Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Top Five Items Overlooked By Cat Parents.

Cats are the most popular pet in America and yet we as pet providers often overlook a few key healthcare items. 

Here is my list of the top 5 overlooked cat care needs;

Number 5, Water. 

Cats love fresh running water. Whether it is from the tap, a bowl of fresh water, or from a fountain. The world of pet product options has burgeoned over the last few years. There are ceramic fountains available at almost all large pet retailers, and they naturally repel bacteria and are sturdy durable almost unspillable options. All fountains should be cleaned weekly and fresh water added when they run low. The only veterinary concern that I have about a fountain is that it can be difficult to quantitate how much water your cat is drinking. One of the most common ailments of older cats is renal failure (kidney disease) and one of the most common clinical signs first seen by astute pet parents is an increased thirst. Cats begin to drink more and subsequently urinate more (we call it PU/PD for polyuria, increased urination and polydipsia, increased drinking). 

My cats room.
They have a  big water bowl and a water fountain, and ample places to sleep or watch the birds.

Number 4, Nail Trimming.

I see so many older cats who come in for either limping or licking at their foot only to find that the foot is either bleeding and/or infected because a  nail has grown into their foot pad. This is not only incredibly painful,, (think about a very sharp pointy splinter jabbing into your foot), but it is also completely avoidable. Older cats have more difficulty both sharpening and shedding their nails. And the biggest problem nail is the first digit, or what we would commonly call their thumb or dewclaw. For tips on trimming nails please see; How To Trim Nails. If you have an older cat their nails should be trimmed monthly.

For those of you with young kittens start playing with their feet, practicing nail trimming daily. The large disposable corrugated cardboard scratching mats are an excellent way to encourage cats natural clawing instincts and protect your furniture. I advise my clients to have at least 4 scratching mats available throughout the house, and to bait them weekly with catnip. 

This kitty had a nail that grew into the pad.
We cut it and are soaking her foot in an antibacterial solution.
She will need this done for the next few days to allow her foot to heal.

Number 3, Matting Hair. 

For many cats the routine chore of grooming can become either too cumbersome to maintain or too difficult to perform comfortably. As cats age they have more and more difficulty maintaining a lustrous smooth coat due to a variety of reasons, whether it be pain in manipulating the yoga position to allow easy access to all body parts caused by osteoarthritis or joint disease, obesity that doesn't allow them to reach all body parts, or sheer overwhelming volume of hair. Many cats, especially those long haired breeds, often need a helping hand. 

When the excessive hair accumulates cats will tangle, become a dense matt, and prove too difficult for your cat to groom. Some cats will pull at their matts and cause skin damage. Others will groom excessively swallowing large quantities of hair that may not be digested once it enters the stomach. Hairballs are a foreign body that can cause either chronic vomiting, gastro-intestinal distress, or even lodge in the intestines requiring surgical excision and removal.

Keeping your cats coat clean, brushed, and manageable is vital to your cats health.

Should your cats coat become too much for you to manage speak to a groomer, or your veterinarian about removing it and allowing your cats skin to breathe and start growing that smooth coat over again. Most of the cats at my practice who get a shave down are happier and healthier afterward. But remember that the hair coat keeps your cat warm, so don't shave them down in the cold weather without appropriate thought to how your cat will tolerate their environment should you remove their outer garment.

This cats matted hair was so severe it had to be removed as a solid mass.
It took four pairs of clippers, and many breaks to keep them from overheating. We also had to take great care in not tearing the skin as the fur was matted right to the cats skin.

This is Mischka.
She has been managed at home by her mom with small short chopping scissor mat removals.

Please never ever use scissors. No matter how careful you try to be, at some point you will cut the fragile skin and be at my office for a surgery.
Always use electric clippers! They are safe, but your cat may need a bit of time to get used to the noise.
To get your cat used to the sound of clippers just start plugging them in and let them run for a few days/weeks before attempting to shave. Allowing your cat to get used to the noise and vibration will help de-sensitive them. Also have a reliable calm assistant to help hold your cat. 
Most cats tolerate clipping very well when held and clipped with the hands of an expert.

Number 2, Obesity.

This is JoJo he is a quiet boy with a bit of a waistline challenge. It is  combination of living in a multicat indoor household lacking enough exercise and ingesting too many calories. Not a magic formula. In order to loose weight you need to burn more calories than you take in. For indoor cats the challenge is multifold. Lack of exercise, or motivation to get up off of the couch and exercise, and an unlimited amount of high carbohydrate dry food left out and available 24/7.

Cats pose an increased challenge to assist them in loosing weight because it is difficult to encourage their owners to increase their exercise by taking them for walks. Although many cats  truly enjoy getting out of the house and checking out their neighborhood. It takes a determined, dedicated, and invested parent to turn obesity around in their cat.

Think about your cats environment. How can you encourage exercise? Can you add a cat tree? Or two? Try catnip scratching mats scattered around the house? Try to minimize or at least measure and limit the dry food you feed. For JoJo I prescribed a daily exercise routine of a harness and leash walk. A calorie restricted high fiber diet in measured amounts and monthly follow up visits.

Number 1, Dental Health

The most overlooked part of health care for all pets is dental health. Can you imagine not ever brushing your teeth?

Stomatitis of the gums.
Inflamed, red and sore.
It is very difficult to eat when your gums hurt.

This is Simba.
His teeth are so bad that his breath smells terrible and he is reluctant to eat.
The outward appearance of dental disease in cats might be drooling, or bad breath. But the internal consequences can be much more deleterious. Heart disease, chronic infections of the mouth, swelling around the face and eyes, and inability or reluctance to groom or eat. Your cats bad teeth can kill them.

Brushing teeth is possible. It should be done daily, or at least 4 times a week. The feeding of dry food can help a little, but it will not spare you from having to brush. For those of you who cannot, or do not brush, your cat should have their teeth, gums, and mouth checked yearly until age 6, then ideally every 6 months. Most cats are in need of a dental by the time they are 6 years old. Any cat with evidence of dental disease should have a professional cleaning under general anesthesia with intra-oral dental x-rays and probing of all tooth surfaces to look for pockets or disease. Teeth should be cleaned, polished, and examined by a dental professional when evidence of disease is present.

No comments:

Post a Comment