Tuesday September 1, 2009
SimplyCats September Mewsletter:
If you have problems viewing the images on this Mewsletter, please click on the above link 'View it in your browser'
Hello and welcome to our September 2009 Mewsletter!.
By producing this Mewsletter we can reach and help so many more people to understand and care for their cats. This will go out to our clients at SimplyCats and also to our clients who have signed up on our Cat Behavior Web Site. We apologise for the American spelling but 80% of the clients on this site are from overseas.
We hope to mail all SimplyCats subscribers monthly. Remember this mailing is totally free and you can un-subscribe at any time, using the link on the top of the page or at the end of this Mewsletter..
Please feel free to browse our website where you will be able to view our special offers. www.simplycats.net
The idea is to select a number of articles each month that we think our subscribers will be interested in and have a direct link to how your cat thinks and his / her wellbeing. We sincerely believe the most important aspect of living in harmony with your cat is understanding how he or she thinks. You have to get inside your cats mind. This was the real passion behind creating our Cat Behaviour Guide and SimplyCats.
"As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat"
Being cat vets, feline behavior and cat medicine is an area of continuous interest to both of us and has a massive influence on the well being of cats and the humans owned by cats ;-). This is even more important when your beloved cat is ill or sick.
Knowing about cat behavior has been the centre point of the design of our cat only veterinary practice for example CAT ONLY, NO DOGS, all kept quiet and calm with places to hide in most of the hospitalisation cages. Also very careful use and selection of disinfectants etc. so as not to disturb the cats incredible sense of smell. Remember all these facts when you are trying to make your home cat friendly, though, do remember cats can get on fine with dogs once carefully introduced.
What is Catnip?
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a perennial herb of the mint family. Although originally native to Europe, it has been successfully imported to many countries of the world where it is often considered to be a weed! The plant can grow as high as 3 feet, has lots of branches and can be recognised by its clusters of small white purple-spotted flowers at the ends of its stems.
How does catnip work?
Catnip contains various aromatic oils including one called nepetalactone, a mild hallucinogen, which is the main cause of the clinical signs. The receptor for nepetalactone is in the vomeronasal organ (also known as Jacobson's organ) at the back of the cat's nose and catnip needs to be inhaled to cause its effect. Indeed it is a great chance to see a cat exhibit what is known as the Flehmen response where it pulls its gums back from its teeth and almost looks as if it is smiling (see picture below, right). By doing this, the cat presses its tongue against the roof of its mouth forcing air through the vomeronasal organ. This concentrates the smell and allows the cat to concentrate the scent: to smell-taste, rather than just smell it.
When exposed to catnip some cats will rub (often with the chin and cheek areas), sniff, lick and eat the plant, sometimes followed by rolling over the plant. Following this contact with the catnip, behavioural changes are often seen. Most commonly reported signs of ‘intoxication' include having a ‘wild' or ‘drunken' appearance, vocalisation, rolling around in ecstasy and showing signs similar to sexual arousal. Affected cats look like they are having a really good time!! The effects usually last for a few minutes. Cats will then not react to catnip for at least an hour. In some cats, aggression can be seen with exposure to catnip. In these cats, it is probably best to avoid giving catnip treats or toys.
Cat owners often enjoy seeing the effect that catnip has on their pet. Catnip can be grown in the garden or purchased as a dry herb which can be sprinkled onto food, incorporated into toys or put onto a scratching post.
Does catnip affect all cats?
No - not all cats react to catnip. Susceptibility to behavioural changes has been shown to be inherited as a dominant trait in cats. This means that cats with one or both copies of the autosomal dominant gene will show behavioural changes when exposed to catnip. The effect is not seen in kittens, and in fact very young kittens tend to avoid catnip. Susceptibility to catnip starts to develop once kittens are six to eight weeks of age, fully developing when they are about 12 weeks old.
An excerpt from our Cat First Aid book
It’s very tempting to rush in to an emergency situation without thinking things through, it’s human nature to try and help other living creatures who are in pain or distress. The most important objectives of first aid however are to PRESERVE LIFE and PREVENT FURTHER INJURY.
You need to assess the situation quickly to ensure you are not placing yourself in danger by trying to help and not causing further injury or distress to the cat. In some situations you may be able to administer first aid on the spot; in others (particularly if someone else is available to help) you should telephone a vet and arrange immediate transport to the surgery. It is always better to get the cat to a vet rather than call a vet out as a clinic is properly equipped to deal with emergencies and reduces the time the cat has to wait before effective treatment can be administered.
It’s best to learn when your cat is fit and healthy how to examine and restrain him, rather than wait for an incident to happen. Reward your cat when you do this with either food treats or play and don’t try to do everything at once!
Use minimal restraint to carry out an examination – most cats resent being heavily restrained. An injured or frightened cat is likely to hiss, spit, bite and claw so will need wrapping in a towel or blanket to be moved. If you are bitten or clawed, seek medical advice, particularly if a finger joint is involved.
Talk soothingly and approach the cat calmly. Avoid direct eye contact as this is a threatening sign to a cat. Check the cat’s expression. If the cat is relaxed, gently stroke around his head then slip your hand under his body to pick him up. If he is frightened or angry place a blanket or towel over the whole of the cat and gently wrap him up. Once his legs are secured inside the blanket, unwrap his head. Speak calmly and move slowly.
If you are practicing on your cat and he is frightened, stop what you are doing and use another cat to practice on that is more amenable.
A normal cat breathes between 10 and 30 times a minute. Kittens have a faster respiratory rate than adults. A stressed cat will also have a higher respiratory rate. Purring can cause problems while trying to count the number of breaths a cat takes. A normal cat’s nostrils do not flare on breathing so if this is happening it implies extra effort is needed to breathe and something is wrong. It is not normal for a cat to breathe through his open mouth so again, if you see this, something is wrong.
When your cat is relaxed, watch him breathe and count the number of times he either breathes in OR out in 15 seconds. Multiply by 4 to find the rate per minute. If you have a hairy cat, you may not be able to see the chest movements so holding a piece of tissue paper in front of his nose may help count the breaths (as long as he doesn’t think it’s a game to swipe at!).
Heart Rate and Pulse
A normal cat’s resting heart rate varies from 120 to 180 beats per minute. Kittens have higher rates up to 260 beats per minute. To feel a heart beat, hold your cat under his chest with your right hand with your thumb on the left side of his chest and fingers on the right. Gently hold the chest just behind the elbows and you should be able to feel a heart beat. Count the number in 15 seconds and multiply by 4 to find the heart rate per minute. The heart rate can increase with excitement, exercise, fear, pain, shock, poisoning or overactive thyroid conditions so determine your cat’s heart rate while he is fit, healthy and relaxed.
The femoral pulse can be felt by placing your fingers inside the hind leg where it joins the body. Count for 15 seconds and multiply by 4. It can be difficult to find a pulse even in slim cats and may be impossible in those that are overweight!
Mucous Membrane Colour and Capillary Refill Time
The colour of a cat’s gums can give important information. A normal cat has pink, moist gums. A cat that is losing blood or is in shock will have pale or white gums. A cat with liver problems may have a yellow tinge to his gums (jaundice) ,a cat that isn’t receiving sufficient oxygen will have grey/blue gums and a cat that has ‘brick red’ gums may have heat stroke or carbon monoxide poisoning. Looks at your cat’s gums when he is healthy and see what shade of pink is normal for him. Capillary refill time is the time taken for blood to return to the area of gum after it has been pressed for a few seconds. Normal capillary refill time is 1-2 seconds. If it takes longer than this for the pink colour to return it could indicate impending shock or blood loss from the circulation.
ORDER OF IMPORTANCE (Triage)
The following are emergencies listed in order of priority for action – all must be seen by a veterinary surgeon
1 - No pulse, no breathing
2 - Pulse but not breathing
3 - Unconscious
4 - Shock
5 - Breathing difficulties
6 - Chest puncture
7 - Severe bleeding
8 - Abdominal puncture
9 - Hyper and hypothermia
10 - Poisoning
Weightwatchers - Dubby's Diet - continued....
Caroline, one of the receptionists at SimplyCats has three cats. Two are an ideal weight but one called Sandy weighed in on the 6th May 2009 an (un)impressive 8.85kg (19.4 pounds).
"Three months down the line I was hoping for some dramatic weight loss as I had been away on holiday and my brother-in-law was in charge of feeding. He had been given full 'quantity' instuctions and told not to feed any extra. (He claims to have followed my instructions to the letter, but I know he's a sucker for a cute face!) Bearing this in mind I was still hopeful that he would have lost a little bit ."
Dubby attended his weigh-in and to everyone's disappointment had put on weight again. His current stats are 9.17kg (that's 20.17 pounds). We decided to perform a routine blood test to determine again if there was any medical reason why he should be gaining weight - the results were negative, so its down to food quantities. Caroline has decided to move back to wet food as Dubby had initially lost weight on this, and is looking to purchase a 'do not feed me' collar as, unless she keeps him housebound, cannot 100% guarantee that he is being fed elsewhere.
He will be weighed on a fortnightly basis so, with a large miracle, hopefully in the next edition of this Mewsletter there will be positive news to tell - watch this space!
Well done to Scampi !
- competition winner on Sun FM - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
We ran a competition in August alongside Sun FM to find 'the good, the bad and the ugly'.
There was a great response to this competition and the winner of free vaccine, flea and worm treatment for 1 year is Scampi, a lovely tortoiseshell kitten owned by Mrs Jennie Kingsland.
She is so cute!
Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid glands) is a very common disorder of older cats.
It is caused by an increase in production of thyroid hormones from the thyroid glands, which are situated in the neck.
Clinical signs associated with hyperthyroidism can be quite dramatic and cats can become seriously ill with this condition. However, in most cases hyperthyroidism is treatable and most cats will make a complete recovery.
Thyroid hormones have an important role in controlling the body's metabolic rate and thus the general activity level, so cats with hyperthyroidism tend to burn up energy too rapidly and typically suffer weight loss despite having an increased appetite and increased food intake.
In the vast majority of cases the increased thyroid hormone production is due to a benign (non-cancerous) change. Both of the thyroid glands are involved, although one gland may be more severely affected than the other. The abnormal thyroid tissue becomes enlarged, but the underlying cause of this change is currently unknown. Cats usually respond extremely well to treatment, and if the condition is recognised early and treated appropriately, then the outlook for the affected cat is generally very good.
A malignant (cancerous) tumour known as a thyroid adenocarcinoma can also be an underlying cause of some cases of hyperthyroidism. Fortunately this is rare, and is only the cause in around one to two per cent of all hyperthyroid cats. When a thyroid adenocarcinoma is present treatment is much more difficult.
Typical clinical signs
Hyperthyroidism is almost exclusively seen in middle- to old-aged cats, and is rarely seen in cats less than seven years of age.
Cats affected with hyperthyroidism usually develop a variety of clinical signs, which are usually quite subtle at first, but then become more severe as the disease progresses. Also, as this disease occurs mostly in older cats, some affected cats will have other diseases that can complicate and even mask some of the clinical signs.
The 'classic' signs of hyperthyroidism are weight loss, usually despite an increased appetite , increased thirst, increased irritability, and restlessness or even hyperactivity. Many affected cats have a rapid heart rate and develop an unkempt coat. Mild to moderate diarrhoea and/or vomiting is also quite common. Some affected cats will be noticeably intolerant of heat and seek out cooler places to sit, and some may pant when they are stressed.
Thyroid hormones have effects on virtually all the organs in the body, and therefore it is not surprising that this disease can sometimes cause secondary problems that may lead to the necessity for additional investigations and treatment.
The effect of thyroid hormones on the heart is to stimulate a faster heart rate (more rapid beating of the heart) and a stronger contraction of the heart muscle.
High blood pressure is another potential complication of hyperthyroidism and can cause additional damage to several organs including the eyes, kidneys, heart and brain. If hypertension is diagnosed along with hyperthyroidism, drugs will be needed to control the blood pressure to reduce the risk of damaging other organs.
Reaching a diagnosis
Cat with large visible swelling in its neck
If you or your veterinary surgeon suspects hyperthyroidism, a thorough physical examination and some blood tests will be required to be performed by your vet to confirm the diagnosis. On examination, one or two enlarged thyroid glands can often be felt as a small, firm mass in the neck (these are often about the size of a pea or a baked-bean in hyperthyroid cats). However, in some cats there is no palpable thyroid enlargement, and this can be because the overactive tissue is present in an unusual site (often within the chest cavity).
The diagnosis is confirmed by determination of thyroid hormones in the blood. A blood test looking at thyroxine (T4) concentration is usually all that is required for the diagnosis as this is usually elevated in clinical cases. Where possible, blood pressure should also be checked with hyperthyroid cats, and if secondary heart disease is suspected then an electrocardiogram (ECG – electrical tracing of heart activity), and a chest X-ray or ultrasound may be helpful.
In occasional cases, hyperthyroidism may be strongly suspected on the basis of the clinical signs, but blood testing may reveal a normal thyroid hormone (T4) concentration. There are a number of potential reasons for this and usually on a repeat test it will be elevated. If not, additional tests may need to be undertaken to confirm or rule out hyperthyroidism.
There are three main options for the treatment of hyperthyroidism, each with advantages and disadvantages:
1. Medical management (drug therapy)
Anti-thyroid drugs are available in tablet form and these act by reducing the production and release of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland. They do not provide a cure for the condition, but they do allow either short-term or long-term control of hyperthyroidism.
Thyroid hormone concentrations usually fall to within the reference range within 3 weeks. Treatment is then adjusted according to response. To maintain control of hyperthyroidism, treatment needs to be given daily for the rest of the cat's life.
Side effects are uncommon and if they do occur they are usually mild and reversible. Poor appetite, vomiting and lethargy are the most likely side effects and often resolve after the first few weeks of treatment and/or by temporarily reducing the dose of treatment and administering the tablets with food. More serious problems, including reduced white blood cell counts, reduced platelet counts (which help the blood to clot), liver disorders, or skin irritation are rare.
Anti-thyroid drug treatment has the advantage of being readily available and economical, but it is not curative. Life long treatment, usually involving twice daily oral dosage, will be required and for some owners, and some cats, this may be difficult to achieve. Routine blood tests should be checked periodically during treatment to monitor the effectiveness of therapy and to look for potential side effects.
2. Surgical thyroidectomy
Surgical removal of the affected thyroid tissue (thyroidectomy) can produce a permanent cure and is a common treatment for many hyperthyroid cats. In general this is a very successful procedure and is likely to produce a long-term cure or permanent cure in most cats. However, surgery will not be successful if 'ectopic' thyroid tissue is present and even after successful surgery, occasionally signs of hyperthyroidism develop again at a later time if previously unaffected thyroid tissue becomes diseased.
The major risk associated with surgery itself is inadvertent damage to the parathyroid glands – these are small glands that lie close to, or within, the thyroid glands themselves, and have a crucial role in maintaining stable blood calcium levels. Damage to these glands can result in a life-threatening fall in blood calcium concentrations (hypocalcaemia). To minimise the risk of this complication in those cats that require removal of both thyroid glands it may be appropriate to perform the procedure in two stages, removing the most affected gland first and allowing six to eight weeks for recovery of parathyroid hormone production before removing the second thyroid gland.
It is usually recommended that cats remain hospitalised for a few days after surgery so that blood calcium concentrations can be monitored and any treatment given, if required.
3. Radioactive iodine therapy
Radioactive iodine is a very safe and effective cure for hyperthyroidism wherever the location of the overactive thyroid tissue. It has the advantage of being curative in most cases with no ongoing treatment required.
Radioactive iodine is administered as a single injection given under the skin – the iodine is then taken up by the abnormal thyroid tissue, but not by any other body tissues, resulting in a selective local accumulation of radioactive material in the abnormal tissues. The radiation destroys the affected abnormal thyroid tissue, but does not damage the surrounding tissues or the parathyroid glands.
The advantages of radioactive iodine are that it is curative, has no serious side-effects, does not require an anaesthetic and is effective in treating all affected thyroid tissue at one time, regardless of the location of the tissue. However, it does involve the handling and injection of a radioactive substance. This carries no significant risk for the patient, but precautionary protective measures are required for people who come into close contact with the cat.
For this reason, the treatment can only be carried out in certain specially licensed facilities and a treated cat has to remain hospitalised until the radiation level has fallen to within acceptable limits. This usually means that the cat must be hospitalised for between three and six weeks (depending on the facility) following treatment. Most treated cats have normal thyroid hormone concentrations restored within three weeks of the treatment, although in some it can take longer.
A single injection of radioactive iodine is curative in around 95 per cent of all hyperthyroid cases, and in the few cats where hyperthyroidism persists the treatment can be repeated. Occasionally a permanent reduction in thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism) occurs following radioactive iodine treatment, and if this is accompanied by clinical signs (lethargy, obesity, poor coat) then thyroid hormone supplementation may be required (in the form of tablets).
For further information on any behavioural problems please see our e-book 'Purrfect Cat Behavior'. This book is normally sold however we are providing it free to SimplyCats clients and Mewsletter recipients.
Just click the link and the book will open in your browser and you can then save it to your computer if you would like.
Please keep this book to yourself.
Paul and Sarah MRCVS
It is very difficult to know how much to put into a newsletter but for the next edition we will explore the subject of ringworm, show you more from our new book on Cat First Aid and discuss more aspects of feline behaviour.
Be creative, live long, be happy and follow your own path.
...And the emperor said "Let the party begin!"
Paul and Sarah M's RCVS
If you like this Mewsletter and would like to Forward it to a friend just use the link below:
Forward this email to a friend