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Oakwood Hills Animal Hospital Blog
I have had the privilege of caring for many cats through the years, not only my own but those that have trusted me with their own beloved felines. I see the list below in action every day. Occasionally together we have managed more than one of these conditions concurrently. Recently I had the opportunity to practice what I preach about follow up laboratory evaluations to make sure our patients are as balanced and healthy as possible.
My own medical journey with Oreo, our family’s previously overweight black and white 16.5 year old feline, began about 4 years ago at the time of her routine senior screening. All values were excellent except her thyroid level was starting to creep above the normal range. She was normal in all other ways so we elected to watch and retest 3 months later. At that time the T4 had tripled, thus treatment was necessary. We started her on oral medication to get things under control while exploring other options. During the next few weeks it became a circus trying to catch her to either poke a tablet or slip some liquid into her mouth or food, and finally resorting to the version that can be applied to the inner skin of the ear. During the “non chasing her” hours, she retreated under the bed coming out only to eat and use the litter box. This was not going to work long term. We elected to take her to Animal Emergency and Referral Center for the I-131 treatment which is a radioactive injection that targets thyroid tissue, effectively killing the cells causing the concern.
As part of the follow up for that treatment I checked lab values to make sure the treatment had worked and had not uncovered any other issues. We stretched that testing interval out as it appeared everything was fine. Then about 6 months ago, a routine sampling revealed that her kidney function was starting to be less than optimal. She had lost some weight in this period as well. Simply switching her to a kidney friendly diet led to a stabilization of those values and some weight gain. A routine check in Feb 2019 showed that the values had started to creep up a bit not severely but a little troublesome. I rechecked 6 weeks later as I had some travel plans that were taking me out of town for several days during the upcoming 2 weeks. Thankfully the kidneys were stable and yet LO AND BEHOLD her glucose value was 800! (normal is 90 – 110) This had been tested each time as part of the panel. I did not believe the lab was correct. I retested with our own hospital equipment and yes, our machine only measures to 650 and she was greater than that.
Insulin is the only proven treatment for diabetes mellitus in the feline. Dietary approaches can be made early on in the treatment and sometimes this is enough. Oreo needed insulin, and she needed it quickly. I went to Walgreen’s to pick up the insulin, went home to retrieve her for admittance to Oakwood Hills, and left early the next morning for the first part of my out of town travels. Within a couple of days of starting the insulin my husband elected to bring her home to try this himself until I returned to help manage this.
We are still working on the scheduling to try to be as consistent as possible. I always advise my clients when considering therapy, to make sure you can commit to a schedule as your cat is really depending on you. As an aside, I usually would make the comment that I would have a very difficult time treating any of my own pets for this condition as our household schedule is anything but routine. The journey continues and I know we will do our best to take care of her. She deserves it and we are the only ones that can help her.
Oreo is a living breathing example of experiencing 3 of the 5 medical conditions listed below. We hope that she never completes the list. She demonstrates the value of routine blood screening even though everything seems fine outwardly.
When it comes to caring for your cat, I have a few simple recommendations:
By following these basic tips, you can help keep your four-legged, feline friends healthy–potentially for decades! But as cat guardians, you should also be aware of five “silent” killers in cats. By knowing what the most common silent killers are, you can know what clinical signs to look for. With most of these diseases, the sooner the clinical signs are recognized, the sooner we veterinarians can treat.
1. Chronic kidney disease
One of the top silent killers of cats is chronic kidney disease (CKD) (This is sometimes called chronic renal failure or chronic kidney injury). These terms are all semantically the same, and basically mean that 75% of both the kidneys are ineffective and not working. Clinical signs of CRD include:
Thankfully, with appropriate management, cats can live with CKD for years (unlike dogs where CKD usually progresses more rapidly). Chronic management may include a low-protein diet, frequent blood work, increasing water intake (e.g., with a water fountain or by feeding a grueled canned food), medications and even fluids under the skin (which many pet guardians do at home, once properly trained).
[10 common causes of kidney disease in cats.]
Hyperthyroidism is an endocrine disease where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This is seen in middle-aged to geriatric cats, and can result in very similar clinical signs to chronic kidney disease including:
However, as hyperthyroidism increases the metabolism of cats, it causes one defining sign: a ravenous appetite despite weight loss. It can also result in:
Thankfully, treatment for hyperthyroidism is very effective and includes either a medication (called methimazole, surgical removal of the thyroid glands (less commonly done), a special prescription diet called y/d® Feline Thyroid Health), or I131 radioiodine therapy. With hyperthyroidism, the sooner you treat it, the less potential side effects or organ damage will occur in your cat.
[Learn more about hyperthyroidism in cats.]
3. Diabetes mellitus
Another costly, silent killer that affects cats is diabetes mellitus (DM). As many of our cats are often overweight to obese, they are at a greater risk for DM. With diabetes, the pancreas fails to secrete adequate amounts of insulin (Type I DM) or there is resistance to insulin (Type II DM). Insulin is a natural hormone that drives sugar (i.e., blood glucose) into the cells. As a result of the cells starving for glucose, the body makes more and more glucose, causing hyperglycemia (i.e., a high blood sugar) and many of the clinical signs seen with DM. Common clinical signs for DM are similar to those of Chronic kidney disease and hyperthyroidism and include:
Treatment for DM can be costly, as it requires twice-a-day insulin injections that you have to give under the skin. It also requires changes in diet (to a high protein, low carbohydrate diet), frequent blood glucose monitoring, and frequent veterinary visits. With supportive care and chronic management, cats can do reasonably well; however, once diabetic complications develop (e.g., diabetic ketoacidosis, hyperosmolar, hyperglycemic syndrome), DM can be life threatening.
[Editors note: Learn more about the differences in diabetes testing.]
[Learn more about diabetes mellitus in cats.]
4. Cardiac disease
Heart disease is very frustrating for both cat owners and veterinarians. That’s because, while dogs almost always have a loud heart murmur (i.e., one we can hear with our stethoscope) indicative of heart disease, cats often don’t have a heart murmur present. In fact, it’s estimated that 50% of cats with heart disease have no auscultable heart murmur. Clinical signs of heart disease include:
Once cardiac disease is diagnosed (typically based on physical exam, chest radiographs, Cardiopet® proBNP Test, and an ultrasound of the heart called an “echocardiogram”), treatment may include emergency care for oxygen therapy, diuretics, blood pressure support, and heart medications. Long-term prognosis is poor, as the heart medication does not cure the heart disease; it prevents cardiac disease from getting worse. The exception is when cardiac disease is caused by hyperthyroidism, which often gets better once the hyperthyroidism is treated!
[Learn more about feline heart disease.]
As dogs and cats live longer, we as veterinarians are seeing more cases of cancer. The most common type of cancer in cats is gastrointestinal cancer, often due to lymphosarcoma. Clinical signs of cancer include:
Once diagnosed, the prognosis for cancer is poor. For this reason, the sooner you notice clinical signs, the sooner diagnosis and treatment may be initiated.
[Learn more about cancer and cats.]
Note that there are other common emergencies that can cause death in cats, including trauma, urinary obstructions, poisonings, and more. When in doubt, to keep your cat safe, follow these 5 simple tips:
When it comes to your cat’s health, make sure you’re aware of these common silent killers. The sooner you notice the signs, the sooner we can run blood work and diagnose the medical problem. The sooner we diagnose the problem, the sooner we can treat it!
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Unfortunately, accidents do happen. When a medical emergency befalls our furry friends, pet parents may find it difficult to make rational decisions, especially if something occurs during the middle of the night. That’s why it’s crucial to have an emergency plan in place—before you need it.
Finding 24-Hour Emergency Care for Your Pet
Talk to your veterinarian about an emergency protocol. Does your vet provide 24-hour service or does he or she work with an emergency clinic in the area? Some practices have multiple veterinarians on staff who rotate on-call services after hours. Check to see if your primary care vet has partners who might answer an emergency call. It’s also a smart idea to keep the name, number and address of your local emergency clinic tacked to the refrigerator or stored in your cell phone for easy access.
Signs Your Pet May Need Emergency Care
Your dog may need emergency care because of severe trauma—caused by an accident or fall—choking, heatstroke, an insect sting, household poisoning or other life-threatening situation. Here are some signs that emergency care is needed:
Pets who are severely injured may act aggressively toward their pet parents, so it’s important to first protect yourself from injury.
For dogs: Approach your dog slowly and calmly; kneel down and say his name. If the dog shows aggression, call for help. If he’s passive, fashion a makeshift stretcher and gently lift him onto it. Take care to support his neck and back in case he’s suffered any spinal injuries.
For cats: Gently place a blanket or towel over the cat’s head to prevent biting; then slowly lift the cat and place her in an open-topped carrier or box. Take care to support the cat’s head and avoid twisting her neck in case she’s suffered a spinal injury.
Once you feel confident and safe transporting your pet, immediately bring him to an emergency care facility. Ask a friend or family member to call the clinic so the staff knows to expect you and your pet.
First Aid Treatments to Perform At Home
Most emergencies require immediate veterinary care, but first aid methods may help you stabilize your pet for transportation.
Performing CPR on Your Pet
CPR may be necessary if your pet remains unconscious after you have removed the choking object. First check to see if he’s breathing. If not, place him on his side and perform artificial respiration by extending his head and neck, holding his jaws closed and blowing into his nostrils once every three seconds. (Ensure no air escapes between your mouth and the pet’s nose.) If you don’t feel a heartbeat, incorporate cardiac massage while administering artificial respiration—three quick, firm chest compressions for every respiration—until your dog resumes breathing on his own.
What To Do If Your Pet Eats Something Poisonous
If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435. Trained toxicologists will consider the age and health of your pet, what and how much he ate, and then make a recommendation—such as whether to induce vomiting—based on their assessment. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.
On September 26, 1961, the 87th United States Congress passed a joint resolution (Public Law 87-319) requesting that the President of the United States proclaim the third week of March National Poison Prevention Week. On February 7, 1962, President John F. Kennedy responded to this request and proclaimed the third week of March as National Poison Prevention Week. The first National Poison Prevention Week was therefore observed in March 1962.
This link gives excellent up-to-date information for pets: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control
The third week of March 2019 is Poison Prevention Week, marking over five decades of safer homes and saved lives. While this nationally-recognized awareness effort was originally directed towards parents of two-legged kids, it has since morphed to include our four-legged canine and feline family members!
In conjunction with Poison Prevention Week, Pet Poison Helpline, an animal poison control based out of Minneapolis, recently released the Top 10 canine toxins from 2012. A huge shout out to them for helping spread this great info! We’ll cover the top 5 most common dog poisons this week, followed by the remaining in Part II (make sure to check out the top 5 cat toxins of 2012, too!).
Top 10 canine toxicants:
While one or two chocolate chips isn’t a big deal for your dog, larger amounts can be poisonous. Chocolate contains the chemical theobromine, a chemical similar to caffeine, which is toxic to dogs (and less so, to cats). Remember this fact: the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. That means that baker’s chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and gourmet dark chocolates are the most dangerous, while white chocolate (which barely has any real chocolate in it) is generally less of a poisoning concern. Signs of chocolate poisoning include gastrointestinal signs (e.g., drooling, vomiting, diarrhea), an elevated heart rate, abnormal heart rhythm, anxiety, hyperactivity, and even tremors or seizures. Don’t forget about foods covered or dipped in chocolate; these can also be dangerous, as in addition to the chocolate, the food inside (including macadamia nuts, espresso beans, and raisins) can result in a different type of poisoning too.
Mouse and rat poison (rodenticides)
When it comes to mouse and rat poisons, there are several different active ingredients and types of action, making all of them potentially poisonous to dogs. Depending on what type was ingested, poisoning can result in internal bleeding, brain swelling, kidney failure, or even severe vomiting and bloat. Signs of poisoning include difficult breathing, coughing (of blood), walking drunk, tremoring, seizuring, vomiting, excessive thirst or urination, and acute death. Personally, I’m not a huge advocate of having mouse and rat poison around your house if you have pets, as they pose a poisoning risk to your dog, cat, and to wildlife. When in doubt, consider using the more humane snap traps instead (which quickly kills mice and rats without poison).
Vitamins and minerals
While you may think that your multivitamins pose little poisoning risk to your dog, they can be poisonous when ingested in larger amounts. There are 4 potentially toxic ingredients commonly found within multivitamins including xylitol, vitamin D, iron, and calcium. Chewable, sugar-free vitamins often contain xylitol, and can result in signs of low blood sugar and even liver failure. Vitamin D – when ingested in toxic amounts– can result in a very elevated calcium level in the body, resulting in secondary kidney failure. Iron, which is found in very high levels in pre-natal vitamins, can result in severe vomiting, diarrhea, even organ damage/failure. Finally, oral calcium levels can transiently result in a high calcium in the body.
NSAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
Most of you know that you should never give any human over-the-counter (OTC) medication without consulting a veterinarian, right? That’s because common human drugs including NSAIDs (e.g. Advil®, Aleve® and Motrin) can cause serious harm to pets when ingested, and cause stomach and intestinal ulcers as well as potential kidney failure. Even veterinary NSAIDs – while safer than human NSAIDs – can result in similar problems when ingested in large amounts. That’s why it’s so important to keep chewable veterinary prescription NSAIDs out of reach – even your cat finds them flavorable. Signs of poisoning include inappetance, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, black-tarry stool, lethargy, bad breath, and excessive thirst and urination. Rarer signs include seizures, coma, and even death.
Many geriatric humans are commonly on heart medications such as calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, diuretics, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These cardiac drugs are commonly used for hypertension and to prevent heart failure. While we use these medications in veterinary medicine too, they can be quite dangerous to pets when ingested in even small amounts. Signs of poisoning include a very abnormal heart rate, collapse, low blood pressure, excessive thirst and urination, and even organ failure. When in doubt, make sure to keep these very dangerous pills away from your pets.
If you think your dog or cat may have accidentally gotten into something poisonous, call your veterinarian or an animal poison control center immediately to find out how to treat it. With any type of poisoning, the sooner you treat a poisoning situation, the safer it is for your pet and the less expensive it is to you!
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Did you know that ticks are not just a spring and summer problem? You might be surprised to learn that ticks can be found year round, and not just in warmer climates. A 2010 study from the Journal of Clinical Investigation showed that some infected ticks have actually developed a type of anti-freeze glycoprotein to survive the cold. Unfortunately, this means that just because winter has arrived, dog parents cannot let their guard down when it comes to ticks.
Why should winter ticks concern you?
Ticks are found throughout the United States and can spread diseases like Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis, Tularemia and Babesia. Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are a significant source of morbidity in people and dogs — in particular, Lyme disease; the CDC says it has been reported in almost every state as of 2013,and its prevalence is increasing in the Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest according to a Parasites & Vectors report found here. Check with your veterinarian about the risk of Lyme disease in your area and click here to view the CAPC prevalence maps for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
Signs and symptoms of tick-borne illness
The signs and symptoms of tick-borne illnesses depend on the particular illness. For example, Lyme disease symptoms may include:
Many other tick-borne illnesses have no signs or take months for symptoms to develop. Since many of these illnesses either have subtle signs and symptoms, or mimic other diseases, screening for tick-borne illnesses is a vital component of a dog’s annual exam. If your dog has been exposed to ticks, speak with your veterinarian about screening tests and prevention rather than waiting for symptoms to develop. Click here for potential symptoms of more tick-borne diseases.
Treatment of tick-borne disease
Treatment varies depending on the type of tick-borne illness. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borelia burgdorferi and is treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics. Other tick borne illnesses caused by different pathogens require different antibiotics.
Diagnosis of tick-borne disease
Since many affected animals may not show signs of disease, or may take months to develop symptoms, screening tests are a vital component of a dog’s annual exam. These tests screen for the most common tick-borne illnesses, such as Lyme disease, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis.
How to protect your dogs from winter ticks
Speak with your veterinarian to find out if ticks are a year round problem in your area and if she recommends your pet be vaccinated for Lyme disease.
Consider these three tips to help protect your dogs from tick borne illnesses:
While spring and summer are the most dangerous times when it comes to ticks, it’s important to remember that these creepy critters can be found year round depending on the weather in your area. By keeping your dogs on tick preventatives, screening for tick-borne illnesses yearly, and checking for ticks, you are doing everything you can to keep your dogs safe from ticks.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Winter Holiday Hazards for Pets Tina Wismer, DVM, DABVT, DABT
Date Reviewed/Revised: 10/03/2018
Photo by VIN
The holiday season is upon us, and many pet parents plan to include their furry companions in the festivities. As you gear up for the holidays, it is important to try to keep your pet’s eating and exercise habits as close to their normal routine as possible. Also, please be sure to steer pets clear of the following unhealthy treats, toxic plants and dangerous decorations.
Be Careful with Seasonal Plants and Decorations
Avoid Holiday Food Dangers
Plan a Pet-Safe Holiday Gathering
Always Be Prepared !!!!
Your animal may become poisoned in spite of your best efforts to prevent it. You should keep telephone numbers for your veterinarian, a local emergency veterinary service, and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-4 ANI-HELP) in a convenient location. If you suspect that your pet has ingested something poisonous, seek medical attention immediately.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center
The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, an operating division of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is a unique, emergency hotline providing 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week telephone assistance to veterinarians and pet owners. The Center’s hotline veterinarians can quickly answer questions about toxic substances found in our everyday surroundings that can be dangerous to animals. The Center maintains a wide collection of reference materials and computer databases that help provide toxicological information for various species. Veterinary professionals provide around-the-clock, on-site coverage of the Center. The licensed staff members share over one hundred and ten years of combined call center experience and over seventy-five years of combined toxicology, clinical, and diagnostic experience. The phone number of the Center is 1-888-4-ANI-HELP (1-888-426-4435) and the website is www.apcc.aspca.org.