Rodent ulcer in cats

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The patient was an eight-year-old white female shorthaired cat named Sweetie. Over the phone, Sweetie’s elderly owner told me that something was wrong with his cat’s face. As soon as I saw Sweetie, I knew what the problem was. Sweetie had a rodent ulcer.

Cat rodent ulcer, also referred to as indolent ulcer, is the common name used to describe one of the variants of the feline eosinophilic granuloma complex of diseases.

The label ‘cat rodent ulcer’ is a misnomer. Historically, the name was conceived by farmers whose cats developed facial ulcers after hunting rats. We now know that these ulcers have nothing whatsoever to do with rodents but the name has stuck.

The medical term eosinophilic granuloma complex more accurately describes the condition.

Eosinophils form part of the immune system. They are one of the types of white blood cells that moves around the body of the cat with the specific purpose of seeking out allergies or parasites.

When an allergen is detected, or a parasite invades the body of the cat, the cat’s immune system releases bio-chemical signals that eosinophils detect.

The allergy might be, for example, an allergy to fleas, plastic bowls, pollen, dust, mould and food, while the parasite might be, for example, tapeworms or roundworms. Either way, the eosinophils interpret them as a threat to the health of the cat and home in to the bio-chemical signal to attack the source of allergen or parasite. But sometimes, the eosinophil cells can go into overdrive.

Eosinophil cells may ‘over-react’ to a perceived threat, or the cat may have an auto-immune disease that makes the body attack itself.

Either way, the reaction of the body is highly visible. In some cases, the cells inflame to form a granuloma in the shape a lump, in others they may cause a rash-like reaction, and with the cat rodent ulcer variant, it forms a lesion.

The unfortunate aspect of the cat rodent ulcer is that it usually develops on the face of the cat and it has the potential to permanently disfigure the cat if not treated quickly enough.

The ulcer generally forms on the upper lip of the cat, though it has been known to affect the lower lip, tongue, or inside of the mouth as well. It starts as a yellowish pink spot located on one or both sides of the upper lip. It then develops into a clearly-defined, reddish-brown shiny sore without fur.

The ulcer does not weep or bleed but, as it advances, the lips soon start to look as if they have been gnawed off – hence the historical misconception of farmers.

In very serious cases, the ulcer advances so much that the cat loses its entire lips and nose, leaving the teeth, gums and nasal cavity exposed.

The disease affects mostly in young to middle-aged cats, and more female than male, but there is no specific breed that is more susceptible to the disease.

Perhaps the merciful aspect with this terrible affliction is that cat rodent ulcers are not painful and, while this complex of diseases is not yet fully understood, there have been advances in recent years that have helped veterinarians to control the condition.

Some studies have found that viral infections such as feline leukaemia virus, or genetic predisposition, might be a contributing factor. The important thing is that should your cat develop any unusual facial growth or start to behave differently, for example, all the time licking its nose, you should take your pet to the vet before any real damage is done.

You vet will start by examining the lesion and discussing your cat’s lifestyle and living environment. Depending upon the nature of the case, your vet may also opt to test for Felv/FIV, take a complete blood count, skin scrapings and fungal culture. The vet may additionally opt to take a biopsy or needle aspiration to rule out malignancy.

Treatment will depend upon the cause of the ulcer and may range from anti-flea treatment to food allergy diet trials among others.

Medication will be administered and prescribed to prevent further deterioration resulting from the ulcer. Reversal of the loss of lip flesh very much depends on how advanced the condition is. In its early stages, sufficient scar tissue can develop that restores the cat’s dignity. But when the condition is so advanced that erosion of the face is severe, there is not much that can be done to restore the face.

Sweetie’s condition was thankfully not too advanced and she was spared permanent disfigurement with timely intervention.

Her owner has taken steps to treat the house for the flea invasion that flared up during the warm summer months and he has promised to keep an eye on Sweetie. read more

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A contagious #cat #virus is spreading among animal shelters

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A contagious and sometimes fatal virus that infects cats has spread sporadically through North Carolina animal shelters this summer.

Feline panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper, causes diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, and in some cases death, in cats.

“It’s sort of like the flu in people,” said Dr. Patricia Norris, director of the Animal Welfare Section at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “Some years it’s bad and, some years it’s not so bad.”

The disease prompted the Cabarrus County Animal Shelter to announce Wednesday that it wouldn’t be accepting or adopting out cats through Friday, following an outbreak at the shelter. A representative from the shelter couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

In addition to Cabarrus County, feline distemper has affected shelters in Wake and Lincoln counties, among others, Norris said.

The state issued a statement in June that feline distemper had been appearing in more shelters than normal across the state this summer.

Norris said she isn’t sure what has caused the virus to be more widespread recently, but complimented the response of local shelters in containing the virus.

“This is not a disease because a particular shelter is dirty or is not keeping up with its sanitation,” Norris said. “This is a disease that is found out in the community cats.”

The disease is more commonplace in shelters than in vets’ offices, which rarely encounter the virus, she said. Shelters often deal with stray cats that haven’t had vaccinations, as well as younger and more stressed cats that are more susceptible to the disease, she said.

The state doesn’t have numbers on how many cats have been infected or died from feline distemper this summer, but Norris offered ways to help prevent the spread of the virus.

She urges pet owners to make sure their cats are up to date on vaccinations. Read more 

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Salmon treats are a hit for our furry friends

1503703650904Demand for premium, New Zealand-made pet food at supermarket prices has seen rapid expansion for one Kiwi company.

After the successful launch of New Zealand King Salmon’s quality pet food range Omega Plus in the South Island late last year, the products are now also selling in North Island supermarkets.

The range, which includes wet and dry pet food as well as treats and dietary supplements, is completely natural and made up of sustainably sourced King salmon, which gives the products high levels of health beneficial omega-3 and protein.

But, according to division manager Simon Thomas, the health benefits for pets – including a shiny, soft coat and better joint mobility – are not the only reason the range has proven popular with pet owners.

“Omega Plus also appeals to the conscious consumer, as our range is made entirely in New Zealand from previously wasted material,” he said.

Mr Thomas said the range has had a great response from retailers keen to stock a first-class New Zealand product on their shelves in order to meet an ever-growing demand for quality pet food.

“Premium pet food is the fastest growing segment of this category and Omega Plus is perfectly positioned to offer retailers a product that fills this void,” he said.

Just as importantly, Omega Plus is appealing to pets too, with retailers reporting good consumer uptake and repeat purchasing of the range.

“The product is very palatable, so we’re seeing great acceptance of it from pets,” Mr Thomas said. “It’s great to see the response being so good, especially with traditionally fussy cats.”

Omega Plus is now aiming to reach more Kiwi cats and dogs through further distribution of the product in both the North and South Islands. Future plans for the range also include larger pack sizes in current variants and new variants of their dry cat and dog foods.

Omega Plus is currently stocked in New World and Pak ‘n Save supermarkets throughout New Zealand and is available online at pet.co.nz.

Omega Plus is a pet food, dietary supplement and treats range by Omega Innovations, a division of The New Zealand King Salmon Company, the country’s biggest salmon producer.

Using previously wasted material, Omega Innovations developed a range of wet and dry cat and dog food and treats where salmon is the #1 ingredient.

Omega Plus is a premium product, 100% NZ-made and is all natural. It is high in omega-3 and protein delivering a range of benefits including a healthy skin and coat, joint mobility, intestinal health and antioxidants.  read more…

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Get used to the new term ‘Caturday’

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Cats sat stoically in the grass on Boston Common Sunday morning, allowing themselves to be admired and photographed. Some people squealed “Kitty!” as if they’d never seen a cat before.

“This is the best day ever,” said Erin Curtin, 20, of Natick. “It is a beautiful morning and everybody is gathering as a community to pet cats. This is the epitome of positive experiences.”

It was Boston’s first “Caturday,” a popular cat meet-up that’s already arrived in other major cities, creating a communal space for feline aficionados. On Facebook, the event was called “a day to reclaim the glory of the outdoors for our feline friends.”

Beverly resident and local organizer Kristin Leigh Porcello, 24, said she plans to continue holding Caturdays on the first Saturday of each month on the Common.

“It really was a wonderful turnout,” Porcello said.

Leashes prevented run-ins with squirrels, while dog walkers did double takes as scores of people surrounded feline faces peeking out from carriers and purses. Gizmo the cat, just shy of 30 pounds, wore a tiny sparkling hat.

His owners were bemused at the attention.

“We went and bought one of these cat strollers,” said Kristin Mills, 18, from Bedford. “People are all over him. He’s a little different. He’s super, super obese.”

Lulu the cat was hiding in her owner’s armpit. Brighton residents Charlie, 28, and Jayda, 27, Siegler named her after the restaurant in the hotel where they stayed on their honeymoon.

Lulu, the couple said, acts more like a dog than a cat.

“I’m just trying to make sure she’s having a good time,” Charlie Siegler said.

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Interesting: The hidden environmental costs of #dog and #cat food

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Gregory Okin is quick to point out that he does not hate dogs and cats. Although he shares his home with neither — he is allergic, so his pets are fish — he thinks it is fine if you do. But if you do, he would like you to consider what their meat-heavy kibble and canned food are doing to the planet.

Okin, a geographer at UCLA, recently did that, and the numbers he crunched led to some astonishing conclusions. America’s 180 million or so Rovers and Fluffies gulp down about 25 percent of all the animal-derived calories consumed in the United States each year, according to Okin’s calculations. If these pets established a sovereign nation, it would rank fifth in global meat consumption.

Needless to say, producing that meat  — which requires more land, water and energy and pollutes more than plant-based food  — creates a lot of greenhouse gases: as many as 64 million tons annually, or about the equivalent of driving more than 12 million cars around for a year. That doesn’t mean pet-keeping must be eschewed for the sake of the planet, but “neither is it an unalloyed good,” Okin wrote in a study published this week in PLOS One.

“If you are worried about the environment, then in the same way you might consider what kind of car you buy … this is something that might be on your radar,” Okin said in an interview. “But it’s not necessarily something you want to feel terrible about. ”

This research was a departure for Okin, who typically travels the globe to study deserts — things such as wind erosion, dust production and plant-soil interactions. But he said the backyard chicken trend in Los Angeles got him thinking about “how cool it is” that pet chickens make protein, while dogs and cats eat protein. And he discovered that even as interest grows in the environmental impact of our own meat consumption, there has been almost no effort to quantify the part our most common pets play.

To do that, Okin turned to dog and cat population estimates from the pet industry, average animal weights, and ingredient lists in popular pet foods. The country’s dogs and cats, he determined, consume about 19 percent as many calories as the human population, or about as much as 62 million American people. But because their diets are higher in protein, the pets’ total animal-derived calorie intake amounts to about 33 percent of that of humans.

Okin’s numbers are estimates, but they do “a good job of giving us some numbers that we can talk about,” said Cailin Heinze, a veterinary nutritionist at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine who has written about the environmental impact of pet food. “They bring up a really interesting discussion.”

Okin warns that the situation isn’t likely to improve any time soon. Pet ownership is on the rise in developing countries such as China, which means the demand for meaty pet food is, too. And in the United States, the growing idea of pets as furry children has led to an expanding market of expensive, gourmet foods that sound like Blue Apron meals. That means not just kale and sweet potato in the ingredient list, but grain-free and “human-grade” concoctions that emphasize their use of high-quality meat rather than the leftover “byproducts” that have traditionally made up much of our pets’ food.

“The trend is that people will be looking for more good cuts of meat for their animals and more high-protein foods for their animals,” Okin said.

What to do about this? That’s the hard part. Heinze said one place to start is by passing on the high-protein or human-grade foods. Dogs and cats do need protein — and cats, which are obligate carnivores, really do need meat, she said. But the idea that they should dine on the equivalent of prime rib and lots of it comes from what she calls “the pet food fake news machine.” There’s no need to be turned off by some plant-based proteins in a food’s ingredients, she said, and dog owners in particular can look for foods with lower percentages of protein.

The term human-grade implies that a product is using protein that humans could eat, she added. Meat byproducts — all the organs and other animal parts that don’t end up at the supermarket — are perfectly fine, she said.

“Dogs and cats happily eat organ meat,” Heinze said. “Americans do not.”

Okin has some thoughts about that. The argument that pet foods’ use of byproducts is an “efficiency” in meat production is based on the premise that offal and organs are gross, he says. (Look no further than the collective gag over a finely textured beef product known as “pink slime.”) But if we would reconsider that, his study found, about one-quarter of all the animal-derived calories in pet food would be sufficient for all the people of Colorado.

“I’ve traveled around the world and I’m cognizant that what is considered human edible is culture-specific,” he said. “Maybe we need to have a conversation about what we will eat.”

In the meantime, Okin suggests that people thinking about getting a dog might consider a smaller one — a terrier rather than a Great Dane, say. Or, if you think a hamster might fulfill your pet desires, go that route.

Heinze, for her part, sometimes offers the same counsel to vegetarian or vegan clients who want their pets to go meat-free. They are typically motivated by animal welfare concerns, not environmental ones, she said, but such diets are not always best for dogs, and they never are for cats. read more…

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Tips for calming your #cat’s aggressive behavior

Dealing with feline aggression can be a challenge for any cat owner and one that can be painful as well as frustrating. Aggression can be caused by seizures or illness, including heart disease, so be sure to talk with your veterinarian first to see if your cat’s behavior could be managed with medication and/or additional training.

 

According to the Pet Behavior Clinic, there are various types of feline aggressions, including:

 

Aggression while playing: Kittens normally replace most of their social behavior with aggressive play at about 12 weeks of age and again around 8 months. Aggression at these ages is believed to be a part of learning to hunt and defend territory.

To prevent this problem, don’t encourage kittens to play with your hands or feet. Instead, direct their attempts to play to appropriate toys (such as balls on a string, crinkly tunnels, motorized toys, climbing posts and so on). If your pet insists on playing with you and ignores the toys, get up and walk away so that the behavior is not rewarded with your attention.

(Note: Laser beam toys are not appropriate. Kittens and cats need to be successful at some point in catching their “prey,” so these types of toys only result in frustrated, unhappy cats that may take it out on you.

 

Hormonal aggression: Un-neutered male cats and female cats in heat may exhibit aggressive behavior due to hormonal triggers. Having your cat spayed or neutered not only reduces the overpopulation of unwanted kittens who statistically have a low chance for long-term survival, but also reduces the cat’s tendency to have aggressive episodes.

 

Aggressive exercise: Your domestic cat is not that much different from large cats in the wild in that they are predators and their natural activities are suited for catching the food they need to survive. In homes, food is provided and cats sleep a good part of the day. If your cat does not go outside where they can catch mice and climb trees to work off their energy, they may need you to help provide ways for them to burn off that energy through play.

A climbing post near a window where they can watch birds and squirrels is excellent stimulation for a cat. Also, catnip toys can provide hours of great fun. Placing a ping pong ball in a dry bathtub or an empty medium-sized box on the floor, hanging things from a scratching post or even teaching your cat to fetch are all good ideas.

If your cat is stalking or chasing your feet, keep a spray bottle of water handy and spray when they attack (avoid the eyes). This also works well if they are attacking other cats in the home. Tossing a small bean bag at your cat right before they pounce can also be an effective distraction.

 

Over-stimulation: If your cat’s aggressions comes on suddenly while they are being petted, it may be caused by an abnormal sensitivity, especially noticeable a the base of the tail. If stroking your cat leads to them kneading with front paws and even drooling, they could be getting over-stimulated causing a sudden burst of aggression. Try just scratching behind the ears or under the chin.

Aggressive while restrained: If your cat is aggressive to you when you are giving medication or clipping nails, you should wrap them in a towel to do these things. To prevent your cat from fearing the towel, you can wrap them in a towel for about 10 seconds a few times each week. If necessary, a professional groomer or veterinary technician can trim nails for you. read more…

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Choosing #CatFood for Even the Most Finicky #Cats

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Imagine your food choice being limited to a bowl of cereal with milk at every meal for the rest of your life. Doesn’t sound very savory, does it? Yet, that is the fate for millions of indoor cats who eat the same cat food at each and every meal.

Which begs these questions: Are cats truly finicky and prefer one diet, or do they crave the opportunity to expand their palates? And, will varying their diets boost their health or make them prone to food allergies and digestive upsets?

For answers, Catster turned to a pair of top feline experts: Elizabeth Colleran, D.V.M., the former president of the American Academy of Feline Practitioners who operates cat-only practices in Chico, California, and Portland, Oregon, and Jessica Vogelsang, D.V.M., a San Diego, California-based veterinarian, best-selling author and creator of the award-winning Paw Curious website.

How cats choose what cat food they like to eat

“Cats are drawn to certain foods by three factors: mouth feel, odor and taste,” Dr. Colleran said. “They learn [food] preferences from even before birth, so some of what they like is beyond anyone’s control. Some variety is helpful, but it is important to look at all factors that can affect appetite, including surroundings, stress, other cats and health issues.”

Dr. Vogelsang added, “There are some cats who have strong preferences for flavors, textures and temperatures. For these cats, it can be more challenging to change or expand their diets. But if they learn early on that the food they receive will rotate, they will not have as great a chance to develop bad habits.”

What cats need to eat

What is crystal clear is that cats are obligate carnivores, which means their bodies need high-quality protein to operate efficiently. They need a diet containing at least 40 percent protein to maintain lean body condition. Too many carbohydrates and too little protein in their diets can result in muscle loss, dull or itchy skin coats and even obesity.

“Muscle loss over the spine of the back, top of the head or rear limbs is the most important sign that the cat’s diet is inadequate,” Dr. Colleran pointed out.

How to introduce new cat food into your cat’s diet

If you plan to introduce a “rotation diet” to your cat, introduce new quality commercial foods slowly. Dr. Colleran recommended following this formula:

For the first few days: Serve your cat a mixture containing about 75 percent of his current food with 25 percent of the new food.

For the next few days: Dish up a meal consisting of 50 percent current food and 50 percent new food.

After about a week: Provide your cat with meals containing 75 percent new food and 25 percent current food. At each transition, pay close attention to your cat’s actions and attitudes.

“Abrupt dietary changes can cause GI upset, diarrhea or loss of appetite,” she said. “People should never try serving large varieties of food if a cat suddenly stops liking her food. There is a reflex learning that occurs when a cat eats something and then feels badly. She learns to never want that food again even if that food had nothing to do with why she feels badly.”

Dealing with food allergies and cats

Dr. Vogelsang’s former cat, Apollo, shared a fate far too common in older cats: He developed food allergies around age 9. His hair fell out, and he had stomach issues. So, she gradually switched him from his chicken- and fish-based food to a novel protein — duck — and his health and appetite improved.

“Blood tests can’t identify food allergies,” Dr. Vogelsang said, “An elimination diet is the only way to determine if a cat has developed a food allergy. That requires working with your veterinarian and exposing your cat to one protein and one carbohydrate source at a time to identify the allergen.” 

Handling a picky-eater cat

Her current cat, Penelope, is pickier about food choices than Apollo and prefers the crunch of dry food over the moisture of canned food. “She is a texture cat — she likes the texture of kibble,” Dr. Vogelsang said. “I can put out the same formulation in canned and dry, and she always goes for the dry food.”

How to add variety to your cat’s diet

If you wish to add variety to your cat’s diet, Dr. Colleran offered these parting tips about cat food:

  • Choose food made from companies with doctorate-level nutritionists on their staff.
  • Avoid companies that do not publish complete nutrition information on their websites.
  • Recognize that the term ‘gluten- free’ may not mean carb-free, but simply may mean that the company adds carbohydrates in a different form, such as potatoes.
  • Understand that cats cannot go days without eating, so don’t be stubborn and insist they eat a new food. If they don’t eat the new food, within a few days they could develop a fatal liver disease known as feline hepatic lipidosis.  Read more…

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