When It Comes to Supporting Cat Health, It’s a Balancing Act

Cats are incredibly adept animals full of surprising adaptations. But, just because they can survive on their own (using highly specialized self-preservation skills), it doesn’t mean they should. 

Feral cats and strays don’t live as long as indoor-only cats, due in large part to well-meaning human intervention. Cat owners vigilantly protect their fluffy one’s health and do everything they can to guarantee their longevity. But when it comes to cat health, there are a few basics that can sustain a long, healthy and happy life.

A Weighty Decision

One of the biggest threats to cat health is weight gain. However, keeping your cat slim and slender can be much harder than you think. In fact, many cats beg for treats or extra scoops in their food bowls making it all but impossible not to indulge them. Take it from us: It’s much easier to prevent weight gain, than establish a weight loss routine after the fact.

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Keeping Your Indoor Cat Healthy: The Secret to Health and Happiness

Talk to your veterinarian about keeping your indoor cat healthy It’s true that indoor cats are safer than their outdoor cat friends; they don’t have to contend with cars, getting into cat fights, or predators like coyotes and mountain lions. However, they do tend to be couch potatoes unless we step in to give them some entertainment.

Animal Medical Hospital wants to help you keep your indoor cat healthy and fit, and one way to do that is through environmental enrichment. So, we’re taking some tips and tricks from our arsenal and passing them on to you. Let’s get moving!

Keep Your Indoor Cat Healthy

Cats in the wild have specific behaviors that, well, make them cats. These natural instincts, if replicated indoors, can help your cat express themselves in a healthy way.

Here are some ideas… Continue…

Why Veterinary Care for Cats is So Important

Veterinary care for cats keep our feline friends happy and healthy.Cats are amazing creatures. When you stop and think about it, biologically and evolutionarily we are sharing our homes with tiny and ferocious tigers. (It just so happens they also are obsessed with hunting down that relentless red light from the laser pointer).

Because cats are very much still wired like wild animals, it can make caring for them complicated. This means, though, that good preventative care is even more important for them. At Animal Medical Hospital, we partner with our pet parents to prioritize veterinary care for cats and keep Leo’s inner Lion as fierce as ever. Continue…

What is Heartworm Disease?

Dr. Abigial Brady

Heartworm disease is very common in North Carolina and has been diagnosed in all 48 states within the continental US. Heartworm disease is a fatal disease in dogs and cats. Heartworms are spaghetti-like worms that live inside the heart of dogs, cats, and wild mammals such as wolves, coyotes and foxes. When the worms are living in the heart they can cause heart failure, lung disease and severe disease in other organs of the body.

How do our pets get heartworms?

Heartworms are spread through mosquito bites. Wild animals are natural carriers of heartworms. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, they ingest the heartworm larvae (immature heartworms). The larvae mature into the infective stage while inside the mosquito. When the mosquito moves on and bites the next dog or cat they come across, they transfer the larvae into the pet. The immature mosquitos then migrate from the bite into the bloodstream and then to the heart, where they will continue to mature and cause signs of disease.  From the time of the bite to the time that the worms are matured and able to be detected by a blood test is an average of 6 months.

Dogs are a natural host of the heartworm, meaning that the worms can mature and reproduce in the heart. Because of this, the worms can continue to reproduce and there can be up to several hundred worms living in one dog if they are left untreated. The heartworms can live in the dog for 5-7 years.

Cats are not natural hosts of heartworms. This means that they rarely develop to adulthood and typically do not reproduce. Normally when a cat is infected with heartworms, there are only 1-3 worms present. Even though they rarely have adult worms and in comparison to dogs, there are only a few present, heartworm disease can still be severe and even fatal in cats. The heartworms can live in the cat for 2-3 years.

What are the signs of heartworm disease?

In heartworm positive dogs, the most common signs seen are associated with heart disease. In early stages of disease there are usually no clinical signs that you will be able to detect. The most common signs that are seen by owners include a persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, becoming tired/worn out more quickly, weight loss and loss of appetite. In late stages of disease or severe disease you may see a distended abdomen, collapse, labored breathing or pale gums.

Cats with heartworm disease may have no signs or very severe signs. They commonly have respiratory signs including coughing or asthma-like breathing but they may also have vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, difficulty walking, fainting or a distended abdomen. Unfortunately in cats the first sign may be sudden collapse or even sudden death.

How do I get my pet tested for heartworms?

All dogs should be tested for heartworms every 12 months (starting at 1 year of age). This can be done with the annual blood work that your veterinarian runs. There are in-hospital, rapid tests that can be run, or your veterinarian may elect to send your pet’s blood to an outside lab to run a heartworm test.

Because cats do not usually have adult heartworms, they can be more difficult to detect. The preferred method to test cats is to took for both the antigen and antibody (the presence of worms and the exposure to them) but your veterinarian may also recommend x-rays or an ultrasound to help detect the worms if your cat is showing clinical signs of heartworm disease.

How can I prevent heartworm disease?

There are many veterinary approved heartworm preventions on the market. There are some preventatives that you may be able to find over the counter but these medications are not regulated so please consult your veterinarian before starting your pet on one. Heartworm prevention is available in many forms. There are several brands of oral medications, both pills and chewable “treats”. You can also purchase topical liquids, which can be convenient for Image result for heartworm preventionpicky eaters or pets with food allergies. Most preventatives should be given monthly, 12 months a year. Many of the available preventatives also protect pets from intestinal parasites and fleas, ask your veterinarian for more information on this!

How is heartworm disease treated?

In dogs there are a few different protocols that are available to treat heartworms. Before treatment is performed, many diagnostic tests such as blood work and x-rays will be done to make sure your dog is getting the best care.  Your veterinarian will come up with the best treatment protocol for your dog, most of which include several visits to the veterinary hospital, strict exercise restriction and close monitoring. Treatment can be very difficult on a dog’s body and there are side effects that can occur, but without treatment heartworm disease can be fatal. The treatment protocols can be several hundred to a couple thousand dollars. Monthly prevention is very important. The cost of prevention is much less than the cost of treatment and is much easier on the dog’s body.

Unfortunately for cats there are no approved drug protocols. Strict monitoring and close veterinary care is crucial to maintaining your cats health if they are diagnosed with heartworm disease.

Please talk to your veterinarian about any questions you still have about heartworms and how to protect your pets.  The American Heartworm Society also has an abundance of information on their website.

Feline Urinary Tract Disease: What Cat Owners Should Know

Dr. Lauren Hathaway

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is commonly diagnosed in cats and can have a variety of underlying causes.  As the name implies, this group of disorders involves the structures of the lower urinary tract, including the bladder and urethra (the long tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body).  Signs of urinary tract disease in cats can range from mild to severe, with even death a possibility if left untreated.

Why is my cat urinating outside of the litterbox?

One of the first signs of urinary tract disease that cat owners may notice is inappropriate elimination, or urination outside of the litterbox.  Although inappropriate urination can be behavioral in origin, it is very important for your veterinarian to exam your cat to rule out any potential underlying medical problems.  Possible causes of lower urinary tract disease in cats include:

  • Urinary stones
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Idiopathic cystitis (inflammation of the bladder)
  • Urethral obstruction (blockage of the urethra with stones or mineral plugs)

What in the world is idiopathic cystitis?

One of the most commonly diagnosed problems in cats with urinary issues is idiopathic cystitis, which describes inflammation in the bladder that occurs for an unknown reason.  This condition is still not completely understood in cats, but is believed to be related to stress.  As idiopathic cystitis progresses, it leads to significant inflammation within the bladder, along with the production of debris composed of inflammatory cells, blood clots, and mineral deposits.  If this inflammation is persistent and ongoing, enough debris can accumulate within the bladder to result in urethral obstruction.Urinary Blockage

Urethral obstruction is the most serious form of urinary tract disease, and can be life-threatening.  Cats that are obstructed are unable to urinate, which means that they are unable to eliminate the body’s waste products that are filtered through the urine.  Obstructions almost always occur in male cats due to the length and narrow diameter of their urethra compared to female cats. In the male, small bladder stones often cause an obstruction as they pass out of the bladder and through the urethra. Plugs of debris and inflammatory cells can also lead to obstruction.

What signs should I watch for at home?

Symptoms of lower urinary tract disease include:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Increased frequency of urination (spending more time in the litterbox)
  • Painful urination (crying out while attempting to urinate)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urinating outside of the litterbox
  • Decreased appetite, hiding, or other behavioral changes

Cats that become obstructed may exhibit many of the same symptoms, but are unable to urinate.  These cats may show progressive clinical signs, including vomiting, extreme lethargy, or collapsing.  If left untreated, urethral obstructions are usually fatal.

If your cat is exhibiting symptoms of urinary tract disease, it is recommended that your cat be examined by a veterinarian.  Testing and treatment will be tailored to your cat depending on his or her history and exam findings. If your male cat is not urinating, the situation is an emergency and he should be examined by your veterinarian as soon as possible.