Posts Tagged ‘cats’

Pet Diabetes Awareness Month: Diabetes in Cats

What is it?

Diabetes mellitus is a common disease where sugar (glucose) in the blood is unable to enter the cells of the body due to problems with insulin. This means the cells have no energy and feel like they’re starving even though there is plenty of sugar available. Cats usually get insulin resistant diabetes (equivalent to Type 2 diabetes in humans). This occurs when, although the pancreas is making insulin, the cat’s body cells are not responding normally to it. The result is that the blood sugar levels climb and climb, but the cells cannot use it.

Why is it important?

Untreated diabetes will eventually result in coma and death, either due to brain damage from cerebral dehydration (hyperosmotic coma), or metabolic collapse (diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA). Cats that are treated and stabilised have a good prognosis. If the underlying cause of insulin-resistance can be resolved cats can go into remission, meaning they no longer need treatment.

What’s the risk?

Diabetes is more common in middle-aged to older, male, indoor/inactive and Burmese cats. It has also been linked to long-term steroid medication use, chronic pancreatitis, acromegaly, and Cushing’s disease. However, obesity is probably the most important single risk factor.

What happens to the cat?

Classic symptoms for diabetes include weight loss despite an initially good appetite, increased drinking/urination, walking flat footed (like humans) and smelly breath. In later stages, untreated cats can enter diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which causes anorexia, vomiting, lethargy and eventually a coma which can lead to death.

pet_diabetes_awareness_month_diabetes_in_cats_body

How do you know what’s going on?

Your vet will be suspicious of diabetes based on the history and clinical signs you tell them as well as their examination. One single test alone, however, cannot usually be used to diagnose diabetes and sometimes repeated testing over several days is required. This is because there are many other factors, including severe stress, that can lead to a temporarily high blood glucose level.

To check for diabetes, your vet will perform a blood test to assess the blood glucose level. If this is high, they will often then check for sugar in the urine (glucosuria) which should be negative in a healthy and non-diabetic cat. A further blood test called fructosamine can be used to check the average blood glucose level for the last couple of weeks to make sure your cat has consistently had high sugar levels indicating diabetes. The urine will also be assessed for signs of ketones which are found in DKA and some vets can also test for ketones in the blood.

Urine may need to be cultured to check for a secondary infection which is common due to the high sugar content. Other diseases can cause and be associated with diabetes and these may also be checked for, particularly if your cat is not responding well to treatment. These include pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), acromegaly (a growth hormone tumour) and Cushing’s disease (steroid producing tumour, although this is rare in cats).

What can be done?

Diabetic cats that present with ketones in their blood/urine usually require hospitalisation for intravenous fluid therapy (a drip) and treatment with short-acting insulin to stabilise them. Once stable, diabetic patients can be treated at home provided the patient is compliant and the owner is willing.

Diabetes can be treated with long-acting insulin injections given under the skin 1-2 times a day. There are different types of insulin and methods of injecting insulin available and your vet will go through the options with you. Many owners find the idea of injecting their cat daunting, however, your vets and vet nurses will go through the process and practise with you until you feel confident. It is important that you follow a strict routine, giving the insulin and feeding your cat at the same time every day.

Food is typically given at the time of injection and not in between as this can result in poor control. In many cases, weight loss and a low carbohydrate diet are beneficial and can improve the chances of your cat going into remission. Response to insulin is monitored using blood glucose tests/curves and fructosamine (see above) and your cat’s dose will be adjusted accordingly.

Cats with poor control of their diabetes will show symptoms as described above. Cats that are too well controlled because of too much insulin or going into remission can show signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). This includes lethargy, trembling/twitching, wobbling when walking, and depression. In severe cases, hypoglycaemia can result in seizures and a coma. If you are worried your cat is hypoglycaemic then give them something to eat if they are able to swallow, if not then rub some honey on their gums and seek veterinary attention immediately.

Achieving good control of diabetes within the first six months markedly increases the chance of remission. However, cats that have gone into remission can still become diabetic again in the future.

How can I protect my pet?

You can help decrease the chance of your cat getting diabetes by minimising the risk factors where possible. Try to keep your cat slim and active, as overweight cats are over 4.5 times more likely to get diabetes. Feeding a diet which is lower in carbohydrates can help prevent obesity and often results in lower blood glucose levels after eating, compared to many commercial diets.

If you have any questions please get in touch with your local Goddard practice!

Tick Bites: When to worry, and how to prevent them

Ticks are widespread in the UK. They are actually arachnids rather than insects and, like spiders, adult ticks have 8 legs and vary tenfold in size from 1 millimetre to 1 centimetre. Ticks hatch from eggs and develop into larvae, then nymphs, and finally into adults. At each stage ticks have to attach onto and feed from an animal (their host), to develop into the next stage. The younger stages of ticks, like larvae, prefer to feed on small animals like birds and rodents. However, the older stages can attach onto and feed on larger mammals, such as dogs and cats, and also humans. For this reason, these unwelcome hitchhikers are something you should be aware of.

How do animals get ticks?

Whilst they could be found in some gardens, particularly in more rural areas, ticks are most commonly found in vegetation in areas such as woodland, meadows and moors.  When they are looking for a new host to attach to, they are described as ‘questing’ and will wait on low branches and leaves to attach to any animal brushing past.

Is there a particular time of year that my pet is likely to be affected?

Ticks are most active in spring and early summer, and then again in early autumn. They are generally dormant in cold weather. However, with global temperatures on the rise, they are likely to be active for a greater proportion of the year.

Why should I worry about ticks biting my pet?

The majority of the time, tick bites will not harm your pet. Rarely, bacterial infections or abscesses will develop at the site of a bite. This is more likely to occur if a tick has been improperly removed, with part of the tick being left in the skin. However, the main reason for wanting to prevent tick bites in dogs is that they have the potential to act as vectors (spreaders) of infectious disease.

What diseases can be spread by ticks?

In the UK the most common disease that ticks transmit is Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Dogs that are bitten by an infected tick do not always become ill. We know this because many dogs in the UK have antibodies in their blood to the bacterium, suggesting they have been exposed, without ever showing signs of being unwell. However, some dogs do become ill, and this can occur weeks to months after being bitten. Signs of Lyme disease in dogs can include painful swollen joints, a fever and lethargy. It can also go on to cause glomerulonephritis, a condition affecting the kidneys.

Lyme disease can also affect humans, often showing as a characteristic ‘bulls-eye’ rash in the area of the bite. This rash is not generally seen in dogs.  Humans can initially suffer from a flu-like illness, but can also be affected by heart rhythm abnormalities, neurological problems and arthritis. In some people, this can become a long-term illness.  Whilst there is no evidence humans can be directly infected by dogs carrying Lyme disease, dogs could bring infected ticks into your home and garden.

Babesia is another parasite that can be transmitted by ticks to your dog. It can cause damage and destruction of red blood cells in the bloodstream, sometimes causing severe anaemia (low red blood cell count), as well as bleeding disorders and organ failure, and can be fatal. Until fairly recently, Babesiosis was a disease only seen in the UK in dogs that had travelled from continental Europe. However, in recent years, several cases of Babesiosis have been seen in dogs in the South East of England that have never travelled abroad, sparking concern that this infection is now beginning to establish in ticks in this country.

Dogs and humans can also contract a disease called Ehrlichiosis from ticks, though this is also rare in the UK.

How can I prevent my pet from getting ticks?

It is important to check your dog daily for ticks and remove any that are found, particularly at times of the year when ticks are most active and when your dog has been walked in areas that are high risk. Be sure to check them all over, including their feet, groin and armpits. Cats can also be affected by ticks but are quite good at grooming them off. If your cat gets ticks, they are most likely to be found on areas of the body they cannot clean so easily, such as on the head.

There are a variety of preventative tick treatments available that will repel ticks, kill them once they have attached, or both. Infected ticks do not spread infections such as Lyme disease until they have been attached to the host for around 48 hours. Effective tick treatments will kill ticks much quicker than this, meaning they are killed before they can transmit disease to your pet. Many of these treatments also prevent flea and other parasite infestations. Our practice staff would be happy to discuss with you what treatment would be best suited to use for your pet as part of their routine parasite prevention, so please do get in touch!

What should I do if I find a tick on my pet?

The easiest way to remove a tick is by twisting it off using a special tick remover. Properly removing a tick in this way reduces the risk of leaving the tick’s mouthparts still attached.  Ticks should never be removed by squeezing or pulling, nor by being burnt.

If you are unsure or worried that your pet has a tick, book an appointment with your local Goddard vet.

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!

Top tips to keep pets safe this winter

If it’s cold for you, it’s cold for your pet – that’s the key message from the British Veterinary Association (BVA)* as it urges pet owners to take extra precautions to ensure dogs, cats and other small pets are kept safe from hidden and potentially fatal hazards as snow flurries and icy conditions are forecast in many parts of the country.


As with humans, pets can fall ill upon exposure to extremely cold temperatures for extended periods. To avoid this, vets advise that dogs are walked for shorter periods of time than usual, but more frequently if required, and to consider putting a coat on old dogs or those with thin fur to keep them warm. Keep older cats inside during an extremely cold spell and ensure that even healthy young cats have easy access to shelter and warmth.

Dogs

When walking your dog in ice and snow, do not let it off the lead and avoid walking in areas where ponds or lakes may have frozen over – animals often don’t understand the difference between solid ground and ice and can fall through. In this situation, vets urge owners to call the emergency services for professional help rather than going in after their pet. Although distressing, it is never worth risking your own life as well as your dog’s. It’s also important to wipe your dog’s paws and belly on returning home from a snowy walk to remove any ice or salt, and to regularly check for cracks in paw-pads or for redness between the toes.

Cats

Cats are especially at risk of poisoning from antifreeze, which can be fatal for them even in small amounts, especially if veterinary treatment is not sought immediately after ingestion. Store and use antifreeze products carefully, clean any spillages thoroughly, and contact your vet immediately if your cat develops symptoms of antifreeze poisoning, such as vomiting, depression, lack of coordination, seizures and difficulty breathing.

Small Pets

Small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs that usually live outdoors are vulnerable to the cold and damp despite their furry coats. Owners with outdoor hutches and runs should make sure that their pets’ living space is well-protected from snow, frost and winter rain and kept dry. Give rabbits and guinea pigs extra bedding to keep warm and check their water bottle or bowl regularly, as these can freeze when the temperature drops.

British Veterinary Association President Daniella Dos Santos said,

“Plummeting temperatures and snowy conditions call for extra precautions to keep our pets safe and warm. Dogs and cats should have easy access to shelter and warmth out of the cold, and while dogs will still need exercise, it’s advisable to walk them for shorter periods than usual. Antifreeze is a huge hazard for cats, so contact your vet immediately if you see signs of poisoning such as vomiting, depression, lack of coordination, seizures and difficulty breathing. Domestic rabbits and guinea pigs are also vulnerable to hypothermia despite their warm coats, which is why owners need to be vigilant and take steps to ensure their hutches are protected from the snow, cold draughts and winter rain. If owners have any concerns about their pet in this cold weather, they should consult their local vet for advice.”

Here are some other top tips to keep pets safe this winter:

  • Provide a warm, draught-free shelter: Make sure your pet’s bed is in a draught-free, warm spot off the floor in the house. For outdoor pets, the hutch or run should be in a sheltered position, away from wind, rain and snow at least 10 cm off the ground.
  • Take precautions during and after walks: Dogs need to be exercised; however, during the colder months, try to walk your dog for shorter periods. Wipe your dog’s paws and belly on returning home from a snowy walk to remove any ice or salt, and to regularly check for cracks in paw-pads or for redness between the toes.
  • Avoid antifreeze poisoning: Wiping your pets’ paws can prevent them from ingesting toxins that they may have stood in whilst outside. Antifreeze in particular is highly toxic for cats even in small amounts, with almost one in six vets (17%) reporting treating cats for antifreeze poisoning over the 2018 winter season. Apart from use in car radiators, some cases that vets saw were thought to be from ingesting diluted antifreeze used in ornamental water features to protect the pumps.
  • Temperature control for small pets: Keep the temperature of rabbit and guinea pig homes between 10?C and 20?C for rabbits (the lower temperature assumes rabbits are healthy and kept with other rabbits, with lots of bedding for warmth) and 5?C to 20?C for guinea pigs, avoiding too many fluctuations in temperature.
  • Provide extra bedding for rabbits and guinea pigs: Make sure your rabbits and guinea pigs have extra bedding to keep warm during colder weather – line hutches with plenty of newspaper, provide lots of hay and cover with an old duvet/blanket/tarpaulin. If the weather becomes very severe, consider moving outdoor pets inside to a well-ventilated space with light and room to exercise – but never place them inside a garage in use, as vehicle exhaust fumes are harmful to rabbits and guinea pigs.

If you would like some more advice on how to keep your pet safe this winter, contact your local Goddard vet.

*The BVA is the largest membership community for the veterinary profession in the UK. They represent the views of over 18,000 vets and vet students on animal health and welfare, and veterinary policy issues to government, parliamentarians and key influencers in the UK and EU.