Monday, May 27, 2013

What is a pyometra?


Meet Zjayla, a 4 year old female who visited the emergency room after three days of eating poorly and hiding. She started vomiting earlier in the day and her owners became concerned. She was mildly dehydrated and had a mild fever. At the ER, the doctor noted that she had a large amount of pus coming from her vulva. Without any further diagnostics, the doctor was able to tell the owners that Zjayla had a dangerous infection in her uterus called a "pyometra". She needed emergency surgery in order to save her life.

Zjayla arrived at Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital as a transfer patient for surgery. She had been given some fluids to rehydrate her and an antibiotic to start treatment for the infection. Once at our hospital, she had an IV catheter placed and after some pre-surgical bloodwork, she was prepped for surgery.

Patients with this type of infection can be very fragile and unstable. One of the reasons that we recommend spaying cats is that we hope that the spay surgery can be performed when the cat is young and healthy so that the surgery is safer, the incision smaller and the recovery quicker. While Zjayla was under anesthesia, her blood pressure dropped dramatically, despite the presurgical medications given to help stabilize her, and a healthy dose of pain medications. We had to quickly administer additional supportive fluids to help support
Culture plate with bacterial growth from a uterine infection or pyometra
The bacteria growing on this culture plate are from Zjayla's infection
her blood pressure. Fortunately, she responded well to the additional medication and her blood pressure returned to normal. The rest of her surgery was fairly "routine" for an emergency surgery. Dr. Bailey carefully removed the infected uterus, making sure that no pus or bacteria entered the abdomen, and closed the incision. Because she was older, and because of the complicated surgery, Zjayla's incision was larger than it would have been if she was just being spayed. This cute little girl recovered well from surgery and was able to go home the next day. We did have to administer a tube feeding of a high calorie diet by placing her under anesthesia for a short period, placing a tube down her esophagus into her stomach and squirting a small meal into her stomach. She had not eaten in over 4 days, and needed the nutrition to kick-start her recovery. She went home with some strong antibiotics and recovered quickly.

Her owners felt terrible. They thought that since she was such a shy cat, they were saving her from being traumatized by not bringing her in to a veterinary hospital have a spay surgery done. However, in the end, she was more traumatized by her serious illness and emergency surgery than she would have been by the spay surgery. Many people don't realize that a pyometra or serious uterine infection can be a consequence of having a female cat that is un-spayed and un-bred.

Incidentally, Zjayla had also been urinating around the house off and on for several years. This probably coincided with her heat cycles. It takes about 6 weeks after a spay surgery for the hormones to stop circulating in the body, so we will have to wait a little longer to see if this behavior resolves. At her appointment for her suture removal, her owners reported that she was doing great! She was active and happy and much more chatty than she had been in the past.  Fortunately for Zjayla, this story has a happy ending!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Feline Arthritis Part 2: 7 Things That You Can Do at Home to Help

Arthritis changes to an elbow joint
 How exactly do you diagnose your cat with arthritis? Your veterinarian may feel differences between the joints on one side of the body versus the other, or may feel abnormalities within the joints. The cat may display the same signs that you are witnessing at home, or adrenaline may take over and mask the problem. Patience and a calm, cat-friendly environment may allow the cat to relax and allow us to see the problem or, if not, our doctors have a few tricks up their sleeves to investigate further. However, the most effective diagnostic tool for arthritis is often an x-ray. Usually two views of the limbs are taken and analyzed for narrowing in the joint space, thickening of the bone, or formation of new, irregular bony projections in or around the affected joint. It doesn't matter whether there are many joints that are affected or just one - arthritis changes to the bones means pain with movement - a lack of joint cushioning so that bone grinds on bone. Ouch!

One arthritic pair of vertebrae in the lumbar spine
Multiple thoracic (upper back) vertebrae with arthritis changes
In our previous post about feline arthritis, we discussed medical treatments that are available for cats with arthritis to help rebuild and protect joints and decrease pain. However, there are things that you can do at home to help your arthritic cat, as well. Most of the home care options include environmental changes.

  1. Make or buy pet stairs to allow your cat access to favorite spots in the house like beds or couches. This can be as simple as moving a footstool next to a favorite armchair to make one big jump into a set of small jumps.
  2. Make sure that you have a litterbox on every level of your house so that your cat does not have to go far or up and down a lot of stairs to visit one. This will prevent inappropriate urination or defecation around the house. If it is too much work to get to the litterbox, you can bet that many cats will make their own box somewhere else. Also make sure that the edges of the box are not too high, so that it is easy for your elderly cat to get in and out of the box. It may be a good idea to cut down the side of the litterbox a little to help them out. 
  3. Providing extra soft beds at floor level, or even heated beds will help your cat rest more peacefully and wake with less soreness. 
    Thickened toenail that is traumatizing a toe pad.
  4. Make sure that food and water are easily accessible, not up high on a counter, and possibly elevated a little for cats with cervical (neck) pain. 
  5. Cats with arthritis may need extra grooming assistance, and should have their claws checked and trimmed frequently. If they are wearing their nails unevenly, a nail could get caught and torn, or could grow into a toe pad and become painful and infected.
  6. Weight control. Another change that helps arthritic cats is to make sure that they are not carrying around a lot of extra weight. Extra pounds put extra pressure on already complaining joints, so put your pudgy oldster on a diet to ease the burden on his aching joints. Work with your veterinarian to determine a good weight loss plan – you don’t want your cat to crash-diet, because that can cause other health problems.   
  7. Getting your cat up and moving more can help with weight loss and flexibility. With adequate pain control, your cat should show a renewed interest in play, and you should use that to your advantage. For cats with a reluctance to play, you may try offering meals in a food ball, such as the Eggcercizer, which you can find in our office. Ask our hospital kitties for a demonstration! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Meet Mr. May!

Mr. May, Cooper, black and white cat in a basket


Age: 23 months
Weight: 12.45#, slightly overweight
Gender: Neutered male
Demeanor at the vet's office:  Sweet boy!
Feline Friends: Angus, Mozart and Hogan

Ever know a cat described as charm and love itself?  Well, I’m that kind of cat – My name is Cooper.  In September of 2011, Dad responded to an adoption ad for a Maine Coon.  They were directed to a pet store in another town.  There I was in a middle cage, surrounded by other kittens, looking lost and confused.  The caretaker pointed me out to Dad, who held me to gauge my temperament.  I was calm in his arms and when we went into another room with other people, I clung to him for security.  
 Mom wondered what was wrong with my eye and paw.  I had an accident in the bathtub where the caretaker kept me and other kittens.  Fortunately, I was brought in for medical attention.  My eye doesn't fully close while I'm sleeping, but my vision is OK.  The Pet Store adoption area was like a circus and Mom felt sorry for me.  Although I was no Maine Coon, Dad loved me on the spot.  Before the paperwork was completed, I was in Mom's arms outside in the car.  Once home, I was sequestered in the upstairs suite as is customary when introducing a new cat to a cat-home.  
E-cats re-checked my vision; my paw had ringworm so I was treated for that.  Mom and dad would play with me in my room, change clothes, and go back to my new brothers.  I saw one brother in particular through the door as it opened a few times.  When I was free to meet my brothers, the door was opened and I rushed out.  Hogan (Ho-ho) was waiting for me.  He jumped on me and we ran down the steps together.  We've been together ever since.  
I have two older brothers, Angus-10, Mozie-8.  Hogan is two, and I will be two this month.  My older brothers and I don't interact much, but you can find me with Hogan.  In fact, I smelled like Hogan's breath for the first few weeks out of my room!  Hogan is long and lean; I am sturdy and small.  We zip through the house together and I can match Hogan step for step.  On occasion he tests his mettle with me but it always ends in a stalemate of licking each other.  
Despite my damaged eye, I am the #1 flycatcher in the house.  They just don't escape me!  Even when I'm out on the Catio, I carry my fresh catch into the house for inspection.  My favorite toy is a blue mouse on an elastic string.  I carry it around and deliver it to Mom's side of the bed, and Dad's desk in his office.  I also love Nasty Santa - he's not naughty, but he's been stitched and washed a number of times so I'm grateful he's still intact.  My brothers and I seem to time-share all the cat beds, people beds, people chairs, windowsills, and cat trees found throughout the house.  Now that we're older, Ho-ho and I don't fit into most of the beds together.  There's a large one atop the armoire.  When Ho-ho and I are sleeping there together, it makes Mom so happy as he and I are still very close.  Dad loves to take pictures of me and that is why you see me as Mr. May in this year's calendar.  
Cooper and Hogan, two cats snuggling
Cooper and Ho-Ho, snuggling

When it is feeding time, you will see me prancing in the kitchen, back arched, wrapping my boa of a tail around the neck of my brothers.  I just get so excited!  I'm a good eater; Angus and I eat whatever is served.  As they call Hogan Ho-ho, Mom and Dad call me Cu-cu, which morphed into Cuckleberry.  If I don't get my bowl fast enough, I "meow" which is more like a long, piercing squeak.  Hence, I'm sometimes called Squeakleberry.  

I nurse Mom's earlobe around 4 a.m.  Despite the early hour, she recalls the caretaker's stories of my early life and she hugs me tight – glad that I’m hers.  When I drew blood on her earlobe, I had to be weaned.  Now I simply snuggle and purr on Mom.  When company comes over, I run and hide.  Mom calls to me and tells me when they are gone.  I have a very sweet, shy nature, tho I'm known for stealing things from off of dad's desk.  

Dad makes juggling balls.  On occasion, a ball was found in different areas of the house.  One day, five balls were missing.  Dad looked everywhere and couldn't find them.  Eventually, they were discovered in a pile under the table in a corner where the TV is.  I guess I was putting my "babies" in a nest.  Dad knows to hide them from me now.  I can hear mom and dad chuckle from time to time when they look at my small stature and laugh as they recall that they were told that I was a Maine Coon.  Grateful to fate, they are very happy to have me.  All I ever wanted was to be loved - and I am.
Cooper, black and white cat sleeping
Cooper, happy and loved!