FIV & FeLV – Not Just Letters from Your Alphabet Soup

While it is entertaining & instinctual for your cat to be outside hunting like a regal panther, there are risks involved in letting your feline friend outdoors. Coyotes, stray dogs, hawks, parasites, cars… But what about other cats that are on the prowl?

First let’s talk about kitty communication; cats are pretty independent creatures. We joke about cats not really needing owners as long as they have food, water, & a place to go to the bathroom. If your cat is an outside adventurer, they can be protective of their territory (aka your yard). They may not be so friendly when some other strange cat decides to invade it. That is when we have to worry about diseases like Feline Immunodeficiency Virus & Feline Leukemia.

FIVNow, what is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) & how do they contract it?

Similar to the human strain, HIV, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a virus that suppresses the immune system. Typically speaking, felines that contract this virus do not die from it but they are at a much higher risk of contracting other diseases & illnesses due to their compromised immune systems. Wounds from bites or scratches can take much longer to heal for FIV+ cats as well, making them more prone to abscesses & secondary infections.

FIV is primarily spread through bite wounds from an already infected cat. The infected cat’s saliva carries the virus & deep puncture wounds can allow the virus to take hold. It can also be spread through sex or transmitted to kittens through their mother’s milk if she is infected, but these methods are much are less common.

So, what about Feline Leukemia (FeLV) & how do they contract it?

Feline Leukemia (FeLV) is a retrovirus that severely inhibits the immune system. Similar to FIV, FeLV+ cats are more susceptible for infections & diseases, but they are also more likely to develop kidney disease or cancer (lymphosarcoma) during their lifetime.Understand Why Cats Fight

While FIV is spread primarily through bite wounds, FeLV is able to spread in multiple ways. This virus is spread through direct contact involving saliva, urine, feces, nasal discharge, & blood. So, not just bite wounds but scratches from an infected cat could possibly spread the virus as well. Other direct contact would include grooming, sharing litter boxes, or sharing food or water bowls. It can also be passed on to kittens through their mother’s milk if she is infected.

There are 4 different types of FeLV infection:

  • Abortive infections are those in which the exposed feline produces an effective & early immune response. This prevents viral replication & eliminates virus-infected cells. These cats are negative for the infection.
  • Returning infections are those in which viral replication is limited, but a small population of virus infected cells remain. These cats will test negative, but the virus can be detected in a small percentage of blood cells measured by a type of blood test called a PCR. These infected cats are not contagious, but may be infectious through blood.
  • Dormant infection refers to the cats in which a moderate amount of infected cells remain. These cats will test negative, but will produce a positive PCR test. The inactive infected cells do have the potential for the virus to reactivate, but the cats are not contagious as long as the infection remains dormant.
  • Progressive infections are those in which the virus has infected a majority of the cells. These cats are actively shedding the virus primarily in saliva & feces, they are likely to become ill with FeLV-related disease (lymphoma).

greyOh NO! So how do you find out if your cat has contracted FIV or FeLV & how often should you test?

There is a simple blood test that can be performed at your cat’s next vet visit & results can be available in 10 minutes. This test is commonly called a “Combo Test” because it tests for both FIV & FeLV.

If your feline friend regularly goes outside, or there are other cats in your house that do so, it is recommended that this test be performed every 6 months to a year. If they are indoor only, typically we will perform an initial test at their first vet visit & recheck in 4-6 months for confirmation. Sometimes a “false positive” may happen, this can be from antibodies transferred to them from their mothers or from recent vaccination. Retesting for indoor only cats is usually not necessary unless they take an unexpected vacation outside. Combo tests should always be done any time you don’t know a cat’s history, especially if you’re considering adding this new kitty to your feline family.

Okay! So now that we know about these viruses, is there any way to prevent them?

Luckily, the incidence of FeLV disease has dramatically declined over the past several decades. This is likely due to a combination of screening tests, improved awareness of the disease, & vaccination of at-risk cats. Vaccination is recommended yearly for cats that are at higher risk, while indoor only cats can be vaccinated every two years.

While there are vaccines available for FIV, studies have shown these to not be as effective & can also lead to false test results for your cat. For these reasons, our doctors FIV2at TLC Animal Hospital have decided against carrying this vaccine in clinic.

Education is always important when it comes to preventing our furry friends from harm. Talk to your veterinarian & they can help you decide which vaccines are best for your cat based on their lifestyle.

By: Shelly Crosson, CVA

 

 

Rethinking How We Feed Our Pets

While looking online or in pet stores for goodies for your furry children, you’ve probably come across some really, really weird things. Like that cat bed that looks like an over-sized fur-lined Croc shoe and the dog muzzle that looks like a duckbill. But let’s be real – it’s just a bed and it’s just a muzzle. Your pet doesn’t get more enjoyment out of it because of how it looks (that’s just for us because c’mon, those duckbill muzzles are hilarious).

planetdog
Planet Dog’s Orbee-Tuff Link Toys & Mazee Balls are perfect for treats!

Believe it or not, some of these goofy looking pet products have an actual purpose and benefits that your pet will actually be able to pick up on.

Treat Toys
Dog owners are already familiar with treat dispensing toys. How many different types of KONGs are out there? Fill ’em up with treats, peanut butter, or even doggie toothpaste and let your pup have at it! Depending on the dog and the contents, this could mean hours of entertainment for your pup! KONGs aren’t the only ones, either. A quick search for “dog treat toys” brings up pages and pages of results. We even have some here in clinic from Planet Dog that our boarders love to use. Toys likes these are important for your pup. Not only can they help with separation anxiety when you’re away, but they offer mental stimulation and environmental enrichment as well.

That’s great for treats, but what about full meals?
Slow Down Bowls and other slow down feeders take this same idea and apply to it meal time. How often does your dog inhale their dinner without even chewing it? Or maybe they eat it too fast and throw it up a few minutes later? Does one dog inhale their food and then try to take bowls1food from the other dog?

Making your dog take their time with their food is important for numerous reasons. They can choke or aspirate on the food, have other GI issues such as gas or vomiting, or they can bloat (which is an extremely dangerous condition and can be fatal). Going through their food too quickly can also leave them feeling unfulfilled and dissatisfied. And we all know how hard it is to ignore a pet that is begging for more food – just look at the statistics for obese animals in the United States.

Eating too fast can also keep them from receiving the full benefits of their diets. For example, the Royal Canin Dental Diet (for cats and dogs) is designed to be chewed multiple times before breaking, therefore “brushing” their teeth while they eat. Swallowing the food whole completely negates that benefit.

Wet food, dry food, raw diet, homemade… it doesn’t matter! Slow down bowls and feeders work for every kind of pet food. Of course, some may work better for wet food than others. With so many different shapes and sizes out there, you should be able to find one that works for you and your pet.

When looking for a slow down feeder for your pup – you need to consider a few things.
1) How large of a bowl do you need? – Pay attention to your pup’s portions and make sure you get a bowl that’s appropriately sized. One that’s too small isn’t going to help your dog 039b16e26948ba65ab8e2dacb55643dbmuch because the food will just cover the prongs or spill out and one that’s too big won’t be much of a challenge. Bowl size is also based off of what kind of dog you have. For example, a Pug wouldn’t use the same size bowl as a Boxer.
2) Does this shape work with my dog’s snout? – Dogs with longer snouts are going to need feeders with larger prongs for them to navigate. On the other hand, smooshed face dogs would need shorter prongs, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to get the food out.
3) Can my dog flip it over and spill the food everywhere? – Most slow down bowls have non-slip bases. Be sure to get one if your pup likes to throw their bowls around!
4) Is it easy to clean? – With all of the nooks and crannies of these bowls and feeders, you need to be sure that you’re able to keep it clean. There are dishwasher safe ones, but be sure to check it afterwards for any leftovers. Especially if you’re feeding a wet diet – that stuff can be pretty stubborn when it dries! Clean them on a regular basis as well – leftover food can attract bugs and gives mold a place to hangout.

rsz_shutterstock_1034640622What about our feline friends?
Cats need to have the environmental enrichment with their toys, bedding, and scratching posts. Cats are also hunters. That is what they’re wired to do. You know that bobcats and mountain lions hunt, but our indoor cats have that instinct to hunt, too. Yes, even the lazy cats. We’ve all seen it – your cat is crouched down and doing that goofy butt wiggle, ready to get that mosquito hawk that made a grave mistake by coming into your cat’s domain. Maybe you’ve even received a “gift” from your cat in the form of a half-eaten lizard. Yes, it’s gross, but that just means that your cat loves you and doesn’t want you to starve because you’re terrible hunter.

There’s no shortage of interactive cat toys to help fulfill their need to hunt (seriously, just look up “automatic cat toys” online and you’ll have enough content to browse through to last for hours). But treat toys hit that need differently because they contain food. The hunt isn’t simply for fun now, they’re going to actually get something to eat out of it. There are so many different kinds out there, you should have no issue finding one that works for your cat. Depending on the size of the treat toy, you may be able to use it for slimcat_summary_largefull meals. Using this method can help your indoor kitty get some additional exercise, which is especially great for overweight cats.

However, if your house is prone to having ants or other bugs, moving treat toys may not be the best option since they can leave crumbs and small pieces of food all over your floors. Otherwise you need to be sure to sweep up after using them. Most moving treat toys work gets on hard floors, like wood or tile. They can work on carpet, but it depends on how thick it is. You would definitely need to vacuum afterwards if used in carpeted areas.

But what about with their real food?
Maybe your cat is fine with having food simply presented to them in a bowl, or left out in an automatic feeder. Or maybe your cat is a complete pig and eats their food waaaaay to fast, only to throw it up a few minutes later. There are all sorts of ways to make meal time fun time for your feline friends.

Puzzle Feeders are meant for full meal portions and they provide a different kind of challenge for your cat. Your cat can’t just sick their head in the bowl and inhale the food (which can lead to vomiting or aspiration). Your cat will have to actually stop and think about how to get the food out. Some puzzle feeders have covered holes that the food goes in and your cat has to uncover the food before eating. Others have food that’s released when part of the puzzle is rotated from them pawing at it.

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We’ve used this particular puzzle feeder for Sushi before.

Know that your cat will refuse to do a puzzle to get to their food? Not to worry! There are smaller sized slow down bowls and feeders for cats, too. Similar to the dog ones, these have raised ridges or shapes to space the food out. You’ll find that some are better for wet food than others as well. The same tips above apply to finding the right bowl or feeder for your cat. For example, smooshy faced Persians would need a bowl or feeder with shorter prongs.

Not sure where to start? That’s fine! Ask your veterinarian or their staff for suggestions! Here at TLC, several staff members have used these methods with their own pets at home. We’ve even used some for our own Clinic Cats!

By: Ashley Elliott & Mariah Lamb

“Mite”-y Creepy Ear Mites

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The “mite”-y Ear Mite!

Otodectes Cynotis is actually the very fancy name for Ear Mites. What exactly are Ear Mites? They are part of the arachnid family (just like ticks and spiders). Their food of choice? Wax and oils from your beloved pet’s ear canals. They’re particularly fond of cats, but can also be found in dogs and ferrets. Yikes!

Ear Mites are more common in outdoor animals, but that doesn’t mean your indoor pets can’t get them. These mites, just like fleas, can travel on clothing and shoes. It only takes one mite to make it to your pet’s ear canal to start causing problems. These little buggers can also spread very quickly in multi-pet homes. Especially if your pets like to sleep next to each other, groom each other, or play together.

How Do I Know if My Pet Has Ear Mites?
The most notable symptom you may see is your pet constantly scratching at their ears. You may notice a brown, slightly reddish discharge coming from your pet’s ears as well. Sometimes the discharge will look like ground coffee beans. Their ears may also become red, swollen, and painful. If you notice these symptoms, don’t wait too long to address them. Heavy scratching can lead to open wounds which can cause secondary infection of the skin. If a severe infestation is left untreated, it can eventually lead to hearing loss. Oi ve!ear-mites-in-dogs-01

I Think My Pet Has Ear Mites! What Do I Do Now?
Fret not! If you think your pet has Ear Mites, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to get things checked out! Ear Mites are easily seen with a microscope, so a cytology will be performed to confirm the presence of Ear Mites. This cytology can also show if there is any secondary infection present in your pet’s ears, such as bacteria or yeast.

If there are wounds present from all of that scratching, your veterinarian may want to do a skin cytology as well to make sure that there isn’t any kind of skin infection going on.

Ugh, Ear Mites Sound Like the Worst! Are They Hard to Treat?
Fortunately with a little ear cleaning and medication, Ear Mites are typically a simple problem to resolve. So ensure that all of the ear mites have been taken care of, treatment lasts anywhere from 3-4 weeks. Depending on the results of your pet’s exam, you may be given additional medications for pain and inflammation, or antibiotics if there are secondary infections present.

imagesBecause Ear Mites are easily spread, if you have more than one pet in your home you’ll most likely be asked to treat all of them at the same time.

Prevention is possible as well! Most monthly parasite preventatives (like Revolution Plus) have medication in them to help treat Ear Mites. Using these products every month as directed can help keep your pet’s ears mite free!

By: Tiana Bell

 

COVID-19 Update

We are living through some very uncertain times right now and new information regarding COVID-19 is being released daily. Over the last several weeks we have heard all kinds of information and recommendations- some of which conflict with each other. We want to assure you that we are constantly keeping up with news from the CDC, Whitehouse and American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) – especially in regards to your pets.

As most of you have probably already heard, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York has demonstrated symptoms and has tested positive for COVID-19. What does this mean for you and your pets? The following statement was issued by Texas A&M COVM yesterday and it provides excellent insight into the situation:Coronavirus-CDC-768x432

04/08/20: Statement from Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine on Animals and COVID-19

SARS CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, is a novel, or new, virus, and there is much yet to be discovered.

There have been recent news reports of a tiger that contracted the disease from a handler who was an asymptomatic carrier and other reports where experimentally exposed animals have developed clinical signs consistent with coronavirus infection that was then passed on to other animals. These studies were performed on very small numbers, have not gone through the normal review process, and have focused on human-to-animal and animal-to-animal transmission.

However, there have been no studies to date demonstrating that domestic animals and pets can transmit COVID-19 to their owners.

The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and its Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) are continuing to monitor research and news regarding the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 outbreak as it relates to companion animals.

Based on the information that is currently available, the CVM and VMTH recommend pet owners continue to follow United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) guidelines for proper hygiene and social distancing.

Specifically, the CVM and VMTH recommend:

  • Pet owners should continue taking basic precautions such as frequent and thorough hand-washing and limit “face-to-face contact” interactions with your pet.
  • Owners who are not sick do not need to isolate from pets, nor is there any recommendation to discontinue routine activities such as walking or playing with your pets if you are well.
  • If you have tested positive or are presumptively positive for COVID-19, separate yourself not only from other people but also from your animals. This may include having someone who is healthy feed your pets and not allowing your pets to sleep with you.
  • If an animal has to be removed from a household with someone who is ill, the pet should be bathed or their coat should be wiped to prevent transmission of the virus from the animal’s fur.

The COVID-19-Positive Household

If you or a family member have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and your pet becomes ill and shows signs of upper respiratory disease, we encourage you to contact your veterinarian. They may elect to test your pet for COVID-19. Testing requires approval from public health and animal health authorities and is only recommended for those animals exhibiting respiratory signs and that come from a household with someone who has been diagnosed presumptive or positive for COVID-19.

We want to repeat that there have been no studies to date demonstrating that domestic animals and pets can transmit COVID-19 to their owners. CVM veterinarians will continue to monitor news and scientific journals regarding COVID-19 transmission for animals and humans and with time and as new information becomes available, the CVM will continue to update its recommendations on COVID-19.

For more information about COVID-19 and pets, please see the USDA question-and-answer page here:
https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/newsroom/news/sa_by_date/sa-2020/ny-zoo-covid-19

You may also visit the Texas Animal Health Commission’s (TAHC) webpage on companion animal coronavirus testing here:
https://www.tahc.texas.gov/covid19/TAHCVeterinaryGuidance_COVID_CompanionAnimalTesting.pdf

By: Tara Sansing

The Effects of Diets on Neurological Health in our Canine & Feline Friends

Diets can have a huge effect on your pet’s body and long term health. They rely primarily on the amount of vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and proteins present in their diets. Not only are these key ingredients important, but they can significantly increase your pet’s overall neurological health and, in theory, help prolong their life.

C18A5373Neurological health is vital to dogs and cats of all breeds and ages. A few symptoms to be aware of that typically come with age are problems with balance, loss of muscle mass, head tilt, difficulties walking, seizures, and weaker reflexes. These are all signs of possible underlying neurological issues and should be addressed sooner rather than later. We always want to be proactive instead of reactive (read more about our services and recommendations for senior pets here). An easy place to start is with a nutritiously balanced brain healthy diet.

Vitamins
The first key ingredients to look for when talking about your pet’s neurological health are vitamins. Lots and lots of vitamins! Most pet foods will already contain some vitamins, so be sure to check the label on your pet’s food so see what is included. But if you’re looking to use a separate supplement in addition to what is already in the food, be sure to check with your veterinarian about the concentrations beforehand.

Some Key Vitamins and Their Functions:
Vitamin A: Aids in optimal retinol function and skin improvement
Vitamin D: Used to help regulate phosphorus and calcium levels for optimal growth
Vitamin E: Used to help fight oxidation in cells, protect against heart disease, cataracts, and other various neurological diseases
Vitamin B1: Helps regulate thiamine levels
Vitamin B2: Responsible for metabolizing fats and carbs into energy
Vitamin B5: Also used in metabolizing energy
Vitamin B6: Responsible for glucose generation, healthy nervous system function, and hormone regulation
Vitamin B12: Helps aid in a healthy nervous system function, brain functions, and new cell growth

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Another key ingredient that is linked to neurological health in cats and dogs are Omega-3 Fatty Acids (aka “Lipids”). Fatty acids can be found primarily in marine sources such as phytoplankton or fish oil. Similar to vitamins, fatty acids have numerous health benefits.

sleeping old catThese benefits include: Modulating inflammation, aiding in fat soluble vitamin absorption, providing energy, promoting growth, promoting healthy skin and a healthy coat, and supporting joint and cartilage health.

Our beloved pets cannot provide the appropriate amount of fatty acids that their bodies require on their own. Omega-3 Fatty Acids are essential in overall health regardless of the neurological benefits.

Protein
The last key ingredient is protein. Proteins play several important roles in your pet’s body such as building and repairing muscles and tissues, along with growing new cells. The most common proteins are found in various meats, dairy products, some grains, legumes, and eggs. Our pets can store protein just like fat, so it is vital to supply it in their daily diets. Pets that are larger in size, or tend to be more active, may require a higher protein diet due to energy being used more frequently. The amount of protein needed varies depending on your pet’s lifestyle, breed, size, and activity levels.

That’s a lot of things to consider, we know. What happened to just picking up a bag of food? But feeding the correct diet is very important, especially when it comes to our older pets! Always be sure to read the labels and understand what your pet’s food contains. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian for their recommendations. There are several prescription and over the counter diets available for both dogs and cats that are formulated with neurological health in mind.

Canine Diets:
Purina Pro Plan Neurocare – Contains EPA, DHA, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and high protein levels. Can help treat idiopathic epilepsy along with medications, can also help treat Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. For puppies, adults, and senior dogs. Dry formula only. Requires prescription. dvsdsv
Hill’s b/d Brain Aging Care – Contains antioxidants to help protect brain cells as well has support a healthy immune system. Has high levels of L-Carnitine to help preserve muscle mass. Also contains Omega-3 Fatty Acids for cell membrane health. Low sodium to help the heart as well. Dry formula only. Requires prescription. 
Royal Canin Mature Consult –
Powerful antioxidants neutralize free radicals, support brain function, and protect against cell aging. Also contains specialized amino acids to help maintain muscle mass. Available in both dry and canned formulas. Requires prescription.
Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind – Contains enhanced botanical oils to promote alertness and mental sharpness. EPA, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Glucosamine for joint care. Available for adults and seniors. Dry and canned formulas in various flavors available.
Purina Pro Plan Focus – High in protein and fiber. Contains Omega-3, Omega-6, as well as DHA for healthy brain development. Available for both puppies and adults. Dry and canned formulas in various flavors available.

Feline Diets:
Royal Canin Mature Consult –
Reduced phosphorus content to help with kidney function, L-Carnitine to help preserve muscle mass. ETA, DHA, EPA, and antioxidants. For sgsdgmature cats only. Available in both dry and canned formulas. Requires prescription.
Purina Pro Plan Focus Kitten – DHA for brain and vision development, rich in antioxidants for a healthy immune system. For kittens under one year old. Available in dry and canned formulas.
Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult – Omega-6, vitamins, linoleic acids for skin health. Antioxidants and natural fibers to help prevent hairballs. For cats one year and older. Dry and canned formulas in various flavors available.
Pruina Pro Plan Prime Plus – Formulated with vitamins and Omega-3s to help improve digestive health, support a healthy immune system, and to help maintain lean body mass. For cats 7 years and older. Dry and canned formulas in various flavors available.

old-boyAlways consult with your veterinarian first before switching your pet’s diet or adding on a supplement, especially if your pet has other health issues to consider. For example, pets that are having kidney issues or are in renal failure should not be on a high protein diet.

No one likes to see their pets get older, but there are things that you can do to help! Who would’ve thought something as simple as a diet change could make all the difference?

By: Cecilia Cardenas