Experts believe that cats and humans have interacted with each other for more than 10,000 years. From their humble beginnings chasing rodents away from our food, cats have vaulted into our homes and hearts as North America’s favorite pet. Unfortunately, despite their popularity, cats aren’t treated to the same veterinary care that we provide our canine friends.
There are more than 80 million cats in US households and, after reviewing veterinary medical records, experts have concluded that our felines are actually 30% less likely to visit a veterinarian than dogs. What could possibly cause this difference?
Many people believe that a cat’s independent nature and their self-sufficiency mean that they are pretty low maintenance. After all, owners don’t need to walk their cats in a heavy rain or freezing blizzard. So, if cats are so good at taking care of themselves, they must not need a doctor, right?
Additionally, more than 50% of cat owners report that they have a difficult time transporting their pets or that the last trip to the veterinarian was too stressful for the kitty. Still other owners express concerns about adverse vaccine reactions or costs of treatments and preventive care.
Not only that, but as small to medium sized predators, cats instinctually hide their illnesses to avoid become dinner for a bigger predator. Owners can often miss the subtle signs that their kitty isn’t feeling well.
The unfortunate result out of all of this is that when we do see cats, they are often faced with advanced problems that are more costly and difficult to treat. Extensive kidney disease, uncontrolled diabetes and even widespread parasites top the list of feline issues. One study published showed that flea infestations in cats have increased by 12% in the last five years and ear infections are up more than 34%!
Thankfully, organizations like the CATalyst Council and the American Association of Feline Practitioners are stepping up to help educate owners about their feline friends’ medical needs. By stressing the importance and value of preventive medicine, these groups are working hard to insure that cats aren’t forgotten when it comes to veterinary care.
Our goal is to help owners understand that a visit to Deerfield is more than just a couple of vaccinations for their cats. A full physical examination done annually by our veterinarian is the first and probably most important thing a pet owner can do for their beloved feline. This exam can often spot early issues before they turn into big, expensive problems.
Additionally, cat owners are urged to have open communication with our veterinarians about which vaccines their pet actually needs and which ones can be avoided. We can review the cat’s risk factors and the overall prevalence of specific diseases in our area to make the best recommendation. Although adverse reactions are always a risk, this dialogue can help minimize any potential danger.
We have implemented recommendations from the CATalyst Council to make our practice more “feline-friendly”. Changes to scheduling, a separate entrance to the hospital, special waiting area and exam room for cats and their owners can help to encourage veterinary visits. After all, no cat wants to be seated next to a big, scary dog!!
Cats have been described as “aloof” or even “narcissistic”, but there really is a lot to admire about these wonderful animals. They are athletic, graceful and innately curious, qualities that we really seem to appreciate. The CATalyst Council is a great resource for finding out how you can insure your cat will live a long and healthy life. More
As part of your pet’s regular check up, we will spend time peering into the depths of the animal’s eyes. In the majority of cases, we see eyes that are bright, clear and free of any sort of abnormality.
Occasionally though, pets are presented with injuries, scratches or irritation to their eyes or eyelids. Some pets have inverted eyelids (entropion) or even extra eyelashes that grow on the inner surface of the eyelid (distichiasis). Short faced dogs and cats often find themselves with scratched corneas from normal play and roughhousing with other pets. Some pups will end up with a condition known as “cherry eye” where the gland of the third eyelid protrudes up and away from its normal position.
In many of these cases, we are able to flush the eyes, provide the right medications or possibly even perform minor surgery to protect the pet’s vision. But, if the issue is complex, not resolving or when serious eye problems, like glaucoma, cataracts or even retinal detachments occur, we may recommend a veterinary ophthalmologist for help.
These eye specialists undergo intensive training and testing in order to obtain certification from the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO). After completing veterinary school, candidates for certification often complete an internship before starting a rigorous residency. All of this extra education must be completed before the doctor attempts to pass the “board exam”. It is not unusual for a veterinarian to spend an additional 3-4 years in preparation for a testing process that spans four days and includes written, practical and surgical sections. All told, there are less than 375 veterinary eye specialists in the United States.
These dedicated professionals often have the needed expertise and special equipment that your pet’s regular veterinarian does not have. Delicate surgical instruments and unique diagnostic tools are just a few of the devices available to veterinary ophthalmologists. Some of these eye doctors even have special mazes set up at their practice in order to more fully test your pet’s vision capabilities.
Beyond helping dogs and cats, it is not uncommon to see ophthalmologists working with horses, birds and even zoo animals, like sea lions or dolphins!
Each year, the ACVO and its members provide free eye examinations to the thousands of service animals helping disabled individuals around the country. Partnering with veterinary companies, the ACVO has helped screen more than 6,000 animals for eye problems and donated more than $250,000 in free services to treat issues they have found. Individuals with service animals are encouraged to visit www.acvoeyeexam.org to find locations and doctors for this annual event.
In addition to this great work, the ACVO has also established the Vision for Animals Foundation. This not-for-profit organization supports research into many of our pet’s eye disease. More than $150,000 has been granted to researchers who are focused on eliminating the most serious problems affecting the vision of our pets.
Pet owners can help us and the veterinary ophthalmologist by addressing any eye issue promptly. It’s important to have the eyes examined if there is any irritation or injury and to avoid using over the counter or previously prescribed medications. Some of these might contain steroids which will hinder the healing process. Signs that your pet is uncomfortable include continual squinting, pawing at the eyes or even severe redness. If you note any of these symptoms, or even your pet just doesn’t seem to see as well as he or she ages, a examination with your veterinarian is warranted.
We will work closely with the veterinary ophthalmologist in order to do what is best for your pet and to protect his or her vision. More
Seeing a beloved pet scratch often leads many owners think their pets have fleas. When trips to the veterinarian and doses of flea products fail to resolve the itchiness, it is time to think about environmental allergies, or ATOPY.
Just like people, our pets can suffer from allergies and sensitivities to particles in the air. Many times, pollen, certain grasses and trees or even dust mites can trigger this reaction in pets.
Unlike people though, our pets rarely sneeze and show signs similar to “hay fever”. Instead, our pets are itchy and they will do anything to relieve that sensation. Some pets scratch constantly, others lick and chew at certain spots, like their feet and still others might rub against carpets and furniture. This behavior, and the consistent noises and thumps produced, is often too much for many pet owners. Sadly, some pets are relinquished to shelters or rescues due to a condition that is actually manageable.
Whenever your pet is itchy, it is important to remember that external parasites or even food allergies can cause very similar symptoms. Your veterinarian must help you distinguish between flea bite allergies, food allergies or atopy.
According to Dr. Kimberly Coyner, a board certified veterinary dermatologist with the Dermatology Clinic for Animals in Las Vegas, about 10% of dogs suffer from atopy and some cats can develop this condition as well. Many pets will start showing signs as early as six months of age and most will occur before the animal is five years old.
Beyond the itchiness (known medically as pruritus), pets might also show recurrent skin and ear infections or seem to be obsessed with licking their paws. These symptoms most commonly occur in warm weather for pets with pollen or dust allergies, but can also occur year round in some cases.
Diagnostic tests for atopy try to determine what allergens are causing your pet’s problems. Blood tests are often convenient since they can be done by most veterinarians, but Dr. Coyner cautions that this method has drawbacks. Skin testing (similar to scratch testing in people) is the gold standard for determining what is causing your pets allergies and is more accurate than blood tests.
While not simple, atopy can be managed with baths, medications, managing the environment and sometimes with immunotherapy. You’ll need good communication with your veterinarian and maybe a veterinary dermatologist!
First, for pets that suffer seasonal allergies, being prepared ahead of time is key. Some mildly suffering pets can benefit from daily cool water rinses and a fragrance free shampoo one to two times weekly. Clipping longhaired pets decreases the allergen load and makes bathing easier.
Pollen counts in the home can be reduced by asking family and visitors to remove their shoes at the door. Routine vacuuming of areas that the pets frequent and washing of pet bedding in mild, fragrance free detergents can also limit the allergen exposure inside.
Some pet owners opt for antihistamines to help provide relief, but experts caution that they are only effective in 30-40% of dogs. Other owners insist that “steroid shots” or pills are the answer. However steroids simply decrease the symptoms and do not solve the problem – and they are not without secondary side effects.
Ideally, all pets with atopy would undergo skin testing and then start an allergen specific immunotherapy, guided by a veterinary dermatologist. By slowly exposing the pet to increasing quantities of the allergen, this immunotherapy can actually “desensitize” the pet and, over time, help reduce the severity of the symptoms. Dr. Coyner says that 70-75% of allergic pets respond to this treatment and it takes several months to become effective, so it is not a certain cure or a “quick-fix”. More
The ever growing pet product market ranges from fashion to fun, exercise to IQ puzzles, gourmet pet foods and treats….and everything in between.
These products are available on-line pet specialty sites, at pet boutiques and superstores… even the neighborhood groomer is likely to have a pet product line tempting you.
In considering which new products to purchase, it’s important to evaluate what your pet will enjoy, if the product provides healthy fun activity and the value to your pocketbook. Here’s a look at some innovative products by major categories. And remember this is a very abbreviated list!
EXERCISE AND PLAY products are dually beneficial. Look for pet-engaging toys with healthful options such as the following products:
1) The Hydro Freeze® family of toys. This toy product group provides hours of dog-chewing, fetching fun while simultaneously hydrating the dog. The award winning HydroBone® is now being joined by their new HydroBall® and HydroSaucer®.
2) If your pet needs more exercise than you have time, check out the DogTread® treadmill. It provides great fitness at home, and there will be no more traipsing out in the rain, snow, or mud with Fido!
3) Let your pet go wild with the Bubble Buddy®! This bubble blower, specially designed for dogs, uses SCENTED bubbles…like chicken or bacon! Just sit back…blow the bubbler…and let the dog exercise while chasing those tasty bubbles!
4) For those tough pups, try Kong’s Wubba…specially designed for durability and keeping your pup entertained!
BOREDOM or BEHAVIOR ISSUES can be positively handled if you have the right product.
5) The ThunderShirt® has a calming effect on the pet’s nervous system and has proven successful for that anxious canine, especially during summer storms.
6) Felines are not forgotten either when it comes to good therapeutic products! Cats that suffer from cabin fever, can safely enjoy the outdoors in their Kritter Kondo®. This easy-to- set up enclosure gives the cat a fun way to enjoy the outdoors in a safe environment.
7) A great indoor cat product is the eco-friendly cathouse system®. These cardboard kitty play houses are foldable, stackable and changeable and they provide hours of play fun for indoor cats.
NUTRITION AND FEEDING PRODUCTS. You can even find innovation on the pet food aisle!
8) Award winning and very popular KONG® continues to introduce new toys for dogs and cats. Their new KONG Wobbler® dispenses food while providing entertainment too. And now KONG® has come out with KONG Stuffin’®- a pepperoni-paste filler for the KONG toys!
9) New pet food diets are released almost every week. We strongly advise everyone to consult with your veterinarian to find the right food for your pet!
10) Veterinarians know the importance of fresh water…so much so that a veterinarian invented the fresh-flowing Drinkwell Water Fountain® system for cats and dogs.
11) And grooming has never been easier with products like FURminator®, the ultimate pet shedder too.
TRAVEL & SAFETY PRODUCTS. Today more folks are traveling with their pets, and there are many great travel and safety products available. There’s everything from GPS collars for tracking that wayward pet to cute pet themed totes, safety belts, and of course—haute couture for the pet traveler. Fun travel products are sure to add charm to Fido’s adventures.
With so many new and great pet products in the marketplace, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Key things to look for include: Award winning designations, American- made, Eco-friendly, and of course veterinarian endorsed products. Other important factors to consider when selecting the right products are your pet’s age, agility, and interests.
With a little research on-line or through your veterinarian, you’re sure to become an educated pet product consumer…and a real hero to your pet too! More
Early in my professional career, I was advised to avoid publicly discussing three controversial subject matters; politics, religion and money. Of late, the term “stem cells” could certainly be added to this short list of contentious topics. Weekly, we see news reports and read editorials on the uses of human embryonic stem cells and the moral-ethical questions surrounding the collection of these powerful cells. There are, however, new breakthroughs in the science of regenerative medicine that draw on the use of adult stem cells, harvested not from embryos but from an adult’s own body.
Research now teaches us that stem cells are an important part of a healthy body’s defense and regeneration process. Simply put, we could not thrive without these primitive repair cells. Just as embryonic stem cells have the ability to grow into a completely new human or animal, adult stem cells have the ability to change and differentiate into bone, cartilage, muscle or any tissue in the body. Recently, a detailed study on the use of fat-derived stem cells in dogs showed that animals receiving stem cells demonstrated a significant improvement in lameness when compared to dogs in the control group. In clinical trials, over 80% of pet owners report improvement after therapy. This news has excited veterinarians and pet owners alike and has many asking about the potential for a real world application.
More than 15 million (20%) dogs in North America suffer some form of degenerative joint disease, better known as osteoarthritis (OA). Unfortunately, many dog owners are completely unaware of the pain their pet is experiencing, chalking up the slow movement to the effects of “old age”. Some dogs may receive daily doses of pain relievers and oral joint care supplements. Still others might find their way to physical therapy or rehabilitation. But for some, any or all of these options are not enough to relieve the pain. Sadly, many owners decide to euthanize their faithful companion because of the severity of the pain or the continued high cost of on-going treatment.
Adult stem cell regenerative therapy is now an accepted treatment for OA and is available for both dogs and cats. Deerfield Veterinary Hospital is pleased to be the first veterinary hospital in the Ozarks to offer stem cell therapy. All of this seems pretty miraculous and for some pets, the results are truly nothing short of a life-saving miracle.
If you are trying to decide if stem cell therapy is right for your pet, please consider the following. Not all pets are considered good candidates for this therapy. Since anesthesia is involved in both the cell collection step and the reintroduction of the cells, this may not be ideal for all patients. Additionally, any dog with serious systemic disease, such as cancer, might not benefit from these treatments. Even though there has been great feedback from owners, this is not a one shot therapy. Some pets need to return regularly for follow-up treatments. Scientist report that over-exertion after treatment seems to lessen the benefits of the treatment, often leading to another trip to the veterinarian. Finally, cost will certainly come into play as owners and veterinarians discuss this option. Prices will vary among veterinarians, but in general, plan on spending at least $3000 to $3500 for initial treatments.
Arthritis can be painful and even debilitating in any dog or cat. If you suspect your pet suffers from this disease, talk with us about testing to confirm arthritis and then discuss the many treatment options. We will recommend a multi-modal approach to pain relief, combining appropriate medications, controlled exercise, weight loss, and environmental changes to make your pet’s life easier. In some cases, new technology, like stem cell therapy, can be beneficial!
This video segment from ABC’s Nightline in 2008 reviews the process of harvesting and transplanting stem cells in pets.
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