Tag Archives: caring for a sick pet

My Cat Has What?

By Betsey Cichoracki

Herpes. Ever since high school health class that word has prompted “ewws” and “gross!” in the minds of many. So when our vet informed me that our cat Coal has herpes, I thought “ewww” before even learning what feline herpes really is. Turns out a herpes virus means many things among many species. Continue reading


Filed under ACDC News, Adopted Animals, Animal Rescue, Animals in our care, Foster Parents, Pet Tips, Pet Tips - Cats, Uncategorized, Volunteers

The Stinky Cat Chronicles: This Article Has Me Pooped!

The Tidy Cat Whisperer has finally emerged from the pile of fan mail and is ready to deliver her next article. Well, let me clarify one thing: the Tidy Cat Whisperer (TCW-that’s me) doesn’t get any fan mail-all the nice, cutesy fan mail is for the Stinky Cat, who apparently is a celebrity in his own right. The only “fan” mail TCW gets is more like the mail Dear Abby gets (“TCW, help! My cat won’t stop peeing on the bed,” “Dear TCW-how can I tell if my adolescent cat is using drugs,” “TCW, help! My cat is a catnipaholic! Is there a 12-step program,” etc).

In general, most of the mail we get is regarding cats that are peeing outside the litter box. But lately all our mail has just turned to crap-literally.  Cats having issues with Number Two is really a hot button all of a sudden. Now, as someone who grew up in a household with only one bathroom can tell you, the process of defecation is extremely important-for people and cats as we will see.  A special shout out to all those fathers who on Sunday morning take the entire newspaper into the loo for an hour while the rest of us stand with our legs crossed and the matches ready. When I bought my first house the only requirement I had was that it have two bathrooms, I really didn’t care about anything else…..

There are several medical conditions that can cause your cat to have abnormal stools, or to begin defecating outside the box. Let’s briefly look at the most common-and hopefully everyone has finished their breakfast or dinner as this is NOT an article to read while eating!

Colitis is an inflammation of the colon, and can be a cause of “litterbox issues.” From the outside, it is impossible to tell if your cat has colitis as your cat will look perfectly normal to you. The giveaway is what they leave behind in the litter box. If their stool has frequent mucous and occasional flecks of blood, then it’s time for a trip to the vet. Also watch for vomiting. If you can, try and observe your cat when they are in the process of doing “number two.” Due to the inflammation in the colon, cats with colitis may have severe pain when defecating – they may actually try and stop the defecation process, which results in constipation. There may also be diarrhea-at any rate, none of this is a normal defecation process. Your vet will most likely want to examine the stool for any signs of intestinal parasites, and may also do a rectal exam and possibly a biopsy of the colon wall. Your vet will probably prescribe a bland diet to help the colon rest and heal, and it’s possible your cat will be eating a bland, easily digestible diet for life. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to help control bacterial causes, and other medications such as prednisone may be used.

Cats can also develop a condition called Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), in which the intestine is consistently invaded by inflammatory cells. The most common symptoms of IBD are diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss. According to Dr. Jennifer F. Johnson, VMD, the type of IBD is determined by what kind of inflammatory cells are invading the intestinal tract. The different types of IBD are: lymphocytic-plasmacytic, eosinophilic, or neutrophilic. Each type is characterized by the type of cells that become inflamed  – kind of like the difference between VHS, Beta, DVD, and HD/DVD –they’re all in the same ballpark but sit in different rows.  Cats can also develop IBD which is cancerous. This type of cancer of the intestines is usually classified as a Lymphoma.  Lymphoma of the intestines will present with the same signs as a cat with non-cancerous IBD.  The good news is that the majority of cats with IBD do not have cancer.  

IBD is considered idiopathic in many cases (cause unknown). Some vets believe that IBD in cats is an autoimmune disorder.  The only way to definitively diagnose IBD is by performing surgical biopsies of the intestines. Once the diagnosis is made, and the type of IBD is known, treatment can be started. IBD is generally a chronic condition which is not cured, but managed through diet and medication. Various types of diets generally are tried in order to rule out specific food intolerance.

I have fostered a few cats that had IBD and they generally seemed to do well on a limited ingredient diet. A limited ingredient diet is just what the name implies: the ingredients are limited to a specific few which have been proven to be tolerable to the cat’s digestive system. Studies have shown that some ingredients are more likely to cause issues than others. In cats, the most common offenders are beef, lamb, seafood, corn, soy, dairy products, and wheat gluten. In a limited ingredient diet, the protein is provided by a combination of green peas and either duck, rabbit, or venison, which are rarely associated with adverse food reactions in cats. Hill’s DD or ZD diets are veterinary prescription diets and are sold exclusively at your vet’s office, as are prescription diets by other manufacturers such as Royal Canin, Purina, and Iams. If your vet approves, you may also be able to manage your cat’s diet with Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets, which are not prescription, a bit less expensive, and can be purchased at local pet supply stores.

Another medical reason for your cat to avoid defecating in the litter box is anal gland disease. According to Dr. Johnson, all “predators,” be they the domestic ones like cats, dogs, or wild ones like the occasional skunk in your backyard, have anal glands-they just use them differently. (We all know how skunks uses theirs!) The glands have a secretion which cats and dogs use at times to mark their territory. Every time your cat makes a “doo-doo,” the surrounding muscles should put enough pressure on the anal glands so that they discharge some of this secretion.

However, the glands can become impacted, infected, and abscessed. Affected pets may lick the anal area, ‘scoot’ along the floor, or have problems with defecation. A trip to the vet is in order. The “easy” way out: the vet will have to manually “express” the glands, everyone holds their noses and then all is hunk-dory. The “hard” way out: if there is an abscess, it may need to be lanced. In severe cases, surgery may be required. If your cat has chronic impactions of the anal glands, your vet may suggest a high-fiber diet. The added fiber or bulk in the diet should put more pressure on the anal glands and hopefully result in a more normal stool with some anal expression. Sometimes your vet might also prescribe a food additive similar to a Metamucil or other fiber product to help “move things along.”

We know it’s a stinky job but for the good of your cat’s health it is always smart to occasionally observe your cat’s bathroom habits, and any unusual behavior or “output” should be noted and reported to your veterinarian. As always, Happy Scooping!

Acknowledgements to Dr. Jennifer F. Johnson, VMD, owner of Stoney Creek Veterinary Hospital for medical input, explanations and terms where noted.


Filed under Uncategorized

How Do I Know My Pet is Sick?

Knowing what to watch for in your pet's behavior can help catch illnesses early.

By Nikki Senecal 

There are many times I wish my dog could talk, but that feeling is compounded by worry when she seems to be feeling ill. (Talking animals would make the vet’s job easier too!) 


If we remember that we’re mammals too, diagnosing our pets can be a little easier. How do you know you’re sick? Vomiting, diarrhea, appetite changes, abnormal bleeding, and lethargy signal something’s wrong in humans. It turns out many of these symptoms signal problems for our pets too.      

Guinea Pig     

  • Bloated abdomen
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss


  • Loud tooth grinding
  • Very hot or very cold ears
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Labored breathing
  • Drooling or a wet chin
  • Loss of balance or head tilt
  • Abnormal fecal pellets (smaller, irregular shape, droppings laced with fur)
  • Loss of appetite or lethargy


  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Stops using the litter box or strains upon elimination
  • Develops puffiness or a lump under the skin
  • Hides for more than a day
  • Becomes ill-tempered or doesn’t want to be touched
  • Increased head shaking
  • Changes his routine or loses interest in his favorite games
  • Stops grooming
  • The “third eyelid” (nictitating membrance) emerges from the corner of his eye


  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased drinking
  • Vomiting or unproductive retching
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or bloody feces
  • Unexplained, sudden weight loss
  • Seizure
  • Pale gums or tongue
  • Increased panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent cough
  • Straining to urinate, decreased urination, or bloody urination
  • Inflamed ears or skin, or smelly ears
  • Discharge from ears, eyes, or nose
  • Difficulty walking or lameness
  • Head shaking

Take notes on changes in your pet’s habits and health and take him/her to the vet at the first sign of concern. Your vet will want to know details of your pet’s symptoms, including when they began. Until animals learn to talk, your pet needs you to speak for her.

1 Comment

Filed under Pet Insurance, Pet Tips, Pet Tips - Cats, Pet Tips - Dogs, Pet Tips - Guinea Pigs, Pet Tips - Rabbits

Part II: Déjà vu – What To Ask When Buying Pet Insurance

Advances in veterinary medicine have made caring for a sick pet more possible than ever, but the cost can be prohibitive.

By Kim Cavallero

Here are the promised tips on purchasing pet insurance from our April 9 blog post on pet insurance.

About Pet Insurance: Most people think they will never need it. But, if your pet becomes ill or has an accident, pet insurance can save his or her life. Advances in veterinary medicine have made it possible to treat chronic conditions such as cancer and kidney disease, but that care doesn’t come cheap. In the last five years, veterinary costs have risen more than 70%.

Some pet parents are put in terrible situations where they have to make difficult decisions such as their pet needing a life-saving treatment that they cannot afford. Pet insurance can prevent that from happening. Save yourself from that heartbreaking scenario by purchasing pet insurance now.

Following the tips below, you will find a list of pet insurance companies to consider when purchasing a policy. Most pet insurance companies’ websites give you the opportunity to submit some basic information and receive a quote online. You can also visit this site to receive quotes from several different companies by submitting your information once. Choosing the right company depends on your needs. Be sure to read reviews and ratings pet insurance policy owners have given. This could be your best source of information when choosing a company. My research found that Philadelphia’s Pet Plan was best for me and my kitties. You can also compare insurance plans for cats and dogs.

Why do I need pet insurance now?
While buying pet insurance now, as your pet is perfectly healthy, may seem like a waste of money, accidents and illnesses can happen at any time. If you do not insure your pet before something happens, many companies will not insure you after the fact or they may insure you, but not cover the condition for which your pet is currently suffering, considering it pre-existing.

What kind of coverage should I look for?
Coverage varies among the different companies offering insurance. Some companies cover accidents, illnesses, injuries, and/or routine care (i.e., annual vet visit, vaccinations), and even offer reimbursement for death benefits or a reward for a lost pet. You’ll need to determine which type of coverage is best for you. In addition, most companies have several different plans from which to choose.

Be sure to ask about exclusions. For example, some companies do not cover hereditary, congenital, or breed specific problems. Depending on the type of animal you have, this could be crucial.

What are the company’s payout limits?
Some companies will only pay up to a specified amount to cover treatment for an illness or injury, which means that once the limit is reached, you will probably have to pay for the remainder of your pet’s treatment from your own pocket. Companies usually limit the amount they will pay per year, per incident/injury, or per your pet’s lifetime. Figure out which is best for you.

How much is the deductible and how is it calculated?
Find out how much your deductible will be, as well as whether that deductible is per incident, per illness/injury, or per year.

  • Per incident means that anytime you take your pet to be seen, even if it’s for a follow-up visit to an illness they’ve already been seen for, you will pay your deductible before anything is covered.
  • Per illness/injury means you will only pay the deductible the first time your pet is treated for that illness or injury.
  • Per year means you will only need to pay the deductible once per year. For example, if your deductible is $100, once you meet that deducible, the company will pay for any additional care based on your reimbursement limits.

Will the company increase your policy based on your pet’s age?
Ask if your policy premium (the amount you pay each year) will be increased as your pet ages and if so, by how much. Some companies may insure your kitten or puppy for very little, but as your pet ages, may significantly increase the cost of your policy each time it renews.

How much does the company cover for your pet to see a specialist or visit an emergency clinic?
Some pet insurance companies will reimburse less if your pet needs to visit an emergency clinic or specialist. This is often when you need your coverage the most so be sure to ask if there is any difference in your coverage and if so what that is.

Under what conditions, can and will the company cancel your policy?
Some pet insurance companies reserve the right to cancel your policy for any reason other than fraud or nonpayment. This means they could cancel the policy if treatment for your pet escalates or for any other reason at their will. Be sure to find out under what conditions the company can and will cancel your policy.

Does the company cover ongoing and recurring conditions?
Some pet insurance companies do not cover ongoing or recurring conditions without the purchase of additional coverage. This means that if you pet is sick or injured in one plan period and you need care after your plan renews, the company would not pay it. You will want to ensure that the company you choose will continue to cover your pet and any conditions he or she has year after year.

Can you visit any veterinarian of your choosing? If you are traveling with your pet and something happens, can you visit a veterinarian where you are and still receive coverage?
Be sure to find out if the company will cover treatment at your choice of veterinarian or if they have a list of veterinarians that must see your pet for them to consider reimbursement.

Pet Insurance Companies To Consider

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Animal Coalition of Delaware County. The Animal Coalition of Delaware County does not endorse or recommend a particular company for pet insurance. Those purchasing pet insurance policies are encouraged to do their own research to determine what is right for them.


Filed under Uncategorized

Déjà vu

By Kim Cavallero

Annie's healthcare ran more than $20,000 in the last two years of her life

How much? You must be kidding. $650 to have my seven-year-old cat’s teeth cleaned? No way.

It shouldn’t have stunned me.

I was no stranger to healthcare bills for my pets. After all, my cat, Annie, who passed away last summer racked up more than $20,000+ in healthcare bills in the last two years of her life. She had a gamut of health issues—things the vets liked to tell me they had never seen in the decades they had been practicing.

While the vets were fascinated at how resilient little Annie was, I was simply scared for her. Every time she went in for another surgery, I was left to wonder how she would fare and how I would ever cover the cost.

Annie and I went through the ER at my local university’s animal hospital many times. And it never ceased to amaze many how many people were there with their animals making heartbreaking decisions. I watched countless people decide to euthanize their pet, even thought their pet’s condition was treatable. Their caretakers were dedicated to them, but they simply couldn’t afford to pay the cost of the care. It was gut-wrenching.

So, when my vet recently told me that my newly adopted seven-year-old cat, Emma, needed to have her teeth cleaned and one removed, I wasn’t surprised. But when my vet turned around and told me how much it would be, I couldn’t help but experience déjà vu.

The difference this time around was that I had purchased pet insurance for Emma when I adopted her. Oh sure….I have many friends and acquaintances who thought I was crazy, but it was the best investment I could have ever made. Of Emma’s $650 bill, her insurance covered $421 after my $200 deductible. Emma’s policy ran me about $185 for the year and it’s already more than paid for itself.

Many ask why I didn’t purchase pet insurance for Annie. The truth of the matter is I didn’t know that I should have when I adopted her. Had I tried to insure her after her health problems began, most of her care would have been considered a pre-existing condition and not been covered.

I don’t regret a penny of the money I spent on Annie’s care, even though I will be paying for it for the next few years. Annie was my heart and soul. But the moral of the story is to get insurance for your pet the day you adopt. It will likely save you from having to make heart-breaking decisions.

In my next post, I’ll give some pointers about what to look for when purchasing a pet insurance policy.



Filed under Pet Insurance, Pet Tips, Pet Tips - Cats