Cat Illnesses

Help, My Cat Has Scabies!

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Mild scabies can be difficult to diagnose. In cases of persistent itching, it’s important that your veterinarian delve into the causes and not just treat the itch. Patti M. writes:

When I rescued Bella almost a year ago, she had scabies. She stayed at my vet’s office until she was cured. I have had to take her back several times for cortisone shots because she scratches under her chin until she bleeds. She’s had several rounds of prednisone but the scabies never seems to be gone! She is so sweet and I feel so bad for her. Any Ideas?

Patti, let me begin by saying that we are not veterinarians and that this is something you should continue to address with the vet of your choice. However, you may want to seek out another opinion if your current vet hasn't offered a better solution than cortisone and prednisone. Ongoing use of those could do more harm than good.

Scabies (a type of mange) is caused by microscopic mites that should be easy enough to get rid of. Treatments may include oral drugs, topical solutions, injections, or dips. Treating the itching with cortisone & prednisone only treats the symptom and not the cause. The root cause of the itching, be it mites or something else, needs to be determined before a real treatment can be chosen and applied successfully. Most vets would do that by taking skin scrapings to see if there are mites present but even then they may be difficult to find. Some vets recommend treating for scabies just to see if conditions improve. Many common oral flea and tick treatments are effective at treating mites as well. Your vet will have to be persistent in trying to figure out what is actually making Bella itch. It could be scabies, an allergic reaction, or even feline acne.

I mention acne because it often manifests on the chins of felines. It is treatable but there is no cure. See this article for more on feline acne: http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/help-my-cat-has-acne .

If it is determined that Bella has scabies, you will need to thoroughly clean anything she’s come into contact with. The sarcoptes scabiei mite is highly contagious and can easily spread to humans. It usually doesn’t infest humans in the same way that it does other animals because we’re not the host they evolved to feed off of, but they can still cause considerable itching.

I feel certain that with the right veterinarian, you should be able to help Bella. Unfortunately, most vets don't dig into cases like this the way that they should. You really have to demand (kindly of course) that they do more than treat the itching symptom. I had a cat who developed a bad fish allergy and were it not for an older vet who knew his stuff, she might still be on anti-itch meds. Stick to your guns and keep asking what tests could help determine the actual cause of the itching. And if you think it's feline acne, follow through on the suggestions in the article I linked to above.

All our best to you and Bella!


Help, My Kitten Has Diarrhea!

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Most mammals have loose stool from time to time, but it can be life threatening for a fragile kitten. Their tiny bodies depend on lots of calories and they don’t have the well-developed immune systems that adults have. Hillarie V. writes:

My 9 week old kitten, who is active and otherwise happy and normal, has started to leak mushy poop from her butt. I also have her litter mate, who has no issues.

Hillarie, there are several health issues that can result in diarrhea, but the most common among kittens are food changes and worms. If you've changed Patches’ food recently, switch back and make the change to the new food very gradually over 7-10 days. You may also need to put her on a different food altogether. Kittens do not need special kitten food but they do need to be provided with as much healthy wet food as they can eat, without restriction. You can find our food recommendations here: http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/best-cat-food-and-treats

It's important that plenty of fresh water be made available. A kitten with diarrhea is at risk of dehydration. While Patches may seem happy and energetic, she's not getting her nutritional needs met when she has this condition. It can actually be life threatening of not treated quickly. You can help by giving her unflavored Pedialyte in place of her water.

 
 

A good home remedy for ADULT cats with mild diarrhea or constipation is canned pumpkin. Just mix one teaspoon of canned pumpkin (make sure it’s 100% pumpkin with no added ingredients) to a three ounce can of wet food for each feeding. With kittens, the need for a solution is much more immediate.

If the diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours, you need to collect a sample of Patches’ poop and take both kittens to see a veterinarian ASAP. In cases like this, the problem is often caused by parasites and the only way to know for sure is to do a fecal test. The usual solution is a simple dewormer that's administered orally, but it may take several doses before the parasites are completely eradicated. Beware of over the counter dewormers and depend on your vet for this treatment.

Even if parasites aren’t to blame, your vet can help to determine the cause and prevent both kittens from suffering.from it. All manner of infectious agents are easily transferred from kitten to kitten, especially if they use the same litter box, so it’s best to treat both of them at once in order to avoid a cycle of re-infection.

Hopefully, with the help of your vet, you can get Patches back to normal in no time.


Help, My Cat Has Mouth Ulcers!

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Lip ulcers are a common malady among humans that also occur in cats. But how do you treat them safely?

Miss Kitty has lip ulcers that usually occur in the summer months. They go away after I apply a steroid cream on her ear flap and give her Orbax, an antibiotic. Is there anything natural I could use? Maybe a cream for her lip?
— Kathy C.

Kathy, mouth ulcers are relatively rare in cats, so there hasn't been a lot of attention paid to the problem by veterinary researchers. Treatment usually depends on the causes, which can range from viruses to dental disease.

The first thing you can do is to keep Miss Kitty's teeth clean. Regular brushing with a feline toothpaste and cleanings by your veterinarian can help. If the condition becomes extreme, some vets even go so far as to recommend removing the teeth in order to get this problem under control. Thankfully, it doesn't sound like Miss Kitty is at that point just yet.

The steroid that you're using now basically suppresses the body's immune response in order to minimize the ulceration. We’re not fans of long term steroid use. Take a look at cleaning up Miss Kitty's diet. You need to make sure she's eating whole foods with few additives. Ingredients like fish, meat by-products, wheat gluten, and corn starch are all no-nos that can contribute to the presence of ulcerations as the body is trying to get rid of toxins. Take a look at our food recommendations here.

You can also help Miss Kitty by reducing stress in her environment. That includes making sure she has safe places to retreat to where she won’t be bothered (not even by you) as well as cleaning spots ourside where “intruder” cats have marked Miss Kitty’s territory. She can smell it even if you don’t and those scent markers can certainly stress her out. A good enzymatic cleaner will help. If you’re not sure whether or not a neighboring cat has been scent marking your home, you can check at night with a black light flashlight. The spray shows up as a bright neon in the black light.

One other thing you can do to help de-stress Miss Kitty is to remove potential irritants like fleas and other parasites. You can see our flea control recommendations here.

 
 

There are a couple of supplements you can add to Miss Kitty's diet which may help. Of course, you'll want to discuss these with your vet. We recommend the addition of an omega-3 fatty acid to Miss Kitty’s diet in the form of fish oil. The best product is a krill oil spray from Mercola Pets. It can be purchased from the Amazon link above but it may be available at a lower price directly from Mercola Pets.

 
 

If the Mercola product is a little too expensive, a good alternative is fish oil from Deley Naturals.

 
 

We've also seen great results from adding an edible clay to the diet. To use this, simply add 1/8 teaspoon of Terramin edible clay to Miss Kitty’s diet daily. It's available at health food stores and also at Amazon.

Good luck, Kathy, and thank you for taking the time to look for alternatives to steroids. If you can manage Miss Kitty's symptoms without them, she'll live a longer and happier life!


Help, My Cat's Licking Grout!

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Cats can become obsessed with some odd things. You’ve probably heard of pica, but when a cat is ingesting cat litter or licking grout, something else could be going on. Nick T. writes:

My 15 year old cat Peyton licks the fireplace grout. The grout between the bricks. Why does he do that? The vet doesn’t seem to have a clue.

Nick, you should take a look at Peyton’s gums. If they’re pale and Peyton is acting lethargic, he may be anemic. Cats often ingest cat litter and lick grout when they are anemic. You’ll need to have your vet do a complete blood count to find out for sure. This very specific form of pica has been linked to anemia. Treatments vary depending on the cause which we can't know without consulting a veterinarian.

Anemia is a symptom of a deeper problem, so it may take some veterinary detective work to root out the cause if that’s the case. This will include various blood tests and possibly bone marrow tests. There are two classes of anemia, regenerative and non-regenerative.

Regenerative anemia occurs when there is acute blood loss, not only to injury but also potentially from a parasite or an illness. Non-regenerative anemia is usually tied to a chronic condition, which in cats is often kidney failure. Both types of anemia are treatable, but they can have very different treatments. These should always be advised and administered by a qualified veterinarian.

If it isn't anemia, it could be stress related. Have there been significant changes in your household of late? If so, those could be driving Peyton to develop some unusual behaviors. We have a previous post on pica here. Though it doesn't cover the grout-licking variety, it may give you some insight into other possible causes.

We wish you and Peyton all the best!


Help, My Cat Has Feline Acne!

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Just like us humans, cats can have a wide variety of maladies. Even acne. With felines, this most often manifests in the chin area. Deborah writes:

Lucy is about 10 months old. We adopted her from a local animal shelter. She was a rescue from Hurricane Harvey. She has been a joy for my husband and myself. She has feline acne. I have had several cats throughout my life and have never heard of this. We of course took her to the vet. She was given an antibiotic and cortisone shots. We were also told to clean twice daily with an antiseptic and then to wipe the area with Stridex medicated pads. She is eating Simply Nourish for kittens dry food. I have stopped giving her commercial canned wet pet food. The affected area does seem much better. Would baby food be better? Any suggestions
would be appreciated.

Feline acne can be a difficult problem, and one best left to a good, feline-friendly veterinarian. In our experience, most vets are canine-centric and often treat cats as a sort of side line. They do their best but they often miss things that a cats-only vet would not. 

Acne is an alarm that lets us know that there are too many waste products building up in the body. We are not vets and are not qualified to dispense medical advice, but our go-to resource for such information, Anitra Frazier's book The Natural Cat, has some good advice. Ms. Frazier recommends a switch to a raw food diet. If this is too difficult, she recommends double-checking ingredients on wet cat food to eliminate all choices with meat by-products, preservatives, sugar, or artificial colors.

Lucy should not be on a dry diet as kibble does not provide adequate cellular nutrition and moisture. Baby food is not a good choice, but there are some very good wet canned diets out there. We have a cat who has significant food allergies and she's done quite well on Instinct canned foods. Never give up on reading labels as the manufacturers often change their ingredients and even what they call things.

We have our food recommendations here: http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/best-cat-food-and-treats . These are good for most cats, regardless of their health issues. You just need to watch out for particular ingredients if Lucy has any allergies.

 
 

You should begin feeding Lucy a daily feline multivitamin. Nu-Cat from Vetri Science Laboratories (vetriscience.com) is a good choice and it's readily available from Amazon and other retailers. Most cats will enjoy eating Nu-Cat as a treat, but if you have difficulty getting Lucy to accept them, you can always crumble them and add them to her food.

You can keep the area of acne infection clean by using a hot compress and then gently removing any loose debris from the skin and fur. Follow this up with a bit of peroxide on a cotton ball. After it's done foaming, wash it clean and apply a solution of 1/2 cup water and 1/8 teaspoon white vinegar. Human health care products like Stridex are generally not a good idea for use on cats.

It's our NON-veterinary opinion that antibiotics and cortisone will do more harm than good in the long run. Many vets apply cortisone to every animal with any itch whatsoever. This essentially serves to mask symptoms without treating their root causes. Antibiotics can also do the same while adding new symptoms.

 
 

It's important that you put Lucy on a course of probiotics to restock her intestinal flora after the course of antibiotics has killed them. For a cat with feline acne, you want to avoid mixtures like Purina's Forti-Flora which have additives. Instead, look for Jarrow Formulas Pet Dophilus powder. Despite the odd name, this is readily available at Amazon and other pet supply retailers. Just add 1/8 teaspoon to one meal per day. You may also want to add a teaspoon of raw, canned pumpkin so the new good flora have something to eat too.

We know this is a lot of information. Just take your time and consider your choices. Remember that you are the ultimate arbiter of Lucy’s health care. If you feel your veterinarian isn’t administering the best care, there are always other vets out there.

All our best wishes for you and Lucy!