Epilepsy in Cats

    The diagnosis of epilepsy is given to cats who have had more than one seizure.  During a seizure, a cat may exhibit a variety of clinical signs from twitching and staring off into space to a complete loss of consciousness with uncontrollable movement of the legs, urination, defecation and loud meows.  Before a seizure, some cats will hide while others seek attention from their human family.  After the seizure, the cat may act drunk or like it is blind during the recovery phase. 

    The many causes of seizures include brain abnormalities, liver disease, low blood sugar, low blood levels of calcium, tumors, valley fever, FIP, FIV, toxoplasmosis, lead, ethylene glycol and even rabies.   But the goal of therapy is always the same, stop the seizures first and then treat the underlying disease causing it.  So what should you do if your cat is seizuring?  First, do not put your fingers in their mouths or you may be bitten.  Cats do not swallow their tongues and suffocate.  Instead, keep them away from dangerous situations like pools and stairs.  Time the seizure.  If it lasts longer than 2 minutes, start cooling therapy.  Spray the cat with cool water or wrap a wet towel around them and bring them into the veterinarian right away.  Third, start a seizure log.  Record when, where, time of day, length of seizure and anything out of normal that will help your veterinarian diagnose the condition.

See Dr. Nelson present this information in person at http://www.ehow.com/video_12300354_epilepsy-cat.html.

You Make The Diagnosis: Abnormal X-rays in a Dog

Pictured below  is the x-ray from a dog who was having accidents in the house.  The owner noticed blood in the urine as well.  Look closely at the film and then answer the following questions:  What is wrong with this dog?  What are the dark black areas in the middle of the dog’s abdomen? 

Diagnosis:  Kidney & bladder stones, intestinal gas 

See the bright white oval structure on the right side of the x-rays.  That is many little stones in the dog’s urinary bladder.  There are also a few small stones in the dog’s kidneys which are on the upper left side of the x-ray.  The black areas in the middle of the x-ray is gas in the intestines and colon.  On X-rays, minerals like calcium show up as white while gas or air is black.  Soft tissues like muscle and internal organs are represented by shades of gray.   


Rhinovirus in Cats

    Feline viral rhinotracheitis is the name given to respiratory disease caused by a Herpes virus called Feline Herpes Virus 1.  This virus infects felines of all shapes and sizes.  It does not infect humans.  The virus loves to infect the eyes of cats and kittens.  It causes severe inflammation of the conjunctiva, that’s the pink membrane that lines the eyelids.  Sometimes the inflammation spreads to the cornea causing ulcers. The virus also causes sneezing, coughing, anorexia, nasal discharge and rarely, pneumonia.  Young kittens with feline herpes virus 1 have runny eyes.  The discharge is so thick and sticky that it can actually glue their lids together.  

    Unfortunately, there is no cure for Herpes Virus 1 in cats.  After the cat is infected, the virus hides in the trigeminal ganglion in the head.  During times of stress, when the cat’s immune system isn’t functioning well, it will cause disease again although usually not as severe.  Therefore, once a cat is infected with Feline Herpes Virus 1 it cannot be cured just controlled.  Infected cats are treated with antibiotics, antiviral medications, lysine and even feline interferon.  It is important to open the eyelids of kittens to allow them to drain.  I usually soften the thick crusts with a wet cotton ball and then slowly peel away the crust.  To prevent this disease, all kittens should be kept isolated from other cats until they have received all of their kitten boosters.  Although the vaccine for rhinotracheatitis provides some protection for this virus, it is not 100% effective in preventing it. 

    It is important to remember that cats infected with feline herpes virus 1 can still live happy, comfortable lives.  One of my own cats is infected.  After boarding, he would break with runny eyes and sneezing.  The outbreaks stopped after I started giving him lysine every day and started having a pet sitter come to the house. 

Here is a link to a video presentation of this information.  http://www.ehow.com/video_12300355_rhinovirus-cats.html

Hookworm Infection in Cats

Hookworms are much less common in cats than in dogs.  Cats may become infected with two types of hook- worms, Ancylostoma tubaeforme and Ancyclostoma braziliense.  Adult worms live in the intestines of an infected cat.  They produce eggs which pass out in the feces.  The egg hatches into a larva that eventually hatches into a third stage larvae that is ready to infect a new host. 

The unsuspecting cat gets infected in one of three ways:  First, they eat food contaminated with larvae.  Cock- roaches are the big culprit here because many cats enjoy hunting these pests.  Second, the larvae may be ingested during grooming.  And third, these nasty larvae can penetrate the skin of cats.  Once inside, they migrate to the intestine and start the process all over again.  Hookworm larvae from dogs and cats can even penetrate human skin.  This is why people should always wear shoes when walking on dog friendly beaches. 

To prevent hookworm infections in humans and cats follow these simple rules:  Wash your hands well after handling pets and raw food.  Wear gloves when cleaning the litter box.  Keep cats indoors and have regular fecal checks performed.  And last but not least, keep cockroaches out.    

For a video clip on this topic go to eHow at:  http://www.ehow.com/video_12300344_hookworm-cats.html

You Make The Diagnosis: Dog Orthopedic X-rays

Below are the x-rays of a puppy who presented for sudden lameness.  She screamed when she tried to walk on her front legs.  Look at the x-ray closely then answer the following questions:  How many bones are broken? What is the extra material on the pup’s legs?  What are the circular structures under her toes (note: you will have to look closely to find them)?   


Diagnosis:  Fracture of the left and right radius and ulna

The x-ray above shows both of the pup’s front legs from the elbow to the paw.  
The pup fractured the main weight bearing bone called the radius in both legs just above the wrist.  She also fractured the ulna on both front legs but it does not show on this film.  So the correct answer is 4 bones in total were fractured but only 2 show on this film.  The material around her wrists is a bandage with a splint made of lightweight casting material.  The paw pads, especially the central one, show up as round light grey circles on x-rays.

Alopecia in Cats

Alopecia in cats is one of the most frustrating problems I have to deal with as a veterinarian because there are so many things that can cause it.  To help narrow down the possible causes, I want to know if the cat actually pulls their hair out while grooming or if the hair falls out by itself.  Since some cats are ‘closet groomers’, their humans might not see them in action.  So I start the workup by examining hair under the microscope to see if the shafts are broken.  This indicates chewing if they are broken or if intact it indicates the hair fell out.  In my experience, alopecia in young cats is the former while alopecia in older cats is the latter.

Young cats can react to stress from pain or a constant itch by chewing.  The most common causes are mites, ringworm, fleas, abdominal pain, intestinal parasites and food allergies.  Many tests including skin scrapes, a fecal analysis, blood work, fungal culture and urinalysis are needed for the proper diagnosis.  In older cats where the hair falls out on its own, I worry about paraneoplastic syndrome.  That’s a fancy way of saying cancer.   For these cases, a biopsy of the hairless area is usually the quickest way to make a diagnosis.  

Notice, the cat pictured below has alopecia between its eyes and ears.  This is a normal area of alopecia that is not a medical problem.

For a video on this topic click on the link below or go to ehow.com