5 Things I Wish Every Cat Owner Would Know (part 2)

As promised last time ( https://bit.ly/2lvR22t ), here are another 5 topics you should be aware of and pay attention to when caring for your cat(s).

6. Follow discharge instructions

Discharge instructions are made to be followed. This is one of those times where you get to learn from someone else’s challenges. That can save you and your cat from some serious trouble.

We know that wearing a plastic cone for 2 weeks is no fun. We know that being stuck in a crate for 4 to 8 weeks is boring. If there were an easier way to do things, we would tell you!

So please follow discharge instructions – all of them – all the time.

7. Get pet insurance

Pet insurance can make all of the difference in your cat’s life. If you cannot afford thousands of dollars in emergency or medical care, please consider getting pet insurance. And do your homework, as there are some really bad companies and really good companies out there.

8. Know thy enemy

Anesthesia is not the enemy.

Surgery is not the enemy.

Your pet’s condition is the enemy.

We are here to help you choose the best weapon to fight the enemy.

9. Know that prevention is a critical part of pet medicine

Every year, countless cats die because they did not receive basic, effective, affordable preventive care. Yearly exams are crucial to ensure your cat is and remains healthy and happy. Vaccinations should always be kept up to date, even for indoor cats. You never know when one might escape, get lost, or get hospitalized.

That thought applies to heartworm, flea and tick prevention as well. Your cat may not go outside, but you or your other pets who do can bring parasites inside your home. And obviously mosquitoes, who can carry parasites, can fly inside your house and bite an indoor cat.

Keep your kitties protected.

10. Don’t inadvertently starve your cat

When you realize it’s time for your cat to lose weight, be sure to create a feeding plan with your veterinarian. So many make the mistake of unknowingly restricting cats too much by cutting the amount of food down significantly.

This is very dangerous in cats. It can lead to deadly liver complications called hepatic lipidosis. We would rather have you trust your family vet, and feed a diet that was made specifically for weight loss.

These 5 additional tips can truly make a big difference in your cat’s life.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

5 Things I Wish Every Cat Owner Would Know (part 1)

Most cat owners are prepared to do whatever it takes to help their cat. Sadly, too many also rely on misconceptions and erroneous advice that can be misleading at best, and dangerous at worst. Every cat owner should be aware of the following issues:

1. Recognize pain and suffering

Most cats are extraordinarily stoic. It can be extremely difficult, but it is very important to recognize when cats are suffering.

If they are limping, they hurt.

If they are vomiting, something is wrong.

If they skip one or several meals, there is a reason.

If they have difficulty breathing, they may, in fact, be suffocating, and it’s terrifying for them. Seek help immediately.

Procrastination is heartbreaking for us.

2. Denial about weight can be deadly

If you describe your cat with words such as “solid,” “big boned” or “fluffy,” chances are your cat is overweight or obese. We know they love their treats, and that you love giving them, but too much weight is not healthy. Free feeding (i.e., not measuring the daily amount of food) is a recipe for chubbiness.

It takes years off of feline lives, it makes anesthesia riskier, and it makes recovery from surgery more difficult. Love your cats in ways that make them healthy and happy: hugs, petting, playing, snuggling, brushing, and interaction are all calorie-free forms of love and attention your cat craves!

3. Know whom to trust

As the saying goes, “You are what you eat,” so choosing the correct pet food is a big deal. Please talk to your vet when picking food. Feeding the wrong food to your cat can lead to obesity, bladder stones, urinary blockage and a poor hair coat.

In addition, given the regular pet food recalls, choosing a reputable brand is very important. The composition of pet food should be based on scientific research, not slick marketing.

4. Never assume

We cannot examine or treat your cat over the phone. We sometimes need to run lab work to find out what is going on with your cat. Yes, that cost is going to be in addition to the exam fee, but these tests are best for the health of your cat.

These diagnostic tests are our “X-ray glasses” to understand your cat’s condition. Without them, we might be blind.

This is really no different than in human medicine.

5. Spay or neuter your cat

Spaying a female before the first heat cycle dramatically reduces the risk of breast cancer. Spaying also totally prevents pyometra, a deadly uterine infection.

Neutering prevents testicular cancer and spraying.

Beyond those medical reasons, spayed or neutered pets are less likely to run away and get hit by a car or get into a fight. They also have a lower incidence of behavior problems.

We will go over 5 more tips next time.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

What is a TRUE emergency?

When should you rush to your family vet? When should you go to the emergency clinic? When is it safe to wait until the next day?

Here is a list of 13 true emergencies that require immediate vet care, day or night, week day or week end*.

  1. Severe bleeding or bleeding that doesn’t stop within 5 minutes.
  2. Choking, difficulty breathing or nonstop coughing and gagging.
  3. Bleeding from nose, mouth or rectum; coughing up blood; blood in urine.
  4. Inability to urinate or defecate, or obvious pain or straining while eliminating.
  5. Injuries to an eye.
  6. Your pet ate or drank something poisonous (antifreeze, xylitol, chocolate, rat poison etc.).
  7. Seizures and/or staggering and/or paralysis.
  8. Fractured bones or severe lameness.
  9. Obvious signs of pain or extreme anxiety.
  10. Heat stress or heatstroke.
  11. Severe vomiting or diarrhea – more than two episodes in a 24-hour period, or either of these combined with obvious illness or any of the other problems listed here.
  12. Refusal to drink for 24 hours or more.
  13. Unconsciousness.

The bottom line is that ANY concern about your pet’s health warrants, at a minimum, a call to your family vet.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

* This list was compiled by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Khloe’s story: shocking findings nobody expected

Khloe was a 2 month old adorable golden retriever puppy, with a soft look in her eyes.

When her owners purchased her, they thought they were bringing home a happy and healthy puppy.

But as soon as Khloe’s family brought her home, they noticed that something was not right. She was not playful. She was quiet and reserved.

What they saw was a terrified, sick, and painful puppy.

An owner’s touch is supposed to comfort a small puppy. But how can that be when the smallest contact causes severe pain?

In a matter of 3 days, Khloe began having fits of screaming and jaw chattering. The smallest touch anywhere on her body caused her terrible pain. Her front legs were weak.

Khloe’s case was perplexing. Figuring out where the pain was coming from was almost impossible. It seemed that her whole body was affected.

The owner had noticed a small scratch on the skin of the head, sustained after a brief fight between Khloe and their other dog.  It didn’t look like much and was already healing.

To help with the pain, I placed her on pain medications, and created a neck brace for her. It was difficult to tell, but it seemed that her pain might be stemming from her neck or her head.

Once Khloe was stable, she was transported to get an MRI of her head and neck.

When the MRI report arrived, we were shocked.

Khloe had several skull fractures, with severe changes in her brain, including encephalitis (irritation of the brain) and too much fluid. It was suspected to be due to an infection, most likely caused by the dog bite.

In addition, a brain abscess was suspected.

Suspected abscess

She had a mild displacement (hernia) of the back of her brain, called the cerebellum. And she had a severe syringomyelia extending caudally to the 8th thoracic vertebra (ie the middle of the chest).

Syringomyelia is a condition that is due to fluid-filled cavities in the spinal cord, usually in the neck. This disease is most often found in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

So what we suspected was that a brief fight was in fact violent enough that it caused skulls fractures, and in turn a serious infection of the brain.

Based on these findings, Khloe was immediately started on medications. Two antibiotics were chosen to treat the infection. Two pain killers were also prescribed. One of them is called gabapentin, which is often used to control syringomyelia.

Three weeks later, Khloe was doing great and was finally behaving like a 3 month old puppy should!

It is difficult to tell at this point whether the syringomyelia will be a life-long issue or not. For now, Khloe’s owners are taking it one day at a time. They are thrilled that their pup has beaten the odds.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified

4 (More) Truths about Pet Expenses

As promised last time, here are 4 other financial concerns to consider with your beloved furry friend.

1. Skipping basic pet care can drastically increase costs

As Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Here are five perfect illustrations of that quote:

. Regular dental cleanings are cheaper (and less painful) than a major dental procedure.

. Preventing internal parasites (e.g. worms) is cheaper than treating their consequences, such as vomiting or diarrhea.

. Preventing external parasites (e.g. fleas) is cheaper than fighting their effects, such as skin irritation or infection.

. Nipping small health problems in the bud is cheaper than treating the full-blown disease.

. Vaccinating your pet is always much cheaper than treating any of the diseases vaccines prevent so effectively. In addition, some of these diseases, such as the one caused by parvovirus, can be deadly.

Treating diseases like those can cost over 100 times the preventive care cost — not to mention that you can lose your pet altogether.

2. Pet proofing your home is worth the investment

Pet proofing your house is very important to try to prevent the need to surgically remove something that your pet should not have swallowed.

Ultra-classic examples include socks, toys and “string” type foreign bodies.

3. Feeding veterinarian-approved pet food will cost less in the long run

All pet foods are the same, right? Wrong! Without the proper diet, your dog or cat can develop many different diseases including:

Overweight or obesity

Skin conditions

Heart disease

Malnutrition

Bladder stones

Urinary blockage in cats

Metabolic issues

Proper nutrition can prevent health problems and large expenses.

4. Pet insurance is not an investment

I am a firm believer that pet insurance can be a life-saver. With one huge caveat: you need to pick the proper plan. They are some very good ones and some very bad ones.

I’ve heard pet owners complain “I’ve paid for pet insurance for years, and I never recouped my investment, so I stopped paying for it.”

Insurance is not an investment! It’s protection against a big expense in case of a serious medical or surgical situation.

Would you ever say “I’ve paid for fire insurance for years, and my house never burned down, so I stopped paying for it?”

Of course not!

Pet insurance gives you the peace of mind that you will be able to care for your pet, should there be a health crisis.

Life as a pet lover can be tough, but by taking the proper steps you can help alleviate the financial burden and take proper care of your loved ones.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified