Monthly Archives: May 2009

Cats are at Risk for Heartworm Disease, Too


By Lexiann Grant

Mosquito season is beginning, and it’s time to protect your cat from heartworm disease. Yes, cats get heartworms too – even indoor cats are at risk since mosquitoes can enter a home when a door is open.

The life cycle of heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) starts when a mosquito bites an infected animal. As the mosquito feeds on the animal’s blood, it ingests the microfilariae which are the immature form of the heartworm. Inside the mosquito the microfilariae develop into larvae. Then, when the mosquito bites an uninfected pet, the larvae are transmitted into that animal’s bloodstream.

The larvae migrate through the pet’s body to the heart where they develop into mature worms and reproduce. Heartworms commonly live in the right side of a pet’s heart and can grow up to 12 inches in length. Infestation with heartworm causes cardiovascular disease in dogs and cats.

Although the parasite is more common in dogs, heartworm infection in a feline can be just as deadly. Research indicates that cats may have the potential for a more severe reaction to heartworms than dogs.

Occasionally an affected cat will show no signs of disease but others experience acute respiratory distress and can even die suddenly. The usual symptoms shown by an infected cat include coughing, difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance, fainting, lethargy, weight loss or vomiting.

Since these symptoms also can be caused by other diseases, a heartworm-infected cat can often be misdiagnosed. Cats may have 25 or fewer worms present when infected. Because of this, heartworms may be difficult to detect in a cat. Testing for both antigens and antibodies to heartworms is advised in felines.

Veterinarians may recommend chest x-rays for cats suspected of having heartworms. A positive radiograph shows enlargement of the right side of the heart as well as possible damage to portions of the lungs. Blood tests may show slightly elevated levels of eosinophiles (a type of white blood cell that is normally present when the body fights infestation by parasites).

For cats that do have heartworm disease, there is currently no approved treatment. However, because of the lower numbers for worms typically present in cats, a spontaneous cure can occur so that no treatment is necessary.

Some cats may experience ”crises” such as elevated blood pressure, allergic-type reactions or even shock, when a worm dies. These symptoms can respond to the use of corticosteroids. Affected cats should also have their physical activity restricted.

A monthly preventative for feline heartworm is available through veterinarians. In endemic areas, such prevention may be the best remedy. Because indoor cats can have less resistance to such pests, a preventive may be more important for them.

There are currently four different preventatives available for cats. Two of these products are oral and two for topical application. All are administered once monthly. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends asking your veterinarian to help you decide if your cat should be placed on heartworm preventative.

Additional information on Feline Heartworm Disease can be found on the American Heartworm Society website.

Read more articles by Lexiann Grant

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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Coping With the Emotions of a Sick Pet

Over two years ago my son and I were driving home from work. In the middle of a busy 4 way stop intersection was a little silver patch of hair limping across the street nearly being struck by careless drivers. I immediately pulled into the intersection and yelled at my son to grab that dog before she gets hit. My son opened the passenger door and a frail little Shitzu came to the door and lifted up her little paw. My son grabbed her and she immediately fell asleep on his lap for the 5 minute ride home.
We arrived home to be greeted by my wife who took one look at the dog and said, “Oh my gosh, what are we going to do with her?” The little dog was flea ridden, lost most of her hair, could barely walk and had a toe nail so long it curled all the way around and was imbedded into her tiny paw. I should also mention the smell was so tremendous we could hardly hold her. We bathed her in the bath tub to wash off some of the grime and started the long road of recovery including vet visits, medication, and the introduction of dog food which she apparently had never received before.
We put up signs and an ad in the paper trying to find the owners, but after several days re-thought that idea as anybody who neglected a dog this badly doesn’t deserve one, so I went and took the signs down. I called my parents, who hadn’t owned a dog in years, and told them I had the perfect little companion for them. They were excited over the idea however I wanted to get her healthy before I turned her over to them. My parents didn’t need the emotional burden of dealing with a sick dog as they hadn’t owned for years due to the pain of losing our family Dachshund Duke to cancer many years ago.
We named the little dog Lady because she reminded us of a little bag lady wandering the streets. She later received the nick name Lady Bird. The road to recovery was a little longer than expected and those big black eyes took a toll on me. I fell in love with a little tiny homeless dog like no other love I have had for any other pet. She went everywhere with me including going to work every day. Needless to say my parents never got the dog. I later made up for it by giving them a tiny puppy to raise and love on their own.
I write this story as tears roll down my face as my little Lady Bird clings on to life in an emergency vet hospital. Just over a week ago she was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and valve that is no longer working properly. She has been in and out of the vet 4 times trying to control her heart with medication. Last night she started having troubles breathing so my wife and I once again rushed her to emergency. She has fluid around her enlarged heart and I am terrified awaiting the results.
I understand the pain and emotion of dealing with a sick pet we fall so deeply in love with. I also understand the desire to find fault or blame to help with the pain. However I am also a realist. The facts are Lady is approximately 14 years old and has an enlarged heart. There’s no one to blame. I have done everything I can for that little dog and I only pray she pulls through this.
Looking for help on how to deal with my emotions I started surfing the web. To my surprise “blame” is a normal human emotion in a situation like this. Here are a few sites I found that might help you out as well.
by Scott Whipple – CANIDAE Pet Foods

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

How to Teach Your Cat to Perform Tricks


By Julia Williams

In yesterday’s post I explained that, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to train your cat to do tricks. Yes, you really can teach your cat to sit, shake, give you a “high five,” and fetch on command. You can even train your cat to use a regular bathroom toilet, although I’m not sure this qualifies as a “trick.”

I’m not saying it won’t take a lot of patience and determination to train your cat – it definitely will, and anyone who’s familiar with the independent nature of cats knows why. Then again, if it was too easy the thrill of victory wouldn’t be half as sweet! But let’s move on to the “how.”

One of the keys to success in training a cat to perform tricks is understanding what motivates them. Cats typically don’t possess a strong desire to please, unless there is something in it for them. For most felines, a food reward is highly motivating, so stock up on cat treats if you want to try teaching your cat to do tricks.

For the greatest chance of success, use the cat treats they find most enticing. My normally docile housecats turn into ferocious jungle beasts when given a piece of cooked chicken or turkey, but any cat treat your kitty loves will work. If you let them “free feed” dry food, consider switching to two feedings a day and remove the 24-hour kibble buffet. Then, you can try training your cat to do tricks before their scheduled meal time, which makes the food reward even more motivational.

Another important aspect of the trick training is that you have to coax the cat to do what you want it to do, such as “sit” or “shake.” When they do, say the command loudly and clearly, and immediately give them their food reward. You can also praise them lavishly and pet them, although this is not nearly as effective as the cat treat.

If you don’t succeed in training your cat to do tricks after a few days (and it’s almost a given that you won’t), don’t get discouraged. Remember the old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The same applies to teaching a cat to do tricks. Simply keep trying. Trust me, it can be done.

How to teach your cat to sit

Step One: call your cat over to you, luring them with the treats if needed.
Step Two: when your cat approaches and stands before you, say “Sit.”
Step Three: put light pressure on their rump to naturally induce the sit position.
Step Four: when the cat sits, give them the treat immediately.
Step Five: repeat steps one through four as often as necessary to get your cat to sit on command.

After you’ve mastered the “sit” command, you can move on to the next trick.

How to teach your cat to shake

Step One: get your cat to sit, and reward them with a treat
Step Two: put your hand behind their right front leg and touch their paw.
Step Three: say “Shake.” A cat will often lift its foot when you touch it. If they do, take their paw in your hand and give it a gentle shake.
Step Four: Immediately give them a treat and a pet.
Step Five: repeat as needed.

The process of training your cat to use a toilet is a bit more complicated. Difficult but not impossible, as evidenced by the photo of Panther above, photographed by Robert Ward. According to Robert, Panther has been using the toilet to do his business since he was six months old. If you’d like to train your cat to use the toilet, you might want to get a copy of Trisha Yeager Menke’s humorous book, Potty Talk by Toast, which is available on Amazon.com.

I hope you find these tips for training your cat useful. Let me know if you succeed!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Can You Train a Cat to Do Tricks?


By Julia Williams

The short answer to the question is yes, you can. But (and this is a BIG but) it won’t be easy. If you want to teach your cat to do tricks, then you must have a wealth of four things: patience, determination, time, and cat treats.

Although many people believe it’s impossible to train a cat to perform on command, this simply isn’t true. I have not done it myself, largely because patience is not one of my virtues. I have, however, watched my friend train his cat, and have seen the cat perform a few different tricks. I’ve also seen countless other performing cats. For instance, at a cat show I watched in awe as a whole troupe of cats put on a mesmerizing performance of circus-type acts for more than fifteen minutes. The level of training and the complexity of the tricks were remarkable, particularly since it wasn’t just one or two cats performing the tricks, but dozens of them.

There are also many amazing videos on YouTube about the Moscow Cats Theatre, a famous, long-running show that features agile felines walking a tightrope, rolling on top of a ball, jumping through hoops, twirling batons with their feet, doing handstands and other impressive feats. And on Animal Planet’s Pet Star television show, I’ve seen a few people who were able to get their cats to do tricks. They had to dole out cat treats every step of the way, but still.

And finally, the very funny movie Meet the Parents featured a toilet-trained cat named Jinxy who nearly upstaged his co-stars (Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller) with his flawless performance on the loo. I’ve also watched other videos on the internet of ordinary housecats (i.e., not film star felines) that were trained to use the toilet – although apparently you can’t teach them to flush, which would certainly make this “trick” more appealing.

So if you really can train a cat to perform tricks, why is it far more common to see dogs doing them? It’s because dogs are far easier to train than cats, and many people simply don’t have the patience it takes to get cats to do tricks on command. Contrary to what some people believe, this has nothing to do with intelligence. Dogs by nature are much more eager to please their owners, who they regard as the pack leader. Although cats might love their human companions very much, their independent nature means that this leadership role doesn’t have much power. Cats have no masters, and they tend to listen to humans on their own terms.

If you’re intrigued by the thought of training your cat to do tricks, and think you have the perseverance and patience to succeed, I’ll give you some tips and step-by-step directions in tomorrow’s post.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Animals as Healers


By Julia Williams

Dogs are often called “man’s best friend,” but given the proven healing power of pets, I think all animals qualify for the title. Any human who’s ever shared a close bond with an animal has undoubtedly witnessed their natural healing abilities firsthand. Be it physical, mental or emotional healing, our pets can greatly improve our lives.

There have been many reports in recent years of these remarkable healing agents — of dogs who can “smell” cancer before any medical diagnosis has been made; dogs who can alert their owners to seizures before they happen; horses who help handicapped riders develop balance, strength, and confidence.

Cats and dogs are frequently used as “therapy animals” for seniors in nursing homes because they provide love and attention to those who might be feeling lonely, sad or forgotten. Many prisons now have dog training programs, which gives the inmates a sense of purpose, and helps them deal with the depression, anxiety and tension caused by their incarceration.

The Many Health Benefits of Pets

These natural healers with wagging tails and furry coats enhance our lives in so many ways, whether we are conscious of it or not. The peaceful purring of a cat or the friendly nuzzle from a canine can calm our frazzled nerves. Stroking their soft fur is therapeutic for both body and soul; it can lower blood pressure and reduce stress, while helping us to open our hearts to love. Walking the dog and playing games with our pets provides beneficial exercise for our bodies; it also lifts our spirits, and provides a much-needed respite from the stress and strain of busy lives.

Pets can improve the quality of our life and positively influence us in so many ways. They inspire optimistic thoughts in those who are disheartened, and gently remind us how important it is to nurture not only ourselves, but others. In his book, The Healing Power of Pets, Dr. Marty Becker writes, “Our beloved pets are life vitamins fortifying us against invisible threats: like seat belts cradling against life’s crashes; like alarm systems giving us a sense of security. Taken together, the healing power of pets is powerful medicine indeed.”

Our pets also seem to have an uncanny ability to recognize when we are suffering, whether it’s with a physical ailment or emotional distress. They also seem able to know exactly where we hurt and may concentrate their healing attention to that part of the body.

I’ll never forget one particular healing experience I had with my own three cats. I was incapacitated by a stomach flu so brutal that at times I almost wanted death to release me from my pain. I somehow managed to fall asleep, and when I awoke the first thing I saw was Annabelle. She wasn’t lying down nor was she asleep; she was sitting on my pillow, gazing at me intently. Mickey and Rocky were lying close to my body, one on each side. Now, these cats almost never sleep on my bed during the day, yet here they were, and I keenly felt that they were keeping watch over me. I smiled at Bella weakly through my pain; I knew then that I would fight to live, if for no other reason than to be with these earth-bound angels for one more day.

It’s not just our family pets who have this innate healing ability, either –virtually any animal can serve as a healer to human beings. Both wild and domesticated animals can sense changes in the human body and the mind. People who have encounters with wild animals –such as dolphins and manatees –have experienced amazing, life-changing healing. Watching the silly antics of a wild squirrel in the park can provide gentle healing through laughter. Observing the industrious nature of ants and bees can heal through inspiration. And seeing a butterfly or hummingbird float gracefully through the garden can remind us to slow down, relax and enjoy the simple pleasures life brings.

Animals truly are the most remarkable healers, and they ask so little of us in return. I am honored by their presence in my world, because I know they make it a much better place to be.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Which Cat Litter is the Best?


By Julia Williams

While there are many pleasurable aspects of feline companionship, dealing with the litter box is not one of them. Thankfully, there have been vast improvements in kitty litter in the last decade or so. These new types of cat litter are infinitely better at odor control and absorbency than the original non-clumping clay litter developed in the late 40s. Frankly, you couldn’t pay me to use the non-clumping clay litter, which requires dumping the entire litter box contents every week unless you want your house to have that “eau de cat” smell.

Clumping litter, in my opinion, was the best pet invention ever. This type of litter forms solid “clumps” when wet, which can be easily scooped out of the cat box while the rest of the litter stays relatively fresh. You just add more kitty litter to the box a few times a week, and clean the entire litter box once a month or so. The first clumping cat litter came on the market in the 80s; it was made from granulated bentonite clay, and is still used many cat owners today. If you like the clumping aspect but prefer a more natural alternative, there are now clumping cat litters made from corn, wheat, sawdust, newspaper and pine pellets.

So which type of cat litter is the best then? For cat owners, there is no definitive answer to the question. The best cat litter for one person may not be the right choice for another. Cost, absorbency, odor control, biodegradability, tracking and texture all factor into the equation. But the ultimate thing that determines which type of cat litter is the best for your household, is that your cat likes it. Some cats will use virtually any kind of kitty litter you put in the box. Others have definite preferences and will very clearly let you they don’t like their litter, by having “accidents” outside the cat box. If you have a finicky feline, then your choices are a bit more limited. Trust me, if your cat doesn’t like a particular litter, nothing else matters.

I used the clumping clay cat litter for many, many years and was quite happy with it. I switched to a natural cat litter made from finely ground corn, for several reasons. There have been claims that clumping clay cat litter can be harmful to cats if ingested, because it swells up and might cause intestinal blockages. Although there is no confirmed scientific evidence of that happening, I decided to err on the safe side. Clumping clay cat litters also typically contain silica dust, which asthmatic cats (and their human caretakers) should avoid. After I replaced my cats’ open litter box with a covered style (which I absolutely love), I didn’t think it would be good for them to breathe in the dust that’s kicked up when they scratch in the litter.

On the plus side, natural cat litter is safer, biodegradable, chemical free, and better for the environment. However, it does tend to be more expensive than clumping clay litter. The manufacturers of natural cat litter claim that the same size bag lasts longer than clay-based litters, but I haven’t found this to be true with the types I have tried. I personally think the corn-based natural cat litter I’m using offers enough advantages to compensate for the increased cost, but it’s an individual decision that every pet owner needs to make for themselves.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.