Dog & Cat Tips : Causes of Cat Hair Loss

Common causes for hair loss in cats include allergies, poor nutrition, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, ringworm and stress. Discover why fleas may be causing a cat to lose its hair with help from aveterinarian in this free video on cat health. Expert: James Talbott Bio: Dr. James R. Talbott is a staff veterinarian at Belle Forest Animal Hospital and Kennel in Nashville, Tenn. Filmmaker: Dimitri LaBarge

Cat Care & Health : Common House Cat Diseases

Common diseases in house cats include parasites that infect kittens, physical lesions from cat fights, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease and diabetes from old age. Find out what health issues to expect from a domestic cat withhelp from a practicing veterinarian in this free video on pet care. Expert: Robert Sidorsky, DVM Bio: Dr. Robert Sidorsky has been a practicing veterinarian for more than 25 years. Filmmaker: Christian Munoz-Donoso

Sometimes Good Medicine is Simply Good Nutrition

For pets with chronic health issues, veterinarians might recommend specific therapeutic diets.  Designed to provide the right type of nutrition for the pet’s unique problems, these diets are often used for the lifetime of the pet.   But, when finances are tight, are these “prescription diets” really worth the cost?

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Feeding your dog or cat seems like an easy chore, but if your pet is suffering from kidney disease, allergies or even cancer, his nutritional needs require special attention.   Most veterinarians keep an inventory of therapeutic or “prescription” diets on hand to help manage chronically sick pets.   In spite of the benefits provided by these diets, the weak economy and rising prices have many owners thinking twice about staying on the more expensive diets.

In 1940, Dr. Mark Morris, a veterinarian in New Jersey, was treating one of his patients, “Buddy”, for kidney failure.   “Buddy” was one of the first “seeing eye” guide dogs in the United States.  Dr. Morris found that he could improve Buddy’s quality of life by providing him with a diet that helped ease the work of his kidneys.  He named this new diet “k/d” for kidney diet and he quickly became inundated with requests from veterinarians for his special food.

Dr. Morris continued to study how the right foods can benefit patients suffering from a variety of diseases.  His visionary work sparked a multi-million dollar industry dedicated to providing optimal nutrition for chronically ill pets.  Today, companies such as Hill’s Pet Foods, Purina Veterinary Diets, Iams, and Royal Canin all commit extensive resources towards research and production of therapeutic diets.

These special diets differ from routine pet foods by the reduction, addition, or manipulation of key nutrients.  For example, k/d has much lower phosphorus and protein levels than normal pet diets.  This balance helps reduce the workload of the kidneys and actually slows the progression of the disease.  For pet stricken with cancer, high levels of quality fat and protein with lower carbohydrate levels can help starve cancer cells and prolong the pet’s life.

Special therapeutic diets are also available for pets with allergies, urinary bladder stones, digestive issues, heart conditions, liver problems and even arthritic pets.

But, all of this scientific research and expertise does come with a cost.   Therapeutic diets often appear to be unusually expensive when compared to regular diets.   As an example, a 30 lb bag of a prescription diet for dogs suffering from allergies can cost more than $90.  For a typical 60 lb dog, this bag of food should last around 45 days, meaning that the daily food cost is $2 per day.

Some owners are tempted to take matters into their own hands and create homemade diets for their pets.  According to the Small Animal Clinical Nutrition text, homemade recipes are often available for a variety of pet illnesses.  However, once the cost of ingredients is added, along with time spent in preparation and extra trips to the grocery, these homemade diets are often just as pricey as the commercially prepared food.

And, without veterinary guidance, these attempts at cost savings often end up hurting the pet.  Owners take short cuts and buy cheaper meats and/or grains due to personal preference or availability of the ingredients.  These lower quality or different ingredients can adversely affect the pet and even worsen his or her underlying disease.  One study also estimated that more than 90% of homemade diets for sick pets are not nutritionally adequate.

So, how can owners keep their pet’s diets from emptying their wallets?  First, talk with your veterinarian about your pet’s overall health condition.  Some pets are put on certain therapeutic diets for a limited time only.   If your pet is overweight, battling bladder stones, or even suffering from digestive upset, it is likely that you only need to feed the special diet for a limited time.

Next, if your pet does need his prescription food for a longer time, order in larger size bags.   The initial cost is certainly higher, but you will save money on a per feeding basis since large bags cost less per pound.

Many veterinarians stock only one brand of therapeutic diet due to lack of storage space and high inventory costs.   Ask your veterinarian if a competing food manufacturer has a diet similar to the one your pet needs and if a cost difference exists.  If the food is indicated for your pet’s illness, it’s possible to save a few dollars with a different brand.

Finally, consider having the diet shipped directly to your home.   Several of the pet food manufacturers offer home delivery of the foods.  This option could save you time and gas money.

These therapeutic diets have enabled millions of dogs and cats to live longer, happier lives despite their illnesses.   On-going research will continue to discover how we can provide the highest level of nutrition to our pets, no matter what illness or condition they might encounter.  Veterinarians will continue to rely on these diets because of their proven track record.  

Heart Disease in Cats

As cats get older, problems with their heart, kidneys and other organs can occur. The most common diseases affecting aging cats are cancer, renal or kidney disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism (disease of the thyroid gland), dental disease and heart disease. Cats age seven times faster than humans and examinations done by your veterinarian twice a year can help detect diseases earlier when they can still be treated. Diagnostic tests such as blood work, ECG, ultrasound and blood pressure monitoring can help detect problems earlier.

The most common heart disease that occurs in cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM occur more frequently in cats, and is considered rare in dogs. HCM is an acquired heart disease that affects the walls of the heart causing them to become abnormally thick. As the disease progresses the pumping capabilities of the heart reduces. The ventricular heart muscle eventually gets thicker and stiffer and decreasing the ability to contract to push the blood out as it should. The narrow heart chamber holds a smaller volume of blood, so less blood is pumped out of the heart with each beat of the heart., This results in the amount of blood that once filled the heart is less than it should be and the heart muscle can’t contract as well to move the blood out of the heart into the body. The heart now has to pump faster and harder than normal to keep the blood flowing throughout the body. The resulting pressure begins to back up the blood into the lungs causing edema and congestion and eventually leads to congestive heart failure.

Sometimes, the faulty heart will have changes in the conduction system that tells the heart when to contract. This some times causes arrhythmias and can result in sudden death similar to those found in some of our young athletes that collapse during practice.

Cardiomyopathy can also cause feline aortic thromboembolism or FATE. Occasionally, blood clots can dislodge and clog the arteries going to the rear legs. The thrombus (blood clot) causes a loss of blood flow to the rear legs resulting in sever pain, paralysis and possibly death,. This condition is commonly called a saddle thrombus. About 40% of the cats can recover from a saddle thrombus with expensive and intensive therapy and may regain use of their legs over time. However, these cats still risk developing another episode and still suffer from the primary heart condition.

Cats are very good as masking underlying physical problems so early detection is key to helping these cats live a full life. A fat and lazy cat may be hiding a heart condition. Of course not all fat and lazy cats a have heart disease, and exams by your veterinarian can help detect disease if it is present. Laboratory tests, such as, EKG, blood pressure monitoring and ultrasound can help the veterinarian diagnose heart disease. The thickened walls of the heart can be seen with ultrasound and is a screening tool for cats as well as our young athletes.

Medications can help cats with their heart function, reduce the edema in their lungs and may help reduce the blood clot formations. The prognosis for a cat that has already developed the congestive heart failure is guarded, and even with medication, survival rates are 12-18 months after diagnosis and sudden death can occur at any time.

Develop a wellness plan with your veterinarian for early detection and diagnostics. By detecting diseases earlier, small changes in diet or medications can help your cat live longer.

Feeding Your Dog

As in human nutrition, the goal of good nutrition in animals is to maximize the length and quality of life. It is very important to feed our companions a healthy and well balanced diet that meets their specific needs. Lets begin by taking a look at the nutritional needs of dogs.

It is first important to remember that not all dogs are the same, just like no two people are the same. Because of this, their nutritional needs can be very different. One thing all dogs have in common, however, is their need for a complete and balanced diet. A complete and balanced diet means that your pet is receiving the proper amount of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fiber and other key nutrients.

Lets examine pet foods a little closer. Complete and balanced diets, those without excesses and deficiencies, help to avoid health problems. Giving your dog the right food throughout its life helps to avoid diseases like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and of course obesity. Lets look at choosing the right food for every stage of your dogs life. There are many high quality premium dog foods available, such as Hills Science Diet, Iams, Eukanuba and many more. It is important to avoid generic diets that have too many fillers and too little nutritional value.

We will begin with puppies. A puppy requires a great deal of nutrition to get through it first year healthy and happy. In order to get the correct nutrients for growth, such as calcium and phosphorous, it is important to feed a diet specifically for puppies until they have stopped growing. This usually occurs by twelve months of age, but in large breeds this may not come until eighteen months. A diet tailored for growing large breeds should be fed to these puppies.

As a puppy becomes an adult dog, the nutritional and energy needs of the dog change. As a responsible pet owner, we will want to shift to a diet to meet the nutritional requirements of the adult dog. These high quality diets contain carefully balanced ingredients, such as vitamins and antioxidants that are vital for preventing disease. Feeding the right diet at the right life stage can have a significant impact on increasing the life span of our pets.

By age seven, we should be transitioning our nutritional focus to our pets golden years. As our pets slow down, so do their nutritional needs. Premium diets targeted to the needs of older dogs contain fewer calories, yet just the right balance of essential nutrients. Obesity at any age will likely shorten your pets life span; however, feeding the correct diet will help to prevent obesity. Your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is overweight. You should be able to feel his or her ribs, but not see them. If you cant feel your pets ribs, your dog is probably overweight. Current estimates suggest that at least 35% of dogs are grossly obese. Genetic factors, as well as overfeeding, greatly influence weight gain. Remember to avoid giving your dog an excessive amount of treats and never feed table scraps! If you can easily see the ribs, your dog is probably too thin.

The amount of food needed changes rapidly during a puppy’s first year. Most puppies should be fed 3 times a day until they are 6-8 weeks of age. After this age, most dogs are fed one to two times daily. The quantity of food can be determined by reading the suggested feeding volumes listed on the food bag. Regularly scheduled meal times are optimal as opposed to free feeding throughout the day. Free feeding often leads to obesity.

Your pets nutritional needs are paramount to a long and healthy life. With the help of your veterinarian, you can develop a well balanced nutritional program that will help to ensure a happy and healthy dog!

Kidney Disease in Pets

The kidneys normally filter the blood, cleansing it of waste products, toxins, and other substances. They maintain the correct balance of water and electrolytes, help regulate blood pressure, and keep the blood pH at the right level. Unfortunately, failure of the kidneys is one of the most common diseases of dogs. In this condition, the functional tissue of the kidneys is damaged, leaving them unable to filter the blood adequately. Toxins build up within the body, a condition known as azotemia.

Acute Renal Failure (ARF)
Acute Renal Failure means that the kidneys are damaged suddenly. This is usually caused by poisoning or a lack of blood flow. Poisons that can cause ARF are ethylene glycol (antifreeze); heavy metals such as zinc and lead; and large doses of certain antibiotics, acetaminophen, and chemotherapy drugs. Inadequate blood flow can be caused by shock, hemorrhage, low blood pressure, or dehydration. Infectious illnesses like Leptospirosis can also cause ARF.

Signs of acute renal failure are not very specific. Loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea or dehydration may be seen. Some pets with ARF urinate excessively while others stop urinating altogether. Information on the pets recent experiences is crucial in diagnosis of ARF. Once the veterinarian suspects kidney disease, blood and urine tests are used to determine the cause and the severity of the condition.

Animals with ARF are treated with IV fluids. Additional medications are used to correct electrolyte and pH imbalances and to reduce symptoms. Specific treatment for the original cause of the kidney damage is given if the cause is known. Healing can occur in tissues that are merely damaged, and viable parts of the kidneys will work harder to compensate. Unfortunately, the portions of the kidneys that have been destroyed will not recover.

Pet owners can do several things to reduce the chance of ARF. Keep antifreeze away from pets, and clean up spills immediately. Follow medication dosage instructions, and never give people medicine to pets without first consulting your veterinarian. Make sure that pets, especially older ones, always have access to fresh water.

Chronic Renal Failure (CRF)
Chronic Renal Failure is seen most often in pets over eight years of age. CRF occurs when the functional structures of the kidneys wear out. The damage happens gradually, so months or years may pass before symptoms appear. As much as 75% of the kidney tissue may be destroyed by that time.

Like ARF, symptoms of CRF can be vague. Early signs include loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and sores in the mouth. As the illness progresses, animals drink more water, urinate more, and may have urinary accidents in the house. Eventually, toxin buildup and electrolyte imbalances can damage the nervous system and the eyes, causing seizures, coma and blindness. Many animals with CRF become anemic, because the kidneys are also responsible for stimulating production of new blood cells. The veterinarian will perform blood and urine tests to confirm a diagnosis of CRF and to assess the severity of symptoms.

CRF is a progressive, irreversible disease. Treatment is aimed at slowing the rate of damage and minimizing symptoms. Diets for pets with CRF usually contain restricted amounts of high quality protein and are low in minerals. Many pets require supplemental fluids given periodically under the skin or intravenously. Medications are given to manage nausea, correct electrolyte and pH imbalances, control high blood pressure, and stimulate blood cell production.

The newest treatments available for pets with CRF are hemodialysis and kidney transplantation. These procedures are very costly and are only available at certain veterinary teaching hospitals and specialty practices. Hemodialysis is used as a temporary, emergency method for cleansing the blood. Transplantation can extend a pets life for two or more years. Kidney transplants are complex surgeries with a high rate of success. Pets that receive transplants must remain on anti-rejection medicine for life. Regardless of the type of treatment, the goal is to maintain the pets quality of life. When this is no longer possible, euthanasia may be considered.

Chronic Renal Failure is not preventable. Although some have suggested that low protein diets might have a protective benefit for animals with healthy kidneys, scientific research does not support this belief

Feeding Your Cat

feeding you catAs in human nutrition, the goal of good nutrition in animals is to maximize the length and quality of life. It is very important to feed our companions a healthy and well balanced diet that meets their specific needs. Lets begin by taking a look at the nutritional needs of cats.

It is first important to remember that not all cats are the same, just like no two people are the same. Because of this, their nutritional needs can be very different. One thing all cats have in common, however, is their need for a complete and balanced diet. A complete and balanced diet means that your pet is receiving the proper amount of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fiber and other key nutrients.

Lets examine cat foods a little closer. Complete and balanced diets, those without excesses and deficiencies, help to avoid health problems. Giving your cat the right food throughout its life helps to avoid diseases like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and of course obesity. Lets look at choosing the right food for every stage of your cats life. There are many high quality premium cat foods available, such as Hills Science Diet, Iams, Eukanuba and many more. It is important to avoid generic diets that have too many fillers and too little nutritional value. Your veterinarian will recommend a diet that is ideal for your cat and he or she will also have special prescription diets available if the need arises.

We will begin with kittens. A kitten requires a great deal of nutrition to get through her first year healthy and happy. In order to get the correct nutrients for growth, such as calcium and phosphorous, it is important to feed a diet specifically for kittens until they have stopped growing. This usually occurs by twelve months of age. As a kitten becomes an adult cat, her nutritional and energy needs change. As responsible pet owners, we will want to shift to a diet to meet the nutritional requirements of the adult cat. These high quality diets contain carefully balanced ingredients, such as vitamins and antioxidants that are vital for preventing disease. Feeding the right diet at the right life stage can have a significant impact on increasing the life span of our pets.

By age seven, we should be transitioning our nutritional focus to our pets golden years. As our pets slow down, so do their nutritional needs. Premium diets targeted to the needs of older cats contain fewer calories, yet just the right balance of essential nutrients. Obesity at any age will likely shorten your pets life span; however, feeding the correct diet will help to prevent obesity. Your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is overweight. You should be able to feel his or her ribs, but not see them. If you can not feel your cats ribs, your cat is probably overweight. If you can easily see the ribs, your cat is probably too thin.

Genetic factors, as well as overfeeding, greatly influence weight gain. Some animals overeat because they have access to too much tasty food. Cats in multiple pet households may be influenced to overeat due to competition by housemates. Cats require nutrients in their diet that differ from dogs. They require more fat and certain nutrients in higher levels, such as Taurine. For this reason, a cat should not be getting the majority of its food from the dogs dish. Human foods should also be avoided. Cats can quickly become acclimated to many of the foods that we enjoy. Offering commercially prepared treats in moderation is a much better alternative.

The amount of food needed changes rapidly during a kittens first year. Most kittens should be fed 3 times a day until they are 6-8 weeks of age. After this age, most cats are fed one to two times daily. The quantity of food can be determined by reading the suggested feeding volumes listed on the food bag. Regularly scheduled meal times may be better than free feeding throughout the day if your cat is prone to becoming obese.

Your pets nutritional needs are paramount to a long and healthy life. With the help of your veterinarian, you can develop a well balanced nutritional program that will help to ensure a happy and healthy cat!

Debra Garrison, DVM

Hypertension in Older Cats

Hypertension in catsHigh blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common condition in older cats suffering from kidney disease, hyperthyroidism and various heart diseases. These are the three most common causes of hypertension in cats. Symptoms may include dilated pupils and/or blood in the eye chamber. This is caused by a build-up of blood in the eye due to increased pressure and can lead to detached retinas and blindness if not treated quickly. Other symptoms of hypertension may include an increase in water consumption and increased urination due to kidney disease. A heart murmur caused by various cardiac diseases is another sign of hypertension. All of these symptoms are serious and should be given prompt attention by your veterinarian.

Kidney disease and hyperthyroidism are more common causes of high blood pressure in cats than heart disease. Aging kidneys tend to develop scar tissue and shrink causing less space for blood flow. This can subsequently cause blood to become backed up in the arteries, which causes the blood pressure to rise. Hyperthyroidism is caused due to an overproduction of thyroid hormone and is a common disease in geriatric cats. The thyroid regulates metabolism in the body and when the thyroid is producing excessive hormone and the bodys metabolism is elevated, this causes the heart to pump blood even faster resulting in hypertension.

Hypertension can be tested for by your veterinarian. A sphygmomanometer is a device used to test a pets blood pressure. Several tests may need to be performed to establish an average. Treatment of high blood pressure is normally approached by treating the underlying disease. Although kidney disease and heart disease cannot be cured, they can be significantly controlled with medications and this will normally lead to a more stable blood pressure level. Approximately twenty five percent of cats have hypertension associated with hyperthyroidism. Fortunately, hyperthyroidism can be treated and cured, which leads to a normal blood pressure. Humans have several medications available for the treatment of hypertension, but there are no drugs currently approved for the specific treatment of hypertension in cats.

There are many things we can do as pet owners to help prevent the conditions that lead to high blood pressure. It is very important that our pets receive a healthy, well balanced diet as recommended by your veterinarian. All of the diseases mentioned above can develop due to obesity. A healthy diet coupled with regular exercise is often all it takes to avoid your pet from becoming overweight. If your cat stays indoors, try to encourage play behavior that will help him to get the exercise he needs to stay healthy. Regular visits to the veterinarian are very important to monitor your cats overall health and blood pressure!

Debra Garrison, DVM

Kidney Disease in Cats

Kidney Disease in Cats

The kidneys normally filter the blood, cleansing it of waste products, toxins, and other substances. They maintain the correct balance of water and electrolytes, help regulate blood pressure, and keep the blood pH at the right level. Unfortunately, failure of the kidneys is one of the most common diseases of cats. In this condition, the functional tissue of the kidneys is damaged, leaving them unable to filter the blood adequately. Toxins build up within the body, a condition known as azotemia.

Acute Renal Failure (ARF)
Acute Renal Failure means that the kidneys are damaged suddenly. This is usually caused by poisoning or a lack of blood flow. Poisons that can cause ARF are ethylene glycol (antifreeze); heavy metals such as zinc and lead; and large doses of certain antibiotics, acetaminophen, and chemotherapy drugs. Inadequate blood flow can be caused by shock, hemorrhage, low blood pressure, or dehydration. Infectious illnesses like Leptospirosis can also cause ARF.

Signs of acute renal failure are not very specific. Loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea or dehydration may be seen. Some pets with ARF urinate excessively while others stop urinating altogether. Information on the pets recent experiences is crucial in diagnosis of ARF. Once the veterinarian suspects kidney disease, blood and urine tests are used to determine the cause and the severity of the condition.

Animals with ARF are treated with IV fluids. Additional medications are used to correct electrolyte and pH imbalances and to reduce symptoms. Specific treatment for the original cause of the kidney damage is given if the cause is known. Healing can occur in tissues that are merely damaged, and viable parts of the kidneys will work harder to compensate. Unfortunately, the portions of the kidneys that have been destroyed will not recover.

Pet owners can do several things to reduce the chance of ARF. Keep antifreeze away from pets, and clean up spills immediately. Follow medication dosage instructions, and never give people medicine to pets without first consulting your veterinarian. Make sure that pets, especially older ones, always have access to fresh water.

 

Chronic Renal Failure (CRF)
Chronic Renal Failure is seen most often in pets over eight years of age, particularly cats. CRF occurs when the functional structures of the kidneys wear out. The damage happens gradually, so months or years may pass before symptoms appear. As much as 75% of the kidney tissue may be destroyed by that time.

Like ARF, symptoms of CRF can be vague. Early signs include loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and sores in the mouth. As the illness progresses, animals drink more water, urinate more, and may have urinary accidents in the house. Eventually, toxin buildup and electrolyte imbalances can damage the nervous system and the eyes, causing seizures, coma and blindness. Many animals with CRF become anemic, because the kidneys are also responsible for stimulating production of new blood cells. The veterinarian will perform blood and urine tests to confirm a diagnosis of CRF and to assess the severity of symptoms.

CRF is a progressive, irreversible disease. Treatment is aimed at slowing the rate of damage and minimizing symptoms. Diets for pets with CRF usually contain restricted amounts of high quality protein and are low in minerals. Many pets require supplemental fluids given periodically under the skin or intravenously. Medications are given to manage nausea, correct electrolyte and pH imbalances, control high blood pressure, and stimulate blood cell production.

The newest treatments available for pets with CRF are hemodialysis and kidney transplantation. These procedures are very costly and are only available at certain veterinary teaching hospitals and specialty practices. Hemodialysis is used as a temporary, emergency method for cleansing the blood. Transplantation can extend a pets life for two or more years. Kidney transplants are complex surgeries with a success rate of about 80% in cats. Pets that receive transplants must remain on anti-rejection medicine for life. Regardless of the type of treatment, the goal is to maintain the pets quality of life. When this is no longer possible, euthanasia may be considered.

Chronic Renal Failure is not preventable. Although some have suggested that low protein diets might have a protective benefit for animals with healthy kidneys, scientific research does not support this belief

For the Nutritional Management of Cats with Kidney Disease

There are many causes for kidney disease resulting in an variety of uncomfortable and life threateningFeline k/d symptoms for your cat. Kidney disease can be either sudden (acute) or occur gradually (chronic). Prescription Diet® k/d® Feline cat food has been uniquely formulated to help manage cats with kidney disease. Kidney disease can result from other illness or changes in your cat’s health, breed/hereditary tendencies and even nutritional factors. The signs of kidney disease remain difficult to detect until more than two-thirds of kidney function are lost. The nutritional formulation of Prescription Diet® k/d® Feline may also be useful for pets with a variety of conditions.