What is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is the most common glandular disorder in cats. It is caused by an excessive concentration of circulating thyroxine—a thyroid hormone better known as T4—in the bloodstream.
What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism? read more →
How Do I Know When My Cat Is a “Senior”?
Most cats enter their golden years between 12 and 14 years of age. Many cats, especially those who are black, experience a graying of their coat as they age—but there are other, more subtle signs that your cat is aging. read more →
What Are Some Common Urinary Tract Problems in Cats?
Problems that affect a cat’s lower urinary system often prevent the bladder from emptying correctly or may even cause fatal blockage of the urethra, the tube connecting the bladder to the outside of the body. Very often the culprit is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). Once called Feline Urologic Syndrome (FUS), FLUTD is not merely one problem, but a collection of clinical symptoms that may have more than one possible cause. Symptoms of FLUTD include frequent or painful urination, bloody urine and frequent licking of the urinary opening. One key to treating FLUTD is to determine the root cause, which may include bladder stones, urinary tract blockage, infection or cancer. If the cause of these symptoms cannot be determined, the cat is considered to have bladder inflammation (cystitis).
For upper urinary tract issues in cats, please see our article on Kidney Problems.
What Causes Lower Urinary Tract Problems in Cats?
- Stones, crystals or debris accumulation in the bladder or urethra
- Urethral plug (accumulation of debris from urine)
- Bladder inflammation or infection
- Incontinence from excessive water drinking or weak bladder
- Injury to, or tumor in, the urinary tract
- Spinal cord problems
- Congenital abnormality
What Health Conditions Might Lead to Lower Urinary Tract Problems?
Endocrine diseases such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus can cause lower urinary tract problems in cats.
Which Cats Are Prone to Lower Urinary Tract Problems?
FLUTD is rarely diagnosed in animals younger than one year; the average age is typically four years. Male cats are generally more prone to urethral blockages because of their narrower urethras.
How Can I Tell if My Cat Has Lower Urinary Tract Problems?
The following signs may indicate that your cat is having trouble with his urinary tract:
- Inability to urinate or only passing a small amount of urine
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Loss of bladder control, dribbling urine
- Increased frequency of urination or visits to the litter box
- Straining and/or crying out in pain when trying to pass urine
- Prolonged squatting in litter box
- Fear/avoidance of litter box and soiling in inappropriate places
- Constant licking of urinary opening
- Strong odor of ammonia in urine
- Increased water consumption
- Hard, distended abdomen
What Should I Do If I Think My Cat Has Lower Urinary Tract Problems?
Please see your veterinarian for immediate medical attention, especially if your cat is straining to urinate or crying out in pain. This could be a medical emergency!
How Are Lower Urinary Tract Problems Diagnosed?
To diagnose a lower urinary tract problem, your vet should conduct a complete physical exam, a urinalysis and possibly urine culture, blood work, radiographs or ultrasound.
How Are Lower Urinary Tract Problems Treated?
Because feline urinary problems are so varied and potentially serious in nature, your first step is to get immediate veterinary care. Depending on your cat’s prognosis, one of the following may be recommended:
- Antibiotics or other medications
- Dietary changes
- Increase in water intake
- Urinary acidifiers
- Expelling of small stones through urethra
- Surgery to either remove bladder stones or tumor, or to correct congenital abnormality
- Urinary catheter or surgery to remove urethral blockage in male cats
- Fluid therapy
What Can Happen If a Cat’s Lower Urinary Tract Problems Go Untreated?
Untreated urinary problems can cause partial or complete obstruction of the urethra, preventing a cat from urinating. This is a medical emergency that can very quickly lead to kidney failure and/or rupture of the bladder, and can prove fatal if the obstruction is not relieved right away.
Designer collars, faux-mink coats, doggie donuts―you may love the novelties, but do your pets really need ‘em? The bucks we spend on those little extras for our animal companions add up.
“A tremendous amount of the growth in pet industry sales have probably been due to things people don’t really need for their pets,” says Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, ASPCA Science Advisor. While it’s great to pamper Fifi and Fido, it’s also important to budget for the essentials. Otherwise, that couture pet carrier could leave you with empty pockets when the emergency veterinary bills come.
We checked in with Dr. Z. for his take on easy ways to cut pet care costs. “The basics are still the same,” he says. “Quality food, litter for cats and good medical care.” Bottom line? Stick with the basics, and remember—preventative measures are excellent money savers!
- Go to the Vet! “A number-one money-saver is preventative veterinary care,” says Dr. Z. Annual veterinary exams can catch health crises early on and can save you a lot of time and money. This includes heartworm preventative treatment, flea and tick control, and a thorough check-up of your pet’s gums, teeth, heart, lungs and internal organs. If it’s been a year or more since your pet has seen a vet, make that appointment today!
- Give Your Pet Regular Check-Ups
Weekly home checkups are a great way to nip potential health problems in the bud.
- Check under your pet’s fur for lumps, bumps, flakes or scabs. Check your pet’s ears and eyes for signs of redness or discharge. Make note of any changes in her eating or drinking habits. If something seems off, call your vet right away.
- Learn how to clean your pet’s ears, especially if your dog is prone to ear infections.
- Brush your pet’s teeth regularly with a toothpaste formulated for pets, and check his gums. In some cases, this can help prevent the need for dental cleanings, which can run up to $200 per visit.
- Check your pet’s breath. Bad breath can indicate a digestive problem that’s better dealt with sooner rather than later
- Vaccinate Wisely
“Although certain vaccines are required by law, there is no longer automatically one policy for all animals,” says Dr. Lila Miller, Vice President, ASPCA Veterinary Outreach. “Veterinarians are now advised to assess each individual animal’s risk of exposure when designing a vaccination program.” So before subjecting your pet―and your wallet—to general vaccinations, ask your pet’s vet which vaccines he or she recommends.
- Spay/Neuter Your Pets
“Spaying and neutering your pet will have a dramatic impact on their health,” says Dr. Z. “For females, it dramatically reduces the potentiality for breast cancer, and ovarian and uterine cancer disappears.” Neutering also reduces chances of testicular cancer in males. Not only will spaying or neutering save you on future health care, but it will significantly diminish your pet’s desire to wander―and will save you the surprise of an unplanned litter.
- Invest in Training
“A lot of people don’t think about dog and cat training as a way to save money,” observes Dr. Z, “but a well-trained dog will be easier to walk, will be calmer in most situations and will be less likely to get into things he shouldn’t.” Teaching your dog to stay by your side and to come when he is called proves far cheaper than paying for expensive emergency care caused by his running off―possibly into the street―and eating items that he shouldn’t.
- Consider Pet Insurance
“One of the reasons why medical care has become so expensive,” explains Dr. Z, “is the recent growth spurt of procedures your pet can undergo―MRIs, cat scans, cancer treatments. Kidney transplants, though life-saving, are a $15,000 surgery that also typically requires the pet owner to adopt the donor animal.”
Accidents, too, can be costly. Pet insurance is one way to take some sting out of the bill. The cost of a policy typically runs about $300-$400 per year and many cover both regular and emergency visits.
- Save Up for the Future
Invest the money you spend on toys and extra snacks into a fund for possible emergencies, and deposit a fixed amount into it every two weeks. If no emergencies arise, you’ll be all the richer, but if something does come up, money will not stand in the way of getting your pet the care she needs.
Elderly Pet Care
The great news is that pets are living longer, thanks to better nutrition and veterinary care. But this often entails more frequent trips to the vet, blood screenings tests, special food and medication. “Very often you see people bringing older pets into shelters because they are confronted with bills they can’t manage,” says Dr. Z. You can avoid an ambush of sudden bills by saving up while your pet is young.
Caring for your pet at death could cost between $300 to $1,000, depending upon the services you choose. Some insurance policies cover the cost of euthanasia and cremation, but it is a smart idea to put aside a savings account that will cover those bills. This way you won’t have to haggle when the time comes.
- Serve Healthy Food in Moderate Portions
Buy premium-quality food
“Buy a good, premium-quality dog or cat food,” advises Dr. Z. “Don’t go crazy,” he says, but remember that cheaper foods will set you back in the end. They are full of less digestible filler material and artificial colors that offer no nutrients and can contribute to allergies and digestive problems. A high-quality, age-appropriate food results in a healthy coat, more energy and fewer costly trips to the vet.
This includes resisting the urge to spoil your pets with too many treats! “You don’t need to feed your pets as much as people do,” Dr. Z. reminds us. “One of the things we’re confronting is a huge obesity problem. Serving moderate portions not only saves you money on food ―it also reduces the likelihood of obesity.”
- Shop Around
Buy supplies online or in bulk. Just keep in mind that it’s wise to get product recommendations from your vet first. Online or store-bought products that you know nothing about could prove to be harmful or of poor quality. And if you rotate your pet’s toys, they’ll stay interested without you having to buy new ones every few months.
- Groom Your Pets at Home
- Save the price of a visit to your groomer with regular brushings. While you’re at it, you’ll reduce the hair around your home and your cats will have fewer hairballs.
- Trim your pet’s nails on a regular basis. It’s not hard to do, and you’ll likely save yourself the cost of new furniture and curtains.
Lucky for us, there are vaccines to help prevent many illnesses that affect dogs. Vaccinating your dog has long been considered one of the easiest ways to help him live a long, healthy life. Not only are there different vaccines for different diseases, there are different types and combinations of vaccines. read more →
The following information isn’t intended to replace regular visits to your veterinarian. If you think your dog may have a collapsed trachea, please see your veterinarian immediately. And remember, please do not give any medication to your pet without talking to your veterinarian first.
What is tracheal collapse?
Tracheal collapse is a common cause of airway obstruction in dogs. The trachea, or “windpipe,” is a tube made up of sturdy rings of cartilage through which air is transported to and from the lungs. Sometimes, however, the tracheal rings begin to collapse, and as air is squeezed through, a characteristic honking cough results. read more →
What Is Hypercalcemia?
Hypercalcemia is a serious electrolyte abnormality caused by excessive exposure to or ingestion of vitamin D. Symptoms of vitamin D toxicosis, which can affect multiple organ functions, usually occur within 24 to 72 hours of ingestion and include anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, polyuria, polydipsia, depression and weakness. Initially, clinical signs may be vague and nonspecific. read more →
Why Do Dogs Vomit?
A dog may vomit simply because he’s eaten something disagreeable or gobbled down too much food, too fast. But vomiting can also indicate something far more serious—your dog may have swallowed a toxic substance, or may be suffering from a condition that requires immediate medical attention. Vomiting can also be associated with gastrointestinal and systemic disorders that should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
What Might Cause A Sudden, or Acute, Episode of Vomiting?
- Bacterial infection of the gastrointestinal tract
- Diet-related causes (diet change, food intolerance, ingestion of garbage)
- Foreign bodies (i.e. toys, bones, pieces of chewies) in the gastrointestinal tract
- Intestinal parasites
- Acute kidney failure
- Acute liver failure or gall bladder inflammation
- Post-operative nausea
- Ingestion of toxic substances
- Viral infections
- Certain medications or anesthetic agents
- Car sickness
- Infected uterus
Vomiting that occurs sporadically or irregularly over a longer period of time can be due to stomach or intestinal inflammation, severe constipation, cancer, kidney dysfunction, liver disease or systemic illness.
What Should I Do If My Dog Vomits Frequently?
An occasional, isolated bout of vomiting may not be of concern. However, frequent or chronic vomiting can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as colitis, intestinal obstruction or parvovirus. If your dog’s vomiting is not an isolated incident, please bring him to the vet right away for a complete examination and diagnostic testing.
What Other Symptoms Should I Watch For?
The causes of vomiting are so varied that sometimes obtaining a diagnosis can be difficult, so it’s important to give your veterinarian as much information as possible and indicate if other signs are also occurring. What to watch for:
- Frequency of vomiting. If your dog vomits once and proceeds to eat regularly and have a normal bowel movement, the vomiting was most likely an isolated incident.
- Blood in vomit
- Weight loss
- Change in appetite
- Increase or decrease in thirst or urination
When Is It Time To See The Vet?
Please see your vet if you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, if your dog vomits more than once during the course of a day, or if vomiting persists past one day.
How Will My Vet Determine What’s Causing the Vomiting?
Depending on your pet’s age, medical history, physical examination findings and your dog’s particular symptoms, your veterinarian may choose to perform various diagnostic tests (bloodwork, radiographs, ultrasound, fecal examination, endoscopy, biopsy or even exploratory surgery) in order to make a diagnosis.
What Are Some Treatment Options?
You can baby your dog as you would a sick child and give him homemade food such as boiled potatoes, rice and well-cooked, skinless chicken. In certain situations, your dog may require fluid therapy, antibiotics, a change in diet, antiemetics (drugs to help control vomiting) or other medication. It is best to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations regarding appropriate treatment.