February 2007

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When I consider which trait I like most about cats, Iíd have to say that itís their mysterious manner. I never know when they will pounce on my computer keyboard, or where they will hide on a particular day. Unfortunately, they are also masters at concealing any illnesses they might have. A cat can have a medical problem and even the most watchful owner may not know until the symptoms have become full-blown.

An unhealthy heart is all too common in cats, regardless of age. Some breeds are more prone to heart illnesses than others. Maine Coon Cats, RagaMuffins, Oriental Short Hairs and Munchkins are just some of the breeds that commonly suffer from heart conditions. Of course, any mixed-breed cat can also have heart problems. The good news is that if treated early, a cat with a heart condition can still live a relatively healthy and happy life. All we have to do is be proactive and examine our cats. Donít worry Ė itís easy and fun.

Place your cat where you can both be comfortable, as youíll be examining him from head to tail. As youíll soon learn, heart problems can manifest themselves in multiple ways.

Are the eyes nice and bright? Heart disease can cause respiratory issues, which can lead to a dull look. Itís easy to notice if the twinkle in your kittyís eyes has diminished.

Lift the lips and inspect the gums. Most cats should have nice medium color pink gums, although dark cats may have gray gums. When you press your finger on the gums, they should lose color; as soon as you remove your finger, the original color should return. Cats with heart problems can be anemic, resulting in very pale or blue gums. Bright pink gums are generally not healthy and could be an indication of heart problems.

The whiskers should be nice and long. Broken or thick whiskers may indicate that your cat is not completely healthy. Please be aware that some breeds, like the Devon Rex or the American Wirehair, almost always have short whiskers.

Examine your catís skin and coat. A healthy cat will usually have a silky coat. A dull and brittle coat (again, unless a Wirehair) may indicate a health problem. A cat with heart disease can have poor circulation and, as a consequence, the hair will not receive the necessary nutrients. Dandruff may be another indication that your cat is not well.

Put your right palm on your catís right shoulder and your left on his left shoulder. Move your hands together along the spine in the direction of the tail, slightly pressing downward to feel the ribs. If there is more than an inch to pinch, then chances are that your cat is too heavy. Overweight cats are candidates for heart problems. Note that the hanging tummy is not an indication of obesity, but more often a lack of particular hormones.

Feel the pads of your catís feet Ė they should be warm. Cold feet may be indicative of a blood clot and/or poor circulation.

Pay special attention to your catís breathing pattern. It should be steady, not very deep, but not too shallow. A cat with heart problems may appear to breathe with difficulty. As a quick test, take a thick cord and throw it up on something so your cat runs to chase it. Young or old, your cat should have no problem doing this a handful of times. If your cat starts to breathe through his mouth, or begins to breathe with effort, we have a problem.

If you notice any of these negative symptoms, I suggest you consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

I encourage you to record the results of these exams in a dedicated notebook. This will allow you to track changes over time, and itíll be a handy resource to report changes in your catís health to your vet during check-ups.

 

 



First identified in 1978, the Canine Parvovirus attacks the gastrointestinal tract, is highly contagious and can lead to heart tissue damage in puppies. The majority of deaths from parvovirus occur within 2-3 days after initial symptoms, largely due to dehydration. Parvovirus is spread by contact with feces passed by infected dogs. Even trace amounts on shoes, pants legs, bare feet, paws, etc. can carry the contagion. The most common symptoms include Ö

  • Lethargy

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fever

  • Vomiting

  • Severe diarrhea (often bloody)


If your dog exhibits these symptoms, we urge you to contact your veterinarian immediately. While no known drug can eliminate the virus after infection, treatments to address primary symptoms in combination with antibiotics to prevent secondary infections can be effective in combating the virus if caught in the early stages. Be sure to follow your vetís advice and vaccinate your canine friends against this insidious virus.
 



 




With a growing number of Americans concerned about identity theft and privacy issues, many households now have paper shredders, some of which have enough power to shred CDís. And now, a new warning has been issued, accompanied by startling and grisly tales of injury inflicted on companion animals by paper shredders. In almost all cases, dogs and cats stuck probing tongues into the openings and were caught; it is rare for these poor creatures to survive their injuries.

The good news is that you can prevent this from happening to your dog or cat. Most of us leave our shredders on the ďautomaticĒ setting Ė simply switch it to the ďoffĒ position. Or better yet, just unplug the device while itís not in use. By taking this simple step today, you could avoid a great deal of grief in the future.

 


We are pleased to announce the formation of the Dr. Jane HealthyPetNet Foundation, Inc. This non-profit foundation is dedicated to the promotion, establishment, maintenance and management of animal rescue groups that are committed to rescuing abused animals in the U.S. And we are donating a portion of our net profit to help support the operations of this extraordinary foundation.

We look forward to sharing with you more about the progress of this foundationís important work.


 


If you have an inspirational or funny story to share, please send it to stories@healthypetnet.com
weíd love to hear it! Feel free to include a photo of your companion animal.
 


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