When Liver Meets Lungs – Diaphragmatic Hernia in a Cat

One evening whilst playing outside, a little 6 month old kitten (let’s call her Tilly) climbed up a tree. A rather inexperienced hunter, when she saw a little birdie on the end of the branch she reached out to get it and, crash! The branch was too thin to support her weight and she fell to the ground. Now what they say is often true, cats do tend to land on their feet, but not always and poor Tilly landed on her side. She got up though and ran into the house, so her owner assumed she was OK. A few hours later her owner noticed that she was quieter than normal and not interested in her dinner. She was also breathing faster than normal but otherwise seemed OK, purring and affectionate, so her owner went to bed and planned to take her to the vet if she was still not right in the morning.

As you could probably guess, at 8:00 the next morning I got a phone call from Tilly’s owner, as she had not gotten any better overnight – she was still very quiet and breathing even faster than before. We told her to come straight down and we would take a look right away. A few minutes later Tilly arrived, looking quite sorry for herself, but still happy enough to give me a little purr. I did a full physical exam and found her to be in good health except for her breathing, which sounded quieter than normal through the stethoscope. Her respiratory or breathing rate was very high and she seemed to be struggling to get enough air in. She also seemed depressed, certainly not what I would expect of such a lively young kitten. Once we were certain that everything else seemed to be OK, we gave her some pain medicine and then a little bit of sedation so she would sit still while we took some x-rays of her chest. What we found was no surprise given her history, but still always comes as a bit of a shock when we see it – Tilly had a diaphragmatic hernia.

What is a diaphragmatic hernia?

The diaphragm is a large, thin muscle that separates the chest cavity (with the heart and lungs) from the abdomen (with the stomach, liver and intestines among other things). It is normally an air-tight barrier which allows the chest cavity to achieve negative pressure, in other words there is pressure on the lungs to expand out rather than collapse in. When the diaphragm moves down with each breath, the lungs move with it causing them to expand even further when you breathe in. And when it moves back up again, it helps the lungs to contract so the air is forced out when you exhale. Without a diaphragm or with a damaged one you can still breathe, just not very well, and this is what poor Tilly was experiencing. A hernia is the protrusion of an organ through a hole in the body cavity which normally contains it. In the case of a diaphragmatic hernia, a hole develops in the diaphragm which allows the organs of the abdomen to enter the chest cavity……………………………….

Fluffy Can Give Blood Too! Blood Transfusions in Cats

For the past month our local radio station has been bombarding us with adverts asking us to give blood due to increased need over the holidays. My husband and I ignored them at first but then eventually gave in. On the way home after giving blood, we started talking about cats donating blood and I realised it had been ages since I’d seen a feline blood transfusion. They are relatively uncommon, especially in general practice, but it’s an interesting subject so I thought I might look into it a bit further. Hopefully your cat will never need a blood transfusion, but if they do (or if you’re just curious about the whole process!), here’s a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes.

Why would a cat need a blood transfusion?

The main reason why cats get blood transfusions is because they are severely anaemic, which means they don’t have enough red blood cells in their blood. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying the body’s oxygen, so not having enough of them leads to serious problems. Anaemia can occur for three main reasons – not enough red blood cells are produced (problems with the bone marrow or chronic diseases such as cancer), too many are lost (major bleeding after an injury or surgery), or too many are destroyed (autoimmune disease or poisoning). Mild anaemia is not a problem and the cat’s body… read more

“Please don’t tell me I have to brush my cat’s teeth, because I’d rather keep my fingers…”

My last article talked about a few of the dental problems most commonly seen in cats, and how easily they can be missed by both owners and vets. Remember, a cat with dental disease will probably act just like a healthy cat, but that doesn’t mean they’re not in pain! I’ll continue now by mentioning some of the preventative measures and treatments that can help keep your cat’s mouth healthy and pain-free.

What can I do to help prevent dental disease in cats?

Of the diseases mentioned previously, periodontal disease (gum disease) is by far the most common but fortunately the easiest to help prevent. Although genetics plays some role in whether or not a particular cat is going to have bad teeth, there are several things you can do to help keep the pain and inflammation to a minimum…

Just because they’re still eating doesn’t mean their teeth don’t hurt! Dental Disease in Cats – Part 1

“ Sure his teeth are a little dirty but he’s still eating so they can’t be that bad, right?” This is one of the biggest myths in veterinary medicine yet it is sadly repeated almost daily by my clients. It’s certainly understandable though – if we have a toothache, we tend to alter our diet rapidly to find foods that are suitably easy to chew and then book ourselves in to see the dentist as soon as possible. Cats (and dogs, but we’ll focus on cats in this article) would probably do the same, if they could, but I can’t recall the last time I saw Fluffy order her own meals or pick up the telephone! Cats are still in many ways wild animals with natural instincts, and those instincts tell them that if they don’t eat, they’ll die. For the same reasons, they are masters of hiding their pain, illnesses or anything that might make them seem vulnerable. Therefore a cat with a toothache will probably act and eat very much like a cat without a toothache, suffering in silence. Sure, there are some dental conditions that will cause a cat to stop eating, but by the time this happens they are usually so severe that they have become systemically ill……

Chronic Diarrhoea in Cats – Could it be Tritrichomonas foetus?

Marla is an older cat who has recently had the displeasure of becoming a frequent visitor to our practice. She was adopted not long ago from an animal shelter and now lives with a lovely woman who thankfully has a lot of patience!

Marla first came to see us because she had developed diarrhoea and a red, irritated rear end. She had a type of diarrhoea called ‘colitis’ (which simply means inflammation of the large intestine or colon), that caused her to strain frequently to produce small amounts of sometimes bloody stool. She was treated with antibiotics and her diet was changed to something that was bland and easy to digest, and although sometimes her symptoms seemed to improve a little they continued. A standard stool sample was run but this was negative for all worms and harmful bacteria. After nearly a month of problems and after trying every routine treatment out there, we decided to try one last and wouldn’t you know, it came back positive!…..

Pet Emergencies Happen When You Least Expect Them

The most common injuries which arise when out and about are things like cut pads, bite wounds, stick injuries and of course road accidents. Many illnesses can also have a fairly sudden onset, sometimes needing an out-of-hours visit to the vets.

Carrying a small first aid kit with you can help with emergencies such as cuts, bites or torn nails. If bleeding is part of the problem, then a temporary bandage applied just until you can get to the surgery can save a lot of mess but could also stop your dog from losing so much blood. A hankie or a sock can be very useful substitutes for a bandage, or anything clean with which you can apply pressure for a few minutes.

However, there is a risk of making matters worse if a bandage is too tight or applied for too long. The circulation may be reduced so much that tissue starts to die, so just use a bandage as a first aid measure until bleeding stops or you can get to your vet’s surgery.

The other thing that can reduce the stress when the unexpected happens is having your pet insured………..

Living in a Multi-Cat Household – Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Many people share their homes with more than one cat, and if all the cats get along they can provide everybody with companionship and entertainment. Sadly, however, it isn’t always that way. Cats are relatively solitary creatures by nature and serious problems can arise when more than one cat is asked to share a small living space such as a house and garden. Acquiring the cats at the same time can help, even more so if they are siblings. It also helps to introduce them while they’re young, and it’s often easier to get a male and a female kitty as opposed to two of the same sex. Just like people, newly-introduced cats need some time to get to know each other so don’t expect everybody to get along from day one. If you and your feline family are going through a bit of a rough patch, be it the occasional stare down or full on cat fights, read on…

Cats and Christmas

Yes, it’s true, Christmas is upon us yet again. A time of fluffy white snow, happy children, beautifully wrapped gifts and exceedingly large meals. Or, if you’re a cat owner, a time of missing ornaments, broken baubles, toppled trees, and shredded wrapping paper. The antics of the family cat can be a welcome distraction when the discussion gets a bit too heated around the dinner table, but just as cats enjoy all the new toys there could be some hidden dangers too. Here are some things to think about this holiday season.

The Christmas tree

“What could be better?” says the cat.  “The joys of the outdoors in the warmth of my living room!”  Christmas trees are a cat’s dream come true.  Many cats, especially kittens, find climbing the tree irresistible and will stop at nothing to try to make it to the top.  You can try all sorts of deterrents, including aluminium foil around the base (cats hate walking on it) and keeping a water spray bottle close at hand, but it usually won’t stop them trying at least once.   Many cats also hate the smell of oranges, so some people say keeping orange peels under the tree can help deter climbing……….

“No! Not on the carpet!” – Vomiting in Cats

I knew it was going to be a rough day when I walked in and saw that three of my ten morning appointments were vomiting cats.  Second only to the chronically itchy dog, vomiting cats can be one of the most frustrating things we have to deal with as vets because there are so many possible reasons why it can happen.  Anything from what the cat had for dinner last night to metabolic diseases that may have been brewing for years could be the cause, and distinguishing between them can take a lot of time, money and effort.  And that’s just for the vet – as the owner of a cat that vomits frequently myself, I understand how unpleasant it is to walk downstairs in the middle of the night and step in a pile of cat sick.  Be it on the new white carpeting or the beat up old sofa, it’s not pretty.  It may be a harmless hairball, but it can also be a sign of serious illness in your cat so it’s definitely worth getting it checked out by your vet.  If you are unlucky enough to have a vomiting cat, here are some things you may want to consider……..

“No, Radioactive Iodine Therapy Will NOT Make Your Cat Glow In the Dark…”

I had to laugh as I answered my client’s child’s innocent question. But it certainly wasn’t the first time a cat owner had expressed surprise and concern when I first mentioned this treatment for feline hyperthyroidism (see my previous blog for more information on hyperthyroidism). Radioactive iodine therapy (RAIT) certainly does sound scary and this has resulted in some strange misconceptions, but actually it is a fantastic option for the treatment of what can be a frustrating long-term disease of older cats….

More Useful Information

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Arming you with the same simple techniques for stress free pill giving.

Worming & Flea Treatment

Information and advice in treating your pet for worms and fleas.