Short Takes: September 2013

The sad truth about cats’ access to veterinary care in the U.S.: They don’t have much. Surveys show that nearly twice as many dogs visit the veterinarian as cats, even though the cats outnumber dogs — 86 million versus 78 million. Thirty-nine percent of owners say they would take their cat to the veterinarian only in the event of illness; and 60 percent report that their cat hates going to the veterinary clinic. The visits may stress both owners and cats, says the American Association of Feline Practitioners. To offer a more calming, encouraging environment, it has launched an initiative to improve cats’ treatment, handling and overall health.

The Team Approach to Success

Steffi Loomis awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of painful meows from Dave, her normally mellow 16-year-old female cat with a male name. When Loomis turned on the light, she discovered bloody diarrhea and vomiting and her orange tabby getting weaker and sicker by the minute. Loomis, who lives in New Canaan, Conn., contacted the veterinarian, who advised her to take Dave immediately to Cornell University Veterinary Specialists in nearby Stamford, Conn. CUVS, the largest university-affiliated veterinary referral service in the country, has been referred to as the Mayo Clinic of veterinary medicine. Loomis rushed Dave there, and a team of specialists quickly worked to save her life.

When a Marauding Bee Strikes

Cats, even those who live strictly indoors, are never completely safe from venomous insects. All it takes is a wayward bee or wasp to slip through an open door or window and catch your cat’s attention. His innate prey drive can kick into gear as he leaps and tries to swat and eat the flying insect. In reaction, the bee delivers a painful sting. “Most bee or wasp stings occur on a cat’s front paw or face,” says Elisa Mazzaferro, DVM, Ph.D., who specializes in emergency and critical care at the Cornell University Veterinary Specialists Center in Stamford, Conn.

Life-saving Steps to Stop Bleeding

If your cat steps on broken glass, catches his dew claw in the carpet or has his ear bitten in a catfight, expect blood to flow. Witnessing any of these scenarios can be jarring, but at times like these you need to know the steps to slow or stop the bleeding and take your cat to the nearest veterinary clinic. You have an emergency on your hands.“A laceration of a large artery or vein could lead to life-threatening bleeding in minutes,” says Daniel J. Fletcher, DVM, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of emergency and critical care at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

An Unmistakable Sign of Anal Problems: Scooting

Scent is one of the ways cats communicate, and their anal glands help in that effort. The pea-sized glands, or sacs, produce an odor that aids in establishing identity and territory. When a cat defecates, the scent glands empty through two ducts located at the 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions of the anal sphincter, the band of muscle encircling the anus.

Study Puts Feral Cats in the Spotlight

A study published earlier this year that found free-ranging cats annually kill an estimated 2.4 billion birds and more than 20 million mammals drew heated responses from both wildlife and cat advocates.Lost in the controversy was the plight of outdoor cats themselves. They suffer from exposure to extreme weather and more injuries caused by cars, dogs, other cats and wild animals than those who live indoors, says Bruce G. Kornreich, DVM, Ph.D., Associate Director for Education and Outreach at the Feline Health Center at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Shelter Help Desk Reduces Admissions

When behavior problems seem insurmountable, many owners surrender their pets to shelters. The Nevada Humane Society in Reno lowered admissions by 8 eight percent with one simple change: It created the Animal Help Desk, a free phone service. “We see it as part of our mission to encourage and enable people to do right by their animals by helping them keep their pets in their homes whenever possible,” Executive Director Bonney Brown says in the e-newsletter No-Kill Nation from Maddie’s Fund.

Robo-Tuffy Provides Hands-on Training

Students honing their emergency skills at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine owe gratitude to a special feline named Fluffy, who doesn’t meow and never needs a litter box. Fluffy is a robotic cat equipped with a mechanical pulse and heart, artificial lungs and electronic hardware and software capable of simulating cardiac arrest, lung diseases, shock and other medical conditions. She and a canine version named Jerry are believed to be the first of their kind used in veterinary schools. Think of Fluffy as a high-tech pet version of the popular battery-operated board game Operation, which tests players’ hand-eye coordination and motor skills.

Easing the Discomfort of GI Sufferers

While the cure for inflammatory bowel disease remains elusive, new strides on the nutritional and pharmaceutical fronts are helping affected cats lead healthier lives. The use of novel or hydrolyzed diets coupled with the administration of the synthetic steroid prednisolone seems to offer an effective one-two therapeutic punch for most cats diagnosed with IBD, says Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Be Ready to Act in a Choking Emergency

Our cats don’t live in a protective bubble, and their feline curiosity can create potential choking hazards. Some cats can start to choke if they gobble large amounts of dry food too quickly or accidentally swallow string. Witnessing your cat in a wide-legged stance, coughing, gasping for breath can be frightening. That’s why it’s vital to know the proper response to keep him safe. “Cats can choke on kibble or toys, but most commonly, they come to the emergency room choking on a foreign object due to chewing on thread or swallowing needles,” says Dan Fletcher, DVM, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Emergency and Critical Care at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Supracaudal Gland Hyperplasia

In teenagers, the sebaceous glands contribute to the development of acne. In cats, these glands can cause a similar problem at the base of the tail, an accumulation of scale (flakes) and yellow-to-black waxy debris (blackheads) along the dorsal, or top, surface of the tail. Although it can affect any cat who doesn’t groom the tail, the condition was once thought to affect only intact male cats, hence the name stud tail, says dermatologist William H. Miller, Jr., VMD, Medical Director of the Cornell University Hospital for Animals.Medically, the condition is known as supracaudal gland hyperplasia or tail gland hyperplasia. It’s caused by hypersecretion of the glands in the supracaudal organ on the base of the tail.

When to Worry About Tail Injuries

A cat’s tail can wave happily, swish angrily and wrap around him contentedly. But when the tail is injured, more may be at stake than the ability to communicate mood. Injuries to the feline tail may be minor, causing a brief spasm of pain or a permanent crook, or they may damage the nerves so severely that bladder and sphincter control are affected temporarily or permanently. Common injuries include fractures, acute trauma that may involve damage to the skin or heavy bleeding, and what are known as avulsion injuries, caused by pulling, says board-certified surgeon James A. Flanders, DVM, Associate Professor at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Tails can also be damaged if they are bitten in a fight with another animal.