Saturday, February 23, 2008

Geriatric Pets - Optimizing Health

With recent advances in disease detection and treatment, your pet’s senior years can be a healthy and happy time. By sharing life and love with you, your pet has given you a priceless gift. Now that your pet has earned senior status, you have an opportunity to give something in return: the special love and care that can make the golden years happy and healthy.

It is estimated that your pet ages five to seven years for every one of yours, which suggests that health problems in your pet can progress at a faster rate. Therefore, we recommend frequent examinations for our older pets. In this manner, we can help prevent or treat many age-related conditions and enhance your pet’s quality of life. No one knows your pet better than you do, so it’s up to you to report any and all changes to your veterinarian.

As pets age, there is a decline in organ, mental abilities, sensory function and immunity. The following is a short list of the most common problems for aging pets: heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, dental disease (tooth loss and infections), cataracts, glaucoma, blindness, weight gain or loss, change in appetite, loss of house training, incontinence, changes in sleeping patterns, hearing loss, skin and hair coat problems, increased thirst and urination, decreased immune system, endrocrine dysfunction (thyroid), behavioral changes (due to medical problems or cognitive dysfunction), and cancer.

Physical Examination

A physical examination performed at a minimum of every six months will enable us to detect the presence of small problems or changes in your pet’s health before they can become major health problems. During this physical exam, the veterinarian assesses the following on your pet: cardiovascular system, respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, urinary and reproductive systems, central nervous system, eyes and ears, skin and coat, mouth, teeth, and gums, and a weight assessment. For some patients we will recommend a physical examination every three months.

A thorough physical exam alone is not capable of detecting all possible health problems. It is impossible to obtain and understand a complete picture without also performing other tests. Blood work gives us a means of checking your pet’s internal functions in a non-invasive manner.

Diagnostic Blood Work

Because of our strong commitment to providing the best medicine that we can for your pet, we strongly believe that regular blood testing is important in helping your pet to achieve a long and happy life. Even though our pets may appear to be healthy based on physical appearance and activity, many clinical signs of disease do not develop until late in the disease process. Pets cannot tell us when they do not feel 100% and because of their instinct to protect themselves, many animals will ‘hide’ their illness. A good example of this situation is a cat with kidney disease. This patient may be afflicted with kidney disease for months to years before developing signs of disease because a pet can lose up to 75% of kidney function before clinical signs will develop. Performing blood work will detect early changes in kidney enzymes and allow us to manage this disease process properly—allowing the patient to live a longer and healthier life.

We feel that blood work is the most important diagnostic test that we can perform on our older pets. Yes, we do not like to admit it, but most of our pets are senior citizens at seven years of age. Giant breed dogs attain senior citizen status at five to six years of age. Because of rapid aging changes at this stage of your pet’s life, we highly recommend blood work on an annual basis. We can compare current and previous blood results in order to evaluate the process of a disease and its response to therapy. Common diseases include heart disease, liver and kidney disease, arthritis, diabetes, thyroid disease, and dental (tooth) disease.

A normal result on blood work is great! You have not wasted your money. We now have a baseline for how your pet is doing at this time. If future blood work reveals changes then we can tell how long there has been a problem and are assured that we are indeed catching the problem early. Normal blood work results give both of us peace of mind that your pet is doing well.

A CBC (Complete Blood Cell Count) and Comprehensive Blood Serum Chemistry are good screening tests to help detect health problems for your pet.

Complete Blood Cell Count

This test provides information about the various types of blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to tissues. White blood cells are the body’s primary defense against infection. Platelets are involved in the clotting process. Abnormalities with any of these values help to potentially detect anemia, inflammation, acute or chronic infection, bleeding disorders, blood parasites, dehydration and autoimmune diseases.

Comprehensive Blood Serum Chemistry

This is a series of individual tests that analyzed together give us valuable information concerning the kidneys, liver, pancreas, intestinal tract, and endocrine diseases.

AMYLASE and LIPASE--pancreas
TOTAL PROTEIN and GLOBULIN—immune system, dehydration
GLUCOSE—diabetes, insulin tumor
CHOLESTEROL—hypothyroidism, cushings disease, pancreatitis
CALCIUM—kidney disease, hyperparathyroidism, some tumors
ELECTROLYTES—endocrine diseases, kidney and dehydration

Sometimes other diagnostics may be recommended based upon these results. Some of these involve specialized tests at outside laboratories. Some of the more common diagnostics involve:

Thyroid: Hyperthyroidism is extremely common in older cats. It can cause hypertension, heart disease, and weight loss. Dogs tend to get hypothyroidism which causes weight gain, problems with the hair coat, and other problems.

Urinalysis: This is a common test that will help to detect kidney disease, diabetes, infection, inflammation, and metabolic disorders. Kidney disease is first evident here.

ECG (Electrocardiogram): This enables us to see the electrical activity of the heart. Abnormalities may indicate a serious problem and a chest x-ray or a cardiac ultrasound may be recommended to further diagnose heart disease.

Ultrasound: This is a specialized piece of equipment that allows us to obtain a three dimensional image of your pet’s organs. We can visualize the heart, liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, intestines, pancreas, adrenal glands and bladder. When diseases of the liver or kidney are detected, the ultrasound can give us a look at the internal structure of these organs and allow for ultrasound guided biopsies to help further identify the cause of the disease. We strongly recommend an ultrasound on all of our cardiac patients, especially cats. Older cats are prone to HCM—Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. This is a disease in which the heart muscle hypertrophies, decreasing the available volume of blood to be moved through the heart. Radiographs will not diagnose this disease; it can only be diagnosed via ultrasound. This disease is fatal without specific and appropriate medical management.

Blood Pressure: Many older cats and dogs become hypertensive, especially with hyperthyroidism and/or kidney disease. This machine works much like the blood pressure monitors in human medicine. The test is quite simple and easy to perform.

X-Rays (Radiographs): These can help to detect problems with the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, bones, soft tissue and intestinal tract. They are used to identify disease and also to monitor progress/response to therapy. X-rays are an essential component in the work up of heart patients.

Glaucoma testing using the Tonopen: Many older pets can have problems with increased intraocular pressure (glaucoma) same as people do. Increases in pressure in the eye will cause pain and also lead to blindness if not detected early and treated appropriately.

Other Considerations

Advances in medical diagnostics and treatment enable us to help your pet be more comfortable and also to prolong his/her life. You and your veterinarian can form a partnership whose goal is to maintain an improved quality of life for your pet as long as we can.

Many older pets suffer from arthritis. This may be presented as lameness, difficulty getting up or climbing stairs, increased irritability, decreased appetite, and overall decrease in activity. New pain management medications help pets with chronic pain have a better quality of life. Nutritional supplements containing Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate help with joint maintenance and repair and are good to use in conjunction with other anti-inflammatory medications. The medication that is best for your individual pet’s needs will be chosen after discussion between you and your veterinarian. Acupuncture is another option for pets with arthritis.

In addition to medications, appropriate nutrition for your pet’s condition will also prolong his/her lifespan. All veterinarians agree that older pets need to be on a high quality diet. Most older pets suffer from obesity. These pets would benefit from increased dietary fiber. Other pets with kidney problems or heart disease may need specialized diets restricting sodium and protein. Skin problems can often be improved by adding omega 3 fatty acids to your pet’s diet. Immunomodulators and antioxidants will often help immune compromised and cancer patients. Some older pets will actually do better with a diet high in carbohydrates and increased protein. Together you and your veterinarian will decide upon an appropriate diet based upon your pet’s individual needs.

Many older pets will suffer from various dental problems: tooth decay and loss, gingivitis, infection and oral tumors. Pain caused by a tooth abscess can cause your pet to have a decreased appetite, be more irritable, and also lead to infection elsewhere in the body. These problems can be treated with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, teeth cleaning and oral rinses.
Behavioral changes may be an early signal of various medical problems. Many of these can be related to pain from arthritis, dental disease, etc. Cognitive dysfuntion is due to age related changes in the brain. Some symptoms of this are confusion and disorientation, decline in social interactions, changes in the sleep-wake cycle and house soiling.

With detailed information obtained through a physical examination and diagnostics, you and your veterinarian can formulate a plan for keeping your senior pet as healthy as possible. This overall patient assessment will include diet, exercise, and treatment recommendations. Certain medical, nutritional, and behavioral changes could signal a need for special care and diagnostics. With your love and dedication, these can be your best years together!

This article was donated by the Claws & Paws Veterinart Hospital,

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Heat Stroke in Dogs

Dogs don’t sweat the way people do in order to cool the body down during extreme temperatures. They cool off by panting; the air cools the mucous membranes and blood vessels in their mouth and tongue. Extreme cases of heat stroke lead to the disruption of the dog’s internal cooling mechanism, and they quickly go into cardiovascular shock, which is life-threatening.

Cars are the worst culprit. Even windows left open do not always provide the air flow needed, and the hothouse effect is very rapid! If you absolutely must leave your dog in the car, park only in the shade with windows open (so that they cannot jump out), and NEVER for more than 7 - 10 minutes. They must have access to cool, clean water at all times and be able to avoid direct heat by providing shade if outdoors, or a fan if left in an apartment during the hottest part of the day.

Puppies and older dogs are more susceptible to heat stroke. If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, this is an emergency situation and should be treated by your veterinarian immediately.

Some of the signs to watch for include:

1) unusual sluggishness or unresponsiveness
2) pale or dark red gums, sometimes with a dry feel
3) erratic breathing



Immediate correction of hyperthermia:

Monitor your pets temperature with a rectal thermometer. The normal temperature for a dog is around 38.5°C or 101°F. Dogs suffering from heat stroke often present with body temperatures around 105ºF.

Spray with water or immerse in water before transporting to veterinary facility.

Stop cooling procedures when temperature reaches 103°F, to avoid hypothermia.

Give artificial respiration support if required.

Don't let a fear of heat stroke stop you from enjoying the great outdoors with your pet, but please be aware of the danger. A little caution goes a long way, even just providing access to water and shade at all times will prevent your pet from developing this condition.

This article was donated by the Columbia Animal Hospital. For further information visit

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cheyletiella Mites in Dogs, Cats and Rabbits

Cheyletiella dermatitis is caused by a small mite that lives in the outer layers of the skin of dogs, cats, rabbits and people. Infected animals have an accumulation of dandruff on their backs and occasionally on their necks and heads. Most infested animals scratch and shed hair excessively.

The mite spreads easily from animal to animal by direct contact or sharing contaminated quarters or grooming supplies. People become infested through contact with infested animals.
As the entire life cycle of these mites occurs on the host animal, environmental cleaning is not difficult.

Diagnosis is made by identifying the mite microscopically. The characteristic appearance on examining the pet is one of 'walking dandruff'.

Important Points in Treatment

1. Cheyletiella infestations are easily treated with acaricidal spot-ons such as Revolution, Stronghold or Advocate. They can also be treated effectively with medicated shampoos and insecticidal dips, powders or sprays. The veterinarian will advise you concerning the best product for your pet.

2. During treatment, your pet should be isolated from other animals for 3 weeks.

3. While environmental contamination is not a great problem with Cheyletiella, mites may survive up to 10 days off the host. For this reason, a strong effort should be made to clean the premises thoroughly and spray the area with a good residual insecticide.

This article was donated by the Columbia Animal Hospital. For further information visit

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Liver Disease in Dogs & Cats

The liver is the main filtering and clearing organ of the body. All blood supply travels through the liver to be detoxified. There are many causes of liver disease - genetics, copper storage diseases, drug induce diseases, poisons, pancreatitis, Cushing's disease, malnutrition, parasites, environmental stresses, cancer, trauma and infectious diseases (bacterial, viral, fungal), just to name a few.

When diagnosed early, treatment of liver disease can be very rewarding. Diagnosis includes blood tests (lab interpretations) such as an ALT (SGPT), alkaline phosphophotase, bilirubin, total protein, bile acids etc. X-rays and ultrasound are also very important in the diagnose of this disease. Liver biopsies may also be an invaluable aid in the determination of the type of liver disease.

Listed below are several of the more common diseases of cats and dogs:

Hepatic Encephalopathy

A metabolic disorder affecting the CNS that develops as a result of hepatic disease causing seizures. The end result is the accumulation of ammonia in the blood stream due to portal shunts, cirrhosis, or end stage liver disease.

Clinical signs include: excessive drooling in cats, behavior changes, visual defects (blindness), circling, pacing, anxiety, stupor and seizures. These signs are more prevalent after eating due to the increased amount of ammonia in the blood stream affecting the brain.

Causes: portal shunts, infectious hepatitis, cirrhosis, dietary restriction of arginine in cats and ferrets.

Treatment: repair portal shunt if possible, low protein diet, antibiotics such as neomycin affecting intestinal flora to reduce the production of ammonia, lactulose to trap the ammonia in the gut, and low protein diets.

Acute Hepatic Failure

A rapid loss of liver function due to death of liver cells.

Causes: drugs, toxins, infectious diseases, and lack of oxygen.

Clinical signs: acute depression and illness-vomiting, icterus, diarrhea, seizures, hemorrhage

Diagnosis: abnormal laboratory values, abnormal x-rays and ultrasounds, and biopsy

Treatment: IV fluids, intestinal sedatives, plasma if indicated, antibiotics, vitamins

Hepatic Lipidosis (Fatty Liver)

The accumulation of fat within the liver.

Causes: loss of appetite which promotes the accumulation of lipid in the liver. This leads to a decreased in liver function. Underlying causes include-primary liver disease, shunts, diabetes, intestinal disease, pancreatitis, cancer, and other illnesses causing loss of appetite.

Signs: loss of appetite, weight loss, icterus, vomiting, enlarged liver on palpation.

Treatment: Dietary therapy is the primary treatment. High protein high calorie diets should be fed either by force feeding or by stomach tube. This process of tube feeding may last for 6-8 weeks. In our practice we place a either a PEG tube or pharyngeal tube surgically. Iv fluid therapy and antibiotics as well as vitamin therapy is also done.

Hepatitis Chronic Active

Inflammation of the liver resulting in the accumulation of inflammatory cells and scarring. This disease is more common in dogs and is due to many causes.

Causes: infectious canine hepatitis, leptospirosis, immune mediated diseases, copper storage diseases of Bedlingtons and Westies.

Diagnosis: Laboratory tests, x-rays, ultrasounds, biopsies

Treatment: A diet of high calorie and low in protein (HILL'S LD Diet), IV fluids, steroids, broad spectrum antibiotics, ursodiol (Actigal), B-complex and vitamin K.

Copper Storage Disease

Bedlington Terriers and Westhighland White Terriers can suffer from this genetic disease caused by accumulation of copper in the liver. This may also be seen in Doberman Pinchers and Skye Terriers. Copper is found in all foods then absorbed by the intestines, stored in the liver and excreted through the bile system. These breed genetically have the inability to eliminate copper from the liver. As many as 2/3 of Bedlingtons in the USA have this disease and may be clinically affected. Westies do not show the clinical signs of the disease even though they may have high levels of copper. Other breeds affected are cocker spaniels, keeshonds and Labrador retrievers.

Diagnosis: Blood tests, x-ray, ultrasound and biopsy

Treatment: Iv fluids, lactulose, d-penicillamine for binding the copper, and zinc acetate given before feeding. Vitamin C may also help reduce the absorption of copper.

Infectious hepatitis

A viral disease targeting the liver, kidneys, eyes, and blood stream.

Clinical signs: fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain

Diagnosis: Blood tests, x-rays, ultrasound, liver biopsy.

Treatment: This disease is preventable with vaccination. Treatment is supportive-IV fluids, antibiotics, highly digestible diets.

Leptospirosis Hepatitis

A bacterial disease caused by leptospirosis. This is a potential communicable disease to people.

Clinical signs: Depression, loss of appetite, signs of kidney disease, respiratory disease.

Diagnosis: Blood tests, serum testing for leptospirosis, urine culturing

Treatment: IV therapy, Procaine penicillin G, or enrofloxicin

Other liver diseases include:abscess of the liver, benign tumors, cancer, toxins, parasites

There are many types and clinical signs of liver cancer. Treatment is often not rewarding as the disease is diagnosed when the cancer is to far advanced. Diagnosis may be made by blood tests, x-ray, ultrasound, laproscopy, CAT scan, and exploratory surgery.

End stage liver disease encompasses may types of pathology. Cirrhosis is one form of end stage liver disease. As the disease progresses, the liver is unable to filter and process properly. As a result, the body is overwhelmed with toxins such as ammonia. When this occurs, your pet may develop a seizure like disorder as a result of the toxins. Diets low in protein as well as medications to bind the ammonia may be of use to help minimize the clinical signs as well as prolong your pet's quality of life.

This article was donated by the Columbia Animal Hospital. For further information visit

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Lyme Disease in Pets

Lyme Disease is a disease caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi. The disease can affect dogs, cats, horses, cattle, birds, wild animals, and people. White-tailed deer and white-footed mice appear to be natural carriers.

The disease is transmitted by the bite of a tick. Some biting insects have been found carrying the organism, but they are not considered as major transmitters of the disease. There is NO evidence that you can get the disease from your pet, BUT your pet could bring infected ticks into your yard or house. Most of the signs of Lyme Disease are reported in the spring to fall, when tick populations are the highest.

Lyme Disease appears to have a world-wide distribution. Cases have been reported in at least 30 of the United States. The areas of highest activity are along the northeastern seaboard, however, a few cases have been documented in Texas.

Signs of Lyme Disease are vague and resemble various other conditions. Initial signs include a rash, fever, joint swelling and pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Within days, weeks, or even months, more serious signs develop, such as heart, brain, and joint disorders. Painful joint swelling is the most common advanced sign.

A positive antibody test for Lyme Disease only shows that your pet has been exposed to the organism at some point in time. It does NOT mean that your pet is currently infected. The test is performed to help evaluate clinical signs where the disease could be a possibility. Often a diagnosis of Lyme Disease cannot be made until a response is seen to treatment for the disease. Many pets that are exposed to the organism will test positive, but never develop signs.
The disease is readily treated with antibiotics. The earlier in the course of the disease treatment is begun, the better the chance for complete cure. Your pet may appear well after only a few days of medication, BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONTINUE GIVING THE DRUG FOR THE FULL TIME PERIOD or your pet may show signs again.


When you and your pet venture into areas that may be infested with ticks, you should take precautions to avoid infection with Lyme Disease or other tick-transmitted diseases. Apply repellents to yourself and regularly use flea and tick insecticides on your pet. Always closely inspect your pet and yourself after walking in woods, fields, or meadows. If you detect any ticks, do not crush the tick’s body during removal. Rather, use tweezers or forceps to grasp the tick’s head as close to your pet’s skin as possible, and gently remove the tick to avoid separation of the tick’s head from its body.


This vaccination is recommended if you live in an area inhabited by ticks or if you plan on taking your dog to the park, woods, out camping, or hunting.
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Friday, February 1, 2008

A Healthy Diet for Cats

They say we are what we eat. This applies to your pet as much as it applies to yourself. A good diet means less health problems, less trips to the vet and lower veterinary bills. But how much thought have you given to what your cat should be eating to maintain optimum health? Ask yourself the following questions.

1) How many times a day do you feed your cat?

Since cats cannot be exercised like dogs can, the only way you can influence your cats weight is by controlling the amount and type of food he or she eats. If the cat is being fed individual meals several times daily, there is often a tendency by the owner to offer the daily supply of food on several occasions rather than divide up the daily feed into several meals. This can also occur with cats fed dry food ad lib. Cats usually regulate their food intake, but continual exposure to large quantities of food may lead to over-eating and subsequent obesity if too many calories are consumed. In short, both several individual meals a day and ad lib feeding are fine, it is the total amount offered per 24 hour period which is the important figure.

Kittens should be fed small meals at regular intervals due to their tiny stomachs. Four or five meals are recommended at eight weeks of age, decreasing to two at six months of age.

2) Is your cats diet manufactured specifically for cats or do you give human food?

Some cat owners like to spoil their cat by feeding them human food as the bulk of their diet. Others have tried feeding their cat regular catfood, but find their fussy cat will not touch it, and prefers to wait for the inevitable human food offering, which soon becomes the staple diet.
Is it really unhealthy to feed cats human food though? Of course it depends what food. Remember that cats are carnivores, and require a high proportion of meat in their diet. They simply cannot adapt to a low protein diet, and will lose bodyweight if deprived of it. In fact, as a species they are relatively unique... a deficiency of the amino acid, arginine, in a single meal can lead to symptoms of lethargy, hypersalivation and vocalisation. Arginine is required by the cat to produce urea, a waste product resulting from the breakdown of protein.

Another essential nutrient for the cat is the amino acid, taurine, which the cat cannot manufacture sufficiently by itself to meet its needs. The cat's diet must therefore contain taurine in sufficient quantities. If a deficiency develops there is a high risk of serious and irreversible damage to major organs such as the heart and the eye. Taurine is found almost entirely in meat, confirming the fact that the cat is a compulsory carnivore.

Another disease of nutritional origin is that caused by cats eating raw liver regularly, who can suffer from a condition called hypervitaminosis A. Cats suffering from this can present with signs of lethargy, unthriftiness, a stiff neck and other skeletal problems. To play it safe, do not feed your cat liver more than once a week.

Reputable cat foods are formulated after extensive trials by pet food companies to provide the mixture of protein, carbohydrate and fat that suits feline physiology best. It is easier, cheaper and possibly more healthy for your cat to be fed a reputable cat food diet, with occasional treats if desired (tuna, liver etc).

3) Which is better out of dry cat food or wet cat food?

Most vets recommend complete dry biscuit based cat food. This is because studies have shown that cats on dry food diets are less likely to suffer from dental disease than those on wet food from a tin or pouch. The physical motion of biting these biscuits helps prevent tartar from adhering to the surface of the tooth. However, even cats with no teeth can eat biscuit based food without a problem, as they just scoop up the biscuits with their tongue and swallow them whole. Another advantage of dry food is that it does not spoil as quickly which is useful for cats that are fed ad lib.

There are occasionally reasons why a wet food is preferable, as a method to increase the water consumption in a cat with a urinary problem such as cystitis.

4) Which is the best cat food to choose?

There are so many different brands of cat food on the market, the best one is basically a matter of opinion. Certainly palatability is a factor, there is no point in purchasing a particular food if your cat cannot stand it, although this is occasionally a necessity in cats requiring prescription diets. Rather than recommending you a specific brand, we suggest that you choose one which adheres to the criteria below.

Cat foods labeled as complete and balanced must meet standards established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), either by meeting a nutrient profile or by passing a feeding trial. There are now two separate nutrient profiles for cats - one for growth (kittens) and one for maintenance (adults). Maximum levels of intake of some nutrients have been established for the first time because of the concern that overnutrition, rather than undernutrition, is a bigger problem with many pet foods today. The standards include recommendations on protein, fat, fat soluble vitamins, water soluble vitamins, and mineral content of foods. If you are prepared to get technical, you should choose a food that comes closest to AAFCO recommendations.

In summary, consider the following points:

Choose a food that suits your cats age. Most big pet food companies will have different foods for kittens vs adults. Cats with medical conditions may be recommended special prescription diets.

Choose a food that come closest to AAFCO recommendations.

The ingredients contains the truth about a particular food. Everything else is there only for marketing purposes.

There are no legal and scientific definitions for the terms "premium," "super premium," "quality," or "natural."

Use dry matter numbers to evaluate and compare foods.

The source of ingredients (e.g. animal vs vegetable) does not matter, except in the case of food allergies.

Avoid supplementation. All commercial cat foods have more than enough protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Feeding your cat a good food incorrectly can lead to significant problems.

5) My cat is overweight, but no matter how hard I try I cannot get him to lose weight. What can I do?

Your cat is almost certainly being fed too much. Below some common mistakes are listed. Have a good look at these and make sure none of them could apply to your cat.

Not following the guidelines on the packet when measuring a portion. Most cat foods will have a table on the packaging suggesting daily portions for cats of different weights. The weight of food suggested is per 24 hrs, not per portion! Use your kitchen weighing scales to measure out the portion until you are sure of the correct amount.

Using a complete dry diet as a replacement for regular biscuits, and mixing it with wet cat food. If it says complete, you should not mix it with anything or you will overfeed.

Offering inappropriate food that is high in fat, or cream/full fat milk to drink.

Several members of the household feeding the cat at different times, whenever the cat is meows for food.

Giving the cat regular treats in addition to its main meal.

The cat is getting fed by neighbors, who think they are being kind by feeding it and enjoy the attention it gives them.

The cat is scavenging food from outside sources, such as other peoples bins.

The cat is part of a multi-cat household and is stealing food from the other cat(s), or even the dog.

Keep an open mind. If there is a possibility that any of the above scenarios might be the case with your cat, investigate it. If you are still at a loss, consider starting a prescription diet (see below).

6) I have heard you can get special light diets, or prescription diets for fat cats. Do they really work?

Yes they do, if used properly. These types of cat food are available in complete wet (tinned or pouches) form or dry (biscuit) form, and are growing in popularity amongst conscientious pet owners. They are low in calories and high in fibre, and often contain high levels of L-carnitine. L-carnitine has been used to help with fat metabolism in other species and recent scientific work indicates that it helps reduce weight in overweight dogs and cats. The real benefit of these low calorie diets though is that because of its low calories, cats can still eat reasonable sized portions and therefore feel full. This means they are more content and less likely to beg and look for extra food.These diets are perfectly healthy for normal sized cats to eat too, so if you have a multi cat household and it is unfeasible to separate the cats during feeding time, you can safely feed all of the cats the prescription diet together.

7) Where can I buy this low calorie food from?

Many of the big pet food companies are waking up to the problem of pet obesity, and adding light versions to their range. However, they are unlikely to be as effective as the traditional prescription diets that are on the market.

They are known as prescription diets, because they are a specialist food normally prescribed by a veterinarian. However, you do not need a prescription to buy the food as it is a general sales list product. These foods are rarely available in supermarkets as many supermarkets are keen to sell their own brand, or have deals with the big pet food manufacturers. Many owners but their prescription diet from their veterinary clinic for convenience, whilst others prefer to shop around to get the best price. Many online pharmacies and pet stores are now offering these prescription foods, but whilst they may appear cheaper online, watch out for delivery charges added on top.

Author Bio: Matthew Homfray is an online pet advisor at new pet Q&A service Televets. Visit them and ask your question today!