People who own pets live longer, happier, fuller lives. Our pets remind us of what it is to be wild, to be gentle, to be loyal, to trust, to flourish, to slow with age, to die. They connect us to something fundamental in our beings. We are the caretakers of that connection. For all our pets teach us, for all the love and joy they bring to our lives, they deserve the highest level of care – and they rely on us to provide it!
In order to ensure the quality of life we desire for our pets, it is important to maintain a schedule of preventative tests and treatments. Heart of Chelsea provides physical exams, laboratory testing, preventative treatments, dental care, and soft-tissue surgery to prevent disease and treat any areas of concern. Combined with monthly prophylactics for heartworms and fleas, together we can provide a long and healthy life for your cat.
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Whether coming to Heart of Chelsea for an illness or an annual early detection visit, your pet will be given a thorough physical examination in order to assess their condition. This examination includes inspection of the ear canals and eardrums, evaluation of the eyes and your pet’s vision, inspection of the teeth, palpation of the lymph nodes, evaluation of the heart and lungs, examination of the fur and skin, and palpation of the abdominal organs. This will allow them to reveal any masses or abnormalities superficially or internally. Our examinations can detect a variety of illnesses and prevent many diseases, which may cause discomfort for your pet and become costly to treat.
Vaccinations are a critical component of preventive care for your cat. Thanks to the development of vaccines, cats have been protected from numerous disease threats, including rabies, distemper, hepatitis, and several upper respiratory diseases. Some of these diseases can be passed from cats to people — so feline vaccinations have protected human health as well. Recently, studies have shown that vaccines protect cats for longer than previously believed. This is why Heart of Chelsea recommends annual antibody titers after the age of 2 years to evaluate immune response in place of what may be an unnecessary vaccine. In general, your cat should always be protected from the following:
FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia)
This is a combination vaccine (3 in 1) and is commonly administered at 2-4 week intervals with the first given at 8-10 weeks old. The second is given at 10-12 weeks and the third at 12-15 weeks of age. The vaccination is boosted one year later, and then antibody titers are recommended at Heart of Chelsea to test immunity instead of vaccinating when unnecessary.
- Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis: A highly contagious airborne viral upper respiratory disease caused by herpes type 1, and is also known as feline influenza. This is very contagious and if left untreated can lead to pneumonia, which can be fatal to kittens.
- Calicivirus: A highly infectious airborne virus causing respiratory disease, and like rhinotracheitis, can lead to pneumonia and become fatal.
- Panleukopenia: A viral infection commonly known as feline distemper is generally spread by the passing of bodily fluids and primarily attacks the gastrointestinal system. Profuse bloody diarrhea causes acute dehydration, malnutrition and anemia, potentially leading to death. The immune system is often compromised causing further complication.
A deadly virus transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. In North America this could be a skunk, raccoon, bat or any number of infected mammalian vectors. This vaccine is required by New York State Law.
FeLV (Feline Leukemia) Vaccine
This vaccine should be administered yearly to booster prevention of feline leukemia.
- FeLV (Feline Leukemia): A deadly disease that is spread directly from cat to cat, and from mother cats to their kittens before or shortly after birth. As many as 40% of annual feline deaths are as a result of Feline Leukemia. It is highly infectious and most often transmitted from cat to cat through mating or a bite wound, but evidence shows that it may be passed between cats that share the same litter box or food bowls.
After two years of age we recommend running antibody titers to help prevent over-vaccinating your pet. These are blood tests that measure the amount of antibodies to a particular disease in the blood. If the titer shows a low level of immunity, added protection is necessary, and we will administer a booster vaccination.
Heartworm Disease in Cats
Heartworms grow to be 6-14 inches long, and live in a cat’s heart or in the arteries leading to the lungs known as pulmonary arteries. Although heartworms occur commonly in dogs, most people do not consider them a problem for the cat. However, recent studies of cats with heart and respiratory diseases have found an incidence of heartworms that is far greater than previously thought. Outdoor cats are most at risk, but interestingly enough a study of feline heartworm disease in several geographical areas most prone to the disease showed that 36% of infected cats were kept totally indoors. Since it takes so few of the heartworm parasites to cause disease in cats, even the occasional mosquito finding its way into the home can carry more than enough heartworm larvae to be fatal. Outdoor cats are at the most risk for heartworm disease.
Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. When an infected mosquito bites a cat, it deposits baby heartworms (larvae). The larvae migrate and mature for several months, ending up in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries. They mature into adult heartworms about six months from the time they enter the cat. Shortly thereafter, they begin to release immature heartworms, known as microfilaria. Microfilariae live in the cat’s blood for about one month. They are ingested by mosquitoes feeding on the cat. However, most mosquitoes acquire microfilaria by feeding on heartworm-infected dogs. Because of their life cycle, it is necessary for a cat to be bitten by a mosquito to be infected with heartworms. Heartworms are not transmitted directly from one cat to another or from a dog directly to a cat.
There are excellent feline heartworm preventatives now available. Prevention of heartworm disease in cats is safe and easy. The reasons that heartworm prevention should be considered for your cat are:
- Diagnostic Difficulty: Diagnosing heartworms is not as easy in cats as in dogs. A simple and reliable in-hospital blood test is not yet available, and the tests that are most reliable must be sent to an outside laboratory. Often, radiographs or ultrasound studies are needed to confirm the diagnosis. Many cats are diagnosed with an autopsy following sudden death.
- Unknown Incidence: Heartworms are not nearly as common in cats as they are in dogs. However, they are probably more common than we realize. As we look more aggressively for heartworms in cats with better and better tests, we expect to find that the incidence is greater than previously thought. New research also suggests that because of the biological reaction caused by the fight against the heartworms in the pulmonary artery, it is argued that many cats exhibiting signs of asthma, may actually suffer from Heartworm Associated Respiratory Disease.
- Poor Treatment: Great treatment options don’t exist for heartworm-infected cats. Effective drugs are not available, and cats that seem to be doing well may die suddenly. Treating heartworm infections in cats is risky, and not treating these cats is just as risky. If they are cured of the disease, it usually takes about two years.
- Easy Prevention: Cats given heartworm prevention drugs have not shown signs of toxicity. There is a wide margin of safety, even in kittens as young as six weeks of age.
Prevention is simple and cost effective. We recommend a ONCE MONTHLY preventative medication, which also protects your cat from many common parasites mentioned above, along with the prevention of fleas.
Early Detection Blood Testing
Your pets can’t talk and instinctually cover up symptoms of illness as a natural survival method. Just like human medicine allows us to care for ourselves, our veterinarians can provide you with early diagnosis of potential disease before they become serious. Catching a disease early may add years to your pet’s life. Through your cat’s adult years (ages 2-7), you should expect to submit a blood sample annually. We will test the function of your cat’s liver, kidney and pancreas, as well as muscle and bone disorders. We will also perform a complete blood count, which will enable us to detect anemia, leukemia, inflammation or infections. These tests can lead to the diagnosis of treatable diseases such as diabetes. Performing these tests while your cat is young and presumably healthy gives us a baseline to compare with for the rest of your cat’s life. If your pet becomes ill, it will be much easier to interpret the results to make an accurate diagnosis of his or her condition.
Intestinal Parasites and Screening
We recommend an intestinal parasite screening at the time of each early detection visit annually, and then at least every 6 months. Guidelines set forth by the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) recommend even more frequent screenings.
The fresh stool sample (1-2 teaspoons) from your cat that you bring us is tested for protozoan cysts and intestinal parasite eggs. We use an extremely sensitive zinc sulfate centrifugation technique to most effectively locate and identify any unwanted guests in your cat’s gastrointestinal tract. Parasites are extremely common in the city and many cat owners wonder how it is possible for their cat to get a parasite. Parasites and their eggs are very resilient and can be brought into your home from the bottom of your shoes. Parasites are transmitted through cockroaches and other apartment invaders, which your cat loves to play with and sometimes ingest while you’re away. Potting soil used in the plants in your home often keeps the parasites happy until they find a more suitable host, like a cat. We all know cats enjoy relaxing on your bed, or your pillows, and when they’re through pawing at the potting soil, or playing with those pesky invaders, they may walk around on the kitchen counters to see if there’s anything worthwhile. These are just a few very common and simple ways for house cats to become infected. Some parasites are zoonotic, which means they may be transferred from your pet to humans. This creates the potential for human health risk. Children and elderly are at greatest risk if infected with parasites.
Fleas can cause a range of problems, including skin redness, excessive scratching, anemia in kittens, allergic reactions to the flea saliva (considered one of the most irritating substances on Earth) or contraction of diseases carried by fleas.
Adult fleas are dark brown, about the size of a sesame seed. They live their entire adult lives on your pet and feed on their blood. Fleas can be picked up in the environment or through contact with an infected pet.
The adult female flea will start laying eggs daily (up to 50 a day). These eggs fall from your pet, landing on the carpet, furniture, cat bedding, and anywhere your pet goes. The eggs hatch within 4 weeks into worm-like larvae that burrow deeper into soft furnishings, carpet, and the nooks and crannies of your home. There the pupae produce a silk like cocoon and take 10 days to become adult fleas which only emerge when they sense pressure, carbon-dioxide (from breathing) or body heat. Once a flea emerges from a cocoon it can only survive a few days without feeding. However, cocooned fleas can survive up to 9 months in the environment! An adult flea with an ideal host can have a lifespan of a few weeks. Fleas can also bite people.
It is much easier to prevent flea infestations than to treat them. We recommend a ONCE MONTHLY flea preventative for your pet beginning as early as 8 weeks old. If you find fleas on your pet, make an appointment with your veterinarian, who will recommend a course of treatment for your pet and your home. Remember for every flea you see on your pet there are hundreds more in your environment. Successful flea control means treating both your pet and your home.
It is important to start early with your pet’s dental health. We recommend brushing daily using a toothbrush and specially formulated enzymatic toothpaste for cats to prevent the build up of plaque. If you find brushing difficult, dental rinses or chews are a better alternative in the fight against periodontal disease.
As your pet gets older it is important to have regular dental health check ups. This can be done at your annual appointment, or can be assessed at anytime.
- Plaque: Develops when bacteria attach to the teeth.
- Tartar / Calculus: Develops when minerals in the saliva combine with the plaque and harden.
- Periodontal Disease: Develops when tartar is not removed. Tartar begins to build up under the gums, and separates the gums from the teeth creating multiple pockets, which in turn allows more bacteria to grow. This can lead to loose teeth, abscesses, infection, bone loss and health problems affecting the heart, lung and kidneys, which can all be quite painful.
Progression of Periodontal Disease
- STAGE 1 - Gingivitis: The margin of attached gum is inflamed and swollen. Plaque can be seen on the teeth. Dental cleaning is needed within the next month to remove plaque buildup and prevent progression of dental disease. Home dental care is needed.
- STAGE 2 - Mild Periodontitis: The entire gum is inflamed and swollen. The mouth is painful and odor is noticeable; tooth roots have lost up to 25% of their attachment. Bacteria begin to impact other body organs. Dental cleaning to remove calculus is needed as soon as possible. Home dental care is needed for future prevention.
- STAGE 3 - Moderate Periodontitis: The gums are red and sometimes bleeding, damaged by infection and calculus. A sore mouth and or bad breath are evident. Heart valves and kidneys are exposed to bacteria and may be experiencing inflammation and damage. Dental cleaning is needed immediately to remove calculus, along with antibiotics and pain medications. Extractions are likely. Home dental care is needed for future prevention.
- STAGE 4 - Severe Periodontitis: Chronic infection is destroying the gums, teeth and bone. Many teeth are loose. Bacteria are spreading through the body and heart, liver and kidneys are compromised. Pain is constant. Dental cleaning to remove calculus is needed immediately. Extractions, antibiotics, and pain medications will be necessary. Home dental care is needed for future prevention.
If your pet has tartar it will be necessary for him or her to undergo an anesthetic procedure, where an ultrasonic scaling can be performed above and below the gum line to remove the tartar build up, followed by a thorough polishing. In some instances teeth extractions may be a necessary part of your pet’s dental health. Talk to your veterinarian about developing an appropriate dental care plan for your pet.
With pet foods, as with many things, you get what you pay for. Cheap cat foods use cheap ingredients, have poor quality control, are not well digested and may have excesses or deficiencies in vital nutrients, which can harm your pet. When analyzed in a laboratory many generic and store brand foods do not actually contain the level of nutrition stated on the label. So, to get the nutrition you are paying for, choose a well-known name brand.
Your pet will do best if you pick one complete food that is appropriate for his or her age and activity level, and stick with it. Animals do not need variety in their diets. Cats are prone to becoming finicky eaters when fed a varied diet, causing problems later on. So don’t switch foods every other week. If you do need to change from one product to another, do so gradually by mixing the two diets together for a few days. This will help prevent diarrhea from a sudden change in food.
Don’t base your food choices on what you would like to eat, as many pet food manufacturers would like you to do. Cats don’t care whether their food is red or brown. They also don’t care if it looks like beef stew or fresh salmon! The fancier the food looks, the more you are paying for unnecessary artificial coloring, flavoring and preservatives.
A dry food is best for your pet’s teeth and gums, so the majority of your cat’s nutritional needs should be met with a chow type food. Canned foods are much more expensive to feed, as you are paying for a lot of water and extra packaging. Many people like to supplement their pet’s diet with some canned food, and this is fine as long as you pick a good one, and don’t overdo it. Canned foods are more likely to have excesses of protein which can cause or contribute to kidney disease as your pet ages, as well as being worse for your pet’s teeth. Cats often do well with supplemented canned food as it helps to keep them well hydrated, and this can be very important as a cat ages and their water intake declines.
Hill’s Pet Nutrition offer’s a great resource for making sense of a pet food label. We’re here to help, so ask your veterinarian for specific diet recommendations for your pet.