Arthritis in Pets: What can be Done?

Susan G. Wynn DVM, RH (AHG)

Key points

  • Signs of osteoarthritis may be subtle and easy to miss
  • Early treatment is critical to slow progression of the disease
  • Maintaining lean body weight  is absolutely critical for arthritic patients
  • Newer concepts of arthritis management involve proper exercise to maintain muscle mass and decrease pain
  • Structure-modifying agents are most effective when started early and maintained long term
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs, acupuncture, and physical therapy may be recommended for later stages of the disease

Exactly what is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative disease that may affect any joint but is commonly found in a pet’s  hip, elbow, shoulder, stifle (knee) , carpus (wrist), hock (ankle) or intervertebral joints (in the spine).  It occurs when cartilage in the joint is damaged, either following a traumatic event or with wear and tear that increases in athletic animals, obese animals, or when the joint is congenitally abnormal.

Cartilage decreases joint stress by reducing impact on the ends of the bones in joints, like a gelatinous shock absorber.  When cartilage is damaged, a cascade of inflammatory changes occurs, eventually leading to destruction of the cartilage and subsequent damage to the underlying bone.  Cartilage contains no nerves – if your pet is showing any signs of pain, the damage and changes in underlying bone have already begun.

Signs of arthritis include:

  • Reluctance to take walks of usual length
  • Stiffness (that may disappear once the pet has ‘warmed up’)
  • Difficulty climbing stairs, climbing in the car, on the bed or a sofa
  • Difficulty rising from rest
  • Limping
  • Abnormal gait
  • Licking of a single joint
  • Acting withdrawn, spending less time playing with family (which is often misunderstood as a sign of ‘aging’)
  • Soreness when touched
  • Rarely, aggression when touched or approached

Exactly what can I do?

  • Weight Reduction: Ask your doctor about your pet’s body condition score (BCS), which should be normal (5/9) or slightly underweight (4/9).  If your pet is overweight, discuss a weight loss diet with your veterinarian.
  • Controlled Exercise:  Low-impact exercise is best; swimming or walking through shallow water is ideal.  Leash walking and controlled jogging are also acceptable.
  • Nutraceuticals:  Synergistic combinations of nutraceuticals such as glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate contain compounds that support cartilage structure, prevent further deterioration, suppress inflammation, and reduce free radical damage.
  • Injectable Chondroprotective Agent: Talk to your veterinarian about an injectable agent that may also help preserve cartilage in the joints.
  • Acupuncture and Massage: Both of these therapies may provide additional non-drug pain control.
  • Prescription Drugs: Drugs are available that can reduce inflammation and suppress pain in dogs with more advanced disease.  Side effects can be minimized by monitoring your dog’s blood work regularly.


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital


Rabbit Natural Behavior

Much of the information for this article came from a superb book called Why Does My Rabbit…? by Anne McBride (Souvenir Press, Revised edition September 1, 2003) who is an animal behaviorist. This is the finest and most complete book I have seen on rabbit behavior to date. It includes not only extensive background information on rabbits, but specific remedies for specific behavioral problems. I would highly recommend reading this book from cover to cover. It is available at some bookstores, veterinary clinics and online book sites.

Our pet rabbits are direct descendants of the wild European rabbits, which originally inhabited the area around Spain and Portugal. The scientific name Oryctolagus cuniculus means “hare-like digger” (an appropriate name if you ever had a rabbit take a liking to your carpet!). They were originally bred in captivity at least 3000 years ago as a source of food and fur. Not until the 19th century did “fancy” rabbit breeding become fashionable and thus the proliferation of the many shapes and sizes of rabbits we have today.

Rabbits were never bred primarily for behavioral characteristics – as dogs are – but rather for size and color. Therefore the behaviors we see in the domestic rabbit today vary little from their wild ancestors.

Rabbits are herbivorous prey animals, meaning they are low on the food chain and must be on the constant lookout for predators. Even though we don’t like to think about it, in nature they provide food for a whole host of other animals and thus have a prolific rate of reproduction. Thus the three main purposes of the prey animal are to stay alive, reproduce and eat enough to accomplish the first two purposes.

Twitching Nose – Part of the rabbit’s anatomical design is geared towards detecting and escaping predators. Even when rabbits are sleeping they must constantly be monitoring their environment for danger, hence the constant nose movement. As they wiggle their nose and pull in air they also part the split in the upper lip to moisturize the air and improve the ability to pick up scents.

Large Moveable Ears – Rabbits have a large ear surface area for two reasons. The most important is to allow more sound waves to be collected and thus detect potential danger in the area. The other reason, particularly in warm climates, is as a natural “air conditioner” for the body where heat can be released quickly. Rabbits will move their ears independently of each other to further maximize their hearing ability. Only the poor lop-eared rabbit, which of course was genetically altered by man, cannot use his ears in the proper manner.

Large Protruding Eyes – The position and size of the eyes allows excellent vision almost 360 degrees around the head. Rabbits cannot see well directly in front but together with smelling and hearing they can accurately pinpoint where danger is coming from.

Eating Patterns – Rabbits evolved to exist on a wide range of plant materials, including plants of low nutrient value to other animals. Therefore they were designed to be grazing a good portion of the day, which means they may have to travel some distance to obtain food. During any eating behavior, a rabbit will periodically raise its head to scan the area with all its senses, which gives rabbits a “nervous” look when eating.

McBride describes three types of eating behaviors that agree with my own observations of rabbits. Casual feeding is when the rabbit is feeding in a “safe” area such as near the burrow and is comprised of relaxed nibbling here and there. Voracious feeding is when the rabbit is feeding rapidly on anything in sight in a straight line as quickly as possible. It is suggested that this feeding may be seen when there is bad weather or danger that precludes the rabbit being out very long to feed. Normal feeding is what would be seen most regularly within a rabbit’s established territory consisting of a zigzag pattern where there is selection of only the tastiest food items.

Rabbits tend to defecate as they are eating, particularly with the casual or normal patterns. These waste droppings then fertilize the area and keep things growing!

Digging – The European rabbit lived in interconnected burrows called warrens so the main reason for digging is to create a safe place to hide, sleep and reproduce. McBride also describes a second reason for digging, which is to produce a horseshoe-shaped depression called a scrape. The scrape may provide a place to roll in dry earth or it may be where a food item was uncovered. However, she concludes that the most common reason is to provide a place for male rabbits to make small deposits of feces to mark their territory, acting as she states, “like a billboard at the side of an open highway.”

Jumping – Although jumping is not a part of normal locomotion for the rabbit it can be essential when there is a need to escape from danger. A rabbit running for her life can leap not only over obstacles, but also straight up into the air and then twist around so she lands going a totally different direction, thus throwing the predator off guard.

Vocalization – Since rabbits are prey animals they by necessity do not want to draw attention to themselves with a lot of noise. Therefore most of their vocalizations are quiet. Content rabbit noises might include a low purring sound, soft clicking, or slow, quiet grinding of the teeth. Aggressive noises include grunts, growls and loud teeth grinding. Pain and fear can be expressed also by loud teeth grinding. Rabbits have a piercing scream that is given out only when the animal is in extreme fear or pain. It is so startling that is likely serves to shock the predator into hesitating long enough for the rabbit to get away, or as a warning to other rabbits in the area.

Scent Marking – Rabbits can use their feces to mark their territory and to communicate with other rabbits. In addition rabbits of both sexes have scent glands under their chin. They will mark important items in their territory, including other rabbits, with the clear secretion from this gland, which is undetectable to humans but interesting to other rabbits.

Urine – There are two methods by which rabbits urinate. One is simply to empty the bladder in a normal position. The other is lifting the hindquarters and spraying urine on a vertical surface. Most often spraying is done by intact male rabbits to mark another male rabbit or during courtship proceedings with a female rabbit. Animals neutered before or shortly after sexual maturity do not usually spray urine.

Visual Communication – As McBride points out, visual communication is not a large part of rabbit communication. However there are certain postures that are significant.

Body Language

A relaxed rabbit will lie either on his side or belly with the hind legs stretched out or alternatively squat down on the ground with the ears folded against the head.

A submissive rabbit makes himself look small by crouching as flat as possible and staying still, but the eyes still look fairly relaxed and not tense. A fearful rabbit will look similar to the submissive rabbit but the eyes will look tense and “bugged out,” and the body and ears will be pressed tightly in a downward fashion so as to appear invisible to the predator. When a rabbit encounters something distasteful but not necessarily dangerous in his environment, he will shake his head. (Of course constant shaking of the head most often is a medical problem.)

And we all know that when a rabbit thumps the ground energetically, he is warning other rabbits of danger. He will then dash off with the white underside of the tail raised as a warning signal to all rabbit buddies within sight.

Have fun with your bunny and enjoy the species you have chosen to take into your home. We are lucky to be able to share our space with a creature that is in reality little changed from its wild ancestors, but has adapted to life with us crazy humans in spite of it all!


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital

Litter Box Care Guidelines

House-soiling, inappropriate urination/defecation, spraying. A cat’s use of locations other than the litter box comes under many names. Why do our cats do this? First and foremost, it is critical to ensure that there is no medical component to the behavior. Urinary tract-related disease can lead to death in less than 48 hours. The diseases are painful and debilitating.

Consult your veterinarian IMMEDIATELY if house-soiling commences. Waiting to see what happens could mean the difference between life and death. Once your veterinarian assesses the cat for health problems, discussions about diets and behavioral problems can follow. Many times, the veterinarian will identify multiple factors contributing to the problem, including medical, diet and behavioral problems. We are here to work with you and your cat to resolve these concerns.

Litter-Box Care

Location Location Location
Provide more than one location in the household for litter boxes. Consider having one on each floor if space allows. Avoid moving boxes around.

Depth Matters
Experiment with different depths of litter. Most cats prefer 1-1.5 inch depth while others may prefer deeper litter. Add a new litter box if attempting to try different litter depths (or types). Try not to alternate the litter depth or type within existing litter boxes. Take note of which litter boxes get used the most and choose that depth of litter for the majority of the boxes.

Negative Associations
Keep litter boxes away from rooms that contain noisy equipment such as furnaces or washing machines. The noises may frighten the cat. Avoid administering medications or doing anything unpleasant to your cat while they are in the litter box or litter box area.

Don’t Soil Where You Eat
Keep food and water dishes in a separate room or more than 5 feet away from the litter boxes. Cats are fastidious by nature and do not favor a soiled box. In the wild, they have endless location options in which to do their business. How can we expect them to walk in a pile of old feces and urine clumps?

Litter-Box Criteria

Feline behavior specialists have comprised a list of litter-box criteria based on studies demonstrating what is preferable to cats:
Number of Boxes
Provide one litter box per household cat PLUS one additional box. For example, a household with three cats should have four litter boxes.

Scented or Unscented
Use unscented clumping litter. Most cats prefer this texture best next to sandbox sand. Scented litters can be unpleasant and even painful to cats, since their sense of smell is significantly more sensitive than a human’s.

Clay Versus Other
While some cats will tolerate some of the newer ‘natural’ types of litters (corn, wheat, etc.), they are generally not preferred and will not be tolerated in instances where the cat is unwell or experiencing anxiety/stress.

Size Matters
Provide large size litter boxes that the cats are comfortable moving around in. Some older, arthritic cats may prefer boxes with LOW walls or a low door cut in the box. Climbing over the high walls may be painful.

Keep it Open
Remove covers from most or all of the litter boxes. Most cats do not feel comfortable in a covered box.

Keep it Clean
Scoop litter once to twice daily. More often is best. Empty out the litter tray once every one to two weeks. Clean the litter box with a mild detergent, rinse well, and dry well before adding new litter.


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital

Kidney Disease in Reptiles

Brad Lock, DVM, DACZM

Kidney (renal) disease is a frequently diagnosed condition in captive reptiles, especially in lizards and tortoises. Kidney failure may be acute or chronic, and both types can occur at any age. Acute renal failure most often is due to an infection or toxins, including environmental toxins and medications. Chronic kidney failure is typically a result of improper husbandry and diet; causes include low humidity, long-term water deprivation or low-grade dehydration, a high-protein diet, and excessive vitamin D supplementation. Non-infectious causes are much more common than infectious ones.

The signs that a reptile might have kidney disease are often nonspecific and for that reason, the majority of reptiles are not taken to the veterinarian until the problem is advanced. Not wanting to eat, lethargy, and sunken eyes are early signs. A foul or unusual odor may be noticed at more advanced stages. A white sheen may be seen in the mouth. The eyes may look blood-shot and vessels can be easily seen in the whites. In really advanced cases, the tip of the tail, fingers or toes may begin to die and thus turn a different color. The color changes because the small blood vessels have reduced function and the blood supply is lessened so the tissues die. Commonly, reptiles with advanced kidney disease will vomit or regurgitate if force fed.

Bladder stones are commonly seen in many tortoise species and lizards with bladders. The bladder stones are associated with dehydration and kidney disease. There is no single sign that indicates a tortoise or lizard has a bladder stone. Some tortoises may lose their appetites; others may simply be less active. More serious signs are straining to defecate, or failure to do so. Pregnant females may repeatedly dig nests and strain to lay eggs without success. Some tortoises and lizards appear paralyzed or weak in their hind limbs, or they may walk with a limp on one or both sides, a sign sometimes described as a wheelbarrow gait.

Chronic dehydration is thought to be one of the most common underlying causes of developing kidney disease in captive reptiles. The water bowl may be too small for some species; swimming and soaking in the water may be beneficial for reptiles such as green water dragons and green iguanas. Sometimes water isn’t given in the appropriate manner; an anole (Anolis carolinensis) drinks droplets and may not drink from a bowl. Arboreal reptiles such as panther chameleons (Furcifer pardalis) and emerald tree boas (Corallus caninus) may become dehydrated if you rely entirely on automatic drip systems or foggers rather than taking the time to watch that they drink. People often misjudge how much water desert reptiles need, or do not recognize the impact of their local conditions on their reptiles. For example, pet bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) and leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius) do well in humid Florida without “moisture retreats” or weekly soaks in shallow water baths. If that same approach is used in arid Arizona, those lizards will become dehydrated.

A poor thermal environment is often implicated in developing kidney disease. If the reptile is too cold or the room is too dry (often from air conditioning or heating), its kidney metabolism may be slower than needed to move uric acid out of the kidney and into the bladder.

Over-supplementation with powders containing vitamin D3, especially if provided to animals that are housed outdoors, may lead to high blood calcium that can cause mineralization of tissues, including the kidneys. Mineralization of the kidney can lead to reduced function and renal disease.

Malnutrition or poor diet is implicated in kidney disease. Vitamin A deficiency leads to changes in the kidney cells, which leads to decreased function and disease. A diet that has inappropriately high levels of protein, such as feeding animal protein to an herbivorous tortoise, will predispose the reptile to prolonged high levels of uric acid in the blood; that high level of uric acid may cause it to fall out into tissues, causing gout.

If the water bowl is not cleaned and disinfected frequently, a reptile may be forced to drink and bathe in feces-contaminated water. This is likely a major factor in infectious causes of kidney disease.

Affected Species

Any species of reptile can develop kidney disease, and there doesn’t seem to be any age or particular sex that is more likely to have it.

Any species of tortoise may develop bladder stones as it is thought that renal disease may lead to bladder stone formation, and bladder stones can cause ascending infections of the kidneys due to retained fluids in the bladder. However, desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii and G. morafkai) and African spurred tortoises (Centrochelys sulcata) seem to account for the majority of cases of bladder stones; leopard tortoises (Stigmochelys pardalis) are a distant third. Bladder stones have been found in juvenile tortoises fewer than 2 inches (5 cm) in length. Bladder stones are also seen commonly in green iguanas.


Your veterinarian will start by taking a thorough medical history and give a physical examination. Expect detailed husbandry questions on temperatures, humidity, diet and water features (water bowl size, how often cleaned). However, because there are few signs that directly point to kidney disease, your veterinarian will likely want to run some blood tests to look at kidney values and x-rays to look for bladder stones.

In some cases, kidney disease will cause the kidney to get bigger; they may get big enough so that your veterinarian can feel them. In lizards, the enlargement can be felt just in front of the pelvis. In snakes, it may be felt in the back third of the body. Large chelonians and lizards may have large kidneys detected with a digital cloacal exam (much like giving a dog a rectal exam). Most reptiles with enlarged kidneys are constipated because the kidneys block the pelvic canal and reduce or prevent feces and urine from passing through.

Other signs that your reptile may have kidney disease that your veterinarian might notice include weakness; lying on the table rather than sitting in an alert and erect posture; bad breath (not yours, your reptile’s!); and dehydration causing sunken eyes and thick ropy mucus in the mouth.

A bladder stone may be felt in those reptiles that have bladders (e.g., green iguana, tortoises) or as a hard object in the colon (e.g., chameleons, bearded dragons). Bladder stones, especially in tortoises, can be hard to feel, so your veterinarian may want to take X-rays or do an ultrasound. Those imaging tests may show large kidneys, bladder stones, or impaction of the colon. Mineralization of the tissues ―another sign of kidney disease―may be detected on X-rays as well.

The blood tests checking the calcium, phosphorus (especially the calcium/phosphorous ratio), and potassium levels can indicate how well the kidney is working. If the calcium and phosphorous are abnormal enough, this may be seen by your veterinarian as a white sheen in mouth tissues. The levels of potassium protein, uric acid, red blood cells and other enzymes in the blood may indicate that your reptile has kidney disease. In some cases, your veterinarian may want to do a urine test to look for abnormalities such as white blood cells, red blood cells, or parasites that would indicate kidney disease.

In some cases, your veterinarian may want to get a kidney biopsy to see how advanced the kidney disease is and be able to give you a prognosis for treatment success.


Because there are many causes and degrees of kidney disease, your veterinarian will discuss and recommend treatments based on your reptile’s situation. In general, the initial treatments are focused on first stabilizing your reptile, and then long-term treatment will be focused on husbandry changes and possibly long-term medications as well. Initial stabilization usually involves intensive fluid therapy (fluids may be given by mouth, but more commonly will be given by injection) to rehydrate the reptile. Fluid therapy is critical as increased levels of uric acid can result in a condition known as gout. Articular gout occurs when uric acid crystals deposit in the joints and can cause lameness and swelling. Visceral gout occurs when uric acid crystals are deposited in organs such as liver, kidneys, spleen, and/or lungs, and can result in various clinical signs depending on the organs involved. Most kidney infections are treatable, so your reptile may need a course of antibiotics. If left untreated, the kidney infection can be fatal.

Mid and long-term management of reptiles in renal failure is focused on improvement and modifications to the husbandry, such as the thermal environment, adequate hydration, and a diet that provides a small amount of high-quality protein with low levels of potassium and phosphorus. To maintain hydration, your veterinarian may recommend providing a large water bowl for soaking and swimming, as well as you actively soaking the reptile rather than leaving it up to your pet.

Typically, a reptile will show improvement within 5 to 7 days of fluid therapy, although sometimes it may take 2 to 3 weeks. Reptiles that continue to appear depressed following a few days of fluids therapy carry a poor prognosis. Even with aggressive management, it is unlikely for a reptile to live longer than 6 months once diagnosed with advanced kidney failure. There is no data available on mild cases as too few reptiles have been diagnosed early enough for long-term studies.

It is important to realize that kidney failure is usually a manageable disease, but if significant damage to the kidneys has already occurred, there are no quick fixes and treatment may be required for the rest of your pet’s life. Patients with chronic renal failure can survive for variable lengths of time depending on the specific cause. After a diagnosis, your veterinarian will recommend whatever treatment is believed to be best for your pet and will give you a more specific prognosis.


Once a reptile has recovered from acute kidney failure and is doing well, your veterinarian may suggest routine health screenings and annual wellness visits. For those with chronic renal failure, your veterinarian may want to see your pet in more often for blood work to monitor the calcium-to-phosphate ratio and uric acid levels, and for routine x-rays.


Providing your reptile with appropriate husbandry for the species is the mainstay of preventing kidney disease. Green iguanas are an example of a species that commonly develops renal failure because they are often kept in a perfect storm of pitfalls leading to dehydration and kidney disease: cage humidity under 80 percent relative humidity; a water bowl too small and/or not cleaned often enough; temperatures that are often too low; and a diet high in dried materials like pellets or biscuits, and/or includes animal protein like dog or cat food. (While green iguanas do eat some animal matter as neonates, adult green iguanas almost entirely eat leaves.)

For tortoises and green iguanas that commonly develop bladder stones, your veterinarian may recommend regular X-ray screening as part of the diagnostic work-up on any ill tortoise or iguana, as well as part of the annual preventive medicine program for these species.

As a general rule, kidney infection (pyelonephritis) has a fair prognosis if caught early and treated appropriately. Reptiles can have infections that do not lead to kidney failure; there are also other causes of kidney failure, such as dehydration. However, once the kidney has been irreparably damaged, making the reptile more comfortable is possible, but a full recovery is unlikely. Reptiles with kidney disease that have elevated phosphorus, elevated potassium, and an inverse calcium to phosphorus ratio carry a guarded prognosis, and will require significant care to be given a chance to recover. If no improvement is seen in 5 to 7 days once treatments begin, the prognosis is poor.


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital

10 Most Common Illnesses for Cats

Cats may have nine lives, but you want to make sure kitty hangs on to all of them for as long as she can. No matter how much love and care you give your furry companion, things happen. But by knowing how to recognize the most common conditions affecting cats, you may just be able to save your pet’s life.

10. Hyperthyroidism. The most likely cause of hyperthyroidism is a benign tumor on the thyroid gland, which will cause the gland to secrete too much of the hormone. Take your cat to the vet if it starts drinking and peeing a lot, shows aggressive and jittery behavior, suddenly seems hyperactive, vomits and/or loses weight while eating more than usual.

Treatment depends on other medical conditions but can range from using drugs to regulate the overactive gland, surgical removal of the gland, and even radioactive treatment to destroy the tumor and diseased thyroid tissue.


9. Upper Respiratory Virus. If your kitty is sneezing, sniffling, coughing, has runny eyes or nose, seems congested and has mouth and nose ulcers, chances are it has an upper respiratory virus. The two main forms of the virus are the feline herpesvirus and calicivirus. Once at the vet’s office, the cat may receive nose drops, eye ointments and antibacterial medication, especially if it has a secondary infection.


8. Ear Infection. Ear infections in cats have many causes. These might include mites, bacteria, fungi, diabetes, allergies and reactions to medication; some breeds are also more susceptible to ear infections than others. So it’s definitely a good idea to have your kitty checked if it’s showing symptoms such as ear discharge, head shaking, swollen ear flaps, stinky ears and ultra sensitivity to ears being touched. Treatment, of course, depends on the cause, but will include eardrops, ear cleaning, ear and oral medications and in severe cases, surgery.


7. Colitis/Constipation. Colitis is a fancy word for inflammation of the large intestine. While the most obvious sign of colitis is diarrhea, sometimes it will hurt the cat to poop. Thus, in trying to hold it in, the cat may develop constipation.

There are many causes of colitis, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, allergies and parasites, among other diseases. Signs include straining to poop, lack of appetite, dehydration and vomiting. Your vet will test for the underlying cause and treat it accordingly. This may include a more fiber-rich diet, de-worming, antibiotics, laxatives and/or fluids.


6. Diabetes. Like humans, cats suffer from diabetes, too, though this is usually seen in older, overweight cats. Symptoms include increased thirst and peeing, peeing outside the litter box, lethargy and depression.

While causes of feline diabetes are not really known, there is a link with diabetes and being overweight. Treatment, therefore, includes daily health monitoring, diet changes, exercise, and depending on the cat’s needs, either daily oral medications or injections.


5. Skin Allergies. Kitties, like you, are known to suffer from allergies, although their allergies show on the skin. If your cat scratches, or chews on its skin a lot, has a rash or loses hair in patches, a trip to the vet is a good idea.

Causes of skin allergies vary from reactions to food, fleas, pollens, mites, and even mold and mildew. Treatments may include allergy shots, diet changes, medication and antihistamines.


4. Intestinal Inflammation/Diarrhea. Diarrhea is a sure sign of an intestinal inflammation. It affects either the cat’s small or large intestine and may due to a variety of factors, including diet changes, eating contraband foodstuffs, allergies, bacteria overgrowth, worms and even kidney disease.

Symptoms include diarrhea, lack of appetite and vomiting. A visit to your vet will sort out the cause, and treatment may include hydration therapy, a bland diet, dietary changes and anti-diarrhea medications.


3. Renal Failure. This is a serious condition, which is common in older cats. While the underlying causes are not yet understood, recent research suggests a link with distemper vaccinations and long-term dry food diets. Make sure you request blood tests on your regular wellness checkups, since symptoms often don’t show up until 75 percent of the kidney tissue is damaged.

The main symptom is excessive thirst and peeing, but the cat may also show signs of drooling, jaw-clicking, and ammonia-scented breath. While it’s not curable, renal failure (when not severe) can be managed through diet, drugs and hydration therapy. Kidney transplants and dialysis can also be used.


2. Stomach Upsets (Gastritis). An inflammation of the cat’s stomach lining is simply referred to as gastritis. This condition may be mild or severe, but regardless of its type, make sure you bring your cat to visit the vet if it doesn’t show improvement in a day or two, or if the symptoms are severe.

Gastritis has many causes, from eating spoiled food to eating too fast to allergies or bacterial infections. If your cat is vomiting, belching, has a lack of appetite or bloodstained poop or diarrhea, a visit to the vet will help straighten things out. Treatments depend on the cause, but generally include medication, fluid therapy and even antibiotics.


1. Lower Urinary Tract Disease. Coming in at No. 1, lower urinary tract disease can turn very quickly into a life-threatening illness for your cat, especially if there’s a blockage caused by crystals, stones or plugs. When total blockage occurs, death can occur within 72 hours if left untreated.

Therefore, whisk your cat off to the vet or emergency center ASAP if you see any of the following signs: peeing outside of the litter box, straining, blood in urine, crying out while attempting to pee, not being able to pee, excessive licking of genitals, not eating or drinking, yowling while moving and lethargy. These signs will generally occur regardless if the urinary tract disease is due to stones, infection or urethral plugs. Treatment includes catheterizing to drain the bladder, medication to dissolve stones or blockages, and in recurring cases, surgery.


Southern Hills Animal Hospital
3827 Hite St. SW
Roanoke, VA 24014-2377
Southern Hills Animal Hospital

How to Travel with a Cat


The very first rule of traveling with your cat is to have an ID tag or other means of identification securely affixed to the kitty. Thousands of dogs and cats end up in shelters simply because the owners never dreamed the pet would get loose or become lost while on a trip. There are few disasters in a person’s life that are worse than having to drive off without a pet because all means of locating and recovery have failed.  This kind of tragedy will haunt you for the rest of your life; don’t let it happen. Get an ID tag, or at the very least microchip your cat!

Before you leave make sure you consider the option of leaving your cat in a hometown boarding facility  Many are just for cats and do not board dogs. Others have the cats well away from any sight, sound or smell of a canine. In fact, go and visit your local boarding facility and see what goes on there. Continue reading