Helping the cats of Mexico City

Dr. Amy Lowe and veterinary technician Nancy Atchison of Bytown Cat Hospital participated in a spay/neuter clinic in Mexico City this February as part of World Spay Day 2015, an annual campaign promoting spaying and neutering of animals around the world as a means of saving lives and reducing pet overpopulation. The clinic took place at the Centro de Medicina para Gatos (Cemegatos), a feline-only clinic established by Dr. Tamara Iturbe. Over four days, 171 cats were spayed and neutered.

Nancy in Mexico with kitten

Dr. Iturbe spent two weeks at Bytown and Merivale Cat Hospitals in January 2014 to gain exposure to feline medicine in North America, after having met Dr. Susan Little at the World Feline Veterinary Congress in Barcelona in 2013.  Feline medicine is a relatively new specialty in Mexico, and Cemegatos is the first veterinary clinic in the country providing services specifically for cats.

Tamara

Two fund raising campaigns were held at Bytown Cat Hospital, and we were overwhelmed by the support and generosity from our clients.  A grand total of about $1500 was raised, which went directly towards supplies and medications for the clinic. The Nail-Trim-a-Thon took place February 8th, and we also held a raffle on a cat tree which was donated by Black Diamond Cat Trees.

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We were very fortunate to have over 30 volunteers come to lend a hand over the four days, helping with intake and registration of cats, physical exams and preparation for surgery, monitoring during recovery from anesthesia, and discharge of cats at the end of the day. There were veterinarians and veterinary students from Mexico City, Venezuela, and Colombia, as well as volunteers from the animal welfare organization Koncientizando.

Mexico 1

Since very few of the volunteers spoke English (and Nancy and Dr. Lowe speak “un poquito de Espanol!”), Dr. Iturbe was kept very busy maintaining communication and operations in each area of the clinic.  The majority of the surgeries were performed by veterinarians Amy Lowe, Sandra Mtz Galvan, and Luz Ochoa. The clinic was a great learning experience for all involved.

Amy in Mexico with kitten

Dr. Iturbe and her associates Drs. Victor Hugo and Oscar Arellano were excellent hosts, making sure that we were able to experience a bit of Mexican culture during our trip. We started our mornings with an assortment of tamales and local Mexican coffee, and were able to sample just about every type of Mexican food available – from huaraches, to enchiladas, to pozoles and esquites! We ended our week with a visit to Plaza Garibaldi, which is known as Mexico City’s home of mariachi music.

Amy Nancy Tamara

We will be returning next year, with the goal of sterilizing even more cats. Stay tuned for fundraising events through the year!

[Dr. Amy Lowe]

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Don’t Let Your Cat Suffer in Silence!

 February is Dental Health Month

Pet Dental Health Month

Cats can’t tell you when there is something wrong in their mouths, and the chance that you are examining your cat’s teeth on a daily basis is slim. This is why an oral examination is performed every time your cat visits the veterinarian. Identifying problems such as gingivitis and periodontal disease, broken teeth, and even oral tumours means we are better able to prevent these issues before they arrive or to treat them when they occur. Just as in people, dental disease in cats can lead to inflammation and disease elsewhere in the body, meaning preventative dental care is paramount to overall health.

Resorptive lesion and xrayCats are unique compared to dogs as they are commonly affected with tooth resorptive lesions (right) – a painful and progressive condition in which the structures of the teeth are broken down, or resorbed. This disease process is similar to cavities, but is different in that it usually starts below the gum line, meaning that lesions may not be recognized until damaged is advanced and sometimes only with dental x-rays. Although the cause of these resorptive lesions is unknown, studies have shown that up to 75% of cats will be affected in one or more teeth during their lifetime. We can even see evidence of resorptive lesions in feline skeletons from 800 years ago!

Arista captionedDr. Lowe saw firsthand how painful these lesions can be when her 7 year old cat, Arista  (left), needed a dental cleaning. It wasn’t until a full oral examination was performed under anesthesia and dental x-rays were taken that the full extent of a resorptive lesion on Arista’s premolar tooth was realized. This tooth was extracted and the rest of the teeth were cleaned and polished. Polishing slows down the build up of dental plaque and tartar. Arista purred non-stop for an entire week after her dentistry, an indication of the pain this lesion had been causing her.

Chantal and AristaPrevention is key with regard to dental disease, and although the gold standard is still brushing the teeth twice daily, we realize this is not an option for every owner (or for every cat!). There are now various therapeutic diets and treats available to aid in preventative care at home. We recommend choosing products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval – this means the food has been tested to be effective in reducing plaque and tartar. VOHC maintains a list of products with their seal of approval that you can consult. Professional cleaning of the teeth under anesthesia is also necessary for preventative care and it may be discussed during a veterinary visit. A thorough oral examination will be performed and in most cases, dental x-rays assessed, which allows for treatment or extraction of any diseased teeth.

Your veterinarian is the best source for information about your cat’s dental health, and we are here to work with you in finding the best solutions for you and your cat. An adult cat has 30 teeth – 30 reasons to initiate a preventative dental care plan now to help ensure a healthy mouth in the future.

[Dr. Amy Lowe]

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Making the holidays safe for kitty

Zanzibar Xmas stockingAs we head into the holiday season, it is important to protect our cats from possible dangers and accidents. Here is our list of the ‘Top 7’ hazards your home may contain during the holidays:

1. Some flowers and plants can be toxic or highly irritating if ingested, such as mistletoe, holly and poinsettias. Almost all types of lilies are very dangerous for cats, causing kidney damage and death. It is better to avoid having them in your house or to keep them away from reach.

2. Certain foods are also toxic to pets, such as chocolate, onions, garlic, fat trimmings, alcohol, etc. Even if not toxic, pets given treats they are not accustomed to may suffer from gastrointestinal upset.

3. Unattended holiday candles can be the cause of burns to curious cats from the flame or from hot wax. Or they may be knocked over by a curious cat, causing a fire hazard in your home.

4. Simmering liquid potpourri can lend pleasant smells to your home, but the oils contain chemicals that are highly irritating to the skin of cats and to the mouth, esophagus, and stomach if licked and ingested.

BCH tree with donations5. Decorations such as tinsel, small shiny ornaments and garlands are very attractive to cats are they are bright and glittery. Decorative bows and ribbons are also a temptation. All of these can be ingested, potentially causing injury to the mouth, choking, or an intestinal obstruction that would require emergency surgery.

6. Christmas trees may be a temptation for cats, not only for the ornaments and tinsel they contain, but also to climb. In addition, it appears some natural trees may be sprayed with dangerous substances, such as ethylene glycol, which are highly toxic to cats.

7. With visitors coming and going, it is important to keep your pets away from open doors preventing them from going outside unsupervised. Your cat may also become frightened by unaccustomed visitors and noises, so it may be best to confine your cat to one quiet room in your home during parties.

If your cat has been exposed to any of these hazards or injured, please contact us immediately. When we are closed, please contact:

Animal Emergency Ottawa: 1155 Lola St., Ottawa, Ontario: 613-745-0123

We hope that you and all members of your family have safe and happy holidays!

[Dr. Sylvie Nicholson, Dr. Susan Little]

For more information:

Pet Poison Helpline

ASPCA Animal Poison Control

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Help us fundraise for Farley!

The Farley Foundation assists people in need by subsidizing the cost of veterinary care for their sick or injured pets and has been doing so since 2001, when it was established by the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association. Veterinarians have long recognized that pets are important for the health and well-being of their owners. Many people, such as the elderly or disabled, especially depend on their pets for support and companionship. The Farley Foundation provides funding for veterinary services provided to the pets of these most vulnerable pet owners. Farley also provides funding for pet owners that through unforeseeable circumstances find themselves dependent on government assistance.

The Cat Hospitals have a long history with the Farley Foundation. One of our patients, Willie, was the first pet to receive assistance from Farley in January 2002. Willie’s owner, Susan D’Arcy, needed financial assistance so that Willie could receive surgery to remove a bladder stone.

imageWillie DArcyLeft to right: Roni Leduc, Debbie Halden AHT, Susan D’Arcy with Willie, Douglas Boeckh DVM

October is Fundraise for Farley month and each year, the Cat Hospitals find inventive ways to help. In 2013, we were able to donate over $1000 to Farley. This year, we hope to exceed that total.

Bytown Cat Hospital (422 McArthur Ave., Ottawa, Ontario)

Farley gift basket BCH

For a $5.00 donation to the Farley Foundation, your name is entered into a raffle for a gift basket full of pet supplies valued at $70.00.

Merivale Cat Hospital (1038 Merivale Rd., Ottawa, Ontario)

For a $2.00 donation, you can take a “Selfie with Zanzibar” or receive another small gift. The two best selfies will win a small gift bag. For a $10.00 donation, you can enter the draw for “Lunch with the Vets.” Three winning names will be drawn on Oct 31 for lunch at The Table vegetarian/organic restaurant in Westboro on Nov 12 with our veterinarians.

Sharon Austin manages a selfie with Zanzibar without disturbing her morning bath!

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Why We Need ‘Take Your Cat to the Vet Day’

Masters of Disguise
Cats are among the world’s top predators. Part of their success at hunting lies in their ability to stay hidden – camouflaged and out of site of their prey. They are secretive by nature and are truly masters of disguise. But while cats may be talented at keeping themselves hidden, they are also excellent at hiding signs of illness. This quality has evolved over millennia to prevent potential predators from detecting weakness or vulnerability. A cat that advertises the fact that he is sick or injured may end up as a tasty little snack himself!

Lily_Katelynn Ellis BCH Aug 2014 on leash (2)

This natural tendency of cats to hide their symptoms is one of the greatest challenges facing veterinarians and cat owners alike. It is why cats are taken to the veterinarian only half as frequently as dogs; it is why cats are often in a more advanced stage of disease when they do get there; and it is why many cats never get taken to the vet at all. Sad news indeed for all of us with a special fondness for felines.

The Benefit of an Annual Veterinary Exam

Cats can seem self-sufficient and they certainly have a reputation for being independent or even aloof. In truth, our pet cats are highly dependent on us for everything: nutritious food, water, a safe and stimulating environment, play and social interactions, exercise, and health care. The annual exam is the perfect opportunity to evaluate all of these factors that contribute to your cat’s health and well-being. What an excellent way to spend 20 minutes of your time!

History in the Making

Your cat’s annual health exam includes a detailed history-taking. This involves your veterinarian (or veterinary technician) gathering data about your cat’s day-to-day routine, diet, environment, behaviour, and signs of illness. An accurate medical history is a vital part of the veterinary visit. Consider making a list of any particular concerns or questions you may have and bringing it with you. Your vet will appreciate your efficiency and it will help ensure you get the most out of your appointment.

Ginger Spencer_owner Oct 2013

It’s Not Just About the ‘Shots’

Historically, veterinary exams were centered around annual vaccinations. While this is no longer the main focus of the annual visit, vaccinations remain an essential and effective means for preventing infectious diseases, some of which are life threatening to cats (feline panleukopenia, or ‘distemper’ virus) or people (rabies virus). The vaccines recommended for your cat will depend upon many factors, including where in the world you live, your cat’s age, health status, previous vaccinations, life-style (indoors only vs indoors/outdoors), and environment (one vs multicat household; visits to a boarding kennel). The frequency of vaccination will depend upon the vaccine duration of immunity, your cat’s risk of contracting the disease, and the zoonotic potential of the disease (i.e., whether or not it poses a risk to humans).

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Hands On

While it may take only a few minutes, your veterinarian obtains a staggering amount of information about your cat’s health during the physical exam. Most veterinarians follow a strict routine while examining their patients – in this way they don’t overlook any part of their patient.

Ginger Spencer exam Oct 2013

Here is the sort of information your veterinarian will obtain during a nose-to-tail examination of your cat:

  • Weight and body condition score are noted and compared to previous records to check for weight gain or loss.
  • Eyes, ears, nose are examined closely for discharge, irritation, infection, or injury.
  • The cat’s oral cavity is checked for abnormal odour, ulcers or growths, broken or painful teeth, the presence of  periodontal disease, and the colour and health of the gums.
  • Superficial lymph nodes are palpated for size, shape, and pain. Abnormalities may be due to inflammation in the area of the body that these nodes drain, tumours, or infectious diseases.
  • In mature and senior cats the throat area is checked for an enlarged thyroid gland and blood pressure may be measured.
  • The chest is examined using a stethoscope to detect abnormal heart sounds (murmur, irregular heart beat) and lung sounds. The stethoscope can also be used to listen to the abdomen and throat areas.
  • Abdominal palpation can often detect abnormalities of the liver, kidneys, intestines, pancreas, and bladder. Pain, abnormal size, and abnormal position of abdominal organs may indicate disease. Some abdominal tumours can be detected by abdominal palpation.
  • The skin, hair coat, and claws often reflects a cat’s overall health. The skin is examined for lumps, scabs, wounds, abscesses, and hair loss. Skin parasites are common and include fleas, ticks, lice, and mites.
  • The cat’s musculoskeletal system is checked for weakness and muscle wasting, joint pain, lameness, and stiffness.
  • A neurological exam can detect weakness in one or more limbs, unequal pupil size, difficulty swallowing, and abnormal behaviour.
  • Pain in any location can be detected by light palpation over the cat’s entire body surface.

Based on the results of your cat’s history and physical exam, diagnostic testing- such as blood and urine tests – may be recommended. Consider these to be an extension of the physical exam, giving the veterinarian more detailed information on the health of your cat’s organ systems.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

Finnegan Noyes Nov. 1_2012

Your cat’s annual exam is designed to help prevent disease and detect illness at its earliest stage before it becomes more difficult (and costly) to treat. Appropriate vaccinations, parasite control, good nutrition, behaviour counselling, and knowing how to provide a healthy environment for your cat all go a long way to ensuring your cat lives a long, healthy, and happy life. Your veterinarian will be happy to discuss all of these issues with you during your cat’s annual visit.

Take Your Cat to the Vet Day (August 22) is all about raising awareness of the need for regular health care for this naturally secretive animal. When was last the time you took your cat to the vet?

[Dr. Glenys Hughes]

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Veterinary Volunteering–Rewarding Work

In our December 2013 blog, we wrote about the volunteer work our team members do every year. This includes supporting the Winn Feline Foundation, the Terry Fox Run, the Farley Foundation and Ottawa’s Cat Rescue Network. Our veterinarians also help homeless and neglected animals through the Ottawa Humane Society and Community Veterinary Outreach.

This month, we want to tell you about two volunteer projects in other countries where our Cat Hospital veterinarians have made a difference in the lives of animals and their owners.

 

Dr. Amy Lowe, Honduras

Dr. Amy Lowe travelled to Honduras for the third time this June with the Holy Spirit Medical Brigade, a volunteer-based organization which provides veterinary care for small and large animals as well as dental care for human patients who have no access to these services.  Veterinary care includes vaccinations and deworming, as well as spaying and neutering.  This year, Dr. Lowe headed one of two small animal teams which together treated about 700 animals, made up of mostly cats and dogs but also some chickens and pigs!

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The veterinary and dentistry teams, consisting of about 20 people, are stationed in a small village outside of Tegucigalpa and visit several of the surrounding villages each day, setting up a mobile clinic in the back of a pick-up truck.  Dr. Lowe says of her experiences, “It’s great to see the animals that have been sterilized and treated in previous years doing well, and of course the welcome we receive from the villagers themselves when we arrive. They truly appreciate the work that we do and we are able to see an improvement in the overall health of the animals from year to year.”

 

Dr. Susan Little, Galapagos Islands

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It was the dream of a lifetime to visit the Galapagos Islands for Dr. Little, and what better way to do it than with an international volunteer veterinary team. There is very little veterinary care available for the cats and dogs owned by villagers on the islands, let alone for the stray animals.

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Animal Balance is a volunteer organization that has been going to the Galapagos for 10 years to provide free spay/neuter services. Their work has markedly decreased the number of stray animals. This is good not only for the health of the cats and dogs, but also decreases predation of indigenous animals, many of which are unique and protected.

The 12 member international team came from Canada, the U.S., England, Trinidad and Chile. Each team member paid their own travel and lodging expenses and donated thousands of dollars of veterinary equipment.

Team photo last day

Since there are no veterinary clinics on the islands, the team brought every single piece of equipment and all medical supplies with them, traveling on trucks, buses, and various types of boats.

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Mobile veterinary units were set up in three locations on two of the main islands, Santa Cruz and Isabela. Dr. Little said, “This was the hardest work I have ever done in my life in the most amazing location!” Reports on the campaign can be found on the Animal Balance blog. In total, 240 dogs and cats were surgically sterilized and essential medical care (mainly parasite control) was provided for other animals that were already spayed or neutered.

At the end of the project, Dr. Little had the chance to enjoy the islands, seeing the unique wildlife including marine iguanas, giant tortoises, sea lions, sea turtles, and the comic blue-footed booby!

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Could your senior cat have high blood pressure?

250x250_SeniorCat

High blood pressure (hypertension) is known as the silent killer in people. Cats are also at risk of hypertension, especially older cats and those with predisposing diseases such as chronic kidney disease. In fact, about 20% of cats with chronic kidney disease develop high blood pressure.

Unfortunately, high blood pressure typically has no symptoms in the cat, but it can lead to blindness, heart disease, neurologic problems, and kidney damage. Early detection and treatment will help your cat stay healthy longer. In one study of 100 apparently healthy cats aged 6 years and older, 8% of the cats had high blood pressure that was not suspected until the cats were tested. Other disease found in these apparently healthy cats included diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and chronic kidney disease. Preventive healthcare for senior cats includes regular veterinary visits and testing for common diseases in order to find them early, when they are easier and often less expensive to treat.

Dr. Susan Little and Steve Dale talk about chronic kidney disease in cats

Blood pressure measurement in cats is very similar to how it is done in people. We even use small blood pressure cuffs! The procedure takes only minutes and is well tolerated by most cats. In this photo, Dr. Little’s cat Lily is getting her blood pressure measured.

Lily BP Mar 2014 (6)

Medications are available to treat high blood pressure in cats. Currently, a clinical trial is under way to evaluate a new drug intended for the treatment of hypertension that offers advantages over the existing drugs, and the cat hospitals are participating in this trial.

As part of the trial, we are currently offering free blood pressure screening and in some cases, free examinations and blood testing, for cats that qualify for testing. Cats that can be screened for the study are over the age of 7 years (even if apparently healthy), as well as cats previously diagnosed with chronic kidney disease and hyperthyroidism.

To learn more about high blood pressure and this study, please visit http://www.mycatcanhelp.com. If you are interested in learning more about the study and whether your cat qualifies for screening, please contact us for an appointment.

Our veterinarians and staff are very excited to participate in this study and we hope to advance research in the treatment of high blood pressure that will benefit all cats.

For more information:

Chronic kidney disease in cats

High blood pressure (hypertension) in cats

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