Pain in Cats

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Cats can be very good at hiding the fact that they are not feeling well. Any one, all or none of the following are signs that could be interpreted as the presence of pain in cats.

1. Lameness 2. Difficulty jumping 3. Walking abnormally
4. Reluctance to move 5. Reaction to being touched
6. Withdrawn or hiding 7. Absence of grooming
8. Playing less 9. Appetite decrease 10. Overall activity decrease 11. Less rubbing toward people 12. General mood
13. Temperament 14. Hunched-up posture 15. Shifting of weight 16. Licking a particular body region 17. Lower head posture 18. Eyelid spasms 19. Change in form of feeding behavior 20. Avoiding bright areas 21. Growling 22. Groaning 23. Eyes closed 24. Straining to urinate 25. Tail flicking


Healthy, Low Calorie Treat Options

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Are you looking for some easy, healthy, low calorie treat options for your dog or cat?  Some of the premade treats can be higher in calories than you think.  Calories from treats should not make up more than 10% of their allotted calories per day.  Here are some ideas.  Vegetables are a easy lower calorie option.  You can give them raw or dehydrate them.  Carrots, cucumbers, celery and zucchini are some good options.  Dr Linder at the Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals says that cats love the semi-moist texture of zucchini as treats.  You can also use a portion of your pets dry for for the day as treats just to hand out to them or in a dispensing toy like a ball or puzzle that requires your pet to “earn” their meal or treats and also provides enrichment.  If they eat canned food a portion of the canned food could be placed in a a rubber toy like a kong.


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Xylitol, a sweetener which causes hypoglycemia and liver damage in dogs, is showing up in some very unexpected places.  It is frequently used as a sugar substitute in chewing gum, breath mints, and dental products like toothpaste and mouth wash.  It is also sold in bulk as a substitute for table sugar, which means even homemade bread, muffins, and cupcakes can cause a problem if made with xylitol.

It can be helpful to use the location of xylitol within an ingredient list to estimate the quantity in the product.  In the USA all food must list their ingredients in descending order by weight.  For most chewing gums the amount of xylitol is often clinically insignificant if it is listed as the 4th or 5th ingredient.  If it is listed as one of the first three ingredients, extreme caution should be taken.

For drugs and dietary supplements, the regulations regarding the order of ingredients is considerably different.  In this case, xylitol is often considered an “inactive ingredient” or “other ingredient” – such ingredients are not required to be listed in order of predominence.  Often they are listed in alphabetical order instead.

Novel Sources of Xylitol:

Over the counter medications

–  Axia3 ProDigestive Antacid (flavored chewable tablets)

– Children’s Allegra Oral Suspension

– Fleet Children’s Pedia-Lax Liquid Stool Softener

– Umcka Cold and Flu chewable tablets (homeopathic product)

Dietary supplements and vitamins

– KAL Colostrum Chewable, Vanilla Cream’

– KAL Dinosaurs Children’s Vitamins and Minerals (chewable tablets)

– Kidz Digest Chewable Berry from Transformation Enzyme

– L’il Critters Fiber Gummy Bears

– Mega D3 Dots with 5,000 IU of Vitamin D3 per “dot” (dissolvable tablet)

– Suntheanine L-Theanine chewable tablets by Stree-Relax

– Vitamin Code Kids by Garden of Live (chewable multivitamins)

– Webber Natural Super Sleep Soft Melts (dissolvable tablets)

Nasal products

– Xlear Sinus Care Spray

– Xylear Nasal Spray (for adults and children)

– Xyliseptic Nasal Spray

Prescription drugs

– Abilify (aripiprazole) Discmelt Orally Disintegrating Tablets

– Clonazepam (benzodiazepine) Orally Disintegrating Tablets

– EMTRIVA (emtricitabine) oral solution

– Mobic (meloxicam) oral suspension

– Neurontin (metformin) Oral Solution

– Riomet (metformin) Oral Solution

– Varibar barium sulfate products

– Zegerid Powder (omeprazole) for Oral Suspension

Foods with xylitol as the primary sweetener (excluding gums and mints)

– Clemmy’s Rich and Creamy ice cream products

– Dr. John’s products (hard and soft candies, chocolates, drink mixes, etc)

– Jell-O sugar free pudding snacks

– Nature’s Hollow jams, syrup, ketchup, honey, etc

– SparX Candy

– Zipfizz energy drink mix powders

The toxicity of xylitol is dose dependent.  The dose necessary to cause hypoglycemia in dogs is approximately 0.1 grams/kg or 0.05grams/lb, while amount needed to cause liver damage is approximately 0.5 grams/kg or 0.22 grams/lb.  Most chewing gums and breath mints typically contain 0.22 – 1.0 grams of xylitol per piece of gum or per mint.  Therefore, only one piece of gum may result in hypoglycemia in a 10 pound (4.5kg) dog.  Hypoglycemia is typically evident within 1-2 hours of xylitol ingestion but, in rare cases, has been delayed by as much as 12 hours.  Prompt and appropriate gastric decontamination is essential to prevent poisoning.  Activated charcoal does not bind well to xylitol and is not recommended.  Should hypoglycemia, supplementation with intravenous dextrose is needed until the dog can self regulate its blood glucose concentrations (typically 12-48 hours).  Close monitoring of liver enzymes is warranted as evidence of liver damage may be seen in 1-2 days following exposure.  The prognosis following xylitol exposures is excellent when the ingestion is caught early, decontamination is preformed, and blood glucose id monitored frequently.

Checklist for Choosing a Pet Health Insurance Provider and Policy

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  • How does this provider handle renewals?  (Example:  If my pet is diagnosed with hip dysplasia one year, is that problem considered a chronic or pre-existing condition when the policy comes up for renewal?)
  • Are there any complaints about this provider on record at the Better Business Bureau?
  • Does this provider have good ratings at independent websites that review and/or publish customer ratings of pet health insurance companies?
  • Are this provider and the person selling the insurance licensed in my state?
  • Does this provider offer high deductible policies?
  • Does this provider offer a money-back, trial period for new subscribers?
  • Does this provider exclude coverage for pets the same species, breed, and age as mine?
  • Did this provider respond quickly and thoroughly when I requested more information?
  • Will this provider allow me to change or revise my pet’s policy before the renewal date without charge?
  • Does this provider offer multiple pet discounts?
  • Did my veterinarian recommend this provider?
  • Will this provider reimburse services provided by my veterinarian, or am I required to use a veterinarian in this provider’s network?
  • Is the information I received from the provider consistent with I read on the company’s website and in its brochures?
  • Will this provider accept my pet for coverage if a different company provided health insurance for my pet in the past?
  • Am I comfortable with this provider’s complaint process?
  • Does this provider have an appeals process I can use if my claim is denied?


  • Do I understand exactly what the policy covers?
  • Can I afford the monthly premium, deductible and required co-pay?
  • How much coverage does this policy provide for chronic, hereditary or pre-existing conditions?
  • Does this policy cover preventive care, and does that coverage justify a higher premium?
  • Are there certain types of accidents or health problems that aren’t covered?
  • How are claims submitted?  How long do I have to submit a claim?  Will my costs change based on the number of claims I submit?
  • How long does it take, on average, to be reimbursed?
  • Does this policy use a list of “usual and customary fees” to determine how much I will be reimbursed?  Is that up to date?  Are the fees consistent with what my veterinarian expects to charge?
  • Is there a penalty if I cancel my policy?


Tips for Choosing Pet Health Insurance

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  • Research pet health insurance policies before or soon after you obtain a pet.
  • Understand when and how you will be reimbursed
  • Know what the policy covers before you enroll.  (Does it cover pre-existing conditions?  overall hereditary conditions?  Conditions common to your pet’s species or breed?  How much coverage is provided for these conditions?)
  • Get second, third, and fourth opinions about the company before you enroll.
  • Make sure the providers you consider are licensed to operate in your state.
  • Ask if specific conditions common to your pet’s species or breed are covered.
  • Look for independent websites that include customer reviews of providers and policies.
  • Ask if the provider has a fee schedule or reimburses you based on actual fees charged.  A fee schedule lists how much the insurer will reimburse you for various services; if your veterinarian charges more than the fee schedule indicates for a particular services or treatment, say, setting a broken bone, you will not be reimbursed for the difference.
  • Ask if you can revise your policy before the renewal date and, if so, whether you will be charges for the change.
  • Choose a policy that has a deductible and required co-pay you can afford.


  • Make a decision solely on advertising.
  • Delay selecting a provider until your pet needs medical care.
  • Base your purchase decision on cost alone.


Winter Pet Care Tips

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Winter and the busy holiday season can pose special risks for pets.  Help your pet weather the winter and stay healthy and safe by following these simple tips.

  • Keep indoor pets in a dry, warm area free of drafts.  If possible, elevate your pet’s bed off the floor.
  • Do not let your dog or cat outside for long if the the wind chill or weather conditions become severe.
  • Cats and kittens often nap on car engines for warmth.  Knock on the hood and honk the horn; then wait a few minutes before starting your car.
  • Pets like the smell and taste of antifreeze, but even a very small amount can kill them.  Thoroughly clean up spills at once.  Tightly close containers and store them where pets cannot get to them.
  • Always have fresh, clean water available to your pet.
  • Alcoholic beverages, holiday treats such as chocolates, and bones from poultry, pork and fish can be harmful or toxic to pets.  Keep your pet on his/her regular diet.
  • Many plants–including Christmas rose, holly, mistletoe, philodendron and dieffenbachia–are toxic to pets.  Keep them out of your pet’s reach.
  • Remove ice, salt and caked mud from your pet’s paws and coat at once.  Contact your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has frostbite.  Frostbitten skin may turn reddish, white or gray, and it may be scaly or sloughing.
  • Holiday paraphernalia can be dangerous to pets.  Cover or tack down electrical cords.  Keep tinsel and glass ornaments out of your pet’s reach.  Read warnings on items like spray-on snow.  Never put ribbons around your pet’s neck or allow it to play with plastic or foil wrappings or six-pack beverage holders.

Treating Pain in Your Dog with Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

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Controlling your dog’s pain is essential to his/her overall well-being.  Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) are a class of drugs commonly used to control pain and inflammation in dogs.  NSAIDS help many dogs lead more comfortable lives.

What are NSAIDs?

NSAIDs help to control signs of arthritis, including inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and joint pain.  Inflammation–the bodies response to irritation or injury–is characterized by redness, warth, swelling, and pain.  NSAIDs work by blocking the production of prostaglandins, chemicals produced by the body that cause inflammation.  Some NSAIDs may also be used to control the pain and inflammation following surgery.

What should you discuss with your veterinarian?

NSAIDs offer pain relief and improved quality of life to many dogs.  However, before giving an NSAID, or any other drug, you should first talk to your veterinarian.  You should discuss:

  • what the NSAID is being prescribed for
  • how much to give
  • how long to give it
  • possible side effects
  • what to avoid while your dog is taking an NSAID
  • what tests are needed before giving an NSAID to your dog
  • how often should your dog be re-examined
  • your dog’s previous medical history and any other previous drug reactions
  • all medications and products your dog currently receives

What should you know before giving your dog an NSAID?

  • Never give aspirin or corticosteroids along with an NSAID to your dog.
  • NSAIDs should be approached cautiously in dogs with kidney, liver, heart and intestinal problems.
  • Never give your dog an NSAID unless directed by your veterinarian.
  • Don’t assume an NSAID safe for one dog is safe to give another.  Always consult your veterinarian before using any medication in your pet.
  • Only give the NSAID as prescribed by your veterinarian.  Do not increase the dose, the frequency, or the length of time you use the drug unless first discussing this with your veterinarian.

What side effects should you watch for?

Most NSAID side effects are mild, but some can be serious, including death in rare situations.  Common side effects seen with the use of NSAIDs in dogs may affect the kidney, liver, and gastrointestinal tract and may include:

  • Not eating or eating less
  • Lethargy, depression, changes in behavior
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea, black tarry-colored stool
  • Yellowing of gums, skin, or the whites of the eyes
  • Change in drinking
  • Changes in skin (scabs, redness, or scratching)

What to do?

If you suspect a possible side effect to an NSAID, STOP giving the drug to your dog and call your veterinarian immediately!




What Are the Facts About Grains in Pet Foods?

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Probably the most common misconceptions about grains in pet foods are that grains are poorly digestible, lack nutritional value and can cause allergies.  Digestibility of grains is influenced by proper cooking.  Whole, uncooked grains (imagine raw rice) are poorly digestible in pets and people, but properly cooked grains are highly digestible.  Independent research documented that both dogs and cats can digest the carbohydrates from grains with an efficacy of greater than 90%.  Grains are a great source of many nutrients.  Used primarily as a carbohydrate or energy source, they also contain dietary fiber, essential fatty acids. protein, vitamins and minerals.  Concentrated protein sources, such as corn gluten meal, can be made from grains by removing the starch and fats.  These concentrated vegetable protein ingredients are a highly digestible source of many essential amino acids and can be an important part of a balanced diet when used with complementary proteins.  Food allergies are caused by an inappropriate immune reaction to normal dietary proteins, so allergies to the proteins in grains can occur.  However, allergies to grains are far less common than allergies to other protein sources.