Flea Prevention & Holistic Treatments for Cats

Flea Prevention & Holistic Treatments for Cats

by Celeste Yarnall

There’s so much that is done to our cats that is accepted and mediocre—so  much so that few ever challenge it, especially Western trained veterinarians.  But some of these habitual protocols done so mindlessly and often have turned  out to be quite harmful for our cats. One of those is the routine use of  chemical flea products. Let’s look at what we see advertised today  routinely.

Flea collars (whether herbal or insecticidal) don’t work! 

They don’t kill fleas, and they don’t even particularly repel them, except  for the area right around the collar. The grocery/pet store variety contains  concentrated toxic chemicals, and the herbal ones are irritating to  odor-sensitive cats. Topical (spot-on or pour-on) flea preventatives are  associated with liver disease and other adverse effects in cats. Permethrin,  pyrethrin, or pyrethroid-containing products intended for dogs are extremely  toxic to cats and have caused many feline deaths. Putting a dog flea product on  a cat causes neurological signs (twitching, disorientation, seizures) that  ultimately kill about 10 percent of cats.

Healthy cats eating a balanced, properly supplemented raw meat and raw bone diet are much  less susceptible to fleas and other parasites. If your cat is experiencing a  flea problem, work on improving your cat’s overall health and deal with the  immediate parasite situation. This is a “holistic” approach in the truest sense  of the word!

The conventional thinking that fleas are the problem is like saying  “flies cause garbage” just because the two are often found together. It is the  unhealthy state of the animal that attracts the parasites, just like garbage  attracts flies.

Fleas, those nasty little blood suckers, are tough, highly evolved parasites  that, once entrenched, are not easily eliminated. Fleas are attracted to warmth,  moving shadows, and the vibrations from foot (or paw) steps. When dealing with  fleas, you need to protect your cat and reach fleas and larvae hiding in carpets  and yards. Even exclusively indoor cats can get fleas, which travel in on  peoples shoes and clothing. (Keeping your cat indoors, however, will eliminate  the risk of ticks.) And removing shoes at your front door keeps fleas out and  helps keep other germs out as well.

Adult fleas spend most of their time on the cat, where they feed on blood  several times a day. Flea eggs are slippery and quickly fall off the cat and  onto the cat’s resting areas, floors, rugs, bedding, and furniture. The eggs  hatch and go through several intermediate stages before emerging as adults in as  little as two weeks, but they may remain dormant for months. That’s why even if  you get rid of the fleas on your cat, reinfestation is a common and very  frustrating phenomenon.

A Three-Pronged Approach to Treating Fleas

Try this one-two-three punch to eradicate fleas from your—and your cat’s—life.

ON YOUR CAT:

Use an ultra-fine-tooth flea comb daily. Pay particular attention to the neck, tummy, and base of the tail, which are favorite flea hangouts. Have a glass or bowl full of warm, soapy water at hand to drown any fleas that turn up.

Bathe your cat. Bathing your cat will drown a lot of fleas, but apply soap around the ears and neck first to keep the fleas from rushing up to the cat’s head and face. The herb Erigeron Canadensis (Canadian fleabane), found in some herbal shampoos, will help kill fleas. Bathe no more than once a week.

IN YOUR HOME:

Floor/carpet treatments such as diatomaceous earth (the fossilized shells of one-celled organisms called diatoms) and boric acid–derived powders will kill flea larvae, primarily through dessication (drying). Exterminators use borates; you can either hire professionals to treat your home or do it yourself. For a serious flea problem, it may be worth paying a professional since their work is guaranteed. Vacuuming is very effective against flea eggs and might even catch a few adults. To keep the eggs from hatching or the fleas from escaping, discard the bag immediately or use a flea spray in the vacuum bag or container, (not on the cat) either before or right after you vacuum.

IN THE YARD:

Beneficial nematodes eat flea eggs and will help control flea populations outdoors.

Garden-grade diatomaceous earth is very effective. Concentrate on areas under shrubs and decks and other cool shady spots where animals (such as rodents, raccoons, and outdoor and feral cats) have access.

Be very careful about the so-called natural approaches to flea treatment such as the use of essential oils topically or internally for cats.

Remember essential oils can be very toxic to cats even though they are highly touted by so-called holistic pet experts. Do keep in mind that:

Cats’ livers do not have the necessary enzymes to break down and excrete certain chemical compounds in essential oils. The chemical compounds accumulate in a cat’s body and are sometimes toxic to the point of death. Cats are very sensitive to morphine, certain sulfanomides, salicylic acid (aspirin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), allyl propyl disulfide (onions) and compounds containing bezene (benzyl alcohol preservative). Avoid all of the following oils around cats:

Wintergreen and birch oils contain methyl salicylate, the same chemical compound in aspirin.

Phenol-containing oils: oregano, thyme, cinnamon (cassia), clove, savory, cedar, birch, and melaleuca (tea tree oil)

Ketones, such as sage

Monoterpene hydrocarbons pinene and limonene, most commonly found in the citrus and pine oils: lemon, orange, tangerine, mandarin, grapefruit, lime, bergamot, pine, spruce, and any fir oil. Many household cleaners and even pet products have these latter substances in them to make them smell nice to the owners.

Hydrosols are the appropriate form of essential oils to use in cats. Regardless, the cat should always be given a choice as to whether to “partake.” Forcing a cat to ingest oils that have not been tested for safety in their species seems most unwise and many essential oil people will do their best to tell you it is ok. However do not ever attempt this without a vet’s supervision at best.

Let’s only use foods and supplements that are safe and proven to be safe and effective for cats. The best oils for cats come from animal sources such as those that possess anti-inlammatory benefits such as Omega-3s from marine lipids which also help treat flea bite dermatitis.

For more holistic protocols for cats and information see The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care, An Illustrated Guide by Celeste Yarnall, PhD and Jean Hofve, DVM.

Top 10 Signs of Cancer in Dogs and Cats

Top 10 Signs of Cancer in Dogs and Cats

by Nicolas, selected from petMD

Many people do not realize that cancer is not  just a human condition — it  affects our pets as well. In fact, cancer is  the number one disease-related  killer of dogs and cats.  Dr. Lorie Huston tells her clients to be on the lookout for  the following signs.  While these symptoms are not purely indicative of cancer,  if a pet  begins to exhibit them you should visit your veterinarian immediately.  Just like with people, the earlier cancer is caught the better.

10. Lumps and Bumps

Not all lumps and bumps on or under your dog or cat’s skin will be  cancerous, but there is no  way to know for sure without getting your  veterinarian involved – this  is especially important if the lump is not  resolving itself or is  growing in size. A needle biopsy is commonly done and a  veterinary  pathologist can let you know if the cells are cancerous or not.

9. Abnormal Odors

Offensive odors from your dog or cat’s mouth,  ears, or any other part of  your pet’s body, should be checked out.  Oftentimes cancers of the mouth, nose,  or anal regions can cause such  foul odors.

8. Abnormal Discharges

Blood, pus, vomiting, diarrhea,  or any other abnormal substance being discharged  from any part of your  pet’s body should be checked out by your veterinarian. In  addition to  that, if your dog or cat’s abdomen becomes bloated or distended it  could  be a sign of an accumulation of abnormal discharge within the body.

7. Non-Healing Wounds

If your pet has wounds or sores that are not healing, it could be a sign of  infection, skin disease, or even cancer.

6. Weight Loss

Cancer is among the list of diseases that can cause weight loss in a pet. If you notice sudden weight loss in  your dog or cat (and it  is not currently on a diet), along with other signs  from this list, be  sure to mention it to your veterinarian.

5. Change in Appetite

Dogs and cats do not stop eating without a cause. While a lack of appetite does not automatically indicate cancer, it  is still something to be  discussed with your veterinarian. Oral tumors can also  cause difficulty  or pain when eating or swallowing.

4. Coughing or Difficulty Breathing

Coughing or abnormal breathing can be caused by heart disease, lung  disease, and also cancer. Cancer  can metastasize through the lungs and cause  these symptoms.

3. Lethargy or Depression

If you notice your pet is not acting like itself –  sleeping more, less  playful, less willing to go on walks or to exercise  – this can also be a sign  of cancer. Once again, lethargy or depression  is not a symptom confined to  cancer, but an accumulation of any of  these signs is reason enough to speak  with your veterinarian.

2. Changes in Bathroom Habits

Changes in your pet’s urinary or bowel habits –  difficulty using the  bathroom, frequent bathroom use, blood in urine or  stool – these are all  potential signs of cancer.

1. Evidence of Pain

Limping or other evidence of pain while the pet  is walking, running, or  jumping is mostly associated with arthritic  issues or joint or muscle diseases,  but it can also be a sign of cancer  (especially cancer of the bone).

 

Vets Share Worst Things Their Pet Patients Ate

Vets Share Worst Things Their Pet Patients Ate

  • Nicolas, selected from petMD

Every year Veterinary Practice News holds a contest called “They Ate What?” in which veterinarians and clinic staff send in X-rays and case descriptions of the craziest things their patients have swallowed. The contest is a fun way to share offbeat incidents from the trenches of veterinary practice, but the stories do serve as a reminder that our pets need to be protected from the consequences of their dietary indiscretions. Here are a few highlights from the 2011 “They Ate What?” contest. Click through for the runners up and grand prize winner.

Honorable Mentions:

Melissa Seavey, Healthy Paws Veterinary Center, Westborough, MA

Ten baby bottle nipples were removed from the stomach of a 4-month-old golden retriever.

Stephen Crosby, CVT, VTS, New Haven Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine, New Haven, CT

An owner was feeding peanut butter off a spoon to her Alaskan malamute, who managed to gulp down the treat while it was still attached to the spoon. X-rays showed that the dog had previously also eaten a piece of a collar and a toy.

Caitlin Fickett, Alaska Veterinary Clinic, Anchorage, AK

A dog came in for vomiting and eating grass. X-rays revealed a foreign body in the stomach. The next morning, an additional X-ray better showed the object — a hard plastic dinosaur.

Patti Klein Manke, DVM, Woodstock Veterinary Clinic, Woodstock, NY

Prince Edward, a 9-year-old bulldog, ate his owner’s false teeth after finding them in a bowl of ice cream. The teeth were returned to the owner. (Hopefully they were cleaned well before being put back into duty!)

 

Runners Up:

Lisa Anne Attanasi, DVM, Eaglewood Cliffs Veterinary, Eaglewood Cliffs, NJ

Wailen, a 12-year-old beagle, presumably was brought into the clinic with symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. His veterinarian ordered abdominal X-rays, which revealed a hodgepodge of foreign “stuff” in his stomach. During surgery, the doctor removed shoe laces, mulch, a knee high stocking, a plastic plant, plastic ties, and the bristles of a car snow-cleaning brush.

Jenny Yanson, practice manager, Suburbia North Animal Hospital

Tinkerbell, a 6-month-old bulldog, ate a metal slip collar, became ill, and was brought into her veterinarian’s office. X-rays revealed that this was not her first offense. Two slip collars were surgically removed from her stomach.

 

Grand Prize Winner:

Vanessa Hawksin, DVM, Bayshore Animal Hospital, Warrenton, OR

A dog came into the clinic because of hind leg lameness. The doctor ordered radiographs to look for musculoskeletal abnormalities, and found nine handballs in the dog’s stomach instead. (I assume these were unrelated to the dog’s lameness.)

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Can You Have Too Many Cats?

Can You Have Too Many Cats?

  • Nicolas, selected from petMD

By Dr. Justine Lee, PetMD

Do I really need to answer this question? (And yes, I realize this blog will piss off people who own more than 6 cats!)

Unfortunately, I do.

Years ago, I had two women who brought their cat into the emergency room at the University of Pennsylvania. Both women reeked so badly of cat urine, I couldn’t even close the exam door due to my eyes burning from the ammonia smell. When I asked these women some questions about the cat’s environment, they couldn’t answer how many cats they had. I asked, “10? 20? 60? 100?” Their reply? “Over 100.”

These two women, who were cat hoarders, didn’t notice that their cat was ill until it was on death’s door, since they had so many in their “environment.” This cat was severely dehydrated, emaciated, and had a body condition score of 1 out of 9. This cat weighed just under five pounds (instead of nine), and was so lethargic it couldn’t even lift its head. (It ultimately died despite several days of hospitalization and life-saving care.)

So, can you imagine having so many cats that it prevents you from adequately being able to care for your pets?

 

You may hear of the occasional crazy “hoarder” revealed on the news — people with underlying mental disorders who live with a hundred cats hidden in their house (hopefully nowhere near your neighborhood). Sadly for the cats, the m.o. of your cat lovin’, urine-smelling, disheveled animal hoarder is quite sad. Most hoarders are unmarried and live alone (and you thought it was hard to find a date with just two cats…). Hoarders also come from all different socioeconomic backgrounds and typically are over sixty years of age. To top it off, over three-fourths of hoarders are females, once again giving the single white female a bad rap. Some more scary numbers?

  • In 69% percent of hoarding cases, animal urine and feces was found accumulated in living areas.
  • More than one in four (> 25%) of hoarders’ beds are soiled with animal feces.
  • 80% of reported cases had dead or sick animals present in the house.
  • 60% of hoarders didn’t acknowledge that they had dead or sick animals in the house.
  • Over 65% of hoarding cases involve cats (although some also hoard small dogs and rabbits).

While most hoarders don’t read my blog, my general advice to any cat owner is this: I usually recommend no more than four to five cats total. Sometimes I offend my fellow veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and friends when I tell them my cut-off for crazy is six cats. After that, I think it’s medically unhealthy.

If this pisses you off, I’m sorry, but I’m looking out for the welfare of the cats and dogs here. Try finding a veterinarian who has that many. It’s rare — we know that having this many cats can result in severe behavioral problems. Of course, if you ask ten different vets, you may get ten different answers. That said, until those nine other vets write an opinionated blog about it, I still recommend no more than four or five cats per household.

So what’s the problem with having so many cats? Animal behavior specialists often see more problems in multicat households. Having too many cats may result in urination problems (i.e., not in the litter box!), intercat fighting and attacking, and difficulty in monitoring general health. For example, checking the litter box to see if one cat has a urinary tract infection is more difficult when you have six cats.

So how many cats should you get? I have to say that I initially enjoyed having a one cat household. That is, until I experienced a two-cat household. Now I’m a firm believer in having two cats together. Seamus, my 13-year old, grey and white tabby, was more friendly and affectionate to humans (more to the point — me!) as an only child. When I adopted Echo (who sadly, passed away in April from severe heart disease), I got less “loving” from Seamus. He wanted to spend all his time playing with Echo instead. Echo and Seamus played together (constantly), slept together, wrestled together, and loved each other up. Once Seamus and Echo befriended each other, I was officially demoted to the source of food and to litter box duty. Seamus’ quality of life, social skills, and exercise level definitely improved while he had Echo in his life. After seeing this, I do firmly believe that cats do benefit from having a companion to play with. *Note, a companion or two — not six or one hundred.

I’ve been fortunate to have cats that get along (despite the first few tumultuous days of hissing and cat introductions). For that reason, yes, I support having afew feline friends together.