feline health

Why "Dry Pilling" Is Dangerous for Cats

If your cat coughs or vomits after taking a pill, there's probably a good reason. Coughing or vomiting after having swallowed pills dry could very well be a result of dry pilling (giving your cat a pill without any liquid). If you have ever tried to dry-swallow an aspirin, you'll recognize how uncomfortable the experience can be. Swallowing half a pill can even be worse, because of the sharp corners.

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Why "Dry Pilling" Is Dangerous for Cats

Dry pilling can lead to pills getting stuck in your cat's esophagus (the tube leading from the mouth to the stomach). While dry pills are likely to get stuck, capsules are even more dangerous for cats. The smooth, gelatinous surface tends to cause capsules to lodge in the esophagus.

A 2001 study presented in a veterinary journal stated that "After 5 minutes, 84% of capsules and 64% of tablets are still sitting in the esophagus." The study also brought out the dangerous occurrences of esophagitis, which can be caused by the irritation of pills and capsules remaining in the esophagus for long periods of time. This can often lead to blockage, entirely.

How to Give Your Cat Liquid to Avoid Dangerous Dry Pilling

It may seem impossible to force a cat to drink. Fortunately, though, there are a number of tricks you can use to prevent problems when administering oral medications to cats:

  • Follow Pilling with Liquid
    Use a small 1cc syringe filled with either plain water or low-salt broth. Approach the cat from the back or side, rather than front-on. Keep the cat's head level rather than tipped back, to facilitate swallowing.

  • Conceal the Pill in a Pill Pocket
    Pill Pockets are cone-shaped, soft treats with a hole down the center. Just pop the pill inside and pinch the top closed, and offer it to your cat as a treat.

  • Treat After Pilling
    Offering a favorite treat will not only encourage future pilling cooperation but will help get the pill into the stomach quickly so it can go to work.

  • Canned Food After Pilling
    Try giving only a small portion of a regular meal of canned food before the pilling, and withhold the remaining portion for afterward.

  • Compounded Flavored Meds
    Some pharmacies will compound medications into flavored liquid doses, which are both easier to swallow, and a lot tastier than pills. Your veterinarian may work with a compounding pharmacy, a "regular" pharmacy may have flavors for pets (we strongly advise against shopping online for your pets meds).

  • Transdermal Meds
    Some medications can be formulated into a gel or ointment that can be rubbed into your cat's inner ear. These can also be compounded by pharmacies.

At least one of these solutions should relieve both you and your cat of the anxiety and discomfort found in dry pilling. Speak with your veterinarian specifically about the best approach for your feline friend.

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White Cats and Deafness


Hereditary deafness is a major concern found in white cats, and especially so if one or both eyes are blue.

Research has found that only 17-22% of white cats with non-blue eyes are born deaf. The percentages rise to nearly half (40%) if the cat has one blue eye. An upwards of 65-85% of all white cats with two blue eyes are deaf. Some of these cats are deaf in a just one ear. Interestingly enough, if a white cat has one blue eye, the ear that is deaf tends to fall on the same side as the blue eye.

Cats with only one deaf ear out of the two tend to appear normal and their issue may never be known to their humans. Even if born completely deaf, cats can live perfectly fine lives as long as you take heed to not put them in situations where they must rely on audible cues (i.e. the outdoors). There is no treatment for hereditary deafness.

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Genetic Disorders in Cats


Genetic disorders are health conditions that are hereditary. Genes that carry particular health concerns often skip several generations of felines and develop in future pets belonging to the cat’s family. The types of conditions that develop are often breed-specific. Just as the breed of cat determines if the cat is long haired or short haired, so are certain genetic disorders predisposed to pets. Research suggests that purebreds are also more likely to inherit genetic disorders than non-purebred pets.


Breeds that are genetically predisposed to disorders:

  • Burmese
  • Persian
  • Siamese
  • Himalayan
  • Bengal


Genome Mapping

Genetic testing helps to determine healthy pets safe for breeding purposes. Research into newer techniques is trying to detect the presence of abnormal genes in cats used for breeding and in newborn kittens. Since several pets are carriers of the defective gene, even though they don’t exhibit clinical symptoms of a genetic disorder, genetic testing helps to determine pets safe for breeding. In recent times, science has developed a new methodology for modifying abnormal genes with gene therapy—however, clinical trials are still underway.


Genetic Disorders in Burmese Cats

Burmese cats inherit several gene disorders such as: keratoconjunctivitis sicca, ocular dermoids, hypokalemic myopathy, and encephalomeningocele. Burmese cats are also prone to developing certain eye and facial malformations.


Genetic Disorders in Persian Cats

Persian cats inherit many more genetic disorders for their breed, ranging from: seborrhea, glaucoma, kidney disorders, hip dysplasia, epiphora and even Chediak-Higashi syndrome.


Genetic Disorders in Siamese Cats

Siamese cats inherit several genetic illnesses such as asthma, glaucoma, malignant tumors of the mammary glands, mast cell tumors, and hydrocephalus. Siamese cats are also prone to developing hip dysplasia, strabismus, mucopolysaccharidoses, and heart disease.


Genetic Disorders in Himalayan Cats

Himalayan cats inherit polycystic kidney disease, eye disorders such as cataract, alopecia, and cutaneous asthenia.


Genetic Disorders in Bengal Cats

Like Himalayan cats, Bengal cats are less prone to inheriting as many genetic disorders, such as retinal atrophy.


Other breeds prone to genetic disorders

Although the types of disorders inherited are fewer, breeds such as Maine coon, Devon rex, and Abyssinians develop ophthalmic and bone disorders, among other conditions. It is pertinent to the various genetic disorders pets may suffer from in the future in order to monitor any symptoms of disease and to take preventive measures to slow the onset of health concerns.


Tips for Pet Owners

Although gene modification is trying to eliminate genetic disorders, the process is expensive and requires elaborate testing. Pet owners should talk with their vet about preventive techniques or the use of supplements to safeguard felines from known genetic illnesses. Cats suffering from diabetes or urinary tract disorders due to genetic predisposisions require lifelong diets and home care.

It is important to have your vet check on your cat before selecting them for breeding, as the healthiest of cats are more likely to deliver a healthy litter.

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The life threatening veterinary emergency of urinary obstruction.

Urinary obstruction can be a life threatening veterinary emergency. This is especially fatal to male cats, where the inability to urinate leads to a rapid buildup of toxic substances that if left untreated can lead to abnormal heart rhythms and death.


What is: urinary obstruction?

Urinary obstructions may occur in cats, dogs, and other species such as ferrets. Although males are commonly affected, it can occur in both males and females. Caused typically by bladder stones that are lodged in the urethra, it prevents the passage of urine. It can also be caused by muscle spasms in the urethra, cystitis, mucous plugs, and even certain cancers.


What are the signs of: urinary obstruction?

Signs in both dogs and cats are similar. They will often be straining to urinate only to produce only a few drops or no urinate at all. Many animals will appear to be in pain as they attempt to urinate or may vocalize this pain. In cats, it may also cause extreme lethargy, vomiting, or even collapse. Check the litter box for signs of no urine or just a few discolored drops of urine.


What to do if you suspect: urinary obstruction?

Left untreated, especially in male cats, can be deemed particularly life threatening. With appropriate and rapid treatment, most pets can be saved. Because it is difficult for owners to differentiate between a urinary obstruction and the less serious condition of a bladder infection, it is advised that you get your pet to the vet as soon as possible for an examination.


How is urinary obstruction treated?

Initial treatment is done by stabilizing the pet, often through intravenous fluids and pain medications. Once stabilized, then they are sedated and a urinary catheter is placed in the urethra to unblock it. Once achieved, your pet will be treated with the appropriate fluids or other medications that are required depending on your pet’s individual condition. The next step is to review why your pet became blocked in the first place. Is it cystitis and will need medical management? Is it bladder stones that will require surgical removal? From that point on, your vet will devise a tailored treatment pertaining to your pet’s current condition.

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Feline Skin Diseases: When is licking more than just grooming?


Dermatopathies (skin diseases) are quite common in cats. Studies indicate that between 6% and 15% of feline patients have at least one dermatopathy and many cats suffer from more than one. A recent study done by Cornell University Hospital for Animals showed that 22% had two skin diseases and 6% have three distinctive skin diseases.


The skin is the largest organ in a cat’s body, which comprises up to a quarter of its body weight. It also has many important functions, such as a protective barrier to the environment and regulates body temperature.

The skin is composed of:

The epidermis

The epidermis is the top layer that provides protection.

The dermis

The dermis is the supportive layer underneath the epidermis, which provides nourishment to the top layer.

The subcutis

The subcutis is the innermost layer that contains protective and insulating muscles and fat.

The appendages

The appendages include the claws, sebaceous glands that lubricate the skin and hair, and tiny muscles called arrector pili that can make hair stand on end.

Leading causes

Numerous conditions, from parasites to allergies, can cause skin diseases in cats. The geographic location is also linked to the prevalence of certain conditions. In upstate New York, for example, the most common causes of skin disease in cats seen by dermatology specialists are allergies to airborne particles, food, or flea and mosquito bites. On the other hand, in other countries like Canada and the United Kingdom, studies show that abscesses are the most common cause of skin disease in feline patients.


A cat’s lifestyle, gender, or breed can also affect their risk of various skin conditions. Outdoor cats for example, have a greater chance of infestation by external parasites (such as fleas) and a higher risk of injury and abscesses from fighting with other cats or animals. Additionally, male cats are more likely than female cats to engage in aggressive behavior that may result in bite wound-induced abscesses. There are also certain breeds, like Himalayans, which are more prone to skin disease than other cat breeds.


Common (clinical) signs of skin disease in cats include:

  • Excessive scratching, licking, or chewing of the fur
  • Loss of fur
  • Scabby, scaly, or flaky skin,
  • Swellings or bumps on the skin


Treatment of skin disease in cats

The treatment of feline skin disease depends on its specific cause. Flea infestation is treated by using certain flea control products to eliminate fleas from both the cat and its environment. Food allergies are typically treated by a set diet that does not contain ingredients in which the cat is allergic to. Abscesses are treated by draining the infected site and putting the cat on antibiotics to fight any bacterial infections. Fungal disease is treated with anti-fungal medications. Often in cases, the cause of skin disease in cats may transfer to other cats (and in some cases, to people), so preventing transmission from animal or human is often an important element in a treatment plan.


Cats with a skin disease will often suffer from dermatitis (skin inflammation). The inflammation may result from the process that starts the disease (like food allergies or the cat itching and scratching in response to the irritation stemming from the disease). In both cases, inflammation leads to itchiness, and thus scratching expedites skin damage (triggering a possible, yet relentless cycle of inflammation and skin damage). Careful consultation with your vet can help you arrive at the best strategy to treat your cat’s skin disease.


Prognosis of skin disease in cats

Depending on severity or cause of feline skin disease, the predicted outcome for cats is often favorable. There are rare exceptions where skin disease in cats is an indicator of a more serious illness, however by visiting your vet and following the treatment plan closely with your feline, the result will lead to resolution of the problem.

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