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Other Useful Feline Information

Choosing the Best Nutrition for Your Pet

Superior nutrition is as critical for pets as it is for people. It is important that your pet receives the benefit of a scientifically bases diet for optimal health. With so many different options available, choosing the right food for your dog or cat can be a challenge.

A nutritional expert was recently quoted as saying, "there are three things that can influence how long your pet will live: heredity, environment, and nutrition. The one that owners can influence most is what they choose to feed their pet." Your veterinary team is the best source for accurate information about nutrition for your pet. We have your pet's medical history and can work with you in choosing the appropriate diet, the amounts to feed, and can monitor your pet's response to their new diet.

Our veterinarians, registered veterinary technicians, and support staff are continously updating their knowledge of diets and nutrition. The diets we recommend are produced in processing facilities that have advanced safety standards and have had feeding trials performed. Feeding trials are the gold standard to determine how a pet will perform when fed a specific food.

Do not be misled by marketing tools that have no science or testing behind them. Recently there has been an influx of "natural", "organic", or "holistic" doc and cat foods to choose from. Unfortunately, most people are not aware of the lack of science behind these claims.

For example:

Organic - There is a myth that the terms natural and organic are interchangeable. This is not true. True organic foods must comply with Agri-Food Canada's very strict regulations. This is an expensive process and there are few if any truly organic pet foods available.

Natural -The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulates pet food in the USA, but unfortunately in Canada this is only used as a guideline, and is not a requirement.

Holistic - There is no legal definition of this term in pet foods. Any manufacturer can make claims of "holistic" in their literature (including web sites) regardless of diet content. Unfortunately it means nothing.

Human Grade - Claims that a product contains ingredients that are human-grade quality. It can be a misleading term since there is no policing of pet food content to ensure this is in fact so.

Things to consider when choosing a new diet:

Ingredients - Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Generally meats are listed first as they contain a lot of water and therefore weight more. The ingredient list is not nearly as important as the quality and nutritional value of each individual ingredient.

Guaranteed Analysis - This is the list of ingredients on the side of the bag of food provided as a guide to consumers. It is virtually impossible to compare foods by using the guaranteed analysis. It is the nutritional value of each ingredient blended together that delivers a product specific for a pet's age or condition. You could do a guaranteed analysis on an old leather boot that would compare to the guaranteed analysis of some pet foods. Obviously an old leather boot is not a digestible item, but unfortunately digestibility is not listed on the label.

"All" Life Stage Diets - Although they sound convenient, most of these diets are formulated for puppies since they have the highest nutritional requirements. However a diet like this should not be used for mature or senior dogs, as they can be dangerously high in protein if an older dog is starting to have kidney trouble, and are also not properly balanced in calories and minerals.

By Products - Foods that list by-products are not necessarily inferior products. By-products are commonly used in both human and pet foods and can include nutrient rich organ meats, ground bones, skin, and some meat. It does not include beaks, feet, and feathers as some people are led to believe. By-products are simply ingredients produced in the making of something else (i.e. when Vitamin E is extracted from soybeans the soybean meal that is left over is a highly nutritious by-product.)

Formulated vs. Feeding Trials - If a pet food label states that the food is "formulated" for a specific life stage it indicates that it is unlikely to have had a feeding trial done. Feeding trials are the Gold Standard for determining nutritional adequacy; therefore we sell only foods that have had feeding trials done i.e. veterinary diets made by Royal Canin and Hills.

The Corn Myth and Grain Free Diets - Recently foods with corn as a carbohydrate ingredient have been getting negative reviews. It is important to know that corn, as it is provided in high quality foods such as the veterinary Royal Canin diet is one of the best sources of grain protein, omega fatty acids, and antioxidants. Corn causes no more allergies in pets than other grains. Grains can be an excellent source of nutrition for omnivores like dogs. Grain free diets that are marketed frequently use potatoes as their source of carbohydrate, since carbohydrates are a necessary component of a well-balanced canine diet.

Safety - The veterinary diets that we recommend, Royal Canin and HIlls, have a very rigorous screening requirement to assure the safety and quality of their ingredients. Royal Canin diets use a high tech spectrophotometer to test each ingredient before they are allowed to enter the plant. A recent study indicated that little has been done to improve the safety of many other pet foods on the Canadian market.

Raw Diets - There has been an abundance of unsubstantiaed information regarding alternative foods available for pets on the internet and other sources. However, pet owners should be aware of the facts if they are considering an alternative food for their pets:

A - there is no scientific data to support beliefs commonly held by raw food supporters (bones and raw food); that feeding raw is "better" for your pet.

B - some raw food recipes contain excessive or insufficient levels of protein, calcium, and phosphorus.

C - raw foods pose a potential hazard for food poisoning and bacterial (salmonella) contamination for both humans and animals. Pets eating raw food can become carriers of these deadly bacteria and can accidentally transmit them to children, the elderly, or any person with a poor immune system, sometimes with very seriosu consequences.

D - in one study 90% of homemade diets were found to be nutritionally unbalanced.

E - bones can cause intestinal blockage and fractured teeth

Cost - A lot of people believe that veterinary diets are more expensive than pet store foods. This is often not the case. Ask us about cost per day and feeding amounts. Many of our diets are comporable to and in some cases cheaper than pet store diets.

Prescription Diets - We may recommend a specific veterinary diet for your pet depending on their medical diagnosis (i.e. pancreatitis, lower urinary tract disease.) In these cases please strictly follow your veterinarian's diet recommendations. Do not be tempted by pet store or grocery store brands that claim to do what a veterinary prescription diet can do. Since there is no policing of pet store foods in Canada, often these diets have not had any feeding trials done to prove that they do what they claim.

Why are Royal Canin Veterinary diets our number one recommendation?

We have made Royal Canin Veterinary diets our number one recommendation for a number of reasons.

  • All Royal Canin Veterinary diets have undergone feeding trials

  • Ingredients are of excellent quality

  • Safety standards are unsurpassed

  • All of their diets are manufactured at their plant in Guelph, Ontario and 60% of their ingredients are purchased from Canadian farms

  • Several of our staff have visited the Royal Canin plant to assure ourselves that Royal Canin Veterinary dits are produced with pristine quality control measures and with outstanding science based nutritional content.

We were very happy with the dedication the Royal Canin Veterinary diet team demonstrated in fulfilling our requirements and since this visit have used Royal Canin as our trusted primary veterinary diet provider.

We believe that proper nutrition for your pet from their baby to their senior years is of vital importance. We know you want to provide superior nutrition for your pet, and encourage you to ask an of our team members if you have questions regarding diet.

Please let us help you keep your pet healthy and happy!

"Let food be your first medicine" - Hippocrates

Understanding Diabetes

The cells of the body require a sugar known as glucose for food and they depend on the bloodstream to bring glucose to them. Cells cannot absorb and utilize glucose without a hormone known as insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas.

In a diabetic animal the cells cannot receive the glucose from the blood because there is no insulin to help it into the cell. Becasue the glucose cannot get into the cell, the animal ends up with increased glucose in the blood stream (or high blood sugar).

So why is this important? If the hungry cells can't use glucose, the body will start to break down fat, stored staraches and protein to use instead. Fat requires different processing that can lead to the production of ketones rather than glucose. Ketones are another type of fuel that the body can use in a pinch but the detection of ketones indicates that something is wrong. When ketone bodies are burned for fuel, pH and electrolyte imbalances occur and the patient's life is at risk. This is a condition called ketoacidosis and is one of the most extreme complications of diabetes that can be experienced, requiring immediate hospitalization and supportive care.

Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes:

In humans, diabetes is broken down into two forms: Type 1 referred to as juvenile onset (or insulin dependent) diabetes and type 2 adult onset (or non-insulin dependent) diabetes respectively.

Type 1 is the type where the pancreas produces no insulin at all; canine diabetes is more like Type 1.

In Type 2, the pancreas produces some insulin but not enough; feline diabetes is more like Type 2. This might suggest that cats can get away without insulin injections but that is not the case at all. Instead, for cats, there is potential for the diabetes to actually resolve if the pancreas improves its insulin-secreting ability. Insulin injections are needed to treat most diabetic cats. Good glucose control and proper diet can resolve the diabetes in some lucky cats, but virtually never in diabetic dogs.

Signs of diabetes mellitus:

  • Weight Loss

  • Excessive eating

  • Excessive drinking

  • Excessive urination

Normally the kidneys prevent glucose loss into the urine; in a diabetic, there is so much glucose in the blood that the kidney is overwhelmed and glucose spills into the urine. Glucose also draws water along with it into the urine. Tis is what leads to excess urine production and thirst to keep up with the fluid loss.

Allt he sugar in the urine also makes the bladder an excellent incubator for bacteria, so another common symptom is urinary tract infections. For this reason, a urinalysis and urine culture may be performed upon diagnosing diabetes.


What do cataracts have to do with diabetes?

Many diabetic dogs can develop cataracts and go blind. A cataract is an opacity in the lens of the eye. The entire lens may be involved or just a part of it. The patient will not be able to see through the opacity. The lens absorbs glucose from the eye fluids, using most of this for its own energy needs. Some of the excess is converted to another sugar called sorbitol.When there is excses sugar in eye fluids, excess sorbitol is produced. Sorbitol pulls water into the lens, which in turn disrupts lens clarity and causes the cataract. Generally the cataract will mature and the dog can become blind in a matter of weeks if the diabetes is not controlled. Cataract surgery is available, however your dog's diabetes must be well regulated before surgery is considered and could require referral to an opthalmologist.

How do we diagnose diabetes?

It is usually fairly clear form the history and tests showing dramatic glucose elevation in the blood and urine. We also do a blood test called a fructosamine level. This test reflects an average blood glucose level over the past several weeks so if this is also elevated, a one-time elevated glucose (that can be stress related) can be distinguished from the persistent elevations of true diabetes mellitus. This test is also used in monitoring, so getting a baseline value is important in order to track the pet's improvement.

How do we treat diabetes?

You will need to learn how to give your pet injections of insulin, likely twice daily following a meal. Some situations require that your pet be hospitalized for a few days for the inital regulation. It often takes several dose selections and several series of blood tests before the right dose is determined. Some animals can be stabilized quickly, and some can be quite difficult to stabilize. Diet choice and weight control are also extremely important in treating diabetes.

Canine Diet: High fiber diets, such as Royal Canin Diabetic and Royal Canin Gastro Intestinal Fiber Response, help to blunt the increase in blood sugar levels that occur after eating, delays the emptying of food from the stomach, and slows the digestion of carbohydrates (glucose sources). If overweight, fiber also helps the patient feel full after eating, thus encouraging weight loss.

Feline Diet: The chocice for cats is a low carbohydrate, high protein diet, such as Royal Canin Diabetic. These diets promote weight loss in obese diabetics and are available in both canned and dry formulations.

Avoid semi-moist diets as sugars are used as preservatives.

Avoid breads and sweet treats.

The goal in long term management of diabetes is the alleviation of unpleasant clinical signs (constant thirst, weight loss, etc.) and prevention of dangerous secondary conditions (infections, ketoacidosis, etc.).

How do we monitor our diabetic patients?

Blood tests, blood glucose curves, urinalysis and fructosamine levels are used to monitor control of your pet's diabetic condition.

Never alter the insulin dose recommended by your veterinarian unless you call in first. To determine whether dose adjustments are needed (or if a different type of insulin is more appropriate), your pet will need a glucose curve where blood sugar levels are monitored every 2-4 hours or so for 12-25 hours.

Some pets can be difficult to regulate and require frequent monitoring, especially upon initial diagnosis. There may be an underlying reason for this, such as improper administration of insulin, rapid insulin metabolism, insulin overdose, steroid administration, or other concurrent disease.

Insulin Handling and Administration:

Insulin syringes are marked in insulin units so the insulin syringes must match the insulin concentrations (either U-100 syringes for 100 unit/cc insulins or U-40 syringes for 40 unit/cc insulins).

Do not use insulin past the expiration date.

Do not use insulin that has been frozen, or left out of the fridge for more than 24 hours.

DO not expose insulin to direct light or heat.

How to give injections?

First, feed your cat/dog. The blood sugar of a cat/dog that has not eaten a normal meal but receives insulin may drop to a dangerously low level. It is easiest to adminster the injection towards the end of the pets meal, when you are certain they will happily still finish the meal. The pet is then distracted by the food and giving the injection is easier.

Before drawing up the insulin in a syringe, gently roll the bottle back and forth in your palms so that the white material on the bottom is mixed in to the rest of the solution. Do not shake the bottle as the insulin molecule can be damaged.

When drawing up the insulin, always hold the bottle vertically upside down to avoid unnecessary bubbles in the syringe. Since insulin is being given under the skin, bubbles are not an enormous problem as it would be with an intravenous injectino but we still want to minimzie bubbles. If you get bubbles in the syringe, flick the syringe with your fingers until the bubbles rise to the top and then siply push the air out of the syringe with the plunger.

After you have the insulin dose ready in the syringe, it is time to get your pet. Be sure you can trust your dog or cat to hold reasonably still for the injection. Most dogs do not require a second person to hold them still, but some dogs are rambunctious and a helper is necessary. If you have such a pet but no helper, consider tying a short leash around a piece of furniture. Use a slipknot in case of a choking emergency. Rarely dogs can be uncooperative and may require a muzzle. Most cats will easily allow an injection while they arefinishing their food.

Lift up a fold of skin, ideally along the side of the body. This will create a small space for the needle. Insert the needle into this space pull back to ensure you are not in a blood vessel and inject the insulin. Withdraw the syringe and needle when you are finished.

Symptoms that indicate my diabitec pet needs to return for a recheck:

  • Lethargy

  • Losing weight

  • Ravenous appetite or loss of appetite

  • Drinkingurinating excessively

  • Disoriented/groggy/staring

  • Seizures

What else do I need to do for my diabetic pet?

It is important for diabetic pets to have their teeth cleaned annually. Dental tartar seeds the body with bacteria and when blood sugar levels run high, infections in important organs can take root. The kidneys are particularly vulnerable.

If blood glucose drops:

Sometimes, especially early on in the treatment of your pet's diabetes, there may be too big a drop in your pet's blood glucose. This can be due to too high an insulin dosage, or ab ig bout of exercise. your pet may seem disoriented or shaky and may even seizure. This is an emergency and your pet needs to see a veterinarian immediately. This is also why it is a good idea to carry a syringe of corn syrup around with you if you take your diabetic dog for a walk. If your dog seems to start showing any unusual signs then it is safe to carefully give the contents of the syringe to your dog (or cat if they seem disoriented) and then immediately seek the help of your veterinarian.

Diabetes can be a serious disease, and if left untreated, is life threatening. However we are here to help you and your pet in any way that we can. Please feel free to call us if you have any questions or concerns.

Encouraging Your Cat to Drink Water

  1. Provide fresh, cold water every day. Cats seem to be very aware of the temperature and taste of water.

  2. Make sure the water bowl is filled to the brim at all times. Cats have very sensitive whiskers and do not like putting their face into a bowl.

  3. Use a large size bowl, a size that their whiskers will not touch the edges when drinking.

  4. Some cats do not like the taste of tap water. You might wish to:

    1. Refridgerate the tap water to improve its taste

    2. Try Brita (filtered) water

    3. Try distilled water

    4. Try bottled water

    5. Try a few types and see what your cat prefers

  5. Some cats will drink more water if a drop or two of tuna juice (tuna in water or clam juice) is provided. If you try this, always make sure a seperate bowl of fresh water is available.

  6. Some cats enjoy ice cubes made from flavored broth (tuna or salmon juice mixed with water and frozen).

  7. If your cat prefers to drink from a tap, make sure it can always get to the tap (don't lock it out of the bathroom if that is where it likes to drink). If your schedule permits, turn the tap on for the cat as often as possible throughout the day. Water fountains can be purchased for cats that like fresh, moving water.

  8. Keep the food and water bowls away from the litter box area.

  9. Keep the water bowl clean (cats have a keen sense of smell and are easily turned off by odors on the edge of the bowl). Stainless steel or ceramic dishes are easier to keep clean and oder free vs. plastic dishes. The water dish should be washed at least every other day if possible.

  10. Some cats seem to prefer a shallow, glass bowl from which to drink (expirement with different water bowls).

  11. Canned food is an excellent way to encourage water consumption because it is high in water content and most cats love the taste. It can always be warmed up in the microwave to enhace its smell for the fussy cat. Try to feed at least some canned food two to three times a day. You can also slowly add water to the canned food.

House Soiling

Remove or Block Four Basic Causes of House-Soiling

1 - Environmental and Social Factors

Cats by nature are very clean and need adequate unsoiled locations to eliminate, especially in a multi-cat household. Some cats may avoid using a litter box located in a high traffic area or near cat doors or flaps. In a multi-cat household, the presence of a more dominant cat near the litter box area may cause a less confident cat to seek out other places for elimination. House-soiling may occur if a cat had a negative experience while it was in or near the litter box (e.g. someone administered medications, family members or children trapped a cat in the box for any reason, a dirty litter box, or even being startled by sudden noises from nearby furnaces for other loud appliances.

2 - Marking Behavior

Urine spraying is a normal part of feline behavior in which a cat marks to leave its scent. Marking behaviors can include scratching, rubbing, urine spraying, and middening (depositing feces). Unneutered male cats and most unspayed females will mark as part of their sexual behavior. Spaying and neutering dramatically reduces this behavior. Anxiety-related marking occurs in response to a change in the cat's environment, especially the core area where the cat eats, sleeps, and plays. Cats often target items with new or unrecognized smells such as backpacks and shoes. Marking behavior that starts at windows and doors usually suggests that the perceived threat is coming from outside the home. Marking in stairways, hallways, doorways, or the center of rooms usually indicates stress or threats from inside the home, such as other pets or new people in the household, active children, or remodeling.

3 - Medical Causes and Problems

Medical issues can cause a cat to exhibit behavior changes such as house-soiling. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose or rule out any medical conditions that could be a factor in the house-soiling behavior.

Every cat that starts to house-soil requires a thorough physical examination and urinalysis to check for medical problems such as infections, cystitis, arthritis, kidney problems, diabetes, and other medical issues. If your veterinarian believes the house-soiling behavior is caused by a medical reason, he or she may perform additional tests such as a urine culture, abdominal radiographs, abdominal ultrasound, complete blood count, and biochemical profile. digital rectal exams or fecal testing may be needed for cases of house-soiling with feces.

4 - Feline Idiopathic Cystitis

Feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC) is a ferquent medical cause of house-soiling Cats suffering from FIC have increased frequency of urination, diffuclty and pain when urinating, and can have blood in their urine. This inflammatory condition can increase and decrease in severity over time and is aggravated by stress, changes in diet, and other issues.

Treatment and Management of House-Soiling

The design and management of the litter box are critical for encouraging acceptable toileting habits. When house-soiling occurs always evaluate the litter box. Designing the optimal litter box:

Number - The general rule of thumb is to have one litter box for each cat, plus one extra box in multiple locations around your home. Socially affiliated cats, which are two or more cats that are familiar to each other, share a territory, and exhibit behaviors such as grooming, playing, or resting together, may be more willing to share litter boxes. Because more than one social group may occur in a home, providing adequate resources for each group is important to decrease the chance of adverse behaviors.

Location - Take a look at the floor plan of your home and where your litter boxes are located. Avoid placing food and water close to the litter box. Cats usually prefer quiet, private places. Avoid busy areas of the home and locations where a cat could be cornered in, blocked off, or unable to flee. Cats can be cornered in the litter box so they are unable to flee (e.g. if the box is in a closet or small room where another cat can block the exit).

Size - In general, bigger is better and many commercial litter boxes are too small. Litter boxes should be 1.5 times the length of the cat from the nose to the base of the tail. Suitable alternatives can include concrete mixing trays or storage containers. You can place the lid behind the box to protect the wall. Older cats need a low entry so you can cut down the side but inspect for any sharp edges.

Litter -If your cat is exhibiting house-soiling behaviors, you may need to try different types of litter until the cat indicates its preference. For preference evaluation, provide multiple boxes with different litters and variable litter depths. Many cats dislike aromatic or dusty litters, litter deodorizers, and box liners. Most cats prefer soft unscented clumping litters.

Managing the Litter Box - Remove waste at a minimum of once per day and add litter as needed. Wash the litter box every 1-4 weeks using soap and hot water only. Avoid strong chemicals or any ammonia based products.

Remove Marking Triggers - Neuter or spay your cat to eliminate sexually-related marking behavior. Restrict the potential threat of other cats; outdoor roaming cats encroaching on the household can act as triggers. Tips: if the resident cat resides indoors only (never goes outside), use motion activated water sprinklers to make the yard unattractive to feline visitors. Laying plastic carpet protectors upside down in front of sliding glass doors creates an uncomfortable surface and may dissuade other cats from sitting close to the house and intimidating your cat. Remove or block cat doors that allow roaming cats to enter the household. Tip: use microchip or magnet-operated devices to only allow access to your cat.

Cleaning urine-marked areas frequently will reduce a cat's habit of refreshing its scent on the marking site. Use a black light (UV) to find soiled areas. Clean affected areas with a good quality urine odor and stain remover according to the type of surface that the cat has soiled. Test products on an inconspicuous area first and clean a sufficiently large area to remove the odor, which may be up to three times the size of the soiled area. Avoid using ammonia-based cleaners, which smell like urine to a cat.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Urine produced in a healthy urinary tract contains a great deal of dissolved minerals. In cats with feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), mineral crystal collect in the urinary tract, especially in the bladder and its outflow tract (urethra). The accumulating crystals irritate the lining of the urinary tract and may clump together to form "stones" in the bladder or obstruct the outflow or urine. Obstructions are relatively common in male cats and may be fatal if not treated promptly.

Signs of FLUTD include excessive licking of the genitalia, frequent voiding of small amounts of urine, straining or evidence of pain during urination and unproductive attempts to urinate. Total urinary obstruction results in depression, lack of appetite, vomiting and eventually coma and death.

Despite intense study, no single cause for FLUTD has been discovered. We are, however, aware of several factors that may lead to FLUTD. These factors include bacterial and viral infections, diet, obesity, reduced physical activity, low water consumption and prolonged urine retention. Surgical neutering does not cause FLUTD.

Important Points in Treatment

FLUTD is an emergency and prompt treatment is essential. Many cats require hospitlization for treatment. Treatment is designed to relieve the obstruction, flush the crystalline material from the urinary tract, treat any infections, correct any fluid imbalances and institute preventive dietary therapy. Despite treatment, some cats die from irreversible kidney damage.

Dietary control is essential to treatment and prevention of FLUTD. Veterinary prescription diets designed to treat or prevent FLUTD contain minimum magnesium levels, and cause increased water consumption and production of acidic urine. Neither ash content nor magnesium levels alone are responsible for this disorder. Grocery or pet store "Low Ash" diets may not have sufficiently low magnesium levels to help revent FLUTD. Urine pH is the most relevent factor in the management of FLUTD. Producing urine with the correct pH helps to prevent the formation of mineral crystals. The best diets for preventing FLUTD are "Royal Canin Urinary S/O" and "Hill's c/d", feeding half canned food and half dry food. These diets are only available as prescription diets through yout veterinary clinic. Please ask us about them.

Notify the Veterinarian if Any of the Following Occur:

  • Your cat strains and/or cries when urinating

  • Your cat frequently passes small volumes of urine

  • Your cat has blood in the urine or urinates in odd places

  • Your cat refuses to eat, seems depressed or vomits.

Indoor Pet Initiative

There is now a wonderful resource website, designed by veterinarians for owners of indoor cats. This website highlights many topics that range from introducing your cat to the household to information on issues that may arise through a cat's life.

You can visit this site at

Helping Cat Overpopulation in Durham

Commencing August 2, 2012 forty-two veterinary offices in Durham, including Bowmanville Veterinary Clinic, are going to begin partnering with the Humane Society in hopes to help reduce the cat overpopulation issues.

The project will be run through the Humane Society of Durham Region. Low income families will be able to apply to receive a voucher that they can take to any of the participating clinics to have their cats spayed or neutered at a reduced cost. Female cats will be spayed at the cost of $100 and male cats will be neutered at $80.

In order to be eligible to receive a voucher, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Seniors receiving the Federal Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).

  • Disabled individuals receiving the Ontario Disablility Support Payment (ODSP) or the Canada Pension Plan Disability payment (CPP Disability)

  • Individuals receiving financial assistance through the Ontario Works program.

We are pleased to be a part of this program and hope it will help our feline friends. Press release statement can be found on the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association webpage. Also contact the Humane Society, phone 905-665-7430, where you can apply for a voucher.

Vaccinations for Cats

Feline Respiratory Disease

Feline rhinotracheitis (FVR) and feline calicivirus (FCV) are the two main causes of upper respiratory tract infections in cats. Although cats of any age can be infected, the young appear to be at greater risk. Clinical signs of infection include sneezing, nasal discharge and discharge from the eyes. Some cats with FVR cough, and some develop a severe eye condition called ulcerative keratitis. Cats with FCV can develop ulcers in the mouth, pneumonia, diarrhea and joint disease. Although most cats recover within 2 to 4 weeks, it can become a serious and chronic condition. It is quite common in many areas, and vaccination is highly recommended.

Chlamydia psittici is a parasite that is thought to be responsible for some upper respiratory tract infections in cats. It can lead to a severe form of lung disease if left untreated. Chlamydia more commonly causes a chronic conjuctivitis in cats. Outbreaks of Chlamydia are common when cats are housed together. Most veterinarians consider this an optional vaccination depending on your cat's risk of exposure.

Feline Panleukopenia

Feline panleukopenia is a hardy virus, able to survive up to a year in the environment. Clinical signs include fever, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. It most often occurs in unvaccinated 3 to 5 month old kittens. If the virus attacks an unborn fetus, it may cause early death or cerebellar hypoplasia ("spastic kitten"). Most older cats exposed to this virus do not show clinical signs. An infected cat may be infertile. A cat may also abort her litter if infected during pregnancy. This virus is spread via contact with an infected kitten or by contaminated premises, food or water bowls. Most veterinarians consider vaccination for panleukopenia mandatory. Thanks to vaccination, this disease is now uncommon.


Rabies is a viral disease that attacks the central nervous system of all warm-blooded animals, including humans. Rabies is transmitted by saliva, which is usually transferred by a bite from an infected animal. The virus can also be transmitted via air (bat caves) and tissue (corneal transplants). The disease is frequently found in wild animals such as skunks, foxes, raccoons and bats.

Once infected, the disease is fatal. Prior to death, clinical signs may include a change in behaviour (e.g. increased aggressiveness or increased shyness), dilation of the pupil, excess salivation, snapping at the air, a shifting gait, and facial twitching. As the virus can be transmitted to humans, no stray dog, cat or any wild animal should ever be approached. Wild animals, including raccoons, should never be kept as pets. The family pet should be kept on its own property or be leashed when off its property. To help prevent raccoon rabies, it is recommended that you cap chimneys, close up any holes in attics or outbuildings, and make sure that stored garbage does not act as a food source.

Vaccination is important in safeguarding your cat from infection with this virus, and is required by law in the province of Ontario.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

Feline leukemia virus is capable of causing a number of diseases in cats. Lymphoma (lymphosarcoma) is the most common form of cancer caused by this virus. Although a number of forms of this cancer are possible, the most common ones involve the intestines or the chest. Clinical signs may include vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss (if the intestines are involved) or breathing difficulties (if the chest is involved). Any organ in the body can be affected. Feline leukemia virus can also cause anemia, and can make a cat more susceptible to other viral and bacterial diseases. Any cat with a history of fever of undetermined origin, or an illness that comes and goes, should be tested for this virus.

The incidence of FeLV is highest in multi-cat households (lots of contact between cats) as the virus is spread via saliva and other body secretions (tears, blood, urine). Cats that mutually groom, share food and water bowls, litter pans, etc. are at higher risk. "Social" outdoor cats that meet and greet other cats, mutually groom or fight are also at risk.

A blood test is available to test for infection with this virus. Not all "positive" cats will become sick with the disease. Some cats are able to mount a good immune response and overcome the virus. Others are not and will develop FeLV associated disease or cancer, usually within 3 years. If your cat tests positive for FeLV, it is important that your cat not roam free, as the virus is highly contagious. Such a cat is prone to developing serious complications from other viral or bacterial diseases, so any time the cat does not appear well (has a fever, doesn't eat), you should see your veterinarian.

If a cat in your household dies of Feline Leukemia, the household should be thoroughly disinfected (especially the litter boxes, food and water bowls, bedding, toys). It is best to wait at least one month before introducing another cat to the household. Many cats are at high risk for exposure to this virus. If you own more than one cat, if you have a cat that roams outdoors or is very sociable and likely to contact other cats, or if the background of your cat is unknown (adopted from the shelter, etc.) speak to your veterinarian about testing your cat's blood for this virus. Your veterinarian can help you assess the need for vaccinating your cat(s) against FeLV.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or FIV is a retrovirus like FeLV. FIV acts in a similar fashion in cats, as Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV acts in humans. In humans HIV causes AIDS or immune system suppression. In cats FIV also causes immunosuppression and cats can die from infections that would usually not be a problem in a cat with a healthy immune system. The vaccine that is available to cats against FIV is not 100% effective, but it does help to prevent infection with the virus. Cats who are at higher risk are outdoor cats that get into fights, since the most common way the virus is transmitted is through bite wounds.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

Feline infectious peritonitis is a Coronavirus. The disease is not common. It occurs most often in cats that are:

  • 6 months to 2 years of age and in those that are older than 11 years of age.

  • in multi-cat households (especially catteries)

  • in cats that are infected with Feline Leukemia or Feline Immunodeficiency Viruses

  • in cats whose immune system is compromised

The virus is spread by contact with an infected cat (feces, saliva, blood, urine). Prolonged exposure to an infected cat is usually necessary for transmission of the disease. Clinical signs of FIP take time to develop. There are two forms of the disease. One, the wet form, results in fluid build-up in the abdomen or chest. The other, the dry form, results in granulomas (lumps of inflammatory tissue) in multiple organs of the body. Infected cats will often exhibit weight loss, fever and loss of appetite.

Although treatment is available to make infected cats more comfortable, the disease is inevitably fatal. An intranasal vaccine is available. Please speak to your veterinarian about your cat's risk of exposure and the need for a vaccination.

Arterial Thromboembolism

Arterial thromboembolism is a disorder of the heart and blood of cats. It is one of several complications that occur in cats with heart damage. Blood clots (thrombi) may occur within the heart and travel through the bloodstream until they become lodged. A common site for a clot to lodge is toward the rear of the body, where the aorta divides to supply blood to the rear legs. The blood supply to one or both legs can be greatly reduced by a lodged clot, depending on where the clot is. Rear-leg lameness, pain and cool rear legs are common signs.

Important Points in Treatment

  • Initial treatment is aimed at improving circulation to the rear limbs. Blood tests and radiographs (x-rays) are used to assess and monitor the disorder during treatment.

  • If the condition fails to improve, surgical removal of the blood clot is necessary. This requires general anesthesia.

  • The condition is very serious and the prognosis (medical forecast) is guarded. Your doctor will discuss the disease and the surgery to assist you in your decision.


What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a zoonotic disease (meaning it can be transmitted from animals to humans), caused by a protozoan organism called Toxoplasma gondii, and affects most animals. Awareness of this disease is important as it can be passed across the placenta to a developing baby, with potentially serious consequences, including interference with proper growth of the baby. Humans acquire the infection in a number of ways; eating raw or undercooked meat, especially lamb; handling infected cat feces; and by blood transfusion or organ transplantation from an infected donor.

The greatest risk to the fetus is when the mother becomes infected during pregnancy; mothers who were infected before pregnancy generally do not risk passing the disease onto the fetus. There is some evidence that mothers with compromised immune systems who have also had a prior toxoplasmosis infection can infect their children. The earlier in pregnancy infection occurs, the less likely the organism will be transmitted to the fetus, but the more likely severe disease will result. Conversely, infection later in pregnancy increases the risk of transplacental infection but the likelihood of serious disease is lower.

What are the signs of being infected with toxoplasmosis?

Unfortunately, in most people there are not always clinical signs that go along with being infected with this organism. In certain cases symptoms can vary from fever, swollen lymph nodes, muscle stiffness and joint pain to swollen liver and effects on the spleen (causing upper abdominal pain). Many of these symptoms can be mistaken for the common cold or flu or even other disease processes.

Should I be screened?

If you are concerned, you should contact your family physician and discuss this with him/her. Initial screening for toxoplasmosis may be advisable for women. Those who test positive should not have to worry about transplacental infection in the event of pregnancy. Women who test negative should be retested before a planned conception.

Which test is the best?

The simplest screen is an antibody test. Detection of IgG antibodies is all that is necessary.

What precautions should be taken?

Any woman who knows they are pregnant should not handle any cat feces, especially when it comes to cleaning out the litter box. Even a cat that seems perfectly healthy can still be carrying the organism and shedding it in their feces.

Dietary exposures are much more important in North America than those to cat feces. With today's standards of meat inspection these risks have been lowered significantly, but the following precautions should always be taken. Undercooked meat and meat juices should be avoided. All meat dishes, especially lamb dishes, should be cooked well done. Raw vegetables should be washed carefully to remove all dirt, which could be contaminated with feces. There is no reason to avoid normal cooking, including handling raw meats, as long as hands are carefully washed afterwards.

Guidelines for high risk individuals

  • Do not feed undercooked meat to cats

  • Do not allow cats to hunt

  • Remove feces from the litter daily, washing hands immediately after, incinerate or flush the feces promptly

  • Clean the litter box with scalding water daily

  • Wear gloves when working with soil and wash hands afterward

  • Keep children's sandboxes covered

  • Do not drink water obtained from the general environment unless it has been boiled

  • Control potential transport hosts

Cat Dental Care Guidelines

Contrary to popular belief, “doggy breath” is not normal. If your pet’s bad breath keeps the two of you from snuggling or you wish you could give your pet a mint, it could be the first sign that he has dental disease, a painful condition caused by bacteria infecting his gums and teeth. What’s even worse, it can lead to serious health issues as infection spreads throughout the body.

Since maintaining oral hygiene is crucial to keeping cats and dogs healthy and happy, AAHA created dental care guidelines to help your veterinarian provide top-notch care. Here are the top 10 things you need to know about these guidelines:

  1. Dental disease begins early in life. Cats can begin to develop dental disease as early as nine months old. By the time they’ve reached their third birthday, most cats begin showing signs of dental disease, such as bad breath, yellow tartar buildup on the teeth, and red, swollen gums. Left untreated, throbbing pain and inflammation can cause pets to drop food, drool excessively, paw at their mouths, or become reactive to petting. But, because most dogs and cats are experts at hiding pain, many suffer in silence.

  2. Early detection is key. As a part of your pet’s annual veterinary checkup, we recommend dental evaluations at least once a year when your cat reaches one year old, or when your large breed dog turns two.

  3. “X-ray vision” is essential for diagnosing dental disease. After examining dental radiographs (X-ray images) of cats and dogs with teeth that appeared normal to the naked eye, veterinarians found 27.8% of dogs and 41.7% of cats had diseased teeth. In pets with abnormal-looking teeth, veterinarians found additional diseased teeth in 50% of dogs and 53% of cats.

  4. Anesthesia makes dental evaluation and treatment safer and less stressful for your pet. Animals don’t like to hold still while their teeth are cleaned. Anesthetized dental cleanings allow veterinarians to make a more accurate diagnosis and decrease the chance of complications, like inhaling water or bacteria produced during the cleaning.

  5. Anesthesia is much safer than you think. Our protocols include steps to increase the safety of anesthesia, even in older pets. For example, one trained professional is dedicated to continuously monitoring, recording vital signs, and communicating the findings to the veterinarian. Before anesthesia, your pet will also be carefully screened with bloodwork and other tests to ensure he is free from underlying disease.

  6. Removing plaque from teeth beneath the gums is vital. In fact, it’s even more important than scaling the portion of the teeth we can see. Bacteria thrive under the gumline, causing infections deep in the tooth root and jaw that can spread throughout the body and affect other organs, such as the heart or kidneys.

  7. There are many similarities between human and veterinary dentistry. Licensed veterinarians and credentialed technicians use sharp, sterilized instruments, just like those you see in your dentist’s office. Board-certified veterinary dentists go through extensive residency training to perform advanced procedures like root canals, tooth extractions, and crowns. You might even feel the same sense of guilt when your veterinarian asks, “How often do you brush his teeth?” as when you’re asked, “How often do you floss?”

  8. We will create a personalized pain protocol to keep your pet comfortable. Although your dog or cat will be anesthetized during a tooth extraction, numbing medications will decrease the amount of general anesthetic needed and can last up to eight hours after the procedure, allowing your pet to rest in comfort. Your veterinarian can tailor your pet’s prescription pain medication to match the procedure so he’ll recover peacefully at home.

  9. Don’t forget to brush! Brushing your cat or dog’s teeth every day will promote good oral health and prevent potentially expensive surgeries down the line. It’s easier than you think: There are even special pet toothpastes flavored like beef, chicken, fish, and peanut butter. (Note: Never use human toothpaste, which can contain ingredients like xylitol that are toxic to animals.)

  10. Consider using other dental products if brushing isn’t an option. Oral rinses, gels, sprays, water additives, and chews can help with your pet’s dental hygiene. Be sure to look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval on all pet dental products, and be wary of any dental chew that doesn’t bend or break easily as these can fracture teeth.

Tooth Resorption

Cats are prone to a serious and very painful dental disease called “tooth resorption.” This condition was previously referred to as “feline oral resorptive lesions” (FORLs). Various studies have found 28-67% of cats have tooth resorption. Tooth resorption is the most common cause of tooth loss in the cat.

Tooth resorption tends to occur in cats over 4 years of age and may be more common in purebred cats, especially Siamese and Abyssinians.

What is tooth resorption?

Tooth resorption results in the loss of tooth structure, starting with the outer enamel surface, usually at or below the gum line. The lesions, which are NOT cavities, begin as a loss of tooth enamel and can eventually spread to the dentin and then the pulp canal, which contains the blood vessels and nerves to the tooth. Sometimes, the entire crown of the tooth may be missing.

Tooth resorption is progressive and may be singular or multiple and on the lingual (side where the tongue is) or buccal (side where the cheek is) side of the tooth. Some lesions are readily apparent and others may be hidden under areas of plaque or swollen gums. This is why a cat needs to be anesthetized to determine if such lesions are present: the entire surface of the tooth must be examined.

The lesions most commonly occur in the larger, multi-rooted teeth – the molars and premolars – at the area where the roots diverge. They can also occur in the canine teeth and incisors.

What causes tooth resorption?

The cause of these resorptive lesions is unknown. One theory is that the inflammation caused by plaque may stimulate cells called “odontoclasts,” which eat away at the enamel of the tooth. Other possible causes include autoimmune disorders, changes in pH in the mouth, viral diseases, or a problem with calcium metabolism.

What signs of disease are associated with tooth resorption?

Resorptive lesions that have eroded through the enamel may be very painful. Cats with oral pain may show no visible signs at all, or appear irritable or aggressive, have a change in appetite or food preference, and may have difficulty chewing and eating (food falls from their mouth). Cats with resorptive lesions may show pain when their jaws are touched and may also have increased salivation or oral bleeding.

How are resorptive lesions diagnosed?

Many lesions may be easily visible. However, while under anesthetic, a dental explorer should be used to examine each tooth above and below the surface of the gum. Any calculus on the teeth needs to be removed before a complete examination can be performed. Dental radiographs are essential in diagnosing this condition and evaluating the extent of disease. Resorption lesions are graded I-V according to the amount of tooth that is lost with Grade I being mild and Grade V being severe.

How is tooth resorption treated?

Depending on the stage of resorption, in order to get rid of the pain, the entire tooth with the roots may be extracted, or only a portion of the tooth is removed. It is recommended that cats who have a history of tooth resorption should have a prophylaxis (professional dental cleaning) every 6 to 12 months. Good home dental care is important for cats with tooth resorption. Please follow the veterinarian’s instructions carefully.