Cats rarely display their pain, but cats with feline stomatitis are often the exception. If your cat appears to have mouth pain, is reluctant to eat, doesn’t want to groom, is drooling, and doesn’t want you to open its mouth, it may be suffering from this debilitating, degenerative oral condition, and prompt treatment is a must.
Stomatitis refers to an inflammation of the oral mucosa, the mucous membranes that line a cat’s mouth. This layer of cells can become inflamed for a variety of reasons. The more frequent causes of inflammation are gingivitis and periodontal disease. In the case of stomatitis, the exact cause isn’t known, but it is suspected to be an immune-mediated disease. Depending on the extent of lesions, this condition is also called faucitis and caudal mucositis, if the areas in the back of the mouth behind the teeth are affected. Stomatitis affects all breeds of cats, and can occur in any age.
Treatment for oral inflammation depends on the severity of the disease. Milder cases can be treated by having a dental prophylaxis under anesthesia. Once the teeth are cleaned, you may be asked to apply a chlorhexidene gel to help keep the bacteria under control. Taking dental X-rays is important in all these cases as a degeneration of the tooth termed resorption, may occur in the crown or root of the tooth. This resorption can cause pain and inflammation.
More advanced cases of feline stomatitis generally call for extraction of all or a majority of the affected teeth. While this approach might sound extreme, it can also be highly effective at curing the stomatitis altogether, instead of merely keeping it in check. If extractions of the molars and pre-molars doesn’t resolve the problem, further extractions of the canines and incisors very well might. Some cat owners decide to spare their cats a possible future surgery by having these teeth removed with the others. X-rays of the teeth during extraction are critical because any piece of a tooth is left behind, the inflammation will persist.
Your cat’s stomatitis may also involve the bone surrounding the teeth, leading to a condition called osteomyelitis. This is a serious infection of the bone surrounding the teeth which is treated by removing the diseased bone and then allowing healthy tissue to regenerate in its place.
Deforge, D. H., VMD, “One Clinician’s Experience With A New Treatment For Feline Stomatitis,” Veterinary Practice News
Kirby, Naomi, DVM, MS, “Managing Feline Stomatitis,” IVC Journal.
Lews, John, VMD, FAVD, DIPL. AVDC., “Why Teeth Removal is Best When Your Patient Has Feline Stomatitis,” Veterinary Practice News.
Merck Veterinary Manuals, “Oral Inflammatory and Ulcerative Disease in Small Animals.”
Feline leukemia (FeLV) is a virus that weakens your cat’s immune system. Unfortunately, when the immune system does not function properly, your cat may be more likely to develop other diseases, such as cancer and blood disorders.
How Cats Contract Feline Leukemia
Cats get feline leukemia from other cats. The virus is spread in saliva, urine, feces, nasal secretions and milk from nursing mothers. When an infected cat bites or grooms another cat, that cat may develop the virus. If a pregnant cat has feline leukemia, the kittens might be born with the disease or may develop it after nursing. Because kittens have weaker immune systems than older cats, they are more likely to suffer from the virus. Cats can also spread the virus by sharing food dishes or litter boxes; although this does not happen very often.
Symptoms of Feline Leukemia
There may be no symptoms of the disease during the earlier stages. In the later stages, symptoms may be similar to those that are also typical of other types of viruses. Depending on the stage of the disease, a cat infected with feline leukemia may experience:
- Gradual weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Eye disorders
- Pale gums or inflammation of the gums
- Poor coat
- Skin, bladder or upper respiratory tract infections
- Behavioral changes
- Swollen lymph nodes
Diagnosis and Treatment
Feline leukemia is diagnosed via a blood test that detects a protein found in the virus. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease. Many infected cats die within two to three years of being diagnosed. Although there is no treatment for feline leukemia, symptoms can be treated to keep your cat more comfortable. If weight loss is a problem, nutritional supplements will help your cat receive necessary nutrients. Your cat may get sick more often because of his weakened immune system, but these infections can often be treated with antibiotics.
The FeLV vaccine will help prevent your cat from developing feline leukemia, but it does not offer an absolute guarantee that your cat will never get the virus. The best way to protect your furry friend is to keep him or her indoors. When cats roam, they are more likely to come in contact with infected cats that may transmit the virus through a bite.
Before you bring a new pet into your home, make sure that it has been tested for the feline leukemia virus. If one of your cats does develop the virus, separate it from your other cats to prevent the spread of the disease.
Has your cat had an examination and feline leukemia shot recently? If not, give us a call to schedule an appointment.
Nothing must spoil the joys of becoming a new parent. Not even your pets. But family cats with normal, every day habits can pose a risk to expectant women. Women’s immune systems can be disturbed by a parasite carried in fecal matter. If you’re the primary caretaker of your family’s feline friend it may be time to ask for help.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease that can be transmitted from cats to humans by ingestion of undercooked meat products or contact with the stool of a contaminated cat. Toxoplasmosis can cause serious problems during pregnancy.
Cats allowed to roam outdoors are more likely to carry the parasite responsible for the toxoplasmosis infection. They can hunt and kill mice and rats during the nighttime hours. When the rodents are infected with the Toxoplasma parasite, a cat ingesting the diseased rodent can spread this infection through its fecal matter to humans. Pregnant women have an increased sensitivity to the dangers of that contamination.
Cats living in an outdoor environment are also defecating outdoors. They habitually bury their stool in flower beds, gardens and other soft soil areas. Women who are pregnant must be aware that contact with dirt that has been used by an infected cat is also a danger. Keeping cats indoors will eliminate their exposure to potentially infected rodents and decrease your chance of coming into contact with the toxoplasmosis parasite.
“More that 60 million men, women, and children in the U.S. carry the Toxoplasma parasite, but very few have symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness,” advises the United States Center for Disease Control. Appropriate testing can help your doctor determine the potential impact on your immune system.
The Center for Disease Control recommends that specific measures be taken to prevent exposure to the toxoplasmosis infection. The CDC’s preventative measures include:
- Avoid changing the cat’s litter yourself whenever possible.
- Wear gloves if you must change it yourself.
- Wash your hands immediately after changing the litter.
- Wear gloves when you are outside gardening, planting flowers, vegetables, weeding or in contact with soil that could be a potential source of contamination.
- Keep litter boxes outside your home covered.
- Delegate changing the cat’s litter to another family member.
- Change the litter on a daily basis because the parasite is most infectious in just-eliminated fecal matter for at least the first five days.
- Keep Fluffy or Garfield inside your house, apartment or condo throughout your pregnancy.
- Wear gloves and/or wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw meats.
“The risk to the baby increases the later in the pregnancy the new infection is acquired,” says Michael Richards, DVM. Check in with your veterinarian early in your pregnancy to ensure a healthy infant.
The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery confirms that feline emotional wellbeing, behavior and physical health are a result of how comfortable they are in their environment. Understanding how our cats interact with their environment can help us create a space for owners and cats to mutually thrive together. Not only does your feline’s wellness rely on her environmental conditions, but also on social interaction between humans.
Indoor Vs. Outdoor
Should you keep your cat strictly indoors or allow it to go outside? Several national associations of veterinarians advocate that domestic cats be kept inside for their health, safety, and the safety of surrounding native wildlife. Pet cats that are allowed to roam freely outdoors are subject to many dangers including, but not limited to:
• Attacks from other animals
• Possible human cruelty
• Poisons, traps
• Feline-specific diseases
• Zoonotic diseases
Often cat owners that allow their cats to roam outdoors are surprised to find that their cat is continually crossing major streets and roaming far beyond their immediate neighborhood. Lastly, allowing cats to roam outdoors affects the surrounding native wildlife populations. While owned cats do not hunt animals for survival, they will kill and maim animals based on instinct. This predation can have a significant impact on rodent and bird species.
Creating an Enriched Indoor Environment
Without an investment in enriching the indoor environment, indoor cats can suffer boredom from predictability, stress, and obesity from inactivity. This is especially true if your cat was once an outdoor cat and you’ve transitioned him to an indoor-only pet. The best solution to prevent any of these issues is to give indoor cats what they need to thrive:
• Keep a litter tray in a private area. Be sure to clean regularly, removing eliminations daily, so cats will not be reluctant to use the box. Indoor cats will improperly eliminate or hold a bowel movement for days if they feel uncomfortable in their space. Avoid a potential health issue by keeping it clean.
• While an indoor environment may be perceived as safer, be sure to carefully place potentially toxic house plants and lock cabinets with cleaning supplies. We know how curious cats can be- they’ll try to get inside anything left slightly ajar.
• Provide a scratching post or climbing wall, balls, feathers, or other play toys. Some cats like catnip, and this can be placed inside toys. Cats love to be up high, some people build walkways, close to the ceiling, around a room. Keep your feline busy, and you’ll be their main companion.
• Be sure to check crawl spaces, attics, washer and dryers, dishwashers and refrigerators before and after use.
• Consider getting them a companion. At first, felines may be reluctant to welcome another cat, but over time most thrive due to the interaction.
For those cats who refuse to be a strictly indoor cat, there are things you can do to help protect them when outside. If you have a solid backyard fence, you can build an overhang at the top of the fence with piping and netting. The overhang should be about two feet long, and project inward at about a 45 degree angle, so the cat can not jump over the fence, and it also makes it harder for another cat to jump into your yard. If you do not have a solid back yard fence, you can build an enclosed patio space so the cats have access from the house.
Ellis, SL; Rodan, I; Carney, HC; Rochiltz, I; Shearburn, LD; Sundahl, E; and Westropp, JL. “AAFP and ISFM Feline Environmental Needs Guidelines.” Journal of Feline Medical Surgery, March 2013.
American Humane Association, “Indoor Cats vs. Outdoor Cats.”
American Association of Feline Practitioners. “Confinement of Owned Indoor Cats Position Statement.” 2007.
Few things stimulate a cat’s pleasure faster than catnip. Exposure to this simple herb can reveal a new side to their feline personality. Many cats will go crazy at the smell of this plant.
Catnip has a reputation of being a feline drug and many cat owners wonder if it is safe to give it to their pet. Giving catnip in small doses does no harm. Using it as a treat can be quite good for your cat’s emotional health. It relieves stress and can help them get rid of nervous energy.
What Is Catnip?
Catnip is a type of mint plant found in many countries throughout the world. It can grow up to three feet high and has many branches filled with purple flowers and heart shaped leaves.
The catnip plant has an aromatic oil called nepetalactone. When cats smell this compound, it triggers the part of the feline brain that responds to happy pheromones. This is why cats react the way they do.
Many cats seem to go crazy when they smell catnip by rolling, rubbing and running around. Eating catnip seems to produce the opposite effect. Cats often become mellow when they ingest the plant. This response to catnip usually lasts up to 10 minutes before the cat loses interest.
Catnip as a Training Tool
Creative cat owners can use catnip as a reward or incentive to promote good behavior in their felines. Rubbing dried catnip on a scratching post or cat tree can entice your cat to go there when they need to sharpen their claws instead of tearing your couch to shreds.
Lacing a cat toy with some catnip can be beneficial for inducing an indoor cat to exercise. It will encourage them to be more active and play and prevent obesity. These cat toys should be stored in an airtight container when not in use, so the catnip stays fresh longer.
You can grow your own catnip plants in a home garden. You can buy more mature plants from a nursery or plant the seeds after the last major frost of the season. It is important to put the plant in an area where it has plenty of room to grow. Take steps to protect the growing plant from your cat so they don’t tear it out of the soil before it is fully mature.
“Catnip Confidential,” Veterinary Practice News. February 1, 2012.
Zoonosis refers to diseases that can be transmitted to humans from animals. In particular, they occur when an infected animal passes on bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses to humans through scratches, saliva, feces and urine. Vectors (e.g., organisms like fleas and ticks) can also carry zoonotic diseases from the host to those they come into contact with.
Common Zoonotic Diseases
Zoonotic diseases can be broken into multiple categories: bacterial infections, parasitic infections, protozoal infections, fungal infections and viral infections.
Bartonellosis, also known as cat-scratch disease, occurs when a person is scratched or bitten by an infected cat. Fleas and ticks may also aid in transmission.
Of all bacterial infections that can be passed from feline to human, this is considered the most common, affecting roughly 25,000 people per year in the United States alone. Those infected typically have swollen and inflamed lymph nodes, particularly around the neck, head and upper extremities. Other symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Achy muscles and joints
Healthy individuals who contract bartonellosis tend to recover and have no long-term effects; however, the disease may take several months to disappear completely. People with immune deficiencies are at greater risk of suffering more severe consequences, however. In some cases, death has resulted.
Another bacterial disease that can be transmitted is salmonellosis. Though often caught by eating contaminated food, cats that eat raw meat or wild birds can carry and pass the bacteria in their feces, causing fever, diarrhea and stomach pains in humans within one to three days. This particular bacterial disease tends to resolve on its own, but, in the event of severe dehydration or in the event that the infection reaches the organs, medical attention will be necessary.
While fleas and ticks are external parasites that can cause inflammation and itching when they bite humans and can also act as vectors for bartonellosis and other zoonotic diseases, the focus of this section will look at feline intestinal parasites, such as roundworms and hookworms, which are transmitted to people through fecal exposure and have the potential to cause diseases of the eyes and other organs.
In most cases, intestinal parasites are contracted when litter boxes are handled and the person places their hands in their mouth or on their face without having washed or thoroughly washed them first. Exposure can lead to a host of symptoms that include:
- Shortness of breath
- Bloody stool (which may or may not contain the worm)
- Vomiting (which may or may not contain the worm)
- Weight loss
- Stomach pain
- Itchy rash
- Lack of appetite
Protozoans are single-celled organisms that have animal-like characteristics, such as being predatory and motile. There are three common protozoal diseases that can be transferred from cat to human: giardiasis, toxoplasmosis and cryptosporidiosis.
The protozoans come into contact with cats—and are later transmitted to humans—when a cat consumes an infected bird or rodent. Contamination can also occur if a cat eats feces expelled from an infected cat. In all cases, the infected cat expels the parasite in its feces for up to two weeks, at which point, the parasite takes one to five days to mature before being able to cause infection.
Handling an infected cat’s litter box without thoroughly cleansing one’s hands can be the catalyst for protozoal infections, as can improperly washing fruits and vegetables that have been grown in an environment (soil) where infected cats, birds and rodents drop their feces.
The main symptom associated with protozoal infections is diarrhea; however, medical attention may be required for people with immunodeficiencies, as they may develop severe illness.
Fungal infections, such as ringworm, often develop in cats when they live in environments with a large number of animals. Though the name ringworm would lead one to believe the infection is caused by a worm, that is not the case; it is actually a skin infection brought on by a group of fungi.
When a human pets an infected cat’s skin or fur, or if fungal spores are dropped through the shedding of the cat’s skin cells or fur, the infection can be passed along. In cats, ringworm comes in the form of a gray, dry, scaly patch of skin. In humans, it often presents as a red, round, itchy lesion with a ring of scale surrounding the perimeter.
Many viruses can only be passed from species to species, such as human to human or cat to cat. However, rabies is a viral disease that can cross species and, when it comes to human-cat interaction, it results when a human is bitten by an infected cat.
Cats are very vulnerable to this disease. Symptoms vary, but often affect the central nervous system. While rabies is almost always fatal for cats, the same is not true for humans. Still, symptoms in humans can range from mild to severe, and include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Paralysis (partial)
- Trouble swallowing
Preventing Zoonotic Diseases
Those with compromised immune systems (i.e. young children, pregnant women and the elderly) are more susceptible to zoonotic diseases, but healthy people can be affected too. While zoonotic diseases are rare—humans are more likely to catch diseases from other humans than from their cat—there are precautions you can take to lessen your risk, including:
- Carefully handling litter boxes, preferably with gloves
- Treating cats that have fleas and ticks with proper medications and treatment protocols
- Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly
- Ensuring your cat is vaccinated
- Cleaning food and water bowls often
- Keeping your cat indoors
If you have any questions about zoonotic diseases or think your cat may be suffering from one, call our office today.