Why Do Cats Purr?
If you're a cat owner, you undoubtedly have experienced your pet's purring. And if you're like most people, you've assumed that it's a sign of your cats pleasure. If so, you may be surprised to know that cats purr for a variety of reasons, not all of them pleasant. Although contentment does appear to produce purring, cats may also purr when in pain, when frightened or threatened, when in labor, to convey non-agression, when ill or injured, or even when near death as well as to heal themselves and others.
So what is this purring mechanism? Purring begins in the brain. A rhythmic, repetitive neural oscillator sends messages to the laryngeal muscles, causing them to twitch at the rate of 25 to 150 vibrations per second. This causes a separation of the vocal cords, both during inhalation and exhalation. Often the purr is so low-pitched that we humans tend to feel it as much as hear it.
A kitten can purr soon after birth, and it can purr and nurse at the same time. Some cats will purr at almost anything. Others are more selective about their purring. Some cats purr so loudly that you can hear them in the next room. Others have a faint, demure purr.
Purring isn't the sole domain of domestic cats. Some wild cats such as mountain lions and bobcats as well as civets, genets, mongooses, hyenas, guinea pigs, and raccoons can also purr! Cats that purr, however, cannot roar. And cats that roar can't purr! This is because the structures surrounding their larynx aren't stiff enough to produce a purr.
Caressing a purring cat has been shown to relax the one doing the stroking and also lowers the blood pressure. Embedded in every purr is a low-level, high-frequency sound that is reminiscent of a cry or meow. Humans respond sympathetically to this sound. Studies have shown that cats can exaggerate this almost-hidden aspect of purring at will, and do so when they find it useful. There are countless reports of cats approaching ailing humans and purring for them, sometimes for extended periods of time.
In addition, there are many touching accounts of cats maintaining purring vigils for fellow companion animals, including dogs and rabbits, who are in ill health or dire straits. When dispensing therapeutic purrs to their "patients," cats usually snuggle next to them as well, heightening the effect.
Purring, then, is much more complex than we may have thought. The one thing we can be certain of is that purring is not an involuntary reflex. Cats have their own reasons for each purr, and they are keeping that mystery to themselves!
Heartworm Preventatives - Is Resistance Developing?
There is some evidence that heartworms are developing resistance to the common preventatives, ivermectin and milbemycin. While we haven't had any known breakthroughs at our hospital, we do strongly recommend heartworm testing at a minimum of every three years. If resistance does start to develop, we'll let you know and begin a search for a more effective preventative.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is caused by a spirochete called Borrelia. A spirochete is a type of bacterium that can be transmitted to dogs through the bite of a tick. The feeding tick is basically a blood sucker. The process requires a minimum of 48 hours, which means that if a tick is removed within 48 hours of attachment, the spirochete cannot be transmitted, and the dog should not get the disease.
What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?
The symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs differ from those in people, i.e. they do not get the classic "bulls-eye" rash. Symptoms in dogs usually occur 2 to 5 months after a bite from a tick. Many dogs suffering from Lyme Disease are taken to a veterinarian because they seem to be experiencing generalized pain and have stopped eating. It's possible for a dog to harbor the Lyme Disease for over a year before they finally show symptoms.
In dogs, Lyme disease produced symptoms are characterized by arthritis although it can sometimes involve the heart, nervous system and kidneys. The arthritic joints may become swollen and hot, and there may be a fever and poor appetite. Dogs may also become lame because of the disease. This painful lameness often appears suddenly and may shift from one leg to another. If untreated, it may eventually disappear, only to recur weeks or month later. The glands (lymph nodes) of the dog may also be swollen.
How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of Lyme disease in dogs is based on risk exposure, clinical symptoms and blood testing. Only a veterinarian can make that diagnosis.
Can My Cat Get Lyme Disease?
It is possible for cats to develop Lyme disease, but it rarely occurs in them.
What Is The Treatment for Lyme Disease?
Since Lyme spirochete is a bacterium, it can be controlled by antibiotics. However, a lengthy course of treatment may be necessary to completely eradicate the organism. With early detection, dogs may experience relief of symptoms within 24 hours of treatment. Chronic cases require longer periods of treatment.
Can Lyme Disease Be Prevented?
The best prevention is a combination of grooming and medication. Grooming to detect ticks and prompt removal will help to minimize the risk of contracting Lyme disease, and tick-killing products are available for dogs from your veterinarian. There is a vaccine, but it is only recommend for high risk dogs, such as hunting and hiking dogs in highly wooded areas.
Reality television has given us a window to view many formerly obscure pet topics. Hoarding is one of them. I've watched a few episodes of "Hoarders" and find the condition of the animals shocking, and the emotional state of the people tragic. Pet hoarding is a tragedy for all involved. It's very difficult to hear of or see an abandoned cat or dog and not feel compelled to bring it home. Maybe the impulse is related not only to genuine love of animals but also to the person's need to feel safe and not abandoned. Generally, I think of the following questions when considering adding a dog or cat to my home:
1. Can I afford to adequately nourish another addition to my family?
2. Can I provide a warm, safe shelter for another animal? Is it enough to be able to provide only food and shelter? Given the number of pets needing homes, an argument for this could definitely be made.
3. Can I provide appropriate veterinary care? And, what does that include? Vaccines? Spaying and neutering? Enough funds for referral to specialists if needed?
I don't have an answer to these questions. My personal belief is that food, shelter, vaccines, and spaying and neutering are basic requirements for pet ownership. In our area, heartworm prevention for dogs is also a basic healthcare issue. It is much easier, and less expensive, to prevent health issues with vaccines and heartworm preventatives than to treat any of these illnesses.
Both Ends of The Leash: Exercising Your Dog
Of course we know that exercise is good for our dogs and good for us, but did you know that dogs are actually better walking companions than people? According to a recent
University study, this is because human companion walkers often talked each other out of exercise, but dogs are ALWAYS up for a walk!
The researchers discovered that among dog owners who take their dogs for regular walks, 60% met federal criteria for regular, moderate or vigorous exercise. Nearly half of the dog walkers exercised an average of 30 minutes a day at least 5 says a week. By comparison, only about a third of those without dogs got that much regular exercise. Not only that, but the study showed that dog owners were 60% more likely to walk for leisure than people who didn't own dogs.
Of course, owning a dog doesn't guarantee physical exercise. Some dog owners feel that their dogs run free in the yard and don't need walks, and others hire dog walkers. Some say their dogs are too old for walks, and some pet owners say they are too old themselves for dog walks. Other owners say their dogs don't behave on walks or that they don't have time to take their dogs for a walk on a regular basis.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that dog walkers improve their own fitness as well as the fitness of their dogs. When we commit to walking our canine friend, it enables us to commit to physical activity ourselves, and both ends of the leash benefit.
Never Too Early, Never Too Late
Far more animals are euthanized due to behavior problems than any disease. Dogs need to live in a loving, nurturing environment, and since humans and dogs do not speak the same language, obedience training for both the human and dog is a great first step in bridging the language barrier. Yes, obedience training is about training BOTH species.
Whether one has a brand new puppy or a newly adopted older dog, it is never too early or too late to begin obedience training, an often overlooked aspect of pet ownership. Obedience training provides for happier dogs! Dogs that are well behaved have more freedom and are more likely to be accepted in more social situations. In addition, owners of such dogs have less stress and deeper relationships with their furry friend!
Early socialization with a new pup helps to build a foundation that will greatly serve both dog and owner. Dog lovers spend time together and the puppies learn how to play well and behave appropriately in public. Both owner and puppy build confidence and begin to develop a better relationship, building on respect and trust.
Patience, time and diligence are key aspects to obedience training and developing a wonderful relationship with your canine friend. How many times have you considered taking your dog for a leisurely walk but refrain from such activity because Fido pulls too much on the leash, or bites the leash, or barks and lunges at other dogs? These behaviors do not make for a fun walk for anyone.
Obedience class is a fun activity for everyone! Don't push your pup too fast, don't expect miracles within an hour, but do expect amazement at watching your dog learn how to learn!
has put together a list of certified dog trainers and training facilities in our local area that we think are fantastic. There are several places we recommend for socialization that provide safe, clean, supervised environments where you can begin to experience a whole new relationship with your dog. Stop by and pick up a copy or give us a call for more information
It's Parvo Season: Is Your Dog Protected?
Canine parvovirus CPV2, usually referred to as the parvo virus, is a highly contagious disease that is spread from one dog to another through direct or indirect contact with their feces. The disease is often fatal in puppies who have not been vaccinated, and dogs who recover from the parvo disease many continue to shed the virus periodically in their feces, which can put unvaccinated dogs at risk for developing the disease. The parvo virus can survive for long periods on floors, food containers, even on the bottom of your shoes!
There are two forms of the virus, the cardiac and the intestinal type. The usual signs of the intestinal form of the disease are vomiting, lethargy, high fever, loss of appetite, dehydration, and bloody diarrhea. The cardiac form is much less common and primarily affects puppies under 8 weeks of age, causing respiratory or cardiovascular failure. Untreated, the parvo virus disease is 91% fatal. The treatment often requires hospitalization for IV fluids and antibiotics. Fortunately, there is a vaccine that can prevent this deadly disease. Immunization is usually included in the distemper vaccine your puppy gets the first series of shots. It's important to know that complete immunization is a process that requires booster vaccines. The first Parvo vaccine alone will not protect your puppy because it's just a primer that stimulates your dog's immune system to receive the subsequent boosters. If you have unvaccinated dogs, this is the time to get them protected.
Approximately 150,000 dogs and cats are bitten annually in the
United States by venomous snakes. Dogs are actually 500 time more likely to be bitten by a poisonous snake then to get rabies! Here in
California, the only venomous snakes are rattlesnakes, but there are eight species, so they are sometimes difficult to identify. Rattlesnakes hibernate in the winter and become active March through September.
A rattlesnake bite is a veterinary emergency that results in serious injury or even death due to muscle, liver, and neurological damage. This is because rattlesnake venom is a complex mixture of toxins that spreads through a dog's body quickly.
Fortunately there is a rattlesnake vaccine to protect your dog. It works by stimulating the dog's immune system to produce antibodies against the snake venom, and it lessens the reaction to the snakebite. Even after vaccination, if a dog is bitten by a rattlesnake, it is still a veterinary emergency, but there will be less pain and swelling. The vaccine is safe for pregnant and lactating dogs and for puppies four months and older.
If you live in a "high-risk" geographical area where there are rattlesnakes, or if you take your dog with you on hunting or camping trips, the vaccine is a must.
From The Doctor's Desk
A new source of toxins is affecting many pets. As the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by many people has increased, pets (and children) are frequently being exposed to products applied to their person's skin. Hugs and kisses exchanged between pets and humans using HRT exposed pets to these hormones. In females, we are seeing signs of estrus, or "in heat," as it is commonly referred to, and males may develop enlarged mammary gland and prostatic disorders. This includes an enlarged vulva, and a tendency to attract males. If you use topical HRT, please be aware and apply it in areas others will not come in contact with.
A special thank you to our newest employee, Shagay, for sharing this information with us.
From The Doctor's Desk
November is American Diabetes Month. Diabetes is a growing epidemic in this country affecting not only people but pets as well. Reported cases of diabetes in pets have significantly increased over the past 30 years. However, more diabetic dogs and cats are living longer and more comfortably with treatment.
If your pet has become lethargic and is drinking more and urinating more, he/she may be diabetic. Most diabetic animals eat well in the beginning of the disease but start to lose weight. Risk factors for pets to develop diabetes include those for humans, namely lack of exercise and being significantly overweight. In dogs, smaller breeds tend to have a higher incidence of diabetes, and females seem to be more prone than males.
Diabetes is diagnosed by looking at the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. We also look at other blood work and an analysis of the urine to determine if any secondary problems are occurring due to the diabetic state.
Treatment for diabetic pets usually involves insulin injections, but sometimes diet and lifestyle changes is all that is needed to successfully manage diabetes. Once treatment has started, close monitoring is necessary to ensure we are keeping blood sugars in an acceptable range. Monitoring can involve a day long curve done in the hospital as well as monitoring at home.
If you think your pet is at risk or may already be a diabetic, please make an appointment to see us. We can easily test your pet for diabetes and manage the condition to assure that you still have plenty of quality time together.
Pretty Little Palm Trees Can Be Fatal To Your Pet
Sago Palm Trees (Cycas revoluta) are a very popular plant for Southern climate outdoor landscaping but have become increasingly popular in our Northern climate as an indoor and patio plant. These cute little trees, unfortunately, are highly toxic to your pets. In fact, they are one of the most toxic plants around.
Sagos, with their hairy trunks and dark green leaves, can either be a small "bonsai" version or a much larger potted or landscaped plant. All parts of these plants are toxic including the leaves, seeds and the root ball.
Clinical signs can start with vomiting, blood in the stool and increased thirst. The signs can progress to the point of bruising easily, liver failure and death. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has said that in the past five years, the increase in sago toxicity has increased more than 200 percent. Up to 75 percent of known cases involving ingestion of sagos results in death, usually from severe liver failure.
If you have any of these palms in your house or yard, consider replacing them with a non-toxic plant, or at least keep them in area where your pets do not have access. For a list of non-toxic plants, visit http://www.aspca.org/nontoxic.
If you think your pet may have ingested a toxic substance or is exhibiting any signs of toxicity, you should seek immediate veterinary care. The ASPCA also has an Animal Poison Control Center with a 24 hour hotline that can be called for consultation. Consultations are charged a $65 fee that can be applied to your credit card. Their number is (888) 426-4435.
One not often though-of hazard is the Fourth of July celebration. Many pets dread this time of year! Fireworks can cause some problems or extreme trauma in animals; symptoms range from low level quivering and pacing or whining to full panic and self-mutilation.
If you have this problem, be alert once fireworks go on sale. You can try confinement, tranquilizers prescribed by your veterinarian, or isolation in quiet areas. It is recommended that you seek a behaviorist's help in advance (several months) and work at desensitization training for permanent results and relief for extreme cases.
The BARF Diet
One of the latest trends in pet food is feeding raw foods, commonly known as the Bones And Raw Foods (BARF) diet. BARF diets are further broken down into personally prepared or commercially prepared raw foods. Nutritionists cannot find any benefits to feeding raw foods over standard pet food, and as long as the raw foods are nutritionally balanced, often by adding vitamins and minerals, dogs seem to do well on them. The biggest issue is bacterial contamination of commercially or home prepared raw food diets. A recent study tested 240 raw food diet samples, and found Salmonella and other disease causing bacteria in over 55% of the samples. If you choose to feed a raw diet, whether home or commercially prepared, practice good kitchen hygiene: keep raw meat frozen until ready to use, thaw in the refrigerator or microwave, keep raw food diets separate from other foods, and keep any kitchen items that come in contact with the raw foods clean and disinfected.
| Is Your Cat Right of Left Pawed? |
Researchers in Northern Ireland determined that in domestic cats, most females are right-pawed and most males are left-pawed. To ascertain this nugget of information, researchers place bits of tuna in a jar to see which paw the cats use to get it out. We tested our clinic cats and found the following:
"Wally", short for Wallflower, neutered male cat: Refused to participate - he acted afraid of the container.
"Poof", our neutered male cat with a coordination disorder: Refused to participate - he acted afraid of the container.
"Stormy", our developmentally disabled spayed female: Definitely used her right paw!!
"Jane", our ex-clinic cat who resides with Holli now: On the first day of the experiment, Jane seemed to think reaching for the kitty greenies was beneath her. She stopped, looked at the glass, then walked on.
On the second day of the experiment: Jane is obviously a morning kitty - she saw the greenies in the glass and reached in with her left paw. A little while later, on the same morning, Jane was given a clear box of Q-Tips, her 2nd favorite toy (number one being pipe cleaners). She reached in the box with her left paw and grabbed a Q-Tip. She repeated this 2 more times. Thus, she must be a left-pawed kitty.
|Thank You |
The Doctors and staff at Companions Animal Hospital want to give a great big "Thank You!" to a very special man. On Tuesday July, 6th, Dennis George of Dennis George Construction came to our hospital and gave us a very generous contribution to our Angel Fund. He did so in memory of his mother, Grace George, who passed away a couple years ago. Grace George had been passionate about animals and their well being during her lifetime.
Our Angel Fund is an account we use to help extreme financial hardship cases. This fund is solely dependent upon the generosity of people like Mr. George. Thanks to this donation, we will be able to help several animals that may not otherwise have been able to get treatment.
Thank you Mr. George! You are a very kind and generous man.
Internet Pet Pharmacies: Use with Caution
Some of the Internet sites that sell pet drugs are legitimate, reputable pharmacies. Unfortunately, others are unscrupulous businesses operating against the law with no regard for your pet's health and safety.
The FDA has found companies selling unapproved pet drugs, counterfeit pet products, and expired drugs. There are also businesses that dispense prescription drugs without requiring a prescription. Getting drugs and products from these businesses may be short-changing your pet's health and putting their life at risk.
Recently, pharmacies from foreign countries began advertising prescription drugs to U.S. citizens without a prescription. They may claim that one of their veterinarians will "evaluate" the pet after looking at information provided by the client and then determine medications necessary. This is bad medicine in several ways. First, a physical exam is absolutely necessary to making a diagnosis for appropriate therapy. Secondarily, drugs dispensed from these pharmacies are not under the control of the FDA and may be either counterfeit, expired, or in some cases not approved medications in the U.S. Finally, it is absolutely illegal without a patient-client-veterinarian relationship to prescribe controlled medications in the U.S.
The most common prescription drugs dispensed over the internet are NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) and heartworm prevention. Both carry risks that a veterinarian should be monitoring for if a pet is taking them. With NSAIDs, animals should have regular blood work and physical exams to make sure that side effects from these drugs are not occurring. With heartworm prevention, it is imperative to make sure your dog isn't heartworm positive before starting prevention. If a dog does have heartworm disease, the longer the worms stay untreated the more damage will occur to the heart. Some breeds can also have sensitivities to certain heartworm medications.
If you are thinking about using an online pharmacy, check into its business practices first. If it offer medications with no prescription, are foreign based, or try to change a written prescription in any way without your veterinarian's approval, do NOT do business with them.
Foxtails are the seeds of a grass notorious for the problems it causes our pets. One plant can have dozens of seeds. The seeds are "V" shaped with a sharp point on one end and tiny barbs on the other. This structure allows the foxtail to migrate into the coat of our pets in a forward direction, getting into ears, eyes, and deep into the skin causing pain, infection, and serious health problems.
EARS: Foxtails in the ear canal are quite uncomfortable. They can even eventually rupture the ear drum and migrate deeper. Signs are shaking the head or pawing at the ears. Some dogs require anesthesia to have them removed.
EYES: Foxtails can get trapped underneath the eyelids causing excruciating pain and usually scratches to the cornea (surface of the eye). Symptoms include pawing at the eye, redness, discharge, and squinting. If not caught in time, the foxtail can cause rupture of the eye.
SKIN: Foxtails easily get caught in the fur and eventually work into the skin causing a nasty sore and infection. These lesions can be anywhere on the body, but the feet are especially prone. Symptoms include lameness, licking excessively in one spot, or a draining sore. Sometimes removal is easy, but if the foxtails are in long enough and the body has had time to try to "wall off" the invader, they can be very difficult to find. Sometimes multiple procedures are required to find the foxtail.
NOSE: Foxtails up the nose cause immediate, violent sneezing. This is a very painful condition and requires quick intervention. Removal requires general anesthesia.
Foxtails can travel a long way once inside the body and can end up causing severe, life threatening problems if they get into the lungs or other parts of the chest. For that reason, we take all foxtail cases seriously.
Minimize the Danger of Foxtails
- Keep pets on paths when walking them, and out of bushes or fields during the dry/hot months of summer.
- Keep your yard clear of weeds.
- Keep you pet's fur trimmed short, especially the feet and ears. Trim every 6 to 8 weeks form the time the hills start browning until the start of the rainy season.
- Brush and check your pet daily for foxtails.
- If you suspect a foxtail, call for an appointment as soon as possible.
Did You Know Cats Get Heartworms Too?
Cats can contract heartworms the same way dogs can, through a bite from an infected mosquito. Though cats are more resistant to heartworms, there is still a good chance they can contract the disease. Some cats develop a strong immune response to the heartworm, killing them or causing them to no longer be able to thrive. Though heartworms are not as common a threat, they are still a significant danger to your cat. Heartworms can cause significant lung damage in cats. Newly arriving worms and the subsequent death of most of these same worms can result in an acute lung inflammation response and lung injury. The clinical signs of heartworm infection in cats can be very non-specific and may mimic other feline diseases. A cat may exhibit generic signs of illness, such as vomiting intermittently, lethargy, anorexia (lack of appetite), weight loss, coughing, asthma-like signs, gagging, difficulty breathing or rapid breathing. A blood test must be run to check to see if indeed a cat has heartworm. If you're interested in finding out more about heartworm disease in cats or interested in getting your cat on heartworm prevention, please give us a call at 872-2345.