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Scratching Post: When Did You Last Brush Your Teeth?

by ARLnow.com | July 28, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 473 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

Have you brushed your teeth in the last few years? If you’re a human reading this, I’m hopeful the answer is yes!

If, however, you’re a cat, the answer is quite possibly no. Cats aren’t very fond of anyone sticking things in their mouths that isn’t edible. So how do you keep your cat’s teeth pearly white and fresh?

Brushing is actually a very good idea. If you start when your cat is young, it may be possible to make brushing a part of your cat’s daily routine. It’s possible with older cats as well, but will probably take a lot more training time (for you AND Fluffy).

At NOVA Cat Clinic, we sell toothbrush kits which include toothpaste and a soft finger brush. You can start by dabbing a bit of the toothpaste on your finger to see if Fluffy would like to lick it off. Hopefully, over time Fluffy would see this as a treat and run up to you when you start to squeeze the toothpaste tube. Eventually you can start slowly rubbing your finger in Fluffy’s mouth during this fun treat time. Then introduce the brush in the same way. Let Fluffy lick the toothpaste off the brush and eventually start gently rubbing it in her mouth.  Voila!  You have just brushed your cat’s teeth!

If Fluffy would rather bite off a finger than let you get near her mouth, we highly suggest you try a different approach.  Does your cat like to eat? We carry one of Hill’s Prescription Diets called “t/d” that is specially formulated to be a complete nutritional diet that focuses on dental health. They are made such that your cat’s teeth enter all the way into it before the piece of kibble breaks apart. This abrasive action on the teeth helps remove some of the tartar.

Feel free to ask at your next visit with us if t/d would be right for your kitty. While it can be fed as a complete diet, we often recommend using it as a treat to supplement Fluffy’s diet so you can keep feeding Fluffy her favorite foods. We also carry Tartar Shield Cat Treats. These treats contain ingredients that have been shown to help prevent tartar buildup in cats. So far, a lot of our patients seem to like them.

Both the Tartar Shield Treats and the Hill’s t/d diet are 100 percent guaranteed.  If for any reason you or Fluffy aren’t completely satisfied you can get a full refund.

We also carry MaxiGuard OraZn. This is a product you dab on your finger, then rub on the top teeth on both sides of your cat’s teeth. It’s easier than brushing but can still be beneficial. The zinc it contains helps break up tartar buildup and freshen breath.

The best time to start using any of these products for your cat’s dental care is immediately after a thorough dental cleaning. But it’s never too late to start. Come see us soon to find out if any of these or other products might be right for your kitty.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com. 

The Scratching Post: The World Through Your Cat’s Nose

by ARLnow.com | June 30, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 672 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

Can you imagine walking into a house you’ve never been in and being able to smell how many people are in it? What about being able to smell fear or kindness?

Every day, cats take in this kind of information through their little pink or black noses. We have the ability to smell the roses, but Fluffy can smell what person or animal stopped by to give them a sniff. A cat’s sense of smell is about 14 times stronger than ours, so that’s how they get a lot of their information about the world around them.

Cats need to gather this information because in their world, information is left behind with scent and pheromones. Cats aren’t able to leave little notes saying things like “This couch is mine” or “I’m in the mood for love.”  They have to use pheromones which are in their saliva, urine, and feces, or the scent glands on their faces and near their paws.  Rubbing your pant leg or scratching the couch is the only way Fluffy can “leave a note” for any other potential cats that may come by.

Every day when I come home from work my cats love to smell me, my clothes, and my belongings. They are learning where I’ve been and gathering information about any cats that I may have touched. Sometimes if there’s a particularly interesting smell, they will sniff and sniff then open their mouths slightly and lift up their head for a few seconds.

I’ve always called this “stinky face,” but it has a technical term. It’s a Flehmen Response. This happens when cats inhale a scent over their vomeronasal (or Jacobson’s) organ. It is a scent organ located in the mouth behind the front teeth that links directly to the nasal cavity. Only a few mammals and snakes have this organ and it helps kitties gather a lot more information than a regular sniff. It’s akin to what we humans do when we are trying to discern the nuanced qualities of a fine wine, so even though it may look as though your cat is making a funny face it may be something they actually enjoy.

So they next time you see your kitty make “stinky face” or see them inexplicably sniffing a random spot on the floor, you’ll know that they’re just reading a “note” left behind from another cat (or maybe even themselves).

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com. 

The Scratching Post: Parasite Prevention

by ARLnow.com | June 16, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 329 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

It’s that time of year again. You want to go outside and wriggle your toes in the grass. Your cat may want to do this too. That means it’s also the time of year your cat is most likely to get parasites.

Parasites are around all year in high numbers, but those numbers grow exponentially in the warmer months. And since everyone tends to spend more time outside, everyone is more likely to be tracking things into their home. Ever leave your window open this time of year? Parasites are small enough to fit through the holes in any screen door. If your feline friends aren’t getting regular parasite prevention now, it might be time to think about it.

How do you know if your pet is at risk? Outdoor kitties are certainly at a higher risk. Even those that only ever go out on a balcony or screened porch — balconies and screened porches ARE outside as far as a parasite is concerned because they have full access to your kitty.

Cats that are on the 18th floor of a condo with no balcony have a much lower risk, but it’s not zero. While mosquitos are far less common at those heights, parasites like a flea or roundworm or any number of other possibilities can hitch a ride on your shoes and come with you up the stairs or in the elevator all the way into your home.

Symptoms of parasite infestation may include itchiness, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, lethargy, or sometimes nothing at all. Ever see what looks like a grain of rice where your cat was just sitting?  That’s actually a tapeworm, brought about by an infected flea. Flea “dirt,” which is feces, usually looks like bits of pepper on your cat’s fur and skin.

How do you keep your kitty protected?  There are a number of safe and reliable products available to choose from.  Good over the counter medications are Frontline and Advantage. These are topical monthly products that prevent fleas and ticks — depending on which you choose. 

A prescription from your veterinarian is required for preventatives of internal parasites. Heartgard is a monthly chewable tablet that prevents heartworms and hookworms. Revolution is a topical monthly product that prevents fleas, heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, and ear mites. To know which product is best for your furry friend, you should discuss your cat’s lifestyle and risk factors with your veterinarian. Questions? Give us a call!

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com. 

The Scratching Post: Senior at 7

by ARLnow.com | June 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 396 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

How old is your kitty? If she is 7 or older, she’s actually considered to be a senior citizen of the cat world!

This might be difficult to comprehend, because 7-year-old humans are still learning how to spell and ride bikes. Cats travel through time a bit differently though.

As the average lifespan of a cat is about 15 years, they obviously age quite a bit faster than us. One year for us is like several years for a cat. During the first several years of life, the majority of kitties will be fairly healthy. During those years we recommend all cats receive an Annual Wellness Exam from their veterinarian.

As cats age, older kitty problems including kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and arthritis can crop up. Part of the reason kitties are considered seniors at 7 years of age is because that tends to be the youngest age that we start noticing some of these older kitty concerns. That’s why we recommend all senior kitties receive a Senior Wellness Examination from their veterinarian every six months.

Since cats age much faster than we do, quite a lot can change in just a few short months. The best way to prevent problems is to catch them before they have a chance to get started.

We also recommend annual bloodwork for all healthy senior kitties. Even if your kitty seems fine on the outside, regular bloodwork can catch a potential problem before it gets out of hand. If cat’s had résumés, the one thing they would all include is, “excellent at hiding signs of sickness from my owner.”

As our kitties can’t tell us if their kidneys aren’t working as well or if their thyroid is working too hard, regular bloodwork checks are an excellent tool for diagnosing older kitty problems. Small changes in the results can indicate an issue that we can treat early on, before it gets out of control. And if the results are normal — that’s wonderful!  Now we have a baseline with which to compare next year’s results.

If your senior kitty is taking chronic medications or has a chronic illness, we recommend checking bloodwork every six months at the time of the Senior Wellness Exam. The results can tell us if chronic medications are working properly and give us insight into any changes that may have occurred.

Also, the liver and kidneys are the organs that metabolize medications, and chronic medications may sometimes take a toll on them. Regular bloodwork can give you peace of mind that everything is on track, or indicate that a medication change might be necessary.

If you have any questions about how to help keep your senior kitty’s health on track, don’t hesitate to give us a call!

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com. 

The Scratching Post: Love Handles

by ARLnow.com | May 19, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 667 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

“Mr. Snuggles is starting to get love handles! Is there anything I can do to help him lose weight?”

Yes there is, and it is actually easy to help cats lose the excess and then maintain a healthy weight. What it does require is patience on your part and the desire to get your cat to lose those love handles.

Cat food comes in a variety so broad you can spend over an hour in the pet store reading labels and picking out just the right food for Mr. Snuggles. I like to break down cat foods into the following categories:

High quality, low quantity – these tend to be the majority of the high end brands and the “grain free” diets and raw diets. While these diets are beneficial, it is not ideal for a cat who likes to graze during the day. These diets tend to be very calorically dense in a very small quantity. If you are not careful on the amount you feed, you certainly will pack the pounds on Mr. Snuggles.

Low quality, high quantity – these tend to be the “lower cost” foods.  Foods that you can find in the cereal sized boxes and are bold colors that do not occur in nature.

High quality, high quantity – These foods fall into the RX category. They are meant for cats that LOVE to eat and need to eat a high quantity to be satisfied. These foods are designed to be fed in larger portions, but the caloric content is lower. You will not find these foods in a pet store even if it states “Low fat, or Light.” They are not low enough to make a huge difference when a pet is morbidly obese.

What determines the choice of diet is your lifestyle and your cat(s)’ lifestyle. Most healthy adult cats only need between 220-260 calories (noted as K/Cal  on the bag/can of food) per day to function, depending on their activity level. Kittens, pregnant/lactating cats, sick cats and geriatric pets fall into a totally different category as they each have different caloric requirements. The more active the cat, the more calories on the calorie scale it can have.

After determining your cat’s lifestyle, activity level, and their current weight, we then choose what kind of food category they fall into (NEVER category 2) and calculate their daily caloric need to help them lose the weight without feeling like they are starving themselves.  (more…)

The Scratching Post: Under Pressure

by ARLnow.com | May 5, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 663 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

Most people are familiar with having their blood pressure checked as part of every visit to their doctor. Hypertension (high blood pressure) in humans is often related to a stressful lifestyle, smoking, or poor diet. But what about our feline friends?

Although cats don’t have to worry much about their stress level or smoking cigarettes, we do need to be concerned about their risk for hypertension.

Usually (but not always), hypertension in cats is associated with another systemic disease. The most common are kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. In one study, 87 percent of cats with hypertension were found to have kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or both. For cats with hyperthyroidism, regulating the thyroid level (with medication, surgery, or radioactive iodine therapy) is often enough to resolve the hypertension. For cats with kidney disease or primary hypertension (no underlying cause) medication is often necessary to control the blood pressure.

Hypertension is diagnosed by measuring the blood pressure with a device similar to that used in a human doctor’s office; we use a small cuff placed on the cat’s foot or tail. We measure the systolic pressure, and in most normal cats the value is less than 160 mmHg. If your cat is especially stressed at the clinic, its normal blood pressure may be a bit higher.

It is important to treat hypertension for several reasons. First, it can make your cat feel restless or fidgety. This may manifest as increased activity or vocalizing, especially at night. More importantly, hypertension puts your cat at increased risk for developing blood clots which can lead to a stroke. In addition, increased pressure in the small blood vessels of the eye can lead to leakage of blood, causing vision changes or blindness. These changes may or may not be reversible.

The treatment for hypertension is typically a medication called amlodipine, which is a human generic tablet.  This medication is given once daily and is very affordable.

We often measure the blood pressure for cats with diagnosed kidney disease.  We may also recommend testing if your cat has been experiencing certain clinical signs at home, such as howling or being hyperactive at night. If you have noticed any of these changes, or if you have any concerns about your cat’s health, don’t hesitate to contact us.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com. 

The Scratching Post: Easy Ways to Enrich Your Cat’s Life

by ARLnow.com | April 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm | 1,043 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a new column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

Fuzzy mice. Feather wands. Your toes. Are these some of your cat’s favorite toys? These toys, among many others, are considered a type of enrichment — a big word for little toys!

So just what IS enrichment? Enrichment is anything that enhances the environment of an animal within the context of their natural biology. Basically, what it means is that enrichment can help your cat live a more fulfilling life because he will get to do more of the things cats were “made” to do and he will get to do things that are fun. Enrichment can reduce boredom and potentially reduce unwanted behaviors like scratching inappropriately or attacking your legs when you walk past because there are other outlets for all that energy.

The best environment for your kitty is one that includes several types of enrichment. Luckily this is not hard to accomplish and you’re probably already offering a lot of enrichment without even realizing it!

Environmental Enrichment

Cats are expert hunters. A person dangling a feather wand in front of a cat is a form of enrichment. This prompts Mr. Fluffy Pants to chase (hunt) the toy which is a natural behavior that is appropriate for a cat. Toys are probably the most common type of enrichment offered to cats, but there are also many more.

Habitat Enrichment

Ever notice your cat scratching at your couch or jumping on top of your refrigerator for a nap? These are both very natural and appropriate feline behaviors, even if you and your couch don’t appreciate it. Habitat enrichment like cat trees covered in carpet and rope, cat scratchers, paper bags, and cardboard boxes are great ways to elicit these behaviors without sacrificing your personal belongings.

Sensory Enrichment

Your cat’s senses are quite a bit stronger than ours. Does your cat ever smell you when you get home from work only to make “stinky face?”  That’s actually called a “flehmen response” and is your cat’s way of gathering as much information as possible from a small amount of scent. Does your cat like to hunt the elusive red dot? This visual enrichment is a great way to get your cat to exercise by hunting and chasing.

Food Enrichment

Food enrichment can encourage hunting, foraging, and problem solving.  Ever used a treat ball or any other treat toy for your cat? You put treats or some of your cat’s dry food into a toy and your cat has to figure out how to get them out by manipulating the toy in some way. This is a perfect way to help your kitty lose some weight if it’s needed and have fun at the same time! Even taking a treat and throwing it across the room for your cat to chase and eat it is a form of food enrichment. (more…)

The Scratching Post: Your Kitty’s Kidneys

by ARLnow.com | April 10, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 655 views | No Comments

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Editor’s Note: The Scratching Post is a new column that’s sponsored and written by the staff at NOVA Cat Clinic.

Has Fluffy been drinking a lot more water lately? Have you been cleaning out her litter box more often than normal?

These can be some of the initial signs of kidney disease. We rarely think about our cat’s kidneys and how well they are functioning, but they are very important organs in the body. Kidneys filter the blood to remove waste from the system. Most commonly due to aging, but occasionally from infections or toxins, the kidneys can become weakened. This may lead to kidney disease, which is sometimes called Chronic Kidney Failure.

Here are some commonly-asked questions we get regarding feline kidney issues.

Q: I’m cleaning Fluffy’s litter box all the time. How can her kidneys be failing if there is MORE urine?

For us humans, we might think it’s a good thing. We are told to drink 8 glasses a day to stay hydrated, but cats are different. When Fluffy’s kidneys are functioning well, her urine is fairly concentrated (yellow) and she doesn’t need to drink a large amount of water. If her kidneys begin to fail, it doesn’t mean they aren’t producing enough urine; it means they are not eliminating waste as well. In order to compensate, her body will increase blood flow to the kidneys which makes her kidneys produce more urine. To avoid dehydration, she will become very thirsty. This compensation may help initially, but over time she may experience loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and very bad breath. While these symptoms can be due to kidney disease, they can also be caused by other conditions and should be investigated by a veterinarian.

Q: How will I know if my cat has kidney disease?

The only way to know how well the kidneys are functioning is through testing the blood and testing a urine sample. These lab results, in conjunction with a discussion with your veterinarian about your cat’s overall health and behavior, will help us to determine the appropriate course of action.

Q: What can I do if my cat has kidney disease?

Though every cat’s needs are different, there are a few common treatments we use to help ease the burden on the kidneys. These treatments can range from special diets and medications, to giving fluids under the skin, or even acupuncture treatments. If the kidney disease is more advanced, we may recommend placing Fluffy on IV Fluids for up to three days to flush waste out of the kidneys. This will hopefully help her kidneys to function better for some time while some of the other treatments are provided.

Q: Will treatment cure my cat?

While Fluffy’s kidneys will never return to normal, she may live with a great quality of life for an extended period of time. Following your veterinarian’s recommendations and closely watching Fluffy for changes will give you a leg up on keeping her as happy and healthy as possible.

If you feel your kitty is showing any of the signs of kidney disease, give us a call at 703-525-1955. We can work with you to figure out the best plan of action for you and your furry friend.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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