Avoiding the Knife: Preventing Pet Surgeries

April 11, 2013

At The Animal Medical Center, our board certified surgeons and neurologists perform approximately 1,500 surgeries each year. A recently released pet insurance study completed in 2012 listed the top ten surgery claims for both dogs and cats:

Top-10-Canine-Conditions-large

Survey attributed to VPI Pet Insurance 2012

Since none of us want our pets to be subjected to the difficulties most surgeries pose, I will devote this blog to suggestions on how to avoid some of the most common canine and feline surgeries.

Tooth extractions

Topping the surgery list for cats and coming in at number three for dogs were tooth extractions. Keeping your pets’ teeth healthy means daily brushing and annual dental cleanings. The American Veterinary Dental College website provides good information about home dental care in dogs and cats. Remember, doggy breath often means periodontal disease, so if your pet has smelly breath, see your veterinarian for treatment before extractions become necessary.

Skin abscess, inflammation and pressure ulcers

This list of skin conditions ranks number two as a reason for surgery in both dogs and cats. Pressure ulcers generally occur in older dogs with limited mobility. Padding, padding and more padding will help prevent pressure ulcers on their elbows and thighs. Investigate orthopedic beds for your dog and try to keep him from laying on hard surfaces like the bathroom tile floor which can aggravate pressure sores. Promote mobility in your dog through regular exercise and management of arthritis with diet and medications.

Feline bite wounds

When I was a veterinarian in a more suburban area, we treated cat bite wounds on a daily basis. Preventing cat bite injuries is as simple as keeping your cat indoors. Cat bites not only cause wounds which can become abscesses, but cat bites transmit the feline immunodeficiency virus and possibly blood parasites as well. Priceless is how I define the value of keeping your cat indoors and healthy.

Aural hematoma

The tenth most common surgery in dogs was to repair an aural (ear) hematoma. Cats can develop aural hematomas too, just not as commonly as dogs. This condition is essentially a blood blister inside the ear flap. Blood accumulates in the ear flap when your dog incessantly shakes his head or scratches her ears. Usually, the shaking and scratching is in response to an allergy or an ear infection. If you see this behavior, check inside the ear for redness or discharge. See your veterinarian immediately to treat the cause of the shaking and scratching to prevent the development of an aural hematoma.

While some surgeries are unavoidable, these are prime examples of how a visit to your veterinarian for routine preventive care can help your pet avoid surgery.


Understanding Feline Diabetes

November 2, 2012

Cat receiving insulin. Photo: Sugarpet.net

According to the American Diabetes Association, November is American Diabetes Month. Due to obesity, diabetes is on the rise in people and, unfortunately, the same is true for our feline companions. The theme for American Diabetes Month 2012 is “A Day in the Life of Diabetes” and I will detail some of the daily routine of a diabetic cat and his owner, me.

Symba was the cat who came to me shortly after I graduated from veterinary school. He became acutely ill while I was traveling, and my colleagues at The Animal Medical Center diagnosed him with pancreatitis and diabetes. Pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas, destroys the ability of that organ to make insulin, and without insulin the result is diabetes. Recurrent pancreatitis and obesity commonly play a role in feline diabetes.

Giving insulin
When Symba came home from the hospital, I had to give insulin injections twice a day. Easy for me, but an aspect of managing diabetes most families with a newly diagnosed diabetic cat initially worry about. In a recent international survey on the quality of life for cats with diabetes, 221 cat owners reported few difficulties in administering insulin, but they did not like adhering to the required rigid schedule of injections.

Twice daily insulin administration gives your cat the best chance of achieving remission of diabetes. Remission means no more insulin injections – good for you and your cat. Twice daily insulin injections did work for Symba. He went into remission which lasted over a year.

Scary hypoglycemia
The feline diabetes quality of life survey found cat owners worried about hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar. Low blood sugar deprives critical organs of the sugar they need for fuel. Early signs of hypoglycemia include muscle tremors, lethargy, weakness, and staggering. A seizure or coma means the blood sugar is seriously low and a trip to the animal ER is necessary.

Monitoring blood sugar levels or urine sugar levels will help your cat avoid a hypoglycemic crisis. At the first signs of hypoglycemia, feeding a meal may avert a crisis. Although cat owners involved in the quality of life study worried about hypoglycemia, in actuality it rarely happened. When Symba developed hypoglycemia, I gave him the corn syrup I had in the kitchen cabinet just for this purpose. Maple syrup or honey work too. The good thing about a hypoglycemic crisis is it may mean your cat requires less insulin and might be going into diabetic remission.

Boarding barrier
When I traveled, my colleagues at The AMC took care of Symba at the hospital, but the feline diabetes quality of life participants ranked finding a friend, family member, or boarding facility to take care of their diabetic cat one of their major challenges. Advance planning will help remove some of the stress associated with leaving your cat behind while you travel.

Good quality of life
Despite the challenges to cat and owner, 94% of cat owners rated their diabetic cat’s life as good, fairly good or as good as it could be. When asked if they would treat another cat for diabetes, a resounding 90% said yes.

Prevent diabetes in your cat by keeping her in ideal body condition. Control food intake and provide opportunities to exercise.

To help support diabetes research, CVS pharmacies are donating one dollar for every photo depicting a day in the life of diabetes that is posted on the American Diabetes Association Facebook page.

So start uploading!


The Compounding Pharmacy Problem: What Pet Owners Should Know

October 10, 2012

A rare form of human meningitis has recently been in the news. The outbreak, believed to stem from fungal contamination of a medication compounded to treat back pain, has resulted in several fatalities. The manufacturer of the implicated medication is not a big pharma or an overseas company; the medication was produced by a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts. The Food and Drug administration has identified fungal organisms in a sealed vial of methylprednisone acetate produced by the compounding pharmacy.

Pets not affected

This outbreak is unusual since the fungi involved, aspergillus and exserohilum, live in soil and water. Exactly how they came to contaminate the medication is under intense investigation. Since veterinarians don’t treat back pain in dogs and cats with steroids like methlyprednisone acetate injected around the spinal cord, there are no reports of fungal meningitis in pets, but veterinarians do use compounded medications, and understanding their role in managing disease in your pet is important.

Compounding defined

Compounding is the alteration of the original drug dosage form for the purposes of ease of administration or because the original dosage form is unsuitable for the purpose intended. Translated for the pet owner, compounding is flavoring a medication to hide the bad taste, dissolving pills into a liquid to facilitate administration, or putting multiple medications into one capsule to help a pet owner comply with a multidrug treatment protocol. Without a good compounding pharmacy, my job would be impossible.

Compounding dangers

Compounding is not regulated by the FDA because it is a process initiated by prescription and on a case-by-case basis. In veterinary medicine, compounding rules have been stretched in an attempt to create cheaper medications. Some compounding pharmacies offer expensive medications at unbelievably low prices. I suspect these cheaper products are being produced by what is known as bulk compounding from raw materials. Just last week, I had to advise a pet owner against using the compounding pharmacy’s cheaper “house” brand of an expensive medication. That medication is not currently available as a less expensive generic. Although I am sympathetic to the financial burden of treating a pet with cancer, my overriding concern is for the patient and the efficacy and safety of the prescribed treatments. Prescribing an approved medication provides some assurance of efficacy and safety for my patients.

Medication safety

Listen to your veterinarian. If they believe a particular medication is better, ask why. If they are concerned about the safety and efficacy of a compounded medication, I recommend trying to make the standard formulation work for your pet.

Learn more about safely medicating your pet.


Let’s Move: Simple Activities to Get Your Cats Moving

September 20, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama believes in physical activity as a way to combat childhood obesity in America. Her program, Let’s Move, aims to raise a healthier generation of kids.

Americans are also raising a generation of obese cats because most cats now live indoors. Research has shown that cats living in apartments and inactive cats have the highest risk of becoming obese. Cats with a bowl full of food available at all times are more likely to be obese when compared to cats fed at specific meal times. Many cat owners are unable to recognize obesity in their pet, so there is little early intervention. Here are my suggestions for simple, inexpensive cat activities to get your feline friend moving as part of a healthy cat lifestyle.

Going up, going down

One of the features lacking in most apartments, which may contribute to cat inactivity, is stairs. Using stairs is a good way to build strong muscles in your kitten or cat. My apartment doesn’t have stairs, but I have a step stool which I use to get to the top shelves in my kitchen. Some days I put the step stool out with a favorite treat or toy on top to encourage my kitten to move. The photograph shows my kitten playing on the step stool.

Cats recycle

Kittens don’t need expensive toys; in fact they find trash to be treasure. One of the favorites in my house is an empty toilet paper, paper towel or wrapping paper roll. They can chew, scratch and roll the tubes to their hearts’ delight and the toys are easily replaced when completely destroyed. Another great toy is a wide, sturdy ribbon. I saved one from a gift and tied it to the kitchen drawer handle. I pull the drawer out four or five inches so the ribbon flutters in a breeze. My kittens love to jump up and bat the ribbon and at the same time get excellent exercise.

Cats like shopping [bags]

A shopping day means a bonanza for your cat. Maybe they get a cute new toy, but what they are most excited about is the pile of shopping bags you bring home. My kittens adore a large shopping bag with a small cardboard box slipped inside. The box supports part of the bag where the kittens play king of the hill. The box also creates a space inside the bag for hiding, resting and planning a surprise attack on my ankles. If given a choice, they like bags with stiff paper loop handles which they slip through like children with a hula hoop. The photograph shows how I set up the bag and box and how much my kitten likes playing in it!

Do you have a favorite kitten or cat activity? Write back and let everyone else know how you keep your cat moving.


Demystifying General Anesthesia: Part II, General Anesthesia

September 11, 2012

In my previous blog, I wrote about the steps leading up to general anesthesia designed to minimize anesthetic risk. This blog continues with medications used prior to the anesthetic agent and concludes with recommendations for pet owners.

Premedications

Successful anesthesia is not just about the main inhaled or injected anesthetic agent. Most times, several drugs are administered in the hours or minutes prior to induction of anesthesia. These drugs reduce the amount of anesthetic agent required, calm the patient, and make the process better for everyone involved. If postoperative pain is anticipated, pain management may be initiated during this period.

Induction and anesthesia maintenance drugs

After the premedications take effect, administration of an agent to induce anesthesia begins. Sometimes the same drug is used to maintain anesthesia for the procedure; other times a second maintenance agent is administered. Typically a breathing tube is secured in place to allow free passage of oxygen and anesthetic gas into the lungs and carbon dioxide out. The breathing tube has a little expandable balloon cuff which acts as a safety feature. The cuff is expanded to prevent aspiration of saliva or stomach contents into the lungs during the procedure.

Emergency preparedness

Nearly every veterinary hospital has a poster of drug doses to be used in emergency situations. At The AMC, we calculate the exact dose of a long list of emergency medications for every patient undergoing anesthesia. The paper stays with the pet throughout the anesthetic procedure. Emergency equipment is also available in the anesthesia area, including tracheal suction and defibrillators. During every procedure, heart rate, respirations, blood pressure, and blood oxygen level are recorded every few minutes, so if a negative trend is occurring it can by recognized and corrected immediately.

Recovery period

The most critical time in anesthesia is the three hours following discontinuation as this is when the most anesthetic-related deaths occur. Pets are carefully monitored until they are fully awake, once again able to swallow and ambulate normally. Here is a description of Spencer in The AMC’s recovery room.

The pet owner’s role

In addition to asking questions about the procedure and understanding the precautions your pet’s veterinary team is taking to safeguard your pet, you have other important roles. Following your veterinarian’s directions about withholding food and water before the procedure are critical in safeguarding your pet’s health. A full stomach could result in vomiting, leading to aspiration pneumonia.

In most hospitals, you will be asked to sign an informed consent document only when you understand the procedure, its risks, and have had the opportunity to ask questions of the veterinary staff. Finally, if your veterinarian recommends your pet stay overnight and recover under their supervision, listen and heed their advice. On the few occasions I have given in to client pressure and released a pet before I wanted to, both the client and I regretted it. Leaving your pet overnight allows the team to adjust the pain medications, while taking her home means she waits until morning if the prescription needs adjustment.


Feeding Frenzy: Tips for Choosing the Right Pet Food

September 4, 2012

If I had to venture a guess as to the most fretted over issue for pet owners, it would be finding the right food for their pet. Grocery store and pet shop shelves abound with bags, boxes, and cans. No wonder the decision is difficult. Here are my tips to streamline the selection process:

1. Check the label

The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) develops regulations regarding the nutritional adequacy of pet food. If the label says “complete and balanced” for your pet’s life stage (puppy, kitten, adult, senior), then you know it meets the AAFCO regulations and is a food worth a trial run. If the AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy statement is missing from the label, this is definitely not the right food for your pet.

2. Look at your pet

Not every complete and balanced food is right for your pet. If the food you feed results in a dull coat, vomiting after every meal, or diarrhea, start over and select an alternative food. As your pet matures, switch her food to one formulated for her current life stage. With so many options on the store shelves, there is guaranteed to be a food to meet the needs of every pet and pet family.

3. Variety is the spice of life

If you feed your kitten or puppy food of the same flavor every day, you risk raising a finicky eater. Try alternating the chicken flavor of your pet’s favorite brand of food with the beef or tuna flavor. If you feed both canned and dry food, select foods from two different pet food companies. Familiarity with two different textures and tastes may come in handy if one food is taken off the market, is recalled, or if your pet develops an illness requiring a switch to a special diet.

4. Change cautiously

When a diet change becomes necessary due to life stage change, illness, or family preference, plan ahead to prevent problems. An acute diet change often results in complete rejection of the new diet or gastrointestinal upset. Gradual introduction of a new food increases your chance of success in gaining your pet’s acceptance of what you want her to eat. Place a second bowl containing a bite or two of the new food next to the old food. Don’t expect instant success and consider a sniff or a lick on the first day a triumph. If she starts finishing the bite of new food, gradually decrease the portion of the old food while increasing the serving size of the new food. The total transition should take a month.

5. Check with your veterinarian

This is the most important tip. Your veterinarian should serve as your primary resource for pet nutrition information. We see dozens of pets every week and have a good idea of what foods result in healthy, happy pets. Because your veterinarian knows the health of your pet, she will also know if a prescription diet should be part of the therapy for your dog or cat’s illness.


When Are Two Intestinal Tumors Better Than One?

August 13, 2012

This is the fifth in a series of blogs about pets with intestinal diseases.

Otra is a tortoiseshell cat with an unusual name and an unusual medical condition. The unusual name came about when her new family brought her home. They decided to take a couple of days to pick a suitable name. A temporary name of Otra Gata was chosen because Otra was the second cat in the household and otra gata is Spanish for “other cat.” Otra knew it was the right name for her and immediately responded to it when she was called, so it stuck.

Otra first came to see me nearly two years ago with a diagnosis of lymphoma, a commonly diagnosed malignancy of feline patients.

Otra’s health problems started when she was ten years old, just after her family moved to The Animal Medical Center’s neighborhood. They noticed she appeared thin. Otra first met with an internal medicine specialist who eliminated diseases of the thyroid, kidneys, and diabetes as the cause of her weight loss. An abdominal ultrasound honed in on the problem: an inch-and-a-half-long mass of the small intestine. Ultrasound guidance directed a needle into the mass and obtained enough tumor cells for examination under the microscope. The diagnosis: lymphoma.

Cat chemo

Chemotherapy drugs used to treat lymphoma in cats are the same drugs used to treat lymphoma in humans. Otra began treatment just before Christmas and finished six months later. She felt well, acted normally, and was in complete remission. The chemotherapy treatment dissolved the tumor and it could no longer be identified by ultrasound. For the next year, Otra stopped by for weigh-ins and the occasional examination, but mostly we were happy to see her and to see her doing so well.

Thin again

About 18 months after her initial diagnosis of lymphoma, we noticed her weight dropping and an elevation in her heart rate. Blood tests revealed her thyroid was overactive, an everyday diagnosis in geriatric cats. More ominous was the presence of a small mass in her intestine, a half-inch in diameter. We all feared the lymphoma had returned and repeated the ultrasound-guided aspirate. The results were surprising: no lymphoma cells were seen.

A week or so later, the mass was surgically removed from her intestine. The biopsy did not find lymphoma, but a different type of intestinal tumor, adenocarcinoma.

Strange, but true

Otra’s case is doubly unusual. First, a one-and-a-half year remission from lymphoma is very uncommon in cats. Second, two different intestinal tumors in one cat is also uncommon, although Otra’s two different tumors are the number one and two most common intestinal tumors found in cats. This tidbit of information comes from a 40-year review of over 1,100 feline patients with intestinal cancer. In this recently published study, over 600 cats had a diagnosis of lymphoma and just over half that number had the second most common tumor, intestinal adenocarcinoma.

How can two tumors be better?

If Otra’s lymphoma had relapsed, it would have indicated to me the tumor cells had become very clever and developed pathways to avoid the toxic effects of chemotherapy. Treatment would not have been very successful and I would have not been able to offer a very optimistic prognosis. For intestinal adenocarcinoma, the most important aspect of treatment, surgical removal of the tumor, has already been completed and Otra is nearly normal, except for having to wear the dreaded cone to protect the incision.

Because of her quick recovery and the occurrence of a second treatable tumor, we anticipate many more happy months for her and her family.


Life-Threatening Thread: A Cat’s Nemesis

July 19, 2012

This is the second in a series of blogs on pets with intestinal problems.

Jenny

Jenny is a survivor. In 2004, this friendly orange feline developed a form of cancer located at the site of a prior injection. Successful removal of the tumor required an amputation of her right hind leg, and today she remains cancer free. Recently, Jenny used up another of her nine lives because of a tangle with a piece of sewing thread and a needle.

Cat lovers everywhere know how much their cat likes to be entertained by a piece of string, some ribbon, or a ball of yarn. Cat lovers also know how easy it can be to drop one of these items soundlessly onto the floor where these fun toys can turn deadly if found and swallowed by their cat.

Gone in one gulp!

That is exactly what happened to Jenny. Her owner noticed Jenny playing with a piece of thread and saw the glint of metal, and then in the blink of an eye both the thread and the metallic object were gone! Jenny’s family suspected the metallic object was a sewing needle attached to the thread.

The x-ray confirms

Jenny’s x-ray showing needle in small intestine

Jenny was rushed to The Animal Medical Center, where the emergency service immediately took an x-ray and found the needle already in her small intestine. If the needle had stayed in her stomach, it could have been retrieved using an endoscope. Removal of the needle from her intestines required emergency surgery; hopefully before the needle and its attached string caused any internal damage. The surgeon on call, Dr. Philippa Pavia, started surgery at 11 pm, and through a one-half-inch-long incision in the intestine, a one-and-a-half-inch-long needle with an attached five-inch-long piece of thread was successfully removed. By 2 a.m., Jenny was back in her hospital cage, safely recovered from anesthesia. She resumed eating the following day and was discharged from The AMC.

Protect your cat

Every veterinarian can recite a list of feline patients just like Jenny who have eaten shoelaces, Christmas tree tinsel, cassette tapes, and hair ribbons. Jenny was lucky that her family acted quickly. They saw her eat the thread and knew eating thread could be serious. If you are a cat owner, keep all string out of reach of your cat and allow it to play with strings only when supervised to avoid a scenario like Jenny’s or worse.


Coping with Cat Claws

June 19, 2012

Lacey is available for adoption through Petfinder (see below)

This is the third in a series of blogs written about our fabulous felines for Adopt-A-Cat Month.

I just finished fostering a litter of six kittens. Having them was a delight, but also a responsibility. I enjoyed every minute I could spend watching them cavort about in my spare room, but knew my job was to raise them to be good pets in their forever homes. So I took having the kittens — right down to their toenails — very seriously.

Promoting proper scratching

Lucy, the mother cat, liked to scratch on my sofa, so I purchased a sisal scratching mat for her at my local pet emporium and worked to redirect her scratching to the mat. I taped the mat to the floor with duct tape since cats like to feel resistance against their feet when they scratch and the mat wrinkled if it was not taped down. I also sprinkled the mat with cat nip and taught her to sit on the mat for a treat, making it a popular cat hangout. Lucy also liked to scratch cardboard boxes, so I kept one or two in the cats’ room for that purpose. Once they were old enough, the kittens followed their mother’s lead.

Nail care

At about one week of age, the kittens’ toenails were like razors. To protect my skin and their devoted nursing mother, I clipped 24 feet’s worth of kitten nails. Approximately every week after, I clipped another round of 24! By the time the kittens were ready to go back to the adoption agency to be spayed or neutered, I could clip all the nails without a struggle as the kittens learned to accept nail clipping. My hope is their new families will be able to continue clipping with ease.

Cat scratch behavior

Scratching is normal behavior for cats. Scratching sharpens the claws and helps to shed the outer layers of the claw. It also help a cat mark their territory by leaving behind both a visual and olfactory mark for other cats.

Controlling claws

I realize not all cats get the right start in life with regard to scratching behavior and nail clipping. In addition to working to modify scratching behavior like I did with Lucy, one solution to protect your family and furniture is to use nail covers. Cat owners attach these colorful covers to their cat’s nails with special glue. Your family and furniture are protected while your cat can safely exercise his desire to scratch.

Declawing a cat is considered a last resort to controlling scratching behavior. An alternative procedure is tendonectomy, also called tenectomy. This surgical procedure severs the tendon responsible for extending the claw. Cats still have nails, requiring trimming, but cannot injure family or damage furniture since the nail cannot be extended. Cat owners must commit to weekly clipping of the nails or they will grow very long and possibly injure the cat’s delicate foot pad.

When clipping cat nails, I prefer to use a human nail clipper or a special nail clipper for cats that looks like a small scissor with curved cutouts in the blade. Ask your veterinarian for additional tips on how to clip your cat’s nails, or have your veterinarian or groomer do it for your cat.

Lacey is available for adoption through Petfinder.


Kitten Questions

April 16, 2012

After last week’s blog on my litter of foster kittens, I received a surprising number of questions about raising a litter of kittens. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised since most families are not lucky enough to have the fun of raising a litter of kittens from day one. I thought readers of Fur the Love of Pets might find the answers interesting.

Q: How long did the delivery take for seven kittens?

A: I had planned to carefully record the color and sex of each kitten as it was born, but they came so fast and Lucy seemed to tire after the third kitten, so I took over rubbing down each new kitten with a clean towel to get it to begin breathing. Once it was breathing well on its own and moving vigorously, I gave each one back to Lucy and collected the next newborn. The details of the delivery are a blur. I can remember the first kitten was dark-colored and stillborn, the second orange and the third dark, but with the litter consisting of two female dark ones and four male orange ones, I have no idea which one came first. I noticed the first kitten arrived at 7 am and the last kitten was born at about 8:45 am, making each delivery a brief 15 minutes.

Q: How big are newborn kittens?

A: I must confess that as the labor and delivery staff of one, I did not weigh the kittens until they were about 48 hours old. At that time, they ranged from 136-160 grams. But a picture is worth a thousand words and they were about the size of a sick of butter.

Q: Can the kittens meow?

A: These kittens are incredibly noisy. First, they have no manners and slurp when they eat. The slurping is audible across the room. If they wander too far from the rest of the litter, the wanderer mews and whines until Lucy thrill, the kittn gets is bearing and heads back to the group. They also have a distress call –piercing, sharp and the volume of a lion’s roar. They don’t make this noise often, but if they do, their mother comes immediately and moves the distressed kitten back to the nest box, picking it up by the nape of the neck. Separating a kitten from the litter to photograph it near a stick of butter will provoke this cry!

Q: How strong are the kittens?

A: Much stronger than you think and yet not so strong. One of them hooked a toenail in a towel I was using as a bumper to keep them from wandering too far outside their nest box. Poor little thing was not strong enough to unhook the toenail from the loops of thread in the towel, and mewed until I unhooked it. But, when I tried to restrain the kitten for a pedicure, it seemed like I was holding a 150 gram tiger and I was rewarded with the lion-sized distress cry once again.


The Importance of Portion Control for Pets

January 9, 2012

In my last blog I wrote about Pusuke, the world’s oldest dog and the role of breed and size in dog longevity. Every pet owner dreams of having their beloved cat or dog with them for many, many years. But do you know you could be doing something which might decrease your pet’s longevity? That something is overfeeding.

Every living creature needs food to survive. But research has shown overweight and obese pets do not live as long as their thinner counterparts. Maintaining your pet at an ideal body condition score will help to lengthen its life.

Ideal body condition score
Your veterinarian may have talked to you about your pet’s ideal body condition score (BCS). Body condition assessment is used by veterinarians to quantify under and overweight pets. It serves the same purpose as the BMI your doctor calculates for you. At The Animal Medical Center, we record the body condition score of each pet we examine using a separate system for dogs and cats.

Portion size matters
Portion control is critical to maintaining an ideal body condition. An article in the New York Times about kitchen scales made me think of another worthwhile use for your kitchen scale: weighing pet food. It is so easy to be too generous when you use a scoop or cup to serve up a portion of dry food nuggets. When I prescribe a cup of food, I mean a level cup, not the heaping one I suspect pet owners are serving. Not all cups are created equal and some cups have the measuring line just below the top of the cup – allowing you to feed more than the cup you think you are feeding. Now, I prescribe pet food in grams – easily weighed on your kitchen scale. Busy pet owners might want to premeasure pet food servings into plastic bags or storage boxes, kind of like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig meal plans for people. This will make it quick and easy to feed your pet easy at the end of a busy workday.

The kitchen scale can also be used to measure canned food by putting the feeding bowl on the scale using the tare button. The kitchen scale should be used if your pet’s daily portion is a little more or less than an easily measured amount like a ½ can at each meal.

Portion control will go a long way toward keeping your pet at their ideal body condition and healthy for a long time. If you need help deciding on the best kitchen scale for your kitchen, try Cook’s Illustrated.

________________________________________________________

This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Cats Are Medically Underserved

October 31, 2011

In my last post I wrote about how little attention has recently been paid to the cat in the articles published in The New York Times. Although I believe in fair and balanced reporting, the lack of newsprint devoted to the cat only hurts their feelings, not their health. As a cat owner, you might not be able to influence the editorial staff at The New York Times, but you can protect your cat’s health.

Over the past decade, veterinarians have noticed an alarming trend. Cats see a veterinarian half as often as dogs do. Just like dogs, cats can get sick and do need annual examinations by their veterinarians. Without regular medical care, your cat misses the opportunity to undergo screening tests to find disease before it becomes untreatable. Cats also need preventive healthcare, such as vaccinations and parasite prevention. I find three particular trends in feline health care particularly disturbing.

1. Rabies in cats is increasing.
In a recently published survey in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association of rabies cases in the United States, the occurrence of rabies declined in all wildlife and domestic dogs, but in cats, rabies increased. Rabies presents a double whammy: it is fatal in cats and poses a huge health risk for the cat’s family members. The good news is rabies is safely and easily prevented by a vaccination which can be given when your cat visits her veterinarian.

2. Feline diabetes is on the rise.
The Banfield State of Pet Health 2010 report documented a 16% increase of diabetes in cats and a much higher occurrence of diabetes in cats than in dogs. The epidemic of diabetes in cats is likely linked to the increase in pet obesity. Annual wellness examinations will include measuring your cat’s body weight, and if your pussy cat is getting a little porky a weight reduction diet can be developed to help keep her from developing diabetes.

3. Dental disease has increased 10% in cats over the past 5 years.
A study from France reports in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry that cats have a high rate of fractured teeth with retained roots, periodontal disease and bone loss around teeth. Every cat studied had periodontal inflammation. Cat owners can help prevent dental and periodontal disease in their cats with regular tooth brushing. Annual wellness examinations by your cat’s veterinarian can identify dental problems early, and teeth cleaning using special equipment is done with your cat under general anesthesia.

Don’t delay, call your veterinarian today. Your cat will thank you.

Photo: Dr. Philip Fox

________________________________________________________

This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


The Spleen: Do Dogs and Cats Really Need One?

August 29, 2011

Some weeks seem to have a medical theme. For me, this week’s theme is the spleen or, more accurately, the absence of one as I wrote earlier this week about the case of Walker. Many of my patients this week have had their spleen surgically removed, a procedure called a splenectomy.

The spleen is a dark red organ which resides in the abdomen and is loosely attached to the border of the stomach by a thin veil of tissue and blood vessels.

Outlined is a very large, but smooth spleen in a cat. This is due to a mast cell tumor.

In most pets, the spleen is about as long as their forearm. It functions as part of the immune system, helping the body to fight off infections and removing aged, non-functioning red blood cells from circulation. Neither dogs nor cats suffer long-term effects from the lack of a spleen, which is different than in humans. Humans without a spleen need to take special precautions to protect themselves from a serious infection.

Veterinarians don’t know the cause, but several different disorders affect the spleen and disturb its normal function. Some disorders require a splenectomy as part of the treatment.

The loose attachment of the spleen to the stomach can sometimes result in the need for an emergency splenectomy in a dog if the spleen twists around itself and blood flow to the organ is blocked. The lack of blood supply makes the dog acutely ill, and on examination the ER veterinarian will feel a very enlarged spleen. The cause of this disorder is unknown, but surgery is curative.

One of the normal functions of a spleen is to remove old red blood cells. In cats with an unusual and as of yet unexplained disease, red blood cells are cleared at a more rapid rate than normal, resulting in anemia and an enormously enlarged spleen. In this disease, known as increased osmotic fragility of erythrocytes, removal of the spleen benefits the cat by improving the anemia.

Outlined is a very large, but irregular spleen in a dog. This is due to hemophagocytic histocytic sarcoma.

Because dogs and cats tolerate removal of their spleens so well, splenectomy is a common treatment for tumors of the spleen. In dogs, the most common tumor of the spleen is hemangiosarcoma.

The x-ray of a dog’s abdomen (shown below) is typical of a dog with a rare splenic tumor called hemophagocytic histocytic sarcoma. The x-ray of a cat’s abdomen shows an enlarged spleen due to mast cell tumor, the most common spleen tumor in the cat.

Although removal of an organ is medically serious, a splenectomy often results in a dramatic improvement in a pet’s quality of life without long-term negative consequences.

________________________________________________________

This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


National Pet Fire Safety Day

July 18, 2011

Last Friday, July 15, 2011, was National Pet Fire Safety Day. When we hear about pets and fires in the home, we often think of the dog who awakens his owner, saving lives with a warning bark about a fire in the house.

But pets are also the victims of fire. According to Pet Safety Alert, 40,000 pets are killed in fires annually, most of them in residential fires.

Every year, The Animal Medical Center provides care to pets who have been trapped in burning buildings and rescued by New York’s bravest, our friends at the NYC Fire Department.

As a pet lover, you can take action to prevent pet-related fires and to protect your pet if there is a fire.

To help firefighters find all of your pets, the folks at ADT Home Security Systems offer a free window cling to alert firefighters to the presence of pets in the home. You can request one through their website.

Firefighters want to help pets suffering from smoke inhalation, but the oxygen masks designed for humans are not shaped to fit a pet’s nose. If you are feeling philanthropic, donate a pet oxygen mask to your local firefighting team.

Pet proofing your home can help to prevent a catastrophic fire. Candles are a huge danger for pets. A wagging tail can knock a candle off the coffee table and into a pile of flammable papers. My own cat, who had a big puffy tail, swished it over a lit candle and nearly went up in flames! Space heaters and backyard grills present a hazard, as they can easily be knocked over by a pet and start a fire.

To protect the entire family, make sure your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors have their batteries changed twice a year. A good time to change the batteries is when you change the clocks for daylight savings time in the spring and fall.

Like people, pets can suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning. If everyone in the family is ill and your pet is exhibiting the following signs, see your veterinarian and mention you are concerned about carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cough
  • Loss of exercise stamina
  • Disturbances in gait

________________________________________________________

This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit http://www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

Photo: iStockphoto


Everything Old is New Again: Plague and Leprosy

July 7, 2011

Nine banded armadillo, which can carry leprosy, seen in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood at modern:ANTHOLOGY.

Last week there were two very interesting stories in the news about the intersection between people and animals. Both reported on diseases we rarely hear about anymore: plague and leprosy.

Leprosy is the older disease and has been reported since Biblical times. The first reported epidemic of plague occurred somewhat later, in the 6th or 7th century. Bubonic plague, or the Black Death, was the scourge of the Middle Ages.

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yesinia pestis. The usual source of Y. pestis is the rat flea, but hunting pets can contract the plague from eating infected rodents or rabbits. Even though Y. pestis is predominantly found in California, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada, cases can be seen throughout the country if a human or pet travels to one of these areas and contracts the disease before they return home. An infected pet can, in turn, infect humans. The possibility of plague transmission is one reason prairie dogs may not make the best pets.

The name bubonic comes from the word bubo, which is a fancy word for enlarged lymph node. Wikipedia shows an illumination from a medieval Bible of sinners afflicted with buboes.

Both humans and pets with bubonic plague have enlarged lymph nodes, which are painful. Fever, malaise and non–specific flu-like symptoms are typical for plague in both humans and pets. Although last week’s plague case occurred in a dog, in general, cats are more susceptible to plague than dogs.

Leprosy was in the news too; not because of a sick dog or cat, but because of armadillos. Those prehistoric-looking armored mammals carry the leprosy bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae. Most leprosy cases occur outside the United States, but cases occur in people who have not traveled outside the USA. This finding puzzled researchers until the DNA of the M. leprae was studied. Both armadillos and humans infected with M. leprae in the USA share the same unique strain of the bacteria. This bacterium is different from the strain of M. leprae found outside the USA. The New England Journal of Medicine article concluded humans can contract leprosy from infected armadillos.

To help protect yourself and your pet from contracting diseases of wildlife:

  • Keep your pet leashed or indoors to prevent contact with wild animals which can cause serious diseases.
  • Never approach, pet or handle wildlife even if they are acting friendly.
  • If your pet is sick, always tell your veterinarian where your pet has traveled and do the same when you visit your physician. It may be just the perfect clue to the diagnosis.

________________________________________________________

This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Cat Food Myths Debunked

June 30, 2011

A few months ago I wrote about cats and “cat salad.” Since we are at the end of Adopt–a-Cat month, I hope there are many new cat owner readers who will be interested in these food myths about cats. These myths have come from conversations with my cat-owning clients at The Animal Medical Center.

All cats like fish.
Partial myth. Cats’ food preferences are strongly influenced by those of their mother. If the mother liked and ate fish, the kittens are likely to crave fish as well. But the food preferences of the finicky feline are not so simply categorized. Despite the daredevil behaviors of young cats – flying from cabinet to refrigerator and scaling bookshelves with abandon – they are not so adventurous when it comes to food. Young cats fed the same diet consistently are often reluctant to eat a different diet if one is offered to them later in life. A cat food with a “good” smell is more likely to be chosen by a finicky feline, and if your cat doesn’t find any of the food attractive based on smell, it may taste several before choosing one. One fun fact about cats’ food preferences is cats probably don’t chose food based on salty or sweet flavors since their taste buds are insensitive to salts and sugars.

Cats should have milk to drink.
This is a companion partial myth to “cats like fish.” Some cats like milk, some don’t. Most cats lack the digestive enzyme, lactase, responsible for digestion of lactose, or milk sugar. A bowl of milk may lead to an upset stomach or diarrhea in cats. This situation can be avoided by treating your cat to a bowl of low fat lactose-free milk or one of the cat milk products available at the pet store. Since treats should comprise only 10% of the daily caloric requirement, keep the amount of milk to about 1/3 of a cup, or roughly 30 calories per day for the average 8 pound cat. Cat milk products have the added advantage of supplemental taurine, an essential amino acid for cats.

Cats can be vegetarians.
This is a myth, and a dangerous one. Nutritionally speaking, cats are obligate carnivores. Everything about their physical structure says “meat eater” from their sharp pointy fangs to their short digestive tract. Veterinarians will discourage owners from preparing vegetarian or vegan foods at home for their cats. Without the input of a specialized veterinary nutritionist, homemade vegetarian and vegan diets for cats are frequently deficient in taurine, arginine, tryptophan, lysine and vitamin A. Taurine deficiency leads to heart failure and a cat fed a diet without arginine may suffer death within hours. Both taurine and arginine are found in meat.

________________________________________________________

This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Recognizing Arthritis Pain in Your Cat

June 28, 2011

When working with the Animal Medical Center veterinarians participating in our post graduate training programs, I often say, “Cats are not little dogs.” What I really mean is, a particular disease in dogs does not appear the same as the disease does in cats. For example, dogs with heart disease typically have heart failure from leaky heart valves, while cats with heart disease commonly have abnormalities of their heart muscles, not their valves. When it comes to disorders of the thyroid gland, dogs suffer from an under active thyroid and cats from an over active thyroid.

Normal hips in a cat. Arrows point to nice, smooth joint surfaces.

A pet’s behavior in response to arthritis pain is also different between cats and dogs.

Arthritis is a common cause of pain in dogs and owners of arthritic dogs are quick to point out their dog is limping. Despite the fact that x-rays show evidence of arthritis in somewhere between 15-65% of cats, limping is really uncommon in feline patients. 

Cats with arthritis suffer from weight loss, anorexia, depression, urinating outside the litter box, poor grooming and, in some cases, lameness. One of my 21-year-old feline patients had to be moved onto a single floor of the house because he was too painful to use the stairs to the basement to get to his litter box. He got a new litterbox too, which had lower sides since he couldn’t step into his old one with higher sides.

Both hips in this cat are affected by arthritis. Arrows point to roughened edges of joint.

Pain in cats is difficult for both veterinarians and cat owners to assess. From my veterinarian’s viewpoint, if I put a cat on the exam room floor in an attempt to watch it walk, it will immediately run under the desk and hide. It will definitely not limp as it rockets underneath the desk.

In a recent study evaluating pain assessment in cats by veterinary researchers in North Carolina, cat owners reported they found it difficult to identify mild pain in their cats. Cat owners believed they could correctly identify changes in their cat’s function and activity. Dog owners more readily identify how pain interferes with their dog’s activities, possibly because dogs participate more fully in family activities such as ball toss, Frisbee and hiking.

If you notice your cat moving around less, not using the litter box or showing reluctance to go up and down the stairs, see your veterinarian for an arthritis evaluation.

________________________________________________________

This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Day at the Museum: The Animal Medical Center Sequel

June 23, 2011

The Animal Medical Center has a computer system to manage our diagnostic imaging, including x-rays, ultrasound, CT scans and MRIs. The Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS) lists all the images for any given day. If you looked at the list for June 17, you would see my patient Dakota, who got a chest x-ray, Chippie, the dog who had a full series of dental x-rays, and BooBoo who had a brain MRI — a typical list for a Friday.

But reading down the list you get to Croc 1, Bird 2, Snake 3 and Ibis 4. These images come from the oldest patients ever seen at The AMC. No, not a 25 year old dog or a 30 year old cat. These 32 patients are 2,500 year old animal mummies.

CT scan of Croc1. Head left, tail right

Like many AMC patients, these animals came to The AMC across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. Unlike any other AMC patients, these patients belong to the Brooklyn Museum’s Egyptian collection.

Like all patients who come to The AMC, they came for our diagnostic expertise, utilizing our state of the art equipment. In this case, the animal mummies came to The AMC for CT scanning in our 64-slice CT scanner.

Reptile mummy in its box being placed in 64-slice CT scanner

The AMC’s 64-slice CT scanner rapidly produces high quality images. So fast, all 32 were scanned in one day as outpatients! Rapid is better for our usual patients, since the faster the scan, the shorter the anesthesia time. For the animal mummies, the high quality images are critical in helping AMC’s board certified radiologist, Dr. Anthony Fischetti, collaborate with the curators from the Brooklyn Museum to decipher the mummy’s contents. The 64-slice CT scanner can recreate three dimensional and multiplanar images of the patient. In our usual patients, we use these features to better diagnose and treat illnesses. Our colleagues at the Brooklyn Museum plan to use the reconstructed CT images to study the mummies’ contents without disrupting the intricate linen wrapping.

If our CT scanner is so fast and can scan thirty two mummies in one day, you might wonder why your AMC veterinarian wanted your pet here all day when it had a CT scan. A CT scan in one of our usual patients requires administration of a short-acting anesthetic. Obviously, an animal mummy does not require anesthesia, the associated monitoring of the heart, respiration and blood pressure and does not have to recover from anesthesia. All these differences shorten the procedure time.

Most of our usual patients have two CT scans back to back. The first scan is before and the second is after administration of a contrast agent. The contrast agent highlights abnormalities the veterinarians are hunting for, such as inflammation and tumors. Administration of contrast was not possible or necessary in the animal mummies.

This animal mummy project between The Animal Medical Center and the Brooklyn Museum will culminate in an exhibition in 2013, so mark your calendars now!

________________________________________________________

This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Take Your Dog to Work Day

June 20, 2011

Becky (L) & Percy (R) hardly working at The AMC

Friday, June 24th, is Take Your Dog to Work Day. Employees of The Animal Medical Center (AMC) are lucky since every day here is Take Your Pet to Work Day. Not surprisingly, The AMC is a pet-friendly employer.

Although most pets that come to work are dogs, we do have the occasional infant kitten or ancient cat who come to work because of special feeding and medication requirements during the day. The photo below shows Pepe avoiding work by hiding under a chair.

First celebrated in 1999, Take Your Dog to Work Day was created to celebrate the great companions dogs make and to encourage their adoption from humane societies, animal shelters and breed rescue clubs.

Pepe (available for adoption)

Companies, large and small, are recognizing the importance of pets in our social fabric. Some offer their employees pet insurance as one option in their benefits package. Inc.’s series, “Winning Workplaces,” highlights the increased worker productivity and camaraderie of workplaces where dogs are allowed.

Taryl Fultz, copywriter for Trone, Inc., a 70 person marketing firm in High Point, NC, with many pet care clients, including GREENIES® and NUTRO® says, “I absolutely [get more work done] when my sheltie is at work. He is very well behaved, but I feel better when I have him with me. I often stay later, bring my lunch those days and work through at my desk. When people/clients get tours of the office, he is always a featured stop along the way. Pets make most people smile. And can often turn a tense meeting/moment into a better one.”

I emailed with one employee of the marketing firm Moxie. Dogs are welcome at this 300+ person company, but visits must be scheduled in advance and misbehaving dogs are put on restriction. Visiting the office is not all fun and games. One Chihuahua was even pressed into service, when he was photographed wearing a wig and playing the piano for an ad campaign.

Trone, Inc. employees, from the VP for human resources to copywriters, have wonderful work stories about their pets. One 65 pound mutt works on stealing stuffed toys from other dogs, small children or co-workers’ offices. Another dog likes to work in a private space – behind the credenza — only she doesn’t quite fit and all her owner can see is the back half of a dog sticking out. Owen, a Plott hound, likes work because of the availability of GREENIES. One weekend Owen didn’t come when he was called. Finally he came running with a large mailing box where his head should have been. Owen had grabbed one of the mailing samples, which had a Greenie affixed to it. He was so excited to bring to his owner and then rip it off of the package.

If your office is going to be dog-friendly, you might want to consider establishing office etiquette guidelines. Our friends at the ASPCA have some useful suggestions.

________________________________________________________

This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Potty Training Your Cat: Are You Kidding?

June 16, 2011

Toilet-trained cat

A cat and dog owning client of The Animal Medical Center called about a month ago wondering if I had heard of toilet training for cats. I guess he hasn’t seen Jinxy, the potty trained cat of the “Fockers” movie series. I had also seen the CitiKitty products in November 2010, when I attended the No Place Like Home Pet Products Showcase, which had included CitiKitty in their list of exhibitors.

CitiKitty is just one of several cat toilet training kits available. The concept seems simple. The device attaches to a toilet seat and you put litter on the device at the same time you take away the litter box. Gradually you remove the rings in the device until the entire device is removed and your cat stands on the toilet seat while eliminating in the toilet. An automatic flusher is even available to facilitate cleanup!

After that initial call, I didn’t hear from the owner for a while. Then a couple of weeks ago he and I had a good laugh about what had happened next. Uli, his Chartreux cat, performed brilliantly with the CitiKitty device, successfully using it on the first try. Tonka, his dog, looked at the CitiKitty device as a buffet option and ate all the cat litter, resulting in a severe case of tummy upset and diarrhea.

Photo: Tonka and Uli, courtesy of the family

The next part of the plan included a baby gate to allow Uli in and keep Tonka out and the training started again. Because Tonka is a French bulldog, he could not jump over the gate and Uli could. Uli used the training device until too many training rings were removed. Then he rebelled by using the bathtub as a litter box.

So what went wrong? My friend called the CitiKitty helpline and after some discussion with them, thinks he possibly rushed Uli by taking the rings out too fast. He is going to try again when his travel schedule allows him to be home to monitor the situation. Perhaps Uli should have had more positive reinforcement with a special tasty treat during the training process, as CitiKitty recommends.

But why all this fuss? What’s wrong with an old-fashioned litter box? In places like New York City, space is tight and having your cat use the toilet means you don’t need a litter box taking up valuable space in your apartment. Pregnant women should not scoop cat litter and this is an easy way to eliminate that task from the to-do list. Clay litter is very dusty and may contribute to respiratory problems in some cats and definitely contributes to landfills, making a potty trained cat a green cat.

________________________________________________________

This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 188 other followers

%d bloggers like this: