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 Health & Medical Problems : Cat Health: Finding Fleas & Ticks

To find fleas on a cat, use a flea comb to look for live fleas or flea dirt. Learn more about finding fleas and ticks on cats with tips from a veterinarian in this free cat healthvideo. Expert: Tracy Carreiro Bio: Tracy Carreiro is member of The Faxon Animal Rescue League. The League was founded in 1913 to help overworked and abused draft horses. Filmmaker: Christian Munoz-Donoso

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

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus – FIV

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a serious viral disease of cats that is similar to HIV/AIDS in humans. About 1 3% of cats in the United States are infected. It does not affect other animals or people. Secondary infections caused by FIV canĀ  be treated and the cat can live for an extended time, but FIV cannot be cured and the cat remains infectious.

How Cats Get the Virus
FIV is spread mainly through bites that occur when cats fight. Rarely, mother cats pass the virus to their kittens during pregnancy, birth or nursing. Blood transfusions are another potential, but uncommon, source of infection. FIV does not survive outside a cats body, so the disease is not spread by casual contact or by sharing food bowls.

What the Disease Does
When cats first become infected, there are few if any symptoms. Some cats develop a fever, swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea or anemia. Once infected, almost all cats harbor the virus for life but many remain healthy for years. At some point the virus attacks the immune system, leaving the cat unprotected against other diseases and parasites. Microorganisms that do not ordinarily harm healthy cats can make FIV infected cats severely ill.

Signs of FIV infection include loss of appetite, severe gingivitis (gum disease) and sores in the mouth, diarrhea, vomiting, anemia, eye disorders, nervous system disorders, chronic fever, and chronic infections of the skin, ears, and respiratory system.

How to Find Out if Your Cat Has FIV
Your veterinarian can perform a simple blood test to check for FIV. Its a good idea to test all new cats, especially if you already have other cats in your household. Cats that go outside should be tested every year. If your catĀ tests positive, follow-up tests can double check the accuracy of the first one. This is especially important for kittens under six months of age, in which positive results are often caused by immunity from the mother. If these cats test negative later in life, they likely were never infected with the virus.

Caring for FIV-Positive Cats
Although there is no cure for FIV, there are several steps owners can take to keep their FIV-infected cats as healthy as possible. To protect him from secondary infections and to prevent the spread of the virus, keep your FIV-positive cat indoors. It is preferable to separate him from uninfected cats. Keep him up to date on his routine veterinary care and vaccinations. Checkups are recommended every six months. Although FIV is incurable, treatment is given for secondary infections and to reduce symptoms. Immuno-modulators and antiviral drugs may also help.

Preventing FIV
Because FIV cannot be cured, prevention is crucial. Keeping cats indoors is the best method because it prevents exposure. Cats that do go outside should be spayed or neutered to reduce the likelihood of fighting. When adding a new cat to a household, test it before it meets its housemates. Infected and uninfected cats can live side-by-side without transmitting the infection as long as they don’t bite each other. However, there is always a risk.

A vaccine is available to protect against FIV, but the effectiveness of this vaccine is still questionable and most veterinarians do not recommend it (including myself), Also, there is no test to distinguish between a vaccinated cat and an infected cat. This creates a serious dilemma, since infected cats require special care. Worse yet, FIV-positive cats are commonly euthanized by animal shelters. Until new tests are developed, the decision whether or not to vaccinate will be a difficult one you need to discuss with your veterinarian.

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

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

kittenFeline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a serious viral disease of cats that is similar to HIV/AIDS in humans. About 1 3% of cats in the United States are infected. It does not affect other animals or people. FIV can be prevented, but not cured.

How Cats Get the Virus
FIV is spread mainly through bites that occur when cats fight. Rarely, mother cats pass the virus to their kittens during pregnancy, birth or nursing. Blood transfusions are another potential, but uncommon, source of infection. FIV does not survive outside a cats body, so the disease is not spread by casual contact or by sharing food bowls.

What the Disease Does
When cats first become infected, there are few if any symptoms. Some cats develop a fever, swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea or anemia. Once infected, almost all cats harbor the virus for life but many remain healthy for years. At some point the virus attacks the immune system, leaving the cat unprotected against other diseases and parasites. Microorganisms that do not ordinarily harm healthy cats can make FIV infected cats severely ill.

Signs of FIV infection include loss of appetite, severe gingivitis and sores in the mouth, diarrhea, vomiting, anemia, eye disorders, nervous system disorders, chronic fever, and chronic infections of the skin, ears, and respiratory system.

How to Find Out if Your Cat Has FIV
Your veterinarian can perform a simple blood test to check for FIV. Its a good idea to test all new cats, especially if you already have other cats in your household. Cats that go outside should be tested every year. If your cat tests positive, follow-up tests can double check the accuracy of the first one. This is especially important for kittens under six months of age, in which positive results are often caused by immunity from the mother. If these cats test negative later in life, they likely were never infected with the virus.

Caring for FIV-Positive Cats
Although there is no cure for FIV, there are several steps owners can take to keep their FIV-infected cats as healthy as possible. To protect him from secondary infections and to prevent the spread of the virus, keep your FIV-positive cat indoors. It is preferable to separate him from uninfected cats. Keep him up to date on his routine veterinary care and vaccinations. Checkups are recommended every six months. Although FIV is incurable, treatment is given for secondary infections and to reduce symptoms. Immunomodulators and antiviral drugs may also help.

Preventing FIV
Because FIV cannot be cured, prevention is crucial. Keeping cats indoors is the best method because it prevents exposure. Cats that do go outside should be spayed or neutered to reduce the likelihood of fighting. When adding a new cat to a household, test it before it meets its housemates. Infected and uninfected cats can live side-by-side without transmitting the infection as long as they dont bite each other. However, there is always a risk.

A vaccine recently became available to protect against FIV. Unfortunately, there is no test to distinguish between a vaccinated cat and an infected cat. This creates a serious dilemma, since infected cats require special care. Worse yet, FIV-positive cats are commonly euthanized by animal shelters. Until new tests are developed, the decision whether or not to vaccinate will be a difficult one you need to discuss with your veterinarian.

Kitten Care

kittensCongratulations! Owning a new kitten can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. However, as with any new addition to a family, there are often adjustments and changes that can be made to make the transition easier for everyone in the household. This handout will address some of the questions and challenges facing the owners of a new kitten.

Kittens are naturally inquisitive and your new addition will want to explore its new surroundings as soon as possible. However, in order to avoid overwhelming your kitten, it is best to allow this exploration in stages. For the first few days confine your kitten to one or two rooms and then gradually allow him to move to other portions of your home. This gradual expansion of boundaries will allow your kitten to always have a safe haven in a previously explored area of the home.

Your new kitten may initially receive a hostile reaction from your current pets, especially another cat. In order to minimize this reaction, make sure that that your established pets do not feel the need to compete with the kitten for attention or food. Shower all of your pets with attention during the homecoming, introduction period and until the household has settled into a normal routine. And do not let the new kitten eat or drink from an established cats bowls.

It is important to stimulate your new kitten with many types of play and socialization in order to foster proper muscle development and to teach proper social skills. Two types of essential play behaviors are stalking and pouncing. These behaviors can be encouraged by providing toys that are lightweight, easily movable and have unique sounds to attract your kittens attention during play. Some examples of these toys are small balls, crumpled paper and lengths of yarn, string or ribbon that may be drug across the floor. Remember, however, that your kitten should always be supervised when playing with small items that may present a swallowing or choking hazard.

Kittens learn a great deal about the world around them and acceptable social behavior between the ages of two and twelve weeks. During this time it is important for you to expose your new addition to as many positive experiences with men, women, children, dogs, cats and other pets as possible. Positive experiences in many different settings during this time will help prevent your kitten to becoming scared or skittish in new environments and around strangers.

Kittens are rambunctious and curious. Unfortunately, these normally cute characteristics can also lead to destructive behavior. If your kitten is caught in the act of destructive behavior, it may be necessary to discipline it. Physical and harsh punishment for kittens is never recommended. Instead it is best to use a punishment that will be associated with the undesired behavior and not the enforcer. Some examples of these types of punishment include using a squirt bottle, horn, or hand clap to startle the kitten.

As with any new pet, proper veterinary care is essential to maintaining a healthy happy kitten. Your new kitten will receive a series of vaccinations to help protect it against five preventable feline diseases. These diseases are rabies, feline distemper and three types of respiratory organisms. This series of injections is normally given between six to eight weeks of age, at 12 weeks and again at 16 weeks. Vaccinations are also available for feline leukemia and FIP (feline infectious peritonitis). However, consult your veterinarian about these vaccines as they may not be necessary for your kitten if it does not go outside or if it is not exposed to multiple cats.

Litter Box Issues for Cats

Litter Box Issues in catsOne of the most appealing aspects of owning a cat is that they are generally clean and require little training. Most kittens have already learned appropriate litter box use from their mothers long before they are adopted. Unfortunately, there are several things that can go wrong that cause cats to urinate in places we find offensive. Inappropriate elimination is the most common behavioral problem recognized in cats.

Urinary Tract Illness
When a cat begins urinating outside the litter box, the first possibility to be considered is illness. Cats with bladder irritation or infection frequently urinate in unusual places including potted plants, sinks, and bathtubs. There is often only a tiny amount of urine in each place, and it may be bloody. Kidney failure, diabetes, and some medications can cause cats to urinate more. They may be unable to wait to go outside or to get to the nearest litter box. They generally produce large amounts of watery urine. A physical examination, urine and blood tests can identify or rule out medical causes for elimination disorders.

Urine Marking Behavior
Spraying urine is a normal marking behavior in un-neutered male cats. Spraying differs from ordinary urination because the cat remains standing and the urine is sprayed onto a vertical surface behind him. Neutering male cats as early as possible reduces this behavior. However, neutered males and female cats can spray too. This is more likely when the cat is distressed or anxious and occurs more often in multi-cat households.

Aversions and Preferences
Some cats develop aversions or preferences with regard to locations or substrates for urination. The most common sources of aversions are dirty litter boxes, strongly perfumed litter, and litter boxes placed in busy areas where the cat may feel insecure. Some cats develop a preference to urinate only in a particular spot in the house, or only on a certain material such as carpeting or plastic.

Treating Inappropriate Urination
After ruling out medical concerns, the veterinarian must address underlying emotional issues. Removal of stressful stimuli such as dogs and other cats may help. Antidepressant and antianxiety medicines are sometimes used. A spray that mimics a natural calming hormone of cats has shown benefit as well. Litter boxes are adjusted to encourage the cat to use them. Boxes can be provided in preferred locations and with preferred substrates. Aversive factors should be eliminated. This can involve a lot of trial and error, such as providing numerous litter boxes or different types and observing which are most preferred. Unfortunately, behavioral elimination disorders in cats can be difficult and frustrating to treat.

Preventing Inappropriate Urination
Since its so difficult to treat, its a good idea to try to prevent abnormal urination behavior. A helpful tip is to provide plenty of clean litter boxes, preferably without perfumed litters. The rule of thumb for the number of boxes to have is that there should be at least as many boxes as there are cats and at least as many boxes as there are stories in the house. Most cats prefer a large, open litter box in a quiet location as opposed to litter boxes with hoods, which may trap odor.

Male cats should be neutered. Always remember that cats are territorial by nature. Cats housed singularly are less likely to have behavioral elimination problems, probably because they experience less territorial stress.

Neutering Your Cat

neutering your catNeutering, or orchiectomy, is a surgical sterilization procedure that can provide major health benefits for cats. Here are some important facts you should know before getting your cat neutered.

The Neuter Surgery
Orchiectomy is a surgery that is performed under general anesthesia. Your cats scrotum will be shaved and cleansed, and an incision will be made. The veterinarian will remove both testicles and tie off the spermatic cords. The skin incision is closed with stitches or surgical adhesive. Following neuter surgery, your cat will no longer produce sperm and he will have lower testosterone levels.

Although neutering is very routine, it still carries the risks associated with general anesthesia and surgery. Your veterinarian takes numerous measures to keep your cat safe, such as checking his heart and lungs before administering anesthesia and monitoring him constantly while he is asleep. You can ask whether your veterinarian recommends any additional safety precautions, such as pre-anesthetic blood tests or administration of IV fluids during the procedure.

Benefits
The normal behavior of an un-neutered cat is often incompatible with being a household pet. Intact cats tend to wander from home, seeking a mate or defending their territory. This puts them at risk for being hit by a car or being injured in a fight. Urine marking and some types of aggression are more pronounced in un-neutered cats as well. Although neutering may not entirely eliminate these behaviors, it can diminish them by 50-90%.

Intact male cats suffer from a high incidence of inflammation and enlargement of the prostate, as well as testicular tumors. Neutering your cat will greatly cut down on the incidence of reproductive related cancers.

The final benefit of neutering is that its the best way you can help end pet overpopulation. Every year, 3-4 million cats and dogs are euthanized in U.S. animal shelters. None of us wants to contribute to that sad statistic, but we may do so unwittingly. Kittens adopted to apparently good homes may be given away or lost.

Considerations Before Surgery
Consult with your veterinarian about when to schedule your cats neuter surgery. Traditionally, pets are spayed at around six months of age. However, some veterinarians advocate performing the procedure earlier. The night before your cats surgery, remove his food and water before you go to bed. He should not eat or drink anything during the night or the morning of his surgery.Big Cat

Considerations After Surgery
Your cat may go home the day of his surgery, or may stay in the hospital overnight. If he goes home the same day, expect him to feel a little groggy. Keep him indoors, in a warm, safe, quiet room away from other pets. During the first week after surgery, try to restrict his activity level. It may be necessary to keep your cat indoors for several days following the surgery and it will be very important to keep the litter box clean.

If you notice your cat licking the surgical site frequently, ask for an Elizabethan collar. Some cats develop a swollen or slightly bruised scrotal area following neuter surgery. Some swelling is normal, but don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian if you are concerned about your cat.

The effects of neutering on your cat will not be instantaneous. Testosterone levels wane over a period of weeks or months, followed by a reduction in fertility as well as territorial and mating behaviors.

Cat Scratch Fever

Cat Scratch Fever

Cat Scratch Fever is not just a rock song from the 70s; it is a real disease. More properly called Cat Scratch Disease, it is the name of a condition in humans caused by the bacterium, Bartonella henselae. This microscopic organism lives in the tissues surrounding the claws of many normal, healthy cats. Although it is usually harmless to cats, Bartonella can cause illness in humans.

How People Get It

Most of the time, people get Cat Scratch Disease from a bite or a scratch from a cat that carries the bacteria. It can also be transmitted by fleas. In scientific studies, close to half of normal cats were shown to be carriers. The studies also showed that kittens are more likely to be infected than are adult cats. Children and teens seem to be more susceptible and more cases occur in the winter, when free-roaming cats spend more time in the house.

Symptoms in People

Cat Scratch Disease is typically a mild illness from which people recover without medical attention. The primary symptoms in people are a raised bump at the site where the bacteria has entered the skin and one or more swollen, tender lymph nodes. In less than 25% of cases, people experience a low-grade fever and malaise. The symptoms usually resolve in a few months without treatment.

More serious symptoms that occur rarely include infection of the eyes, brain, heart, lungs, skin or liver. These symptoms are more likely in immune suppressed individuals, especially those with active cases of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

Symptoms in Cats

Symptoms in cats are thought to be rare, but research is ongoing. Bartonella infection has been suggested as a cause of some cases of mild fever, loss of balance, and eye infections in cats.

Preventing Cat Scratch Disease

The best methods for preventing Cat Scratch Disease are good flea control and avoiding bites and scratches. Avoid rough play, especially with kittens. Don’t allow cats to lick open wounds, and wash all cat bites and scratches thoroughly.

Highly effective flea control products are available from your veterinarian. Keeping your cats claws trimmed or capped with disposable plastic covers are good ways to reduce the likelihood of a scratch. Your veterinarian can teach you how to trim your cats claws or can do it for you. They can also provide information and assistance with convenient nail caps to provide additional protection.

Immune-compromised people should be sure to inform their doctors that they have cats and should notify their doctors if they do get bitten or scratched. Early treatment with antibiotics can help reduce the severity of serious infections.