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by ARLnow.com Sponsor — November 17, 2014 at 1:35 pm 405 0

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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.

Cats are true, obligate carnivores and should be treated as such. Walk into any grocery store or pet store today and you can find a vast variety of cat food available. So much variety it is difficult to choose what can be considered an extraordinary diet vs. just a good diet.

Commercial cat food started in the early 1900s and gained popularity in the ’30s and ’40s with dry food due to World War II’s metal rations, and a few select companies producing pet food. Step ahead a century later, and there are so many brands it can make your head spin. No longer are cats just eating birds, squirrels or anything else they can hunt for, they have their human counterparts they can count on!

For the past decade, there has been a rise in feeding “natural” cat diets vs. stuff in the bag that is full of cornmeal, byproducts, pillow fluff and staples (just kidding about the last ones). Now you have whole meats, veggies, omega fatty acids added etc… to make them more nutritionally complete.

But what makes a good diet vs. a bad diet? Why are we not feeding cats a raw diet based on ground up mice, squirrels and birds?  They have berries and grains in them too. They must be the perfect diet! It can be if you are an outdoor cat and can manage to hunt five-to-six rodents per day; they sure can sustain a cat easily.

Many cats that hunt leave behind the digestive tract of the rodent, and other parts they find less appealing, so saying they eat the whole thing is not a true statement.  I have yet to see a commercial pet food company jump on the bandwagon on making foods with the names of “Chipmunk Stew and Robin’s Delight.” It is expensive and time consuming to create diets based on a true outdoor, natural diet, not to mention a public outcry on grinding up songbirds and other fuzzy critters.

Commercial diets are readily available and they are easy to feed, which is why the public likes them vs. making a homemade or raw diet. Commercial pet food must meet the minimal AAFCO standards on nutrition as well. A company cannot just dump in a bunch of ingredients, hand it to the consumer with a smile and say “There you go! Enjoy the food! Your cat will live a long life thanks to us!”

They must go through rigorous testing and formulations to meet the minimal standards. If a company wants to go above and beyond those standards, they can and that is what makes the premium diets popular, and a good majority is grain free!

This is where the huge controversy on cats that should not be eating grain takes place. While it is true that cats are carnivores, in some situations carbohydrates can help ill cats by being a source for fast energy or assisting in treating a metabolic disease. So carbohydrates do have their places in cat diets. Not all carbohydrates are bad. 

For those people who wish to feed a raw diet, there are two options. Purchase one that is made correctly and meets the safety standards for creating these diets, or make one at home. While you do feed less with a raw diet, it is expensive and time consuming, but those who feed it find it totally worth the price and labor involved. (more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — November 3, 2014 at 2:30 pm 539 0

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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.

If you do have a cat, you may have discovered that they certainly aren’t shy about the occasional need to throw up, so much so that many people think it’s just a normal part of their behavior.

This isn’t necessarily true, though. There are several medical issues that could be causing your kitty to vomit. Let’s dig a little deeper…

What is the point of throwing up? When you get right down to it, vomiting evolved as a way for the body to rid itself of something it doesn’t want. It could be due to toxicity, stomach irritation, or something as simple as unbearable taste. On the other hand, sometimes cats vomit chronically from systemic causes ranging from allergies to kidney disease.

Let’s explore how we would go about determining the reasons behind why your cat is vomiting. Our first goal is to figure out if it’s a gastrointestinal issue or a systemic issue. First we ask you a lot of questions. How often is Fluffy vomiting? Is it usually after eating or for seemingly no reason at all? What comes up — food or liquid? Is there hair in it? Hairballs aren’t the same as vomiting and may be able to be addressed as a separate issue. Is this a new trend or has it been going on for a long time? Does Fluffy have any other symptoms like lethargy, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or skin rashes?

Sometimes just asking these questions is enough to point us in the right direction. Depending on the answer we get, we may recommend labwork to check kidney, liver, and thyroid values. If the results point to kidney, liver, or thyroid disease, this may well be the systemic cause of vomiting. We might also recommend X-rays to look for foreign bodies, a GI cause for vomiting; X-rays also give us a lot of information about your cat’s internal organs and might indicate the problem.

What else can cause vomiting? Food allergies, irritable bowel disease, or pancreatitis to name a few. If we suspect food allergies we might suggest a food trial which consists of feeding your kitty a prescription novel protein or hypoallergenic diet. It can take several weeks to see results with a food trial, but many kitties with food allergies have a lot of luck with these diets. Irritable bowel and pancreatitis can be diagnosed with a combination of lab work and symptoms.

Treating the underlying cause, be it systemic or GI related, often improves the vomiting issues. So what does all this boil down to?  Vomiting is not just something cats do. It might indicate a serious underlying problem. If your kitty is exhibiting any unusual symptoms like vomiting, schedule an appointment today for us to begin investigating the problem.

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

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 20, 2014 at 1:30 pm 321 0

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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.

Don’t we all love Halloween? It is so much fun, but we need to be careful for our cats.

Some candy can be toxic to cats. How can something so wonderful be dangerous? Chocolate, especially the darker types, is toxic to cats. Chocolate has caffeine and theobromine. When ingested, these two ingredients can lead to various medical complications and may even prove fatal for your cat.

The artificial sweetener xylitol, which is used in gums and several candies, is also toxic to cats. The ingestion of xylitol primarily affects insulin release throughout the body. Xylitol causes the release of insulin from the pancreas into circulation leading to a rapid decrease of blood glucose levels. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can occur within 30 to 60 minutes of xylitol ingestion. This hypoglycemia can lead to liver toxicity, liver damage, and ultimately liver failure. Xylitol is perfectly safe for people, but because of different metabolisms, it can be fatal for dogs and cats.

So be careful to not let candy be lying around or fall out of your trick or treat bag. Click here for a link to the ASPCA hotline.

Some cats love to play with and then eat dangling decorations.  Just make sure the decorations are out of reach. Vomiting is the most common symptom of the ingestion of foreign bodies.  We want to be sure you do not spend the holiday in the emergency room. Although we are more likely to think of this during the winter holidays, there are those of us who go all out for Halloween too. Come by our office if you’d like to see our feline friendly decorations.

If you have outdoor cats, you may want to consider limiting their outdoor time during this period. This is especially true for black cats. Unfortunately, not everyone loves cats as much as we do.

You may want to consider a Feliway plug-in during the holidays. Lots of strange people coming to your door may frighten your cat and put them in seclusion.  Feliway is a synthetic pheromone that can help calm kitties nerves. There are other anti-anxiety options including over the counter products such as anxitane.  There are also a couple of prescription diets that can reduce anxiety. Royal Canin has a diet called Calm, and Hill’s has c/d stress.

Finally, if you dress your cat up for Halloween, please send us your photos to office@novacatclinic.com. We would love to put them on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

You may want to ask your cat about their costume, though. Not all of them are very excited about dressing up.

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

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — October 6, 2014 at 1:30 pm 360 0

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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.

My Cat Has MRSA. That sounds terrifying. How did this happen? Am I going to get sick? What about my children?

First, MRSA stands for Meticillin-resistant (previously methicillin) Staphylococcus aureu. This type of bacteria was first seen in 1951. Methicillin is actually no longer manufactured, but the name remains. The resistance came about because of over-use of antibiotics when they were not needed. Meticillin is in the penicillin family of drugs and they work by destroying the bacterium protective cell wall. Unfortunately, these drugs no longer work on this resistant form of staphbacteria. Other antibiotics do work and the infections can be eradicated though it can take time.

Humans can give MRSA to animals, but thankfully it is rarely the other way around. Staph is commonly found on human skin. About 20% of people carry MRSA in their nasal cavities. Most healthy people do not have any issue with it, and may not even know about it, unless they have a cut or undergo surgery. Things can become challenging if an infection takes hold. Good hygiene habits are the simplest way to avoiding the bacteria. Because this bacteria is resistant to certain types of antibiotics, if it does take hold it can sometimes be difficult to fully eradicate.

Here at NOVA Cat Clinic, we have started seeing more cases of MRSA in our feline patients. We always try to culture wounds or skin infections before using any antibiotics so we can make sure we use the right ones. Since we are doing more cultures, we are finding this organism more frequently and have been able to treat it effectively with the proper antibiotics and supportive therapy like our therapeutic laser.

We currently have a cat that was left here because of this condition. The owner has small children and would not have been able to separate kitty while she were being treated. We have been treating her and we are planning on re-culturing soon to be sure the infection is cleared. Once the infection is gone we plan to find her a new home. She is a sweet and loving cat and she would make someone a wonderful companion.

Please call us at 703-525-1955 or email us at office@novacatclinic.com if you would like to know more.

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

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — September 22, 2014 at 2:30 pm 467 0

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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.

Does your cat go crazy for catnip? Does he roll in it or eat it? Does she fall into a daze after rubbing on her favorite catnip-filled toy? Or have you been wondering what the fuss is all about because your cat walks right past the expensive organic catnip you bought?

Jess the cat (Photo courtesy NOVA Cat Clinic)The catnip plant (Nepeta cataria) is a member of the mint family that originated in Europe and Central Asia. The plant contains an essential oil called nepetalactone that acts as an attractant for many cats (as well as butterflies).

Not all cats are affected by nepetalactone; in fact, only about half to two-thirds of cats enjoy the “catnip crazies.” The response to catnip is an inherited trait, and kittens are not affected by it until they are older than 8 weeks. Big cats such as tigers and leopards can also be attracted to the plant.

The effects of catnip can last from five to 15 minutes, after which time the cat’s olfactory receptors (cells in the nose that detect scents) are fatigued and therefore not susceptible to the nepetalactone.

Although butterflies (and cats) are attracted to catnip; mosquitoes, cockroaches, and other insects are repelled by it.

Researchers have found that smelling catnip causes the “crazies,” while eating the plant has a relaxing effect. The effects of catnip have been compared to either LSD (hallucinations) or marijuana (relaxation) use in humans. Some people even steep catnip in tea for a relaxing herbal remedy, similar to chamomile tea!

How does your cat react to catnip? Send us photos of your cat enjoying catnip to office@novacatclinc.com, and your cat may be chosen as our next cat of the week. Pictured above is Dr. Wootton’s cat, Lucy, enjoying a potent catnip-filled toy from the Yeowww! product line, available for purchase at NOVA Cat Clinic.

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

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — September 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm 0

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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.

Labwork (blood testing, urinalysis) is a very important component in our overall assessment of your cat’s health. These results can help us diagnose medical conditions, monitor a patient’s response to treatment or progression of disease, and check for systemic side effects from medications. Many of our clients have asked why their cats need to have their bloodwork rechecked so often.

Although every case is different, here is some general information about commonly performed laboratory testing:

  • Chemistry: The serum chemistry panel typically includes kidney and liver values, blood glucose, and electrolytes.
  • CBC: A complete blood count gives us information about a patient’s white and red blood cells.
  • T4: Thyroid level
  • Urinalysis: This test includes the urine specific gravity (concentration) and pH as well as protein, crystals, bacteria, red blood cells, and white blood cells.

Diagnosing systemic disease: For our senior patients (cats over 7 years old), we typically recommend a “Senior Wellness Panel” (chemistry, CBC, T4, +/- urinalysis) every six months. This allows us to screen for many of the common diseases of older cats such as kidney disease, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism. We recommend testing every six months because changes in these values can occur in a matter of months, and we can often diagnose a problem before the patient has any clinical signs of disease at home. For younger cats, this testing is also a great way to establish a baseline of the cat’s results when he or she is healthy.

Pre-anesthetic screening: Although we make every effort to ensure that anesthesia is as safe as possible, it is important for us to ensure that your cat does not have any abnormalities that would increase the risk of anesthesia for a dental procedure, spay or neuter, grooming, or other procedure. If we do have concerns about these results, we may make adjustments to our anesthetic protocol, or we may recommend that the procedure be postponed.

Monitoring for drug side effects: Medications can be metabolized/processed by the body in several different ways, including via the liver and kidneys. For most patients whose conditions are stable, we recommend monitoring bloodwork every six months for changes in liver, kidney, and white blood cell values. Often, we can halt the progression of these changes or even reverse them by adjusting the dose or changing to a different medication. We want to ensure that your cat is on an appropriate dose of medication that controls their medical condition and has minimal side effects.

These are general guidelines that apply to most of our patients, but your cat’s veterinarian will make specific recommendations taking into account your cat’s age, medical condition, and temperament. Our primary goal is your cat’s health and well-being. If you have any questions about the blood testing schedule we have recommended for your cat, please ask!

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

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — August 25, 2014 at 3:30 pm 378 0

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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.

Q. I recently adopted a kitten from the shelter and they said it had a minor URI? What does that mean, and do I need to come see you for it?

A. Ah yes…  the dreaded upper respiratory infection (URI) that each kitten seems to come with whether it is from a shelter or a rescue. And it’s normal!

It is not fault or lack of care to the cat at the shelter or rescue group. What you need to remember is that all babies have a less-than-stellar immune system. Just like human children, they tend to get sick quicker and sometimes often.

Many of the kittens that shelters or rescues receive come with very little to no background of the husbandry where they were found, such as if the mother cat was healthy, etc… The groups simply accept the babies for who they are and triage them accordingly. They do their best with making sure they are FeLV/FIV negative, start their vaccine series, de-flea them and even routinely deworm them.

So why is your kitten sick? Simply because they have a compromised immune system.

Kittens are under a lot of stress when they are separated from mom. While foster humans are great, they cannot replace what mama cat does. A kitten that has been well taken care of by their mother looks vastly different than a foster bottle baby in body weight, size, coat health etc.

When kittens are born, they have their mother’s immune system running around in their bodies, but as they get older, they develop their own immune system and the former immune system from mom eventually wears away. Some kittens have immune systems that simply cannot handle common infections that kittens get, and they need some extra help with supportive care and antibiotics. Some other kittens simply sneeze for a few weeks and the URI is gone on its own. URI symptoms can range from a bout of the sniffles to goopy eyes, runny nose, sneezing and difficulty breathing.

Now let’s get back to your new kitten. Does she need a visit to the vet because of this URI from the shelter? Yes!

Make an appointment. We want to make sure your new kitten’s lungs sound clear, that she doesn’t have conjunctivitis with the URI (many of them do develop it), and that we can catch any secondary infections quickly. Plus we can determine if it is safe for you to bring this kitten home to a multiple cat household. Just because your cats are current on vaccines does not necessarily mean your adult cats won’t catch what your kitten has (no vaccine is 100 percent, and your kitten may have something the vaccine does not even cover).

As soon as you adopt your new kitten, give us a call to set up an appointment or make an appointment with your regular veterinarian.

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

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — August 11, 2014 at 2:30 pm 359 0

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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.

Reduce inflammation. Decrease pain. Heal wounds. Unblock a blocked cat. Improve movement. Cure MRSA. Is there one tool that can do all of these things and more?  Yes — a therapy laser!

Our therapy laser is one of the best additions we made to our practice last year.  The improvements we’ve made to our patients’ lives through the laser have been so substantial; I’d like to tell you a little more about it.

Cat about to under laser treatmentWe have a Cutting Edge MLS Therapy Laser. It’s a Class IV laser, which means it puts out similar power to surgical and cutting lasers, but ours does neither of those things. Ours is also a cold laser, meaning you can leave it in one position against the skin and it will not get hot.

MLS stands for Multi-wave Lock System — the FDA-approved technology that uses two unique wavelengths of light. These different wavelengths work together to give improved results over traditional laser therapy. The light energy (called photons) from the laser penetrates about an inch under the skin into cells and stimulates cellular activity. This extra activity helps the cells to repair themselves. We’ve used our laser to treat such a variety of conditions.

On a regular basis, we use it after dental cleanings that involve extractions. It helps reduce inflammation and speed up the healing time of the gums. We have gotten excellent results by using the laser to treat arthritis as well. Kitties that haven’t jumped on the bed in months have been known to jump to tables and bookcases after just a few treatments.

We’ve also actually been able to unblock male cats whose bladders are blocked with a single therapy laser treatment. Wound healing is much faster with a few treatments, and our most exciting success stories are that we have cured two cases of MRSA.

Sometimes the fact that we have a laser seems a bit like science fiction, especially when seeing people and cats all wearing goggles. But the reality is that our therapy laser has really increased our standard of care and has provided such a benefit for our patients and clients.

We offer therapy laser appointments every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons with Ellen, our Licensed Veterinary Technician. If you have any questions or would like to set up an appointment to see if your feline friend could benefit from Laser Therapy, 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.

by ARLnow.com — July 28, 2014 at 1:30 pm 669 0

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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. 

by ARLnow.com — June 30, 2014 at 2:30 pm 672 0

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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. 

by ARLnow.com — June 16, 2014 at 2:30 pm 329 0

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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. 

by ARLnow.com — June 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm 396 0

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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. 

by ARLnow.com — May 19, 2014 at 2:30 pm 667 0

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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…)

by ARLnow.com — May 5, 2014 at 2:30 pm 663 0

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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. 

by ARLnow.com — April 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm 1,043 0

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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…)

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