There are so many choices available for pet foods these days, it can be overwhelming. Armed with a little knowledge and common sense, you can choose a healthy, balanced and safe diet for your pet.
Firstly, it's important to know there are a lot of marketing myths that can add to the confusion. Are grains inherently bad for dogs and cats? Absolutely not and they can provide a healthy source of protein and fiber if provided in the right balance with other nutrients. Domesticated dogs and cats have evolved significantly from their ancestors, but even their ancestors had some grains in their diets. Wild cats and dogs consume grains within their preys' gastrointestinal tracts, as well as "graze" on some grasses and grains. So grains can be a part of a healthy, balanced diet for dogs and cats, though it's not recommended that they constitute the main source of protein.
Cats are obligate carnivores and require a high percentage of protein and limited carbohydrates in the diet. In particular, it's best to limit carbohydrates in most cats to between 2-12% of their caloric intake. Domestic dogs are more tolerant of carbohydrates and have actually evolved over the last 10,000 years to digest starches and carbohydrates better than their wolf relatives. It's not unusual to see dogs thriving on diets with over 50% carbohydrate content.
When choosing a protein source, it's tempting to go for the exotic: Bison! Wild boar! Tilapia! But if we think about what cats would naturally eat -- small critters such as birds, bunnies and mice -- then poultry and rabbit make more sense. Also, cats don't naturally catch and eat fish for the most part. In fact, large animal proteins such as beef and lamb, as well as fish and seafood, are among the biggest offenders in adverse food reactions in cats. Dogs are also more likely to react to beef than other proteins.
Feline asthma is the most common lung disease of cats. It is found in about 1% of cats. Up to 5% of cats with asthma are siamese. It is found in young to middle aged cats. I
It is also called feline allergic bronchitis. The most common symtoms are coughing and wheezing. The wheezing form is more dangerous and life threatening. These symptoms are an emergency. They have trouble getting air in and out of their lungs because the bonchioles are constricting. These cats may have an incrased respiratory rate and may be breathing through their mouths. If the cats are just coughing and otherwise acting OK, it is not an emergency. The bronchioles in both forms have a lot of mucous plugging the airways. Sometimes owners think their cat has a hairball or is trying to vomit.
To diagnose asthma, x-rays are very helpful. They can show evidence of thickening bronchi called doughnuts or tram lines. Some cats with asthma may have normal looking lungs on x-ray. Some have overinflated lungs and the diaphragm may be flattened. Most are not infected, but about 25% may also have a bacterial infection called mycoplasma and will need antibiotics also. Some will have a collapsed right middle lung lobe because of mucous plugging. blood tests may reveal an elevation of allergy cells called eosinophils in about 20% of cases. Feline Heartworm disease can cause some of the same symptoms and so a heartworm test should be perfomed.
Treatment of asthma involves using corticosteriods and bronchodilators. If they are in an emergency, such as experiencing wheezing and difficulty breathing, injectable bronchodilators and steriods are used along with oxygen therapy. The cats are then put on oral prednisolone and the dose is tapered to give the lowest dose possible to keep the symptoms at bay. An alternative treatment is the inhaler steriod "Flovent". A spacer chamber with a face mask called "Aerocat" can be used to put steriods directly into the lungs. This has fewer side effects over the long term for the cats but it takes about 2 weeks to start working. The inhaler is compressed into the chamber and the cat breathes into it for 7-10 breaths. Many cats can be trained to use the spacer. Emergency bronchodilators can be given this way also.
Causes of asthma are usually not found. They can be allergies to pollen, cigarette smoke, dust, dust mites, molds and others. Feline asthma is a serious disease and can be life threatening.
Feline idiopathic cystitis, formerly called FUS and FLUTD is a poorly understood condition in cats, which unfortunately is pretty common and
has a tendency to recur. In fact, about half of the cats with this condition will have at least another episode within a year.
Some or all of the following symptoms may be observed:
excessive licking of the urinary opening
straining to urinate
frequent visits to the litterbox or urinating outside of the litterbox
vocalizing in pain while inside the litterbox
inability to urinate due to a blockage of the urethra
Your veterinarian will want to conduct a urine test and take radiographs, to rule out a blockage, a bladder infection and bladder stones.
Only when all these other conditions are ruled-out, a diagnosis of FIC can be made.
Not one single cause has been identified, but environmental stress and concurrent illnesses seem to play an important part. Younger cats seem to be predisposed to this disease.
The reason why only some cats get it, seems to have to do with the way that they handle stress, and the hormones associated with it. A cascade of events is triggered that leads to
irritation of the bladder lining, pain, bleeding, and urgency to urinate.
Sometimes as we see little changes in our mature adult and senior cats, we are tempted to attribute those changes to simple aging. Old age is not necessarily a disease, however. In fact, many conditions or changes that our older cats go through can be diagnosed and treated appropriately, adding high quality to our feline companion’s lives. Below are common issues in our older cats and a brief explanation of what can be done to further explore, diagnose, and sometimes treat these issues:
Weight loss or changes in appetite:
Is your kitty looking a lot thinner lately? Can you feel or even see the shoulders, spine, or hips, but couldn’t before? Unexpected, unintentional weight loss in your cat should always be discussed with your veterinarian. Eating less (or more, but accompanied by weight loss) is a flag for us to start with an exam and lab work to rule out common senior feline diseases, such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease. Conditions that affect the liver, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, or other primary or secondary gastrointestinal diseases should also be ruled out—sometimes we can diagnoses these issues through lab work and x-rays. Other times more advanced diagnostics such as x-rays, ultrasound, or endoscopy are required. Dental disease is another common issue for mature adult and senior cats and an exam should be done to make sure there are no signs of periodontal disease that would lead to weight loss or a decrease in appetite.