What is Feline Acne?
Acne is a blockage of hair follicles with a mixture of keratin (dead, dry skin) and sebum (the hair oils). This forms a plug in the follicle known as a 'comedone' ' more commonly referred to as a 'blackhead'. In cats this usually occurs on the chin, but can also affect the lips and other parts of the face occasionally. It looks like small particles of dirt on the skin, but does not wash off easily.
What causes Feline Acne?
In cats acne is a fairly common condition that seems to have no age, sex or breed predilection. It may be related to poor cleaning of the face, particularly after eating, or it may be a functional problem of the follicles.
How much of a problem is feline acne if a cat has it?
In most cases, acne will cause the cat no problem. However, a blocked follicle may become infected by skin bacteria and produce scabs, a swelling or even an abscess. If the infection is severe, the cat may become depressed, but usually it is just painful and unsightly.
What treatment is there for feline acne?
If your cat has acne, simply expressing the blackheads from the follicles will help. Cleaning agents can be used to help clean out the follicles e.g. ethyl alcohol, chlorhexidine or benzoyl peroxide. If infection is present, antibiotics will help clear this up ' particularly if the chin is quite swollen. In many cases, however, the acne will cause the cat no problem even if untreated.
What is amuputation?
Amputation of body parts is often performed in dogs and cats. In this case we are talking about amputation of body parts for medical reasons, such as severe damage or tumours, rather than fashion reasons, such as in tail docking, ear cropping, declawing in cats or the removal of dew claws in dogs.
Will amputation affect my pet?
Most owners are shocked when amputation is suggested by the vet. This is because the procedure is thought of as having severe psychological consequences, at least in humans. Pets are not affected by this and will often have totally normal and happy lives after amputation of body parts. This includes toes, legs, tails (or part thereof), ears, nails etc. We will describe all of those in turn.
Why is amputation performed?
Toes are sometimes amputated when they are severely damaged, for instance after a road traffic accident, or affected by a persistent infection or tumour. Most dogs and cats will cope perfectly well with one or even several toes less than normal. The procedure is comparatively simple and most patients will walk normally within days.
An entire leg can be amputated as well. This can be a front leg or a hind leg. This is done for the same reasons as those mentioned for toes. Cats especially are very good at coping with three legs. They will often be able to jump and run, even climb trees, within days to weeks. In dogs, the larger breeds have more difficulty with coping on three legs, but it is never impossible. It is a prerequisite though that the disease process does not severely affect any other parts of the body, and that the other legs are strong enough to carry the entire weight of the animal. In nearly all cases, amputation of a single leg is a better option than euthanasia, which is often the only other �treatment� option open to the patient. Tail amputations are performed for several reasons. Again, severe damage and tumours are common reasons. Paralysis is also a common reason though, especially in cats. Cats can be suffering from paralysed tails after accidents, where damage has been done to the pelvic area, involving the nerve supply to the tail. Some cats will get some feeling back in the tail, but if they do not, the tail can be easily damaged, causing possible further problems for the cat involved. Therefore, it is often suggested to amputate permanently paralysed tails in cats. In cases of damage or tumours, only the affected part of the tail needs to be removed. Most vets will try and save as much of the tail as possible.Ears are sometimes amputated, or parts of them, especially in cats. Again, damage or tumours are possible reasons, but in cats there is another: cats, especially white ones, can be affected by sunburn, to the extent where the earflap is severely burned and infected. They can also have a certain type of skin cancer, which requires amputation of the ear flap. Apart from a very individual look, these cats are not affected in any way by the amputation. Nails sometimes have to be amputated, for instance in cases of severe bacterial or fungal infections, auto-immune diseases or parasitic conditions. Even if all the nails have to be amputated, pets can still walk perfectly normal. In all cases of amputation your vet will be able to discuss with you the pros and cons of the procedure, as well as the expected quality of life after the procedure. Never make a hasty decision not to have your pet treated in this way, based on ideas from the equivalent in humans.
What is anaemia?
Anaemia is a shortage of the pigment haemoglobin in the blood. This pigment is what gives blood its red colour. It is caused by either a shortage of red blood cells or by a shortage of the pigment within the red blood cells. Haemoglobin carries oxygen around the body. Anaemia is not a disease itself, but rather a consequence of different diseases or conditions.
What are the causes of anaemia?
There are three possible reasons for anaemia:
(1) Blood loss: This in itself can be caused by for instance external and internal bleedings (often the result of trauma), blood sucking parasites (fleas, ticks etc.), bleeding tumours or conditions which cause ineffective blood clotting (rat poison, liver disease etc.). (2) Destruction of red blood cells: This can be the result of certain parasites, toxins, auto-immune disease or some tumours. (3) Insufficient red blood cell production: This can be caused by severe chronic disease, poor nutrition, auto-immune disease, hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid gland), toxins or certain tumours. Iron deficiency is not a common reason for anaemia in dogs, unlike in humans, but is possible in principle.
How is anaemia diagnosed?
To diagnose anaemia your vet will perform a full clinical examination on your pet. He may find pale mucous membranes, for instance inside the mouth or on the inside of the eyelids. Dogs with anaemia will often appear lethargic and have a decreased exercise tolerance. Some dogs may have a fast and weak pulse and some may have a heart murmur. In most cases it will be necessary to do blood tests as well. Your vet will determine the haematocrit or PCV (packed cell volume), which is the percentage of red blood cells within the blood. If this falls below 35%, your dog is diagnosed as anaemic. Blood smears are often examined for the presence of young, immature red blood cells. This is to check whether the body is actually making new red blood cells in the bone marrow. Parasites are also sometimes found on a blood smear. In some cases it may be necessary to perform other tests as well, such as a biochemistry profile, to check for underlying diseases, faecal examinations, to check for certain parasites, bone marrow biopsies etc.
How is anaemia treated?
Treatment of anaemia is totally dependent on the cause of the anaemia. Only in severe cases (generally if the PCV falls below 10%) is a blood transfusion necessary. Your vet may have set up a blood donor scheme to make this treatment possible. Most dogs do not need a blood group test for their first blood transfusion.
Q. Aural Haematoma
What is an Aural Haematoma?
An aural haematoma is a swelling of the pinna (the ear flap) which is filled with blood or a blood stained fluid. This can be small or may affect the whole ear causing a gross distortion of the ear flap.
What causes an Aural Haematoma?
Aural haematomas are uncommon in cats. The cause is usually some form of trauma to the ear which causes a blood vessel to burst and a separation of the attachment of the skin to the underlying cartilage that give the ear its shape to form a pocket that can fill with blood. Head shaking because of an ear infection is possible, but since cat�s ears are fairly rigid and do not flap around when the head is shaken, this is unlikely. More common would be a blow to the head (e.g. during an RTA) or from fighting. In the latter case the haematoma may become infected and become an abscess.
What is the treatment for an aural haematoma?
If the swelling is not infected, drainage of the haematoma can help, but frequently the swelling will refill rapidly as the lining to the space still bleeds or produces an inflammatory exudate. They will resolve of left untreated, but there is a tendency towards scarring resulting in a �cauliflower ear�. Treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs will reduce the fluid production and scarring, making it resolve faster and with much better cosmetic results. Another viable method is surgery to drain the cavity and stitch it closed.
If the swelling is infected and becomes an abscess, drainage and antibiotics will be necessary.
Q. Cat Scratch Disease
What is Cat Scratch Disease?
Cat scratch disease is actually a disease in humans that may be associated with cat ownership, particularly following bites or scratches from cats. The disease is not fully understood, but is usually not serious. If trauma is involved, a skin reaction resembling an insect bite appears at the site of the injury, then clears up. About 3 weeks later local lymph glands (like those in your throat that can enlarge with a cold or flu) enlarge and there may be a low grade fever. In rare cases a more generalised gland enlargement can occurs, and in even rarer cases even become a meningitis. Even the most severe forms are readily treated. Only in people with a suppressed immune system, such as AIDS victims or people on chemotherapy, ever suffer life threatening consequences.
What causes Cat Scratch Disease?
The cause is an infection, most likely a very small bacteria called Bartonella henselae. Exactly how it is passed on is uncertain, despite the name of the disease. Cat scratches and bites are often related to contracting the disease, but the victims can simply be subject to licking and indirect contact with cats. The presence of flea or tick infestation does seem to increase the risk, which might explain why most cases occur in the autumn or winter. It could be that these biting parasites are passing the disease on.
What risk is there of catching the disease from a pet?
The number of reported cases of this disease are low, but it is likely than many are not diagnosed as the symptoms are mild and resolve without treatment. Most cases are seen in people under 20 years of age, although it can occur at any age. A kitten (less than 1 year of age) is more likely to be involved than an adult cat. Having a kitten with flea or tick infestation, or access to the outside makes infection more likely.
What can be done to prevent Cat Scratch Disease?
At the moment, there is not enough information to give accurate advice, but it is likely that responsible pet ownership and minor first aid could prevent most cases. Ensure that your cat is treated against fleas and ticks, particularly kittens with outside access. If you receive any injury from bites or scratches, clean them with soap or antiseptic before they seal with a scab. This is good advice anyway, even without the existence of this disease.
Remember, this is not a serious disease so its existence should not affect your relationship with your cat. However, if you have AIDS or are receiving medication that will lower your immune system, discuss the situation with your doctor as there are also other infections that a cat could carry that are a risk to such people (see also Toxoplasmosis).
What is Coccidiosis?
Coccidiosis is infection of the gut by coccidia. Coccidia are protzoan parasites (single cell creatures). They are usually species of Eimeria or Isospora.
How do dogs & cats catch Coccidiosis?
As gut parasites, they are spread by what is known as the faeco-oral route. The infective form is passed in the faeces and must be ingested to cause infection. The does not necessarily mean that faeces must be eaten to catch the parasite (although some dogs will do this). When the faeces decompose and break down, the infective oocysts are left on the ground and can be picked up when sniffing, scavenging or cleaning the feet after walking on them. Infection is very common with most cats and dogs being infected at some stage during their lives.
What problems do Coccidiosis cause?
Coccidiosis can cause enteritis and diarrhoea associated with the growth of the parasite in the gut, sometimes with blood in the faeces. The diarrhoea is usually mild, but in severe infections in very young animals can become life threatening. Disease is most often seen in kittens and puppies under a few months of age, or animals that are stressed or otherwise have a suppressed immune system. In most adult infections, coccidia cause no problem at all, although the parasites may be present and infective oocysts are being passed in the faeces.
How can coccidiosis be diagnosed?
Examination of the faeces under a microscope can identify the oocysts that are passed.
What is the treatment for coccidiosis?
Sulphonamide antibiotics are effective in treating this condition.
What is Constipation?
Constipation is a difficulty in passing faeces so that emptying of the rectum is delayed or incomplete. In extreme cases, failure may be complete and no faeces are passed at all but build up in the rectum and colon
What causes Constipation?
There are several factors that may contribute to constipation and the cause will vary with the individual cat. Constipation is commonest in overweight and inactive cats. Faeces are passed when the cat is active, so when they are inactive for long periods, they tend to build up. These cats also don't tend to hunt, so get little fibre. Physical obstruction can be a problem, especially in cats with pelvic injuries from being involved in an accident, and it is possible that fat in the pelvic canal is a factor in overweight cats. Any growth interfering in the pelvis can contribute, but this is not often a factor in cats. Diet may also be a factor, particularly a lack of dietary fibre. Dietary fibre contributes to faecal bulk and without it faeces do not build up as quickly. Since defecation is stimulated by faecal bulk in the rectum, this means that faeces remain in the rectum & colon longer before being passed. The colon continues to remove fluid from the faeces and by the time they are passed they will be dryer and firmer and harder to pass. The natural source of fibre for a cat is the feathers, hair & bones of their prey. Most diets for cats don't contain these things.
Damage to the nerves operating the defecating function can cause a problem after injuries, but since the colon has some reflex activity of the muscle of its wall that does not rely on a nerve supply, this is not often a problem. However, in many cats that suffer constipation this reflex muscle activity is reduced or even absent, so that even if dietary factors are corrected they may still get problems. The reason for this inactivity is uncertain, although it appears that long term stretching of the wall of the colon will cause it to worsen with time. It is unclear whether this only occurs as a consequence of long term constipation caused by other factors, or whether a reduced activity, possibly for genetic reasons, is the cause of the problem.
How can you tell if a cat is constipated?
The main sign is a lack of faeces passed. This can difficult to assess, as most cats prefer to go outside to the toilet. When the blockage becomes large they will become uncomfortable, restless, have a reduced appetite and may vomit. Repeated attempts to pass faeces will be ineffective, although small amounts of quite fluid faeces are sometimes passed around the blockage.
Your vet will be able to feel for the presence of a blockage and may be able to teach you how to feel for one if your cat gets repeated problems.
How can constipation be prevented?
If a cat is prone to constipation, regular use of a lubricant like Katalax will help. Also adding faecal bulking agents to the food may help. A diet with added fibre may help and will be available from you vet. Another method is a substance called Sterculia (Peridale, Arnolds) which helps trap water in the gut without causing diarrhoea. It requires only a very small amount of flavourless granules added to the food or administered in a capsule. Fibogel can be used in cats, but take care selecting the flavour - most cats don't like citrus flavours. The key thing is to find a regime that works and stick to it.
Q. Corneal ulcers
What is a corneal ulcer?
A corneal ulcer is an erosion of the superficial layer (epithelium) of the cornea, which is the clear membrane at the front of the eye.
How is it caused?
Most corneal ulcers are caused by trauma, such as a cat scratch, a branch in the bushes, or rubbing the eye against something. Another possibility is a chemical burn, for instance by erosive fluids or even irritating shampoo. Some infections and systemic diseases can also cause ulcers. Finally, a lack of tears, such as in the condition called 'dry eye' (or Kerato-Conjunctivitis Sicca) can also lead to ulcers.
How is it diagnosed?
A corneal ulcer is very painful and the cat will scratch or rub the eye, close its eyelids and possibly have a discharge from the eye. It may show as a clouding of the normally clear cornea, sometimes with small blood vessels around the periphery of the cornea. Your vet will often have to perform a special staining test on the eye, sometimes after the application of local anaesthetic drops, to diagnose a corneal ulcer.
What is the treatment?
Treatment of corneal ulcers will vary with the degree or depth of the ulceration. Mostly it will be in the shape of eye drops or ointment. In some cases it may be necessary to perform minor surgery on the affected eye by removing the loose edges of the ulcer. This can be done under local anaesthetic in some, but not all, patients. Others may need a general anaesthetic. In some cases your vet may decide to perform a 'third eyelid flap', whereby the third eyelid, the small membrane in the inside corner of the eye, is stitched over the corneal ulcer to help the healing process. Nowadays, it is also possible to protect the eye, and therefore its cornea, with special veterinary contact lenses. In this way, the patient will still be able to see and the vet can keep an eye on the healing process. At the end of the prescribed treatment period your vet will have to do the staining test again to check whether the entire ulcer has healed.
Q. Cryosurgery or Cryotherapy
What is cryosurgery?
Cryosurgery involves the controlled freezing of tissue to establish dying off of this tissue. This happens because the blood supply to the tissue is destroyed. The sensory nerves in the direct area are often destroyed as well, leading to a lack of pain. Cryosurgery has been used for a long time. Several substances can be used to this purpose. Common ones are liquid nitrogen, carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide. These substances are administered to the patient by using a gun-type apparatus with exchangeable tips to freeze only the target tissue.
What is cryosurgery used for?
Lesions which are commonly treated with cryosurgery, or tumours in inaccessible places for conventional surgery, such as for instance in the mouth or around the anus. It may also be used if a general anaesthetic is considered to be too risky, for instance in elderly patients or those with kidney- or liver disease.
Is treatment painful?
The treatment itself can initially be painful. For this reason patients are either anaesthetised, or perhaps sedated and treated with local anaesthetic. After the first treatment follow up treatment is often not painful anymore. Many patients require more than one session of cryosurgery, usually with about one week in between. After the treatment the tissue which has been destroyed will slough off in several days. This may lead to some discharge. The wounds are normally not infected as the cryosurgery also kills any bacteria present. However, your vet may prescribe antibiotics if the treatment leads to large wounds.
Is it effective?
Some cases are totally cured with cryosurgery, such as small warts or skin tumours. Other cases may be alleviated only, for instance by reducing the size of a tumour or relieving pain.
Q. Cushing's Disease, also Hyperadrenocorticism
What is Cushing's Disease?
Cushing's Disease is an overproduction of the hormone Cortisol by the adrenal gland. Cortisol is a hormone that is produced during stress to help the body release energy to respond to whatever caused the stress (part of the Fight & Flight response). When this hormone is elevated for long periods of time, it causes changes in the body.
What are the signs of Cushing's Disease?
A cat with Cushing's disease may drink excessively and have a tendency to put on weight. There are changes in the hair coat, usually becoming thin on the flanks and underneath although some produce a longer and thicker coat. The skin becomes thinner, particularly under the abdomen, and scabs and crusting may be seen. The muscles are weakened by the long term high Cortisol levels, causing the abdomen to sag, the limbs to become weaker and sometimes the back will sag. The immune system is suppressed making infections more likely, particularly of the skin. Female cats often get bouts of bacterial cystitis (bladder infection).
The signs of Cushing's disease come on very gradually and since the disease most often affects old cats, the changes are often attributed to the animal's old age. It is usually the excessive thirst that first warns of a real problem, particularly as the increased urine output and weakened muscles can result in urination indoors at night. In younger cats, they appear to age prematurely, but this is actually a result of the disease. In rare cases neurological signs can occur along with Cushing's disease. This can be a problem with the nerves or relating to the tumour in the brain. What neurological signs are seen is very variable. Diabetes can occur as a secondary consequence of Cushing's disease. The main sign of diabetes is excessive thirst and urination as well, so sometimes it is hard to see what the primary disease is. The secondary effects of Diabetes, such as cataracts, may be seen.
What causes Cushing's Disease?
The problem is an adrenal gland that is overproducing the hormone Cortisol. There are two main reasons that this can occur.
The commonest reason (about 90% of cases) is a small growth in the Pituitary Gland ' a region of the brain that controls the production of hormones. This tumour produces too much of a hormone messenger that tells the adrenal gland to produce Cortisol. The tumour is usually very small and does not spread or cause any other damage to the brain, although in some cases it can get big enough to press on other areas of the brain.The less common reason is a tumour of the adrenal gland itself that produces Cortisol in large amounts regardless of the message from the brain ' it is out of control. Many of these adrenal tumours are malignant and can spread to other parts of the body. How can Cushing's disease be diagnosed?
Although the appearance and thirst of a cat may suggest Cushing's disease, none of the signs definitely distinguish it from other diseases. Blood tests are required to diagnose this disease. A general blood screen will give some indication that Cushing's disease may be indicated, but a specific test must be done to confirm it.
There are two main tests for Cushing's. The most commonly used (and quickest) is the ACTH stimulation test. Two blood samples are taken before and 1 hour after injecting ACTH (the hormone messenger to stimulate the adrenal gland to produce cortisol). The other is the Dexamethasone Supression Test that involves three samples taken over an 8 hour period and a steroid injection.
There is also a test that will determine between the two causes of Cushing's disease which is the same as the Dexamethasone Supression Test, but uses higher doses of steroids.
What is the treatment for Cushing's disease?
The only permanent cure for Cushing's disease is to remove the tumour that is causing the problem. This is only a realistic option if there is a tumour of the adrenal gland that affects only one gland and is not malignant. To get at the growth in the pituitary gland requires brain surgery. The usual treatment used is a drug called mitotane. This is a type of chemotherapy drug that attacks the adrenal glands, and if used in high enough doses can destroy the glands completely. It is usual to carefully work out the dose of the drug to suppress the adrenal gland enough to lower the Cortisol levels to something near normal, preventing signs of Cushing's disease. The drug is given daily for a time to start with, and then at a longer intervals afterwards (often weekly) to keep the adrenals suppressed. This drug can have dramatic side effects in the starting period, mainly associated with excessive destruction of the adrenal glands and requiring replacement of cortisol to correct.
As mentioned above, it is possible to try and destroy the gland completely with these drugs, but if this is done the cat must receive hormone replacement treatment and the chances of dramatic side effects in the starting period are higher. There are a couple of other drugs that can be used in the treatment of Cushing's disease, but neither is as effective, nor do they have any great advantages in cost or safety.
Since many cats that develop Cushing's disease are very old, many owners opt not to treat their animals. The disease is generally debilitating rather than fatal, so some people are prepared to accept an ageing, weakened cat rather than use treatment. It is usually the younger cats with Cushing's that get treatment.
What is dehydration?
Dehydration is a reduction in the normal amount of water in the body. Mammals are 60-70% water and this is vital for normal function of the body.
What are the signs of dehydration?
The signs of dehydration will vary with the severity. The main test for dehydration is to pull up the scruff of the animal and let is fall back into place. In a normal animal it should drop immediately back into place, but in dehydration it falls back slowly, known as 'skin tenting'. The skin generally moves about over the body less freely, so feels a bit dry. In severe dehydration, the eyes become sunken and the third eyelids may come across.
It should be noted, however, that Siamese cats often show the 'skin tenting' even when they are normal.
What causes dehydration?
The problem is a greater loss of water than intake. Normally the body responds to loss of water by reducing urine output from the kidneys and increasing thirst. If either is disturbed, dehydration may result.
The main causes of dehydration are vomiting, diarrhoea, failure to eat or drink and kidney disease. These can be a part of many disease processes and almost any disease process that causes an animal to feel ill.It is possible for an animal to become dehydrated even if it is still drinking, particularly with kidney disease. The drinking is often increased in kidney disease, but it still can't keep up with the loss from the kidneys. How serious is dehydration?
The significance of dehydration depends on its severity. Mild dehydration can often be ignored if the underlying disease is treated and the animal will get better quickly. Severe dehydration, however, cannot be ignored as the circulation can fail if there is not enough fluid to keep it going properly. It can also damage the kidneys if allowed to go on for too long.
What is the treatment for dehydration?
Dehydration is treated with fluid replacement therapy. If dehydration is mild and drinking is not a problem, oral fluids may be sufficient. Oral re-hydration fluids containing glucose and salt are better than plain water for re-hydration. Fluids can be given under the skin by injection to re-hydrate an animal. There is a limit to how much fluid can be given by this method and it can be a little painful. It is usually only use in very small animals where the veins are too small to give the fluids as a drip.
If dehydration is severe, fluids may have to be given by an intravenous drip, particularly if the fluid loss is continuing (e.g. severe diarrhoea & vomiting). A catheter is placed in one of the leg veins and bag a sterile fluid is connected. The fluids contain salts and sometimes glucose at the same concentration as in the blood to replace what has been lost. The rate at which the fluid is given can be varied according to how much is needed.
Fluids can also be given into the abdomen or even into the bone marrow if necessary, but these methods are usually only used if a vein is not possible ' usually because of small size.
What is dermatitis?
The term dermatitis is used to refer to any inflammatory condition of the skin. As such it is not a single disease, but can be part of many disease processes.
What are the signs of dermatitis?
The most consistent signs of dermatitis are itchiness and a degree of reddening of the skin. Apart from this the signs will depend somewhat on the severity and cause. There may be scabs, sores, crusting, pustules, flaking, oily discharge, serous discharge, thickening, colour changes (usually darker or redder), hair loss and in extreme cases bleeding.
Very often the signs seen with dermatitis are affected by the reaction of the animal. Scratching and biting at the skin will cause damage to the skin.
There are a great number of causes of dermatitis in cats & dogs. The general groups of causes and some specific causes are listed below. Parasites ' fleas ' either by number of bites in bad infestation or flea allergy ' mange mites ' Sarcoptic Mange (also known as 'Fox mange') is very itchy ' Harvest Mites
Allergies ' Flea Allergy ' if an animal is allergic to fleas, it only requires very small number to cause a bad reaction ' Food Allergy ' dogs in particular usually show dermatitis if they are allergic to something they eat rather than any signs affecting the gut. ' Seasonal Allergies ' the animal is sensitive to something that is only around at certain times of year ' usually the summer months. Pollens are often responsible. ' Atopy ' this is a condition is which the animal has an immune system which is prone to developing allergic reactions to all kinds of things.Infections ' Pyoderma ' bacterial infection of the skin. This is often a secondary part of skin disease rather than a primary cause. Scratching damages the barriers that normally prevent bacteria from invading the skin. ' Juvenille Facial Pyoderma ' a bacterial infection of the follicles of the face and chin in young dogs of certain breed ' particularly Boxers, Bulldogs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. ' Ringworm ' a fungal skin infection ' Malassezia ' a yeast-like fungus that can infect warm, moist areas of skin. ' Poxvirus ' a viral infection that causes skin lesions in cats. ' Mycobacterial granulomas ' a nodular skin disease in cats that can break out into dermatitis Seborrheoa ' an abnormal condition of the production of oils on the skin that can be very greasy or cause lots of dry flakiness. Either form can cause irritation and a tendency to skin infections.
What is the treatment for dermatitis?
Treatment of dermatitis is a very large area and will vary greatly dependent on the cause of the problem. Typical treatments will include antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drugs in tablets and/or creams, accompanied by skin washes and shampoos. Anti-parasitic treatments are used where parasites are involved. There are also treatments that will influence the immune reaction in allergic dogs.
Q. Diabetes Insipidus
What is diabetes insipidus?
Diabetes insipidus is a hormonal disease caused either by under-production of a hormone called ADH, or by failure of the kidneys to respond normally to ADH even though it is being produced in normal amounts. ADH, or "anti-diuretic hormone" is a substance normally produced by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. Its function is to promote water resorption by the kidney, thus conserving body water and making the urine less dilute.
What are the signs of diabetes insipidus?
(1) excessive urination, very dilute urine (2) excessive drinking (more than 100ml per kilogram of body weight per day) (3) possible dehydration and weight loss
Can diabetes insipidus be treated?
If the diabetes insipidus is caused by inadequate production of ADH then it can be treated by giving the cat synthetic ADH in the form of a nasal spray or eye drops.
If the condition is caused by inadequate response to ADH by the kidneys then there is no specific treatment. A low sodium diet may help, and certain drugs that increase sodium reabsorption by the kidney may help to reduce the volume of urine produced.
What is endocarditis?
Endocarditis is inflammation of one or more of the valves within the heart, due to infection by bacteria. It occurs rarely in dogs and cats. The incidence is believed to be higher in large-breed male dogs; German Shepherds and Boxers are possibly predisposed. If severe, the affected valve ceases to work properly, and so the animal begins to show symptoms of heart failure.
What causes endocarditis?
Endocarditis occurs when bacteria spread from another part of the body to the heart via the blood. Infections of the mouth and pharynx are of particular importance, so good oral hygiene and regular dental checks may help to prevent endocarditis from occurring.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms are extremely variable depending on the severity. If the animal still has a bacteraemia (bacteria in the bloodstream), then it is likely to have a fever, be inappetant and lethargic, and may show signs of lameness if the joints have become infected. If the infection is very mild then there may be no signs. If a valve is severely affected then the animal will show signs of heart failure: coughing due to fluid on the lungs, breathlessness, excessive tiredness and restlessness during the night.
The bacteria can break off the valve in a particle called a "thrombus" and spread to other sites in the body: this can be fatal since the thrombus can block blood vessels, preventing blood from reaching important organs such as the kidneys. Can endocarditis be treated successfully?
The infection can be treated using antibiotic injections which must be administered by your vet. Antibiotic tablets will then be required for at least 4 weeks since endocarditis is a particularly difficult infection to clear. If there are already signs of heart failure then the prognosis is poor. Recurrent infections are a problem in spite of intensive antibiotic therapy, and there is always the risk of thrombus formation.
Q. Fight Wound Infections
Why do cats get so many fight wound infections?
Cats are fairly territorial animals, and disputes between neighbouring cats are common. It is usually during these disputes that injuries are sustained - play fighting between cats in the same household is usually not serious enough. Although entire tom cats are the worst culprits for fighting, any cat, male or female, neutered or not, can be territorial. Fight wound infections are usually the results of bite wounds. The mouth of a cat contains quite a few bacteria, some of which are good at producing infections (particularly a but called Pasteurella). The canine teeth in push these bacteria under the skin when the cat bites. The bites can also push hair and bacteria on the skin surface through the skin. As it is a small, deep puncture wound, the bacteria are soon sealed under the skin and start to grow.
What are the commonest locations for fight wound infections?
There are three main areas where these wounds occurs, which relate to the possible responses of the cat to a fight: Around the head and face. This means the cat was standing its ground, probably giving as good as it got.
Around the base of the tail or along the tail itself. This means the cat was trying to run away when bitten - definitely losing the fight. On the lower legs and feet. This means the cat had rolled over to use all four feet to push the other cat away. This is a defensive position some cats adopt, and usually indicates they were not doing too well in the fight
How will the infections show themselves?
Most fight wounds will form an abscess. This is a fluid filled swelling, usually with a small scab somewhere. They are very painful if touched and may cause a high temperature, making the cat quiet and off its food. Wounds on the legs will make the cat limp.
As an abscess enlarges, it may lose hair over it and it may burst, discharging a rather smelly liquid which is somewhat creamy with a yellow, green or brown tinge.Fight wound infections on the legs less often form an abscess, but may cause swelling in the muscle with a more diffuse (spread out) infection. How should fight wound infections be treated?
The best thing for these infections is that they either burst or are opened by lancing to release the pus. After this, the wound should be bathed regularly (at least daily) with warm salt water (use 1 teaspoon salt to 1 pint water) to keep it open so that any further pus comes out and the wound heals from inside out, rather than sealing the infection inside again.
In 90% of cases, fight wound infections will probably heal without antibiotic treatment. However, the remaining 10% will keep coming back for some time if antibiotics are not used, and in some cases a scepticaemia (infection of the blood) can occur, which can be serious. In view of this, any significant fight wound infection should see a vet for antibiotics, especially if the cat appears unwell.
Q. Fractured Pelvis
How can a cat get a fractured pelvis?
The vast majority of pelvic fractures in cats occur when they are hit by a car, and this is one of the most common injuries from such an accident.
What will be done for a cat with a fractured pelvis?
In most cases no surgery to repair the bones of the pelvis is required. The pelvic bones are completely surrounded by large muscle masses which will act as a natural splint to keep the bones in place. However, if pelvis has been squashed so that the canal through the pelvis is narrowed something may need to be done.
What other complications will affect the survival of a cat?
When a pelvis is fractured, the state of the bones is not the biggest concern - they will heal with time. There are a lot of nerves that run through the pelvis to the back legs and to internal organs such as the bladder and rectum. These nerves can be damaged when the pelvis is broken, either temporarily or permanently. Before a cat with a broken pelvis can be allowed home, they must be monitored to make sure they are able to pass urine and faeces on their own. If the bladder does not function, there may be reason to question the survival of the cat. It may be possible to empty a cat's bladder for it, but this requires extreme dedication from the owner and some cats will not allow it.
What care will the cat require once it comes home?
The most important factor in successful healing of a pelvic fracture is rest. Usually confinement in a cage big enough to hold a bed, litter tray, food and water will be required for a period of 4-6 weeks. Sometimes restriction to one room with no opportunity to jump will be sufficient as many cats with pelvis injuries will rest themselves, since movement may be sore.
After this initial period on complete confinement, a gradually increasing freedom to exercise should be allowed. A total period of 2-3 months may be required before they are fully restored.
Q. Harvest Mite Infestations
What are Harvest Mites?
Harvest mites are very small members of the arachnid family - having eight legs like spiders. Their proper name is Trombicula autumnalis. The adult mites live and feed on plants, particularly grasses and cause no problems. However, their larvae, which are bright orange in colour, have 6 legs and are about 0.2-0.4mm long, are parasitic, attaching themselves to the skin of animals and sucking out juices from the tissues.
When do Harvest Mite infestations occur?
Infestations only occur when the mites breed and produce their larvae. This is usually in the latter part of summer for a period of about 6 weeks in August and September - about the time when harvests are traditionally gathered (thus the name).
What problems do the harvest mite larvae cause?
The mites attach themselves to the skin to feed and this is quite irritating, causing the cat to scratch. Most infestations are around the head, particularly the ears. Small scabs form and if examined closely, bright orange specks may be seen. The location of the infection is likely to be because cats often push through grass, but also because they cannot lick the mites of it the get around the head.
What treatment is required for harvest mites?
There are now anti-parasitic medications that have some activity against these mites including Frontline and Stronghold. Such medications are only available from your vet. Some cats may also require anti-inflammatory drugs to stop the cat damaging themselves with excessive scratching. In the past, sometimes a course of anti-inflammatory steroids was all that was used until the mites went away themselves - they only have a very short season.
How can harvest mites be prevented?
At present, there is no product that claims to completely prevent these infestations, although those that are useful in their treatment might also prevent infestation. This is not yet proven though.
Q. Hip Dislocation
How does a Hip Dislocation occur?
The hip is a 'ball & socket' joint where the round end of the femur is held into its socket on the pelvis by a ligament in the middle. For the ball to come out of the socket, this ligament must tear, which requires a fair bit of force, usually being hit by a car, but it can occur from a fall.
How might a hip dislocation be repaired?
A hip dislocation is painful and an anaesthetic will be essential. Your vet will also wish to take an x-ray to ensure that there is actually a dislocation and not a fracture of the end of the femur - both can feel similar, but are treated differently.
If the femur is intact, the hip can be manipulated back into its socket. This is easiest in a fresh dislocation, but the longer it is left before attempting replacement, the harder it becomes. In some cases, replacement will not be possible without surgery, and even then there may be too much deterioration to save the hip and the joint may have to be taken out.
What care must be taken with a cat after a hip is replaced?
Once a hip has dislocated, the ligament that normally holds it in place has snapped, so there is a very real possibility that the hip could dislocate again soon afterwards. With time, the ligament, joint capsule and muscles around the hip will strengthen again as it remains in place. It is important, therefore to avoid any activity that might cause the hip to come out again, because if the area repairs with the hip in the wrong place, it will get stuck there.
In many cases a bandage sling will be placed on the cat that goes around the body and holds the leg up, preventing any movement that could dislocate the hip and keeping it in position. This may need to be on for 1-2 weeks. All cats recovering from a dislocated hip will need to be kept indoors and their activity restricted - particularly access to high places. Jumping up or down puts a fair strain on the hip and should be avoided until it is strong. A confinement cage may be required, but is usually not essential with a hip dislocation. Full recovery will take 4-6 weeks, but the cat can be allowed a bit more activity after the first couple of weeks, even going outside under supervision (but no tree climbing, please!)
What is hyperparathyroidism?
Hyperparathyroidism is a metabolic disease that can affect cats. It is characterised by over-activity of the parathyroid glands: these are two pairs of small glands that lie very close to the thyroid gland in the neck. These glands normally produce a hormone called parathyroid hormone (PTH), which is responsible for maintaining levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Over-activity of the glands causes excessive PTH production, resulting in hypercalcaemia and hypophosphataemia (excessive calcium levels and subnormal phosphorus levels in the blood).
What causes hyperparathyroidism?
Hyperparathyroidism may be caused by a tumour of one of the parathyroid glands. Such a tumour can be malignant, but they are more commonly benign. Sometimes the parathyroid glands can become enlarged and over-active without a tumour being present.
Hyperparathyroidism can also occur secondary to diseases of the kidney, or from inadequate levels of calcium in the diet. In these cases there are inadequate levels of calcium in the blood, and the body's attempt to restore these levels is to release excessive PTH. Unfortunately calcium levels are restored at the expense of the animals calcium reserves in the bone, since PTH stimulates release of calcium from bones into the blood. Affected animals have very weak bones which can fracture.
What are the symptoms of hyperparathyroidism?
The main symptoms are: (1) excessive drinking and urination (2) urinary incontinence (3) listlessness (4) exercise intolerance and weakness, possible stiffness Other symptoms include inappetance, muscle wasting, vomiting and constipation.
Can hyperparathyroidism be treated?
If the calcium levels are excessively high then this constitutes a medical emergency and the cat will need to be hospitalised, put on a drip and given drugs. When the cat is stable then the underlying cause of the disease can be investigated. If the cause of the disease is a tumour, then this can be removed surgically.
If the disease is occurring secondary to a kidney problem then although any existing kidney damage cannot be repaired, steps can be taken by your vet to slow down any subsequent damage and address calcium imbalance.
Q. Hypocalcemia after thyroidectomy
A thyroidectomy is the surgical removal of the thyroid gland(s). This is often done, especially in cats, for the treatment of hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland, leading to an excessive production of thyroid hormone or thyroxine. The parathyroid gland is a very small gland directly next to the thyroid gland. There are two separate thyroid glands, each with their associated parathyroid gland. When the thyroid gland is removed, it is not always possible to save the parathyroid gland. If both parathyroid glands are either removed, or damaged, during the thyroidectomy, it will lead to an insufficient level of PTH, the hormone produced in the parathyroid glands. This in turn will lead to very low levels of calcium in the blood, which is called hypocalcemia.
What are the symptoms following surgery?
If hypocalcemia occurs, the symptoms can be seen within the first few days after the surgical thyroidectomy. These include panting, nervousness, muscle trembling, twitching, incoordination, facial rubbing or seizures.
What is the treatment?
In most cases treatment with calcium, and sometimes vitamin D, will resolve the problem. In some cases this supplementation will have to be permanent, in other cases it may only be necessary for a short time after the operation. Blood tests will be necessary to decide this.
What is hypoparathyroidism?
Hypoparathyroidism is an uncommon disease in cats. It is characterised by under-activity of the parathyroid glands: these are two pairs of small glands that lie very close to the thyroid gland in the neck. These glands normally produce a hormone called parathyroid hormone (PTH). This hormone is responsible for maintaining the levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Under-activity of the parathyroid glands leads to inadequate levels of PTH in the body, resulting in "hypocalcaemia" (inadequate levels of calcium in the blood) and "hyperphosphataemia" (excessive levels of phosphorus in the blood).
What causes hypoparathyroidism?
Hypoparathyroidism can occur in cats after surgery to remove the thyroid gland, because the parathyroid gland lies so close to the thyroid and is easily damaged by such surgery. This surgery is usually carried out because the cat suffers from hyperthyroidism, a common disease of older cats. Signs develop 8 hours to 5 days post-surgery, and in some cases the parathyroid glands can recover normal function within days to weeks; in other cases however recovery does not occur and lifelong therapy is required.
Hypoparathyroidism can occur spontaneously in older dogs, particularly bitches of small breeds. Spontaneous hypoparathyroidism is very rare in the cat, and, unlike dogs, prevalence is higher in the male.
What are the signs of hypoparathyroidism?
The signs of the disease all relate to the hypocalcaemia, which are as follows:
(1) Muscle tremors, twitching, cramps, spasms, rigidity (2) Stiff-legged movement, weakness, seizures (3) Restlessness, panting, over-excitability, howling (dogs) (4) Cataracts may develop, especially in dogsDiagnosis can be made by your veterinary surgeon who will perform a blood test. Can hypoparathyroidism be treated?
Hypoparathyroidism can be treated by life-long administration of Vitamin D tablets.
Calcium supplements may also be useful initially, but are not usually needed long-term. If the animal is suffering from a seizure when the initial diagnosis is made, then emergency calcium injections will be needed because hypocalcaemia of this severity is potentially fatal.
Regular monitoring by your vet is essential to ensure that blood calcium levels are maintained within a normal range.
What is infertility and what causes it?
Infertility is the inability of an individual to reproduce, and it can occur in both males and females. There are a number of causes, which can broadly be grouped into the following categories: (1) Congenital (a physical defect that the animal is born with, that prevents it from breeding) (2) Infectious (an infection that the animal has acquired, that damages the reproductive tract) (3) Hormonal (a disease that interferes with the animal's hormones so that it cannot breed) In addition there may be disorders of behaviour, as well as just improper animal management, in which case there is no true infertility but rather a misunderstanding of animal reproduction. As with humans, animals must have reached a certain body weight before they are able to reproduce. A malnourished animal may be infertile, as may an animal that is excessively physically active, such as a racing greyhound, just as a human athlete may stop her reproductive cycles during heavy training.
When will my cat first be able to reproduce?
Queens (female cats) reach puberty at about 10 months of age, but once again this may vary.
Testicular descent in tom-cats occurs prior to birth, and puberty also occurs at around 9-10 months.
Congenital causes of infertility:
Congenital causes of infertility include:
(1) Ovarian aplasia/ hypoplasia: this is absence or failure of development of the female's ovaries. It is very rare. A blood test performed by your veterinary surgeon will detect ovarian activity, or an operation to look for the presence of ovaries can be performed.
(2) Abnormal sexual differentiation: this is when the animals sex organs fail to develop normally. For example an animal may be born looking like a female but instead of having ovaries, it has small testicles hidden inside its abdomen. Such animals usually have abnormal sex chromosomes: real females have the sex chromosomes "XX", real males have "XY" whereas an abnormally developed animal could be "XXX" or "XXY."
(3) Penis deformity: various deformities of the male's penis can occur leading to infertility. Also abnormal testicular development can occur.
Infectious causes of infertility:
Infectious causes of infertility include:
(1) Herpes virus infection: this has been associated with abortions and stillbirths in queens. It may also be involved in the inability to conceive, but this is unclear.
(2) Bacterial endometritis: this is infection of the womb lining by bacteria. Diagnosis can be made by a veterinary surgeon who will test for presence of bacteria. Treatment involves antibiotics.
(3) Cystic endometrial hyperplasia (CEH): this occurs in older females. It is not solely an infectious disease, but bacterial infection contributes to the condition. There are cysts in the lining of the womb, due to the action of sex hormones acting on the uterus, and there are also usually excessive numbers of bacteria. If untreated pyometra (a potentially fatal womb infection) can develop. Treatment involves antibiotics to kill the bacteria, and drugs to inhibit the sex hormones and delay the onset of the next oestrus until the CEH has gone.
(4) Feline Parvovirus (panleukopaenia) infection: this is a virus that infects cats and can kill foetuses of pregnant queens. It also causes a fatal disease in kittens. The virus has become less prevalent since the numbers of cats being vaccinated has increased, but it is important that all cat-owners continue to vaccinate their cats and kittens to ensure that this virus is controlled.
(5) Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) virus infection: this is a virus that infects cats with fatal consequences as well as affecting fertility before the cat ultimately dies from the infection. No vaccine is available. (6) Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) infection: this is a virus that infects cats. Infection can be prevented by a vaccine.
Hormonal causes of infertility:
Hormonal causes of infertility include:
(1) Inappropriate 'photoperiod' in cats: cats are seasonal breeders meaning that they usually only breed in spring, summer and autumn, and stop breeding in winter. Their production of reproductive hormones is triggered by the longer hours of sunlight that occur in the summer months. If they are not exposed to enough light during this time then they will not produce enough hormones to reproduce successfully. Ideally there should be 12-14 hours of light per day.
(2) Hypothyroidism: this is reduced activity of the thyroid gland, a gland in the neck. This means that there is reduced production of thyroid hormone, and this can influence reproductive cycles causing infertility. The condition is extremely rare in cats.
(3) Hyperadrenocorticism ("Cushing's disease"): this is over-activity of the adrenal glands resulting in excessive production of the naturally occurring steroid cortisol. It is rare in cats. (4) Hypoadrenocorticism: this is under-activity of the adrenal glands resulting in insufficient cortisol production. The condition is rare in cats.
What is intussusception?
Intussusception is an intestinal disorder in which a portion of the intestine (gut) invaginates in on itself, rather like the way in which the fingers of a rubber glove can turn in as the glove is removed from a hand. The folds of gut can cause a physical obstruction, preventing the gut contents from being able to move along towards the anus in the normal manner. If such an obstruction is not treated then the section of intestine can die, because its blood supply is also likely to be obstructed by the intussusception. If left untreated then the animal itself can die because dead gut will eventually rupture. Intussusception can occur in both dogs and cats; it is more common in puppies and kittens than older animals. It often occurs after a bout of diarrhoea: the vigorous contraction of the intestine during diarrhoea tends to force a segment of intestine into an adjacent segment.
What are they symptoms of intussusception?
(1) Vomiting, with or without diarrhoea (2) Abdominal (tummy) pain (3) Presence of blood in faeces (faeces resemble raspberry jam!)
Can intussusception be treated?
Intussusception can be treated by your veterinary surgeon who will first confirm the diagnosis on an X-ray. The treatment involves an operation in which the abdomen is opened up and the intussusception is located and gently pulled until it is no longer invaginated. If the gut has begun to die then this is not possible, and the dead section of gut has to be removed. If diagnosed early, the prognosis is often good. Recurrence of the condition is common: animals that have had an intussusception once are prone to getting them again.
Q. Kidney Disease - Chronic
What is Kidney Disease?
Cats have two kidneys, each made up of many thousands of tiny functional units called 'nephrons', that filter the blood, remove waste substances and maintain the correct concentrations of fluid and minerals within the body. Proportions of these functional units do disappear with age and are not replaced. Kidney disease includes any disorder, which causes the destruction of further nephrons. Accelerated damage to the kidneys can be caused by a whole range of factors, including injury, infection and cancer, but a healthy animal has a considerable reserve of kidney function and signs of serious illness appear only when three quarters of the nephrons have been lost (renal failure). Kidney disease is common in cats and with early diagnosis and treatment much can be done to help limit its progression.
What is the cause of kidney disease?
There are many factors, which can influence the likelihood of a dog or cat developing renal failure, including:
Age the chance of renal failure developing increases with age and it doubles between 10 and 15 years of age. Breed renal failure is recognised more frequently in Maine coon, Abyssinian, Siamese, Russian Blue and Burmese cats. Environmental some common chemicals such as phenolic disinfectants, anti-freeze, lead paints, and also some drugs are toxic to the kidneys. Dietary careful control of the intake of phosphorus and protein in the food can slow the progression of kidney disease in cats that have reduced kidney function.
What are the signs of kidney disease?
Increases in thirst and urine production. Important, the signs of kidney failure vary but an increase in thirst is almost always the first warning sign, and should not be ignored. If your cat seems to be drinking more, consult your vet immediately. Decreased appetite,Weight loss,Halitosis (bad breath),Vomiting and less frequently diarrhoea,Sore mouth,Apathy and weakness
How is kidney disease diagnosed?
As well as a through physical examination, your veterinary surgeon will usually carry out urine and blood tests if kidney disease is suspected. Sometimes more advanced procedures, such as x-rays studies, Ultrasonography, biopsy or exploratory surgery are required. In many cases of long standing (Chronic) kidney disease the precise cause of the damage to the kidneys cannot be identified.
What are the stages of kidney disease?
Normal kidney function although nephrons may be lost the animals can adapt and does not show any signs of illness Percentage of functional nephrons remaining 100%
Kidney insufficiency (Early warning sign) the animal is unable to concentrate the urine normally and thirst is increased Percentage of functional nephrons remaining 33%
Kidney failure toxic waste substances accumulate because the kidneys cannot eliminate them efficiently, causing signs of illness Percentage of functional nephrons remaining 25%
Advanced kidney failure marked signs of illness appear leading eventually to collapse and death Percentage of functional nephrons remaining 10%
How is kidney disease managed and controlled?
Although an animal suffering from kidney disease may need treatment with drugs and possibly fluid therapy to stabilise its condition, a permanent change to a specially formulated food is the most important long-term measure for controlling the condition. Your veterinary surgeon is the best person to find the right product to suit your cat's condition.
Our thanks and acknowledgement to Hill's Pet Nutrition Ltd, manufacturers of Hill's* Prescription Diet* g/d*,k/d* and u/d* for their help and support with this article.
What is Mastitis?
Mastitis is inflammation of the mammary glands, usually are a result of bacterial infection in the milk glands themselves. This infection usually comes in from the outside and only occurs when the animal is producing milk or, more commonly, when they have just finished producing milk. At other times the opening to the gland ducts are sealed.
What are the signs of mastitis?
One or more of the mammary glands will be swollen, hot and hard. It is a very painful condition and the cat or dog will often be depressed and react when the affected lands are touched. The milk produced by the affected glands will often be changed in thickness and colour ' often watery and brown but can be blood stained, thick, clotted or even pus like. In severe cases the infection may burst out onto the skin like an abscess, discharging pus. A dog or cat with mastitis will often appear depressed and will have a fever.
What is the treatment for mastitis?
Mastitis is treated with antibiotics, often combined with anti-inflammatory painkillers since this is a pretty painful problem. Courses of antibiotics often need to be prolonged, at least 1 week but often more.
Severe mastitis can leave open sores on the mammary glands that may take a few weeks to heal. In rare cases, so much damage is done that one or more of the glands must be surgically removed, but this is a rare complication.It usually necessary to prevent the pups/kittens from suckling when the mother has mastitis. If they drink the infected milk is can make the puppies/kittens ill. If they are not old enough to be weaned, it may be necessary to bottle feed the puppies/kittens. If only one or two glands are affected, it may be possible to supervise feeding so that the affected gland is not used, then supplement any that still seem hungry. Mastitis is painful, so the mother may no feel like feeding anyway. Can anything be done to prevent mastitis?
Ensuring that the mother is in a clean environment helps, but mastitis will often occur despite the best cleanliness. The most important thing is to monitor the glands to catch the problem early. Early treatment will prevent the problem from becoming severe.
Q. Milliary Dermatitis
What is Milliary Dermatitis?
Milliary dermatitis is a specific type of dermatitis seen in cats. It is characterised by multiple small hard scabs on the skin particularly over the back near the base of the tail and around the head. In some cases the scabs can only be felt when the cat is stroked, but others also have hair loss and the scabs can then be seen. Cats with milliary dermatitis are always itchy and it is the scratching and excessive grooming that causes the scabs. Some cats will also have larger sores present if things get bad.
What is the cause of Milliary Dermatitis?
Milliary dermatitis is a hypersensitivity reaction of the skin. Something the cat is coming into contact with causes an allergic reaction in the skin. In the vast majority of cases the problem is flea bites (about 99% of the time). The locations around the head and base of the tails are the favourite biting locations of fleas. It does not require a severe infestation of fleas to cause this problem in an allergic cat ' even a single flea present and biting can be enough to cause the problem.
Other things a cat could be allergic to and cause milliary dermatitis include the household dust mite, specific food proteins, pollens, plants, fabric dyes, washing detergents and carpet deodorisers. There was a theory a few years back that in some cats the problem was hormonal. This theory arose from the fact that a hormone preparation called megsterol acetate (Ovarid) is able to treat the condition. However, this theory has been disproved. Ovarid is, in fact, a potent and long acting anti-inflammatory drug as well as a hormone, so it simply masks the problem while the hormone produces unwanted side effects.
What treatment is there for Milliary Dermatits?
As fleas are responsible for the vast majority of cases, ensuring good flea control is the first concern. The will mean using a flea preparation that is only available from a vet. Although the flea control preparations available in pet shops, etc. are effective in reducing flea populations, they usually do not eliminate them completely.
Anti-inflammatory drugs may also be used. In most cases it is best for only a short course to allow the skin to settle and heal while the primary cause is addressed separately. If the cause cannot be controlled, particularly if the problem is something like house dust mite which cannot be avoided, the long term use of anti-inflammatory steroids may have to be considered. The best way to use steroids is with short acting tablets, so that the treatment can be stopped should a problem arise. However, some cats cannot be given tablets, so a long acting injection that lasts 4-6 weeks can be considered.As mentioned above, Ovarid is effective in treatment, but should only be considered as a last resort. It has unwanted side effects with long term use including obesity, diabetes and mammary tumours.
What are the reasons for neutering cats?
The main reason for neutering cats is to prevent the birth of unwanted kittens. If un-neutered cats are going out in the same area, they will find each other and pregnancy will be the result. Rescue centres all over the country overflow with unwanted cats already. There are effects of neutering that will make a cat a better pet, particularly in the male cat. Neutering will reduce roaming (to find a mate), fighting and territorial marking (urine spraying). Neutered cats are more likely to stay around their home and so have more contact with the owner. 'Kittenish' behaviour, such as playing and affection, are often better preserved in a neutered cat, and such behaviour is usually appealing.
Male Cats: When should castration be done?
Male cats can be castrated as soon as the testicles are large enough for the surgeon to find. This is usually from about 5 months of age. Occasionally a testicle will not have descended into the scrotum by this age, so if this is the case it can be worth waiting a little longer.
What is involved? Castration involves a short general anaesthetic, under which both the testicles are removed. A small incision is made over each testicle, the testicle is drawn out, a knot is tied in the cord to prevent bleeding and the testicle is cut off. The wound is not stitched and heals within a few days. Usually only a long acting antibiotic injection at the time of the operation is required to prevent infection. If one of the testicles has not descended to the scrotum, the operation is more complex as this must be located and removed. In most cases it lies in the groin, but sometimes it may be retained in the abdomen. Such a retained testicle should be removed as it can be functional and has a higher incidence of testicular cancer.
What care is required after castration?
Usually a cat only needs to be kept indoors overnight after castration, to allow the wound to seal and full recovery from the anaesthetic. Some cats will lick the wound and if this becomes excessive this can cause a problem, so a special collar may be required if they pay too much attention.
Female Cats:When should a cat be spayed?
Female cats can be spayed from 5 months of age, although a small number of cats will not be big enough at this age. All can be spayed by 6 months of age. Although the average age for a cat to be capable of breeding is about 9 months, it can be a young as 5 months, so it is possible that could be pregnant even if spaying at 5-6 months of age. It is possible to spay a cat when pregnant, but in the later stages of pregnancy this increases the risks with the surgery.
What does spaying involve?
Spaying requires a general anaesthetic, during which the ovaries and uterus are removed. Once under anaesthetic, an area of hair is clipped and an incision will be made either in the left flank or lengthways along the midline of the abdomen. The choice of incision site will often depend on the surgeon, but in 'colour-point' cats (such as Siamese) clipped hair tends to grow back a darker colour initially, so it is a good idea to clip midline so this is not obvious.
Once the incision is made into the abdomen, the uterus and ovaries are located, the blood vessels of the ovaries are tied off, the uterus is tied off near the cervix and the uterus and ovaries are removed. The muscles and skin are stitched as separate layers. The stitches used may require removal or may be dissolvable ' that will depend on the choice of the surgeon.
What care is required after spaying? It is advisable to keep a cat indoors for 1 week after spaying to reduce the amount of running around and jumping while the muscle layers are healing. Too much pressure on the stitches too early can cause problems. Some cats will lick or chew at their stitches which can cause a problem, so a special collar may be required to prevent this if they pay too much attention.
What risks are there with neutering?
Neutering requires a general anaesthetic and all anaesthetics carry a small risk of the animal not recovering. The risks are very small with modern anaesthetic techniques (less than one in 2,000) and most are now associated with something wrong with the animal. A full examination prior to the anaesthetic by a vet is important as it should pick up many problems, and a pre-anaesthetic blood test will screen for others. Infection of any surgical wound is possible. A long-acting antibiotic injection given at the time of the operation will prevent most infections, but they still occur sometimes. Infections usually show up as swelling and pain at the surgical wound. Further courses of antibiotic tablets will be required.
After spaying, it is possible swelling of the wound or even for the stitching of the muscle layers to break apart, forming a hernia. This is most likely if the cat does a lot of jumping and running around too soon after the operation. Too much licking or chewing at stitches can cause a wound to re-open, requiring the wound to stitched again. A collar may be required to prevent this.
Q. Notoedric mange
What is Notoedric mange?
Notoedric mange is a skin condition of cats caused by a mite called Notoedres cati. Mites are microscopic arthropods: they have eight legs and each one is less than half a millimetre long. The mites burrow within the cat's skin, laying eggs which hatch into more mites. As the mites move within the skin, they cause the cat to become intensely itchy; they also cause hairs to fall out, and they make the skin become scaly and crusty. Eventually the skin becomes thickened, particularly over the head. The condition usually starts on the ears, later spreading to the face and neck, and, if untreated, the rest of the body.
What animals are affected?
The mite is "host-specific" to the cat, although it is also found on rabbits where it causes similar symptoms. It very rarely causes mange in dogs.
Is my cat likely to suffer from this condition?
Notoedric mange is highly contagious, so your mites could transfer from an affected cat to yours if they come into close contact. However, the condition is now extremely rare in Britain. Cats with suppressed immune systems due to diseases such as FeLV or FIV are more susceptible to mite infestation than healthy cats.
Can it be treated?
Mange can be treated by your veterinary surgeon, who will first need to confirm the diagnosis by examining pieces of skin debris under a microscope to look for the mites.
What is osteomylitis?
Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone and bone marrow. It can be the result of penetrating trauma, such as an open fracture of a bone, a bite wound, a puncture wound by some foreign body, or even surgery and surgical implants. It can also be the result of other infections in the body spreading through the blood stream from the point of origin to the bone. Finally, it can the result of an infection extending from the surrounding soft tissue into the adjacent bone. In all cases the bone, its surrounding membrane, called the periosteum, and the inside, (the bone marrow), become infected. It leads to a painful swelling, often hot to the touch, lameness if the affected bone is in the legs, fever and often general malaise.
How is it diagnosed?
To diagnose osteomyelitis it is often necessary to x-ray the affected bone. Because the changes, seen in cases of osteomyelitis, can also be seen in certain other conditions, it may be necessary to do further tests, for instance blood tests or biopsies. In some cases two or more bones are affected.
What is the treatment?
The treatment of osteomyelitis is dependent on the cause, but in general it is treated with antibiotics. These may have to be taken for a long time. Pain relief in the form of anti-inflammatory drugs is often necessary as well. If osteomyelitis is caused by implants, these will have to be removed. If it is the result of dental infections, such as tooth root infections, the tooth or teeth involved will have to be extracted as well. Treatment of osteomyelitis is normally successful.
What is osteoporosis?
This name is often used incorrectly in veterinary medicine. It is a form of osteopenia, which means a reduction in bone mass. Osteopenia can be divided in two categories: the first one is a reduction in bone mass caused by excessive bone resorption, this is then officially called osteolysis. The second category is a reduction in bone mass caused by defective bone formation. The latter can be through insufficient formation of osteoid, which is called osteoporosis, or through defective mineralisation of the osteoid, which is called osteomalacia. The term osteoporosis is often used as a general term for the condition in which there is not enough bone tissue, as many people are familiar with this name from human medicine.
What is the cause of osteoporosis?
There are several causes for 'osteoporosis'. One of the most common causes is hyperparathyroidism. This is an overactive parathyroid gland, a small gland next to the thyroid gland in the neck, leading to excessive production of PTH, the hormone produced in the parathyroid gland. PTH leads to resorption of calcium from the bones. An overactive parathyroid gland can be caused by an insufficient uptake of calcium in the diet, for instance when feeding a meat only diet, or by severe kidney disease. The latter can cause such severe demineralisation of the bones, especially in the jaws, that it can lead to soft, malleable bones. It is often referred to as 'rubber jaw'. There is also a primary hyperparathyroidism, in which there is a tumour of the parathyroid gland, producing high levels of PTH.
Another condition leading to 'osteoporosis' is 'Rickets'. This is caused by a deficiency of vitamin D, nowadays a very rare disease. A more common reason for 'osteoporosis' is disuse of a limb. This can happen if a leg is not used properly for some time. Most cases of chronic lameness can cause this, but it is more often seen when a leg has been in a cast for some time, or when the animal has been treated with internal or external fixation for the repair of a fracture. When the leg is used normally again, most cases of osteoporosis will be resolved quickly. In pets we do not see osteoporosis as a consequence of hormonal changes, like in humans.
Q. Pins, Plates & Fractures
Why might a cat have a Pin or Plate inserted?
Metal pins and plates are materials used in the surgical repair of broken bones. In many cases the bones cannot be properly restored simply by placing the limb in a cast, while placing pins and/or plates will hold them in place accurately while they heal and even allow some function of the bone before it is fully healed. These methods have advantages over casts in that they allow some use of the limb, so that muscles do not waste from disuse. In addition, although the initial surgery will be more expensive than putting a cast on, with repeated applications of a cast and the higher risks of complications (failure to heal, sores from the cast) the overall cost may actually be similar or sometimes less.
What care will be required after a pin or plate is inserted?
A restriction of exercise and keeping the cat indoors will be essential, although the exact nature of the restriction will vary with the repair performed and how well the bone was reconstructed. If well reconstructed, the metal actually does not take much force, just holding the bone in the right place to take the load itself. In bad breaks where the bones shatters, a lot of support is taken by the metal implants and although the implants are strong, it is possible for repeated stresses to cause metal fatigue over time. It is possible for even a cat to break a metal plate if the limb is used too much. Usually confinement to a single room with access to food, water and a litter tray will be required, preferably with no elevated surfaces for the cat to jump up and down off. When the cat can be supervised they may be able to have a bit more freedom, but should be prevented from any high speed exercise or jumping. In some cases, confinement to a cage 3-4 feet across may be required.
The period of rest may vary. Usually a period of 4-6 weeks is required before normal activity can be allowed. The age of the cat is a factor in this as the bones of young cats heal faster than old cats. Your vet may wish to take x-rays of the healing bones before allowing full activity to ensure that the bones have healed. In some cases, such x-rays may indicate that a longer period of rest is required. Once the initial period of rest is completed, the cat should not suddenly be allowed to do everything it used to. Too much activity, too early could cause a repair to fail. Rather a gradually increasing freedom should be allowed for muscles and bones to strengthen themselves again. The total period before the cat is completely normal is likely to be 2-3 months.
Will the pins or plates have to be removed?
In most cases, no. The metal of the implants is stainless steel and will not rust in the body and will not cause a reaction. In some cases, however, some implants may work loose over time, interfere with muscles or other structures of the body, or even produce discharging sores. Loose implants are often painful. In these cases some or all of the metal implants may require removal.
In young growing cats, the implants could restrict growth if left in place, so this is a situation where the plan may be to remove metal implants from the start.
What is feline poxvirus?
Feline poxvirus is a type of virus which is related to the smallpox virus (smallpox has now been eradicated). In addition to the feline poxvirus, cats can be infected by the cowpox virus, which produces the same symptoms.
What are the signs of poxvirus infection?
Cats with poxvirus develop a skin disease which starts as a single lesion, usually on the head, neck or a forelimb, but rapidly spreads so that there are lesions all over the body. These lesions can vary from large abscesses to small scabs, which can be itchy. The scabs drop off leaving bald patches.
Some cats may suffer from a fever at the time of the first skin lesion: this may make the cat inappetant. Some may get a runny nose.
How can my cat get a poxvirus infection?
Cat-to-cat transmission of poxviruses occurs, but the main source of infection is believed to be from small wild mammals. Cats can breathe the virus in from the air, or, more commonly, can be infected through the skin when scratched by an infected animal. Poxviruses can be transmitted from cats to humans, who can develop a similar skin disease.
Can Poxvirus infections be treated?
There is no specific treatment for the virus but most cats do recover. Lesions can easily become infected by bacteria as well as the virus, so antibiotics may be required to treat this. Mild antiseptics may also be useful.
It is important to remember that there are many other causes of skin disease besides the poxvirus, which is actually quite rare, so always consult your veterinary surgeon if your cat has any signs of illness.
What is Pyothorax?
The term pyothorax means literally 'pus in the thorax'. It involves the formation of infected fluid in the chest cavity that contains the lungs. This is particularly serious as the fluid takes up space that should be taken up by the lungs and will eventually make breathing very difficult as the fluid increases. Untreated, the disease is almost always fatal.
How does pyothorax occur?
In most cases a puncture wound into the chest from the outside is the cause. This is most often a bite from another cat or dog where the big canine tooth punches all the way through. Some cats with a pyothorax, however, have no evidence of such a wound when the condition is diagnosed. This may be because the infection can take some time to build up to cause a problem, so the wound may have healed, or it might also come though the blood stream.
What symptoms will a cat with pyothorax show?
Cats with this infection often show only very vague signs of illness, losing weight and being quieter than usual. Some will have a temperature, others will not. When a lot of fluid builds up, they will start to have trouble breathing and even gasp for breath. If this is apparent, they are in very bad shape and they can die if stressed.
How can pyothorax be diagnosed and treated?
Diagnosis depends on proving there is pus in the chest. A x-ray of the chest will show if there is fluid present on the chest, and if there is, a needle or catheter will be used to draw some out and find out what type of fluid it is.
Pyothorax is a very serious disease and treatment is not always successful. Most immediately, oxygen is required to help the cat breathe. Then the pus must be drained off the chest, flushing the chest with saline and putting antibiotic solutions directly into the chest as well as giving them by injection. This needs to be done daily until no more pus comes out, often requiring a long stay in a hospital, and then long periods on antibiotic tablets.
The problems occur in when many cats become very ill before they show signs that they are not strong enough to take the initial draining. Also, in some cases the infection cannot be entirely eliminated and so the pus returns once the antibiotics are finished.
What is radiography?
Radiography is the taking of x-rays and the different techniques involved. Most vets are able to take x-rays of your pet, when this is necessary. Unlike in people, where radiographers can ask their patients to lie still, or hold their breath for instance, veterinary radiographers will almost always have their patient, (your pet), under sedation or even general anaesthesia for the purpose of x-raying. Furthermore, there are very strict Health and Safety Regulations which state that animals should NOT be restrained manually for x-rays. This is because of the potential health risks for the people involved in radiography.
What happens when my pet has to have an x-ray?
When your pet has to go to the vets for x-rays, he will therefore nearly certainly be anaesthetised. Under anaesthetic, multiple views are taken of the body part under examination. These radiographs, or x-rays, are then interpreted by your vet, or, in some cases, sent away for a second opinion. The costs for radiography are likely to be quite high for these reasons. In some cases it may be necessary to perform any further special techniques, such as contrast techniques. This may be necessary to visualise certain structures, otherwise not seen, for instance the bladder contents, the spinal cord, or the lining of the gut. These contrast techniques require specialist knowledge and equipment and you may have to be referred for this.
Can x-rays show up everything inside my pet?
Some structures may not be readily visualised, even with contrast techniques. In these cases the pet may have to be examined by other 'imaging' techniques, such as MRI or Ultrasound. If you have questions about the precise procedure to be performed on your pet, please ask your vet for advice.
What is Rhinitis?
Rhinitis is an inflammation of the lining of the nose that results in sneezing and nasal discharge. This causes snuffling and is usually referred to as cold or flu-like symptoms. The discharge is usually clear in the early stages of disease and becomes thicker and cloudy as disease progresses. The sense of smell is reduced and since cats rely heavily on their sense of smell to decide if food is good to eat, the appetite is reduced and in some cases they will not eat.
What is the cause of Rhinitis?
In most cases, the cause of rhinitis in cats is one the 'cat flu' group of infections. This includes mainly calicivirus, herpesvirus and chlamydia, but also includes a number of minor viruses, some of which have not been identified yet. The main 'cat flu' infections are responsible for the more serious cases.
Rhinitis can also be caused by foreign material up the nose, from inhaling dust, irritant fumes or larger objects such as blades of grass, thread, bones, etc. A growth in the nose can also show up as rhinitis. Allergies can show up as rhinitis, but this is an unusual allergic response in cats (although it is the commonest in humans ' 'hay fever').
What is the treatment for rhinitis?
This will depend on the cause, but in most cases a course of antibiotics, possibly accompanied by anti-inflammatory drugs, is given. The underlying cause is often a virus, for which antibiotics will not help, but the virus lowers the defences to bacterial infection and the most serious consequences, such as spread to a pneumonia, is usually caused by bacteria.
A degree of nursing care is often required. The cat should be kept indoors to avoid cold & damp which could encourage the problem to become worse. Some encouragement may be required for the cat to feed. Foods with strong odours are taken best as the cat will be able to smell it, and warming the food will increase the odour.If the cause of the rhinitis is a foreign body, this must be removed under a general anaesthetic. Growths in the nose are troublesome and often cannot be removed. The commonest growth in the nose, however, is a lymphoma which responds reasonably well to steroids.
What is ringworm?
The name of this disease is misleading. Ringworm is not caused by a worm, nor does it often form a ring, except sometimes in humans. It is a skin disease cause by a fungus that grows in the hair follicles. There are a variety of species of fungus involved in causing ringworm, but the main variety in dogs and cats is Microsporum canis. Tricophyton metagrophytes is another seen in disease, but more often in farm animals than pets.
What animals can be infected with ringworm?
The ringworm fungus seems to be able to infect the skin of any mammalian species, including humans. Cats are affected more frequently than dogs. It is likely that rodents act as a source of the disease, and cats have greater contact with these.
What disease does ringworm cause?
The fungus of ringworm infects the hair follicles, causing the hair to fall out and irritation of the skin resulting in scaling, sores and/or scabbing. This fungus affects small areas, usually about the size of a 10p piece or so, most frequently around the head and neck. Although the disease is unsightly and irritating, it is not serious.
The disease is frequently self limiting, eventually going away by itself over a course of a few weeks in many cases. In cats, however, the fungus M. canis is able to form a carrier state ' although the skin sores disappear with time, some cats still carry the fungus and are still infectious.
What can be done to diagnose ringworm?
At least half of the type of fungus that causes the problem in dogs and cats will fluoresce under an ultraviolet lamp, which makes a very quick test for the disease.
However, not all cases will show up this way so other methods can have to be used. Examination of hairs plucked from the affected areas under a microscope may see the fungus growing there. The only certain method is to try to grow the fungus in a culture dish from plucked hair or hair brushings, but it can take up to 2 weeks for the fungus to grow to know the results.
What is the treatment for ringworm?
Treatment can be given in the form of tablets or by using anti-fungal preparations on the skin. The most effective treatment is to use both methods at the same time.
The tablets contain a drug called griseofulvin. This drug can cause deformities in an unborn foetus, so should not be given to pregnant animals and precautions should be taken by women of child-bearing age when handling this drug. It is otherwise quite safe. It usually need to be given for at least 3 weeks to cure ringworm.
The washes available for the skin include Imaverol wash and more recently Malaseb shampoo ' the latter is probably the more pleasant to use. Bathing is usually required weekly while treatment if going on. For single ringworm lesions, it is possible to use human athelete's foot remedies such as Daktarin cream. These are what humans should use who become infected from their pets.
Q. Solar Dermatitis & Squamous Cell Carcinoma
What is Solar Dermatitis?
Solar dermatitis is a condition seen in cats with white ears or nose. It usually appears as a reddening and thickening of the tips or edges of the white parts of the ear, sometimes with a curling of the edge. Some will form sores or scabs on these areas. It can also occur on the nose.
What causes Solar Dermatitis?
As the name implies, direct sunlight is the cause, or more precisely the damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation of the sun that can cause skin cancer in humans. It affects the tips of white ears and nose because there is no protective pigment, nor a thick hair covering to protect from the radiation. Essentially it is the result of sunburn. This condition is seen more in countries that get a lot of hot sunshine (especially Australia), but can be seen in the UK.
What is the significance of Solar Dermatitis?
Solar dermatitis itself is not serious, although it can be a little irritating when sunburn is present. However, it can progress to become Squamous Cell Carcinoma - a form of skin cancer - and represents a 'pre-cancerous' change. Further exposure to UV radiation is what causes this change to a skin cancer.
How harmful is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
This skin cancer typically causes thickening of the ear flap and becomes ulcerated, forming scabs. Affected cats will often scratch at these scabs, making the ears bleed frequently. These tumours tend to spread locally on the ear and can spread onto the head, but do not often spread in the bloodstream to the rest of the body. The condition is often painful, but usually not fatal.
Tumours on the nose are often more troublesome. They scab and ulcerate and when they spread they can start to destroy the nose and lips.
What treatment is required for this condition?
No treatment is required for Solar Dermatitis, although it is a good idea to take steps to prevent the condition progressing.
If the cancerous form is present on the ears, amputation of the ear tips is a fairly simple procedure and will cure the problem if enough ear can be removed. After the operation a protective collar will need to be worn for a time to prevent scratching while the wounds heal. Although this can make the cat appear a little odd, they will be much more comfortable.
When a Squamous Cell Carcinoma forms on the nose, removal is more difficult and is usually only successful if performed early in the disease. It requires plastic surgery techniques to repair the face after removal of portions of the nose and is less likely to be successful because taking a large margin around the growth is not possible without causing undue suffering to the cat.
What measures can be taken to prevent this condition?
The use of a high factor sun block (at least factor 15 - preferably higher) on the ear tips and/or nose of cats with white skin in these areas is advisable on hot sunny days. It is a good idea on any cat with white patches, but if solar dermatitis is already present, the use of sun block may prevent it progressing to the cancerous form.
Q. Toxic Hazards
There are many ways in which cats can be poisoned. As very specialised carnivores, they are not well adapted to dealing with toxic substances, so some things are toxic to them that are harmless to humans and other, less fastidious, animals. However, this behaviour also means that they do not often eat unusual substances. Poisons affecting cats, therefore, are often those that get onto their coats and are licked off, those that have been eaten by the small animals they often eat and substances that have been administered by humans, usually with good (but uninformed) intentions. Intentional poisonings are very rare indeed.
These are not usually eaten, but can be taken in if the cat catches and eats a rodent that has eaten poison, but not yet died of it (cat's don't tend to eat prey they didn't kill themselves). Most rat poisons are similar to Warfarin - preventing the blood from clotting and resulting in internal bleeding. The result is often vomiting or diarrhoea, often with blood in it, but can just cause weakness and lethargy. There is an antidote to this poison, so prompt treatment is usually successful.
It is usually Organophostphate (OP) compounds that are responsible here. They are used to kill insect pests mainly and are contained in some flea preparations. It is also possible for cats to be exposed on agricultural land, getting the pesticides onto the coat in a field, then licking it off. Most cats can tolerate some OP, but there is a small proportion of the cat population that have an increased sensitivity to them. High doses can cause Problems in any cat. They cause drooling, excitability, twitching of muscles and in bad cases the cat may suffer fits.
Most flea preparations containing concentrated OP products are no longer available in the UK, since safer and more effective products have become available.Some pesticides have antidotes, but often they must be supported and given anti-fitting drugs until they recover.
Cats wouldn't normally drink these. However, if they suffer oil being spilt on them, they will lick it off. This will irritate the gut and cause vomiting and diarrhoea, plus may irritate the skin. Treatment involves bathing the cat with detergents to remove the oil (Swarfega is best, but large amounts of washing-up liquid will also work), making sure that they are rinsed off well (detergents will also irritate the gut if licked off). Charcoal granules are given to absorb any oil that has been swallowed.
Most of these will cause irritation of the gut if swallowed (including washing up liquid) and may even ulcerate the tongue, so if any are spilt on the cat (or used to clean other things off), ensure the coat is thoroughly rinsed clean - the cat will lick itself afterwards.
TCP contains a substance that is toxic to the liver of cats and should not be used (a peculiarity of the species). Savlon is also mildly toxic to cats.
Do not be tempted to treat your cat with anything in the medicine cabinet without first consulting your vet. Headache/flu remedy tablets in particular are quite dangerous to cats. Cats are very sensitive to aspirin and required doses are very low, so do not give it unless directed by your vet. Paracetamol is very toxic to cats - even a single tablet will cause liver failure and death. Fortunately cats rarely help themselves to their owner's medication.
What is Toxoplasmosis?
Toxoplasmosis is disease caused by a protozoan (a microscopic organism bigger than a bacteria) parasite of cats called Toxoplasma. This parasite primarily infests the gut of cats, typically infecting them at a fairly young age (4-6 months on average) and rarely causes any signs of disease. However, it can infect other species as a secondary host and problems caused by the parasite are usually associated with these infections, particularly in sheep and man.
How is Toxoplasmosis spread?
When the parasite first infects a cat, it sets up an infection and lots of oocysts (the protozoan equivalent to an egg) are produced for a time. However, immunity to the parasite develops in 2-3 weeks and after this oocysts are only produced when the immune system is suppressed or another infection of the gut allows the parasite to thrive again. The oocysts are not infective for 2-4 days after they are passed in the faeces, but they can survive 12-18 months on the ground. If eaten, these cysts will cause infection in most species. It is usually not direct contact with faeces that causes infection, but contact with places where the faeces have broken down with time.
When infection occurs in a cat, Toxoplasma parasites grow in the gut. However, in other species (and to a limited degree in cats too) the parasite enters the blood stream and lodges in the tissues - particularly in muscles - and forms a 'tissue cyst'. It is this type of infection that causes disease, but it also forms another means of spreading the parasite. If these 'tissue cysts' are eaten (e.g. in poorly cooked meat from an infected sheep), this will also cause infection. When in the blood stream of a pregnant animal or woman, this parasite can cross the placenta to infect the foetus.
What disease does Toxoplasmosis cause?
Disease is usually caused when the Toxoplasma organism is in the blood stream and infecting the tissues. It usually causes feelings of tiredness and general malaise in people, and the 'glands' may be enlarged. Fevers, lack of appetite, diarrhoea and even neurological symptoms can be experienced. Similar disease signs can be seen in animals. This disease is usually self-curing, although certain antibiotics will aid recovery.
Of most concern is what happens if Toxoplasma infection occurs during pregnancy. The foetus may be infected as well and abortion or even brain damage of the foetus can occur. Infection is less likely early in pregnancy, but harm to the foetus is more likely if it occurs in the first trimester.
How can Toxoplasmosis be prevented?
It is difficult to prevent infection in cats. They will usually pick up the parasite by eating prey that contain tissue cysts. Infection in humans can come from cat faeces, but since fresh faeces are not infective, litter trays are not a problem if cleaned regularly. A bigger problem is a child's sandpit. Cats will happily use a sandpit as a toilet if it is available, so it is best to cover a sandpit when not in use.
It is likely that many human infections are caused by eating improperly cooked meat, particularly lamb (about 50% of sheep in the UK are infected), but any meat can be involved. It is worth noting, however, that 40-50% of adults in the UK have been infected, yet only 700-800 cases are diagnosed each year, so in most cases it is not serious. But if the immune system is weakened (e.g. with AIDS or chemotherapy) the disease can be very serious indeed.
What precautions should pregnant women take to avoid Toxoplasmosis?
Do not be overly concerned about owning a cat while pregnant. If you have a litter tray, it is best to wear gloves when cleaning it out. It is also advisable to wear gloves while working in the garden (especially flower beds). Probably more important is ensuring that all meat eaten is fully cooked.
What is ultrasound?
Ultrasound, or echosonography, is a technique through which structures are visualised by taking advantage of the different way in which they return sound waves directed into these tissues by a probe. The returning sound waves are picked up by the same probe and transferred, via a computer, into an image on a screen. This technique is best known for its use in the examination of pregnant women.
Why is ultrasound used?
Ultrasound is particularly useful for the visualisation of structures containing fluids, such as the heart, the bladder and other abdominal organs. In most cases there is no need for sedation or anaesthetic, and there is absolutely no risk at all for the patient or the examiner. Only the most nervous animals will need sedation. The area under investigation will always be clipped and cleaned, after which a gel is used between the skin and the probe to improve the images. Drawbacks of the technique are that the examiner needs specialist knowledge to be able to interpret the images, and structures containing air, such as the lungs, can not be visualised.
There are several forms of Ultrasound. These include B-mode, M-mode and Doppler ultrasound. They all have their own specific uses, advantages and disadvantages.Not all vets will have access to Ultrasound but it is becoming more and more commonplace nowadays. The equipment used is very expensive, as is the training required to interpret the resulting images. Therefore, Ultrasound examinations are not inexpensive. However, it is often worth the costs, as invaluable information can be gained.
Q. Undescended Testicles
What is an undescended testicle?
When the testicles form in the embryo, they develop from the same tissue as ovaries ' which gonads develop depends on the sex of the embryo. This tissue is located just behind the kidneys. In the female, the ovaries remain in the same position, but in the male the testicles must descend to the scrotum from this position, leaving the abdomen through a hole in the muscles of the groin called the inguinal ring. This journey occurs gradually with growth, finishing some time after birth. The testicles should be in place by 4-6 months of age. In some animals, one or both of the testicles does not reach its proper location. The reasons for this relate to the differing rates of growth of different organs and tissues so that mechanisms to pull the testicle down do not work properly. Undescended testicles are often poorly developed. It is possible for the inguinal ring to become too small for the testicle to come out.
Where might an undescended testicle be?
Potentially, the testicle could at any point along the path from its starting location by the kidney to the scrotum. Many are located under the skin in the side of the groin, but others do not get past the inguinal ring and are still within the abdomen. Most of those in the abdomen are just inside the inguinal ring. An animal with a testicle within the abdomen is referred to as 'Cryptorchid'.
What should be done about an undescended testicle?
It is advisable to have a cat with an undescended testicle castrated, (See castration) removing both testicles wherever they may be located. There are several good reasons for this:
(1) An undesceded testicle is significantly more likely to develop a cancerous growth than one in the scrotum. (2) The tendency to have undescended testicles can be inherited, so it is best to avoid breeding from such animals. (3) In only one testicle is removed, there is potential for confusion over the animals status with regard neutering. If only an undescended testicle is left in, the cat will appear neutered, but could still be fertile (although fertility would usually be reduced). If only the undescended testicle is removed, it could confuse someone at a later date as to whether the other is still present, particularly if the cat is re-homed.The surgery to remove an undescended testicle requires a separate incision from a normal castration site. If the wayward testicle cannot be felt, it may be necessary to make two incisions to explore all the possibilities before the testicle is found.
Q. Vestibular Syndrome
What is Vestibular Syndrome?
Vestibular Syndrome is dizziness caused by a failure of the vestibular system ' the organs involved with the sense of balance. The vestibular system consists of part of the inner ear called the semi-circular canals and regions of the brain that process the sense of balance. Usually only one side stops working, so the cat loses its sense of which way up it should be.
What are the signs of Vestibular Syndrome?
In cats, vestibular syndrome usually comes on gradually. It initially shows up as a loss of balance when the cat shakes its head, falling over afterwards. In severe cases the eyes will flicker from side to side and the cat may be unable to stand. They will often be distressed if unable to stand and may cry out.
What causes Vestibular Syndrome?
The commonest cause for vestibular syndrome in a cat is an extension of middle ear disease to affect the inner ear. There is usually a long history of ear irritation and pain in one or both ears. The damage to the inner ear comes on slowly.
Cats can suffer from strokes, where a blood clot formed in the heart blocks a blood vessel in the brain. If this affects the areas of the brain involved with the vestibular system, vestibular disease may result. However, the effects of such a clot are usually more serious and often affect other areas of the brain as well.It is possible for a blow to the head to cause vestibular syndrome, but this is rare.
How serious is Vestibular Syndrome?
Vestibular syndrome is usually reversible with treatment for the underlying ear infection. However, if in cats if the cause is other than an infection, the problem is usually serious, not so much because of the involvement of the vestibular system, but because other areas of the brain are often damaged as well.
What treatment is there for Vestibular Syndrome?
There is no specific treatment for vestibular syndrome. Usually treatment is given for the underlying ear infection, consisting of strong antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Usually quite long courses of antibiotics are required. In addition, it may be necessary to open the middle ear to clear out the pus and debris
If the cause of vestibular syndrome is a stroke or trauma, euthanasia is often considered the best option. The prognosis is poor in cats with such brain injuries, but if the cat appears fully aware and has full function in other capacities, they may recover with time.