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?

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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.

What’s in your dog’s treats?

Giada Morelli at the University of Padua in Italy and other researchers analyzed 32 popular dog treats that could be purchased in pet shops and supermarkets. They examined 5 biscuit types, ten tender treats, three meat-based strips, five bovine skin rawhides, twelve chewable sticks and six dental care sticks.

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They analyzed the ingredients based on the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines looking for the levels of minerals, starch, simple sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and the amino acid hydroxyproline (a component of collagen).

What they found were rather surprising and should be a caution to dog owners. Seventy-six percent of the treats contained 4 -9 ingredients that were not specifically listed on the label. For example, the classification “cereal” was listed but not what kind. Treats that were made of meat had “meat and animal derivatives” listed instead of which meat and what animal derivatives.

About half of the treats listed “sugars,” and all of them had various amounts of minerals. The researchers suggested that further studies be done on a wider variety of treats and most important, that dog owners who have dogs with sensitivities or diseases should exercise extreme caution when selecting and giving their dogs treats since the ingredients could cause medical issues for those dogs.

While on the topic of treats and chews, to test if the treat or chew is safe for your dog, put a piece of it in water and if it does not dissolve in five to ten minutes, there is a good chance that it will not dissolve in your dog’s intestines and can cause bowel blockage. High on the list of items that cause bowel blockage are rawhide, bones and other hard, chew items.

Feline Epilepsy

Many people realize that dogs can have epileptic seizures, but do not realize the cats can suffer from epilepsy as well. There are two general types of epilepsy, intracranial epilepsy, which is caused by defects in the brain on a cellular level and is more common in dogs and humans, but seems to be rare in cats, and extracranial which are seizures due to injuries outside the skull.

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Seizures in cats are usually caused by brain tumors, infractions or even a stroke. Sometimes the cause of the seizures can be due to kidney disease, liver disease, hypoglycemia and exposure to toxins and poisons.

Some signs of an epileptic event are:

Blank stare

Shake one leg

Cry out in pain

Falling to one side

Uncontrollable Urinating or Defecating

Paddling their feet

Loss of consciousness

Jaw chomping

Become clingy to owner

Shake

Undue restlessness

Unusual salivation

Loss of vision temporally

If your cat shows any of the above signs an immediate visit to your veterinarian is warranted.

Idiopathic epilepsy usually shows up between the ages of 1 and 3 years of age. Seizures are most likely to occur when the cat is resting or asleep, in the morning or at night.

Seizures that are a result of an injury will show up after the injury. The treatment will depend on the cause of the seizure and may require a battery of tests since the seizures can result from various diseases.

If your cat suffers from seizures, keep a log of when the seizure starts and when it ends. It is also a good idea to take note of any environmental events that could have caused the seizure.

If the seizure lasts for more than five minutes get the cat to the veterinarian right away, this is an emergency. If your cat is diagnosed as being epileptic, do not panic. Be sure to have a plan for when the seizure occurs to keep the cat safe, in a place where the cat cannot get hurt. Cats will not swallow their tongue so there is no need to put anything in their mouth. Keep in mind that your cat may take a few hours to return to normal behavior.

By understanding the nature of your cat’s seizures, you can help your cat live a safe, long and normal life. While seizures are frightening to look at, with your veterinarian’s help, they can be controlled.

 

 

Hydrating Working Dogs

Dogs who work in hot weather such as border patrol dogs, search and rescue dogs as well as military dogs often become dehydrated when they work in hot environments.

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Handlers of these dogs do not agree about how to hydrate their dogs to prevent heat stroke and dehydration. There are three major ways that handlers hydrate their dogs.

  1. Free access to drinking water
  2. Subcutaneous hydration (a needle under the skin) of water and electrolytes
  3. Drinks containing electrolytes

Researchers studied all three methods and found that they all worked. However, they found that by using a chicken flavored electrolyte drink, even dogs who were reluctant to drink, would drink more liquid.

The researchers tested the dog’s urine and found that they passed the sodium and therefore did not have a buildup of sodium in their body which had been a concern about using electrolyte drinks. Thus, drinking a chicken flavored electrolyte drink did not have any negative effects on the dogs.

Allergies in Pets

All types of pets, just like people, can suffer from allergies. Unfortunately, pets cannot tell us when they feel poorly. We must look for the symptoms.

There are a few common types of allergies in pets but not all are true allergies, some may be sensitivities which can be as bothersome as a full-blown allergy.

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Skin Allergies are the most common type and are usually caused by flea bites, food and things in their environment.

Flea allergies are the easiest to find and stop. By keeping your pet free of fleas, you can prevent the allergic reactions. If fleas are the problem you may see red and inflamed skin, scabbing, and flea dirt which looks like small black dots.

Flea dirt or droppings are digested blood so if you put one in a drop of water it will turn red. To get rid of the fleas you need to consult with your veterinarian as well as an exterminator. The veterinarian will help make your pet more comfortable and control the fleas, however, if your pet has fleas, they will be in your home. You must use an exterminator, or the fleas will come back because at this point they have infested your house. The eggs are microscopic and will hatch periodically.

Sometimes various foods can cause sensitivities that are not full allergic reactions. Typically, food related allergies and sensitivities manifest themselves by causing the pet’s skin to itch. This usually happens around their paws and ears. Sometimes they can get an upset stomach as well. The usual culprits are beef, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy and milk.

Environmental allergens are often the same ones that bother people. Things like dust, mold, and pollen are often seasonal, so you may not see the allergic reaction year-round. The typical areas that are affected are: paws, ears, wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes, and between the toes.

Although it is more rare, acute allergic reactions can be a result of bee stings or shots. For this reason keep a close eye on your pet after being vaccinated. Signs can be facial, throat, lips, eyelids or earflap swelling. Any of these signs should be an immediate visit to your veterinarian or emergency clinic. Always have the phone number and address of your nearest emergency clinic handy.

Overall, the general signs of allergies or sensitivities are:

  • Itchiness
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Constant licking

It is critical that you take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as you notice any sign of an allergy or sensitivity. If your pet continues to scratch, rub or bite an area of his body, it can lead to other types of infections, not to mention that your pet may feel miserable. Keep in mind that allergies and sensitivities can develop at any time in a pet’s life, therefore you must be vigilant and watch for any signs that they have developed.

Allergies and sensitivities will often affect your pet’s behavior which you may be the first thing you notice. If your pet seems a bit withdrawn, sullen, irritable, not as interested in playing, it would be a good idea to pay close attention and look for signs of allergies or other illnesses. It is always wise to err on the side of caution and schedule a visit to your veterinarian rather than wait until your pet becomes more uncomfortable. Because of the potential seriousness of allergies, it is not in your pet’s best interest to try and treat them yourself.

Like people, pets can lead a happy normal life with allergies if they are treated and if possible, prevented.

 

 

Treatment for noise phobia in dogs

There is a new way to treat noise phobia in dogs that does not sedate the dog. SILEO is administered in a gel form and does help dogs with noise phobia such as fireworks and thunder. An advantage of this product is that it works quickly so that it can be applied just before or at onset of a noise event. Another advantage is that it does not require the owner to use behavior modification techniques for SILEO to work.

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However, it must be obtained through your veterinarian and cannot be used if your dog has certain medical conditions. We can thank Dr. Mira Korpivaara at Orion Pharma for developing this product for dog owners.

 

Delayed weaning makes cats better companions

According to a study conducted by Professor Hannes Lohi’s research group at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Faculty of Medicine as well as at the Folkhälsan Research Centre, cats have less behavior problems if they are allowed to stay with their mother until 14 weeks of age.

Professor Lohi’s group studied about 6000 cats and learned that behavior problems are more widespread than expected. They found that 80+% of the cats surveyed had mild behavior problems while 25% had serious behavior problems. The problems included shyness, wool sucking, excessive grooming and aggression.

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The study found that cats weaned under the age of 8 weeks had more aggression issues and other behavior problems. Those weaned at 14 weeks had fewer behavior problems.

Early weaning seemed to manifest itself in aggression which according to the study, suggests changes in the neurotransmitters of the basal ganglia. What this means to the person who owns a cat who exhibits aggressive behavior as a result of early weaning, is that the behavior is not a result of the cat’s experience but is rather “hard wired.” Behavior modification in this case will not produce the same results as it will with a cat who is aggressive because of trauma or experiences.

This should be taken into consideration when adopting kittens who are very young and/or who were feral or barn cats. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they may have been forced to be weaned prior to 14 weeks.

Allowing kittens to stay with their mother and litter for two more weeks is an inexpensive, easy way to help cats and cat owners have a long happy relationship.

A new species of tick invades the Mid-Atlantic

The longhorned tick, (Haemaphysalis longicornis), also known as the bush tick or cattle tick can seriously hurt or even cause death in livestock. The ticks can last for up to a year without feeding. They have been found in other countries such as Russia, China, and Japan.

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(Although this is not a longhorned tick, it is about the size of the tick. The longhorned tick has a pattern on its body that resembles a turtle shell.)

When the tick infests cattle, it can cause severe blood loss and even death, especially in calves. In dairy cows it can cause reduced milk production and in sheep poorer wool quantity and quality. This is because the tick transmits theileriosis.

In humans and pets the tick can transmit Q-fever and anaplasmosis. Q-fever can cause death in humans. The symptoms include “high fever, headache, sore throat, malaise, nausea, diarrhea, chest pain, nonproductive cough, pneumonia, and hepatitis. Neurological manifestations occur in about one percent of patients and could develop into meningitis, encephalitis, myelitis and/or peripheral neuropathy. Endocarditis, infection of the heart valves, is the most serious manifestation. However, it is usually found in patients with preexisting valvular disease. Unfortunately, the mortality rate is increasingly high, currently at 65 percent.”

The signs of Anaplasmosis are “Fever, Severe headache, Muscle aches, Chills and shaking. Less frequent symptoms of anaplasmosis include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, cough, diarrhea, aching joints and change in mental status.

Although people of any age can get anaplasmosis, it tends to be most severe in the aging or immune-compromised. Severe complications can include respiratory failure, renal failure and secondary infections.”

Although the longhorned tick has only been found in the Mid-Atlantic, it is just a matter of time until it will be found across the country.