Should the Government Regulate Cats?

December 17, 2012

cats-RomeThis question is a rhetorical one – state, federal, and local governments already regulate several aspects of your cat’s care. And there are good reasons for the government to do so.

U.S. regulations

Rabies is a fatal disease, easily prevented by vaccination. Governments want to protect the health of their citizens and thus require cats to be vaccinated against rabies. New York City statute regulates the feeding of cats. Here, it is illegal to withhold food and water from any animal. But if stray cat feeding is done in a manner that creates a public health hazard or nuisance, New Yorkers may be breaking the law. Again, the government is worried about human health. So why are there currently two high profile legal cases about cat care?

Roman cats

For any cat lover who has visited Rome, Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary in Largo Argentina was probably a highlight of the trip. The site of Julius Caesar’s murder by Brutus in 44 BC and a cat sanctuary since 1929 AD, these underground ruins are home to approximately 150-160 cats. The “gattare,” or cat caretakers, raise money and provide food, water, and basic healthcare for these cats.

Recently, the sanctuary has come under fire for illegally building on ancient Roman ruins. Government officials in charge of Italy’s archeological treasures want the cats out, but the Mayor of Rome and his cat, Certisino, announced they are “on the side of the cats of Rome. Anyone who touches them will be in trouble.” The outcome of this stalemate remains to be determined.

The Hemingway cats

A little closer to home, the multi-toed Hemingway cats of Key West, Fla. have come under the scrutiny of an agency of the U.S. government. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates animals on exhibition, such as those owned by circuses and zoos. Although the Hemingway cats have lived in Key West since 1931, nearly as long as the cats of Torre Argentina have lived in their archeological site, the USDA has reclassified them and threatened the Hemingway Museum with confiscation of the 44 descendants of the original Hemingway cat if they do not comply with USDA regulations. The reclassification stems from the fact that these cats affect interstate commerce because they are a tourist attraction and the Hemingway Museum collects a fee for visitors to enter the Museum and see the cats.

Everyone agrees, cats will be cats

Robert Siegel of NPR, who clearly understands cats, writes about the Hemingway cats, “As for the cats, they’re not commenting. We have our doubts, though, that they’ll do what the law says. They’re cats.”

Umberto Broccoli, Rome’s superintendent of culture, expressed a similar sentiment when he said of the Largo Argentina cats, “They don’t read bans. They will return to Largo Argentina whether the shelter is there or not, and gattare and tourists will continue to throw food at them. The situation is really not so simple.”

Only time will tell how these catfights will be resolved.


Occupy Wall Street: Parvovirus Strikes Demonstrating Dogs

December 1, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstration has been front and center in the news over the past six weeks. Until now, the news has been about humans, but recently the dogs of OWS have hit the newswire due to a parvovirus outbreak at the San Francisco encampment.

Parvovirus in Dogs
Parvovirus is a contagious gastrointestinal disease affecting dogs.

Infection can be fatal at worst and cause serious illness at best. Parvovirus is not a subtle disease: it is associated with the most severe cases of diarrhea and vomiting we veterinarians recognize in canine patients. Because the virus attacks rapidly growing cells, the bone marrow cells producing white blood cells are depleted, decreasing the white blood cell count and putting dogs at risk of contracting a serious infection on top of the severe diarrhea and vomiting.

Panleukopenia is the Feline Parvovirus
The dogs of OWS are not the only ones at risk for contracting parvovirus infection. Any dog coming in contact with the feces of a parvovirus infected dog is at risk, unless they are protected by vaccination. Cats have their own version of parvovirus – the panleukopenia virus. Infection by the panleukopenia virus results in similar clinical signs in infected cats as parvovirus infection causes in dogs. Fortunately, panleukopenia rarely occurs in my practice, but the few cases I have seen could not be saved. Vaccination protects against this frequently fatal feline viral infection. Veterinarians consider vaccinations against parvovirus and panleukopenia virus “core” vaccines, meaning these are vaccines nearly all pets should receive.

Close quarters with limited sanitation like OWS are the perfect place for an outbreak of a contagious disease and it would not surprise me to see an outbreak of canine influenza, kennel cough or intestinal parasites at an OWS camp.

Pet Owner Precautions
Pet owners taking their dog or cat to a location where it will come in contact with many other animals should first check with their veterinarian to confirm their pet has been adequately vaccinated. Cats boarding at a kennel for the holidays, dogs attending obedience classes or doggie day care, or any pet demonstrating as part of OWS have an increased risk of contracting an infectious disease simply due to increased exposure to other animals. Pet owners should keep their healthy pets away from other animals with signs of illness such as coughing, sneezing, vomiting or diarrhea to help protect them against contracting a life-threatening illness.

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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.


Needleless Vaccinations

November 14, 2011

Vaccinations have been long associated with needles, but needleless vaccinations are gaining in popularity since they may be less painful and cannot spread disease if an unscrupulous medical professional reuses needles and syringes. Needleless vaccination increases safety for the medical professional administering a vaccine since there is no risk of a needlestick injury.

Intranasal Vaccines
Many parents are familiar with intransal vaccines through the pediatrician’s office. Pet owners may have also experienced intranasal vaccination for their dog against kennel cough (boradetella) or the intranasal vaccine against feline rhinothracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia. Now there is a second type of needleless vaccination, a vaccine injected into or under the skin without a needle. Merial produces a feline leukemia vaccine administered using a needleless syringe. The system consists of an injector, which uses a spring system or compressed carbon dioxide to “blast” the vaccine through the skin.

A needleless delivery system is also used for the canine melanoma vaccine. Watch a video of one of my dog patients receiving a melanoma vaccine.

You might be getting a needleless flu vaccine this year using the same technology we use for needleless feline leukemia and canine melanoma vaccines. The manufacturer of our devices announced needleless flu vaccines will be given in the 2011 flu season at Publix Markets and Fred Meyer stores.

How about that? Human medicine seems to be catching up to veterinary medicine this time!

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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.


How Common are Vaccine Reactions?

April 4, 2011

Several weeks ago a reader wrote in to ask a question about a very serious vaccine reaction in her cat, and last week I received a panicked phone call from the owner of one of my dog patients. The dog developed a little mass at her rabies vaccination site which has since gone away.

Here are answers to the cat owner’s question and a quick update on what to do if your pet develops swelling at a vaccination site.

How often do vaccine reactions occur?

Vaccine reactions are usually mild and fortunately are quite uncommon, occurring in 40-50 of every 10,000 dogs or cats vaccinated. Life-threatening reactions are extremely rare following vaccination.

What does a vaccine reaction look like?

Puppies and kittens may be tired, lethargic or have a mild fever after their first inoculations. This is also the most common reaction in adult dogs and cats. Allergic reactions also occur. A pet with an allergic reaction to a vaccination has facial swelling, redness around the eyes and itching. Allergic reactions can occur rapidly after a vaccination and you might notice one even before you check out of your veterinarian’s office. You might notice swelling at the injection site a few days after a vaccination is given.

What type of pet is most likely do develop a vaccine reaction?

Small breed, young adult dogs are at greater risk for developing vaccine reactions than are older, large breed dogs. Administration of multiple vaccines at one time increases the risk of a reaction in both dogs and cats. Cats are more likely to have injection site swelling than dogs.

What can be done to prevent a vaccine reaction the next time my pet is vaccinated?

Before vaccination, discuss your pet’s lifestyle with your veterinarian to help him/her recommend the best vaccination protocol for your dog. If multiple vaccines are to be administered, your veterinarian may recommend only one vaccine be given at a time. To lessen the signs of an allergic reaction and to make your pet more comfortable, your veterinarian may choose to administer medications which lessen an allergic reaction. In some pets the reaction is so severe, vaccinations are not administered again.

If you notice anything strange about your pet following vaccination, call your veterinarian. Guidelines recommend a post-vaccination swelling be biopsied if it is growing larger within a month after vaccination, is greater than 2 cm (1 inch) in diameter or persists 3 months after vaccination. If your pet is having an allergic reaction, head straight back to the clinic or to your nearest animal ER.

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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.


World Rabies Day 2010

September 27, 2010

Tuesday September 28 is World Rabies Day. This is the 4th year of the event to raise awareness of and resources for rabies prevention and control.

For most Americans, rabies is not an imminent threat, but worldwide, rabies is estimated to kill 55,000 humans annually. Over 99% of human cases are caused by the bite of a rabid dog. Most cases of human rabies occur in Asia and Africa where rabies vaccination of dogs to prevent human exposure to the rabies virus is beyond the financial scope of these country’s public health system.

Despite the lost cost and ready availability of a rabies vaccine for both dogs and cats in the United States, not all states require rabies vaccines in pets. There are 12 states that do not require rabies vaccinations for dogs and 20 that do not require rabies vaccinations for cats. Rabies has been on the decline in dogs since the early 1990’s. The lower number of states requiring feline rabies vaccinations may explain why the nationwide data for 2008 reports 294 rabies positive cats and only 75 rabies positive dogs.

Rabies vaccination is successful in controlling the spread of this deadly disease. Case in point is New York City, where the canine vaccination requirement has resulted in a city free of canine rabies for over 50 years. Although rabies vaccination is required for New York City cats, 12 cats have tested positive for rabies since feline rabies surveillance started in 1992, mirroring the increase in feline rabies nationwide. Despite the success in vaccinating pet against rabies, New York City is currently experiencing an increase in rabies in raccoons and coyotes in our large parks. Rabid wildlife and rabid feral cats pose a risk to the public since it is hard to resist feeding and petting animals in the park if they appear friendly.

Rabies prevention starts with the pet owner. When your cat or dog makes its annual wellness visit to the veterinarian, ask if a rabies vaccine is appropriate for your pet. Veterinarians consider rabies vaccination a ‘core’ vaccine. This means the vaccination is critical to protecting the health of the pet and the pet’s family. Very few pets will not be given the ‘core’ vaccines. Your family veterinarian is the person to advise you on the laws regarding rabies in your state and the need for your pet to be vaccinated against rabies.

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For nearly 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.


Parvovirus in Dogs

August 16, 2010

Parvovirus has been in the news recently. In Rhode Island, the state veterinarian alerted dog owners to an increased number of parvovirus cases in the state.

Parvovirus is a serious contagious viral disease of dogs. The virus infects rapidly dividing cells, predominantly those of the gastrointestinal tract and the bone marrow.

Clinical signs of parvovirus infection revolve around the organ systems the virus infects. Most owners will notice signs involving the gastrointestinal tract. Dogs will have severe vomiting and diarrhea leading to dehydration. Blood tests performed by your veterinarian will detect the effects of the virus on your dog’s bone marrow. Parvovirus infection causes a dangerously low white blood cell count and severe infection follows. The vomiting is so severe dogs cannot take anything orally. Treatment requires intravenous fluid therapy to treat dehydration and intravenous antibiotics to treat infection. Other therapies such as antiemetics and intravenous feeding are also often required. Most, but not all dogs recover.

The virus spreads though oronasal contact with viral material contained in the feces of infected dogs. Infected dogs may be contagious for up to 30 days after exposure to the virus. Parvovirus can exist in the environment for months to years but can be inactivated by cleaning with a dilute bleach solution. Animal shelters, municipal pounds, pet shops, boarding kennels and dog runs are likely areas where dogs might acquire infections. Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Pit bulls, Labrador retrievers and German shepherds may be particularly at risk for contracting parvovirus infection.

The canine parvovirus was unknown until the 1970’s. Parvovirus evolved from a feline virus known as panleukopenia virus. The feline virus mutated and became infective to dogs, setting off a serious epidemic of canine parvovirus since dogs were naïve to this new virus and nearly every exposed dog contracted the disease. At that time veterinarians could do nothing to prevent the disease.

Today, prevention of parvovirus is simple. Vaccination is very effective in protecting dogs against parvovirus infection. Routine vaccination — called “core” by veterinarians — contains substances to induce immunity to parvovirus. After a puppy series of vaccinations, your veterinarians will determine your dog’s risk of contracting parvovirus infection and the required frequency of revaccination. Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, most veterinarians recommend avoiding situations where parvovirus is common.

Just as I finished writing this blog, I received a notice of an outbreak of feline panleukopenia via email. The outbreak is in California and resulted in the deaths of over 100 cats in a shelter.

Because these 2 viruses are very similar, the signs, route of infection and methods of prevention against feline panleukopenia are the same for cats as they are for dogs and parvovirus.

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The Animal Medical Center

For 100 years, 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.


Preventing Lyme Disease

July 12, 2010

If you live in the northern portion of the Mississippi River Valley or in the northeast as I do, June, July and August are peak months of incidence for Lyme disease in humans. These are the peak months for Lyme disease because the young Ixodes ticks (nymphs) carrying the Lyme disease organism (Borrelia burgdorferi) are most active in the late spring and summer.

Peak tick activity coincides with peak outdoor activity for both humans and pets, giving the young ticks an opportunity to attach and transmit the infection. In dogs, clinical signs of Lyme disease develop 2-5 months after a tick bite. Veterinarians can detect evidence of exposure to Lyme disease in the blood of cats, but cats seem to be more resistant to developing clinical signs of Lyme disease than are dogs.

Several different products are available to prevent tick infestation in dogs and cats. These days, the most common is a top spot solution applied between the shoulder blades of your dog or cat. Collars and sprays to prevent both ticks and fleas are also available. Ask your veterinarian which type of product will work best in your neighborhood and on your pet.

Annual vaccination is also an option for preventing Lyme disease in dogs. A vaccine is not available for preventing Lyme disease in cats. The Lyme vaccine is not considered a “core” vaccine and every dog does not require this vaccination. When you make your annual well dog visit to your veterinarian, put this vaccine on your list of topics to discuss.

Your backyard will be a source of ticks on your pet. Keep your dog and cat out of areas where the bushes and grass are not trimmed. Wooded areas should be off limits to dogs and cats in Lyme country. As pretty as deer are to watch in your backyard, they can serve as vehicles for tick transportation. Don’t attract deer by feeding them since they can bring ticks with them.

Should your dog or cat come home with a tick imbedded in its skin, removing the tick immediately will help stop transmission of the Lyme causing organism and only requires a tweezer. Grab the head of the tick as close to where it attaches to the skin and pull the entire head out of the skin. There is no need to use petroleum jelly, a match or a sharp object to remove a tick, and in fact these may cause more harm than good.

Preventing Lyme disease in your pet will have a positive impact on your health as well. Pets cannot give Lyme disease to their human or animal family members. They can, however, bring home ticks which can attach and transmit the Lyme disease-causing organism to your family or your other pets.

Not all ticks carry Lyme disease. If you want to identify the tick you just pulled from your cat or dog as one that carries Lyme disease or not, most state departments of health have a website for identification of the ticks commonly found in your state. I recommend this website to my New York pet owners: http://www.cals.cornell.edu/cals/entomology/extension/medent/tickbiofs.cfm

Keep in mind a tick bite does not equal Lyme disease. Only a small percentage of tick bitten pets will develop clinical signs of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is not the only tick borne illness of dogs and cats, others include babesiosis, anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis. If your pet is acting sick, see your veterinarian and don’t forget to tell her about the tick bite.

For nearly 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.


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