Why Cats’ Meow And Yowl At Night

Recently, I have had many complaints from people about cats who keep them up all night.  The people are desperate for help due to lack of sleep.  Here is a list of the common causes of meowing or yowling that I see broken down into two categories.  I will address treatments in my next post. 

-Hyperthyroidism or excess thyroid hormone may cause vocalizing and hyperactivity.  This is more common in cats over 7 years of age.  
-Testicular tumors that secrete testosterone.
-Intact (not spayed or neutered) animals looking for a partner.  This is the season when love is in the air.
-Hormonal stimulation in animals that were improperly sterilized.
-Drug side effects.
-Pain especially from osteoarthritis.  I had one patient that had trouble getting into the litter box.  He would stand beside it and meow until someone put him inside.  Cutting down one side gave him pain-free access.   
-Pruritus causes by allergies or external parasites.  Fleas, bed bugs and mites tend to be more active at night. 
-Dementia and brain tumors.
-Hypertension which is often found with renal insufficiency in older cats.

-Anxiety which often occurs as cats age and their senses diminish. 
-A cat that is protecting their resources or territory will make a lot of noise.  This often occurs when the resident cat sees or smells a cat outside their home.
-Boredom due to lack of behavioral enrichment.  Cats need places to rest, eat/drink, use the litter box and play.  Sometimes, we forget the need for play.  
-Lack of exercise is a huge problem for indoor cats.  Besides causing unwanted behaviors, it also leads to obesity.  As my professor taught me in veterinary school, “A tired animal doesn’t get into trouble.”
-Hyperactivity related to high carbohydrate diets.  In some ways cats are just like kids, feed them a high carbohydrate (sugar) snack and watch out.  


African Gray Parrot With Squamous Cell Carcinoma

In January of 2012, I noticed some blood in my parrot’s cage.  Ni is an African Gray parrot who picks her feathers.  I assumed she had just pulled another one, but closer inspection revealed a bloody mass in the area of her preen gland (uropygial gland).  The next day, I performed surgery and removed the mass.  Unfortunately, the biopsy results confirmed my worst fear.  Ni had a very aggressive form of cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma and the tumor cells extended all the way to the margins.   

Squamous cell carcinomas that occur in the area of the uropygial or preen gland are usually seen in birds that are on poor quality diets.  The lack of vitamin A causes squamous cell metaplasia that eventually changes to a carcinoma.  Ni has always enjoyed a good diet.  She eats a mixture of vegetables, fruits and organic pellets.  This couldn’t possible be the cause. . .or could it?  I started Ni on Harrison’s Sunshine Factor, hoping for the best.

Two months have passed and I am happy to report that Ni is doing well.  Right after surgery, her incision broke down as the tumor remnants started to grow again.  After two weeks of vitamin A supplementation, the tumor started to shrink and Ni no longer required medication to control her pain.   I suspect the Arizona heat may have effected her otherwise great diet during transport.  In any event, as a veterinarian and bird lover, this is a wonderful development to share with all of you who care about birds.  If your bird is diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, be sure to ask your veterinarian about vitamin A supplementation.  Below is a picture of the tumor before I removed it.   


Elevated Food Bowls For Dogs

Pictured below is my dog, Buddy, having dinner from an elevated food Bowl.  I like elevated feeding stations for dogs with megaesophagus, osteoarthritis and cervical disc disease.  In my experience, elevated feeding stations also work well for dogs with anxiety.  They seem to feel less vulnerable when standing.

Unfortunately, a study performed at Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine, found that elevated food bowls might be associated with a greater risk of gastric dilation and volvulus (also referred to as bloat).  Other risk factors include increasing age, family history of bloat and eating rapidly. 

Source:  Glickman, L.T., et al, Non-dietary risk factors for gastric dilation and volvulus in large and giant breed dogs, J Am. Vet Med Assoc. November 2000: 217(10):1492-9.  

Tucson Festival Of Books

Join Dr. Nelson at the Tucson Festival of Books, March 10 and 11, 2012 at the University of Arizona. Stop by booth #243 on the central mall or join the fun at a panel dicussion.  More information at tucsonfestivalofbooks.org

Animal Behavior-Mild to Wild:  Saturday, March 10th from 11:30 to 12:30 in room 111 of the Chemistry building. Dr. Nelson will be joined by Sy Montgomery, author of Birdology and Dr. Patricia B. McConnell author of Love Has No Age Limit: Welcoming an Adopted Dog into Your Home. Author information at symontgomery.com and patriciamcconnell.com.

Animals and HealingSunday, March 11th from 1 to 2pmin the Koffer room.  Dr. Nelson will be joined by Dr. Allan Hamilton author of Zen Mind, Zen Horse and Stephanie Marohn author of What the Animals Taught Me: Stories of Love and Healing from a Farm Sanctury.  Author information at zenmindzenhorse.com and stephaniemarohn.com.

Advice For High School Students Who Want To Be Veterinarians

Some people are called to their profession at a young age.  I decided that I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was four!  I called it an animal doctor because I couldn’t say veterinarian.  For all of you ‘early deciders’, I put together a list of tips that will help you achieve the dream of becoming a veterinarian.  You have chosen a wonderful profession.  GOOD LUCK!

1) Grades-Grades are very important.  When you apply to veterinary school, you must list your overall grade point average as well as your grades in required courses from college.  Although your high school grades are not counted, it is important to establish good study habits now.  Work hard and aim for an A in every class you take.  ***Please note:  Your grades need to be good, not perfect.  When I got my first B in college I thought my dream was over.  This is not true.  You do not have to have a 4.0 to get into veterinary school but the higher the better.

2) Classes-Take all the college prep classes you can.  If you take challenging classes in high school, it will help you in college.  Select as many classes as possible in math and science.  Veterinarians use algebra all the time to calculate drug dosages.  We also need training in statistics and calculus to evaluate research results.     In science, make sure you take chemistry, biology and physics.  Learn the basics of these subjects now to gain an advantage in college.

3) Experience-Experience is broken into two categories for veterinary college, animal-related and veterinary-related.  Veterinary-related means experience working under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.  The animal-related category includes work with animals in any setting.  Obviously, working with a veterinarian is best but difficult to do in high school.  So, focus on getting experience with animals of all kinds.  Here’s some ideas:
    – Join 4-H and do projects with animals and veterinary medicine.
    – Walk dogs or cuddle cats during summer break at your local animal shelter.  
    – Participate in the annual wild bird counts.
    – Volunteer at a rehabilitation center for the species that interests you.  Examples are raptors, reptiles, parrots, wild animals.
    – Foster an animal for a rescue group.
    – Train a puppy for an animal assistance program.
    – Take riding lessons at a stable to learn how to handle horses.
    – Work on a farm with cattle, hogs, poultry or sheep.  
    – Volunteer to take care of a classroom pet.
    – Go to veterinary camp to learn about animals.

4) Extracurricular activities-It is true that veterinary schools like well rounded individuals with a variety of interests.  But make sure you give yourself plenty of time to study.  If your college G.P.A. isn’t high enough, the veterinary colleges won’t even look at you to see all the other wonderful things you did.  So use this time to explore and develop your interests but be careful not to over commit.  Leave yourself plenty of time to study and also have some fun with your friends.  Learning how to balance the different areas of your life now will help you in the future.  

You can get more tips at vetschoolapp.com.  To learn what a year of clinical practice is like for a small animal veterinarian, I’m a little partial but believe you will enjoy Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life.