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Pop-Top Cans Increase Hyperthyroidism Risk, Study Says

January 9, 2004

A study published in the March 15, 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that cats who are fed canned cat food have around three times greater risk of developing hyperthyroidism than cats who eat only dry cat food. The risk is greater for female cats. Strangely, the study found that cats who were fed canned food packaged in pop-top can had a far greater risk of developing hyperthyroidism than cats who were fed canned food packaged in non-pop-top cans. The authors suggest a link between the lacquers used to line steel cans and hyperthyroidism in cats. Because the lids are more flexible, pop-top cans use a different type of lacquer than cans that require a can opener. This lacquer has been shown to pass into the food. Since almost all canned cat food available today is packaged in pop-top cans, presumably it would be better to use those in foil pouches. Recent studies have implicated the high carbohydrate levels in dry cat food with obesity, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses.

Shelter Fundraising Idea: Donation of Jury Duty Per Diem

January 9, 2004

On December 19, 2003, the Associated Press reported that Cobb jurors can voluntarily donate their $25 daily per diem to the animal shelter library system, parks department, and other county organizations. Believed to be the first of its kind in Georgia, the program has raised a total of $192,725 over seven years. The shelter has always been the top moneymaker, receiving nearly half the donations, according to Skip Chesshire, Superior Court administrator and program coordinator. The 8.3 percent of jurors who donate have funded construction and annexations at the animal shelter.

Study on Vaccine-Associated Sarcomas Reaches Startling Conclusions

October 31, 2003

The November 1 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association includes a new study on the cause of vaccine-associated sarcomas (VAS) in cats.

The bottom line: not only do we not know why some vaccines cause tumors in some cats, but we also don't know that only vaccines, and not other injectable medications, cause the tumors.

The study found that NONE of the following factors had any measurable effect on whether or not a cat developed a tumor at the vaccination site: mixing vaccines in a single syringe, reuse of syringes following autoclaving or chemical sterilization, syringe or vaccine manufacturer, needle gauge, shaking multidose vials prior to vaccine withdrawal, massage of vaccination site, or use of non-adjuvanted vaccines.

The only factor that had a statistically significant effect on whether a cat got a tumor was the temperature of the vaccine at the time of administration. "This study found a higher risk when cold vaccines were administered, compared with vaccines at room temperature. However, this finding is unconfirmed by others and should be regarded as tentative and subject to verification," the authors wrote.

Long-acting injectable medications, particularly prednisolone and penicillin, were also implicated as tumor triggers, although the authors cautioned that "The association between these drugs and tumor formation only began to become apparent after at least 2 years following administration, suggesting that their tumorigenic potential is somewhat more limited, compared with vaccines. However, this finding should also be regarded as tentative until verified by others."

The investigators believe that no vaccine alone can cause VAS, but must be accompanied by other factors, including a genetic predisposition to such tumors in the cat.

Citation: Kass Philip H., Spangler William L., Hendrick Mattie J., et al. Multicenter case-control study of risk factors associated with development of vaccine-associated sarcomas in cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;223:1283-1292.

Win the Battle Against the Hairball with Disposable Carpet

October 3, 2003

On August 5, Milliken announced the introduction of the Legato and Tesserae carpet panel systems. They allow you to replace a section of carpet with a red cat yack stain with a new panel or one swapped from under the sofa.

Legato is a do-it-yourself system sold only at Home Depot. Made of 100 percent nylon, it comes in boxes of 35 square feet that cost $70 to $84 per box, depending on the color.

Tesserae is sold at carpet stores nationwide as a do-it-yourself product or with professional installation. A box of 40 square feet of the Wear Dated Durasoft nylon carpet sells for about $140 and is available in 24 colors.

Both systems can be installed without glue directly over hard surfaces such as linoleum, ceramic tile, concrete, or hardwood. The back of each panel has a pressure-activated non-slip floor pad to prevent movement.

Kaopectate Changes Formula; Now Dangerous for Cats

October 3, 2003

Kaopectate has been widely used to control diarrhea in cats. The manufacturer of Kaopectate have changed the active ingredient to bismuth subsalicylate. Salicylates (e.g. aspirin) should be administered to cats only under veterinary supervision. Some dogs are also sensitive to salicylates. It is no longer safe to use Kaopectate for dogs or for cats at home.

Feleuk Vaccination Protocols to Reduce the Risk of Vaxosarcomas

July 25, 2003

Feline leukemia vaccines can cause vaccination-site fibrosarcomas (tumors), also known as vaxosarcomas. Although rare, the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center of Los Angeles calls fibrosarcoma a "difficult, deeply rooted tumor" that "digs in deeply and widely in a localized area. After surgical removal it is notorious for recurring even more aggressively than before." Caretakers and rescuers who administer their own vaccines can take several precautions to reduce the chance of vaxosarcomas.

Buy the vaccine in individual doses, not in ten-dose bottles. Besides the virus, the vaccine also contains a substance called the adjuvant, which stimulates the immune system over a period of a couple of weeks, making the vaccine more effective. In the process of this stimulation, the adjuvant can cause low-grade inflammation, which is thought to be the cause of vaxosarcomas. If you draw one dose of vaccine from a multi-dose bottle, you may not get the proper balance of adjuvant and virus. Too much adjuvant increases the likelihood of a vaxosarcoma.

You can also choose to use a vaccine without adjuvant. Intervet's Protex FeLV non-adjuvanted vaccine is available in single-dose vials from Revival Animal Health. Non-adjuvanted vaccine is recommended only for adult cats who have been vaccinated against feline leukemia before; it is not recommended for cats or kittens receiving their first vaccine or whose vaccination history is unknown.

Inject the feline leukemia vaccine low on the left back leg, and monitor the vaccination site. If a lump forms and does not go away within a month of vaccination, take the cat to the vet. If the cat is placed in an adoptive home, be sure to tell the adopters to monitor the vaccination site.

Finally, consult your vet about the need for feline leukemia vaccination at all. If your vet keeps current on feline health issues, he or she will be knowledgeable about the risks associated with the feline leukemia and other vaccines. Recent studies have shown that the immunity from most vaccinations lasts longer than a year. Indoor-only cats who are not exposed to other cats may need a booster shot only once every several years. Caretakers of cats in other circumstances should work with their vet to strike an acceptable balance between the risk of contracting the disease and the risks associated with the vaccine itself.

Spay/Neuter Pets with a Needle, Not a Knife

May 23, 2003

Very soon, you may be able to spay or neuter your pets with a needle, not a knife.

On May 19, the FDA announced approval of Neutersol, a drug that is injected directly into the testicles of puppies, causing them to atrophy.

On May 8, the Fresno (California) Bee reported that Madera County would become the only field test site in the U.S. for a new shot that will sterilize female cats. This shot, called PZP, causes the cat's immune system to prevent egg fertilization.

Both shots were developed to help reduce pet overpopulation by making it quicker and cheaper to alter pets.

The advantages of this new sterlization method include: no need for anesthetic or a sterile surgical area; no risk from anesthesia; a less intrusive procedure; greatly reduced doctor time and no need for sterile surgical instruments should reduce cost significantly; can be done on-site at a shelter as quickly as giving a shot.

The disadvantages include: lack of longitudinal studies to prove long-term safety and prevention of cancers; behavioral problems associated with intact animals may not be reduced as much as surgical sterilization; in rare cases, the sterilization may fail.

Addison Biological Laboratory, the maker of Neutersol, is now investigating whether it can be used on older dogs and cats.

FIP: One of the Most Devastating Feline Diseases

By Duffy Jones, DVM

May 23, 2003

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a severe and fatal disease of cats. A corona virus causes this chronic wasting disease that results in poor appetite, fever, and weight loss over several months to years, and is ultimately fatal. FIP affects many organs including the liver, kidneys, brain, spinal cord, and eyes. Because of the many target organs, a variety of clinical signs are recognized, including blindness, seizures, and liver failure.

FIP comes in two forms: the wet form (effusive) and the dry form. The wet form results in fluid accumulation in the chest or abdomen. When fluid builds up in the chest, many cats have a difficult time breathing. When the fluid builds up in the abdomen, these cats develop a bloated appearance. The dry form affects the target organs in much the same way as the wet, but without fluid accumulation; it is much more difficult to diagnose.

Diagnosing FIP can be very difficult and frustrating. No specific test is reliable in all cases. Many times, a combination of tests are used, including a corona virus test, PCR, protein levels, white blood cell counts, fluid analysis, and organ biopsies. There is no specific test for FIP because the corona virus is also an intestinal virus in cats. Serum testing for corona virus antibodies does not indicate if there is a current infection, an old infection, or if the antibodies are related to the corona virus that causes FIP or the intestinal virus. Some cats may also have the virus but not necessarily the disease. Unfortunately, the most definitive test for FIP is a PCR test on the fluid produced by the wet form of the disease. Usually, however, the disease has progressed significantly by the time this test can be performed.

FIP has three stages: the initial stage, dormancy, and clinical illness. During the initial stage, which can last two to four weeks, a large amount of virus can be shed, and direct contact with other cats can spread infection. During the second stage, dormancy, the disease is inactive. If the cat is stressed during this time, it can shed the virus, but most of the time little to no virus is shed. This stage can last from several weeks to several years. The final stage is clinical illness, which lasts only a few weeks. As a general rule, cats are not contagious during this stage.

An FIP vaccine is available, but is used only when the cat's exposure is very high, such as when they live with cats who are known to be FIP-positive.

Overall, FIP is a very devastating disease in cats. It is fatal and can affect cats at any age. Some cats may go many years before developing clinical signs of illness. FIP can be very difficult to diagnose as well as treat. The best prevention is to try to eliminate your cats' exposure to known FIP-positive cats.

Protect Your Cat's Heart by Understanding HCM

By Duffy Jones, DVM

April 18, 2003

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a very devastating disease in cats. This is a disease where the heart muscle wall gets very thick. As the heart muscle wall becomes thick, a decreased amount of blood is able fill the heart. Each beat, therefore, does not push as much blood out to the body. The body responds to this decrease in blood flow by telling the heart to increase its rate. Therefore, many of these patients have very high heart rates.

Untreated HCM can lead to congestive heart failure (fluid buildup in or around the lungs). As the heart works harder and harder to keep up with the body's demand for blood and oxygen, the heart begins to give out. Fluid builds up around the lungs, causing difficulty breathing, which is shown by panting or open-mouth breathing—a very bad sign in cats, unlike dogs.

There are three main causes of HCM in cats. This first cause is genetics. Some cats, especially descendants of Maine Coons, are very prone to the disease, which is usually found in very young and very old cats. Many cats have the disease for a long time before showing any symptoms.

The second cause of HCM is hyperthyroidism. This is a disease where the thyroid gland is overproducing its hormone. Thyroid hormone causes an increase in blood pressure and therefore the heart must compensate by becoming thicker so that it can pump against the higher blood pressure. This form of HCM is correctable by treating the underlying thyroid disease.

The third reason for HCM is hypertension or high blood pressure. High blood pressure can be found in cats with kidney disease. Many times by lowering the blood pressure, the HCM can be controlled.

HCM is diagnosed best by ultrasound, which gives us a moving picture of how the heart is functioning and lets us measure the wall thickness. Radiographs and blood work help rule out the other causes of HCM and allow medications to be tailored to your pet.

Much of the therapy of HCM involves lowering the heart rate. By decreasing the heart rate, the heart is able to fill with more blood, and therefore more blood is delivered to the body with each beat. As the body receives more blood, it tells the heart rate to slow down. The two main types of drugs used are B- blockers and Ca - channel blockers.

If your cat has a heart murmur, it is very important to evaluate it thoroughly with ultrasound, bloodwork, and radiographs. By diagnosing and beginning therapy early in the course of disease, we can hope to delay or prevent heart failure.

Perspectives on the FIV Vaccine One Year Later

March 20, 2003

On March 14, 2002, the USDA approved the Fel-O-Vax® FIV vaccine. Here are some perspectives on the vaccine.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners says, "The absence of tests that distinguish cats vaccinated with Fel-O-Vax FIV from infected cats, coupled with questions regarding the vaccine’s ability to induce protection against all the subtypes and strains of FIV to which cats might be exposed, makes the decision to recommend use of this product far from straightforward. It is crucial that clients are adequately informed about the vaccine’s impact on future test results, and their decision should be reached only after careful consideration of both positive and negative implications. If the decision ultimately falls in favor of vaccination, cats should test negative immediately prior to receiving Fel-O-Vax FIV."

The Mar Vista Animal Medical Center of Los Angeles says, "Our hospital has looked long and hard at this vaccine which, on the surface, seems like a good idea for outdoor cats or cats living with FIV positive housemate cats. We have chosen to say no to this vaccine at least until more information is available and are happy to list the features of the product that leave us with reservations. ... There are five strains of FIV virus, called “Clades.” The vaccine was made using Clades A and D and tested using Clade A. Clade B, for example, is a very common strain in most regions of the U.S. and no testing of the vaccine has been performed thus far against Clade B. ... The FIV vaccine is an “adjuvanted” vaccine. An adjuvant is an additive used with killed vaccines to improve their ability to stimulate the immune system. Unfortunately, adjuvanted vaccines have been implicated in the development of certain tumors in the cat. ... Vaccinated cats will test positive on all current methods of testing for the FIV virus. ... The vaccine is advertised at protecting 82% of cats which means 18% can still be infected. This is nearly a one in five chance of unknowingly having an infected cat."

Dr. Sue Marshall, Feline Medical Clinic, Pleasanton, CA says, "[I]t is not known how soon the vaccine actually becomes protective. Cats used to study the effectiveness of the vaccine were not challenged until 1 year after receiving the vaccine. ... If your cat does not go outside and does not have exposure to other cats that go outside, I would not vaccinate for either FIV or FELV."

Dr. Anjanette Cabeza, Doral Centre Animal Clinic, Miami says, "Our clinic strongly recommends that any outdoor cat that has exposure to other cats or any indoor cat that tends to escape should receive the FIV vaccine."

Dr. Patricia Lane, Cat Clinic of Cobb, Marietta says, "[W]e at the Cat Clinic of Cobb believe that this vaccine should be used for high risk cats that spend a great deal of time outside and have a history of fighting and roaming. We further recommend that any cat that is to be vaccinated for FIV be tested negative for the FIV virus before vaccination, and microchipped so that this cat can always be identified as a vaccinate should he turn up in an animal shelter and test positive at some later date."

Product Review: Vetri-Science Rapid Response G.I.

March 20, 2003

Until recently, I was fostering three kittens I pulled from the Gwinnett shelter last May (!). The three-week old kittens ranged from malnourished to emaciated when I pulled them. They recovered nicely, although they continued to have terrible diarrhea that made their litterboxes smell like something died in there. Fecal tests were negative, and deworming and Albon failed.

I was at the end of my rope when the kittens were 10 months old and showed no improvement. Finally my vet recommended a new product called Rapid Response G.I. from Vetri-Science. It is a dark paste that comes in a 60 cc syringe. It is not a medication but rather a nutriceutical that includes yeast, vitamins, and digestive enzymes.

One dose and those kittens were just about cured.

This magic bullet is expensive at about $30 a tube, but well worth it if you have tried everything else. When squeezed onto a plate, the cats were attracted to it enough to sniff and lick some of it, but not enough to take the full dose by themselves. Some cats may really like it, but you can expect to have to force it on a finicky cat.

Heartworm: Not Just for Dogs Anymore

By Duffy Jones, DVM

February 24, 2003

Although we have known that heartworms can infect cats since 1922, feline heartworm disease is still considered a novelty. The misconception that cats are not susceptible to infection has led many people to neglect heartworm preventative for their cats. Heartworms can cause more severe symptoms in cats than dogs, even though fewer worms are present. So it is very important to remember heartworm preventative for your cat.

Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite (dirofilaria immitis) spread by mosquitoes. The life cycle begins as mosquito bites a heartworm positive dog or cat and ingests baby worms (microfilaria) from the blood. The baby worms then mature and migrate to the mosquito's salivary glands. When it bites another dog or cat, the infective heartworms are injected into the skin. They mature into adult worms and migrate to the heart.

Adult heartworms cause many problems with the heart and lungs. One of the difficulties of diagnosing heartworm disease in cats is that the symptoms are highly variable. Some cats show acute signs such as coughing, coughing up blood, increased heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, and neurological symptoms. Cats can also have more chronic signs including coughing, not eating, weight loss, vomiting, and lethargy.

Another challenge of diagnosing heartworm disease in cats is the low number of worms most cats have. Existing tests were developed to diagnose heartworm disease in dogs, which host very high numbers of worms. With low numbers of worms, tests often give a false negative result. We now run both a feline heartworm antibody test and a feline heartworm antigen test, which have accurately identified a large number of heartworm positive cats who were previously undiagnosed with just the antibody test.

Supportive care for feline heartworm disease includes steroids and bronchodilators. The adulticide treatment that is used in dogs is not routinely used in cats because of the side effects. However, the best treatment for feline heartworms is prevention. Many products can help prevent feline heartworm disease. Please ask your veterinarian which product is right for your cat! Prevention is the key to feline heartworm disease.

AVMA Report on Cat and Dog Vaccines

December 6, 2002

The AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents (COBTA) issued a report in the November 15 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association that contained some interesting comments.

COBTA recognized that the need for vaccines is complex and vets should balance the cat's risk of getting a disease against the risks associated with the vaccination itself.

"The practice of revaccinating animals annually is largely based on historic precedent supported by minimal scientific data," they wrote.

They also made recommendations as to where each shot should be given. Feline distemper shots go in the right shoulder, rabies shots go in the back right leg as far down as possible, and feline leukemia shots go in the left back leg as far down as possible.

They recommended that three-way distemper (feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia) and rabies shots should be considered "core" or required vaccines. They do not recommend vaccinating cats against chlamydia or feline leukemia if they have minimal or no risk of exposure, especially after four months of age. Now Offers Pet Supply Catalogs Online

October 10, 2002

Now you can flip through your favorite—and soon-to-be favorite—pet supply catalogs online at This new feature allows you to view every page of the catalog online. To access it, click See More Stores, then click Pet Toys & Supplies. To order, you call the catalog company directly at the phone number provided on the page for your convenience (not through Amazon).

New Opinion on Cat Food

August 15, 2002

Respected Marietta holistic veterinarian Dr. Susan G. Wynn, Executive Director of the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association and Secretary/Treasurer of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition, offers a new opinion on cat food in her paper, "The Cat Feeding FAQ."

According to Dr. Wynn, dry cat food is bad because:

  • Cats are carnivores with no proven nutritional requirement for carbohydrates, yet dry cat food is 30 to 60% carbohydrates. A high-carbohydrate diet can contribute to diabetes.
  • Dry food does not provide enough water for cats, which are desert animals adapted to getting water primarily from their food. This can lead to FLUTD (lower urinary tract disease).
  • Free-feeding dry food leads to obesity, even on "diet" food. Cats should be fed several small high-protein meals.
  • Food types and brands should be changed two to four times a year to prevent the cat from becoming "addicted" to a certain food type.
  • Dry food is only marginally better for the cat's teeth than canned food.

For more info, visit The Dry Cat Food Crisis.

Indoor Air Quality Systems Protect People and Pets

August 15, 2002

When I had my heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system replaced this spring, I had an ultraviolet air disinfection lamp added in the main air return. This UV lamp kills or renders harmless most airborne viruses and bacteria.

This system makes me feel more confident about fostering kittens, many of whom are sick. This spring and summer I fostered a total of 17 kittens, all but one of which had upper respiratory infections (colds) to some degree, which are highly contagious. Yet my six personal cats did not get sick.

Most companies that do HVAC installation or repair can install a UV lamp in your system. You may want to look into this to help protect both the humans and pets in your home.

Tufts University Researches Pet Hoarding

July 16, 2002

The recent news story about the pet hoarder in Lilburn brought the tragedy of pet hoarding to light. A pet hoarder is a person who accumulates a large number of animals and does not provide minimal standards of food, sanitation, and veterinary care. The animals suffer and often die as a result.

The Tufts University site has some great tips for vets, as well as friends and family of pet hoarders. It also includes links to news articles and other research.

Pet rescuers especially need to be aware of signs that an animal may be a victim of hoarding:

  • Pets are perfumed or bathed to conceal odor
  • Pets have trauma or disease, never signs of old age
  • Person wants heroic and futile care for a pet they just found
  • "Found" pet shows signs of being kept in filthy conditions
  • Person will not say how many pets s/he has
  • Person works with different groups to hide the number of pets
  • Person offers to take in even more pets

Pill Your Cat Without Wearing a Flak Jacket

July 16, 2002

Now that our pets are living longer and requiring more long-term medication, compounding pharmacies are becoming more popular. They reformulate over-the-counter or prescription medication so that it tastes good to your pet, and is easy for you to give. Some Georgia veterinary compounding pharmacies are listed below.

Chronic Renal Failure

July 16, 2002

My cat Misty was recently diagnosed as being in the early stages of chronic renal failure (CRF). In researching this disease, I found I needed only one Web site: the Feline CRF Information Center. This comprehensive site features up-to-the-minute diagnosis and care info, links to prescription pet food sites, and even a description of the emotional aspects involved in caring for a CRF cat.

A Fine Line for Fixed Felines

June 12, 2002

I had my most recent batch of kittens spayed or neutered last week by Dr. Tracy Land of The Pet Vet in Cumming. She showed me a new protocol in pediatric spaying that you might want to share with your vet.

Because Tracy's incisions are so tiny and the kittens heal with little or no scarring, it is impossible to tell later in life that the cat has been spayed without opening her up to try to spay her again. So Tracy now "marks the spot" with a thin line of green tattoo ink next to the incision.

Estimating a Cat's Age by Examining Its Eyes

April 7, 2002

In the December 2000 Compendium on Continuing Education for the Practicing Veterinarian, veterinarians Gerald Tobias, Todd A. Tobias, and Sarah Abood explained how your vet can estimate a dog or cat's age within two to three years by shining a penlight in its eyes and examining the size of the reflections. As a pet ages, the reflections get larger.

The authors state, "The ocular age estimation system described in this article is perhaps the first realistic method for use in mature cats. In dogs older than four years of age, it is more than twice as accurate as the dental method of estimating age."

My vet, Dr. Pamela Webb of Bells Ferry Veterinary Hospital, brought this technique to my attention when she tried it on my cat, Sundance, when I brought him in for his yearly exam. He was a neighborhood stray, and I thought he was about three years old, but the ocular exam showed he is probably closer to five.

Fight West Nile with Catnip!

September 11, 2001

Researchers have found that catnip extract is 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, the most common active ingredient in insect repellents.

Catnip extract has also been shown to repel flies and two species of roaches. Dr. Joel Coats, the US Department of Agriculture entomologist who conducted the research, hailed catnip extract as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional chemical repellents.

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