You Make The Diagnosis: Name The Disease Conures Often Carry

Conures are a type of small parrot that originate from Central and South America.  Although they come in a variety of colors, they all share one thing in common . . . an unquenchable zest for life.  These little dynamos are the Jack Russel Terriers of the bird world, bold and inquisitive.  They are also quite vocal as demonstrated by this video clip of two Sun Conures I took at the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore.    

Unfortunately, they may carry a disease that is fatal to other species of parrots which is why I do not recommend keeping conures with other birds.  Name this disease. 

Diagnosis:  Pacheco’s Virus (Avian Herpes Virus)

Conures may carry Avian Herpes Virus which causes disease in other species.  It is most often found in Nanday and Patagonian conures although any conure may carry it.  I remember a family who lost their beloved Amazon parrot after taking care of a neighbor’s pet conure.  The family felt sorry for the bird being alone while her family was on vacation and brought the bird to their house.  Unfortunately, neither family knew about this disease.   

Switching Cats From Dry To Canned Food

In order to reduce the amount of carbohydrates and fat consumed by cats, I recommend feeding a combination of canned and dry food.  But what if your cat won’t eat canned food?  There are some cats who are hooked on dry and will not even try the canned food.  Here are my suggestions for converting a finicky feline.

Please Note:  Cats are prone to a life-threatening condition called hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver syndrome when not consuming an adequate diet.  I have seen it occur when people try the “tough love” approach to a diet change.  These owners incorrectly believe the cat will eventually eat the new food when it gets hungry enough.  Unfortunately, this is mistaken and can have tragic consequences.  These cats starve themselves and develop hepatic lipidosis.  To prevent this, make all diet changes gradually and monitor your cat’s weight at regular intervals.     

1)  Establish a feeding routine.  Give the cat dry food twice a day at approximately the same time in the morning and evening.  After one hour, pick up the dish until the next feeding.  No more free choice eating!  We want the cat accustomed to eating on a schedule. 

2)  Within a short time, usually less than two weeks, the cat will anticipate meal times.  Many will beg for food by rubbing on your legs, batting the food bowl or meowing loudly.  Now it is time to introduce the canned food.  Place a tablespoon of canned food in the dish and observe the cat’s behavior.  Hopefully, the hunger will drive the cat to try it but this isn’t always the case.  Dry food junkie’s will often ignore the food or try to cover it.  After one hour, replace the canned food with dry, give them an hour to eat and then remove the food. 

3)  Experiment with different temperatures and textures of canned food.  My two orange tabby cats like their canned food at room temperature.  They refuse to eat canned food straight out of the refrigerator while my kittens couldn’t care less.  Please note:  If you warm the food in a microwave, check for hot spots before serving to prevent burns!

4)  After one month of this schedule, most cats will consume the canned food.  For the stubborn ones, sometimes a final push is needed.  Reduce the amount of dry food by twenty-five percent while offering the canned food as usual.  If the cat still refuses, try lightly coating the dry kibble with canned food.  Even the most stubborn cats will usually give in and eat at this point in time.  Slowly increase the amount of canned food until the desired level is achieved.  

For those of you who are trying to convert a dry food junkie to canned food, hang in there.  Although it may take months to convert them, I have had great success using the steps outlined above.  Have patience and monitor their weight carefully to prevent hepatic lipidosis.   

Increasing Water Consumption In Cats

There are many medical conditions in which I recommend more water consumption as a part of the treatment protocol.  Unfortunately, that is easier said than done with cats.  How do you encourage a cat to drink more?  Here are my suggestions:

1)  Feed canned food instead of dry.  Once the cat is eating the canned food well, mix more water into the food to make a slurry.  Some cats will only eat dry food.  For these stubborn patients see my next post which covers transitioning cats from dry to canned food.
2)  Place the water bowl in a safe area for the cat with at least two routes of escape.  Some cats refuse to drink because they are afraid of being caught at the bowl by a dog or other more dominant family cat.
3)  Use a ceramic bowl to prevent electrical shocks.  This is a problem in arid environments.  I had one patient that refused to drink because he was shocked every time the metal I.D. tag on his collar touched his metal bowl.
4)  Try a table fountain.  Many cats love running water.  A small table fountain will provide running water without increasing your water bill.  Change the water frequently to keep it fresh.
5)  Some cats will drink water flavored with clam juice, chicken broth or tuna juice.  Before offering any of these, speak to your veterinarian to make sure an increase in salt will not adversely affect your pet.  Also, tuna contains thiaminase.  If feed in large quantities, it may cause thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency leading to neurologic disease.  To prevent this, I recommend alternating between the three. 
6)  Clam juice, chicken broth and tuna juice may also be frozen into ice cubes for cats who prefer their treats cold.

World Veterinary Year 2011

2011 marks the 250th anniversary of veterinary education.  In 1761 King Louis XV established the first veterinary college in Lyon, France.   In celebration of that event and in recognition of veterinarian’s work in animal, human and ecosystem health, this year is designated World Veterinary Year!

As a veterinarian, speaker and author, I look forward to sharing the many ways our profession serves both animal and human populations.  My New Year’s resolution for 2011 is to convey to as broad an audience as possible the shear joy of being a veterinarian, the extraordinary satisfaction derived from those of us lucky enough to be veterinarians and to honor my colleagues – past, present and to inspire future veterinarians among the young people of planet earth.

Helping injured or sick animals is immensely rewarding.   Many of the stories of the last twenty plus years will never leave my heart or memory.  For example, I am still moved each time I participate in the birthing process.  This is true whether helping an animal deliver naturally or though cesarean section.  

As is true of most veterinarians, I enjoy all animals.  We truly do love animals!  At a veterinary conference in St. John, US Virgin Islands, we became aware of the Westin’s traditional afternoon iguana feeding.  They brought out high quality spinach and vegetables from the kitchen.  It was amazing to watch the iguanas swarm out of the bush to dine.  As you would expect, we vets were drawn to the event like bears to honey.

The diverse roles that veterinarians play is stunning and affords a world of opportunity for those pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.  For example, my father-in-law is a veterinarian and worked as a small animal clinician, then was a professor at a veterinary college teaching surgery.  He then spent the majority of his career as an industrial veterinarian in the pharmaceutical industry developing drugs for humans.  Veterinarians have been astronauts, serve in Congress, do mission work, serve shelter animals, are an integral part of the military, take care of farm, zoo and wild animals.  We have specialities like surgery, anesthesiology, radiology, pathology, ob/gyn etc.  

In short, this is a wonderful profession.  We make a difference for animals.  We also help people.  I feel incredibly blessed to do what I love and am thrilled that 2011 is World Veterinary Year!  More information is available at .

Sources:  American Veterinary Medical Association, Lynn Pritchett – Yahoo!         

Done With Chemotherapy!

I am thrilled to announce that I am done with chemotherapy!  Hopefully the Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Burkitt’s Lymphoma are also conquered.  The PET Scan in late January will provide the definitive answer.  For now, I celebrate having chemo in the rear view mirror and being a cancer survivor.  Enduring the CODOX-M/IVAC (Modified McGrath protocol) with Rituxan was difficult.  Thanks though to a wonderful oncologist (Dr. Kukunoor) and teams at Southwest Hematology Oncology and Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Hospital, I have the privilege of writing this blog post.  I am deeply indebted to you all for your medical skill and intensive caring!

This New Year’s weekend I look forward to writing a blog celebrating the birthday of Veterinary Medicine.  To the subscribers of this blog, thank you for your patience these past many months when I could seldom write.  I wish you and your animals the best of health in 2011!