Five “Silent Killers” of Cats

Dr. Justine A. Lee, DVM, www.pethealthnetwork.com

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

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

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

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

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

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



Tri-colored cat looking up

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

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

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

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

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



Big cat on couch

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

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

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



Ragdoll with flowers

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

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

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



Bengal laying down

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

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

Once diagnosed, the prognosis for cancer is poor. For this reason, the sooner you notice clinical signs, the sooner diagnosis and treatment may be initiated.
Note that there are other common emergencies that can cause death in cats, including trauma, urinary obstructions, poisonings, and more. When in doubt, to keep your cat safe, follow these 5 simple tips:

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

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

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Eight Common Myths about Surgery & Cats

Dr. Phil Zeltzman, brought to you by IDEXX & Pet Health Network


There are many urban legends surrounding surgery and cats. Here I take a rational look at 8 stubborn myths I encounter regularly.

1. Myth: “My cat is too old for anesthesia”
You should think twice when your friend or the internet tells you that your cat is too old or sick for anesthesia, and don’t be afraid to seek out an expert about this concern. If your cat is that old, surgery is probably not being recommended just for fun. Your veterinarian is probably talking about performing surgery because of a serious reason or even a life or death situation.

A complete physical exam and blood work should always be performed before anesthesia. In older cats, it may be wise to also take chest and belly radiographs, as well as an ECG to be thorough. Some patients may need to be stabilized before anesthesia, which may mean correcting blood work imbalances, giving IV fluids or giving a blood transfusion prior to anesthesia and surgery.

2. Myth: “Surgery is painful”
This is actually a true statement. However, surgical pain should not be ignored in 2015. We have many safe pain medications to choose from to treat pain before, during and after surgery. We should also remember that depending on what your cat’s condition is, she is most likely already in pain, which will continue to stay the same or worsen without surgery. The goal of surgery is often to decrease pain.

3. Myth: “There is no point if there is no cure”
This mostly relates to cats with a tumor. It is a matter of opinion and expectations. And it’s a very personal decision.

Without the benefit of a biopsy, we don’t know whether a mass is cancerous or benign until it is removed and analyzed. Even when a mass is cancerous, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the end of the road.

Ultimately, your decision should not be based only on quantity of life (or survival), but mostly on quality of life.

Ironically, sometimes, the situation doesn’t depend on whether a mass is benign or cancerous, but on where it is located. A perfectly benign mass blocking the windpipe, the esophagus (the tube between the mouth and the stomach) or the urethra (the tube between the bladder and the outside world) will have life-threatening consequences.

4. Myth: “My cat will not survive confinement”
Confinement is often required after surgery. The time required depends on the procedure. Confinement may be in a crate, an upside down baby/puppy play pen, a “cat tent,” a small room or part of a room. It may seem cruel to some, yet preventing jumping and running is critical to allow proper healing. Cats don’t know what is best for them. You should.
 
Interestingly, most cat guardians I deal with regularly tell me that in the end, confinement was easier than they expected.

5. Myth:  “I can’t keep a plastic cone on my cat”
Sure, a plastic cone can be a royal pain depending on how stubborn your cat is. But this “necessary evil,” worn for two weeks, is not nearly as bad as another surgery to stitch up a chewed incision. And it sure is cheaper than paying for this second surgery!

There are a few alternatives to the standard “lamp shade” or Elizabethan collar such as neck braces or inflatable “donuts.” Not all of these options will work, depending on where the incision is located, so alternative options must be discussed with your surgeon or family veterinarian.

6. Myth: “There’s always a cheaper way”
Sure, you can get to work in a beat-up truck or in a Ferrari. You can go to work in worn-up, second-hand clothes or in a tailor-made suit. But when it comes to surgery, the choices are suddenly much more important. Seeking the cheaper surgery may not be in your cat’s best interest. Which corner do you want to cut? Not give pain medications? Not give antibiotics? Not use sterile equipment? Unfortunately, good equipment, good staff and good skills cost money. And this is reflected in the cost of surgery. The good news is you can get an insurance plan for your dog to avoid this financial dilemma.

7. Myth: “I can just use medication instead”
I am very sorry to say that I have met cats with megacolon (a painful condition due to many months of severe constipation) and other long-term conditions that had been treated “medically” (i.e. with medications) for months to years. These cats suffer on medications, while surgery could have provided much better results. Initially, the medications only address the signs, until they don’t. Surgery addresses the cause of the condition.

As I always say, “the disease is the enemy. Surgery is your friend.”

8. Myth: “Things will get better on their own”
The difficulty is that you cannot tell if vomiting is a sign of something benign or something serious. Sometimes, vomiting is due to eating a bit too much or a bit too fast. And sometimes, vomiting is due to a foreign body which requires surgery to be removed. So don’t procrastinate; seek help from your family vet sooner rather than later. Waiting too long can have devastating consequences on your cat’s health.

These 8 myths are not meant to offend anyone. They are based on observations made over years of practice. Sure, there are complications, expected or not, during and after surgery. Fortunately, most of the time, surgery can make a world of difference for your cat.

Questions to ask your veterinarian about surgery:

  • What are the goals of the surgery you recommend?
  • What would happen if we didn’t do the surgery?
  • What can I do to ensure my cat’s comfort after surgery?

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

“Four-On-The-Floor” Rule!

One of the “rules” that I heard upon adopting Bifford was “four-on-the-floor” and all I could think is “what the he!! does that even mean!?” But it makes sense when handling a cerebellar hypoplasia animal and one of the various ways you can ensure their safety!

Cat’s usually have no issues with landing on their feet when they jump down onto the floor but CH pet parents know that this is usually not the case with cerebellar hypoplasia animals.

The rule of thumb “four-on-the-floor” is an effective and friendly reminder to new pet parents, friends & family members to place a CH pet gently onto the ground while properly ensuring all four of their paws are planted firmly on the ground before letting go of them.

Note: This does NOT promise that they will not fall/stumble over but will help ensure they do not fall/stagger from a distance!

Most pet parents (or humans in general!) know that generally cats can jump from a distance onto the ground and land successfully on their feet without issue. This is NOT the case with cerebellar hypoplasia animals and if someone was to let a CH pet jump from a distance this could result in injury to your special baby (or injury to you attempting to catch a falling pet, get caught by a claw etc.!)

“Four-on-the-floor” is a safe, effective and cute way to remember that CH pets need a little assistance when being placed on the floor!

So remember to “PLANT THOSE PAWS” on the ground!

“CH” Proofing!

Adopting a new CH baby or a new CH pet parent? Take a deep breath and remember that you “got” this! Remember that JUST like children each pet is different so “proofing” for one family may not be exactly like the next!

What do you need to purchase BEFORE your new addition comes home?

  • Food/Water Dishes (I always recommend a silicone based dish for safety and stability as pictured below – the photographed bowls you can remove the stainless steel dishes and strictly use the silicon portion for holding your new addition’s food & water!)
Silicone food/water dishes such as this one is dishwasher safe and catches any mess from your new baby!
  • Depending on the “severity” of your new special baby (Bifford is considered “moderate” and only needs certain accommodations) they may need ramps to help them into bed or furniture ! Again depending on the severity of your new baby you still may need to help them use the ramp/get onto the furniture to further insure their safety!
Ramp for the furniture such as this one has a carpeted/felt material on the ramp providing better traction for your special baby)
  • Low rise litter box (or in Bifford’s case a rubber maid container with a hole cut out!)
Low rise litter boxes such as this one are available online (such as Amazon or Petco)
  • Washable “pee pads” to use in the event of any “accidents” (or like we do with Bifford place them outside of his litter boxes to catch any mess he was attempting to bring with him!)
  • Spray Shampoo (our favorite is Burt’s Bees brand of feline spray shampoo — no water and it has a nice natural scent to it that is not overpowering!)

Pet Proofing — “Safety!”

  • Small and dangerous objects like paper clips, nails, staples, thread, pins/needles, rubber bands, tacks — basically anything that has fallen on the floor that shouldn’t be there.
  • Any electrical cords that are too long, suggest taping the cords to the floor (a tape which can be purchased online) or running the cords out of your pets way.
  • Intriguing things like plants, electrical cords, drapes, the pulls/cords on blinds, other cords.
  • Also consider if there are any objects (furniture/decorations) that could fall over if knocked-into, or if something could fall of the furniture.
  • Be mindful of sharp corners of furniture or fragile items that your new pet could accidentally fall into and cause them to break.
  • Don’t forget to check your window screens — they should fit securely and should not give way in case your cat leans against them.
  • Odoban! It comes in a spray bottle or a one gallon jug and it breaks up any enzymes in your pet’s urine or bowel movements that may be on the floor/blanket etc.!
Odoban can be purchased on Chewy or Amazon and even found at your local Wal-Mart!
  • Close closet doors and make sure you keep your room tidy. That means keeping laundry and shoes (consider shoelaces and loose buttons) in your closet or behind other closed doors.
  • Remove plants, if necessary.
  • Move all wires so they’re out of your pet’s reach.
  • Take a look at what you have on night stands, dressers, etc. If necessary, move the items into a drawer or cabinet.
  • Close all drawers entirely. You never know when a cat will crawl in.
  • Check your bed’s box spring. Cats and kittens are known to find their ways into them.
  • Be mindful of closed doors — make sure your cat isn’t in your closet or bathroom before closing the door.

  • Purchase trash cans that your pets can’t get in to (like those with lids), or hide your trash can in a cabinet. Don’t forget about small wastebaskets in the bathroom — cats can easily turn them over and rummage through the contents.
  • Use childproof latches to keep cabinet doors from being pulled open. (This is usually the case with cabinets that don’t have latches to keep them shut in the first place.)
  • Place all medications, cleaners, and chemicals on high shelves or in childproofed cabinets. Similarly, keep insecticides, rodent poisons and dryer sheets out of reach.
  • Look for small spaces your pets can squeeze into — behind appliances, between an appliance and the wall, etc. — and find ways to seal them.
  • Always keep the doors to your washer and dryer closed. Before doing each load of laundry get a visual on every furry member of your household.
  • Always put down the toilet seat lid. Cats can easily fall in and drown.

  • Again, look for small spaces your pets can squeeze into — under your couch, holes in furniture, etc. — and find ways to seal them.
  • Move wires and cords from lamps, entertainment systems and phones so your cat can’t access them. Petfinder.com suggests running the cords through PVC pipes to prevent pets from chewing on them. You can also purchase sprays that give the wires a bad taste, or run them under heavy rugs and carpets.
  • Watch your cat carefully when opening a front or back door.

In some severe CH cases your pet may benefit from you purchasing a “portable crib” for pets (found the one photographed below on Amazon) to help keep your baby safe (and the carpeted insert allows you to easily remove it to wash it in the event of any “accidents”!)

Have any suggestions/tips or tricks? Post them below and we will include them in our “Guide for New CH Pet Parents!”

Flea Prevention & CH Pets

Often we are asked about flea prevention and cerebellar hypoplasia and if flea prevention treatments are safe to use on your CH pet and we answer with the same every time — YES, but ALWAYS consult your veterinarian about your concerns and which product is right for your pet!

Lots of “CH” pet parents post on cerebellar forums and pages lamenting about certain prevention and products may have harmed or proved fatal for their special pet which is frustrating because applying prevention to a cerebellar hypoplasia pet is not the lethal combination that people make it out to be!

In both humans AND animals anything (medication or otherwise) can have side effects or be potentially fatal (this can also be said for products that are coined as “green” or natural/holistic) so we always stress to do your homework and have an open dialog with your veterinarian!

Anytime a person (or animal) has any kind of reaction while on a certain medication the F.D.A is required to list this on their potential adverse reactions list which could range from mild reactions to potentially fatal. Just because there is an “adverse reaction” listed for that particular medication does NOT mean that it automatically unfit for your special baby!

Isoxazoline, Prevention & Pets

  • The FDA is alerting pet owners and veterinarians of the potential for neurologic adverse events in dogs and cats when treated with drugs that are in the isoxazoline class.
  • The FDA-approved drugs in this class are Bravecto (fluralaner) tablets for dogs, Bravecto (fluralaner) topical solution for cats and dogs, Bravecto Plus (fluralaner and moxidectin) topical solution for cats, Bravecto 1-month (fluralaner) tablets for cats, Nexgard (afoxalaner) tablets for dogs, Simparica (sarolaner) tablets for dogs, Simparica Trio (sarolaner, moxidectin and pyrantel) tablets for dogs, Credelio (lotilaner) tablets for dogs and cats, and Revolution Plus (selamectin and sarolaner) topical solution for cats. These products are approved for the treatment and prevention of flea infestations, and the treatment and control of tick infestations. Some of these products also have other indications.
  • Although these products can and have been safely used in the majority of dogs and cats, pet owners should consult with their veterinarian to review their patients’ medical histories and determine whether a product in the isoxazoline class is appropriate for their pet.

What should I know?

  • The FDA considers products in the isoxazoline class to be safe and effective for dogs and cats but is providing this information so that pet owners and veterinarians can take it into consideration when choosing flea and tick products for their pets.
  • Isoxazoline products have been associated with neurologic adverse reactions, including muscle tremors, ataxia, and seizures in some dogs and cats;
  • Although most dogs and cats haven’t had neurologic adverse reactions, seizures may occur in animals without a prior history;
  • Many products are available for prevention and control of flea and tick infestations. You can discuss all options with your veterinarian to choose the right product for your pet.

What products are in the isoxazoline class?

  • The FDA-approved drugs in this class are
    • Bravecto (fluralaner) tablets for dogs
    • Bravecto (fluralaner) topical solution for cats and dogs
    • Bravecto Plus (fluralaner and moxidectin) topical solution for cats
    • Bravecto 1-month (fluralaner) tablets for cats
    • Credelio (lotilaner) tablets for dogs and cats
    • Nexgard (afoxalaner) tablets for dogs
    • Simparica (sarolaner) tablets for dogs
    • Simparica Trio (sarolaner, moxidectin and pyrantel) tablets for dogs
    • Revolution Plus (selamectin and sarolaner) topical solution for cats
  • These products are approved for the treatment and prevention of flea infestations, and the treatment and control of tick infestations.

What should I do if my pet has an adverse drug event while using an isoxazoline product?

  • If your dog or cat experiences any adverse event while using an isoxazoline product, first consult your veterinarian.
  • The FDA continues to monitor adverse drug event reports for these products and encourages pet owners and veterinarians to report adverse drug events. You can do this by reporting to the drugs’ manufacturers, who are required to report this information to the FDA, or by submitting a report directly to the FDA.
  • To report suspected adverse drug events for these products and/or obtain a copy of the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or for technical assistance, contact the appropriate manufacturers at the following phone numbers:
    • Merck Animal Health (Bravecto): 800-224-5318
    • Elanco Animal Health (Credelio): 888-545-5973
    • Boehringer Ingelheim (Nexgard): 888-637-4251
    • Zoetis (Simparica, Revolution Plus): 888-963-8471
  • If you prefer to report directly to the FDA, or want additional information about adverse drug experience reporting for animal drugs, see How to Report Animal Drug and Device Side Effects and Product Problems.
  • Pet owners and veterinarians who have additional questions can contact AskCVM@fda.hhs.gov or call 240-402-7002.

https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/fact-sheet-pet-owners-and-veterinarians-about-potential-adverse-events-associated-isoxazoline-flea

  1. An adult flea that jumps on your pet will begin to feed on your pet’s blood immediately and excrete flea dirt or digested blood so the flea larvae can feed on the flea dirt later.
  2. Adult male and female flea mate on the host (your dog or cat).
  3. Each adult female will lay up to 50 eggs per day 1-2 days after it gets on your pet.
  4. The flea eggs and flea dirt on your pet, will drop off of your pet on to your carpet, sofa and bedding.
  5. In 2 -5 days, the Larvae will hatch from the eggs and the larvae develops by feeding on the flea dirt and organic debris. Larvae development time is between 5-21 days depending on the environment and nutrition.
  6. The larvae will develop into a pupae by making a cocoon.
  7. Pupae development takes about 8-13 days, but can take up to 30 weeks in poor conditions.
  8. New adults emerge and are waiting for a new warm-blooded host to feed on.

Diseases Caused by Fleas

  • Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common problem. Your pet will become itchy and will cause a severe irritation and inflammation leading to secondary skin infection.
  • Heavy flea infestation can lead to anemia (low red blood cells) and in very young animals, this could be serious and even lead to death.
  • Fleas can transmit a variety of diseases: Rickettsial diseases, Bartonella henselae, Dipylidium caninum, Acanthocheilonema, Yersenia pestis (plague), Trypanosoma lewisi, Mycoplasma diseases, Francisella tularensis.

Diagnosis

Fleas look like a small black sesame seed. It moves quickly between your pet’s coat. The best way to see fleas on your pet is to run your hands against the grain of the coat. You will see the flea moving very quickly trying to escape. You may also see flea dirt (digested blood meal) which looks like black pepper. The larvae and pupae are difficult to see because it is small and blends into the environment.

Preventing Fleas

Preventing fleas is much easier that treating fleas so it is best to prevent your pets from getting fleas. The best way to prevent fleas is to use a product that has efficacy against all stages of the flea life cycle. While there are many flea prevention products in the market, Simparica and Nexgard are very effective monthly flea prevention.

Flea Treatment for Dogs and Cats

If your pet is infested with fleas, a comprehensive elimination program should be implemented.

  • Immediately place your pet on prescription strength comprehensive flea prevention such as Simparica or Nexgard to kill the fleas and to prevent re-infestation.
  • Bathe your pet to remove fleas, and flea dirt. Repeat bathing as needed.
  • Vacuum all floors, sofas, beds and rugs thoroughly and frequently.
  • Flea life cycle will take several months to break so monthly flea prevention is imperative to eradicate flea infestation.
  • In areas where there is heavy flea population, professionally treating the yard may be needed.

Health Risks for People

The common flea of the dog is Ctenocephalidies felis. This flea can cause a number of diseases which can be transmitted to people. Bartonella henselae causes cat scratch disease, Rickettsia typhus causes flea borne typhus, Dipylidium caninum causes tapeworms to name a few. Dogs and cats can acquire rodent fleas. When these fleas leave the host and bite humans, flea bites can cause bubonic plaque (Yersenia pestis).

What Prevention does “President Bifford” utilize?

With the supervision of his veterinarian (shout out to Dr. Courtney Cameron at Niles Veterinary Clinic for loving the “handicats”) Bifford gets Advantage Multi (a topical treatment that is applied every 30 days that covers fleas, intestinal parasites, ear mites & heartworms) and Bart has on the Seresto collar (the collar is good for 8 months and covers fleas & ticks and according to the Bayer Pharmaceutical representative they are “break away” collars if need be but I cannot confirm nor deny that claim at this point) and both have had zero issues or complications and are well protected against fleas (despite them being strictly indoor cats they can STILL get fleas either from a flea jumping into a screen door or window or you bringing a flea in on the bottom of your pant leg or shoe!).

The one thing we ALWAYS stress is to NEVER trust or use “over-the-counter” flea prevention as they are not protected by the F.D.A nor are they regulated for your pet’s safety! Furthermore if your pet has a reaction to an “OTC” product your veterinarian may struggle to get them the best possible care because often times we do not know ALL of the ingredients that go into those store-bought preventions (or how much goes into them) so always PLAY IT SAFE and talk to your veterinarian about the prevention best suited for your pet and purchase it from your veterinarian’s office!

Cats with Special-Abilities!

Blind Cats:

Loss of eyesight can be very gradual (or you adopted a blind kitty) and oftentimes owner’s do not realize how bad a cat’s eyesight has become until it is identified by your veterinarian. Blind kitties can adapt extremely well to the loss of eyesight and often compensate by using their other senses more.

What can cause blindness?

  • Dry eye, as a consequence of feline herpesvirus or an eye injury
  • High blood pressure results in the detachment of the retina, the light sensitive-tissue that lines the inner surface of the eye — often cause by an overactive thyroid gland or kidney disease. Blindness in this case is often very sudden in onset, though if they are taken to the veterinarian immediately, it can sometimes be reversed.
  • Injury
  • Glaucoma or increased pressure of the eye – as a consequence of an injury, tumor or inherited disease.

How can I help my blind kitty adapt?

If blindness is caused by disease or injury, one or both eyes may be removed. A cat that becomes suddenly blind can become easily disoriented. They may be unwilling to leave their sleeping area and may develop inappropriate bathroom habits because they are unable to find their litter box.

  • Never, ever let blind cats roam outside, for their own safety! Keep your cat indoors unless they can have access to a safely-fenced garden or run. Make sure your kitties are microchipped and consider carefully fitting a quick-release harness/collar with your name/address on it and “special ability” in the event they escape!
  • Be more aware to your cat’s indoor environment to keep things fun for them! Interactive toys and puzzle feeders can better help create interest for your blind cat.

Finding Their Bearings

Try to encourage your cat to walk around on their own, as carrying them may cause them to become disoriented! Cats have scent glands on their paws that allow them to leave behind a scent trail to follow — this is even more important for blind cats! If you do have to carry them, always put them down on a surface they are familiar with such as their feeding/sleeping area (this allows them to easily get their bearings about them). Beware of lifting a blind cat onto a raised surface as there is a chance they will fall and get injured. Using various textured surfaces in different areas can also help your blind cat get around.

Approaching Your Cat

Talk to your blind cat as you approach them to avoid scaring them. If your kitty is blind in one eye, try to approach them (while talking to them) from the side they have vision in.

Getting Around

As blind kitties rely on scent and memory to help navigate their way around, you should avoid moving furniture, food or litter box around. Don’t leave obstacles in unexpected places where your cat can walk into them and possibly get injured. If you have stairs, place a baby gate or barrier across them until your kitty knows where they are and learns to use them properly. Putting a different texture on the top and bottom steps can help your kitty quickly learn when to anticipate when they have reached the top or bottom stair. Whiskers become more important to blind cats to judge the cat’s distance to an object.

Play/Exercise

Sound is obviously very imperative to a blind at so they may enjoy playing with the “noisy” toys. It is important to encourage them to exercise as it is part of a cat’s natural behavior and will help them from becoming obese.

Moving House

Moving house with a blind kitty is similar to settling a sighted cat into a new home. However, blind kitties will need a little extra attention and should ensure that the new surroundings are safe. Supervise their adventures around the house until they seem confident. If they become disoriented, gently guide them back to a familiar place by using your voice or by walking with them.

Deaf Cats

Some kitties are born deaf, but many cats lose their hearing gradually as they age. Sudden loss of hearing is normally the result of illness/injury and may be temporary or permanent. Deaf kitties can compensate for their lack of hearing by using their other senses, so much so that it may be hard to tell whether or not they are deaf. There are varying degrees of deafness and various causes, which may or may not be treatable.

Types of Deafness

There are two primary types of deafness:

  1. Where the sound cannot pass into the ear due to;
  • Tumors
  • Outer & middle ear infections
  • Wax build up
  • Ear mites

The types of deafness detailed above may be reversible by treating the underlying causes with the guidance of your veterinarian.

2. Where the nerves associated with the ear do not function properly due to;

  • Genetic problems (in the case of some white cats)
  • Inner ear infections
  • Drug toxicity
  • Noise Trauma
  • Age-Related Degeneration

These conditions generally produce permanent deafness.

How can I tell if my cat is deaf?

Some deaf kitties call out more often & more loudly – they cannot regulate their own volume – while others may become mute. It can be very hard to determined if a cat is deaf, espeically if they have been deaf from birth and is very used to their special ability, but other various signs may include:

  • Failure to response when spoken to/called
  • Easily startled
  • Signs of dizziness/disorientation
  • No longer being afraid of the loud noises (trash bags, sweepers etc.,)
  • Shaking the head or clawing at the ear(s)
  • Pus or other discharge coming rom the ear or an unpleasant odor from the ears.

How do I help my deaf kitty adapt?

A deaf kitty is easily startled because they won’t be aware that you are approaching. Make sure that you walk heavily when approaching them, so they can feel the vibrations. At close range, sharp hand claps or stamping on the floor may still be sufficient to gain a partially-deaf cat’s attention.

A deaf cat will not be able to hear danger signals such as cars or other animals so we strongly suggest keeping your cats indoors.

Deaf cats can learn to recognize hand signals or the flashing of a light. Make sure the signal you choose to call your cat is distinct and consistent so they do not get confused.

Three-Legged Cats

Some kitties are born with only three limbs, but the majority of three-legged kitties have suffered injury/disease, which has leg to amputation of the affected limb. Cats adjust to three-legged lifestyle remarkably well, although the initial adaptation process can be a little challenging. However, once adjusted, most three-legged cats are able to jump, climb, play, hunt albeit perhaps a little more slowly than in their four-legged days. Young cats and males are more prone to become three-legged — amputation is often result of traumatic injury, with males more likely to roam further than females and younger exploring cats more likely to be involved in road accidents. Most three-legged cats have lost a hind limb, rather than a fore limb.

My cat has had its leg amputated, how can I help them adjust?

  • Confine your kitty to a room (for at least a week or so) or take advice from your veterinarian and follow any aftercare advice they may provide. Be sure to speak to your vet about the subtle signs of pain of pain in cats, as this may need managing in the post-operative period.
  • Ensure there is easy access to food, water, litter box and a scratching post. Although cats don’t like to eat near their drinking/toileting area, immediately following surgery, your kitty is likely to appreciate these facilities being nearby.
  • Other pets in the household may see a change. Cats rely on scent to identify the members of their social group and a stay at the vets can mean cats are not recognized when they return. It is prudent to reintroduce cats to one another slowly and only once the patient has had ample time to recover.
  • Your cay may take some time to relearn how to balance with three limbs. Limit access to high surfaces and keep them indoors until they are more confident. Provide stools that can be used as steps to help your cat access things like the sofa.
  • Move furniture closer together so it is not so hard to negotiate. As your kitty gets more confident and ability increases, furniture can gradually be moved back to its normal location.
  • Be aware of litter box issues. Bathroom time is a vulnerable activity for a cat and if they do not feel safe using their litter box, they may choose to use the bathroom somewhere else within the house. You may need to provide a step to improve access to the litter box and be patient while they learn to cover, dig, and clean themselves with three legs instead of four.
  • Your cat may appreciate help in grooming areas they have problems reaching due to difficulty balancing. If your cat is not used to being groomed, start very slowly and be sure to make the experience positive by offering praise/rewards

Do three-legged cats think their leg is still there?

Some cats will feel that they can still use their missing limb – for example, many cats missing a hind leg, will continue to try and scratch their ear with the missing limb, for the rest of their lives. It is not absolutely known whether cats are affected by phantom limb sensation which affects a high portion of human amputees, but they only rarely show signs suggestive of this.

Cerebellar Hypoplasia

Cerebellar Hypoplasia is a condition which occurs in kittens as a result of interrupted development of the brain leading to uncoordinated movement or ataxia. Affected kittens are often referred to as “wobbly kittens.” There can be many causes of ataxia, but this guide specifically addresses one of those causes – – cerebellar hypoplasia.

What causes cerebellar hypoplasia?

This occurs in kittens as a result of their mother being infected with a virus called feline parvovirus during pregnancy. It can also occasionally occur if the kitten is infected in the first few weeks after birth. Some or all of the litter of kittens may be affected and some individuals may be more affected than others. The virus affects the cerebellum during the kitten’s development and it is this part of the brain that is responsible for fine-tuning movements/mobility.

What are signs of cerebellar hypoplasia?

Wobbliness becomes evident when kittens first start to move at a few weeks of age but is non-progressive so does not worsen oer time. Cats are affects for the rest of their lives, and generally learn to cope with their condition. Affected cats may:

  • Stand with their legs far apart
  • Sway when they move
  • Life their legs high when they walk or goose step
  • Show nodding/head tremors, which may worsen when they focus to do something such as eating
  • Lose their balance

Is there any treatment for cerebellar hypoplasia?

Once the cerebellum has been damaged in this manner, it cannot be repaired, so there is no treatment for cerebellar hypoplasia.

Does a cat with cerebellar hypoplasia require special care?

  • Cats with CH appreciate a deep litter box with high sides that they can use for support to balance when going to the bathroom, but ensure the cat can get in and out of it without issue. A large box gives the cat plenty of space to move around inside it, and ensure it cannot be tipped.
  • Affected kitties may be messy eaters- feed in an easily cleaned area and use a sturdy water dish that is not easily tipped over – for some kitties, raising bowls a little can be helpful
  • Kitties with CH can find it difficult to accurately jump – provide easy ways to cats to access their favorite areas – cushions and rugs can act as “crash mats”
  • Use a ramp to give an affected cat access to high surfaces (but be careful as they may tumble when trying to get down)
  • Carpeting can provide extra grip for kitties walking around or climbing
  • Keep their claws trimmed as it can be more difficult for them to “unhook” themselves if they get a claw stuck.

What is outlook for kittens with CH?

Most kittens are only affected mildly to moderately. With minor adjustments to their care they can enjoy a good quality of life. Occasionally, very severe kittens may be unable to perform without guidance, compassion, patience and constant care.

New “CH” Pet Parents

Being like me as a new “specially-abled” pet parent I was unsure what I was embarking on and had a plethora of emotions (mainly excitement! But of course there was a dash of fear in there also). Most of the things I have learned by “on-the-job” training as well as the love, support & guidance of other specially-abled pet parents. I highly suggest you join the many Facebook groups that are dedicated to cerebellar hypoplasia (and other specially-abled!) animals and never be afraid to reach out for questions or guidance! Blogs and forums such as Kitty Cat Chronicles also became my saving grace and honestly the gift that both Bifford and I needed to better understand one another. Learning and patience are the two most important points when adopting (or fostering!) a specially-abled pet!

Below is a list of items, tips, tricks & suggestions compiled by fellow CH-pet parents! Have anything to add to the list? E-mail us today and we will include it!

  1. If you notice your new special baby stressed or overly anxious try to utilize the Feliway spray as well as try to get your baby into a “routine”. I noticed that Bifford enjoyed having a semi-structured routine (we woke him up from his “big boy room” and fed him breakfast, then we would let him play the day away with his brother and sisters then “mommy” would be home from work so he got snuggle time then it was dinnertime and then lounging with “mom and dad” before bedtime). I found that if anything derailed his routine in such a dramatic way he would freak out (and eventually that turned into stress cystitis, but that is a topic for another post!
  2. Schedule regular dental cleanings/examinations! I cannot tell you how many times when I first brought Bifford home would he sneeze a little too aggressively or be playing and “biff” it a little to hard and hurt his mouth or even chip a tooth! By having regular dental cleanings done I was able to address any injured teeth (injured= extremely painful).
  3. Construct a first aid kit for cats! This will come in handy if your little angel stumbles and falls or gets a “booboo” that may need a little attention when your veterinarian is closed (or you need to address and stabilize while en route to the veterinarian!)
  4. Invest in a low lip litter box! We actually made “BHOP” (Bifford’s House of Poop” which was a 13 gallon Rubbermaid container that Bifford’s “dad” cut a hole out on the bottom of one side (always use caution when using power/sharp tools!) This way Bifford could easily bobble into BHOP and do his absolute worse inside and there was no spillage or issue! He could also fall in it (or sometimes, play) without him knocking the entire thing over or causing any damage/injury!
  5. COMMUNICATION! When you adopt one of these special babies call your regular veterinarian right away (or send them a letter/postcard!) letting them know you adopted a specially abled pet (e-mail us if you would like our informational packet for veterinarians/veterinary staff) and if they have any questions (or maybe concerns) about these special babies. (Check out our map of veterinarians that are aware and understand these special kiddos here)

First Aid Kit Suggestions/Inventory:

  1. Blood Clotting Powder (Styptic Powder)
  2. Saline Wound Flush (Arm & Hammer Simply Saline Wound Wash)
  3. Wound Disinfectant (e.g., Povidone Iodine or Chlorhexidine Diacetate)
  4. Cotton Balls/Swabs
  5. Gauze Pads (“sponges”)
  6. Non-Stick Bandage Pads 
  7. Gauze Roll
  8. Bandage Tape
  9. Blunt-Tip Bandage Scissors
  10. Splint(s) 
  11. 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
  12.  Antibiotic Ointment 
  13. Eye Flush (saline) 
  14. Battery Powered Beard Trimmer/Hair Clippers (for trimming fur around wounds — it’s best to avoid using scissors for this purpose) & do not forget to get batteries!
  15. Digital Thermometer
  16. Lube (Surgilube Lube or Petroleum Jelly)
  17. Instant-Cold Packs
  18. Muzzle (pets in pain are more likely to bite — even their owner)
  19. Oral Syringes 
  20.  Pillowcase (Makes for a great and quick temporary transport “makeshift cat carrier” in a pinch!)
  21.  Exam Gloves
  22. Flashlight
  23. List of emergency veterinary facilities, regular veterinary physician, and other important numbers!
  24. Tweezers/Hemostats
  25. Antiseptic Spray/Wipes
  26. Towel/Blanket
  27. Nail Clippers (for animals)

Bifford’s “Crash Course”

When I brought Bifford home for the very first time as a “foster” I remember the moment very clearly — it was Tuesday May 13, 2014 and I had NO idea what to expect! I had NEVER had a “special needs” animal let alone a cerebellar hypoplasia cat I was asked by a local cat shelter to take him home for a bit because he was not thriving well getting bullied and beat up on at the shelter after being surrendered for the THIRD time (the first time the “family” was going on vacation and simply did not want to be bothered any longer, the second time was because he successfully used the litterbox but did not want to “cover it up” and the third and final time before he permanently adopted me was a couple who would lock him in an empty hot tub to “contain the mess” and allow him to “die with dignity” as documented on the surrender intake forms).

To say that I wanted to wrap the boy in bubble wrap and coddle him beyond belief would be an understatement. He wandered my one story, ranch style home aimlessly and cried all hours of the night. I was at my wits end and honestly felt like I was letting him down because he seemed so… displaced? Scared? Alone? I remember calling the cat shelter crying because I felt like I was letting him down and that maybe the shelter was a better environment for him then my home was.

At the insistence and pep-talk of the shelter they asked me to be patient and give it time and stressed to join some local CH forums for guidance and advice. Blogs and forums such as Kitty Cat Chronicles became my saving grace and honestly the gift that both Bifford and I needed to better understand one another.

Today I am that “cool mom” (well, I would like to THINK of myself as the cool mom. But who that is cool calls themselves “cool”) – do you remember those diaper commercials that document “mom of one child” (the stressed out, type “A” personality who looks overwhelmed) versus “mom of two kids” and the latter is always more calm, cool and collected in the face of chaos & adversity? It took some time but now I let Bifford BE Bifford. There truly is knowledge in letting kids (furry or otherwise!) fall, wipe out, crash and burn and allow them to get back up on their own without the coddling of their helicopter “smother” (smother + mother = “smother”) and I promise it will get better!

When I adopted Bifford (which occurred about five minutes after I took him home to foster him and instantly fell in love with the boy) I was navigating uncharted territories, attempting to haphazardly steer a storm I was unaware of all around.

If I could instill wisdom for new “CH pet parents” it would be this:

  1. If you notice your new special baby stressed or overly anxious try to utilize the Feliway spray as well as try to get your baby into a “routine”. I noticed that Bifford enjoyed having a semi-structured routine (we woke him up from his “big boy room” and fed him breakfast, then we would let him play the day away with his brother and sisters then “mommy” would be home from work so he got snuggle time then it was dinnertime and then lounging with “mom and dad” before bedtime). I found that if anything derailed his routine in such a dramatic way he would freak out (and eventually that turned into stress cystitis, but that is a topic for another post!
  2. Schedule regular dental cleanings/examinations! I cannot tell you how many times when I first brought Bifford home would he sneeze a little too aggressively or be playing and “biff” it a little to hard and hurt his mouth or even chip a tooth! By having regular dental cleanings done I was able to address any injured teeth (injured= extremely painful).
  3. Construct a first aid kit for cats! This will come in handy if your little angel stumbles and falls or gets a “booboo” that may need a little attention when your veterinarian is closed (or you need to address and stabilize while en route to the veterinarian!)
  4. Invest in a low lip litter box! We actually made “BHOP” (Bifford’s House of Poop” which was a 13 gallon Rubbermaid container that Bifford’s “dad” cut a hole out on the bottom of one side (always use caution when using power/sharp tools!) This way Bifford could easily bobble into BHOP and do his absolute worse inside and there was no spillage or issue! He could also fall in it (or sometimes, play) without him knocking the entire thing over or causing any damage/injury!
  5. COMMUNICATION! When you adopt one of these special babies call your regular veterinarian right away (or send them a letter/postcard!) letting them know you adopted a specially abled pet (e-mail us if you would like our informational packet for veterinarians/veterinary staff) and if they have any questions (or maybe concerns) about these special babies. (Check out our map of veterinarians that are aware and understand these special kiddos here)

What are some useful tips/tricks that you were given (or found yourself while on your personal adventure!) that you would like to pass onto future specially-abled pet parents? Comment below!