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FELINE URINARY PROBLEMS....

Posted May 16 2010 11:00pm
Two years ago today, Helpful Buckeye crawled out of the foam of the ancient seas and started putting together this blog, Questions On Dogs and Cats.  We've been through an evolution of sorts as the format and content of the blog have hopefully improved to the point at which the rule of survival of the fittest will allow us to continue for at least another year.

Helpful Buckeye wasn't surprised at the results of last week's poll questions.  Most of our readers haven't been in an evacuation situation, nor have they done much to prepare for one.  Even though it only would take a few hours to accumulate the suggested information and materials, very few of our readers have actually done so.  Hopefully, none of you will ever be faced with the sudden need for evacuation due to an emergency.  Be sure to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.

CURRENT NEWS OF INTEREST

1) Helpful Buckeye has referred to several places around the USA where dogs have been used to help young students with reading problems and/or deficiencies.  This very interesting account comes from the American Kennel Club about a learning center in Raleigh, NC, some children, a Border Collie, a Bouvier des Flandres, and a Siberian Husky: http://www.akc.org/news/index.cfm?article_id=4108

2) Also from the AKC, the list of all registered breeds from 2009 has been released and...surprise, surprise!  The Labrador Retriever has topped the list for 19 consecutive years...but the German Shepherd has moved back into 2nd place for the first time in 30 years.  Could there be a shift in the future?  For a lot more interesting information about how popular the different breeds are in various parts of the USA go to: http://www.akc.org/news/index.cfm?article_id=4044

DISEASES, AILMENTS, AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS

How many of you with cats have witnessed your cat squatting in the litter box for what seems to be an unusually long time?  How many of you then thought it must have something to do with constipation?  Well, even though that's a possible explanation, the much more likely reason is that there is something wrong with the cat's lower urinary tract.

Feline lower urinary tract disease involves disorders of the cat's urinary bladder and urethra.  The urethra is the tube that brings urine to the outside from the urinary bladder.  Cats experiencing one of these disorders will usually exhibit an increased frequency of urinations (more trips to the litter box), frequently some blood in the urine (pink to reddish color), and often show signs of pain and difficulty in urinating (longer time in the litter box).  Some of these cats will also urinate elsewhere away from their litter box, as well as spend a lot of time licking their genital areas.  These signs can be seen in cats of any age; however, they are most often seen in middle-aged, overweight cats that get little exercise, use an indoor litter box, have restricted access to the outdoors, and eat a dry diet.  There may also be other factors involved, such as interactions with owners, multi-cat households, and changes in routine.  Both males and females seem to be affected equally.

The most common causes of these signs are urinary tract infections, urinary stones, and urethral plugs.  Diagnosing which of these causes is involved can be tricky and your veterinarian will likely have to do some further tests beyond the initial physical exam.  These may include a urinalysis, blood work, a urine culture, and X-rays.

Stress appears to be an important contributor to the onset of these disorders.  For a cat, stress can arise from many things an owner might not be aware of, such as environmental changes (moving the location of the litter box or even changing the type of cat litter), changing the feeding schedule, introducing new pets to the home, and changing the type of food.  When combined with stress, retention of urine can contribute to further difficulty.  In other words, your cat needs an opportunity to freely urinate when it wants to and in a place where it feels comfortable and not threatened.

Some types of bladder stones can be dissolved with the help of special diets and some can't.  When the stones can't be controlled by diet, surgical removal becomes necessary.  Most cats that have experienced these stones will be at an increased risk of recurrence.  There are certain dietary considerations and medicines that might help to lessen that chance.  Your veterinarian will help you put together a long-term plan for that goal.

Of the three above-mentioned causes of signs of a urinary disorder, the one with the highest potential for serious consequences is the obstruction, or plugging, of the urethra.  This can quickly become a life- threatening situation if the obstruction is complete.  Neutered male cats are at much higher risk for an obstruction than are females since the female urethra is much shorter in length and wider.  If one of these cats cannot urinate at all, it can die within 24-36 hours due to a rapid build-up of toxins in the blood.  They quickly become depressed if not treated right away.  The treatment of choice is passing a catheter through the urethra into the urinary bladder.  When the flow of urine has been established, the cat is then stabilized, depending on how dehydrated and sick the cat is.  Again, cats that have gone through this blockage have a higher likelihood of having it happen again.  For repeat cases, there is a surgical procedure that creates a larger opening in the urethra after the removal of part of the penis.  This doesn't stop the further formation of the offending plugs, but rather provides a large enough opening for them to pass through.

Reminders for Reducing the Occurrence of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorders
  • Feed small amounts of food more often
  • Talk with your veterinarian about the proper type of food to offer your cat
  • Provide clean, fresh water at all times
  • Provide an adequate number of litter boxes (always with at least 1 extra box)
  • Keep the litter boxes in quiet, safe areas of the house
  • Keep the litter boxes clean
  • Try to minimize major changes in routines
If you see these signs, have your cat examined by your veterinarian
  • Straining to urinate
  • Frequent and/or prolonged attempts to urinate
  • Crying out while urinating
  • Excessive licking of the genital area
  • Urinating outside the litter box
  • Blood in the urine
  • If you see very little or no urine being produced and the cat is very distressed, this becomes an emergency and requires immediate veterinary treatment.
Parts of this presentation were adapted from a publication of the Cornell University Feline Health Center.

For a really good summary of feline lower urinary tract disorders, listen to this interview with Dr. Tony Buffington, as provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association: http://www.avmamedia.org/display.asp?sid=248&NAME=Lower_Urinary_Tract_Problems_in_Cats   

NON-MEDICAL CONCERNS

This weekend, mix things up a bit and head to the trails with your dog! Enjoy the beauty of your local state parks and national forests, all while you watch your dog's excitement in exploring new places. Just think how much he'll love the change of scenery and all of the new scents that go along with it.

To find a great hike for you and pooch, seek out dog-friendly trails at: http://www.hikewithyourdog.com/page2/page2.html .  Search by state for listings of over 2,000 state parks, national forests and other areas in the U.S. and Canada that welcome dogs.

To make sure your furry hiking companion is prepared and stays safe on the trail, check out the quick list of pointers below
Before Your Hike

- Your dog should be fit and healthy so he can enjoy the outing.
- Ask your vet if there should be any concerns.
- Begin with shorter hikes and gradually increase the distance.
- Research the areas you're visiting to be sure that dogs are allowed on the trails.
- Ensure your dog is wearing his ID tags, and that the information on them is current.
- Be sure your dog's vaccinations are up to date and its toenails trimmed.
- To avoid an upset stomach, don't feed your dog right before a hike. A few treats are fine.
- Make sure the weather is mild so your dog won't get overheated in particularly sunny or humid weather.
- Pack plenty of water, a bowl from which your dog can drink, poop bags and a dog first-aid kit.

On the Trail

- Keep your dog on a leash to keep him safe and away from other hikers.
- Watch the terrain to be sure it's not too rocky or rough so your pup's foot pads aren't injured.
- Provide water for your dog often to help him stay hydrated and maintain his energy level.
- After the hike, check your dog for ticks and fleas.

More details on hiking with your pooch are available at: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/05/07/local-lowdown-hitting-the-hiking-trails-with-your-dog/  
 
PRODUCTS OF THE WEEK

1) Here's an interesting toy for your cat: http://www2.pulsetv.com/prodinfo.asp?number=5214&aid

Not only does it have a freaky appeal for your cat, but it's also reduced in price!

2) For those of you who like to take your dog with you in the family vehicle, the ASPCA has this "Auto Barrier" for your consideration: http://www.aspcaonlinestore.com/index.php?productID=4003?utm_source=newsalertemail_ad2_043010&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsalertemail_ad2_043010  

GENERAL INTEREST

1) A new aspect of cat adoration has shown up in Japan.  More than a dozen "Cat Cafes" have opened in Tokyo since 2008 in which patrons pay for an hour's worth of contact with the cats.  Check it out at: http://seaofshoes.typepad.com/sea_of_shoes/2010/05/cat-cafes.html  

2) Enjoy this funny video of a Corgi that prefers its food on the floor...not in the bowl: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/05/12/corgi-gets-way-too-excited-about-his-meals-and-we-love-it/  

3) Thinking about getting a dog or a cat but not sure if you can handle the commitment? You might make the perfect foster parent.  The folks at Paw Nation offer some pointers, including the basics of foster parenting, what organizations look for in a foster parent, how to get started, and the average length of assignment, at: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/04/28/should-you-become-a-pet-foster-parent/  

4) Some cats just can't seem to get interested in anything, right?  This cat has to win the prize for being bored: http://www.funnieststuff.net/viewmovie.php?id=1715   (the video is a little fuzzy for the first few seconds, but it gets better)

SPORTS NEWS
The San Antonio Spurs were eliminated from the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns. 





PERSONAL STUFF

"Yesterday is a canceled check, and tomorrow is little more than a promissory note. Today is cash. It is real, it is tangible, and you and I have to spend it wisely." --Jim Stovall

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~
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