Health Forum

Q. I understand that straining while urinating is a sign of urinary problems in cats, but what does a straining cat look like? A. Usually a cat squats close to its litter. A straining cat slightly raises its haunches, may cry, and its urine may be blood-stained. If you notice straining, or even suspect straining, don't delay, contact your veterinarian promptly, it could save your cat's life. Q. My father keeps his cat on a diet of cooked liver only. He says the cat is old and should eat what it prefers. Is this a good idea? A. An exclusive liver diet can be toxic to a cat, causing skeletal, nerve and hair damage, weight loss and pain. Schedule an appointment with the cat's veterinarian promptly to find out if any damage has been done, and if so, can it be reversed. Q. We can find no apparent reason why our cat is lame. Is it better to take a wait-and-see attitude or take the cat to our veterinarian? A. Your veterinarian is more experienced than you are at diagnosing and treating problems in their early stages before further damage can be done to the affected area. Your cat may be in pain and need medication or treatment to ease the pain. (Ed. note.- or the cat may have been indulging in an all-liver diet.) Q. Our veterinarian mentioned that our cat has a heart murmur, but didn't seem too concerned. Are some types of murmurs milder than others? A. Yes. Murmurs are caused by a turbulence in the blood flow as it passes through the heart. Murmurs due to birth defects in the heart, anemia or feline cardiomyopathy are considered to be serious. Your veterinarian will still want to monitor it. Q. Is it best to give our cat powdered medications directly into its mouth or should we add the medication to its food or drinking water? A. When given directly there is always a chance that powders can be drawn into the lungs and cause pneumonia. It is easier and more efficient to disguise powders in portions of strongly odored food since the cat is more apt to eat the food than drink the water. Q. Is it important for our new veterinarian to know our cat's medical history? We just moved and wonder if the cat's records should be transferred? A. Yes. Ask your former veterinarian to transfer the records. Your cat's health history, vaccination schedule, test results, surgeries, behavior problems, etc. all provide clues or insight into potential health problems in the future. Q. The hair around our cat's temporal region is becoming sparser every day. Is this a problem? The cat doesn't itch or anything. A. Some cats do lose hair in this area during seasonal changes. However, hair loss can be caused by stress, illness, a glandular problem or allergies, so it would be a good idea to have your veterinarian determine what is causing the hair loss. Q. It's hard to tell if our cat is pregnant because she's so overweight. Would our veterinarian be able to tell if we took her in for an examination? A. Your veterinarian can make a diagnosis by carefully palpating your cat's abdomen at about seventeen to twenty-five days. At forty to forty-five days, X-rays can be used to view the litter. Also ask about diet when you bring the cat in. Q. We've just adopted our first kitten. What can we expect to occur when we take our kitten in for its initial visit to our veterinarian's office? A. Your veterinarian will examine your kitten to make sure it is healthy, take its history and administer  and schedule necessary vaccinations. Diet, birth and parasite control and grooming can also be discussed during the office call. Q. The term feline upper respiratory disease encompasses many types of diseases. What types of respiratory diseases are covered by vaccines? A. Rhinotracheitis and feline calicivirus are the most familiar types routinely vaccinated against. If Chlamydia psittaci, that causes feline pneumonitis, is prevalent in your area of the country, immunization can also be included for this disease. Q. In a multiple-cat household are the cats usually satisfied with sharing one litter box? Our daughter's cat is joining our household for the summer. A. Some may share, but it may be wiser to allow your daughter's cat to use the box that it is familiar with. Your cat will not feel as threatened by the newcomer invading its territory and your daughter's cat will suffer less trauma. These questions and answers are provided for The American Veterinary Medical Association by Mitchell/Nowicki Associates in Public Relations, Inc., P.O. Box 26202,Wauwatosa, WI 53226-0202. Q. What treatment is available for urolithiasis, a blockage of the urethra in a male cat? Do veterinarians put cats on kidney dialysis machines? A. Veterinarians will usually try to break up the obstruction by gentle manipulation, catheterization and flushing. As a last resort, surgery to provide a new urinary opening may be indicated. Kidney dialysis, at present, is not a common treatment for pets. Q. Colitis was diagnosed as being our cat's problem. Is colitis something that eventually will go away or will our cat suffer for the rest of its life? A. It may. Colitis, an inflammation of the large bowel, requires professional care. It can be a sign that other debilitating problems exist, such as feline leukemia virus, irritable bowel syndrome, etc. Work closely with your veterinarian. Q. A friend's cat had a chronically diseased eye that had to be removed to prevent "sympathetic ophthalmia". We're wondering, what is "sympathetic ophthalmia"? A. Put simply, "sympathetic ophthalmia" refers to the fact that the problem from a diseased, wounded or ulcerated eye can spread to the "good" eye. To protect the "good eye", the diseased eye is removed. Most cats can get along fine with only one eye. Q. My daughter's cat is terminally ill. We're going to visit her soon. Should we surprise her with a kitten to help her ease the impending loss of the cat? A. No. She may have all she can handle in caring for an ill cat. Grief takes time to work through. You might promise that you will help her select a kitten of her choice, when and if she is ready for a new kitten. In response to letters of inquiry from the TWE Editor a phone call was received on 2-13-97 from Dr. Janet Foley. Dr. Foley is located at the UC Davis CCAH and was co-author with Dr. Niels Pedersen of the "The Inheritance of Susceptibility to FIP in Purebred Catteries" The questions and answers ran substantially as follows: Q. Dr. Foley, in your pedigree research did you know whether cats had been vaccinated against FIP or not? A. Yes, that was known. Whether the cats had received the FIP vaccine or not seemed to be irrelevant; it did not make any difference in the frequency with which they developed FIP. Q. How do you explain that? A. In a cattery situation, or wherever you have more than 3 or 4 cats living together and breeding, the vast majority of kittens have been exposed to FeCV (feline enteric coronavirus) by the time they are typically vaccinated at 4 months of age. Since the evidence indicates that FIP is a mutation of FeCV it may be that when kittens are vaccinated at four months it is too late for the vaccine to offer them any protection. Q. Was there any evidence that those who had been vaccinated were more likely to succumb to FIP? A. No, so at least it's not doing them any harm to vaccinate them. Q. Is the strain of coronavirus being used in the vaccine still quite different from that which exists in the field? I know that this had been suggested as one of the possible reasons that the vaccine might not be very effective. A. Yes. It's missing "a big chunk" of the material that's in the wild virus, so that's another possible reason for it being ineffective. Or it may be that when kittens are vaccinated younger that they will receive some protection. We just don't know yet. Q. So, at this point, to gain some measure of control, we need to remove from our breeding programs those males who have lost offspring from FIP? A. Yes, it's really not that different from dealing with poor immunity in general; to respiratory infections, ringworm, etc. The health of the animal and its offspring should be the first consideration in deciding which animals to breed, not show type. Q. We have had good results in reducing upper respiratory infections in kittens by using the oronasal vaccine (Rhinolin-CP), starting at 4 weeks. A. Yes. We would advocate the use of the total score method in evaluating one's breeding stock; health and viability of the kittens would be most important in determining which ones to breed.  There is a problem in the (FIP) heritability statistic. Although overall heritability comes out to about 50%, there is a rather wide confidence interval around that statistic. Q. Which means that, although overall one might expect to lose 50% of the kittens of a particular male, in any one litter the number might vary from one to the total litter? A. Yes. Q. That's worse than a lethal recessive then, where, if both parents have the gene, you lose, on the average, only one in four. And when we say that heritability is 50% does that assume that they are all exposed? A. Yes, whenever you have more than 3 or 4 breeding cats in an area that's a reasonable assumption. After 6 or 8 cats in an area exposure to FeCV is almost universal. Q. Thank you, Dr. Foley. We know better how to protect ourselves, thanks to you! Q. One of my cats was recently diagnosed as having a giardia infection, based on examination of a stool specimen. What can you tell me about this disorder? A. Giardia is a one-celled intestinal parasite. Giardiasis is becoming a more prevalent disease, particularly in cattery situations where cats are moving in and out from all over the US and where cats frequent shows. Giardiasis unfortunately is sometimes over-diagnosed and consequently over-treated, and many times under-diagnosed or overlooked as a source of intermittent or chronic ongoing diarrhea. Diagnosis can be variable (it sometimes does not show up in a particular specimen) and not all (fecal) positive cats are necessarily clinically ill from giardia. Often underlying conditions such as debilitation, or inflammatory bowel disease are also present. More and more information is becoming available regarding effective treatment measures. The infective stage is the cyst form; these cysts are often transmitted in contaminated water or among animals by the fecal-oral route. Cysts that are present in cool, wet environments can remain infective for months. They are sensitive to desiccation (drying out). Recent investigation has shown that Albendazole (Valbazen) is 50 times more effective than Flagyl and quinacrine. Fewer side effects have been reported, but it should not be used with pregnant animals. Consult your veterinarian for proper dosage and usage. It is very important to consider the environment to control the disease and chances of reinfection. Cages and runs should be thoroughly cleaned of all solid fecal material. Steam cleaning and the use of a quaternary ammonium disinfectant are very effective measures for killing cysts. Animals should be bathed before returning to the kennel/cattery area and the hair around the anal area should be cleaned with the disinfectant. This disinfectant can kill the cysts within 1 minute of its application. Transmission from animals to humans is currently considered to be very low. It is recommended however, that all animals with positive fecal samples be treated. Nancy G. Walters, D.V.M. Q. There is no way that we can successfully untangle the matted fur on a stray cat that has adopted us. Will it hurt the cat to have its fur shaved off? A. Only its dignity. Brush its hair daily thereafter. It is also a good idea to have the stray examined by your veterinarian, have immunizations brought up-to-date and have the cat tested and treated for any internal and external parasites. Q. We don't always get to groom our long-haired cat, so mats are a problem. We're thinking of buying a mat comb; how do they break up mats? A. Mat combs are designed to cut through and break up mats without taking chunks out of the coat. One side of the tooth has a sharp cutting surface. Some mat combs are made with only one tooth that has a replaceable razor blade insert. Q. It's been suggested that our cat have its teeth cleaned. What's the general procedure when a cat is given a professional teeth cleaning? A. If deemed necessary your cat will be placed under general anesthesia while plaque is removed with an ultrasonic or hand scaler. After polishing, the teeth may be treated with fluoride and a thorough examination of the teeth will be made. Q. I have a five-month old kitten that has no voice. He opens his mouth to meow and nothing comes out. Is this a hereditary trait? His parents have normal voices. A. I have examined several cats with very silent meows. They appear to have vocal cords and folds but do not make an audible noise. Several of these kittens eventually were able to emit a normal sound with lower volume than expected. Heritable traits are not always easy to identify with a single breeding. I suggest that you poll owners of as many littermates and related cats (as possible) and see if you see a pattern. If so, I suggest that you write to a geneticist. The University of California--Davis and the University of Pennsylvania -- Philadelphia have been collecting data on inheritable diseases. Q. I have recently started using  the Rhinolin nasal vaccine in my cattery for my young kittens at 3 weeks and at 6 weeks in order to give them earlier protection against respiratory illnesses. Is it best to follow up with the injectable vaccines at 9 weeks and 12 weeks in order to give these kittens optimal protection? A. We have used the nasal vaccine in our cattery within our animal shelter/humane society. We are very pleased with how it reduces the incidence of URI in young kittens. We do follow-up injectable vaccines at 9 and 12 weeks. Q. I have a show quality intact Himalayan male who will be three years old next month and, to my knowledge, has never bred a female, despite numerous opportunities. He has been checked for this problem by my veterinarian and appears to be normal and in good health. What is the probability that he will still eventually breed? A. I can't be sure from your question whether you have had a semen evaluation or simply had your male examined for testicles and penis. My best guess is that you may have several male cats and that this young male is intimidated by their presence--via territorial markings and visible body language. If this is true, I suggest that you simply wait until the other males are older and not as imposing.