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Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Cats

| December 16, 2011
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in Cats

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a clinical syndrome defined as the development of one or more geriatric-onset behavior problems that cannot be attributed to an unrelated medical condition such as cancer, infection, or organ failure.

Orlando Adan was used to his cat meowing a lot. From the day he adopted her, Roxy was a talker. The meowing continued as the years went by. In fact, she became even more vocal as she aged. It was part of her charm, and Orlando never failed to be amused by the little “conversations” that he and Roxy had experienced over the years. A week after her 18th birthday, however, Roxy’s initiated a conversation that was a bit different than most.

“I was upstairs reading, and Roxy was downstairs, in the kitchen. She started meowing for food, as usual. But this time, there were subtle differences. Her crying was a bit more urgent, a bit more strained. It wasn’t her ‘feed me” meow. Call me crazy, but after 18 years, I know my cat pretty well.”

Orlando went downstairs to find Roxy sitting in the narrow space between the refrigerator and the dishwasher, staring off into space with an odd expression. “Roxy used to get between the fridge and the dishwasher and hide, and when I passed by, she’d leap out and surprise me. It’s a game we’ve played for years”, he explained. “This time, though, she was staring ahead with a vacant, almost blank look in her eyes, meowing as if she had no idea where she was. And what was even more upsetting,” he laments, “was that she seemed confused as to who I was, too”.

As pets get older, they will sometimes experience a decline in cognitive function. Changes in memory, learning, perception, and awareness are well documented in aging people, and similar changes have been described in aging companion animals. In dogs and cats, this decline may manifest itself in several ways. Forgetting previously learned behaviors such as housetraining, acquiring new fears and anxieties, failure to recognize people, places, and other pets, altered sleep-wake cycles, and acting generally “disoriented” are the most common behavior changes described by owners of aging pets. Not all of these behavior changes are due solely to cognitive dysfunction, however. While primary behavior problems may develop in aging cats and dogs, the possibility of an underlying medical condition should first be considered. “I took my cat to my veterinarian as soon as Roxy started acting weird”, notes Orlando. “Aside from the expected physical problems – dirty teeth, mild kidney failure – she was in pretty good health. My vet said that this one incident of bizarre behavior wasn’t enough to make a certain diagnosis, but he felt that Roxy probably had Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, a condition that dogs and cats sometimes develop as they age”.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is a clinical syndrome defined as the development of one or more geriatric-onset behavior problems that cannot be attributed to an unrelated medical condition such as cancer, infection, or organ failure.

Although most studies of CDS have focused on the condition in dogs, the occurrence of the syndrome in cats has become a hot topic of study in recent years. Amy D. Shojai is the author of more than a dozen pet books, including “Pet Care in the New Century: Cutting –Edge Medicine for Dogs and Cats”. She is currently researching CDS in cats and dogs. “I hear owner concerns all the time about older cats (greater than 9 years old) having lapses in litter box allegiance, crying or howling especially at night, staring into space, not seeming to recognize people, places, or animals, pacing aimlessly, getting lost in corners of rooms, and ‘forgetting’ how to do normal behaviors”, says Shojai. “One woman described how her cat seemingly forgot how to eat! Smokey, a 17 year old cat, stood over the food bowl and simply looked confused until he was prompted with a finger-tap against the bowl to take a taste. Another owner with a 15 year old Manx described looking into her cat’s eyes and there being ‘nobody home’”.

There haven’t been very many studies of behavior problems in aging pets, especially cats. One unpublished study in 1998 showed that 55% of cats aged 11 – 15 years develop at least one geriatric-onset behavior problem, and that the percentage increases to 80% for cats aged 16 – 20. Disorientation in particular is seen in 2.5% of cats aged 11 – 15, and dramatically increases to 40% of cats aged 16 – 20! Shojai’s review of the handful of published cat studies shows a similar trend, namely, that the incidence of behavior problems in cats increases greatly with age. Dr. Debra Horwitz is a board certified veterinary behaviorist. She tells of a study presented at the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior last July in which 45 of 152 cats aged 11 years and older demonstrated signs consistent with cognitive dysfunction. “When the cats were further divided into those aged 11 – 15, and those age 15 and older”, she reports, “the cats in the older group showed even more signs of cognitive dysfunction per cat than the younger group”. While cats show similar types of geriatric-onset behavior problems as dogs, the percentage of cats that are affected with CDS is much lower. “Bottom line”, says Amy Shojai, “is that cats age very gracefully!”

Exactly why pets develop behavior problems when they age is not fully understood. Several theories have been put forth. The threshold theory basically asserts that an individual animal will tolerate a certain number of stimuli without actually exhibiting a behavior problem. When a stimulus exceeds the threshold, or if multiple stimuli combine to exceed the threshold, behavior problems may be seen. For example, a cat that is fearful may not exhibit undesirable behavior such as aggression until another stimulus (for example, pain from dental disease) “pushes” the cat beyond the threshold to a point where behavior problems are manifested. Alternatively, some medical conditions might “lower” the threshold. This lower level of tolerance is especially significant in aging pets, as organ function begins to weaken, sensory awareness begins to decline, and age-related central nervous system pathology begins to develop. True brain pathology, including accumulation of a substance called amyloid within the brain and associated blood vessels, has been seen in humans with Alzheimer’s disease, and similar findings have been described in dogs and cats. The brain of a cat may become chronically deprived of oxygen due to slowly declining heart function and/or high blood pressure (common in older cats with renal failure and/or hyperthyroidism). Examined microscopically, the brains of these cats show cerebral atrophy and a decrease in the number of neurons. It can be difficult to differentiate which changes are normal, expected changes and which ones are pathological and may be contributing to the clinical signs of CDS. There are also a number of neurochemical changes that occur in the brains of aging cats and dogs, such as alterations in the levels of dopamine and serotonin, two chemicals that affect mood and behavior. There are no simple explanations when assigning a cause for the development of geriatric-onset behavior problems.

Treatment options for cats with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome are limited. In early 1997, Canada gave approval for the use L-deprenyl, a drug used in humans with Parkinson’s disease, for the treatment of canine CDS. The drug had already been approved for use in the United States (and Canada) for treatment of canine Cushing’s disease, a disorder of the adrenal glands. The drug is now approved for use in CDS in the United States, but only for dogs. There are currently no drugs specifically licensed in North America for the treatment of cognitive dysfunction in cats, however, drugs that help normalize the levels of neurotransmitters that become depleted as cats age, such as dopamine and serotonin, as well as drugs that increase blood flow to the brain, hold promise for cats. Although there are no published studies on the use of L-deprenyl in cats, anecdotal reports of cats being given the drug off-label suggest that some cats might benefit from this drug. Cat owners should be aware that administration of medication that is not approved for use in that particular species is considered to be “extralabel” usage, and cat owners are asked to sign a form stating that they understand this and are willing to assume the risks involved.

Orlando decided not to take risks with Roxy. “I spoke to my veterinarian at length about this, and we decided to not prescribe any medication, since these episodes don’t occur very often, and she’s fine in every other way”, he says. “I’ve had her for 18 years, and I can deal with her being a space-cadet every now and then.”

Signs of CDS

  • Disorientation – Appears lost or confused, doesn’t recognize familiar people, places, or other pets in the house

  • Altered interaction with family –  Solicits attention less, has less tolerance for petting

  • Decreased greeting behavior  – No longer greets owners, or shows a less enthusiastic greeting

  • Change in sleep-wake cycles –  Sleeps more overall, but sleeps less at night

  • Change in activity –  Demonstrates more aimless activity, such as wandering or pacing.

  • Loss of housetraining – Urinates or defecates inappropriately; signals less to go outside (dogs), fails to use the litter box consistently (cats)

Copyright & Credit:

Article Source: Dr. Arnold Plotnick is a board-certified veterinary internist and feline specialist. He is the owner of Manhattan Cat Specialists, , a full-service veterinary facility located in New York City. Dr. Plotnick is the medical editor of Catnip magazine and is a medical advice columnist on CatChannel. He authors his own blog “Cat Man Do” .

Photo copyright and courtesy: Barry Newcombe

Feline Acne Facts and Treatment

| October 16, 2017
Several factors appear to be associated with its development including stress, a suppressed immune system, poor grooming habits, the presence of other diseases, contact or atopic dermatitis, and skin conditions in which abnormal amounts of oils are produced.

Several factors appear to be associated with its development including stress, a suppressed immune system, poor grooming habits, the presence of other diseases, contact or atopic dermatitis, and skin conditions in which abnormal amounts of oils are produced.

Feline acne is one of the skin problems which is easy to diagnose but might be hard to control. Feline acne is a common problem seen in cats. It is found on the cat’s chin & lips. It is generally accepted that this is caused by plastic bowls and for many cats the solution is simply substituting the plastic bowl for a stainless steel bowl or a glass bowl. The problem may be caused by the inability of the cat to clean his chin properly after drinking the milk resulting in a nutrient rich habitat for bacteria. Several factors appear to be associated with its development including stress, a suppressed immune system, poor grooming habits, the presence of other diseases, contact or atopic dermatitis, and skin conditions in which abnormal amounts of oils are produced. Feline acne is more common during the spring and fall shedding seasons, because this is when the body undergoes a cleansing process.


The exact cause of feline acne is not known, but several factors appear to be associated with its development including stress, a suppressed immune system, poor grooming habits, the presence of other diseases, contact or atopic dermatitis, and skin conditions in which abnormal amounts of oils are produced and the hair follicles do not function properly.


Telltale symptoms include a greasy appearance to their fur, especially around the facial area. You might also see dark spots in the fur around their face and jaw area.

However, even though your cat has the symptoms, it might not actually have Feline Acne. There are two contagious diseases that act like this Feline Acne. They are dermatophytosis and demodecosis. Or, the symptoms may be a result of your cat having a food allergy, an allergic reaction to plastic food bowls, or a yeast infection.

Feline Acne Treatment

The best way to treat kitty acne is to clean your pet’s surroundings regularly and thoroughly.

Sometimes, supplementation with fatty acids is beneficial in this type of treatment. Retin-A can be used but it can be applied very rare as it can leads to irritation. Oral retinoid therapy and teratogenic can be given to treat the feline acne in cats. Any underlying conditions such as ringworm, a Demodex infestation, or a yeast infection should be treated appropriately.

It may be helpful to switch food and water dishes to a stainless steel or glass variety in the event an allergic reaction may be a contributing factor (cats can be allergic to plastics and dyes). Using a very shallow dish can also be helpful.

Copyright & Credit:

Feline Arthritis

| July 2, 2018

Feline Arthritis

Feline Arthritis

What is it?
Arthritis is the inflammation of a joint. Unfortunately arthritis is common in older animals following a lifetime of general wear and tear on the joints. Younger animals can also suffer from arthritis, but usually as the result of an injury, poor diet or infection. Obese pets are more prone to arthritis due to the extra weight being carried on their joints. Animals with Cushing’s Syndrome (hormonal disorder) and diabetes can also be more susceptible due to the metabolic processes that affect their bones. Working dogs and very athletic dogs may be more likely to be affected due to the additional pressure put on their joints.

If your pet shows signs of lamesness, stiffness or pain they may be suffering from arthritis. Your pet may also be experiencing some pain while exercising or getting up, difficulty in managing stairs or teh jump into the car, have an altered gait or joint swelling and have a decreased range of motion. Sometimes what appears to be arthritis can in fact turn out to be uncomfortable ‘trigger points’. These are simply muscle cramps but can resemble the symptoms of arthritis. Don’t worry though, as they are not serious and can be treated effectively with a series of acupuncture.

What can be done?

Lifestyle changes:
It is very important to keep your pet at a normal, healthy weight. Try introducing set meal times rather than leaving food out all of the time. Some pets will respond well to a single protein source diet such as a balanced chicken food. Preventative dietary measures are recommended, especially in larger dog breeds and breeds prone to joint problems such as Maine Coons, Devon Rexes, Burmese, German Shepherds etc. Keeping your pet lean during its formative years help prevent developmental bone problems. Some pets may suffer from leaky gut syndrome which can be a contributory factor. In such pets a detoxification diet may help.

Do not overexercise your pet as this puts additional stresses on the joints. Shorter exercise periods rather than a long walk benefit most pets. Swimming is excellent therapy and is recommended as it strengthens muscles and manipulates joints without unduly jarring them. If there is short term joint swelling, cold ice packs may help relieve the symptoms

Holistic Treatments:
Many animals will find great relief following a course of acupuncture and continuing with top up sessions when necessary. Some forms of arthritis may also benefit from a type of deep massage called chiropractic manipulation. This is particularly effective if the pain is associated with the back and spine. Providing a heated water bottle or pad is generally much appreciated by animals suffering with joint pain, especially during the winter months. It is important to encourage gentle exercise, with swimming being the best way to keep joints mobile.

Providing glucosaminoglycans is one of the most important things you can do in the form of chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, green lipped sea mussell, bovine or shark cartilage. We prefer to avoid the use of shark cartilage as it is an animal product. Omega 3 acids such as fish oil, Vitamins C & E, probiotics, dimethylglycine, digestive enzymes or apple cider vinegar can also prove to be beneficial.

Herbal products can help with the reduction of inflammation and pain of arthritis. The Natural Vet Company have consulted Sydney veterinarian, Dr Barbara Fougere to formulate a range of safe and easy to use products to best help your pet. You can read more about these products and how they can help here.

Conventional Treatments:
In the meantime, if your pet is experiencing pain, your veterinarian can prescribe conventional drugs. While the Natural Vet Company can offer you new and natural ways to improve your pets health, it is important not to disregard any of the advice that your regular veterinarian provides you with. It should be noted however that long term usage of cortico steroids such as prednisolone shoudl be avoided where possible (make sure you do not leave your pet in unnecessary pain). This form of treatment should be a last resort, there are many reported side effects and the possibility of speeding up the damage [Johnston & Fox 1997]. Reported side effects of corticosteroids include gastric or colonic ulceration, kidney damage. Care must also be taken using non-steroidal anti inflammatories such as Rimadyl, metacam and ibuprofen. Do not completely dismiss these drugs out of hand as they are extremely effective and important in the fight against pain however there is some controversy regarding the possibility of them causing additional damage and harm to the livers, kidneys, brain, immune system and blood. The sensible way forward is to consult with your vet to discuss and consider all of the options – putting the comfort and long term health of your pet at the front of the considerations.

Consult one of our vets:
For more information and guidance feel free to contact The Natural Vet Company directly. You can sign up for a consultation using our online ordering system. One of the many trained veterinarians will be more than happy to guide you through a personalised treatment plan to ensure that your pet is as happy and comfortable as possible. Another option is to post your question to our online forums where other members can perhaps help you with advice and guidance (please note: we do not have any control over the advice given in our forums). Please feel free to suggest a topic for a factsheet and we will be happy to put one online.


Copyright & Credit:
Source:  The Natural Vet Company |
Photo copyright and courtesy: Kathryn Cairney – stock.xchng

Feline Cancer – Preventing The Spread Of Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) In Foster Cat Homes

| October 27, 2010
Feline Cancer - Preventing The Spread Of Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) In Foster Cat Homes

The feline cancer Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) weakens the immune system, causes anemia and the growth of tumors in cats.

The feline cancer Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) weakens the immune system, causes anemia and the growth of tumors in cats. The lifespan of a FeLV cat is short as about 85% of infected cats die within 3 1/2 years of infection. If you are a foster cat care giver, there are steps you can take to prevent the spread of the disease to the non-infected cats in your home.

If you’ve decided to help improve the lives of lost or unwanted cats and kittens by being a foster caregiver, you need to take steps to prevent the spread of a feline cancer like FeLV and other communicable diseases to your own healthy cats. The FeLV cat virus is carried in the saliva of an infected cat. Cats can catch FeLV when there is cat-to-cat direct contact by licking.

Kittens are particularly susceptible as the virus can cross the placenta to the unborn kitten of a FeLV cat mother. Young kittens under 4 months are also vulnerable. They need time to build up immunity and if they are introduced to a number of infected cats, then their resistance to the disease is weakened.

FeLV cat symptoms take several months or years make an appearance. So, in the early stages of fostering a cat or kitten you may never know that the animal carries the virus unless you have him tested. It is possible to test for the infection and the general recommendation is to test for the FeLV cat virus twice about 12 weeks apart.

Here’s some tips to keep you own cats from becoming infected with the feline cancer virus (FeLV).

1. Don’t allow your own cats to mix with the foster cat or kitten.
2. Have your own cats tested for FeLV and consider a cat health insurance plan to pay for unexpected diseases or accidents.
3. You may opt for a FeLV vaccination for you cats, but understand that no vaccine is 100% effective. Some cat health insurance plans help pay for these vaccinations.
4. Keep the fostered cats in isolation or in pairs in isolation – especially if they were already mixing.
5. Don’t introduce new fostered cats into your home until the preceding fostered cats have new homes.
6. Provide separate litter boxes and feeding bowls for the fostered cats. Disinfect the bowls daily and the litter boxes at least twice a week.
7. Don’t re-home a foster cat that is a positive FeLV cat without notifying and educating the adopting caregiver.

There you have it. It is possible to prevent the deadly FeLV cat virus from infecting your non-foster cats. Testing your own cats for the FeLV virus is a must and you should talk to your vet about the vaccine options. If your home cat does contract feline leukemia, you should do everything you can to limit direct contact with other cats in your household.

As a foster cat caregiver, you take on a bit more risk of spreading feline cancer to your own cats. Prevention and early protection is always the most cost effective approach, so why not protect your own cats and your finances with a cat health insurance plan before they contract any feline cancer or illness. Standard health care is costly and when your cat needs advanced care the cost quickly becomes unaffordable without a pet insurance plan.
Copyright & Credit:
Kate Rieger is partnered with the Kentucky SNIP clinic to provide affordable spay/neuter services to pet owners. She also shows pet owners how using pet insurance pays for the rising costs of vet bills. Visit Kate’s site today to find the best pet insurance programs to pay for feline cancer treatment today at .

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

| October 16, 2010

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Feline Infectious Peritonitis


Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a severe progressive debilitating disease caused initially by a viral infection (feline enteric corona-virus (FECV)) and then by the body’s own immune system. Although FIP was first reported in 1963, there are reports of clinical cases that are likely to be FIP going back to as earlier as 1914.

The common benign form of feline corona-virus is referred to as FECV. When FECV has mutated into a disease-causing form, it is then referred to as FIPV (feline infectious peritonitis virus). FIP is the term for clinical disease associated with FIPV infection.

FIP is one of the most important viral infections of cats because the disease is almost invariably fatal. The disease is most feared in catteries, as most catteries that remain operative for several years will have a brush with FIP. Despite the fact that this disease is a shared experience in the cat fancy, affected catteries are often wrongly feared and ostracized. All breeders must thus make the effort to understand this disease and how to control it.

Feline corona-virus is different from any other feline virus in several important ways:

  • Antibodies in the cat have no protective function for the cat and may play a role in the disease FIP itself.
  • Antibody titres are meaningless for diagnosis or prognosis.
  • A vaccine is available, but there is no consensus on its efficacy or safety.

What causes FIP

Feline corona virus is a common and highly infectious feline virus, belonging to the genus Corona-virus, which has members that infect other species (man, swine, cattle, birds, dogs). Many different strains of corona-virus are capable of infecting cats, but most do not produce serious disease. The majority of cats with FECV (about 95% or more) remain healthy. But in a small number of cases, FECV infection is the first step in a chain of events leading to FIP. This happens because corona viruses are made of large numbers of nucleotides, the basic unit of genetic material, and they are prone to mutations. As the virus reproduces itself, errors are made in copying these nucleotides. The more nucleotides, the more errors are possible. While most of these errors are harmless, some will have the effect of giving FECV the ability to cause disease. These mutant FECV strains are called FIP virus. FIP-producing strains are distinguished by their ability to invade and grow in certain white blood cells, which then transport the virus throughout the cat’s body. An intense inflammatory reaction follows in the tissues where these virus-infected cells locate. It is thus this interaction between the body’s own immune system and the virus that is responsible for the disease. Some cats will mount an effective immune response that prevents viral spread in the body and stops disease developing whereas, in others, the virus is able to multiply and cause severe disease that is ultimately lethal.

Recent research has shown that mutant FECVs arise within an individual cat. Therefore the vast majority of cats do not “catch” FIP, but they develop it themselves from their own mutant FECV. Transmission of FIP from cat to cat is therefore considered to be rare. This fact has caused leading FIP researchers to state that cats who are ill with FIP are unlikely to be a risk to other cats and thus do not need to be isolated.

Catteries are especially likely to be FECV positive since traffic of cats and kittens in and out of the establishment is common. However, the incidence of cases of FIP is quite low in comparison but losses can be sporadic and unpredictable. The peak ages for losses to FIP are from 6 months to 2 years old (with the highest incidence at 10 months of age). Age-associated immunity to FIP appears to be possible. Transmission of FIP from a queen to her unborn kittens has not been shown to occur.

How do cats get FIP?

Feline corona-virus is ubiquitous among cats and is extremely common where large numbers of cats are kept together. At least 30 – 50% of pet cats are likely to have been exposed to this virus and where large groups of cats are kept together, typically 80 – 100% of them will have been infected at some stage. FECV is present in the saliva and faeces of infected cats and some cats will shed the virus for many months. Most cats become infected by inhaling or ingesting the virus, either by direct contact with an infected cat, or by contact with virus-contaminated surfaces like clothing, bedding, feeding bowls, or toys. The virus can survive for a number of weeks in the environment, but is rapidly inactivated by most household detergents and disinfectants.

Many different strains of the virus exist and, fortunately, most of these do not cause serious disease. The vast majority of infections therefore result in no signs, or possibly just some mild self-limiting diarrhoea.

Clinical signs of FIP

Initial exposure to the corona virus usually results in no obvious clinical disease, although some cats may experience mild intestinal disease. Most cats that undergo the primary infection completely recover, although some of them may become virus carriers. Only a small percentage of exposed cats will go on to develop the lethal disease: weeks, months, or perhaps years after the primary infection.

When a cat develops FIP, the virus has disseminated and replicated throughout the body, resulting in severe inflammation at a number of different sites. Clinical signs vary depending on the major site(s) of inflammation. The onset of clinical signs of lethal FIP may be sudden (especially in kittens), or the signs may gradually increase in severity over a period of weeks.

Many cats have non-specific signs such as intermittent inappetence, depression, rough hair coat, weight loss, and fever. The major forms of lethal FIP are effusive (wet) FIP, noneffusive (dry) FIP, and combinations of both. The most characteristic sign of effusive FIP is the accumulation of fluid within the abdomen and/or chest. When fluid accumulation becomes excessive, it may become difficult for the cat to breathe normally. The onset of noneffusive FIP is usually slower. Fluid accumulation is minimal, although weight loss, depression, anaemia, and fever are almost always present. Signs of kidney failure (increased water consumption and urination), liver failure (jaundice), pancreatic disease (vomiting, diarrhoea, diabetes), neurological disease (loss of balance, behavioural changes, paralysis, seizures), enteritis (vomiting, diarrhoea), or eye disease (inflammation, blindness) may be seen in various combinations. Thus FIP is often a difficult disease to diagnose because each cat can display different signs that are similar to those of many other diseases.

How common is FIP?

Fortunately, the vast majority of cats that are infected with feline corona-virus do not develop FIP. This is because most strains of corona-virus do not cause severe disease and most cats are able to develop a good immune response to infection. In the general cat population, FIP is quite rare and probably accounts for considerably less than 1% of severe disease seen in cats. However, FIP is more common in young cats, particularly in those below 1 – 2 years old (where the immune response is less well developed), in stressed cats, or those with concurrent disease. The disease is also more common in multi-cat households, shelters and catteries, where up to 10% or more of the cats can die from FIP.

Diagnosis of FIP

One of the most difficult aspects of FIP is that there is no simple diagnostic test. Exposure to corona-virus infection can be established by detecting antibodies to the virus in a blood sample (corona-virus serology). However, this does not allow distinction between past and current infection and cannot differentiate between strains of corona-virus. Thus, while very many cats have antibodies to FECV, very few of these cats ever develop disease. More sophisticated tests are now available to detect the presence of virus in blood samples but, again, these tests cannot differentiate between different strains of corona-virus. To date, there is no way to screen healthy cats for the risk of developing FIP and the gold standard for the diagnosis remains a biopsy or findings at necropsy.

The ELISA, IFA, and virus-neutralisation tests detect the presence of corona-virus antibodies in a cat. A positive test result only means the cat has had a prior exposure to a corona-virus, not necessarily one that causes FIP, and has developed antibodies against that virus. If the test is negative, it means the cat has not been exposed to a corona-virus. The number, or titre, that is reported is the highest dilution that still produced a positive reaction. Low titres indicate a small amount of corona-virus antibodies in the blood, while high titres indicate greater amounts of antibodies. A healthy cat with a high titre is not necessarily more likely to develop FIP or be a carrier of FIP-causing corona-virus than a cat with a low titre. It also is not necessarily protected against future FIP virus infection.

On routine blood tests a number of changes commonly occur in FIP and, although not specific for the disease, they can help in the diagnosis. A presumptive diagnosis can often be made on the basis of clinical signs, routine blood tests, corona-virus serology and analysis of accumulated fluid (if present). However, at best this can only give a presumptive diagnosis. Definitive diagnosis requires examination of affected tissues (biopsy or post mortem examination).

Recently, two new tests have been developed that can detect parts of the virus itself. The immunoperoxidase test detects virus-infected cells in the tissue. However, a biopsy of affected tissue is necessary for evaluation. Another antigen test utilises polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect viral genetic material in tissue or body fluid. Although this test shows promise, PCR is presently only capable of detecting corona viruses in general, not necessarily those that cause FIP. One major benefit of the PCR test is that it may be used on body fluids, such as effusions from the chest or abdomen of a sick cat. If virus is found in these fluids, it strongly supports the presumptive diagnosis of FIP.


There is no cure for FIP and once clinical signs develop it is almost invariably fatal. Supportive therapy (e.g. nutritional support and anti-inflammatory drugs) may result in temporary improvement and can be used if the signs are not too severe. However, to date, no therapy has been shown to have long-term beneficial effects.

The basic aim of therapy is to provide supportive care and to alleviate the self- destroying inflammatory response of the disease. Some treatments may induce short-term remissions in a small percentage of patients. A combination of corticosteroids, cytotoxic drugs, and antibiotics with maintenance of nutrient and fluid intake may be helpful in some cats. In the future, combining immune-modulating drugs with effective antiviral medications may prove to be beneficial for treatment of FIP.


In multi-cat environments, minimising overcrowding, ensuring the environment is kept clean (disinfecting with dilute household bleach where possible), minimising stress, and other diseases will all help to reduce the risk of FIP developing. In other countries a vaccine is also available to help protect against FIP. However, this vaccine is not currently available in South Africa, does not provide 100% protection against the disease, and there is no consensus on its efficacy or safety.

Frequently asked questions

1. My cat has FIP – what know?
Once clinical signs appear, cats with the effusive (wet) form of FIP will live a few days to a few weeks, although some adult cats may linger for 6-8 months. Cats with the dry form of FIP usually die within a few weeks, but survival for up to a year or more is possible.

Providing good nursing care and feeding a balanced, highly nutritious diet will make your cat more comfortable in the terminal stages of the disease. Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to reduce the discomfort associated with the disease or provide more-specific supportive therapy.

2. Will my other cats develop FIP?
If you have more than one cat it is important that any diagnosis of FIP is confirmed by tissue biopsy. If FIP is confirmed there is a small risk that other in-contact cats may develop the disease. However, blood tests are not helpful in predicting whether a cat will develop disease. It should be remembered that most cats are able to develop a good immune response that prevents disease developing. Maintaining good health, preventing stress and avoiding the introduction of any new cats for several months are sensible precautions to minimise the risk of further cases of FIP.

3. What are the chances my cat will get FIP in its lifetime
Young cats (less than two years of age), older cats (over ten years old), cats in poor physical condition, and cats undergoing concurrent infections or stress are more susceptible to FIP. It is a relatively uncommon disease in the general cat population, probably affecting less than one percent of the cats brought to a veterinarian’s office for treatment. In multiple-cat populations such as some shelters and catteries the disease rate can be much higher, affecting up to 10 to 20 percent of the susceptible population over a period of several months.

4. Should I have an FIP test done on my cat?
There are two primary situations where the determination of coronavirus-antibody titres can be useful to the cat owner or breeder and the veterinarian:

  • As a screening test, to determine the presence or absence of antibodies in a previously untested household and to detect potential virus carriers or shedders when introducing new cats into households or catteries that are negative for corona-virus antibodies
  • As an aid (and nothing more than an aid) in the clinical diagnosis of a diseased cat that has signs suggestive of FIP.

5. Can a person or a dog become infected with FIP
FIP has not been documented in any species other than those of the cat family. FIP is not known to constitute any health risk for human beings.

6. Can I protect my cat from getting FIP?
In multiple cat environments, keeping cats as healthy as possible and minimizing exposure to infectious agents lessens the likelihood of cats’ developing FIP. Preventing overcrowding, keeping cats current on vaccinations, providing proper nutrition and adequate sanitation, and eliminating feline leukaemia virus infections can be helpful in reducing the incidence of FIP groups of cats.

Copyright & Credit:

Source: Dr Remo Lobetti
BVSc (Hons) MMedVet (Med) Dipl. ECVIM (Internal Medicine) Veterinary Specialist Physician

Bryanston Veterinary Hospital
6 Ballyclare Drive

Tel: +27 11 706-6023/4/5
Fax: +27 11 706-5801
Emergencies: +27 11 706-6023e

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Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

| May 31, 2018
Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

Once a cat has been infected with FeLV, it has the virus and, at this time, there is no known way to eliminate it from the cat's system.

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is a contagious and often fatal virus that is widespread in the American cat population. Once a cat has been infected with FeLV, it has the virus and, at this time, there is no known way to eliminate it from the cat’s system. The infected cat’s immune system is suppressed and thereby the cat becomes more susceptible to secondary infections. No breed of cat is more susceptible than another, but kittens and older or debilitated cats are more susceptible than healthy cats.

Mode of Infection

After being infected with FeLV, all cats will develop a low-grade level of the virus in their blood within the first two weeks. This infection will then progress in some cats, while others will successfully fight off the virus and not remain infected. All cats that develop the persistent infection serve as a source of infection for healthy, uninfected cats with which they come in contact. The virus is excreted primarily in the saliva, but may also be present in feces and urine. The major modes of spreading the virus are through social grooming, biting, sneezing, and sharing litterboxes or food bowls. Kittens can become infected from their mother in utero, or through her milk. Although feline leukemia is widespread in cats, a significant percentage of adult cats that are exposed to FeLV develop an immunity to the virus and do not become infected. Once outside the cat, FeLV is very unstable and is rapidly killed by drying (3-4 hrs), alcohol, and most common household detergents and disinfectants.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Signs of FeLV infection arise from the various diseases it causes. The affected cat may lose appetite and weight, its mucus membranes may become pale, it may be constipated or pass bloody stool, and have difficulty breathing, coughing or swallowing. Most kittens born to infected mothers develop what is termed “fading kitten syndrome”. The kittens are lethargic, have stunted growth, and are susceptible to infection. A cat with FeLV may develop a number of diseases that are either directly or indirectly caused by the virus. Most common are various cancers, anemia, kidney disease,or secondary infections caused by a lowered immune response. With the weakening of the cat’s immune system, otherwise non-threatening conditions may prove serious or fatal. FeLV cats recover slowly from such infections (upper respiratory infections, bite wounds, abcesses) and can easily become severely debilitated.

Infection with feline leukemia virus is diagnosed by a blood test. Since a cat will test positive to FeLV even in the primary stage of the infection (when the cat’s immune system may still be able to fight off the virus), it is important that all positive tests are repeated in eight to twelve weeks to determine whether the infection is persistent.


There is no recognized cure for feline leukemia virus, and currently many cats will die within a year of diagnosis. Traditional treatments address the symptoms of the disease, and try to keep the cat as comfortable as possible. More recent approaches to cancer caused by FeLV include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Some holistic veterinarians have experienced success in treating feline leukemia with nutritional therapy, particularly through the use of vitamin C. This is a field of treatment that is not yet accepted by the medical community at large, although the licensed veterinarians who practice nutritional therapy claim significant success in treating FeLV cats. It is important to realize that FeLV-infected cats are capable of infecting other cats in the household. Because of the poor prognosis most veterinarians currently give for a FeLV cat to live a life of good quality, many people choose to euthanize their cat rather than pursue treatment and subject the cat to isolation from others of its kind. This is a difficult decision which must be considered on an individual basis. There is no evidence linking human illness to the feline virus, but many veterinarians recommend that contact with FeLV positive cats be minimized.


Many veterinarians feel that if you have only one cat and she is kept strictly indoors, there is little chance of the cat being exposed to feline leukemia virus. This is probably the best means of prevention. All new cats entering a multi-cat household should test negative. If you have previously had a cat with FeLV, wait at least 30 days before acquiring a new cat. During that time, all litterboxes and food bowls should be replaced, and the premises cleaned thoroughly.

Two vaccines are currently available for prevention purposes. Neither so far offers protection to more than 89% of cats inoculated, so the vaccine alone is not recommended as the sole means of prevention. Until a 100% vaccine is developed, additional measures should be taken. Keeping your cat indoors 24 hours a day is currently the best safeguard. However, any cat may be periodically in a high risk situation, and it may be wise to have the cat vaccinated for extra protection. A vaccination schedule can be started as early as nine weeks of age. Only those cats that are FeLV negative should be vaccinated. Three doses are required: an initial inoculation, repeated a second time two to four weeks later and again two to four months later. Thereafter a yearly booster is recommended to maintain immunity.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus

FIV is a newly recognized feline virus. It is related to FeLV and displays many of the same signs: anemia, low white blood cell counts, and secondary infections. For some time, cats who showed symptoms of FeLV syndrome but who tested negative were nevertheless assumed to be carrying FeLV. Now a FIV test is available. FIV is not related to the human virus HIV, although many of the symptoms may be similar. FIV infection is restricted solely to cats.

Much remains unknown about FIV. The method of transfer is believed to be through bite wounds rather than casual contact. The virus may remain dormant for some time (up to years), during which the cat appears normal. As the immune system becomes affected, the cat is likely to contract secondary infections. It is these secondary infections that are responsible for most of the clinical signs associated with FIV infection.

There is no current treatment for FIV. Treatments used are to combat the secondary infections that arise. No vaccine is currently available. Protection can be assured only by preventing your cat from contacting infected cats. Cats kept indoors and away from free-ranging cats are highly unlikely to contract FIV infection.

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Source: Paws –
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Feline Polycystic Kidney Disease

| October 16, 2010

Feline Polycystic Kidney Disease

Feline Polycystic Kidney Disease


Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is an inherited kidney disease that occurs mainly in the Persian cat. The condition was first reported in 1967, but actual study into this renal disease did not begin until 1990. Polycystic kidney disease results in chronic renal failure after a variable course of time. The gene for PKD is an autosomal dominant gene that will result in disease if it is present, even if inherited only from one parent.

Polycystic kidney disease resembles autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) in humans, which is a very common genetic disorder that occurs in 1 in 200 to 1 in 1000 people. The disease occurs in all races and affects as many as 5 million people worldwide. In the United States the disease is one of the most common causes of end stage renal disease and accounts for approximately 10% of patients on dialysis.

In both cats and humans polycystic kidney disease is a slowly progressive disease. The main problem is the presence of cysts within the tissue of the kidneys. The cysts are present from birth and can vary from less than one millimetre to several centimetres in size, with older cats/humans having larger and more numerous cysts. With time these cysts grow and progressively enlarge which results in swelling of the kidney with a subsequent reduction in the kidneys’ ability to function properly. The ultimate end is kidney failure.

Approximately 45% of humans with ADPKD will develop renal failure by the age of 60, but the age of onset can range from 2 to 80 years. The age at which renal failure develops in Persian cats with PKD is also variable with the average age of onset of renal failure in affected cats being 7 years, with a range of 3 to 10 years. The onset of renal failure is related to environmental and genetic factors. In humans, identified risk factors are high blood pressure, multiple pregnancies, and urinary tract infections. As all these conditions occur in the cat it thus likely that they can also be risk factors.

Clinical signs

Polycystic kidney disease is a disease that shows up later in life with enlarged kidneys and kidney dysfunction occurring at an average age of 7 years. Some of the clinical signs that an affected cat may show include depression, lack of or reduced appetite, excessive thirst, excessive urination, and weight loss. There is a marked difference in when and how quickly individual cats succumb, with the possibility of this developing late enough in life that the cat can die of other causes before kidney failure. However, kidney failure is certain when the cysts can grow and cause problems. Although rare cysts can also occur in other organs such as the liver and uterus.


The easiest way to diagnose PKD is by ultrasound, which can identify the disease very early in its course. All that is required is that the fur on the mid-ventral abdomen is clipped and a short time period for imaging to detect the possible presence of cysts. The whole process only takes a few minutes, with usually no sedation needed. It is very important that experienced personnel and proper equipment is used to perform the ultrasound. Ultrasound diagnosis is 98% accurate after the cat is approximately 10 months of age.

The gene responsible for ADPKD in humans has been localized but as yet, not in the cat and thus a DNA-test for cats is not currently available.


There is no specific treatment for this disease. Treatment is similar to treatment of chronic kidney failure of any cause. This treatment includes moderate dietary protein restriction using high biological value protein, dietary phosphorus restriction, providing fresh drinking water at all times, use of phosphate binders, and if necessary, treatment of the anaemia, acid-base imbalance, and gastric signs.


As PKD is the result of an autosomal dominant gene, it is relatively easy to track and eliminate from the breeding population. If a cat is PKD positive, then it must be either heterozygous (inherited the gene from one parent) or homozygous (inherited the gene from both parents). Remember that because the gene is dominant both heterozygous and homozygous cats will have evidence of PKD.

As mentioned above the simplest way to diagnose PKD is by ultrasound, thus all breeding animals should have an ultrasound to detect the possible presence of kidney cysts. The quickest way to eliminate the problem is to neuter or spay the affected individuals and only breed from PKD-negative cats as a PKD-negative cat is also genetically PKD-free. If a particular breeding stud or queen is extremely valuable, there is still a possibility to produce PKD-negative kittens. To achieve this, one parent has to be PKD-negative and the other parent heterozygous in its gene.

If the gene carrying the defect for PKD is represented by A, then an unaffected cat will be aa; a heterozygous affected cat Aa; and a homozygous affected cat AA. With this in mind the following are mating possibilities:

  • Heterozygous affected cat (Aa) mated with a homozygous affected cat (AA) will result in all the offspring being affected.
  • Heterozygous affected cat (Aa) mated with an unaffected cat (aa) will result in 50% of the offspring being affected.
  • Homozygous affected cat (AA) mated with an unaffected cat (aa) will result in all of the offspring being affected.
  • Two heterozygous affected cats (Aa) mated will result in 75% of the offspring being affected.


It is theorised that PKD is far more common in Persians than is currently diagnosed. With more study and published information about the disease, breeders and veterinarians can work together to establish PKD-free breeding programs. In this manner this genetic health problem can be eliminated.

Ultrasound view of an affected kidney showing a few cysts. The cysts appear as “black” holes in the tissue of the kidney

Ultrasound view of an affected kidney showing a few cysts. The cysts appear as “black” holes in the tissue of the kidney


Cross section of a normal kidney

Cross section of a normal kidney

Cross section of an affected kidney with a few cysts

Cross section of an affected kidney with a few cysts

Cross section of a severely affected kidney showing multiple=

Copyright & Credit:

Source: Dr Remo Lobetti
BVSc (Hons) MMedVet (Med) Dipl. ECVIM (Internal Medicine) Veterinary Specialist Physician

Bryanston Veterinary Hospital
6 Ballyclare Drive

Tel: +27 11 706-6023/4/5
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Felv and Fiv: Compelling Reasons to Keep Kitty Indoors

| October 16, 2010
Felv and Fiv: Compelling Reasons to Keep Kitty Indoors

Felv and Fiv: Compelling Reasons to Keep Kitty Indoors

While it may be tempting to let your cat roam the great outdoors when the weather gets nice, there are some compelling reasons to keep your pet indoors. FELV and FIV are diseases that systematically destroy the immune system and render the body unable to defend against even the most common infections.

FELV, which stands for feline leukemia virus, infects bone marrow and other tissues. FIV, or feline immunodeficiency virus, infects white blood cells, rendering them unable to protect the body from infection. In both cases, the method of attack on the body is indirect, so there are no specific symptoms of disease that can be used to make a diagnosis.

Dr. Christine Merle, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in Urbana says, “In most cases, it is not the virus that kills these animals, but secondary problems and secondary infections brought on by a suppressed immune system. The reason these diseases are so serious is that there is no cure for them. If you have an animal that is suffering from repeated infections and that seems to have an overall unhealthy appearance, it would be a good idea to test for both FELV and FIV.”

Both diseases are spread through intimate contact between two cats. Dr. Merle says, “There must be transmission of the virus from one cat directly into the bloodstream of another cat.” This means that while the virus is present in the saliva of the infected cat, it must be introduced into an opening in the skin such as a scratch, skin sore, or wound. Bite wounds are a perfect means of transmission for both of these diseases. Mother cats can also transmit them to kittens before they are born. Animals that live together and groom each other excessively are at a higher risk of spreading these diseases to one another through exposure to each other’s saliva.

It was once thought that while FELV was relatively widespread, FIV was less contagious and limited primarily to older cats that had received bite wounds during fights. Veterinarians now believe that FIV is fairly prevalent. For this reason it is recommended that all cats coming to a new home, including kittens, be tested for both diseases before allowing them contact with other cats already in the household. Testing requires only a few drops of blood and can be completed in just a few minutes by your veterinarian.

For cats in a high-risk category, (e.g., those that go outside regularly) there is a vaccine for FELV. It is 80 to 90 percent effective at establishing immunity against FELV and therefore does not guarantee that your cat will not contract FELV if exposed. There is no vaccine currently available for FIV. For this reason the only effective means of preventing FIV infection is to keep your cat indoors, where it can’t be exposed to potential carriers of these diseases.

Some animals live for years with these diseases without showing symptoms, and many can lead relatively normal, healthy lives for some time before the virus starts to take its toll. If the pet is in good health and the owner is willing to deal with possible health problems in the future, there is no reason not to continue to cherish an infected pet. To prevent the spread of disease, the infected cat should be kept in a closed household in which no other cats are introduced, and the infected animal should not be allowed to go outside.

Both FIV and FELV are debilitating and incurable diseases. The most effective method of preventing these illnesses is to limit exposure. Your cat may miss having the run of the neighborhood, but this policy may save you and your pet a lot of heartache in the long run.

Copyright & Credit:
Jennifer Stone
, University of Illinois – College of Veterinary Medicine
Photo copyright and courtesy:
Giuseppe Dani
– stock.xchng

Fleas and Your Cat

| October 16, 2010
Signs of fleas include itching, especially on the head and neck, and tiny black specks that look like dirt.

Signs of fleas include itching, especially on the head and neck, and tiny black specks that look like dirt.

Fleas are the most common cause of itching and skin irritation in cats. Over 90 percent of all skin allergies in cats are due to fleas.

The allergy is actually a reaction to a protein component of the fleas’ saliva. When these “allergic cats” are bitten by a flea they itch themselves until their skin is raw.

Most also end up with areas of hair loss and secondary bacterial skin infections. In addition, fleas suck blood, cause anemia, and transmit tapeworms.

FACT: Fleas can jump 3-feet high


– Itching head, neck and ears.
– Flea dirt
– Hair loss on head and neck area.


Signs of fleas include itching, especially on the head and neck, and tiny black specks that look like dirt. To confirm that this “dirt” is flea dirt, place it on a cotton ball moistened with water. Flea dirt will turn red because of the blood it contains.

Once your cat has been diagnosed with a flea problem, you need to treat all of the pets in the home and the home itself. In your house, vacuum the carpets and throw away used vacuum bags so that flea eggs do not hatch in the bag.

For your carpeting, try an insect-growth regulator like Pyriproxifen or Methoprine. These are hormone analogies and prevent the flea larvae from developing into an adult. These last up to 18 months.

As an alternative, you can sprinkle sodium polyborate powder, which is “borax”, onto the carpet, then vacuum. This will protect against fleas for up to one year. Be sure to wash your cat ‘s bedding with hot soapy water.

Finally, bathe all the animals living in your home. Use a flea shampoo with pyrethrins or d-limolene as the active ingredient.

In your yard, natural products that contain nematodes provide the best protection. Nematodes are live microscopic worms that eat the larval and pupal forms of fleas and 250 other outdoor pests. Methoprene (used in Acclaim 2000) and Pyriproxifen (used in Indorex) are also available as yard sprays. One application can last from six to twelve months.

FACT: Constant itching may be a sign that your cat is allergic to fleas.


Fleas can life up to one year in your home and yard. If your cat is allergic to fleas, one flea bite sets up a reaction that can cause itching for up to 14 days. Fleas also bite people and other pets. The cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is often the primary problem for cats, dogs and people.

Cats are very susceptible to toxic reactions from flea control products containing traditional insecticides such as Organophosphates and Carbamates. Be sure to read labels and only use products specifically approved for your cat.


Today, prevention is the key to flea control. Many new products are available that last up to 30 days or more and are safe enough for kittens but must be prescribed by your vet. Program is a tablet given monthly or that contains Lufenuron which causes fleas to lay sterile eggs which do not hatch therefore, environmental contamination is also prevented.

Advantage, Frontline, and Revolution are also preventative products available in a liquid form, which are applied to the skin between the shoulder blades at 30-day intervals.

Advantage kills fleas.

Frontline kills adult fleas on contact and prevents ticks on cats and dogs. It has an alcohol base, which has occasionally caused problems in cats.

Revolution is used to prevent fleas, heartworm disease and ear mites.

Regardless of the product used, prevention should start in the spring, when the outdoor temperature reaches 65-70F on a regular basis.

Fleas live primarily in the environment and not on your pet. They only stay on your pets long enough to get a blood meal, then jump back down to the ground and lay more eggs. The presence of just one flea on your cat means that thousands more are nearby, that ‘s why prevention is so important.

FACT: In cats, fleas prefer the head and neck. Fleas bite the ankles and lower legs in people.

Copyright & Credit:

Copyright 2007 Dr. Carol Osborne. Get FREE pet advice from Dr. Carol at Visit Dr. Carol ‘s blog at Buy PAAWS and VitaLife dog and cat vitamin supplements and other pet health products at
Article Source: Content for Reprint
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Foul-Smelling Felines

| June 1, 2013
In the latest edition of Ettinger’s Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Dr. Karen Moriello, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, describes a scheme in which cats with problem body odors are divided into four broad categories based on the patient history and physical examination findings.

Dr. Karen Moriello, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, describes a scheme in which cats with problem body odors are divided into four broad categories based on the patient history and physical examination findings.

People often complain about the “wet dog” smell that seeps out of a dog after a good romp in the rain.  But we rarely hear complaints about the smell of a wet cat.  Or a dry cat, for that matter. Cats are fastidious groomers and pride themselves on their cleanliness. Cat lovers know that no self-respecting cat would allow itself to be caught emitting an offensive odor.

Body odors do serve a purpose in animals.  They are important in species recognition, mate selection, and social interaction.  Interpreting the significance of a pet’s body odor can be challenging for veterinarians, as most clients insist on having a pleasant-smelling pet, or at worst, a pet with no smell at all.  It is up to the veterinarian to determine whether the odor in question is a sign of disease, or whether it falls into the realm of normal.  As a veterinarian specializing in cats, I find that the presence of a foul or unusual smell from a cat is almost always a sign that something is amiss. 

In the latest edition of Ettinger’s Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Dr. Karen Moriello, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, describes a scheme in which cats with problem body odors are divided into four broad categories based on the patient history and physical examination findings.  There may be some overlap between groups. [See sidebar].

Category 1 would be a cat that the client feels is malodorous, but the veterinarian does not.  Fortunately, this is less of an issue in cats than dogs.  With no history or physical evidence of illness or skin disease, and the veterinarian failing to find what he considers to be any unusual odors during a head-to-tail, top-to-bottom-including-ears-and-paws “sniff test”, the cat is pronounced “normal”. Treatment is not required, although shampoo therapy with a pleasant-scented shampoo may be appropriate if the client insists.  One notable exception is that of intact tomcats – they sometimes have a rather pungent aroma. Another notable (and common) exam-room scenario is the complaint that a foul odor appears “every now and then”.  Usually clients will describe a funky, musky, “fishy” odor occasionally emanating from their cat.  Often, when I examine the cat, the smell in question is gone.  In this situation, anal sac expression is the most likely culprit.  Cats (and dogs) have two small sac-like glands just inside the anus that produce a sharp-smelling secretion.  Occasionally, this secretion will accumulate until the sacs become full.  The sacs may then empty their contents onto the fur or into the immediate environment, especially if the cat becomes frightened or excited. Dr. Jacqueline Nenner, a veterinarian and colleague at East Side Animal Hospital in New York City, has her own fool-proof way to convince skeptical clients.  “If I suspect that anal gland secretion is the cause of the mysterious odor, I will manually express the cat’s anal glands in the exam room”, she says.  “A minute or two later, as the smell makes its way to the client’s nose, I’ll undoubtedly hear ‘Yes, that’s the smell!’”. Occasional expression of the anal sacs is nothing to worry about.  Other anal sac diseases, however, such as abscesses or tumors, are clearly a concern, and can lead to constant odor.

The next category would be a stinky cat with an obvious cause.  To become a member of this group, the veterinarian should be able to tell immediately what the cause of the smell is, whether it be urine, feces, halitosis (bad breath), or having been sprayed by a skunk.  What happens next may vary, from simple recommendations on how to remove skunk odor, to detailed discussions as to whether further diagnostics may be necessary to elucidate the underlying cause, and which treatments might be appropriate once a diagnosis is made.  In my experience, halitosis is the most common cause of obvious foul odor in cats.  Dental disease, oral cancer, and kidney failure are the most common causes of foul breath seen in my feline practice.

The third category would be cats with a systemic illness as a cause of the foul odor.  This is usually readily apparent to the veterinarian.  Abscesses, and oral or dental diseases are common illnesses associated with odor.  Urine and feces are common sources of odor in animals.  Cats can either be soiling themselves due to urinary or fecal incontinence, or they may not be removing it from the haircoat due to an inability to groom properly.  In my cat practice, I see many cats that are unable to groom their anal and genital region due to obesity.  Arthritis is another reason for difficulty in grooming.  In some instances, cats develop a foul odor because cats have simply stopped grooming themselves, resulting in a greasy, matted hair coat.  This should be a warning flag for clients and veterinarians that a systemic illness (diabetes, hyperthyroidism) may be present.

The final category for fetid felines would be those with a skin problem. This would include cats with an obvious skin disease, or a skin disease discovered during a routine exam, or perhaps a history of past skin disorders.  This is by far the most common cause of unpleasant odors in dogs.  Fortunately, smelly skin diseases are much less common in cats.  While bacterial and yeast infections of the skin and ears are the most common cause of foul odors in dogs, these types of infections are seen much less frequently in cats, and when present, rarely produce odors as offensive as that seen in dogs. “Ear infections are probably the biggest cause of foul odors coming from cats in my practice” says Dr. Heather Peikes, a board certified veterinary dermatologist at Animal Allergy and Dermatology in New York City.  “Some cats have terribly infected ears that you can literally smell across the room, while others escape detection until you kiss the cat on the head or nuzzle up close to it, and then the odor becomes apparent”. Seborrhea, another familiar cause of foul doggie smell (think of your neighbor’s greasy, oily cocker spaniel), is relatively rare in cats.  “Cats with autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system attacks the cat’s skin, will occasionally impart an unpleasant smell to the cat, but this is less common in cats than in dogs” notes Dr. Peikes. Whether cats as a species are naturally more resistant to skin disease, or whether their fastidious grooming habits provide a natural defense against skin infections isn’t clear. Regardless, skin disease in cats is not a significant cause of foul odor in cats as it is in dogs.

Being self-cleaning and being essentially odor-free are merely two of the millions of reasons why cats make great pets. The presence of an unusual or offensive odor could be a warning sign that your cat may have a problem such as a systemic illness or a skin disorder, and a veterinary visit is often necessary to determine the cause.

Categories of Foul-Smelling Felines

  • Normal smell – it’s all in your head

  • Foul smell due to an obvious cause – example: sprayed by a skunk

  • Foul smell due to systemic illness – example: uremic breath from kidney failure

  • Foul smell due to skin disease – example: a bacterial skin infection

Copyright & Credit:
Article Source:
Dr. Arnold Plotnick is a board-certified veterinary internist and feline specialist. He is the owner of Manhattan Cat Specialists, , a full-service veterinary facility located in New York City. Dr. Plotnick is the medical editor of Catnip magazine and is a medical advice columnist on CatChannel. He authors his own blog “Cat Man Do”

Photo copyright and courtesy: Red~Star

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