Blog News

August 7, 2014

Kidney failure

Signs of kidney failure don’t appear until at least 70% of kidney function is lost. The kidneys remove waste products from the blood stream, regulate fluid and electrolyte balance, maintain the acid-base balance of the body and remove toxins and drugs. They also help maintain blood pressure and stimulate blood cell production. Kidney damage accumulates for years before we see any signs. Even then the early signs of kidney failure - increased thirst and urine production - are not easy to pinpoint in our feline friends. You may notice an increasingly wet litter tray if your cat is only indoors. However if you have other cats you may not pick up increased urine production in a particular cat. Cats often drink from multiple water sources making it difficult to recognise increased consumption. Other signs of kidney failure such as weight loss and poor coat quality are even more insidious. Sometimes the first thing we see is a cat off her food, vomiting, depressed and dehydrated. The kidneys are already badly affected by this stage. We diagnose and stage kidney failure with blood tests for the two waste products, urea and creatinine and a urine analysis to measure the kidneys ability to concentrate urine. We also check the urine for protein loss or a urinary tract infection. Tests for other substances like potassium, phosphorus and calcium as well as blood cell counts help us decide on the best course of treatment. Annual blood and urine tests, as well as regular body weight checks, help pick kidney failure up as early as possible. If urine concentrating ability is deteriorating, your cat is losing weight or the creatinine is trending up we slow the progression of the disease with a special kidney protective diet. Many cats in the early stages of kidney disease live for years on the right diet and with regular checks.
August 7, 2014

Furballs and vomiting

Stomach and intestinal disease is so common in cats that many people think vomiting and ‘furballs’ in an otherwise healthy cat are normal. Vomiting more than once a week, particularly if your cat is losing weight is NOT normal. Furballs are a sign of stomach or intestinal inflammation and should be investigated. There are many causes of vomiting. The easiest to diagnose and treat is an intolerance to a particular food, usually a protein like fish, lamb or beef. If the vomiting stops when your cat is switched to a hypoallergenic diet then a dietary intolerance is the most likely cause. Once the offending protein has been identified you just have to avoid feeding it to your cat. Cats that eat grass or other hard- to-digest plants frequently vomit. Preventing access to the grass may solve the problem but often they are driven to eat grass by an irritated stomach. If a hypoallergenic diet does not eliminate the vomiting we suspect a more serious disease like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or a gut cancer. IBD and low grade gastrointestinal lymphoma are quite responsive to treatment. Occasionally more serious cancers are found. An ultrasound may show increased thickness of the stomach or small intestinal wall indicating IBD or lymphoma. Occasionally another problem like a partial blockage or a solid cancer is found. Unfortunately ultrasound does not distinguish between inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and lymphoma. Biopsy samples of the stomach, small intestinal wall, abdominal lymph nodes, liver and pancreas obtained during abdominal surgery are the most accurate way of distinguishing them. A veterinary pathologist looks at the biopsy sample under the microscope and determines if IBD or lymphoma is present and then classifies them. This information helps us make a treatment plan and predict the response to treatment. Inflammatory bowel disease is caused by a chronically irritated stomach and intestinal lining. The inflammation is sometimes caused by an irritant in the food. Often the cat’s immune system overreacts to components of a normal diet. It is usually very difficult to identify the specific cause. The inflammation interferes with digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. Therefore cats with advanced disease lose weight and try to compensate with an increase in appetite. Treatment includes immunosuppressive drugs such as prednisolone, special diets and vitamin B12 injections. Often, cats get an initial short course of antiparasitic drugs and antibiotics to rule out other irritants of the intestine. IBD is not a curable disease but proper treatment controls it and stops or slows the vomiting and weight loss. Overall, the prognosis is very good. Low grade lymphoma is treated similarly but a low dose chemotherapy drug is added in. Many cats live for years with proper treatment. If dietary intolerance, IBD or low grade lymphoma are left untreated higher grade bowel cancers may develop.
August 5, 2014

Free dental check in Dental Health Month

August is dental health month at Canberra Cat Vet! Bring your pet in for a free dental check this month and learn how to keep your cat’s mouth and teeth clean and healthy. Dental health is essential to overall health in our cats. 4 out of 5 cats live with some level of dental disease, infection and pain but are very good at hiding it from us. Make sure your cat is happy, healthy and pain free. Phone 6251 1444 to make an appointment for a free dental check during August, Canberra Cat Vet's dental month. (Thanks Bungles for showing us your beautiful teeth!)