Tag Archives: cats

Vomiting Isn’t “A Cat Thing.”

There is growing evidence to support the fact that ongoing vomiting in cats is NOT a normal thing. “Hairballs” aren’t normal if they’re being thrown up frequently. There’s a high probability that those cats have gastrointestinal disease.

Here’s a link to a good, quick explanation. If your cat fits the pattern, ask your vet what you can do to figure out what’s really happening!


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Filed under cats, feline, medicine, pathology

How to pick a safe toy

Pet supply stores make me cringe. There are innumerable choices with little to no information that helps owners decide on which product is best. Whether it’s food, toys, leashes, houses, etc., it’s hard to know what’s really safe for pets. The AVMA has put together a short video about picking safe and appropriate toys for pets. Have a look! It’s sound information.


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News – Tiger Genome Sequenced

As a preview to the photos I’ll have of my trip to California, this is a news story about DNA sequencing of tigers, and what that reveals about their adaptations as predators.

The story is here on National Geographic’s news page.

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Amur (Siberian) Tigers Killed by Canine Distemper Virus

I’m sorry that I’m running behind on the blog this week. Thursday was occupied by a big project that I’ll start discussing in a post later on Sunday.

I’ve mentioned before that nature and conservation are important to me. Sometimes, my profession and my passion for conservation overlap. The article I’m linking is an example of that intersection. It’s a sad occurrence.

Canine distemper virus, which can infect not only dogs but animals like raccoons and foxes, has spread into a massive area in Russia. The virus has been responsible for the death of several Siberian (Amur) tigers, which are a highly endangered species. Apparently, the tigers have come into contact with the virus in part by hunting and killing domestic dogs. This is the result of encroachment on the tiger’s habitat by human settlement.

This cross-species infection is another example of the adaptability and easily altered behavior of some viruses. The canine distemper vaccine may pose a danger to these tigers if it were given, and there’s no vaccine designed for cats of any kind to protect against canine distemper. It’s a tough dilemma in deciding how to protect these rare and valuable tigers.

The full article can be found here.

An additional article with lots of overlap but some additional info can be found here.

790px Harbin Siberian Tigers

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Filed under cats, exotic, feline, infectious diseases, nature, news, wildlife

Beep Beep Hurl

Just like people, dogs and cats can get motion sickness. We see this from time to time at the hospital, usually evinced by a vomit-covered pet. It’s a frustrating situation for owners and uncomfortable for the pet.

Motion sickness happens when the body’s balance system detects motion but the eyes do not. A classic example is being below deck on a ship. You can feel the waves rocking and rolling, but what you see in your cabin doesn’t reflect that motion. Everything around you is still. For pets, a car ride can create a similar situation. They’re below the window level in the car, but they can detect the motion of the vehicle. It’s a recipe for nausea.

Nausea is one of several reasons we vomit. There’s a specialized area of the brain that controls vomiting. It receives input from many areas in the body: the balance system, the intestines, the gag reflex, emotional status, and chemicals in the bloodstream. Consider the vomiting center as a big lever labeled “Puke” with one guy standing there to pull the lever. He can be told to pull the lever by many things, but the end result is the same.

There are several strategies to reduce car sickness in pets. One of the best is to condition pets to riding in the car. Here’s a link to a great article about conditioning your pet for car rides.

We have some medication options for controlling nausea from motion sickness in pets. One of my favorites is a drug called maropitant. The trade name is Cerenia™. This medication puts the vomit-lever guy on a one-day break. It starts to work within an hour, it’s safe, and it’s highly effective. Some OTC human motion sickness medications work well for pets, too. The dose is NOT the same as it is for people, so please contact your veterinarian for information on how much to give. The downside to the OTC meds is that they can cause sedation.

The take-home message today is this: If you’re avoiding travel with your pets because of car sickness, contact your vet for help and start a training regimen that will help to take the stress out of the trip.

Car sick

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Filed under cats, dogs, travel, vomiting

A Special Bond – Cats & People

Cats pose more mysteries to us than answers most of the time. Cat owners undoubtedly have a bond just as strong with their pets as dog owners do, and they learn to interpret the signals that cats provide. Relationships with cats are subtle and complex, but scientific study has revealed a few interesting facts about how cats interact with their owners.

Both of these articles are at the Discovery News page.

Cats Don’t Actually Ignore Us by Jennifer Viegas

Cats may try to hide their true feelings, but a recent study found that cats do actually pay attention to their owners, distinguishing them from all other people.

The study, which will be published in the July issue of Animal Cognition, is one of the few to examine the cat/human social dynamic from the feline’s perspective. Cats may not do what we tell them to, but they usually adore their human caretakers.

Cats Adore, Manipulate Women

The bond between cats and their owners turns out to be far more intense than imagined, especially for cat aficionado women and their affection reciprocating felines, suggests a new study.

Cats attach to humans, and particularly women, as social partners, and it’s not just for the sake of obtaining food, according to the new research, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Behavioural Processes.


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Filed under behavior, cats, human interest, human-animal bond

Thursday News – Food Recall

Recall — Firm Press Release


FDA posts press releases and other notices of recalls and market withdrawals from the firms involved as a service to consumers, the media, and other interested parties. FDA does not endorse either the product or the company.


Premium Edge, Diamond Naturals and 4health Dry Cat Food Formulas Voluntarily Recalled Due to Possibility of Low Levels of Thiamine (Vitamin B1)




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 10, 2013 – COLUMBIA, S.C. – Diamond Pet Foods is voluntarily recalling limited production codes of Premium Edge Finicky Adult Cat Formula dry cat food, Premium Edge Senior Cat Hairball Management Formula dry cat food, Premium Edge Kitten Formula dry cat food, Diamond Naturals Kitten Formula dry cat food and 4health All Life Stages Cat Formula dry cat food. Tests conducted by the company indicated the products might have a low level of thiamine (Vitamin B1). There have been no complaints regarding thiamine levels, or any other health issues, related to these products. In association with this voluntary recall, Diamond Pet Foods has tested all other Diamond brands for thiamine deficiency to ensure the safety of the cat food it manufactures. No other product manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods is involved in this voluntary recall.

Only product with the following Best By dates and Production Codes are included in the voluntary recall. Further distribution of these affected production codes has occurred through online sales. It is best to check the production code to determine if the product has been recalled or not.


Product Size Production Codes Best By States
Premium Edge Finicky Adult Cat Formula 18 lb. bags NGF0703 10-Jul-2013 Massachusetts
Premium Edge Finicky Adult Cat Formula 6 lb. bags NGF0802 15-Aug-2013,
Florida, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia
Premium Edge Senior Cat Hairball Management Formula 6 lb. and
18 lb. bags
NGS0101 03-Jan-2014,
Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma
Premium Edge Senior Cat Hairball Management Formula 6 lb. and
18 lb. bags
NGS0702 10-Jul-2013 Florida, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia
Premium Edge Kitten Formula 6 oz. samples,
6 lb. and 18 lb. bags
MKT0901 26-Sept-2013
Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia
Diamond Naturals Kitten Formula 6 oz. samples and 6 lb. bags MKT0901 30-Sept-2013 Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina
4health All Life Stages Cat Formula 5 lb. and
18 lb. bags
NGF0802 14-Aug-2013,
Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia


"At Diamond Pet Foods, we have a process where we continuously test our products, and this process allowed us to find the undesired levels of thiamine in some of our cat formulas. Our food safety protocols are designed to provide safe food on a daily basis," says Michele Evans, Ph.D., Diamond Pet Foods Executive Director of Food Safety and Quality Assurance. "In the event an error occurs, we have the data to quickly alert pet owners, giving them the confidence they demand of a pet food manufacturer."

Pet owners who are unsure if the product they purchased is included in the recall, or who would like replacement product or a refund, may contact the Pet Food Information Center at 1­888­965­6131, Sunday through Saturday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. EST. Consumers also may visit Website – http://www.petfoodinformationcenter.com for additional information.

Cats fed product with the previously listed Production Codes and Best By dates exclusively for several weeks may be at risk for developing a thiamine deficiency. Thiamine is essential for cats in maintaining normal nervous system function. Symptoms of thiamine deficiency displayed by an affected cat can be gastrointestinal or neurological in nature. Early signs of thiamine deficiency may include decreased appetite, salivation, vomiting and weight loss. In advanced cases, neurological signs can develop, which may include ventriflexion (bending towards the floor) of the neck, wobbly walking, falling, circling and seizures. Pet owners should contact their veterinarians immediately if a cat is displaying any of these signs. If treated promptly, thiamine deficiency typically is reversible.


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While I was away and deliberately lost last week, it crossed my mind that I hadn’t ever talked about pet microchips. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what the chips can do and how they can be used. I’ll spend some time today talking about statistics and the truth about the utility of microchipping pets.

The concept of microchipping is simple: each pet receives a non-removable identification tag with a unique number implanted under the skin. That unique ID number is kept in one of several lists maintained by the microchip manufacturers. If a pet is lost (or for any reason the ID is needed), a handheld scanner can be used to read the ID number in the chip.

Each little microchip is a small bit of circuitry enclosed in a glass capsule. The chips are actually passive RFID tags. The scanners send a radio signal to the chip, which uses the energy in that signal to send back the chip’s number. Without the scanner, the chip does not do anything on its own. It just sits there.


There are several companies out there that make microchips. While most are utilizing a universal format that allows all of the scanners to read all of the chips, not all do so. Incidentally, we use one of the universal chips and scanners. Veterinarians, rescue groups, animal shelters, etc. purchase chips from the manufacturer. The manufacturer keeps track of the chip ID numbers so that from the moment the chips leave the distributor, there is a paper trail for a chip.

Pet owners have the chip implanted with a simple injection under the skin. It’s a larger needle than for vaccines, but most pets tolerate it very well. Once the chip is implanted, the owner provides contact information. This information is registered in the manufacturer’s database. Once the information is registered in the database, the company will not delete it.

If the chip is scanned, the number will guide the return of the pet to the rightful owner. There are several ways to look up the number, but the owner’s privacy is respected throughout.

It’s that simple! Unfortunately, I hear a LOT of concern about chipping pets. In my usual blunt manner, I’d like to provide some solid information. The statistics were provided by the manufacturer that we use for microchips.

•One in 3 pets will get lost in its lifetime. About 90% of pets that are lost don’t ever make it home.
•Animal shelters euthanize at least 4 million pets a year.
•Microchips are NOT a GPS tracking system. The chips can not send a signal unless they receive a signal from the scanner.
•Microchips do NOT cause harm to the patient. They are enclosed in glass that does not cause inflammation or problems at the injection site.

There’s really no downside to chipping a pet. Even indoor pets can benefit from the protection a microchip provides. If your pet isn’t chipped, or is chipped and isn’t registered, please contact us to get that sorted out!

You can read about the HomeAgain microchip at their web page. This is the company we chose to work with. They’ve reunited over 1 million pets with their owners, which is no small feat.


Filed under cats, dogs, human interest, practice

Comparative Anatomy Passion

During my first semester of veterinary school, the mountain of graduate-level courses was such that I didn’t have time to really sit back and appreciate the larger picture. All I could focus on was memorizing muscles, nerves, vessels, and structures of the various domestic species. Since then, I’ve had the time to truly enjoy this knowledge. I’ve relearned a great deal as I’ve had reason to teach my coworkers and friends some of the more interesting facts that govern the many species we see around us.

Rarely can I share this passion in an eloquent way. It is, after all, “blood and guts.” There’s just not much romanticizing one can do.

Thankfully, some breathtakingly creative folks working with the National Geographic Society have put together a 7 minute video of cheetahs running after a bait lure. It’s seven minutes I can confidently say you will not regret spending. The HD video is a slow-motion capture, so you’ll see everything in stunning detail.

Notice how the head stays level. The eyes face forward, allowing for binocular vision and excellent depth perception. Cats’ eyes are geared for tracking motion, which is obviously fit for catching prey that’s running away from you. The long, relatively heavy tail is used as a counterbalance. The extreme flexion of the spine allows a great deal of motion to be generated by the long stretches of spinal muscle running from chest to hips. The long proportions in the hind legs mean more elastic energy in the tendons and ligaments that can be used for forward propulsion. The front legs are used to help steer, but they also serve another critical purpose: they’re part of the initial grab to catch the prey. Predators not only have to move, they have to be able to manipulate their environment to some degree. They’ve evolved to have more ‘fingers’ than prey species, as well as greater ability to rotate the forelegs (palm up or palm down motions). Cats lack a collarbone, so the front leg is attached only by muscle — muscle clearly outlined under that spotted fur.

Elegance, grace, power, and harmony of function. Nature speaks to us with far more eloquence in far fewer words.

Acinonyx jubatus, the Cheetah.

Cheetahs on the Edge–Director’s Cut from Gregory Wilson on Vimeo.

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Filed under cats, comparative anatomy, feline

Cat-Friendly Veterinary Visits

American households now have more cats as pets than dogs. About 86 million cats are owned in the US, compared to 78 million dogs. (HSUS survey data)

The amazing popularity of feline companions means that more than ever, pet owners need to be aware of the value of routine checkups at a veterinary hospital. We know that compared to dogs, cats aren’t seen by a veterinarian as often as dogs.

Why does that matter? Lots of reasons! Pets age faster than humans do, so their health can change more rapidly than ours does. Small problems can rapidly progress to a serious state if the earliest, smallest signs aren’t detected. Cats will try to hide illness for as long as possible, too, and it may be more difficult for owners to recognize signs of illness in cats. Routine exams and lab work help cats live longer, healthier lives.

One of the biggest challenges for making sure cats are seen by a veterinarian is getting the cat to the vet’s office. Cats can be exceptionally difficult to place in a carrier, and visits can be stressful for the cat and the owner. There is hope, though! A number of special groups have been formed to help educate cat owners about caring for their feline companions. The first is called the CATalyst Council. Another is the American Association of Feline Practitioners. The AVMA also has great info on cat care.

I’d like to share a video today that was published by the CATalyst Council. It’s full of great tips for getting your cat used to the carrier so the trip to the veterinary office isn’t as traumatic. It runs about ten minutes but it’s well worth the time!

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Cat Behavior : The Indoor Pet Initiative

Domestic cat sleepingCat owners, this week’s post is especially for you! There’s info for dog owners at the site I’ll be talking about, too.

Veterinary medicine has made some tremendous gains in treating our patients when they are ill. Nearly all of the specialties available to humans are also available to pets – cardiology, ophthalmology, internal medicine, oncology, and many more. One of the underutilized specialties in vet med is behavior.

Owners have known for a long, long time what needs to be done to have a happy, content dog. General needs for dogs, generally, match our own social and homemaking needs, so they’re easy to understand. Frequent and energetic social contact suits most dogs just fine. They travel well in general and enjoy recreation with their owners.

Cats, on the other hand, have quite a few special needs to ensure their lives are low-stress and fulfilling. They’re a little harder to understand, too, because they include things like a quiet, safe refuge away from people and short, non-confining periods of social interaction. Lots of natural behaviors — instincts — are still very strong in cats. Hunting and scratching are two of the more obvious instincts we recognize. Hiding, observing, perching, and familiarity are some of the less obvious but still very important cat needs.

A website developed by The Ohio State University’s veterinary school has become an absolutely fantastic resource for learning about what makes a cat tick. It’s called The Indoor Pet Initiative. It provides some amazing insights into how to make your home perfect for your cat. It covers everything from litterboxes to scratching posts to what sorts of things can stress a cat out. I highly recommend that all cat owners spend some time reading the site. I learned a few things I can do for my own cat to lower her stress!

There’s a strong debate about whether cats should be indoors or outdoors. I will strongly defend the idea that “outside is dangerous” for cats. Outdoor cats have a life expectancy of around 4 years. Deaths occur because of being hit by cars, killed by other animals (dogs), or contracting a fatal disease like Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or Feline Leukemia. These are horrible, painful deaths! Outdoor cats are also plagued by fleas, ear mites, upper respiratory infections, and intestinal parasites. We can protect cats from some of the diseases and most of the parasites, but there’s not a darned thing we can do about cars and other animals. Cats are simply safer if kept indoors.

With the proper home environment, cats can life a fulfilling and happy life inside your home. There are safe ways to allow your cat to experience the outdoors with direct supervision, as well. The Indoor Pet Initiative gives cat owners all of the information they’ll need to provide a fantastic home environment. Happy indoor cats have a life expectancy of 12 to 18 years.

Indoor cats will live, on average, three times longer than outdoor cats. I can’t think of anyone that would knowingly trade 2/3 of their own life just to engage in dangerous activities. If we can provide a happy, fulfilling indoor home for our cats, why would we subject them to the penalty of 2/3 of their lives?

Take some time to read through the Indoor Pet Initiative. It’s well worth the time for both dog and cat owners!


Filed under behavior, internet