Joints and Arthritis

Senior Cats – Joints and Arthritis

Cats bodies are designed to jump, and so they are very resilient, and pretty tough, but time is rarely kind to anyone, and even your cat can get sore joints and even arthritis.  If your cat has sore joints or arthritis there are many things you can do to make them more comfortable and relieve some of the soreness.

Around the House

  1. Make sure that their bed is in a warm place, and with lots of padding and cushioning to protect their joints,
  2. If you have slippery floors, put down non-skid mats or runners, and keep their nails nice and short, this allows them to grip the floor better.
  3. Use ramps up and down from furniture and other place they like to sleep.
  4. Raise their bowl up off from the floor, so that they do not have to bend to reach. For slippery floors, get a bowl with a non-slip bottom so they aren’t chasing it around the floor.
  5. If they are particularly sore, block their access to stairs so that they can’t exacerbate their joints with a gate.
  6. If your once outside cat has become too stiff to take themselves out to the toilet, consider investing in a Pet Loo.  Alternatively, use a litter box with low sides.
  7. Sore cats will often be unable to reach all of their coat to groom themselves. Invest some time with a brush to help them feel comfortable.
  8. There are many supplements that will help with joint health and well being, and most come in powder or chew forms that can be used as a treat or sprinkled over their dinner. Look for a product that contains glucosamine and chondroitin; two ingredients that are clinically proven to reduce inflammation.
  9. Provide several sources of drinking water so that they don’t have to travel a long way for a drink. Sore cats often won’t move until they have to, which leaves them susceptible to urinary infections.
  10. Feed them a good quality, complete food designed for joint health.

Ticks

Ticks, what are they good for??? Absolutely nothing… I’ll say it again…

What Are They?
Ticks are arachnids related to spiders; they have 8 legs and a large abdomen. They feed by burrowing their head into the skin of an animal; all that can be seen is a rounded abdomen sticking out of the body. This will swell with blood the longer they have been attached to the animal; unfed they can be as small as 3mm, and when fed up to 1.5cm.

Tick season is generally September to March, but they can be found at any time of year. If a tick attaches to your pet, the poison found in their salivary glands is extremely toxic. Be particularly vigilant during the warmer months. Areas near beaches and marshlands are particularly prone for ticks.  For instance Sydney’s Northern Beaches has one of the highest incidence of tick related illness and sadly even death in the country.

Signs to Look Out For
Tick poisoning causes ‘ascending paralysis’; or a gradual loss of ability to use their muscles, starting from the bottom of the cat and moving upwards. This is why the most often seen sign is a loss of ability to use the back legs or walk up stairs. Look out for:

  • A change in their voice – their meow may become softer or higher pitched.
  • Weakness in the back legs – reluctance to move or jump on to furniture is a common early sign.
  • Vomiting – particularly if it is frothy.

As the symptoms worsen, you may see:

  • Wobbliness in the hips and back legs, and eventually an inability to stand.
  • Excessive drooling and vomiting.
  • Panting and loud, strenuous breathing.
  • A moist sounding cough.

If your cat is showing any of these symptoms, then it is very important to take them to your vet as soon as possible. The earlier that tick poisoning is treated, the better the outcome is likely to be. On the way there, try to keep your pet still, quiet and cool, and don’t give them anything to eat or drink. Cover their cat carrier with a towel to try and keep them quiet.

Luckily, there are many preventative products and measures you can take to try and avoid this situation.

Every Day
Search your pet from top to bottom. Feel against the fur, starting at the head, and move backwards until you reach the tip of the tail. Make sure you check around the ears, eyes and mouth, and between the pads. Common places that ticks can be missed are under collar, along the gum line and around the bottom area. If you find a tick, call your local vet right away.

Product Options

  1. Washes are a relatively inexpensive option, but many cats just will not tolerate them, as they need to be applied often and well generally speaking cats just really dislike baths.
  2. Frontline Spray lasts for 3 weeks, and is completely waterproof. However, it can be difficult to apply to wriggling cats, as it requires them to be sprayed thoroughly all over.
  3. Spot On Treatments such as Frontline Plus have never been tested on cats for tick control.  It does however have the same active ingredients as Frontline Plus for Cats and as such many vets recommend it, please check with your vet before using this product as tick protection or call the Frontline helpline and ask questions.
  4. NB:  Advantix cannot be used on cats, it is a dog only treatment, and can cause illness and even death in cats.  If you have a dog as well as a cat and use this product and many people do, it is recommended by Bayer and Vets that you separate your dog and cat during application, and for a short time afterwards.

Keeping up to date with your chosen product greatly reduces the risk of tick poisoning, however you should still check your pet every day.

 

Worms

I am not sure about you, but I think worms are pretty gross, albeit a natural part of our pets lives.   So keeping up to date with treatment is the best possible way to keep your cat free of intestinal, heart and lungworm.

Keeping up to date with worming is another important part of your cat’s health maintenance. These nasty little creatures can populate their stomach, intestines, and even lungs and heart before you can even know. Using a regular worming treatment is an easy and safe way to protect them.

What Are They?
There are two main types of worms that commonly affect cats – heartworms, and intestinal worms. Just as their names suggest, heartworms infect the heart and lungs, whilst intestinal worms infect the digestive system. There is just one type of heartworm, but several types of intestinal worms.

Both can be prevented with a regular tablet, but it’s important to remember that not all products will control both types of worm. An ‘all wormer’ will sometimes mean all intestinal worms, and won’t prevent heartworm as well.

Heartworms – transmitted by mosquitoes, during their lifecycle heartworms make their way through the blood stream to the heart and lungs of your cat. There they can block up the blood vessels and cause coughing, weight loss, fatigue and eventual heart failure. Because the signs are so subtle at first, they can often go unnoticed for a significant period of time.

Intestinal worms – including whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms and roundworms. They can be passed on through flea bites, from the mother, or picking up eggs from the ground, but all of them can cause varying symptoms, generally fatigue and weight loss, and a general lacklustre appearance.

How To Avoid Them
There are many products that will control both intestinal and lung/heartworms. There are chews, tablets and even spot on treatments for cats who just won’t take tablets.

There are some products that will control intestinal, heartworms and fleas.  Making it a simple one stop spot on treatment, which will probably cause your cat less stress, then being treated for all of them at different times.

Fleas

Why do fleas even exist???  No one likes the idea that their believed kitty has fleas, it causes them to groom more, which can lead to hairballs or at least scratch themselves in some cases leading to skin irritation.

Know Your Enemy
It’s a fairly gross concept but it is true most fleas are in the environment and not on your cat.  At any point in time, only 5% of the flea population in your house is actively on your cat. This means that if you treat them and kill 20 fleas, there are still 400 ready to jump back on.

Not only that, but 50% of the flea population is still in egg form. These are resistant to flea products, and will hatch in approximately 2 weeks. So once you think you have got the problem under control, a whole new population will emerge ready to fight.

Treat the Environment First
That is why it’s so important to treat the whole house and not just your pet. Start by vacuuming – you will remove a great deal of eggs, larvae and adults this way. Along the baseboards, all over and under the furniture, and any bedding. Be extremely thorough and you’ve won half the battle.

Once you are finished, use a flea product designed for inside. You can use any bomb, fogger or aerosol, designed to kill fleas. Make sure that the product reaches under the furniture too.

Keep Up to Date
Now you can start to treat your pet. There are many products available, so it’s easy to choose one to suit you both. Using them regularly will make sure that those eggs that hatch never get a chance.

Monthly tablets or chews are quick and easy, and are extremely effective.

If your cat is fussy about what goes in their mouth, try a spot on treatment. These will also kill fleas for up to a month, and simply have to be placed on the back of their neck. Just remember, no baths for 24 hours before or after or you’ll lose its effectiveness.   Please note:  The spot on treatment called Advantix is toxic to cats, it can only be used on dogs.  If you also have a dog, and use this product, please separate your animals when applying and for a few hours after, especially if your cat and dog play together.

Flea control sprays or rinses last for a long time, if you have a particularly obliging cat. Frontline spray will last for 2 months without having to be reapplied.

Alternatively, there are products that will control fleas, worms and other parasites in combination, to make your parasite control much easier.

Preventing Reinfestation
Every time your cat pops out of the cat flap, he is susceptible to picking up more fleas. There are fast knockdown treatments available that will kill adult fleas on your cat.

De-sexing

There are many people who simply don’t like the idea of desexing, but it’s purpose is not to take anything from your cat, but rather aid your cat living with us, and prolonging life by avoiding certain sadly common health issues.

Vets for all pet cats for many health and behavioural reasons recommend de-sexing. It helps lessen male cats need to mark and spray, it helps prevent Romeo looking for his Juliet, it can help prevent testicular and uterine cancer, as well as some common issues with the uterus.

Males
Male cats will urine mark or spray, which can often occur inside the house. They will roam great distances in search of a girlfriend, and indoor cats will find ingenious ways of escaping. This leaves them at a high risk of being hit by a car or getting into fights – de-sexing can prevent all of these problems early on.

In terms of health it will eliminate the risk of testicular cancer, as well as reduce the occurrence of prostate cancer and other diseases. Un-neutered males also have much larger territories than de-sexed ones, and will fight and scrap with other cats to defend it. Cat scratches can often become infected, resulting in abscesses and multiple trips to the vet.

Females
Female cats that are un-desexed have to be kept securely indoors, or she will become pregnant relatively quickly. They can have many litters a year, resulting in endless supplies of kittens in search of homes. They will roam further and vocalise more than other cats, resulting in a high risk of being hit by a car or getting into fights, just as male cats do.

In terms of health, de-sexing will eliminate the risk of uterine cancer, as well as relatively common infections of the uterus, false pregnancies and other sexual related diseases. The chance of mammary cancers developing, as they get older is also greatly reduced.

Are There Any Negatives?
The anaesthetic risks associated with de-sexing are the same as for any routine surgery; the chances of complications occurring are below 0.05%.

Some females will be more prone to gaining weight after being desexed. However a healthy diet and normal amounts of exercise can avoid this problem altogether, generally fatty snacks or poor quality food are more likely to be the blame.

It may be that certain rare types of cancer are slightly more likely after de-sexing; however, the risks are still negligible. If you have any questions or concerns, your local vet will be more than happy to discuss it with you.

The Procedure
If you would like more information about what happens before, during and after your pet’s surgery, speak to your local vet. They are more than happy to provide you with all the information you need, and most will have fact sheets for you to read.

Dental

Despite what many people might think really foul cat breath is not normal.  It can be the sign of periodontal disease, which causes pain and discomfort and if left untreated can cause damage to the heart, liver, kidney and your wallet. Sadly because cats are cats and have wild instincts they often keep pain hidden.   It then isn’t until their annual trip to the vet that it gets discovered.

There are lots of options to help your cat keep her mouth clean and healthy:

  1. The number one way to keep your cats teeth clean is to brush them. Yes believe it or not, it is possible. Use a double sided toothbrush and a nice tasting toothpaste, and begin very slowly. At first, just some toothpaste on the finger and rubbing it around the gums for a few seconds will be all they can tolerate. Cats are often sensitive about having their mouth touched. But, with a little patience, some treats and building up slowly, eventually you should be able to brush their whole mouth.
  2. Cat specific dental chews are a fantastically easy way to help clean their teeth. One after meals will dislodge all the food and leave them with a clean mouth.
  3. Water soluble solutions which are added to their drinking water is also very helpful. These contain enzymes that will remove that tartar build up, it’s simple and easy, especially for those cranky cats that don’t like to be touched.
  4. Try using a dry food specifically designed for oral health. These will contain cross-woven fibres that clean the teeth as it bites in, as well as tartar removing enzymes.
  5. An annual dental check up at the vets will keep them in tip top shape. If you have become behind on your oral care, a cleaning may be necessary to bring their mouth back into perfect health.