Is Your Pet Ready for Spring

  • Is your pet current on vaccines? 

    • Dogs: Rabies, Distemper, Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus, Hepatitis and if there is a concern, Bordetella and Lyme.

    • Cats: Rabies, Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calici virus, Panleukopenia and where there is a concern, Feline Leukemia.

    • Exotics: Rabies and other vaccines recommended by your veterinarian.

  • Has your pet had their Heartworm or Feline leukemia Tests.

  • Are your pet’s current on their parasite testing and protection?

    • Dogs: Intestinal and Heartworm prevention

    • Cats: Intestinal and yes, Heartworm prevention

    • Exotics: Absolutely, intestinal parasite prevention

  • Has your pet been spayed or neutered?

    • Spring is the time for love and that cute kitten or puppy you got around Christmas is ready for reproduction.  Are you?

  • Have you cleaned up the rodenticide that you put out last fall? 

    • You may have forgotten about any poisons you put out in the fall but rest assured your pet will find them. 

    • Accidental poisoning is a common and preventable year round problem

  • Properly dispose of antifreeze when you drain your radiator.

    • This deadly poison takes lives every spring.

  • Once the snow melts check your yard for items that could be hazardous to your pet.

    • Glass, nails and other items can become buried in the snow and forgotten.  Be sure to do a sweep of your yard every spring.

  • Mend your fences.

    • Fences can be damaged over the winter and it may not be visible until the snow melts.  Check gate latches as well.

  • Did your pet slow down over the winter?  Spring is a great time to work on getting winter weight off.  The great news is it works for both of you.

    • Start any exercise program slowly and watch your pet for signs of arthritis or injuries that may go unnoticed during the sedentary winter months.

  • Don’t forget the leash!  Everybody has cabin fever by the end of winter.  Make sure your pet is safely under leash and not able to follow the urge to wander.



Blastomycosis is a systemic fungal infection which causes illness when it is either inhaled into the lungs causing pneumonia or introduced into an open wound causing a localized skin infection.  Once the organism is in the body it transforms into yeast and can migrate to the lymph nodes, eyes, bones and central nervous system. The disease has a 1 to 3 month incubation period. Blastomycosis is common in the Great lakes and Mississippi river basin area and is found in sandy, acidic soil near water. We do see and treat cases at Animal Family.  There has recently been an uptick in cases in the greater Chicago area so it is worth familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of this disease.

 Dogs are the species most susceptible to Blastomycosis.  People and cats can become infected as well but with much less frequency.  In dogs, hunting breeds aged 2 – 4 years are the typical patient.  When cats do become infected they are generally young to middle aged.

Signs may include some but not all of the following:

  • Weight loss/depression
  • Fever up to 104 F (seen in 50% of cases)
  • Swollen Lymph nodes
  • Decreased appetite
  • Harsh, dry cough (pneumonia)
  • Enlarged testicles
  • Redness and discharge from the eyes (ocular)
  • Lameness (bone)
  • Draining skin lesions (cutaneous)
  • Fainting if the heart is affected
  • Seizures and dementia if the central nervous system is affected.

Diagnosis is made through:

  • Radiographs in cases of cough and pneumonia.
  • Cytology of lung/ lymph node aspirates and skin lesions.
  • Histopathology of bone lesions.Laboratory cultures of tissue samples.
  • Blood titers

Treatment with antifungal medications is successful in 75% of the cases. If antifungals are unsuccessful, surgical removal of lung abscesses may be required. In animals with severe breathing problems, supplemental oxygen may be required for up to a week. Even with treatment, animals with eye involvement may become permanently blind. Males with testicular involvement generally require castration. Early diagnosis improves the chance for survival.  About 20% of dogs may relapse and require a second course of treatment

Hyperthyroid Disease


Chances are, if you’ve had a few pets in your lifetime you have probably heard about the thyroid gland at least once.  You may have even had a pet or someone you know that required treatment for thyroid problems.

The thyroid is the largest of the endocrine glands.   It is shield shaped and located in the neck near the larynx or voice box.  The thyroid’s job is to secrete hormones which regulate growth and metabolism.  It also acts as a storehouse for iodine.  So when there is a problem with the thyroid gland we will often see significant changes throughout the body systems.

Cats are our most common hyperthyroid patient. We rarely ever see this problem in dogs.  As they age some cats, typically 6 years of age or older, will develop benign nodules on the thyroid which cause over secretion of thyroid hormones.  Hyperthyroidism caused from a cancerous growth is very rare in cats


When we see hyperthyroid cats in practice our owners will generally tell us that their pet is losing weight in spite of a ravenous appetite. Some cats may also be experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. Many will have concurrent signs of kidney disease and/or failure. Our typical hyperthyroid cat is thin, a bit cranky, a little unkempt and drinking and urinating more than normal.  When we listen to their heart we frequently note a rapid heart rate and possibly a murmur.  A blood pressure check often shows that the cat is hypertensive. If we palpate the pet’s neck we may feel an enlargement of the thyroid gland.


Laboratory tests are necessary to diagnose hyperthyroidism.  We need to be especially careful to check for any kidney and heart disease as well, since those problems often occur along with thyroid dysfunction.  Blood chemistry and urinalysis will help us detect signs of kidney disease.   Another blood test looks for a high T4 concentration.  Increased levels of this hormone are responsible for most of the troublesome signs we see. There are additional even more sensitive tests that are available if needed.  We may also suggest radiographs (X-Rays) and an ECG if heart disease is a concern


Hyperthyroidism is generally treated in one of three ways.

  1. Anti-thyroid drugs:  Methimazole is the most common drug prescribed for hyperthyroidism.  It can be given orally or applied directly to the skin in a transdermal preparation. Methimazole works by decreasing the amount of hormone produced.  It does not cure the underlying disease and must be given for the rest of your cat’s life.  Other drugs may be prescribed if there is concurrent heart disease.


  1. Radioiodine therapy is used to destroy thyroid tissue and is considered the gold standard of treatment.  It is safe for the pet but is not as readily available and does require in-patient treatment. However, most universities are able to perform radioiodine treatment.


  1. Thyroidectomy or removal of the thyroid gland itself is another effective treatment.  This method requires hospitalization as well.


All of the treatments discussed will require some level of follow up.

Hopefully this will aid you in recognizing hyperthyroid problems in your cat earlier should the disease develop.

 Next week we will discuss Hypothyroid disease.

Ways to Recognise Illness in Your Cat From Davenport, Iowa Veterinarian

The decrease in feline veterinary visits has us worried.   We love our cats but do not provide them with the same level of care that we do our dogs.  It’s true that cats are great at masking illness.  However,  by putting off a veterinary visit until your cat is seriously ill,  we  only make for greater expense for us and stress for our pet.  We all need to learn how to better recognise the signs of illness in cats, so this week we have decided to reprint a great article  from Pet Docs on Call covering  just this subject.


By Dr. Jen Mathis, Certified Veterinary Journalist and member of the Veterinary News Network received veterinary care in the past year.hadn’t”There are 82 million pet cats in the U.S., compared with 72 million dogs, making cats the most popular pet.  Yet studies show the number of feline veterinary visits is declining steadily each year. A 2007 industry survey revealed that compared with dogs, almost three times as many cats

Though there are many myths about cat health, the truth is, cats need regular veterinary care, including annual exams and vaccinations, just like dogs do. More importantly, because they are naturally adept at hiding signs of illness, annual exams can result in early diagnosis of health problems. Early diagnosis often results in longer quality life at less cost.

Boehringer Ingelheim is trying to help cat health by teaching about the 10 subtle signs of sickness in cats:

1. INAPPROPRIATE URINATION – At least 80% of the time this is a medical problem often associated with conditions ranging from kidney disease to arthritis. Behavior is the least likely cause.

2. CHANGES IN INTERACTION – Cats are social animals. Changes in their interaction often signal pain or anxiety.

3. CHANGES IN ACTIVITY – Medical conditions such as arthritis can produce a decrease in activity while an increase can signal a condition such as hyperthyroidism.

4. CHANGES IN SLEEPING HABITS – While cats sleep 16 to 18 hours a day, they usually should be quick to respond to someone walking into a room. Difficulty lying or rising is also a problem.

5. CHANGES IN FOOD AND WATER CONSUMPTION – Eating or drinking more or less can be signs of a range of underlying medical conditions.

6. WEIGHT LOSS OR GAIN – Weight changes in cats often go unnoticed because of their thick coats. It is not an expected part of aging, but rather a medical problem.

7. CHANGES IN GROOMING – A poor hair coat is a common sign of many medical conditions in cats.

8. SIGNS OF STRESS – Sudden lifestyle changes can cause stress in cats, resulting in symptoms such as decreased grooming to eating more frequently. These are also signs of illness, so sickness should be ruled out before stress issues are addressed.

9. CHANGES IN VOCALIZATION – An increase in crying or howling is common with older cats and can be caused by high blood pressure (leading cause of blindness), kidney problems, thyroid issues, stress or pain.

10. BAD BREATH– 70 percent of cats have gum disease as early as age 3. Pets are not supposed to have bad breath as it usually means infection. Since 2/3 of the tooth is under the gum-line, many cats have problems that can’t be seen without x rays. Dental problems cause kidney problems.

“Have we seen your cat lately?” If not, an exam may be just what your cat needs to help live a longer quality life! For more information, please check with your veterinarian!”

Animal Family’s Guide to Cat Weight loss

Weight Loss for Cats

How did my cat get so fat?

In theory, if an animal burns more calories than it takes in, weight loss should be the result.  After all, your cat can’t exactly raid the refrigerator at midnight.  Weight loss should be simple, right?  Perhaps but that doesn’t make it easy.

Problem #1: Cats are very thrifty when it comes to calories.  Their slow metabolic rate means that some cats can eat a relatively small amount and still get fat.

Did you know that 1 cup of maintenance is too much for the majority of cats?   Yet when we speak to many owners in our clinic we frequently hear that is what they are feeding. The truth is, many cats can actually get by on a 1/3 cup or less of food per day.

Problem #2: Most domesticated cats don’t do much. We keep them indoors and lazy.  They may move from room to room but any hunting they do consists of finding their food bowl  Even worse, if they eat a dry kibble, that food may contain 40% or more carbohydrates.  No wonder our cats are fat.

Conversely, a typical outdoor feral cat covers thousands of square feet of territory daily to find, capture and kill its own food.  Outdoor cats may eat up to 6 – 9 mice per day (about 180 -200 calories).  Even more important, a mouse diet is comprised mainly of water, protein and fat with very few carbohydrates.

So how much should I feed my cat?

Solution #1: Most of us have no idea how much our cat eats.  We just refill the bowl when it’s empty.  Try using a ¼ cup scoop to measure how much you’re currently feeding. This will give you a base to work from.

Dry Food Suggestions

  • If you are going to continue using the same diet try reducing the amount by 10 -15% to start with.
  • If you are changing to a dry weight loss diet, figure out how many calories your cat is receiving and decrease that amount by 10%.  You should be able to do this with the information on the bag but if you have trouble we can help out.
  • If you can’t figure out how much your pet is eating now, then make your diet change, measure accurately and move on from there.
  • DO NOT decrease calorie intake too fast on cats. They can develop fatty liver disease if weight loss occurs too quickly, which can be deadly.  1 % per week is a good goal for a cat. That is about 0.2 pounds per week on a 20 pound cat.  A dog can lose up to 2% per week.
  • Feed your cats separately if you have more than one.
  • Please work closely with your veterinarian to keep your cat safe and healthy while losing weight.

Canned Food Suggestions

  • One school of thought is that because canned food is high in protein and low in carbohydrates when compared to dry, it is also much closer to the birds and mice that cats were designed to eat. Furthermore, because cats are not really made to consume a high carbohydrate diet, dry foods can predispose them to develop diabetes. This is a valid theory but it is important to note that not all nutritionists agree with it.
  • If you would like to feed canned food, the average 6 ounce can contains 180-200 calories.  So one can per day would be a good starting point.
  • Research tells us that we can actually cut calories faster on a canned diet because of the higher protein level.  A good goal should be about 20 -25% in the beginning.  That amount can be adjusted if the cat does not lose weight.
  • In general, canned diets with gravy have higher carbohydrates and should be avoided.
  • If your cat won’t eat canned food then try a dry prescription diet which will generally be lower in carbohydrates than over the counter diets.

We like to start a discussion on behavior enrichment/calorie burning ideas for cats. Please join us on our Facebook and share your thoughts