The following is, in part, a summary of a brochure distributed by the American Bird Conservancy. First some facts: Scientists estimate that cats kill millions of birds each year and many more small mammals. Some common birds are now in decline and some may even be threatened with extinction. These include the Least Tern, Piping Plover, Snowy Plover and California Gnatcatcher. It is known that in the last 50 years, two-thirds of all the bird species naturally found in the U.S. have declined. In fact, America’s wildlife in general, is shrinking due to lost habitats, feral cats, wild dogs, prolific wild hogs, and other animals not indigenous to our shores, such as pythons. Millions of outdoor cats are killed each year by disease, cars, other animals and people. In contrast to that, the feral cat population has risen dramatically. Veterinarians, and most animal experts, recommend keeping cats indoor. They live a lot longer, in fact the life expectancy of an outdoor cat is from 2-5 years, and many of those years they suffer from hunger, inclement weather, cat fights, etc. An indoor cat may live comfortably for more than 15 years, free of disease and parasites, if properly cared for. Kittens that are raised indoors show no desire to go outside as adults, and adult cats can be retrained if done properly. If you wish to venture outdoors with your cat, put a harness on the cat, not a collar that they can get out of easily. It’s best to provide a window shelve to allow your cat to look at the outside. A lot of exercise also helps by playing with your cat daily and giving paper bags, and tissue paper and toys for it to play with. Some cats like to eat grass so provide harmless “kitty grass” by planting it in an indoor pot. Clean litter boxes regularly and make sure your cat gets proper veterinary care. Even indoor cats require certain vaccinations, as you can bring in certain viruses on the bottoms of your shoes. Certain diseases are airborne and an open window is all that is necessary for them to come indoors. Resist feeding outdoor feral cats and consider catching them in a “humane” trap. Many veterinarians have these traps and lend them out, and have special reduced fees for spaying /neutering feral cats. For more information, visit the American Bird Conservancy’s website at: www.abcbirds.org/cats or call 888-247-3624.
Many researchers are recommending all year round protection for our pets, rather than stopping in the winter. They claim there is no longer a “tick season”. The CDC in Atlanta reports the number of cases of tick borne diseases diagnosed in humans in the Northeastern part of USA is increasing. All pet owners should seriously consider using the newer flea and tick prevention products on the market. Fortunately, these products work well on the pet and in the house for control as well as prevention. Ticks especially carry diseases of human significance as they can cause the same diseases in humans as in dogs and cats. These include: Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis, and more. Last year (2010) we diagnosed over 70 cases of Lyme Disease and over 5 cases of Anaplasmosis in the Locust Valley and surrounding area. This year we are already diagnosing Lyme Disease and Anaplasmosis frequently. A few dogs had both of these diseases concurrently. All of these cases could have been prevented. Be aware that birds can also bring ticks onto your property. Most of the topical products that kill fleas and ticks do it quickly. This is especially important as a tick has to be attached to the skin for 24+ hours before transmission of the Lyme Disease bacterium can occur. The products are applied to the skin (not the hair) 1 x each month. The active ingredients are dispersed into the fatty layer under the skin and stored in the oil secreting glands. These products kill the parasites, inactivate the eggs, and kill the immature form of the parasites known as larvae. To clean the house, vacuuming is a must, everywhere, as it sucks up live and dead fleas and ticks, AND their eggs and larvae. The bag should then be placed in the garbage where it will eventually be burned. Treatment of the outdoors with “pet friendly” insecticides still has a place in total flea and tick control, especially with re-occurring infestations. Have your dogs blood tested early this year and start the preventatives right away.
A liver shunt is known medically as a “Portosystemic Shunt”. In the context of this article, a “shunt” means diverts. This disease is of increasing concern to veterinarians, breeders and owners of small and toy dogs. It appears to becoming a more frequently diagnosed disease, either because of more awareness or more indiscriminate breeding. Most recent research points to heredity playing the most important cause of the spread of this disease. Although some shunts are acquired (developing after birth) the majority of shunts are congenital (found at birth). Basically, a Portosystemic Shunt is a blood vessel that bypasses the liver and diverts the blood directly to the heart, before it is filtered and cleansed of toxins, bacteria, sugar and protein. All fetal mammals have these shunts, but the shunts close down shortly before or after birth so the liver can take over the life saving function of filtering the blood. When the shunt does not close completely, or does so very slowly, these impurities in the blood stream build up and symptoms develop. Very small and toy breeds, especially Yorkshire Terriers, have a hereditary predisposition and are afflicted more. Symptoms include: weakness, lethargy, disorientation, shaking, and even seizures. It can easily be confused with a condition known as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Quite often some of the symptoms show up 1-3 hours after eating a high protein diet such as puppy food. Normally, proteins in the food are broken down by stomach and intestinal enzymes and intestinal bacteria to ammonia and other toxins which are then absorbed into the blood stream. But, instead of being filtered by the liver, these toxins are “shunted” or diverted around the liver to the heart and then to the brain causing the neurological signs. A diagnosis is made by special blood tests, x-rays, and sometimes ultrasound. The treatment of these shunts, depends on the severity of the symptoms, age of the dog, breed, and response to various forms of treatment. Surgical intervention and constriction the shunt is usually recommended in severe cases. Sometimes a change in diet and the addition of certain supplements to the diet is all that is necessary.