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The end of the road: contemplating euthanasia.

I’ve been watching my young dog grow old for a while now, and I hate it. Luce was the first young dog I ever owned as an adult. I picked her out of the shelter based on her ridiculous ears and her serious expression. We took her into the “Getting to Know You” room and she dove snorting into my lap and then covered my face with kisses. I did not need to look further– I had found my dog.

She was never an easy dog. She was reactive, dog-aggressive, and incredibly energetic and athletic. If you turned her loose in a fenced yard, the first thing she’d do was check the fence for any sign of weakness, any loose boards. She was extremely smart and she used that power for naughtiness.

Escape artist

Escape artist

She was the first dog I ever trained, and she taught me so much. She taught me to think outside the box. She taught me that rewarding is more powerful than punishing. She taught me that even a crazy dog like her could learn to behave in public, even around other dogs.

She was the first dog I ever competed with, starting in Rally Obedience where she was on leash the entire time (and I very clearly remember telling my obedience instructor at the time that they could have my leash when they could pry it from my cold, dead hand). We quickly progressed to off-leash levels, and she kicked butt. She finished her career with a laundry list of titles after her name and a very proud mama.

That was years ago.

Now she’s twelve, arthritic, and senile.

Both of her knees are crunchy with arthritis and it’s hard for her to go up and down the stairs. She needs a boost to get into the car or onto my bed. But arthritis is something we can deal with, you know? There are plenty of medication options. There are joint supplements. And if those aren’t enough, there are things like cold laser therapy and acupuncture that might help. We have so many options for treating pain in dogs, so when our first medication choice didn’t do enough, we were able to switch to a second one that might work better.

But the senile part, that’s what I feel so helpless about. She barks and barks at me and I can’t figure out what she wants. She gets up and pees on the floor with no warning instead of asking to go out (and she doesn’t have an infection). She barks about everything. She never used to bark at all, even when the doorbell rang.

She goes off by herself when she used to be my shadow. She lays on the couch and doesn’t move all day.

I have no idea why I'm barking but I'm barking!

I have no idea why I’m barking but I’m barking!

And I question myself about whether she’s happy, about whether this is a good quality of life for her.

I think she is happy, or at least content. She’s old and snoring the day away on a comfortable couch isn’t a bad deal. She loves her food and is happy to spend her time licking canned dog food out of a Kong. She can’t hear, but she can still snag a french fry out of the air without hesitation. She can’t handle hiking anymore, but she loves to go for car rides. She sits up all proud of herself in the front seat and knows that she’s important.

But I see the decline and it worries me whether or not I’ll be able to let go when it’s time, whatever that means. She’s my best friend and more than anything, I don’t want her to suffer. But nor can I imagine life without her. She has slept next to me in bed for 11 years. She has been my constant.

There are lots of suggestions on the internet about how to determine whether it is time to put your dog to sleep. Pick three things that your dog loves, and when she can’t do those things anymore, it’s time. But the things that Luce used to love to do have simply been replaced by things that she loves to do now. So how does that work? Some suggest that when your dog has more bad days than good days, it’s time. But what’s good and what’s bad and where do they equal out?

It’s so hard. I don’t want to be selfish. I don’t want her to suffer. But I don’t want to let her go before she’s ready.

Dr. Ron always says “decision of least regret”. And I believe that too early is better than too late. But why does it have to be so complicated?

Why does love have to be this hard?

The word “euthanasia” literally means “good death” and I am so grateful that we are able to give our pets this one last kindness. I am grateful that we can end suffering.

Comfortable old dog.

Comfortable old dog.

If you’re struggling with this with your own pet, please feel free to give us a call. Any of the staff would be happy to talk to you, and if you need more advice than what we can provide over the phone, we can always schedule your pet for a doctor visit. Sometimes a simple physical can lead to a clearer picture– if you’re thinking about putting your old dog to sleep because she is having trouble getting up, maybe pain medication will improve her quality of life. If your old cat is skinny and vomiting all over the place, perhaps he has a medical condition that we can treat. Or maybe it really is just time.

Every path is unique. Everybody’s answer is going to be different.

But we’re all doing it because we love them.

I know I’m not the only one out there who struggles with this– what has been helpful to you in making this hard decision? What are your tips?

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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in Cats, Dogs, Health

 

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How to get your kitty to drink more (and why it’s important)

Staying well hydrated is important to the health of all creatures (humans are no exception). It is essential to kidney and bladder health. Unfortunately, because cats were originally desert creatures who gleaned most of their fluids from their food, not from drinking water, which was scarce, they did not develop the same “thirst drive” that humans and dogs did. When they are not getting enough fluids, their bodies do not trigger them to go drink some water. Instead, many cats live their lives in a state of chronic mild dehydration.

Potato chips do not contribute to good hydration.

Potato chips do not contribute to good hydration.

This, unfortunately, can contribute to two common health issues in cats– chronic kidney failure and urinary tract problems (bladder stones, urinary blockages). When a cat isn’t drinking enough, it puts stress on his kidneys. Over time, this stress causes damage. It also causes his urine to become more concentrated than it should be. This can contribute to the formation of crystals, which can in turn become stones (sometimes impressively large!) in the bladder, or which can cause a blockage in the urethra, making the cat unable to urinate. This is a life-threatening (and expensive) emergency situation which we all just want to avoid.

So how do we get our finicky friends to drink more? There are lots of ways. Try several and see which ones work best for you and your cat.

Because cats have historically gotten most of their fluid intake from their food, switching from dry food to a canned diet is the very best way to keep your kitty hydrated. We recommend feeding at least some canned food, even if you do not want to feed it exclusively. To add even more fluids, you can mix some water in with the canned food to form a “soup”. Most cats love this.

Because cats have different preferences, try leaving multiple water bowls out in different places throughout your house. Some cats prefer a wide shallow bowl (that their whiskers won’t touch the sides of), so consider using a pie plate or something similar. Offer water in glass or stainless steel bowls instead of plastic, which can sometimes cause water to have a bad taste.

Be sure to clean and refill water bowls daily. Remember, cats can be so finicky! Also, consider offering filtered or distilled water– chlorinated or hard water can have a flavor that cats don’t like.

You can consider adding a few drops of tuna “juice” (the water that canned tuna is packed in) or clam juice to a bowl of water. Make sure to provide plain water as well.

Many cats are attracted to moving water, so kitty fountains are a popular choice to encourage drinking. You can also try a dripping faucet if you don’t mind your kitties on the counters.

Hopefully this post will give you some ideas to help get your kitty drinking more and staying better hydrated. Your kitty’s bladder and kidneys will thank you!

For more tips: Tips to Increase Your Cat’s Water Intake

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2014 in Cats, Food, Health, kittens

 

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5 Tips to Help Slim Down Your Tubby Kitty

Obesity is a growing problem across our pet population, but indoor cats seem to be at the highest risk. While a fat cat may be cute, all that extra weight puts these cats at a higher risk offatchloe
health problems such as arthritis and diabetes, and those things are not fun to deal with for anybody. The average housecat (Domestic Shorthair) should weigh about ten pounds. There are kitties with smaller frames and those with bigger frames, so one cat may be chubby at 10 pounds while another is underweight. If your cat is a healthy weight, you will be able to feel his ribs but not see them. He’ll have a waist when you look at him from above, and his belly should tuck up– not hang down– when viewed from the side.

So… what do you do when your cat is overweight? Here are some tips to help your kitty’s weight head in the right direction:

1. Feed a higher protein diet. Digesting protein requires more energy than digesting carbs, which means your kitty will burn off more of the calories she is taking in, rather than storing them in fat. As an added bonus, it will keep her feeling full longer. Higher protein foods are more expensive than foods based on carbohydrates, but the payoff is worth it.

2. Stop free feeding. Many people allow their cats free access to as much food as they want at all times. This combined with boredom can quickly turn into a cat who eats for something to do, consuming way more calories than he is burning off, resulting in weight gain. Measuring your kitty’s food will give you control over the number of calories being consumed. The average indoor cat only requires about 200 calories a day. Many dry cat foods contain 400 or more calories per cup!

Canned food is delicious!

Canned food is delicious!

3. Feed canned food. Canned food is usually higher in protein and lower in carbs (see #1), plus it has the added benefit of providing more moisture. Since many cats are not good drinkers, any way you can add more moisture to their diet is helpful in decreasing bladder and kidney troubles. (Kitty waterfountains work great for encouraging drinking as well.)

4. Go easy on the treats. Treats are fine, but be mindful of the extra calories that they add. Choose treats that are low in calories and only feed a few of them per day. No more than 10% of your cat’s calories for the day should come from treats (and tablefood! if your cats are like mine).

5. Encourage exercise! Weight gain is a simple equation of calories being taken in being higher than the calories being burned. The more active you can encourage your cat to be, the healthier (both mentally and physically) he will be, and the easier it will be to keep him at a healthy weight. Consider feeding meals out of a food-dispensing toy such as the Slimcat Interactive Feeder. Make your kitty work for his meals!

Lots of cats also enjoy a good laser-pointer chase session, or a feather toy on a string. Whatever gets them moving!

I hope these tips make the idea of putting your kitty on a diet more manageable and less overwhelming. It is always easier to keep a cat at an ideal weight than it is to get weight off of him, but weight loss is certainly possible! Do not despair! Your kitty’s body will thank you for it, especially as he gets older.

And if all else fails, there is always the underwater treadmill!

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in Cats, Health

 

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New weapons in the war on bugs!

Flea season last year was horrible. We saw so many clients with flea infestations who had never ever had flea problems in the past. It was frustrating and expensive for clients, and frustrating for us because they were so hard to treat. While we have an excellent step-by-step treatment guide for dealing with fleas, it seemed that no matter what people were doing, it just wasn’t working.

Recently, a few new products have come onto the market. One is just for fleas, the other is for fleas and ticks. White Oaks Veterinary Hospital is carrying both of them in order to give our clients more options when it comes to fighting the dreaded bugs that our pets can harbor.

The first one is for fleas only and is available for both cats and dogs. It is called Activyl, and we’ve been getting great reviews from clients.

Nobody wants fleas.

Nobody wants fleas.

We are only carrying the flea-only version of the product (the one that also kills ticks is toxic to cats), and it is currently only available for purchase as a pack of six, but at this point it does appear to be a powerful weapon against those dreaded blood-sucking, home-infesting fleas. If you have a kitten and you’re just looking for a general flea preventative, we would still recommend Advantage because it is a bit more gentle. If you’ve been using Frontline or Advantage and it’s working for you– fantastic! No reason to fix something that’s not broken. But we want to make you aware that we do have a potentially more potent option for the really tough flea problems.

Our other new product is something we’re pretty excited about– the first once-a-month ORAL flea and tick preventative called Nexgard.

nexgard

There have been other oral flea preventatives out there for awhile, but this is the first one that works against ticks as well. It is made by Merial, the makers of Frontline, and it has had extremely good reviews. It is slightly more expensive than Frontline, but it’s a terrific option for dogs who swim a lot, are bathed a lot, or have owners who dislike the oily patch that topical preventatives leave.

As with many oral medications, the most frequent side effect is vomiting, but otherwise this product seems to work very well. A number of staff members have tried it and liked it (I love it for my smooth-coated dogs– no mess!) and we are excited to see how it performs this flea season.

As always with tick prevention, checking your pet over after being out and avoiding high-risk tick areas is advised no matter what kind of preventative you are using (and even if you are having your dog vaccinated against Lyme disease because ticks do carry other nasties), but in the area that we live in, ticks are going to be lurking and for many people and their pets, unavoidable.

Nexgard is not available for cats. It is a dog-only product.

If either of these products sounds like something that you might be interested in for your own pet, or if you have any questions about what the right flea and tick preventative for your pets is, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 717-665-2338. We would be happy to help you figure out the best option for your pet.

 

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A Beginner’s Guide to Reading Pet Food Bags Part 1

pidgefoodThe pet food business is certainly booming today, and there are so many different options to choose from. There’s everything from Walmart’s cheap Ol’ Roy to the super-premium, super-expensive holistic foods. How on earth do you begin to evaluate what is on all those shelves and pick something that will be good for your pet as well as your wallet? In this week’s blog post, I hope to give you some of the basic information you need to read pet food labels in the hopes that it will help you be able to choose more wisely based on information instead of marketing and attractive packaging.

Before the mid-1800s, pets were generally fed whatever scraps were left over after the humans ate. It wasn’t until a man named James Spratt came along and invented the first dry dog food, completely revolutionizing how pets in this country are fed, that pet food manufacturing became an industry. These days, pet food is a big, complicated, profit-driven business. Everybody is out to attract consumers with what they think will be the most appealing. “Now with chicken!” “Holistic!” “Gluten free!” Cute happy puppies and catchy jingles on tv! But what does any of this really mean, and what is truly important?

The first thing to look for on the packaging of a food is the AAFCO statement. AAFCO is an organization which analyzes pet foods and guarantees that they meet a certain nutrient profile that is deemed to be acceptable for either adult pets or for growth and reproduction. This can be done in one of two ways– either simply by analysis of the ingredients, or analysis done with the addition of actual feeding trials. It is easy to tell which method was used because one of two statements will be printed on the packaging: ““(Name of product) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles” or “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (name of product) provides complete and balanced nutrition”. Is one better than the other? Potentially. Just because something looks good on paper, so to say, doesn’t mean that it will function as expected when it’s actually ingested. Feeding trials will prove in a real life situation that a formulation really works.hameat

The next thing we’re going to look at is ingredients.

Ingredients are complicated. There are so many games that food manufacturers can play to make their foods look better than what they actually are.

The first thing you need to understand is that ingredients are listed in order of weight. When you look at the meat content of a certain food, and you see that “chicken” is the first ingredient on the list, what you need to remember is that fresh meat is approximately 70% moisture. When you suck all that moisture out during the kibble manufacturing process, the actual nutritional part that is left is going to fall signficantly lower on the list.

However, if you see the words “chicken meal” instead, you’re looking at an ingredient that has already been dehydrated and concentrated. If that is at the top of the list, it’s going to stay there. A named meat meal (chicken, turkey, lamb, whatever) is a great ingredient and something you want to see at the top of the list. Meal is going to offer the highest amount of protein and nutrients.

And the naming of a specific meat source matters. You want to see “Chicken meal”. You do not want to see “Meat meal” or “Meat and bone meal”. Products that list a generalized “meat” ingredient tend to be using whatever they can get the cheapest, and that may change from day to day, from bag to bag. This is especially important if your pet has any food sensitivities.

Another thing to pay attention to is ingredient splitting. Manufacturers will split ingredients (especially grains or carbohydrates) into their individual components, which will move them down the list weight-wise and make them look like less than they really are. Here’s the beginning of an ingredient list from a grain-free dry dog food. Grain-free foods are often marketed as being “better”, but in truth some of them are still relying on carbs, not meat protein, as the bulk of the diet.

Chicken, Potatoes, Yellow Peas, Pea Protein Concentrate, Potato Starch, Chicken Meal, Chicken Fat,

So here we have Chicken as the first ingredient. Remember, though, that chicken is 70% water weight, all of which will disappear during processing. Then come potatoes. Also with a fair bit of water weight to them. But look– down the list– more potato, in the form of starch, and there after that is the coveted Chicken Meal that we should be looking for, because that is where the bulk of your meat-based protein is going to come from. In the middle? Yellow peas, followed by Pea Protein Concentrate. You have to wonder where on the list that chicken would actually fall if the potatoes and the peas were not split up into individual components. Maybe not first, in the spotlight, where people are going to see and and say “oh! This food has lots of chicken in it!”

What about by-products? By-products are looked down upon by some as inferior ingredients, but I think we need to think about what “by-product” really means and what an animal would eat in the wild. Here’s the AAFCO definition for Chicken By-Product Meal: “Chicken By-Product Meal – consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.”
crosbyfood

Sounds kind of gross, but in reality, if left alone with a fresh chicken, a dog is going to eat those squeamish bits too. Chicken feet, for example, are an excellent source of glucosamine, a joint supplement. So while it isn’t what I personally would want to be eating, it is not without nutritional value for an animal. Again, in “meal” form, you have a concentrated source of nutrients.

What it comes down to, at least for me, is that I want a food that gets most of its protein from meat, not grains or carbs. Cats are obligate carnivores. They need to eat meat. Dogs are technically opportunistic scavengers who will eat just about anything, but if you look at their teeth, those are the teeth of a meat-eater. With protein, the source matters when it comes to what the animal’s body is best able to use. Eggs offer the highest and most easily digestible quality of protein, followed by meat, and then followed by grains. Yes, you are going to pay a bit more for a food that is heavy in meat-based protein, but the food will be more nourishing, and you will likely have to feed less of it in order to give your pet all of what he needs. (Which will also result in less poop! Yay!)

At the end of the day, there is no one perfect food. There is no one “best” food. Every cat, every dog, is an individual. What works well for one dog may cause itchy skin in another. What works great for one cat may cause another to lose weight and look unkempt. So there is a little bit of experimentation that goes on in finding the best food to feed your pet. It is ok to switch foods. We always recommend that you do so gradually– start adding small amounts of the new food to the old food, and gradually change the ratio until you’re feeding all the new food. The speed at which you will need to do this depends greatly on your individual pet. The goal is a healthy, active pet in good weight, with a healthy coat, little odor, and a smoothly-running GI system. The right food can do amazing things.

I hope this helps a little bit in the decoding of food labels. It’s a confusing process, and there are so many games that food manufacturers like to play to make their foods more appealing. A little information about the tricks of the trade will go a long way toward helping pet owners be more savvy consumers.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2014 in Cats, Dogs, Food, Health

 

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Tips for getting better photos of your pets.

You know that here at we LOVE pet pictures. Just a quick look at our Facebook page will show you. And what we love even more is contributions from our clients. Any time you snap a great shot of your pet, feel free to either share it directly on our Facebook page or email it to whiteoaksvethospital@gmail.com and we’ll share your pet’s photo with the world.

I thought it would be fun to run through a basic list of tips for getting better photographs of your pets. There are some simple things that you can do and pay attention to that will improve your pictures whether you’re shooting with a fancy dSLR camera or your cell phone.

Lighting

Lighting is a big thing. Good light will allow your camera to capture more action, and will give you a clearer photo, especially if you’re using a cell phone. Flash can be ok, but a lot of times, the light it produces is extremely harsh and washes out the good colors in your images. It also gives you the scary glowing eyes you see in so many quick impromptu snaps. So you want to make the best use you can of natural light.

Outside it’s pretty easy. The light early in the morning and heading on toward evening is going to be the best, and you want to shoot with the sun behind you whenever possible. At noon, the light is often harsh, and especially with very light or very dark dogs, getting a good photo can be tough.

Indoors is harder. Unless you have a lot of good lighting in your house, it’s often too dim to get good photos, especially action shots. Setting up a “photo shoot” by bringing extra lamps into a room can help. But you also want to take advantage of natural light coming in through windows. Cats are especially good at finding sunny spots to lounge in, and it is easy to take advantage of this to get good pictures!

Snoozing in the sunbeams.

Snoozing in the sunbeams.

Sunlight coming in a window in an otherwise darker room can also create a really neat “spotlight effect”. The sunlight can light up your pet, but leave the rest of the room dark. Especially handy for hiding the unfolded laundry on the dresser or the destuffed toy pieces on the floor.

Spotlight on Luce.

Spotlight on Luce.

Background

The biggest tip for backgrounds is pay attention to what’s there! It is so easy to put your focus on the subject of your picture (your pet) and not pay any attention to what is behind them. This can end up with embarrassing photos on occasion (we’ve all seen them, right?) but it can also just clutter up what would be a lovely photo. By paying attention to what’s there, sometimes you can simply shoot from a different angle to cut out the clutter. Move around, experiment with shooting from a high angle or a low angle, framing the photo with the pet on one side or another instead of in the middle.

The best backgrounds are ones with consistent textures– grass, sky, water, a blanket, a blank wall. They are non-distracting and let the viewer focus just on your pet.

Grass and trees behind Macie blend nicely into a non-distracting background.

Grass and trees behind Macie blend nicely into a non-distracting background.

But sometimes it is fun to do precisely the opposite- use an especially interesting background to enhance the photo. Here we captured Ein the Corgi on the rocks of a crazy trail that we were hiking up. To show the scope of the rocks and the steepness of the terrain, we included Ein’s cute little self.

Climbing a really big hill.

Climbing a really big hill.

Get down on their level!

By getting down level with your pet and shooting straight on, you’re better able to capture your pet in a natural way. Looking down all the time can create weird angles, and it also will frequently hide the cute face of your pet. A straight-on photo, instead, will capture all the cuteness.

Getting down on puppy level can sometimes be dangerous!

Getting down on puppy level can sometimes be dangerous!

Shooting Portraits

Portraits are great for capturing the expression, personalit, and soul of your pet. Whether you’re shooting a full-body portrait or a close-up, I really think portraits do the best job of capturing the essence of our pets. A beautiful portrait can be a very special thing for a pet owner.

If your dog knows a basic sit/stay, it can be easy to take good portraits. To get their attention on you, you can crinkle a plastic wrapper, whistle, make funny sounds, wave treats around, even use a squeaky toy. You can use the “bait” to move your dog’s focus from straight on to profile or whatever you’d like. It is often useful to enlist the help of an assistant who can be in charge of keeping the dogs in place as well as doing what is needed to perk up those ears.

Close-up portrait.

Close-up portrait.


Cats can be trickier, but some of the same rules apply. While I’d fall off my chair if I ever had a cat who would stay in one place because I requested it, toys and treats are great ways to get your cat to look pretty for the camera. You have to be quick with cats, though! It seems like they are constantly in motion whenever they’re in front of the camera. Here I used a feather toy to get Figment’s attention (and to keep him where I wanted him).

Eyes on the prize.

Eyes on the prize.

Action shots!

Action shots are so much fun. Capturing your dog running with his lips flapping everywhere is a hoot. Catching your cat at the moment he flips a catnip mouse into the air is priceless.

Action shots can be full-body or they can be close-ups. Again, enlisting the help of an assistant can be tremendously useful. A well-placed thrown toy can help you get the photo of your pet running toward you or across a field in front of you. Teasing a cat with a toy and getting him jumping around creates wonderful, sometimes hilarious photos.

In this case, Zen was being called across the field, giving me the opportunity to snap a head-on, lips-flapping view of him as he returned enthusiastically to his owner for a treat.

Big mouth bully on the run.

Big mouth bully on the run.

Candids are great, too! Keep your eyes open and your camera handy, your batteries charged and your memory card installed. There are photo ops around every corner, and capturing those special moments with your pet can help you hold onto your memories for a lifetime.

Nothing does flappy lips like a St. Bernard.

Nothing does flappy lips like a St. Bernard.

I hope you found this post useful and inspiring. We would absolutely love to see what you can do with your camera. Please please share with us, either in the comments here, by email, or on Facebook. Everybody loves showing off their pets, so see what you can do to capture special moments. Think outside the box! Use different angles, dress your pet up in a funny hat, pose them somewhere unexpected, use the filters built into your camera or phone (Instagram, anyone?)– whatever it takes to capture your pet’s unique personality.

And above all, have fun!

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Cats, Dogs, Just for Fun

 

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He peed on WHAT? Cats and inappropriate urination.

Cats make great pets.

Cats make great pets.

Cats are extremely popular and make great pets, but if there is one thing that comes between cats and their owners and is high on the list of reasons why cats get put outside, surrendered to the shelter, or euthanized, it’s inappropriate urination.

Inappropriate urination– urinating in places that are not the litterbox– is disgusting, stinky, destructive, and extremely frustrating to deal with. Unfortunately, it’s not that uncommon. Fortuately, there are a number of options to try before doing anything drastic.

The first thing to consider is that this could be a physical problem. Cats are prone to prone to forming crystals in their urine, in part because cats do not typically drink enough. In males this is much more dangerous because the crystals can become a blockage that makes them unable to urinate. This is an emergency situation and requires prompt medical attention. Stress-induced cystitis is another common cause of peeing outside the litterbox. In this case, stress causes irritation to the bladder, sometimes resulting in bloody urine, but also resulting in frequent urination, both in the litterbox and outside. Again, this is a medical condition and requires an exam by a doctor.

Another medical cause of urine issues is bladder stones. For whatever reason, we have been seeing an increase in bladder stones recently, and the constant irritation that they cause to the bladder can cause all kinds of urinary problems. These can be diagnosed through xrays of the bladder. For some types of stones, the only option is surgical removal. For others, there is the possibility of dissolving them through the use of a special prescription food. But this is a problem you’re not going to fix by yourself- it requires veterinary intervention.

To help prevent urinary crystals and stones, increasing the water consumption of your cat is tremendously helpful. Cats, before they became domesticated, relied primarily on their fresh-caught food for the moisture that their bodies need. They didn’t need to be great drinkers. Now that most cats are fed primarily a dry kibble diet, many cats live in a state of constant low-grade dehydration. This makes urine more concentrated and crystals more problematic. Dilution is the solution to pollution! Adding a kitty fountain with running water may entice your cat to drink. Leaving water bowls in a variety of places may help. And adding canned food (ideally mixed with water to make a “soup”) to their daily diet is highly recommended.

Health problems aside, behavioral problems are also common. Fortunately, there are a lot of things a cat owner can do to prevent and even try to solve the issue at home.

Sake would never do such a thing.

Sake would never do such a thing.

1. Litterbox numbers, types, placement, litter type, and maintenance. The general rule of thumb is one litterbox per cat plus one extra, located in different places in the house. Litterboxes should be out of high traffic areas (privacy, please!), and of appropriate size and height. I personally use large plastic storage boxes as litterboxes because they are bigger and the higher sides helps prevent so much litter being kicked over the sides. But this may not be appropriate for an older cat with arthritis or mobility issues. While covered litterboxes are available, most cats don’t care for them because they concentrate the litterbox odor inside, and cats don’t enjoy going to the bathroom in a stinky place.

Some cats also have a distinct litter preference- clay, corn, wood, and paper litters are all available. Cats are also not big fans of change, so switching litter types suddenly can trigger your cat to stop using his litterbox. There are also some products available that contain things like catnip that are attractive to cats and encourage them to use the litterbox.

2. Clean up your act. Cats are, generally, pretty tidy animals, and they like their bathrooms to be tidy as well. Daily or twice-daily scooping and regular changing of litter and scrubbing of boxes will make the litterbox less offensive and more inviting.

3. Clean soiled areas well with an enzymatic cleaner (we like Nature’s Miracle). Consider covering problem areas with plastic (a showercurtain draped over a couch that is being soiled, a plastic carpet runner laid upside down on floor areas).

4. Re-establish litter habits. Confine your offending kitty to a small room like a bathroom with his litterbox to prevent him from urinating in the wrong places. Closely supervised roaming is ok but you need to be vigilent and prevent mistakes– no letting kitty sneak off! Expand his range slowly as his litterbox habits improve and his house-soiling stops.

Neither would Sam.

Neither would Sam.

5. Housesoiling can be a result of stress. Taking action to relieve that stress may help resolve litterbox issues, whether that stress is coming from tension between multiple cats, stress from the family, a new environment, or even stray cats hanging around outside. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone that can help to calm your kitty down and make him less anxious. It is available in a variety of forms including collars, sprays, and plug-in infusers.

6. As a last resort, there are medications available that may help decrease the anxiety that leads to housesoiling. Medication requires bloodwork to start and then continual bloodwork monitoring to make sure the cat’s body is tolerating it, which means it’s not a dirt cheap option, BUT if it makes your cat stop peeing on your couch or in your laundry basket, it may very well be worth it.

Not sure which kitty is the offender? Check out this link for ideas on how to figure out who the culprit really is. This whole website is chock full of great information on cats and their behavior and is well worth a look through, even if you’re not having any specific issues right now. It is an excellent resource.

So, the bottom line comes down to: rule out medical issues first with an exam, urinalysis, and possibly xrays, and then move forward from there. It is a very frustrating problem, and I think every member of our staff truly understands that. But with patience and effort, in many cases, the problem can be resolved.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2014 in Behavior, Cats, Health

 

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