Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cat Corner #2

A Vet's tips on feeding your cats

This week on the blog we continue to look at ways you can take your cat’s health to the next level, adding extra energy and years on to your cat’s life. I want to talk about how to feed your cat to keep them happy and healthy. There are a couple areas I want to address when looking at feeding cats. First is when or how often you feed them. 

In the wild, cats will eat up to ten small meals a day, hunting and eating on their own.  Some owners may have heard this and think that means they should leave food out for their cat to access at all times. This is NOT the best way to feed a house cat. There are a few cats who may be able to self-regulate if given free access to food but the vast majority of cats with over-eat and become over-weight or obese.   So the biggest thing to take away from this is that cats should be fed meals! I feed Bender 2 meals a day and he sometimes gets a light “snack” or treat between his two meals. 
Bender relaxing at home in-between meals! 
To satisfy your cat's desire for hunting, a great way to feed them is to make use of the “feeding toys”  or “food puzzles”. These are generally small round balls that you can place a small amount of dry food into. The cat needs to bat around the ball with their paws or push it with their head in order to roll the ball and get the pieces of food to fall out.  These are great for getting your cat a bit more active, slowing down their eating, and to simulate a hunting type situation.

Feeding meals is very important in terms of monitoring your cat's health. If you leave food out all the time it is much more difficult to know exactly how much your cat is eating, especially if you have more than one cat at home.  If you don’t know how much each cat eats it will be very difficult to change feeding amounts if you cat needs to lose weight and you may not notice if your cat goes off their food when sick.  Even if you have multiple cats you should feed a measured amount of food to each cat. The ideal is to feed each cat separately because cats are normally solitary feeders. If they eat next to one another it will increase the speed that they eat and they may feel they are in competition with one another. One cat may bully the other cat and get more than her fare share.  Feeding stations should also be away from the cat’s sleeping area and litter box. One more tip: use shallow but wide food and water dishes so your cat's whiskers don't touch the sides.  Following these guidelines is the best way to keep your cats happy at meal times!

The other really important thing I want to highlight about feeding your cat is to include wet food in the diet.  A common myth that is circulating among pet owners seems to be that wet food is not as healthy for your cat as dry food. This is not true and in fact the opposite might actually be true (though more research in this area is required).  I recommend all cats have some wet food in their diet and generally I feel it should make up at least 50% of your cat’s diet. Why is that? The main reason is because of the high water content in wet food.  As a general rule cats don’t seem to drink enough to keep themselves well hydrated. I don’t know exactly why this is. Some people speculate it could be because in the wild they would get most of their water from eating whole prey. Perhaps they prefer running water to still water in bowls?  Whatever the reason may be, we tend to see a lot of urinary tract problems in cats. In male cats we see blockages of the lower urinary tract, which can be life threatening, and in female cats we see inflamed bladders and bladder infections. In elderly cats we see a startling amount of kidney disease (could this be from chronic dehydration?).  Increasing your cat’s water intake will reduce their risk of lower urinary tract problems and help keep the kidneys in good shape.  I often add a bit of water in with Bender’s wet food so it’s a bit like a soup or stew just to get that extra bit of water into him to prevent urinary tract disease.

In addition to the high water content, wet food tends to have lower levels of carbohydrates than dry food does. Many veterinarians believe that high levels of carbohydrates in dry cat food leads to higher levels of obesity and diabetes in cats.  To be honest this is still a controversial subject due to limited amounts of research. However I can tell you that when we treat diabetic cats we always recommend a low carbohydrate and high protein food so it makes sense  (to me at least) that feeding a similar type of food could prevent diabetes from developing in the first place.

Bender waits "patiently" for his dinner
I feed Bender a two meals per day, one meal consists of wet food, (Royal Canin Feline Adult), which is formulated to prevent urine crystals from forming and helps prevent lower urinary tract blockages.  His other meal is a dry food specially formulated to help clean his teeth and gums ( Royal Canin Feline Dental).  I believe this is the best diet to keep him healthy and minimize the number of dental cleanings he will need, long into his late teens to early twenties.  I hope this was helpful! Please comment or call the clinic if you have more questions about feeding recommendations for your feline friends.

Thanks for reading!
Dr. Ingrid Sproll

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cat Corner

                  This month I wanted to write about one of my favorite topics: cats! I grew up in a home with cats and though I love dogs, cats hold a very special place in my heart.  There is nothing quite like relaxing with a cat curled up in your lap, purring away.  I have a 3 year old cat, named Bender, a brown black tabby, and he is my inspiration. My goal is to give him the best care so he lives well into his late teens or even twenties!  I thought I would share some key tips with you to help you keep your cats happy and healthy too.  

My best buddy Bender

Here is this week’s cat tip:

Cats need annual exams and vaccines just as much as dogs do
               Statistically we know that far fewer cats make it to their veterinarian for their annual check-ups when compared to their canine counterparts. Why is this? I think there are a few reasons. One may be that many cats are staying indoors so owners feel they have less of a need for vaccines.  Though keeping your cat indoors certainly decreases their risk of infectious diseases vaccines are still important for several reasons. One is that you can actually bring virus particles into your household on your clothing, meaning you cat can still get sick even when not getting outside. Another big reason I recommend vaccinations for indoor-only cats is that if they do happen to get sick, need a dental cleaning or surgery, or have an emergency and need to stay in the hospital, they will really need the protection from the vaccines.  If not they will be highly susceptible to getting an infection while in clinic. Finally some cats (like mine) are very sneaky and will sometimes dash out the door when we come home from an outing meaning that despite our best efforts they are not 100% indoor-only. 
              Another big reason I think many cats don’t make it for their annual check-up is that, let’s face it, most cats seem to hate coming to the vet clinic. In fact they seem to really hate going for car rides in general.  Owners may feel they are being mean bringing their cats somewhere they clearly do not want to go. Though it may seem difficult in the short term, in the long run it is much better for your cat to have a veterinary team familiar with their normal health, so they can pick up on when things are going wrong. A regular check-up will ensure we pick up on health problems early and make treatments easier and less costly.  There are several things you can do to make the visit to the vet easier on you and your cat. First of all help your cat get used to their cat carrier. The easiest way to do this is to leave the carrier out all the time, with a comfy pillow or blanket inside. Your cat will soon find it is a nice place to relax. You can even offer treats or special toys when you find your cat relaxing in their carrier. Your cat will then begin to associate the carrier with happy experiences and will not resist entering the carrier when you need to take him somewhere. 
               You can take a similar approach with riding in the car. Slowly get your cat used to the car. The first time you go out you can simply bring the carrier to the car and sit in the driveway. Next time try starting the car or maybe just going for a short drive around the block. Next time perhaps a longer drive. By doing this several times you cat will learn that every car ride does not inevitably end at the veterinary clinic.  If your cat will take treats while in the car it can help to develop a positive association with car rides.  If you try these techniques and your cat continues to be very stressed when visiting the veterinarian, consider asking one of our veterinary team members about using a sedative.  Due to advances in medicine in recent years we now have some very safe options for sedatives you can give at home prior to your visit. These will not interfere with the results of our physical exam and will make the visit easier on your cat and you!
Bender in clinic after having dental surgery

                An annual check-up with your veterinarian is a key component to the plan for a long healthy life for your cat. It helps us as your veterinary team to become familiar with what is normal for your cat on their physical exam .This allows us to better recognize when things start to change. We will be able to pick up on health problems and address them much earlier. In cats this is crucial as they tend to hide signs of sickness until they are very severely ill.  Don’t wait until your cat is showing signs of illness to bring them in! 

Check back on the blog in the next couple weeks for the next cat tip where I will write about one of the single most important aspects of your cat’s health: what they eat.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ingrid Sproll