Veterinary Care - Cats
We all understand that to maintain healthy teeth and gums, a combination of daily brushing and regular visits to the dentist is essential. The same is true for our cats. Research shows that more than 70% of cats show some signs of gum disease by the age of five. So it is really important that your pet receives both professional dental care form the Veterinary Surgeon and care from you at home.
The Importance of Preventative Care
During each check up your dentist thoroughly cleans your teeth and removes plaque, which can build up causing serious oral problems. Plaque forms naturally and continuously on teeth and gums and is the cause of bad breath, which is an early symptom of poor oral health. If the plaque is left untreated, inflamed gums or "gingivitis" can result. In time, this disease can lead to periodontitis (which is disease of the tissues which support and attach the tooth) and tooth loss. That is why it is important to start a preventative dental care programme with the Veterinary Surgeon as soon as possible.
Try this three simple step programme for your new kitten and cat.
Step one: Professional examination
An effective programme of dental care begins with a visit to your Veterinary Surgeon who will assess your pet's oral health and may recommend cleaning, polishing and other preventative measure.
Step two: Home care
Plaque should be removed mechanically everyday and until recently daily brushing of your cat's teeth is the most effective way to do this. It is best to start this as early on in your cat's routine as possible. There are many specialised toothbrushes and cat toothpaste available to assist you in this routine (It is advised not to use human toothpaste as this can potentially detrimental to your cats health). Fortunately, there are now special daily diets available from Royal Canin through Abbey Vets which provide the same dental benefits as weekly brushing and actually clean teeth and freshen breath on every bite. Please consult the Veterinary Surgeon for advice on all of these procedures.
Step three: Regular Check-ups
Just as people need to see their dentist regularly, cats also need regular check-ups. At each oral examination, the Veterinary Surgeon will look for any signs of plaque build up and gum disease.
When we bring a new cat into the family, we love and care for them the same way as all of the other members of the family and the love and fear we feel for them is no different. So if your cat was lost, strayed or worse still stolen, and your pet was not identified it would be very difficult to trace you and be returned.
There are different ways of identification such as collars and tags or tattooing. Unfortunately both of these methods have their drawbacks. Collars can become lost and tattooing is a painful process, which over time becomes illegible.
However a quick, simple, permanent process is now available, which is no more stressful, than a routine vaccination.
What is Micro chipping?
Micro chipping is an up to date electronic technology, which is a tiny microchip containing a unique 15 digit code. This code will be linked to your Pets details for life on a database. The database is accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and it can identify your animal, the your name, address and telephone to ensure you and your cat can be reunited in the shortest time possible.
A special scanner is then used by a number of authorities to read the microchip, including:
- Local authorities
- Veterinary Surgeons
How does it work?
Your cat will attend your Veterinary Surgery for the micro chipping implantation to take place the same way as you would for a normal vaccination.
The Microchip is injected under the loose skin at the back of the neck. It is usually no bigger than a gain of rice. Your Veterinary Surgery will then fill in all of your details and send it to the database for life.
For more information, please contact your Veterinary Surgery for advice.
Neutering is routinely performed by many Veterinary Surgeons on a daily basis. The decision as to whether to have your tom castrated or your queen spayed should be carefully considered and discussed with our Veterinary Surgeon. Below we give you some guidelines as to what the procedure involves and some of the points to consider during the decision process. Our Veterinary Practice will advise you on the most appropriate time for this to be done.
Castration for cats
This is considered to be a form of contraception for male cats, unlike oestrus control in the queen.It is a permanent procedure, so should not be undertaken if you wish to mate from your Tom. It involves a general anaesthetic and is a sterile surgical procedure performed by the Veterinary Surgeon and assisted by Veterinary nurses.
Reasons for Castration
- To make the Tom sterile, so he cannot father kittens.
- To stop adult tom cats from roaming after queens, territorial fighting or spraying/marking with urine.
The procedure involves complete excision and removal of the testicles from the scrotal sac. The scrotum is left behind and will naturally look a lot smaller after the operation. There may be some swelling in the scrotum immediately post operatively. If this persists, please consult the Veterinary Surgeon.
If you are planning to have your dog castrated for behavioural reason, it is worth considering that sometimes the problems may disappear overnight. Sometimes the traits are as a result of learned behaviour and because of this, they may not subside for a few months.
Please note: Castrated tomcats may have an increased tendency to gain weight, so it may be worth considering a "lighter" diet. Please discuss this with the Veterinary Practice.
Spaying your Queen
If you are not considering breeding from your queen you may want to consider having her spayed. It is not true to say, allow your queen one litter before spaying, there are literally thousands of unwanted kittens born each year, and destroyed, so spaying is the kindest and most sensible thing to do. This is considered to be a form of contraception and oestrus control. Again this is a permanent procedure and it involves a general anaesthetic. This is also a sterile surgical procedure performed by the Veterinary Surgeon and assisted by Veterinary nurses.
Reasons for Spaying
- To make the queen sterile, so she cannot have kittens.
- To increase the enjoyment of owning a queen by preventing her from "calling" during the oestrus season.
Unlike human sterilisation in women, most Vets perform a complete ovariohysterectomy in the queen, which means removal of the womb and the ovaries. This is because the hormones produced to trigger pregnancy and oestrus is excreted from the ovaries. Your queen may be left with a small scar along her side of her tummy, which should not be seen after the fur grows back.
Please note: Spayed queens may have an increased tendency to gain weight, so it may be worth considering a "lighter" diet. Please discuss this with the Veterinary Practice.
Fleas can potentially pose a very real threat to your cats's health and the well being of your family. Few creatures can inflict more misery, ounce for ounce, than fleas. A flea infestation at one time or another has affected many dog and cat households. These tiny, almost invisible pests are much more than an annoyance. They make life miserable by disrupting your household with a vicious cycle of biting and scratching, and can cause flea allergy dermatitis in some cats.
Where do fleas hide?
Fleas hop onto your cat to feed on his/her blood; they then lay their eggs, which can be up to 50 a day. The eggs are not very sticky, so they quickly fall off your pet. The fleas and their eggs can be found in a number of flea friendly locations, such as:
- The Car
- The animals' own bedding
- Vacuum cleaners
These areas should be treated, when treating your cat for fleas.
The fleas life cycle
The life cycle of a common flea can last as little as three weeks, depending on the temperature and humidity of their surroundings. It is little wonder that with the introduction of fitted carpets and central heating to a lot of homes, the flea problem has increased over the years. However, it is important to note that fleas can also live in wooden floor boards so always be alert for the presence of fleas, even if you don't have carpet flooring.
For more information, please contact the Veterinary Surgery for advice.
The Egg Stage
A female flea lays as many as 50 eggs per day, they quickly fall off your cat and hatch in two to five days. A female flea lays around 2,000 eggs in his lifetime.
The Laval Stage
After hatching, the larvae head toward dark places around your home and feed on "flea dirt" - Excrement of the partially digested blood of your cat. The larvae grow; moult twice, the spin cocoons, where they grow into pupae.
The Pupa Stage
The length of this stage averages 8 to 9 days. Depending on weather conditions, population explosions typically occur five to six weeks after the weather starts to warm up.
The Adult Stage
The adults emerge from their cocoons when they detect heat, vibrations and exhaled carbon dioxide indicating that there is a host nearby. Once they hop onto a host, the adults mate and begin the life cycle all over again. The entire life cycle can be as short as three to four weeks.
Identifying flea infestation - The warning signs:
Black specks on your cat or his/her bedding could be flea dirt. Which are the faeces of partially digested blood from you cat, excreted by the adult fleas. They can often be found around the neck area and the base of the cats tail.
There are two easy ways to check for flea dirt:
Using a metal flea comb, available form the Veterinary Practice. Run the comb over your cat, making sure the comb reaches the cats skin through the coat. If there are black specks on the comb they may be flea dirt.
Place a white paper towel beneath your cat and rub your hands across the fur. If black specks appear on the towel, they may be flea dirt.
With both of these methods, to confirm if the specks are flea dirt. Place the specks on a white piece of paper, sprinkle a few drops of water on the specks and if after a couple of minutes a reddish, brown stain is seen in the water. It will indicate that the dirt contains, partially digested blood from your cat. This is flea dirt.
Your cat may exhibit nervous or annoyed behaviour coupled with excessive scratching and or grooming, your cat may even start to bite himself, which not only confirms the presence of fleas, but also may indicate that the presence of fleas may be affecting your cats health. (See ailments below)
Fleas may affect your cat in the following ways:
Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)
When a flea bites your cat, it deposits a small amount of saliva into the skin. Your cat can develop FAD in reaction to this saliva, which causes severe itching. The condition can cause excessive, scratching, biting, redness, soreness and even hair loss and scabby regions especially over the cats, neck, back, and the base of the tail. You and your family may also suffer from flea bites.
This may occur in young, older or ill cats if too many fleas suck their blood. The symptoms of anaemia include pale gums, weakness and lethargy in your pet.
Treatment and prevention
There are many flea treatments sold today, but not all of them can be effective or appropriate for your cat, and although it may appear to be cheaper, you may end up spending more in the long run. Today however, products sold by Veterinary Practices to treat flea infestation are extremely effective and safe, (if the manufacturers instructions are followed). There are a number of presentations available including: Sprays, spot-on's or oral treatments.
Consult the Veterinary Practice with regard to the best treatment for your cat.
Only 5% of the flea population will be on your cat, so separate environmental treatment of wherever your cat has been is also vital in preventing re-infestation.
Other preventative methods, include:
Vacuuming frequently, wherever your cat has been, especially around any carpeted area of the home, in your car and in around your cats bedding and your bedding, if he sleeps with you. This will help to clean up as many immature fleas (eggs, larvae and pupae) as possible. Also treating your vacuum cleaner's nozzle, dispose frequently of the bag or treat inside the cleaner with environmental treatments.
Washing your cats bedding, blanket and other washable items frequently in the hottest water cycle available.
Frankly, it may not always be easy to tell when a cat has worms. In severe cases, of course symptoms are obvious. It may cause vomiting, diarrhoea and or constipation with potentially serious consequences. In addition, they may weaken your cat's immune system, making it more susceptible to infection.In a mild infestation, you may simply not know, and this is one case where you can remain unaware.
How could my cat get worms?
The short answer is all too easily. Even the most cared for, well fed, happy and healthy cat can become infested with worms.
Even though you cannot see them, other cats may have left behind worm eggs and larvae, where they leave their droppings. These eggs and larvae can remain infectious for months, even years. These can be picked up on your cat's coat, muzzle or paws and are ingested during grooming. In this way, worms can then infect your cat, home and garden.
Both Roundworms and Tapeworms can be picked up from a hunting cat's prey; mice, for example often carry infective larval stages.
By far the most common tapeworm is acquired by swallowing infected fleas while grooming.
Types Of Worms
There are a dozen different species of roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms, which may infect the cat in the UK.
Fortunately there are very effective ways to control these and minimize the spread of infection.
Roundworms - The life cycle
The term roundworm also includes, hookworms and whipworms. It is helpful to look at the different lifecycles.
The relatively common one is Toxocara Cati.
- Cats can pick up roundworms by eating mice and from the environment.
- Adult worms in the intestines produce eggs.
- Roundworms can lay dormant in the mammary tissues of the queen and be activated during pregnancy.
- Transfer of worm larvae to the kittens as they feed on the mother's milk can take place.
- A nursing queen may be re-infecting the pups while cleaning them.
- Roundworm eggs are great survivors; they can remain infective for several years.
Unlike the roundworm, the tapeworm requires a third party called an intermediate host, to develop in before infecting your cat.
The two tapeworms found commonly are The Taenia species and the Flea tapeworm Dipylidium Caninum.
- 6 out of 10 cats in the UK have worms at any one time.
- Some types of tapeworm can grow up to 5metres in length.
- Tapeworms look like strings of rather flattened rice grains.
- Dipylidium caninum has a small head, which attaches itself to the wall of the small intestine, with hooks and suckers a long segmented body, which grows continuously.
- The oldest segments, containing the eggs are shed one or more at a time. It is these segments that we commonly see passing out of the anus.
- These segments can contain many thousands of eggs.
There are many preparations available sold on the market, we recommends routinely worming your kitten and adult cat with the most effective preparations, which are sold by the Veterinary Surgeon. It is only by working with the Veterinary Surgeon that the correct advice, preparation, dosage and routine can be given to your cat.
However effective the wormer recommended by the Vet, it cannot prevent re-infestation. There are a number of steps we can take to reduce the spread of worms, including:
- Effective flea control on the animal and in the home, to help reduce the transmission of the Flea Tapeworm.
- Careful, daily, disposal of cat litter.
- Wash your children's hands after playing with kittens and cats.
- Avoidance of raw offal or unsterilised pet food.
A large range of safe, efficacious, vaccines are now available to vaccinate your kitten and adult cat against the three major infectious diseases, which they can potentially suffer from, including:
- Feline Panleucopaenia. (feline infectious enteritis, feline parvovirus)
- Feline Respiratory Disease (cat flu): Feline rhinnotracheitis virus infection, (FVR) and Feline calicivirus (FCV).
- Feline Leukaemia Virus. (FeLV)
Some commonly asked questions about Vaccination:
What is immunity?
Immunity to disease simply means that an individual (animal or person) is highly resistant to the threat of a particular disease. A fully vaccinated cat, provided that it has responded to vaccinations, should be capable of withstanding normal exposure to those diseases against which it has been vaccinated. It is possible for immunity to develop in a non-vaccinated animal, but for this to happen, the animal must first encounter the disease and then survive the encounter. For the potentially life-threatening diseases that we routinely vaccinate against, this is not a serious option.
So immunity does not just happen and yet in many ways nothing could be more natural....
Maternally Derived Antibody (MDA)
Nature has equipped the queen with the ability to pass on some of her own immunity (in the form of antibodies) before and shortly after giving birth (these are called Maternally Derived Antibodies) Whilst some of this immunity passes across the placenta to the young in the later stages of pregnancy, most is passed on in the first milk, known as colostrums. It is important that kittens suck early because MDA levels in the colostrums are at their highest at the time of birth. Furthermore, the newly born kitten is only able to make best use of MDA at this time; the ability to absorb antibodies directly from the gut into the bloodstream is lost
So if all goes well the young kitten will have received adequate "natural" maternal immunity from their mother to enable it to resist disease for a period of some weeks.
However, the extent of the protection depends on the immune status of the queen (as she cannot pass on what she does not have) and how quickly and how well the kittens have sucked.
In turn, the immune status of the mother is nowadays highly dependent on whether she has been properly vaccinated up to date. The better protected the queen, the more opportunity she has of passing good levels of immunity to her offspring.
How long does "natural" maternal immunity last?
Some kitten's levels of MDA vary from kitten to kitten, even in the same litter. MDA is also know as "passive" immunity, (which you may be familiar with) it is not actively produced by the kitten, thus it decays over a period of some weeks.
It is possible to predict the point where the kitten is no longer protected, by a blood test, but this is not practicable, on a routine basis. Fortunately, thanks to the cooperation of may owners, a leading pharmaceutical company in the UK called Intervet has researched, (with the assistance of independent laboratories) and examined around 3,000 cats to help to establish the timings of MDA decay for various diseases.
It is important to understand these timings because:
- It provides a guide to the "average" age at which a kitten is no longer protected by the queens immunity and is therefore at risk.
- It gives an indication of the best time to start the vaccination course.
How do Vaccines Work?
Vaccines work by stimulating the body to produce it's own defence against infection. One of the key components of this "defence" is antibody. Whilst MDA protects the young kitten, MDA can actually interfere with successful vaccination. This is because, although a vaccine is a modified harmless form of the disease, it is seen by MDA as an invader. MDA therefore assumes it's protective role and neutralises the vaccine.
Only when MDA falls to a moderate to low level, will the kitten respond to vaccination and Only when MDA falls to a moderate to low level, will the kitten respond to vaccination and produce it's own ("active") antibody levels.
When to give the first vaccination?
In general the earliest age for vaccination of kittens is around 9 weeks.
It is important to note that the primary course always consists of two or more vaccinations. This is because: -
- Timing for effective vaccination varies from puppy to puppy (because of unknown MDA levels)
- Some vaccines, such as Leptosproisis need to be administered twice in order to achieve high enough level of immunity.
Based upon local experience, your Veterinary Surgeon will advise you on the best schedule to adopt, but the aim will always be to provide your pet with the best possible protection.
Why give regular boosters?
As MDA in the kitten declines, so too does the protection produced as a result of vaccination, only more slowly as this is "active" immunity.
A cats "active" immunity can be topped up in two ways:
- By exposure to disease.
- By means of a booster vaccination.
The first, goes without saying is an impractical way of ensuring continued immunity, especially nowadays.
Vaccines today, are very effective and have a remarkably high safety record, millions of doses are used annually in the UK alone. The use of live, modified vaccines in particular have brought about levels of disease control, against for example Canine Parvovirus, that would have been almost undreamt of a little more than a decade ago.
Because of the incidence of these diseases has fallen as a direct result of widespread use of efficacious vaccines, the chances of an adult cat encountering them have also been reduced. Paradoxically, this is a dangerous situation for the pet which has not had a booster on a regular basis, because of the cat has not met all of the diseases on a regular basis, it may be unprotected. Sooner or later an encounter with a massive disease challenge could prove fatal.
What if my cat's booster has lapsed?
If you have forgotten to take your cat back for a booster, seek advice and guidance from your vet straight away, as the longer the delay, the more at risk your cat will be. The added benefit of regular boosters, are the preventative health checks given by your Vet at the time of vaccination. It also gives you the opportunity to discuss any concerns about your pets well being.
If you have any further concerns about vaccination, speak to your Veterinary Surgeon or visit: www.noah.demon.co.uk, which is The National Office of Animal Health. They have two briefing documents available of dog and cat vaccinations.