Kitten questions! Are you ready?

A kitten with pet insurance plays in a cat bed.

By: Dr. Jane Matheys
Associate Veterinarian
The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

We’re in the middle of kitten season with the majority of kittens being born between spring and fall. Who can resist these cute little balls of fur? It’s easy to fall in love with these adorable, cuddly creatures, but before you bring a new kitten into your home there are a few things to consider, aside from which food, toys and cat insurance to purchase.

First and foremost is whether you’re ready and able to make the commitment that comes with pet ownership. As a cat owner, you are responsible for providing proper food, shelter and health care for your cat’s entire life, not just when it is small and cute. Cats are not disposable. I hear way too many sad stories about cats being left behind to fend for themselves when the owners move away, cats being dumped out in the countryside when they’re no longer wanted, and cats being surrendered to local shelters as adults because they’ve lost that kitten cuteness factor.

Three to four million cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters every year. Please be a responsible pet owner and be part of the solution to pet overpopulation, not a part of the problem.

Kittens are also an expense, especially during the first year of their lives. Work their general costs into your monthly budget, and be sure that you have a small fund set aside for routine or wellness care, particularly if your kitten will be going outdoors when it’s older. You can also look for a pet insurance company that offers wellness care coverage.

Improvements in both dog and cat insurance over the past ten years have made it more worthwhile than ever. There are more policy options available, and you have a much better chance of finding a policy that covers what’s important to you and your cat at a price you can afford.

It’s also important to consider your current home situation. Do you have a dog? Many dogs and cats that live together learn to be friends, but some breeds are “cat chasers”, and some kittens may be too playful and interactive for some dogs. Your veterinarian can help guide you as to what might be the best fit for your unique situation if you decide to open your heart and home to a kitten.

Do you already have any cats? If so, how many and what are their ages and genders? You would not want to bring a new kitten into a household that has a single geriatric cat. Senior pets do not always appreciate the rambunctious antics of a crazy kitten! In these cases, if possible, it would be better to get two kittens that would be more likely to bond to each other and not bother the older cat.

Cats that have lived alone for a long time are also less likely to accept a new pet quickly. It’s necessary to be able to provide a separate room for each cat with separate food and water dishes and separate litter boxes, especially during the introduction period. Sometimes it’s helpful to add a kitten of a different gender to help maintain peace in the household.

If you’re starting with an empty nest, also consider getting two kittens. If you work long hours or are away from home a lot, the kittens will provide each other with plenty of activity and companionship. Some cat insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance even offer multiple pet discounts!

Healthy Weights and Recurring Eye Infections in Cats

Hello. I’m Dr. Jane Matheys from The Cat Doctor Veterinary Hospital and Hotel in Boise, Idaho. I’m going to be answering a couple questions today from the Facebook page of Pets Best Insurance.

Our first question is from Kitty, wouldn’t you know, and she says, “How do I get my overweight cat to lose weight? I’ve already stopped feeding her wet food and feed her about a cup of dry food a day but she hasn’t lost any weight. She is a moderately active spayed indoor kitty. I can’t afford pricey diet cat food. Is there something else I can do to help her slim down?”

Actually, I recommend totally the opposite of what you’ve just done for your kitty cat. It’s best to use canned food to help cats lose weight. It’s usually not making them gain weight. Dry foods are actually higher in calories because of the higher carbohydrate content, and a lot of owners let the kitties eat as much dry food as they want to. That is where I tend to see the most problem with kitties becoming overweight and obese.

Canned food is more like what cats would eat in nature. It’s higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates, and it’s also a good source of moisture. Because of the high protein/low carbohydrate content it does help promote weight loss in cats, just like it does in people.

The second thing you want to do is work with your veterinarian. He or she can help determine about how many kcals of energy a day your kitty needs to help promote weight loss. You then divide that amount of food between two or three meals throughout the day to help keep the kitty satisfied.

I recommend that you weigh the cat monthly and then adjust the amount of food fed, depending upon whether the kitty is gaining or losing weight. That part is not rocket science. It’s pretty easy. It’s based on the whole ‘calories in, calories out’ type of technique. The hard part comes in when you have to sit at home and listen to your cat beg for food and plead with you with those big eyes. That’s the most difficult part, so you’ll want to be very committed to getting the weight off your kitty cat. Stick with the program and you can be very successful in getting the weight off and helping to keep your cat healthier.

The second question is from Chrissa. She writes, “Every few weeks my cat’s right upper eyelid will swell and her eye will water like crazy. It goes away after a few days. It’s done this on and off her entire life and she’s almost eight years old. Any idea what’s causing it or if there’s anything I can do for it?”

The first thing I think about is whether this could possibly be a flare-up of a chronic herpes virus infection in the eye. This is one of the upper respiratory infections that can stay quiet in the body and then resurface, especially after any periods of stress. It will often give an eye infection where the eye swells and sometimes they’ll squint. Oftentimes, they’ll get the watery type of discharge.

It’s best to have this checked out by your veterinarian who can tell whether this is what’s going on. If so, there is a supplement that can be given to help prevent the recurrence of the infection.

Australian Cattle Dog – Blue Heeler

An Australian Cattle dog smiles for the camera.

If you look in the dictionary under “hardest working dog,” you might see a picture of an Australian Cattle Dog (ACD), also called a Blue Heeler. Many dog lovers and pet insurance enthusiasts alike have a fondness for this particular breed.

This breed is a member of the herding group and his skills in this area are quite impressive. One of the most intelligent breeds, this loyal, protective dog does best when he has a job to do.

Breed Description
The ACD is muscular with a compact body. He has straight front legs with round feet and short toes. His head is broad and curved between the ears, which are wide-set. He has dark brown, oval eyes. The ACD has a smooth double coat with a dense undercoat. The coat colors range from red speckled, blue, blue-mottled and can either have markings or not. The puppies are born white due to a gene passed down from past crosses with Dalmatians.

Because this breed is a herding dog, he needs an active life, preferably with a job to do. Without sufficient exercise and activity, he is easily prone to boredom, which can lead to destructive behaviors. A short daily walk is not enough for this dog to be healthy and happy. Because they are so intelligent, they respond to a high level of obedience training. But if you don’t have the time to invest in both good training and a high level of exercise, the Australian Cattle Dog is not likely for you. You may want to factor hiring a trainer and looking into dog insurance, when considering the cost of dog ownership for this specific breed.

It is imperative that owners establish dominance at an early age or this breed can become aggressive to other dogs and can be difficult to control. The owner needs to be alpha in the ACD’s “pack” and to enforce that fighting will not be tolerated. But with adequate training, this dog can be a very grounded, trustworthy and happy pet. Nipping at people’s heels is sometimes seen as the dog trying to herd them. This behavior needs to be addressed as unacceptable.

Because the ACDs are such strong, muscular dogs, they would appear to be heavier, but males weigh between 32 and 35 pounds; females are 30 to 35 pounds. They are 17 to 20 inches in height; females are 17 to 19 inches.

Health Issues
This breed is prone to hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), which can lead to blindness. A dog insurance policy is always a good idea to help with the cost of veterinary care.

Slick Mick feeling sick from a…

A Bicho who could benefit from pet health insurance sits and waits.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
Idaho Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

Slick Mick wasn’t feeling so slick, in fact, his owners were pretty sure he was feeling sick… Slick is a 5-year-old Bichon with thick curly white hair and a spunky disposition. But after camping with his family the previous week, he began acting strangely. He wouldn’t jump up on the couch and he was reluctant to go through the doggie door.

Initially the family thought he might just be sore from all the hiking and outdoor activity earlier. Through the weekend Slick went from seeming sore to being weak and wobbly in the hind legs. Although his owners didn’t have dog insurance for Slick, they thought it was time to take him into the vet, so they made him an appointment for that Monday.

Slick Mick had trouble placing both hind feet right side up when the veterinarian put them upside down. And he was very weak in his hind legs, close to paralysis. These symptoms indicated a neurologic problem, and the veterinarian diagnosed disc disease and prescribed medication. Relieved, Mick’s family went home, but that night something troubling occurred; now Mick couldn’t use his front legs either.

Alarmed, the family returned to veterinarian’s office, it was agreed that disc disease couldn’t explain progressive paralysis, especially in the front legs. The recommendation was that Mick should be hospitalized until his disease was determined. Pet Health Insurance would have been helpful in Mick’s case, as hospitalization is generally expensive, and it was unclear how Long Mick would have to stay.

Progressive paralysis can be very serious, as muscles slowly lose their ability to function. The muscles used in the diaphragm, for example, are essential for breathing, and thus, for life.

As the veterinarian was taking Mick’s temperature, something that was overlooked before, surfaced. Mick had a tiny tick attached under his tail. While this may seem trivial, this was a huge clue to Mick’s paralysis disease. Slick Mick was diagnosed with Tick Paralysis, a potentially fatal disease carried by the common ticks in North America.

Tick Paralysis is characterized by a sudden onset of progressive muscle paralysis. It is caused by neurotoxins in the saliva of certain female ticks. Not all animals will develop the disease if bitten, and not all female ticks carry the toxin. There are four species of ticks in the US that can secrete this neurotoxin, and they are found throughout the United States.

Slick Mick had been camping just one week prior; clinical signs of the disease generally occur 5 to 9 days after the animal has been bitten. The toxin interferes with the nerves’ ability to communicate to muscles, thus the muscles receive no signals and are flaccid. Typically rear leg weakness is noticed first, which will rapidly progress to involve the front limbs as well. Eventually, within days the patient will be completely paralyzed. Occasionally nerves that control facial muscles, swallowing, barking or vocalizing can be involved. If the muscles involved in breathing are affected the patient will die unless on a respirator.

Removal of the tick generally allows resolution of clinical signs and paralysis within hours and complete recovery is achieved in days. It was quite miraculous to see Slick Mick regain the use of his legs within the day after the tick was found on his bottom. It is easy to overlook or miss a small tick attached to your pet, but the use of flea and tick preventatives in the spring, summer and fall can prevent this disease. Some pet insurance companies will even help to cover a portion of flea and tick medication.

Slick Mick’s recovery was complete and he went home the next day, feeling as slick as ever, sans tick.

Hairballs in Older Cats, Vitamin C for Joint Health

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m at home answering some questions from Pets Best Facebook page.

This question is from Sarah. She writes, “My cat, Sid, is almost 14 and he keeps vomiting hairballs. I know he’s getting old. He’s on KD and boiled chicken only, but is there anything else I can do to help him? He’s purring all the time and loves life.”

KD is a special diet that’s formulated for kidney disease in cats so I’d imagine Sid’s probably suffering some kidney disease. I would make sure that his vomiting isn’t actually related to progression of his kidney disease and really is related to hairballs. If he hasn’t been looked over by your veterinarian recently, you might want to look into that.

If it truly is hairballs, you can try grooming him. Brush him daily. That will help get some of the hair off so that he’s ingesting less and therefore throwing up less hairballs. Depending on how long his coat is and what his temperament is, you could consider shaving him as well. Some cats hate it and shouldn’t be shaved; other cats don’t mind it. It could be a way to keep his hairballs down.

The next one comes from Joyce. “I know that glucosamine is a good choice for a mild luxating patella in my Yorkie. Should I give vitamin C as well?”

Luxating patella is a condition that Yorkies and other small dogs can be prone to, where the knee cap will pop out. It can predispose them to arthritis, so glucosamine is a great idea to help keep the joints as comfortable as possible.

Vitamin C probably wouldn’t necessarily help with arthritis. There has been some evidence that things like omega fatty acids and other antioxidants can be good in general. It’s not going to hurt to give vitamin C, but it’s not necessarily going to help with a luxating patella.

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