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How to pill your cat … and still keep all 10 fingers

hiding cat

Keeping your cat healthy can sometimes be a challenge.  Many pet owners avoid taking their cat to the veterinarian for routine check-ups because they find taking their cat anywhere to be an unpleasant experience.  And when cats really do get sick, we know that they’re excellent at hiding their symptoms until they’re severely ill and debilitated.  Nevertheless, we know there are tried and true methods for getting your cat used to being in a carrier (which is the best way to transport them).  And we can offer safe and effective diagnostic and treatment methods for many common feline health problems once they visit our hospital.

So that brings us to the next problem: giving your cat his medication.  We’re cat owners, too, so we know how much of a challenge it can be to give your cat the medication he or she needs.  And too often we see cat owners give up on providing important medication because it’s just too difficult.  So for cat lovers everywhere, we’re happy to share these “Fear-Free Tips: How to Pill a Cat in Seven Easy Steps,” courtesy of Firstline.  (There are some tips for liquid medication, too.)

1. First ensure the medication can be given with food. The type of treat the pill is hidden in is important. Try out different types of treats to find what works best for the cat.  Some suggestions – deli meat, tuna, soft cheese, canned cat food, or PIll Pals.*

2. Have precut portions of the treats ready when you’re pilling so you can easily dole them out in fast order.

3. To build the excitement and hide the treat further, randomize the number of treats you give and the order of the pill to keep the clever kitty from learning the pilling order and turning her nose up at the treats.

4. Whichever hand you use to hide the pill inside the treat, use the other to seal the pill in the food so picky cats can find no trace of medication on the outside part of the food.

5. Keep the portion size small enough or soft enough so your cat doesn’t chew, only licks and swallows. This prevents chewing up the pill that can be problematic with metabolism of certain medications. Chewing may also release a nasty taste when the outer coating is broken.

6. Get your cat used to the pilling motion. Part of the fear factor of being pilled is the frightening situation of having their face held and head held back. But if your cat is used to this move and associates it with something pleasurable, it’s not such a big deal.

> Train your kitty to be used to touching around the face and mouth area. Find ways to reward your cat during this type of handling, such as soft treats.

> Follow up handling with something your cat enjoys, like their meal, petting or play. As your cat is comfortable, practice lifting up slightly on their mouth with the thumb and middle finger, forming a C shape above the cat’s mouth. Immediately give a treat after or place a treat inside the cat’s mouth that’s extremely palatable to the cat, like a small morsel of lean turkey meat that’s small enough it doesn’t need chewed. The goal is for the pilling motion and action to be associated with positive results.

7. Teach cats to eat broth or canned cat food from a syringe or pill gun. You can place liquid or soft treat inside of the syringe or tiny pieces of treat placed inside of the pill gun. Start by smearing a soft treat on the outside of the syringe or pill gun for cats to lick off to accustom them to the object near their face.

Doesn’t sound too difficult, does it?

[Want some tips on how to bring your cat to see Dr. Davidson?  Here’s a link: ]

* Pill Pals are soft chewable treats made to wrap around a pill for easier dosing.  We have them available for sale at West Kendall Animal Hospital.


Lumps, Bumps and Other Icky Skin Stuff

When is a lump something to be concerned about?  When is a bump something that will just go away?  Why is my pet’s skin so red, and why is she scratching so much?  And why does her skin just look so “icky?”

Skin issues are a major concerns among pet owners, and especially those dermatological issues that make pets scratch.  (More specifically, the chain-jingling scratching that occurs at 4am!)  So let’s discuss all those problems that make your dog or cat scratch themselves raw.

The most common problem for pets is fleas.  Fleas begin laying eggs within 24 hours of biting your dog or cat, and can lay 40-50 eggs per day.  Even a single flea bite can cause some pets to itch miserably, especially those with Flea Allergy Dermatitis, an allergic reaction to the saliva of a flea that is one of the most common dermatologic problems.  Over the past two decades there have been many advances in flea prevention and control for pets but the basic process is unchanged: 1) Eliminate the fleas on the pet (and all pets in the household), 2) eliminate the fleas in the pet’s environment, and 3) keep treating for at least 3-4 months.  Flea products are either oral (tablet) or topical, some kill ticks as well, and some are combined with heartworm and intestinal parasite preventives.  While there are dozens of products on the market, look for those that are FDA-certified (oral) or EPA-certified (topical).  At West Kendall Animal Hospital, we recommend and stock the products that we think are the safest and most effective, the ones that we choose to use on our own pets.  Since many are by prescription, the best way to get your pet started is with a complete physical exam.

Some pets suffer from allergies.  The most common are environmental allergies, allergic reactions to air-borne substances such as pollens and molds.  Here in South Florida, there’s no shortage of grasses, trees, plants and flowers shedding pollens nearly year-round.  Environmental allergies will cause pets to have itchiness and redness especially around their face, ears, and/or feet, but it could be on other parts of their bodies, too.  Food allergies may cause similar symptoms, but in general, food allergies are less common than environmental allergies, and we’ll usually discuss other treatments before pursuing diet changes.  For allergic pets, their conditions need to be managed to an acceptable level – 100% cure is usually not expected, but the symptoms can be brought under control to make the pet comfortable.  If your pet has chronic skin infections, red and itchy ears or eyes, or hair loss, allergies could be one possible reason.  Scheduling a physical exam and having appropriate diagnostic testing performed could be the first step on improving your pet’s quality of life.

Now let’s discuss lumps, bumps and masses.  In general, we’re especially concerned about those that are red or bleeding, fast-growing, or causing your pet pain.  During a physical exam, Dr. Davidson can get a good initial evaluation by feeling the lump (is it hard or soft, warm to the touch, attached or detached from the skin below) and then by possibly shaving the area carefully and making a visual determination.  Sometimes, he’ll recommend that we perform a Fine Needle Aspirate of the contents of the lump, sending a sample to a pathologist for evaluation.  Depending on the results of the pathologist’s report, surgical excision may be recommended.  Other times, the lump is so clearly in a location that is causing the pet pain, or is growing so rapidly that it causes concern, Dr. Davidson will suggest going directly to surgery.  In that case, the mass will be removed and the entire mass and its tissue margins will be sent for a pathologist’s evaluation.  That report will tell us whether the mass is benign or malignant, whether it’s been thought to be completely excised or microscopically invasive, and whether or not there is a probability of recurrence.   For lumps and bumps that have a clinical appearance of being non-malignant, cryosurgery (or freezing) is an option for removal.  It’s fast, nearly painless, and can be performed in the exam room without anesthesia.  For any lump, bump, or mass, a physical exam is the first step in evaluation and treatment.

Should your pet have pet insurance in 2015?

Dr Dog

Should one of your New Year’s resolutions be to purchase pet insurance for your dog, cat or bird?  Positively, absolutely … maybe.

If your pet has a serious injury or is diagnosed with a chronic condition or needs emergency surgery, pet insurance can be a great thing to have.  After all, it’s INSURANCE which by definition is to provide protection against an eventuality.  For those of us who live in South Florida, we understand the value of having windstorm insurance.  We were thrilled to have it after Hurricanes Wilma, Katrina, and Andrew, yet we are less happy to pay those hefty premiums in years where there’s not even been a tropical storm warning.  Pet insurance is the same principle:  you certainly hope that your pet doesn’t have any type of catastrophe that will make your pet insurance worthwhile, yet you appreciate having it if you’re reimbursed for major expenditures for veterinary care that might save your pet’s life.

West Kendall Animal Hospital has offered a wellness plan for dogs and cats for decades.  While the Pet Care Wellness Plan has changed over the years, it’s primary purpose is to support routine preventive care for the dogs and cats that belong to our pet owners.  Over the many years that we’ve offered a wellness plan, we’ve found that we’re often able to diagnose medical conditions in their early stages because we’re seeing these pets on a frequent basis.  And it encourages pet owners to schedule examinations, vaccinations, intestinal parasite checks, heartworm prevention, and dental cleanings on a regular schedule, as well as to return promptly for follow-up care and treatment when needed.

Monthly fees for the Pet Care Wellness Plan are much lower than most commercially available pet insurance premiums; however, while the Plan provides discounts for non-routine care, a pet owner may still have a substantial out-of-pocket fee for hospitalization and/or surgery.  On the other hand, pet owners with the Pet Care Wellness Plan know that they’ll absolutely be able to take advantage of all the benefits that the Plan offers while their pet remains safe and healthy or has a medical problem that needs diagnosis and treatment.  Perhaps the best choice might be the Pet Care Wellness Plan plus a catastrophic-type pet insurance plan.

So, if you’re still considering pet insurance, how do you choose the right plan?  VPI, one of the first companies to offer pet insurance and owned by Nationwide Insurance, has a comparison tool on their website that we found to be very helpful.  You can easily view price and feature comparisons between different insurance companies.  Here’s the link:  Some of the better-known and respected pet insurance providers include VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance), Trupanion, and ASPCA Pet Insurance.

So what should you do about pet insurance?  First, make sure that the pet that you care about is getting all the routine, preventive care that he or she should.  Have your pet on parasite prevention for heartworms, intestinal parasites, and fleas.  Make sure your pet is being fed a nutritious high-quality diet.  Provide exercise, a safe place for naps, and – most importantly – lots of love.  And then do your research about the company and the plan.  And then … you decide.

New for 2015: West Kendall Animal Hospital’s Pet Care Wellness Plans offer unlimited exams at no charge.

The New York TImes “Evil of the Outdoor Cat”

ImageIt’s certainly not a new subject, but when The New York Times gives nearly half a page to an opinion piece about the topic in their Sunday Review section, it’s bound to renew the conversation.  Do cats belong outside?

I’ll admit that I was once the owner of a cat that resisted all efforts to become an indoor-only cat.  He was neutered and vaccinated and should have been happy living in a comfortable safe environment with all you could eat and lots of sunny places to hang out.  But Simba had been a stray outdoor cat that we adopted, and he couldn’t resist the call of the wild.  He was an accomplished climber and hunted all types of wild life – primarily birds and small rodents.  Which he’d then bring home to consume in their entirety, after making sure we’d be available to “admire” his accomplishment.  Simba was lucky – although he had one unfortunate encounter with a car that only resulted in road rash and injured pride, he ultimately died at an older age of kidney disease.

As a veterinarian, I’d never encourage cat owners to let their cats be free-roaming.  It’s an unsafe world for outdoor cats: cars, disease, predators.    But the Times’ opinion piece is equally concerned about the dangers outdoor cats face as the dangers that they cause; specifically the harm to wildlife.  The writer, wildlife author Richard Conniff, quotes statistics about declines in wildlife population which he does not blame entirely on the population of outdoor cats.  To be fair, he also points out that increased urbanization and intensified agriculture both contribute to a decline in millions of acres of wildlife habitat which has also led to a decline in wildlife.  He writes, “Using deliberately conservative assumptions, federal researchers recently estimated that free-ranging cats killed about 2.4 billion birds annually in the Lower 48 states … Outdoor cats also kill about 12.3 billion small mammals a year.”

If you’re interested in this subject then you should read the entire article:  The column elicited 246 comments, all very passionate and representing all spectrums of opinions.

What are your thoughts?



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