their cat is shaking its head or scratching its ears is that they have ear mites.  Although ear mites are common, other types of bacterial or yeast infections, as well as fleas may be to blame.   That is why it is important for your cat to be seen by a veterinarian to help determine the type of infection.

Ear mites are a type of parasite that are transmitted directly between cats and dogs so all cats in the household must be treated at the same time.  Besides the intense itching they cause, they also produce a characteristic black coffee ground type of discharge in the ears.  This discharge can be examined by your veterinarian under the microscope in order to visualize the mites and confirm diagnosis.  Most over the counter medication only kills the adult mites, not the eggs, which means a daily treatment for 3 weeks that can be difficult.  Your veterinarian has injectable as well as topical medications that only need performed one or two times.

Bacterial and yeast ear infections typically come from the environment or are related to allergies.  The cat may have excessive brown or yellowish wax as well as red ears.  This discharge can be examined by your veterinarian under the microscope in order to visualize the bacteria or yeast.  Prescription injectable , topical, or oral medications can be used for at least 1 week to help remedy the infection.

Certain tiny fleas called bird fleas or sticktight fleas can be found attached around cat ears and eyes.  Cats can get these fleas from interacting with birds outside or dogs get them outside and bring them inside to the cat. Besides using tweezers to individually remove the fleas, the fleas can be killed with topical medication used to killed normal fleas.

Other less common parasites, allergies, or skin diseases are also possible.  Your veterinarian can help determine the cause of your cat's itchy ears with a thorough examination and a few diagnostic tests.