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-ramblings from a cranky vet.

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Think of it like this… #3

Think of it like this:

Is your cat not using the litter box? How often do you clean it? Litter boxes should be scooped daily & emptied/cleaned weekly. Would you want to use a toilet that is only flushed once a week? I didn’t think so.

Think of it like that.

*”think of it like this” (TM) is a regularly irregular purely opinion-driven piece of thought about pets and their owners pointing out the seemingly obvious*

The Feline Upper Respiratory Infection: It snot an easy fix

Over the last few months, I have received multiple questions related to feline upper respiratory infections. Rather than address them separately, I decided to give you a nice summary here, so pay attention. It’s a complicated and frustrating problem for vets and people owned by cats alike. Here’s why.

What are the common symptoms of feline upper respiratory infections?
-sneezing
-coughing
-discharge from eyes and nose
-conjunctivitis
-oral and nasal ulcerations
-fever
-loss of appetite
-loss of energy

What organisms cause these infections?
– there are several, which is part of the reason they are so difficult to manage
feline herpes virus (rhinotracheitis)
– only survives for 18 hours outside host
– many infected cats remain carriers for life
– carriers may intermittently shed later in life at times of stress/illness
– carriers are sources of infections for other cats
– since it is a virus, antibiotics are not effective
– some say approx 1/3 of all cats are carriers of feline herpes virus
calici virus
– most cats do finally clear the virus after several months
– many do remain contagious for months even though the illness has improved
– some remain carriers for life
– the virus can remain active for up to 10 days outside the host cat
– only bleach, not normal laundering, will kill it
– since it is a virus, antibiotics are not effective
– these two viruses account for a majority of infections, close to 90%
– don’t worry- these viruses are only infectious to other cats

Other possible causes of feline upper respiratory infections include:
– mycoplasma
– chlamydophila (formerly known as chlamydia)
– bordetella
-these account for generally less than 10% of feline upper respiratory infections
-these can be responsive to antibiotics, such as doxycycline, however, doxycycline can not be safely used in young, growing animals (such as kittens), complicating the treatment even further

More crappy news:
– infections may be caused by multiple organisms, which can obviously complicate treatment/recovery
– to further complicate it, there is no simple test to determine which organism is causing the illness, and some cats are infected simultaneously with multiple organisms

OK, so how do these illnesses spread?
-airborne (sneezing, coughing)
-fomites (objects carrying the organism such as bedding, toys, grooming utensils, and your clothes and hands that have been contaminated)
-crowded conditions (such as shelters and breeders) increase the likelihood of outbreaks
-stress or illness may induce a carrier cat (herpes virus) to show signs or begin shedding again

So, why are these illnesses so common?
– they are highly contagious
– 90% are viral, so there is no direct treatment available except for time
– carrier cats with no symptoms of illness can shed the infectious organisms for months
(calicivirus) or years (herpesvirus)
– stress (changes in household including new people, pets, construction, or moving) or other
illnesses may cause carrier cats to begin intermittently shedding for weeks (herpes virus)
– some organisms (calicivirus, remember?) can last for days outside of the host on bedding, toys,
etc, and aren’t deactivated by non-bleach detergents

Why are they so hard to treat?
– weren’t you paying attention?
– 90% of them are caused by viruses so like the common cold or flu, there is no effective direct treatment other than nursing care and time
– there is no simple testing to determine what is causing the infection, so treatment has to be aimed at the most likely causes and the symptoms
– there is no easy way to determine if and when a cat has ceased shedding the organism and is no longer contagious
– generally the time of exposure to illness is 2-7 days, so in crowded situations, many cats can get sick very quickly
– active illness generally lasts 7-10 days regardless of treatment
– upper respiratory infections can result in secondary pneumonia, which can be life threatening

Well this sucks. How can I prevent an upper respiratory infection in my household?
– short answer, you can’t
– many cats become carriers (therefore infected and/or contagious) before they reach your house
– many cats that are carriers/contagious are not showing any symptoms of illness at the time of
adoption
– many cats that are carriers/contagious remain so for weeks, months, or even a lifetime, even in
the absence of obvious symptoms of illness
– there is no simple test to determine if your cat is infected, contagious, or a carrier of an
upper respiratory infection

Well that sucks too. So what can I do to prevent infection?
– short answer, again, you really can’t (have you been paying attention?)… but…
– vaccinate- herpes and calicivirus are part of the feline “distemper” vaccination and vaccinated cats are less likely to develop illness if exposed or may have less severe symptoms if they do become sick
– isolate new cats (not just obviously sick ones)- just remember, some cats are carriers for months or for life, and do not show obvious signs of illness, so this will not be 100% effective
(this is also a good idea in general- intestinal parasites are also very contagious, so until you have had an exam by a veterinarian and a stool check for parasites, you should never allow new cats to come in direct contact with other cats in the house, especially sharing litter boxes)
– wash all materials in bleach that have come into contact with a sick cat (not entirely practical or possible, considering your carpet, furniture, and hands are likely included in that)
– try to minimize stress and be aware stress or illness may cause a carrier cat to become sick again and/or begin shedding the infectious organism again, for weeks or months

Well crap. My cat has an upper respiratory infection… what should I do?
– If you have multiple cats, separate the sick cat as soon as you notice symptoms. Even though this will not likely prevent the spread of infection at that point, it may help minimize it.
– Make sure all other cats’ vaccinations are up to date.
– Have the sick cat examined by a veterinarian, especially if there is lethargy, loss of appetite, severe congestion or conjunctivitis, or coughing. While the underlying organism may not be directly treatable, many of the symptoms can be managed with medications such as anti-histamines, decongestants, eye medications, immune supplements, and appetite stimulants. Your vet may also be able to give you tips about home care (such as steamy shower therapy for congestion.) It is also smart to determine if there are signs of secondary pneumonia, which may require antibiotic treatment to prevent severe or even fatal infections. Kittens, due to their immature immune systems, are especially susceptible to severe complications due to upper respiratory infections.
– Never give any over the counter medications to your cat without a veterinarian’s recommendation. Many over the counter medications are toxic to cats. Also, cats and esp kittens require very small doses of the medications they can safely take.

So it sounds like there really isn’t any way to be positive my cat will never be exposed to an upper respiratory infection… is there any good news?
– Yes! Most cats with upper respiratory infections are able to successfully overcome the signs of illness and do not have any obvious long term health problems. But remember, some may remain carriers for months or even a lifetime. So, although respiratory infections are almost impossible to contain and prevent, in otherwise healthy cats, they are usually nothing more than annoying outbreaks (much like a common cold or flu in people) that do not impact the cat’s overall quality of life in the long run. What makes them different from the common cold and flu is the fact that many cats remain chronically infected carriers for months or years even after recovering from the signs of the infection.

I told you. It snot fun.

Think of it like this… #2

Why be confused when your indoor cat occasionally scratches your furniture?

We keep them in a house to keep them safe but that means their entire world is inside however many square feet you live in…

They are cats. Scratching things is what they do. So give them lots of other acceptable options or you are just setting them up to fail. (And you’ll have to keep replacing sofas.)

Think of it like that.

*”think of it like this” (TM) is a regularly irregular purely opinion-driven piece of thought about pets and their owners pointing out the seemingly obvious*

Think of it like this…

Why be surprised when bringing home a new dog or cat creates conflict among your pets?

Wouldn’t adding a complete stranger to your household kinda freak you out?

Think of it like that.

*”think of it like this” (TM) is a regularly irregular purely opinion-driven piece of thought about pets and their owners pointing out the seemingly obvious*

Obedience… You’re doing it wrong…

Q&A: July 16, 2011- Ticks- They Suck!

Yes, kids, it’s time for another installment of Ask the Crankyvet. Gather round.

Our first question comes from @sizah1:
How about tick removal, and tick identification?

This is a fantastic question. Well done.
I generally try to address multiple questions in each blog, but I am going to dedicate this entire blog to this topic. Why? Because it’s important. Also, I am The Cranky Vet and I say so.

The key to tick removal is speed and caution. Most diseases transmitted by ticks (such as Lyme’s disease) require that the tick be attached for at least 24-48 hours. One easy way to minimize the possibility of your pets acquiring these illnesses is to do a daily tick check, especially if you live in areas with high tick prevalence or engage in outdoor activities such as hiking or camping where ticks may be present. The most common places you will find ticks include the feet, head, ears, and neck, but I recommend running your hands over the entire body so that none would be overlooked.

When removing ticks, be careful not to expose yourself to possible disease exposure (though the risk is low) by either wearing gloves or using tweezers or specially made tick removal tools, which can be purchased at major pet store chains at a minimal cost. Lots of “old school” methods have been described as well, such as applying alcohol, petroleum jelly, turpentine, nail polish, and lit matches. These are not encouraged due to speculation that they may either cause irritation or even speed up the process of disease transmission from the tick to the pet. One such method (that I personally have employed when necessary with no negative results over the years) is to apply a dollop of liquid soap to a cotton ball and apply to the tick for a minute, effectively smothering the tick, which generally results in it detaching from the pet. Again, it is preferred that tweezers or a removal tool are used in a swift lift and slight twist motion to dislodge it. You want to grasp the tick as close to your pet’s skin as possible and pull steadily but surely. Try not to squeeze the tick when removing. If the head is accidentally left attached, it will dislodge on its own but may result in local irritation or swelling for a few days, which is generally self-limiting and not harmful.

Ticks can transmit many different diseases. Most people have heard of Lyme disease, but Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are other concerns. In fact, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever is the most prevalent disease transmitted from ticks to humans. Ticks can also cause tick paralysis in pets, which is often resolved quickly one all of the ticks have been removed. Here is a link with more information about these diseases, their regional prevalence, and which ticks are responsible for their transmission. The information about the illnesses relates to human exposure. I will address these illnesses in pets later in this blog.

Generally, ticks require 3 separate blood meals during separate life stages (egg, larvae, nymph, adult) during their average 2 year lifespan. The larvae and nymphs require a blood meal in order to be able to successfully molt to the next stage. It is the final life stage and meal, or the adult tick, that attaches to pets and humans. Adult ticks are generally most active in the fall but can survive through the spring without a host. Interestingly, after the males feed, they generally detach and die.

The easiest way to prevent exposure from these harmful illnesses that ticks can transmit, as well as prevent your pet from a tick infestation is to use one of the many safe and effective monthly preventatives. My favorite is Frontline, though there are many on the market. Some may be only available through your vet’s offices, but this is because they are the most recent, well-studied, and safe products available. Always check the label for safety instructions based on size, age, and type of pet. This is especially important when shopping for products for cats as many insecticides are marketed solely for dogs and may be highly toxic to cats.

This is a concise and informative summary about the common tick diseases affecting dogs in the U.S.

Also a concern is a disorder called “tick paralysis” which is caused by a neurotoxin secreted by the female tick while attached. Several varieties of ticks may cause this condition. It is most commonly seen after 5-7 days of attachment which is why early detection and removal of ticks from your pet is so important. Unlike the other diseases mentioned, once the ticks are removed, the condition does not continue to progress and usually resolves.

There are different types of ticks which are more prevalent in different areas of the country. Not all ticks spread the same diseases: Here is a quick guide to the most common varieties of ticks, how to identify them, where they are prevalent, and what diseases they are associated with transmitting. The information about disease symptoms on the following link applies to humans. Pets may exhibit different symptoms and often do not generally develop the famous rash or target lesions like humans do when exposed to Lyme’s disease. It is important to talk to your vet if you are concerned about tick exposure in your pets. It is especially helpful if you can identify the type of tick or have your vet examine the tick if possible to determine what exposure risks may be present for your pets. Not all ticks spread all diseases. Different areas of the country have different prevalences of tick types and disease concerns.
I believe these cards are available from this website for download or possibly even ordering for wallet sized guides.

Finally, this is a link to a map to the prevalence of reported tick-borne diseases and heartworms in dogs in the U.S.

Bottom line? While ticks can certainly be a nuisance and even a threat to the health of pets and humans, regular body checks, rapid removal, use of preventatives, and discussions with your local health professionals can minimize the risk and lead to a safer and more enjoyable summer and fall with your pets outdoors.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for your interest and stay tuned for more Q&A from me, The Cranky Vet, (when I feel like it of course.)

Q & A- April 13, 2011

It’s that time again. Time to field some questions from my Twitter friends. Here we go!

1) From @AJEbsary “Why is there no cure yet for rat mycoplasma?”

First, I have to admit I have not thought about rat medicine since vet school… so this will be reaching back into the files in my brain…
Mycoplasma is the most common and well-known cause of respiratory infections in rats. Most respiratory infections in rats are assumed to be related in some way to Mycoplasma infection. It is very common and it is suspected that most rats obtained from places such as pet stores have already been exposed and may already be carriers. Mycoplasma itself is a fairly fragile organism and there are antibiotics that are effective against it, though it is difficult to completely eliminate the organism from animals, so many may remain carriers for life even without symptoms of illness. Also, it is often not the only infectious organism involved in respiratory illness, and when symptoms are noted it is often because the animal is also infected with other organisms, many viral, at the same time. Since viruses can not be treated directly, the illnesses are often not eliminated by just treating with antibiotics for Mycoplasma. Also, many animals that are having severe signs may also have other medical or immune issues causing the mycoplasma organism to make them clinically ill. The organism does not tend to live long outside the host, so keeping the environment and bedding clean and the area well ventilated is very helpful. The buildup of ammonia from dirty bedding can irritate the respiratory tract and make illness more likely. Use materials for housing that are easy to clean and disinfect such as plastic as opposed to wood.
Although the author is not a vet, I have read good things about this website with info about rat health and care from veterinarians who specialize in their treatment.
http://www.vin.com/WebLink.plx?URL=http://www.freewebs.com/crittercity/index.htm
I hope this helps!

2) From @tweet4animals: “From my mom… How long does a cat stay prego?”

First- I like your mom’s style. You can tell her I said that.
To answer her question, the normal gestation for a cat is 63-65 days, though Siamese cats may go a couple of days longer. A vet can often diagnose pregnancy by palpating the abdomen at around 3-4 weeks along. At 6 weeks and on, x-rays can be used to confirm as well as predict the number of kittens. Most, but not all, cats will seek seclusion when they are ready to give birth. Many become restless and may refuse food and water for 12-24 hours prior. Most cats do not require assistance, but it is important to make sure the membranes are removed from the kittens’ noses and mouths so that they can breathe. You may require veterinary assistance with the birth if you notice a kitten is stuck in the birth canal, the mother has strong contractions for 30 minutes without producing a kitten, there is a discharge with no births within a few hours, or there is mild labor for several hours with no kittens born. So… there you go!

3) From @mimismutts: “Dear Cranky Vet, what 2 use for ear mites in dog that won’t burn her, she has never had them before she’s 4yrs old and much loved”

Itchy dirty ears are a very common problem of dogs and cats. While there are many over the counter products for ear mites, contrary to popular belief, ear mites are relatively uncommon in adult dogs and cats except for stray and feral populations. If you notice your dog has red, itchy, dirty, or smelly ears, it is more likely a bacterial or yeast infection. Some breeds such as cocker spaniels and basset hounds are predisposed due to their heavy, floppy ears which do not allow good air flow and trap moisture. Ear infections are also a very common manifestation of food and seasonal allergies, so a multi-faceted treatment approach may be necessary. The most important thing to do first is identify what is causing the infection. This can easily be done at a veterinarian’s office with an otoscopic exam and a look at the organisms under the microscope. Mites, yeast, and bacteria all have a unique appearance and can be readily identified. Cultures can also be taken of the material in the ears to determine the exact identity of the organism and the most effective medication to treat it. Usually, a deep and thorough ear cleaning is needed to remove all of the debris to allow any topical medications that may be prescribed to work more effectively. I would advise that you have a veterinarian examine the ears first to make sure the ear drum is intact before applying any cleaner or medication into the ear. Depending on the severity, oral medications for inflammation, allergies, and infection may also be needed. Left untreated, chronic ear infections can cause many long-term problems, including neurological problems, hematoma of the ear flap, and calcification of the ear canal and permanent damage that can not be reversed. There are no effective medications to treat bacterial or yeast infections available over the counter. Here is a great link with reliable information about ear infections in dogs.
http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=632
Thank you for your question!

4) From @sizah1: “Did you hear about the miracle chihuahua of Dublin, VA? http://tinyurl.com/3bgrldn”

I hadn’t heard about that. Lucky dog! Though, I don’t tend to do warm and fuzzy commentary…

This concludes another fascinating entry of Ask the Vet Q & A. Thanks for reading!

Mapping of the Cat Brain

Summer Dangers for Cats

While summer is often a fun time for us, it can pose some increased
risks for our pets, including our cats.  A little knowledge and
prevention can help ensure your summer is enjoyable for everyone in
your family, including your pets.
Heatstroke is a very common and deadly problem for our pets.  Cats are
more sensible about regulating their body temperature when it is hot
outside than dogs, but underlying medical conditions such as heart
disease, which may not be apparent in normal circumstances, can be
exascerbated by heat and result in obvious symptoms of distress such as
open mouth breathing.  A regular exam by your vet each year can help
detect such problems early.  Never leave your pet unattended in a car
on hot summer days because the temperature rises quickly to levels that
can be fatal.  Even more temperate weather (70 degrees) can become
dangerous in enclosed cars in very short periods of time.  If you
suspect your cat is having difficulty with heatstroke, use cool, not
cold, water to help lower the body temperature and seek veterinary care
immediately.
There are many summer activities such as gardening that also pose
increased risks to pets.  Fertilizers and insecticides may contain
ingredients that can be deadly if ingested.  Many foods grown in
gardens such as tomato plants can also pose risks if ingested.  Plants
such as lilies cause kidney failure if ingested, even in small amounts.
For a complete list of common toxic plants and foods, visit the ASPCA
website.
Many people travel more in the summer to visit friends and family.
Always be careful that your pet cannot escape and get lost during
travel.  Having a microchip implanted can also help ensure if you do
become separated from your pet that you will be more likely to be
reunited since most shelters and vet offices scan all stray animals
they encounter to determine if the owner can be located.
Cats that are allowed to roam outside have increased risks for injury
including fights with other animals and getting hit by vehicles.  In
the summer, more animals are out roaming and the likelihood of a
danerous encounter is also higher.  If your cat does go outside, make
sure it is up to date on all recommended vaccines, including the rabies
vaccine and feline leukemia vaccine to help reduce the risk of deadly
disease transmission.
White cats and cats that have been groomed/shaved are at an increased
risk of sunburn.  Even indoor cats that spend time near windows
sleeping in the sun are at risk.  Besides being uncomfortable,
increased exposure to the UV rays may also pose a greater risk of
certain types of skin cancer developing in these cats.  The ears and
nose are common areas for potential problems.  Always monitor these
areas for any changes in the skin’s appearance, including changes in
pigment color and appearance.  Sunscreen for human babies is safe for
daily use on cats and may be used in lotion or spray form.  The
waterproof varieties tend to be more resistant to grooming.
Keeping these potential risks in mind can help prevent common but
dangerous health problems in your cats so that everyone can have a safe
and enjoyable summer.

Q&A- April 13 2010

1)

Q: From @courtarms:

Dear @crankyvet, my (spayed) cat sometimes acts like she’s in heat in the springtime. What’s up with that?

A: First, cats’ heat cycles are driven by light, so they are more “active” in the spring and summer time… It’s pretty freaky, really. In fact, if you or other readers are bored sometime, I suggest you read about it.  Here’s a good link from my LSU- the place that is responsible for giving @crankyvet a diploma:

http://www.vetmed.lsu.edu/eiltslotus/Theriogenology-5361/filne_e.htm

To answer your question, it is likely that when she was spayed a small ovarian remnant was left.  It can revascularize and become functional, causing the behavior changes you see in your cat.  She can not, of course, become pregnant because the majority of her reproductive tract has been removed.  But the remnant fools her body into thinking she is in heat.  There are surgical options to remove it, but it is not likely to cause any problems other than the strange annoying behavior cats exhibit when they are in heat.

2)

Q: From @sizah1 on Twitter:

Could you give a rundown of Flea & Tick control products? Pills vs sprays, and why OTC products don’t work?

A: Yes, yes I can.  There are SO many different products available now, I can understand how it would be confusing to know which ones to use.  Many offer control of not only fleas and ticks, but also intestinal parasites and heartworms…   Here is a good chart with some basics upon which I can comment and build:

http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=1575

The newer, often prescription, products are not only more effective because there has been less of a chance of development of resistance, but perhaps, more importantly, they are also safer for our pets than the older, often over the counter medications. Before the advent of many of the newest products, severe, sometimes life threatening reactions could occur to the older chemicals, often because of inappropriate application or sensitivities.  The trick now is to assess the risks facing your pet based on your region and lifestyle (your vet can help with that).  There is no single correct combination or plan for all pets.  You must find the one that works best for you and your pet.

A sidenote about flea/tick products “not working”.  If you are still seeing fleas on your pet, it is unlikely to be because the product is not working or the fleas are resistant.  It is more likely that your pet is being reinfested on a daily basis and you need to consider a more complete approach to flea control, including treating your yard or your house.  Again, see the previous link about the life cycle of the flea and proper flea control.

3)

Q: from @aye_yo on Twitter:

 EEK!! I just found a lone star tick on my brand new 7 week old Kitty, I pulled it off, what next??

A: As long as you were able to remove the tick within 24 hours, it is highly unlikely that any potential diseases that ticks carry could have been transmitted.  A trick for tick removal that works for me is to use a cotton ball that has a big blob of hand soap on it.  Place that on top of the tick for at least 60 seconds. This generally smothers the tick causing it to release so it is much easier to remove.  Even if you accidentally leave the head when pulling the tick, the pet will likely have a small inflammatory reaction during which the head will be expelled.  Make sure you use tweezers when removing a tick because the diseases that they carry can be passed to people through handling them as well.  Here is a great article about ticks, their life cycle, and control:

http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=2311 

4)

Q: from @JanFlora49 on Twitter:

Okay @crankyvet – for a 10 y/o spayed fat kitty – kibble, canned food or a mix? And how to peel the weight?

A: There are many different opinions about canned food vs dry food and types of food.  I personally think a 50:50 mixture is a good balance.  The dry food helps control dental tartar, and the wet food increases the daily water intake, which is very helpful for cats with underlying illnesses such as kidney disease or urinary crystals or inflammation.  As cats get older, they are more likely to have certain fairly common underlying conditions, including kidney disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and dental disease.  A vet exam and some basic bloodwork can help determine if your cat is affected.  A diet change may be indicated if any of these conditions is identified.  It can be very difficult to get the weight off of overweight kitties, and often people find it necessary to use prescription diets such as Science Diet R/D or M/D to get the pounds off.  Just like in people, increased exercise can also help shed the pounds, so using interactive toys to help keep your cat active can be very helpful.  As they age, overweight cats will be more prone to developing diabetes, and any underlying heart disease or arthritis will be exacerbated. At the same time, you want to have your pet lose weight slowly, as crash diets are not healthy for cats which are prone to a type of fatty liver disease that can be fatal if  too much weight is lost too rapidly. 

Every pet is an individual, and the best person to help tailor a plan for you and your cat is your veterinarian.  Now is a good time to mention your concerns and develop a good balanced diet for your kitty as she gets older.

5)

Q: from @smary_ on Twitter:

My bro has 2 Cav King Charles Spaniels, both of their eyes tear a lot but Lorenzo is worse, his eyes are always running! Poor pup.   Is it the breed? Allergies? Could it be something worse? Both are young, just want to prevent any problems down the road.

A: Good question! Excess tearing is more prevalent in some breeds, and daily cleaning with a damp cloth may be helpful.  There are also products designed for the removal of tear stains in dogs.  They have questionable efficacy.  The most important thing is to make sure there is nothing wrong with the eyes themselves.  If there is any squinting or redness, they should be examined.  There could also be a complication with allergies that could be causing the tearing to be more excessive.  If that is the case, sometimes antihistamines or topical eye products can be used during the times of year the pet has more symptoms.  Here is a good link about tearing in dogs and the common causes:

http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=654

6)

Q: from @courtarms on Twitter:  

Dear @crankyvet, Be real with me. Dog people vs Cat people. Who’s crazier? How about Mammal people vs Bird & Reptile people?

A: Bird and reptile people aren’t crazy… they’re just unusual.  Cat people are crazy. You own cats, right?

7)

Q: from @aye_yo on Twitter:

@crankyvet brand new female kitty, decided to STOP using her box for #2 and just leave her surprises behind doors?? UGH- any advice?

A: There are many reasons a cat can stop using the litter box for its bowel movements.  Some medical reasons include anal sac problems and constipation.  Behavioral reasons include an aversion to the box for different reasons including a stressful experience in the box, a change of litter or location, or a box that isn’t being scooped often enough for the cat’s tastes.  Also, additions of pets to the house can cause behavior changes.  A good rule of thumb is that there should be one litter box more than total number of cats in the house and these boxes should be in different locations.  So, for instance, if there are 2 cats, there should be 3 litter boxes.  Sometimes just adding a new litter box to the house can make a huge difference.  Whatever the cause, if it is not identified early, the behavior can become a habit meaning even once the underlying cause is addressed, the behavior may continue.  So, I recommend having a conversation with your vet early on to prevent this from happening.

8 )

Q: Again, from @sizah1 on Twitter:

The hardest part of owning a “really” smart dog seems to be consistency in my behavior. I can’t be on 24/7. How do I compensate?

A: Drink lots of coffee and take vivarin.  That’s the most common problem when training dogs… consistency.  Do your best and pick your battles.  If you can’t participate in an important situation, then use time outs and the crate.  If you aren’t going to be able to fully engage, don’t engage halfway.  Use distractions and training commands to redirect undesired behaviors.  And the most useful thing to remember is that most dogs that are using attention seeking behavior will stop that behavior when you simply walk away.  You’ll be amazed.

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