Category: Medical Conditions

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

 

 

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

Don’t Give Them the Cold Shoulder… Or Paws… Or Nose… Or Tail…

Living where we do we are accustomed to protecting our pets from the intense heat that come with our Texas summers. It isn’t as common for us to see severe cold conditions that would cause us to take more precautions regarding our pets and being outside during the winter. When we think of a frigid winter, we usually think of images on the news of snowed in towns, 18 car pileups, and that sense of thankfulness that we do not live there! But, even with our mild winters, there are still hazards that can affect the health of our pets.

Capture-3
I’m not going outside right now. I’m busy being a warm, cozy puppy burrito!

Cold weather can worsen conditions that a good majority of our older pets have such as arthritis. Have you ever woken up on a chilly morning and needed extra time to get moving? Do you ever joke that “it’s a cold one outside – my knees are the best weathermen I know!” Well, our older pets feel the changes in their joints just as we do, they might move slower on cold days or might not want to be outside as long as they usually would have. If we were to have any freezing episodes, older pets could also have a hard time walking in slippery conditions – like they do on our slippery floors inside. If you feel like your pet is having arthritic changes (slowing down, not jumping on things like before, weakness or shaking of limbs, loss of muscle mass over their hind end, etc.) – come talk with us about how we can help relieve their discomfort!

gray-cat-wrapped-in-blanket-SW
Sorry but this super soft, warm, comfortable blanket is occupied.

Just like people, pets have their limits as to how much cold they can handle. A young husky is more likely to enjoy a crisp day, than an old chihuahua – who probably wouldn’t step foot outside on a cold day (and you’d most likely get the “you expect me to go out there” look as they run back to their place on the couch). Coat type, body fat stores, activity level, and overall health and age are all factors that can affect just how much cold a pet can tolerate. Long-haired breeds will be able to stay outside longer than short-haired breeds, but they are still at risk to cold weather. Both very young and elderly pets should be limited on their outside time during very cold times.

UntitledHealth conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and hormonal imbalances (such as Cushing’s disease) already limit a pet’s ability to regulate their body temperature and this makes them more susceptible to problems from very hot or very cold temperatures. If your daily routine involves time outside, consider buying a jacket or sweater for your pet to wear. Do not overfeed your pets during cold months. It’s commonly thought that more fat = more body heat, but the health risks associated with increased weight greatly outweigh the myth of more warmth. Keep your pet at a healthy, ideal weight all year long to limit any effects on their joints or general body functions.

Vehicles can provide hazardous concerns as well. Leaking antifreeze can lead to poisoning in our dogs and our cats. It has a sweet smell and taste so our furry friends are attracted to it – ingestion of the chemical has rapid absorption and even a small amount can lead to permanent damage to the kidneys. Larger ingestion amounts have a narrow margin of safety and could lead to death. Be sure to keep these chemicals securely put away and clean up any leaks or spills that you see.

cars-750x500Vehicles also act as a “shelter” for stray cats. They will seek out the warmth from the engine after a car has parked for the night, hiding in the fender wells or under the hood in the engine compartment. Before starting your vehicle after a cold night, honk the horn multiple times or bang on the hood or sides to wake up and scare off any animals that might be hunkered down in there.

Cold weather can also lead to dry, itchy skin. Keeping your home humidified can help relieve this. Do not shave your pets down to their skin in the winter. Pet’s fur is specially designed to help them regulate their body temperature.

Remember – if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them!

By: Kaitie Barczak

“My Dog Isn’t Mean – It’s Had The Distemper Shot!”

Annotation 2020-02-18 150926Canine distemper is a contagious viral disease that attacks multiple parts of the body in dogs like the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. The virus has also been present in canidae species like wolves, coyotes, raccoons, and skunks (or “creatures that party in the night” as Dr. Kuecker refers to them). Even ferrets can get distemper!

The distemper virus is airborne meaning that is spread by the spit and mucus particles from an infectious dog. The virus can also be transmitted by fomites like water bowls, equipment and food, or by a mother dog to her puppy through the placenta. Infectious wild animals can also transmit distemper.

Symptoms include:
STAGE ONE: Pus-like discharge from eyes, fever, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy,  reduced appetite, and vomiting.
STAGE TWO: The nervous system becomes infected and dogs begin exhibiting neurological signs like walking in circles, head tilt, muscle twitches, seizures and potentially paralysis – either partial or full.
In wildlife species, the infection symptoms seem to closely resemble rabies.

Annotation 2020-02-18 150957Unfortunately, pets don’t usually survive distemper. Most that do survive end up having lasting, irreparable damage to their nervous system.

Infected dogs are usually diagnosed by how they present in-clinic, bloodwork, and other laboratory testing. There is currently no cure for distemper, so treatment consists of supportive care: Fluids to replenish hydration that is lost through vomiting/diarrhea, medications to control and reduce vomiting/diarrhea, and medications to help with the neurologic symptoms. Care to prevent secondary infections must also be taken. It is also recommended that infected dogs be isolated from all other dogs to help prevent the spread of the disease.

While all dogs are at risk for acquiring distemper, puppies younger than four months and unvaccinated dogs are at a much higher risk of catching distemper.

Annotation 2020-02-18 151023Prevention is key!
Consistent and complete vaccination has proven to be extremely effective in preventing our canine friends from contracting distemper. The distemper vaccine is normally combined with some other common vaccines, such as parvovirus, parainfluenza, hepatitis, and sometimes leptospira. We’ll call it the five-in-one special! Along with the rabies vaccine, distemper is considered to be a “core vaccination” that every dog should have.

This vaccination is given as a series. Depending on the age of your dog, your doctor may administer the first distemper vaccine and then have you come back in a couple weeks to re-administer. After that, your dog may only need to be re-vaccinated once a year. As with all vaccinations, the repeated exposure to the virus helps the dog’s immune system build immunity to the disease that they are being vaccinated for.

-Madison Cole

Sources:
https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/canine-distemper

Distemper in Dogs – Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Dog Days of Summer

It’s summer time in Houston and that means hot, hot, and hotter! Here in Texas we are experts at staying cool on a hot day, but we can’t forget our little four legged friends who are literally walking around in fur coats. Heat exhaustion is a very serious situation for dogs that can lead to potentially fatal conditions such as heat stroke. It’s our job as pet owners to be aware of how the heat affects our fur babies.

Dog-on-beach-with-sunglasses_ThinkstockPhotos-518565035

It’s important to understand that dogs don’t sweat out excess body heat like humans, they have a few sweat glands on their paw pads but mostly they keep themselves cool by panting. However, panting isn’t always enough to keep their body temperature cool in extreme heat.

First off, just like with your children, never leave your pet in a locked car! The interior temperature of a car can raise almost 30º within 20 minutes. The AVMA has a whole section on their website about pet safety in cars here you can read.

What are the signs to look for?

The first signs of over-heating to look for are excessive panting, being less responsive to commands, disoriented, glazed or sunken eyes, excessive drooling, and lethargy. Dogs may experience these symptoms when their body temperature is above 103º. Some more severe signs include possible collapsing, convulsion, vomiting/diarrhea, or gums and BA5F44AC-5056-8063-181731A193F2C757tongue turning blue or bright red. Once a dog’s temperature reaches above 106º, they are at a high risk for a heat stroke where the organs can begin to shutdown and the heart can stop all together.

If you recognize any of these signs immediately move your dog to a cooler area such as the shade or indoors. If there is a body of water nearby you can let them cool off in it as well. Other ways to help cool them down would be to get a cool wet towel and place it on the neck, armpits, and between the hind legs. It’s also helpful to gently wet your dog’s ears and paw pads. If your pet is willing to drink you can offer some water, but NEVER force them to drink or feed them ice cubes (ice cubes can cause the body temperature to drop quickly causing shock).

Get to your vet as quickly as possible – if you are able to take your dog’s temperature it could help the vet judge the severity of the situation. It is always best to go to the vet even if you feel you have the situation under control. Your veterinarian can do a full exam to make sure no internal damage was done and that your dog is both fully hydrated and healthy.

Some breeds are more sensitive to heat

All dogs can be affected by the hot summers but there are some that should be extra cautious in the heat. It may seem obvious, but thick and long hair canines are likely to get hotter quicker. The best way to prevent this is letting your pup have a nice air conditioned spa day and get a “cool” shorter hairdo (if appropriate for the breed). Just be careful not to have them shaved to the skin as that hair also protects their skin from the sun.

However, these dogs are not the only ones at risk when it comes to heat and hot weather. Brachycephalic breeds (short noses and flat faces such as boxers, pugs, ect.), overweight dogs, and dogs with any breathing or medical problems (such as heart conditions) should all be monitored closely while outside during the summer.

brachycephalic_dog_breeds_list_characteristics_and_care_2922_orig

Walking your dog during the cooler hours of the day like early morning or later evenings can greatly reduce exposure to heat while still giving them the exercise they need. Carrying water for them will be greatly appreciated by your four legged friend as well. There are all sorts of portable water bowls available, so you should have no issue finding one that works for you and your pet.

Lastly, keeping an eye on your working/hunting dogs is also very important. Working breeds often times become extremely focused on their task that they don’t stop to rest or drink water. It’s up to us as their guardians to make sure they rest and stay cool.

Always be prepared!

Living in Houston we know all about the heat and how to beat it or tolerate it at the very least, we also know a thing or two about hurricanes. Our summer months falls smack dab in the middle of hurricane season and that means we always have to be prepared for power outages or possible A/C breakdowns. When preparing for these situations don’t forget about your furry family members, and if you plan to evacuate make sure your pet is welcome where ever you are going. If your A/C units go out have extra water for your pets and keep an eye on them to make sure they stay cool. Read our previous post on preparing for disasters and evacuating safely with your pets here.

Petpreparedness_Infographics

When it comes to our pets we do everything to keep them happy and healthy. The best thing we can do for them is to keep ourselves well informed on the dangers that they may encounter and how to prevent them. Because there is nothing quite as special as having fond memories of summer nights with our amazing dogs that will last a lifetime!

By: Deanna Smith