Pet Q & A with Paul Boland

Vets Corner

As vets we are often approached by pet lovers with questions regarding their animals.

Some are on the serious side while some are relatively minor, but no considerate pet owner would want to see their four-legged friend suffer.

We don’t have answers for everything, but try our best to diagnose those issues that are making like difficult for all kinds of pets.

Here Paul Boland answers a couple of questions from cat owners and offers his expert advice to try and help with their pet’s ailments.

Q. My three-year-old Persian cat has a skin problem for two years. Vets have ruled out any underlying causes such as fleas, food and pollen or dust mites allergies. She is fine in herself and is eating and drinking normally. I don’t see her grooming herself so I do not think that she is licking the hair out. Do you have thoughts?

Paul says: “The most likely cause of the skin problem in your cat is something called psychogenic alopecia which is also called over grooming. It happens when a cat’s normal licking activity becomes excessive due to cumulative stress or following a single major stressful event. This a stress induced compulsive disorder in cats and is pretty common in the oriental breeds.

Although your vet has eliminated other causes of skin disease I would still treat Susie and the house for fleas because she could still develop a flea bite allergy. Other causes of over grooming that are not skin related include painful conditions such as osteoarthritis or spinal pain, cystitis, constipation, hyperthyroidism and anal sac impaction.

There are many causes of stress in cats and they tend to be cumulative. Small things like moving the litter tray, a household member moving out, and a new cat in the neighbourhood can all add up. Cats love routine and the status quo, so changing meals times can cause stress.

Over the last few years I have successfully used supplements in conjunction with behavioural modification therapy to reduce the cat’s stress levels. I would use a supplement that contains both L-tryptophan and valerian. L-tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is converted to serotonin which reduces stress levels in cats. Valerian is a herb that it wildly used to decrease stress levels and to also promote relaxation in cats. Omega Natural Oil is also good for skin problems. “

Q. I have just acquired an eight week old male domestic shorthaired kitten called Fred from a cat rescue. He sneezes a lot and has a runny nose and eyes. He is eating but not as much as I would expect and he is a bit subdued. Does he have a cold?

Paul says: “Fred is not suffering what we humans would call a cold but from feline flu.

Feline (cat) flu is an upper respiratory tract infection in cats that is usually caused by two viruses, feline herpes virus (FHV) and feline calici virus (FCV). It is estimated that 90% of cats from rescue shelters have the large FHV which has a phospholipid membrane and is therefore susceptible to desiccation and disinfectants.

The most common clinical signs of cat flu are sneezing and a discharge from the nose and eyes. The sneezing usually occurs as “spasm” over the course of a few hours. The nasal/ocular discharge is usually a clear colour but will become yellow or green if there is secondary bacterial infection. Some cats can develop a cough, swallow excessively, become lethargic and go off their food.

Nursing care is very important with cats that are suffering from cat flu. These cats very often feel very miserable so cleaning away any discharge from the nose and eyes using cotton moistened with warm water will make them feel better as well as giving them plenty of water.

I like to advise natural treatments for cat flu. Gelsemium (Yellow Jasmine) helps to sooth and clear sore watery eyes and nose. It decreases sneezing and will aid a speedy recovery from cat flu. It also relieves trembling and shivering and revitalises aching tired muscles, while Pulsatilla can help to sooth inflamed eyes, ease joint pain in FCV polyarthritis and clear any nasal or ocular discharge.

Siberian ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus and Acanthopanax senticosus are adaptogenic and immune modulators. Extracts of the root are used because the root contains the major active molecules called eleutherosides and the minor constituent’s triterpenoid saponins and glycans. Siberian ginseng produces a nonspecific increase in the body’s defence against exogenous stress factors and noxious chemicals.”