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Microchipping

Microchipping is now required in all dogs. A microchip is a minute, electronic device that is inserted by injection into the back of the neck, just forward of the shoulder blades.

These microchips can be detected electronically, by passing a specialised scanner over the dog. Each microchip has its own unique number and this number can be detected and read by the scanner allowing confirmation of a dog’s identity.

Obviously this is used by dog control officers in administering the dog control laws, but it has advantages in the fast identity of lost or injured animals. Vet clinics and welfare organisations such as the SPCA possess these scanners to quickly trace lost pets back to their owners.

This is where the Companion Animal Register is of importance. Vet clinics do not have access to the details of a dogs registration with the council but we do have access to the Companion Animal Register where owner details are available to us in the case of a missing pet. It is important to ensure that your microchipped pet is on this register as this is not related to the council registration and is not necessarily done automatically when your pet is microchipped.

Microchipping has obvious benefits for lost cats as well because all cats that turn up at the SPCA or vet clinics are scanned, in case their thoughtful owners have had them microchipped. We have several stories of cats from this practice that have promptly being identified in another part of Auckland and returned to their owner, simply because they had a microchip.

A common time for us to implant these chips is at neutering time when these patients are under anaesthesia, but anaethesia is not required to do this.

Magiluci

Kitten Care

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Vaccinations

We usually vaccinate at 9, 12 and 16 weeks of age. These vaccines are to protect kittens against “Feline Enteritis”, a disease with a high mortality rate and “Snuffles”, a common debilitating disease of kittens that causes respiratory disease. An annual booster vaccine is then required for all cats. There are also vaccines available for Chlamydia and Feline Aids, but such vaccines are either unproven or the disease incidence too low to recommend them in the routine vaccination protocol.

clip_image004Diet

– Naturally this topic always raises the most enquiries. Basically the idea is to try and stay with the commercially prepared wet foods as much as possible and preferably the well-known ones like Whiskas Kitten, Chef Kitten, Royal Canin Instinctive Kitten etc. Although they do not look very appetising to us, they are in fact very nutritious for kittens and more closely represent what they would normally eat in the wild i.e. they represent the whole carcass.
Although meat, fish and chicken can be fed occasionally, these foods are unbalanced and deficient in the nutrients a kitten requires for meeting its growth demands. Meats, fish and chicken represent only the muscle portion of a carcass i.e. protein , whereas the commercial foods include other essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins.

clip_image006The cat is unique in being an obligate carnivore i.e. it must eat game or prey in order to acquire all the essential amino acids and fats that it can’t manufacture itself; unlike most other mammals, the cat is unusual in that there is a wide range of nutrients that it cannot synthesise within itself- these are called the essential nutrients and must be obtained from an external source. By eating a whole carcass, it acquires these essential nutrients already prepacked. Again, meeting these unique demands is best achieved with the commercial foods.

Another common query concerns the concept of choice. Many people feel that a wide and varied diet has to be a good thing for their pet. It is however far better to put them on a narrow range of high quality foods to prevent gastrointestinal upsets

Our recommendation is that you rear your kitten on a combination of canned food and one of the following high-quality cat biscuits:  ORIJEN, BLACKHAWK, ROYAL CANIN, HILLS.

You may hear many rumours and misinformation about the biscuits for cats but we know them to be nutritious and very beneficial.  However they should be introduced to the wet foods as well

Finally the number of feeds per day. There is no set rule for this because each kitten is different and the amounts change as the kitten gets older. Small meals fed three times daily until the kitten is 4-5 months old is usually sufficient but after a while you should be able to determine the feeding regime that suits both of you. Eventually you will find your cat will come and go as they please if you leave a bowl of dry biscuits out and you can supplement them with the wet foods as required

Milk is another common enquiry that we have. Basically kittens don’t need milk in the diet at all; some people feel it’s a good source of calcium, but to meet the kitten’s calcium requirements for growth, more than one litre per day is required! It is a common cause of diarrhoea in the kitten because they lack the intestinal enzymes to digest the lactose in it and for this reason we don’t recommend it – water is better. However, if the kitten is drinking milk without diarrhoea then that is fine but it may not be worth the risk to find out!

Worming

– All kittens are born with worms acquired from the mother both before and immediately after birth. These roundworms must be eliminated by a persistent worming program. The easiest way to do this is use Advocate or Revolution which is simply applied to the skin on the back of the neck. This is done once every month through to 6 months of age. These products are also active against ear mites.
Or you can use the old-fashioned way of worm pills which are given fortnightly until they are 12 weeks of age, then monthly until 6 months of age.

Kitten_image010Fleas

– We recommend Advantage (Kills Fleas) and Advocate (Kills Fleas and Worms). This is a topical treatment placed on the back of your pets neck once monthly. We recommend Advocate at kitten age to target round worms and ear mites. Bravecto seems to be the best product for use on Adult cats.

Desexing

– When your kitten is 6 months of age, it is old enough to be speyed or castrated. If you are not planning on breeding from your kitten, it is a good idea to have this done, not just for convenience reasons but there are significant health benefits as well.

GENERAL

Kittens will naturally use litter or dirt boxes without special training but then should start to use the outside environment at 12-18 weeks of age.

Always keep them inside at night. This stops them from getting into trouble with other cats, dogs, cars etc. and is not bad advice for adult cats as well.
KittencareimageWhen playing with kittens, their strong innate hunting instincts come to the fore and you run the risk of them getting very excited and biting or scratching you as they would when playing with their litter mates. To avoid this, it’s best to play with them with inanimate objects such as string, feathers, cat toys etc. You should play with them a lot.

It pays to think well ahead if you are planning a trip away. There are several good catteries, cat sitters and pet feeders in the area but they are in high demand. You can contact the clinic for these numbers.

Puppy Care

clip_image002Puppies are usually vaccinated at 6, 9, 12 and 16 weeks of age against Distemper, Canine Hepatitis, Kennel Cough, Parvovirus and Leptospirosis, which are the main killer-diseases of dogs. Your new puppy should be kept away from public places such as parks, shopping centres and footpaths at 6-9 weeks of age, or any area where other dogs may have been; this reduces their exposure to these killer viruses.

After his 9 week vaccination, you may start to cautiously walk your puppy, taking him on short excursions. Also, it is a good idea if you can find a mature, well- vaccinated dog for your puppy to play with at home (eg: a friend’s or neighbour’s dog) to learn some canine etiquette. Socialisation however involves exposing your puppy to the whole world and we encourage you to get him out and about from 9 weeks of age to take early advantage of the limited time you have to achieve this. The socialisation period starts to close as early as 15-16 weeks of age. By this time we want him to have encountered everything he is likely to come across during the rest of his life.

WORMING:

PUPPYPUBwormPuppies always have worms; they are picked up from the mother both before and after birth. The easiest treatment is to just use Advocate once monthly -a few drops on the back of the neck will kill both fleas and worms in one application. This should cover them for ear mites as well.
If using worm pills, then they should be given every 2 weeks until 12 weeks of age and then once monthly until 6 months of age.

DIET:

PUPPYPUBtuckerPuppies should have a complete and balanced diet of minerals/vitamins and calcium in order to be healthy. The easiest solution is to feed your puppy on the well-known puppy foods such as canned food or dog biscuits.  We recommend the superior “Premium-Grade” puppy biscuits such as Orijen, BlackHawk, Hills or Royal Canin, simply because of their quality. If instead you decide to feed meat and vegetables etc. you must remember this is an unbalanced way to go and you will have to give a calcium supplement and a mineral supplement and a vitamin supplement because meat is very deficient in these areas. Beware of milk as this can cause an upset stomach and diarrhoea. Keep the diet simple and try not to vary it too much- a menu offering a wide range of culinary delights is actually not a good idea and frequently leads to gastrointestinal upsets.

GENERAL INFORMATION:

At some stage your puppy will be old enough to be speyed or castrated. If you are not planning on breeding from your dog, it is a good idea to have this done, not just for convenience reasons but there are significant health benefits as well. It’s no fun coping with unwanted puppies, wandering male dogs and urogenital health problems. City Council registration is also much cheaper. For the larger dogs it may pay to delay speying until 11-12 months of age to ensure normal bone length development has occurred. The smaller dogs can probably be done at 6 months of age.

Fleas

We recommend using Advantage or Bravecto-these are excellent products that won’t fail you; apply when the pups are 10 weeks of age or older. They are very easy to use without having to spray, wash or douse your puppy and they work exceptionally well. They are easy to apply and non-toxic.

Training

Puppycareimage– both house-training and obedience training at home, should start as soon as you get your puppy. We strongly recommend the Puppy Preschool which shows puppies and their owners just what is appropriate behaviour and what is not. For many pups this is all they require whilst for others, further training later on at 4 months of age at other training schools may be required.
Puppies are supposed to be registered with the local council when 3 months of age.

If you are unsure of something, or have any questions, please do not hesitate to telephone us at 5757 688.

Feline Arthritis

Arthritis in cats is now becoming much more common than we once thought – perhaps because we are now more aware about cats, their gaits and lifestyles. In fact, this is often an owner-recognised diagnosis by people who are clever enough to realise that something has changed about their cats and the way that they now go about their lives.

CAUSES

The causes in cats seem to be different than they are in dogs. Some cases may be due to old age wear and tear but for many cats the cause is mysterious and is often occurring at an early age. Symptoms in these younger cats are not immediately obvious however, but do worsen over time. Arthritic bone lesions are sometimes seen in these cats at an early age but the cat does not appear to be showing any symptoms. By the time it is noticed the osteoarthritis is well established and the lesions are embellished on xray. For the majority of these cats the precise cause of their arthritis is just not known.

SYMPTOMS

PodgeOAArthritis affects the leg joints and the spine. You would think that with an inflammation of the joints, lameness would be the most obvious symptom. However this is not always the case and instead one sees a change in their lifestyle that includes the following:

– not inclined to jump any more; they circle and hesitate and then do the preliminaries all over again before finally jumping. In the past they would have leapt without hesitation. – if they do jump then they occasionally either miss their target or they fall. -some cats now climb up onto the bed or couch whereas before they simply bounded up in a simple graceful leap.

Coupled with these symptoms, these cats are also:

– less active than they used to be
– not grooming themselves well because it is difficult to turn on their arthritic legs and spines to reach all the usual places. These cats may have lumpy or cotted fur over their back or there is a lot of dandruff through their coats

-overgrown claws

-missing the litter tray a lot

-not wanting to go outside as often

-sleeping a lot in the same spot for prolonged periods and not moving location much

ElbowarthritisDespite all these symptoms, cats often give the impression that there is nothing wrong; they still seem to go up and down stairs; they are seen over at the neighbours and they are engaging in activities that they always did.

It is just that they are now probably not doing them as often as they used to and even if people notice this , they put it down to “just the cat getting old”.

And the symptoms described above are not fully comprehended by their owners because of their variability and subtlety. Make no mistake however that these cats are sore and these subtle changes are due to osteoarthritic pain.

It is also not possible for vets to pick up many of these symptoms when examining cats in the vet clinic and we rely heavily on owners observing some of these changes in the home environment. For these reasons, we often get owners to answer questions concerning their activity based on some of the symptoms described above.

Of course some joints are sore when examined by vets. These joints often show arthritis on xray.

TREATMENT

Treatment fortunately, can be fairly straight-forward:

WEIGHT LOSS -if this is a contributing factor. Weight loss is not always easy to achieve in the cat but obesity can contribute significantly to arthritis symptoms.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEDICATIONS to eliminate pain. The responses to these treatments are often amazing and frequently bring about a transformation in these cats. Commonly it comes as a liquid that is mixed into their food and it bestows immediate pain relief. Cats start grooming properly again, resume their old activity levels and return to jumping up to their old favourite haunts.

GLUCOSAMINES coupled with Omega3. These substances are well known to reduce the symptoms of arthritis. PodgeJDFortunately they are available as prescription diets that cats can eat straight from the packet.

These products are known to reduce the rate at which arthritis progresses and coupled with their anti-inflammatory properties, make arthritic cats far more comfortable.
They have high levels of antioxidants and L-carnitine to promote weight loss and the essential fatty acids promote joint cartilage nourishment.

We will often start cats on this diet in conjunction with a course of glucosamine injections. They then go onto a combination of prescription diets and pain medications.

The frequency of giving these pain medications reduces over time in general, and cats need to be monitored whilst they are on them. The glucosamine diets however continue indefinitely and the occasional glucosamine injection can be given when required as a booster.

Canine Arthritis

We all recognise this disease in aging dogs. Arthritis is a degenerative process that arises as a result of abnormal stresses acting upon normal joint cartilage. It is characterised by progressive stiffness and a decline in activity. The disease is progressive but varies greatly in its severity between individuals based on size, breed and age.

CAUSES

Hiparthritis1For many dogs the underlying causes are a complex combination of genetics and environmental stresses. So for an individual the underlying cause may be genetic-for example he may have hip dysplasia-but the expression of these genes and hence the rate of arthritic development may depend on his body weight, his growth rate and the amount of exercise he gets. Over-exercised dogs and certain breeds such as German Shepherds and Labradors may have an earlier age of onset.

SYMPTOMS

Olddog1The symptoms are fairly straight forward in the dog and easy to interpret:

-generalised slowness and stiffness, especially on walks. Some dogs may lag behind or stop to rest on their walks.

-slowness or stiffness or general difficulty when getting up from a lying position.

-difficulty jumping into the car or up onto the couch.

-reluctance or hesitation in negotiating stairs or obvious difficulty actually going up or down stairs. Some dogs may bunny-hop up or down stairs.Olddog

-lameness on one or more legs when ambulating. This may be particularly noticeable when they first get to their feet. They may also resent certain areas been touched.

SpinalArthritisThere is usually little difficulty in diagnosing this condition on the basis of what the owners report the dog to be doing, combined with a clinical examination of the dog’s musculoskeletal system.

Xrays nearly always confirm the disease.

TREATMENT

Arthritis is a progressive, incurable disease. Treatment is therefore centred around reducing its effects, managing pain and slowing down its rate of progression.

Hiparthriti2Management of arthritis relies on doing some practical things to help the dog cope as well as medications that are designed to either eliminate pain or slow down the progress of arthritis.

1.Exercise, rest and recovery: it is recommended that an arthritic dog’s exercise is managed to reduce pain and to reduce the progress of arthritis. The more a joint is used, the more it produces wear and tear and hence the more that arthritis develops.

It is said that it is helpful to maintain muscle mass to aid joint function; but one needs to strike a balance between preventing the ongoing progress of arthritis through stress and strain on joints from ongoing exercise, and at the same time maintain muscle mass and tone.

In practice this is a difficult balance to achieve and as time goes on you will find that exercise for the geriatric in general just hurts and at the same time despite this exercise, muscle mass continues to decline. It then becomes more important to keep these dogs pain-free by walking them slowly over limited distances so that they can spend more time stopping to smell interesting smells etc. Always remember this is why dogs like to go for walks anyway-not for the aerobics!

The joints also need to recover from stress so it is recommended that dogs have a good solid, flat bed to rest and sleep on with a foam-rubber mattress or base.

Hammock beds and bean bags are probably not appropriate. It is more desirable that dogs can stretch out and relax and have their body weight evenly distributed over a foam base. This tends to take the weight off the joints more effectively.

2. Glucosamines and Omega 3: These products are the mainstay of arthritic management. They are available in several different forms-tablets, treats, powders or pills and are incorporated into some foods. These neutraceuticals attempt to repair damaged HillsJDJointFarthritic joint cartilage as well as having an anti-inflammatory effect. Arthritis is not curable but these products attempt arthritic repair. They are not fully successful of course but their actions slow down the rate at which arthritis is progressing and definitely improve the quality of life for these dogs. We would make special mention of the Hills JD diet based on experience. The glucosamines and Omega 3 fatty acids are balanced properly in this product taking away any guesswork regarding glucosamine dose rates and bioavailability of the active ingredients. We have seen arthritic dogs do extremely well on this product.

3. Pain management: From time to time arthritic dogs will have flare ups resulting in acute pain episodes. They will have a day when they are extremely stiff and slow and may not even be able to get up. These episodes frequently follow a day of exercise when they overdid it a bit. On these occasions they will need a course of potent anti-inflammatories to get them through the day. In late stage arthritis many dogs have to be on these medications most of the time. However they do give dramatic pain relief and really help to improve the quality of life for these dogs.

Worming

Cats and dogs need to be wormed at least annually. The current recommendation is to worm every 6 months. Advice on this varies from place to place and some people worm every 3 months instead. The latter recommendation is probably based on marketing advice rather than epidemiological evidence.

There are several ways of doing this and the latest, easiest way is to use Panoramis, Advocate or Revolution.

These products do both worms and fleas at the same time.

Panoramis is for dogs only and is given orally whilst the other two are for both cats and dogs and are given dermally on the back of the neck. Panoramis is the newest of this group.

Yes, no more trying to hide the pill in the food, or battle with them to give directly by mouth. Hooray!!!!!!

All these products kill fleas as well but do not kill tapeworm. Tapeworms are contracted by pets from fleas; so keeping your pet free of fleas also keeps them free from tapeworms.

Tapeworms are less pathogenic than the other worms but a new “spot-on” wormer called Profender for use on cats kills these as well. So if you see tapeworms associated with your cat, this is the product to use. It is the most comprehensive spot-on wormer of them all and kills all feline intestinal worms.

There is still nothing wrong with the old worm tablet however-they still work just fine. Provided you can get the tablets [such as Drontal or Milbemax] into the cat or dog, then there is no worry in using these as well.

For specific instructions for worming puppies or kittens see worming on our kitten and puppy pages.

Fleas

FLEAS

FleasFleas are the consequence of living in Auckland, one of the flea capitals of the world.

Our high-humidity summers and moderate winters means there is a constant background flea residence that is punctuated by flea population explosions.

Flea control these days is not all that difficult. It is done either orally or dermally.

Orally:Bravecto

The latest product-Bravecto-is a tablet that you give orally to your dog once every 3 months. No fleas are resistant to it.

Bravecto is also very effective against ticks and Demodex mange.

Dermally:

The little vials you dab on the skin are also easy to use but there are a confusing variety to choose from: Again Bravecto is the latest product that comes as a pour-on vial and is available for cats and dogs. These products are applied to the skin on the back of the neck, up near the head. For dogs it gives 6 months protection  and for cats, Bravecto gives 3 months protection. The Bravecto Plus version for cats also offers protection against lungworm.

Only in certain circumstances should you need to use environmental flea control such as house foggers because Bravecto kills fleas before they start to lay eggs. This usually prevents widespread contamination of the house and property, provided you are using them regularly.
Flea shampoos and flea combs are mostly a waste of time as both methods are inefficient; they offer very short term relief and do nothing to prevent egg contamination of the house.

For specific instructions for flea control in puppies or in kittens see our Kitten and Puppy pages

Feline Hyperthyroidism

Cats can live to a ripe old age. In our clinic, the oldest feline patient was 24 years old, and there are plenty in the 16-20 year-old age group.

Generally speaking, when cats reach old age they tend to be less heavy than when they were younger, just as people are in their 90’s. Old cats become ‘wasted’- there is less muscle and they are less strong. It often pays to check these cats for arthritis. The bones of old cats are thinner, lighter and more fragile, thus your favourite puss is seen wobbling down the garden path, spending more time sitting in the sun and no longer leaping in the kitchen window. The cat is quite happy nevertheless, just unable to do the things he or she used to do, and perhaps feeling the cold a little more.

However some cats look old before their time. They lose condition and look skinny when they are only 12 or 13 years old. They may also be glutinous eaters and will demand attention every time you go near the fridge or pantry. Despite all this, they lose weight. There can be many reasons for this, such as poor digestion or problems with worms. If the cat also drinks a lot of water there may be kidney problems or sugar diabetes. Sadly in some cases there may be growths in the body.

Nowadays veterinarians have been finding that many of these cats have in fact developed an overactive thyroid gland. This disease is known as hyperthyroidism.

Thyoidglandimage Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland) is very common in middle-aged and old cats. It is always a treatable disease. The thyroid glands are situated in the neck. One or both of these glands enlarge when diseased and sometimes become palpable (the vet can sometimes feel the enlarged thyroid gland, about the size of a small pea, beneath the skin of the cat ‘s neck). Over 98% of enlarged thyroid glands are benign (non-cancerous). Hyperthyroid cats may have the problem in both thyroid glands.

The thyroid gland is involved in regulating the cat’s rate of metabolism.When overactive, the thyroid gland produces more thyroid hormone than usual, often 2-3 times as much. This hormone circulates in the bloodstream and causes an increase in the rate of metabolism. This usually becomes apparent in the patient as weight loss, sometimes increased activity and increased appetite, an increased heart rate and often a poor coat. Often the blood pressure is raised, sometimes leading to kidney problems and changes in the eyes. The heart is often affected and enlarges, leading to heart disease. Many of the changes are reversible with treatment of the underlying thyroid disease. Less common signs of hyperthyroidism include skin changes; drinking and urinating excessively; vomiting; diarrhoea; aggressive behaviour; lethargy; weakness; anorexia (decreased appetite).

When vets suspect thyroid problems, we diagnose the problem using a blood test. Some cats with early thyroid disease have normal thyroid hormone levels in the blood; it is important that these cats are re-tested in 4-6 weeks, and sometimes a modified blood test is required.
HyperT4DiagramWhen diagnosing thyroid disease, it is important that we make sure that the cat has no other problems which may make treatment difficult, unrewarding or dangerous. For example, many older cats have kidney or liver problems. Sometimes we may need to take an x-ray to identify enlargement of the heart or problems in the chest or abdomen. We also like to test a urine sample to help us rule out other problems. Once we have a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism, there are several treatment options:

1)Injection with radioactive iodine

This is a very effective, non-invasive treatment. It is the treatment of choice in both cats and human beings. It is a simple, single injection. Cats generally do really well after this treatment.

Because they excrete radioactive material in urine and faeces after this injection, the cats must be kept in a special facility for 7-10 days until no longer excreting dangerous levels of radioactivity. This procedure is only performed at licensed clinics and costs about $750 depending on which clinic used.

2)Administration of Carbimazole tablets (Vidalta) to interfere with the production of thyroid hormone.

VidaltaFor cats that accept tablets readily (once daily), Carbimazole is an easy and effective form of treatment. Most cats will take these tablets readily if crushed and mixed with their food. Regular monitoring of blood thyroid levels (and kidney function) is important with this method of treatment. The tablets must be administered indefinitely. Stabilistion to normal thyroid hormone levels is usually achieved in two weeks. It has been widely used for years as a treatment for hyperthyroidism in cats and has few side effects.

3)Dermal Gel Methimazole.MethSpotOn

Methamizole is the active form of carbimazole and is available as a gel that can be rubbed onto the inside surface of the ear. This makes treatment much easier for most people because no pills are involved. Using a special application method, you just apply a bit of gel to the inside of the ear.

4)Surgical removal of the affected thyroid gland.

This method can be effective, especially with very enlarged glands, and means that the tablets or gel only have to be given to achieve initial stabilisation (2-3 weeks). The surgery involves a general anaesthetic. Cost is usually about $1200.00 including blood sampling.

5)Hills YD

Hills pet food makers have manufactured a new prescription diet for hyperthyroid cats. It is severely restricted in its iodine content, and trials have shown it to reduce thyroid hormone levels back to normal. This means no pills are required- nor any other treatment. However, (there is always a “but” isn’t there?) the cat has to eat this food exclusively-it is not allowed any treats or to steal the food from the neighbour next door. They are not supposed to eat game either but you have little control over this of course. Interestingly, rodents may not have high iodine levels in their carcases so their consumption might be acceptable if they do go hunting. No one has measured the iodine content of birds. This food comes in a wet and dry form. So if you can guarantee your cat won’t eat anything else, it may a be simple approach to take.

RECOMMENDATION:

The best approach these days is to initially start these cats on the tablets or skin gel and administer these for a month or so. If the cats do really well, it is advisable to then do the radioactive iodine treatment so that neither owner nor cat has to endure persistent lifelong treatment.

The price of the carbimazole tablets and dermal gels now means that the radioactive iodine treatment is becoming more cost effective. It is also the most convenient and easiest treatment for both cat and owner and overall these cats seem to do better than those maintained forever on pills or gels.

The good news is that the disease can be successfully treated in almost all cases.

Feline Diabetes

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease of the pancreas. The pancreas is a soft, delicate organ that is situated adjacent to the intestine, within the abdomen. It has two major roles to play in the body. Firstly, it releases enzymes and other substances into the intestine to aid in the process of digestion. Secondly and most importantly, it releases hormones into the bloodstream to control the blood sugar levels in the body – principally, blood glucose levels. The important hormone involved in this role is insulin which is responsible for lowering high blood glucose levels (especially after a meal has been consumed, for example). In the case of diabetes, the pancreas produces too little, or no insulin and the blood glucose remains persistently high. This causes abnormal body metabolism.

The Role of Insulin

All organs in the body, whether it be the heart, brain, kidney , liver or muscle, require glucose to provide energy for everyday metabolism. Even though glucose is in ready supply in the bloodstream, it does not simply diffuse into these organs to provide them with the energy that they need. These tissues require insulin to be present in order for them to take glucose out of the bloodstream and without insulin, the tissues are denied a major energy source. After each meal the level of glucose in the blood rises. This is detected by the pancreas which then releases insulin to allow the body tissues to absorb the glucose out of the bloodstream and the blood glucose levels drop back to normal again. This cycle is repeated several times a day after every meal. In the case of diabetes the body is unable to utilise blood glucose due to an insulin deficit and the blood glucose levels remain high all day.

The Effects of High Blood Glucose Levels

Because of an inability to utilise the sugars they normally produce, the metabolism of diabetic cats is adversely affected. This results in several characteristic signs being exhibited by diabetic cats of which the most prominent in the early stages are:-

1.Excessive Thirst- because high glucose levels are always present in the blood, the kidneys are required to pass a large amount of it into the urine. As the glucose passes into the urine manufactured by the kidneys, it pulls a lot of water with it from the bloodstream by the effects of osmosis. This means that large amounts of urine are formed and diabetic cats tend to urinate larger amounts of urine than normal. This causes overall body dehydration and these cats therefore need to drink a lot more water to compensate. Hence diabetic cats have an excessive thirst and pass large volumes of urine.

2.Ravenous Appetite- because blood sugars are not used, the body has an energy deficit. This increases hunger as the body attempts to increase its energy intake by consuming more food. In cats that are big eaters anyway, this phase may not always be obvious.

3.Weight Loss- because glucose is unavailable to the tissues for energy, the body must look elsewhere for an energy supply. It therefore draws on its fat reserves to provide the energy required. As fat reserves are depleted, weight loss becomes apparent and even though these cats are eating more than usual, ironically there is weight loss, even emaciation in advanced cases.

Treatment

– is very simple and effective. All one has to do is to provide the diabetic with the insulin that is lacking. This is done by twice-daily injections. There are a couple of different insulins to choose from when treating cats and the aim is to get the cat’s high blood glucose levels under control as quickly as possible.
If the glucose level can be normalised for extended periods of the day, then it is possible for the pancreas to recover some function. And if the cat has been diagnosed early enough then some cats will actually go into remission and will start producing insulin again by themselves. If this is achieved then these cats can come off their insulin injections. For all cats, this is our initial objective.

However not all insulins suit all cats and some cats are actually insulin resistant, meaning they do not respond to the insulin injections. Fortunately the majority of cats are not in this group and the prognosis for treatment is usually very good. If a cat manages to achieve remission, it is not usually permanent and at some stage in the distant future, insulin injections are required again for life.

Initially, we admit these cats to the hospital for a day or two to run blood glucose curves. We do this to establish the correct insulin dosage for them to be on before we send them home. Nowadays, blood glucose meters are cheap and easily purchased at your local chemist, so that afterwards owners can run these glucose curves at home. A painless needle gun enables one to get a drop of blood from the cat’s ear and this is used by the blood meter to measure the blood glucose level. This is not absolutely vital but it can be useful in monitoring diabetic cats in the home.

Diet is the other consideration. These cats should be on low carbohydrate diets. Glucose is a sugar carbohydrate so the less that is in the food usually, the better. Cats do not utilise much of their dietary carbohydrate anyway so we strive to get them onto high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets. Diabetic control is always easier when cats are on these types of diets.

Giving the Injection

1. Mix the contents gently prior to injection by inverting the bottle 3-4 times. There is no need to shake the bottle.

2.Insert the needle into the bottle and draw up the required amount of insulin. Ensure there are no air bubbles in the column of insulin either in the needle hub or syringe. To accomplish this: tap the syringe barrel with your finger several times to expel any air bubbles from the column of insulin. Once a solid column of insulin is achieved without any air bubbles, the excess air above the insulin column can be expelled from the syringe. Now only a solid column of insulin remains in the syringe barrel from the tip of the needle back to the syringe plunger. Inject any excess insulin back into the vial. Keep going until you have only the correct amount of insulin left to inject.

3.Pick up a large fold of skin in the hand and insert the needle at right angles to this skin.

4.Allow the skin to fall back into place and then inject. Remember it is painless and usually hurts the owner far more than the cat!

Handling the Equipment

1. Although the syringes and needles used are disposable, they may be used for several injections in a row before being discarded.

2.Remember to keep the insulin in the refrigerator when not in use.

3.It is wise to give breakfast first and then give the injection immediately after or while they are eating. You may then feed again in the afternoon.

Please revisit in 10-14 days to let us know how you’re both doing and for us to run another glucose curve. If you have any problems or queries in the meantime, please contact the clinic before then.

It is absolutely vital that you give the correct dosage of insulin each time; if you forget or miss a day don’t worry and simply start again the next day.

This is important.

DEFINITELY DON’T GIVE EXTRA INJECTIONS TO MAKE UP FOR MISSED ONES.

The biggest complication we see is overdosage of insulin and it is dangerous to give too much or to give an extra shot to make up for a forgotten or missed one.

Remember if you forget the odd injection no harm is done.

Feline Nutrition

Cats really are unique in their nutritional requirements. They are true, obligate carnivores which means that they must eat the meat of game animals or prey.

They usually eat the whole carcase and in doing so they achieve a balanced and complete nutritional intake. When it comes to feeding them at home, it’s the commercial foods that achieve this best of all. Why? -because they have been manufactured to meet their nutritional requirements. If you were to just feed meat to a cat you are literally carving the muscle of the carcase and feeding them only this portion, whilst denying the rest of the carcase -which houses many of the goodies. For example you won’t find a cat catching a mouse and just filleting out the fillet steak and moving on. Instead they eat a substantial amount, if not all of the carcase- and then they move on. Unappealing as it sounds , this is what cats do, and to mimic this you are better off feeding the commercial foods; they more closely resemble what they eat in the wild because they have a wider range of ingredients.

So this makes feeding cats really simple because you just have to feed a combination of dry cat biscuits and canned food and you have accomplished the main goal. The supermarket biscuits are OK but are mostly based on cereal proteins such as corn, maize and oats with chicken flavouring or chicken by-products added. The super-premium cat foods however are always meat-protein based and would be the better choice.

The super-premium grade biscuits not only contain real animal proteins but they usually have antioxidants added as well. Furthermore the Omega6 and Omega3 fatty acids are also included to promote health. You can always tell which cats are eating these foods by just looking at their coat-these extra fatty acids result in much glossier coats.

The wet foods supplied in tins or pouches also have benefit to cats. They are an excellent source of moisture and can offer a complete and balanced diet as well. Their protein quality is often not great but this can be countered by feeding a high quality dry food at the same time. Often they are the only way you get a pill into a cat as well!

This does not mean they can not eat real meat, fish and chicken as well, it’s just that the commercial foods should be the backbone of their diet. Real meat is actually a great source of high quality protein for a feline.It should only be given in moderation however or cats get really fat on it. And remember if given alone, the cat is subjected to an incomplete and unbalanced diet.

DrinkingcatFINALLY DON’T FORGET WATER: this is really important to ensure good kidney function in the cat and helps to prevent bladder problems. It is a good idea to have water in several places around the house and to observe where their favourite drinking place is; you can then keep their water replenished in this place all the time. Also put some containers around the garden as they seem to enjoy drinking from these places as well.

Extras:

We said at the beginning that cats are unique when it comes to nutrition and the following facts illustrate this:

There are many essential items that cats require in their diet because their metabolism is incapable of manufacturing them; (just like we require Vitamin C in our diet because our body can not manufacture it) -probably because they are used to eating game that has pre-manufactured everything for them already.

There are many amino acids-the base units that make up proteins- that can not be manufactured internally by feline metabolism. Amino acids such as taurine, arginine and tryptophan must be present in the diet. Again they are readily available in meat and commercial foods.

Secondly, cats have a very high protein requirement; unlike other species their metabolism allows them to convert proteins into glucose.

The cat has a very high fat requirement compared to us and there are certain fats they need in the diet that they can not make themselves i.e. essential fats. The main one is arachidonic acid, a fatty acid that is the major constituent of all cell membranes. Fortunately it is present in high levels in meat.

Carbohydrates in the food can not be readily utilised by cats – which is why they won’t eat a sandwich or a doughnut (but a dog will!).

Hence cats do not require a high level of carbohydrates in their diet as an energy source. Instead they derive most of their energy from fats and proteins.

Cat Behaviour

From a behavioural point of view cats are fascinating creatures and people often have trouble interpreting their quirky and unique behavioural patterns . There are a few things we misunderstand about them and we tend to judge their behaviours and psyche in human terms.

Basically the cat’s psyche goes like this: cats are just too clever to live in groups. They’re smart. They are fast, beautifully coordinated and blessed with brilliant senses of sight, hearing and touch. And with the claws and teeth that they come with, they don’t need any help hunting– they can do it all by themselves. There is no survival advantage in joining in cohorts to hunt their prey and the very real disadvantage of having to share any catch if they did.

The hunting instinct is strong, starting out as disguised practice by kittens obsessed with play. This develops quickly until eventually we all get to know the joy of the disembowelled rat on the lounge carpet. The cat sits proudly beside it. He didn’t need any other cat to help him catch it. He did it all by himself.

As a result of all of this, cats have not developed pecking orders, complex language or social protocols. They don’t need all that. It is not a survival advantage to live as a group. They can do everything by themselves. Hence they don’t have much in the way of facial language or social graces when it comes to dealing with each other.

Cats living in colonies don’t have a very complicated social structure and nor does the lion which lives in a harem. Here there is one male to protect his cubs and his lionesses from other juvenile males who are seeking to take the harem for themselves and kill any cubs or disagreeable lionesses in the process. Male cubs are usually banished from the pride after one year of age to roam the plains as individuals until they can challenge adult male lions or set up prides of their own. So within the pride there is a survival advantage in living together to provide for the cubs and the safety of group as a whole. Lionesses share their milk across litters and share in the general care and well-being of the nursery. Social contact in these groups does lead to hierarchies and behavioural displays and some of these are seen in the domestic cat. Domestic cats can play together if they are young and especially if they are litter mates just as lion cubs do; and one often sees adult behaviours such as head-butting when they greet one another and mutual grooming.

All other wild cats however live as individuals because they have found it better suits them to survive this way. They come together for mating only and these are often fairly antagonistic encounters. Other than that, they concentrate on forming territories and protecting the resources within that territory from other rivals.

The domestic cat therefore comes with a mixed set of values based mostly on what these other cats do-i.e. living alone and establishing territories -combined with the social graces one sees within lion prides.

Dogs on the other hand, aren’t as clever as cats physically and have to live in packs in order to survive. They have developed pecking orders, body language and complex social structures in the wild that enable them to survive and hunt as a pack for the overall good of the group. This seems to apply to most dog groups in the wild. These behaviour patterns exist in domestic dogs as well and allow dogs to be read like a book.

So as individuals, cats are compelled instead to devote their life to developing territories and then spend their time protecting the resources within these territories from other cats. Their behaviour patterns are then built around these activities. They don’t see each other as potential companions (as dogs do) –only as potential rivals and invaders of their territory.

So the basic psyche of the cat comes down to territory, territory, territory.

This explains cat politics and why they fight all the time. Fighting is just what cats do.

It also explains why they pee inside, why they go back to old territories when their owners shift, and why they often don’t get on with new cats introduced into the family. Toileting inside is a common complaint that drives owners up the wall so let’s talk about it more.

Stress Stress Stress……………..

People often wonder why cats exhibit naughty behaviours such as toileting or urinating inside. Owners tend to blame this on anything from disobedience to plain laziness on the cat’s behalf. These behaviours are actually tell-tale signs of “ Feline Stress ’’.

This is often a surprise diagnosis for owners because all their cat seems to do is eat, then sleep, eat again then lazily relocate back to the sun to sleep; how stressful could that be??

The problem is, cats don’t display their anxiety in a histrionic Hollywood manner as dogs often would. It is not surprising that we are unaware of their subtle antagonistic glances or subtle body postures when they are in the company of another family cat. It is of course quite obvious and aggressive when they are in the presence of another feline intruder.

Because domestic cats aren’t social animals they don’t take kindly to sharing anything with neighbouring cats. They sometimes struggle with this concept when there is another cat within the family and this subtle antagonism often worsens with age. Throw in a neighbourhood cat at the same time and some cats can get very stressed as they feel their territory becoming crowded.

FightingcatsRemember, cats are compelled to devote their life to developing and protecting territories. They tend to see each other as potential rivals or invaders, they simply aren’t out to make friends because evolutionary-speaking there was no survival advantage in them doing this. So when living in a multi-cat house they are constantly under pressure to go against their natural instinct: they are forced to share. The same applies if it happens to be the cat next door always coming across.

The threat of loss of territory is stressful, a cat becomes nervous and insecure if constantly challenged by other cats for a slice of their pie. Loss of a territory is absolutely catastrophic, causing a disastrous loss of prestige and self-esteem.

Since cats will only toilet in their own territory; if they lose confidence in the security of their territory, then they are driven to toilet inside as a last resort. Some are terrorised and are too scared to go back outside for long periods. Some will also spray inside to try and boost their confidence and proclaim the little existing territory that they have left.

They feel terrorised and oppressed when they perceive that their territory has been usurped and seek to reinforce the home’s inner sanctum as their own – by territory marking.

Some cats of course are able to deal with this stress much better than others and therefore don’t urinate inside. But for those that struggle, urinating inside is common practice. Because cat encounters often happen at night, cat owners frequently miss this conflict and fail to recognise it as the cause of the inappropriate toileting inside and become frustrated by the cat’s “laziness”.

CuddlycatsThe solution for this scenario is never straight forward but involves medications ranging from anxiolytic [anxiety-breaking] drugs to hormones [called pheromones] released into the air from diffusers. It is also important to prevent other cats from entering the home so that every cat knows its inner sanctum is secure and sacrosanct. It is usually necessary to combine several of these approaches to calm the cat back to normal behaviour. In some instances the family dog is the saviour -its presence is enough to discourage other cats coming onto the property and the family cat lives a very secure, unchallenged existence.

So in summary a cat’s behaviour is driven by its evolutionary past that has dictated it to be an independent survivor with reduced social expressions compared to dogs. Over the centuries however, it has learnt that a social bonding with humans is very advantageous and the cat possesses the affectionate social skills that one would find in a lion pride that enables it to bond lovingly with us.

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