Archive for the ‘Cats’ Category

What is ‘Lifestage’ Feeding and Why Is It Important For My Pet?

‘Lifestage’ feeding is a relatively new term that means feeding your pet what they need at each stage of life. This blog should give you an insight into the interesting world of nutrition, help you to determine what stage of life your pet is in and how to tailor their diet to that stage.

The life stages are:

  • Kitten/ puppy – this is the first 1-2 years of life, the major growth period. The larger the adult weight, the closer to 2 years this will be. For example, a large breed dog will be in this stage for 2 years whereas a cat or small dog will only be in the growth period for a year. Sometimes, this is divided into ‘puppy/kitten’ (the first half) and ‘juvenile’ (the second half, roughly analogous to the human teenager phase).
  • Adult – this is from the end of the kitten/ puppy stage and until their senior years.
  • Senior – in cats this is over 7-9 years old. In dogs, there is a bit more variation due to the big variation between breed life expectancy (small breeds have a longer life expectancy, so the senior period starts later than in larger breeds) but in general:
    • Small dogs – this stage begins at 12 years old
    • Medium dogs – this stage begins at 10 years old
    • Large dogs – this stage begins at 8 years old
  • Pregnant/ nursing – this stage is obvious, but it is very important that it has its own category. In the last trimester of pregnancy, and throughout the lactation period, there is a much higher demand for calories on the bitch/queen. If she is not fed to account for this, then she can lose a lot of weight and she may not be able to produce plenty of high-quality milk.

Now you know which stage of life your pet is in, let’s move onto the nutrition side of things.

Puppy/ kitten food is high in calcium and phosphorus which promotes good bone health. It is also high in calories which is needed for growing. These diets are perfect for a growing animal because they prevent any deficiencies and you know that they are getting everything that they need. They can also be used in the last trimester of pregnancy and lactation, as the extra calories make sure that Mum has all the energy she requires, and this diet gives her the extra calcium needed for milk production.

Adult food is a well-balanced diet that contains everything that a healthy adult cat or dog needs. This has fewer calories than the puppy/kitten food so that they can maintain a healthy weight. Neutered animals have lower energy requirements, so they may need to go on a ‘diet’ or “neutered pet’ food to maintain a healthy weight. It is worth the investment so that they don’t pile on the pounds during their adult life.

Senior food is usually reduced calorie but with a blend of vitamins, minerals and supplements to support the immune system and promote healthy kidneys and joints. The reduction in calories is because our senior pets are less active than they used to be, if we also reduce the calories this should reduce weight gain (and more importantly, excessive weight on old joints).

On a side note, for many conditions (such as liver or kidney problems) there are also specific diets. If your pet has any long-term conditions, ask one of our vets if they would recommend a diet to help manage the condition.

But the question you are all asking is – does it actually matter? Yes, yes it does! The most important stage is the growth (puppy/ kitten) stage; if you feed an inappropriate diet the animal will likely have stunted growth and some deficiencies. So, if you take anything away from this at all, feed your puppy/kitten right so they develop properly.

Maybe the question you should be asking is – why not? These diets are formulated to give your pet everything they need and support them in whatever stage of life they are in. If there is a diet better for your older pets, why not give it a try? Hopefully, you will see the difference it can make and never look back.

Our vets and nurses are always happy to discuss and recommend diets that would be best for your pet. Call us or drop in to discuss it anytime, we think nutrition is very important and will always make time to talk to you about it.

Can I Share Food With My Pet?

Our pets love to share our food. The act of hand feeding itself is a reward because of the attention. Also, the foods we offer often have high-fat content, making them super tasty. Having their own food in a bowl is much less attractive than a higher calorie feast that has been making the kitchen smell amazing while it cooks. Fat makes food more palatable and as we need more calories, our food is often much more tempting than theirs! The focus in human nutrition is to move away from pre-prepared foods and cook from scratch. Fresh ingredients with as much variety as possible (eating a rainbow every day) are hard work but yields long term health benefits. So, as we improve our own diet, we may feel that it would be better to feed our pets in this way rather than open a can or bag.

 

Unfortunately, it’s not as straightforward as that. We know a lot about our calorie requirements, which nutrients we need, in what proportions and what vitamins and minerals are essential, but these are all different for our pets. All these parts of formulating a complete and balanced diet to promote health and long life are unique. If we feed a diet deficient in a specific nutrient this is likely to cause illness. For example, both cats and dogs need a protein called taurine in their diet, they cannot make it from other proteins as humans can. So, a human diet is likely to cause a taurine deficiency. Unfortunately, taurine deficiency, which used to occur more commonly before pet foods were generally fed, is now on the rise again in animals fed unbalanced diets. It is a devastating deficiency as it causes heart disease resulting in heart failure. Early cases can be rectified and then heart disease managed, it can often improve on a balanced diet. Taurine deficiency can also cause serious eye problems.

 

A balanced diet also varies within a single species depending on what age the pet is. An adult animal will be a lot better at compensating whereas a younger pet needs specific nutrients in exact ratios which feed the growth of muscle and bone. A trend to feed meat only without any other ingredients sometimes means that a growing animal does not have enough calcium to form strong healthy bones. Although diseases like rickets are in the past for humans, we see it in young animals fed on diets without enough calcium. These puppies and kittens develop deformed limbs or fractures of their back or limbs.

 

These are just two examples of the problems that can arise from a diet that is not designed for the animal concerned. In this blog, we will briefly review the differing diet requirements of pets. However, if you have any concerns about the diet or health of your pet, come and see us. Together we can discuss all the needs and requirements of your individual pet and find a diet that optimises their health and enjoyment.

 

Calorie requirements vary between species. We may need roughly 1500-2000 calories daily, but a cat needs only 250-350 a day and a small dog under 400. So, the volume of food and calorie density is important. Obesity is very common in our pets. This results in joint disease, osteoarthritis as they age and can lead to diabetes, and liver disease in cats. When we are investigating diets, it can be best to feed a low-calorie density food, so they feel full, especially if we are going to add in the odd treat. Sometimes our pets can’t get as much exercise. For example, if the weather is terrible our cat won’t go outside and exercise as usual, or if we have surgery and can’t walk our dog. In this case, we need to reduce the calories they eat for a short time.

 

Protein is an important part of any diet. Cats need twice the amount of protein in their diet that we or dogs do. They are called obligate carnivores as they need animal protein in their diet to supply all the amino acids they need. Vegetarian diets can be formulated for dogs, but it is important that the diet includes a source of every one of the amino acids they need. The proportion of amino acids varies with age – for example, a growing pup needs much more arginine than an adult dog, to avoid liver problems. Fat is essential in the diet for certain fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins which aid health and organ function. Carbohydrates need to be carefully considered in cat diets, some cats put on a lot of weight on high carbohydrate diets.

 

As cats are desert-adapted species, they have a low drive to drink. This can sometimes mean that they don’t feel thirsty and can become dehydrated or their urine becomes very concentrated. Some cats need some wet food in their diet to combat this. Otherwise, they can develop bladder stones. Many cats enjoy fresh water, and some will drink more if they have a water fountain.

 

Our small furry pets, rabbits, guinea pigs and rats love the odd high-calorie treat from us, but their dietary requirements are so different that we must take care not to make treats more than 10-20% of their diets. For rabbits and guinea pigs, it is important that the bulk of their calories comes from fibrous food so that their constantly growing teeth are kept in check. The small furry species have very small calorie requirements so can put on weight very easily, which prevents them grooming and can lead to skin problems.

 

We are always keen to provide the best preventative health care for your pet or pets and are always here to discuss their diet as part of keeping them well and happy. We can work together to choose the right diet that will contribute to a long and healthy life.

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!

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.

How do I go about getting a pet passport?

Travelling with your pet can be a great experience and means that you can enjoy your holiday with your pet. A pet passport can be obtained for cats, dogs and ferrets – and allows travel between certain countries. You will need to check whether you are travelling to an EU, listed non-EU, or unlisted non EU country as the regulations will differ. If travelling to an unlisted non-EU country the requirements are a little more complicated and will take more time so you will need to plan accordingly.

Also, remember that your pet passport is to allow you to re-enter the UK. Other countries – in particular unlisted non-EU countries – will have their own entry requirements, that you may have to comply with. This is, by example, really important for entry into Australia or New Zealand, who have very strict disease control policies in place.

In order to obtain a pet passport you will need to book an appointment with one of our vets. Check that the vet that you will be seeing has OV (Official Veterinarian) status to legally provide a pet passport and will be available on the day of your appointment. Most of our vets do have this qualification (which they have to renew periodically), but do make sure that our receptionists are aware that you will need certain documents that only they can sign.

Your pet will receive a full health check to ensure that they have no health concerns and are fit to travel. They must be over the age of 15 weeks at the time of travelling; this is to help prevent illegal movement of puppies and kittens.

Hopefully your pet is already microchipped, if not they will need to have one placed in the scruff of their neck for identification purposes. This number will be recorded in their pet passport, along with a written description of them.

Your pet will then need to have a vaccination against Rabies. If the vaccination is given in the UK, it usually lasts 3 years before they require a booster. However, the vaccine takes a few weeks to “take” and become fully effective. As a result, your pet cannot return to the UK until 21 days have passed after having the rabies vaccination, when travelling from EU and listed countries. This means it is sensible to get everything done at least a month or more in advance of your planned trip.

You also need to consider that your pet will be required to travel via an approved transport route and with an approved company. Additionally, you will have to travel with them – if this is not possible, you will need additional paperwork to allow another person to accompany them.

Before returning to the UK, any dogs in your party will need to have a worming tablet administered by vet in the country you are travelling back from, given 1-5 days before re-entry to the UK. This is to prevent a type of tapeworm (Echinococcus multilocularis) that can infect humans from being brought into this country by infected dogs, and it will need to be noted in their pet passport.

We strongly advise that you research the potential parasite and disease threats in the country you are travelling to, to ensure your pets are protected. For most countries, tick cover would be strongly recommended as they carry a number of significant diseases; in southern Europe, dogs should also have sandfly protection to reduce the risk of heartworm and Leishmaniasis.

Failure to meet regulations could result in your pet being quarantined on returning to the UK – which could potentially be months, so do check the gov.uk website for the most up to date information.

Need more advice? Give us a ring and we’ll be able to point you in the right direction!