All posts by KK

High blood pressure

 Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure, a silent killer of older cats.

 What causes hypertension in cats?

Hypertension is usually secondary to another disease. Kidney disease is the most common cause of hypertension but cats with adrenal gland tumours or treated for hyperthyroidism also develop high blood pressure at times. Sometimes no underlying cause is found.

Most cats with hypertension are older than 9 years of age.

What are the effects of hypertension?

Hypertension damages all body organs but we notice it most in:

  • the eyes. The small vessels in the retina break under pressure. The bleeding detaches the retina and the cat becomes blind.
  • the brain. Ruptured blood vessels cause ‘strokes’, fits, twitches or unusual behaviour
  • the kidneys. Increased blood pressure damages the delicate filtration system of the kidney.
  • the heart. The heart has to work harder to push the blood out into the body and the heart muscle thickens and becomes less efficient. Sometimes the heart goes out of rhythm or we hear a murmur with the stethoscope. Affected cats may show signs of heart failure such as breathlessness, lethargy, weakness or fainting.

How do we detect hypertension?

We measure the blood pressure of all cats over 9 years old as part of the regular seniors’ examination. We also check the blood pressure of all cats with kidney disease or hyperthyroidism, or with any signs of eye, brain or heart disease.

Most cats tolerate the cat sized cuffs we put on their arms. Some don’t like the feel of the gel or the sound of the amplifier we use to hear the pulse. We try to put them at ease so that we get an accurate reading.

How do we treat hypertension?

A daily dose of amlopidine as a fragment of tablet (Norvasc), or as chicken, fish, cheese or beef flavoured drops to put on the food, brings the blood pressure down rapidly.

After a week on amlopidine we recheck the blood pressure to see if it has come down to normal. If all goes well we recheck it every 3 months.

Sometimes other medications like benazepril (Fortekor or Vetace) are added in, particularly if we detect kidney disease.

Coughing cats

At first Gus’s carer thought he had hair balls. So did the friends she asked. He gagged and convulsed and brought up froth. She gave him some laxative paste.

Everything in the litter tray seemed normal and for a while Gus seemed OK.

When she rushed off to work he was curled up on the lounge in the sun room as usual.

But the gagging started up again, especially at night. She noticed that he wasn’t eating all his dinner and sometimes he stopped in the middle of the gagging and breathed heavily.

One night he crept on to the end of the bed and wheezed and gasped for breath until she was sure he was choking to death.

Next morning she rushed him into us. We X-rayed his chest and found a very hazy lung and signs of chronic bronchitis.

We took samples from Gus’s lungs and found he had pneumonia. Gus had developed an airway and lung infection on top of the chronic bronchitis.

Cats get asthma and bronchitis, just like humans do. For some it is worse when there are lots of pollens blowing about, for others being cooped up inside with the stagnant air and dust mites in winter set the wheezing and coughing off.

His carer remembered that he had always had a bit of a wheeze, especially in spring and early summer. She hadn’t thought much of it.

It is very easy to confuse coughing with vomiting or regurgitation. Usually food or bile will come up at some stage with vomiting. Vomiting cats often lose their appetite or have diarrhoea as well. Coughing cats don’t go off their food unless they develop an infection as well.

Some asthmatic cats have life threatening breathing difficulties if they are not treated adequately. If you notice your cat coughing, gagging, breathing with difficulty, especially with the mouth open and the neck extended, contact your vet.

Check out Fritz the Brave for reliable information and support if your cat has asthma or bronchitis in cats.

Gus is back to his irascible self after a long course of antibiotics. He’s getting used to a puffer and spacer, and quite likes all the attention we give him.

 

Kelpie pups for sale

Those gorgeous pups who visited us earlier this week are now for sale for $100! They are fully vaccinated and wormed and ready to go to loving homes with lots of time for runs and fun.

They are now 8 weeks old, well-socialised and ready to go.

PHONE   0421 762 897

 

Everyone had a pup to cuddle!

 

 

 

 

Kidney disease diets

Switching to a kidney diet

Why should I feed my cat with kidney disease special food?

  • Specially formulated kidney diets are proven to improve the quality of life of cats with kidney disease. They also extend their life expectancy.
  • Cats on kidney diets end up in hospital on a drip much less often than those on regular foods.

What is so special about kidney diets?

  • Potassium is added to kidney diets because cats with kidney disease often have low levels of potassium. Low potassium blunts cats’ appetites and make them feel unwell.
  • Phosphorous builds up in the blood of cats with kidney disease. High phosphorous levels put them off their food and eventually weaken their bones. Cats in untreated advanced kidney failure develop “rubber jaw” –  the high phosphorous levels drain the calcium out of their jaw bones.
  • Cats’ systems become more acidic in kidney failure. Kidney diets help buffer the acidity and improve the cats’  well-being.

When should I start feeding my cat a special kidney diet?

We recommend starting a special kidney diet when your cat is in stage 2 kidney (also known as renal) disease. This means that the blood creatinine levels are over 140 and/or the urine concentrating ability, the urine specific gravity (USG) is less than 1.036.

Cats in stage 2 kidney disease usually still have good appetites and are more likely to accept a new food.

How do I convince my cat to eat the new food?

  • Switch to the new food gradually. Most cats need at least a week to make the transition and many take a month or so.
  • Only try one brand of food at a time. Offer one brand for at least a week before trying another.
  • Try mixing a little of the new food with the old and gradually increasing the proportion of new food.
  • Alternatively provide both foods side by side and let the cat get used to the new scent and taste without being forced to consume it.
  • Don’t be discouraged! Keep putting the new food out. If it is rejected take it away for the moment and put it down again at the next meal time.
  • Serve food on a flat food dish like a saucer rather than a bowl. Some cats reject a food if their whiskers rub the side of the food dish.
  • Serve food at room temperature or warmer.
  • Some cats prefer food from a newly opened container every time.
  • Other cats like their food stored in a plastic container rather than its original can.
  • Offer foods with different textures – minced, pate, chunks –  or different formulations – dry or moist. Many cats change their preferences when they develop kidney disease so don’t be afraid to offer something that they didn’t like before.
  • Add flavour enhancers like low sodium chicken broth, tuna juice, oregano, brewer’s yeast, or a small amount of favourite food.
  • Feed more moist food to increase fluid intake. Cats with kidney disease need to consume a lot more water per day than healthy cats.
  • Make sure water is always available. Place water dishes near your cat’s favourite resting places. Cats who like to lap from dripping taps or shower recesses often like water fountains like the Drinkwell water fountain. 

Eye injury

Eye injuries are an emergency at Hall Vet Surgery. If your pet has a tightly closed or red eye, with or without a watery or pussy discharge, phone us immediately.

Eye injuries are painful and dogs will rub and damage the eye further if not promptly treated.

Injury to the eye damages the cornea, the clear window at the front of the eyeball.

Blunt trauma, from a grass seed caught under the eyelid, or a laceration like a cat scratch or scratch from a branch or grass are very common causes of corneal injury. Chemicals such as irritating shampoos or sprays may also damage the cornea.

Corneal damage interferes with vision, creates problems deeper in the eye and, if not treated, lead to loss of the eye.

At the Surgery we apply a local anaesthetic and examine the eye for a grass seed or other foreign body under the upper, lower or third eyelids. A fluorescein dye highlights scratches or ulceration of the cornea.

Treatment of corneal injuries depends on the extent of the damage. Superficial corneal damage is treated with antibiotic ointments and pain relief. Surgery or hospitalisation is necessary for deeper injury to protect or repair the eye.

 

The Utopia Expedition

Dr Kate and Nurse Geraldine are back from the Utopia group of Aboriginal settlements in Central Australia. In a hectic week they helped  desex 184 dogs in a temporary vet hospital at the Arlparra basketball courts.

A remarkable collaboration between vets and nurses from Canberra, the Tennant Creek Shire council, AMRRIC (Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities) vets based in Darwin and the local Ampilatwatja health service worked to improve animal health and welfare, and human health.

The vets spent half their time in surgery and the other half out in the camps talking to the people about dog health and the benefits of desexing.

Fleas out of control

Fleas are out in force this summer because of the warmth and humidity. People complain that flea treatments on their pets are not working, but if the fleas are jumping onto the pet as fast as the treatment is killing them, we can’t blame the treatment.

Fleas spend most of their lives OFF  dogs or cats, so we must attack them off the pets as well as on them.

Look at flea control for some suggestions on how you can get rid of the pesky pests.

 

 

 

 

Snotty-nosed cats

Snotty-nosed and snuffly cats are difficult to live with. Their owners put up with sneezes and snot all over the house, as well as snuffles and grumbles all day and half the night.

The causes of sinusitis and rhinosinusitis are also difficult for vets to diagnose accurately and even more difficult to treat effectively.

Inflammation and infection spread rapidly from cats’ throats to adjacent structures, such as the middle ear, frontal sinuses, nose and tympanic bullae. These cavities are difficult to reach with medical or surgical treatments.

Feline mucus is also thicker than human mucus and medication has a hard time penetrating the mucus to get to the offending microbes.

Feline Herpesvirus is the most common initiating cause of chronic rhinitis and rhinosinusitis. It causes chronic airway inflammation and swelling, destroys the normal lining of the nasal cavity and upsets the normal mucus layers. The nasal cavity cannot remove foreign particles or the abnormal mucus and the sinuses become blocked. Bacteria leap in and set up infections making the situation even worse.

Drugs to reduce the mucus and the swelling in the sinuses help a bit. We treat the bacterial infection with antibiotics but are still left with Herpesvirus and all the damage it does. Herpesvirus sinusitis soon flares up into full blown bacterial sinusitis again. Some cats respond well to antiviral drugs but others keep getting intermittent sinusitis.

Nastier causes of similar signs are Cryptococcosis, a fungal disease, and cancer, commonly lymphoma, adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These are difficult to distinguish on X-ray but CT or MRI are very helpful, if they are available. A biopsy clears up any doubts. A blood test is available for Cryptococcosis.

Bad teeth and infected tooth roots sometimes make cats snuffly. A dental inspection and X-ray under general anaesthetic allow targeted and successful treatment.

Occasionally a cat breathes in a grass seed or other foreign body. Usually nasal discharge is from one side only and there is some bleeding.

 

Living with cat allergies – and cats

Do you suffer wheezing, sneezing, watery eyes and itchy eyes and arms around your cat? For me, these allergy symptoms are a small price to pay for the company of my cats – although some mornings when I wake with a heavy head and red eyes I wonder!

Cat allergies are not caused by cat hair as most of us assume. They are caused by a protein found in cat saliva, urine and skin cells, or dander. The immune systems of people with allergies mistake this harmless protein for a dangerous invader like a virus or bacteria and mount a full scale attack on it.

Here are some tips for minimising our allergy symptoms without giving up our cats.

  • Make your bedroom a cat free zone
  • Reduce the load of cat allergens in your bedroom by washing or replacing bedding, curtains and pillows. Then cover pillows and mattress with allergen-proof covers.
  • Open windows wide at least once a day to air the house and dilute the allergen load
  • Send your cat outside, preferably into an outdoor run, to disperse some of the dander
  • Eliminate allergen traps such as carpet, rugs and upholstered furniture as you can. Carpet accumulates up to 100 times more allergens than vinyl or wood flooring. If you can’t take it up steam clean it regularly and vacuum with a high efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) filter or us and allergen-proof vacuum cleaner bag.
  • Brush your cat outside and/or in an outside enclosure to minimise contamination of your home with dander
  • Wipe the dander away with a moist cloth or wipe to remove saliva and dander.
  • Spray the house with anti-allergen sprays
  • Use a low dust cat litter and ask non-allergic family members to clean the litter box frequently
  • Take the antihistamines, decongestants, eye drops and aerosol inhalers that your doctor suggests. Antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E also have anti-allergen effects.

 

 

 

Afraid of storms?

Everytime we have a wild storm – and we’ve had plenty this season – dogs come to us with injuries from escaping their yards, destroying the garden and getting involved in accidents. Some dogs panic as soon as the sky darkens and the wind picks up, others cower when the thunder, lightning or rain arrive.

Signs of storm phobia range from mild – pacing, shaking, drooling, hiding – to extreme – blind panic and hyperthermia, escape from the house yard, and destruction of garden or house items. While trying to escape the storm panicking dogs are hit by cars, attacked by other dogs, injured on fences and fallen trees, and lost many kilometers from home.

During the storm you can help your pet cope and minimize his distress.

Keep any medication prescribed by your veterinarian on hand. Event medications work best if given at least 30 minutes prior to the stressful situation. Some severely affected animals need daily medication during the storm season.

Pitfalls to avoid:

– Never use punishment as it will only increase your pet’s distress.

– Avoid petting and consoling your pet during the storm as he may interpret the your protection as a reward for his behavior.

– Try to remain calm as a model for your pet.

Useful interventions:

– If possible, don’t leave your pet alone during the storm.

– Create a safe and secure environment for your pet: a dark room screened from lightning flashes or a room where sound is muted.

– If your pet has found a hiding place, do not drag him out. He may become aggressive.

– Loud music, music with a strong beat or white noise such as an exhaust fan muffles distressing noises for some pets.

– Distract your pet with a favourite toy, a game or some obedience training.

– Every time there is a clap of thunder give your pet a treat. If he is too anxious to take a treat smear peanut butter or cheese spread on the gums. After many repetitions he will start to positively associate the noise with the treat.

– A head collar and leash calms some dogs and gives you control.

– Train your dog to relax on cue on a mat or bed using reward based techniques. Gradually delay the reward, until your dog can lie calmly on the mat for extended periods. Only bring the mat out for training sessions, so that it becomes associated with a relaxed down-stay. Bring the mat out during storms/fireworks or other times the dog is anxious.

– Alternatively create a positive association with a particular place. Feed him, give him treats, and play with him in this special area. Your dog will associate feeling safe and security with this place and may take themselves off to their safe area in a storm. This is helpful if you are not home during a storm. Never use the area for punishment or time-outs.

– Recordings of storms can be used for systematic desensitization, although many dogs do not respond fearfully to recordings. They only show fear of storms when associated cues like wind, rain, darkening skies, or changes in barometric pressure are present.

– Dog Appeasement Pheromone (DAP) mimics a natural pheromone that calms and relaxes dogs. It comes as a diffuser that plugs into a power outlet and is left on over the storm period.

Medication

Before starting on anxiety medication we do a full physical examination and blood tests to rule out any medical problems and to ensure that the liver and kidney are functioning normally.

Medication helps your dog to experience a storm without feeling anxious. He learns that the noise is not so scary and will respond better to the recommendations above. Once he is consistently relaxed during a storm the dose is gradually reduced until he is completely weaned off the drug.