Living with Feline Leukemia

Feline leukemia (FeLV), a widespread, incurable virus that typically suppresses a cat’s immune system, is the most common cause of cancer in cats. Although some cats are able to eliminate the virus on their own and develop immunity, many others die as a result of cancer or opportunistic infections.
      The disease is spread from cat to cat through bites; mutual grooming; and sharing food or water dishes and litter boxes. Kittens can also contract the virus from their mothers.
      FeLV is species-specific, so humans and dogs are not at risk.
      In 2006, the Winn Feline Foundation reported that 3% of cats in single-cat homes were infected with FeLV. Infection rates are dramatically higher among stray cats and in homes where cats are allowed outside.
      FeLV is highly contagious, so it is important to have your cat vaccinated if it could be exposed to other cats. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends all kittens receive the vaccine.
      Infected cats may harbor the illness for several years with no signs of illness. Over time, they may lose weight, become depressed, or develop a fever. Their coats often deteriorate, and they may develop skin, bladder, or upper respiratory infections.
      Your veterinarian can diagnose the disease by conducting a simple blood test called an ELISA.
      Cats infected with the virus live an average of three years.
      “Many of these cats can live reasonably healthy lives for a number of years if they receive proper care,” says Fred Scott, DVM, PhD, interim director of the Cornell Feline Health Center in Ithaca, N.Y.
      If your cat is infected, good nutrition and a stress-free environment are essential.
      “Your veterinarian will talk to you about the importance of maintaining a balanced diet. Also, he or she will ask you about your cat’s lifestyle and look for ways to reduce stress,” Scott explains.
      Scott strongly recommends that infected cats be kept indoors so they won’t spread the virus. If you have multiple cats, have all of them tested, vaccinate any that are not infected, and consider housing infected cats separately.
      “Your veterinarian will want to see your cat on a more frequent basis [than a healthy cat], say, every six months,” says Scott.
      “Between check-ups, stay alert to your cat’s body condition. Once a month, rub your hand over its ribs. You should be able to feel them, but they shouldn’t stand out.”
      If you notice any changes in your cat’s health or behavior, notify your veterinarian immediately.
Advertisements

No more pilling fights?
One-Shot Antibiotic Makes Life Easier

If you search YouTube for the word pill with cat or dog, you’ll get about 500 hits, ranging from silly spoofs to instructional videos that are painfully, unintentionally hilarious.
But administering daily pills to your cat or dog is no fun at all. As a matter of fact, it is so difficult that many pet owners give up.
Of course when treatment is cut short, illnesses may linger or worsen. And if the discontinued pill is an antibiotic, the threat is even broader.
If you prematurely stop giving your pet an antibiotic, some bacteria will survive and develop a resistance to the medication. This is one cause of the much-publicized increase in virulent, antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
In June, Pfizer, a leading veterinary drug manufacturer, introduced Convenia, the only single-injection antibiotic available for pets.
Used to treat certain types of skin infections in dogs and cats, Convenia has the potential to make life a lot easier for affected pets and their owners. One injection delivers a full, two-week course of antibiotics and eliminates the need for oral medication.
That should do away with the pill fights. No worries. That still leaves about 35,000 cat and dog videos on YouTube.
AAHA

Accreditation Matters: Routine Laboratory Tests Expose Hidden Ailments

Heartworm. Urinalysis. Total blood panel.
If you’re like most pet owners, you have at one time or another wondered what all those tests mean. And, more to the point, are they really necessary?
The short answer is Yes — but it is always good to ask.
Veterinarians use lab tests to monitor your pet’s health, diagnose a disease or condition, and measure the effects of a medication or treatment plan.
In some cases, pets must be tested before they can receive necessary treatments. For example, the American Heartworm Society recommends testing pets for heartworms before starting preventive medications and annually thereafter.
Many veterinarians recommend running blood tests at each wellness exam to establish your pet’s baseline of values for various things like protein, enzymes, and electrolytes, and to track changes in those values. This information helps your veterinarian detect developing ailments in their very early stages, often before your pet shows visible signs.

Common Laboratory Tests

Preventive:
Fecal (parasites)
Heartworm
Presurgical
Predental
Puppy/kitten
Geriatric
Electrolytes
Liver/kidney/thyroid function
Total blood panel
Urinalysis

Amy Franklin of Denver, Colo., recently took her 9-year-old Labrador, Beijo, to AAHA-accredited Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center for a complete blood panel before routine dental work.
Such tests are recommended in the AAHA Standards of Accreditation as part of a comprehensive pre-anesthetic plan for dental cleanings and other procedures requiring the use of general anesthetics.
Beijo’s test results revealed a fast-growing mast cell tumor. Mast cell tumors are often fatal because, by the time symptoms appear, the cancer is too advanced to successfully treat. The best chance a pet has of surviving a mast cell tumor is early detection.
Thanks to pre-anesthetic testing, Beijo is cancer-free and sporting clean teeth!
Mary Brussell, a certified veterinary technician who works on the AAHA accreditation team, tells a similar story. Recently she took Reggie, her 9-year-old border collie cross, to AAHA-accredited Mesa Veterinary Clinic, in Golden, Colo., for a geriatric wellness visit, including routine blood work.
Although Reggie appeared healthy, the test results showed elevated kidney values. Christine Horst, DVM, recommended a urinalysis.
The results indicated Reggie was in the early stages of kidney failure. Kidney failure is fatal if left untreated, but because Horst caught the condition in its infancy, and is treating it aggressively, Mary and Reggie will enjoy many more happy years together.

For more information on laboratory tests, including what common tests reveal, ask your veterinarian for the AAHA brochure, Laboratory Testing for Your Pet.

AAHA’s Standards of Accreditation on Laboratory Testing
One-stop testing centers: AAHA requires all accredited practice teams to offer a wide variety of laboratory tests. If your clinic doesn’t perform the tests on-site, it must use the services of an outside laboratory. This means your pet will be able to have the test it really needs, no matter the size of the hospital.
Trained team members. AAHA standards allow only well-trained team members, veterinarians, and veterinary technicians to conduct laboratory tests. Solid training ensures fast, accurate results with minimal retesting, yielding pinpoint diagnoses.
from AAHA

Of the 10 million pets that get lost each year, only 17% of the dogs and 2% of the cats are ever recovered.
“But Fluffy is an indoor kitty,” you may be thinking. “She doesn’t need an ID tag.”
Think again.
A study conducted by Linda Lord, DVM, PhD, an assistant professor at The Ohio State University, found that 41% of people looking for their lost cats considered them indoor-only pets.
“They may not go outside, but it only takes one time to lose a pet,” warns Daniel Aja, DVM, of AAHA-accredited Cherry Bend Animal Hospital in Traverse City, Michigan. “You might have cleaners over, workers who are remodeling, or kids who leave the door open. And indoor pets are probably the most at risk because once they get outside, they’ll get scared and run and hide.
“Also, you never know when a natural disaster might strike. Think about the thousands of animals that were displaced by Hurricane Katrina or by the flooding we’re experiencing most recently in the Midwest.”
That’s why Aja recommends every dog or cat be microchipped. The chips are implanted by veterinarians and cost between $30 and $70.
“It’s a simple procedure that only takes a few seconds,” he explains. “It’s similar to a vaccination, except we insert a chip the size of a grain of rice under the pet’s skin. There’s no need for anesthesia. Your pet may make a little yelp, but it’s just like getting another shot.”
In almost every case, microchips are good for the life of your dog or cat. Millions of animals have been chipped in the past decade with very few side effects. The sterile microchip does not contain a battery and is hermetically sealed with FDA-approved silica glass to prevent leakage.
“If your pet ever gets lost and is picked up by a good Samaritan or an animal control agency, it can be scanned at an animal shelter or veterinary clinic,” says Stephen Barabas, DVM, senior manager of veterinary affairs at Schering-Plough HomeAgain, one of five companies that distributes microchips within the United States.
“If a microchip is under the skin, the scanner will display its unique identification code. Then the clinic or shelter will simply contact the manufacturer or distribution company based on the code of the microchip. The company’s database is searched for the animal’s ID number and the pet owner is contacted.”
Some microchip companies provide additional services such as alerting local veterinary clinics and animal shelters when a pet is reported lost. Barabas says that more than 500,000 pets have been recovered by HomeAgain, more than 95,000 in 2007 alone.
Because the owner’s contact information is stored in the database, rather than on the chip itself, the chip does not need to be replaced each time the owner moves, or if the pet is adopted by someone else.
Unfortunately, some pet owners — as many as 50% — fail to enter their information into the database when the pet is microchipped, rendering the chip useless.
“Don’t assume your veterinarian has done this for you,” says Aja. “Some pet hospitals may fill out this paperwork, but many do not. Also, be sure you notify your microchip company whenever you move or change phone numbers or they won’t be able to track you down.”
He adds, “[A microchip] doesn’t replace the need for a collar tag. In fact, many of these animals are reunited because their collars tell the finder that the pet has been microchipped. That triggers the finder to take the pet to a shelter or veterinarian to have it scanned. That’s why almost all the microchip companies now provide tags for your pet. It really helps speed the process.”
Finally, a microchip is not a global positioning system.
“I had a client come to our office this week who wanted me to tell him where his dog was,” Aja says. “He thought I could check my computer and provide the exact location. Some day we may be able to do that. But, today’s chips are not powered. It’s a radio frequency that’s triggered when you run the scanner over the top of them.”
From Petsmatter, AAHA