27 December 2015

Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC)

One of the main reasons cats are taken to the vet is urinary tract issues, namely, the cat is using the litterbox frequently with little urine produced, or the cat is peeing outside of the box somethimes with blood.  These are the warning signs that the might have a bladder infection, bladder stones, bladder cancer, etc., or it may be suffering from feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC).

A note on acronyms:  In the early 1980s, this was usually termed FUS -- feline urological syndrome.  Thanks to an article in a 1984 journal, it became FLUTD -- feline lower urinary tract disease.  It has also been refered to as LUTS -- lower urinary tract signs and IC -- interstitial cystitis, which was borrowed from human medicine.  I will refer to it as the new preferred term -- FIC.

FIC strikes males and females equally, although males are by far more likely to become obstructed than females.  Risk factors seem to include stress, excess body weight, lack of activity, and multicat homes.

With humans, there are two types -- ulcerative and non-ulcerative.  With cats, almost all are non-ulcerative, and so, biopsies of the bladder are not recommended for cats suspected of having FIC.

The actual cause of FIC is unknown.  There seems to be no clear link between any virus and FIC.  There seems to be some connection with bacteria, namely cats with FIC are at increased risk of bacterial UTI.  The neurons assocaited with the bladder are larger and more sensitve in FIC cats than in normal cats.  Abnormalities in the hpothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal axis have been observed in cats with FIC.  Many cats with FIC also suffer from various other diseases leading researchers to wonder if FIC is a single disease or an expression of a larger disease process which effects other organs also.  One important "cause" is early kittenhood adversity, such as being orphaned or starved.

Diagnosing FIC is by exclusion of other diseases.  (The accompanying diagram shows most of the other possibilities.)  There is no clear diagnostic test, although researchers have found some biomarkers which seem to be linked to FIC.  Abdominal xrays are suggested since 20% with some type of urinary tract issue have crystals.

Treatment involves both drugs and environmental changes.  Narcotic pain-killers are recommended during a FIC period, whereas NSAIDs are not because of decreased blood flow to the kidneys.

The main treatment is modification of the cat's evironment to decrease stress.  An interesting question to help identify stress triggers is at http://indoorpet.osu.edu .  Increased water intake is seen as important, but using acidifying foods is not.  If the cat is fat, a safe diet needs to be undertaken.  Feliway may or may not be useful with FIC cats, but it was discussed and there is research on using it with these cats.  No drug, such as antidepressives, have been found useful.

Summarized from "Feline Idiopathic Cystitis", Jodi L. Westropp and C. A. Tony Buffington, pp.518-525 in Consultations in Feline Internal Medicine, v.7, 2015.

26 December 2015

Urinary Tract Infection in Cats

When a cat repeatedly visits the litter box, like 5 times in 10 minutes, or begins to pee outside the litter box, with even a drop or two of blood, one likely cause is a urinary tract infection.

There are several related medical problems that are related and must be clearly distinguished if treatment is to be successful.  They are:  bladder stones, urethral plugs in males, idiopathic cystitis, plus some other causes.  The key to determining IF it is a UTI is a urinalysis.  The urine specific gravity will help determine if the help distinguish upper urinary tract infection, associated diseases (e.g. CRF), or lower urinary tract infection.  A urine culture will determine the bacteria involved.  In more complicated cases, bloodwork, xrays, thyroid tests, and even an ultrasound may be needed.

The likey cause of most UTI's is bacteria spreading from the external opening up into the bladder and then even on to the kidenys.  Few infections seem to begin from blood into the kidneys, except in cases of trauma or urinary tract obstruction.  33-50% of all bacteria is E. coli.  25-33% are one of the many strains of Staph or Enterococci.  The remaining are a mix of 8+ bacteria.  In about 75% of the cases, only one bacteria is responsible for the infection, with 20% of the cases having 2 different species involved.  There is also the slim chance that a fungal infection can be the cause.

The standard treatment is antibiotics.  The first-line options are amoxicillin are trimethoprim-sulfadiazine.  Second-line option is nitrofurantoin.  Other antibiotics can be used, but many seem to be resistent to Enterococci.  Interestingly, the article says about clavamox "not established where there is any advantage over amoxicillin alone", which is intersting because clavamox is often seen as the go-to antibiotic.  Also of interest is the comment on cefovecin (Convenia) "Should only be used in situations where oral treatment is problematic" and it goes on to explain that the long duration interfers then with any post-treatment cultures for over 21 days.

In simple cases, treatment with antibiotics is for 10-14 days, with symptoms lessening in 48 hrs.  Sadly, simple UTI's are rare.  More complicated cases involving CKD or diabetes should be treated for 4-6 weeks.  Reinfection and relapse can occur.

The article also mentions alternative treatments, including cranberry extracts, D-mannose, methenamine hippurate, and probiotics.  Sadly there are no feline studies on any of these products.  Do note that methenamine is "poorly tolerated by feline patients".

Summarized from "Urinary Tract Infections", Shelly Olin and Joseph W. Bartges, pp 509-517, in Consultations in Feline Internal Medicine, v.7, 2015.

25 December 2015

Feline Uroliths

80% of all bladder stones (uroliths) in cats are either struvite or calcium oxalate. The remaining 20% are formed from a variety of minerals, each type occuring very rarely, and so I will focus on the two main types.
Struvite crystals form when the urine is not acid enough. These crystals come in two forms, sterile and infection-induced. The sterile form is just precipitated minerals from the urine. They are common in cats 1-8 yrs old, in both male and female. Diets low in magnesium, phosphate, and protein can lead to their dissolving. Prevention includes lowering the urine pH, decreasin urine specific gravity, and decreasing dietary magnesium, ammonium, and phosphates. Increased water consumption also helps prevent formation.
The infection-induced struvite crystals tend to form in very young or older cats. A bacterial infection in the bladder releases urease which then leads to the formation of the crystalline nidus (seed-crystal). The treatment of these crystals is much the same as sterile struvite crystals, except that antibiotics should be used while the dissolution food is being fed. The reason for this is the bacteria trapped in the stone are released as the stone is dissolved and can cause UTI or further stone formation. Antibiotics should continue for 2 weeks past when the stone no longer is visible on xrays or ultrasounds. Prevention of infection-induced struvite crystals does not require any change in diet -- only thorough treatment of any UTI.
Calcium oxalate crystals form when urine is too low in pH. Various medical conditions such as hypercalcemia is associated with an increase risk in calcium oxalate stones. These stones can not be dissolved by diet and must be physically removed. Prevention is treatment of any contributing medical condition and increasing fluid consumption.
In the photo, Photo A shows a typical sterile struvite crystal which is nicely round and smooth. Photo B shows 3 infection-induced struvite crystals -- note that they are smooth but geometrically shaped. Photo C shows a calcium oxalate crystal with typical spikes.
Based on "Update on feline Urolithiasis" by Amanda Callens and Joseph W. Bartges, pp. 499-508, in Consultations on Feline Internal Medicine, v7, 2015

05 April 2015

Cats: Exposure to Rabies

One of the most contentious topics in any cat group is the subject of vaccines and whether are not to vaccinate.  Often someone will remark that they have to vaccinate because of the local law.  Some people are unaware that the requirement for rabies vaccination depends on the locality.  Where I live, rabies vaccinations are required by county law for dogs only.  I have friends who live in areas where rabies vaccinations are also required for cats.  The variation in requirements depends in large part on the incidence of rabies in wildlife in an area.

Please keep in mind that the rabies vaccine is NOT for the health of the dog or cat, but to protect humans from the rabies.  This article, Rabies Postexposure Prophylaxis, by M. Gayne Fearneyhough, BS, DVM (p 557-572 in Vol 31, No 3, Vet. Cl. of NA: Small Animal Practice, May 2001) looks at the treatment of humans after they have been bitten by a potential rabid animal.  As I do not particularly care about human medicine, this is a very brief summary.

One statement of interest in this article is "many parts of the western United States are free of terrestrial rabies", which, if you look at the 2010 CDC map for rabies infections in dogs and cats, my area, southern CA, has no cases (despite heavy testing) whereas a state like Pennsylvania is solid yellow in the east.  This explains why my Eastern friends are so adamant about rabies vaccines and here it's a minor concern.

The chart below is the decision tree recommended for humans:

Perhaps the most interesting section had to do with post-exposure treatment in domestic animals.  I have lived under the assumption that if a cat was bitten, that was a death sentence.  Apparently not.  At least 2 studies, one of 713 animals and another of 632 animals (dogs, cats, cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, and 1 llama) were treated.  The first study had a 99.7% survived and 99.5% in the second.  So, yes, a cat bitten by a rabid animal CAN be successfully treated. The main problem mentioned is that the animal may survive but may not be free of rabies. I would think a second problem is to find a place that would quarantine the cat and provide treatment for several weeks.

04 April 2015

Cats: A Brief Introduction to Recombinant Vaccines

The article, Recombinant Vaccine Technology in Veterinary Medicine, by Kent R. Van Kampen, DVM, PhD (p 535-538 in Vol 31, No 3, Vet. Cl. of NA: Small Animal Practice, May 2001) was interesting and difficult.  It's been over 20 years since I did anything serious with DNA and gene-splicing, so I had to dredge up a lot of information from the corners of my mind to understand this article.  The exciting thing is this form of vaccine seems to hold great promise -- not only to develop new vaccines for different diseases, but also because the vaccine avoids some of the adverse reactions.

The standard vaccine types have problems.  The killed vaccines often provide only short-lived immunity. The modified live vaccines have the real risk of causing the disease.  So, researchers developed recombinant vaccines, or, genetically engineered vaccines, which are focuses on specific antigens (reactive agents).  With these vaccines, there is little chance of a cat developing the disease.

The general method (and this is a huge simplification) is to chop up the DNA of the pathogen, such as rabies.  Part of the DNA or RNA is then inserted into a recipient cell, such as a yeast, bacterium or virus. The vaccine is then derived. This manipulation of genes can create vaccines in three general ways:

Type I -- Subunit Vaccines
For this type, the gene responsible for producing the antigen is snipped from the pathogen and spliced into a host.  The host is then cultured, which allows it to produce the antigen.  The antigen is then purified and becomes the vaccine.

Type II -- Gene-deleted Vaccines
For this type, one or several genes are removed from the DNA of the pathogen to decrease its pathogenicity, or rather, it's tendency to produce the disease.  The pathogen is cultured and used as the vaccine.

Type III -- Vectored Vaccines
This is the most complicated type.  The genes from the pathogen that are associated with protection from the disease are isolated and then inserted into a gene-deleted host.  This host replicates, is purified, and then used as the vaccine.  The host organism enters various cells in the cat and 'infects' the cat with the protective genes.  Canarypox is often used as the vector (host) and was licensed for use in rabies vaccines.

This article is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to recombinant vaccines.  It was written as the concept was just beginning to be widely studied, in 2001.  From my limited reading of newer articles, the recombinant rabies vaccine is considered safe, very effective, and without a risk of sarcoma.  I hope to have time this summer to do more reading on this topic.

01 April 2015

Cats: Vaccines and Veterinarian Liability

I only summarized this article because some times when a cat has a reaction to a vaccine, the owner immediately wants to sue the vet.  This article, The Potential for Liability in the Use and Misuse of Veterinary Vaccines by Duane Flemming, DVM, JD (p 515-523 in Vol 31, No 3, Vet. Cl. of NA: Small Animal Practice, May 2001) clearly explains what a vet legally can and cannot do with regards to liability and vaccines.

Basically, a vet's liability regarding vaccines comes down to 3 questions:
1. Did the vet use the vaccine in accordance with standard veterinary practice?  Do other vets reasonably use it that way?  This does not mean the vet followed the labeling guidelines, but that he followed common practice.

2. Did he obtain informed consent?  Did he tell the owner that there was a risk of adverse reactions?  The owner should have been made aware of what the benefits and risks of the vaccines are and if there are options.

3. Did the vet provide undue warranty?  Did he claim that the vaccine was 100% effective?  Basically, no vaccine is 100% effective for all cats.  For example, the calicivirus vaccine lessens the infection but does not prevent it.

31 March 2015

Cats: Vaccine-Related Sarcomas

This was a relatively short article and one topic, thankfully, that I have never experienced.  Since many of my cats do come from unknown backgrounds, I do suspect that some are at risk, but so far, so good. 

Recent Advances in the Treatment of Vaccine-Sarcomas, by Gregory K. Ogilvie, DVM
p 525-533 in Vol 31, No 3, Vet. Cl. of NA: Small Animal Practice, May 2001...

The article focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of the sarcoma and not on the fact that vaccines seem to cause sarcomas.  The latter is assumed by the article. The article doesn't mention, but from other sources the sarcomas are linked primarily to FeLV and rabies vaccines.

Physical exam -- The sarcoma appears as a lump or thickening either at the injection site or, interestingly, on the underside of the cat (migration of vaccine agent).  The lump can appear from days to years afterwards. This timing, days to years, is a bit scary since I do not know the vaccine history of many of my cats.

Evaluation -- The first step is a needle biopsy to confirm that it is a sarcoma.  The next step is xrays to determine if it has metastasized.  Enlarged lymph nodes may need to be biopsied.

Treatment of small tumors -- The recommendation is for a 2cm cuff around the tumor and 1 skin layer deeper.  2cm on both sides is HUGE!  The author mentions the inconclusiveness of both chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and from other sources, this does not seem to have changed significantly in recent years.

Treatment of large tumors -- The author recommends surgical reduction of the tumor followed by radiation treatment.

Metastatic sarcomas -- Chemotherapy seems to be the solution but at the time of writing there was no clear recommendations.

Patient Management -- The author stresses the need to give the client pain meds, anti-nausea meds, and appetite stimulants to help the cat.  Also, the client should be given written instructions and educational material because owners often are very upset when told their cat has cancer.

Prognosis -- For small, non-metastatic tumors, the prognosis is good.  Otherwise, the outcome is usually not good as the tumor recurs.  Who does the surgery and how extensive it was drastically influences the outcome:

"The median time of tumor control was 94 days.  Median tumor control for tumors treated with excision performed at a referral institution (274 days) was significantly longer than that for tumors excised by a referring veterinarian (66 days).  A radical first excision yielded significantly longer median tumor control (325 days) than did a marginal first excision (79 days)..... Few cats (13.8%) receiving only surgical treatment had long-term (>2 years) survival, suggesting that radiation and chemotherapy are highly indicated as adjunctive therapies."  And this is an interesting statement about radiation and chemotherapy given what the author said previously about the inconclusiveness.

These vaccine-related sarcomas are the reason the new vaccine protocols recommend vaccinating for rabies and FeLV in the legs or even tail -- those parts can be amputated to save the cat from the sarcoma.  To me this is very drastic and makes me ever so grateful that I don't have to vaccinate for rabies of FeLV.

30 March 2015

Cats: Adverse Reactions to Vaccines

One of the major objections to vaccines by many people who do not vaccinate their cats has to do with reactions to the vaccines.  I know from personal experience with my cats that most cats have little reaction to vaccines, but for others, the reactions can linger for 3-5 days, cause vomiting, and cause stiffness.  I have also heard of much stronger reactions, to the point of death.  (I also acknowledge that some of the reactions may be overstated by upset owners, but still....)

This article, Vaccine-Associated Adverse Events, by E. Kathryn Meyer, VDM (p 493-514 in Vol 31, No 3, Vet. Cl. of NA: Small Animal Practice, May 2001) was interesting for several reasons.  First because it explained how the reactions are noted in the licensing of vaccines.  And second because of the range of reactions which the author admits to.  This latter is especially interesting because in personal conversations with various vets, I have been clearly told that there are none or almost no reactions to vaccines.

General Background on How Vaccine Reactions are Studied
Prelicense Studies:  These are trials conducted by the vaccine manufacturer, involving a small number of animals.  With cats and Chlamydia for example, there are 20 vaccinated cats and 10 control cats.  To get a label claiming prevention, the vaccine must be 80% effective.  Each vaccine batch must be in vitro tested for potency. 

The duration of immunity (DOI) determines the revaccination interval, but DOI studies are not required to support vaccine label recommendations for boosters.  This seems a bit inconsistent to recommend boosters without any evidence that boosters are needed.

The safety of a vaccine is determined by a larger field trial, which may or may not capture adverse reactions which are rare.  If there are adverse reactions observed, these are NOT required by law to be on the vaccine label.

Postlicense Studies:  “systematic monitoring of canine and feline infectious disease, with the exception of rabies, is not routinely performed”.  So, in essence, one cannot say that statistically the use of the herpes vaccine has decreased the incidence of the disease, although common observation would say it does. 
Reactions after licensing also do not have to appear on the vaccine label (except in certain specific cases with dog vaccines) and manufacturers are leery of doing so because it creates the image that their vaccine is unsafe.  The postmarketing surveillance is mainly by passive systems in that the vet contacts both the manufacturer and the USDA, but the few vets do this and in most cases (97%) they will report problems only to the manufacturer.  In 2001, the USDA Center for Veterinary Medicine was going to publish a rule requiring industry reporting of adverse reactions.  It does not seem this rule was ever published because (a) I could find no reference to this rule in vaccine discussions after 2001 and (b) as late as last year, reporting of vaccine reactions still was on a voluntary basis by the individual vet.

Adverse Reactions
Systemic Reactions: Nonspecific Systemic Reactions
This is anorexia, lethargy, fever, and soreness from 1-36 hrs after inoculation.  Most cases are mild, but a few are severe, and are presumed to be an immune response to the vaccine.  In a clinical study, the rate was 1.2% with cats older than 1 year and cats receiving multiple vaccines at greater risk.  The implications of this seem to be that a previous vaccination as a kitten may very well prime the immune system to react to the vaccine.  Also, this seems to be in alignment with many holistic vets' recommendation not to give multiple vaccines at one time.  For example, vaccinate for FeLV one month and rabies the next month, instead of all at once.

Systemic Reactions: Anaphylaxis
This is a reaction involving the lymph system (IgE mediated) involving the skin, intestines, and lungs.  The reaction can last up to 48 hrs and may require steroids, antihistamines or epinephrine.  In a study, 0.26% of cats had an anaylaxic reaction with 66% of those involving the intestinal tract, 22% respiratory, and 12% skin.

Systemic Reactions: Autoimmune Disease
Interesting, there are no reports of vaccines triggering an autoimmune disease in cats, only in dogs.  The time frame was 2-14 days and involved problems like hemolytic anemia.  My personal, non-vet opinion, is that some of the autoimmune diseases, such as IBD, are actually triggered by over-vaccination, but as the author clearly stated, there is no evidence for this view.  Then again, proving causation between a vaccine and a long-term immune problem would be difficult at best.

Systemic Reactions:  Immunosuppression
One study showed that some kittens vaccinated with an intranasal modified live panleukemia vaccine became immunosuppressed which lead to a systematic infection by Salmonella. When I think about this, this is not surprising since a vaccine works by challenging the immune system.  If the immune system is working to fight off panleuk then other bacteria and viruses can easily be overlooked by the immune system.

Systemic Reactions:  Vaccine Virulence
Modified-live vaccines (MLV) can cause reactions similar to the disease.  Calici and herpes MLV are well known to cause sneezing and sniffles 4-9 days after proper vaccination.  Calici MLV can cause ‘limping calici’.  With pregnant cats, MLV can cause fetal abortion or developmental problems. There are reports of MLV for rabies not being inactivated enough that it actually causes rabies.

Systemic Reactions: Product Contamination
Each batch of vaccine is tested for other viruses, fungi, mycoplasma, and bacteria.  Vaccine contamination still does occur and when it does, it affects a large number of animals.  But there are no specific statistics on how wide-spread the problem is.

Local Vaccine Reactions:  Pain
In cats, lameness lasting for a few days to several weeks is not uncommon since vets are now vaccinating in the hind limbs.  The lameness is from an inflammatory response.

Local Vaccine Reactions:  Benign Swellings
These swellings are not considered an adverse reaction by many vets, but the normal reaction.  Rabies vaccines in cats accounted for 72% of reported ‘benign vaccine lumps’.  In a small study of 9 cats, all cats developed them after rabies, only 1 after FVRCP, and none after FeLV.

Local Vaccine Reactions:  Injection Site Sarcomas
This was a topic of a separate article and will be dealt with there.

Local Vaccine Reactions:  Vaccine Site Alopecia
Most reports of hairloss at the injection site are related to rabies vaccine.

Local Vaccine Reactions:  Abscesses
With cats, the reports were linked to ringworm vaccinations.  As a side-note, the ringworm vaccine was never common and now seems to be unavailable in the US.

Local Vaccine Reactions:  Intranasals
Problems involving the FVRCP vaccine include nasal ulcers, oral ulcers, and eye ulcers.

29 March 2015

Cats: Recommended Vaccines and Vaccination Schedule

This is a summary of the article:
Feline Vaccination Guidelines, by James Richards, DVM, and Ilona Rodan, DVM, p 455-472 
in Vol 31, No 3, May 2001, Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice

The development of the guidelines was based on the overall goals of vaccination.  These are “to vaccinate the largest possible number of individuals in the population at risk, vaccinate each individual no more frequently than necessary, and vaccinate only against infectious agents to which individuals have a realistic risk of exposure and subsequent development of disease.”  Kittens, which are more susceptible to severe infections, are the primary target and because of the maternal antibodies, they require a series of shots to develop proper immunization.
Use of polyvalent vaccines, that is, vaccines for more than one disease, is discouraged except for the 3 core vaccines (herpes, calici, and panleuk).

Feline Panleukopenia (FPV):  Because the virus can remain in the environment for over a year and because it has a high mortality rate in young cats, vaccination is recommended for all cats.  Maternal antibodies interfere with vaccination in kittens under 12 weeks.  Most vaccinated animals are 100% protected, although intranasal vaccines may not give complete protection. There are studies showing the duration of immunity (DOI) is at least 7 years. The vaccine for FPV does protect cats against canine parvovirus-2b, which can infect cats.  There are no associations with tumors.  Kittens and pregnant queens should not be vaccinated with modified live vaccines because of neurological development problems.

Feline Herpes (FHV-1) and Feline Calicivirus (FCV):  These two cause about 90% of respiratory problems in cats and are highly contagious.  Both are self-limiting in adults, but can be fatal in kittens.  Maternal antibodies interfere with vaccination in kittens under 12 weeks.  DOI is at least 3 years.  Vaccines reduce the severity of the disease, but do not prevent infection.  Topical vaccines (intranasal or conjunctival) are useful for cats placed in situations with ongoing URIs such as shelters and can be given to kittens as young as 10 days.  There are some reports of mild reactions, but no reports of sarcomas.

Rabies: Rabies vaccination is highly recommended for all cats and is required in some places.  The adjuvanted vaccine [adjuvanted means a vaccine with something added to increase the immune response] is associated with vaccine-reactions, such as swellings and with sarcomas.  When this was written, all rabies vaccines were adjuvanted, except for the recombinant form.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV):  Vaccination should be based on age (cats under 4 months are most at risk) and risk of exposure (outdoors or mixed -/+ households are most at risk). Vaccination is NOT recommended for older (> 5 months) cats with little exposure [indoor older cats].  Different brands of vaccine vary in their immune response – separation of infected cats is a better alternative to vaccination.  The vaccines have been associated with fibrosarcomas.  DOI is about 1 year, requiring annual booster shots.

Chlamydiosis:  This bacteria causes conjunctivitis and respiratory problems, which respond well to antibiotics.  As with herpes and calici, the vaccine only lessens the effects, but unlike them, there are frequent reactions to the vaccine.  Because the reactions seem to outweigh the disease, vaccination is not recommended except where Chlamydia has been confirmed.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP):  The vaccine has two major problems.  First, the vaccine should not be given before 16 weeks of age, by which time most kittens are already infected with the coronavirus.  Second, “there is no evidence that the vaccine induces clinically relevant protection” – in basic, it doesn’t work.  Thus, it’s not recommended at all.

Dermatophytosis (Ringworm):  The vaccine does lessen the duration of ringworm infection and perhaps reduces the spores produced, but will not prevent infection.  DOI is unknown.

Bordetella bronchiseptica:  This causes respiratory problems, can occur into upto 80% of cats from shelters and multi-cat homes, and is self-limiting [cats routinely recover without medication].  At the time of writing [late 2000], there were no independent studies on this vaccine for either effectiveness or DOI.  It is only recommended for multiple cat environments like shelters, catteries, board facilities where Bordetella is known to exist.

Giardia:  This is a protozoan which can cause acute gastric upset.  The vaccine was not recommended for all cats as it was not proven effective in wide trials [as of 2000], but in licensing trials, the vaccine was shown to shorten the duration of diarrhea upon exposure and the length of cyst shedding.  It should be considered for cats in areas with giardia exposure.  DOI is 1 year or longer.

These guidelines were in 2001 very controversial as most vet schools were still teaching that vaccines had to be given annually to ensure immunity.  Likewise the comment that multiple vaccines should not be given at once, except for the main 3 core vaccines, which would eliminate 5-in-1 shots.

The actual vaccine schedule given in this article was later adopted by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and is given below.  Essentially, it is the same, only the timing of the kitten shots has changed and the deletion of vaccines which were deemed not necessary, such as ringworm.

Reading this article confirmed to me that my decisions regarding with respect to vaccinations are okay.  I say okay because I can see there may be a slight potential for improvement.  For most of my cats, I do not vaccinate at all.  They are older, come from shelters which always do the core vaccines on intake.  My cats are all indoors with no FeLV+ cats and no exposure to rabies.  So there's little reason to vaccinate them.

Bodhi, my kitten, may need a booster for the 3-in-1 core vaccines because he is a 'baby' and because he goes to cat shows.  Peaches I will have to think about since she goes to shows but she's older so I don't know.  It's the 'high exposure, stressful situation' in the comments that bother me because of the cat shows.  And Langston, who got his kitten shots at ~1.5 yrs, might benefit from a booster.

28 March 2015

This Blog, Facebook, and a New Direction

For some time, I've been wondering what to do with this blog as I don't want to delete it but I don't have time to do a lot of writing for it either.  My Facebook group, Feline Health Research Group, seems to have taken most of my free time between answering questions and reading articles to summarize.  The big problem with Facebook, other than the personal threats, is that searching on there is a joke.  This blog, however, is indexed by Google and is very searchable....

So, I'm going to transfer some of the summaries of articles I wrote for the FHRG to this blog. Not only will the information eventually be searchable, but I can change types, add photos, add links, etc.  I can also do a bit more digging on some topics and add more to the articles, usually newer information.

23 February 2015

Cats: Raw Food and FIP

Several cats helping clean the bowl after making the food
A friend asked me, as someone who has done extensive research on raw diets and who has fed raw for years, to comment on cats with FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) and raw diets.

One major arguments against feeding a FIP cat raw is with regards to the usefulness of raw diets.  No, there is no scientific research on the benefits of raw for FIP cats or any other cats because there are no scientific studies on raw vs. commercial.  There are the Pottenger's studies from the mid-1940s on raw vs. cooked diets and there are a lot of anecdotal evidence by long-term raw feeders, neither of which are rigorous scientifically.  But while there is no evidence to support it, there is, likewise, no evidence to not support it.  The concerns the veterinary community has against raw are not based on any scientific evidence to date. The lack of evidence can not and should not be construed to mean anything other than there is no research on the topic.

The second argument against raw is that no one has adequate training to judge the appropriateness of a raw recipe except a veterinary nutritionist.  I take offense at that.  I personally have the biochemistry, the statistics, the nutritional training, and, much more importantly, the experience of 25+ yrs of raw feeding to look at and analyze a recipe for the level of thiamine (1.4mg/1000 kcal ME).  It's not rocket science to take the food components and add up all the vitamins and minerals and then compare them to published requirements -- it's tedious, but this is how researchers do it.  (Many veterinary food researchers are not veterinary nutritionists, but nutritional researchers, some without a veterinary degree.)  There is in fact one
THE book on nutritional requirements for cats
company on line that will analyze raw recipes for all nutrients.  So, if someone does have a recipe, they can have it analyzed, or they can do it themselves, or they can ask those of us who have been feeding raw for years to look at it.

I would remind whoever that the general vet has 1 semester of small animal nutrition (cats, dogs, gerbils, and parakeets).  Vet nutritionists are better trained, but there are only a handful of board-certified ones in the US in private practice (ones with 2 yrs of extra training) -- many of those that are calling themselves nutritionists are not certified.  I had the opportunity to talk to one and was left very unimpressed by his knowledge on feline nutrition -- he was brilliant on canine nutrition, but dogs are not cats.

On a side note -- concerning the whole idea that a layman can't make cat food, I have fed my present recipe for ~15 yrs with no nutritional problems.  The recipe I use is borrowed from Michelle Bernard at Blakkatz Raw Recipes.  (Michelle used that recipe for a good 10 yrs before publishing it and raised champion American Shorthair cats on it.)  I have done nutritional screenings on my cats and there are no deficiencies or excesses.  I have analyzed this recipe and someone else had it analyzed by the company mentioned above -- it's fine.  This recipe also has been 'blessed' by my vet, 3 other vets of friends, and was deemed 'perfect' in terms of nutrition. While there are some whacko raw food recipes out there (ones that claim no supplements are required), there is at least one that is fine.

The third argument against raw is the issue of pathogens in the raw food.  Yes, this risk is there.  Given the number of recalls for canned and kibble foods, the risk is also there and of a much more serious nature since the pathogens found in commercial food seem to be of more virulent strains. But back to raw -- not only is the cat digestive system shorter so the bad 'bugs' have less time to colonize, the acid in the stomach is stronger so many of the pathogens that would sicken humans are destroyed by the cat's stomach acid.  I deal with medically fragile Persians from large public shelters and they all get transitioned to raw.  In the 25 yrs I've done raw, not one cat has had any food-borne illness from my raw.  Among my raw-feeding friends including owners of FIV and FeLV cats, not one of them have had problems either.  If you start with human-grade meats and handle it properly, the risk is minimal.

With respect specifically to pathogens, raw, and FIP, the argument is that the cat's immune system is already stressed so the pathogens are more problematic.  That sounds good, but the immune system in a FIP is over-reactive, not under-reactive.  Cats die from FIP not from secondary infections as they do with feline leukemia, but from the immune system destroying the cells of the body.

So, the bottomline is this -- if I had a cat with dry FIP, would I switch the cat to raw?  Probably yes.  I do not see any harm in a raw diet and I have seen major benefits from it in cats with IBD, diabetes, FeLV, and FIV.  If the cat was already showing symptoms, then maybe not if the cat was hesitant to eat the raw -- I would prefer to have the last weeks of the cat's life to be as free from stress as possible.  As for the wet FIP, no, I would just love the cat until it dies.

15 February 2015

Maggie Day

This is the hardest day of the year -- the day my Maggie died.

For those who don't know her story, she was used and abused by a backyard breeder and then dumped. She was under 3 lbs and covered in sores when I got her from the shelter. Someone had tried to trim her mats, but instead cut into her to the bone of her tail.  Shortly after coming home, she got herpes which went to her eyes. One burst from an ulcer and was removed. The other one burst and was grafted, twice, and was saved. She also had cancer in her mouth, which eventually killed her. I had her 16 months which was a brief instant and lifetime....

She loved to play with her mousies, her turbo track, and her jingle balls.  At night, at 2:30am, she used to go to her waterbowl in the bedroom and howl at it.  It got to the point I would wake up to hear it.  And when she was gone, I woke up and didn't hear it.

Most of all she loved to lay in the sun on me. She snuggled to me every night of her life here, including the night before she died when she could barely walk.

Maggie was special. No other cat before or after her has just a joyous spirit. Give her a few minutes of love and attention and she was thrilled.


And that is Maggie's gift to me, it's her legacy. And it's something I want to you to pass on. Please, spend 5 or 10 minutes with each of your cats today. Just love them for the special beings that they are. 

Cherish them while they are still alive.

02 January 2015

Cats and Declawing

On Facebook, there is a new "OMG it's horrible" photo floating around about declawing. It's popping up in groups and on many cat people's pages.  It is the latest in a string of warnings about declawing.

Sergei -- the poster cat for a bad declawing
I get it. In most cases, declawing is not the best option or even a good option. In the hands of a so-so vet, it can leave the cat with physical problems. I have one such declawed cat.  It can leave some cats with mental problems. I have another such declawed cat.  I know the problems, better than most of the people that post these photos.

But here's the question -- is a cat better off dead or declawed?

Story #1: I saw a cat at a shelter. The cat was on the list to be killed. The only way to adopt the cat was to get my landlord to sign off on it, but he would only do it if the cat was declawed. I was in college, could not afford to break a lease, and find a new place, nor would the shelter hold the cat long enough for me to move. So, I borrowed money and he was declawed. He lived, without any negative signs from it, for another 12 years. Would it really, truly been better to let him die? 

Story #2: An older lady has an older cat which she adores. The lady develops a heart condition and is put on blood thinners. A serious cut requires immediate medical care -- a deep cut may require hospital care. The cat can and does accidentally scratch the lady occasionally. The lady and her family are told that the cat needs to be rehomed because the lady could be seriously harmed. The family decides to declaw the cat so that the cat can stay with the lady and she can have her companion. Would it really, truly be better for all to remove an 8+ yr old cat to an unknown fate and leave the older lady alone?

Story #3: A cat catches a claw in something and in the process of freeing herself, breaks her toe. The toe heals, but at a strange angle so that the claw now grows into the side of the next toe. The vet removes that claw and the claw next to it to create better balance. Would it really, truly be better to let the cat die of some infection from the ingrowing claw? 

All three stories are true.
All three stories would end with the cat being dead if declawing was made illegal. (Remember, many calls for banning declawing make no exceptions even for medical reasons.)
None of these three stories are ever considered by folks calling for banning all declawing.

People like to view declawing as a simple black and white issue. And that's fine -- it really makes like so much easier.  Just understand that those three cats above would die in a simple black and white world.

My world is a much messier grey world....