Monthly Archives: September 2012

Reshuffling the Pack


The death of a beloved canine family member can be devastating.  Not just for us, but for the rest of the “pack” too.  On top of the grief at the loss of a long-time companion, dogs can additionally suffer from a sense of dislocation when the pack structure is disturbed by the loss of a key member.

How can you help?  As with all things,individual dogs will react in individual ways;  however, there are some basic rules that should help your remaining dog(s) deal with their loss.

TRAINING:  if you and your dog have already been through positive reinforcement training before, now’s the perfect time to refresh that bond by going back to class or having a private trainer come and work with you.  If you’ve never had any organized training for your dog, now is a great time to try. The learning associate with positive training will help occupy your dog as well as reinforce the bond between you.

PLAY MORE:  it’s a rare dog who doesn’t enjoy spending more one-on-one with their humans.  Whether its a long walk in the park, throwing a ball or just a brief stroll to the mailbox, increasing the frequency of these activities will help to keep your dog busy as well as bringing you closer.

GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO:  creating daily rituals that your dog can look forward to will help keep them engaged and looking towards the future.  Whether it’s spending time with them training, a good brush-down or a regularly-scheduled walk around the block, they are all experiences your pet can learn to anticipate.

And it will help you, too!

[courtesy: Fetch]

Fun Activities For Kids And Pets

Healthy play habits between kids and family pets don’t always come naturally—children need guidance in interacting safely and respectfully with animals. Luckily the best way to learn how to play nice is to enjoy lots of great games together. ASPCA behaviorists offer some fun, age-appropriate activities that help develop trust and a loving bond between your kids and pets.

Play Time

Arrange play dates for your kids and pets—supervised by you—to help build a mutual respect in the same way that play dates between children create healthy friendships.


Kids 6 Months To 2 Years Old:

  • Your child can lie on the floor and your dog or cat can jump over him.
  • You and your child can hide and then call your pet to come find you.
  • Young children love peek-a-boo games. Try holding up a cloth so that your pet is concealed. Let your child pull the cloth aside, making your pet “appear.”
  • If your pet is gentle, your child can smear his own fingers and toes with peanut butter or a soft cheese product and let your pet lick them clean. (Try this with your fingers first. If your pet’s nibbling is too rough, choose another activity.)
  • Children in a high chair, crib or playpen can drop food for your pet to enjoy, but please avoid using animal treats because your child might eat them. It is also ESSENTIAL to avoid using foods that are dangerous to pets. Stick to healthy people foods such as green beans, carrot sticks, apple slices (without seeds), unsalted pretzels and plain, cooked pasta.

Kids 3 To 8 Years Old:

  • Your child and dog can race with each other to a designated finish line. If necessary, you can run with your dog on a leash.
  • Your child can throw a toy for your pet to retrieve.
  • Armed with treats, your child can hide while you stay with your pet. When your child calls out, let your pet go search for him. When your pet finds him, let your child give the treats as a reward.
  • If your dog likes to chase water sprayed from a hose or water gun, your child can operate the sprayer or toy gun. While you’re supervising, have your child spray the ground a few feet away from your dog and then rapidly move the stream of water away from her, along the ground. (Watch your dog for signs that she’s not having fun anymore. If she isn’t actively chasing or trying to bite the stream of water, it’s time to stop.)
  • Your child can blow bubbles for your pet to catch. You can purchase a bubble toy made especially for dogs, such as the Fetch a Bubble Big Bubble Blaster or the Bubble Buddy. These toys produce flavored bubbles that are safe for dogs to ingest. Please do not use regular bubble solution. It can cause mild stomach upset and can sting your pet’s eyes.
  • Your child and pet can team up to find treats that you’ve hidden. While your pet can excel at finding things hidden near the ground, your child can find things hidden higher-up.
  • Your child can entice your pet to chase a toy tied to the end of a rope. You can also buy an inexpensive lunge whip from a horse tack or feed store and tie a ball or other toy to the end of it. Then your child can twirl the whip in a big circle and let your pet chase the toy.

Kids 9 To 13 Years Old:

  • Children of this age can benefit from attending basic dog obedience classes with their dogs.
  • Your child can play soccer-type games and Frisbee with your dog.
  • Some children appreciate the challenge of competing with a dog in agility or in games such as flyball.
  • Your child can search the Internet or library to find new tricks to teach your pet, such as Roll Over, Shake, Sit Up and Beg.

17 Poisonous Plants

Lilies    Members of the Lilium spp.are considered to be highly toxic to cats. While the poisonous component has not yet been identified, it is clear that with even ingestions of very small amounts of the plant, severe kidney damage could result.

Ingestion of Cannabis sativa by companion animals can result in depression of the central nervous system and incoordination, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, increased heart rate, and even seizures and coma.

Sago Palm
All parts of Cycas Revoluta are poisonous, but the seeds or “nuts” contain the largest amount of toxin. The ingestion of just one or two seeds can result in very serious effects, which include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures and liver failure.

Tulip/Narcissus bulbs
The bulb portions of Tulipa/Narcissus spp. contain toxins that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, depression of the central nervous system, convulsions and cardiac abnormalities.

Members of the Rhododenron spp. contain substances known as grayantoxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness and depression of the central nervous system in animals. Severe azalea poisoning could ultimately lead to coma and death from cardiovascular collapse.

All parts of Nerium oleander are considered to be toxic, as they contain cardiac glycosides that have the potential to cause serious effects—including gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal heart function, hypothermia and even death.

Castor Bean
The poisonous principle in Ricinus communis is ricin, a highly toxic protein that can produce severe abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness and loss of appetite. Severe cases of poisoning can result in dehydration, muscle twitching, tremors, seizures, coma and death.

Cylamen species contain cyclamine, but the highest concentration of this toxic component is typically located in the root portion of the plant. If consumed, Cylamen can produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, including intense vomiting. Fatalities have also been reported in some cases.

This plant contains components that can produce gastrointestinal irritation, as well as those that are toxic to the heart, and can seriously affect cardiac rhythm and rate.

Taxus spp. contains a toxic component known as taxine, which causes central nervous system effects such as trembling, incoordination, and difficulty breathing. It can also cause significant gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac failure, which can result in death.

Common garden plants popular around Easter, Amaryllis species contain toxins that can cause vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia and tremors.

Autumn Crocus
Ingestion of Colchicum autumnale by pets can result in oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, multi-organ damage and bone marrow suppression.

These popular blooms are part of the Compositae family, which contain pyrethrins that may produce gastrointestinal upset, including drooling, vomiting and diarrhea, if eaten. In certain cases depression and loss of coordination may also develop if enough of any part of the plant is consumed.

English Ivy
Also called branching ivy, glacier ivy, needlepoint ivy, sweetheart ivy and California ivy, Hedera helix contains triterpenoid saponins that, should pets ingest, can result in vomiting, abdominal pain, hypersalivation and diarrhea.

Peace Lily (AKA Mauna Loa Peace Lily)
Spathiphyllum contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue in pets who ingest.

Pothos (both Scindapsus and Epipremnum) belongs to the Araceae family. If chewed or ingested, this popular household plant can cause significant mechanical irritation and swelling of the oral tissues and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

Schefflera and Brassaia actinophylla contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause oral irritation, excessive drooling, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing and intense burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue in pets who ingest.

Diabetic Pet

Monitoring Your Diabetic Pet at Home

Once your veterinarian confirms that your dog or cat has diabetes, he or she will likely prescribe a daily insulin therapy for your pet. This is an important first step towards maintaining your pet’s health—but it is only part of the equation. In order for treatment to be successful, you must take an active role and administer needed insulin, and also carefully monitor your pet, since your pet’s insulin needs will likely change over time.


Monitoring is a two-part process that involves watching for changes in your pet, as well as establishing new daily habits. These habits include logging your pet’s food and water intake; tracking the insulin dose; and watching for signs of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). In addition, you may be asked to perform urine tests and home Blood Glucose Curve tests.


Log the Basic Information

When it comes to monitoring your pet, you should keep a written log of your observations, either in a notebook or on a computer spreadsheet. If your pet’s health changes, you will want to share this information with your vet or if someone else is caring for your pet, you all want to be, literally, “on the same page.”


Here is the information you should track daily:

  • Amount of food and water consumed, as well as notes on overall appetite
  • Amount and frequency of urination
  • Amount of insulin administered in the morning and in the evening
  • Any changes in your pet’s appetite, behavior, body condition, drinking habits
  • Glucose levels


If you notice any sign of increased drinking and urination, increased appetite or weight loss, contact your veterinarian.


Test for Glucose and Ketones

Ask your vet how often you should check your pet’s urine for high glucose. Some pet owners will need to check their pet once a day, others more often. Consistently high urine glucose readings along with excessive urination and drinking may be signs that your pet’s insulin dose needs to be changed. However, if you continue to get negative urine glucose readings, it may mean that your pet is getting too much insulin. In either case, consult your veterinarian.

Urine tests are also used to detect ketones, which are produced when your pet’s body breaks down fat for energy. Normally, your pet will get the energy it needs from its diet. However, if your pet’s diet does not contain enough carbohydrates to supply its body with glucose or if your pet cannot use glucose properly, stored fat breaks down and ketones are made.

If your pet has a positive ketone reading, and seems unhealthy (e.g., loss of appetite, weakness, etc.), contact your vet immediately. If your dog or cat seems healthy in spite of a high reading, your vet may suggest that you keep your pet at home and watch for any new symptoms.

Administer Blood Glucose Curves (BCGs)

You vet may also ask you to conduct a home blood glucose curve (BGC) to ensure your pet is producing the necessary insulin. A BGC simply means you will conduct a series of blood glucose checks and create a graph that maps the blood glucose levels of your pet over time. For instance, you will probably begin the process by charting your pet’s glucose level just before you feed and inject your pet with insulin, then check it again every hour or two hours until the next meal and injection.


Watch for Hypoglycemia

Too much insulin can cause hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose. Hypoglycemia can be a life-threatening, so learn the signs and contact your vet immediately if your pet is exhibiting any of them:

  • Hunger
  • Restlessness
  • Shivering
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Head tilting
  • Seeming unbalanced or wobbling when walking
  • Lack of muscular coordination
  • Disorientation
  • Stupor
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Coma

Visit Your Vet Every Three to Four Months

Even if your diabetic pet seems healthy, it can develop urinary tract infections and other disorders, so make sure to visit your veterinarian every three to four months. Also, be prepared: have a pet medical kit easily available, so you can add diabetes supplies to it quickly, in case of an emergency.

Dogs Can Run Out of Self Control, Too!

People are not the only creatures that run out of self control. According to a study published in Springer’s Psychonomic Bulletin,dogs can also make impulsive decisions that put them in harm’s way.

The study by Holly Miller from the University of Lille Nord de France and her colleagues wanted to know if mentally fatigued dogs do not think straight and are more likely to take risks that may result in physical harm.

The researches recruited 10 dogs and trained them to sit still for 10 minutes, thereby exerting self-control, or put them in a cage in which they were free to move. Afterward, the dogs were walked into a room in which a barking, growling dog was caged. The dogs spent 4 minutes in the room but were free to choose where in the room they spent their time. Although approaching the other dog was a natural response for the dogs, it was also the riskier choice.

Those dogs that had exerted self-control by sitting still beforehand spent more time in close proximity to the aggressive dog compared with those dogs that had been caged: 59% vs. 42%.

According to Miller and her team, the research provides evidence that the phenomenon of self-control depletion, once believed to be uniquely human, can be found in dogs.

[courtesy: AAHA Trends Magazine]

Is your cat in pain?

Cats have a tendency to hide when they’re not feeling well, so it can be challenging to detect or see subtle changes in your cat.  Their survival instinct gives them a unique ability to cover a painful condition and because cats are such masters at hiding pain, it’s a good idea to follow an established timeline for veterinary examinations. 

Research has shown that many more cats are suffering from osteoarthritis than we are aware of, especially cats past the age of 11. Diagnosing osteoarthritis in cats can be difficult.  Your veterinarian will rely on you to tell them about changes you’ve noticed in your cat.  They may ask if your cat is moving around less, not climbing or jumping on and off of things as well and if you have noticed any changes in their behavior. Other things that you should be aware of and look for include weight loss, loss of appetite, depression; change in general attitude, poor grooming habits, and urinating or defecating outside of the litter box.  A common symptom of osteoarthritis in dogs is lameness, but this symptom is not seen as often in cats.

Osteoarthritis in cats usually affects their joints including the elbows and hips, shoulders and ankles.  And, the most frequently affected areas in cats is arthritis of the vertebrae and sternum.  Truly, the second biggest challenge of pain management in cats is that they have a low tolerance and higher risk for toxicity to most drugs as compared to other species. 

There are fewer pharmaceutical options available to treat pain and osteoarthritis in cats.  Because there are fewer options, other treatments include working with your veterinarian to design a weight loss program if your cat is overweight, increasing exercise and/or play.  Another area where you can make a difference for your cat is by changing things in your home including things like moving food and water dishes to a more convenient location and providing soft or therapeutic bedding. Purchasing a litter box with low sides, cutting down high sides, or constructing a ramp around the box may also help cats gain entry into the box more easily.

It’s important to be aware of changes in your cat’s behavior, especially as your cat ages. If your cat doesn’t seem to be his/her normal self discuss the changes with your veterinarian.

Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs

Chocolate Toxicity in Dogs


How many times have you been eating that chocolate chip cookie when you look over and see those sad puppy dog eyes staring at you?   You remember hearing that chocolate is toxic to dogs.   But what makes chocolate toxic to dogs and why is it that some dogs ingest it and don’t get sick?   Here are some facts to clear up some of the confusion surrounding chocolate toxicity in dogs.


Toxic doses of theobromine are reported to be as low as 20 mg/kg, where agitation, hyperactivity and gastrointestinal signs (such as drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea – all which may smell like chocolate) can be seen.  At doses > 40 mg/kg, cardiac signs can be seen, and include a racing heart rate, high blood pressure, or even heart arrhythmias.  At doses > 60 mg/kg, neurologic signs can be seen, and include tremors, twitching, and even seizures.  Fatalities have been seen at around 200 mg/kg (approximately 100 mg/lb), or when complications occur.


The amount of toxic theobromine varies with the type of chocolate.  The darker and the more bitter the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to your pets. Cooking or baking chocolate and high quality dark chocolate contains between 130-450 mg of theobromine per ounce of the product, while common milk chocolate only contains about 44-58 mg/ounce. White chocolate barely poses any threat of chocolate poisoning, with only 0.25 mg of theobromine per ounce of chocolate (that said, dogs can still get sick from all that fat and sugar, resulting in pancreatitis!).  This means that for a medium size dog, weighing 50 pounds it would take only 1 ounce of baker’s chocolate or 8 ounces of milk chocolate to potentially show signs of poisoning.


Considering that the average chocolate bar contains 2-3 oz of milk chocolate, it would take 2-3 candy bars to produce toxicity in a 10 lb dog.  However, a single ounce of baking chocolate could produce severe toxicity in the same size dog.


So, how does chocolate make dogs sick?  Theobromine causes the release of
certain substances, norepinephrine and epinephrine, that cause an increase in the dog’s heart rate and can cause arrhythmias.   Other signs seen with chocolate toxicity can include increased urination, vomiting, diarrhea or hyperactivity within the first few hours.   This can lead to hyperthermia, muscle tremors, seizures, coma and even death.


What should be done if a dog does ingest a toxic amount of chocolate?  If it has
been less than 2 hours, the dog should be made to vomit.   Unfortunately, chocolate tends to form a ball in the stomach and may be difficult to remove. Supportive care should be provided for any other signs the dog is exhibiting.
Though it may not be harmful to the dog in small quantities, it is safer to avoid
giving chocolate to dogs in general.   As with everything else, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Caring for Puppies and Kittens

No two ways about it, puppies and kittens are adorable. It’s easy to be transfixed by the tiny paws, tiny noses, and big bellies galloping around your home in a riot of excitement. Puppy- and kittenhood, the first six months of life, can be one of the best times in a pet’s life, but it requires some diligence and special care from loving pet owners.

First off, if you’re in the market for a new pet, be sure you allow him enough time with his mother and his littermates to be healthy and well socialized. Young animals should be adopted when they’re ready to be socialized somewhere between 10 and 16 weeks for kittens and seven to 10 weeks for puppies. Once you get them home, and have picked up the litter, collar, leash, pet bed, and everything else you need, you can start to be a wonderful pet parent.

A Trip to the Doctor
The first thing you should do with your new kitten or puppy is make an appointment to see a veterinarian. Young animals, whose immune systems are not yet running at full force, are more vulnerable to parasites like fleas and worms as well as respiratory infections and other conditions. Your veterinarian will record your pet’s weight, perform a physical exam, and possibly do a fecal exam or a blood test, in order to rule out parasites or other potential problems. There are several conditions, such as orthopedic problems, that can be effectively treated if they are caught when animals are young, so seeing a veterinarian early is vital.

It’s also important that your little pet sees the veterinarian because he needs to be immunized. Puppies and kittens are initially immune to many diseases because of the antibodies they receive from their mothers’ milk. After weaning, however, they need to receive a series of vaccines in order to develop immunity on their own. Vaccinations for kittens generally include rabies and a “combination” vaccine for feline distemper and respiratory illness, and can also include feline leukemia, depending on where the pet lives and whether or not he goes outdoors. Puppies receive more vaccines, usually distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, parvovirus, rabies, and sometimes bordetella. If you’ve adopted your puppy or kitten from a humane society or a reputable breeder, he has probably already had his initial vaccinations. He needs to continue to be vaccinated every three to four weeks, however, until he is five or six months old. After this point, you and your veterinarian can discuss how often he will need booster shots.

Kitten- and Puppy-Proofing Your Home
One of the most important things you can do for your kitten or puppy is give him a safe environment to live, play, and explore in. You can think of young cats and dogs much like you think of toddlers: they’re not entirely stable on their feet, they’ll put almost anything in their mouths, and they’re curious enough to get into just about everything. With that in mind, you can take a few of these precautions to keep your home safe for your little pet.

Keep toxic and dangerous materials, such as cleaning solutions, antifreeze, and medications, in a locked cabinet or in a room your pet doesn’t have access to. Don’t trust an unlocked cabinet near the ground inquisitive kittens and pups have been known to paw doors open.
Patrol your house with an eye out for small holes or gaps in floorboards, walls, baseboards, heating vents, and anywhere else a small animal could squeeze into and get stuck. While you’re at it, look over your furniture for potential hazards. Kittens in particular can squeeze into holes underneath box spring mattresses and upholstered chairs, and they can be trapped in the mechanism underneath a reclining chair.
Try to remove everything in sight that is small enough to be chewed or swallowed, including paper clips, coins, rubber bands, staples, pen caps, thread, dental floss, earrings, needles, and thumbtacks. Puppies from the larger breeds might even be able to swallow something as large as a pen, a rock, or a piece of silverware. Objects like these can choke animals if swallowed, or they could do a lot of damage to the digestive system.
Until your little one becomes very stable on his feet, you may want to block off stairs and ledges with a baby gate or a wide piece of plywood. Remember, puppies and kittens can jump surprisingly high, so you’ll want to use a tall gate.
Both dogs and cats tend to think that the toilet is their own private water fountain. Small pets can fall in and injure or drown themselves when they try to drink, and automatic toilet bowl cleaners can be harmful or even fatal if drunk in large amounts or by a young animal. Keeping the toilet lid shut should ward off problems.
Watch out for heavy or fragile objects placed on unstable bases. A carousing puppy could accidentally knock over a lamp on an end table, for example. An iron sitting on an ironing board could also be easily toppled.
Young animals have the instinct to chew, so you may want to cover electric cords with rugs or plastic cord guards, which are available at hardware stores.
Some of the prettiest plants inside your house or in your yard may be poisonous to your pet. Keep azalea, daffodil, rhododendron, oleander, mistletoe, hydrangea, morning glory, diffenbachia, sago palm, Easter lily, and yewplants out of your kitten or pup’s reach, as they can all be harmful or even fatal to animals.
Young animals need a safe haven to stay in when they can’t be supervised. You can confine them to a crate or take one room of the house and make it into your pet’s home for when you’re gone. It should include a soft, warm place to sleep and plenty of toys, and it should be regularly examined for the hazards listed above.
If it seems like your little guy is ravenous on a regular basis, it’s because he is. Young animals develop at an amazing rate, and they need a lot of calories and fat, protein, and vitamins to fuel their growth. Just after weaning (at somewhere between four and six weeks old), puppies and kittens need about twice the energy of an adult dog of the same size. This need gradually decreases until they reach adulthood.

Because of these high energy needs, you should feed your pet a high quality puppy or kitten food. Stay away from foods labeled “maintenance” or “adults only” they don’t contain a high enough percentage of fat and protein to meet a juvenile’s needs. You can begin by setting out the amount of food recommended by the manufacturer. Keep an eye on your young animal’s weight. If he seems to be getting thin, you can feed him more. Most cats and dogs won’t become overweight during their first six months they’re growing too fast but it’s possible, so you can watch out for weight gain. Starting at about six months, or a little later for cats, you can start mixing the puppy or kitten food with an adult food.

With a young animal, you have a great opportunity to make grooming into a pleasant experience for both of you. Cats and dogs don’t automatically hate nail clipping, ear cleaning, and baths they’re just nervous and unused to being handled that way. It’s only after a negative experience, like being held down or punished for struggling, that they begin to associate grooming with discomfort. You can avoid this negative association by starting when your pet is young and allowing him to adjust gradually to the grooming process. You can make grooming fun, with lots of petting, praise, and treats. Eventually, the time you spend brushing, washing, and handling your pet may become enjoyable to both of you, allowing you to bond in a relaxed atmosphere.

Handling You can start getting your kitten or puppy used to being touched as soon as you bring him home. When he’s calm and relaxed, try looking in his ears while you pet him. If he becomes nervous or uncomfortable, stop until he calms down. You can also gently play with his paws, first by gently touching them, then by picking them up and massaging the pads. Get him used to having his stomach touched (which is particularly important for cats), his armpits and groin examined, and his mouth opened and his teeth touched. This will not only help your pet see this kind of touching as soothing and nonthreatening, but it will also let you check for parasites, unusual lumps under the skin, and other health problems. You should start with short sessions about two or three minutes as puppies and kittens have short attention spans and will quickly become antsy. You can build to longer sessions as your pet gets older.
Brushing This is one of the easiest parts of grooming for a young pet to get used to. He may initially be a bit frightened of the brush, so you can start by simply showing him the brush, letting him sniff it, and giving him praise and a treat. Next, you can run the flat side of the brush along his body, letting him adjust to the rhythm and motion of brushing. When you switch to the bristled side of the brush, brush often enough that you don’t have to pull through mats or tangles, so the experience will be pain free.
Ear cleaning Most animals aren’t wild about having their ears cleaned, so try to be patient and give your little pet a lot of encouragement. You can start by just touching the outer rim of the ear, using a cotton ball and ear cleaning solution from your veterinarian
Trimming toenails Puppies and kittens can grow sharp little claws very quickly, and they may need to be trimmed as often as once a week for the first few months of life. This can be a challenge with young cats and dogs, because their nails are small and it’s difficult to see the quick, which supplies blood to the nail. Start by only snipping off the very tip of the nail. As you and your pet become more comfortable, you can start to snip the nail away in thin cross-sections, checking each layer until you see a dark area in the center, which signals the beginning of the quick.
For more information on grooming your pet, see Grooming Your Pet, Trimming Pet Toenails, and Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth.

Once you bring your little one through his first months safely, you can be proud of your accomplishment as a pet parent. Though it can take a lot of work, raising a well-fed, well-groomed, and happy puppy or kitten is a big step toward having a well-fed, well-groomed, and healthy adult pet.

Your Pet and Human Drugs

Thinking about giving your pet an aspirin to ease its pain? Think again! Human painkillers including ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen can be dangerous and even deadly to animals. Though acetaminophen can ease a human tension headache, one tablet of 500 mg extra strength acetaminophen can kill a 7-pound cat. Human medications are not designed for the animal body, and can have deadly effects when given to pets

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

What is feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)?

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a disease caused by a coronavirus infection. Many different strains of coronavirus are capable of infecting cats, but most do not produce serious disease. FIP-producing strains are distinguished by their ability to invade and grow in certain white blood cells. The infected cells transport the virus throughout the cat’s body. An intense inflammatory reaction occurs in the tissues where these virus-infected cells locate. It is this interaction between the body’s own immune system and the virus that is responsible for the disease.

Infected cats shed coronavirus in their saliva and feces. Most cats become infected by inhaling or ingesting the virus, either by direct contact with an infected cat, or by contact with virus-contaminated surfaces like clothing, bedding, feeding bowls, or toys.

Although the virus can survive for a number of weeks in the environment, it is rapidly inactivated by most household detergents and disinfectants. An inexpensive and effective disinfectant is one part of household bleach in thirty-two parts of water (4 ounces of bleach per gallon of water).


Is FIP related to feline leukemia?

FIP and feline leukemia are caused by different viruses. Some cats that have FIP may also be infected by the feline leukemia virus, but the diseases are two separate entities.


What are the signs of FIP?

Initial exposure to the FIP virus usually results in no obvious clinical disease, although some cats may experience a mild upper respiratory disease that is characterized by sneezing, watery eyes, and watery nasal discharge. Some cats may experience a mild intestinal disease. Most cats that undergo the primary infection completely recover, although some of them may become virus carriers. Only a small percentage of exposed cats develop the lethal disease: weeks, months, or perhaps years after primary infection.

The onset of clinical signs of lethal FIP may be sudden (especially in kittens), or the signs may gradually increase in severity over a period of weeks. Many cats have nonspecific signs such as intermittent inappetence, depression, rough hair coat, weight loss, and fever.

The major forms of lethal FIP are effusive (wet) FIP, noneffusive (dry) FIP, and combinations of both. The most characteristic sign of effusive FIP is the accumulation of fluid within the abdomen and/or chest. When fluid accumulation becomes excessive, it may become difficult for the cat to breathe normally.

The onset of noneffusive FIP is usually slower. Fluid accumulation is minimal, although weight loss, depression, anemia, and fever are almost always present. Signs of kidney failure (increased water consumption and urination), liver failure (jaundice), pancreatic disease (vomiting, diarrhea, diabetes), neurologic disease (loss of balance, behavioral changes, paralysis, seizures), enteritis (vomiting, diarrhea), or eye disease (inflammation, blindness) may be seen in various combinations. FIP is often a difficult disease to diagnose because each cat can display different signs that are similar to those of many other diseases.


What are the chances my cat will get FIP in its lifetime?

Young cats (less than two years of age), older cats (over ten years old), cats in poor physical condition, and cats undergoing concurrent infections or stress are more susceptible to FIP. It is a relatively uncommon disease in the general cat population, probably affecting fewer than one percent of the cats brought to a veterinarian’s office for treatment. In multiple-cat populations such as some shelters and catteries the disease rate can be much higher, affecting up to 10 to 20 percent of the susceptible population over a period of several months.


Are there any laboratory tests that can detect the FIP virus?

The KELA, ELISA, IFA, and virus-neutralization tests detect the presence of coronavirus antibodies in a cat. A positive test result only means the cat has had a prior exposure to a coronavirus — not necessarily one that causes FIP — and has developed antibodies against that virus. If the test is negative, it means the cat has not been exposed to a coronavirus.

The number, or titer, that is reported is the highest serum dilution that still produced a positive reaction. Low titers indicate a small amount of coronavirus antibodies in the serum, while high titers indicate greater amounts of antibodies. A healthy cat with a high titer is not necessarily more likely to develop FIP or be a carrier of an FIP-causing coronavirus than a cat with a low titer. It also is not necessarily protected against future FIP virus infection.

Recently, two new tests have been developed that can detect parts of the virus itself. The immunoperoxidase test can diagnose FIP more accurately than traditional histopathologic examination because it detects virus-infected cells in the tissue. A biopsy of affected tissue is necessary for evaluation. Another antigen test utilizes polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect viral genetic material in tissue or body fluid. Although this test shows promise, PCR is presently only capable of detecting coronaviruses in general, not necessarily those that cause FIP.


How is a positive diagnosis made?

A presumptive diagnosis of FIP can usually be made on the basis of clinical signs, routine laboratory tests, and evaluation of abdominal or chest fluid. Some cases, however, present a diagnostic challenge, since the signs of illness are not distinct for FIP. In all cases, a tissue biopsy is the only way to absolutely confirm a diagnosis of FIP.


Is there a cure for FIP?

Currently, FIP is considered to be a routinely fatal disease once a positive diagnosis has been made. Unfortunately, no cure yet exists. The basic aim of therapy is to provide supportive care and to alleviate the self- destroying inflammatory response of the disease. Some treatments may induce short-term remissions in a small percentage of patients. A combination of corticosteroids, cytotoxic drugs, and antibiotics with maintenance of nutrient and fluid intake may be helpful in some cases. In the future, combining immune-modulating drugs with effective antiviral medications may prove to be beneficial for treatment of FIP.