Category Archives: Cats

Common Feeding Pitfalls Resulting in Fat Cats

The wrong kind of treats. Treats may be our biggest enemy in the fat cat battle as they pack a surprising calorie punch. The average adult housecat requires only about 180 to 200 calories each day so a one inch cube of cheddar cheese (about 70 calories) can wreak havoc on your cat’s weight. When compared to an average person eating a 2000 calorie diet, this small cube of cheese is equivalent to eating 3 Hershey’s chocolate bars (690 calories) in addition to normal meals! Vet Tip: Avoid high calorie tidbits (cheese, steak, pizza, etc.) as the calories will add up quickly. Choose healthy lean meats or low calorie treats—like Halo Healthsome Cat Treats varieties.

Too many treats. Many people feed commercial cat treats which commonly have between 3 to 4 calories each. This isn’t a problem if only 5 or 6 treats are fed each day, however, some cat owners will give 20 (or more) which is equivalent to an average adult drinking 5 regular Cokes (700 calories) in addition to normal meals! Vet Tip: Give no more than 20 calories as treats each day and keep your cats total calorie intake (food and treats) around 180 or 200 calories. Even Halo’s Healthsome Cat Treats—with only 1.5 calories each—should be given in moderation.

Large food portions. The average commercial cat food has around 400 calories per cup, therefore the typical cat portion is around ½ cup each day. Vet Tip: Use a level measuring cup when feeding your cat. Don’t make it a rounded cup or a heaping tablespoon as those extra calories will be enough over time to cause your cat to pack on the pounds.

Quick tip on feeding guidelines: If your cat is 13 or more pounds, he is likely overweight or obese and feeding him according to the recommendations found on the food bag is likely to result in continued weight gain. You must feed your cat according to their ideal body weight…not their “over”-weight!

Free-feeding. Leaving food out in the bowl all day long is a recipe for disaster. Cats will eat when bored or when just walking by…instead of when really hungry. Vet Tip: Skip leaving dry food out all day and make a real meal time. This strategy is particularly important for rescue or previously stray cats. These cats, unaccustomed to food being readily available, will often become obese due to overeating if they are free-fed.

Competition for food. In households with multiple cats, when one cat goes to the food bowl others are often driven there out of curiosity or competitive instinct instead of real hunger. Vet Tip: Change to meal feeding or consider separate feeding rooms if there is real competition.

Source: Halopets

Do Cats Really Love You Less Than Dogs?

Recently, I’ve seen a rash of concerning Internet headlines in reference to a new research study. The headlines might lead you to believe that cats love you less than dogs, however, these headlines are misleading and don’t give an accurate overview of what the study really found.
According to the PLOS One website, where the study by Alice Potter and Daniel Mills is published, it involved twenty guardian-cat pairs. The cats were placed in two rooms with two chairs (one for the guardian and one for a stranger) along with some cat toys and covered windows. A video camera taped the interaction between each cat, the guardian and the stranger during a variety of behaviors (guardian leaving and returning, stranger leaving and returning, etc.) The researchers used a test known as the “Ainsworth Strange Situation” to gauge the behavior of the cats in terms of how much attachment the cats appeared to have with their guardians.

The ‘Secure Attachment’ study results
Researchers found that cats in the test did vocalize more when their guardian left, compared to the stranger leaving, but they “didn’t see any additional evidence to suggest that the bond between a cat and guardian is one of secure attachment.”

The researchers indeed found that “many aspects of the behavior of cats…are not consistent with the characteristics of attachment.” However, they also noted that the test did not look into whether there may be differences in attachment between cats that are indoor only and indoor/outdoor, and they also noted that the test they used may not have been  an effective instrument to determine cats’ attachments to guardians. Specifically, they stated that “…we do not wish to imply that cats do not form some form of affectionate social relationship or bond with their owners…only that the relationship with the primary caregiver is not typically characterized by a preference for that individual based on them providing safety and security for the cat.”

What does all of this really mean?
What this means is that cats do not display the same sort of attachment to their guardians that dogs do in terms of seeing the guardian as a source of safety and display more behaviors that we would term “independent.” This does not mean at all that cats do not enjoy their relationship with their guardians – they simply seek human companionship for different reasons and in different ways from canines.

For example, the study found that when using the Ainsworth test with dogs, standing by the door, where the guardian had exited, was a key measure for determining attachment and even separation anxiety. They did not see this behavior among the cats in the study, but that may not be because cats don’t miss you – the researchers note this could be due to the fact that “cats do not show distress in this way.”

Within a cat’s social network, you do not see the same kind of strong social bonds that you will see in groupings of dogs. This may be due to cats being more solitary hunters and not needing to bond as closely with social groups in order to survive1.

Unlike dogs, who have been working and living with humans far longer, cats do not look to people for their daily needs. However, they do clearly form social bonds with their owners and show “affectionate” behavior, as well as a preference for their guardian(s) over non-household humans. In short, don’t let catchy headlines make you doubt your cat’s love.


Thyroid Tumor Surgery in Cats


Did you know that cats can have a hyperactive thyroid gland? Also known as hyperthyroidism, it’s a fairly common condition in older cats. In fact, the vast majority of affected cats are older than 10 years of age. Most of the time, the reason is either a benign tumor or benign enlargement of the thyroid gland(s).

What is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is when thyroid glands work overtime and produce too much thyroid hormone. Because this hormone controls many organs, it can lead to multiple consequences:

• Weight loss, despite an increase in appetite
• Vomiting and/or diarrhea
• Irritable or aggressive behavior
• Increased drinking and urination
• Increased heart rate
• A heart murmur
• Poor hair coat
• Increased activity
Occasionally, a chubby couch potato kitty with gorgeous hair may turn into a skinny old cat with a rough hair coat, running around the house like a maniac.

How is hyperthyroidism diagnosed?
Since some of the signs of hyperthyroidism can be similar to other diseases, it’s important to perform a full work up. This starts with a thorough physical exam. A small nodule on the thyroid can often be felt by your veterinarian.

Blood work, including measurement of the thyroid hormone level, is the next logical step. The increased metabolic rate of hyperthyroidism can hide kidney issues and cause heart complications, so both should be monitored before and after treatment has been started. This requires blood work, X-rays and ultrasound.

How is hyperthyroidism treated?
There are several treatment options:

Methimazole is a medication that fights hyperthyroidism. It is usually given by mouth, every single day. Methimazole can also be compounded into a cream which is applied to the skin or the ear daily (transdermal application).This is a life-long treatment.
I know about at least one special diet that is very low in iodine, and was introduced a few years ago. If your veterinarian recommends this option, this is the only food your cat should eat for good results.
Veterinary endocrinologists consider IV radioactive iodine treatment as the gold standard for hyperthyroidism.
Surgery to remove the tumor is an option, although it is less and less common. It’s a delicate surgery but in good hands, it is highly successful.
What are the risks of thyroid surgery?
In addition to the risks of anesthesia [see common anesthesia myths here], one of the main risks of surgery is damage or accidental removal of the parathyroid glands. There are two parathyroid glands on each side: one inside each thyroid gland, and one just outside of each thyroid gland. When we remove the thyroid gland, we remove the “internal” parathyroid gland. If we remove both thyroid glands, then we remove both internal parathyroid glands. So there are only two external parathyroid glands left. If they are removed accidentally, along with a large thyroid mass, or if they are damaged during surgery, then three or even all four parathyroid glands might be removed.

As a consequence, the cat may have a complication called hypocalcemia, which means that the calcium levels in the blood stream are dangerously low.

What medications are needed after thyroid surgery?
Besides the usual pain medications and antibiotics, the hypocalcemia (low calcium) needs to be managed if it develops. This is typically done by giving calcium supplements and/or vitamin D. Their dosages are slowly tapered over time as the body slowly takes over. In addition, calcium is provided once the cat eats enough food.

What is the outcome of hyperthyroidism treatment?
Thyroid cancer (adenocarcinoma) is an aggressive tumor but thankfully very rare. The outcome for that is usually poor.

Benign tumors (adenomas) and benign enlargement of the thyroid gland are much more common and have a much better outcome. However, the outcome also depends on whether complications occur with the kidneys or the heart. Most cats live years after the initial diagnosis.

As with any disease, the sooner you address it, the more options you have and the better the outcome. If your cat is acting out of sorts in any way, please see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Questions to ask your vet if your cat has a thyroid mass:

What is the best treatment for my cat?
What are the risks of anesthesia?
What are the risks of surgery?
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


5 “Silent” Killers of Cats


When it comes to caring for your cat, I have a few simple recommendations:

  • Maintain A safe environment (keep him indoors)
  • Feed a high quality food (e.g., a meat-based protein)
  • Think about preventative care (e.g., an annual physical examination, laboratory tests, and the appropriate vaccines)
  • Provide lots of affection and exercise

By following these basic tips, you can help keep your four-legged, feline friends healthy–potentially for decades! But as cat guardians, you should also be aware of five “silent” killers in cats. By knowing what the most common silent killers are, you can know what clinical signs to look for. With most of these diseases, the sooner the clinical signs are recognized, the sooner we veterinarians can treat.

1. Chronic kidney disease
One of the top silent killers of cats is chronic kidney disease (CKD) (This is sometimes called chronic renal failure or chronic kidney injury). These terms are all semantically the same, and basically mean that 75% of both the kidneys are ineffective and not working. Clinical signs of CRD include:

  • Excessive drinking
  • Excessive urinating
  • Larger clumps in the litter box
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath (due to toxins building up in the blood and causing ulcers in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach)
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding

Thankfully, with appropriate management, cats can live with CKD for years (unlike dogs where CKD usually progresses more rapidly). Chronic management may include a low-protein diet, frequent blood work, increasing water intake (e.g., with a water fountain or by feeding a grueled canned food), medications and even fluids under the skin (which many pet guardians do at home, once properly trained).

Tri-colored cat looking up

2. Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism is an endocrine disease where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This is seen in middle-aged to geriatric cats, and can result in very similar clinical signs to chronic kidney disease including:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased water consumption/urination
  • Vomiting/diarrhea
  • Weight loss

However, as hyperthyroidism increases the metabolism of cats, it causes one defining sign: a ravenous appetite despite weight loss. It can also result in:

  • A racing heart rate
  • Severe hypertension (resulting in acute blood loss, neurologic signs, or even a clot or stroke)
  • Secondary organ injury (e.g., a heart murmur or changes to the kidney)

Thankfully, treatment for hyperthyroidism is very effective and includes either a medication (called methimazole, surgical removal of the thyroid glands (less commonly done), a special prescription diet called y/d® Feline Thyroid Health), or I131 radioiodine therapy. With hyperthyroidism, the sooner you treat it, the less potential side effects or organ damage will occur in your cat.

Big cat on couch

3. Diabetes mellitus
Another costly, silent killer that affects cats is diabetes mellitus (DM). As many of our cats are often overweight to obese, they are at a greater risk for DM. With diabetes, the pancreas fails to secrete adequate amounts of insulin (Type I DM) or there is resistance to insulin (Type II DM). Insulin is a natural hormone that drives sugar (i.e., blood glucose) into the cells. As a result of the cells starving for glucose, the body makes more and more glucose, causing hyperglycemia (i.e., a high blood sugar) and many of the clinical signs seen with DM. Common clinical signs for DM are similar to those of Chronic kidney disease and hyperthyroidism and include:

  • Excessive urination and thirst
  • Larger clumps in the litter box
  • An overweight or obese body condition with muscle wasting (especially over the spine or back) or weight loss
  • A decreased or ravenous appetite
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal breath (e.g., acetone breath)
  • Walking abnormally (e.g., lower to the ground)

Treatment for DM can be costly, as it requires twice-a-day insulin injections that you have to give under the skin. It also requires changes in diet (to a high protein, low carbohydrate diet), frequent blood glucose monitoring, and frequent veterinary visits. With supportive care and chronic management, cats can do reasonably well; however, once diabetic complications develop (e.g., diabetic ketoacidosis, hyperosmolar, hyperglycemic syndrome), DM can be life threatening.

Ragdoll with flowers

4. Cardiac disease
Heart disease is very frustrating for both cat owners and veterinarians. That’s because, while dogs almost always have a loud heart murmur (i.e., one we can hear with our stethoscope) indicative of heart disease, cats often don’t have a heart murmur present. In fact, it’s estimated that 50% of cats with heart disease have no auscultable heart murmur. Clinical signs of heart disease include:

  • A heart murmur
  • An abnormal heart rhythm (e.g., an abnormal beat and rhythm)
  • A racing heart rate
  • Collapse
  • Passing out (e.g., syncope)
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blue-tinged gums
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Acute, sudden paralysis (e.g., typically of the hind limbs)
  • Cold, painful hind limbs
  • Sudden pain
  • Sudden lameness
  • Sudden death

Once cardiac disease is diagnosed (typically based on physical exam, chest radio graphs, Cardiopet® proBNP Test, and an ultrasound of the heart called an “echo cardiogram”), treatment may include emergency care for oxygen therapy, diuretics, blood pressure support, and heart medications. Long-term prognosis is poor, as the heart medication does not cure the heart disease; it prevents cardiac disease from getting worse. The exception is when cardiac disease is caused by hyperthyroidism, which often gets better once the hyperthyroidism is treated!

Bengal laying down5. Cancer
As dogs and cats live longer, we as veterinarians are seeing more cases of cancer. The most common type of cancer in cats is gastrointestinal cancer, often due to lymphosarcoma. Clinical signs of cancer include:

  • Weight loss
  • Not eating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal distension or bloating
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding
  • Fever
  • Generalized malaise

Once diagnosed, the prognosis for cancer is poor. For this reason, the sooner you notice clinical signs, the sooner diagnosis and treatment may be initiated.

Note that there are other common emergencies that can cause death in cats, including trauma, urinary obstructions, poisonings, and more. When in doubt, to keep your cat safe, follow these 5 simple tips:

  1. Keep your cat indoors to prevent any trauma (e.g., being hit by a car, attacked by a dog, accidentally poisoned, etc.)
  2. Make sure to keep your cat’s weight down – this can help prevent costly problems due to obesity such as diabetes down the line.
  3. Make sure to schedule your annual visit with your veterinarian. This is especially important as we can pick up on physical abnormalities sooner. Note that even if your cat is indoors, she still needs an annual exam; you may be able to skip some of the vaccines (and schedule them to every third year instead) but don’t skip on the exam!
  4. Keep the litter box clean. While this sounds simple, frequent and daily cleaning of the box is a must. Not only will this alert you to life-threatening emergencies like feline urethral obstructions, but it’ll make you aware if your cat is urinating more or less than usual — and help you pick up medical problems sooner!
  5. Seek veterinary attention as soon as you notice any clinical signs – not months after your cat has been urinating and drinking excessively!

When it comes to your cat’s health, make sure you’re aware of these common silent killers. The sooner you notice the signs, the sooner we can run blood work and diagnose the medical problem. The sooner we diagnose the problem, the sooner we can treat it!