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Our recommendations for a healthy cat
The way we vaccinate cats has changed
A decade ago vets would vaccinate against all the important diseases every year regardless of the cats age or risk of infection. This has no doubt saved many a cats life but this blanket vaccination policy also resulted in many cats having vaccinations that may have not be needed.
In July 2009 a panel of specialists in feline medicine and vaccination published a series of recommendations for vaccination in cats. The European Advisory Board on Cat Diseases is composed of 16 independent veterinary experts (i.e. do not work for drug companies) from across Europe. The guidelines they have presented reflect a consensus of expert opinion, experience and scientific data and are published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (2009) Volume 11, issue 7.
At Purton Vets we have always promoted the idea that an individuals specific needs should be considered when deciding on their preventative healthcare plan. Simply following a drug company's data sheet which describes the legal license a vaccine has without taking the patients individual needs into account is not always in the patient's interest. We use our knowledge of disease and current scientific evidence to make decisions on how drugs should be used in the real world.
The 3 major diseases we vaccinate against in the UK are cat flu, feline enteritis and feline leukaemia. There are 2 main considerations that decide which vaccinations a cat should receive are the cat's age and the environment they live in.
Indoor cats are cats that never go outside. If your cat falls into this category and you have no plans to allow it outside in the future then the only vaccination required is against cat flu and feline enteritis. Feline leukaemia is not required. Kittens need 2 injections a few weeks apart and a booster 1 year later. After 1 year of age indoor cats only need flu and enteritis boosters every 3 years. It's important that if you vaccinate this way you test any new cats you introduce to your home for leukaemia (FeLV) to be sure they don't introduce the disease to your home.
Outdoor cats are cats that step outside, however infrequently. These cats need to be vaccinated against cat flu, feline enteritis and FeLV. Kittens need 2 injections given a few weeks apart and a booster a year later. Adults need cat flu boosters annually and enteritis boosters every 3 years. Adults also need vaccination against FeLV until they are at least 3 years of age but from then onwards they only need FeLV boosters every 3 years.
Not only does this mean your cat needs less vaccination with less risk of a reaction, but it also costs less as the FeLV component is quite expensive.
Remember that part of our decision making process is to consider the risk of disease in a local area and the specific cats environment. The prevalence of Felv in the UK has greatly decreased thanks to reliable tests, improved understanding of the disease and effective vaccinations. In Purton and West Swindon the disease is rare however further afield towards Lynham the incidence is higher especially within the stray feral population.
Our understanding of Felv has improved and we know that cats become increasingly resistant to infection with age. Cats less than 3 years of age are at greater risk. The virus does not survive well outside the animal and spread usually requires persistent close contact with an infected cat. The virus does not travel through the air and is spread through faeces, saliva, nasal secretions and milk.
The outdoor adult cat leukaemia guidelines and the indoor adult cat flu/enteritis guidelines do not follow the vaccine producers recommendations. They are required to base their recommendations on tests they have run on animals. FeLV has only been tested to show 1 year immunity although it may last longer but no test results have been published. However given the significantly lower susceptibility of adult cats and low incidence of the disease our revised vaccination guidelines for FeLV should be protective and negate the potential side effects of vaccination.
Feline Leukaemia Virus
This virus attacks the immune system and can also cause tumours to develop. It is spread by persistent close contact with infected cats, such as bite wounds/fighting or sharing food bowls or litter areas.
Feline Infectious Enteritis
This was once a common fatal viral disease in cats which caused bloody diarrhoea and vomiting. Thanks to many years of vaccination this illness is rarely seen but has not been eradicated.
Feline Herpes Virus
Part of the "cat flu" syndrome, herpes virus causes severe cat flu symptoms, especially in kittens in which it can be fatal in severe cases. Many cats become life long carriers of the disease and will shed virus when stressed, this has ensured that Herpes Virus is common in the enviroment.
Feline Calici Virus
This virus also forms a part of the "cat flu" syndrome but tends to cause less severe illness. After infection up to 50% will become carriers of the disease and will shed virus continually for some time after recovery.
In certain circumstances we may advise vaccination against other diseases such as Chlamydia or Bordatella.
When can vaccination start?
The earliest age this can be started is at 9 weeks of age. 2 injections given 3 weeks apart is needed to give protection to your cat against these diseases. The first injection "primes" the immune system and the second stimulates the production of antibodies that give the immunity or resistance to the viruses.
To work well the vaccine must be given to healthy animals, for this reason the veterinary surgeon or nurse will always give your pet a health assessment before giving a vaccination.
When can they go out to play?
Approximately 7 - 10 days after the second injection your kitten is protected against these diseases.
When do they need a Booster Vaccination?
To keep the immunity against these diseases up they will need a repeat vaccination in 12 months, although we do not give the enteritis vaccination every year as it lasts for 3 years and after 3 - 4 years of age they only need FeLV every 3 years.
Good nutrition is a requirement for a healthy long life. Unfortunately most pets are fed on diets that are more "fast food" than health food. Most brands available in the supermarket fall into the fast food category.
So how do you choose the right food?
We tend to trust the pet food manufacturers, the advertising and the person selling us the food. Often this information is misleading marketing. If a bag says "no added preservatives" that's no guarantee the food is preservative free.
We suggest you follow some simple food rules to help you make the right choice.
1. You get what you pay for! Quality always costs a bit more.
Good wholesome ingredients cost money. Cheap foods are made from cheap ingredients (like wheat and grains) and are either highly processed sugars or by products of other industries. Not everyone can afford the best but there are high quality diets available at relatively low cost. Our Pet Health Club clients can buy selected high quality foods at cost price.
2. Make sure the food produces good poo.
Poor quality diets produce large amounts of faeces which are softer than normal. Cheap pet foods do not use the same ingredients with each batch which tends to upset the balance in the intestine. They use the cheapest source of ingredients on offer which vary from week to week. Even a good quality diet might not suit your pets constitution.
3. Read the ingredient list. Ideally it should be food!
If you don't recognise the ingredients or if you can't pronounce them then should you be feeding them to your pet? Avoid ingredients like wheat, corn, "by-product" and "derivative". Some good quality foods have strange sounding ingredients but don't let the fact that its a good brand stop you considering this rule.
4. Avoid foods you see advertised on television.
Independent pet shops and vets give good advice but always remember rule number 5. Avoid all foods you can buy in a supermarket and beware those with national advertising campaigns!
5. The person selling you the food probably has an interest in you buying it.
Step back and think about the advice and the sales persons motive. You can always come back. If you are in a pet shop and they sell their own brand food, don't buy it.
6. Don't be mislead by flavours!
To put flavour on the front of the bag like "venison" or "chicken", the food needs a minimum of 4% of that ingredient in the food. So 96% percent can be something else entirely.
7. Is the ingredient list misleading?
You are probably aware that any list of ingredients on a bag starts with the most and ends with the least. If meat is the first ingredient most of us think there's more meat in the food which is ideal for our pets. Well some food companies put the meat at the front by splitting up the carbohydrates (sugars) into different types.
Consider this product: Vet's Kitchen Adult Chicken & Brown Rice. The ingredient list shows Poultry meal (min. 36%), brown rice (min. 18%), white rice (min. 18%), oats, sugar beet pulp, chicken fat, brewers yeast, poultry digest, etc. The sugars have been split into brown rice + white rice + oats + sugar beet pulp. Together these make up more than 36% of the ingredients and they are all carbohydrates.
8. Sometimes smaller companies can control their recipes better than larger pet food companies.
The big brands you recognise from TV are owned by other very large companies who make lots of processed foods and products for the human market. They produce a lot of by-product which still has some value and they use this to make animal food. They tend to dictate to their animal food division what they can use as they need to use the by-products of their other industries. Smaller companies tend to have more choice about where they source their ingredients and have more control over the quality of the ingredients.
Worms have an amazing and crafty life cycle to ensure that they survive generations and worm their way into the lives of all animals!
Cats can pick these up from the environment. The mother cat also passes on the roundworms to her kittens via her milk. This is why regular worming of pregnant cats and of kittens is so important. Heavy worm burdens can cause weight loss, vomiting and diarrhoea. Adult worms look like bits of string or spaghetti but the eggs and larvae are invisible to the naked eye.
There are two main ways your cat can pick up tapeworms. One is by grooming itself and swallowing a flea which contain the larval stage of the common tapeworm, which once swallowed develops into an adult tapeworm inside your cat. The other is by hunting and eating prey such as mice, which carry the larvae of a different tapeworm. The effect on your cat can be similar to a burden of roundworms.
The adults attach themselves to inside of the guts, but your cat may pass tapeworm segments that look like grains of rice that actually move!
How to prevent them
Kittens should be wormed monthly from 6 weeks of age to 6 months of age. After this they are wormed the same as adult cats which should be every 3 months. However if your cat is a hunter you may need to worm more frequently than this, please discuss your cat's needs with one of our staff. For a wormer to be effective an adequate dose must be given which is why we always check the weight of your pet first. For small kittens under 6 weeks of age or under 0.5kg in weight we advise using panacur, which will treat roundworms and SOME types of tapeworms. For further advice on worming treatments, please contact one of our practices.
And if I cannot give my cat tablets?
Then our nurses are happy to weigh your cat and give the correct dose of wormer for you, by appointment in one of our nurse's clinics. However even we find the odd cat difficult to give tablets to and for these we will find an alternative such as an injection or spot preparation. There are spot-on treatments for cats that are effective against both roundworms and tapeworms. Please ask one of our nurses for more information on the products available. To get in touch, please click here.
Fleas will find and feed on even the best looked after pet. They start breeding in spring and continue until the frosts arrive although indoors they can be a year round problem. Pets will initially pick up adult fleas outside the home, whilst walking or in the garden, and bring them indoors. Here they lay hundreds of eggs, which fall off into the carpets and furniture, soon contaminating the household environment.
Fleas are difficult to detect. You will not see necessarily see fleas on your pet or in the bedding. Scratching does not occur in all individuals so is not a reliable way to tell if your pets are affected. However, you should suspect their presence if your pet is scratching more than usual, losing fur or getting bald patches over the back and rump. You may also see flea droppings if you part your pet's coat and look at the base of the hairs. The droppings are tiny black specs, which will stain white paper reddish brown when moistened.
The adult flea jumps onto your pet and stays on if it can. Should they fall off they have to get back on soon or they die. The female lays 50 eggs a day and these fall from the coat into the home environment. The eggs hatch into tiny pre-adult fleas (larvae) and then develop into adults which spin a cocoon and wait for the right moment to get onto you or your pet. A single flea will within 2 months will be responsible for 20 000 adults and 160 000 pre-adult fleas. For every flea you see there are at least 9 eggs or pre-adults in the environment.
The female has to have a bloodmeal to be able to make her eggs and these bites can cause discomfort and irritation to your pet or yourself. Some animals (and people) become allergic to fleabites and just one fleabite can then cause severe irritation sometimes for weeks. Once an allergy has developed it cannot be cured. Flea bite allergy is the most common allergy diagnosed in pets. Fleas also transmit tapeworms to cats and dogs.
How to solve the problem
Treat the animal to clear fleas from the coat and prevent re-infestation from the environment. We recommend a spot-on treatment.
Treat the environment by regular vacuuming and using household insecticidal sprays (we recommend Indorex) throughout the house to control the pre-adults and eggs. It is especially important to vacuum dark places like under the settees since pre-adults do not like light. Any of your pets bedding will benefit from being washed on a hot wash.
There are a great number of flea treatments available (an indication of the size of the problem.) Not all flea products are equally effective. Therefore, please consult us about the best and most effective ones for your particular needs.
There is a lot of misinformation regarding neutering, especially on the internet. I hope to set out the facts as we know them in this article. It is important to realise we do not know anything with absolute certainty, that's not how science works; we keep learning and adapting our advice to current knowledge.
There is an overall benefit to neutering your cats
Cats breed very efficiently and The Cat Group, a collection of professional organisations working on cat welfare, recommend neutering at 4 months of age in most cases.
So why should you neuter your Cat?
The most important reason to neuter is population control, which is far more important than any health issues.
On the positive side, benefits to spaying female cats:
On the positive side, benefits to castrating male cats
On the negative side in both male and female cats we have no evidence of problems to date. The following have been areas of concern:
A good quality microchip is a simple way of identifying your pet for life. Our microchips include a built in thermometer making it easier to check your pets temperature at the surgery.
A microchip about the size of a grain of rice is implanted under the skin near the shoulders this contains a unique registration number. The number stays with your pet for its life and can be read by special scanners which most veterinary surgeries, animal organisations and some police stations have. This is a little like having your shopping scanned in a supermarket.
This allows a positive identification to be made and for you to be contacted as soon as possible.
Microchips can be used in cats, dogs, ferrets, rabbits, even tortoises and larger birds.
Unlike collars and tags, microchips can't "slip off".
Quality microchips have an extremely low failure rate but we do advise having your pet scanned each year to check their chip is still working.
It's very important that if you move or change your telephone number you alert the chip company so you can still be contacted.
If you require any further information or advice, please get in touch.
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