Jake the 14 year old with kidney disease

Jake the 14 year old with kidney disease

Jake  is a big animal, at around twice the weight of a typical moggie. He is not fat; he has a large frame, and he is very well-muscled. When he started to lose weight recently, it was a clear sign that there was something wrong with him. Jake has always disliked coming to the vet. He sits at the back of his carrier refusing to come out, and it’s usually necessary to turn it upside down to force him to emerge. He then crouches on the consulting table glaring angrily at the vet, hissing and spitting if anyone dares to touch him. Any handling needs to be done very carefully, because he is quick to lash out with his front claws. And when he is finally returned to his carrier at the end of the consultation, the cage door needs to be closed using an object like a pencil. Jake always likes to have the final word – letting out a loud “pah” noise, and lashing out with his claws at the hand that is closing the door. As he has grown older, Jake has needed to have his nails regularly clipped, and the only way that this has been possible has been with sedation. While he is sedated, I always take the opportunity to carry out any other minor procedures that may need done. I check his teeth, listen to his heart, and put him on the weighing scales. It was during one of these routine visits a few months ago that his weight loss was noticed. He had lost ten per cent of his weight, the equivalent...
Pasha the cat had dental disease

Pasha the cat had dental disease

Sheila visited Sharpes Hill Animal Sanctuary in County Wicklow shortly after reading a book about the First World War, featuring a soldier called Pasha. During her visit, she came across a particularly good-looking cat, who had been dumped and who had been rejected by every visitor so far. Sheila fell for him at once. She felt as if he had been through his own war, and so she christened him Pasha, after the soldier she had been reading about. He was two years old when she took him in. He settled in well with Sheila, and he soon had his own routine. Three years passed by, and soon it was as if Pasha had always been a part of her life. Last month, when Pasha didn’t come home one evening, Sheila knew that there was something odd going on. When there was no sign of him the next morning, she knew that something had gone wrong. She searched the locality, calling him, but there was no sign. She asked neighbours, but no-one had seen him. When a week had passed, Sheila was beginning to resign herself to his absence, and she presumed that he had either been killed in an accident, or he had simply decided to head off on his own. Then one evening, she heard a “miaow”, and there he was at the back door, hungrier than usual, but otherwise, behaving as if nothing had happened. As he sat in Sheila’s lap that evening, she realised that he had lost weight. It wasn’t a surprise, if he had been missing his meals for a full week. But on reflection, she realised that he might have lost weight even before...
Max the cat had a sneezing problem

Max the cat had a sneezing problem

Max was a smart, inquisitive and friendly cat. He was the only animal in the house, and he enjoyed his role as the centre of human attention. He was sleeping in the armchair in the living room, when he suddenly sat up, looking disturbed. He gulped a few times, made a coughing sound, then started to sneeze. It’s common for cats to sneeze from time to time (like humans), but this sneezing was not a mild one-off. Max was sneezing loudly and violently, and he kept on doing it. He sneezed a dozen times, then stopped, then started to sneeze some more. Stephen went over to look at him, but there was nothing visibly wrong with his nose. Max sneezed a few more times, and then began to paw at his nose, as if there was something uncomfortable going on. Stephen knew that cats can suffer from cat flu, and that this can often make them sneeze. But he had an idea that cat flu caused other signs of illness too, like runny eyes and a discharge from the nose. Max had none of these things. He looked as healthy as ever, but simply, he had started to sneeze. Stephen and his wife had been having dinner when the sneezing started. Could the pepper that they had sprinkled onto their soup somehow have been inhaled by Max? He was some distance away from the dinner table so this hardly seemed likely. Max was now quite distressed, and the episodes of repeated sneezing showed no signs of settling down. Stephen made a quick decision to take Max to the vet. Stephen could hear him sneezing for most of the ten minute...
Bowie is an 8 week old pedigree Asian kitten

Bowie is an 8 week old pedigree Asian kitten

The family had been considering getting a pet for some time. Hanna and Luke’s parents had heard that pet ownership was good for children. Studies have shown that people who grow up with pets in the household tend to be more socially adept and self-confident. Nobody knows why this happens, but it may be partly to do with the fact that animals are experts in non-verbal communication. A dog or a cat cannot talk to a child, so instead, they communicate with their bodies, and body language has aspects that are universal across the species barriers. If a dog wants to go outside, he will look at you, with pleading eyes. If a cat wants to play, she will come up to you with her head held to one side, and her body tense and alert, ready for the game. It is easy to forget that children need to learn body language, just as much as they need to learn to speak and write English. Pets give free daily lessons in how to use your body to communicate. Choosing the right pet is important. Dogs are more demanding than cats. They can’t be left alone for long stretches, and they need to be given regular walks. Cats are independent, intelligent creatures, but some people just don’t like them.  Rabbits – living free-range in the house – are increasingly popular. Other pets – like guinea pigs, gerbils or cage birds – don’t tend to interact with humans in the same personal way as the bigger pets.  When choosing a pet, you need to look at the facts about what is...
Taming a feral cat

Taming a feral cat

A year ago, Justine’s parents were walking through Rathfarnham when they noticed a colony of feral cats at the back of a garage. Most of the cats scattered as they drew close to them, but there was one black and white individual who appeared sickly…..As the family approached, the cat stood his ground, looking at them and miaowing, despite the fact that the rest of the cats had bolted. They tried to get close enough to the cat to pet him, but he was too shy to let them do this, and he moved away. But he continued to miaow at them, as if he was trying to talk to them. When the family went home that evening, they could not put the miaowing cat out of their thoughts. The cat looked as if he needed help, and without an owner, who was going to help him? Colonies of feral, unowned cats are common all over Ireland. They develop directly because owners of pet cats refuse to have their own pets neutered or spayed. Unwanted kittens become ‘wild’ animals (so-called “feral cats”) because they have to fend for themselves, without close human contact. Cat colonies usually live close to humans, because they need a regular food source, but they do not allow themselves to be handled, and are very wary when approached. They are never aggressive to passers-by, but they are highly defensive of their own freedom, and will bite and scratch in an effort to get away if efforts are made to restrain them. There are positive aspects to feral cat colonies. They are highly effective at controlling local populations...
Lily had a deep laceration on her back

Lily had a deep laceration on her back

Lily is a home loving cat, but she does enjoy spending time in the back garden and surrounding area. She doesn’t venture far, and if Lydia ever goes out to call her, she soon comes scampering back inside. She is very happy to spend her time within shouting distance of home. For Lily, the world does not need to be a bigger place. Lily has a habit of greeting everyone as they return home at the end of the day. A few weeks ago, Lydia saw her when she came back from work, at around six in the evening. A few minutes later, the cat slipped out into the garden through the cat flap. Half an hour later, there was a clatter at the back door as Lily crashed in through the cat flap before bolting to her favourite hideaway spot. It was immediately obvious that something had happened – Lily was normally a graceful creature, moving in and out through the cat flap slowly and silently. Lydia went over to check her, and she could see that she had been injured. There was a blood stain on Lily’s lower back, and she could make out the vague outline of a wound beneath the matted fur. Lydia phoned our vet practice at once, and fifteen minutes later, Lily was being examined on my consulting table. It is always difficult to make an immediate assessment of wounds in animals, because of their dense fur coats. Lydia held Lily still, and reassured her, while I used electric clippers to trim away the hair from the blood stained area. I was careful...
Sophie the 9 year old had a broken pelvis

Sophie the 9 year old had a broken pelvis

Sophie is a home-loving cat, and when there was no sign of her for three days, her family knew that there was something very wrong. They searched everywhere for her, and had almost given up hope. Then one morning, she appeared at the back door. She was very hungry, and she was delighted to be back, but she was unable to stand on her hind legs. She was brought in to see me at once. When I examined her, she seemed weakened and traumatised, but in good health generally, with no life threatening injuries. However, it was obvious that she had suffered a crushing-type injury to her pelvic area. I could feel that the bones of her pelvis were out of the normal alignment.  I admitted her for the day so that we could take x-ray pictures of her spine, pelvis and back legs. The x-rays revealed what had happened. There were multiple fractures of the bones of her pelvis, which is the large bone that links the spine to the back legs. The normal rectangular box shape of the pelvis had been squashed, and it was now shaped like a half-collapsed house of cards. Luckily, the most critical parts of the pelvis had not been damaged. The connection between the pelvis and the spine was unharmed, and both of her hip joints were intact. I knew from looking at the fractures that Sophie would be able to walk again, but there were some risks along the way, and her recovery was going to take several months. Sophie was sent home with pain relief and instructions for strict rest, and...
Geri the cat was putting on weight

Geri the cat was putting on weight

Lauren’s family originally thought that Geri was a tom cat, christened Jerry after the “Tom and Jerry” cartoons. When “he” went to the vet and the truth about “his” sex was discovered, she kept her name, but it was re-spelt as “Geri”, in the manner of the ex-Spice Girl. Geri has always been the only pet in the home, and as such, she has tended to be the centre of attention. She is a bit of a “scaredy cat”, with a nervous temperament, and she spends much of her time around the house, where she feels secure and safe. She has free access to the outdoors, but she has discovered that the Big Bad World can be a frightening place, and she prefers not to go outside. Geri gradually seems to be becoming an indoor cat by choice. Geri recently came in for her first annual health check and vaccination. We discussed everything about Geri’s lifestyle, and I gave her a careful physical examination. She was in excellent general health, but there was one issue that I had to mention to Lauren and her family. Geri was just over one year old, but she was already showing a tendency to become overweight. Obesity in cats is a problem that has become more common in recent years. More and more cats have become indoor pets, either by their own choice (like Geri) or on their owner’s insistence. Indoor cats tend to spend a lot of time just lying around, sleeping or eating, and so they are prone to developing a paunch. Obesity has many effects throughout the body, and in...
Louis came home battered and bruised

Louis came home battered and bruised

As a kitten, Louis used to stay around the family home all the time. He loved being in the house, and he enjoyed playing with humans. As he grew older, he gradually changed, becoming more of an outdoor animal. He had a cat flap, so he was able to come and go as he pleased. When he was around six months of age, Katrina noticed that he was beginning to mark his territory in the garden, piddling against fence posts and vegetation. She never saw other cats around, but she noticed that Louis behaved in a watchful, wary way sometimes, as if he sensed that there were other cats close by. When he reached the age of a year or so, Louis began to leave the garden. He would head off by himself, over the back fence, and would not come back for several hours. Katrina reckoned this was part of a cat’s enjoyment of life, and she left him to his adventures. When Louis started to come home with small cuts on his face, and tufts of fur missing from his body, she realised that he must be getting into fights with other cats somewhere. She hoped that the behaviour would settle down, but in fact, it gradually worsened. Louis began to stay out all night, and when he came home, he looked beat-up and exhausted. He would retire to his bed, licking his wounds, and he would sleep for hours. Last week, Louis stayed away for two full days. When he came home, he looked as if he had been through twelve rounds in a boxing ring....
TJ the cat had a red raw area on the back of his neck

TJ the cat had a red raw area on the back of his neck

Itchy skin is a common problem in pets. There are many causes, ranging from allergies to fleas, with dozens of other possible reasons. But there is one universal factor in all itchy pets: they always make themselves worse by itching themselves raw. There is nothing wrong with pets occasionally itching themselves. Most animals have an occasional scratch as part of their normal grooming routine. This is similar to some humans. When my brother wakes up, he looks in the mirror at his sleepy-headed reflection, and gives his own scalp a good rub and scratch. He finds that this has a stimulating, invigorating effect. Perhaps pets feel the same way. Dogs often scratch themselves occasionally for no particular reason. If you tickle a dog’s stomach when it rolls over onto its back, you will often find a “tickly bit”. The dog reacts to you petting this area by kicking their hind leg as if they are trying to itch themselves. This is a normal reflex and nothing to worry about. Cats are even more proficient at itching themselves during their normal grooming routines. They sit down, and in a yoga-like pose, they lift their hind leg and give themselves a good scratch under their chin and around their ears. Self-scratching only becomes a problem when pets begin to damage their own skin with their claws. This is what happened with TJ. Ivan was used to seeing TJ itch himself from time to time, but a few weeks ago, he noticed that he seemed to be doing it continually. And when Ivan watched TJ closely, he noticed that he was always scratching a particular area on the back of his neck. This...