Tag Archives: Cats

From Tabby to Tiger – the Wild Side of our Domestic Cats

Taking a look at the wild side of your kitty cat

That relaxed moggy purring on our lap is closer to its wild ancestors than you might think. Pet cats may be domestic animals, but they are much less domesticated than our pet dogs.  The following evolutionary quirks show that there is much in common between our domestic cats and their wild cousins.

Cats need to eat meat. All felids from tabby to tiger require high levels of animal protein in their diet. This provides certain amino acids like taurine that other mammals (including ourselves) do not need in their diet. Essential hormones for breeding and vitamins like thiamine are more easily extracted from meat than plants.

Cats have lost their ability to taste sugars as they don’t need to detect ripening fruit, however their taste buds are much more discerning when it comes to distinguishing different flavours of meat, making some family felines frustratingly fussy at times.

Genetically, domestic cats are very similar to wildcats. They only emerged as a separate subspecies around 10,000 years ago. Studies are underway to pinpoint the differences in DNA sequencing that makes it possible for domestic cats to socialise with us, something that wildcats are unable to do.

Most wild cats lead solitary lives in order to effectively hunt small prey. The main exception being lions who live together in prides and hunt prey large enough to feed many members of their social group.

Whilst male domestic cats living in the wild are solitary, related females will often live in social groups when food is abundant and share the raising of their kittens. Pet cats show affection for us in the same way that related cats show social behaviour to each other, raising their tails upright and attempting to groom us. It is less common for unrelated pet cats that have not grown up together to develop these strong social bonds. They are more likely to live their separate lives within the home and require separate access to key resources like food, water, litter, scratching poles and resting places to fulfil their needs.

Most smaller felids, including domestic cats are nocturnal in the wild. Those beautiful big eyes allow them to gather enough light to see at night. A domestic cat’s eyes are almost as big as ours. Their retina is about six times more sensitive than ours and their brain is wired to pick up small movements. All felids have a reflective layer behind their retina to increase night vision. This produces their distinctive green reflection in a torch beam at night.

For cats, play is hunting behaviour. Whether they are pouncing and grasping small toys in the teeth, or holding a larger toy with all four sets of claws, this resembles the way they catch a meal in the wild. Domestic cats were originally kept to control pests like rats and mice. Inside their heads they are still hunters and will rip up small toys more intensely on an empty stomach in pursuit of a meal.

As stalking hunters, cats are designed to lay motionless in wait for prey and then leap into action at the crucial moment. This ‘kindle’ reflex can be seen in pet cats, when, in what seems like a nanosecond they can be triggered into an aroused state which can take many hours to abate.

As solitary hunters, domestic cats tend to hunt in separate territories and rarely see or hear each other. To avoid confrontation that could cause life threatening wounds, they communicate by smell. Just like lions and tigers, domestic felids deposit urine around their territories and rub their cheeks on prominent landmarks to leave a scent from skin glands. All cats possess a second ‘nose’, the vomeronasal organ, situated between the palate and nose for processing the messages left by other cats.  Lions and tigers curl their top lip in a ‘Flehmen’ response when using this sense. Domestic cats will seem to go into a brief trance as they use subtle muscles around this organ to draw the chemical message or pheromone into the gland and gain information about the identity of its owner.

Our feline friends bring so much joy into our lives. It is helpful to have some understanding of their close ties to ancestral behaviours and how that affects the way they see the world. This reminds us to keep them away from native wildlife, helps us to accommodate their needs in a domestic household and to interact with them in a way that builds a mutual bond.

Reference: John Bradshaw, BBC Science Focus online magazine 18 Jan 2018

Keeping your pets safe this Summer – Blood Testing

What are we looking for in a blood test?
Routine blood testing typically assesses haematology (red and white blood cells), biochemistry (all the blood products associated with normal bodily functions, including liver and kidney function) and electrolytes. There are blood tests which look for particular problems as they arise, such as hormonal imbalances or clotting problems. Some health conditions can only be detected by blood testing, making this a very useful part of any check-up.
Which pets should have blood tests?
Blood testing is recommended for any pet that is feeling unwell or a little off-colour. Routine monitoring is also recommended for senior animals, those on long term medications and for any pet undergoing general anaesthesia. Recent scientific research has recommended performing regular blood testing in young healthy animals. Every animal is different, so doing this allows us to get an idea of what normal values to expect for each pet as an individual. This is particularly useful for detecting early changes (for example, onset of kidney disease) and allowing prompt investigation and treatment of issues as they arise.
How is blood collected?
Most pets tolerate blood collection well. Your vet or nurse will clip a section of hair away from the neck or leg, clean the skin and collect blood with a needle and syringe. Pets who are anxious about the process often find comfort in lots of cuddles, treats and gentle handling. A small number of animals may need to be sedated for collection, but your vet will assess the pros and cons of performing the test if this is the case.
When should a blood test be performed?
For young healthy animals, the goal is to obtain 3 blood tests before becoming ‘middle aged’ (this age varies between breeds, but as a rough guide is between 6-8 years). Yearly testing is recommended for senior pets. Animals on long term medications often need 6 monthly testing but this will depend on the medication and your vet will guide you as to what is appropriate. Testing is recommended in all animals prior to general anaesthesia as in some cases we may decide to alter our anaesthetic protocol in relation to the blood results.
Where are blood tests performed?
We have state of the art in house blood machines, which allows us to run many tests on the spot with a quick turnaround time. Some tests do however need to be sent to external laboratories and may have a delay of a couple of days for results.
Your vet will advise you if your pet is due for a blood test. If you have any concerns about your pet’s general health and wellbeing, please contact us for further assistance.

Keeping your pets safe this Summer – Paralysis Ticks

Are you heading to the coast this summer? Tick protection is a MUST! Although most pets who are treated quickly for tick paralysis survive, ticks are capable of killing your pet within 3 to 4 days of attaching if your pet has not had any tick prevention.
REMEMBER: PREVENTION IS MUCH SAFER AND MUCH LESS EXPENSIVE THAN TREATMENT.
It is possible for ticks to be carried back in your luggage etc and attach to pets that haven’t travelled to the coast themselves so if you are heading to the coast and your pet is staying home they still need protection.
Protection for dogs is now more convenient than ever and is available in flavoured chews that cover for both Fleas and Ticks! Nexgard protects your dog for one month and is perfect for that one off trip to the coast for the weekend, Bravecto covers your dog from fleas for 3 months and ticks for 4 months and is perfect for those who travel to the coast more frequently.
Prevention for cats is slightly trickier (but still essential), please phone us on (02) 6230 2223 to discuss further.
Early signs of tick paralysis include tiredness, staggering, vomiting, breathing difficulty, change in the sound of their bark or breathing, progressing to paralysis, these signs may continue to worsen even after the tick is removed.
If you notice any of these symptoms your pet should be taken to the nearest Vet immediately.
Call us on (02) 6230 2223 and we can discuss the most suitable tick prevention product for you and your pet.

Keeping your pets safe this Summer – Heat Stroke Warning

What is heat stroke?
Heat stroke or heat exhaustion occurs when the pet experiences a marked increase in body temperature. Normal temperature range for cats and dogs is ~38–39ºC. Other than as part of an underlying illness, pets can become overheated after being enclosed in a hot area, or due to over exertion with excessive exercise.
Heat stroke affects the entire body and can cause anything from very mild signs to very severe and life threatening illness. Those breeds with short noses like Boxers, Bulldogs and Mastiffs are at greater risk.
Symptoms
– body temperatures exceeding 39.5ºc
– excessive panting
– dark or bright red tongue and gums
– sticky or dry tongue and gums
– staggering, weakness, body tremors
– state of near-unconsciousness
– seizures
– bloody diarrhoea or vomiting
– coma
– death

What to do
Effectively cooling the pet is essential using cool water and a fan (NOT ice blocks in direct contact with the skin). Take your pet to the Vet immediately as your pet’s life is at risk and heatstroke can also cause long term organ damage.

Prevention
The best way to prevent heat stroke is by keeping your pet cool. Never leave your pet in a hot car, keep your pet’s coat short in Summer, exercise during the cooler parts of the day, ensure your dog always has access to clean cool drinking water and shelter from the sun.

Ideas to cool pets
DOGS. Spray bottles with cool water jetted on the pet’s underside, wading pools, keeping indoors during hot times of the day, ice treats like frozen kongs.
BIRDS. Frozen watermelon treats.
RABBITS. Frozen peas for rabbits to lie next to and nibble on.
RATS. Fill a small tub or container with water and then throw in some peas. They will get into the water and (depending on how deep it is) will dive for them.

Keeping your pets safe this Summer – Snake Alert

snake

We are in the grips of what has been a rampant snake season, starting early this year with our first patient presenting in late August! Snake venom kills animals quickly so if you suspect your pet has been bitten by a snake, call ahead and we can get ready for you whilst you bring your pet straight to the surgery. That way we can start treatment as soon as possible. While it is helpful to know what type of snake has potentially bitten your pet, polyvalent antivenin is available that treats all the snake venoms common to the area.

Keeping yourself safe should be the number one priority.

Also be aware that a brown snake is not always brown in colour – it can vary with age, location and sub-species.

There have been many, many snake bites already this season from juvenile snakes and their bite is just a deadly as the adult snakes.

Arthritis in pets

With the weather cooling down, many of our older pets are feeling the strain.Attentive Senior Dog

Arthritis is quite common in older animals and is exacerbated by cool, humid weather. Being overweight or having had joint surgery at some point in their life are recognised risk factors. Large breed dogs often develop arthritis at an earlier age than smaller breeds. The impact of arthritis on a pet’s quality of life can be significant, but there are management strategies available. Continue reading Arthritis in pets

CANBERRA CAT VET IS OPEN!

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Canberra Cat Vet, Hall Vet Surgery’s feline offshoot, is open. Phone Leanne or Dr Kate on 6251 1444 for an appointment for consultations, check-ups, vaccinations, dental treatments, desexing or any other cat-related matter.

Come in and have a look around our brand new facility at 16-18 Purdue St Belconnen. Drive in from Gillott St and park right next to our front door. We are near the Post Office, below the bus depot and Officeworks, behind the old police station and in the same building as Belconnen Physiotherapy.

We have a gift for our first 50 visitors (and their cats!)

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.

 

 

 

Ticks worst in years

Already this spring we have seen dogs and cats back from the beach with tick paralysis.

Reports from the coast say that the ticks are the worst seen in many years.

Treat your pet for ticks before you leave for the coast. Advantix must be applied 2 days before traveling down and reapplied every 2 weeks while at the coast.

Alternatively rinse dogs with permethrin before leaving and then weekly while down there.

Frontline spray is the only safe tickicide for cats. Apply 2 days before leaving for the coast and then fortnightly while down there.

Please note that Advantix and Permethrin are extremely toxic to cats. A cat brushing up against or grooming a treated dog can die of permethrin poisoning.

Supplement the tickicide application with close daily inspection of your pet. Feel inside the ears, under the arms, around the tail and in all the crevices and skin folds. Ticks love to hide in long hair. Remove any ticks you find immediately.

If your pet is weak in the legs or drooling contact a vet immediately.