Hyperthyroidism in Cats

Hyperthyroidism in Cats

By Dr. Karen Becker

Recent research has revealed that yet another chemical substance found in households may be contributing to feline hyperthyroidism, a disease that affects a significant percentage of cats over the age of 10. The chemicals are called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and they are widely used as water and oil repellents. According to ScienceDaily:

“PFAS are a family of more than 3,000 structures of highly fluorinated chemicals used in industrial processes and consumer products, such as protective coatings for carpets, furniture and apparel, paper coatings, insecticide formulations, and other items.”1

PFAS are used in many industrial applications calling for nonstick or slick surfaces, such as food packaging, stain- and water-resistant fabrics, nonstick cookware and firefighting foam. These chemicals are now ubiquitous in our environment, having migrated into the air, household dust, food, soil, and ground, surface and drinking water.

Study Links PFAS Chemicals to Hyperthyroidism in Cats

For the study, a team of researchers at the California Environmental Protection Agency looked at blood levels of PFAS in two separate groups of Northern California kitties, most of which were at least 10 years old. The first group of 21 was evaluated between 2008 and 2010; the second group of 22 was sampled between 2012 and 2013.2

The researchers observed that the higher the blood levels of PFAS, the more likely the cat was to be hyperthyroid. One type of PFAS in particular, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was significantly higher in hyperthyroid kitties. These findings “… may indicate a possible link between PFAS levels and cat hyperthyroid, warranting a larger study for further investigation,” according to the research team.

In a bit of good news, the scientists noted a slight decline in PFAS blood levels between the first group of cats tested eight to 10 years ago, and the second group tested more recently. This mirrors recent results in humans as more companies phase out use of these chemicals, and presumably, as people gradually replace PFAS-treated household items.

Reducing Your Family’s and Pet’s Exposure to PFAS

Your best bet is to avoid all products that contain or were manufactured using PFAS, which will typically include products that are stain-resistant, waterproof or nonstick. From the Environmental Working Group:3

Find products that haven’t been pre-treated and skip optional stain-repellent treatment on new carpets and furniture
Cut back on fast food and greasy carryout food, since these foods often come in PFC-treated wrappers
Especially when buying outdoor gear, choose clothing that doesn’t carry Gore-Tex or Teflon tags, and be wary of all fabrics labeled stain- or water-repellent
Avoid nonstick pans and kitchen utensils — opt for stainless steel or cast iron instead
Pop popcorn the old-fashioned way, on the stovetop, since microwaveable popcorn bags are often coated with PFCs on the inside.
Choose personal care products without “PTFE” or “fluoro” ingredients; also avoid Oral-B Glide floss, which is made by Gore-Tex

It’s also important to filter your pet’s drinking water, and yours, to remove contaminants such as fluoride, chlorine, heavy metals and others. Household tap water typically contains enough toxic minerals, metals, chemicals and other unhealthy substances to damage your pet’s health long term.

Flame Retardants: Another Enemy of Indoor Kitties

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), or flame retardants, are another type of household chemical that has been linked to overactive thyroid in cats, and a 2017 study confirmed the results of earlier studies that prove the high levels of PBDEs measured in indoor kitties are from house dust.4

PBDEs have been used since the 1970s in textiles, electronics and furniture to prevent them from burning, but like PFAS, they aren’t chemically bound to the product material, so they drift into the environment and cling to particles in the air such as house dust.

A number of these chemicals have been banned for use in household products, but they are extremely persistent and can leach into the environment for many years. Contaminated household dust can be inhaled as well as ingested, and can have an adverse effect on the health of kitties.

Brominated Flame Retardants Are Known Endocrine Disruptors

Prior studies of PBDE blood levels in cats have focused primarily on potential causes of feline hyperthyroidism, however, the intent of this study was to measure levels in healthy cats to establish their dust exposure.

The researchers took “paired samples” from the homes of each of the cats, meaning they took both dust samples and blood samples at the same time. They found evidence not only of brominated and chlorinated contaminants currently in use, but also chemicals that have been banned for decades. According to study co-author Jana Weiss, Ph.D.:

“By taking paired samples, we have greater insight into the environment that the cats live in. Moreover the cats in the study spent the majority of their time indoors and therefore air and dust in the home is expected to contribute more than the outdoor environment.”5

The study results are a heads up not only for cat guardians, but also anyone with small children, because both kitties and kiddos engage in a lot of “hand-to-mouth activities.”

“The brominated flame retardants that have been measured in cats are known endocrine disruptors. It’s particularly serious when small children ingest these substances because exposure during development can have consequences later in life, such as thyroid disease,” said Weiss.

Minimizing PDBE Exposure at Home

Most new foam products are not likely to have PBDEs added. If you have foam items in your home, office or vehicle that were purchased before 2005, however, they probably contain PBDEs. The Environmental Working Group offers the following tips to help limit your family’s and pet’s exposure to PBDE-containing products:6

Whenever possible choose PBDE-free electronics and furniture; PBDEs shouldn’t be in mattresses, couches and other foam products sold in 2005 or later, however they’re still put in some new televisions and computer monitors
Avoid contact with decaying or crumbling foam that might contain fire retardants, including older vehicle seats, upholstered furniture, foam mattress pads, carpet padding and kid’s products made of foam
Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuum cleaner, since these vacuums capture the widest range of particles and are also good for reducing lead or allergens in house dust
Replace couches, stuffed chairs, automobile seats and the like that have exposed foam (if you can’t afford to replace them, cover them with sturdy cloth and vacuum around them frequently)
Don’t reupholster your older foam furniture, especially in homes where children or pregnant women live
Be careful when removing or replacing old carpet, since PBDEs are found in the foam padding beneath carpets; isolate the work area with plastics, and avoid tracking construction dust into the rest of your house
The replacement chemicals for PBDEs in foam are not fully tested for their health effects, so buy products made with natural fibers (like cotton and wool) that are naturally fire-resistant and may contain fewer chemicals

Did You Know PBDEs Are Also in Commercial Cat Food?

The same researchers who published the 2017 study I mentioned earlier also measured PBDE levels in cat food (both canned and kibble) matching the diets of the kitties in the study. They found that blood levels of PBDEs in the cats also significantly correlated with concentrations of those chemicals in the cat food.

In addition, another recent study concluded that fish-flavored cat food is a problem.7 A team of Japanese scientists evaluated cat food and feline blood samples and discovered that the type of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and PBDE byproducts found in both the food and blood samples are derived from marine organisms.

The researchers were also able to simulate the way in which the bodies of cats convert the type of chemical present in the food into the type of chemical seen in the cats’ blood samples.

Based on their results, the team concluded the byproducts detected at high levels in cats’ blood samples likely came from fish-flavored food and not exposure to PCBs or PBDEs. However, further work is needed to determine the link between the metabolites (byproducts) and hyperthyroidism. If you’re wondering how these chemicals wind up in fish-flavored cat food, Dr. Jean Hofve of Little Big Cat explains it very well:

“There is a link between the feeding of fish-based cat foods and the development of hyperthyroidism, which is now at epidemic levels. New research suggests that cats are especially sensitive to PBDEs … [which are] found at higher levels in both canned and dry cat foods than dog foods; and more in dry than canned cat foods.

Fish-based foods are even worse, because marine organisms produce PDBEs naturally and can bioaccumulate up the food chain to high levels in fish; this compounds the exposure cats get from fabrics and dust.”8

5 Tips to Help Prevent Hyperthyroidism in Your Cat

  1. Rid your environment of flame-retardant chemicals
  2. Provide an organic pet bed
  3. Feed a nutritionally balanced, fresh, species-appropriate diet to control iodine levels in your cat’s food, since iodine has also been linked to hyperthyroidism
  4. Avoid feeding your cat a fish-based diet, since seafood is a very rich source of iodine, and cats aren’t designed to process a lot of iodine
  5. Avoid feeding soy products to your kitty, as they have also been linked to thyroid damage

I also recommend checking your cat’s thyroid levels annually after the age of 7.

 

Your Kitty Loves This More Than Just About Anything

Written by Dr. Becker and comment by Diane Weinmann

 

As pet lovers, we all recognize that the connection we have with our cats is very different from the way we interact with our dogs. It’s not just a myth that kitties are more independent and self-reliant than dogs — it’s a fact. Cats simply don’t view their humans in the same way dogs do. For instance, they don’t get crazy happy when we arrive home. Their primary attachment is to their environment/territory/turf, not to us, whereas our dogs tend to treat us as if we hung the moon.

Unlike Small Kids and Dogs, Cats Don’t Develop ‘Secure Attachments’ to Their Human Caregivers

Even kittens who were properly socialized to people at precisely the right age and are quite comfortable around humans, don’t form the type of emotional attachment to their owners that dogs do, which was illustrated by a small 2015 study in the U.K.1

For the study, two University of Lincoln researchers used the Ainsworth Strange Situation Test (SST), a tool that measures whether a small child or dog has developed a secure attachment to a caregiver who represents safety and security in strange or threatening environments. They used the SST, adapted for cats, to evaluate 20 kittles and their owners.

Beyond the observation that the cats vocalized more when their owners left them with strangers than the other way around, the researchers found no other evidence to suggest the kitties had formed a secure attachment to their humans. According to the researchers:

“These results are consistent with the view that adult cats are typically quite autonomous, even in their social relationships, and not necessarily dependent on others to provide a sense of security and safety.”

This obviously doesn’t mean cats have no ties to their humans; however, we need to develop alternative tools to better measure the normal characteristics of the cat-human bond, since the concept of secure attachment isn’t among them.

Cats Evolved as Self-Sufficient Loners

If you know much about felines, it’s no great mystery why they’re so different from dogs and therefore, in their relationships with people. Cats evolved as independent loners, unlike dogs, whose wolf ancestors lived in packs with a well-defined social structure.

The domestic cat’s ancestor is the African wildcat, which hunts alone for small prey animals such as mice, rats, birds and reptiles. Wolves, on the other hand, need members of their pack to help them bring down bigger prey. The exception to this rule is the lion, who lives in packs (prides) like wolves, and hunts and eats communally.

In domestic cats, socialization during the first 2 to 8 weeks of life gives them the ability to socially attach to their human, but only on their terms, of course. Once a feral kitten, for example, is over 2 months old, it can be very challenging to try to “tame” him or turn him into an indoor kitty.

But regardless of how well-socialized a kitten is, she’ll retain her independence throughout her life. She can be extremely friendly and extroverted, but she’ll never submit to you as a dog will. She won’t hesitate to set you straight if you do something that displeases her, either.

And because cats evolved to be loners, they don’t have the communication skills dogs do. That’s why it’s so important to monitor your kitty’s behavior for signs she’s feeling stressed, ill or has an injury. If you find her hiding in her covered litterbox or in a closet she never visits, for example, chances are something’s wrong and you need to investigate.

Despite Their Aloofness, Cats Enjoy Interacting With Their Humans

In a 2017 study, a pair of U.S. university researchers concluded that cats actually seem to like humans a lot more than they let on.2 According to Phys.org:

“[The researchers] point out that cats may simply be misunderstood, noting that recent research has found that cats have complex socio-cognitive and problem solving abilities. They suggest further that the commonly held belief that cats are less reactive to social stimuli might be due to a lack of knowledge regarding the things that cats actually find stimulating.”3

The researchers set out to determine what types of things stimulate cats, and to what degree. There were two groups of kitties involved — one group lived with families, the other group consisted of shelter cats. For the study, the cats were isolated for a few hours, after which they were presented with three items from one of four categories: food, scent, toy and human interaction.

The researchers mixed up the items for the cats so they could better evaluate which they found most stimulating, and determined the kitties’ level of interest for a given stimulus by whether they went for it first, and how and how long they interacted with it. The researchers observed a great deal of variability from one cat to the next, regardless of whether they lived in a home or a shelter. But overall, the cats preferred interacting with a human to all other stimuli, including food.

The kitties spent an average of 65 percent of their time during the experiment interacting with a person, leading the study authors to conclude that cats really do like being around their humans, despite how they might behave around them.

You Have More Influence on Your Cat Than You May Think

A study published in 2013 offered further insights into captive feline behavior.4 For example, did you know our cats take on human habits, or that they adapt their lifestyles to ours?

While genetics certainly play a role in feline personality and behavior, it’s clear environment is also a significant factor. “Our findings underline the high influence of human presence and care on the amount of activity and daily rhythm in cats,” says study co-author Giuseppe Piccione of the University of Messina’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.5

The purpose of the study was to explore the effect of different housing environ­ments on daily rhythm of total locomotor activity (TLA) in cats. The cats in the study lived with owners who worked during the day and were home in the evenings. They were all well cared for. The kitties were separated into two groups, with the first group living in smaller homes and in close proximity to their humans. The other group lived in more space, had an indoor/outdoor lifestyle and spent their nights outside.

Over time, the cats in the first group adopted similar lifestyles to their owners in terms of eating, sleeping and activity patterns. The second group became more nocturnal. Their behaviors were similar to those of semi-feral cats, for example, farm cats. Dr. Jane Brunt of the CATalyst Council made this observation to Seeker:

“Cats are intelligent animals with a long memory. They watch and learn from us, (noting) the patterns of our actions, as evidenced by knowing where their food is kept and what time to expect to be fed, how to open the cupboard door that’s been improperly closed and where their feeding and toileting areas are.”6

Indoor cats who spend a lot of time with their humans tend to mimic their eating habits, including those that lead to obesity. And if you happen to keep the litterbox in your bathroom like many cat parents do, you might notice Fluffy often seems to use her “toilet” while you’re using yours.

Feline personalities are often described in terms like “aggressive,” “arrogant,” “curious” or “timid.” These traits apply to people as well, and researchers theorize that cats’ environments may have a greater impact on their personality than previously thought.

Cats Appreciate Reciprocal Relationships With Their Caregivers

Dr. Dennis Turner is a leading expert on the feline-human bond and his research shows that unlike dogs, cats follow their human’s lead when it comes to how much involvement they have with each other.7 Some cat owners prefer a lot of interaction with their pet, others don’t have much time to devote or simply prefer less interaction.

Kitties are quite adaptable to their humans’ needs in this regard and fall into step easily with the pace the owner sets. They do this without complaint, and their independent, self-sufficient nature helps them get along without a need for the same level of interaction their canine counterparts demand.

Even more fascinating is Dr. Turner’s discovery that cats seem to understand the need for balance in their relationship with their humans:

“What we found was the more the owner complies with the cats wishes to interact, the more the cat complies with the owners wishes, at other times. They go up together, or they go down together. If the person doesn’t comply with the cat’s wish to interact then the cat doesn’t comply with the person’s wishes. It’s a fantastic give and take partnership. It’s a true social relationship between owners and cats.”

 As an animal communicator, I have found that cats love their owners very much but are not as demonstrative as dogs based on their physical differences in body types.  They cannot wag a tail and shake paws (usually but I have seen cats do a high five). I also find they are great cuddlers and take comfort in sleeping with their owners and being close to them.  They also like to hear your voice and enjoy when you talk with them.  They like being greeted when you get home and I had one cat client that told me when his mom got home she would yell LEEEEOOOOO (Leo) just like that. He really enjoyed hearing that and would come running.  Many of my cat clients come when called.  Not unlike our canine companions.  They also enjoy treats!

 

There ain’t no bugs on me!

Essential oils can assist animals with their healing using energetic vibration and the essence of the natural product. They can help bring balance and healing through their sense of smell which is the most receptive of the pet’s systems.

The oil stimulates the olfactory system which in turn sends a signal to the brain regarding the specific oil. The brain then activates the pet’s natural ability to begin the healing process.
Aromatherapy does not cure conditions, but helps the body to find a natural way to cure itself and to improve immune response.s the body to find a natural way to cure itself and improve immune response.

the body to find a natural way to cure itself and improve immune response.

AWAY

Ingredients:  Essential Oils of Eucalyptus citriodora, Catnip, Citronella, Lemon Tea Tree, White Cypress

Away was created for many purposes, but all are encompassed in the word “Away”.  Bugs go “Away”, smells go “Away”, and stale energy can also go “Away”!  I put it on my dog any time we are going into the woods or open field for a walk.Petting Technique
The petting technique is a way to apply the oils to your pet. This technique is well tolerated by almost every form of animal. The technique can be modified for small rodents, amphibians, or animals that may be difficult to handle, simply by having the oils absorbed into your hands, and then “cupping” and holding the animal within your hands.

Petting Technique
The petting technique is a way to apply the oils to your pet. This technique is well tolerated by almost every form of animal. The technique can be modified for small rodents, amphibians, or animals that may be difficult to handle, simply by having the oils absorbed into your hands, and then “cupping” and holding the animal within your hands.

s the body to find a natural way to cure itself and improve immune response.

Dogs:  Away can also be applied to most dogs topically using the “Petting Technique.”  Place 1-3 drops into your hands, rub them together until a light coating remains, then pet onto areas of need.  For insect repellent; rubbing down the legs, neck, shoulders, and back are good locations to concentrate on.  I especially focus on the “ankle” area of my dogs, since ticks will often contact this area first, as they start to climb up the legs.

Cats:  Diffusion of Away in a water-based diffuser is also recommended for cat households.  Away is wonderful for eliminating pet odors from the household, and litter box areas.

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Petting Technique
The petting technique is a way to apply the oils to your pet. This technique is well tolerated by almost every form of animal. The technique can be modified for small rodents, amphibians, or animals that may be difficult to handle, simply by having the oils absorbed into your hands, and then “cupping” and holding the animal within your hands.

Away product sheet

What is heartworm disease?

What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and—in rare instances—humans. Because wild species such as foxes and coyotes live in proximity to many urban areas, they are considered important carriers of the disease.

Dogs. The dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If untreated, their numbers can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, prevention is by far the best option, and treatment—when needed—should be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible.

Cats. Heartworm disease in cats is very different from heartworm disease in dogs. The cat is an atypical host for heartworms, and most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage. Cats with adult heartworms typically have just one to three worms, and many cats affected by heartworms have no adult worms. While this means heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed in cats, it’s important to understand that even immature worms cause real damage in the form of a condition known as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). Moreover, the medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used in cats, so prevention is the only means of protecting cats from the effects of heartworm disease.

How is heartworm disease transmitted from one pet to another?

The mosquito plays an essential role in the heartworm life cycle. Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox, coyote, or wolf produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up these baby worms, which develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another dog, cat, or susceptible wild animal, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal’s skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet.

What are the signs of heartworm disease in dogs?

In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all. The longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. Active dogs, dogs heavily infected with heartworms, or those with other health problems often show pronounced clinical signs.

Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse. This is called caval syndrome, and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.

What are the signs of heartworm disease in cats?

Signs of heartworm disease in cats can be very subtle or very dramatic. Symptoms may include coughing, asthma-like attacks, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, or weight loss. Occasionally an affected cat may have difficulty walking, experience fainting or seizures, or suffer from fluid accumulation in the abdomen. Unfortunately, the first sign in some cases is sudden collapse of the cat, or sudden death.

How significant is my pet’s risk for heartworm infection?

Many factors must be considered, even if heartworms do not seem to be a problem in your local area. Your community may have a greater incidence of heartworm disease than you realize—or you may unknowingly travel with your pet to an area where heartworms are more common. Heartworm disease is also spreading to new regions of the country each year. Stray and neglected dogs and certain wildlife such as coyotes, wolves, and foxes can be carriers of heartworms. Mosquitoes blown great distances by the wind and the relocation of infected pets to previously uninfected areas also contribute to the spread of heartworm disease (this happened following Hurricane Katrina when 250,000 pets, many of them infected with heartworms, were “adopted” and shipped throughout the country).

The fact is that heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states, and risk factors are impossible to predict. Multiple variables, from climate variations to the presence of wildlife carriers, cause rates of infections to vary dramatically from year to year—even within communities. And because infected mosquitoes can come inside, both outdoor and indoor pets are at risk.

For that reason, the American Heartworm Society recommends that you “think 12:” (1) get your pet tested every 12 months for heartworm and (2) give your pet heartworm preventive 12 months a year.

What do I need to know about heartworm testing?

Heartworm disease is a serious, progressive disease. The earlier it is detected, the better the chances the pet will recover. There are few, if any, early signs of disease when a dog or cat is infected with heartworms, so detecting their presence with a heartworm test administered by a veterinarian is important. The test requires just a small blood sample from your pet, and it works by detecting the presence of heartworm proteins. Some veterinarians process heartworm tests right in their hospitals while others send the samples to a diagnostic laboratory. In either case, results are obtained quickly. If your pet tests positive, further tests may be ordered.

When should my pet be tested?

Testing procedures and timing differ somewhat between dogs and cats.

Dogs. All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection, and this can usually be done during a routine visit for preventive care. Following are guidelines on testing and timing:

·         Puppies under 7 months of age can be started on heartworm prevention without a heartworm test (it takes at least 6 months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected), but should be tested 6 months after your initial visit, tested again 6 months later and yearly after that to ensure they are heartworm-free.

·         Adult dogs over 7 months of age and previously not on a preventive need to be tested prior to starting heartworm prevention.  They, too, need to be tested 6 months and 12 months later and annually after that.

·         You need to consult your veterinarian, and immediately re-start your dog on monthly preventive—then retest your dog 6 months later. The reason for re-testing is that heartworms must be approximately 7 months old before the infection can be diagnosed.

Annual testing is necessary, even when dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round, to ensure that the prevention program is working. Heartworm medications are highly effective, but dogs can still become infected. If you miss just one dose of a monthly medication—or give it late—it can leave your dog unprotected. Even if you give the medication as recommended, your dog may spit out or vomit a heartworm pill—or rub off a topical medication. Heartworm preventives are highly effective, but not 100 percent effective. If you don’t get your dog test, you won’t know your dog needs treatment.

Cats. Heartworm infection in cats is harder to detect than in dogs, because cats are much less likely than dogs to have adult heartworms. The preferred method for screening cats includes the use of both an antigen and an antibody test (the “antibody” test detects exposure to heartworm larvae). Your veterinarian may also use x-rays or ultrasound to look for heartworm infection. Cats should be tested before being put on prevention and re-tested as the veterinarian deems appropriate to document continued exposure and risk. Because there is no approved treatment for heartworm infection in cats, prevention is critical.

What happens if my dog tests positive for heartworms?

No one wants to hear that their dog has heartworm, but the good news is that most infected dogs can be successfully treated. The goal is to first stabilize your dog if he is showing signs of disease, then kill all adult and immature worms while keeping the side effects of treatment to a minimum.

Here’s what you should expect if your dog tests positive:

·         Confirm the diagnosis. Once a dog tests positive on an antigen test, the diagnosis should be confirmed with an additional—and different—test. Because the treatment regimen for heartworm is both expensive and complex, your veterinarian will want to be absolutely sure that treatment is necessary.

·         Restrict exercise. This requirement might be difficult to adhere to, especially if your dog is accustomed to being active. But your dog’s normal physical activities must be restricted as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed, because physical exertion increases the rate at which the heartworms cause damage in the heart and lungs. The more severe the symptoms, the less activity your dog should have.

·         Stabilize your dog’s disease. Before actual heartworm treatment can begin, your dog’s condition may need to be stabilized with appropriate therapy. In severe cases of heartworm disease, or when a dog has another serious condition, the process can take several months.

·         Administer treatment. Once your veterinarian has determined your dog is stable and ready for heartworm treatment, he or she will recommend a treatment protocol involving several steps. The American Heartworm Society has guidelines for developing this plan of attack. Dogs with no signs or mild signs of heartworm disease, such as cough or exercise intolerance, have a high success rate with treatment. More severe disease can also be successfully treated, but the possibility of complications is greater. The severity of heartworm disease does not always correlate with the severity of symptoms, and dogs with many worms may have few or no symptoms early in the course of the disease.

·         Test (and prevent) for success. Approximately 6 months after treatment is completed, your veterinarian will perform a heartworm test to confirm that all heartworms have been eliminated. To avoid the possibility of your dog contracting heartworm disease again, you will want to administer heartworm prevention year-round for the rest of his life.

What if my cat tests positive for heartworms?

Like dogs, cats can be infected with heartworms. There are differences, however, in the nature of the disease and how it is diagnosed and managed. Because a cat is not an ideal host for heartworms, some infections resolve on their own, although these infections can leave cats with respiratory system damage. Heartworms in the circulatory system also affect the cat’s immune system and cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Heartworms in cats may even migrate to other parts of the body, such as the brain, eye and spinal cord. Severe complications such as blood clots in the lungs and lung inflammation can result when the adult worms die in the cat’s body.

Here’s what to expect if your cat tests positive for heartworm:

·         Diagnosis. While infected dogs may have 30 or more worms in their heart and lungs, cats usually have 6 or fewer—and may have just one or two. But while the severity of heartworm disease in dogs is related to the number of worm, in cats, just one or two worms can make a cat very ill. Diagnosis can be complicated, requiring a physical exam, an X-ray, a complete blood count and several kinds of blood test. An ultrasound may also be performed.

·         Treatment. Unfortunately, there is no approved drug therapy for heartworm infection in cats, and the drug used to treat infections in dogs is not safe for cats. Nevertheless, cats with heartworm disease can often be helped with good veterinary care. The goal is to stabilize your cat and determine a long-term management plan.

·         Monitor your cat. Heartworm-positive cats may experience spontaneous clearing of heartworms, but the damage they cause may be permanent. If your cat is not showing signs of respiratory distress, but worms have been detected in the lungs, chest X-rays every 6 to 12 months may be recommended. If mild symptoms are noted, small doses of prednisolone may be administered to help reduce inflammation.

·         Provide veterinary care. If the disease is severe, additional support may be necessary. Your veterinarian my recommend hospitalization in order to provide therapy, such as intravenous fluids, drugs to treat lung and heart symptoms, antibiotics, and general nursing care. In some cases, surgical removal of heartworms may be possible.

·         Maintain prevention. A cat that has developed heartworm disease has demonstrated that it is susceptible to heartworm infection, and both outdoor and indoor cats are at risk. It’s important to give your cat monthly heartworm preventives, which are available in both spot-on and pill form. Preventives keep new infections from developing if an infected mosquito bites your cat again.

The age of the dog is just one factor affecting the success of heartworm treatment. When making a diagnosis and administering treatment, veterinarians consider the dog’s overall health and the severity of his symptoms, as well as the results of X-rays and laboratory test results. Older dogs with long-term heartworm infections may have damage to their lungs, hearts, livers, and kidneys that can complicate heartworm treatment. To ensure the best chance of success, it is vital to follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully. This includes severely restricting the dog’s activity, as exercise during the treatment period is the leading cause of complications.

 

After treating a dog with melarsomine injections, adult worms may continue to die for more than a month following this treatment. Heartworm antigen testing is the most reliable method of confirming that all of the adult heartworms have been eliminated. Although many dogs are antigen-negative 16 weeks after treatment, it can take longer for the antigen to be completely cleared from some dogs. Additionally, even though melarsomine is highly effective, a single course of treatment may not completely clear all dogs of infection (the American Heartworm Society protocol calls for three separate injections of melarsomine.  Consequently, in most cases, a dog that is still antigen positive at 4 months should be rechecked 2 to 3 months later before determining whether there are still adult heartworms remaining, and a second treatment course may be required.

 

Senior Cats

By Dr. Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

 

By the time your cat reaches the age of 10, she’s officially a senior citizen. The good news is that many cats today are living into their late teens and even early 20s. With the proper care, a kitty in good health at 10 can easily live another 8, 10 or even 12 years. There’s no need to worry that your feline companion is getting older. In fact, this is a great time to take steps to make the second half of kitty’s life with you as healthy and happy as the first half.

7 Tips to Keep Your Senior Cat Healthy and Happy

1. Schedule twice-yearly veterinary visits

Once your cat is into her senior years and beyond, her wellness and nutritional needs can require fine-tuning every four to six months. It’s very important to review weight, muscle tone, joint range of motion, diet, supplement protocol and exercise habits at least semi-annually for older pets.

At veterinary visits, be sure to mention any behavior changes you’ve noticed in your cat, no matter how minor, as these can provide important clues about health problems that may be brewing under the surface. It’s also important to monitor your cat’s weight to ensure she isn’t becoming too heavy or too thin.

The senior pet wellness screen is an excellent tool for early detection of changes in your cat’s health so that treatment, including appropriate lifestyle changes, can begin immediately. As part of the checkup, your vet will perform a physical exam and blood (including thyroid levels), urine and stool sample tests.

The results will provide a snapshot of how well your cat’s organs are functioning, and point to any potential problems. Regular wellness screens also allow your vet to compare current test results with past results to check for changes that may need further investigation.

2. Minimize environmental stressors

Kitties of all ages do best with a consistent daily routine, but older cats tend to get extra stressed when presented with anything new or different in their environment. Your senior kitty may be dealing with some vision and hearing loss, less tolerance for the cold and mental confusion. Cats can and do develop age-related cognitive decline, which means even the smallest change in your kitty’s routine can cause stress.

Your senior cat may become a little cranky and easily irritated. If there are young children or a playful dog at home, it’s important that all family members approach your kitty in a quiet, non-aggressive manner. It’s also important to protect an aging cat from potential bullying by younger or more active pets.

Of course, it’s important to avoid becoming a “helicopter pet parent” who constantly hovers over kitty. He’s still a cat after all, and prefers attention on his own terms! But do make a concerted effort to keep him comfy, secure and relaxed by maintaining a consistent daily routine and providing him with a quiet, cozy hideaway with comfy bedding and a favorite toy or two.

3. Feed your cat like a carnivore

Contrary to what many cat parents and even veterinarians believe, aging pets need MORE protein than their younger counterparts, and the quality is of paramount importance. The more digestible and assimilable the protein is, and the higher the moisture content of the food, the easier it will be for aging organs to process.

Feed kitty a nutritionally balanced, antioxidant-rich, species-appropriate diet that includes omega-3 essential fats such as krill oil. Since moisture is a cat’s best friend, be sure to encourage hydration by offering kitty a variety of water bowls around the house or a drinking fountain, in addition to minimizing or (preferably) eliminating dry food. If your cat is addicted to a poor-quality processed diet, consider adding a supplement such as Feline Whole Body Support.

4. Provide appropriate supplementation

Offering your cat SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) is a safe and effective way to stall mental decline, improve mobility and assist in liver detoxification. Consult your holistic veterinarian for the right dose size.

Periodic detoxification with the herbs milk thistle and dandelion can also be very beneficial, as can providing super green foods in the form of fresh “cat grass” to nibble on. Chlorophyll, chlorella or spirulina can also be offered in supplement form to enhance your cat’s detoxification processes.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have been shown to be safe for cats and can improve brain energy metabolism and decrease the amyloid protein buildup that results in brain lesions in older pets. Coconut oil is a rich source of MCTs and may also reduce hairball issues. I recommend 1/4 teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight twice daily for basic MCT support, if your cat will voluntarily eat it.

For aging kitties who prowl the house all night and vocalize, consider low-dose melatonin, which is not only a sedative with a calming effect, but also an antioxidant. I also use rhodiola, chamomile and l-theanine with good results.

5. Make sure kitty stays physically and mentally stimulated

Keep your cat’s body and mind active with regular exercise appropriate for your cat’s age and physical condition, and mental stimulation (puzzles and treat-release toys can be beneficial). Think of creative ways to enrich your cat’s indoor environment and if your kitty never touches the earth’s surface directly (most housecats don’t), consider a grounding pad to help reduce the buildup of EMFs.

Regular massage can help keep your senior cat’s muscles toned and reduce the slackening that comes with aging. Massaged muscles are looser, which makes it easier for your pet to move around comfortably. Massage also improves circulation, encourages lymphatic drainage and eases joint stiffness.

6. Take steps to keep your cat’s aging body comfortable

If kitty seems physically uncomfortable, it’s important not to assume it’s just a natural part of aging. You want to make sure she’s not in pain, so a visit to your vet is in order. The sooner a health problem is diagnosed and treated, in most cases, the better the outcome.

Keeping your cat at a good weight and physically active will help control arthritis and degenerative joint disease as he ages. Chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture can also be very helpful in keeping cats fully mobile in their later years. There are a wide range of supplements that can be added to your cat’s diet to help maintain healthy tendons, ligaments, joints and cartilage. These include:

• Glucosamine sulfate with MSM and eggshell membrane

• Omega-3 fats (krill oil)

• Ubiquinol

• Supergreen foods like spirulina and astaxanthin

• Natural anti-inflammatory formulas (herbs, proteolytic enzymes and nutraceuticals)

In addition, talk to your vet about Adequan injections, which can stimulate joint fluid very rapidly in pets with arthritis. Also insure your cat can get into and out of the litterbox easily. Remember that kitties are very adept at hiding arthritis and other aches and pains, which can limit their ability to climb into high-sided boxes, or boxes kept in bathtubs or up a flight of stairs, for example.

7. Spend some time with your cat every day

Set aside time each day to hang out with your kitty. If she tolerates being brushed or combed, work that into the daily schedule as well, to help her with grooming chores. Trimming the hair around the perineal area is usually much appreciated by older cats. Make sure meals are provided on a consistent schedule, along with playtime and petting/lap time. Organic catnip (for kitties who respond to it — not all do) can be a very effective way to encourage your cat to play.

I know my older cats, Arron and Milo both really enjoyed their snuggle time.  It’s very important for both your pet’s and your own emotional security to spend time together sharing the love and demonstrating how much you mean to each other.  Make sure you spend time each day cuddling because the memories you make together are irreplaceable!

 

Is your Cat Depressed?

by Jessica Vogelsang, DVM and comments by Diane Weinmann

 

You’re probably familiar with Grumpy Cat, the little feline whose frown has made her famous across the internet. You may also be familiar with your own grumpy cat, if you happen to have a particularly temperamental one at home.

 

Cats are known for their diverse, often feisty, personalities; some are anxious, some reserved, others inquisitive. But what does it mean if your cat is acting depressed? Do cats even suffer from depression? Well, yes and no.

 

How is Depression in Cats Defined?

 

Certainly cats can exhibit depressed behavior, but the general consensus is that they do not experience the same emotional changes associated with clinical depression in humans.

 

“In general, depression in humans is considered a multifactorial disease,” says Dr. Lynn Hendrix, the owner of Beloved Pet Mobile Vet in Davis, California and a palliative care expert. Depression can be situational, caused by a stressful situation, or medical, due to chemical imbalances in the brain. The diagnosis is based on self-reported symptoms, says Hendrix, meaning that the symptoms can be expressed verbally to the doctor or psychologist.

 

Those diagnostic criteria are not available to veterinarians. Since  most people  can’t ask cats exactly what they are feeling, whether they’re sad or angry or anxious or joyous, they must rely on the clues that the cat gives us through their behavior and daily activities and make our assessments based on that.  If  you talk with an animal communicator you can find out for sure.

 

“The clinical signs we see tend to be loss of appetite, avoidance behavior, less active, and abnormal behavior, like hissing,” says Hendrix. Some cats may show changes in litterbox usage, while others have disturbed sleep patterns.

 

Other Causes for Symptoms of Depression in Cats

 

Unfortunately, those symptoms are caused by a wide variety of conditions in felines, so getting to the root of the problem usually involves a visit to the veterinarian to rule out other problems. Medical problems such as kidney disease or GI cancer can cause nausea and decreased appetite that mimic depression.

 

According to Hendrix, pain is one of the most underdiagnosed conditions in cats, seniors in particular, and is one of the leading causes of clinical signs of depression. “Most of the time, there is pain or physical disease causing a cat to act ‘depressed’,” she says.

 

In Hendrix’s experience, many pet owners who are dealing with terminally cats are concerned that their cat is experiencing depression, often mirroring their own sadness about a pet’s illness. Hendrix encourages those owners to consider medical causes instead. Often, “it is sick behavior,” she says. “Their terminal illness [is] making them feel sick, nauseous, painful.”

 

As a hospice and palliative care veterinarian, Hendrix is able to address those specific symptoms and help cats feel much more comfortable, even during the end of life process. In some cases, owners who were considering euthanasia actually postponed their decision due to the improvement in their pet’s temperament once proper treatment was instituted. For that reason, she recommends people seek veterinary care for pets exhibiting depressed behavior, as accurate diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve quality of life.

 

The Evaluation Process for Depression in Cats

 

Veterinarians will begin the evaluation by taking a full history of the symptoms and performing a complete physical examination.

 

“Bloodwork, chest x-rays, and abdominal ultrasound may be suggested by your veterinarian,” says Hendrix. Those baseline tests usually provide a good overall look at a pet’s health and organ function. Depending on the results, other tests may be recommended.  Infections, tumors, and inflammatory diseases of the nervous system can result in significant behavioral changes in cats. Changes due solely to stress and anxiety can be difficult to differentiate from medical conditions, so it is often a process of elimination to reach a diagnosis in cats.

 

Again, if the issue is physical in nature these tests will help; however, if the cause of the depression is emotional, you will learn nothing.  At that point you should consult an animal communicator, like Diane Weinmann, to determine how to proceed.

 

Although cats tend to be independent and resilient, they can suffer from anxiety due to changes in routine, feeling threatened, or the addition or loss of family members. Anxiety is, in fact, one of the major behavioral conditions seen by veterinarians. Chronic stress can have an impact on a pet’s emotional, and even physical, health. Self-inflicted hair loss, aggression, or changes in litterbox usage are often traced back to anxiety.

 

Treating the Cat’s Stress Instead of Depression

 

If a stressor can be identified and eliminated, often the symptoms will improve or resolve. A veterinarian, trainer or animal communicator experienced in cat behavior can help with recommendations to make a home environment less stressful to an anxious cat. A cat that feels exposed and doesn’t have a place to hide, for example, may respond to more covered furniture or additional vertical spaces in the house so he or she feels more in control of the environment.

 

Competition in multi-cat households can also cause stress. Depending on the situation, owners may need to add resources in the form of additional litterboxes and food bowls, or even separate cats that are not getting along.

 

As another environmental modification, some cats respond to pheromone diffusers such as Feliway, which can have a calming effect.  Diane has had success with essential oils and bach flower essences to alleviate emotional issues.

 

Using Medication to Treat Stress in Cats

 

For more severe cases, veterinarians can prescribe prescription medications which have been known to help with anxiety in some cats. Trazodone, gabapentin, alprazolam, and midazolam are just some of the options that a veterinarian may recommend, depending on the situation.

 

Regardless of the cause, a cat showing signs of depression can benefit greatly from a prompt evaluation by a veterinarian. If we resist applying the human definitions of mood disorders to our feline friends and instead evaluate them strictly from a cat-friendly perspective, there is often much we can do to make our beloved kitties happier and healthier!  If the issue doesn’t seem to be physical—call an animal communicator (like Diane Weinmann-  www.theloveofanimals.com)

 

 

Cat Facts: 10 Interesting Things About Cat Ears

By Matt Soniak

Cats are fascinating creatures, and they’re built with some pretty amazing functions. As we’ve already pointed out, their “software” is pretty advanced, and they’re not lacking for cool hardware, either. A lot of attention gets paid to animals’ senses of smell and sight and their noses and eyes, but cats’ ears and hearing deserve a little praise, too. Here are 10 things you might not know about your cat’s ears and what they can do.

 

  1. Cats’ ears are pretty similar to those of other mammals and share the same three structural areas: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The outer ear is made up of the pinna (that’s the external triangular part you can see on top of their heads, and what we usually think of when we talk about their ears) and the ear canal. The pinna’s job is to capture sound waves and funnel them down the ear canal to the middle ear. Cats’ pinnae are mobile, and they can turn and move them independently. “Cats have a lot of muscle control over their ear,” says Dr. George Strain, a neuroscientist at Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “They can actually use it like a radar unit and turn it toward the source of sound and increase their hearing sensitivity by 15 to 20 percent.”

 

The middle ear contains the eardrum and tiny bones called ossicles, which vibrate in response to sound waves and transmit those vibrations to the inner ear. In the inner ear, sensory cells in the organ of Corti respond to the vibrations by moving and bending, which sends electrical signals through the auditory nerve to the brain for processing.

 

The inner ear also contains the vestibular system, which helps provide a sense of balance and spatial orientation. Its shared location and connectivity to the sensory parts of the inner ear mean that an inner ear infection can affect both hearing and vestibular function, Strain says. “As a result, [a cat with an inner ear infection] may exhibit signs like a head tilt or a curvature of the body toward the side where the infection is.”

 

  1. For all their similarities to other mammalian ears, cat ears do have some anatomical differences, including one that can frustrate veterinarians. “One of the things that we struggle with in patients who have middle ear infections is that cats have a septum, like a bony shelf, that separates their middle ear into two compartments,” says Dr. Christine Cain, the section chief of dermatology and allergy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. “That can make it really difficult for us to resolve their middle ear infections because there’s a compartment that you just can’t get to very easily.”

 

  1. You might have noticed cats have folds of skin forming what look like small slits on the outer bases of their pinnae. These little structures are formally called the cutaneous marginal pouches, but are more commonly known as Henry’s pockets. Veterinarians are unsure what purpose the pockets serve, if any.

 

Henry’s pocket is a pretty great anatomical term, and there’s another one for the tufts of fur that grow on the interior of cat’s pinnae—they’re called “ear furnishings” by cat fanciers and breeders.

 

  1. Most cat owners can tell you, anecdotally, that their pet has a very good sense of hearing. But just how good is it? “Cats hear lower frequencies and higher frequencies than dogs and people do,” Strain says. A cat’s hearing range is approximately 45hz to 64khz, compared to 67hz to 45khz in dogs. While the range of human hearing is usually pegged at 20hz to 20khz, Strain says 64hz to 23khz is a better representation.

“Among domestic animals, cats have some of the best hearing,” he says. “It helps them in that they’re predators by nature—being able to hear a wider range of sounds helps them detect a wider range of prey species, and gives them a chance of hearing and avoiding their own predators.”

 

  1. White cats with blue eyes have higher than normal incidences of congenital deafness due to genetic anomalies that result in the degeneration of some of the important sensory parts of the ear. “The gene that produces white hair and skin does so by suppressing pigment cells,” Strain explains, including those in the tissue of the inner ear. If those cells don’t function, he says, the tissue degenerates and the sensory cells involved in hearing die, leading to deafness.

 

  1. Some cats have four ears (or at least four outer ears, with extra pinnae behind their normal pinnae). The additional ears are the result of a genetic mutation. “They also have some other abnormalities,” Cain says. “Their eyes are smaller and they have a little bit of an underbite, too.”

 

  1. Cats’ ear canals have a self-cleaning mechanism, Cain says, and they don’t need your help keeping their ears clean. In fact, trying to clean a cat’s ears can cause ear problems to develop. “They’re sensitive creatures and susceptible to developing things like irritant reactions when we put things into their ears,” Cain says. “Unless your cat has an ear problem, for which you should go to your veterinarian, I wouldn’t do a lot of cleaning at home. Don’t try to fix it if it’s not broken.”

 

  1. Cats are an altricial species, which means that for some time after birth, they’re relatively immobile and not all of their sensory systems are working at their full potential. Strain says cats are born with their ear canals sealed and their auditory systems immature. “They respond to sounds as soon as the ear canal opens, and their hearing threshold will get better—that is, they can hear softer and softer sounds—in the several weeks after that,” he says.

 

  1. A cat’s ear temperature can help you tell if he is stressed out. Cats’ responses to fear and stress include increased adrenaline and other physiological changes that lead to energy generation in the body. Part of that energy is released as heat, increasing a cat’s body temperature in several areas. Scientists have found that the temperature of a cat’s right ear (but not the left ear) is related to the level of certain hormones released in response to stress, and could be a reliable indicator of psychological stress.

 

  1. Giving a hearing test to a cat is sometimes tricky, but it can be done. Behavioral tests where veterinarians make a noise and look for responses have several problems, Strain says. They can’t detect unilateral deafness, for example, and it’s not uncommon for cats to be stressed out and unresponsive during the tests.

 

“The most objective test we have available to us is the BAER test, which stands for brainstem auditory evoked response,” Strain says. In these tests, he explains, electrodes are placed under the skin on the top of a cat’s head and in front of each ear. A sound is then played into each ear, and the electrodes detect electrical activity in the auditory pathway.

 

“It’s like a TV antennae picking up a signal deep in the brain,” he says. A series of peaks in activity indicates the ear heard the noise, while a lack of activity peaks suggests the ear is deaf.