Volume 2 – Issue 1 – Winter 2013
by Christina Strickland
Most cat owners are aware of the need for vaccinations as part of their cat’s healthcare. Vaccinations are an effective way to prevent many significant feline diseases such as rabies, feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus, feline panleukopenia, feline leukemia, and others. But are all vaccines created equal?
Over the years, adjuvanted vaccinations have been linked to an increase in vaccination reactions including; localized site reactions, chronic inflammation, and a rare, but serious type of cancer called fibrosarcoma. Even though this vaccine-related fibrosarcoma is rare (about 1 in 10,000 cats) its potential for serious, life-threatening complications is a risk that is worth avoiding. So what is an adjuvant? An adjuvant is added to a vaccine to stimulate the immune system to react to the vaccine, increasing its effectiveness.
In an effort to provide the best and safest vaccines available to our feline patients, Claws and Paws Veterinary Hospital® offers Merial Purevax, a proven line of non-adjuvanted feline vaccines. Our Purevax vaccines provide a modified-live vaccine that stimulates a rapid and comprehensive immune response to help keep a cat healthy for years to come. Modified live vaccines do not contain pathogenic viruses, but instead are modified to produce an immune response without posing a risk of infection from the vaccination itself.
Feline Panleukopenia (FVRCP): This is also called feline distemper and is one of the most common viruses of cats. It is a highly contagious disease. The highest incidence occurs in kittens 3-5 months ofage. Symptoms include: fever, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and death. Your cat does not necessarily need to be in contact with other cats to get this disease.
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVRCP): This is a highly contagious upper respiratory disease of cats. The most common method of transmission is through fomites such as hands, clothing, feeding dishes, and litter pans. Symptoms include fever, depression, sneezing, coughing, ocular and nasal discharges, and loss of appetite. Kittens and immune-suppressed cats are at higher risk of infection and death.
Feline Calicivirus (FVRCP): This is also an upper respiratory and ulcerative disease of cats. Symptoms and transmission are the same as for the Rhinotracheitis virus. See above.
Feline Pneumonitis (FVRCP): This is a chlamydial infection causing upper respiratory infection in cats. Symptoms and transmission are the same as for the Rhinotracheitis virus. See above.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV): This is a very common and highly contagious virus for cats. It causes suppression of the immune system. This disease cannot be transmitted to people or to animals other than cats. Transmission is primarily through exchange of secretions (saliva, blood, urine, feces), such as from grooming, mating, sneezing, and eating out of the same food bowls. It can also be transferred from the mother cat to her kittens either during pregnancy or nursing. There are no specific signs of FeLV disease. Symptons arise from the secondary diseases and may include: chronic mouth and gum infections, chronic respiratory disease, intestinal infections (diarrhea), skin and ear infections, reproductive disorders (abortion, stillbirth, and fading kitten syndrome), frequent urinary tract infections, loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, lethargy, and other systematic infections. This virus can also cause some tumors to occur. Cats at high risk are outdoor cats, intact male cats, cats in multi-households, and stray cats. Vaccination before exposure to the virus is the best means of protection (although no vaccine is 100% protective) other than absolute isolation from other cats. Cats that spend any time outdoors should be vaccinated for FeLV. Feline Rabies Virus: This is a 100% fatal disease that affects the nervous system of all warm-blooded animals (that means people too). State law requires that all dogs and cats be vaccinated against rabies on an annual or triennial basis. Transmission is usually from bite wounds. Some wild animals, such as skunks, foxes, raccoons, and bats; can serve as reservoirs of the virus.
Vaccines are tools to help us keep your cat protected and healthy. Since each cat has differing risks, our veterinarians will help assess specific vaccination needs based on your cat’s life style. Please call to schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians today.
**Additional vaccinations may be recommended; your veterinarian can discuss the risks and benefits depending on your pet’s lifestyle.
The Importance of Dental Care for Our Pets
As in people, plaque and tartar build up on the teeth in all animals. This plaque is formed by food particles and bacteria which, combined with salivary secretions, attach where the teeth rise above the gum line. If this plaque is allowed to accumulate unchecked, it eventually causes a variety of dental conditions that range from mild discomfort and bad breath, root abscesses, tooth loss and difficulty eating.
Eighty-five percent of all dogs and cats, three years of age and older, have some degree of dental disease that requires treatment and/or preventative care. If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to systemic disease, showering the lungs and other internal organs with bacteria. This can cause heart, liver, and kidney disease resulting in a shortened life for your pet.
Gently lift a lip and look at your pet’s teeth (especially cats). Gum problems occur when bacteria accumulate at the gum line and in time will appear as a yellow or brown accumulation of tartar on the teeth. Soon, the gum will become red or swollen (gingivitis) and a disagreeable odor (halitosis) will be present on your pet’s breath. If left untreated, this will progress to eventual tooth loss. Other common problems are chips or fractures on the tooth’s surface. Chewing on items harder than your pet’s teeth (e.g. bone, rocks, and chew hooves) may break teeth. Superficial chips usually cause no problems; however, tooth fractures that expose the pulp or root canal (you may notice a red or black spot on the tooth) allow bacteria to travel up the tooth, eventually leading to an abscessed tooth.
The leading sign of dental disease is bad breath. Dogs and cats should not have bad breath. This comes from infection. If your pet’s breath is bad, let us examine his mouth and advise care.
Wouldn’t I know if my pet’s teeth were painful?
Unlike people, dogs and cats will suffer low grade, chronic pain from a tooth root abscess for years before the problem becomes painful enough to be clinically obvious.
Does my pet really need to be sedated to have his teeth cleaned?
Yes. Our, four-footed friends will not sit there and hold their mouths open to allow usto take dental radiographs and to scale and polish their teeth. Anesthesia allows us to evaluate each tooth without your pet feeling any discomfort or pain. Each pet is constantly monitored during the entire procedure. The monitors we use measure the heart rate and oxygen saturation. EKG and blood pressure monitoring are also available if warranted. Some elderly pets, or those with heart or kidney disease, may also have an intravenous catheter and IV fluids administered during and after the procedure. We use a safe anesthetic protocol, one gentle enough to allow your pet to recover and return home the same day the procedure is performed.
Why does my pet need to have pre-anesthetic lab work?
Whether your pet is 6-months or 16-years old, a proper pre-anesthetic work-up will help to identify any hidden health problems that may not be detected from a physical examination alone. This may include comprehensive blood chemistries, a complete blood cell count, urine analysis, EKG and/or chest X-rays. Based on these results, an anesthetic protocol is selected or it may be determined that the teeth cleaning procedure should be held off until any detected health problems are addressed.
What happens during the teeth cleaning process?
The teeth cleaning process that we provide is similar to the one you receive at your dentist’s office and is for the very same reason: to keep and maintain healthy teeth. A skilled veterinary technician uses an ultrasonic scaler and hand instruments to remove all the tartar and calculus from above and below the gum line. Dental x-rays show the inside of the tooth and root. Our hospital uses the same dental radiograph machine found in your dentist’s office. Charting a patient’s teeth is the recording of abnormalities in a pet’s medical record for future reference or to design a treatment plan. Cats have 30 permanent teeth and dogs have 42. Probing in our cat patients will identify feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORL’s). These dental resorptions are commonly referred to as cavities or cervical neck lesions. These are common in cats over five years of age, (although they can and do occur at any age). These lesions become quite painful for our felines. Although not as common, cavities also occur in dogs. Once the teeth are clean, a fluoride paste is used to polish the teeth smooth, making them more resistant to future tartar development.
Is the teeth cleaning procedure painful?
No. We use pain prevention at every step to ensure the entire process is as pain free as possible. At Claws & Paws Veterinary Hospital® we are extremely aggressive on pain control for any procedure that we may perform. Untreated dental disease in our patients is a chronic source of pain. In veterinary dentistry, we use pain prevention at each step of a patient’s treatment (pre-operative, intra-operative, and post-operative). All patients undergoing a potentially painful procedure receive pain medication before beginning the procedure. Local nerve blocks are used as needed to stop pain transmission during the procedure. Post-operatively, a pet may receive another pain control injection and many will have 3-5 days of pain relief medication dispensed, depending upon the procedures performed. This pain prevention approach greatly limits the discomfort a pet may experience. Pain control also improves the pet’s recovery time and speeds the healing process.
Are dental radiographs really necessary?
Yes. We take x-rays for the same reason that your dentist does: to look below the gum line for any abnormalities. Our x-ray machine settings are for animals. The radiographs serve as a medical record of the patient’s dental disease and we send home a copy of the x-rays with you. This way you can better understand the state of your pet’s mouth, any dental disease that may have been found, the need for the treatment performed, and the importance of follow-up visits or home care programs.
How often will I need to have my pet’s teeth cleaned?
It really depends on the breed of your pet, your at home routine for preventative care, and the size of your pet. Time between dental cleanings really is breed specific. The most important thing is for you to examine your pet’s teeth monthly to look for any accumulation of yellow or brown material where the tooth meets the gum line. Pay particular attention to the cheek teeth and canine teeth. Once you notice plaque or tartar accumulation, it is time for a professional cleaning, so do not wait.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is the most common infectious disease seen in veterinary medicine. Gingivitis is a term used to describe inflammation limited to the gums. Gingivitis is reversible and responds well to professional cleaning. Untreated gingivitis will progress to periodontitis; the inflammatory responses that involves the supporting bone and tooth root. The end result of periodontitis is tooth loss due to loss of supporting bone. Inflamed gums also provide bacteria with easy access to the blood stream where they can travel to infect major organs. While gingivitis is curable, periodontitis is not. Pets who develop periodontitis will need more frequent teeth cleanings with periodontal treatments. The aim of treatment is to prevent progression of gingivitis to periodontitis.
There are four stages of Peridontitis
Stage 1 is Gingivitis: The gum at the top of teeth is inflamed and swollen, and plaque covers the teeth. Treatment can reverse this condition.
Stage 2 is Early Periodontitis: The entire attached gum is inflamed and swollen. The pet’s mouth is painful, and bad breath is noticeable. Professional treatment and home dental care can prevent this from becoming irreversible.
Stage 3 is Moderate Periodontitis: Infection and calculus are destroying the gum, now bright red and bleeding. The pet’s mouth is sore, which can affect eating and behavior. Bad breath is consistent. Periodontitis has started and may be irreversible.
Stage 4 is Advanced Periodontitis: Chronic bacterial infection is destroying the gum, teeth and bone. Bacteria may be spreading in the bloodstream throughout the body, which can damage the kidneys, liver and heart.
What is involved with home care?
Brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective means of removing plaque from the visible surface of the tooth. Your pet’s teeth must be brushed daily if you can manage it. In order for brushing teeth to be of benefit, you need to brush your pet’s teeth no less than once every other day. Once daily is optimal. After this time, permanent plaque is formed on the tooth. It is not as difficult as you might imagine. Undisturbed plaque will result in calculus, which is a hard mineral substance that appears yellow or brown on the tooth surface. If untreated this will lead to gingivitis, pain, infection and loss of teeth. As soon as puppy or kitten teeth emerge, it is time to start brushing. Although baby teeth are replaced with adult teeth, the puppy or kitten gets used to the brushing procedure, which continues for life.
Brushing is much easier than you might imagine. However, there are things that need to be considered. First select a pet toothbrush. A long-handled, soft bristled brush works well for dogs, while a small specially designed brush works better with cats. Secondly, pet toothpaste needs to be used. Pet toothpastes are designed to be swallowed, taste good to our pets and contain enzymes or antiseptics that help control plaque. Human toothpaste contains too much fluoride for our pets and has detergents that should not be swallowed. Next, we want to introduce the idea of brushing in a gentle manner. Start slowly, using a washcloth to wipe the teeth. Then move to the flavored pet toothpaste on the washcloth. Once the pet is comfortable with the wash cloth brushing, you can then slowly convert to the pet toothbrush. Over time, it will become a routine. Make the brushing a special bonding time or treat time for your pet; something they will look forward to. There are some tartar control diets and treats available that serve to reduce plaque. Although not as effective as brushing, the Purina and Hill’s Dental diets have been specially designed to reduce the accumulation of plaque and calculus. There are also CET gels, rinses, and chews that contain chlorhexidine for chemical inhibition of plaque formation that can be used. Alone, these are rarely effective, but when combined with brushing, improved results may occur. Unfortunately, even with the best home care, most pets will require professional teeth cleanings at regular intervals (just as we do.) The more you as a pet owner do at home, the better the chance of your four-footed family member keeping all of his teeth.
For more in-depth information, please visit this page on our website.
History of Cats
Cats have been greatly revered and even worshipped in many cultures around the world but few have exalted it to such a high position as held in ancient Egypt. Two main species, the Jungle Cat and the African Wild Cat were domesticated in the Fertile Crescent around 2000 BC and quickly found a special spot in the Egyptian culture; used not only for hunting but also for guarding the granaries on which so much of Egypt’s commerce depended.
People loved these animals so much that if one died they would have them embalmed and buried at great cost. They would shave off their eyebrows and weep for days in mourning. No common man was allowed “to own” a cat. They all belonged to the Pharaoh and even he was merely their caretaker and not really their owner. If anyone caused the death of a cat, the penalty was death. One historian wrote of a soldier who had accidentally run over a cat while riding in his chariot. Not even the pleas of the Pharaoh could save him – the priests and public demanded his death. Even the Egyptians recognized the totally opposite personalities of cats, giving their attributes to their goddesses Bast (goddess of protection and fertility), to Mafdet (goddess of justice and execution), and to Sekhmet (goddess of war who was tamed by the god Ra to protect man). If an Egyptian saw a cat in their dreams, it meant they would have a good harvest but it could also mean the approach of death. Statues would be placed outside the doors of homes and temples in an attempt to ward off evil spirits and protect the families inside.
Herodotus, the Greek historian, also noted cat’s prominence. He wrote about a battle which the Egyptians were poised to win but ultimately lost because their opponents released cats onto the battle field and rather than harm them, the Egyptians laid down their weapons and surrendered. He also wrote about the Great Temple of Bubastis, “No temple in all Egypt gave greater pleasure to the eye.” Archaeologists would later find more than 80,000 feline mummies buried there.