Posts Tagged ‘cats’

Does my indoor cat need vaccinations, flea and worm treatment?

It’s a really good question, and one we’re asked quite often. As usual, of course, there are a couple of caveats… firstly, it does depend to some extent on the pet. And secondly, it depends how “indoors” an indoors cat is (we’ve seen people with “indoor cats” that are allowed out on special occasions before!). However, as a general rule, yes… and here’s why.


Vaccinations

The vaccinations we recommend as routine for cats are against Panleukopenia (also known as Feline Infectious Enteritis), Cat Flu (Feline Calicivirus and Feline Herpesvirus), and Feline Leukaemia (FeLV). Now, these diseases are primarily spread cat to cat, so you might think that indoor cats would be entirely safe, but unfortunately that isn’t the case.

While the Feline Leukaemia virus breaks down rapidly in the environment, the Herpesvirus can last a day or so, the Calicivirus a month or so, and the Panleukopenia virus for over 6 months (possibly even over a year). As a result, when you come in and out of your house, there is a very real possibility that you’re bringing in active and infectious virus particles that will infect your cats – whether or not they ever go outdoors.

The only effective way to protect cats from these diseases are either by making them live in a hermetically sealed bubble (NOT good or nice for them, we think!) or by vaccination, to protect them – wherever they live.

Flea treatments

Similar problems exist with fleas. Once in a house, fleas can lie dormant for months or years as pupae in the dust, in the carpet, or between the floorboards. However, even if they aren’t in your home (or you’ve rooted them all out!), invasion of the house by fleas being carried on vermin (mice and rats), or even on your clothing is quite possible.

Now, for most cats, the few that will enter the house this way are unlikely to be a major problem – but of course it only takes 1 pregnant flea to infest an entire house when her 3,000 or so eggs start to hatch! More of a worry, though, are those cats unlucky enough to have a flea allergy (Flea Allergic Dermatitis, or FAD). This is very common in cats, where their immune system goes into overdrive when exposed to flea saliva after a bite. Unfortunately, it only takes one bite to set them off scratching, causing self-harm and hair loss.

We think that, in general, you and your cat are both better off safe than sorry!

Worm treatments

Cats are subject to a range of different worms – including roundworms and tapeworms. Now, it is indeed true that many cats become infected with worms by eating live prey (especially the Taeniafamily of tapeworms); so, cats who don’t hunt are at much lower risk.

And of course, mice and rats do occasionally invade even the nicest of homes, and even the gentlest of cats are prone to supplement their diet with a nice crunchy morsel if available…

However, more importantly, many cats are in fact infested with worms within a few hours of birth, which they contract through their mother’s milk. So, we must remember this possibility – of roundworms hiding away in the muscles until the cat is sick or old, and then reactivating. Even more importantly, though, the common tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) is spread by fleas… so even one flea in the house could mean a tapeworm infestation!

Are there risks from regular preventative treatment?

Significant harm from use of appropriate medications, at the right dose, in the animals they are prescribed for, is very, very rare. However, the harm from parasitic infestations, even in indoor cats, is very much greater. On balance, then, in most indoor cats, most of the time, we strongly recommend regular preventative treatments.


Want to know more? Want to see what’s the best answer for your cat as an individual? Make an appointment to have a chat with one of our vets!

How do I look after my pets dental health?

Here at Goddard Vet Group, we see a lot of dental problems in both cats and dogs, and in fact dental disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases throughout the UK. But is there any way to prevent this horrible disease? And how can we help your pets?


Dental Diseases in Pets

Dogs can have a variety of dental problems throughout their lives. When they’re young, problems with the deciduous (‘baby’) teeth can mean they’re left with too many teeth in their mouths. This leads to food becoming stuck and causing gum disease. Some dogs are mad chewers – they’ll break teeth or wear them down, which is not only painful but may result in a tooth root abscess. Most commonly, though, dogs suffer from periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease affects dogs of all ages, although it’s more common in older dogs as it takes a while to occur. It’s also more common in some breeds – generally the smaller breeds. Bacteria in the mouth live on the teeth and gums in the form of plaque, and over time they eat away at the gum and get down beneath the gumline. Here, they start to affect the periodontal ligament, which is the connection between the teeth and the jawbone. When this ligament is damaged the teeth become wobbly, which inevitably results in tooth loss.

Cats also get periodontal disease, but they’re also prone to resorptive diseases. This is where the body, for a currently unknown reason, breaks down and re-absorbs the tooth root, resulting in a painful tooth very prone to breaking.

How Can I Prevent Dental Disease at Home?

Whilst resorptive lesions are hard to prevent, some simple changes to lifestyle can make a big difference to the other diseases. Since worn and fractured teeth are a result of dogs chewing on abrasive or hard materials, talk to one of our nurses about appropriate chews that are less likely to cause dental problems. Baby teeth that fail to fall out should be removed under general anaesthetic. They’re often still firmly attached and great care needs to be taken not to damage the root of the nearby adult teeth. This can often be done at neutering or as a separate procedure.

Tooth Brushing

Brushing the teeth is the single most useful thing you can do to prevent periodontal disease. Toothbrushing removes plaque before it has a chance to harden into tartar and cause gum disease. It’s also a great excuse to check your pet’s teeth daily (yes- daily!) for any problems. We always recommend trying to introduce tooth brushing to pets as soon as possible, and to start slow and build up – just like with anything new. Don’t forget, never use human toothpaste (it’s not good for our pets!). Our nurses are fantastic at giving you top tips for tooth brushing, so if you think you can make time in your day to brush your pet’s teeth, please give them a call or book in for a free dental check to go over it.

Dental Dog Chews

Some dental chews have been shown to reduce the level of plaque in the mouth. However, there are a lot of brands out there that may not have the same benefits. We recommend choosing from the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s list of approved products, or talking to our nurses. Don’t forget that these chews contain extra calories which should be accounted for in your pet’s daily allowance to avoid obesity.

Can Water and Food Additives Help?

Water and food additives to prevent plaque build-up do exist and some even have evidence that they help. Whilst they’re not going to be as good as tooth brushing, they’re a good added extra, especially in pets that won’t allow anything else. Again, the VOHC have a list of accepted products, so choose from this list or discuss with one of our nurses at your next dental check.

Diets for Dental Disease

For those animals very prone to dental disease, specific diets have been created to reduce plaque and tartar through a combination of ingredient choice and kibble that breaks up in a particular way. These diets are prescription diets, so if you think you’d like to try them please have a chat with our team.

How Can my Vet Help?

Despite doing some, or all, of these things at home, it’s still possible that your pet will suffer from periodontal disease. This is especially true if your pet is genetically predisposed or has already lost teeth to the disease.

Regular check-ups with your veterinary nurse can keep track of the level of plaque and tartar in your pet’s mouth and allow an early-warning sign if disease is starting. However, our animals are masters at hiding the signs of disease and sometimes a dental check-up under general anaesthetic is necessary to allow us to do a more thorough exam.

Problems such as fractured teeth, exposed pulp, wobbly back teeth and resorptive lesions can be missed on a conscious check-up, especially if your pet objects to the examination. Putting them under a general anaesthetic allows us to examine more thoroughly and even test the teeth for problems using a dental probe, just like a human dentist. And during the check-up, just like at the dentists, they’ll also get a scale and polish. This enables us to remove any tartar build up from the hard to reach places before it starts to cause a major problem.

For most pets, a scale and polish are necessary every 6-12 months. After all, we humans brush twice daily, but we still miss spots and need a professional clean at least annually. Whilst it is theoretically possible to clean the teeth conscious, the most important area to clean is under the gum line. This is uncomfortable for pets and the majority will not tolerate it without an anaesthetic, meaning that cleaning without anaesthetic results in a sub-standard clean.


When was the last time your pet had a dental clean? If they’re overdue, why not book for a check-up with our vet team and we’ll talk it all through with you!

I’ve found a stray cat, what should I do?

RSPCA figures show Greater London takes the top spot for most cats rescued, with 2,350 cats coming into RSPCA care last year. Whilst it is commendable to try and help our feline friends, first we need to decide if the cat is indeed a stray in need of help.


How can I tell if it is feral?

Feral cats are usually the offspring of stray, feral or abandoned cats that have missed out on early socialisation with humans, making them very wary of us. If they are adults already, they will not make good pets. If the cat is not friendly and approachable, it may be feral. These cats often (but not always) live in colonies rather than alone. They won’t come close, even with encouragement, and will avoid human contact. They may have a part of the ear tip missing indicating they have been trapped, neutered and released by a charity in order to keep feral populations down.

So long as a feral cat is healthy, they will live happily outside. They should be largely left alone. However if they appear injured or ill, then contact the RSPCA. Various national charities have neutering schemes so if you see a colony of cats without ear tipping, contact your local RSPCA or a local charity such as the Celia Hammond Trust for more advice.


I don’t think it’s feral – what do I do now?

If the cat is alone, approachable and friendly, it may be a cat that belongs to someone, that has strayed. Some owned cats will stray further from home than others, so we must take care not to mistake an owned cat out on their constitutional, for a lost cat. Cats may be greedy and take advantage of a well-meaning neighbour for an extra meal. They may be on a special diet at home that they’re less than pleased with, so in search of a tastier supper.

However, if you are regularly being visited by the same cat, looking for food and shelter, then action is needed.

Ive-found-a-stray-cat-what-should-I-do-copy

What can I do?

Firstly check the cat for a collar. If there is one it clearly has had an owner. If the collar has a contact number on it, then get in touch and explain your situation. There may be an owner frantically searching for their missing feline friend.

If there is no collar or contact details, then you could pop the cat in a basket and take it along to your nearest vet to be scanned for a microchip.

A microchip is a permanent method of electronic identification implanted subcutaneously under the skin between the shoulder blades. Each chip has a unique number, detected using a microchip scanner. The microchip number is recorded on a microchip database with details about the animal and owner. In the majority of cases, the microchip is registered to an owner and, hey presto — a reunion ensues.

If taking this cat into your nearest vet is not possible, there is no chip found on scanning, or the chip is not registered to an owner then next you could try:

  • Speaking to neighbours. News spreads fast. Word of mouth is often the best way of reuniting pets with owners.
  • Using a photo of the culprit and make a ‘found’ poster, putting them up in the local area.
  • Posting the kitty on on local social media sites and lost and found sites. This immediately magnifies your search.
  • Listing the cat on national websites such as Pets Located and the National Pet Register and look through the lost cat sections. You can list a found cat on the Battersea website here.
  • Contacting us and other local vet practices. Often owners missing their pets will think the worst and contact local vet practices first. Practices often keep a list of missing cats should one matching the description turn up.
  • Creating a homemade paper collar that you can attach around the cats neck (if you can get close enough). Ensure the fitted collar allows for two fingers to be placed between the collar and cat’s neck, to make sure the cat isn’t harmed. Write your contact telephone number on the collar strip and something along the lines of: Your cat has been visiting me and I am concerned it is a stray. Please contact me if it belongs to you.

None of this has worked, so what can I do now?

If there is still no sign of an owner then you could consider keeping the cat yourself. This is a big commitment of a potential 15 years or more, though, so must be thought about very seriously. If you are new to cat ownership, get in touch with us and we can run through the basics of cat care and what to expect so you can decide if it’s for you.

If you are not able to keep the cat then, unlike dogs, local authorities do not take in stray cats. Try contacting one of the charities below:

If you do not have any luck we may be able to provide more local charity details.


Is the cat injured or ill?

If you’re worried about the health of the cat, call the RSPCA on its emergency number 0300 1234 999 (UK). A lost cat might be nervous, especially if sick and injured, so approach them with caution. The safest way to move the cat is to carefully cover it in a blanket before picking it up. This keeps the cat safe as well as shielding you from claws and teeth.

If the cat is seriously injured, take it to your nearest veterinary practice immediately.

What Should I Feed My Cat?

Understanding what you should feed your cat is important as a good diet generally tends to promote and maintain good health. A cats metabolism is so heavily specialised in obtaining nutrition from meat, it’s important to choose the correct diet. Most cats are notoriously fussy — so getting a healthy and suitable diet into them (that they will enjoy) isn’t always as easy as it seems… and this might explain the sheer range of diets currently available on the market!


Cat nutrition 101

Cats have evolved as obligate carnivores, meaning that they need certain nutrients only found in animal tissues to survive. In particular, key nutrients that cats need include:

  • High levels of protein in the diet (as much as 30-40% higher than a dog).
  • Specific proteins, e.g. taurine and arginine. A taurine-deficient diet leads to blindness, heart disease, and a weakened immune system, while feeding a single meal deficient in arginine can lead to liver failure and seizures.
  • Certain vitamins that they cannot make themselves, e.g. vitamin A (needed for vision).

In general, the best meal for a cat is a meat-based one, although using appropriate cereals and oils (as in many commercial diets) to balance the calorie provision is perfectly acceptable. Cats cannot thrive on a vegetarian, or survive on a vegan, diet without synthetic supplements.

So, with this vast array of options – where do we start? It can be a daunting decision. However, to make it easier, we’ve selected certain key features to consider below.

What should I feed my cat?

How old is your cat?

As we grow up from infants into toddlers into children into teenagers and into adults, our nutritional needs change. And of course, as we age, they change again. This situation in cats is exactly the same. Kittens typically need high calorie and high protein diets, with specific minerals such as calcium, for growth – more than at any other age. Adolescent active cats need more calories than adults; whereas older cats often benefit from limiting the amount of dietary protein to protect their kidneys. That’s not to say you need to buy a new food every six months or so (well, except for keeping up with those fast-growing kittens!), but that you need to be aware that your cat’s dietary needs will change.

What kind of lifestyle does your cat have?

Is your cat out and about, hunting and playing outdoors? Or are they more of a sofa-surfer? The more time they spend outside, the more calories they’re likely to require. HOWEVER, also ask yourself are they being fed anywhere else? Some cats have a great knack for persuading neighbours that they’re a poor starved stray, and may work their way from house
to house getting a fresh meal at each one… so keep a close eye on their waistline!

Does your cat have any dietary sensitivities?

While food allergies aren’t that common in cats, they do occasionally occur, so it’s worth being aware of what the protein source in their diet is.

Is there anyway your diet may be able to support and manage an existing issue for your cat?

Many health conditions have been proven to respond to certain balances of nutrients in diet – in particular, cystitis, and many bladder stones can even be dissolved by feeding the correct diet; cats with kidney disease will also benefit from a specialist renal diet that contains lower levels of high-quality protein, low phosphate, and altered salt balances. These specific food formulations are called “prescription diets”, and are available through us
(please don’t feed a prescription diet except on veterinary advice though!).
There are also diets available with specific nutrients (e.g. tryptophan) to help manage things like stress and anxiety.

Is the diet you are considering labelled a complete diet or a complementary diet?

A complete diet does what it says on the tin… it contains all the nutrients your cat needs, in the correct ratios. A complementary diet does not, and needs to be combined with another type of food to give a balanced meal. In general, most manufacturers provide complementary biscuit and wet diets, that you mix together. The problem with a complementary diet is that it assumes the cat will like both parts equally… which isn’t always the case!


Remember that your cat is an individual with their own unique requirements. No-one is better placed to know what they need than you and your vet — who both knows your cat as an individual. So, if it all seems a bit too much, and you’re not sure what the best option is — talk to one of our team! We can carry out an individual nutritional assessment for your cat and determine what their exact needs are, and then work together to find the best diet for them.

Do we need to fear the flea?

Do we need to fear the flea?

“All dogs have little fleas, upon their backs to bite ‘em,

And little fleas have littler fleas, and so ad infinitum!”

We often fondly imagine that the flea is a summertime parasite, and that in the depths of winter he disappears somewhere, leaving us and our pets in peace. Sadly, this is a profound mistake.

Why are fleas an all-year-round problem?

One simple answer – central heating. Fleas require a certain temperature for their life-cycle to continue, with the optimal being a little over 20C. Unfortunately, the optimal temperature for modern humans is also just over 20C, and so if we’re comfortable, probably so are our unwanted little house guests.

The adults are much less fussy of course – because they spend much of their lives clamped to a nice furry hot water bottle (called Rex, or Fido, or Puss) and can therefore endure surprisingly cold temperatures. However, if the house is warm, the flea larvae continue to develop into adults, and the infestation continues all year round.

But are they really a problem?

Most of the time, fleas are merely an irritant – their bites cause itching, but no more. However, the immune systems of many dogs and cats (as many as 40% according to some studies) see flea saliva as a dangerous foreign invader, and mount some degree of response to it. In approximately one in sixtydogs and cats, this alone is sufficient to trigger itching, scratching, discomfort and suffering as the pet develops Flea Allergic Dermatitis.

However, they pose other threats as well. Fleas may transmit Feline Infectious Anaemia to cats and are the main source of infection with the common Dog Tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum, confusingly enough a parasite of both dogs and cats).

Furthermore, in young puppies and kittens, a heavy infestation of fleas can even consume so much blood that the animal develops a serious anaemia, without enough iron in their blood to oxygenate their tissues.

To make the creatures even less friendly, the Cat Flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is far from fussy as to what, or who, it feeds on. While the Dog Flea (C. canis) is generally content to feed on its namesake, the Cat Flea will sample the blood of any warm-blooded mammal that is rash enough to come within jumping range. Cats, dogs, rabbits – even humans, they’re all just a buffet for the flea.

How do we kill them?

This great task is easier said than done. The adult fleas are relatively easy to kill – there are a wide range of medications available on prescription that are highly effective, and even over the counter drops are usually sufficient to decimate their populations.

However, the larvae are hard to find. Being soft, vulnerable, grub-like creatures, they hide themselves away in the dark, warm, sheltered places in your house – typically in the carpets and soft furnishings, the cushions and blankets, and in the dust between the floorboards. Here they feed and grow, until they are ready to pupate. Of all the fleas in your house, approximately 95% exist as eggs, larvae, or pupae hiding in the environment. This is why killing the adult fleas is insufficient – there will be another batch along in five minutes, and then another, and another.

Instead, we must be smarter than them. There are three main options for breaking the life-cycle of the flea.

Firstly, we can use environmental treatments – insecticidal sprays that kill the larvae where they cower. Unfortunately, however, the pupal or chrysalis stage is resistant to this – but we can fool them into emerging, by vacuuming the environment they lurk in. The warmth, air movement, and vibration trick the flea hidden inside into thinking that a tasty meal is walking past. Then, as they emerge, we hit them with the sprays, exterminating them.

Secondly, we can treat our pets with medications that make the fleas infertile or unable to reproduce. Indeed, many of these medications will also prevent even the larvae that have already hatched from growing to adulthood, as the larvae have the unpleasant habit of eating their parents’ and older siblings’ droppings.

Finally, we can use a modern drug that will kill the fleas so fast that they have no time to reproduce. In this case, the flea problem usually disappears with the fleas in a few weeks, unless the house is swarming with the little beasts, in which case it may take longer. 

What’s the best option?

For that, we strongly recommend that you speak to one of our vets or nurses. They will be more than happy to advise you on the best way of committing widespread insecticide and protecting your pets from the Fearsome Flea.