Monthly Archives: February 2011

Diabetes in Cats

Commonly known as sugar diabetes, it is medically known as Diabetes mellitus.  Many believe it is related to diet, as obesity plays a role in the onset of diabetes. Diabetes is more common is overweight male cats, especially over 7 years of age, and overweight females are more prone than normal weight females.  The only breed that has a genetic predisposition is the Burmese. Diabetes mellitus occurs because either the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or there is an improper response of the cells to the insulin that is produced. Insulin is necessary for sugar to be transported from the blood into the individual cells throughout the body. Without insulin, the body can not metabolize glucose for energy, which is essential for life.  The symptoms of diabetes are well documented: increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite and weight loss. Sometimes there are urinary accidents and the urine is sticky because of the sugar in it. But, other diseases have similar symptoms, so a simple blood test is necessary to make the diagnosis. There are three types of diabetes in cats: Type I diabetic cats are insulin dependant and need to receive daily injections, sometimes twice a day. Unfortunately oral medications for diabetes do not work well in animals.  In Type II diabetic cats, the pancreas is producing insulin but the body is not capable of utilizing it properly. Many of these cats can be treated with dietary changes,  but most still require insulin injections. The Type III form of diabetes is also known as Transitory Diabetes. These cats will initially need insulin injections and dietary changes like in Type II but they will eventually have a change in their metabolism and lose their dependency on insulin given by injection. These cats are definitely in the minority but respond to long term dietary changes of high protein and low carbohydrate diets.  Regardless of which type of diabetes is diagnosed, the blood glucose must be monitored with periodic blood and/or urine sample analysis. Astute cat owners giving insulin injections daily can tell almost immediately if there is a change in their pets behavior and body functions and know if an adjustment in the amount of insulin is required.

Otitis Externa

It is estimated that over 20% of the dog and cat population suffer from this condition at some point in their lives. Many have it in the Chronic form but Acute Otitis Externa is also common. Otitis Externa is an inflammation of the lining of the  ear canal. The inflammation can be cause by many things: allergy, excess wax, mites, bacteria, fleas, ticks,  and yeast. Depending on the severity of the condition, the symptoms vary and include head shaking, scratching/rubbing of the ears, bad odor from the ears, discharge and sometimes even blood from the ears. Many times there is pain near the ears and occasionally there is a head tilt. Many skin allergies first show up as an ear problem. It is extremely important to, not only address the ears, but the entire body, as well. If there are signs of scratching and head shaking, keeping the ears clean and treated is not enough. All symptoms must be addressed and treated. Not only do we use ear cleansing solutions and therapeutic drops for yeast, bacterial and parasitic infections of the ears, but also corticosteroids often mixed with antihistamines to control all the scratching and head shaking. Cleansing of the ears is extremely important before instilling ointments or drops. This must be continued on a daily basis until the infection is under control. Then it can be done several times a week until gone. To avoid ear problems, a regimen of ear cleaning should be as routine as brushing your dog. Certain breeds like poodles produce a lot of hair in the ear canals which should be removed regularly when groomed. Many breeds, especially the spaniels, like cocker and springer spaniels, produce an excessive amount of wax in the ears, which also should be removed on a regular basis. It is ok to use a q-tip to clean the ear, just do not put it into the canal beyond where you can see the cotton tip. If you do not have any ear cleansing solution, use baby oil or mineral oil, but never use peroxide or alcohol. Prevention is always the best medicine, so avoid ear infections by keeping your dogs and cats ears clean.

Ear Mites

Contrary to what the name implies, ear mites can live not only in ear canals but also on the skin anywhere on the body. These are tiny parasites that are one of the causes of the most common infection of the ears known as otitis externa. Mites occur in cats more than dogs but they are very contagious among other household pets such as  hamsters, gerbils, ferrets, mice and rabbits.  They are not contagious to humans. The most common symptoms include: shaking of the head, scratching of the ears, redness of the ears, dark gritty discharge from the ears, and general discomfort and hypersensitivity around the head near the ears. In severe infestations, the ears may even have a bloody discharge. If left untreated, damage to the ear canals and ear drum (tympanic membrane) can occur, and even deafness. Secondary bacterial and/or yeast infections can also occur. With severe head shaking, another problem can occur known as hematoma. This is  a swelling in the ear pinna because of a ruptured blood vessel. Ear Mite infestation is a very easy disease to diagnose, as the mites and/or eggs are readily found under the microscope.  Years ago it was much more difficult to treat and took weeks. Today, with the advent of some of the newer insecticides it is easy to kill the mites and even the eggs with one treatment, but the ears must still be cleaned thoroughly and any secondary infections treated. A build up of wax helps feed the mites so the ears should always be kept clean of wax, even when there are no mites present. It seems that once an animal has an ear infection, regardless of the cause, they have a greater susceptibility for reoccurrence.  Today we have preventative medications put on the skin 1 x each month that prevents mites as well as fleas and ticks. This is especially helpful for those  cats that spend a lot of time outdoors.