All Dogs May Go to Heaven. These Days, Some Go to Hospice

All Dogs May Go to Heaven. These Days, Some Go to Hospice.

Written by: Matt Richtel (Published: November 30, 2013)

More and more, cats and dogs get the human treatment. There are pet spas, pet therapists, pet clothes. And as it goes in life, so it now goes in the twilight. The latest phenomenon: pet hospice.

Denise Fitzmaurice, right, brought her 4-year-old dog, Sophie, to Dr. Michele Price’s mobile veterinary clinic for an examination.

Around the country, a growing number of veterinarians are offering hospice care, and marketing it as a way to give cats and dogs — and their owners — a less anxious, more comfortable passing.

The approach, in the spirit of the human variety, entails ceasing aggressive medical treatment and giving pain and even anti-anxiety drugs. Unlike in hospice care for humans, euthanasia is an option — and in fact, is a big part of this end-of-life turn. When it’s time, the vet performs it in the living room, bedroom or wherever the family feels comfortable.

That’s a big part of the job, the vets say, relieving pet owner guilt, giving them an emotional bridge to a pet’s death, and letting them grieve at home — rather than in a clinic or animal shelter. The intimacy carries a premium, sometimes costing 25 percent or more than euthanasia in a clinic. Vets, and their customers, say it can be worth it.

“They’re in their own environment, not only the pet but the owners,” said Dr. Mary Gardner, co-founder of Lap of Love, a Florida-based company that is one of the leaders in a small but growing market. “They’re allowed to have other animals present, other cats or dogs present, other children,” added Dr. Gardner, who refers to a pet’s owner as its “mom” or “dad,” and has since relocated her own practice to Los Angeles. “I’ve been to some homes where they had barbecues for that dog, and invited me and the neighbors, and the dog was the man of the hour.”

Lap of Love’s business has blossomed since 2010 from two providers to more than 68 vet partners in 18 states. The International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care, a group started in 2009, now has 200 members, mostly vets, but also several family therapists, lawyers and an animal sanctuary in Northern California that takes in and provides holistic healing and hospice for terminally ill and elderly pets.

“There is a formal end-of-life movement, a formal hospice movement,” said Dr. Eden Myers, a veterinarian in Kentucky who runs JustVetData.com, which tracks industry trends. Of the providers who do this, she said: “They’re everywhere.”

Dr. Amir Shanan, a vet in Chicago who started the International Association for Animal Hospice, described the movement as growing, but still not mainstream; veterinary schools are only now embracing the idea. “There are skeptics out there,” he said. “But 20 years ago, there was almost no one other than skeptics, and that’s changing rapidly.”

There are no formal standards for this hospice care, and Dr. Shanan said there was a debate about what those standards should look like. “The core of the debate is who is to decide when is the right time to euthanize, if at all,” he said, noting that some hospice supporters advocate giving pets palliative care until they die naturally, as in human hospice.

Hospice and in-home euthanasia are different things. Their growth is owing to similar factors, says Dr. Myers, including a growing acceptance of hospice for humans, as well as cellphones, laptops and online marketing that make mobile vet services easier to operate. Plus, she said, more vets offer the services as a business alternative to the high cost of starting and maintaining a traditional clinic.

“And,” she added, “you’ve got people willing to spend scads of money on their pets.”

For pet owners, the financial implications of this end-of-life movement cut two ways. In one light, hospice can be seen as reducing the cost of aggressive medical care, or it can be seen as its own version of aggressive comfort care, at least when compared to euthanizing a pet sooner.

A hospice or euthanasia visit from Lap of Love generally costs $200 or $250, including drugs. Euthanasia at a clinic typically runs less, though prices vary widely, and is even less at a nonprofit shelter, like a local animal shelter. Some pet owners say costs are irrelevant given the peace of mind — their own.

“It was more for me than him,” said Jan Dorr, a bookkeeper in Boca Raton, Fla., who was an early Lap of Love customer in 2010. She’d spent $5,000 on chemotherapy for her chocolate lab, Darby, but the dog’s health continued to fail. When she heard about the idea of pet hospice, her reaction was positive; a year earlier, her own father died after a positive hospice experience. She called Dr. Gardner, who helped make Darby comfortable by increasing his pain medications, and giving Ms. Dorr a checklist of ways to recognize when it was time to let go, such as when Darby stopped eating, walking or interacting.

When Darby’s condition worsened just days later, the vet returned to perform euthanasia. Ms. Dorr lay down on her bed with Darby, hugging him. “She let me say when,” Ms. Dorr said, referring to the vet’s final injection. It was far preferable, she said, to the alternative: “I just couldn’t get it into my head to put him on a steel table in a cold room and let him go.”

Kathryn D. Marocchino, a professor of death and dying at California State University in Vallejo, who in 1996 founded the Nikki Hospice Foundation for Pets, said the end-of-life movement for pets addressed what she described as a “sense of coercion” faced by owners of sick pets forced to decide between aggressive treatment or euthanasia. She said that her group got calls from people thanking them, and saying things like: “Where were you 30 years ago? They made me kill my dog.”

Dr. Michele Price, a veterinarian in Northern Virginia whose in-home end-of-care business has doubled since 2009 to 20 percent of her practice, got a call recently about an ailing Labrador named Champ. She’d first seen the dog in August when his owners thought it was time to euthanize. But when Dr. Price got to the house, Champ was doing O.K., and she and the family decided on hospice treatment and pain meds. Later, Champ took a sharp downward turn and couldn’t walk. Dr. Price returned and they set up for the euthanasia.

Champ was on a quilt next to the fireplace when Dr. Price administered the initial sedation. “They hugged him, and told him what a good dog he was. They said, ‘We love you’ and ‘We’ll miss you,’ ” Ms. Price said of the dog’s owners. As for Champ, “He fell asleep. That’s the last thing he remembered.”

Dr. Mary Gardner, a veterinarian, co-founded an in-home pet hospice and euthanasia service called Lap of Love.

A version of this article appears in print on December 1, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: All Dogs May Go to Heaven. These Days, Some Go to Hospice..

Challenging Breeds for Dog Owners

Most Challenging Breeds for New Pet Owners

BY KRISTEN SEYMOUR | AUGUST 26, 2013
Posted by: Randi Case, D.C.
Many dog lovers believe there’s no such thing as a bad dog, just bad training. And while we don’t disagree that a good owner along with proper training and socialization can make a world of difference, we have to admit that some dog breeds are best suited to experienced owners.

Those very traits that make certain breeds so good at the jobs they were bred to do, like hunting big game and guarding their owners and property, can make them a challenge for someone who’s never trained a dog before.

Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography

No. 1: Akita

The Akita was bred to hunt big game such as bear, boar and elk. He can also weigh upwards of 115 pounds (or even more), and requires a 20-30 minute walk every day, always on leash due to a strong prey drive. He’s a beautiful dog, but sheds heavily and can be a challenge to train, making him best suited to experienced dog owners.

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 2: Chow Chow

Not known for being particularly lovey-dovey, the Chow Chow isn’t the teddy bear he appears to be. He’s intelligent but stubborn, and may require a lot of training before you get the results you’re looking for. This breed is wary of strangers and may be aggressive toward dogs he doesn’t know.

Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography

No. 3: Chinese Shar-Pei

The Chinese Shar-Pei requires an assertive, experienced owner to train him and keep him from getting bored. This highly territorial dog tends to bond with one person, and can be quite distrustful of those he doesn’t know — humans and canines alike. And all those dramatic skin folds can increase the tendency for chronic skin and eye conditions that a naïve pet owner may find daunting.

Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography

No. 4: Alaskan Malamute

He’s friendly, joyful and exuberant, which may make him attractive to someone seeking a first dog, but be warned: The Alaskan Malamute sheds like crazy, pulls on leash with all of his 65-100 pounds and is a talented escape artist. This breed is made to travel far on his own four feet and he needs a family committed to a lot of exercise when it’s best for him. That thick fur coat also leaves him vulnerable to heat injury.

Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography

No. 5: Rottweiler

Although he can be a gentle giant, the wrong Rottweiler with the wrong owner can truly be a scary dog. A Rottweiler wants someone to be the boss, and if you’re not taking the job, he will. He’s powerful and protective, and known for being extremely loyal when it comes to his people and his property. Considering he can weigh as much as 135 pounds (and most of it muscle), he can generally back up his threatening growl.

Nick Ridley, Animal Photography

No. 6: Weimaraner

The “Gray Ghost” earned his nickname for his beautiful gray coat and habit of following his owner closely, but the highly intelligent Weimaraner isn’t the right dog for everyone. He’s extremely energetic with no “off” switch, and he’s not happy being left alone — separation anxiety can be a real issue with this breed. He can be difficult to housetrain and a hazard to cats and other small pets, but if you plan to spend many days hunting, hiking or doing obedience and agility with him by your side, you might have found your perfect companion.

Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography

No. 7: Dalmatian

The spotted Dalmatian isn’t just a Disney darling — he was bred to work as a coach dog, running alongside carriages or horses, alerting coachmen to approaching highwaymen and warding off stray dogs. That’s how he became the traditional firehouse dog — he kept the streets clear for horse-drawn fire engines. However, the traits that made him perfect for this work can make him a challenge in the home. He has an endless capacity for exercise and can be destructive when bored. Also, he’s a notorious shedder with stiff fur that weaves its way into fabric (but not out).

Ron Willbie, Animal Photography

No. 8: Australian Cattle Dog

Sometimes known as a Blue Heeler or Australian Heeler, the Australian Cattle Dog is a medium-sized dog with serious endurance. Originally made up of several breeds, including the Collie, Dingo, Bull Terrier, Dalmatian, and Black and Tan Kelpie, he has a reputation for being stubborn and having energy to spare — not to mention a truly adventurous spirit and belief in his own invincibility that will leave you wondering how he’ll injure himself next.

Nick Ridley, Animal Photography

No. 9: German Shepherd

Highly intelligent and a natural protector, the German Shepherd Dog is well-suited to a wide variety of jobs: He’s worked as a guide dog, a drug sniffer, and, of course, a police and military dog. There’s little he can’t do with the right training, but that’s exactly why he’s not ideal for newbies — it takes quite a bit of training, exercise and dedication  to stay “smarter” than he is. And all those smarts come with higher-than-average tendencies toward some pretty serious health problems including hip dysplasia and neurologic issues.

Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography

No. 10: Saint Bernard

The Saint Bernard is incredibly lovable, but this gentle giant is also a lot of work. He drools (and drools and drools) and is known to ingest items like socks and dishtowels. Because of his enormous size (130-180 pounds or more), you might think he’d like to hang out in your big backyard, but you’d be wrong — he’s prone to heatstroke and loves being around his people, so he’s very much an indoor dog.

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 11: Siberian Husky

The happy and affectionate Siberian Husky is a working dog that thrives in cold, snowy climates. He was bred to pull sleds over long distances, and his liveliness reflects that — a short walk around the block won’t do for this breed. He sheds heavily, is a capable escape artist and has a strong predatory drive, so he’s not a great choice for homes with cats or small pets.

Barbara O’Brien, Animal Photography

No. 12: Bulldog

The Bulldog is generally good-natured and his goofy, wrinkled mug certainly makes him lovable, but the breed’s heavy build and flat face make him particularly sensitive to heat, exercise and stress. He can’t swim, so if you have a pool, pond or spa, his access should be restricted. He is prone to a variety of health issues and some may say he’s challenging to train, but his fans don’t mind — his entertaining antics and laid-back attitude make up for it in the right home.

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 13: Bullmastiff

Devoted and protective to the point that he’d lay down his life for his family, the Bullmastiff has a mind of his own — and considering that he weighs in at 100-130 pounds, he can easily overwhelm an owner who isn’t ready to stand up to him. He needs good, consistent, positive training and firm boundaries from a young age. He also needs someone to follow him with a mop, because this dog can drool. His high prey drive means he should always be kept on leash, and he doesn’t generally love other dogs, so he’s best as an only pet.

Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography

No. 14: Airedale Terrier

The Airedale Terrier is quite a character. Independent, intelligent and stubborn, he’ll keep you laughing — and on your toes, as he’s a notorious digger and counter-surfer. He’ll bring the same exuberance and joy to playing games as he brings to excavating your garden and eating your drywall. He’s not great with other dogs or animals and needs plenty of stimulation (both physical and mental). It should be noted, too, that this “King of the Terriers” was the inspiration for Margaret Marshall Saunders’ novel Beautiful Joe, the story of an abused dog, which sparked the creation of the modern humane movement.

Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography

Honorable Mention: American Pit Bull Terrier

Although the American Pit Bull Terrier received enough votes for this category to land a place at the bottom of this list, he also earned a significant number of votes as the best breed for new owners, which canceled out enough of the negative votes to knock him out of the running.

He looks formidable and has historically been used in dog fighting rings, giving him a frightening reputation, but over the last few decades, he’s been bred to love and accept people. In the right home, he’s a devoted and loyal companion (although he can have conflicts with other dogs or with cats). But as with many dogs bred for strength, a mistreated Pit can be a problem.

For instance, a dog bred for hunting, birding, working, or running long distances will work until his job is done, regardless of weather or distractions. When that same breed is kept as a family pet, his circumstances change, but his drive and instinct to go, go, go? Not so much. Therefore, he needs an owner who’s prepared to work with that level of vitality to keep him from engaging in destructive behaviors.

And consider the traditional guard dog, bred to be on the alert for anything that’s out of the ordinary. In his original job, that might mean keeping an eye out for dangers and predators, but as a member of the family, it means he needs firm and entirely consistent training. While some dogs might understand a good deal of nuance — that it’s OK to get on the couch with the kids, but not with Mom and Dad — a dog bred for guarding duties thrives on a dependable environment since knowing what is regular and routine is absolutely necessary to determine what’s not.

One other item to keep in mind: Some of these breeds may not be allowed in certain homes due torestrictions on the lease or insurance policy.

We’ve already shared what dogs veterinary professionals deemed best for new owners, and now we’re sharing which breeds those same 218 experts thought were the worst choices for first-time dog owners.

Please note: We don’t mean to imply these are “bad” breeds, and in no case is any breed friendly or aggressive clear across the board. However, if you’re a first-time, inexperienced dog owner, these are dogs you might want to wait to bring home until you have a few years of training under your belt.

 

THE BLOCKED CAT

Posted by : Dr. Randi Case
Dr. Jennifer Coates

Male or female, purebred or domestic shorthair, any cat can develop a urinary condition like Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC), stones, or infection. But when the cat in question is a neutered male, BEWARE! They are at the highest risk for developing a much dreaded veterinary emergency: urinary obstruction.

Neutered male cats have incredibly narrow urethras (the tube that drains the bladder to the outside world through the penis). In fact, a neutered male’s urethra is so narrow that involuntary muscular contractions called urethral spasms can be enough to cause an obstruction. A small stone or a plug made of proteinaceous material and/or crystals can easily become lodged inside the urethra and completely block the outflow of urine.

When a cat is “blocked,” he will usually posture to urinate, but nothing — or just the tiniest dribble — will come out. As the condition progresses, he becomes increasingly uncomfortable. Eventually the pain is excruciating, and the bladder may even rupture due to the buildup of pressure. Also, the chemicals that should be exiting his body through urination quickly begin to accumulate in the blood stream, wreaking havoc on the body. Without rapid intervention, death will follow from this self-poisoning.

Treating a blocked cat involves emptying his bladder, relieving the urethral blockage, and dealing with the biochemical abnormalities that have developed. This is typically done by placing a catheter through the urethra and leaving it in place until the bladder has had a chance to remain empty and recover.

A recent study has shown that in some cases, draining the urine from the bladder via needle and syringe (often repeatedly) can also work. Intravenous or subcutaneous fluid therapy, pain relief, medications that promote normal function of the urinary tract, and providing a quiet, stress-free environment are necessary as well. If a cat never regains the ability to urinate normally, surgery can be performed to create a hole in the urethra above the blockage, through which urine can be expelled.

Unfortunately, cats that have experienced a urethral obstruction are at higher than average risk for developing the problem again. If a definitive cause for the blockage has been found, prevention strategies should be concentrated there. For example, a cat with struvite stones can be fed a diet that is known to dissolve this material and prevent the development of these stones in the future.

When no specific cause has been diagnosed, veterinarians differ in what they recommend. Some prescribe diets like those mentioned above because they generally promote a healthy urine pH and bladder environment. Others focus on water consumption, with the purpose being to dilute the urine enough to discourage crystals or other materials from clumping together. Owners can increase water consumption in their cats by feeding canned food, using a kitty “fountain,” and/or letting a cat’s favorite faucet drip. Research has shown that decreasing stress in the home also plays an important role in prevention.

What constitutes kitty stress, you might ask? In my opinion, boredom and dirty litter boxes are the top two stressors for indoor-only cats.

So, playing with your cat, providing him with lots of toys — and perhaps some catnip — placing a comfy perch in front of the window, turning on some music and keeping the litter boxes clean might just help prevent another panicked rush to the veterinary hospital.

Why do Wolves Howl?

Wolves Howl Because They Care: Social Relationship Can Explain Variation in vocal Production

Posted by Randi Case, DC

When a member of the wolf pack leaves the group, the howling by those left behind isn’t a reflection of stress but of the quality of their relationships. (Credit: Mazzini et al.)

Aug. 22, 2013 — When a member of the wolf pack leaves the group, the howling by those left behind isn’t a reflection of stress but of the quality of their relationships. So say researchers based on a study of nine wolves from two packs living at Austria’s Wolf Science Center that appears in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, on August 22.

The findings shed important light on the degree to which animal vocal production can be considered as voluntary, the researchers say.

“Our results suggest the social relationship can explain more of the variation we see in howling behavior than the emotional state of the wolf,” says Friederike Range of the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. “This suggests that wolves, to a certain extent, may be able to use their vocalizations in a flexible way.”

Scientists have known very little about why animals make the sounds that they do. Are they uncontrollable emotional responses? Or do animals have the ability to change those vocalizations based on their own understanding of the social context?

At the Wolf Science Center, human handlers typically take individual wolves out for walks on a leash, one at a time. On those occasions, they knew, the remaining pack mates always howl.

To better understand why, Range and her colleagues measured the wolves’ stress hormone levels. They also collected information on the wolves’ dominance status in the pack and their preferred partners. As they took individual wolves out for long walks, they recorded the reactions of each of their pack mates.

Those observations show that wolves howl more when a wolf they have a better relationship with leaves the group and when that individual is of high social rank. The amount of howling did not correspond to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

“Our data suggest that howling is not a simple stress response to being separated from close associates but instead may be used more flexibly to maintain contact and perhaps to aid in reuniting with allies,” Range says.

As always, We at TheWagSheet welcome your comments and questions..WOOF!

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press.

Living with a Companion Rabbit

Posted by: Randi Case, DC

What’s it like to have a pet rabbit?

Rabbits are very loving, social animals, which means they not only love to spend time with their humans – they require it. Without human interaction, rabbits can get bored, even to the point of becoming lonely and depressed. While toys can alleviate some of their boredom, they still need human attention and interaction. Many rabbits also enjoy having another rabbit as a friend.

Some people wonder if rabbits are more like cats or dogs. They’re like rabbits! Yours might use a litterbox like a cat and get excited to see you like a dog, but really, rabbits are not quite like either of these animals. Do they “make good pets”? They make wonderful, intelligent companions for wonderful, intelligent people! Each rabbit has a different personality just like each person does. A new rabbit owner should be willing to learn a new language when she brings home a rabbit as a companion. A rabbit will teach you a new way of looking at the world! Although they can be ornery at times, rabbits are wonderful, fun, and loving companions.

Are you the right kind of person to live with a rabbit? Rabbits make wonderful companions for the right people.

Are you patient?
Do you have a sense of humor?
Do you enjoy watching the movements and learning the language of another species?
Does your schedule include plenty of time at home?
Are you comfortable spending a lot of time on the floor?
Are you not overly fussy with your furniture?

Why doesn’t my rabbit like to cuddle in my arms?
It’s important to remember that rabbits are prey animals. Prey animals interact with their environment very differently than predators like cats and dogs. In general, rabbits do not like to be picked up. The act of bending over them and grabbing them by their ribs to pick them up is very similar to being picked up by a hawk – scary!!

The best way to interact with your rabbit is on the floor. Sit in the room while bunny is out to play and she will soon come investigate you. She will like to be petted sitting next to you, but not necessarily while being carried in your arms! If you choose a cage or pen with a sideopening door and put it on the floor or provide a ramp to a taller cage, you can let bunny in and out for playtime without ever picking her up!

If you are going to pick up your rabbit, make sure you do it correctly. The best way is to place one hand under her rib cage and the other under her bottom, scooping her back legs so she can’t kick. This method will protect her fragile backbone while protecting you from those strong kicking back legs and sharp nails. It is also important to wear an appropriate shirt when handling a rabbit to avoid being scratched by nails as bunny tries to get away! Or just encourage or herd bunny into a pet carrier or box and move him that way.

Keep in mind your rabbit will likely be easier to interact with and handle once spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering reduces hormone-driven behaviors like lunging, mounting, spraying, and boxing. Spaying also protects female bunnies from uterine cancer, which can be quite common in older unspayed rabbits.

How about playtime outside my rabbit’s cage or pen?
Just like all animals, your rabbit will need to exercise as well as play. He will need toys like cardboard tubes, phone books, and rattly rolling things to keep him busy. Your rabbit will also need to have anywhere from 30 to 40 hours of ‘run time’ outside his enclosure per week. Be aware that rabbits love to explore and discover – which could involve tasting items in your home. That is the nice way to say you will need to ‘bunnyproof’ your house to protect it from bunny and to keep bunny from getting hurt.

Some Basic Facts
Rabbits can be litterbox trained
Rabbits can live to be 7-10 years old
Rabbits are inquisitive, sociable animals
Rabbits make wonderful indoor companions
Rabbits can purr when contented

Like cats and dogs, rabbits need to be spayed or neutered to improve health and behavior

Most rabbits do not like to be held–they prefer to sit beside you

Rabbits like to play with toys, such as cardboard boxes, wire cat balls, hard plastic baby keys, untreated willow baskets

Rabbits need to have things of their own to chew on (or they might nibble on your stuff)

Rabbits need to be protected from predators, poisons, temperature extremes, electrical cords, and rough handling

Why Does My Cat… Meow at Me?

Why Does My Cat… Meow at Me?
BY DR. PATTY KHULY
Posted by Randi Case. 10/6/2013

If you’ve ever lived with a vocal cat, you’ve almost certainly asked yourself this question. After all, who could resist wanting to know what your feline friend is thinking as she meows plaintively at your sleeping face early in the morning or weaves her way between your legs while crying herself hoarse?

Most of the typical in-the-wild feline sounds—like hissing, spitting, growling, and that hair-raising high-pitched screaming thing cats do when they’re fighting and mating—are self-explanatory: They’re angry, scared, or hoping to impress. But the plain-old “meow” can seem confusing to us humans.

Behaviorists say that cats meow at humans because they want something and, most important, because meowing gets results.

And that’s undeniably true. Meowing works. But why?

Interestingly, some experts say that the sound “meow,” as we know it, developed at least in part because we humans associate it with the needy cry of an infant. But it’s also undeniable that kittens meow when they want something. So it’s no stretch to assume cats didn’t learn to associate meows with requests.

But cats can meow at varying frequencies, pitches, tones, volumes, and lengths. A meow imploring you to open the back door, for example, can sound completely different from the excited, “I’m about to be fed” meow, which is totally different from the meow that happens right before you scratch her right behind her ear at bedtime.

As anyone who’s ever heard two different cats meow knows, no two feline voices are ever exactly the same. But beyond the vagaries of voice box machinery, most of the variation comes from the cat’s own personality. And there’s no predicting how the interaction of any given human-cat personality pairing will affect meowing. After all, when some cats learn that meowing brings them satisfaction, the very act of meowing can become satisfactory in its own right.

So what do you do when the vocal requests get continuous or turn into an obsessive, repetitive behavior? It’s always a good idea to take kitty to the veterinarian’s office to make sure nothing is awry. If the veterinarian doesn’t find any physical problem, you may want to seek out a certified animal behaviorist or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist to get the answer you need.

But rest assured, the vast majority of vocal cats are not pathologically afflicted. Quite the opposite, most are simply voicing their healthy demands—pleasurably.

This article was written by a Veterinarian.

What’s wrong with my cats teeth?

What’s Wrong With My Cat’s Mouth?
Posted by: Randi Case
Written By: Dr. Jim Humphries, Certified Veterinary Journalist, Veterinary News Network

Many cat owners look at the grace, athleticism and beauty of their pets and think that they have the “perfect” animal. Unfortunately, many of these same cats will have a very “imperfect” mouth, due to a serious and very painful condition that causes teeth to resorb, dissolve and even break! Here’s what we know about Tooth Resorption in cats.

Ask any cat owner about how they care for their feline’s teeth and most will reply that “he eats dry food” or, more commonly “I really don’t clean her teeth”. While most veterinarians will acknowledge that brushing a cat’s teeth is a challenge for many owners, they will stress the importance of routine oral assessment of your cat’s mouth. These exams help find preventable problems and even some very concerning issues. One of those concerns we are seeing more frequently is called Feline Tooth Resorption.

Tooth Resorption, or “TR” as it is commonly called, is a condition seen in a growing percentage of cats over the age of six years. The same strange condition is also seen in dogs and in people, but it is not nearly as common.

In the past, this disease has been called “neck lesions”, “cervical line lesions” and even the cumbersome “Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORLs)”. Whatever the name, we know that this condition is seen in cats who often appear normal. The process will continue to develop, causing extreme pain because of the exposure of the root canal. This can even lead to behavior changes and lack of normal appetite.

Dr. Brett Beckman, a noted board-certified veterinary dentist, says that an exact cause for TR has not been determined yet. Theories about exposure to certain viruses, breed prevalence and chronic inflammation of the mouth and gums have all been proposed as root causes. According to Beckman, a single study suggests that high levels of Vitamin D in cat foods could be linked to resorptive disease, but that research is still ongoing. Interestingly, there has even been evidence of TR in cat skeletons that are 800 years old!

Clinically, most cats will appear normal, but observant owners may note that their cat prefers to chew food on just one side or that the cat stops grooming. They may “toss” dry food into the back of their mouth. As TR progresses, some pets will even develop sullen or aggressive attitudes, as if they are mad at the world!

Eventually, your veterinarian may point out how some of your cat’s cheek teeth are showing lines of inflamed, fleshy material right near the base of the tooth. At this point, the erosion has exposed the tooth to the bacteria of the mouth and this is when affected cats become extremely painful. Even under a general anesthetic, a slight touch of these teeth will cause a cat to “chatter” their jaw, indicating very serious pain!

Dental x-rays are the only way to diagnose TR. When the radiographs are taken, if TR is present, your veterinarian can see changes in the density of the roots and crowns of the teeth. All teeth can be affected, but the major “signal” tooth is the first one in the lower jaw. Some teeth can be partially affected, while others may have completely dissolved away leaving a “ghost image”.

Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment that can save the pet’s teeth. A normal cleaning and polishing will not work! Veterinary dentists have even tried root canal therapies (endodonics), but they fail, as this resorption occurs on a microsopic basis. A tooth that is showing any signs of resorption needs to be extracted. Some cats will need full mouth extractions. All cats with a known history of TR should be x-rayed every six months to a year. It is likely other teeth are affected and they must be monitored.

The good news in all of this is that once your veterinarian knows about the disease, several things can be done to keep your cat comfortable. Experience has shown that cats who were once not eating well or even aggressive will often have a positive behavior change in just a matter of weeks. It is surprising how the removal of these painful teeth can often bring back your affectionate feline friend.

Owners are often unaware that their pets are experiencing such discomfort. But, regular visits to your veterinarian can help identify the issue and start work that will make your cat feel better. Contact your veterinarian to have a comprehensive oral examination for your pet, including dental x-rays and regular dental cleanings.

Symbolism of the Cheetah

Cheetah, Power Animal, Symbol of Focus, Accelerating Time

By Ina Woolcott

Cheetah’s medicine includes – speed and focus, brotherhood, elusiveness, ability to focus intently on something for a short period of time, swiftness, self-esteem, accelerating time, keenness of sight

Different to other felines, who stalk, then swiftly jump on their prey for the kill, cheetahs, the fastest animals alive, run down their prey.

The lesson to be learned here, the inspiration, is to fulfil our goals with speed and focus. When we feel stuck, cheetah energy can help us spring into motion. If we are moving with great speed but with little direction, cheetah medicine can help us to keep our eyes on our goals, to focus, and to find the most direct way of achieving them.

Sometimes we must carefully consider all aspects of a plan to reach a goal. At other times, it may be necessary to be flexible and adaptable in rehashing plans. However, sometimes the most important thing to do is to act with both speed and focus. The goal is almost reached, but continually putting something off, or lack of clarity keeps one from accomplishing it. It is at times like this that cheetah medicine is extremely valuable.

There is more wisdom to be taken from the cheetah’s actions – there are those who want to accomplish their goals but who may take on too many goals at one time. Though the cheetah is able to reach speeds of up to 63miles per hour, it can only maintain this incredible speed for a short period of time. Afterwards, it must rest for around 15 minutes.

The cheetah period of rest teaches us that intense activity should always be followed by a time of rest, relaxation, and contemplation.