Common Uses of Lemon Balm on Dogs and Horses

Common Uses of Lemon Balm on Dogs

Lemon balm contains, amongst other things, volatile oils, tannins, and flavonoids. These elements give the herb a number of therapeutic effects, including calming and relaxing, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, muscle-relaxing and pain-relieving effects.

In dogs, lemon balm can be used for numerous health issues, including stress, anxiety, depression, and digestive problems, especially gas.

In older dogs, lemon balm can be used to address sleep disorders and reduce agitation and anxiety caused by canine cognitive dysfunction.

Topically, it is also an effective disinfectant for minor cuts and wounds, as well as an effective muscle-relaxant for sores and pains.

On horses, lemon balm’s anti-spasmodic effects on muscle pains and stomach issues is [perfect for stress related situations or environments, like stall rest. Lemon balm can also help horses with metobolic issues by reducing the production of thyroid hormones and ease the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

How to Use Lemon Balm on Dogs

There are quite a few ways that our dogs can reap the lemon balm benefits. The herb can be used orally or topically depending on what your dog needs. For example:

For Oral Use

To make a lemon balm tea that is strong enough therapeutically, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped fresh leaves (or 2 tablespoons dried herb per cup of water). As this herb is non-toxic and extremely safe, you don’t have to worry about exact dosages or measurements too much.

Cover the brewing tea and let stand until it cools to room temperature.

To give the tea to your dog, either add it to his food or water, or both! Add up to 1 tablespoon of the tea per 20 pounds of body weight twice or three times daily. If you are trying to treat a specific health condition, such
 as gas or anxiety, double that amount.

For Topical Use

Freshly brewed lemon balm tea can also be used topically as a disinfecting rinse for minor cuts and other wounds. To make the rinse even more effective, add 2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt to each cup of tea and stir to dissolve. Simply pour the tea over the wound (be sure that the tea is not hot).

To use lemon balm tea as a cold compress (good for acute injuries), soak a clean wash cloth in the cold
 tea, apply, and hold the compress in place for several minutes. To keep the area cold, soak the compress again and reapply.

As mentioned above, lemon balm has muscle-relaxing and antispasmodic properties. Therefore, it can be used to help ease some aches and pains in dogs caused by chronic conditions like arthritis, hip or elbow dysplasia, or old sports injuries. To this end, make a hot compress using lemon balm tea. The tea should be reasonably hot (but not scalding hot). Soak a wash cloth in the tea, wring just enough to stop dripping, then apply to the affected area and hold it in place for several minutes. Soak the compress again and reapply as needed to keep the area warm for 10 to 15 minutes.

Herbal Honey

Since lemon balm is anti-viral and anti-bacterial, it is a good herb to use to make herbal honey, which can be used topically to dress wounds and treat skin infections, and orally to prevent bacterial or viral infections, help with indigestion, and generally boost the immune system. See this page for instructions to make herbal honey.

Safety of Lemon Balm

As mentioned above, lemon balm is an extremely safe herb, and the only contraindication is, in large amounts, it may interfere with the body’s assimilation of iodine, and may therefore affect the thyroid. However, the amounts of lemon balm used for dogs are not high enough to cause hypothyroidism in dogs.

How to Use Lemon Balm on Horses

Horses can eat the fresh or dried leaves or you can make a tea from the leaves  or a tincture and pour it right on their grain or hay. 





Why do Cat like Heights?

Why Do Cats Like Heights?


By Monica Weymouth


To us humans, a refrigerator is simply a kitchen appliance—no more, no less. But to some cats the top of the refrigerator is the Promised Land, a must-visit destination to be reached at all costs. 


What’s behind the strange choice of hang-out? It’s not about the food (this time, at least). As one of the highest vantage points in your home, the refrigerator holds a special place in your cat’s height-loving heart.


“Cats live in three dimensions—they’re not earthbound creatures like dogs,” says Trish McMillan Loehr, a certified cat behavior consultant. “They simply love to climb.”


Why Do Cats Like Heights?


Cats have a long and storied history with heights. Long before your kitty was scaling the dining room curtains and prowling across the top of the kitchen cabinets, his wild, just-as-agile ancestors were climbing trees to survey their meal options.


“In the wild, a higher place serves as a concealed site from which to hunt,” explains Bridget Lehet, a certified feline training and behavior specialist.


Trees also help wild animals from becoming meals themselves, perfect for escaping land-bound predators and hiding from birds of prey. While your home likely isn’t teeming with hyenas, it may have two other pesky threats that require constant monitoring and quick exits: dogs and children.


“Cats feel safe when they’re up high, especially if you have small kids or dogs who may follow and annoy them,” explains Loehr, who stresses that it’s important to provide cats with plenty of vertical space to feel secure.


There’s also a certain prestige that comes along with the highest spot in the house. For multi-cat households, the position is equivalent to the corner office—and may be defended just as aggressively.


“Height can indirectly be a sign of status,” says Lehet. “The cat who controls the best perches is generally the most dominant, literally the ‘top cat.’ From that location, the cat can survey his ‘realm’ and be more aware of activities of people and other pets.”


How to Give Cats Vertical Space at Home

Yes, cats instinctually like and take comfort from heights, but they also require vertical spaces to feel mentally stimulated. So it’s crucial that you provide kitty with plenty of opportunities to climb and explore inside the home.


“Vertical space is very, very important to cats,” says Dr. Jennifer Fry, a Pennsylvania-based veterinarian who stresses that a lone bookcase won’t cut it. “You can increase vertical space by hanging shelves on the wall for them to climb, and you should have at least one tall condo for each cat.”


Katenna Jones, a certified cat behavior consultant, agrees that homes should be outfitted with cat-specific vertical spaces to keep everyone engaged, happy, and healthy. City-dwellers in particular want to make sure to maximize their square-footage—if you think your apartment’s tiny, imagine spending all day in it. “The smaller your home, the more you need vertical space,” she advises. “Climbing posts are like litter boxes—they’re simply a must-have.”


Windows provide an especially exciting vantage point for cats—especially windows frequented by birds. But keep in mind that curiosity has notoriously gotten the best of cats, and an open window or balcony door or a loose screen can turn deadly. During the warmer months, cats are at risk of “high-rise syndrome,” a term coined by veterinarians to refer to injuries sustained from falls from buildings.


Still, you can give kitty a safe and entertaining window hangout with a little creativity, says Lehet. Consider a suction-cup perch for prime-time viewing, or positioning cat trees near closed windows—if the window has a bird feeder, all the better. “This safely provides much-needed enrichment through watching birds—also known as ‘Bird TV’ for cats,” she says.


How to care for oral and vision health in rabbits

How to Care for Oral and Vision Health in Rabbits


By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

There are more than 3 million pet rabbits in the U.S., according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA),1 and although they’re decidedly different from the most popular pets — dogs and cats — they require a similar level of care, including attention to their oral and vision health.

Your rabbit needs an annual wellness exam with an exotic veterinarian experienced with rabbits. He or she will check your rabbit’s teeth and eyes then, but you should also keep a watch out for potential problems during the rest of the year. As prey animals, rabbits are masters at disguising signs of pain or illness, so a dental or eye problem may not be readily apparent, even if one exists.

Proper Oral Health for Rabbits

Dental health is important for all animals, but while dogs and cats can survive without their teeth (not that this is recommended), rabbits cannot. Rabbits have hypsondontal teeth, which means they grow continuously, explaining why they’re avid chewers.

A fresh source of hay is essential for rabbits, not only because of the beneficial fiber it contains but also because it helps wear down their teeth. Your rabbit should, in fact, primarily eat grass, hay and vegetables such as celery, lettuce, Bok choy and carrot tops (sparingly).

If you notice something in common, it’s that these foods require serious chewing and grinding to consume, which is one of the things rabbits do best. Dr. Krista Keller, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana told the Herald Review, “Rabbits’ dental anatomy is designed to allow them to eat grass, weeds, and hay. Their fibrous diet grinds down their teeth, so rabbits need teeth that continue to grow throughout their entire life.”2

Problems arise when rabbits’ teeth grow too long or in the wrong direction, the latter of which is more common in dwarf and lop-eared breeds. Their shortened faces may cause crowding of their teeth, causing them to grow abnormally, Keller said. In the case of rabbits’ teeth growing too long, this is usually due to a poor diet, including not enough fibrous food.

Ideally, your rabbit should eat as much grass hay as she likes, along with leafy greens and herbs, including cilantro, dill, kale (sparingly), broccoli leaves, mustard and collard and dandelion greens. Fresh pellets are acceptable as a supplement for rabbits’ diet, especially if they’re low in protein and high in fiber, but processed pellets should not be fed as a sole food source.

You should also avoid feeding your adult rabbit alfalfa, which is too high in protein and sugar. As for what to look for as a sign of dental problems in rabbits, the Herald Review noted:3

“Rabbits in pain may be less interested in food or may not eat at all. They may also be picky about their food and select softer options (pellets, produce) that are more comfortable to chew. Their fecal balls may be small, the rabbits may be less active, and infections may be likely to develop in the mouth and throughout the body.”

If you notice these signs, visit your veterinarian right away. If there’s a problem, a tooth extraction, tooth trimming or pain management may be necessary. For some rabbits, regular tooth trimming may be necessary, but you can help prevent overgrown teeth using the dietary strategies mentioned as well as by providing proper nontoxic chew toys, such as untreated wood blocks, rings made of willow wood or cardboard.

Caring for Your Rabbit’s Eye Health

Rabbits have large eyes; it’s part of what makes them so irresistibly cute. However, their large size, coupled with their placement on either side of their head, makes them prone to injury. It’s common for rabbits to get irritants or other foreign objects (such as a piece of hay or bedding) stuck in their eyes.

This can be flushed out with an eye washing solution, but if you’re unsure how to do this safely, or whether an irritant is the problem, you should have your exotic vet take care of this. Other relatively common eye problems in rabbits include:4

  • Eye abcesses, which may occur if the eye is infected or punctured. A bump may form under your rabbit’s eye due to the abcess and will need to be treated by your vet.
  • Eye ulcers, which can occur if an irritant or trauma damages the cornea, leading to an ulcer or hole. Signs of an eye ulcer in rabbits include not wanting to open the eye or pawing at the eye because it’s painful.
  • Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, in rabbits is usually caused by bacteria, resulting in inflammation to the pink area surrounding the eye (the conjunctivitis).

If your rabbit has milky or clear discharge coming from her eye, the problem could be a plugged nasolacrimal duct, a tube that drains tears from the eye to the nose. Modesto, California veterinarian Jeff Kahler told The Modesto Bee:5

“If this duct becomes occluded, either partially or completely, the tears that are normally drained into the nose have nowhere else to go other than to drain from the eye socket. If left plugged for some period of time, a condition known as [dacryocystitis] can develop. This involves infection with bacteria within the nasolacrimal duct. These rabbits will have discharge from the eye, often milky.”

In any event, any sign of trouble in your rabbit’s eyes is worthy of a trip to your vet to get it checked out. Because exotic vets that care for rabbits can be few and far between, it’s a good idea to locate one before you decide on a rabbit for a pet.

Should you get a younger playmate for your older pet??

Should you get a younger playmate for your older pet?


By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

There’s both art and science involved in insuring older pets remain healthy and comfortable as they age. Fortunately, these days devoted pet parents of aging dogs and cats are very interested in understanding what’s happening to their animal companion’s body, and how to give him the best care in his golden years. Veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly, writing for VetStreet, lists seven common questions owners ask about their aging pets.1

7 Questions Pet Parents Ask About an Older Dog or Cat

  1. Is she too thin?

The aging process brings with it loss of muscle tone and balance, which can lead to inactivity. Inactivity and loss of muscle mass/balance promotes faster aging, as well as significantly increased risk of injury from slips, trips, falls, strains and sprains. But like human senior citizens, older pets can benefit tremendously from anti-aging activities, including:

Some of these activities require the expertise or guidance of an animal physical therapist, but you can still take your furry companion out for several short walks each day to promote cardiovascular fitness. You can also learn how to massage your pet from your vet, most animal physical therapists or a professional small animal massage practitioner.

  1. Should I change his diet or supplements?

Ideally, you’re bringing your senior or geriatric pet in for wellness visits with your veterinarian at least twice a year. During these visits, your vet should review your pet’s diet and supplement protocol and made adjustments based on your dog’s or cat’s changing needs.

When it comes to your aging pet’s diet, it’s important to know that some foods are metabolically stressful, while others create low metabolic stress on the body. The nutrition that generates the least amount of metabolic stress for most dogs and cats is whole, unprocessed, raw or gently cooked, organic, non-GMO and in its natural form.

This of course includes animal protein, which should be the foundation of your pet’s diet throughout her life. Foods that have not been highly processed are the most assimilable for your pet’s body. In addition, all the moisture in the food remains in the food. If you can’t feed fresh food (raw or gently cooked), the second best diet is a dehydrated or freeze-dried balanced diet that has been reconstituted with an abundance of water.

I recommend serving food in its natural state to provide needed moisture, and to insure the highest level of biologic assimilation and digestion. That means feeding a balanced, antioxidant-rich, species-appropriate diet that includes omega-3 essential fats, such as krill oil.

Your integrative vet will recommend supplements and proper dosing based on your pet’s individual needs. At a minimum, aging dogs and cats typically benefit from supplements to maintain joint mobility and cognitive function. There’s now even a raw food diet designed specifically for dog joint health.

  1. Is he too old for anesthesia?

Fortunately, in the right hands, anesthesia is just as safe for older pets as it is for younger animals. And that’s a good thing, because just as with humans, cats and dogs tend to develop more health problems as they age.

If you’re nervous about anesthesia for your older cat or dog, you should know that it’s actually quite safe when performed according to current standards of practice. The reason senior pets are handled more cautiously for anesthesia is because they are more likely to have a systemic illness.

That’s why additional tests are run on older pets prior to scheduling procedures requiring anesthesia. These tests usually include a complete blood panel, urinalysis, chest x-rays and a BNP test which checks for certain forms of heart disease.

If your pet’s test results show no problems with her general health, there is no increased risk for anesthesia. And even if there are some borderline numbers in an animal’s test results, we must weigh the benefits of the medical procedure against the potential risks associated with anesthesia.

A well-trained, skilled and experienced veterinary staff, following the most current standards of practice, can safely anesthetize senior and geriatric pets, as well as pets with significant systemic disease. By using the latest anesthetic monitoring equipment, pets can benefit from the same diagnostics as people undergoing anesthesia. Make sure to check with your vet about how anesthetic monitoring is performed during your pet’s procedure and recovery period.

  1. Is she sick or is she just getting old?

It can be challenging to know whether the changes you see in your older furry companion are part of the normal aging process, or due to illness or disease. For example, if your pet is slowing down, it could be nothing more than aging bones and muscles — or it could be painful arthritis.

Older pets may also forget they are house- or litterbox-trained. It’s important to first rule out any underlying disorders that might cause your pet to forget her potty manners. If there’s nothing physically wrong, there are things you can do to help prevent house soiling.

For these and many other reasons, I can’t stress enough the importance of twice-yearly senior wellness checkups. The senior pet wellness screen is an excellent tool for early detection of changes in your dog’s or cat’s health so that treatment, including appropriate lifestyle modifications, can begin immediately.

Regular wellness screens allow your veterinarian to compare current test results with past results to check for changes that may need further investigation. A huge benefit of early detection of disease is that treatments are often more effective and less costly, and the quality of your pet’s life can be maintained.

  1. Is it a good idea to get him a new puppy or kitten?

Many parents of a dog or cat who is getting up in years wonder if they should add a younger pet to the family. Often, they are hoping the newcomer may invigorate the older animal, while also softening the blow when the current beloved pet passes.

Introducing a new pet to a home with a senior animal can be hugely successful, or it can be a decision everyone in the family ends up regretting. When an existing pet and a newbie don’t get along, it can create lots of behavior problems and stress all around. Tips for helping your senior dog or cat accept a new family pet:

Keep your focus on the needs of your senior pet rather than the appeal of a new pet Choose a second pet that has the best chance of getting along well with your older dog or cat
If your current pet is an older cat, consider getting a dog To successfully introduce a new dog to a senior cat, proceed with caution
Make sure both pets have their own gear Feed them in separate areas
Give your senior pet lots of extra time and attention
  1. Apart from medicines, procedures and supplements, what can I do to help her joints?

There are ayurvedic and Chinese herbs as well as homeopathic remedies and nutraceuticals that can be very beneficial for pets with OA, depending on their individual symptoms. It’s important to monitor your dog’s or cat’s symptoms on an ongoing basis, because arthritis progresses over time.

Your pet’s body is constantly changing, and her treatment protocol will need to evolve as well. At your twice-yearly wellness checkups, your veterinarian should check the range of motion in her joints, the muscle mass she is either gaining or losing and make adjustments to her protocol as necessary to ensure her quality of life is optimal.

I have always found that a multimodal approach to managing arthritis is critical for slowing its progression and keeping pets comfortable and mobile. Incorporating maintenance chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, daily stretching and mild exercise along with an oral protocol to manage pain and inflammation will yield the best results possible for an arthritic pet.

  1. What else can I do to improve his quality of life?

Consider increasing the number of potty walks for your dog, especially if he’s having some urine dribbling. Dogs with age-related incontinence can be fitted with dog bloomers or panties with absorbent pads — you can even use human disposable diapers and cut a hole for the tail.

Keep in mind urine is caustic and should not remain on your pet’s skin for long periods, so if you use diapers, be sure to change them frequently or remove them during times when your pet isn’t apt to be incontinent. If your pet is leaky primarily during sleep, there are pet incontinence beds that work by pulling moisture away from the animal and down into a tray. Older cats should have easily accessible litterboxes that are kept immaculately clean.

Gently brush or comb your older pet several times a week to help remove dead fur, dander and debris from his coat. If your pet has problems hearing or seeing, use odor cues like essential oils (but not scented candles, incense or air freshener sprays/plug-ins) to help him find his way around. Using hand signals and eye contact will help you communicate with a hard-of-hearing pet.

Consider purchasing or building ramps for a pet who is having trouble getting into the car or up on the bed or a favorite chair. Avoid moving furniture around, keep household travel lanes clear and minimize clutter if your pet is losing his vision. Cover uncarpeted surfaces with yoga mats or nonskid rugs to prevent slipping, and use baby gaits to prevent accidental falls down stairs. Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips can also be a live saver for animals who have a hard time keeping their feet under them.

For sleep problems in an older pet, try increasing his daytime activity level. Let your pet sleep in your bedroom. Sleeping near you should help ease any anxiety that is contributing to his nighttime restlessness. Guide your pet with clear cues and easy-to-follow instructions, especially if he’s showing signs of mental decline. And when you talk to him, keep your voice quiet, calm and kind.

Provide your older pet with adequate social interaction with other pets and people, but take care not to overstimulate him — short periods of exercise and playtime in controlled situations are best for older dogs and kitties.


Do Horses Need Hay Around the Clock?

Do Horses Need Hay Around the Clock?

By Clair Thunes, PhD

Q. I have heard that horses need hay kept in front them all the times, but also that they don’t need 24-hour access to hay. I feed my 20-year-old horse 8 ounces of protein feed in the morning with two to three flakes of hay, and then turn him out on the pasture in afternoon until it gets dark. Now that it’s dark at 5: 30 p.m., I bring him in but don’t give him any hay for the night. Am I feeding him enough?

A. Accurately evaluating if you’re currently feeding the right amount of hay is challenging because I don’t have all the information I need about your horse and what you’re currently feeding. There are really two ways to look at your question:

1.      The first is are you feeding enough to meet your horse’s nutritional requirements; and

2.      Are you feeding enough to maintain gut health?

I will try to address both using some general considerations and hope you’ll find it helpful.

You’re correct that some owners/barns keep forage in front of their horses 24 hours a day while others meal feed. If you think back to where horses come from, they evolved in an environment where they could eat around the clock. Because available forage was low in nutritional value, they had to eat a lot of it, and their digestive tracts evolved accordingly. As a result, their digestive tracts are set up to receive small amounts of food almost constantly and always secrete stomach acid; most of their digestive tract volume is dedicated to forage fermentation.

Traditionally, our domesticated horses were fed in the morning before they went to work. They might receive a meal during the day in a nose bag or similar and then would receive another meal or be turned out on return from work at night. Meal feeding has remained our model for feeding horses even though few horses work all day and this pattern of feeding goes against how their digestive tracts are designed. Feeding this way was a necessity of the lifestyle, and meal feeding remains a mainstay of feeding practice in many barns.

When we apply these considerations to your horse, you’re doing a combination of both as you meal feed, but your horse also gets access to pasture for at least some of the day. It sounds as though your horse likely has feed for most of the daylight hours, assuming the morning hay lasts until turnout. However, overnight there is no feed available. Having no forage available overnight goes counter to the way your horse’s digestive tract is designed. Yet it’s how many horses are fed.

That said it’s also true that the risks of developing issues such as equine gastric ulcer syndrome and some forms of colic increase when horses are meal fed and go for long periods without forage access. So feeding some forage after return from pasture might benefit gastrointestinal health especially now that you are bringing your horse in earlier and the time spent in the stall without forage has increased.

This brings us to the other consideration: Are you feeding enough to meet your horse’s nutritional needs? The first consideration, and what I am going to focus on here, is calories–are you feeding enough calories to maintain body condition? Reducing your horse’s turnout time on pasture means less time for him to consume pasture and the possibility he’s consuming fewer calories. I say possibility because horses have actually been shown to consume the greatest amount of pasture when they are initially turned out, so reducing turnout time might or might not have a significant impact on total pasture intake.

However, at this time of year pasture quality drops off considerably. Rate of plant growth is reduced, so there’s a strong likelihood that your horse is not getting the calories from the pasture that he did over summer and early fall. This could lead to a loss of condition. Not knowing what condition your horse is in currently, I can’t determine whether this would actually be beneficial or not for your horse.

If current condition is ideal, then a loss of condition should cause concern and would require that these missing calories be provided some other way such as additional hay. This could be achieved by feeding some hay when you bring your horse in which would also help solve the issue of the long overnight period without feed.

If your horse needs to lose a little weight, or the reduction in pasture intake does not cause a loss of condition, then you could look at restructuring your current feeding program to spread out the hay you are feeding throughout the day and overnight. Instead of increasing hay intake in this scenario you could feed some of the morning hay in the evening.

Whether you feed more total hay or spread out the current hay fed, consider using a slow feeder so that it takes longer for your horse to eat the hay you are feeding. Some horses can handle constant access to forage without gaining undesirable weight. This typically requires finding an appropriate hay that has low nutritional value and restricting access with slow feeders. However, not all horses adjust to this even when the hay is of low nutritional value and display undesirable weight gain and therefore must have their intake limited.

One last general rule of thumb to keep in mind when debating the issue of whether you’re feeding enough total feed is how much feed your horse is consuming as a percentage of body weight. Research suggests that most mature horses in grazing situations consume 1.5-2% of their body weight per day as dry matter. While studies have shown wide variation in the amount consumed by each individual, veterinarians and nutritionists typically recommend a minimum of 1.5% of body weight as dry matter to maintain gut function.

Hopefully as you consider these general guidelines and your current feeding program they will help you to determine how best to make feeding adjustments if you decide changes are necessary.


Panting in Cats — When Is It a Sign of Trouble?

Panting in Cats — When Is It a Sign of Trouble?


By Dr. Becker

Unlike dogs, kitties don’t naturally pant, so it can be disconcerting to see little Fluffy breathless, and rightfully so. In most cases, panting in a cat is a sign of an underlying health concern that requires attention. However, there are a few situations in which panting in cats is harmless and short lived. Some cats pant during or after exercise or to try to cool off. Young, energetic kittens might pant for a short time while playing.

Some kitties who live or spend time outdoors may pant to cool down in warm weather. In addition, a cat who’s enduring a stressful event, for example, a car ride or veterinary visit, might pant.

Outside of momentary episodes with an obvious cause, panting in cats indicates there’s an underlying problem involving either the respiratory tract or the heart. In older kitties who start panting, a potential cause is congestive heart failure. In younger cats, especially those who are also coughing, the more likely cause is a respiratory disorder such as feline asthma.

Congestive Heart Failure as a Cause of Panting in Kitties

When a cat’s heart can’t pump enough blood to the body, fluid backs up into the lungs, and congestive heart failure is the result. There are many causes of congestive heart failure in cats, but most often it results from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Thyroid disease, high blood pressure, birth defects and other conditions can also cause congestive heart failure.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is by far the most common type of primary heart disease in kitties, accounting for 85 to 90 percent of all cases. The word “hypertrophic” means thickened, so this is a condition in which the walls and ventricles of the heart become too thick, or hypertrophied.

HCM is often inherited in cats. In fact, there’s a test available now for a specific gene mutation in Maine Coons and Ragdolls. Purebred cats such as the Persian, other oriental breeds and American shorthairs are also predisposed to develop the condition. However, it’s the regular house cat that is most commonly diagnosed with HCM. Cats usually develop the condition in midlife, but it can occur at any age.

Symptoms of feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy vary and depend to some extent on the severity of the disease. Cats with mild disease don’t necessarily have symptoms. But in a kitty with significant HCM, there are usually obvious signs.

As we know, kitties mask illness very well, so until this condition is severe, even a cat with significant disease may have no symptoms, or very mild symptoms that don’t seem to be indicative of heart disease. In cats with obvious symptoms, there can be respiratory distress caused by congestive heart failure, or leg paralysis due to a blood clot.

Cats suffering congestive heart failure don’t cough like people or dogs do. Instead, they tend to breathe through an open mouth, and sometimes they pant. You should watch for breathing difficulties during exertion. Some kitties with HCM and congestive heart failure have a hard time walking any distance without stopping to rest and recuperate.

Feline Asthma Can Also Cause Panting

Feline asthma, also called bronchial asthma, allergic bronchitis and chronic bronchitis, affects cats of all ages worldwide. Asthma is a condition in which there is recurring constriction of the airways to the lungs.

Excessive amounts of mucus form in the airways, which causes them to become inflamed and sometimes ulcerated. This situation leads to spasms of the muscles of the airways, which is what causes the constriction or narrowing. Kitties with asthma can’t draw a deep breath.

Symptoms to watch for include a dry hack, which often sounds like gagging or retching. In fact, it’s not unheard of for an asthmatic cat to be diagnosed with hairballs. Wheezing, which can sound like a high-pitched sigh or a whistle, is another classic symptom. Labored breathing and exercise intolerance are also signs.

Even if your cat has a dry cough as her only symptom, it’s not necessarily a measure of the severity of her asthma. Kitties can have really serious asthma but very few symptoms. Some cats have no symptoms at all, except they suddenly are unable to breathe. An acute asthma attack such as this can occur any time and obviously can be life-threatening for your cat.

Cats with serious asthma can also suffer obvious symptoms like panting or open-mouthed breathing. Brachycephalic cats with pushed in faces, such as Persians and Himalayans, are especially susceptible to breathing problems, including asthma. Sudden airway constriction can occur for no apparent reason. It can also result from an allergic reaction to inhaled triggers like grasses, pollens, ragweed, aerosol sprays, smoke, mildew, molds, dust mites, household chemicals — even kitty litter dust.

How to Tell If Your Cat’s Panting Is Cause for Concern

To determine if there’s a problem, it’s important to pay attention to how often your kitty pants. Obviously, panting that is continuous or recurs is cause for concern. Persistent panting, especially in a cat with other behavior changes such as lack of appetite or lethargy, means it’s time to call your veterinarian for an appointment.

Peppermint – Good tasting and good for your horse!

by Hilary Self, BSc (Hons), MNIMH comments by Diane Weinmann

Peppermint is one of the main herbs for digestion and contains between 0.5% and 1.5% of volatile oil, found in all parts of the plant. The oil content is highest just before flowering. The quantity of oil in the plant can vary depending on the variety of mint, the soil it is grown in and the climate. The oil consists of about 50% menthol.

The reason peppermint is such a valuable herb for the digestive system is because of this oil. It has a carminative action, helping to relax sphincters and the smooth muscles of the digestive system, assist in the expulsion of intestinal gas, tone mucous membrane surfaces and increase peristalsis. Peppermint oil is sometimes administered to people in capsules for irritable bowel syndrome.

The oil has a cooling, soothing and anesthetic effect on the smooth muscles of the stomach and intestines, which makes it one of the key herbs to choose when dealing with horses prone to colic, gastric or duodenal ulceration, smooth muscle spasm, trapped gas, digestive cramping or poor appetite.

Peppermint contains a bitter quality that increases bile secretion and helps stimulate the appetite as well as tannins, which can help with horses who suffer from loose droppings or bouts of diarrhea.

Other internal and external benefits

For the respiratory system, antibacterial peppermint oil can be added to a pad or steam inhalant and used to help loosen residual mucus/catarrh, relieve and reduce the frequency of a troublesome cough, encourage perspiration in the early phases of colds and flu, or help combat lung infections.

The menthol content of the plant is antiseptic and when used in high concentrations can act as a disinfectant. The oil has been extensively trialed and shown to offer very significant antimicrobial and antifungal effects against over 25 bacterial and 20 fungal species.

Externally, peppermint oil can be sparingly added to topical lotions or blended with a carrier oil (such as almond oil) and applied directly on the skin or mucus membrane. The oil can act as an insect repellent and is often used to reduce the sensitivity of skin receptors, helping to reduce pain, itching, or sensitivity to temperature, making it fantastic for topical use on skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and neuralgia.

In the winter time I used to melt peppermint candies in hot water and add sweet feed and some bran to make a hot bran mash for my horse.  It helps keep things moving (if you get my drift with the bran) and it’s a favorite treat to warm their bellies!

Next time you brush past some peppermint and smell that fresh aroma, remember how many benefits this humble herb has to offer.