Munchausen by Proxy for pets

Although it is rare, veterinarians should be aware of Munchausen by Proxy since it can involve pets.  To understand Munchausen by Proxy it is necessary to understand the Munchausen disorder.

Munchausen is a mental illness that involves faking, producing or prolonging an illness. People who have this disorder will go to great lengths to hide it. It is important to note that this disorder does not include faking illnesses to get out of going to work, winning a lawsuit, and it is not the same as hypochondria where the person actually believes that he is sick.

Munchausen by Proxy is when the mentally ill person fakes illnesses in a child, elderly person or pet to gain sympathy. There is not much data on Munchausen by Proxy in pets, but by understanding how it manifests itself in humans; a veterinarian may be able to detect it when it involves pets.

Here are some of the characteristics of this disorder:

The illness does not fit the classical picture

The Illnesses do not fit well together or do not relate

The caregiver is too helpful

The caregiver is often involved in the medical field

Complications can arise from the injuries

There are dramatic stories about the medical problems

Frequent visits to the doctor/veterinarian

Vague symptoms

Inconsistent symptoms

Conditions that worsen with no apparent reason

Eagerness for testing and surgeries

Extensive knowledge of medical terms and conditions

Frequenting many different medical professionals

Made-up histories

Faking symptoms

Self-harm or inflicting harm

Preventing healing

The persons most likely to have Munchausen disorder are those who:

Experienced a childhood trauma including sexual, emotional or physical abuse

Had a serious illness in childhood

A relative with a serious illness

Poor self-esteem or identity

Loss of a loved one early in life

Unfulfilled desire to be in the medical profession

Work in the health care field

According to the statistics, more males and young or middle-aged people are most likely to have Munchausen disorder.

What should you do if you suspect that your client has this disorder? First try to diagnose the illness in the pet with tests to be certain that it is real. Go for a cure rather than treat symptoms.

Talk to your pet’s owners and being aware of the symptoms listed above.  Listen to your gut feelings if they tell you that something isn’t right.  Most people try to second guess themselves when their first reaction was correct. If you suspect that a client may have Munchausen by Proxy you can alert your local animal cruelty organization. Munchausen by Proxy is a form of cruelty. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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Lifelong learning is important for old dogs and cats

We know that it is critical for humans to learn new things and keep their mind active as they age. It goes a long way to help our minds from deteriorating and creates positive emotions helping to stave off depression.

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The same is true for our dogs and cats as they age. Unfortunately physical limitations may keep an older dog or cat from participating in physical activities or even being physically unable to learn new tricks. However, Cognitive biologists from the Messerli Research Institute at Vetmeduni Vienna have developed a form of K9  “sudoku” to help old dogs stay mentally active.

Using a computer touch screen, they have developed a reward-based brain teaser. Once the dogs learn to use the touch screen the ones tested became avid computer gamers. The success of the project in the laboratory has led researchers to hope that industry will be motivated to develop the touch screen games for home use.

In the meantime, dog owners and cat owners (cats have the same mental needs as dogs) can set up treat puzzles or interactive games for their pets. There are some on the market that work well. You can google “treat puzzles for dogs or cats” to find them.

The main thing is to keep your aging pets mentally active. It will enrich their lives and keep their normal skills sharp.

Arthritis in Cats

Many people do not realize that cats suffer from arthritis. We are used to our cats being very athletic and supple. However, feline arthritis affects 80 to 90% of all cats. About 33% of younger cats develop arthritis, so it is not limited to older cats.

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Because cats can hide pain very well, it is prudent that a cat owner understand and look for the various signs that indicate your cat is developing or has arthritis.

Here are the warning signs:

  1. You cat cannot jump up or down or is reluctant to do it.
  2. General stiffness
  3. Difficulty getting up when they are laying down.
  4. Personality change such as not wanting to be held or petted like they used to.
  5. If your cat does not groom himself as much. This could be a sign that it is                                 painful to reach parts of his body.
  6. If your cat tends to hide whereas he did not before. Pain can cause a cat to want to               hide.
  7. Your cat may sleep more than normal.
  8. Loss of appetite.
  9. A cat may stop using the litter box because it is painful to do so.
  10. You may notice that your cats’ muscles are atrophied.

If you see any of the signs listed above, you must take your cat to your veterinarian for a checkup. Some of these signs could also be due to another type of illness.

Arthritis is not a clear-cut issue. There are different types of arthritis and they can have different causes, from infection to injury. Therefore it is critical that your veterinarian determines if your cat has arthritis, the type of arthritis your cat has and how to treat it.

Glyphosate, a common herbicide found in dog food

Glyphosate, the active herbicidal ingredient found in most if not all weed killers like Roundup, has been found in dog food. But don’t panic, advises the study, the level is only 0.7 percent of the U.S. glyphosate limit set for humans.

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The study was conducted by Brian Richards, senior research associate in biological and environmental engineering, and supported by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future’s Academic Venture Fund. The goal of this study was to determine how much glyphosate was found in crops, surface water in fields, soil and animal feed.

The study determined that the herbicide found its way into pet food through the plant matter included in the food. However, they could not pinpoint which plants had the glyphosate.

Although there is no risk to pets, the long-term consumption of glyphosate has not been studied. Also, my thought is this: While the levels are very low for human consumption, dogs and cats are much smaller than people. Therefore the amount by comparison may be a risk for pets. An average human adult who weighs 150 – 200 lbs. and can tolerate .07% but what about the average medium sized dog who weighs 40 pounds. What about children and pets who weigh less than 40 lbs.?

It seems from the study that there are little or no pet foods that do not have glyphosate in them. Does this mean that other pet food has glyphosate in it? Some pets only eat vegetable or plant products. This is another thing to consider for both humans and animals. More studies are needed.

The way you feed your cat can affect its health

How your feed your cat is an often-overlooked aspect of stress and health related issues. This was addressed by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). They released a Consensus Statement titled, “Feline Feeding Programs: Addressing Behavioral Needs to Improve Feline Health and Wellbeing” which was published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. A brochure is available for practitioners to give to clients.

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According to the brochure, it is important to allow cats to experience normal feeding behaviors, such as hunting and foraging, a well as eating frequent, small meals by themselves. By meeting a cat’s feeding needs, you will help alleviate or prevent stress-related issues. Stress can cause cystitis and over-eating problems. If indoor cats are not given enough activity, eating can become their main activity leading to obesity.

Multi-cat households must insure that some of the resident cats who are shy are getting enough food which can lead to health problems as well.

The report goes on to stress that each household should evaluate the needs of the cats in the home. Some solutions could be to include offering small, frequent meals, puzzle feeders or putting food in different locations and even including automatic feeders.

It a cat has mental or physical issues, it is important to consider the cat’s feeding program to see if that is a contributing factor.

Over 20,000 puppies die each year from Canine Parvovirus in Australia

Canine Parvovirus kills over 20,000 puppies each year in Australia. This is largely due to the fact that many people cannot afford preventative shots or expensive treatment. Often the puppies are killed or abandoned. About 40% are euthanized.

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The study conducted by lead researcher Dr. Mark Kelman, a veterinarian and PhD candidate at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science and published in Transboundary and Emerging Disease showed how wide-spread the problem is.

Fortunately Dr. Kelman has started a group called Paws for a Purpose which has started some pilot vaccination programs in high-risk rural areas to try and prevent cases from occurring.

Because of how diseases spread from country to country, it is very important to keep your dogs vaccinated no matter where you live. I personally have seen (years ago) litters of puppies die from CPV in rural Virginia due to a lack of shots or the use of lesser quality shots because people did not want to or could not spend the money for proper veterinary care.

Australia’s on-going problem with CPV stresses the need for quality veterinary care for all of our pets.

Pet Health Insurance

I received an interesting email from Nate Matherson about his PetsQuote, a pet insurance and general pet advice web site https://petsquote.com/

I think the concept is a good one because I know how difficult it was for me to decide which pet insurance to get for my dog. What caught my attention is that Nate has a very interesting article about bird insurance. I know from personal experience that avian veterinarian visits can be as costly as veterinarian visits for dogs and cats.

Veterinarian care for birds is critical since they often do not show illnesses until they are very sick. Regular yearly checkups for birds are just as important as it is for other pets.

Many people do not realize that some of the large bird species are very expensive to purchase, so bird lovers have a significant investment in their pet birds. Not to mention that they love their birds as much as dog and cat owners.

Currently my home consists of two dogs, one cat and five birds. Quite a mix! And yes, they all get along.

I hope Nate’s site will help some of you find the right insurance to help keep your pets healthy.

https://petsquote.com/pet-insurance-for-birds/

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Getting overweight cats to lose weight

Many cat owners who have overweight cats find it very difficult to get their cats to lose weight. There are a number of reasons for this but one of the main reasons is that owners often underestimate how overweight their cat is. In some cases, they do not recognize that their cat is overweight. The other factor that contributes to weight problems in cats is that cats do not exercise very much. Even when owners try to get their cats to exercise and succeed, it is not enough to help the cat lose weight.

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Kelly Swanson, Kraft Heinz Company Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Univ. of Illinois has conducted research to determine the safest way to help cats lose weight.

One of the problems associated with reducing weight in a cat is that there is a health risk if the cat loses too much weight too fast. The liver becomes over loaded with fat which can cause is hepatic lipidosis. The best way to prevent this is to reduce the cat’s food intake gradually. Cats will hit a plateau the same as people who go on a diet. The key is to keep slowly reducing their food intake.

Interestingly, the researchers monitored the overweight cats in the study to see if their activity level increased with their weight loss. They found that it did, a tiny bit, but not enough to make a difference. Therefore, it is important that cat owners continue to play with their cats to get them to exercise more. Don’t be afraid to experiment with ways to help your cat exercise. In the photo above, I discovered that my cat liked to chase tiny snowballs in footprints. Who would think a cat liked to play in snow?

Overall, the researches concluded that when the cats lost weight, they were generally healthier. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Toxoplasma gondii in cats and humans

The parasite Toxoplasma gondii (TG) is widely spread, infecting about 30 – 50% of the world human population. The main host for TG is our beloved pet cats and cats in general. The parasite is transported to humans by eating insufficiently cooked meat or by contact with cat feces, putting the parasite in the stomach. From there it passes through the intestinal wall. Next our immune cells attack it but instead of killing it, they become “Trojan horses.”

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People who have impaired immune systems and unborn fetuses that are infected with Toxoplasmosis have a high risk of death. However healthy people may show only mild symptoms.

Studies have shown that carriers of TG have more instances of mental illness such as schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorders. Other studies have illustrated that people who are infected with TG may be more prone to aggressive and risky behavior.  This is because TG will eventually get into a person’s brain.

The good news is that since the scientists at Stockholm University have unraveled the mystery of how TG works and is transported, they have found that when mice are infected with TG and given regular blood pressure medicine, it inhibits its spread.

Grain free diet for dogs may be linked to heart disease

Recently veterinarians have seen an increased in canine dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and when they compared the diets of the affected dogs, they found the common factor was a grain free diet.  The pet foods that replaced grains with peas, lentils and other legumes or potatoes are suspect.

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DCM is affecting dog breeds that are not genetically predisposed to this heart condition. Scientists have shown that dogs can digest grain. They may have difficulty digesting raw grains but those found in dog food are easily digested.

I believe the myth about grains started when researchers compared dogs with wolves since wolves cannot digest grain.

Dog food manufacturers are always looking for ways to persuade people to buy their dog food and this is one way that they can convince people to pay a higher price for grain free food.

Dogs are not wolves and should not be treated as such. The only time you must restrict a dog from eating grain is if the dog is allergic to a specific grain such as corn, wheat, etc.

Therefore, be cautious about feeding your dog grain free food. However, do feed your dog a high-quality food such as Wysong or Annamaet.