Tag Archives: chronic pet conditions

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

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

Life Is Like A Song

After two years in ACDC's care, Charlie found his forever home, where he is clearly quite content!

By Nikki Senecal

Two years is a long time to wait, but Charlie (aka Charlie Choo) has, at last, found his forever home!

When Charlie came to the Animal Coalition of Delaware County (ACDC), he was diagnosed with Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA), a blood disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks and kills its own red blood cells. At diagnosis, Charlie weighed just over seven pounds, was severely jaundiced, and was not eating. He went home with Kim Butler, ACDC’s cat director, because she, unfortunately, had direct experience dealing with her own cat’s IMHA.

Cats with IMHA have to get blood drawn regularly to check “packed cell volume” (PCV). Normal cats fall into the range of 37-44, Kim explained. Charlie’s PCV was as low as 19; while not good, he wasn’t a candidate for blood transfusions. With medication, paid for through donations to ACDC, Charlie’s numbers eventually fell into the normal range.

When he was adopted he had been off all medication for three months. Still, Kim says, “he will still need his blood checked every few months to make sure he’s holding at a stable pace.”

At Last
Enter Melissa Lane, a volunteer at the PetSmart at Marple Crossroads. Melissa became involved with ACDC after her feline companion of 10 years, Alice, passed away due to kidney failure. At that time, she was moving in with her boyfriend, Stephen Hostetter, and his dogs, and says, “I pretty much gave up on the idea of having a cat because of the dogs.” So she decided instead to volunteer to help find homes for cats to satisfy her desire to be around cats. “At first, volunteering made me sad, but after a few times, I really enjoyed getting to know the cats there.”

Melissa came to know Charlie during her shifts at the adoption center. “I knew that Charlie was a sweet, mellow, beautiful cat. I also felt a lot of compassion for Charlie because I knew that it would take him longer to find a permanent home because of his previous health problems.” Melissa felt he deserved a good home. She even knew of one: hers. But she worried about mixing dogs and cats.

One Sunday afternoon, that changed. “Karen Bates was in the center trimming Charlie’s nails and cleaning his ears, and we got to talking about the possibility of having a cat in a house with two young huskies. She told me about having the dogs cat-tested and the rest is history!” In order for Melissa and Stephen to adopt a cat, the cat would have to be an adult with previous experience with dogs. Fortunately for Charlie, he fit that description and all the pieces fell into place for an adoption.

Melissa didn’t have misgivings about adopting a cat with such a rare medical condition (it’s more common in dogs than cats). “Charlie was given a clean bill of health, and I knew that if he had any other health issues, they would be addressed immediately.”

A Thrill to Press My Cheek To
Because Charlie has such a loud purr, Melissa and Stephen joke that “he has a V8 engine in his chest.” He’s also quite a talker, “He has one drawn out meow that sounds like ‘heellloooooooooo!’” Melissa explains. At five, Charlie still plays with the energy of a kitten. He also enjoys company when he eats. “Sometimes he’ll meow at me until I join him,” Melissa reports. “Charlie is not exactly a lap cat yet, but at night, he curls up to sleep next to my head on my pillow or sleeps belly up, legs up nestled up to my torso.”

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Filed under ACDC News, Adopted Animals

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

Rabbit   

  • 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

Cat   

  • 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

Dog   

  • 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.

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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.

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The Stinky Cat: Matchmaking 101–How To Get Fluffy Attracted To The Litterbox, Problems In Da “Hood,” and Some “Simple” Solutions

Solving Your Most Challenging Litterbox Issues: The Tidy Cat Whisperer is at it again!

By Kim Butler

Yes, the Tidy Cat Whisperer has returned, with the complete “scoop” on litterbox issues. In the first article we looked at some of the various “psychological” reasons a cat might not use the litterbox, i.e. new baby, new furniture, adding another pet. 

There are some other reasons that are a bit more concrete and easier to grasp: 

  • A perfect reason to avoid the litterbox is when it’s not scooped and cleaned regularly. Put yourself in your cat’s shoes: would you use a toilet that hadn’t been flushed for a day or two? Ummm, probably not.
  • Daily scooping is required, as well as a wipe-down of the edges and sides, especially where there may have been urine. Do not use cleaners with an ammonia base, i.e. window cleaner; that will just intensify the urine smell to your cat.
  • Use cleaners like Simple Solution or Nature’s Miracle as they contain enzymes which will help break down the urine odor.

  

The Look of the Litterbox
Nowadays there are as many choices in litterbox styles, sizes, and shapes as Michelle Obama has in sleeveless dresses. There are litterboxes that look like litterboxes…and then there are litterboxes disguised to look like something else entirely. A litterbox that looks like a spaceship? What I want to know is: how easy is it to clean, and will it beam Fluffy into the carrier for that trip to the vet?   

Keep in mind: most of these “cutesy” litterboxes have one thing in common—they have a hood or lid. Yet again, someone forgot to consult the cat.  Put yourself in your cat’s shoes: just how much do you enjoy using a PortaPotty that’s been used 50,000 at that outdoor rock concert you’re attending? Especially one that hasn’t been washed down in a month? That, my friends, is what it’s like for your cat when they are sitting inside a hooded litterbox. The hood traps the odor of urine (“hmmmm, yeah I really wanna be inside this thing, maybe I’ll go pee on the couch.”) Hooded litterboxes were invented by people for the convenience of…. People (the cat is not at all surprised by this news). Hooded boxes are designed to reduce the amount of litter flying out of the box onto the floor but I believe there is another reason people like them: out of sight, out of mind. Put a lid on it and all of a sudden we can’t actually see what Fluffy has done in there. See, we people think that if we can’t SEE the clumps in the litter, oh then maybe it’s really not there—and maybe we won’t have to clean it as much. But—if your family members insist on a hooded box, remember to always wipe down the inside of the hood as well as the edges and inside of the box after scooping so you can eliminate the leftover urine smell. Fluffy will thank you by not urinating elsewhere. 

Fixing the Furniture
If Fluffy has decided that your furniture looks like a good substitute for a bidet, you can possibly salvage your furniture if it has not had a ton of damage. For spot soiling, Nature’s Miracle or Simple Solutions make cleaning products that will help get the odor and stain out. Oreck (yes the vacuum cleaner people) also makes a very good spot cleaner for pet stains. In most cases however, you are better off having the furniture professionally cleaned, especially if there are several areas to be cleaned. Most all of the major rug and furniture cleaning companies have special solutions that tackle pet stains & odors. 

Falling in Love with the Litterbox—Again
Now, onto the BIG issue: how to make Fluffy fall in love with the litterbox again. We can do the soft, easy way, or we can go “hard core.” First, let’s look at the easy way out:   

We need to somehow make Fluffy feel better about her environment so that she will feel more at ease and naturally gravitate towards using the litterbox—all without the use of Valium (sigh). This presumes that whatever it is that Fluffy is stressed about has been resolved: renovations, change of litter, new members of the household. (And no, I am not suggesting that you give the baby away….by now your cat is probably used to the idea of the baby being in the house). 

There are two products which I suggest we invest in: Comfort Zone with Feliway and the Sergeant’s Sentry “Good Behavior” collar. Comfort Zone is a plug-in, similar to the air freshener plugins like Glade, only there is no smell or detectable odor to this special plug-in. The Comfort Zone plug-in uses Feliway, which is a synthetic copy of the feline pheromone used by cats to mark their “territory” as safe and secure. Neither you or I can detect Feliway—but your cat can, and it gives them a very calming sense of security and helps reduce their level of stress when faced with a challenging issue. It’s sort of like “kitty Prozac” without the after-effects. Usually I suggest having one or more of these plug-ins, especially in areas where your cat frequents the most. 

The Sergeant’s “Good Behavior” collar is very similar to Feliway in that it has a very calming effect on the cat due to the pheromones contained in the collar. The difference is that the cat is wearing the collar 24/7 so the effects stay with the cat as long as they wear the collar. The combination of both Comfort Zone/Feliway and the collar may be just enough to get Fluffy back into good litterbox habits….. 

…but if we still aren’t quite there, then we have to go “hard core:” 30 Days In The Crate

It’s not as bad as it sounds, truly. Fluffy will be given her own separate room, and she will be crated in a standard cat/dog crate with her litterbox, food, water, and whatever toys and bedding she might need. Her litterbox will be filled with a special litter called “Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract.” She will not stay in the crate 24/7, you can let her out for supervised exercise, love, and attention, and of course when you clean her litterbox. The point here is that by being confined, she will have no choice but to use the litterbox—and the special litter that was designed by people…for cats. Cat Attract is a clumping litter like regular litter, but blended with a natural herb attractant. The scent, texture, and particle size seem to be just what many cats are looking for and they happily start using their litterboxes and stay that way. 

Along with the crating, I also recommend use of the Comfort Zone/Feliway plug-ins, placing one nearby the crate, as well as wearing the Good Behavior collar. It is very important that this plan be followed for 30 days. Once we have passed the 30 day mark, we can then start giving Fluffy more time out of the crate-supervised time as we want to be certain that she is using the litterbox only and not looking for other places to do “her business.” With patience and perseverance, you will usually wind up with a new cat in 30 days—a happy cat who will be more than happy to use her litterbox regularly—provided you live up to your end of the bargain and keep it clean, scooped daily, and leave the hood off!

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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.

 

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