Saturday, February 26, 2011

Let The Games Begin!

So, it's time for your cat Mitten's annual veterinary exam.  Congratulations!  Let the games begin!  Challenge number one:  Find the cat carrier.  Challenge two:  Find the cat.  After an extensive search, you see two glowing eyes watching you from the back corner under your bed.  Since Mittens seems perfectly comfortable and has no interest in emerging, you get to maneuver under the bed (it was a lot easier for the cat) and pull her - gently - out.  Challenge three:  Get the cat in the carrier.  (When did she grow those extra legs?)  Every time you pry one foot off the door frame, she clings harder with the other three.  By the time you get her into the carrier, you haven't even left the house, but you and your cat have both had enough for one day.  Imagine how stressed you are by the time you get to us.  There has to be an easier way!
There is a much easier way, and it's surprisingly simple.  Leave the cat carrier(s) out all the time.  I know, you're rolling your eyes, but bear with me.  Does your cat jump inside every new box you bring into the house?  So does mine.  A cat carrier with a towel can be a lot cozier than a boring old toaster box.  Of course, your cat avoids that cat carrier at all costs, but that's because it only comes out when he has to leave the house.  If it's out all the time, sooner or later, his curiosity will get the better of him.  When you walk past, toss in a treat or a toy.  Once kitty starts wandering in on a regular basis, close the door for a few minutes every once in a while, then carry it from one spot to another.  Eventually, you can even take your cat for the occasional car ride.  All of these little things will help you and your cat realize that this doesn't have to be a big ordeal.  Still skeptical?  Check out
Kelley Wagner, CVT

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spay Away Pyometra!

To spay or not to spay, that is the question.  The reasons in the no-spay column are precious few, except for situations in which the health of the pet precludes surgery or to breed a female that meets very specific criteria.  The reasons in the pro-spay column are too numerous to discuss in a single article, so I will focus on one specific reason: Pyometra.  A pyometra is a pus-filled uterus (affectionately referred to as 'pus puppies' by those of us in the field).

A pyometra starts as endometritis (an abnormal uterine lining) that is susceptible to infection.  Bacteria are introduced through the relaxed cervix during estrus (the heat cycle).  After estrus, the cervix closes, locking in the infection.  Now, the uterus becomes a big abscess which is often as large as a pregnant uterus and can weigh several pounds.

The signs of trouble are subtle for a few or even as long as several weeks.  Decreased activity and appetite, increased water consumption, and uveitis (inflamed eyes) are common symptoms.  Soon the body becomes overwhelmed and seriously ill.

Surgery to remove the infected organ is required and is performed as soon as the pet is stable enough to undergo anesthesia-usually within a few hours of admission to the hospital.  The fear is that the uterus will rupture and the infection will spread throughout the abdominal cavity.  If this complication occurs, the prognosis for recovery decreases.  The good news is that if all goes well, the prognosis is excellent, and the patients are often notably improved and even eating within hours of recovery from anesthesia.

The Lesson:  the routine procedure that was pooh-poohed at an early age (the ovariohysterectomy, or spay) has turned into a life-threatening emergency situation.  A routine spay costs around $325.  Pyometra treatment without complications costs $1300, and up from there if problems develop (including potential loss of your companion).  As I have said before Nike got it right, when it comes to spaying: JUST DO IT!!

Brian C. Ray, DVM

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Hard to diagnose; Hard to treat; Hard to breathe; Hard on your cat.  H.A.R.D. (Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease) is the name of the syndrome caused by Dirofilaria Immitus (Heartworms) in cats.  Recent studies have proven that many cats with reactive airway disease (asthma) and other types of lung disease have heartworm infections.

The most worrisome aspect of this condition is that cats are affected by immature stages of worms that cannot be detected on available test.  Current heartworm tests are for adult female worms, so if a cat has only a a few male worms or the lung disease is from immature worms, the disease is hard to diagnose.  Compounding the concern, we can only treat the symptoms.  Unlike dogs, it is considered too risky to treat the adult worms in cats.

You may ask yourself what can be done.  Here is the good news about a hard situation:  Prevention Is Easy!  It's the only practical and effective approach.  Also, seriously, why do cats not deserve the same level of parasite protection as that given to dogs?  No, their indoor lifestyle does not reduce their risk to anything close to an acceptable level.

Just as in dogs, there are a variety of monthly preventative products that are very safe and very effective.  These products can also prevent flea, mite, lice, and intestinal parasite infestations.  Remember, if your pets are free from parasites, you and your family will be too!

Brian C. Ray, DVM

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Update on Better Oral Health

Periodontal disease is the plaque-induced inflammation/infection of the gums, periodongal ligament, and alveolar bone; in other words, the structures that hold the teeth in the jaw.  Besides the obvious eventual loss of teeth, pets with periodontal disease experience mouth pain, bad breath, and the potential for infection to travel through the blood to the organs, especially the heart, kidneys, liver and lungs.  You may be saying to yourself, "Surely not my pet, Doc!"  The fact is 85% of pets are affected by three years of age.

Breeds of particular concern are the toy dogs (Yorkie, Maltese, Chihuahua- the ones you can pick up with one hand.) and the sight hounds (Greyhounds, Collies, and other long nosed types).  These guys are more seriously affected earlier in life.

We now have another arrow in our quiver in the never-ending fight against oral disease.  Pfizer Animal Health developed a vaccine against three bacteria in the Genus Porphyromonas (Poor*fear*o*moan*es)  that account for 70% of periodontal infections!  This vaccine does not decrease the need for established oral health modalities (chewing, brushing, and predental exam/cleaning as needed).  However, the mainstay of therapy is rendered far more effective if the immune system is doing double time to protect the parts of the tooth that we can't see!  Big bonus!  Another positive effect of this vaccine is the reduction or elimination of bad breath in most vaccinated patients.

If you are interested in more information, let us know the next time you're in (or give us a call)!

Brian C. Ray, DVM

Monday, February 14, 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Martha Stewart vs. The College Boys

Do you have any brothers?  I have two.  There is a peculiar shade of grey that only exists in the bathroom of a college guy.  Every part of the bathroom seems to be grey, and it's hard to even enter that room.  Cats, like people, have a tolerance range.  Some cats are "college boy" cats.  The litter box is the place to eliminate.  It can be dark and smelly and down in the basement, but that's the bathroom.  (If we have one of these cats, we're lucky).  Now, if you will, imagine Martha Stewart in that college boy bathroom.  Some cats are "Martha Stewart" cats.  This is a cat who scratches and scratches and sniffs and turns and scratches and turns and then eliminates in the litter box.  She requires a clean litter box.

Here's the challenge.  There's no way to know whether you're getting a college boy cat or a Martha Stewart cat.  If you find urine spots next to the box, this suggests your cat wants to use the litter box, but just can't bring herself to go in.  Does your cat perch on the edge of the litter box, eliminate, swipe once, then bolt?  If it smells bad to us, it smells bad to them.

Here are some tips:

  • Cats have an excellent sense of smell.  We recommend scooping the litter box once a day.
  • Don't use plastic liners.  For some reason, a lot of cats don't like them.
  • Try to stay away from scented or perfumed litters.  Many of them are scented to make us happy and are too strong for cats.
  • Completely empty and clean out all of your litter boxes at least once a month.
  • It sounds crazy, but some cats put stool in one box and urine in another.  We recommend as many litter boxes as you have cats, plus one.
  • Covered litter boxes keep the smell inside.  Cats often prefer uncovered litter boxes.
  • Make sure your litter box is big enough for your cat.  A big cat who is in the box may accidentally spray out of the box.
  • Try to keep the litter at least 2-3 inches deep at all times.
  • Finally, cats are often traditionalists.  Newfangled litters may seem cool to us, but a lot of cats prefer soft, granular (dirt-like) litter.
As always, the best 'treatment' is actually prevention.  Even if you don't currently have problems, you might want to check out this list.  Don't take away your current litter box, just offer a new one.  See what she does.  If she likes it, she'll use it, and that's the point!

Kelley Wagner, CVT

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Interesting Case

We will be doing an interesting case segment each month to highlight some of the procedures that we see coming through the door.  This first case is about a healthy dog who came in for preventive surgery.  Dr. Ray performed a mini-lateral-approach gatropexy on a one-year-old Great Dane named Tank Anton.  He had this procedure performed to protect him from the life-threatening complications of Gastric Dilation and Volvulus Syndrome (GDV).  GDV (commonly known as bloat) is a condition where the stomach of a dog fills with air (Gastric Dilation) and has the potential to twist it's axis and cut off blood supply to the stomach (Volvulus). This results in acute pain, shock and, if not addressed withing a few hours, death.  Deep-chested dogs such as Great Danes, St. Bernards, and German Shepherds are particularly susceptible to development of GDV.  The Antons were all too aware of the possibility of bloat in their dogs, as they had already tragically lost a Great Dane to bloat.  Not wanting to risk that with Tank, they scheduled a gastropexy with Dr. Ray.  A gastropexy is simply a surgical procedure to attach the wall of the stomach to the inside of the abdominal cavity or rib cage.  This will prevent a gas-filled stomach from rotating, which would necessitate emergency surgery.  Tank's surgery went very well, and he's happy and healthy at home.

If you have a large or giant-breed dog and would like more information on this procedure, we would be happy to talk to you.

Monday, February 7, 2011