FIV+: What it Means For Your Cat (Part I)

We hear more and more these days about cats that are FIV+. I know from the people I’ve talked to recently that people tend to want to shy away from cats once they learn they are FIV+, especially when it comes to the adoption world. The reality is, an FIV+ cat can still live and long and happy life.

Grayson, who is FIV+, and who now has an amazing life.

What does FIV+ mean?

FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus is slow moving, and the cat’s immune system is severely weakened, which can open the cat up to all sorts of infections. Infected cats who receive supportive medical care and are kept in a stress-free, indoor environment can live relatively comfortable lives for months or even years before the disease reaches its chronic stages.

What are the symptoms of FIV?

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Disheveled coat
  • Poor appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Abnormal appearance or inflammation of the eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis)
  • Inflammation of the mouth (stomatitis)
  • Dental disease
  • Skin redness or hair loss
  • Wounds that don’t heal
  • Sneezing
  • Discharge from eyes or nose
  • Frequent urination, straining to urinate or urinating outside of litter box
  • Behavior change

To help shed a light on what it is like to have and care for a cat with FIV, I have asked my wonderful friend, Stephanie Huffman, to share her experience with us regarding her FIV+ cats, Grayson and Molly.

Grayson on the day he was diagnosed.

Tina: Tell us a little about Grayson and how you met.

Stephanie: Grayson was a stray running around my neighborhood for quite some time. He used to swing by and drink water out of our dog’s water bowl in the back yard. We would see him every once in a while over about a year or so.

During this same time frame, we would cat-sit for a neighbor who had taken in another neighborhood stray named Molly. She was as sweet and friendly as could be and was an indoor/outdoor kitty.

The lovely (and sassy) Molly.

It was the summer of 2014 that I saw Grayson reappear, this time following Molly around the neighborhood. She had been spayed some time ago, but Grayson wasn’t neutered, so he and another male thought Molly was quite a pretty girl. She treated them both like they had a bad case of fleas.

Soon after, the neighbors who owned Molly informed us they were moving out of state and leaving her behind because the wife didn’t like that she had accidents outside the litterbox. This broke my family’s heart, so we decided we would start to take care of Molly as an indoor/outdoor kitty and began to feed her before her people moved away. Grayson decided to get in on the new buffet his girl crush was enjoying and started hanging around our house.

He was thin, constantly scratching, and sneezing all the time. He would sit out in the yard and watch us from a distance, never coming too close or eating until we went inside. Over a few weeks, he’d let me touch him if food was nearby. Finally, one day he let me put him on my lap to pet him.

Grayson and Stephanie: the early days.

I knew he needed vet care since he was finally trusting us. We figured we’d make him an outdoor kitty (since I still had many inside and adding one new addition was going to be hard enough) and get him all cleaned up, then neutered.

We got him to the vet and had him tested. He came back FIV+ and my heart broke. I’d never had a cat who had a disease. I didn’t want him to make my cats sick. I immediately began to worry that Molly might be the same since they were outside together so much and, again, I didn’t know much about how FIV worked.

I did research as much as I could before calling my vet and saw maybe a slight chance of hope for him, but it meant adding two new cats to my house of five.

Many thoughts went through my head for the safety of my indoor cats, because they deserved to be my priority. I called my vet to ask some questions and she dropped another bombshell on me: when taking x-rays to make sure his upper respiratory infection wasn’t worse, they’d found several pellets from a BB gun in his body. While they weren’t causing him any issues at the time, he’d been shot at least six times.

I didn’t need any more prompting. People had shown him their worst and I was going to show him love. There was a risk that this might not work out, but I was determined to try to get him better and give him a home.

This beautiful boy has a much better life ahead of him.

We had Molly taken to the vet a few days later and although she was perfectly healthy, she also tested positive for FIV.

This meant neither of them could go back outside where they could spread the disease, so I had quite a challenge ahead.

Grayson was a perfect gentleman when he came in the house (except he wasn’t and still isn’t a fan of the dog). He got along with all my cats. Molly also did well with everyone except one cat who bullied her. I can say now, present day, they all get along just fine and I even introduced another cat to the house in the last year, who is FIV negative.

Tina: Can you dispel some myths about FIV+ cats?

Stephanie:

  • FIV is only transmitted from cat to cat.

Humans and other animals are not at risk of getting the disease. It can only be transmitted via mother cats to kittens at birth (which is very rare) and is most frequently passed through deep bite wounds (AKA horrible catfights).

Grayson and Molly have swatting contests with other cats (and each other) around feeding times, but we don’t have the kind of fights you might hear out in the neigborhood on a warm summer night when cats are on the prowl.

Grayson can even play with his sister Lily without infecting her.

  • FIV does not mean your cat is going to die soon. Cats with FIV can live long, normal lives.

Again, Molly was completely healthy when we found out and she still has shown no signs of a compromised immune system.

Grayson came to us sick. His immune system was weakened when he was shot with the BB gun and forced to heal on his own through so much trauma. By the time he’d come around me, he was sneezing blood and colored mucus from a severe upper respiratory infection, he was severely underweight, and would scratch constantly from allergies. My vet and I got him on the road to recovery. He had another setback with stomatitis in 2015, but since that time, he’s gotten a bit chunky and is quite pleased with himself. Basically, getting sick also doesn’t mean a death sentence.

Most cats actually can live out their whole lives with relatively no complications. It’s usually old age related illnesses that creep up and make the cat sick – which often happens in FIV free cats as well.

The information doesn’t end here! To hear more of Grayson and Molly’s story, stay tuned for Part II.

Tina Whitehair

Tina Whitehair, Feline Editor, currently works as an Administrative Specialist to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the UGA School of Law in Athens, GA. She grew up in West Virginia where she had multiple cats for most of her life. She loves both cats and dogs (and baby elephants). She currently has two cats: a 2 year old male Maine Coon, Stormy, whom she rescued, and a 1.5 year old domestic short hair black male, Charming. Her hobbies include crocheting, writing, martial arts and Thai Fit kickboxing. Tina can be reached at: t.whitehair@yourpetspace.info

Alternative Therapies for Horses

Alternative therapies for horses are becoming increasingly more popular amongst owners, with many different choices now available. It should be remembered, though, that they should be used in conjunction, and not as a replacement, with traditional veterinary treatment and diagnosis.

Here is a look at three popular alternative therapies – acupuncture, chiropractic and equine sports massage.

Even healthy horses can benefit from alternative therapies.

Acupuncture

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture was developed by the ancient Chinese over 3,000-years-ago and recognized as being an extremely useful treatment for a variety of conditions in horses. It involves the stimulation of certain points on the horse’s body (acupoints), where there are large amounts of nerve endings, blood vessels, and lymph nodes, helping to ease pain and treat or prevent disease.

When to use acupuncture

Most types of medical conditions combined with veterinary treatment can benefit from acupuncture. These include:

  • Muscle soreness and stiffness
  • Back pain
  • Lameness
  • Arthritis
  • Navicular syndrome
  • Tendon/ligament injuries
  • Muscle, bone and joint injuries
  • Digestive problems
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Neurological conditions
  • Reproduction problems
  • Weak immunity

It is generally not used for:

  • Malignant tumours
  • Fractures
  • Infectious diseases
  • Organ failure

Before treatment commences, the acupuncturist will ask about your horse’s symptoms and its usual daily routine. They will then check the tongue and carry out an examination of the whole body to identify trigger points.

An example of acupuncture needles.

The techniques of acupuncture include:

  • Dry-needles: A thin, sterile needle is inserted into the acupoint. The needles are of various lengths and widths, and each one stimulates tiny nerve endings, sending messages to the brain to either ease the pain or send other hormones and chemicals to the body. It is often used with other acupuncture techniques.
  • Electro-acupuncture: A long, dry needle is inserted and attached to a wire connected to an electro-acupuncture machine. Gentle electrical pulsations are delivered through the needle generating nerve stimulation and muscle contraction. This produces a more effective stimulation than a dry-needle alone, and is often used for sore backs.
  • Hemo-acupuncture: Blood is drawn from the acupuncture point with a hypodermic needle. It releases heat from the body and is used for neurological conditions and to help boost the immune system.
  • Aquapuncture: Liquid, usually Vitamin B12, sterile water, or saline solution, is injected into the acupuncture point, producing constant stimulation from the pressure. This is often used for soreness, back pain, and lack of energy, or for horses that will not stay still for usual needling.
  • Moxibustion: The warming of an acupoint using the crushed, dried leaves of the herb Artemisia vulgaris (commonly known as mugwort), which is rolled into a cigar-like cylinder. It is burned and held over the skin or placed onto an acupuncture needle already inserted into the acupoint, stimulating the area. This is often used for treating arthritis.
  • Tuina medical manipulation: The acupuncturist uses their hands and fingers, instead of needles, to apply constant pressure for 1 to 5 minutes on each acupoint. It is often used for joint conditions such as arthritis and for back problems and it can also assist the internal organs.
  • Pneumo-acupuncture: Sterilised air is injected into the acupoint creating an air bubble within the tissues, stimulating the area. This is a useful treatment for muscle wastage.
  • Laser stimulation: A painless laser beam is used instead of a needle to stimulate the acupoints difficult to treat areas such as the head and legs. It is held over the area for up to two minutes and has been proven to be as effective as needles.

Who should carry out acupuncture?

Acupuncture, by law, can only be carried out on a horse by a qualified veterinary surgeon trained in this practice. When performed correctly, it is extremely safe and often used alongside chiropractic treatment.

Chiropractic Treatment

What is chiropractic treatment?

Chiropractic treatment is concerned with problems related to the horse’s back and other areas of the body that may have caused misalignments to the spine.

The practice concentrates on the connection between structure (the vertebral column) and function (the nervous system). Horses were not made to carry a rider, so when they do, they use their muscles in an unnatural way. Correct schooling and a good, balanced rider can help strengthen the horse, but this isn’t always the case and it isn’t always enough, so problems often occur.

Beautiful horse getting adjusted by Dr. Heidi Bockhold.

The chiropractor deals with vertebral subluxation complexes (VSCs) and will look for the underlying cause of the problem. By using quick forces to a joint or bone with their hands, the structures are brought back into alignment by the chiropractor, eliminating the source of the pain.

When to use chiropractic treatment

Often when a vet is unable to find the cause of a horse’s lameness, they will recommend the services of a chiropractor. Conditions related to the back can often be the reason for abnormalities in the gait.

Ridden horses, especially those in competition, are recommended to have routine checks so that any problems are discovered before they become a major issue.

Signs that your horse needs a chiropractor are as follows:

  • When a horse has had a fall
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Showing resistance such as bucking, rearing and tail swishing
  • Uneven gaits
  • Stiffness
  • Pinning ears back and biting when being saddled or groomed
  • Holding tail to one side
  • Difficulty performing lateral work
  • Head tossing
  • Bolting
  • Asymmetrical in hips or shoulders
  • Chronic weight loss
  • Lameness
  • Difficulty in picking up correct canter leads

Chiropractic treatment should not be carried out on a horse that may have a fracture as it could result in a greater injury.

Horse and rider can both benefit from chiropractic treatment.

Who should carry out chiropractic treatment?

Some vets are trained as equine chiropractors, offering their services in this area. Many chiropractors treat both humans and horses so can help the rider as well, as their posture may affect the way they ride their horse. Only use a chiropractor that is qualified and experienced, with an excellent reputation.

Before carrying out treatment, the chiropractor requires the history of the horse and gives the horse a full examination. They will first observe the standing horse, looking for any irregularities in its posture, asymmetry, discomfort indicators and muscle wastage.

Next, the spine will be scrutinized, looking for any heat or swelling, asymmetry, and structural abnormalities. Afterwards, the gait is analyzed, which is the most important part of the examination. The chiropractor assesses spine mobility and pelvic movement so they can distinguish between back pain and problems in the limbs. Lastly, a test is carried out for a full range of movement on each joint. The chiropractor may also want to see the horse ridden and may check the fit of the saddle and bridle.

Some chiropractors complement their treatment with other therapies such as acupuncture, massage, stretches, and infra-red lights.

Equine Sports Massage

What is equine sports massage?

Equine sports massage consists of manipulating the horse’s skin and muscles with the hands and fingers of a masseur.

In need of a good massage.

The benefits are:

  • Relieves tension
  • Relaxes the muscles
  • Develops muscle tone
  • Increases and improves blood circulation
  • Improves coat
  • Allows more freedom of movement
  • Eases pain
  • Improves immunity
  • Prevents injuries

During a session, each muscle is massaged separately using different techniques, and finished with stretches.

The methods employed are:

  • Effleurage: This is always used first and last on the horse, using one or both hands, in a firm stroking motion, following the direction of the coat. Effleurage improves the venous and lymphatic flow and helps the horse relax.
  • Petrissage: Compression using hands and fingers on the muscle. The two main techniques are kneading and finger compressions. With kneading, the hand is in a relaxed fist shape, making circular motions, on a large muscle mass range. Finger compressions target a specific area using the pads of the fingers in a circular motion. Petrissage is used to improve circulation and soften the muscle tissues.
  • Tapotement: A double-handed technique employed in a quick and rapid way, using gentle contact on large muscle masses. The two techniques are hacking and clapping. Hacking involves the sides of the fingertips and hands and clapping requires the hands to be cupped. Tapotement improves circulation and muscle tone. It is a useful method for warming up the horse’s muscles before work, especially at competitions.

Passive stretches are carried out on the horse once the muscles are softened, depending on the patient’s needs. These are made slowly, helping to maintain the suppleness and flexibility of the horse’s muscles and range of movement. The masseur may show you how to do them yourself so that they can be done regularly after exercise when the horse’s muscles are warm.

Horse experiencing a healing massage with a vet.

Signs that your horse needs equine sports massage therapy include:

  • Sore back
  • Uneven gait
  • Cold back
  • Sensitive to grooming and saddling
  • Knocking or refusing jumps
  • Bucking after jumps
  • Not staying straight over jumps
  • Hollowing back
  • Bucking and rearing
  • Head shaking or tilting
  • Tripping and stumbling

Regular massages and stretching, alongside correct riding and schooling, cansignificantly help and improve your horse’s health.

Massage should not be carried out if the horse is experiencing any of the following:

  • Following an accident
  • Colic
  • Dehydration
  • Skin problem
  • Disease
  • Cancerous areas
  • Pregnant mare
  • Open wounds
  • Fractures

Who should carry out equine sports massage?

Your vet should either refer you to or recommend a qualified equine sports masseur once they have decided that this type of therapy is beneficial for your horse.

Unlike other treatments, massage looks at the whole horse. The masseur will carry out an assessment and will need to know your horse’s history. They will look at the confirmation and action, breed, type of work, teeth, and the horse’s feet and shoeing, along with a check of the saddle.

This horse is healthy and athletic thanks to alternative therapies.

The masseur will watch the horse, lead in hand, walk and trot on a straight line and may also require seeing it lunged and ridden before treatment commences.

After the treatment, a good masseur will help you work out a training program for your horse which may consist of schooling, lunging, long reining and pole work alongside the massage therapy.

Picking the Right Procedure for You

You should always consult with your vet before making a treatment decision for your horse. Make sure to tell them all of your horse’s possible symptoms and they will help you figure out the best plan. If one of the treatment options discussed in this article stands out to you, take your horse to the vet and see what they suggest and if they can refer you to any licensed professionals in your area.

Alison O’Callaghan is a professional horse riding instructor and has owned many types of pets. When she is not riding horses or walking her dog, she loves to write about animals. If you’d like to contact Alison, you can email her at alison_ocallaghan@yahoo.co.uk.

What to Look For In A Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

Alpha Quadrant YPS Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

Vessa, relaxing in the Alpha Quadrant at Your Pet Space

Dave and I have had dogs all our lives–and long before we went into the profession of caring for dogs, we needed to board ours, once in awhile.  We tried a couple of places…and had some variation in experiences.  As you might imagine, we can tell you about even more that others have had, now that we are in the business, ourselves.  It wasn’t actually until we were going through training to have our own facility that we understood what exactly had happened when our dogs came home tired, stressed and somehow just…different.  So, if you’ve ever experienced any of the issues mentioned below, it might be time to consider a change for your dog.  The first thing you’ll want to do is set up a time to tour a prospective new facility.  Note that although some areas may be off limits on a tour due to reasonable liability issues if you were injured, you should be allowed to see most areas where your dog will be staying, when you ask.

Things To Ask When Touring a Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

1.) Do you perform an assessment of all dogs entering your facility?  If so, which dogs are accepted or not, and why?

If the facility you’re considering accepts all dogs whether they are known to be aggressive or not, or whether they are fixed or not, you need to know this in advance.

Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

Mandy, Sollie, Julie and Joey, separated from the larger dogs at Your Pet Space

2.) Do you separate large from small dogs?  How do you determine my dog’s playgroup?  How large are your playgroups?

Size and age matter.  How your dog plays does, too.  Dogs have four playstyles–and sometimes will exhibit more than one.  So a knowledgeable facility will place your dog in a group appropriate for the way he plays–whether your dog is a puppy or a couch potato.  And there shouldn’t be more than 10 dogs or so in one playgroup.

3.)  How will my dog be introduced to the others on his first day?

No matter the dog’s age, playstyle or size, you do not want your dog overwhelmed by being thrust into a strange gaggle of dogs with no warning.  Your dog should be introduced to one dog at a time, lowest energy dog first.  After all, would you want to be shoved into the faces of a large number of unknown people in a crowded rooom?

Dave and pack, Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

Dave, supervising dogs in the Your Pet Space Milky Way area

4.)  How many people do you have supervising your playgroups?

It is simply impossible for one person to properly supervise a group of more than 15 dogs–and ideally the ratio should be 1 for every 10 dogs.  In groups of large, active dogs the proper ratio might be more like 1 to every 5.  So a lot depends on the size and activity level of the dogs. These staff members should also be inside with the dogs, not observing them with a camera or through a window.

Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

6,000 square foot indoor play area at Your Pet Space

Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

3,000 sq ft patio and front yard at Your Pet Space

5.) When and for how long does my dog get to be outside?  And where do they play when it’s too hot, cold or raining, windy, etc.

Every facility handles this differently.  Some have large interior play spaces.  Others have more outdoor space than inside.  If you dog is going to play indoors when the weather is inclement, how often will he go outside for potty time? Will he have an enclosed outdoor place to go or will someone be walking him?  If the only place to play is outdoors for most of the day, and it’s hot or cold, how will he be made comfortable?  Is there shade and are enough yard misters present to keep him cool?  Is there warm shelter outside in the winter and how long are dogs left outside?   Really think about worst case scenario, here.  Dogs should not be outside for more than a few minutes in above 100 degree weather–some breeds can only tolerate much, much less.  Some breeds don’t tolerate anything below 40 well without protection, while others are good for longer at colder temperatures.

Neutral Zone, Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

Daysha, taking a break in the Your Pet Space Neutral Zone

6.)  Will my dog get a break from playing?  If so, when and where?

Think about what your dog does at home every day.  Sure, he plays–sometimes, a lot!  But it’s likely he rests a lot, too.  And in a large facility, if your dog doesn’t have a place to rest for awhile, he’s likely to go home injured and stressed.  So ask about how this is accomplished–will your dog be crated during the rest period?  If not, where’s the nap area and–if it’s communal–how is it supervised?

7.)  How is my dog fed while he’s with you?

Some facilities do this by crating each dog with his own food.  In cage free facilities, dogs should be fed one at a time.  Only dogs from the same household that are used to eating together without showing aggression should be fed together.

8.)  When my dog boards with you, is there someone on site?  If so, where?

Most facilities do not maintain on site staff overnight.  The staff leaves the dogs in their own runs for the night and returns in the mornings for cleanup of overnight messes, and to let out and feed the dogs.  Some facilities have staff on the premises, but in a separate building or on another floor from the dog guests.  A few have staff that remain with the dogs, all night long.  No matter which you choose for your pet, be aware that groups of uncrated dogs should never be left in a facility overnight without supervision.

Dave teaching, Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

Dave re-directs Finley and London from neck biting play to playing with a toy.

9.)  If my dog’s behavior needs to be corrected, how is this accomplished?

All dogs play inappropriately from time to time.  The staff in a good facility will be trained to correct problem behavior in a positive manner–such as re-directing your dog to play a different way or with a different playmate.  Even time outs are ok, if they are brief with the purpose of cooling down an excited dog.  Brief training on the “leave it” command is great.  Hitting or the use of devices to deliver shocks are NOT okay.

Joy's CPR cert, Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

10.)  What certifications does the facility owner and staff have in animal care and safety?

Many people don’t know that several years went by during which the only animal care certifications available for our industry were simply pieces of paper you bought on the internet.  Nowadays, thanks to organizations such as the IBPSA and PACCC, and companies such as PetTech and The Dog Gurus, real training and actual certifcations are available, by means of real courses and testing centers.

11.)  Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions, such as: What if my dog is injured or becomes ill?  How to you handle dogs that climb or escape?  How many bites or fights do you see a year?  How do you prevent fights?  How do you handle a dog fight?  What is your emergency plan for this building?

Every facility should know their policies on these matters and be able to explain them.  Moreover, they should be able to show you the answer to anything you ask.

Bottom Line–What to Watch For At Your Current Dog Facility

Stress Signs In Dogs On Arrival

Your dog is reluctant to enter, when he wasn’t previously

New stress behaviors such as a tucked tail or submissive urinating

Stress Signs In Dogs When Leaving Or At Home

Your dog has rolling eyes, heavy panting or is hoarse from too much barking

Collar sensitivity–when he previously accepted his collar being handled

New concerning behaviors such as leash aggression or perimeter barking

Your dog can’t ask for himself.  Now you know what to ask for him.

 

Joy Jones, YPS Dog Daycare/Boarding Facility

Joy Jones, Publisher, is also the Vice President of Your Pet Space, a cage free dog boarding facility serving the greater Las Cruces, NM area. Her urban fiction book Indigo was recently published. When not working at Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as humor. You can e-mail her at joy@yourpetspace.info or follow Your Pet Space on Facebook.

Spaying and Neutering Cats: The Facts

We have all been educated over the years by animal shelters and humane societies telling us to spay and neuter our pets. They usually give great discounts and make it very easy for one to bring their pet in for these procedures. So, what is the big deal?  Why is this so important? And why aren’t more cat owners participating?

What is spaying and neutering?

Spaying is a sterilization procedure performed on female cats. They are put under anesthesia, then their ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus are removed. This is the equivalent of a hysterectomy for humans. For this procedure, the abdominal area is shaved, and they are given a few stitches. This process is more invasive and involved than neutering and therefore, costs a bit more. However, they are both very important.

Neutering is the sterilization procedure performed on male cats. They are put under anesthesia, then their testes are removed through an incision in their scrotum.  The incision is very small and, in most cases, stitches are not even needed.

The handsome Charming who has been neutered

When should you have this done?

While this can be done at any age, even in older cats, the recommendation is to spay and neuter kittens when they reach sexual maturity which is at about four to six months old.

What are the benefits of spaying and neutering?

There are a plethora of reasons you should have this procedure done, most of them involving the prolonged health and well-being of your cat. These benefits include:

  • Prevention of certain types of cancers that are associated with reproductive organs
  • Prevents females from going into heat
  • Prevents males from spraying (marking their territory with a strong urine smell)
  • Prevents cat overpopulation of shelters and reduces homeless cats on the streets
  • Males will be less aggressive and less destructive
  • Females will be less restless, less noisy, and have less behavioral problems
  • Lessens the “yowling” that both sexes exhibit in order to attract mates
  • Less health problems in general
  • Longer life expectancy
  • Allows you to have a happier, healthier, calmer cat

These are just some of the benefits that come from having your cat spayed or neutered. I think some of the biggest incentives, however, are to ensure that there are less feral cats out on the streets that have been abandoned and less overcrowding of shelters that often leads to euthanization.

A beautiful cat portraying some of the many benefits of spaying and neutering

Pre and Post Surgical Care

It is common for you to get advice from your vet’s office concerning what to do in order to prepare your pet for surgery. It is also common for your vet to tell you that your pet should not eat anything after midnight the night before the surgery. However, with kittens, they might suggest that you should feed them, so please make sure you are in contact with your vet in order to do what is best for your pet.

Once the surgery is over, there will likely be discomfort. Your vet will provide you with a set of instructions on things you need to do in order to care for your pet after surgery.  Here are some things you might need to be aware of in order to better care for your cat:

  • Your cat will need a quiet space to recover away from other animals.
  • Do your best to keep your cat from running and jumping. The normal amount of time to restrict your cat’s activity is about two weeks, though this may vary.
  • Prevent the cat from licking the incision site, which may cause infection. You can either try distracting them, or if need be, use an Elizabethan collar also known as the “cone of shame.”
  • Not that this happens much with cats, but avoid bathing them for at least 10 days after their surgery.
  • Check the incision site daily to ensure it is healing properly.

Please keep your eye on your pet during this time and see your vet immediately if you notice any of the following:

  • Redness
  • Swelling or discharge at the incision site
  • An open incision
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

In most cases, it does not take your pet long after the surgery to begin acting like themselves again. My cat, Stormy, was neutered very recently before I got him and he was fine, though a bit wired.  After a couple of weeks, the testosterone levels lowered in him and he’s now much less prone to aggressive playing and yowling all night.

Stormy, playing calmly with his toy

Myths and Misconceptions

One very common misconception is that spaying and neutering your cat will cause it to become overweight. This is simply not the case.

While your cat may, indeed, gain some weight after their procedure, this can be maintained with a proper diet and making sure they get exercise. Your vet will have some advice on monitoring your pet’s food intake and changing some of the habits that would cause weight gain.

Secondly, it is often believed that this procedure will magically cure all of your pet’s behavioral issues. While it is very true that having these procedures will help with a lot of behavioral issues your cat may be having, that does not mean they will all just stop.  For example, if there are things that your cat has developed a habit of doing before being spayed or neutered, it is likely they will continue to act in the same manner after the procedure.

Feral Cats and Trap & Release

A HUGE problem that many people do not want to face is the feral cat issue. According to the ASPCA, it is estimated that the number of homeless cats “…range up to 70 million. The average number of litters a fertile cat produces is one to two a year; the average number of kittens is four to six per litter.”

Yes, you read that correctly: up to 70 million homeless and/or feral cats across the United States.

Feral cats and kittens eating food a given by a kind stranger

Seeing these numbers, you can understand why allowing a cat to have a litter of kittens just so that your children can experience the miracle of birth and see the adorable kittens is no longer a logical option to take. More often than not, if homes cannot be found for those kittens, they are abandoned.  I happened to grow up in the mountains of West Virginia and I cannot tell you how completely commonplace it was for a family to take a box of kittens and just leave them in the woods to fend for themselves. This happened often enough that I was not even concerned about it.  That’s just the way it was when cats had kittens.  Now, I am completely mortified by the very idea of it!

As you can imagine, these cats are running around unchecked everywhere. Let’s say that same litter that was dropped off in the woods was a litter full of females.  Now there are four to six female cats who will then have four to six kittens themselves, possibly several times a year!

This causes the serious issue of cat overpopulation. However, this is not the only issue. There are other factors to be considered, such as:

  • Frequent yowling and other loud noises that are associated with fighting and mating behaviors of unaltered cats
  • Digging up yards and gardens
  • Strong, foul odors from unneutered males marking their territory
  • Flea infestations
  • Visible suffering from sick, injured, or dying cats
  • The death of wild animals that can be pray to cats, like birds.
  • The spread of rabies to other animals and humans

Cat being released from the TNR Program

While all of these are huge issues, there are great programs in place that help to contain the cat overpopulation problem, such as the Trap and Release programs. With these programs, humane traps are used to bring in the cats who are then neutered or spayed, vaccinated, ear-tipped (the universal sign that a cat has been neutered and vaccinated), and then returned to their outdoor home.  Scientific studies as well as successful TNR programs (Trap-Neuter-Release) have proven this method works as a way to help stabilize the cat populations.

There are also other great programs, such as barn cat programs where cats are rescued, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and then moved to farms where they can roam and hunt freely. This does not only benefit the cat; it also helps to keep pests out of barns. In programs like this, there is the expectation that the owner keeps the cats fed, watered, and kept healthy.

Barn cats being vigilant while doing their jobs

All in all, it is simply good practice and good sense to spay or neuter your cat. Not only to help decrease cat overpopulation, but also to increase the health and well-being of your cat. There are always specials and discounts going on with either local rescue groups or local vets in order to ensure you are able to properly care for your pet.  Please do take advantage of these amazing opportunities.

Tina Whitehair

Tina Whitehair, Feline Editor, currently works as an Administrative Specialist to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the UGA School of Law in Athens, GA. She grew up in West Virginia where she had multiple cats for most of her life. She loves both cats and dogs (and baby elephants). She currently has two cats: a 2 year old male Maine Coon, Stormy, whom she rescued, and a 1.5 year old domestic short hair black male, Charming. Her hobbies include crocheting, writing, martial arts and Thai Fit kickboxing. Tina can be reached at: t.whitehair@yourpetspace.info

Exploring Holistic Modalities for Your Pet

It is often believed that the only thing you can do to help your ailing pet is to take it to the vet and deal with the stress, fear, and large bills that come along with it. However, this does not always have to be the case. While you should always take your pet to the vet at any sign of trouble, it is also good to know that there are treatment plans available for your pet to help ease their pain and discomfort in a much more natural, soothing manner. These options include chiropractic treatment for pets, reflexology, and massage. All three of these options aim to increase the comfort and well-being of your pet, but they each have very different methods of doing so. Some of these options can be performed at home, but it is important to note that there are experienced professionals right here in Las Cruces that can assist you in improving your dog’s life. Information about those professionals and an upcoming health fair will be listed at the end of this article.

A very happy dog after receiving his treatment.

Chiropractic Treatment for Pets

Of the three techniques we will be discussing in this post, chiropractic treatment for pets is the one that you absolutely need a professional to do for you. An inexperienced person practicing chiropractic treatment can cause serious harm to your pet due to the precise nature of adjusting the spine. Do not try this one at home. That being said, chiropractic care is one of the most powerful types of natural treatments for both pets and humans. This is because chiropractors focus on realigning and adjusting the neck and spine, which corrects a multitude of problems and proves to be an excellent form of long-term therapy to keep the body as healthy and comfortable as possible.

Chiropractic treatment for pets can help alleviate problems such as hip dysplasia, weak legs, stiffness, hunched back, pain in the chest, back, or neck, and osteoarthritis. If your pet appears to be in pain, take them to the vet for a diagnosis before anything else. When you and your pet meet with a chiropractor, they will first evaluate your pet to see exactly what kind of help they need. They do this by looking at the pet’s history, vet records, and x-rays. With all of this information in mind, they will know that to look for when beginning the treatment, and will proceed to learn even more about your pet’s problem once they begin a hands-on adjustment.

A pug is happily getting adjusted.

There are many ways adjusting your pet, and each chiropractor will have their on technique. Dr. Randy Kidd explains, “The way I was taught, a chiropractic adjustment consists of the following. First, identify the specific site of the subluxation and identify the direction the joint is ‘stuck’ or ‘loose.’ The contact point (the bony part of the anatomy where the adjustment will be performed) is located, and the adjuster creates a firm contact with the underlying bone, and the patient’s body is stabilized. Then, the actual adjustment is performed by moving the hand…in the direction that is specific for the way that the joint needs to be returned to normal function.” These adjustments are mostly done with just the chiropractor’s fingertips or by using a small device called an “activator” which gently presses the bones back into place. Adjustments for dogs are quite different from adjustments for humans since dogs are much more delicate creatures that only require a gentle touch.

One trip to the chiropractor will not immediately fix the pet’s problem, but it should quickly alleviate the pain or discomfort that they may be feeling. Your chiropractor will work out a schedule with you and discuss how often your pet should be adjusted. This can be as often as twice a week, or as few as once every couple of months.

Reflexology Aides Your Pet

Reflexology is a very different form of treatment than chiropractic care. While chiropractic care treats the immediate cause of your pets discomfort, reflexology aides your pet by relaxing them, increasing their blood circulation, and by promoting balance in your pet’s system which can increase healing time.

A paw fit and ready for some reflexology.

Reflexology is performed by pressing firmly on the pads of your pet’s feet and ankles, using gentle pressure and specific circular movements to promote blood circulation and to help clear blockages in your pet’s system caused by stress or toxins. In his article, Andrew Jonasson notes that, “Toxins get into your dog by way of his food. Most commercial pet foods contain preservatives, sugar, and other additives like coloring. These foods can lead to chronic health issues like diabetes, allergies, and kidney failure…reflexology is important to cleanse your dog’s body of wastes and detoxify his organs.”

It is also believed that stress in your pet’s daily life can affect their inner workings, causing inflammation and tensed muscles throughout the body. Pets can sense when their owners are stressed and will imitate the behavior they see. This can cause long-term damage to their internal system. Reflexology aides your pet by allowing them a few moments to relax, soothe their tensed muscles, and possibly even reduce some inflammation caused by stress.

Reflexology being performed on a dog’s ankle.

While this is something you can attempt at home, it really takes a professional eye to determine where the reflexology points are on your pet, and how they correspond to their organs and to the different parts of your pet’s body. Done incorrectly, it will result in a simple foot massage that your pet may still find relaxing. Done correctly, however, a professional can help flush your pet of toxins, improve their circulation, and disperse pain in tensed muscles throughout the body.

Massage

Massage is similar to reflexology in that it is a form of treatment that can help relax a nervous pet, helps relieve muscle tension, and improve blood circulation. It also aides in digestion, provides greater joint flexibility, stimulates liver and kidney function, and strengthens the immune system. Massage is an excellent form of treatment for any pet, of any age, whether they have health issues or not. Regular massage sessions can help keep your pet in tip-top shape for as long as possible.

A relaxed dog in need of an energizing massage.

Kristina Lotz explains that, “there are a few cases where massage can be particularly helpful. Reducing stiffness and fatigue after exercise by increasing circulation and flushing waste products from the muscle tissue. Massage can be great for both before and after exercise. Invigorating massage (quick strokes) can be great for dogs that are about to compete in agility competitions or for older dogs that are stiff and about to go out for a walk in the neighborhood.” You can also use slow, relaxing strokes for older pets, pets suffering from anxiety, or energetic young pets. Massage is an excellent form of treatment for any pet, but each pet will need a different form of massage due to the varying issues they may have.

Because there are so many different ways to massage your pet and because different techniques are used for different symptoms, it is crucial to go slow and to not attempt to massage your pet like you would a human. This method is often too rough for pets and can cause more harm than good. To avoid any potential damage and to learn good techniques, you may chose to take your pet to a professional animal massage therapist to do the hard work for you.

The bond between a pet and an owner can vastly improve through these forms of treatment.

Your Pet Space Health Days

Because all of these treatment options are so important and can provide your pet with some real health benefits, Your Pet Space will be having a health fair from February 23-25, 2017 from 12:00 to 7:00 p.m by appointment. There will be doctors and technicians performing reflexology, massage, chiropractic treatment, and reiki, as well as classes discussing essential oils, flower essences, and more. These events will provide you with even more information about the importance of chiropractic care for pets, reflexology, and massage, so it is really something that you can’t miss. If you are interested in any of these classes and treatments or for more information, please call Your Pet Space at 575-652-4404 to schedule an appointment.

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith, Associate Editor, having been raised in a household full of dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and all things furry, Jessica’s love of animals has only grown over the years. She is currently volunteering for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in her free time when she isn’t out and about with her ridiculous pit bull mix, Annabel Lee, or taking care of her remarkably ancient guinea pig, Moose. She is also putting her literature degree to use by working as an editor for a local online magazine, Independent Noise. While she has no plans for the future, she knows that it will be filled with fur and fiction galore. You can e-mail Jessica at associateeditorjessica@yourpetspace.info

My Dog Has Allergies: Now What?

Did You Know There Are Dog Allergies?

Just like humans, dogs can have allergies to anything and everything under the sun. However, it can be much more difficult to recognize the allergens present and to find the best treatment plan for dogs than it is for humans. My precious little Staffordshire Terrier mix, Annie, has been diagnosed with severe allergies to grass, grain, and potatoes. While she is probably allergic to several other things as well, these are all we know for sure.

Our journey into the vast world of dog allergies came to be when I noticed a light pink rash on her chest just a few months after I adopted her. She has very thin fur, so it was easy to spot. My family and I thought it could be a simple heat rash because she had been outside in the sun for quite a while. We brought her inside to cool down, and wrote it off as nothing more. A few days later, it was still there and growing significantly worse. Deciding that it couldn’t be just from the heat, I took her to her vet, Animal Hospital of Las Cruces, the next day.

Annie with a severe rash and hot spots under her chin.

Diagnosis and Use of Steroids on Dogs

The vet diagnosed her with an allergy to grass and weeds and gave her a prescription for prednisone, a strong oral steroid. By the end of the week, her skin was looking as good as ever! …until the steroids wore off.

The allergies were back with a vengeance, causing terrible rashes, hives, and hot spots that made Annie so uncomfortable that she would scratch herself until she bled. After many more trips to the vet, a diagnosis of food allergies on top of the environmental allergies, and vast supplies of steroids, I realized that there had to be a better way.

While oral steroids work wonders on rashes, inflammation, and hives, the side effects can be just as prominent especially if given on a regular basis. These side effects can include ulcers, delayed healing, aggression, and diabetes. I decided that daily oral steroid use was not the route I wanted to go to help Annie’s allergies. To me, the risks did not necessarily outweigh the benefits if I could find something better.

Boxer with hives http://www.dogshowpictures.net/marvelous-along-with-tempting-dog-hives-photography/hivesallergies-boxer-forum-boxer-breed-dog-forums-throughout-dog-hives/

Non-Oral Steroids

Annie and I returned to the vet one more time. We were given a topical steroid spray called Genta-Spray that could be used to help heal rashes and hives with practically zero side effects. This stuff works wonders, but only when there is already a rash present. Annie would still have to go through days of discomfort before the spray does its job. Because of this, my vet and I devolved a daily regimen for Annie to keep the rashes at bay.

Diet

Food allergies are one of the most common types of allergies found in dogs. One of the first steps in figuring out what kind of allergies your dog has is eliminating grain from the diet and changing the protein. I switched Annie to a grain-free dog food brand specifically for dog allergies called AvoDerm and her skin cleared within a few days! And then it became much worse. I rushed to the dog food professionals at Better Life Natural Pet Foods. There, they informed me that grain-free foods have a much higher percentage of potatoes than regular dog food. This is because the food needs something substantial to replace the grain and the starch of the potato does the perfect job. This lead us to believe that Annie has an allergy to both grain and potato.

Thankfully, Better Life carried one brand of dog food that is made in a factory 100% free of both grain and potato called Zignature. While it is much more expensive than a normal dog food, I immediately purchased a bag. The affect was noticeable within a few short days. Annie’s skin cleared significantly, but there was still the issue of her environmental allergies to grass and weeds.

Down to a mild rash. Progress!

Supplements and Medication

One of the most important things to do for dogs with allergies is to keep their skin as moisturized and healthy as possible. Because of this, a daily regimen of fish oil is recommended. I started Annie on a daily dose of two 1300 mg capsules of fish oil which immensely helped her skin heal faster and break out into rashes less. For proper fish oil dosing, visit the link below.

http://csu-cvmbs.colostate.edu/vth/small-animal/sports-medicine-rehabilitation/Pages/fish-oil-dosing-chart.aspx

At the same time, l started Annie on a daily dose of Benadryl, upon the advise of her vet. She takes three regular Benadryl a day, one in the morning, two at night. For appropriate Benadryl dosing, see the website below. This helps keep her allergies in control and causes her rashes to be less severe. This daily regimen of medicines, avoidance of known allergens, and use of topical steroid spray when needed did a great deal in helping Annie fight off her extreme reactions, but her problems were still frequent enough that I added in one more step.

https://bullymax.com/benadryl-for-dogs/

Bathing

I firmly belive that this final step is what drew everything together and helped make Annie’s skin as consistently good as it is today. While Annie absolutely hates baths and anything to do with water, bathing her twice a week has made it so that she rarely gets severe rashes and when a rash is starting to appear, it vanishes quickly without causing her much discomfort. Bathing removes any environmental allergens from their skin and fur. Dogs, unlike humans, absorb the allergens through their paws and fur, making it nearly impossible for them to escape their discomfort unless it is scrubbed off of them. Twice a week, I soak Annie’s paws in a few inches of water, rinse her coat, shampoo her with itch-controlling shampoo, wash her with fresh water, and then apply a layer of lotion made specifically for dogs, and spray her with her topical steroid spray if needed.

Because bathing is known to dry out the skin and wash away oils on the dog’s fur, it is important to keep them moisturized, bringing us back to the necessity of fish oil and the possibility of using lotion for your dog. Annie began getting dandruff on top of everything else once I started bathing her regularly, so applying lotion is a very important step in the process. I have found that Warren London Hydrating Butter for Dogs Skin and Fur is a very good lotion for much less money than most other options. And it smells absolutely amazing, which is a huge plus in my book.

Annie is starting to feel better after a good bath.

What You Can Do

Every dog is different, and every dog’s allergies are different. It is important to remember that some things will work and some won’t. It took the course of two years to figure out this detailed regimen for Annie, and she still gets rashes fairly regularly. They are MUCH better than they used to be, but they are still there. If your dog has allergies, it will probably be something that you and your dog will be dealing with for the rest of their life. I would recommend trying anything you can to help your dog be as comfortable as possible, for as long as possible.

One option that I have not yet tried is getting your dog tested to see exactly what they are allergic to. I have not done this for Annie yet because it costs about $400 a test, dogs allergies are constantly changing and evolving so one test might not be accurate for their whole lives, and the test does not tell you how to fix it or even give you a plan of action. Most allergies can be discovered with a conversation between you and your vet, but this is definitely a good option for some with even more extreme allergies than Annie has.

Presenting her beautifully clear skin.

Another option that I haven’t had a need for is Jax n’ Daisy shampoo and lotion. It is similar to the shampoo and lotion that I do use, but it is a much stronger formula that is supposed to make drastic changes very quickly. The testimonials on their website seem to speak for themselves.

The most important part of figuring out a plan to tackle your dogs allergies is to be in communication with your vet in every step along the way. If you suspect your dog might have allergies, take them to the vet. If they prescribe something that isn’t working, let them know. If you have an idea of a regimen for your dog, ask your vet about it about it and don’t begin until you get the go-ahead from them. It will take a lot of work and often a lot of money, but there are alternatives to every option out there. As you can see from the immense progress that Annie has made, the determination to make a change is worth all of this and more.

Jessica Smith, Associate Editor, having been raised in a household full of dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and all things furry, Jessica’s love of animals has only grown over the years. She is currently volunteering for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in her free time when she isn’t out and about with her ridiculous pit bull mix, Annabel Lee, or taking care of her remarkably ancient guinea pig, Moose. She is also putting her literature degree to use by working as an editor for a local online magazine, Independent Noise. While she has no plans for the future, she knows that it will be filled with fur and fiction galore. You can e-mail Jessica at associateeditorjessica@yourpetspace.info

“Do’s & Don’ts” When Crate Training Your Pup

So, you’ve got a new puppy and along with it came all the new responsibilities of training and caring for it. Beginning from day one you and your dog are both learning about feeding, playing, and bathroom habits. However, one crucial skill you should also consider mastering with your pet is crate training.

Reasons to have your pet crate trained:

Having your dog crate trained can benefit not only the dog owners but also the dogs themselves. Many owners have busy schedules that require them to either transport their dog to and from places or leave them alone for a few hours. Having your dog in a crate during car rides or at home while you’re away can ensure that they are safe and not getting into anything they shouldn’t be. Some dogs find crates useful for reducing anxiety. It gives them a small place where they can rest and feel safe. Whatever the case may be, crate training can be a helpful skill to teach your pet.

A common myth about crate training is that it is cruel for your animal. However, this is far from the truth. Your dogs’ ancestors sought out small dens to rest in and feel safe thousands of years ago, in the wild. A crate can help facilitate that instinctual need to have a cozy area for your pet to feel protected in. For puppies and smaller dogs, this need for a small space to rest in can be even more necessary because of the overwhelming size of a home.

This pup found a comfortable spot to nap in his crate.

Although they are cute, having a puppy tends to come with the risk of them destroying your house when nobody is watching. Crating them while you’re busy gives you the confidence of knowing that your home and pet will remain just as you left them.

If you have decided that crate training your dog is the right thing for you, there are some guidelines you should follow to be successful.

Do: Find a crate that accommodates your dog according to their size

This rule can be a little tricky when you have a puppy because you want to get them a crate that they will be comfortable in as they grow. Certain dogs like bull mastiff puppies start small and weigh around 30 pounds as puppies however, they grow to weigh up to almost 200 pounds depending on their gender. Although most dogs don’t grow that large, it’s important to account for the size that your dogs breed may grow to.

If you know your dog is going to get bigger but do not want to buy too large or too small of a crate utilize crate dividers that can be found at most places where crates are sold. The dividers allow you to give your pet enough space to feel comfortable in a big crate but not enough space to roam too much or have an accident. Once they grow you can move the dividers accordingly or get rid of them all together and utilize the entire space that a bigger crate has to offer.

This beautiful German Shepard has a crate that fits him perfectly.

Don’t: Use the crate as a punishment

When crate training your dog you want to make sure they feel as comfortable as possible while being inside the crate. Associate the crate with fun by giving them a treat or a toy when they are inside of it. Place a bed or a warm blanket on the floor of the crate so your pup can lay down and rest while they spend their time inside their “room.”

Some dogs may get anxious and need rest from the chaos of family get togethers or even thunder storms. This is when you can place your dog into the crate to make them feel safe. Laying a thin blanket on top of the crate can assist with help making the crate feel more soothing and allow the pup to sleep easier. Just make sure there is still a passage for air to come in and out so you don’t suffocate your poor pup.

This little guy has plenty of toys in his crate to keep him company.

Do: Feed them meals and have water available in the crate

Training your dog to eat in the crate can help substantially when it comes to getting them comfortable with the space. Allow some time for your pet to sniff around the crate and get familiar with their surroundings before putting the food bowl into the crate. Encouraging them to step in and eat while closing the door behind them quietly will take some stress away from the situation. Once they have finished eating let them out and let them know that you are happy with them. The more you practice feeding your dog in the crate the safer they will feel when the times comes to go in.

Don’t: Leave your dog in a crate for more than 3 or 4 hours

The crate isn’t meant to imprison your pet. It should be used only when needed otherwise your dog will grow to dislike the crate and may refuse to get in. Puppies especially should not be forced to stay in a crate for long periods of time because of their smaller bladders. Older dogs can physically hold it for up to around 7 hours but should not be forced to unless necessary. Keeping your puppy in a confined space for too long could result in them soiling their bed causing discomfort and a mess for you to clean up. Avoid this by simply taking your pup out of the crate frequently for bathroom breaks. If you are unable to supervise your puppy while they are in the crate you may need to change your schedule around or ask for help.

Every dog is different. Its important to find a crate that is the most suited for your dogs breed and size.

Do: Be patient

Every dog is different. It could take more or less time to successfully crate train your dog depending on their personality and anxiety level. Your dog needs a lot of encouragement and support while learning to go in and out of the crate comfortably. You may have to repeat yourself often and continue to provide treats or toys until your dog can be confident that the crate is a good place. Once they have gotten in and out of the crate a few times try closing the door and opening it to get them used to the feeling of being confined in the space. Always reassuring them with a happy tone of voice can make the transition easier and faster to get the hang of.

Don’t: Be too demanding

Your dog wants to be your best friend (usually). However, they aren’t always sure of what you want them to do. Going in and out of the crate can be confusing or cause a lot of stress for dogs that are first trying it. Be aware of this and make sure that you aren’t too demanding of your dog right off the bat. Stay enthusiastic when attempting to persuade your dog to get into the crate and don’t have such high expectations on the first day. Crate training could take weeks depending on the dog, so make sure to not be too hard on your pup if they can’t get it the first couple of tries.

Being in a crate should not be associated with punishment or stress. It should be used to give your pup a break and allow them some time to relax.

Do your research:

Don’t be afraid to search for little tips and tricks on how to work with your dog during the crate training process. Research crates and find one that’s best for you and your pet considering size, visibility, and comfort. Doing my own research I found many helpful articles from sites like the American Kennel Club, The Humane Society of the United States, and Caesars Way. Below I’ve posted some links that will help you navigate through your journey of crate training your dog.

Crate training 101

Puppy crate training made easy

How to crate train a puppy

Lazarus Gomez, Managing Editor, is an aspiring writer from Phoenix, Arizona and has been freelance writing for local newspapers.  He is currently majoring in journalism at New Mexico State University. He has always been an avid animal lover and has two large bulldogs named Levi and Diesel as well as a German Shepard named Zeus. He currently resides in Las Cruces, New Mexico and is hoping to pursue his passion in sports writing.  You can e-mail Laz at lgomez@yourpetspace.info

Feline Chronic Kidney Disease

A few months ago I was taken aback when I took my cat, Ally, to the vet only to find out she was diagnosed with feline renal failure. Prior to this diagnosis, I had no idea it was so common in older cats or what the symptoms were. Had I known and been able to catch it in time, this would have been treatable. Unfortunately, by the time we realized what was wrong, her kidneys were only functioning at 10% and at that point we could only maintain what current level of health she had. There is no way to reverse this condition. Therefore, I was given a few options for treatment, but to be honest, most of those options were merely “Band-aids”, and would not prolong or improve her quality of life. Instead, I chose to take her home and keep her as comfortable as I could for as long as I would have her.

I learned a great deal during this experience and I think one of the best ways I can honor Ally and her memory is to share with others, things they can do in order to catch the signs sooner and find appropriate treatments for their loved ones.

Ally, resting on a chair and posing for her photo op.

The Basics

Before we go into talking about kidney disease, let’s talk basics. There are five main functions of the kidneys:

  • To remove toxins from the blood and excrete them outside the body
  • Stimulation of red blood cell production
  • Regulates fluid levels in the body
  • Regulates blood pressure by releasing renin
  • Regulates electrolytes

What does it mean if your cat has been diagnosed?

First and foremost, I feel it’s important to note that there are two types of kidney disease in cats: acute and chronic. This article will mostly be focusing on chronic kidney disease, however, it is very important, especially if you have an outside cat, or a curious and dexterous one who can get into cupboards. What are the differences?

Acute kidney disease is very severe and you will often begin to see symptoms suddenly, usually within a week or a month. In some cases this can be caused by some sort of blockage that might interfere with the flow of blood to the kidney or the flow of urine from it. However, as I mentioned, the most common cause can be the ingestion of substances that are toxic to the kidneys such as:

  • Antifreeze
  • Pesticides
  • Plants
  • Cleaning fluids
  • Certain human medications such as ibuprofen

Please be sure to keep all chemicals and medications where cats cannot access them and be sure to research any plants you bring into the house. Cats love to munch on houseplants and unfortunately, this can sometimes prove dangerous for your “fur babies.”

If diagnosed at the earliest stages, acute kidney disease is treatable. In some cases, the damage can be reversed and kidney function can be returned to normal.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD), on the other hand, is incurable. Unlike acute kidney disease, the onset is much slower and your cat can have this disease for months or even years before being diagnosed. CKD mainly afflicts middle-aged and older cats and is much more common than most people know.

For me, personally, I believe my Ally had the disease when I got her. I had her for five years and looking back, I thought the symptoms were just part of who she was or that she just had a sensitive stomach. That is why I feel strongly that it’s important to share with all of you the symptoms and the signs. I could have been treating her that entire time and she would have been with me much longer had I known what to look for.

Tina captured many silly photos of Ally during their time together.

What are the symptoms of CKD?

  • Appetite loss/decrease
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Dehydration
  • Change in water consumption
  • Pain in the kidney area
  • Litter box aversion
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Bad breath
  • Constipation
  • Bloody or cloudy urine
  • Urinating in abnormal places or pain when urinating
  • Stumbling, acting drunk

What can you do?

If your cats are displaying ANY of the symptoms above, I highly recommend taking your cat to your veterinarian. They will then do a biochemistry panel to check your cat’s renal levels.

Some things to know about the results. There is a very high likelihood that your cats’ levels will be exaggerated after that first test. Chances are your cat is dehydrated or is suffering from an infection. The best thing for you to do is allow the vet to administer fluids and antibiotics and then check their levels again after a day or so. In most cases, there will be a marked difference in the numbers and you can breathe a little easier, panic a little less, and focus on the next course of action for figuring out what is best for your pet.

When Ally was diagnosed, admittedly I was in shock and it really helped for me to be able to compare the paperwork to a chart so that I would know where we were in the process and what steps I needed to take next. Here is the table I used:

Crashing 

I won’t lie to you. When your cat crashes, it is scary and it’s emotional.  Hopefully if you regularly take your cat for his or her exams and you have their levels checked, especially as they start nearing the age of 10, you will never have to experience this.

If your cat crashes – immediately take them to your vet. They will be able to begin administering fluids and antibiotics to hopefully bring them out of it.

How do you know if your cat is crashing?

There are several signs of a crash. Here are some things to look for:

  • Body Odor
  • Strong, bad breath
  • Dull eyes
  • Uncontrollable vomiting
  • Refusal to eat or drink
  • Meat loafing
  • Inability to walk or general weakness
  • Hiding

Ally seemed to be very photogenic despite battling kidney disease.

Treatment Options

My most sincere advice that I wish I had followed is to make sure to take your cat for yearly exams. We, as humans, make sure to take care of ourselves and at least have a check-up.  It will make a world of difference, in a case such as this, if you do the same for your cat.  As I mentioned before, if you catch this disease early enough, your cat will go on to live many, many happy years.

Depending on what stage your cat may be in will determine what can be done for your loved one. My Ally was in Stage 4 but you had better believe that I was not just going to throw in the towel.  I consulted with my vet and did everything I could to make her comfortable and to spend as much quality time as I could with her while she was still with me.  Thankfully my vet tech was very upfront with me regarding my options.  He worked with me to teach me how to administer subcutaneous fluids at home. We put her on a special kidney food that contained appetite enhancers and made the most of our time together.

Aside from traditional options the vet may offer, there are also some great alternative options that are worth looking into, not just for this disease, but for other ailments your pets may be experiencing:

    • Reiki for Pets
    • Massage for Pets
    • Chiropractic Treatment for Pets

Dealing with a cat that has kidney disease can be a bit of a roller coaster. They have good days and they have bad days. Something I found very important during my ordeal was – not only did Ally need treatment and to feel comfortable and loved, but so did I.  Having a support system is very important.

There are a lot of websites out there and forums you can join but the one I found most helpful was Tanya’s Comprehensive Guide to Feline Chronic Kidney Disease. This is where I found the table that helped me so much.

Tina loved Ally very much and will surely never forget the bond they shared.

Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye or letting go of a loved one, is never easy. I feel in my case it was a struggle between me being ready to let go and not wanting Ally to suffer.  Having said that, this is a decision that will be very difficult but hopefully you will have a very supportive vet who is willing to talk this through with you.

The truth is, you will never truly be ready to say goodbye to your pet but at the same time, they are also pretty good at letting you know when THEY are ready. On Ally’s last day with me, we snuggled together on the couch and after a while, she weakly got down and went over to her carrier and walked inside. The thing you should know about Ally is…she hated that carrier and would never willingly go into it. She knew it was time and she let me know.

I still miss her every day but I am so very glad for the time I had with her. Now I am doing my best to educate people about this disease and can hopefully help another kitty parent out there. I hope to make people more aware and to help people catch this disease before it gets as far as it did before I noticed it.

Cats are very good at hiding their symptoms when they don’t feel well so just keep an eye on them and if you notice any strange behavior, take note and pay attention.

I hope you were able to take something away from this article and that you feel better about what to look for in your own cats. Here’s wishing them a long and happy life.

 

Tina Whitehair

Tina Whitehair, Feline Editor, currently works as an Administrative Specialist to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the UGA School of Law in Athens, GA. She grew up in West Virginia where she had multiple cats for most of her life. She loves both cats and dogs (and baby elephants). She currently has two cats: a 2 year old male Maine Coon, Stormy, whom she rescued, and a 1.5 year old domestic short hair black male, Charming. Her hobbies include crocheting, writing, martial arts and Thai Fit kickboxing. Tina can be reached at: t.whitehair@yourpetspace.info

Book Review: Gatsby’s Grand Adventures (Book 1)

Last year I reviewed a book for this site called The Not So Secret Life of Nimh, a book about a dumbo rat and rat care. Long ago, in a universe somewhat parallel to this one, the author sent me another book to review about a cat who enjoys art and experiences it in a unique way. This was a digital copy, which I saved to my computer and backed up onto a memory stick. Shortly afterward my computer died, as did its replacement. It has taken me until now to get things together, but I can finally review this cute little story of Gatsby the cat for you.

Cover for Gatsby’s Grand Adventures, Book 1. Story by Barbara Cairns, Illustrated by Eugene Ruble. Cover art by Eugene Ruble

There is magic in these pages, much like the magic of Blues Clues, the television show from Nick Junior, where Blue the dog and a human friend (either Steve or Joe) “skidoo” into a picture on the wall. In that new place they have traveled to, they are able to interact with the image, usually by talking to characters within the picture. Gatsby the cat has a similar power: his tail twitches, his nose itches and his haunches hitch before he leaps into a painting that is part of the art gallery he lives in. Each book is about a different painting. This first installment focuses on Winslow Homer’s “Snap the Whip.”

Art and Animal Behavior

Gatsby loves art and loves to jump in paintings. The story itself is cute, though there isn’t much purpose in it other than to teach the reader a little about the painting itself. Reading about Gatsby’s adventure, you can discover a few things about this particular work of art:

  • The name of the painting- The title of the painting is clearly written three times within the story of Gatsby the cat. As a teacher, this is always an important thing for me to see. Repetition is how most of the youngest readers pick up those sometimes hard to remember details.
  • Who painted the painting- The artist is mentioned three times in this story, all in the appropriate context as the creator of the work of art. Children reading this book also become accustomed to the way adults talk about art being “by” an artist or that the painting belongs “to” an artist, such as when Miss Annabelle says “My Winslow Homer painting is magically restored.” on the final page of the book.

“My Winslow Homer painting is magically restored.” Final image in Gatsby’s Grand Adventures, Book 1. Illustration by Eugene Ruble, used with author’s permission.

  • Items within the painting- During one of Gatsby’s journeys into “Snap the Whip” he sees a mouse hiding behind a rock, then chases it through a school house. On another visit, he is chased by a dog into the woods. These things (the rock, schoolhouse and woods) can all be seen in the painting and can encourage conversation about the work of art with a young child. Readers can find the items in the painting and discuss them as a part of the setting.
  • The action of the painting- In a way, I like the way this is described, but I also wish it were more about the painting and less about the imaginary adventure. To me, it felt as if the examination of movement was passed over for the story itself. As a teacher, I generally talk about what is happening in images both in books and in art. “What happened to that boy there?” “What is this child doing over here?” “Do they look like they are running or walking? “Why do you think they are holding hands?” I feel like the cat could have explored these things more before going on his multiple adventures into what COULD be happening in the painting, which I will discuss below. Don’t get me wrong, this was good, but I felt the two needed a little more balance.
  • What COULD be in the painting- Using the imagination is an important part of any child’s development. Pretending is more than fun, it helps with reasoning skills, sequencing, and many other developmental milestones. This book about Homer’s painting certainly fulfills the need to use the imagination. Gatsby has one encounter after another with this painting and each time something new happens. He interacts with the boys, he chases a mouse, he is chased by a dog, but these things all happen away from the image itself, none of them are items or actions within the painting that you can actually see. You have to imagine what it would be like on the inside of the school house, you have to pretend that a dog could be chasing a cat through the woods, and so on. This brings a work of art to life in a child’s imagination, but I felt as if we went too far in this direction while I was reading. I found myself wondering about the painting more often than I was caught up in the action of what happened beyond it. As I said before, just a pinch more balance and I would have been thrilled with how the story came together.

“A huge dog bounded down the hill. The mouse darted into a hole.” Some of the imaginary action in the painting as described above. Illustration by Eugene Ruble, used with the author’s permission.

Cat Behavior

Now, I know this isn’t a site specifically dedicated to art and literature, so I want to spend a little time on the animals themselves. There isn’t too much to discuss in this department though, the dog chases the cat, and the cat chases the mouse. Both of these things are what you would expect in a short adventure picture book for young children. They provide speed to the storytelling and a purpose for the necessity of the cat’s return to the paintings each night, but there is little else here that is specific to these animals. I wasn’t really expecting anything else in an adventure story book, but I was surprised to discover that there was some animal behavior contained in the pages as I read through.

You do see some very small examples of cat behavior and body language, which I thought was a nice touch, but there were other things that could have been discussed that I felt were pushed aside. At one point one of the boys bothers Gatsby and pulls his tail. This was an excellent educational opportunity to show children the emotions of an animal that feels threatened or hurt by a human’s actions. Though the words read, “Gatsby pulled away. His whiskers flattened against his cheeks. His ears drew back.” nothing else is really said about the incident. The cat is afraid of being squashed, so he jumps away from them and out of the painting. I would love to have a more thought provoking reaction from the cat, who is a thinking entity within the story. If he has the opportunity to think that he will correct his mistakes, then he should have had the opportunity to reflect some on the pain or fear he felt when being bothered by the boys and associate those feelings with his physical reactions. Moments like that would maximize animal behavior and feelings relating to each other. This isn’t an animal behavior book, though, so having a mention at all gets a lot of extra points in my book.

“The biggest boy chased Gatsby and grabbed his tail.” Illustration by Eugene Ruble, used with the author’s permission.

Overall this is a cute story, with a quick running plot and some interesting ideas. It has colorful illustrations that can be busy, but not in a distracting or unpleasant way, and the story teaches some things about art and animal behavior. I think young readers will find his book educational and entertaining, but I think that to get the most out of it, a child should have an adult discuss the story with them as they read and after they have finished. There are many links provided on the back pages for further study of the painting which can help with your discussions and include “Snap the Whip” in some other aspects of your child’s life as both a piece of art and a part of history.

Story by Barbara Cairns

Illustrated by Eugene Ruble

Genre & Topics: Fiction, Art, Cats

Published in 2012 by Guardian Angel Publishing

16 pages, illustrated with drawn artwork

This book was a gift from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff Member

Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has owned, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at mirrani@yourpetspace.info