Cat Illnesses

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!

Help, My Cat is Itching All the Time!

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Sometimes our feline friends can scratch themselves silly with no apparent cause. Lois C. writes:

My 14 year old cat, Bogart, has started scratching almost constantly when he’s awake. He’s an inside cat, has no fleas, nor do I see flaking on his skin. All the licking causes him to throw up fur balls. We have relocated to three different homes in the last year. He seems well-adjusted. He has the run of the house, but something is going on. If you have any ideas I’d appreciate any help. I can’t afford a vet visit right now. Thank you!

Lois, there are many potential causes for what you describe. we'll go through the most likely ones and hopefully you'll be able to help Bogart.

You mentioned that he doesn't have fleas. Just be aware that cats who develop flea allergy dermatitis can itch for days from a single bite. Their allergic reaction can be severe, and severely uncomfortable for them. Don't assume there are no fleas just because you haven't seen any. Get a flea comb (we like the double-row combs) and carefully comb around Bogart's head and neck to see if you can find any fleas. Have a large cup of water with a drop or two of dish detergent in it and dip the comb in that to dispense with the fleas if you find any.

 
 

If you do find fleas, we have a post on getting rid of them here: http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/flea-control-for-cats . Just be aware that the effectiveness of these methods depend a lot on the environment you live in. We've heard of people ridding their home with fleas using nothing but a flea comb and a vacuum cleaner daily, but it takes diligence. If you want to purchase a flea control product, the one we recommend is lufenuron.

Thanks to the fine folks at LittleCityDogs.com, lufenuron flea treatments are readily available and inexpensive. You simply add it to your cat's food once a month. Lufenuron is unique in that it acts as birth control for fleas, so it doesn't kill the adults. For that, we recommend the flea comb method. You can also administer nitenpyram (also available at Little City Dogs) to kill adult fleas as needed along with the monthly doses of lufenuron.

If Bogart is scratching around his face and brows a lot, he could have a food allergy. Cats are especially prone to allergies to fish protein, so eliminate fish from his diet first. Your first line of defense has to be choosing the best food you can afford to offer Bogart. We have a post on our food recommendations here: http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/best-cat-food-and-treats . Especially note the links presented in the post that will take you to rankings and info about many commercially available foods.

The third most likely culprit is stress. Cats hide stress very well, but it eventually manifests as overgrooming or scratching. Moving so often has certainly taken a toll on Bogart. To reduce his stress, try to stick to a daily schedule with him and give him places in your home that he can retreat to without being bothered. Feliway makes products intended to reduce stress in cats but we've only had limited success with them. We think the best solution to stress is a solid schedule, plenty of quiet time, and gentle attention. 

When you can afford it, Bogart should see a veterinarian just to make sure he doesn't have mites or some other parasite. We wish you and Bogart all the best!

Help, My Cat is Bow-Legged!

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Whenever you notice a change in your cat, be it behavioral or physical, it's a safe bet that there's an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Claudia K. writes:

Sully is a five year old cat who I believe is healthy, however, for the past few days he has been walking bow-legged with his paws facing out. I can’t figure out why. I felt his legs and joints and nothing seems out of place. What could cause this? He has been losing weight and drinking and peeing a lot lately.

Claudia, cats can sometimes have a sudden onset of leg weakness (usually the hind legs) due to diabetes, a blood clot, epilepsy, or physical injury. Arthritis is also a possibility and some breeds are prone to hip dysplasia.

When you add in the facts that he's losing weight and drinking more than usual, the signs indicate diabetes. Diabetes is easily treatable and Sully can live a long and healthy life with the disease, but he needs to see a veterinarian ASAP.

If Sully's vet diagnoses him with the disease, your first order of business is to make sure he's on a low-carbohydrate diet. We have a post on this very subject here:

 http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/food-recommendations-for-cats-with-diabetes 

Diabetes has become a feline epidemic because of all of the high-carb foods in the marketplace these days. Many of the most popular brands of cat food, especially dry foods, are mostly carbs. Pet food manufacturers are literally getting away with murder by pushing these awful products on an unsuspecting public. The only way we can combat them is to educate ourselves on products that deliver a healthy, species-appropriate diet.

Be careful not to fall into the trap of prescription diets for diabetes. Many veterinarians prescribe them and cats seem to get better, but most of those diets are high-carb as well. Feline diabetes can actually go into remission if the cat is fed a species-appropriate diet.

You also want to make sure that Sully is getting plenty of exercise every day. At the age of five, he should have at least two thirty minute play times daily, during which he gets a vigorous workout. If you're having difficulty transitioning him to new food, it can help to have these play times right before meal times.

We wish you and Sully all the best!