Friday, July 20, 2012

Sophia's Story: What's in your cat's mouth?

Extra teeth!
Normal teeth (This is Max!)
Sophia is an 8-month-old Bengal kitten that her family adopted through the Oakland Pet Adoption Center. She was rescued from a hoarding situation here in Waterford. When we first saw her, she was lean and petite, but not undernourished, and appeared healthy. However, when Dr. Bailey examined her teeth, he discovered that she had more teeth than she was supposed to! Cats usually have 2 lower premolars and 1 lower molar. Sophia had extra molars on both sides of her lower jaw. She also had two “gemini teeth” – one on each side of her jaw. This type of tooth has two crowns (the part above the gum that you can see) that form from one set of roots. Several of her teeth had extra roots as well.

Left side of Sophie's jaw
Right side of Sophie's jaw
Normally, food particles build up on the surface of the teeth, but the majority of food debris are swallowed. Since Sophia’s mouth had many extra nooks and crannies to catch food, and since cats can’t brush their teeth, Sophia’s extra teeth put her at high risk for severe dental disease. Dr. Bailey recommended extraction of the extra and poorly-formed teeth in order to help keep her remaining teeth healthy.

Ideally, a veterinarian (your pet’s dentist!) should examine the mouth after all the adult teeth have erupted. At Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, we recommend a fluoride application at about 6 months of age – this gives us an opportunity to examine your cat’s mouth under anesthesia and check to see that all the adult teeth have erupted normally, and that there are no malformations or places where the teeth do not pair up well.

Normal feline tooth anatomy

As beautiful as purebreds are, many specialized breeds are at higher risk for dental abnormalities. Persians and other snub-nosed breeds have the same number of teeth and the same-sized teeth as other breeds in a MUCH smaller mouth. This puts them at increased risk for dental disease.

Dental health is one of the many reasons that annual exams are important for all cats, even those that are young and healthy. This little lady was less than a year old! 

Misaligned bite ("wry mouth")
Surprisingly, about 40% of cats that are LESS THAN 3 years of age already have dental tartar! Feeding an oral health diet like Royal Canin Oral Sensitive 30 or Science Diet Oral Care can help decrease dental tartar, but unless you can brush your cat’s teeth after every meal, you are probably going to hear your veterinarian recommend a dental cleaning at least once in your cat’s life. It is best to schedule dental cleanings before disease is present – just like in humans, it has been found that bacteria from the mouth are continually swallowed and can affect other parts of the body, such as the heart and the kidneys. Unlike human dental disease that happens at the crown (the visible part) of the tooth, more often cat dental disease starts below the gumline where it often can't be seen until a lot of damage is already done. Teeth can also become infected below the gumline, causing pockets of pus that can cause fever, facial swelling, bone destruction or constant sneezing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Feline Hyperthermia: Is summer too hot to handle?

White cat in front of fan

The weather this spring and summer has been extremely hot and humid this year, while little rain has fallen. During these “dog days”, pets are at high risk for hyperthermia and dehydration. Humans have the ability to sweat and the knowledge that it’s time for a nice glass of Gatorade to replace body salts lost through sweat. While cats do sweat through their feet, the surface of the paw pads do not provide enough cooling to lower the internal temperature. Cats DO pant, but only once the temperature reaches about 90 degrees, and it is not as efficient as it is in dogs. Cats will also groom more in hot weather, moistening their coats in an attempt to cool down, but again, that thick coat of fur is doing no favors. Cats that roam outdoors may not have easy access to water.
Black and white cat panting
A cat’s normal body temperature is 99.5 to 102.5 degrees at the core and can be slightly higher or lower at the extremities (ears, tail and legs). Heatstroke is an illness that develops when the cat’s body temperature reaches 104 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit due to environmental heat (this is different than a fever which is a result of changes within the body). If the cat’s body temperature rises above 106 degrees, the heat stroke is considered severe and requires immediate veterinary care. If your cat is suffering from heat stroke, it is important to lower its body temperature or death can occur.
How will you know if your cat is experiencing heat stroke?

Signs of Feline Hyperthermia (Heatstroke)
  • Panting
  • Lethargy (sleepiness or unwillingness to move)
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dark, red colored gums
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Shock
  • Nose bleed
  • Muscle tremors
  • Coma

In addition to watching for symptoms, you may wish to check your cat’s body temperature with a rectal thermometer. A temperature above 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit requires immediate attention.

How to Treat Heatstroke in Cats

If you think that your cat may be suffering from heat stroke, please contact your veterinarian, immediately! Hyperthermia can quickly become a life or death situation, so a qualified doctor should be involved.

Orange cat getting bathedIf you think your cat may be suffering from hyperthermia, remove it from the heat immediately. Pour lukewarm water over the cat, making sure the undercoat becomes wet, not just the surface of the hair. Once the hair is thoroughly wet, place the cat near a fan to increase air circulation. An automobile air conditioner can cool the cat too quickly,  so be cautious on the way to the veterinary office. If the body cools too quickly, the cat can easily become hypothermic (too cold) and other medical issues can arise.
The rectal temperature should be checked every 5 minutes to ensure that the temperature is not dropping too quickly or too low. As soon as the body temperature reaches 103ºF, the cooling measures should be stopped and the cat should be thoroughly dried and covered so he does not continue to cool. Even if the cat appears to be recovering, he may still be dehydrated or have other internal complications, so take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible. 

At the veterinary hospital, your cat will be monitored for complications of heat stroke such as respiratory distress, heart abnormalities, organ failure, shock and other complications, and treated accordingly. If his temperature has not yet become normal, your veterinarian will take steps to return the temperature to normal. Depending on your veterinarian’s assessment, your cat may receive IV fluid therapy, oxygen therapy, or other treatments to address the complications of this illness, such as clotting disorders.

Cats who have suffered from mild hyperthermia may return to normal health within a few hours. Severe cases of hyperthermia may result in long-term health issues, such as kidney disease, and may require lifelong treatment. A cat that has suffered heat stroke once in their lives may be at higher risk for repeat episodes in the future.

Prevention of Hyperthermia in Cats

Tabby cat in front of fanFortunately, heat stroke is fairly easy to prevent. While we often see warnings about leaving dogs in parked cars in the summer, we rarely see similar warnings about cats – mostly because cats don’t tend to travel with their families as frequently as dogs do. However, cats are just as at-risk for hyperthermia when left alone in a vehicle as dogs, since cars can quickly become ovens (up to 140 degrees!) even on a “quick trip” to the store.

If your cat is regularly allowed outdoors, even if he comes inside at night, please make sure that you provide a shady shelter from the sun, such as a cat house. Your cat may not appreciate it, but you should limit outdoor time on the hottest days, and keep your cat inside during 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., which is when the sun is at its highest peak and temperatures tend to be warmer. Fresh water should also be provided on a daily, if not twice daily, basis. Even if your cat is an indoor cat, be sure to leave him plenty of fresh water daily. Placing a few ice cubes in the water will help keep it refreshing.
There is no set temperature that is “too hot” for your cat, but be aware that older cats with pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, obesity, asthma or other respiratory conditions place them at higher risk for heat stroke will  have a lower tolerance for heat than young, healthy cats.
If you do not have air conditioning in your house, be sure that your cats have access to cooler areas in your home such as your basement, or rooms with ceiling or other fans.
Tabby cat on shady deck

Read about more ways to keep your cats cool!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Summer safety tips

Black cat looking up at fireworks

Summertime can be nerve-wracking for cats because so many holidays are celebrated with fireworks. Many cats will run for the bed when there’s a mere knock on the door or a ring of the doorbell. When firecrackers go off, it can be devastating to a timid kitty. To help your cat cope, you can prepare a sanctuary in advance – a bed in a closet or the basement where the sounds will be more muffled. Feliway spray or a diffuser and items with your kitty’s own smell on them will help create a calming scent. Show your cat this area before the 4th of July so she will know it’s her safe place. It might also help to spend the evening in the room with your cats, petting them and offering soothing words.

Cat with dilated pupils hiding under bed If you have tried offering a secluded room in the past and your cat is still traumatized,  you might want to ask your veterinarian about a mild sedative or tranquilizer, just to get the cat through the day.  Try to check on your cat every couple of hours, petting her and talking to her. Try to keep to her normal feeding schedule as much as possible, since cats are stressed by changes in routine.

If your cat normally spends time outdoors, it would be best to keep him indoors for the day. Unfortunately, there are people who find it amusing to tie strings of firecrackers to cats’ tails. Curious cats may receive burned paws or faces from lit fireworks or sparklers, or may receive burns from falling sparks. Playing with unlit fireworks may result in ingestion of heavy metals – not rock band music, but toxic substances such as potassium nitrate and arsenic. At night, your cat may also be at risk for being hit by falling burning debris or misfired rockets.

Calico cat looking at cooking supplies
If you are planning a boisterous barbecue with lots of guests, you might want to consider boarding your cat during the holiday. Otherwise, it is a good idea to keep your cats in their sanctuary with food, water and litter for the duration of the party. Cats that are frightened because of large numbers of people might dash for the door, or curious cats may slip outside along with an unwary visitor or through a door that was accidentally left open. This is an excellent reason why even indoor cats benefit from being microchipped!

Even if it's just family, try to discourage people from feeding your kitty scraps from the barbecue, though she might beg. Feeding something other than a normal diet at a time of high stress can cause diarrhea or result in vomiting later. Also, many barbecued foods are seasoned with garlic and onions, which are toxic to cats, or other seasonings that may cause stomach upset. It is never a good idea to offer beer or other alcoholic drinks to pets, or leave it where pets can reach it. It takes a much smaller amount of alcohol to poison a pet than it does a human. Signs of alcohol poisoning are weakness, depression, coma and death.

Only use sunscreen and insect repellents that are designed for cats. DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) is not a product recommended for use in pets and can cause neurological problems. Do not use dog products on cats. Pyrethrins have a very narrow range of safety, so using the wrong size product can poison your pet. Any product containing permethrin is toxic to cats! In fact, it is much safer to use products that do not contain permethrins or pyrethrins, such as Revolution and Advantage Multi (heartworm and flea preventive products all in one), or Advantage (flea prevention only) and Frontline (flea and tick protection). Ingestion of sunscreen products can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. 

Make sure to protect your cats from heartworm disease with monthly preventives, even if they live indoors. Heartworm disease is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito, and mosquitoes occasionally come indoors. This year is projected to be an especially bad year for mosquitoes due to the mild winter weather.

Photo of reasearch cats that glow in black light
Note: Eating a glow stick will not make your cat glow. Sorry!
Keep matches and lighter fluid away from pets. Lighter fluid should not be used to treat fleas or remove ticks. Lighter fluid can irritate the skin and causes stomach irritation if groomed off the fur. If the fumes of lighter fluid are inhaled, it can cause aspiration pneumonia or other respiratory issues. Certain matches contain chlorates which can damage blood cells, cause respiratory distress or cause kidney damage. 

Do not allow pets to wear or play with glow jewelry. The glowing substance inside these products is not highly toxic, but can cause stomach irritation and excessive drooling. Small parts may be swallowed and require surgical removal.

Citronella candles or other products can cause stomach irritation if ingested.

Gray tabby in swimming pool
Make sure that your pool is pet safe!
Many people inflate pools for their children in the summer if they don’t have a year-round pool. Never leave pets unattended around a pool of any kind. Fence your full-sized pool with a secure gate, and never leave your pet inside the fenced pool area unsupervised.  Make sure pets can get out of the pool. If a pet jumps or falls in and doesn’t know how to get out without help, it may panic and drown. If your cat falls into a chlorinated pool, make sure that you thoroughly wash the coat thoroughly, and make sure that if your pool does not have stairs or a ramp to get in and out (ladders don’t count!), that you make sure that your cat does not have access to the pool – they won’t be able to get back out if they fall in! Try not to let pets drink pool water. Chlorine and chemicals used to keep pools free of algae and contaminants can cause pet health problems, such as dry mouth or gastric distress, and small wading pools with standing water can become contaminated with single-celled organisms such as Giardia, which can cause diarrhea. 

Brown tabby on a flag
Summer is a time of relaxation and carefree fun in the sun – make sure that you take precautions to keep it that way for your pet, too!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Meet Mr. July!

Orange tabby kitten sleeping
Oliver Simon Trouble-Maker Light
Age: Almost 2
Weight: 12.70 pounds, good body condition
Birthday: July 12, 2010
Gender: Neutered Alpha-Male
Demeanor at the veterinary office: Sweet kitten, but vocal and wiggly!
Feline Friends: Basil and Kitty

How I found my furr-ever home, by Oliver's mom: 
I have had trouble finding and keeping healthy cats my whole life. When I was just a little girl I decided to name my very first cat Princess Sparkle Rainbow Cookie Unicorn Mermaid. As you can imagine this name was difficult to remember and just plain stupid so my parents simply named her Kitty. Kitty-One, as we now call her, was a black and white fluff ball of amazingness and I loved her dearly. My favorite activities included carrying her around and dumping bags of treats on the floor for her to devour. I can imagine she wanted to escape from me - I was too young to know that cats didn’t like to be pulled by their tails and what direction they wanted their fur petted, so she escaped out the front door one day and she never came back.
My parents and I felt the void of a cat-less home and searched for another adorable kitten to replace the one that we had lost when we came across an adorable orange and white kitten with the biggest green eyes I had ever seen and his tiny black calico sister at our local PetSmart. I let my younger sister have the adorable calico whom she named Princess Stormy and I fell in love with my adorable orange cat whom I named, Kitty Happy-Cat Light. These two kittens loved each other, always cuddling and keeping each other safe and comfortable. However it wasn’t meant to last and Kitty’s sister, Stormy, suffered from kidney disease at a young age and had to be put to sleep. 
Some time later, my sister adopted two kittens from Ohio, Batman and Casper, who turned out to have Feline Leukemia. We obviously couldn’t keep them for the risk of Kitty catching this highly contagious disease so we brought them to Leuk’s Landing where they enjoyed the rest of their very short lives.
Although a very, very happy cat, Kitty seemed to feel the loss of his sister and I felt that he needed a feline companion to keep him young and active. I looked for a tiny companion for Kitty every time I went shopping for cat-litter and food until one day I found Oliver Simon Trouble-Maker Light. When he looked up at me with his tiny yellow-green eyes my heart melted and I knew I was going to take him home. You see, I have a weakness for orange cats. I could feel his energy through the little glass enclosure and I knew I had to bring him home. I also picked out a buddy for him to play with, Basil Fat-Fatty Moe Light. Oliver was adopted with his tiny buddy, Basil, from PetSmart on Orchard Lake Road in 2010.
Description of Oliver:
Oliver is the absolute softest cat you will ever feel. His bunny fur is light orange and striped (Our house-keeper calls him the yellow-cat) with an adorable white chin that looks as if he just gulped down a whole bowl of milk. He has replaced Kitty as the Alpha-Male in our household, continuously play-battling Basil for the rights to the throne. He allows Kitty to rule the household, always knowing that he could take command at any moment. Kitty and Oliver seem to have a special bond because they are often spotted having top-secret conversations with each other. 
My friends and I like to think of Oliver as a lion! Oliver’s walk is slow and powerful but he can run at lightening fast speeds. He relaxes in positions of virility and yet is always full of energy, ready to pounce at any moment. Don’t be too intimidated though because Oliver makes the cutest high pitched “prrrr-ow” noise, no fearsome-roar from him! He likes to lay on his back in the center of a room with his hands and feet curled around each other and his big fluffy tail wrapped around his feet. If you don’t pay enough attention to him, even while he is pretending to sleep he will open one eye, “purr-ow” and then close them really quickly so you remember to find out how cute he is being. If you ever can’t find Oliver, it’s because he is sleeping on my bed, which seems to be the communal cat rest-area. On the rare occasion that I allow Oliver to go outside, he mows down the grass in our lawn with his razor sharp teeth and tries to chase butterflies.