Cats & Our Local Disease: Valley Fever

Valley Fever, properly called Coccidioidomycosis (or “Cocci” for short), is a disease caused by the  fungus Coccidioides immitis, which lives in the soil in the desert areas of the southwestern United States.  The disease occurs in humans and domestic animals as a result of inhaling the fungal spores, and is not considered contagious.

Once inside the body the spores progress into spherules which can multiply.  It can stay within the lungs and cause progressive lung disease, or may cross into the blood stream where it goes to other organs such as bones, skin, or even the brain.  Not every person or animal develops disease after exposure to the fungus.  The disease cannot be transmitted from animal to animal (or to human), with the possible exception of skin lesions that release more spores.

 

But did you know… for every 50 dogs with Valley Fever, there is 1 cat?  Read on to learn more about Valley Fever in Cats:

 (The following information is from the Valley Fever Center for Excellence website at vfce.arizona.edu.  Please visit their fantastic site if you want to learn even more!)

Symptoms

  • Non-healing skin lesions are the most common symptom of Valley Fever in cats, rather than coughing and lameness as in dogs. The lesions may look like abscesses, draining tracts, or dermatitis. They can occur in almost any site and usually ooze a pale yellow to reddish fluid.

  • Symptoms in cats may be as vague as unexplained weight loss, but can also include lack of appetite, fever, lack of activity, rapid or difficult breathing, coughing, limping, or changes in behavior.

  • Cats are often sicker than dogs at the time of diagnosis. They seem to hide illness well until it is advanced.

Diagnosis

  • While diagnosis in dogs is frequently by blood tests, biopsy of non-healing skin lesions is a very common way the disease is diagnosed in cats.

  • The Valley Fever blood test is used in cats just as it is in dogs. However, the veterinarian needs to have a suspicion of the disease to order the test.

  • Chest x-rays are worthwhile in cats that aren’t coughing but are suspected to have Valley Fever. Lung lesions were found in more than 80% of cats that died of Valley Fever, even if they did not have respiratory signs when they were taken to the vet. Cats with Valley Fever may have respiratory signs that include difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, or coughing.

Treatment and Supportive Care

  • The antifungal medications that are used to treat Valley Fever in cats are the same ones used in dogs. There is less known about adverse effects in cats, except that literature reports that their livers are more sensitive to ketoconazole, and clinical experience reported suggests that they can tolerate high doses of fluconazole.

  • Cats that have severe appetite suppression from the Valley Fever or from the medication will benefit from surgical placement of a feeding tube so they do not develop fatty liver disease.

  • Cats are generally more sensitive to drugs and other substances than dogs and their livers have a hard time coping with many things. It is recommended that no herbs or supplements be given to cats without the guidance of a veterinarian.

Eww! Could my cat have “zits?”

DID YOU KNOW… your cat, just like a teenager, can develop acne.  Have you seen pimples, hair loss, blackheads or any other yuckiness on your cat’s chin?  Acne usually happens in adult cats and is typically easy to treat.  However, it can even be preventable!

 

What causes feline acne?

Feline acne is typically found on a cat’s chin and lips, and it usually appears in the form of tiny blackheads.  But sometimes these blackheads become infected, resulting in — yep, you guessed it — kitty zits. Some causes of kitty acne are similar to human acne, including stress, overactive sebaceous glands, hormones, and poor grooming. Additionally, plastic food bowls have been associated with feline acne, as they are porous and can trap bacteria, which is then transferred to the cat’s chin. You’ve also seen your cat rub those yummy sebaceous glands in his face all over you and your furniture — he also might be giving himself zits.

How to Treat Feline Acne

If your cat has mild acne, washing his chin with antibacterial soap will help remove loose blackheads and prevent new ones from forming.  Like annoying human breakouts, most cases of feline acne are mild and do not require treatment.

If the condition worsens, you should make an appointment with your vet to rule out other causes of the condition, such as allergies, ringworm, or yeast infection. Additionally, severe infections characterized by swelling, redness, or tenderness may require antibiotics, which need to be prescribed by a vet.

How to Prevent Cat Acne

  • Wash your cat’s food and water bowls regularly — daily, if possible.
  • Use glass or ceramic bowls instead of plastic, which is porous and can trap bacteria.
  • Make sure your cat’s bowls are large enough that his chin doesn’t rub against the side when he eats.
  • If your cat is prone to acne, gently wash his chin with warm water after meals.

Source: catster.com

WOOF!

Why do dogs bark?

Barking is one of the most common complaints of dog owners and their neighbors!  But barking is natural. It can serve as a territorial warning signal to other dogs and pack members. Dogs may vocalize when separated from their pack or family members. Barking also occurs during times of indecision, anxiety, or frustration. Medical problems can also contribute to vocalization, especially in the older dog.

How can I stop my dog barking when I leave?

Effective crate training techniques when your dog is first obtained should decrease the dog’s anxiety when it is left alone in its crate (see our handout on ‘House safety and crate training’). Your dog should gradually be taught to spend longer periods of time away from you. Obtaining two dogs may provide company for each other and may reduce distress vocalization and departure anxiety. If your dog has been barking when you leave for some time, he may be suffering from separation anxiety and you should consult your veterinarian for treatment options.

My dog constantly barks. What does she want?

Attention getting barking can be problematic and is often reinforced by owners giving in to their dog’s demands. Allowing a barking dog indoors, or feeding, patting, praising, playing with, giving a toy, or even just going to a barking dog to try and quiet it down, are just a few examples of how an owner may unknowingly reinforce barking. Never reward barking with any type of attention, even occasionally since it usually will make barking more likely to continue.

How can I train my dog to ‘quiet down’ on command?

Training the dog to a “quiet” command is an invaluable aid for controlling undesirable barking. In fact, most owners accept their dog’s barking as normal and even acceptable.  However, the barking becomes problematic when it gets too loud, too frequent, or will not stop on command.  Therefore, to train the dog to quiet down on cue, you must find an effective means of quieting the dog, which should be preceded with the command.  Just loudly telling your pet to ‘be quiet’, will probably not be understood, especially if silence does not follow the verbal command. In fact, yelling may just add to the noise and anxiety, thereby encouraging your dog to bark more.

Should I punish my dog when she keeps barking?

Punishment is seldom effective in the control and correction of barking problems. Excessive levels of punishment can increase anxiety and further aggravate many forms of barking, while mild punishment merely rewards the behavior by providing attention.

Is debarking surgery effective?

Surgical debarking is a drastic and often permanent method of eliminating barking.  Varying degrees of vocalization may return as the surgical site heals and scars.  However, devocalization does not address the underlying motivation for barking and is unlikely to reduce the intensity or frequency of barking itself.  Devocalization is therefore not a consideration except where the owners are confronted with the need to relinquish their pet if vocalization cannot be resolved.  In these cases the risks and humane issues will need to be weighed against all other possible options.

This client information sheet is based on material written by Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, Diplomate ACVB

© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license.

 

Monsoon Rains and Toads

Toads are found in wet places like backyards during and after a rain and around ponds. Other than an irritating bad taste in a dog’s mouth, most toads are not toxic enough to cause great harm to your dog. Since toads are nocturnal, it’s important to be vigilant when your dog is outside at night for his walk or run before bed, especially during or after a rain.

In order for a dog to be poisoned by a toad, he has to actually pick it up in his mouth, bite it or lick it. Dog and toad encounters can happen no matter where you live. Somtimes, toads will crawl into a dog’s food bowl that is sitting outside to eat the dog’s food. In rare cases, they can leave enough residual to poison the dog when he then eats from that bowl or even licks the side where the toad was perched.

Toads are not pleasant tasting even to dogs, however, dogs put an investment into their natural instinct to hunt. For a dog, toad hunting begins with staring, stalking, sniffing and then finally the catch. Of course that always results in the dog quickly spitting the offending toad out which is followed by foaming and a look to us like it was our fault they put that nasty tasting thing in their mouth in the first place. In most cases, the toad does not have enough toxin to harm your dog. However, the Colorado River Toad is one of the most poisonous toads in the United States. The Colorado River Toad lives in the Southwestern states from Arizona to Southern California. It’s important to know what to watch for if your dog catches one.

The first obvious sign your dog caught a toad is foaming at the mouth. He may indicate his mouth is irritated by pawing at his mouth and shaking his head. A dog and toad encounter can leave the dog with mouth pain. Check his gums for inflammation or redness if he appears to be having pain in his mouth. If you suspect your dog caught a toad, you can flush his mouth with water from a garden hose. Try not to let the water run down his nose or throat by rinsing from the side of his mouth and holding his head down so the water runs out of his mouth. Gently rub the gums and inside of his mouth until the slimy feeling is gone.

Vomiting, weakness, appearing confused or disoriented, fever, labored breathing, seizures or diarrhea are signs your dog has been poisoned by a toad. Immediate medical treatment is required at this point.  A hospitalized stay may be required that would include IV fluids, medication for pain, seizures, fever and stress as well as treating and controlling the dog’s abnormal heartbeat.
It’s impossible for most dog owners to watch their dogs constantly. Even on walks, with you by their side, your dog can find a toad hiding in a clump of grass they are investigating. Knowing the signs of toad poisoning and what to do is your best defense in protecting your dog. Our pets don’t always know what’s good for them. Don’t let a toad encounter leave a bad taste in your dog’s mouth!

If you are interested in prevention for your pet, please enlist the help of Dr. Vanya Moreno, of Animal Magnetism, in training your pet.  She can be reached at (520) 440-5040 for appointments.

Source: Responsible Pet Ownership Blog, canidaepetfood.blogspot.com