What makes a cat treat healthy?

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People love to shower their pets with treats and affection.

Although you can probably never give too much affection, cat treats are another thing. Cats can develop weight problems just we humans do. According to a study reported by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 57% of cats are overweight or obese.

Can cat treats ever be good for kitty? Are some treats better than others? And is “people food” healthy for your cat?

What Makes a Cat Treat Healthy?

Moderation is key. It's fine to feed your cat treats, but it should be a very small part of their diet.

How small? Many experts recommend cat treats make up no more than 10% of the total calories a cat eats in a day. That’s because most treats don’t add anything but calories to a cat’s diet.

The remaining 90% of your cat’s calories should come from a high-quality, nutritionally complete cat food.

Decoding the Labels

Learning what’s in packaged cat treats can be a bit of a puzzle. Labels are lacking in calorie counts, and not all nutrients are listed on cat food labels.

To learn how many calories are in your cat’s treats, you can contact the pet food manufacturer or check with your vet for recommendations.

At a minimum, look to see if a treat is approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This group sets pet food manufacturing standards, albeit minimal.

10 Tips to a Cat’s Healthy Relationship with Treats

Remember moderation. Like people, cats can develop a taste for treats, and they may decide to avoid their own food in favor of the goodies they love. For this reason, keep cat treats novel by offering them no more than two or three times a week.

Go easy with “people food.” Foods made for cats are formulated to contain the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids a cat needs for good health, so “people food” should be a minimal part of your cat’s diet. For an occasional delicacy, you might try small bits of cheese or cooked tuna, chicken, fish, or liver. You can also give your cat a tablespoon of milk now and again, but for cats that are lactose intolerant, this may cause diarrhea.

Avoid toxic foods. Raisins, grapes, onions, alcohol, salt, tea— we may love them, but these and other common foods can be toxic to cats. If you’re not sure a treat is safe, talk your vet before giving it to your kitty.

Ban begging. When giving your cat a treat, avoid doing it at the dinner table or at the cat’s insistence. Don’t reward begging.

Overweight cats need care. There’s no way around it: Cat treats add calories. But simply cutting out treats isn’t going to do much for an overweight cat. Have your cat evaluated by a vet, who will develop a safe diet plan to help your cat lose weight slowly and carefully. Rapid weight loss in an overweight cat can lead to a serious liver disease called hepatic lipidosis.

Go green. Catnip makes a fine cat treat and it’s low-calorie. Most cats love both catnip and cat grass (which is actually a cereal grass like wheat or oats). Both treats are easy to grow in a sunny window, and you can also find dried and fresh greens in pet stores. Always be sure the plant you’re offering your cat is safe for felines. But don’t be alarmed if your cat regurgitates the kitty grass you buy— some just do that. Stick with catnip for those cats. If you’re not sure a plant is cat-safe, check the ASPCA’s web site for information on plants toxic to felines. If you think your cat may have eaten a dangerous plant call your vet immediately, or contact the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

Give cat treats for fun and fitness. Help your cat exercise brain and body by using cat treats to train them in agility exercises or tricks.

Apologize with cat treats. Try giving cat treats after something your cat doesn’t like— such as claw trimming, tooth brushing, or a dose of medication. Along with praise and petting, this can go a long way toward soothing a feline who’s been forced to do something unpleasant.

Don’t use cat treats to replace love. Cats don’t have many needs: a healthy diet, a safe home, and loving attention. When you’re short on time, it can be easy to think a handful of treats builds the same bond as a stroke or cuddle.

Make your own natural cat treats. By cooking up small bits of liver, fish, or eggs for your cat, you’ll know exactly what’s in the treats they are eating. You can even make organic cat treats for your cat by buying meat, fish, and eggs that are certified organic. But remember, these treats should make up only a small part of your cat's overall diet.

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Rehabilitating an Injured Cat with Physical Therapy

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An injured cat will need a period to rehabilitate and regain his normal functions. Even if physical therapy is not regarded as a practical rehabilitation method, as people believe cats won’t cooperate, this method may be effective in speeding up the healing of an injured cat. Most cats enjoy physical therapy.

The Benefits of Physical Therapy for Cats

  • Physical therapy can be used to rehabilitate a cat that has undergone surgery, has an injury or a chronic disease that affects his functions.

  • Physical therapy can diminish pain and reduce the swelling caused by a surgery. In addition, physical therapy will strengthen the muscles and make the joints more flexible.

  • Therapy can correct limping and limb stiffness and may also improve the mental state of the cat by reducing stress and calming him down.

Physical Therapy Techniques for Cats

The main physical therapy techniques used for felines include hot and cold treatments, therapeutic ultrasounds, passive range of motion and active rehabilitation.

The cat may benefit from all these techniques or the vet may recommend a selected number of techniques, depending on the medical condition and the state of the injury.

Hot and Cold Treatment

Among the passive rehabilitation methods, the hot and cold treatment is known to be highly effective. This method can be employed to relieve pain caused by an injury and may also be effective in managing arthritis pain.

Cold compresses are applied, which reduce swelling and pain; these compresses can be held for 20 minutes at a time and may be applied several times per day.

Hot compresses may be used when there is no swelling present. The purpose of these compresses is to speed up the metabolism rate and reduce pain. Apply hot compresses for 20 minutes, 2 to 4 times per day. Ensure that the temperature is bearable for the pet.

This therapy can be performed at home, but consult a physical therapist prior to using hot and cold compresses.

Therapeutic Ultrasound

Therapeutic ultrasound is also a passive method, which strengthens muscles and promotes blood flow to the injured area, speeding up the recovery. This method relieves pain. The method must be used with caution for cats that have metal implants (i.e., in fractures), as these implants can heat up and cause burns.

Passive Range of Motion

Passive range of motion will focus on improving the function of joints and can be employed if the cat’s joints have been motionless for extended periods of time (i.e., from splints or casts). This method of controlled movement will also strengthen the muscles.

Active Rehabilitation

Active rehabilitation is recommended when the cat starts to walk and resume his normal activities. There are multiple techniques of active rehabilitation, including ball exercises, aqua therapy, balance boards and treadmills. These will focus on strengthening the muscles and improving flexibility.

Physical therapy in cats can be used for various periods of time, depending on the type of injury, age and health of the cat. The frequency of the sessions will be determined by a therapist, but it's usually 1 to 5 times per week.

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Related: We have more information under our cat health categories.

Disaster Preparedness: Prepare a Pet Disaster Kit

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Pets are family – do you have a plan for your pet in an emergency? Including pets in emergency plans helps your family’s ability to respond to an emergency. Be prepared: make a plan and prepare a disaster kit for your pet.

Leaving pets out of evacuation plans can put pets, pet owners, and first responders in danger. Even if you try to create a safe place for them, pets left behind during a disaster are likely to be injured, lost, or worse. Before a disaster strikes, find out what type of shelters and assistance are available in your area to accommodate pets and include pets in your family disaster plan to keep them safe during an emergency.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Start today by including your pet in your family’s preparedness plans to protect the health of yourself, your family, and your pet.

Make a Plan

To get started, familiarize yourself with the types of disasters that could affect your area and consider your options for providing care for your pet(s).

Disasters can happen without warning, so be prepared:

  • Make sure your pet(s) wear collars and tags with up-to-date contact information and other identification.

  • Microchip your pet(s) – this is one of the best ways to ensure that you and your pet are reunited if you are separated. Always be sure to register the microchip with the manufacturer and keep your contact information up to date with the microchip company.

  • Purchase a pet carrier for each of your pets (write your pet’s name, your name, and contact information on each carrier).

  • Familiarize your pet with its carrier before a crisis.

  • Practice transporting your pet by taking them for rides in a vehicle similar to one you would be evacuating in.

  • Practice catching your pet, if needed.

  • Keep a leash and/or carrier near the exit.

  • Make sure you have proper equipment for pets to ride in the car (carriers, harnesses, pet seatbelts).

  • If you do not have a car, make arrangements with neighbors, family, and friends. You can also contact your local government to learn about transportation options during a disaster.

Sheltering in Place

When sheltering at home with your pet, make sure the room chosen is pet-friendly in the following ways:

  • Select a safe room, preferably an interior room with no (or few) windows.

  • Remove any toxic chemicals or plants.

  • Close off small areas where frightened cats could get stuck (such as vents or beneath heavy furniture).

Sheltering During an Evacuation

Contact your local emergency management office and ask if they offer accommodations for owners and their pets.

If accommodations are needed for your pet(s):

  • Contact local veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, and local animal shelters. Visit the Humane Society website to find a shelter in your area.

  • Contact family or friends outside the evacuation area.

  • Contact a pet-friendly hotel, particularly along evacuation routes.

  • Remember to take your pet’s emergency kit with you.

  • Make plans before disaster strikes for where you and your pets will go. Be aware that pets may not be allowed in local human shelters, unless they are service animals.

  • Check with:

    • Family or friends outside the evacuation area.

    • Pet-friendly hotels

      • bringfido.com or call 877-411-FIDO

      • dogfriendly.com or call 888-281-5170

      • doginmysuitcase.com or call 8880254-0637

      • pet-friendly-hotels.net or call 866-966-3046

      • pets-allowed-hotels.com or call 800-250-1625

      • petswelcome.com

      • tripswithpets.com

Prepare a Pet Disaster Kit

Prepare a disaster kit for your pet(s) so evacuation will go smoothly. Ask your veterinarian for help putting it together. Some examples of what to include are listed below; when making the kit, think about your pet’s basic needs, prescriptions, and paperwork.

Pet Disaster Kit Checklist for Dogs

Pet Disaster Kit Checklist for Dogs

Pet Disaster Kit Checklist for Cats

Pet Disaster Kit Checklist for Cats

Disaster Supplies for Pets

  • Leash, collar with ID, and harness

  • Appropriate-sized pet carriers with bedding and toys

  • Food (in airtight waterproof containers or cans) and water for at least 2 weeks for each pet

  • Food and water bowls and a manual can opener

  • Plastic bags for dog poop and a litter box and litter for cats

  • Cleaning supplies for accidents (paper towels, plastic bags, disinfectant)

  • Medications for at least 2 weeks, instructions and treats used to give the medications, and a pharmacy contact for refills

  • Flea and tick medication and heartworm preventative for 1 month

  • Documents

  • Photocopied veterinary records (rabies certificate, vaccinations, recent FeLV/FIV test results for cats, prescriptions, etc.)

  • Registration information

  • Recent photos of your pet

  • Contact information for you and friends or relatives

  • Boarding instructions, such as feeding schedule, medications, and any known allergies and behavior problems

  • Microchip information

  • A pet first aid book and first aid kit

  • Documents, medications, and food should be stored in waterproof containers

Protect Yourself from Injury and Illness

Emergencies can put stress on both people and animals, and natural disasters can contribute to the spread of some diseases. Exposure to inclement weather conditions, stagnant water, wildlife or unfamiliar animals, and overcrowding can put both you and your pet at risk for getting sick. Some diseases can be spread between animals and people, such as rabies, ringworm, leptospirosis, and diseases spread by mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks like West Nile and Lyme disease.

Knowing some practical skills ahead of time will help you be prepared to prevent illness and injury during a disaster.

How to Keep Yourself and Your Pets Healthy During a Disaster

  • Wash your hands after handling your pet, its food, or its waste.

  • Do not let your pet lick your face or hands.

  • Keep your pet up-to-date on all vaccinations and heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives.

  • Practice safe handling of your pet, because your pet may behave differently during a stressful situation.

  • Keep your pet in a carrier or on a leash.

  • Do not allow your pet to interact with other animals, especially wildlife and stray animals.

  • Report any bite wounds to medical personnel immediately.

  • Properly clean and disinfect cages and litterboxes. Wash your pet’s bedding regularly.

  • Avoid stagnant water, especially after flooding occurring after natural disasters.

  • Don’t allow pets to play in or drink contaminated water.

What To Do if You Are Separated from Your Pet

Make sure that your family is in a safe location before you begin your search.

If you are in a shelter that houses pets, inform one of the pet caretakers. Give the pet caretaker your pre-made missing pet handout.

Once you have been cleared to leave the shelter and return home, contact animal control about your lost pet.

Last, call or log into the microchip company to make sure all the information about you and your pet is updated and current.

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What does it mean when your pet has an autoimmune disease like immune-mediated thrombocytopenia?

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Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMT) is a condition in which the animal’s immune system attacks and destroys blood platelets. Without platelets, blood cannot clot effectively, leading to internal or external bleeding. This can cause anemia, and is dangerous in times of injury or surgery. IMT can be a primary condition or it can be caused by another illness (including cancer, certain tick-transmitted diseases as well as some viral and bacterial infections). IMT generally responds to treatment, but it can be fatal. Relapses are common.

About Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMT)

IMT is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases result when the body’s immune system has become unrecognizable/does not recognize itself. In these cases, cells that normally attack invading viruses and bacteria begin attacking the body’s own cells, resulting in damage.

In dogs and cats with IMT, the body’s platelets are attacked and destroyed, resulting in reduced numbers of platelets in the blood vessels. Platelets (also called thrombocytes) are cells that are needed to form blood clots and repair damaged blood vessels. Thrombocytopenia occurs when there are too few platelets in the blood.

Adequate numbers of platelets are essential for survival. Platelets help repair obvious injuries, such as open wounds, as well as microscopic injuries that occur in day-to-day life. If platelet numbers are too low, uncontrolled bleeding can occur. If treatment is unsuccessful, the patient can bleed to death.

IMT can be a primary condition or it can be caused by another illness or event. The underlying cause of primary IMT is rarely determined. Female dogs are more likely to be diagnosed with IMT, but there is no corresponding gender predisposition in cats. Secondary IMT can be associated with certain cancers (including lymphoma); exposure to certain drugs (including some antibiotics); tick-transmitted diseases (such as ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis); and some viral and bacterial infections, including canine distemper virus in dogs and feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV, or feline AIDS) in cats.

Symptoms and Identifying IMT

Platelets are responsible for helping form blood clots and repair damaged blood vessels, which is why the most common sign of IMT is spontaneous bleeding or the inability to stop bleeding. If IMT is caused by another illness, additional clinical signs can result from the underlying condition. Clinical signs of IMT can vary in severity and include:

  • Weakness

  • Lethargy (tiredness)

  • Appetite loss

  • Vomiting blood

  • Bloody diarrhea or melena (digested blood that appears in feces)

  • Bruising on the skin

  • Bleeding from the nose

  • Bleeding from the gums

  • Bloody urine or bleeding from the penis or vulva

  • Coughing blood or difficulty breathing

Bleeding can also occur within the brain, causing seizures; within the eyes, causing blindness; or within the abdomen or chest cavity. Severe bleeding can be fatal, especially if it occurs rapidly. If significant blood loss occurs, additional clinical signs (such as pale gums, weakness and even collapse) may be associated with anemia (inadequate numbers of red blood cells).

Owners may also notice other evidence of bleeding, such as minor cuts and scratches that continue to bleed, a heat cycle that seems prolonged or excessive, or skin bruising after playing or grooming.

There is no specific test to diagnose IMT. Your veterinarian will likely recommend blood testing to help confirm a suspected diagnosis of IMT and rule out other conditions that can cause low platelet numbers.

Some veterinarians can perform initial testing at their offices. In other cases, tests are sent to a diagnostic laboratory and results are available in a few days. If your veterinarian suspects an underlying illness (such as FeLV or ehrlichiosis), he or she may recommend more testing.

Who is predisposed for IMT?

Certain dog breeds, such as German Shepherds and Old English Sheepdogs, may be genetically prone to developing primary IMT.

Treatment for IMT

Because IMT is caused by an overactive immune system, initial treatment is aimed at suppressing the immune system and stabilizing the patient. Steroids (given at high doses) are the most common medication prescribed. Additional therapy may include intravenous fluids and supportive care. If the underlying cause of IMT can be treated, such therapy is also generally initiated.

Some pets don’t respond adequately to steroids. In these cases, additional medications can be given to manage the condition.

During treatment, frequent blood testing is required to ensure an adequate response to therapy. Once a pet responds to treatment, medication dosages are gradually adjusted and blood tests are repeated periodically to monitor for relapses.

IMT generally responds to treatment, but it can be fatal. For pets who survive, relapses commonly occur. Your veterinarian may recommend periodic recheck examinations and frequent repeat bloodwork for the life of your pet to help identify and treat relapses early.

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