Thursday, May 7, 2009

Cat Health Tips: Health Tips for Cat Owners

Cat Health Tips: Health Tips for Cat Owners

(Disclaimer: Nothing contained herein should be interpreted as veterinary advice or a substitute for same. Please always consult your veterinarian, keeping in mind that describing symptoms over the phone is no substitute for the vet actually seeing the patient.)

Cats can get colds

Sneezing, nose and eye discharge may be associated with upper respiratory infections. These signs can also be due to allergies or foreign material stuck in the nose. Wheezing sounds can occur when there is marked irritation or partial obstruction in the nasal cavity, but true wheezing involves the lungs. In the latter case, there is bronchial constriction (narrowed airways) that leads to a whistling lung sound, in combination with increased respiration efforts. The most common scenario in cats leading to true wheezing is asthma, which is associated with airway irritation, or wheezing can occur when something foreign has been inhaled down the windpipe or a lung infection is present. Vomiting is not usually associated with cat "colds." There are numerous causes of vomiting. The irritation can then lead to secondary sneezing, and nasal discharge. Since the cause of these symptoms may be simple and easily controlled, the sick cat should see a veterinarian for a professional assessment.

Hairballs in cats

Nearly everyone who has ever owned a cat knows about hairballs. Hairballs are natural at very low frequency. Every day, a cat grooms the hair coat extensively and swallows large quantities of hair as a result. Normally, the hair mixes with the food, and passes out with the stool, mixed fairly evenly throughout the feces. Sometimes, though, hair remains in the stomach and balls up. When it grows large, it is vomited up because it irritates the stomach. Some cats have an abnormal tendency to accumulate hair and to form hairballs. They swallow large amounts on an ongoing basis and some degree of buildup is inevitable. Sometimes cats develop excessive hairballs when their stomach is irritated. Hair buildup in the digestive system can be a worrisome problem. It is not unusual for the stool of cats with chronic constipation problems to contain a significant amount of dry hair in the stool ball. It is important to effectively manage the constipation to prevent the risk of dry hair-based masses. Left unattended, the result can be permanent stretching of the gut wall around large impactions. Low-grade hairballs can be effectively managed using gentle hairball medication that helps to lubricate the hairs in the stomach to help prevent hair from tangling together and starting a hairball. These lubricants are usually formulated as a tasty paste administered once or twice weekly by mouth. They have added vitamins, and can be very effective if used regularly. Never give mineral oil to cats by mouth as a hairball remedy. There have been many cases where the cat does not taste the mineral oil and inhales it into the lungs. This is very dangerous and can lead to death. Always consult your veterinarian about the best choice for hairball management in your cat.

Even cats get gas

Sometimes the only sign of excess gas is a swollen abdomen. Sometimes there is just a gurgling sound. Cats do not belch as commonly as dogs, due to the structure of the upper digestive system. Cats are less gassy due to the nature of their diet and are also less inclined to wolf down their food, and so do not inhale as much air into their system as a typical dog. If they are prone to gas, cats may benefit from a commercial diet that uses a rice source of carbohydrate, because rice is less gas producing than other dietary carbohydrate sources. If disease is present, one or more of the following may be noted: diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. Feeding milk to cats will often produce excess gas. If your cat has a constant gas problem, veterinary evaluation should be made unless an easy explanation is evident such as milk or other poorly digestible foods being fed.

Reproduction in cats

If allowed to mate naturally, a female cat can have two or three litters annually, resulting in 50-150 offspring over the course of her lifetime! If you suspect your cat is pregnant, have your veterinarian check her health and confirm the pregnancy.

Male cats benefit from neutering

Most pet owners are aware that pets should be neutered, but few are aware of all the reasons why neutering is beneficial, particularly in male cats.

Male cats are neutered for many reasons. Intact male cats tend to fight one another in order to defend their territory and to secure the opportunity to mate with female cats in heat. Fighting can lead to scratch and bite wounds, which often become infected, leading to abscesses. Neutered cats do not have strong territorial instincts, thus making them better pets. Non-neutered male cats tend to roam great distances, coming home only to eat and sleep. This roaming increases the chances of being hit by a car or getting into fights. Neutering is effective in reducing fighting and roaming.

Non-neutered male cats mark their territory (inside or outside) by spraying strong-smelling urine on objects such as drapes, furniture and carpeting. Besides being unsanitary, the urine odor and stains are extremely difficult to remove. Neutering a male cat is effective in stopping urine spraying and also reduces the strong, unpleasant odor of male cat urine.

Intact male cats tend have poor grooming habits, causing them to become matted and scruffy-looking. Neutered male cats tend to pay more attention to keeping themselves clean.

These are some very humane reasons for neutering male cats. Allowing a tomcat to mate at will contributes to already epidemic cat overpopulation. Animal shelters must ultimately euthanize those cats for which no homes can be found.

Please discuss neutering your male cat with your veterinarian.

The benefits of spaying

Spaying is a safe and reliable method of birth control in both dogs and cats. With animal shelters overwhelmed with homeless and abandoned animals, spaying is an important way by which we can be responsible pet owners and not contribute to the problem of pet overpopulation.

In cats, the excessive vocalization and behavior associated with heat (estrus) cycles is avoided by spaying. Spaying will not make a cat fat or lazy. Obesity in pets is usually the result of overeating combined with lack of exercise. Spaying does not change a pet's personality or temperament, whether for good or for bad.

Spaying is a very safe surgical procedure. Please discuss spaying your female cat with your veterinarian.

First aid steps for poison control

Pets come in contact with potential toxins almost every day of their lives. There are many possible sources of poison: indoor and outdoor plants, household cleaners and chemicals, prescription medications, pesticides, herbicides, paints, and even foods. Poisonings are seen far more frequently in dogs than cats, because cats tend to be much fussier about what they ingest. Poisonings are often suspected rather than actually witnessed. For this reason, it is helpful for owners to be aware of the clinical signs associated with poisoning. Symptoms of poisoning depend on the type of poison encountered as well as the quantity.

Ingested poisons often cause intestinal upsets, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and abdominal pain or cramps. Examples of poisons that can cause internal upsets are: antifreeze, weed killers, oils, cleaning solutions, paints and plants.

Inhaled poisons may lead to sneezing, coughing, bluish-tinged gums and lips, and labored breathing. Examples of these poisons include: fumes from paints, cleaning fluids, and smoke.

Contact poisons tend to irritate the skin and gums, causing irritation, redness, peeling skin, hair loss, swelling, and pain. Examples of these include: solvents, soaps, and insecticides.

When dealing with a poisoning, the first step should be to remove the source of the poison. Contact your veterinary and notify her/him that you are on your way. Let them know what kind of poison is involved and the condition of the pet.

For ingested toxins, this could include administering neutralizing or antidotal agents. For contact poisons, the contact area could be washed with large volumes of water.

For inhaled poisons, immediate access to fresh air should be the first step. Where applicable, check the label on the poison container for instructions on first-aid procedures and antidotes.

If the patient is unconscious, do not try to give it anything by mouth. Wrap the patient in a warm blanket and transport it to the veterinarian with the head lower than the body. This is done to prevent shock and also to permit drainage from the mouth if necessary. If the patient is very excited or is convulsing, keep it from hurting itself, wrap it in a blanket, and transport to your veterinarian as quickly as possible. Save the material vomited so that the veterinarian can evaluate it and analyze it if necessary. Also take along containers, boxes, bottles, labels, and anything else related to the poison, since this may provide important clues and helpful information. Induce vomiting only if you are sure that corrosive substances such as alkalines, acids, or petroleum products are not involved. If in doubt, contact your veterinarian for advice.