Monday, December 7, 2015

Cat of the Month Contest!

In the past, we have had an annual photo contest for cats to be included in the Exclusively Cats Calendar Contest. We sold the calendars to help raise money for cats in crisis, or charitable cases that we take on, such as everyone's favorite cat with a congenital esophageal stricture, Foxy!

Unfortunately, the cost of the calendar production has continued to rise, and the number of calendars sold has dwindled, and this does not seem to be a good way for us to raise money for these charitable cases anymore. Instead, we have now partnered with the Veterinary Care Foundation to establish an official 501(c)(3) fund for our patients in need. One hundred percent of any donation to this organization in the name of our hospital goes directly into a fund from which we can then request:
  • To provide charitable funding for emergency medical care for sick and injured animals brought in by “Good Samaritans”
  • To provide support to qualified clients in need of financial assistance by providing emergency grants to help supplement the cost of care
  • To provide support to pets of families in crisis
  • To provide care for pets harmed or displaced due to local disaster (such as weather, fire, etc).
We love how excited people get about the photo contest, so while the calendar is currently not in publication, we would like to continue the photo contest on a monthly basis with the same submission guidelines we previously had for the calendar. We now request that each submission be accompanied by a short (or long) biography of the cat (or cats) in the photos. Instead of a calendar, each cat will become the Facebook header on our Facebook page for the month and will be honored with a post on our blog, so that everyone can continue to meet and appreciate all of the amazing cats that we see as patients! We hope to honor our first Cat of the Month on January 1st,  so send your photos and bios in ASAP so we can start the voting!

If you enjoy the Cat of the Month and are making a photo submission, please consider donating to the Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital Fund (affectionately and unofficially referred to as "Foxy's Fund" by some of our staff) at the Veterinary Care Foundation. It is not required, but humbly appreciated if you choose to make a contribution towards the care of our less fortunate patients.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Meet Mr. December!


 Age: 3 years
 Breed: Domestic Medium Hair
Gender: Neutered Male
Weight: 12.5 lb 
Demeanor at the vet: Cooperative, but headstrong

Marley and Curie: buddies. Gone but never forgotten
 In 2012-2013, I lost two cats to cancer within 7 months of each other - one to Hodgekins-like lymphoma, and one to an adenocarcinoma of the lung. Both had been battling cancer for over a year. I had two other elderly cats at home, two small children, and I was emotionally and financially drained. The last thing on my mind was  adopting a new cat. But as these things generally happen, an innocent kitten from Elizabeth Lake Animal Rescue found his way into my heart - before he had been officially put up for adoption by the rescue. (This was not Julian...)

Chillin' in a basket
Once the new kitten, Miles, came home, all he wanted to do was play with my older cats. Mina and Serendipity would have nothing to do with him, and I felt bad for him. Two months went by. Meanwhile, a "teenage" cat had been brought into the hospital for Trap, Neuter and Release into a feral colony. Trisha was hopeful that she could find him a home so that he did not have to go back out in the cold October weather, because he was so friendly. I wasn't sure, at first, because he was a little older and seemed shy, but I agreed to take him home and give it a try. 
When I first got him home, he and Miles hissed and growled at each other and it didn't look promising. I isolated Julian from the other cats for a gradual introduction, but he launched out of the isolation room and an hour of "chase the cat" ensued before I could get him back into his isolation room again. In contrast, Miles had submitted to isolation with grace, which was helpful, since he had intestinal parasites that needed treatment before he could join the rest of the cats in the house.
After a week or two, however, Miles and Julian became fast friends. While they do not sleep together,

they play constantly. The sound of gallumphing cat paws echoes through the house as they leap and dance and chase each other up and down the cat trees and up and down the stairs. Despite this friendship, relationships between the young cats and elderly cats in the house have been strained. My cats participated in two behavior studies offered by Dr. Deporter at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services testing the response of Intercat Aggression to different pheromones - one which seemed to work, and one that did not. Over time, with the use of pheromones, calming treats and positive reinforcement, relationships between the cats have improved, and they all seem to tolerate each other, if not enjoy each other's company.

Snoozin' after surgery
I have started clicker training Julian to keep his mischief at bay. He is responding well to clicker training, and has learned "come", "sit up" and "spin", so far. He is easily bored, and will alleviate that boredom by chewing on books, rugs or, more recently, my three-year-old's toys. Miles, in contrast, enjoys gnawing on wood, eating stickers, setting his tail on fire and stealing the food out of your hands at the dinner table. In Julian's defense, the toy he ate WAS shaped like food - a carrot - but unfortunately, he had to have surgery to have it removed.

Julian is a joyful cat - he loves to play, and will bring various toys to play fetch up and down the stairs for hours on end. He follows me around the house, right on my heels, and tries to anticipate what piece of furniture will be nearest my stopping point in the house, so that when I reach my destination he can already be there, waiting for
His eyes say 'I love you' every day.
He is not a quiet lap-sitter, but rolls on your lap and head-butts any book, magazine, electronic device, craft or other item held in your hands until you find yourself sitting with your arms in the air and he is standing on his hind legs on your lap, trying to head-butt whatever is out of his reach (including your chin!). I have placed bird feeders near the windows in our house, and he can often be found holding long, in-depth conversations with the birds and squirrels that visit them. He has a deeply satisfying purr and his tail is always flagged straight up in the air. He is a little bit of a bully towards the other cats in the house, but mostly because he seems to have become the self-appointed leader, and wants to keep everyone else in line. Overall he is an amazing cat!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Coughing, Vomiting, and Vaseline

Katee, in the video above, has a cough, and her owner is concerned. 

Just like people cats can have a cough that sounds different from one-another. Their cough can be loud or quiet, wheezy or honking, congested (productive) or dry.  The may cough once, a few times or have coughing jags (paroxysmal coughing).  At cat may have a different cough associated with different illnesses as well, so it could manifest differently at different stages of the cat’s life.

One challenge in obtaining history regarding a cough is that clients and veterinarians alike sometimes write it off to normal “hairball' problems. In fact, the cough is often due to respiratory disease including chronic tracheobronchitis. Tracheobronchitis in cats is common and results in recurrent coughing followed by gagging. It is the gag that may trigger vomiting after a bout of coughing, which can confuse the issue. Illuminating this history is difficult and one must first ask the question, then explain the distinction, then mimic or demonstrate with video the difference between vomiting and coughing. If we don't have a high index of suspicion, if we don't have the time to get a good history, and if we don't have the tools to open the client's mind and help them to understand the distinction, then we will not get this history.

Attributing a cough to a hairball is a misnomer with virtually no scientific basis. This notion will likely never be expunged from lay dogma. There is no documentation in the literature of uncomplicated trichobezoars (hairballs) causing coughing in cats. Coughing has been reported in complicated surgical cases of gastric trichobezoars in man, but has not been reported in cats.  Cough attributed to gastroesophageal reflux disease in man is common (over 20% of chronic coughs), but this has not been described in the cat1 (Tatar).  It is possible that an esophageal location of a trichobezoar could compress pulmonary structures and thereby elicit a cough, however, this too has not been reported.

While white petrolatum, Vaseline, is often recommended and administered to cats for treating constipation and/or trichobezoars, giving Laxatone (or any other flavored white petrolatum) orally has never been shown to change the consistency or the slipperiness of the stools or aid in the passage of hair in the stomach.  Theoretically, if you want to lubricate the rectum you could administer Vaseline in that manner, but giving it orally ends with petrolatum simply being incorporated into the stool.

Searching PubMed (Aug. 2012) reveals no published studies in man, or animals, that demonstrate any the effectiveness of these products. While there is not a significant risk (and some cats love this stuff) some reported concerns would include passive steatorrhea and fat soluble vitamin deficiencies. There are over 50 published reports related to the efficacy of liquid paraffin for constipation in man, but none in cats. There is one report of liquid paraffin being superior to lactulose in children. The use of Vaseline in cats may be intended to result in the same effect, but they are very different products.

Mineral oil, of course, should be avoided because it can be easily and silently aspirated. Aspiration of mineral oil does not elicit a cough reflex (like aqueous based products) leading to lipid-like pneumonia.

If constipation is a concern (difficulty passing hard stools, straining) and a stool soften was needed then one could consider canned foods, adding water to the existing diet, water-soluble fibers, PEG3550 (Miralax), and lactulose.

The ongoing recommendation of administering product containing white petrolatum as a means of dealing with constipation or ‘hairball’ is a fallacy that should not be perpetuated.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Feline Leukemia and Bengal Cats

Bengal cat (left) and domestic shorthair (right)
It has come to our attention, recently, that there are a number of breeders and websites that claim that the Bengal breed is immune to Feline Leukemia virus. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There are multiple reports across the nation of feline leukemia positive cats that are Bengals. This myth probably arose due to the origins of the Bengal breed.

The Bengal cat originated in part due to Dr. Willard Centerwall's research at Loyola University in the 1970's - breeding Asian Leopard cats to domestic cats in order to study the inheritance of Feline Leukemia. Asian Leopard Cats are considered to have some PARTIAL immunity to feline leukemia, but Feline Leukemia Virus has been detected in some Asian Leopard Cat cell lines. Unfortunately, when Dr. Centerwall passed away (in the 1980's, we believe), his research was not continued, so no studies have been done to determine how much, if any, partial immunity has been inherited by later generations. According to a European source, pet quality Bengal cats (4-5th generation removed or more from the Asian Leopard cat cross is considered to be a domestic cat and a "purebred Bengal") generally have in average only 12.5% "wild" blood in them (F4 generation = 6-14%, F5 generation 3-12%), , which argues that the likelihood that they have any partial immunity is very unlikely. Needless to say, the fact that there are Bengal cats out there that are testing positive for Feline Leukemia Virus is the strongest argument against the claim that they are immune.

Bengal kittens

All felines are at some degree of risk of developing feline leukemia if exposed to the disease - Florida panthers, lions, tigers, etc. Indoor cats are at very low risk of exposure, but any outdoor cat that is not 100% supervised while outside is potentially risking exposure. This is why we recommend that all cats be tested for Feline Leukemia after adoption (or after being found as a stray) and that cats with high risk lifestyles be regularly vaccinated for Feline Leukemia, regardless of their breed.

History of theBengal Cat

Recurrent Demyelination and Remyelination in 37 Young Bengal Cats with Polyneuropathy

Monday, November 2, 2015

Kinsey Leigh

Kinsey  aka Kinsey Leigh
Breed: Silver Mackerel British Shorthair
Age: 1 1/2 years
Gender: Spayed female 
Weight: 9.0 lbs - great body condition 
Demeanor at the vet: Super sweet girl!
Kinsey is our Southern Belle.  Originally from Arkansas, she moved north to Michigan and has never looked back.  She spends her days chasing after her brother Bentley and leaping on to anything and everything.  She is definitely a Momma's girl and enjoys evenings on the couch giving and getting love.  
Never wanting to be left out, and true to her breed, wherever you go...she goes.  Whether it's folding laundry or making dinner, Kinsey is always there to give her own kind of special help. 
Helping with luandry
She has made our lives, and her brothers, all the better.  As all cat lovers know, our pets are truly a part of our family.  Kinsey is our "little girl" and thanks to the love and care she gets from ECVH, we look forward to many, many years of love to come!

Enjoy these lovely photos of sweet Ms. November!

Kinsey is queen of the mountain!

Monday, October 19, 2015

How to give your cat medication

This is how excited your cat looks when you have to give him a pill, right?

Many times when we see sick patients, people are just as concerned with the fact that they will have to give medication to their cat as they are about the actual diagnosis. Medicating a cat can be HARD! Many people are worried about frightening or stressing their beloved feline, or sticking their fingers into a mouth with so many sharp teeth. But giving your cat a pill or other kind of medicine is not impossible. We've gone through the process, step by step, and included a couple of the many videos out there, with tips and tricks.

First of all, if you have a young cat, you may want to try getting him used to the idea while he is young and healthy. You may want to practice periodically opening his mouth and placing a small bit of canned food on his tongue so that he begins to accept the idea that when you put something in his mouth, it ends with a yummy treat. If he is cooperative, give him a treat afterwards, too. This way, if he becomes ill in the future, he is already used to the process of getting medication, and is not having to learn about it when he feels sick.

 When you are ready to give medication, get all your supplies together before gathering up your cat. Get the pill out of the vial, or draw up the correct measure of liquid medication. Get your treats ready, a towel, any helpers you need, and THEN go looking for your cat.

For giving either a pill or liquid, place your cat on a flat surface, with his head facing away from you. Pull his rear end in close to your body, so that he cannot back up. Use one hand to hold your cat's head. Place your hand over the top of his head like a winter cap with ear flaps. Your thumb and fingers should wrap around the sturdy cheek bones - the cat's head is a triangle or wedge shape, so holding the widest part in your hand allows the greatest amount of control.
Gently guide his chin into the air. This causes the jaw muscles to relax, and makes it easier to open the mouth.

 If you are giving a liquid medication, place the tip of syringe in the corner of your cat’s mouth, and squirt the medication into the space between the cheek and gums (the "cheek pouch"). Hold onto your cat's head until he swallows the medication, and then reward him with a yummy treat.

 If you are giving a pill or capsule, hold the pill between your thumb and first finger of the hand that is not holding your cat's head. Use your middle finger to open your cat’s mouth by slipping it between his tiny incisors and then slide the pill down the center of the tongue to the back of the mouth. Again, hold his head until he has swallowed the medication and then reward with a treat.

If you are using a pill popper to hold your pill for you, you will use a technique that is similar, though you should slide the pill popper into your cat's mouth just behind the canine teeth, and your cat will open his mouth reflexively. Then "shoot" the pill over the back of the tongue, and continue to hold his head until he swallows the pill. Reward with a yummy treat.

If your cat is wiggling, struggling or using his claws, place a thick towel across your cat's shoulders and then wrap downward around your cat’s neck and front legs to protect yourself, and help hold him still. You may want to enlist the aid of a second person in cases where your cat is quite wiggly. Your helper can hold your cat's body while you focus on giving the pill.
We do not recommend hiding the medication in your cat's food, since many medications are bitter tasting and can make your cat dislike his regular diet. However, if you cannot medicate him any other way, find a food that your cat will eat that is a different flavor than his normal diet, and offer only enough of this food to mix with the medication. Then offer your cat his regular diet. However, many cats will simply eat around the medication and you will find the pill remaining in the dish. If your cat does this, you will need to either medicate your cat manually or find another alternative.

Pill pockets or other treat wraps are another option, which can be used to hide a pill or capsule inside. The pill pocket is cup shaped, so that you can place the medication inside and seal it, then offer it as a treat. We recommend offering some empty pill pockets, first, so that your cat is less suspicious of this new treat.

 In many situations, there may be other alternatives available. Compounding pharmacies can formulate many medications as a liquid with a pleasant flavor, such as tuna or chicken. This medication may have a shorter expiration or need refrigeration, or may be more expensive than the pill form, however, many people find the tasty flavorings make the medication process much easier.
Compounding pharmacies offer alternative forms of traditional medications individually prepared for each patient

Some medications are also available as a transdermal gel. This special medicated gel is able to be absorbed through the skin rather than requiring oral administration. Typically, these medications are applied to the inside of the tip of the ear. Only a few medications are well-absorbed through the skin, and not every cat's skin absorbs the medication as well as expected, so it is important to test cats' response to the transdermal medication regularly. It is also important to remember to use gloves or finger cots to administer this medication, since it can be absorbed by human skin as well as cat skin.

Other medications may be available as a transdermal patch or as an injection. Many people are surprised at how well cats tolerate injectable medications! For many people, once they have learned how to give an injectable medication, they find it much easier than giving a pill or liquid.

 Unfortunately, not all medications are available or effective as transdermal applications. And injectable medications are sometimes only available to be given IV or into a vein, or may sting badly. IV medications or medications that sting should be administered by a professional such as a veterinarian or veterinary technician, not given at home. Your  veterinarian will be able to help you choose the type of medication that works best for you and your cat, and most veterinary staff members are very willing to help demonstrate effective medication techniques.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Cats, ants and martinis - what's the connection?

Answer: Oleic acid. This fatty acid is found in squashed ants, cat pheromones (including synthetic pheromones like Feliway) and olives, which explains why some people report that their cats go crazy over olives.

The facial pheromone of cats has been determined to be anywhere from 43-65% oleic acid, which suggests that when cats "go nuts" over squashed ants or olives, they are reacting to a smell that tells them "this is a wonderful, familiar thing that belongs to you".

Because cats rub this facial pheromone on areas that make them feel comfortable, the synthetic pheromone, Feliway, seeks to reduce unwanted behaviors that cats perform when they are stressed by the environment (for example: moving to a new home, interacting with a new cat, traveling...). These behaviors include urine marking, scratching, hiding, and over-grooming.

On the other hand, oleic acid has a very different message to send to ants. The release of the oleic acid odor signals to the other ants that an ant has died and needs to be moved to the colony's ant-graveyard. E. O. Wilson discovered in the 1950's that if you dabbed a tiny bit of oleic acid on a live ant, other ants in the colony would pick it up and move it to the graveyard repeatedly, until the ant had cleaned itself thoroughly enough to remove all traces of the oleic acid.
Olives don't need to feel comfortable or bury their fallen comrades, so why is oleic acid in olives? Scientists think that some plants developed high levels of oleic acid to encourage insects like ants to bury their seeds. Since olives carry a seed, a fallen ripe olive, full of oleic acid would potentially attract ants or other insects to carry the olive or its seed back to the ant graveyard and "plant" it, allowing a new olive tree to grow.

So, while these things all have something in common, we do not recommend rubbing olive oil or squashed ants in areas where your cat has been inappropriately urinating, nor do we recommend feeding your cat olives to cheer him up. And we DEFINITELY do not recommend using your cat or an ant as a garnish on your Greek salad or in your favorite martini.

We'd love to hear whether your cat is intrigued by olives or crazy for ants...or both!

Ants, Cats, Acids and Aspartame
Why do dead ants and olive oil smell different although oleic acid is an essential ingredient of both?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Meet Mr. September!


Crash was an unexpected blessing to our home.

A meeting scheduled with Ellen from Elizabeth Lake Animal Rescue to adopt an adorable kitten named Sushi who had been brought into Exclusively Cats for a wellness exam. The plan was to adopt one little kitten. The meeting went well and Sushi was coming home.

Before leaving, Ellen said "I thought you might want a friend for Sushi." She stepped aside so Crash was visible in his cat carrier. He looked scared and Ellen said he had been overlooked for several months by others seeking a pet. He was not a kitten and he had lost his tail in an accident. It looked like a very strange, mangled stump. It was love at first sight and the deal was sealed. Crash and Sushi were instant friends and inseparable.

Crash is a dog in a cat's body. He comes running when he is called (his run resembles a deer prancing), he greets people at that door, he is always friendly and eager to please. He is the favorite of many family members and friends, as he is very generous with his love. 

Our cat family has grown since that meeting and Crash Nubbins is always the first to welcome a new member. We are so happy that we took him home, that day. Love this cat!!!!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Meet the Cats of August!

Emme - Emme - aka Emmers, aka Emme May (when she is in trouble)
Age: 23 months
Gender: Spayed female
Weight: 9.4 pounds
She loves belly rubs, and if you can't find her, she is probably on TOP of a door!! 

Frankie - aka Franks, aka Frankenstein, aka Franks N Beans, aka Beaners
Age: 16 months
Gender: Spayed female
Weight: 9.45 pounds
She always has a guilty look. She loves hand-knitted toy mice, and she walks around carrying them in her mouth.

Milo - aka MoMo, aka Giant, aka Mike Tyson (because he loves to bite ears!)
Age: 3 years
Gender: Neutered Male
Weight: 13.80 pounds
Emme proving that "If I fits, I sits"

Emme is a very happy girl!

Emme's favorite hiding place!

Tiny Frankie

Pile of friends

Bath time!

Nap time!

Milo is such a gentleman, letting the girls hog the bed

Everyone loves a box...

Milo wasn't always a giant...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Fire Safety for Cats - After the Fire

You and your cat just had a traumatic experience - you lost your house in a fire and fire-fighters pulled your cat from the flames and gave him oxygen to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. The fire is out and everyone steps back for a moment to breathe - what next?

Even if your cat looks fine, you should probably take your cat to your veterinarian for an exam, as the negative effects of smoke inhalation may not show up for some time after the fire. Ensure that the attending firefighters or medical personnel at the scene administer at least 10-15 minutes of oxygen before you transport your cat, to help stabilize them for travel. If you are unable to transport your pet to the veterinarian quickly, placing your cat in a steamy room, near a humidifier or offering a nebulizer will help moisturize their heat-damaged lungs.

Your vet will check your cat for burns from the flames, caustic chemicals burns, and check your cat's mouth and lungs for signs of inhaled toxins. Smoke inhalation injury is caused heat injury to the upper airway, including the nasal passages, inhalation of particulates that settle in the lungs and airway, and oxygen deprivation (suffocation), since fires consume the oxygen in the immediate area. Additionally, traumatized lungs can develop fluid accumulation (pulmonary edema) that leads to pneumonia, and can spasm and constrict (bronchispasm and bronchoconstriction) which can cause asthma-like symptoms.

Some of the toxic chemicals that your cat may inhale in a fire are carbon monoxide, excessive levels of carbon dioxide and cyanide, acrolein, hydrogen chloride and aldehydes released as gases by the fire. Inhaling toxic fumes can cause trauma to the lungs, burns to the cat's airway, and death in extreme cases.  Signs to watch for after a fire are:
  • Inflamed, red eyes
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Coughing
  • Weakness/lethargy
  • Depression
  • Discolored mucous membranes (bright red, blue or pale pink/gray)
  • Singed or burnt hair
  • Respiratory distress and/or difficulty breathing (rapid breathing, increased effort to breathe)
  • Gagging and/or vomiting
  • Breathing with mouth open or panting, tongue hanging out
  • Raspy respiratory sounds when breathing or a change in voice
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Seizures
  • Collapse
  • Squinting
  • Skin and/or burns on or around the eye
  • Respiratory or cardiac distress or arrest

Diagnosis of Smoke Inhalation in Cats

Once your veterinarian has examined your cat, he or she may recommend chest x-rays, to look for signs of lung injury or fluid buildup. Depending on the severity of lung injury, x-rays may need to be repeated over several days.

Blood gas measurements may be recommended to determine whether your cat needs additional oxygen support or determine the level of carbon monoxide toxicity.

A complete blood count (CBC) may be recommended to evaluate the level of inflammation or rule out infection, and blood chemistries may be recommended to check for other organ damage from heat injury or toxins, or evaluate your cat for shock.

A fluorescein stain may be recommended to check the surface of the eye (cornea) for damage from smoke exposure, heat damage or particulate injuries.

Treatment of Smoke Inhalation in Cats

 If your cat has inhaled smoke, treament options may include:

  • Oxygen therapy
  • IV fluids 
  • Bronchodilators to help relax the lungs and ease difficult breathing
  • Nebulization therapy
  • Pain medication for thermal injuries (burns)
  • Assisted respiration in cases of acute collapse and respiratory or cardiac arrest 
  • Physical therapy for the chest - coupage and positional changes to help prevent lung collapse and help prevent the buildup of fluids
  • Eye medications to treat damage to the cornea

 For more information, please read our other blog article on Fire Safety.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Is it ok to feed my cat dog food?

If you have both dogs and cats in your house, you may occasionally catch your feline friend snacking out of the dog bowl. Some people may even wonder why they need to buy separate foods for their cats and dogs since they seem to want to share. All those dry kibbles look the same and all those meaty moist chunks look pretty similar, too. Are they really so different?

As we are fond of saying in feline medicine, "cats are not small dogs", and there are some significant differences between the two species when it comes to digestion. 

1) Food moves through a cat's digestive tract more quickly than a dog's, both because it is shorter, and because it is speedier.

2) A dog's caecum is more developed than a cat's, allowing more breakdown of plant material

3) The intestinal lining is different

4) Dogs have some plant-crushing molars while cats do not have any teeth suited to grinding plant material

5) Cats require more dietary protein than dogs (a minimum of 8% more, by AAFCO standards)

6) Cats cannot make the amino acid taurine from their diets like dogs and people can

7) Cats cannot make nicotinic acid from tryptophan well

8) Cats cannot turn beta carotene to retinol, so need dietary vitamin A supplementation

9) Cats cannot make linoleic acid from arachadonic acid well, but they need both fatty acids in their diets

10) Cats cannot cope with high levels of carbohydrates

Everything that a cat cannot make in large enough amounts to fulfill their dietary needs must be supplemented in their diet. Dogs, in contrast, can make these nutrients from the food they eat, so dog food does not contain extra supplements of taurine and vitamin A, sufficient levels of protein, etc.

What happens when a cat is fed a diet lacking in these nutrients?

A lack of vitamin A can cause changes to the retina, development of cataracts and other eye issues, muscle weakness, and weight loss or poor appetite.

Nicotinic acid is related to vitamin B3, and a lack of this nutrient causes weight loss, weakness, poor appetite and diarrhea. Cats also have different thiamin and folic acid requirements than cats.

Fatty acids are essential for skin and coat health, immune function, and control of inflammation. Arachidonic acid also is involved in the health of the kidney.

Most importantly, however, a lack of taurine in the diet can cause irreversible damage to the heart retina of the eye (central retinal degeneration). Taurine is an amino acid that is found in muscle meat. It is found all over the body, but is concentrated in the brain, eye and heart muscle. It helps with digestion and absorption of fats and fat soluble vitamins, the formation of bile salts, and is involved in eye health, brain and nervous system function, heart function, immune function and female reproduction and fetal growth.

It can take as few as 10 weeks for the cone photoreceptors of the retina begin to deteriorate when a vision are handled by the cone receptors of the eye, while low-light vision is the responsibility of the rod receptors in the retina. After 20 weeks of low-taurine diet, many of the cone receptors will be completely unresponsive, and eventually the rod photoreceptors will also be affected. A very classic and unique lesion will form equally in both eyes, and if left untreated, blindness is the end result.
cat's diet is low in taurine. Color and daylight

Besides these eye issues, taurine deficiency can cause dilated cardiomyopathy. Before it was understood that cats had a special need for supplemental taurine in their diets, the leading cause of dilated cardiomyopathy in cats was taurine deficiency. In 1987, the connection was made between the heart disease and the low level of taurine in many diet, and cat food standards were corrected. Now, DCM is rare. The wall of the heart, the myocardium, contains the highest concentration of taurine anywhere in the body of the cat. With a deficiency, the heart muscle weakens. It cannot contract as well as it needs to to pump blood, so blood pools in the chamber and the ventricle swells. This can lead to the formation of a large blood clot, or can lead to congestive heart failure. If caught early, the damage to the heart can potentially be reversed, but the changes to the retina are permanent.

 Taurine deficiency can also cause a decrease in blood proteins and white blood cell numbers, which can affect immune function.

Most cats that develop a taurine deficiency do so because they are eating a low-quality diet, dog food, or a home cooked meal that is poorly balanced (even if you feed muscle meat, cooking can degrade or destroy taurine, so it may still need to be supplemented). Preventing taurine deficiency is achieved by feeding a higher quality diet. However, in some cases, a cat may develop a deficiency even when fed a high quality diet, and in these cases, taurine supplementation beyond a normal diet is necessary.

Because of these special nutritional needs of cats, it is not a good idea to feed your cat a diet of dog food alone. If your cat occasionally snacks from the dog bowl, you shouldn't be too concerned, but your cat should have plenty of nutritious cat food readily available.