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Cat General Health Questions

Flea Control Products

How can I safely use flea control products for my pets?

Fleas can be a major problem for pet owners. Not only are these tiny creatures a nuisance, they are also the cause of many diseases such as flea anemia, flea bite dermatitis, and tapeworm infestation. Therefore, strict flea control is a necessary step in the health care of many pets.

The eradication of fleas from our animals and our homes necessitates the use of products containing insecticides, either in the form of a mousses, spot-ons, oral suspensions, powders or spray mists. While there are many safe insecticide products available for use on pets, caution still must be observed. Pet owners should be extremely careful when using flea products on or around their animals. Products should ALWAYS be used strictly according to their label directions. There are several new products on the market that are only available from your veterinarian. Call your veterinarian to find out more.

The following are some guidelines for dog and cat owners to follow when choosing and applying a flea control product:

Never use insecticides on very young animals, pregnant or nursing pets, debilitated or elderly animals without consulting your veterinarian. With such pets, you may want to consider avoiding the use of insecticides directly on your pet. Instead, you could comb the fleas off the pet with a flea comb then submerge the captured fleas in a small container of soapy water. This would also be a good alternative for those pets who love being groomed but who violently refuse baths or the application of a spray.

Before using any product on your pet, read the label instructions completely. If you do not completely understand the instructions, you should contact the manufacturer or your veterinarian for clarification. Observe the species and age requirements listed on the label.

Never use a product labeled “for use on dogs only” on your cats. Cats react very differently than dogs to some insecticides. Some dog products can be deadly to cats, even in tiny amounts.

Use caution when using products that contain organophosphates in your house or on your cat. Cats seem to be sensitive to certain organophosphate insecticides. Currently, there are few flea products in the United States labeled for use on cats that contain organophosphates as an active ingredient. The few that can be used on cats contain a small concentration of organophosphate. However, many household sprays and products that are specifically labeled “for use on dogs only” are widely available. Again, never use “dog only” products on your cats!

Never use flea control products that contain permethrin on your cats, unless they are specifically labeled for use on cats. There are some products that are labeled for use on cats that contain small concentrations of permethrin, usually less than 0.1%. When used according to the label instructions, these can be used safely in cats.

Always use caution when using shampoos, sprays, topical spot-ons or mousse near your animal’s eyes, ears and genitalia. Accidental exposure could cause mild irritation to these sensitive tissues.

When using a fogger or a home premise spray, make sure to remove all pets from the house for the time period specified on the container. Food and water bowls should be removed from the area also. Allow time for the product to dry completely before returning your dogs or cats to your home. Open windows or use fans to “air out” the household before returning your pets to the treated area. Strong fumes can be irritating to your pet’s eyes and upper respiratory system.

If you are uncertain about the usage of any household product, contact the product’s manufacturer or your veterinarian to explain the directions before use of the product.

Insect growth regulators like lufenuron, methoprene, and pyriproxyfen can be used in combination or alone with flea control products. They can help break the flea life cycle by inhibiting flea maturation. Growth regulators have minimal adverse effects and can improve the efficacy when used in combination with adult flea insecticides. You should consult your veterinarian or pest control specialist for advice concerning proper use of these products.

Just because a product is labeled to be a “natural” product does not mean that the product is completely safe. Many such “natural” products can be harmful when used inappropriately on cats. For example, d-limonene and linalool are citrus extracts that are used as flea control agents. Though they are natural products, they still can cause harmful side effects if used improperly.

Observe your animal closely after using flea products. If your pet exhibits unusual behavior, or becomes depressed, weak, or uncoordinated, you should seek veterinary advice immediately.

Once again, ALWAYS read the label. This could save the life of your pet!

Vaccinating Your Pet

I have four cats and two dogs. Until recently, I have had them vaccinated regularly. Please let me know what you would recommend to someone who has cats and dogs and wants to keep them safe but does not want to either endanger them or spend money unnecessarily.

The veterinary profession has spent the past six to seven years reexamining and discussing vaccine duration of immunity and revising vaccination protocols accordingly to make sure that companion animals get care that is tailored to their lifestyles. The goal is to make sure that an individual’s vaccine protocol is protecting them from risks they face, without vaccinating unnecessarily.

For example, in our practice we ask cat owners to describe whether their cats ever go outdoors or whether they are exclusively indoors and what other animals they might come in contact with. If a cat is exclusively indoors, we design a different vaccine protocol than if it goes out regularly or “escapes” with any frequency. Dogs that go to boarding facilities, grooming parlors or doggie daycares will have different recommendations than dogs that do not. The days of designing a single vaccine protocol for an entire species are over.

Good communication is the best tool in designing protocols that are proper for your pets. I suggest having a discussion with a veterinarian in your area, giving all of the information you know about your pets’ lifestyles. With that information, your veterinarian can explain what vaccinations he or she would recommend, at what frequency and why. At that point you can make an informed decision on a vaccination protocol designed specifically for your pet.

This question was answered by AAHA member Dr. Merry Crimi of Gladstone Veterinary Clinic in Milwaukie, Oregon

Cold, wet noses are good, right?

A cold, wet nose is one sign of good health in dogs and cats. However, even a healthy pet can have a warm, dry nose on occasion. On the other hand, really sick pets can also have cold, wet noses. What does all this mean? Simply that any one indicator of health is not 100 percent accurate all the time. Sick pets with cold noses should be seen by your veterinarian. And by the same token, pets with warm, dry noses that are showing other symptoms such as lethargy or not eating should also be seen by a doctor.

What can I do about my cat that vomits regularly?

Cats, as you’re witnessing, have a much more sensitive vomiting reflex than we do, so it isn’t unusual for cats to vomit when they don’t appear sick. I assume your cat has a healthy, but not excessive, appetite; isn’t losing weight or acting lethargic; doesn’t have diarrhea; and that parasites have been ruled out. If any of these symptoms are present, or if he’s vomiting green or orange liquid (bile), a medical problem is likely and should be investigated.

The two most common scenarios in which well cats vomit are (1) from eating too much or too fast, which results in vomiting undigested food very soon after eating, and (2) hairballs, which usually cause vomiting of the hairball itself. Hairballs have no sure-fire remedy, but the most popular thing to try is a hairball lubricant (make sure you give this on an empty stomach, not with food); also frequent combing, brushing, or even a “lion clip” (for a long-haired cat) will be helpful. Any hair you can remove is hair that your cat will not end up swallowing. There is also a new hairball formula cat food on the marketthat may help. Ask your veterinarian about this.

As for eating too much or too fast, this problem is usually worse in cases where cats have their food taken away and are only permitted to eat at certain times of the day, causing them to gorge when food is available. Trials of different brands of food may help. Anything else you can do (portioning the food out gradually, for example) to encourage eating smaller amounts frequently might also be helpful. If the vomiting is daily, you might want to try medication. However, most people don’t want to medicate their cats daily if vomiting only occurs once a week or less.

If these ideas don’t help you, the only way to get a certain answer as far as any medical cause, such as inflammatory bowel disease, would be to have biopsies of the stomach and intestinal tract done. Your veterinarian can tell you more about this.

Our cat constantly sheds. Is there something wrong with him?

Hair shedding is considered a sign of health in the cat – sick cats don’t shed. Although the excessive hair around the house can be a nuisance, consider it a sign of your cat’s good health. To reduce the amount of hair shed on furniture and your household surroundings, comb your cat daily with an appropriate comb or brush. Your veterinarian can recommend one of the many types that is suitable for your cat.

Can dogs and cats see colors?

Dogs and cats have rods and cones in their retinas but in a different proportion than in the human retina. Although they can differentiate colors, what they see is likely a more muted version of what we see. Dogs, especially, probably see more shades of gray than they do all of the individual colors.

Cats, by the way, can concentrate small amounts of light in their eyes, which allows them to see at night when the rest of us have difficulty. This special talent gives them their extraordinary night hunting vision.


Information courtesy of The American Animal Hospital Association.