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.

Veterinary Cannabis & Legalities

DISCLAIMER: Veterinary cannabis is still a very fresh and constantly changing/developing aspect of veterinary medicine. If you ever have questions/concerns, or want to discuss the potential of adding CBD/cannabis to your pet’s medicine protocol and/or treatment plan we always stress to have an open and honest dialog with your veterinarian/specialist! We do not support nor condone veterinary cannabis but simply answering a question that a “President” Bifford supporter e-mailed us earlier in the week. We remove all responsibility for any effects (both positive & negative) that your pet may endure by trying veterinary cannabis!

Cannabis has important interactions with pharmaceutical drugs! If not managed carefully and properly, those interactions have the potential to be dangerous! Working together YOU and YOUR veterinarian can ensure that all medications & supplements work synergistically to reduce side effects and improve overall outcome while meeting your goals for your pet.

Your veterinarian should recommend periodic examination and laboratory evaluation (of both blood & urine) of your pet to ensure that all aspects of the treatment plan are supporting the positive goals that you and your veterinarian have established. We STRESS to have diagnostics accomplished PRIOR to starting veterinary cannabis as CBD has been noted to increase some liver enzymes, and at this time we do not know the significance of these changes. Regular monitoring and diagnostics are also an important part of caring for your pet!

Be aware that the “trial & error” period can take time and may need periodic changes and re-evaluation.

  1. As veterinarians, they are NOT authorized to prescribe any Schedule 1 drugs — including marijuana (products that contain more than 0.3% THC) or other types of cannabis. Since the DEA authorized cannabis as a scheduled 1 drug NO veterinarian can prescribe these products. Pet parents nee to choose a quality product and MUST have accurate information about the amount of THC and other cannabinoids it contains.
  2. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, there is a clear distinction between marijuana (containing >0.3% THC) and hemp (containing <0.3% THC) types of cannabis & veterinarians may have more flexibility when working with hemp-based products. However, there still remain state-specific and even clinic-specific restrictions that the veterinary health care team and you as the pet parent must navigate together.
  3. Cannabis products derived from either hemp or marijuana (in certain states) may be legally obtained by a pet parent in accordance with their state and local laws.
  4. Once purchased, a cannabis product may be administered to an animal by a pet parent — that is YOUR right to decide as your pet’s guardian.
  5. Once you, as the pet parent, have decided to investigate the use of cannabis in your pet, you can then start the conversation with your veterinary health care team to seek guidance and education on product safety as well as administration and monitoring plans.

Starting The Conversation

  1. Make sure to mention the use of cannabis products when asked about your pet’s medical history and/or supplements. This may be something that you mention to the receptionist when first making the appointment or to the staff when checking in. Knowing if cannabis is being used at home helps the veterinarian make important decisions about other medications, supplements & treatment plans.
  2. Ask to work with a veterinarian/veterinary health care team that is “cannabis-knowledgeable”. Not every veterinarian is trained in cannabis topics or is comfortable providing guidance about the use of cannabis in your pet. To make sure that you’re working with the right veterinarian — just ask!
  3. If you already started your pet on a cannabis product prior to your clinic appointment, keep a journal that tracks trends such as appetite, sleep habits & energy levels. This journal can be extremely useful in identifying subtle trends, both positive & negative, associated with the use of cannabis in your pet.

What To Bring To The Appointment

  1. The cannabis product with as much original packaging as possible! The package label can provide essential information about product source and manufacturing, active & inactive ingredients and concentration or strength of the product. Since cannabis laws vary from state to state, make sure to ask your veterinary clinic if you should bring pictures of the packaging instead of the ACTUAL packaging material!
  2. A list of ALL medications & supplements currently being administered to your pet. The list should include all herbal supplements, over-the-counter medications and any special diets. DON’T FORGET about flea/tick & heartworm prevention!
  3. A list of goals for cannabis use. Take some time prior to the appointment to think about why you want to utilize cannabis in your pet- what are your short and long term goals for your pet that you hope to accomplish using cannabis?
  4. Journal — consider bringing pictures and/or videos in addition to your written journal to help explain symptoms observed at home that may not be evident during the appointment.

Want more information on this subject? Visit www.cannabismd.com

Veterinary Cannabis & CH Pets

DISCLAIMER: Veterinary cannabis is still a very fresh and constantly changing/developing aspect of veterinary medicine. If you ever have questions/concerns, or want to discuss the potential of adding CBD/cannabis to your pet’s medicine protocol and/or treatment plan we always stress to have an open and honest dialog with your veterinarian/specialist! We do not support nor condone veterinary cannabis but simply answering a question that a “President” Bifford supporter e-mailed us earlier in the week. We remove all responsibility for any effects (both positive & negative) that your pet may endure by trying veterinary cannabis!

Accessibility: Hemp and CBD-only products can be found in pet stores and online. Products with higher THC content can be found in a dispensary only. Make sure that you are familiar with and abide by ALL cannabis laws applicable in your area.

Manufacturer Reputation: Look for a company with high ethical standards that are open and honest about their manufacturing techniques, ingredients and resources.

The “entourage effect”: Products that utilize the 600+ compounds of the whole cannabis plan are safer and more therapeutic than those that utilize a single or few compounds.

Contaminant-Free: Look for products that are tested and confirmed to be free of contaminants such as pesticides and heavy metals as well as mold and bacteria.

Safe Extraction Technique: C02 and alcohol are the safest extraction techniques for the products used in animals. Other extraction methods may leave behind toxic residual chemicals in the product.

Tinctures (cannabis in liquid form): Tinctures are one of the safest & most accurate form of cannabis use in animals. The veterinary cannabis society recommends AGAINST the use of edibles (cookies, gummies, etc.,) made specifically for humans for use in animals.

Quality Ingredients: Animal tinctures should be formulated in a high-quality oil base and NOT alcohol. NOTE: alcohol is fine as an extraction method but NOT as a tincture base!

No Additives: Avoid products that have additives such as coloring, preservatives, or other herbs. Be especially careful to AVOID any product that contains xylitol which is extremely toxic to animals.

Ratio of CBD/THC: A combination of both CBD & THC has a greater therapeutic effect for most conditions than either one used alone. Work with your veterinarian to determine the right ratio for your pet & their condition(s).

Concentration: How many milligrams (mg) are in each drop or milliliter (ml)? Higher concentrations allow easier administration in bigger animals. Lower concentrations are safer for smaller animals because of their lower body weight.

Measured Dose: A marked dropper, syringe or easily calculated number of drops is required to provide accurate dosing.

Cautions: Although cannabis is remarkably safe, if your animal is taking other medications, please make sure to discuss your animal’s [potential] cannabis plan with your veterinarian. Do not use cannabis in immature or pregnant animals.

Go Slow: Always start with a low dose and slowly work up to your target dose. Gradually introduce any change in brand, CBD/THC ratio, or concentration. Re-evaluate your dosing if your animal’s health status changes.

Set Up For Success: Arrange the home environment so your animal feels safe & comfortable at ALL times. If an animal receives an inappropriate dose of cannabis, they may be overly sensitive to bright lights and loud sounds. ALWAYS contact your veterinarian if you feel your pet received an inappropriate dose!

Keep A Journal: Consider keeping a log of your animal’s cannabis dose and their reactions.

How CBD is thought to help dogs

Researchers are still learning CBD’s specific effects on dogs, but here’s how the compound is THOUGHT to work:

Dogs have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) just like humans.

The ECS is a network of cellular activators and receptors in the body that regulate physiological processes, including pain, mood, inflammation, stress & more.

CBD binds to and activates the vanilloid, adenosine & serotonin receptors in a dog’s ECS and helps to regulate pain perception, inflammation, temperature & more. It also boosts dopamine levels, helping to reduce anxiety & improve mood.

CBD also blocks GPR55 signaling, which decreases cancer cell reproduction.

CBD can help improve:

  • Allergies
  • Anxiety & Fear
  • Appetite Loss & Digestive Problems
  • Arthritis, Joint & Mobility Issues
  • Cancer & Tumors
  • Skin Issues
  • Seizures & Epilepsy
  • Inflammation
  • Glaucoma
  • Spasms

Want more information on this subject? Visit www.cannabismd.com

Having trouble affording veterinary care? Help is out there!

Especially with COVID-19 and these uncertain times it can happen to anyone! If you are having financial restraints and need help covering veterinary care/costs (or caring for your pet in general) there are programs out there to help you out! Check them out to see if you qualify!

Disclaimer: Bifford for President has NO connection to these organizations/programs and have no weight in each programs approval/denial process. If you have questions pertaining to a specific program please contact them DIRECTLY.

I also listed organizations in Ohio & PA since we are located in Northeast Ohio but also listed nationwide organizations that can also help!

  • The Big Hearts Fund (Financial assistance for the diagnosis & treatment of canine/feline heart disease) bigheartsfund.org
  • The Binky Foundation binkyfoundation.org
  • Brown Dog Foundation (prescription medications) browndogfoundation.org
  • Canine Cancer Awareness caninecancerawareness.org
  • Cats in Crisis catsincrisis.org
  • Alley Cat Allies alley.org
  • Best Friends Animal Society bestfriends.org
  • Care Credit carecredit.com
  • Diabetic Pets Fund petdiabetes.net/fund/
  • Extend Credit extendcredit.com
  • Fairy Dog Parents fairydogparents.org
  • Feline Outreach felineoutreach.org
  • Feline Veterinary Emergency Asst. Program fveap.org
  • Gracie’s Mission graciesmission.org
  • PetsMart Charities petsmartcharities.org
  • Pigger’s Pals piggerspals.org
  • United Nations LifeLine Fund uan.org
  • The Riedel & Cody Fund riedelcodyfund.org
  • The Perseus Foundation (Cancer) perseusfoundation.org
  • New York Save nysave.org
  • Land of Pure Gold Foundation landofpuregold.org
  • Humane Society of United States hsus.org
  • The Dog & Cat Cancer Fund dccfund.org
  • God’s Creatures Ministry Veterinary Charity all-creatures.org
  • Help-A-Pet help-a-pet.org
  •  IMOM IMOM.org
  • Magic Bullet Fund (Cancer-Specific) themagicbulletfund.org
  • The Mosby Fund themosbyfoundation.org
  • The Onyx & Breezy Foundation onyxandbreezy.org
  • Paws 4 A Cure paws4acure.org
  • Pet Food Bank petco.com
  • Pet Food Stamps petfoodstamps.org
  • The Pet Fund thepetfund.com
  • Pets of the Homeless (pet food & veterinary care for homeless) petsofthehomeless.org
  • RedRover Relief redrover.org
  • Rose’s Fund rosesfund.org
  • Shakespeare Animal Fund shakespeareanimalfund.org
  • Top Dog Foundation “Bentley Grant” topdogfoundation.org
  • ScratchPay ScratchPay.com

OHIO

  • Angels for Animals: Canfield (Pet Food, Spay/Neuter Assistance) angelsforanimals.org
  • The Bummer Fund: Columbiana, Mahoning & Trumbull Counties (Veterinary Assistance) bummerfund.org à Susan  Sexton (330) 519-3152
    • Applications, please fax to TESS TESSIER
  • Humane Ohio: Toledo (Spay Assistance) humaneohio.org
  • Jake Brady Memorial Fund (Veterinary Assistance) myjakebrady.com
  • MedVet Good Sam Fund: Columbus & Cincinnati (Veterinary Assistance) medvetfoundation.org
  • The Neuter Scooter: Multiple Locations (Spay/Neuter Assistance for Cats) neuterscooter.com
  • Paws with Pride: Uniontown (Temporary Foster Program) pawswithpride.org
  • Pet Guards Clinic: Cuyahoga Falls (Assistance for veterinary care, spay program & vaccines) petguards.com
  • PetPromise: Columbus (Pet Food) petpromise.org
  • Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Pets: Kettering (Temporary Foster/Spay Assistance) sicsa.org
  • Stop the Overpopulation of Pets: Mansfield (Spay Assistance) petfinder.com/OH130

PENNSYLVANIA

  • Action for Animals Humane Society: Latrobe (Spay Assistance) members.petfinder.org/~PA60
  • Animal Care & Assistance Fund (Veterinary Care) animalcarefund.org
  • Animal Friends: Pittsburgh (Pet Food/Spay Assistance) thinkingoutsidethecage.org
  • The Animal Rescue of Western PA (Veterinary Care) animalrescue.org/clinic
  • Forgotten Cats, Inc.: Willow Grove (Spay/Vaccine Assistance) forgottencats.org
  • Humane Society of Berks County: Reading (Food/Veterinary Assistance) berkshumane.org
  • Humane Society of Westmoreland County: Greenberg (Spay/Vaccine Assistance) petfinder.come/hswcgbg
  • Spay/Neuter Assistance Program Inc,: Harrisburg (Low Cost Spay) snapofpa.org
  • Washington Area Humane Society: Pittsburgh (Spay/Veterinary) washingtonpashelter.org
  • Western PA Humane Society: Pittsburgh (Spay/Veterinary) wpahumane.com
  • Wilkes Barre Animal Hospital: Wilkes Barre (Spay- Cats) kathio.com/spayneuterinfo

Know of an organization/program that is not listed here? E-mail their information to us at PresidentBifford@gmail.com and we will update our list!

ASA Status

Scoring System

This is where ASA classification can help. An ASA risk is a 1-to-5 score adapted for animals from human medicine’s American Society of Anesthesiologists. The system is based on the patient’s overall health, not the procedure being performed.

The ASA scoring system is NOT an assessment of total perianesthetic or perioperative risk, since many things, including the surgical procedure planned, the skill & training of the anesthetist and the surgeon, as well as the the resources at hand, contribute to the entirety of operative risk. If you EVER have any questions or concerns regarding your pet and any upcoming procedure they may be having talk to your veterinarian/veterinary support staff immediately!

The pre-anesthestic phase includes NOT only the choice of preanesthetic sedatives & analgesics but also a full preanesthetic evaluation & stabilization of the patient, if necessary. Categorization of patients using the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) provides a framework for evaluation of patient health & determination of stabilization requirements prior to anesthesia.

STATUSASA CLASSIFICATIONEXAMPLES
IHealthy Pet, No DiseaseElective Spay/Neuter
IIMild systemic disease or localized diseaseHealthy geriatric pet, mild anemia or obesity
III (Fair)Moderate systemic disease limiting activity but NOT life-threateningMitral valve insufficiency, collapsing trachea, poorly controlled diabetes
IV (Poor)Severe systemic disease, incapacitating; life-threatening; not expected to live without surgeryHemoabdomen from splenic rupture, severe traumatic pneumothorax, organ failure
V (Grave)Moribound; not expected to live >24 hours, with or without surgeryMulti-organ failure, severe shock, terminal malignancy

Common Veterinary Anesthetic Medications Chart

DISCLAIMER: These are COMMON medications/adverse reactions to veterinary anesthetic medications, just like humans, pets also can have a variety of symptoms/reactions that are not listed or documented.

If you have any questions or concerns always speak to your veterinarian about the kinds of medications utilized and the potential side effects that may occur.

Anesthetic/Analgesic DrugCommon Adverse Effects
Dexmedetomidine Medetomidine XylazineBradycardiaCardiac Output ReductionHypertension/HypotensionVasoconstriction
NSAIDs SteroidsBleeding DisorderDiarrhea/VomitingGastrointestinal UlcerationLethargyRenal/Liver Failure
Diazepam MidazolamMinimal Cardiorespiratory EffectsParadoxical Excitement of Patients
Halothane Isofurane SevofuraneDecreased Cardiac OutputDecreased Myocardial Contractility Hypothermia/HyperthermiaMay result in hypotensionVasodilation
Diazepam/Ketamine Propofol Tiletamine/ZolazepamCyanosisOccasional Muscle Twitches/SeizuresProfuse Salivation/Airway SecretionsRespiratory Depression Transient TachycardiaVasodilation
Bupivacaine Lidocaine MepivacaineBradycardiaHyperthermia in some animals; hypothermia more likelyCardiac ArrestHypotensionSeizure
Buprenorphine Butorphanol Fentanyl Hydromorphone MorphineBradycardiaMydriasis/MiosisRespiratory Depression (hypoventilation, apnea)Vomiting

Understanding the “FVRCP” vaccine & “modified live-virus” vaccines!

What is the “FVRCP” vaccine?

The FVRCP vaccination is an important part of your cat’s routine.

It prevents three potentially deadly airborne viruses:

  1. rhinotracheitis
  2. calicivirus
  3. panleukopenia 
  1. Rhinotracheitis is triggered by the common feline herpes virus. Symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose and drooling. Your cat’s eyes may become crusted with mucous, and he or she may sleep much more and eat much less than normal. If left untreated this disease causes dehydration, starvation, and eventually, death.
  2. Calicivirus has similar symptoms, affecting the respiratory system and also causing ulcers in the mouth. It can result in pneumonia if left untreated—kittens and senior cats are especially vulnerable.
  3. Panleukopenia is also known as distemper and is easily spread from one cat to another. Distemper is so common that nearly all cats—regardless of breed or living conditions—will be exposed to it in their lifetime. It’s especially common in kittens who have not yet been vaccinated against it, and symptoms include fever, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. This disease progresses rapidly and requires immediate medical attention. Without intervention, a cat can die within 12 hours of contracting the disease.

These three viruses can be contracted by cats at any age.

Kittens should receive their first FVRCP vaccination at 6 to 8 weeks of age, followed by three booster shots once a month. Adult cats should receive a booster once every year or two, according to your veterinarian’s recommendation.

Adult cats with unknown vaccination records should receive a FVRCP vaccination, plus a booster in 3-4 weeks from the time they initially received the first FVRCP vaccine.

Because FVRCP is a live vaccine, it should not be given to pregnant cats. If a live-vaccine is administered to a pregnant cat then the unborn kittens may develop cerebellar hypoplasia.
 

What is a “modified- live” vaccine?

Modified live vaccines (MLV) contain a small quantity. of virus or bacteria that has been altered so that it no longer. is capable of causing clinical disease but is still capable of. infection and multiplying in the animal.

What is the difference between the various types of vaccines?

There are three major types of vaccine:

1.  Modified live vaccines. These vaccines contain live organisms that are weakened or genetically modified so that they will not produce disease but will multiply in the cat’s body. Live vaccines induce a stronger, longer lasting immunity than inactivated vaccines. It is not advisable to use modified live vaccines in pregnant queens or cats whose immune system is not working properly (e.g., cats infected by feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), or other diseases).

2.  Killed (inactivated) vaccines. These vaccines are prepared using actual organisms or genetically modified organisms that have been killed by various treatments. On their own, they do not give as high a level of protection as the live, replicating type of vaccine, so killed vaccines may have an adjuvant (an added ingredient) to make the immune response stronger.

3.  Subunit vaccines. These are more commonly called recombinant-DNA vaccines. These are vaccines in which the infectious organism has been broken apart and only certain parts are included in the vaccine.

How do vaccines work exactly?

Vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune system to recognize and fight a particular microorganism such as a virus, bacteria, or other infectious organism. Once vaccinated, the animal’s immune system is then primed, or prepared to react to a future infection with that microorganism. In other words, the vaccine mimics a true infection so that the immune system can better protect the body in the future. Depending on the disease, the vaccine will help the body prevent infection or lessen the severity of infection and promote rapid recovery.

Which particular brand of the FVRCP vaccine is considered “modified-live”?

FELOCELL 3 by Zoetis is a “modified-live” virus vaccine
  1. FELOCELL (Zoetis)
    1. FELOCELL 3 is a non-adjuvanted* modified-live virus (MLV) vaccine.
    2. Contains attenuated strains of feline rhinotracheitis virus, calicivirus, and panleukopenia virus (Johnson Snow Leopard strain), propagated on established cell lines.
    3. Safety of FELOCELL 3 was demonstrated in field trials involving 2,288 cats. No serious post-vaccination reactions attributable to the vaccine were reported.
    4. Packaged in freeze-dried form with inert gas in place of vacuum.
    5. Customer-friendly packaging includes peel-off labels for faster and more accurate record-keeping, a color-coded organizing system, and an easy-open safety band.
    6. FELOCELL 3 is supported by our Companion Animal Immunization Support Guarantee (ISG).

* Non-Adjuvanted : An adjuvant is a substance that is added to a vaccine to enhance the body’s immune response to the vaccine. Studies have shown that adjuvants have been associated with injection site reaction, injection site granuloma, and chronic inflammation in cats. (purevax.com)

The AAFP vaccination guidelines recommend that low-risk adult cats be vaccinated every three years for the core vaccines, and then as determined by your veterinarian for any non-core vaccines. Some vaccine manufacturers have developed approved three-year vaccines for many of the core vaccines. It is important to note that feline leukemia virus (FeLV) vaccine is recommended by some AAFP members as a core vaccine, while other experts classify it as a non-core vaccine. Your veterinarian is the ultimate authority on how your cat should be vaccinated. Please always consult your cat’s veterinarian about the vaccine schedule/process, types of vaccines, side effects & more!

Why Isn’t My Cat Using Their Litterbox?

Housesoiling is one of the most common reasons cats are abandoned or surrendered to a shelter, which often leads to euthanasia. Cats don’t urinate and defecate all over their home out of spite, but rather because something is lacking. If your cat’s social, physical, or medical needs aren’t being met, housesoiling commonly is how she will indicate that something is wrong. But don’t despair if your home has become a giant litter box—many methods are available to treat, manage, and prevent inappropriate elimination.

What causes inappropriate elimination?

Your cat didn’t urinate on your new boyfriend’s sweatshirt because she’s jealous. Instead, she may be stressed that her home life has changed. Housesoiling is categorized as medical or behavioral—unfortunately, they often are closely intertwined, so differentiating between the two can be an extensive, frustrating process.

If your cat is inappropriately eliminating due to a medical condition, she may be suffering from one of the following:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Cystitis
  • Bladder stone
  • Constipation
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer

Medical conditions are easier to resolve than behavioral issues, which may include:

  • Stress
  • Intercat aggression
  • Having an intact male or female cat in the home
  • Moved or new furniture
  • New family members or pets in your home
  • Perceived threats, such as stray or wild animals coming close to your home
  • Intact male or female cats marking their territory
  • A dirty litter box
  • Unhappiness with litter choice or type of litter box
  • Litter box location

Inappropriate elimination often has no single cause, which makes it difficult to accurately diagnose and manage.

Diagnosis of inappropriate elimination

Schedule an appointment with your AAHA-accredited veterinarian if your cat is eliminating inappropriately. Finding the root cause of housesoiling is challenging. First, all medical conditions must be ruled out before concluding that the reason is behavioral, which requires several diagnostic tests, including bloodwork, urinalysis, fecal examination, and potentially, X-rays and an ultrasound. If these tests are negative for medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, bacteria in the urine, intestinal parasites, bladder stones, or arthritis, your veterinarian will study your pet’s at-home behavioral history for environmental factors.

Stressful situations often lead cats to marking behavior, which is determined by these characteristics:

  • Spraying on vertical, upright surfaces
  • Targeting items that bring in new smells, such as suitcases, backpacks, and shoes
  • Spraying by windows and doors to indicate an outside threat
  • Spraying in hallways, doorways, or stairways to indicate an indoor stressor, such as new pets or people in the household, active children, or remodeling
  • Defecating in the litter box, but urinating outside the box
  • Urinating in the litter box only some of the time

Be aware that the diagnosis process can be lengthy and convoluted—the correct cause only can be established through trial and error.

How should I manage housesoiling?

Managing housesoiling can be as challenging as finding the cause, but don’t give up! There are many methods and a combination of treatments often is necessary. Depending on the root of the problem, you may need to try methods from each of the three categories of housesoiling management: medical, behavioral, and litter box-related.

  • Medical
    • Treat a urinary tract infection
    • Regulate diabetes or other metabolic or endocrine disorder
    • Manage kidney disease
    • Prevent arthritis pain
    • Calm bladder inflammation
    • Remove bladder stones
  • Behavioral
    • Ask about antianxiety medication
    • Investigate calming supplements
    • Use pheromones for intercat aggression or generalized anxiety
    • Block access to windows or doors if stray animals are nearby
    • Invest in environmental enrichment, such as cat towers, climbing trees, scratching posts, interactive toys, and food puzzles
    • Minimize drastic environmental changes
  • Litter box care
    • Change litter and litter box, and keep the litter box clean
    • Increase the number of litter boxes
    • Invest in a larger, shallower litter box
    • Change the litter box location
    • Retrain your cat to use the litter box
    • Clean messes thoroughly

Cats are extremely picky about litter and litter boxes. Create an attractive feline elimination station by:

  • Choosing fine, granular, sand-like clumping litter that is odor-free
  • Providing at least one litter box per household cat, plus one extra
  • Placing litter boxes in various locations and on different floors
  • Avoiding placing litter boxes in cramped corners, near noisy appliances, or in heavy-traffic areas
  • Keeping food and water dishes well away from litter boxes
  • Avoiding covered litter boxes, box liners, or strong-smelling cleaners
  • Ensuring litter boxes are large and shallow, ideally at least one-and-a-half times the length of your cat from nose to tail
  • Scooping litter daily and routinely cleaning the box with soap and water

Inappropriate elimination is one of the most common, frustrating problems to plague cat owners. Housesoiling can be an emergency if your cat has a urinary blockage or other medical condition. Contact your veterinarian at the first signs of inappropriate elimination and be patient through the diagnosis and management process to restore your bond with your beloved feline friend.