Washtenaw Veterinary Hospital

Spring 2017

Focus on: Lyme Disease

Spring is upon us and that means warmer weather and plenty of sunshine. It also means mosquitos, ticks, and fleas are back and it's time to start your pet's prevention. Our doctors have already diagnosed several acute cases of Lyme disease this year and our annual report from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has named Washtenaw County as a high-risk area for this disease.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and it is transmitted through tick bites. The most common tick to carry this disease is the deer tick, which is a tiny black insect that can live in forests, grassy areas, marshes, near lakes and oceans, and even in your own back yard.

Pets infected with Lyme disease may not show signs for 2-5 months and then the symptoms can be very vague. Typical signs include fever, lethargy, swollen joints, intermittent lameness, and loss of appetite. This disease can be treated with an extended course of antibiotics, but prevention is always the best option. Dogs and outdoor cats should be kept on flea and tick prevention unless there is snow sticking to the ground.

It is important to check for ticks on your pets and yourself after spending time outdoors. We had an extremely mild winter and the ticks are out early this year. We carry Frontline, Nexgard, and Bravecto for tick prevention, which gives you both topical and oral options. Stop in soon to pick up tick prevention for your pet!

Feline Behavior Part 2 - Indoor Elimination Issues

In the last edition of the WVH newsletter we learned that cats are solitary survivors that can coexist peacefully in social groups of their own choosing. They prefer to avoid conflict and use pheromone signals through rubbing, urine, feces, and scratching to communicate with other cats. Many of these signals are misinterpreted by humans and are a source of frustration and conflict with our feline pets.

Some of the most common and frustrating problems with cats are elimination issues. Having a cat that consistently urinates or defecates outside the litter box can cause stress within a household and can be a serious threat to the cat's welfare. First, it is important to make sure that all medical causes for the behavior have been ruled out by a veterinarian.

Some of the most common non-medical reasons that cats urinate outside the box include:

1. Social tension - if members of different social groups are expected to share litter boxes, one or more may choose to find a less stressful location.

2. Changes in the cat's territory - major redecorating or even adding a new human (visitor, baby, etc.) to the household can create more stress than the cat can cope with.

3. Substrate aversion - most cats prefer an unscented, clay clumping litter or sand.

4. Cleanliness - if the litter box is not cleaned regularly, many cats will choose a different location to eliminate.

5. Fear of the litter box - if a cat is ambushed by a dog or child while using the box, if there is loud noise near the box, or if they are caught while using the box to receive medication or be placed in a carrier, they can become afraid of that location.

By changing certain environmental factors to address these issues, you can make the litter box more appealing to your cat. To alleviate social tension, make sure you have enough litter boxes. The recommended number is one box for every cat plus one (so 2 cats, should have access to 3 boxes). These boxes should not be in the same location and the more boxes you have, the more locations you'll need to utilize. Try a new type of litter in one box in case there is a substrate aversion. If you're not using unscented clay clumping litter or sand, choose one of these options. Be sure to clean every box at least once a day to keep it fresh and appealing to your feline friend. Check that your boxes are in quiet locations where dogs and children cannot torment the cat. Baby gates with cat doors or flaps in permanent doors can help keep unwanted visitors away from the box. Remember that laundry rooms and bathrooms are usually loud areas that can be scary for cats.

If you are struggling with elimination problems with your kitty please call to schedule an appointment so we can make sure there are no underlying medical problems. You can also schedule a behavior consultation if you would like more specific assistance with house soiling issues.

Look for Part 3 of our feline behavior series in the next WVH newsletter, where we will discuss solutions for dealing with inter-cat aggression!

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Scheduling Routine Appointments

Many of your pets are due for their annual exams this spring and summer. If you know your pet needs their annual visit in the upcoming months, please call to schedule your appointment early, as these slots are filling fast. Our doctors only see a few annual visits per day, which allows them time for sick pets and emergencies. We look forward to seeing you and your pets this season!