Scooting, tail chasing, biting at the feet, arching the back, really stinky anal discharge and licking at the rear (mostly signs in the dog) and vomiting (mostly seen in the cat) are all potential signs of one of the most common procedures we do- empty anal glands. Yes, I spent 7 years of my life and thousands of dollars to don a glove, add some lube and empty anal glands. All kidding aside, irritation, infection or ruptured anal glands occur in almost every dog and many cats at least once if not multiple times during their lifetime. Sometimes, we can find underlying causes such as food or pollen allergy and correct the problem but unfortunately, many dogs especially small breed dogs have anal gland problems their entire lives. Some pet owners have us teach them how to empty the glands so they can do it at home but not to worry! If you are not in that group of pet owners, just give us a call. We will be glad to do the "dirty" work!
If you guessed the number one behavior issue in cats is not using the litter box, you are absolutely correct. Prevention is the key but if your cat is not using the litter box, don’t panic. You can still get your cat back on the right track.
Before jumping to the conclusion that behavior is the reason for not using the litter box, underlying medical problems should be ruled out first. This is best accomplished starting with a thorough history and physical exam followed by a urinalysis, fecal test and possibly other lab work. Examples of medical problems include urinary tract infection or inflammation, bladder stones, arthritis, pain, fleas, tapeworms and other parasites, and dietary intolerance to name a few. Often a medical issue is the underlying problem when a cat quits using the litter box but even when the medical problem is corrected, the behavior issue persists. For this reason, behavioral modification is also part of the treatment plan as well as addressing the medical problem. Either way, the quicker you intervene, the quicker this can be resolved and avoid potential long term problems.
Use the following tips to reestablish appropriate litter box habits:
- Have 1 litter box per cat plus 1. For example, if you have 3 cats, you need 4 litter boxes.
- Place litter boxes on all levels of the house.
- Keep litter boxes out of major traffic areas or areas of increased activity. Cats need to feel safe when using the litter box.
- Avoid fragrant litter types. Plain clay or those with baking soda or charcoal are the universal favorites.
- Use uncovered, large litter boxes. Cats don’t like body parts touching the sides of the litter box.
- Try a variety of litter types to see which one your cat prefers. In multiple cat households, you may need 2 or 3 different litter types. For instance, some cats prefer cloth so washable throw rugs can also be used to line litter boxes then just toss them in the washing machine and reuse them multiple times.
- Line litter boxes with newspaper, put 1-2 cups of litter in the box. Once the cat has used the box, empty the whole thing and start over. If you prefer using more litter, scoop the box 2-3 times daily and empty the box weekly. An unclean box is the number one reason cats quit using the litter box.
- Clean litter boxes with a mild soap once a month or more. Rinse thoroughly. Cats do not like chemical smells.
- Replace litter boxes every year or two.
- The large plastic storage bins that slide under beds make nice large boxes that have sides not too tall for our arthritic cats. Some of the lids on these storage boxes can be used as well.
- For cats who urinate standing up and hit vertical surfaces, make a "wall" around the box with plastic or part of a shower curtain or take the litter box lid from covered litter boxes, turn it upside down for a short doorway to enter but tall walls to catch urine.
- Commercial pheromones such as "Feliway" can be plugged into outlets. We don’t smell anything but the scent is calming to cats. Catnip can also be calming in some cats.
- It may help to confine your cat in a small room with 2 litter boxes and his food and water for a few to several weeks to help retrain. Once your cat is using the box routinely, he can come out of the room under supervision then gradually transition back to the rest of the house. In some cases, medications may need to be used in the beginning to help retrain.
- From a behavioral perspective, the magic number of cats per household tends to be around five or six before a cat will start spraying urine to mark territory. (Yes, neutered/spayed cats can and will spray urine.) The larger the cat population, the more creative we need to be to keep everyone happy. Make sure all cats have safe havens where they can escape such as perches or under/on top of beds or shelves. Rotate kitty toys to stimulate exercise and general activity. Use water fountains for an ongoing source of fresh water. Take the dry cat food and hide it throughout the house so the cats have to "hunt" for their food.
In summary, call as soon as an issue develops. We will rule ou t medical issues first and then establish a comprehensive plan to get your feline back on track!
The question, “Which are you, a cat or a dog person”, is often asked of folks who have pets. Having grown up with all the domesticated species, I have come to appreciate each for their own unique personalities. That being said, there are certain general characteristics of feline and canine populations. Cats tend to “own” us and we tend to “own” dogs. Cats seem aloof and dogs want to be in the midst of the party. Dogs love car rides while cats detest vehicles. Dogs will eat anything and cats cause a grocery bill to skyrocket trying to cater to their tastes. Cats will save themselves from a burning building while dogs will run into harms way trying to save people. Dogs like to swim, while cats spend an hour grooming one spot of water off their fur.
Many more could be added to the list but I think you get my point. All this being said, over the years, I have taken care of or owned cats who I nickname “Velcro” because they always prefer being right by my side, finicky dogs who would starve themselves if we did not feed what they wanted and a client whose cat saved his entire family from a house fire. I have had cats in our underwater treadmill and dogs who refuse to ride in a car.
So back to the original question, “Which are you, a cat or a dog person?” For me, I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of cats and dogs and my only complaint is there are so many wonderful pets but not enough time to enjoy them all!
This past week, one of our staff members experienced a horrible tragedy. Her home was struck by lightening and caught fire. Not only did they lose their home but four beloved dogs. Most of us will never experience this kind of loss all at once so we will never totally understand how devastating this event was. Our thoughts and prayers are with Michele and Chris as they go through this time of loss and grief.
What is so reassuring, however, is how responsive our community has been. From the local Red Cross, to physical and monetary donations and the countless prayers, our coworkers, clients and many community members have stepped up to lend support. The news and other media tend to focus on the tragedies of life. We want to focus on the good and positive things that happen in life even in the midst of terrible tragedy. It is a reminder that there is still much good in this world and it helps reaffirm faith in our fellow human beings.
To all of those who have helped, are helping and will help, much thanks and gratitude from all of us at Greens Fork Animal Hospital.
This past week I had the honor and privilege of participating in a college fair at the Hoosier Youth Challenge Academy(HYCA) in Knightstown, Indiana. This organization was started 7 years ago by the National Guard to help at risk high school kids between the ages of 16-18. Each year 2 classes of 80-110 students attend a 22 week program focused on strict discipline, classroom education, and volunteer work. The kids come from varied backgrounds and are at risk for dropping out of high school or already have. This is their second chance at life. The program accepts both young men and women.
Before the kids came in for the college fair, one of the adult supervisors told me a group of the girls had "unofficially" adopted a stray cat(since no pets are allowed.) They named this black cat Demetri, and the supervisor said this cat was the reason the girls developed a cohesive relationship. As the girls came by our veterinary medicine display, their eyes lit up anytime I mentioned Demetri. Huge smiles spread across their faces as they told me all about him. The little stray cat in a few short days managed to soften their hearts. Instead of conflict and tension, there was now a tight bond of trust between the girls all thanks to a little black cat named Demetri who strolled into their lives to give them a second chance at life.
To learn more about HYCA visit their website Hoosieryouthchallenge.org
I recently attended the American Animal Hospital Association(AAHA) National meeting in Nashville, TN, where I met Steve Dale, certified canine and feline behaviorist and journalist from Chicago, IL. Go to Steve Dale's Pet World - http://petworldradio.net/ - on the internet to learn more about him. He is a true animal advocate, and thanks to him, he encouraged me to start writing a blog. I want these segments to be helpful to clients, so let me know what topics to address. I always learn new information when I attend veterinary conferences, but this five day meeting was particularly chalked full of information that I can't wait to utilize.
One of the speakers at the meeting asked, "What is your purpose in life?" I witness day in and day out what impact animals have on people. I am passionate about celebrating, promoting, and preserving the bond between people and pets through veterinary medicine.
I honestly feel I have never worked a day in my life and am grateful for the many people and pets that have allowed me to work with them over the years. As long as I am physically able, mentally capable, and have a passion for veterinary medicine, I will continue to serve our community of people and pets.
- Dr. Sally Osborn
A veterinarian with a passion to celebrate, promote and preserve the bond between pets and their humans