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Preventative Care for Indoor vs. Outdoor Cats

Indoor Cat

Definition: Never steps outside the house except for a car trip to vetfree cat picture


Outdoor Cat

Definition: A cat that leaves the house, even if only occasionally.  


  1. Goes outside regularly  

  2. Goes outside on or off a leash, supervised in yard or on patio or deck   

  3. Occasionally will “escape” or run outside due to an open door from kids or a dog being let outside  

  4. Goes to a groomer or a boarding facility


Indoor Cat Vaccinations  

  • Rabies Purevax once a year, starting at 12 weeks of age.  Rabies exposure for the indoor cat is usually through contact with a bat indoors.  Older homes are prone to having bats in the attic and this is how we see cats get exposed. If cats are not current on their rabies vaccine and exposed to a bat that is shown to have rabies or bitten by an animal that is not available for rabies testing, the Board of Animal Health will require quarantine for 45 - 180 days.

  • PRC for upper respiratory viruses and distemper.  The initial kitten vaccines are a series of 2-3 vaccines from 8-16 weeks of age; then a one year booster, then every 3 years.  In geriatric indoor cats, we may stop the vaccines as research has shown that their immunity may be good enough if not exposed to outdoor cats carrying the viruses.

  • Feline Leukemia vaccine.  It is recommended that all kittens, regardless of lifestyle recieve two vaccines, one month apart as kittens.  Adult cats that are indoor cats do not continue to receive the vaccine.

Lyme Disease Q&A

Lyme Disease in Dogs Q&A


What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme Disease is a condition caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans and dogs through the bite of infected black legged ticks.  Most people that get exposed to the Lyme bacteria get sick with symptoms ranging from fever and fatigue to infection in the joints and nervous system.  What we see in dogs is different.  Current studies demonstrate that 80-95% of dogs exposed to the bacteria never show signs of disease.  Because most of our canine patients don’t get clinically ill from infection, veterinarians talk about two different conditions in dogs; being exposed to the Lyme bacteria versus having Lyme Disease. tick picture free


Dogs that do get sick from Lyme bacteria most commonly will have lethargy, fever and sore joints.  However, there is a very serious and rare complication of Lyme Disease that can affect the kidneys, called Lyme Nephritis.  In this disease, an autoimmune problem develops in the kidneys triggered by the Lyme bacteria.  Dogs with Lyme Nephritis can have vomiting and poor appetite.  Their kidneys can go into failure quickly and there are limited treatment options.  Lyme Nephritis is fatal if a dog develops this complication.

Lumbosacral Disease (LS Disease)


LS disease, or lumbosacral disease refers to a disease of the lower back.  An explanation of the anatomy of the lower spine will help to understand this disease further. 


The vertebrae are the bones that surround and protect the spinal cord.  Dogs and cats have 7 cervical (neck) vertebrae, 13 thoracic (chest) vertebrae, 7 lumbar (lower back) vertebrae, a sacrum (tail bone), and then a varying number of vertebrae that make up their tail.   (Humans differ from dogs and cats in that they only have 12 thoracic vertebrae, 5 lumbar vertebrae, and only a small number of “tail vertebrae” called the coccyx).  Each vertebrae is named by the segment of spine it is in.  For example, the cervical vertebrae are named C1 through C7, the thoracic vertebrae are named T1-13 and the lumbar vertebrae are named L1-7.  


The spinal cord extends from the brain and passes through a canal in the vertebrae.  The spinal cord does not extend all the way to the tail bone, however.  In humans, the spinal cord stops at the end of the chest (at about T12).  In dogs, the spinal cord ends into the lumbar vertebrae and ends around L6, but it varies from dog to dog.


This is an important anatomical fact.  Once the spinal cord ends, the structure beyond that is called the “cauda equina”.  (Which means “horse’s tail” in Latin).  The cauda equina is not one thick spinal cord, but rather it is composed of many small nerves that run through the rest of the spinal canal.  This end of the spinal cord is appropriately named because when the spinal cord diverges out it looks like a horse’s tail.  For people, the fact that the lumbar vertebrae does not have a large spinal cord running through it is protective against severe injuries such as paralysis because their is more “play” in the spinal canal.   


In dogs, the space between the last lumbar vertebrae (L7) and the tail bone (Sacrum) is called the LS space, and in most dogs, the cauda equina in running through the vertebral canal in this area.  


The sacrum is the part of the body that the pelvis connects up to.  The pelvis moves the sacrum and this creates a lot of movement in the LS area.  The LS area experiences the most movement of all of the lumbar vertebrae which makes it a common area to get injured.


All sorts of problems can occur at this joint space.  For example, the disk in between the joints can herniate up into the cauda equina, arthritis can occur around the vertebrae and tail bone irritating the nerves that come off the cauda equina or the ligaments that hold the vertebrae and tail bone in alignment can overgrow and scar from repetitive injury which can narrow the space through which the cauda equina passes through.  


All of these diseases processes can “pinch” the nerves causing pain and injury to the nerves.  The nerves that pass through this area help move the back legs, and also help with urinating and defecating.  When those nerves are damaged, sometimes symptoms such as dragging of the feet, difficulty urinating and defecating, or rarely paralysis of the back legs can occur.  


Pain from LS disease is common, but it is often confused with other diseases.  This disease can mimic symptoms of hip or even knee arthritis, so careful examination of the patient is necessary to determine the true cause of the lameness.  X-rays are also very useful to look at the bony structures in this area.


When evaluating a patient with LS disease and lameness, it is important to ascertain if the lameness is from pain alone, or if their is also compromise of nerve function.  Pain alone can make a patient not want to use a limb and lead to lameness.  However, if the injury to this joint is severe, sometimes the nerve function is impaired so much that the limbs literally cannot move properly.  Your veterinarian can determine this by checking the patient’s reflexes.  One simple reflex test is called the Conscious Proprioceptive (CP) Reflex.  To test this reflex, you flip the foot under so the patient is standing on their “knuckles”.  A normal patient will flip the foot back right away.  In a patient with a nerve deficit, they won’t be able to feel that their foot is out of place or won’t be able to respond quickly to replace the foot.  


For patients with pain alone, medical management is started.  Anti-inflammatories (like Rimadyl) and often gabapentin (used most commonly for nerve pain) are prescribed.  Acupuncture can also be helpful in aiding in pain relief.


After an acute injury,  it is important to rest the patient by not allowing them to jump or run.  Slow, short walks are still acceptable.  For patients that respond to medical management, a slow reintroduction to normal activity can occur typically in 4-6 weeks.  However, it is important to note that sometimes repetitive injury to the LS area is what weakened this part of the back to begin with.  The most common movement that can cause repetitive injury is jumping.  Particularly dogs that jump to catch a frisbee or jump as part of rough play.  It is important to examine the lifestyle of your dog and determine if you can alter the type of play you do with them to help prevent further injury.  For example, if your dog loves to jump for the ball, try throwing the ball in a way so that they don’t jump for it, but rather pick the ball up off the ground to retrieve it.  


For patients whose pain is not well controlled, or if they have associated nerve deficits, more aggressive therapy is indicated.  Your veterinarian can refer you to a veterinary neurologist for a further work-up.  The neurologist will likely want to perform an MRI to better assess the degree of injury to that area.  Once that information is ascertained, treatment options, including steroid injections around the nerves, and sometimes surgery to decompress this area of the spinal canal can be performed.  


Not all clients was to see a neurologist with their dog.  Cost concerns, the pet’s age, and individual philosophy about pet health care all factor into the decision making process.  For pets that are weak from LS disease, managing their pain medically is important as this can sometimes improve their weakness.  Other mobility aids can also be beneficial.  I recommend “Power Paws” (traction socks) and “Dr. Buzby’s Toe Grips” (rubber nail covers) for pets that are slipping from weakness or have a hard time getting up, especially on hardwood or tile.  I also recommend the chest and pelvis harness system called “Help ‘em Up”.  This durable harness set has handles on it so you can help your pet during times when she has hard time walking, like stairs, getting into the car, or getting up from laying down.  


Tips on choosing a pet food

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.

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We provide the quality care our clients expect and their pets deserve, by relying on the expertise and
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Westgate Pet Clinic
4345 France Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55410
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