Category Archives: feline health

Recognizing Stress in Dogs and Cats

By Linda Cole

A few summers ago, a young raccoon in the neighborhood apparently decided my dogs were interesting to watch. I don’t know if he was lonely or thought the dogs were funny looking, but he’d show up almost every day when they were outside in their pen. He’d climb one of the trees overlooking the pen to sit and watch them. The dogs knew he was in the tree, and it frustrated them to no end. The raccoon forced us to change our nighttime routine to keep the dogs from waking up the neighborhood with their excited barking. He eventually moved on, but his presence definitely stressed out the dogs. We don’t always stop to consider how anxiety in a dog or cat’s life affects them, or what even causes it, but too much stress can lead to health issues and behavior problems.

What Causes Stress for Pets?

Shelter animals deal with stress on a daily basis. They live in a noisy environment with no way to escape or hide. Sensitive pets have a hard time dealing with shelter life. Stray and lost pets have to contend with a host of issues that can put their health at risk. Stress in dogs and cats is caused by environmental, emotional or physical issues.

Environmental stress is caused by moving to a new home, a change in routine, holidays, loss of a family member (human or animal), other pets, trips to the vet and other issues dealing with their environment.

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Are Foxtail Plants Hazardous to Dogs and Cats?

By Linda Cole

Foxtail is a grass named for its resemblance to a fox tail; it grows in every state expect Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida and Hawaii. It’s also widespread in Canada and some parts of Mexico. Foxtail is a generic name used to describe several different species of grasses, but it’s associated mainly with wild barley or Canadian Rye. Many pet owners have no idea how dangerous this innocent-looking, fuzzy grass can be to dogs and cats. Foxtail can cause serious injury, and can be life-threatening.

What makes foxtail grass so dangerous are the tiny barbed awns that allows it to attach to dogs, cats, your socks or other clothing. Grass seed is enclosed inside a sheath at the top of the plant and the awn is part of that. The purpose of the awn is to burrow the seed into the ground, but it’s also a means of transporting seeds to other areas. When hunting dogs, hiking canines and even cats go racing through grasses containing dried seeds, the awns get stuck to their coats, between their toes and pads, inhaled through the nose, or ingested. The wind can blow them onto your pet, as well.

Once on a dog or cat, these dagger-like awns move through their coat and can become embedded in the skin. Awns can move through the body to the lungs, colon, urethra, digestive tract, and any other part of the body. Left untreated, these nasty barbed spikes can cause serious infections and internal abscesses, and can turn deadly for some pets.

Because the awns are like tiny fish hooks, they move in just one direction through the body and can be difficult to remove once they’ve become embedded. They’re usually found in the nose, ears, paws, hind end and underbelly, but can be anywhere on your pet. Once an awn has gotten under the skin or entered the body, it’s powerful enough to penetrate the ear drum, work its way through a paw into a leg, or find its way into the lungs, other organs or the brain. The movement of the pet causes the awn to work through the coat and into the skin.

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It’s National Hairball Awareness Day! Yay?

By Julia Williams

It’s pretty much a given that if you have a cat, you don’t need a special day in April to make you aware of hairballs. Cat owners are, unfortunately, all too familiar with those awful things. I don’t think there’s any sound more wretched than the gagging noise a cat makes that signals a hairball is about to be deposited on your carpet.

That our cats never do the hairball hack on the linoleum is surely proof that they’ve all been carefully trained by someone other than us. (And you thought cats couldn’t be trained. Ha!). Ah yes, there it is…right there in chapter one of the Cat’s Handbook on How to Annoy Your Human.

Now, you might think it’s funny that, some years back, some unknown person declared the last Friday in April to be National Hairball Awareness Day. I would chuckle right along with you, except that hairballs are really no laughing matter. Aside from the carpet cleanup and the likelihood that sooner or later, you’re going to “find” a hairball with your bare foot, frequent hairballs could be a sign of trouble with your cat’s digestive system.

How frequent is too frequent? That depends upon who you ask. Some say even one hairball is one too many. For me, more than one every few months per cat would cause me to take a much more proactive approach. While I’m not sure you can ever completely eliminate hairballs, there are some things you can do to greatly minimize them (more on that later).

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What is Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome?

By Langley Cornwell

Feline hyperesthesia syndrome (FHS) is an unusual medical condition that affects the brain and causes some very strange symptoms in cats. It can affect felines of all ages, but it is most common in adult cats and the cause is still somewhat of a mystery. Some of the experts suspect that this condition could be caused by seizures, a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder or a type of brain disorder.

Veterinarians describe the condition as a rippling motion that starts at the shoulders of the cat and runs all the way down to its tail, which explains why it’s sometimes called “rippling skin syndrome” or “twitchy cat syndrome.” Hyperesthesia is the word used to describe a heightened sensitivity that affects the senses and in this case, it’s the skin. You can actually see the skin moving in some cats but it can be hard to see in others, depending on the thickness and length of the cat’s fur.

Symptoms of the condition may occur in any breed or sex of cat. Even so, Abyssinians, Siamese, Burmese and Himalayan purebred cats seem to be predisposed to develop hyperesthesia.

FHS symptoms are occasional, so cats may act normally for long periods of time, eating their nutritious CANIDAE cat food and drinking plenty of water, but then an owner will notice some of the following symptoms.

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Tips for Keeping your Cat’s Brain Active

By Langley Cornwell

I met a cat in her early twenties last week. I couldn’t believe it. Even more impressive, Buttercup looked healthy and was completely aware of what was going on. She had that curious feline gleam in her eye; it was apparent that Buttercup was still mentally sharp.

Thanks to modern veterinarian care, cats have a longer lifespan than they used to.  In fact, more and more cats are reaching the ages of middle teens all the way through to the early twenties, like Buttercup. When I look into our eight-year-old cat’s eyes, my heart melts. Like most responsible pet owners, we would do anything to keep this little guy healthy and happy, and hope that we have at least ten more good years with him.

But there’s more to it than just keeping your pet physically well. Older cats run the risk of developing feline cognitive dysfunction (FCD) — the feline equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease — if their brains aren’t stimulated enough. The best advice is to start at a young age; it’s essential to keep your cat’s brain active and sharp well before feline cognitive dysfunction has a chance to take hold. The best thing you can do is begin training your cat’s brain early. Studies show that you can slow the advancement of mental deterioration by ensuring your feline friend is physically active and mentally stimulated throughout her life, starting in kittenhood.

With this in mind, here are a few easy tips for keeping your cat’s brain mentally sharp well into her twilight years.

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10 Things You Can Do to Keep Your Pet Healthy

By Julia Williams

Every January, most of us do a little “mental review.” Whether we make detailed resolutions or take a more casual approach, the New Year is a good time to contemplate making some changes. Many times, what we want to improve is our health, with the goal being to live long and happy lives. We want the same for our beloved animal companions, so now is also a great time to reflect on things we can do to ensure they’re with us for as long as possible. Here then, are 10 tips for a lifetime of good health for pets.

Know Your Pet Well – Every animal is an individual, and what’s “normal” for one dog or cat may not be normal for yours. However, you can pay close enough attention to your own pet to find out what’s normal for them. Doing so will enable you to quickly tell when something is a little off with your pet, and get them immediate veterinary attention. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” as the saying goes.

Perform Regular Health Checks – At least once a month (once a week is better), give your pet’s body a thorough inspection. Do a massage while checking their skin, ears, eyes, nails, paw pads, mouth, teeth and gums for anything unusual. If you find any lumps, scabs, redness, irritation, hair loss, discharge or other signs of trouble, be sure to call your vet right away. Remember, it’s easier to treat potential health problems early as opposed to waiting until they become bigger issues.

Feed a High Quality Pet Food – Fueling their body with nutritionally sound food is one of the most important things we can do to keep our pets healthy. Animals cannot read nutrition labels, so they depend on us to bring home food that not only tastes good to them but provides everything they need to stay healthy. CANIDAE makes a wide variety of premium pet food for dogs and cats of all ages, so you’re sure to find one that fits the needs of your animal companion.
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