Tag Archives: Cats

Kidney failure in cats

Mittens getting the right balance

What do kidneys do?

 

The kidneys remove waste products from the blood stream, regulate fluid and electrolyte balance, maintain the acid-base balance of the body and remove toxins and drugs. They also help maintain blood pressure and stimulate blood cell production.

What happens when my cat’s kidneys fail?

Signs of kidney failure don’t appear until at least 70% of kidney function is lost. Chronic kidney failure is known as renal failure.

Kidney damage accumulates for years before we see any signs. Even then the early signs of kidney failure – increased thirst and urine production – are not easily recognised in our feline friends.

You may notice an increasingly wet litter tray if your cat is only indoors. However if you have other cats you may not pick up increased urine production in a single cat.

Cats often drink from multiple water sources making it difficult to recognise increased consumption.

Other signs of kidney failure such as weight loss and poor coat quality are often put down to normal ageing.

Often the first thing we see is a cat off her food, vomiting, depressed and dehydrated. The kidneys are already badly affected by this stage.

How do we diagnose kidney failure?

We diagnose and stage kidney failure with blood tests for the two waste products, urea and creatinine and a urine analysis to measure the kidneys ability to concentrate urine. We also  check the urine for protein loss or a urinary tract infection.

Tests for other substances like potassium, phosphorus and calcium as well as blood cell counts help us decide on the best course of treatment.

Could it have been diagnosed earlier?

Because signs of kidney failure and rises in blood urea and creatinine are not evident until significant loss of kidney function has occurred early diagnosis is difficult. However, we strongly recommend at least annual blood and urine tests, as well as regular body weight checks. If urine concentrating ability is deteriorating or the creatinine is trending up we are able to slow down the progression of the disease with a special kidney protective diet. Any weight loss in a cat should be fully investigated.

What treatments are available?

After initial hospitalisation to treat dehydration and electrolyte disturbances, most cats are managed with a diet change and one or two other medications.

  • Low protein and phosphorus diets lower the level of waste products in the bloodstream.  Try a few of the ready made kidney diets like Royal Canin renal or Hills k/d to find one your cat likes. Once your cat accepts the diet it must be her sole source of nutrition. Although if renal failure is advanced and your cat’s appetite is poor, any diet that the cat enjoys is acceptable.
  • If blood phosphorus levels remain above normal after a few weeks on the special diet we add phosphate binders like Ipakitine to the food. Reducing blood phosphorus makes your cat feel better and slows progression of the disease.
  • Urinary tract infections are common in kidney failure and are treated with antibiotics.
  • Cats with renal failure lose potassium in the urine leading to muscle weakness, stiffness, a poor coat and exacerbation of the kidney failure. The special kidney diets contain extra potassium but sometimes we have to add more.
  • Severely affected cats need extra fluids. We can teach you to administer      subcutaneous fluids at home to reduce dehydration in advanced cases.

FRESH WATER MUST BE AVAILABLE AT ALL TIMES

How long can I expect my cat to live?

Unfortunately aged kidneys do not recover. However, we can slow the progress of the disease and improve your cat’s well being with treatment and regular checkups. We check  phosphorous and potassium levels to see if your cat requires supplements and check for urinary tract infections at least every 3 months. This should give your cat a good stretch of high quality, active life.

 

 

Cat fights

Cats typically have a hate-hate relationship with any strange cat in their presence, yard, or environment. When new cats meet, they fluff up, spit, hiss – more like scream! – and the fur soon goes flying. While the brawl may only last a few seconds, that’s enough time for a few diseases to jump bodies.

Feline leukemia (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus or cat AIDS (FIV), infectious peritonitis (FIP), or nasty bacterial infections are transmitted from cat to cat in saliva.

Outside cats, particularly unneutered males, love to fight. Most times they will end up with a nasty abscess.

What exactly is an abscess? It’s basically a pocket of pus under the skin. It makes a cat very ill because of the bacteria and toxins it releases into the bloodstream. He is feverish, goes off his food, hides and sleeps a lot.

Treatment for abscesses involves a general anaesthesia, clipping and cleaning the skin, lancing the abscess and flushing all the pus out, placing a drain to allow any new pus to empty, antibiotics and pain relief. Some cats are so sick they need hospitalisation and intravenous fluids for a night or two.

How do we avoid all this??

Desex your cat if he is still entire. Keep him indoors, particularly in the evenings and at night when the brawling usually happens.

Keep other cats off your property. A dog on patrol will soon despatch an intruder. Otherwise keep an eye out for a few evenings and frighten strays off with a loud noise.

Catch the infection as soon as possible. If your cat has been in a fight bring him immediately for an antibiotic shot to discourage the abscess from forming.

Vaccinate your cat against FIV, Feline AIDS. There are three shots in the initial course. A booster at the annual checkup and vaccine review prevents the virus gaining a toe hold.

 

Snake season

Jonah reports that snakes are out and about again. He found one on Saturday night. His carers thought he wasn’t himself on Sunday but when they came home on Monday and found him not able to stand they were sure he wasn’t well.  His breathing was a bit laboured and his eyes were huge.
When we saw him he complained of his plight in a rather plaintive voice. His legs were very weak and he could hardly hold his head up.
This “floppy doll” weakness in a young cat at this time of year rang alarm bells for us.
Adventurous cats and snakes rousing from their winter snooze on a hot weekend are a recipe for disaster! Snakes are especially full of venom at the beginning of the season.
Jonah had some brown snake antivenom and has been on a drip to keep him hydrated. Cats paralysed by snake venom soon become dehydrated because they cannot eat or drink. Jonah has responded well and hopes to go home today!

Lilies poison cats

All species of lilies are toxic to cats. Indoor cats with little choice in plant munching material are most at risk as they will try any cut flower that comes into the house.

Any part of the plant – flowers, leaves or stems – is dangerous. Even lily pollen licked off the coat destroys cats’ kidney tubules.

Lilies proven to poison cats include: Easter Lily (Lilium longiflorum), Tiger Lily ( Lilium tigrinum), Day Lily (Lilium hemerocallus), Asian lily (Lily asiatic spp.) and(Lilium rubrum).

If you see your cat with lily on her coat, in her mouth or in her vomit don’t wait for signs of poisoning. The sooner we get it out of her system and start treatment to protect the kidneys the greater her chance of survival.

Affected cats vomit and are depressed within hours of ingesting lily. Some then seem to recover before starting to show signs of severe kidney failure a day or so later. Others continue vomiting, go off their food and get more and more depressed.

If emptying the stomach and medications to prevent absorption of the toxin are effective, the chance of recovery is excellent.

If your cat absorbs enough toxin to cause damage to her kidneys then her outlook is very poor. It is essential to seek emergency care immediately after ingestion of the lily plant.

Rats and rabbits are not affected by lilies but there could be a risk to dogs.

 

Festive season for pets?

Spare a thought over the festive season for our pets.  Christmas is a fun time of year for humans but it disrupts our animals’ lives, causing stress and untoward changes in their behaviour.

Potential sources of stress include:

  • Car travel
  • Boarding
  • Visitors to their home
  • Parties and increased noise in the neighbourhood
  • Fireworks
  • Changes in routine
  • Visits to unfamiliar environments such as a holiday house or extended family

Many pets become anxious under these stresses. Their behaviour changes to cope with the stresses. These behavioural changes are usually temporary but occasionally turn into long-term, serious problems.

How can we reduce our pets’ anxiety this Christmas?

Reassure your pets in unfamiliar circumstances by allowing them to stay close to you and spending as much time with them as possible. If you have to leave them, give them something familiar like bedding or your shirt.

Provide a comfortable safe hidey hole with lots of fun things to do if visitors are expected or you are planning a party. Long lasting treats like stuffed Kongs and chew toys keep dogs engrossed and happy.

Avoid confronting a dog with anyone they fear. Children or big men frighten some dogs.

Don’t punish a frightened dog or make it face up to its fear. This usually makes an already tense dog more anxious.

Try not to initiate any more fears in your pet. A house suddenly full of noisy party-goers and no secure place to hide will make a timid dog frightened of more people.

Pheromones, naturally produced communicators, reduce anxiety significantly in many pets.   ADAPTIL® (containing Dog Appeasing Pheromone) and Feliway® (containing a calming cat pheromone) are synthetic copies of the animals’ own natural pheromones. They reduce behaviour changes resulting from stress or anxiety.

Feliway replicates the feline facial pheromone that cats rub around their environment so they feel relaxed and at home.

ADAPTIL (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) replicates the pheromone the dam releases when suckling her puppies. It reassures dogs of any age, reducing anxiety and preventing fear and stress related behaviours.

If behaviour resulting from fear and anxiety is out of proportion to what is happening or causes long lasting problems then schedule an appointment with one of our vets. They will work through a programme of retraining or behaviour modification in conjunction with a prescription drug, appropriate for your pet.

 

Kitty Dementia

Dementia, also known as feline cognitive dysfunction, is an age-related disorder of brain function causing multiple behaviour changes.

In cats the behaviour changes include:

  • Yowling excessively and inappropriately
  • Urinating or defecating outside the litter box and around the house
  • Disorientation and aimless wandering
  • Restlessness
  • Changes in interaction with people or other pets such as aggression, irritability and clinginess
  • Erratic sleeping behaviour: waking, pacing or yowling at night, sleeping less at night and more during the day
  • Decreased grooming

Some diseases mimic cognitive dysfunction. These include hyperthyroidism, brain tumours, viral diseases, high blood pressure, chronic pain, arthritis, diabetes, and urinary tract infections. Many of these diseases exacerbate the behaviour changes of cognitive dysfunction, too, so we must check for and/or treat them before we confirm a diagnosis of cognitive dysfunction.

Some commonly used drugs such as prednisolone and valium also reduce brain function. Alternatives that reduce decline are often available.

Therapies

1. Diet: Anti-oxidants delay and treat dementia. Antioxidants include Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Alpha-lipoic acid, L-carnitine and beta-carotene. Fruits and vegetables contain many of these.

Omega 3 fatty acids as found in fish oil or food supplements such as Nutricoat also help.

2. Physical therapy and environmental enrichment: Stimulate brain function and delay the onset of dementia with environmental enrichment and games. Try scattering or hiding food or catnip around the house, provide toys that require batting or rolling to release food, give opportunities for climbing, perching and exploring, trail ribbon or feathers along. Petting, brushing and massage stimulate the nerves and brains of old cats, too.

3. Your vet may prescribe medications to reduce inflammation, enhance memory or improve brain function.

Matted cats

Nurse Tegan helped Mischief out of his winter coat and into his summer splendour this morning. Over winter he can’t keep up with his long hair and it was matted on his sides and belly and up behind his ears.
Mischief is usually pretty laid back and purry but he asked for a sedative so we could clean up those matts behind his ears without hurting him.
He says it takes him a few days to get used to losing his winter coat each year but he soon appreciates the lighter easier style.

Worms in cats

Tapeworms and roundworms are the most common intestinal parasites of cats.

Tapeworms are long flat worms composed of many individual segments which look like wriggling grains of rice in cat faeces.

Round worms are much shorter and rounder and produce microscopic eggs. Hookworm and whipworm are rarer but cause anæmia, loss of protein and gastrointestinal upsets.

Cats are infested with the flea tapeworm Dipylidium caninum by eating fleas carrying the tapeworm during grooming.  The tapeworm mature in cats and pass segments in the faeces which flea larvae ingest.

Cats are infested with the tapeworm Taenia taeniaformis when they eat infected rodents. Infestation with this worm is more common in hunting cats.

Roundworms, Toxocara cati and Toxascaris leonine, are common in young cats and kittens. Cats are infested with roundworm by ingesting worm eggs passed in cat faeces or by eating animals such as mice, which are infested with roundworm.

Most kittens are infested with Toxocara cati through their mother’s milk.

Toxocara cati can infest children if they ingest eggs attached to kitten hair or dirty litter trains.  The eggs hatch to larvae which migrate through the body and may cause damage. To prevent ingestion deworm kittens and cats as advised below, and dispose of litter and disinfect the tray with boiling water at least weekly.

Good quality broad spectrum wormers like Milbemax, Profender spot on and Drontal for cats are effective against all gastrointestinal worms.

Our recommended deworming protocol:

  • Kittens from 4 to 12 weeks of age
    • Treat every two weeks with Milbemax, Profender or Drontal for cats
  • Young cats 3-6 months
    • Treat monthly with Milbemax, Profender or Drontal for cats
  • Cats 6 months of age and older
    • Treat every three months with Milbemax, Profender or Drontal for cats

Pet Insurance

(This post is archived on our website at https://www.hallvet.com.au/about/pet-insurance/)

Some perspective…

According to the Australian Companion Animal Council,

  • vet fees only account for about 1/4 of the cost of your pet,
  • about 1/3 is spent on other services (toys, kennels, grooming, holiday accommodation etc) and
  • the rest – nearly 1/2 – is spent on food.

Big Bills

But there are times when vet bills loom large because of accident or illness. In the last four years at Hall Veterinary Surgery, about 90% of invoices over $1000 were for dogs. They included conditions as diverse as dog-fight injuries, pancreatitis, surgery for cancers, blocked waterworks, broken bones or cruciate ligaments, snake bite, heart failure, car accidents, tick paralysis, vomiting, diarrhoea, and chemotherapy for cancer.
Big bills hit young pets as well as old.

Budgeting

If unexpected vet bills would blow your budget, you could try one of these strategies to minimise the fallout:

  1. Pet insurance costs range from about $18/month (cats, accident only) or $33/month (dog, accident only) up to $65/month (dog select breed, accident/illness.
    Depending on pre-existing conditions and payout limits, pet insurance will reduce the impact of most big bills. Some plans work on a co-payment system, which reduce the premium if you pay 20% or more of any bill.
    Most insurance companies reimburse you after you’ve paid the vet.
  2. A low-fee credit card kept for emergencies only.
  3. Self-insure by putting a monthly contribution into an interest-bearing account. This is the most cost-effective method for small costs; you don’t have to worry about pre-existing conditions and you can economise on multiple pets -as long as they don’t all get sick at the same time. You can also budget for costs that aren’t covered by the pet insurance companies. These include vaccinations, worming, flea and tick protection and wellness programmes. The average monthly costs below will give you an idea of what to put aside. If a big cost comes up before you’ve accumulated enough you’ll still have to bridge the gap.

Total Spend

The table below shows amounts carers spent on individual pets over the last four years. It breaks this down to the average monthly cost of vet care and the percentage of dogs and cats in that spend category. This is the average per pet for all products and services offered at Hall Vet Surgery, including flea and tick products, prescription diets, dental work, big surgeries, cancer treatment, desexing and vaccinations.

Total spent over 4 Years Ave per Month Dogs Cats
$500 $10 54% 38%
$1,000 $21 28% 17%
$2,000 $43 9% 4%
$5,000 $104 1% 0.4%
$10,000 $208 0.1%

So you can think of the percentages as indicative of the chance that your pet will cost at least that much in vet bills. eg if you own a cat, there’s a 1:250 chance your cat might total $5,000, or a 1:10 chance that your dog might cost over $2,000 over four years.

Pet insurance is more cost-effective if your pet is unlucky enough to have a bad accident or becomes ill. But you have to have your pet insured before it happens!