Category Archives: Tips

Catnip: Why Cats Love It

Here is an article that Isis vet shared with me.  Enjoy!

Few things stimulate a cat’s pleasure faster than catnip. Exposure to this simple herb can reveal a new side to their feline personality. Many cats will go crazy at the smell of this plant.

Catnip has a reputation of being a feline drug and many cat owners wonder if it is safe to give it to their pet. Giving catnip in small doses does no harm. Using it as a treat can be quite good for your cat’s emotional health. It relieves stress and can help them get rid of nervous energy.

What Is Catnip?

Catnip is a type of mint plant found  in many countries throughout the world. It can grow up to three feet high and has many branches filled with purple flowers and heart shaped leaves.

The catnip plant has an aromatic oil called nepetalactone. When cats smell this compound, it triggers the part of the feline brain that responds to happy pheromones. This is why cats react the way they do.

Many cats seem to go crazy when they smell catnip by rolling, rubbing and running around. Eating catnip seems to produce the opposite effect. Cats often become mellow when they ingest the plant. This response to catnip usually lasts up to 10 minutes before the cat loses interest.

Catnip as a Training Tool

Creative cat owners can use catnip as a reward or incentive to promote good behavior in their felines. Rubbing dried catnip on a scratching post or cat tree can entice your cat to go there when they need to sharpen their claws instead of tearing your couch to shreds.

Lacing a cat toy with some catnip can be beneficial for inducing an indoor cat to exercise. It will encourage them to be more active and play and prevent obesity. These cat toys should be stored in an airtight container when not in use, so the catnip stays fresh longer.

Growing Catnip

You can grow your own catnip plants in a home garden. You can buy more mature plants from a nursery or plant the seeds after the last major frost of the season. It is important to put the plant in an area where it has plenty of room to grow. Take steps to protect the growing plant from your cat so they don’t tear it out of the soil before it is fully mature.

Is Catnip Right for Your Cat?

Catnip does not have the same effect on every feline. Some cats don’t care about it at all.

The love of this plant is inherited, so only 50 to 70 percent of cats respond to catnip. Kittens typically ignore it until they are three to six months old.

Catnip is non-toxic but cat owners should use caution in giving it out too often. Some cats exhibit aggressive behavior when exposed to catnip and should not have it under any circumstances.

Consult your veterinarian if you notice problematic behavior when your feline uses catnip.

 

Sources:

“Catnip Confidential,” Veterinary Practice News. February 1, 2012.

Medical Benefits of At Home Grooming For Cats

I really enjoyed this article that Isis’ vet sent to me, so I thought I would pass it along to all my cat parents out there:

 

The condition of your cat’s coat and skin is an important feline health indicator. Healthy coats are shiny and smooth, and healthy skin will be supple and clear. While nutrition and health status will influence a cat’s appearance, regular grooming also has an impact. At-home grooming care, including daily brushing, is an important part of feline wellness care.

While most cats are fastidious groomers and rarely require a bath, regular at home grooming, including daily brushing, is still important. Brushing is especially important for long-haired cats, which are more susceptible to tangles and matted fur. Daily brushing is the best way to remove loose hairs. Daily brushing will also help owners who suffer from allergies as regular grooming reduces the amount of hair and pet dander in the home. For people with mild cat allergies, daily brushing may sufficiently reduce airborne feline allergens, making it possible for these individuals to comfortably share a home with cats.

Regular brushing also helps to reduce the amount of hair that cats naturally swallow through self-grooming. This may reduce  the quantity and severity of hairballs.  If pet owners do choose to bathe their cats, choose shampoos that are specially formulated for felines.  Older or obese pets with mobility restrictions may need additional grooming assistance, including at-home baths, if they are unable to fully groom themselves.

Nails should be checked during weekly grooming sessions and trimmed as needed. Cat nails grow differently than dog’s or people’s nails.  Cats shed their nails like a reptile sheds its skin. As cats age, they use scratching posts less, and the nail caps can build up to the point where the nails curl around and penetrate the pads of the feet. Cat nail clippers can be used to trim nails and prevent this from happening.

During at-home grooming, pet owners should also perform a mini-physical on their cat, evaluating the cat’s skin and coat condition, feeling for any lumps and bumps, or noting any painful areas.  While rubbing a cat’s head or scratching the chin, use the forefingers to gently raise the upper lips, checking for abnormal teeth or red gums.  In addition to being a special bonding time for cats and their owners, a feline health assessment during grooming is critical for older cats who are masters at hiding the symptoms of illness. Early diagnosis of health problems starts with proactive at-home care.

Effective at-home grooming starts with the right products. Talk to your veterinarian about what brush is best for your cat; long-haired cats will need a different brush than short-haired cats.

Once you have the right products, brush your cat on a daily basis. Cats prefer routine, which is why your veterinarian may recommend brushing your cat in conjunction with an evening feeding or right before bedtime. If you will also be bathing your cat, ask your veterinarian which shampoo would be best to use.

Source:

Cornell Feline Health Center, “The Special Needs of the Senior Cat.”

Is My Dog Sick?

Here is an article I received from the veterinarian.  Hope it will help those when deciding to bring their dog to the vet:

Identifying the signs of sickness in a dog can be challenging, even for the most vigilant pet owners. Since a sick dog is unable to verbally communicate what hurts, pet owners must pay close attention to identify the signs of illness. Subtle changes in behavior or appetite may be symptomatic of an underlying health problem. While dogs cannot verbally tell us when they are sick, they use physical symptoms and behavior changes to communicate.

Determining when a trip to the doctor is warranted can be challenging. One of the most common symptoms of illness is vomiting or diarrhea. Dogs, however, may vomit on occasion without actually being ill. Eating food too quickly or drinking water too fast can cause vomiting, although the dog will feel much better afterwards. So how can a vigilant pet owner tell when a dog actually needs veterinary care?  Profuse vomiting, bloody vomiting, lethargy or anorexia concurrent with vomiting all require immediate medical intervention.  Vomiting or diarrhea for more than 24 hours is a sign that a pet needs veterinary care. Vomiting or diarrhea for an extended period may be symptomatic of many things, including pancreatitis, infections, ingestion of foreign material,  accidental poisoning, or parasites, all of which require urgent veterinary care.

Dog owners should also be alert for signs of lethargy. If a normally active dog suddenly loses interest in playing fetch or no longer runs across the room, this may be a sign of illness. A long run at the park may cause exhaustion, but if a pet owner cannot identify a specific cause, then contact a veterinarian. Lethargy can be symptomatic of hundreds of disorders, one example is  heart disease, which requires veterinary care. Pet owners should also look for a change in exercise tolerance and unexplained weakness. A loss in consciousness, difficulty breathing, bleeding, or seizures always requires immediate emergency care for all animals.

Pet owners should also be on the lookout for the following symptoms: poor appetite, lameness, weakness, frequent urination, excessive scratching or licking, nasal discharge, constipation, an unusual bump, or excessive thirst. If these symptoms occur for more than two days, pet owners should contact their veterinarian.

In general, it is better to be proactive about veterinary care than to wait. In the wild, animals instinctively mask symptoms of illness so they will not appear weak to predators or be shunned by their own kind. Consequently, a dog will instinctively try to hide any health problems. Prompt care thanks to a vigilant pet owner can make a big difference for a dog’s health.  If you question whether a visit to the doctor is needed, please call and discuss it with your veterinarian.

Source:

American Animal Hospital Association, “Urinary Tract Infections.” 2013.

 

Is Your Dog Sick?
If your dog exhibits the following symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately:

•    In distress with Vomiting or diarrhea
•    Swollen abdomen
•    Labored breathing
•    Collapse, loss of consciousness or seizures
•    Bleeding
•    Symptoms of acute pain, such as crying out, whining or whimpering
If your dog exhibits these symptoms for more than 2 days, contact your pet’s doctor
•    Lethargy or general weakness
•    Excessive thirst
•    Frequent or inappropriate urination (e.g., wetting the bed, or accidents in the house)
•     Frequent panting

When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian.

 

Pets Can Have Allergies?

Instead of a product review, I figured I would share this article from my vet with you.  It is a good read in helping to deal with food allergies and an elimination diet:

Managing Food Allergies in Pets with an Elimination Diet

Food allergies are the third most common allergy that affects dogs and cats, outranked only by fleabites and inhaled allergens (e.g., pollen). Allergies to common food ingredients are also on the rise and now account for at least 30% of all allergy cases. Unfortunately for many pets, the most common food allergens are also the most common pet food ingredients. Consequently, as a pet owner, identifying and isolating the trigger for a pet’s food allergy can be difficult.

The first step in diagnosing a food allergy is to recognize the symptoms. Common food allergy symptoms including excessive itching and scratching. Dogs with a food allergy commonly lick their feet, scoot their rear end in an attempt to scratch it, or have ear problems. Cats have a wider variety of skin symptoms, almost any pattern of hair loss or scabs can be a sign of an allergy. Food allergies can also cause gastrointestinal problems such as chronic vomiting or soft stools. If a pet suffers from recurring gas or diarrhea, a food allergy may be the cause. Symptoms of a food allergy may slowly build over time as a pet’s immune system mounts an increasingly greater response. It may be several months before hair loss, coat deterioration and skin lesions occur.

Food allergies have a genetic basis, although environmental factors can also have an impact. Recent research suggests that different environmental factors in early puppyhood or kittenhood may increase the chance that the immune system overreacts to certain food substances. However, a genetic predisposition for this overreaction must first occur for an allergy to develop. Dogs are most commonly allergic to beef, chicken, and wheat. The most common allergens in cats are fish and dairy. However, any pet can be allergic to any ingredient they have eaten in the past.

An elimination diet is the most effective way to determine a food allergen as there is no valid blood or intradermal skin test for food allergies. A veterinarian will recommend a “novel” diet that is entirely different from a pet’s regular food. All protein and carbohydrate sources must be swapped out and fed for a length of time to see if the symptoms disappear or at least lessen. The dog or cat must consume nothing but the novel diet for 8 to 10 weeks. During this time, allergy symptoms should gradually disappear.

Next, owners can gradually reintroduce elements of the past diet one ingredient at a time. One ingredient should be introduced and then monitored for one to two weeks. If symptoms return, this ingredient can be confirmed as at least one source for the food allergy. Talk to your veterinarian before beginning an elimination diet.

“Does my pet have food allergies?”

If your pet has the following symptoms, he or she may have food allergies:

•Itching, scratching, biting the skin
•Licking feet
•Scratching rear
•Chronic soft stool
•Excess gas

•Chronic vomiting

If you suspect that your pet has a food allergy, talk to your veterinarian. Food allergies may even lead to weight loss.

Identifying food allergies in your pet can be a difficult, but necessary, process. Your veterinarian will work with you to replace your pet’s current diet with alternate protein and carbohydrates sources.

Sources:
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, “Food Allergies.”

Non-Profit Provides “Food Stamps” For Pets

I am still waiting on publishing a product review as I like my little tester (Isis) to test out the stuff for about a month before I give it a thumbs up or thumbs down.  I came across this video/article that warmed my heart.

The economy has been rough lately and a lot of people may be on public assistance.  A non-profit agency has started a program for those who are on public assistance for themselves, they can now apply for “food stamps” for their pets.  The Pet Food Stamps non-profit agency has teamed up with Pet Flow to send people and pets in need, their dog or cats food.

The family that cares for the pet must apply for this program and if they are accepted, they will have the food delivered to their door.

I thought it would be good to share here because you never know who may need this program.  If you have a friend or family member that is struggling, this might be something to help them breathe and not stress as much, or it might even help someone not have to give their pet away because they can no longer handle paying for food for their pet.

Please take a look at the video and read the article, and please pass on this information to anyone you know who may need it.  I think it is a wonderful program that may save a pet’s life.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57581800/non-profit-provides-food-stamps-for-pets/

 

Caring For Senior Cats

I received this great article from Isis vet and wanted to share it with you.  If you have a senior citizen cat, this is a great article to keep for future reference:

Thanks to advancements in veterinary care, today’s cats can live well into their teen years. It is not uncommon for cats to live to be 18 or even older. However, in order for cats to live a long full life, they need proactive veterinary care to stay healthy.

As cats age, they are at greater risk for chronic diseases and health complications. However, cats are also masters at hiding illness. Semi-annual veterinary appointments are the best way to monitor a cat’s well being. For a senior cat, six months can be the equivalent of two years – a number of health changes can happen during this period.

During a wellness exam, a veterinarian will check a cat’s weight and body condition, skin and coat quality, eyes, ears, thyroid, heart, lungs, joints, mouth and abdomen. A veterinarian may also conduct diagnostic blood work and parasite screenings. While physical changes are easily noticed (e.g., weight loss or change in coat quality), internal changes are more difficult to detect. Diagnostic tests provide an important snapshot of a cat’s internal health and can detect problems such as hyperthyroidism and kidney disease.

Feline hyperthyroidism and kidney problems are the most common health conditions affecting older cats. Hyperthyroidism affects many organs in the body, including the heart. Hyperthyroidism can lead to secondary heart disease as well as hypertension (high blood pressure). Kidney disease can also cause hypertension. Your veterinarian can check for this during your cat’s exam. Blood  tests during a semi-annual wellness screening are the best way to detect hyperthyroidism and kidney problems. With early diagnosis, medical treatments can be very successful in managing these disease.  These are examples  of why proactive veterinary care is so important for senior cats.

Wellness exams are also an opportunity to evaluate a cat’s dietary needs. As cats age, their nutritional needs change.  For example, cats with kidney problems should have a diet low in protein and phosphorus. Less active cats may need to be fed less in order to prevent weight gain and obesity. Other cats may become disinterested in food, resulting in weight loss. Cats that lose their sense of taste and smell may also lose interest in eating. Unfortunately, gradual weight loss can also go unnoticed, especially for longhaired cats. This is why nutrition evaluations and regular weigh-ins are so important.

Just like humans, cats will have different wellness needs as they age. Some cats may need a special diet while other cats may need medication to manage a chronic disease. Your veterinarian will make specific recommendations based on your cat’s wellness needs.

Does My Cat Need Senior Care?

Could your cat benefit from senior care? Like people, cats all age at different rates. Generally speaking, senior cats are between the ages of 11 to 14 years, which is the equivalent of 60 to 72 years for humans. Look out for the following age-related changes in your cat’s behavior:

•    Drinking more water than normal
•    More urine in the litter box than normal
•    Weight loss, may occur in spite of a ravenous appetite
•    Nails that don’t shed, and grow into their pads
•    Change in appetite or unwillingness to eat
•    Changes in litter box habits
•    Changes in behavior and mood

These are signs that your cat needs additional veterinary care.

Sources:

American Association of Feline Practitioners. Friends for Life, Caring for your Older Cat.

Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine. Hyperthyroidism in Cats.

Tips To Keep Pets and Kids Safe

Here is an article from Sasha’s vet that I thought I would share with you:

Parents love both their children and their pets. Many pet owners even call their pets fur children. But it is important to create a safe and healthy environment for both children and pets. We especially worry about parasite and bacterial transmission from animals to people, although the reverse can occur as well. The following are some ideas to keep children and pets safe.

1. Take a pet’s stool sample to your veterinarian at least twice yearly to check for parasites. This is a routine test, but some parasites are “sneaky” and won’t show up in every sample.

2. Make sure all your dogs and cats are on monthly parasite preventatives.  Some of the heartworm preventatives will also prevent some intestinal parasites that can infect people.  Discuss with your veterinarian which preventative medications are effective for which organisms.

3. Do not ever feed raw meat to your pets.  Uncooked meat can harbor parasites and bacteria that are dangerous to both people and pets.

4. Keep your cats as indoor-only pets.  Cats that are allowed to roam can eat mice or other animals that can give them parasites such as Toxoplasma, which then can be transmitted to people.

5. Reptiles can be fun to own but they are frequently found to harbor Salmonella.  There is no method to determine with certainty which reptiles have this bacteria or any way to clear them of the organism.  It might be best to not allow small children to own reptiles until they are old enough to understand that hand washing is imperative after handling.

6. Do not have a sand box in your yard or allow your children to play in one.  Roaming cats love these as they think sand boxes are a great big litter box.  Serious parasites can be transmitted from the cat’s stool to kids for months or even years after the sand is contaminated; the eggs can even survive freezing and hot weather.  These parasites can cause blindness or organ damage.

7. When your dog goes outside to defecate, pick up the stool immediately.  Parasites will have less time to become infective. If the stool is allowed to sit on the yard, the parasites are spread into a wider area by rain or water from sprinklers.

8. You should deworm puppies and kittens even before you bring them home.  It is best to obtain medicine from your veterinarian for this, as the dewormers used by breeders are usually less effective over-the-counter medicine.

9. Wash food and water bowls daily.  A recent study showed that hand scrubbing and then washing in a dishwasher was the only effective method of cleaning.  Each method done separately did not provide good sanitation.

10. A different topic is keeping kids safe from bites.  Do not let your child run up to a strange dog. Teach your children what to do if approached by a dog:  don’t run, don’t put your hands out, and don’t stare into their eyes.  If the child is able, they should back up slowly. If in danger, they should roll into a ball on the ground and protect their head.

Pets and children are wonderful, they give us so much joy and are very important members of the family. They may be initially uncertain around each other, but with some knowledge and precautions we can keep everyone in the family happy and healthy.

Cats and Skin Conditions

Here is an article Isis’ vet shared with me:

 

Cats can suffer from a variety of different skin disorders, including feline acne, allergic dermatitis, mites and ringworm. If your cat is frequently itching, scratching, licking his skin beyond normal grooming, or suffering unexplained hair loss, a skin condition may be the cause.

The first step to treating a skin condition is diagnosis of the specific problem. Many skin conditions share similar symptoms, such as dry or flaky skin. Depending on your cat’s symptoms, a veterinarian may begin by ruling out the most common skin problems.

Fleas

Even if your cat is an indoor pet, another pet in the household may have exposed your cat to fleas. Fleas can trigger allergic dermatitis and cause a host of skin problems. Flea allergy dermatitis is characterized by small bumps covering the inner thighs, base of the tail, and back of the rear legs. A single flea bite can trigger a reaction that lasts for days! Good flea control is essential to preventing allergic dermatitis.

Feline Acne

Feline acne on the chin is one of the most common feline skin conditions. That’s right; even cats can suffer from a bad case of pimples! Everything from poor grooming to an allergic reaction may be the underlying cause. For most cats, feline acne will simply clear up by itself. However, if your cat’s acne persists, a medicated shampoo or a prescription ointment will help. If the acne is associated with an allergic reaction, than removing this allergen from the cat’s environment is essential to preventing future skin outbreaks. A veterinary dermatologist can work with pet owners to identify possible allergens or if a disorder is responsible for the acne.

Dermatitis

Red skin, bumps or inflamed skin are signs of contact dermatitis as well as many skin diseases. Like some cases of feline acne, an environmental trigger may cause contact dermatitis. Possible triggers could include inhalants, food, or flea allergies. The most common allergens tend to be fleas, food, pollen, molds and house dust mites.

Mites

Not all skin problems are confined to a cat’s fur. Mites can also affect the ear. Symptoms of ear mites include constant itching, scratching at the ear, and shaking the ear. Cats with ear mites may also have excess brown wax in the ear canal. Without proper treatment, the constant scratching and itching may lead to a secondary skin infection. With prompt treatment, mite-killing ear drops can clear up the primary problem before secondary infections occur.

A veterinary dermatologist is trained to diagnose and treat different skin disorders. Prompt treatment will help prevent secondary infections or complications and keep your feline healthy.

Source:
American College of Veterinary Dermatology (ACVD)

Antioxidants and Your Pet’s Health & An Announcement

Here is an article Sasha’s vet shared with me on the importance of antioxidants and your dog’s health:

The Pluses of Antioxidants in Pet Food

 

The science behind pet nutrition continues to make major advances. One such example of this is the use of antioxidants in pet food. Antioxidants are playing a key role in preventing certain diseases and lengthening the life of our pets.

 

Health Benefits of Antioxidants

Aside from preserving pet food, antioxidants offer a host of potential health benefits to your pets. Does your pet suffer from allergies, skin problems, immune disorders, or general problems associated with aging? Antioxidants may help. They work by reducing the cellular damage done by free radicals due to the effects of oxidation. If left unchecked, this damage continues in a chain reaction destroying both unhealthy and healthy cells.

Antioxidants have been shown to provide a health boost to animals of all ages. In young animals, they promote immune system activity before vaccination has been implemented. And in older dogs and cats, antioxidants help to slow down cellular damage to the brain and organs — providing a longer, healthier life.

Common Sources of Antioxidants

Common antioxidants used in pet foods include vitamins A, C, E, zinc, Beta-carotene and lycopene. Each has a specific role in promoting good health. For instance, vitamin E optimizes the immune system’s T-cell activation. This helps your pet maintain healthy membrane tissue and retards cellular aging. Beta-carotene, meanwhile, increases antibody levels in the blood. This helps your pet fight off illnesses and infections. Once B-carotene is converted into vitamin A, it can also improve eyesight and skin and coat health.

There are also antioxidants-rich foods that can be used as ingredients in your pet’s food. These include such things as whole grains, apples, berries, carrots and broccoli.

Choosing the Best Pet Food

If you want your pet food to have antioxidants, scan the ingredients list on the pet food bag or can. Pet food manufacturers are required to list antioxidants and their common names. You may want to consult with your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist too. They should have suggestions as to which antioxidants benefit your pet the most.

 

 

My Announcement:

I have been doing this blog for over a year now and I never imagined it would snowball into several projects I will be doing in the real world and online. I will continue to update this blog when I receive dog or cat food or other recalls on toys, bowls, etc.  I will also share articles I receive from Sasha and Isis’ ‘respective vets. I will also post Recipe Friday and Product Reviews.  I just may not post 5 days per week like I have been, but check back often.  I will continue to update this blog as much as possible and as time allows!

 

Leptospirosis

This is a disease that affects dogs and other animals, causing liver and kidney issues.  The scariest part of this disease is that it can be transferred from animals to humans.  Sasha’s vet sent me this article and I am passing it on to you:

Leptospirosis is a re-emerging disease. This bacterial disease most commonly causes liver and kidney problems in dogs, but can also cause lung, pancreas, and eye symptoms.  It is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transferred from animals to people, in fact, it is the most common zoonotic disease in the world.  Drinking contaminated water is a common mode of transmission for humans and animals.  It is present in the urine of infected animals, so bodies of water, food (for instance, if rodents have access), soil, or even the beach (California sea lions carry leptospirosis) can easily be contaminated.

Decades ago, veterinarians routinely vaccinated for this disease in a combination vaccine with distemper, hepatitis, and parvo, until problems with the Lepto part of the vaccine developed.  The older vaccine protected against only two types of Lepto, the immunity lasted only about six months, and it was the Lepto portion of the vaccine that was most likely to cause an allergic reaction.  More recently, when it became apparent that the disease was becoming more prevalent, a new and better vaccine was developed.  The newer vaccines protect against four different types of lepto, the immunity lasts for a year, and allergic reactions are not likely.

Many veterinarians are now recommending that dogs be vaccinated for Leptospirosis if they are at risk due to their lifestyle.  So dogs that go on hikes, go to the beach, go to lakes, streams or rivers, or have access to wildlife should be vaccinated.  If you have a rodent problem at your house, you should have your dog vaccinated.  Discuss your dog’s risk with your veterinarian.  There are even some urban areas that have a problem with Lepto.

The first year your dog is vaccinated, it will receive a set of two vaccines, given three weeks apart.  The vaccine is given annually there after.   Ask your veterinarian if you have any questions.

Important Facts

1. There are many different types of Lepto organisms.
2. The current vaccines protect against four of them.
3. It is a disease of dogs, some livestock species, and people.
4. Ask your veterinarian if your dogs are at risk.