Cats Dogs News

All about microchips

During our recent hiatus from the status quo, many fellow DC residents added a puppy, adopted dog, kitten or cat to their family. This is an exciting time and it is imperative that we do all we can to keep them healthy and safe. One component is identification with an implanted microchip. Microchips are a permanent identification system, which can help assist returning your pet if lost. 

What is a microchip?

Microchips are small solenoids, aka radio-chips, encased in an inert glass tube, which is implanted beneath she skin of your pet. There is no battery or electrical components and the chips are the size of a grain of brown rice. They are activated by a radio scanner which is passed over the pet, providing the scanner with an unique identification number. it does not act as a GPS device and does not provide any tracking for your pet.

What information is on a microchip?

Programmed into the actual chip – not much. Usually a 15 digit number (ISO chips) or a combination of letters and numbers. 

What is the procedure to implant a microchip?

Getting a microchip is similar to receiving a vaccination, albeit with a bit larger needle. The needle is inserted by a trained individual beneath the skin, usually between the shoulder blades. The chip can be implanted during a regular veterinary visit, but most often, it is done at the time of spaying or neutering. There is minimal bleeding and usually little to no discomfort once the injection is given. You will be asked to fill out a form with your contact information. This data is entered into the registry maintained by the manufacturer of your pet’s chip.

Is there more than on kind of microchip?

Yes. There are several different microchip frequencies and combinations of letters and / or numbers. The two main radio wave frequencies are 125 kiloHertz (kHz), 128 kHz, and 134.2 kHz. Most microchip scanners are able to read both frequencies. The standard chip used most frequently is an ISO 15 digit 134,2 kHz chip – this chip is required for most international travel, especially to Europe and Asia. We at District Veterinary Hospital use the ISO chip exclusively.

If my pet is lost, how does a microchip help?

A lost pet is usually presented to a veterinary hospital or animal control agency. Usually the first thing they do, aside from looking at any tags, is take a scanner and look for a chip. If located, the chip number is entered into the registry, and so long as there is accurate information, the pet can be reunited with its person. The registry maintains the wren’s contact information and will provide it to the agency who has the pet or, will contact the lost pet’s owner directly. 

Do chips really work?

A 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association demonstrated that lost dogs without a chip only made it home 22% of the time, whereas those with a chip are reunited more than 52% of the time. The numbers are more stark in cats: 1.8% and 38.5%, respectively. Chips do work! 

Are there different chip registries?

Yes, each manufacturer maintains their own, but the microchip scanner usually dictates which registry to contact. When a lost pet is scanned, the manufacturer name and the chip number are displayed. To make finding the paper register easier, the American Animal Hospital Association, of which District Vet is a member, maintains This website will direct any user who enters a microchip number from a participating company to the proper database. 

What do I have to do to maintain the chip?

it is imperative that the information in the microchip manufacturer’s registry be accurate and complete. If you move or change your phone number, the company must be contacted. Most of the commonly used chips in the US have easy updating tools for this information. A chip is useless if the information in the database is inaccurate or incomplete. About a week or two after your pet is chipped, check the database to assure that this information is correct. At your pet’s annual veterinary visit, if time allows, ask your vet to check to be sure the chip is still working and in the proper spot. Very rarely, a chip will fail to respond. 

Can my pet have more than one microchip?

Yes – we frequently see this with world-traveling pets. Recall that most countries require the 15 digit ISO chip, but many shelters in the US have long used a non-15 digit chip. it is ok to have a second chip implanted, but it is imperative that you maintain accurate information in the databases of both chips! You never know which chip will be read first if your pet is lost. 

Why is there more than one type of chip?

This is America and we are not the greatest at standardization. Think capitalism, competition and the like. 

Are there any problems with microchips? 

Chip problems are thankfully very rare. Some people have raised concerns about tumors around microchips – this concern has not been found to be significant and only a scant few cases out of millions of chips have been reported. Rarely implantation of a chip can result in a localized infection – similar to almost any type of injection. These can be readily managed. Occasionally a microchip will slowly migrate from its implantation area to some place more distant. This usually does not cause any impact to the pet, but it may make finding the chip with a scanner more challenging. 

I just adopted a pet from the shelter, shat should I do concerning the chip?

First, be sure to register the chip to you! Second, have your veterinarian scan the chip and compare it to the number that you registered. Shelters do good work, but sometimes chip numbers can be confused. We at District Vet have seen this a number of times over the years – an adopter was given one microchip number, but it does not match the one given to the pet. We have also found that some pets already had a chip and now have two! And you must register both chips. 

Should I still have a collar with tags on my dog or indoor/outdoor cat?

Yes, most definitely. A collar is instant identification. A chip should be considered a supplement to a collar. 

Microchips are an integral part of pet identification. They are safe and very effective. We here at District Vet encourage all puppy and kitten parents to have their pet chipped at spay / neuter, or sooner. Chips work and can help bring home a lost pet quickly and safely.

Dan Teich, DVM

Medical Director, District Veterinary Hospitals

Cats Dogs News

Slow eating for a healthier lifestyle

It’s November and Thanksgiving is almost here. While we tend to frequently over-eat, and then feel bad about it, remember that dogs and cats over-eat almost every meal. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (there really is such an organization) estimates that more than half of dogs and cats are overweight. You have the willpower to pace yourself at the festive meal – your firmed friends usually do not and constantly demand more. Pacing eating can help with weight control, decrease unwanted vomiting, improve digestion, and increase overall quality of life.

Cats are famous for eating quickly, then regurgitating the food onto your rug. The food fills the esophagus but does not enter the stomach, thus they feel the need to expel this excess food, and it winds up some place unpleasant. Slower eating allows for the lower esophageal sphincter to open and permit food into the stomach. This is not unique to cats, as dogs can have the same problem, but it is less frequent.

Another advantage of slowing down eating, involves satiety – or the feeling of being full. This is better achieved with smaller, more frequent meals, instead of one or two large portions. Many cats are grazers by nature, but allowing free access to food often leads to obesity. And restricting meals to once or twice a day may lead tp their stomach being empty, resulting in hunger or vomiting yellow bile. This condition, called bilious vomiting, is also seen in dogs.In short, there’s too much acid in the stomach and no food to neutralize it, so the pet puts it somewhere – on your floor. By having frequent meals read across dawn until right before bed, this usually can be abated.

Even if you feed frequently, some pets will gorge themselves. For many, this is not a problem, but for others, let’s discuss ways to prevent this behavior. Using a standard bowl only allows for the rapid combustion of food. Feeding dishes with ridges or knobs make your pet work to get out the food, slowing eating. There are mats specifically designed with bumps and raised areas, providing much more space to spread out the food. And even more effective are toys where the pet must push around a ball-shaped object with a hole in it – as the toy is moved, food falls out bit by bit. It can take a dog or cat up to an hour to get all of the food out. This provides great transit time in the esophaguses and is great enrichment. Out in the great wild, food is not in a bowl, the animal has to work for it!

Puzzle games are fantastic, too. Generally these should not be used for main meals unless your pet has learned how to beat the game. Start off with using puzzles as a treat with only a small amount of food. Once proficient, consider changing the game up a bit.

We use a simple low-tech method at home: we spread the food around our apartment. When we remove it from the bag we shake off all loose crumbs and then throw kibbles around each room in our dwelling. It takes Brian T. Dog about 10 minutes to get each piece. Afterwards, he is a bit tired. For cats, try using a Ripple Rug or like product. The food can be hidden between the layers of the rug.

Remember that all bowls and toys need to be cleaned regularly. Running them through the dishwasher, so long as they are safe to do so, is a great idea. Most food bowls are amenable to such cleaning.

So as you are at your Thanksgiving table, stuffing yourself, remember that slow eating is a good thing for your pets.

Dan Teich, DVM

Cats Dogs News

How to prevent fleas

Warmth! Rain! Spring! Fleas! It is that time again, my friends, that time where fleas emerge from dormancy and become a nuisance. While fleas are active all year here in the District Metropolitan Area, they can become a menace when the temperatures are consistently above fifty degrees. Let’s understand the flea life cycle and how to prevent these buggers from annoying you and your furred friends.

The common cat flea, which also infests dogs, has been around for millenia. Be thankful you live now and not millions of years ago. We have fossils of fleas the size of golfballs. Seeing as they have been around long before humans or even dogs, they know what they are doing. Our main goal is to prevent flea infestations. We will discuss flea treatment in a bit.

A female flea is capable of laying over six hundred eggs during her lifetime. Fleas may live anywhere from two weeks to eight months, depending upon temperature, humidity, and food supply. Their lifecycle is rather fascinating (well, I think so) and is important to understand when trying to manage their control.

Adult fleas lay eggs on a host (in our case, a dog or cat) and feed on the animal. Feeding means biting and sucking blood. Think of them as tiny vampires. They digest the blood and then poop it out onto the pet. They also lay egg in the fur, too. When the pet lays down to sleep, the eggs and the feces from the adult fleas falls onto the ground, be it a bed, carpet, leaf litter. If the temperature is right, the eggs hatch into larvae (grubs) and eat the feces from the adults. They grow and shed their outer skin several times. This is called molting. After several molts, they spin a small cocoon similar to a caterpillar, where they turn into an adult flea. And here they can wait for months. They want for the perfect time – where a hatching is triggered by vibrations of an animal walking by. And they are hungry! They then jump onto the passing animal and begin the cycle all over again.

Flea bites are itchy – and remember, fleas eat blood, so they bite frequently. The saliva triggers an allergic reaction, leading to itching. It only takes a few bites to cause some dogs or cats to be extremely itchy. Aside from the itch, they can also transmit tapeworms (if the flea is eaten) and a host of other diseases. While itching and fleas are the most common sequela in our area, they can transmit a host of other diseases, too, including plague.

No one wants fleas on their pet or in their home! While we have effective oral and topical flea preventives (to be discussed later), a bit of home maintenance can help, too. Vacuum regularly, especially the areas where your pets sleep. Fleas love carpet and slightly moist areas, such as basements. These are prime areas for flea eggs to mature. Vacuum then wash pet bedding on a regular basis in hot water. Once young fleas turn into pupae, the only method to eliminate them is through mechanical means – or let then hatch.

Vacuuming helps, but is far from sufficient. An array of products have come to the market, which prevent infestations and / or kill fleas on pets. Capstar is an oral tablet that rapidly kills any flea on a dog or cat. Its drawback is that it is a one shot deal: fleas can reinfest the pet rapidly. It can be used in urgent situations. Topical preventives have existed for over two decades, with eh most popular brand being Frontline. The medication floats within the skin oils of the pet, killing fleas for a month. Its efficacy decreases if the pet is bathed frequently. Its main drawback is that it is topical and may not spread over the entire pet. Some pets also have a sensitivity to the alcohol which suspends the active ingredients.

Seresto collars are effective for flea control. The collar can last up to six months and is worn at all times. The drawbacks are that the collar is a topical medication and the collar can be lost.

Newer generation flea preventives are oral tablets. These are effective for one month (Simparica, NexGard) or three months (Bravecto). The oral preventives are District Vet’s preferred method of flea control as their administration is easy and you can confirm that the dog received the dose! They are also highly effective and take care of ticks, too. In rare cases the oral preventives can cause tremors (shakes) in dogs. If observed, please tell your veterinarian. These clinical signs wear off quickly, but a different flea control should be used if observed. There is an oral preventive for cats, too, but we prefer a topical called Revolution as it also prevents heart worm disease in cats.

Fleas are here, but they do not have to be part of your home. Understanding how to prevent them is key to having an itch-free dog or cat. Should you have questions, please feel free to ask us or your local veterinarian.

Dan Teich, DVM
Medical Director
District Veterinary Hospitals

Cats Dogs News

Identify your pet! Use a chip and a tag

Buster is lost in the woods. Felix ran out an open door. Blossom was spooked by fireworks. All are missing and their people are in panic mode. How do they get back home?

Countless pets go missing each year, ten million dogs annually, as estimated by the ASPCA. Fifteen percent of households in a large survey reported that a pet went missing within the past five years of the survey date. It was almost equal between dogs and cats. Most dogs made it home due to neighborhood searches, while fifteen percent of dogs were reunited with their people because of an identification tag or a microchip. Most cats returned on their own. Only six percent of dogs and two percent of cats were found at their local shelter.

When a pet goes missing, the best method for recovery is a neighborhood search, but there are tools that you can implement to increase the chance of recovering a pet. Each has its own advantages and drawbacks.

Most popular is having a tag on your dog or cat’s collar with a current phone number. It is easy, inexpensive, and very effective if your pet is found outside. Be certain that the tag is always on the collar and that the phone numbers are current. Many times the tag is old and does not reflect a recent move. An additional method of carrying a phone number is to have it embroidered on the pet’s collar. A number of companies provide this service. A tag and an embroidered collar can be stylish, too!

A drawback is if the collar is not on your pet when in the house – or if the collar breaks away, as in the case of cat collars. Dogs that are crated should not be wearing a collar. It is recommended to be collarless in a crate to prevent strangulation. Cat collars are designed to unsnap if a certain amount of pressure is placed on the collar. This is for strangulation and entanglement prevention.

A collar and tag is by far the most effective method for identification, but it should be combined with an implanted microchip. This is not space-age technology – it is similar to a key fob. The microchip, about the size of a large grain of rice, is encoded with a number (or combination of letters and numbers), which can be read with a hand-held scanner. When the scanner is waved over the area with the chip, the number appears on the scanner’s display. Once the number is obtained, it is entered into a web portal, which directs the user to the service which maintains the registry for the chip. These people then contact the pet’s owner, or if permission is granted during chip registration, the finder of the pet is given the owner’s information.

Microchips cannot be lost and are a permanent form of identification, but there are a few drawbacks, too. First, the chip must be registered. When a pet receives a chip, the owner must either have the veterinary hospital register the chip or do this themselves. The information is placed into a database and will be there forever. It is imperative that if you ever move, that the information in the database is updated. This usually only takes a few minutes and can be done online, in most cases. Last, a chip must be scanned in order to be effective! Almost all shelters and veterinarians have scanners.

New on the horizon are GPS-enabled collars. They are programmable and can indicate the position of your pet on an app. The drawbacks include the collar falling off, the battery running low, technology issues, and being out of satellite communication.

Being a former shelter veterinarian, I cannot stress enough the need to have a collar with a tag and a microchip on your pet. In our city people are so happy to assist with getting pets back home – give them the tools they need!

Cats News

Hairballs – More than just fur


Every so often, your otherwise fastidious cat will do an alarming and somewhat disgusting thing. She’ll awake from a peaceful nap, rise up on her paws, retch convulsively for a moment or two, and spit up what may appear at first glance to be a damp clump. What the animal has disgorged — in the middle of your kitchen floor or, worse yet, in the middle of your prized Persian rug — is a trichobezoar, a wad of undigested hair that is commonly referred to as a hairball.
Despite the term, disgorged hairballs are not usually round. They are often slender and cylindrical, shaped more like a cigar or sausage than a ball. According to Richard Goldstein, DVM, an associate professor of small animal medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, a spit-up hairball’s elongated shape is imparted by the narrow food tube (esophagus) in which it develops or through which it passes on its journey from the cat’s stomach to the outside world. However, he notes, a hairball that is not disgorged and remains in the stomach will indeed be round — “like a sponge or a rolled-up sock,” he says.
Regurgitated hairballs are variable in size; though usually about an inch long, they can be as long as five inches and an inch thick. The color is mainly that of the cat’s coat, darkened by the color of the animal’s food and various gastric secretions, such as green bile. The ejected matter will typically have an unpleasant but tolerable odor.

Hazardous Potential
Hairballs are the unsavory by-product of a normal habit. As your cat grooms herself, she swallows a lot of loose hair. This happens because the tiny backward-slanted projections (papillae) that roughen the surface of her tongue propel the hair down her throat and into her stomach. Unfortunately, Dr. Goldstein explains, the main structural component of the hair — a tough, insoluble protein substance called keratin — is indigestible. While most of the swallowed hair eventually passes through the animal’s digestive tract and gets excreted intact in the feces, some of it remains in the stomach and gradually accumulates into a damp clump — the hairball.
It’s not uncommon, says Dr. Goldstein, for a cat to regurgitate a hairball once every week or two. Aside from inconvenience to the owner, this is nothing to worry about. However, the wad of matted hair can pose a serious health threat it if grows too large to pass through the narrow sphincters leading either from the esophagus to the stomach or from the stomach to the intestinal tract. Also threatening, he notes, is a hairball that manages to pass into the small intestine and become tightly lodged there. “This is uncommon,” he notes, “but it is very serious when it does occur. Without surgical intervention, it can be fatal.”

Relieving the Obstruction
A cat that is lethargic, refuses to eat for more than a day or two or has had repeated episodes of unproductive retching or true vomiting should be examined by a veterinarian without delay, he advises. It’s possible that the frequent hacking has nothing at all to do with hairballs. It may instead be a sign of another gastrointestinal problem or of a respiratory ailment, such as asthma, in which case emergency treatment may be necessary.
Diagnosis of intestinal blockage is based on physical examination, bloodwork, X-rays, perhaps ultrasound, and a history of the animal’s pattern of hairball regurgitation. If a blockage is detected, surgery may be required in order to remove the hairball. More often, however, therapy will center on protecting the intestines through several days of clinical care that includes the use of a laxative to move the hairball through the digestive tract.
Although laxatives may be effective in enabling passage of a stubborn hairball, Dr. Goldstein strongly advises owners never to give their cats a laxative without the approval and supervision of a veterinarian. The same advice applies to the use of commercial diets that claim to be effective in preventing or relieving such an obstruction.

(c) District Vet – 2017

Cats Dogs News

Why we ask for poop!

“And please remember to bring a fecal sample.” Whenever a client schedules a wellness or sick pet visit, our front staff requests they bring a fresh stool sample. We are not fascinated by your pets’ poop, per se, but are concerned about your pets’ well-being and the potential for transmission of parasites to people. That being said, we are routinely amused by the containers in which people bring us their pets’ sample.

So what do we look for in a fecal sample? Mainly parasites, but we also want to see that the color is appropriate, assess if obvious blood is present, and evaluate consistency. What goes in must come out, they saying goes, but lots can happen in-between. Parasites can affect a whole host of organs, blood may indicate tumors or ulcers, color changes may indicate pancreatic or digestion issues, and consistency may be an indicator of allergies or inflammatory bowel disease. Poop is a valuable diagnostic tool.

Many parasites are passed through fecal material. Numerous parasites live within the intestines and colon and lay their eggs within the lumen of the intestines. When the pet defecates, the eggs of the parasites are shed into the environment, waiting for a new host to infect. Most parasites obtain entry into their new host via the fecal-oral route – aka the host eats the eggs in a small quantity of fecal matter. As for dogs this is very common, whether they eat feces off the sidewalk or simply clean their feet after a nice stroll through the park. Roundworms, one of the most common parasites in dogs, can even infect a host by penetrating through the skin of the their feet. Commonly transmitted parasites via the fecal-oral route include round and hookworms and giardia. Less common, but more concerning is toxoplasmosis (a conversation for another day).

Some other parasites take a bit of a more circuitous route, but still need to pass through the intestines of the pet. This includes tapeworms, flukes, and several other parasites. Tapeworm eggs are shed into the stool and ingested by fleas. When the dog or cat eats the flea, the tapeworm is released into the pet, starting the lifecycle over again. Other tapeworms and some flukes require a snail eat the feces, then the pet eats the snail and here we go again.

When you bring a fecal sample and we send it out to the lab, the technicians analyze the sample for the eggs of these parasites. This is performed either by the floatation method where they scan the feces for actual eggs, or via the ELISA method, where the sample is tested for chemical markers to the parasites. It is important to remember that parasites are like chickens: they do not lay eggs every day. Frequently we will ask for several samples from different times – this is especially true for puppies and kittens. We want to maximize our chances of catching any parasitic infections. If an infection is found, appropriate treatment is initiated.

Before the sample is sent out to the lab, it is inspected. Is the color correct? Is there blood present? Is the stool too soft? Is there a large amount of mucus present? If abnormalities are found, we then assess if further testing is needed or if there is a problem with the pet. A particular pancreatic dysfunction results in the stool being a very light cream color. Early in the disease, this is the only clinical sign. If treated dogs usually fully recover. Blood may also be the only sign of a tumor or a parasite. Extremely hard stool may indicate constipation, dehydration, kidney disease, or a lack of fiber. And loose stool may be a sign of a food allergy, parasitism, or an inflammatory process within the intestines.

Simply put, poop can tell us quite a bit about overall health. No one loves playing with a stool sample, so here are a few suggestions to make collection easier. We have stool collection vials that you can take home and then return to us – they have a small spoon and once sealed, contain all the odors. If you collect it in a plastic bag, please double bag the sample. You may also use a jar or other suitable container. We don’t need a large sample, either: about several pennies weight of sample is sufficient. Don’t bring a Great Dane’s worth, please. It is important that the stool be as fresh as possible. If there may be a lag between collection and bringing it to us, you may refrigerate (not freeze) the sample for a day. Don’t neglect bringing samples for cats, either, but do take care to not bring a sample that is old and dried out.

And most important, bring a sample to every annual exam, even if it is in a Tiffany’s box.

Dan Teich, DVM

Cats News

Hyperthyroidism in Cats

Our feline friends are living longer than ever, and as they age, we see the emergence of certain conditions, including an over active thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism stems from the thyroid gland over-producing thyroid hormone, leading to a host of problems, ranging from weight loss, heart disease, kidney disease and other issues. The good news is that this common problem can be managed and even cured in many cats.

A cat’s body needs a normal amount of thyroid hormone: it regulates metabolism, heart rate, body temperature, overall body condition, and more. It is important for normal functioning, but too much of a good thing can be bad. Excessive thyroid hormone leads to increased metabolism – the body burns too many calories, resulting in weight loss. The elevated metabolism also increases blood pressure, leading to possible long-term kidney and heart damage. Problems may also be noted in the eyes and brain.

The thyroid is a small organ, located in the neck on top of the trachea (windpipe). Usually it cannot be felt, but in some cases, especially when there is hyperthyroidism, it can palpate the size of a pea. Each cat has two thyroid glands.

Clinical signs associated with an overactive thyroid may vary between cats, but may include weight loss, increased appetite without weight gain, vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, increased heart rate, behavior changes, poor haircoat, increased drinking and urination, occasionally depression or weakness, and difficulty breathing. Many of these observations are also present in other disorders, so one cannot diagnose thyroid disease purely upon clinical signs.

Diagnosis of thyroid disease is performed by your veterinarian through a physical examination, thorough history, and evaluation of blood values, specifically thyroid hormone. Most cats with the disease will have very high levels of thyroid hormone, but some may be marginally elevated or high normal. Thyroid hormone levels can fluctuate some, so if it comes back normal, your veterinarian may want to check the level again shortly after the initial examination.

The cause of hyperthyroidism is not definitively known, but the incidence of the disease has increased over the past decades. Researchers are looking into whether a fish-based diet may increase the incidence if the disease. PBDEs, a chemical used in fire retardants is commonly found in dust mites and sometimes in cat foods with a high fish content. There is thought that this chemical may contribute to hyperthyroidism.

There are several methods for treating hyperthyroidism. The goal is to bring down the level of thyroid hormone to a normal value. A medication called methimazole reduces the amount of hormone released by the thyroid gland. It is usually used first, with the veterinarian carefully monitoring the thyroid level, kidney values and blood cell counts several times to be certain an appropriate dose of the medication is administered. Many cats are kept on this medication for prolonged periods of time.

If the cat cannot tolerate methimazole, if giving the medication is difficult, or if a long-term solution is the goal, an injection of radioactive iodine may cure the disease. Iodine is taken up by the thyroid gland from the bloodstream and is used to make thyroid hormone. The iodine is very dilute in the body, but concentrates in the thyroid, essentially irradiating it, reducing the amount of thyroid tissue present. Many cats will quickly have a normal thyroid level or slightly low level. If the treatment is not effective, it may be repeated. The downside is that cats must remain in the hospital for 3-4 days while all the radioactivity dissipates and is urinated out.

A new veterinary diet called y/d is available for the treatment of hyperthyroidism. It contains only trace amounts of iodine, a mineral essential to the formation of thyroid hormone. Without sufficient quantities of iodine, the thyroid can only produce small amounts of thyroid hormone. This diet may be good for cats that are difficult to medicate or have other medical problems. It is essential that the cat have filtered water and eat no other foods, not even treats, as even trace amounts of iodine can negate the purpose of the food.

In some cases surgery is performed to remove the affected thyroid gland. The surgery must be performed carefully to preserve the parathyroid – a small gland adjacent to the thyroid that regulates blood calcium. There can be small areas of thyroid tissue not connected to the thyroid and unless these areas are identified in advance, surgery may not be successful.

Hyperthyroidism is a treatable disease. If there are no other significant complications, cats may go on to live long lives with treatment and supportive care as needed. If your middle-aged to older cat is losing weight, thyroid disease should certainly be a differential.

Cats Dogs News

Diabetes Affects Dogs and Cats

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes ranks high amongst chronic diseases in humans and pets. While most people know that diabetes concerns the amount of sugar within the blood, they are unaware of why it occurs and how it is treated. The disease in pets closely parallels that of humans and is treated in much the same manner.

So what is diabetes? Here’s the technical answer: Diabetes mellitus is a disorder of carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism caused by either an absence of insulin or an inability of the body to use insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels and a cascade of significant metabolic derangements.

Now let’s break that down a bit. When one eats they take in carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, and other nutrients. The stomach breaks down many of these substances into smaller components and the intestines selectively absorb nutrients, including sugars. These nutrients then cycle into the liver for further processing and then circulate in the blood to the body. Now that we have this down, let’s talk about sugar.

Sugar, known as glucose, is an essential fuel for many cells, especially those of the brain. But you see, glucose needs to get into the body’s cells order to be used. To do that the body produces a hormone called insulin. This chemical attaches to body cells and signals them to take in glucose. A simple analogy is to think of it as a key, allowing the glucose to flow into the cell.

When you eat and absorb sugars, the elevated levels of glucose trigger the beta cells within pancreas to produce and release insulin into the bloodstream. If there is a problem making insulin or for some reason the body does not adequately recognize or use insulin, the blood sugar levels can be elevated for prolonged periods. This is diabetes.

So what? Blood glucose levels are elevated. What happens? The body turns to other sources of energy, namely breaking down fats and proteins. Fat travels to the liver where it is turned into ketones, another energy source, but ketones themselves are toxic at high levels and the liver can only handle so much fat processing before it gives out. The excess fat leads to fatty liver disease and liver failure. Breaking down muscle proteins isn’t sustainable for long as there is not an unlimited source of muscle. Without energy the body fails to function, the brain and nerves start to shut down, other organs experience deleterious effects from using other energy sources and eventually death results.

What are the signs of diabetes? Can it be felt? Diabetes in itself is not painful and it is possible for a human or pet to have the disease and initially be unaware of its presence. The typical first signs involve increased drinking and urinating. High blood sugar levels lead to the kidneys relating large amounts of water and sugar into the urine. If you observe your pet, especially cats, drinking and urinating very frequently, diabetes may be a concern. Weight loss is seen in most pet diabetes cases. Usually the person notes that their overweight pet is suddenly losing weight and that the diet they placed the pet on is ‘working.” Be certain that diabetes is not a factor. Some pets will experience problems walking – this is caused by nerves not working properly secondary to not receiving enough glucose. Cataracts in the eyes may for. They are caused by excess water to flowing into the lens, potentially leading to blindness. Other pets may simply have a poor hair coat and not be thriving as in the past.

We know what diabetes is now, so what causes it? The answer depends as there are several pathways that lead to diabetes. First is the destruction of the beta cells. This can occur from certain infections, genetic traits, infections, and immune diseases. Simply, there aren’t enough beta cells to pull off the job. The second way involves the body not efficiently using the insulin produced by the pancreas – this is known as insulin resistance.

Ok, so how is it treated? In pets we use several different modalities to get the blood sugar level under control. The hallmark treatment is administering insulin via an injection once or twice per day. This depends upon the type of insulin being used and several other factors. Next we modify the pet’s diet to a higher fiber diet that releases sugars into the intestines at a slower, more sustained rate. Several prescription veterinary diets exist and in some cases, can control the disease by themselves. They prevent spikes in blood sugar levels. The last major component is weight loss in obese pets. Carrying many extra pounds can lead to diabetes and research as shown that it can be greatly improved with controlled weight loss.

What’s the prognosis? Generally pretty good. Diabetes tends to affect older cats and middle-aged dogs. Treatment is not complicated in most cases, but does require dedication. With proper care, may pets with diabetes will go on to lead happy lives.

The above is a simple overview of a complicated disease. When caught early, diabetes is very treatable. Should you have any questions about pet diabetes or any cat or dog health issue, please reach out.

Cats News

Common Cat Myths

Common Cat Myths

Cats always land on their feet.
Not quite true. When cats fall or jump, they try to right themselves and land feet first, but sometimes the fall is from too low a height, limiting the time that a cat can right itself. Many cats that fall break bones in their legs and / or their jaw and can also injure their lungs. Be sure windows have good screens and are as cat-proof as possible. And then there are cats that are klutzes.

You should give your cat milk.

Please don’t do this. Cats cannot digest lactose, the main sugar in milk, which causes diarrhea in many felines. A lick or two every so often is generally not harmful, but larger or more frequent amounts can lead to problems.

Indoor cats cannot get rabies.
Almost any mammal is susceptible to the rabies virus. It is also uniformly fatal. An indoor cat should always be vaccinated against rabies as cats may escape (I once treated a cat that fell out of a 13th floor window), may come into contact with the number one carrier of rabies – bats (happens much more than you want to believe), and is mandated by law in most jurisdictions.

Cats are untrainable.
Definitely not true. The problem is that most people do not take the time to train a cat. I have seen cats be trained to use the human toilet, trained to sit, roll over, fetch and myriad other things. Training a cat can increase the bond between you and your cat. And it’s good for their mental well-being.

Most tapeworms can be caught from cat food.
The most common tapeworm in cats is not obtained from food, but from fleas. The common cat flea carries immature tapeworms. Cats, through regular grooming, eat the infected fleas, which then grow into adults in the cat. Cats can also get certain tapeworms from eating infected mice and other rodents. If your cat has fleas or goes outside, he or she should be treated for tapeworms at least once per year.

Indoor cats do not need to see the doctor.
The biggest myth of them all – and completely false. Indoor cats age like any other creature. They can develop many problems – from dental disease, to kidney problems, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, you name it. And many viruses are airborne, allowing indoor cats to get common cat illnesses. By having regular veterinary exams and vaccinations, your cat will have the best chance of living a long, healthy life. Cat hasn’t been to the vet in the past year? Schedule an appointment!

Pregnant women should not own a cat.
The concern is toxoplasmosis, a parasite of some cats. It is transmitted via stool and the easiest way to avoid any problems between pregnant women and cats is to avoid touching cat feces. The parasite also needs to sit in the stool for at least 24 hours before it becomes infective, so if the box is cleaned at least daily, the risk to anyone is minimal.

Cats can heal wounds by licking them.
In most cases cats licking a wound make things worse. Any cat with a wound that is more than a simple scratch should be seen by your veterinarian. Licking of wounds can lead to infections, which can be life-threatening.

You can save your drowned iPhone with cat litter.
True! Not a myth. Here’s the skinny: if your phone is dropped in water, there’s a good chance it is dead, but try shaking out as much water as possible, let it air dry for an hour or two and then place it in a bag of silica-based cat litter – aka crystal cat litter. Give it 48 hours – you may get lucky.

Dan Teich, DVM
(c) 2016

Cats Dogs News

Pet Insurance – There Are Benefits

As time has progressed, I have become a fan of pet health insurance. More clients are asking about the benefits and limitations of policies and we have seen a number of clients’ pets receive care that the client would otherwise have not have been to provide without an insurance plan. It is not a panacea for health care, and there are limitations, but understanding the available programs may assist you in keeping you dog or cat healthy for years to come.

Nearly every insurance plan works in a reimbursement basis: the client receives a bill for the veterinary services and pays the bill on a credit card or via another means. The client then processes the claim with the insurance company, which then reimburses the client either through a deposit into their checking account or via mailing the client a check. In special cases, the insurance company may be able to reimburse a veterinary hospital directly, but such an arrangement must be made with the veterinarian and the insurance company in advance.

What’s covered? it depends upon the insurance carrier selected and the plans that they offer. Most plans cover accidents and illnesses that occur after the insurance is purchased and several have wellness components. When evaluating the plans, check to see if pre-existing conditions are covered, whether there are breed / hereditary condition restrictions, and age of enrollment maximums. Then assess if there are waiting periods. Several plans have a two week waiting period before coverage is effective, and most have a restriction on coverage for hip dysplasia or knee problems. Remember, this is insurance and the companies want you to enroll before there are problems.

There may be a maximum age in which you can enroll your pet. If over this age, they may not write a new policy, but if your pet was enrolled before said age, your pet may have the policy renewed for life. This helps keep the pool of healthier pets larger, pushing down overall costs of the insurance plans.

Reimbursement for accidents / illnesses will generally include the exam fee, necessary bloodwork, X-rays, medications, necessary treatments, hospitalization, and surgery. Many plans even include rehabilitation services and alternative medicine modalities, such as acupuncture, laser treatment, and others.

One must navigate pre-existing conditions carefully. Read your pet’s full medical chart carefully for any prior findings of abnormalities. If your pet has had a knee problem in the past or has had skin disease or upper respiratory infections, you may not be reimbursed for like problems in the future. Some companies will review your pet’s medical records in advance for you and detail any problems with coverage at no cost to you. I highly recommend such a service, especially if your pet is older or has had issues in the past.

Most plans have an annual deductible and possibly an annual or lifetime limit that is paid by the insurer. Ask what the deductibles are and if there is a per-incident or per-disease / condition deducible or reimbursement. It is usually best to avoid per-incident deductibles as these can limit the amount paid out to you, even if you meet your standard deductible. For example, the company may only pay $2000 for a condition, but the actual bill was $3000. You are left paying the difference. It is also important to be certain that, so long as you keep the policy in good standing, chronic conditions that develop while insured will continue to be covered every year.

Several companies offer wellness endorsements to their policies. There are detractors to wellness plans, but if you know how to navigate them, you can save yourself a few dollars. They pay up to a certain amount for routine vaccinations, heartworm testing, preventives and dental procedures. Wellness plans work similar to a health savings plan – you put money in and the payout when used is larger than that put in, usually by 20%.

Differences exist between plans – some are comprehensive and cover everything, others only illness. Although we don’t endorse a specific company or plan, we are happy to chat with you about insurance and you pet. Please research what plan is best for you and your friend and feel free to ask us anytime for help.

dt,dvm – (C) 2016