Caring for the Older Cat

If your cat is seven years or older, he has entered his golden years. In middle and old age, the metabolism slows, the digestive system has more difficulty absorbing nutrients, and joints and muscles become weaker. Diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure, hyperthyroidism, and various cancers are more common. The good news is that many illnesses respond to treatment if discovered early. Here are some simple steps to keep your senior cat healthy and happy.

Routine Veterinary Visits
Even if your cat seems fine, he should visit the veterinarian at least twice yearly. Remember, cats age the equivalent of four or more years for each calendar year. Your veterinarian will perform a comprehensive physical examination and listen to your cats heart and lungs. He will check for signs of illness, especially conditions that occur commonly in older cats. Your veterinary visits are also a great opportunity to ask questions.

Diagnostic Tests
When people reach middle age, routine tests such as blood analysis, cancer screening, and evaluation of the heart are recommended to maintain good health. The same is true for older cats. The reason, in both cats and people, is that some illnesses are not visible during a physical examination, but can be detected in other ways. Tests recommended for cats seven years or older are listed below.

Comprehensive Blood Panel Each type of blood cell is counted and the chemical components of the blood plasma are measured. This provides information on the health of the bone marrow, kidneys, liver, pancreas and thyroid, and can help to detect infections.

Complete Urinalysis The concentration and chemical constituents of the urine are measured. Cells and other solids in the urine are examined microscopically. The urinalysis provides information on the health of the kidneys and bladder, and is also useful in the detection of diabetes.

Chest X-Rays X-rays allow visualization of the internal organs of the body. Chest x-rays are recommended to assess the condition of the heart and lungs and to detect tumors.

Abdominal X-Rays X-Rays of the abdomen are helpful to detect tumors and to assess the condition of the kidneys, bladder, intestine, and spleen.

Electrocardiogram This test measures electrical impulses within the heart, using sensors placed on the skin. The ECG is helpful in detecting heart conditions.

Vaccinations
Just as he did when he was younger, your cat continues to benefit from the protection of regular vaccinations against infectious disease. Your veterinarian will recommend a vaccine program tailored to your cats age, lifestyle, and health status.

Nutrition
Healthy older cats require a diet that is lower in calories, while still rich in essential nutrients such as high quality proteins, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Special diets are available to address the more specific requirements of cats with medical conditions. Your veterinarian is your best advisor in selecting a diet that will keep your cat purring.

Dental Care
Keeping your cats teeth and gums healthy is critical to his well being. Dental disease is painful and can lead to infection in the internal organs, such as the kidneys and heart. Your veterinarian should check your cats teeth regularly. He will let you know when your cat needs a professional dental cleaning. Under general anesthesia, all of the plaque, tartar, and bacteria is removed from the. After your cats teeth are clean, it is your job to keep them healthy. Tooth brushing and dental diets are highly effective.

Hyperthyroidism in Cats


hyperthyroidismHyperthyroidism is the most common hormonal disease of cats. It is rare in dogs. The thyroid gland is located in the neck area and functions to regulate the metabolic rate. In hyperthyroidism, the gland becomes overactive. Most of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism are related to an increase in metabolic rate, stimulated by the overactive thyroid.

How Hyperthyroidism Occurs
Middle aged and older cats are most prone to hyperthyroidism. The cause, in most cases, is a benign tumor of the thyroid gland. Malignant tumors are uncommon. The thyroid tumor produces excessive quantities of the thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. These hormones are secreted into the bloodstream where they act upon all body tissues.

What the Disease Does
The most common signs of hyperthyroidism are weight loss, increased appetite, increased thirst and urination, hyperactivity, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some hyperthyroid cats will act aggressive. Stimulation by the thyroid hormones make the heart beat faster, a condition called tachycardia that is detectable by your veterinarian during a physical exam. Other heart abnormalities that can result include heart murmurs, abnormal heart rhythms, and high blood pressure. Eventually, heart damage and blindness may occur. Hyperthyroidism increases the blood flow to the kidneys, which has a flushing effect that can mask the signs of kidney failure.

How to Find Out if Your Cat Has Hyperthyroidism
Diagnosis begins with a good physical examination. Your veterinarian may be able to feel the enlarged thyroid gland. He will also check for heart problems. A simple blood test can detect high levels of T4. If your cat tests normal, but has symptoms of hyperthyroidism, your veterinarian may perform additional tests. Cats that test positive should have a complete blood panel to check for organ failures that may be hidden by hyperthyroidism.

Treatment for Hyperthyroidism
Before starting treatment for hyperthyroidism, the veterinarian must determine whether the cats kidneys are functioning properly. Once thyroid hormone levels return to normal with treatment, blood flow to the kidneys will be decreased. If significant kidney damage exists, this can trigger life-threatening kidney shutdown. A comprehensive blood panel and urinalysis provides some information about kidney function. Newer, more sensitive tests may also be recommended.

The most conservative option for treatment is daily medication given as a pill or a topical gel. This is not the most effective, and can have side effects. However, it is beneficial for temporary initial treatment. It may also be the safest long-term approach for cats with kidney failure. Side effects of drug treatment include poor appetite, vomiting, lethargy, hair loss and scabs on the face, and damage of the liver or bone marrow. Drug treatment does not cure hyperthyroidism, so medication must be given for life. Regular monitoring of thyroid levels and blood pressure are also required.

Options that provide a true cure for the condition are surgery and administration of radioactive iodine. Radioactive iodine treatment has the advantage of a very high success rate, while avoiding the risks of anesthesia and surgery. The radioactive material is given as a single injection. It specifically targets the thyroid, destroying a portion of the tissue. The disadvantage is that the treatment is only available at certain specialty facilities.Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists located in Houston has such a facility. Visit their site to learn more about radiation therapy. Feline Hyperthyroidism Also, the cat must be hospitalized for up to ten days to allow the radioactive material to be safely eliminated. Occasionally, too much thyroid tissue is destroyed, causing hypothyroidism. This requires lifelong treatment with oral medication.

Surgical removal of thyroid tissue can also be curative. The disadvantage of surgery is that it can be more risky, especially for cats that have heart problems. The parathyroid glands, tiny pieces of tissue located near the thyroid can be damage during thyroid surgery, resulting in problems with blood calcium control. As with radioactive iodine treatment, surgery can sometimes result in hypothyroidism.

A new alternative treatment involves simply changing your cats diet to a restricted iodine diet. The researchers at Hill’s Pet Nutrition have launched the diet Y/D that restricts the levels of iodine that are required for the cat to produce the thyroid hormone. Without the iodine the cat’s level of thyroid hormone drops to normal levels and will stay in the normal range as long as the cat eats the Y/D exclusively.

We have several cats on the Y/D diet protocol right now and the levels have returned to normal and the cats are all doing well.

Canine Parvovirus

Puppy Vet Visit

Canine Parvovirus is a serious, highly contagious disease that affects the digestive system. It is most common in puppies.

How Dogs Get Parvovirus
Susceptible dogs are infected by swallowing the virus, which is found in the droppings of infected dogs. The virus is difficult to kill with ordinary disinfectants and can survive in the environment for years. People can inadvertently spread it on their hands, shoes, or inanimate objects.

Not every dog exposed to Parvovirus will get sick. Puppies, especially those that have not completed their vaccine series, are most vulnerable. Those born to mothers that were not vaccinated are at extremely high risk. Other factors that influence susceptibility include stress, genetics, parasite infection, and general health. Some breeds, such as Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers, seem to be more likely to become seriously ill.

What the Disease Does
Parvovirus infects the bone marrow and lymph system, weakening the dogs immunity. It simultaneously destroys the lining of the intestinal tract, preventing absorption of water and nutrients. The damaged intestine can leak bacteria into the body. In newborns the virus also damages the heart. Signs of Parvovirus include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, and dehydration. Dogs can die from dehydration or from bacteria in the bloodstream.

How Parvovirus is Diagnosed
Diagnosis begins with a physical exam but also includes laboratory testing of the feces. Other tests that can help the veterinarian treat the disease more effectively include a blood panel and a fecal test for parasites.

Treatment for Parvovirus
There is no specific treatment that kills the virus, but sick dogs are treated for secondary infections and to reduce the symptoms. Hospitalization is usually required. Treatment may include IV fluids to help with dehydration, IV electrolytes and nutrients, antibiotic injections, medications to control vomiting, and drugs that stimulate immunity. Up to 90% of puppies recover with treatment.

Preventing Canine Parvovirus
The key to preventing Canine Parvovirus is a good vaccination program. Puppies are vaccinated starting at 6-8 weeks of age and boostered every 3-4 weeks until the puppy is at least 16 weeks old. In highly susceptible breeds, boosters are given as old as 22 weeks of age. After that, vaccinations are given every 1-3 years depending on the type of vaccine. Its especially important for female dogs intended for breeding to be vaccinated. This allows them to provide immunity that protects their puppies until they are old enough to receive vaccinations.

Puppies

Adult dogs that have never been vaccinated before are given one or two vaccinations initially, followed by re-vaccination every 1-3 years. Ask your veterinarian about the best vaccination protocol for your dog.

Dogs with Parvovirus should be isolated from other dogs since the disease is highly contagious. Contaminated objects should be disinfected with a dilute bleach solution.

Because puppies that have not yet received their entire vaccination series are susceptible to Parvovirus, veterinarians recommend minimizing their likelihood of exposure. Avoid taking them to parks or other public, outdoor areas where soil may harbor the virus. If possible, choose puppy socialization and training classes that require the puppies to have started their vaccines. The classes should be held in places that are disinfected regularly. It is also preferable to avoid boarding very young pups.

Keeping your puppy healthy will reduce his susceptibility to Parvovirus. Be sure he receives regular veterinary checkups, gets all recommended vaccines on time, is treated to control parasites, and enjoys a healthy diet.

Caring for Our Senior Pets

Caring for the Older Dog

If your dog is seven years or older, he has entered his golden years. In middle and old age, metabolism slows, their digestive system has more difficulty absorbing nutrients and joints and muscles become weaker. Diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, renal failure, hypothyroidism, heart disease and various cancers are more common. The good news is that many diseases respond to treatment if detected early. Here are some simple steps to keep your senior dog healthy and happy.

Routine veterinary visits
Even if the dog seems fine, he should go to the vet at least twice a year. Remember that dogs age the equivalent of seven or more years for each calendar year. Your veterinarian will perform a comprehensive physical exam and listen to your dogs heart and lungs. He will check for signs of disease, especially conditions that occur commonly in older dogs. Your vet visit is also a great opportunity to ask questions.

Diagnostic Tests
When people reach middle age, there  are routine tests such as blood tests, cancer screening and evaluation of the heart that doctor’s recommend to maintain good health. Same goes for older dogs. The reason, in both dogs and humans is that some diseases are not visible during a physical examination, but can be detected in other ways. Tests recommended for dogs seven years or older are listed below.

Comprehensive Blood Panel :Each type of blood cells are counted and the chemical components of blood plasma is measured. This gives information about the health of the bone marrow, kidney, liver, pancreas and thyroid, and can help to detect infections.

Complete Urinalysis concentration and chemical constituents of the urine measured. Cells and other solids in the urine examined microscopically. The urinalysis provides information about the health of the kidneys and bladder, and is also useful in the diagnosis of diabetes.

Chest X-ray – radiographs allow visualization of the internal organs of the body. Chest x-rays are recommended to assess the state of the heart and lungs and to detect tumors.

Abdominal X-Rays –  X-ray of the abdomen is useful to detect tumors and to assess the state of the kidneys, bladder, intestines and spleen.

Electrocardiogram –  This test measures electrical impulses in the heart, using sensors placed on the skin. ECG is useful in detecting heart disease.

Vaccinations
As he did when he was younger, your dog will benefit from the protection of regular vaccination against infectious diseases. Your veterinarian will recommend a vaccine program tailored to your dogs age, lifestyle and health.

Nutrition
Healthy older dogs require a diet that is lower in calories, yet rich in important nutrients such as high-quality protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Special diets are available to address the more specific requirements in dogs with medical conditions. Your veterinarian is your best guide in choosing a diet that will keep your dogs tail wagging.

Musculoskeletal
Your dog may be slowing, but he needs exercise. Regular exercise can help keep him supple and prevent obesity. Remember to tell your veterinarian if your dog has pain when he stands up, walks or goes up and down stairs. Medications can be available to him more comfortable.

Dental
Keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy are essential to his well being. Dental disease is painful and can cause an infection in internal organs such as kidneys and heart. Your veterinarian should check your dogs teeth regularly. He’ll let you know when your dog needs a professional dental cleaning. Under general anesthesia, all of the plaque, tartar and bacteria are removed from the teeth. Once  your dog’s teeth are clean, it’s your job to keep them healthy. Brushing, dental diets and soft chew toys are very effective.