Friday, July 29, 2016

What I know - treating diarrhea in kitties

I have been fostering kittens for 14 years. In all of those years, I have dealt with my fair share of diarrhea in cats and kittens. I have come across a variety of methods for treating it and several of them are very prevalent in the rescue/vet community and several of them actually scare me. I'd like to take some time to address the different "fixes" for it and address why I do and why I don't like them.

First off - and this is important

You need to know what is causing the kitty to have diarrhea. Do not blindly throw treatment options at a cat because it has diarrhea. I know - trust me I know - it is not fun and no one wants to deal with the aftermath so getting it fixed as soon as possible is everyone's first priority. I want you to remember the cat has diarrhea for a reason. Diarrhea happens to 'flush' the intestines of whatever is irritating it. It might be toxins, it might be parasites. It could even be a blockage or constipation. Get your cat to a professional, get a diagnosis. Treat the cause, not the symptom.

Second - and this is important too:

I am not a vet. I do not play one on the internet. I can tell you what I have done, the research I have read, the second-hand accounts (people I know who did things and had them work or not work) and I do my best to always check my source. Sometimes, when people say things so outrageously wrong, I don't, but for the most part I take what I read on the internet with a grain of salt until I can verify.

The major recommendations:

These are the things you will generally hear from 'people on the internet' when you ask for help with diarrhea.

  • Pumpkin. Pumpkin is generally one of the first recommendations you will get and it is always followed by the caveat to not give pumpkin pie filling - which is actually VERY good advice. The cat does not need the spices and the sugar in the pie filling. If you ask me (and while you probably didn't, you are on my blog, so I get to tell you) pumpkin itself is not that good of an idea. The theory behind pumpkin is that the fiber in it will bind up the extra water in the colon and slow things down enough to give the body a chance to form a proper stool. Why people don't recommend plain fiber supplements, I'm not sure. Maybe because pumpkin is 'natural' or maybe because it is easy to get. Fiber supplements often come with a bevy of flavorings or additives that aren't safe for cats, so saying 'plain pumpkin' might just be easier.

    Will pumpkin work? Sure, but it easily can make the whole situation worse. Cats, as obligate carnivores, can find plant-based ingredients very irritating to their system, and adding pumpkin can easily make things worse. This is not my first choice, not even within the top five.

  • Dry Food. I am not 100% sure of the theory behind this one. I see it all the time. All.the.time. Some people say that wet food is 'too rich' for cats and causes diarrhea - but this is contrary to the cat's physiology. Cats, as desert creatures, are designed to get their hydration from their food, and when they eat a dry food diet they are generally chronically dehydrated even when they are provided an excellent source of water, even when they 'drink water regularly'.

    I don't know about you, but when I have diarrhea my doctor tells me to get plenty of fluids. To put a cat on a dry food only diet when they have diarrhea seems contrary to all established medical precedent. And then there is the fact that dry food can actually be making the problem worse with all of its plant-based ingredients. I'd rather give pumpkin before trying this.
  • Withholding food. Oh, so not a fan of this idea either. Mostly I deal with small neonatal kittens, even kittens as old as three or four months of age, and withholding food scares me. *Scares me* Kittens have so few reserves to begin with and generally they are already not absorbing many nutrients from their food since it is being pumped out nearly as fast as they can get it in. Withholding food goes against everything I know to be true about the health of your kitten. You risk dehydration and malnutrition. This one to me is a huge no. An adult cat who does not have a chronic history of diarrhea and a pretty clear cut case of it ate something it shouldn't have, maybe, but I know I'm not recommending it.

  • Boiled meat with rice. This is an old home remedy for dogs. The point of this is to feed a bland diet, to try to combat any dietary indiscretion a dog might have had. Dogs appear to be more prone to pancreatitis by a single meal of something highly fatty or completely inappropriate and the theory is that a low-fat, bland diet will give the dog time to heal. No, just no. While cats do get pancreatitis, they need more than a 'bland diet' to treat it. Most of the time this is not the cause of a cat's diarrhea. Not to mention that rice, being a plant-based food, is inappropriate for an obligate carnivore. Might it work? maybe.. but I'm not recommending this either.
  • Bismuth subsalicylate. Okay, you rarely hear anyone say this.. but you might hear Pepto or Kaopectate. Fortunately, this is falling out of favor as people learn there is now acetylsalicylic acid (aka aspirin) in these products now, and aspirin is very toxic to cats. It takes very little to do damage, so this is now a colossally bad idea.

  • Yogurt / Probiotics. This recommendation usually accompanies pumpkin; mix pumpkin and yogurt up and give them to the kitty. There are some people who tend to be freaky about giving yogurt because cats are 'lactose intolerant' so usually when you see someone recommending yogurt you see someone else saying not to use it for that reason.

    First off, not all cats are lactose intolerant. Second, the fermentation process of milk products to make yogurt consumes the lactose in the milk. Thirdly, intolerant simply means that they might develop some gas and diarrhea if they eat too much of it. You generally have to give a cat a lot of lactose for it to be an issue. Let's just say I wish this one would end. Would I give yogurt to my cat? Absolutely. Do I give it to kittens with issues? Yes... I will say it is nice that it is getting easier to find a full-fat plain yogurt (ten years ago it was near impossible) but these days I am more likely to just give them straight up probiotics. I have them at the house because I take them myself and it is just easier to open up a capsule and give them part of it and take the rest myself. There are even probiotics specifically made for cats if you prefer, although in general those are limited in their scope as they have only one strain of bacteria and when it comes to probiotics a wider variety of strains of bacteria are more helpful. 

  • Kaolin/Bentonite clay/Pectin. These are products that are designed to absorb the toxins in the body and expel them, which hopefully means the body can calm down long enough to realize they are gone and slow things down. Some of these were why the recommendation for Pepto and Kaopectate were so popular. I have used these, but I have found that they don't work nearly as well as I would like. To me, these are like the pill for the common cold, 7 days with the remedy or a week without. I am not opposed to them, I don't see the harm in giving them short term for a known issue. Know what their function is, though, and don't expect miracles.
  • Slippery Elm / SEB. SEB is an herb from a type of elm tree that contains a substance called mucilage; a polysaccharide that becomes a gel when mixed with water.(source) I both like SEB and have problems with it because it is generally recommended that you give it on an empty stomach and give it time to work. This is something I have a very hard time doing with foster kittens. I have some in my cat supplies and I have used it even mixing it with the food, but it is not the first thing I reach for these days. I know a lot of people who use it on a regular basis and love it.
  • Raw meat / raw diet. This is my current go to 'cure' for diarrhea in cats. I know I know.. it seems too simple, and too risky, and too strange, and too far against what the vet recommends.. I recommend it because I have seen it work 'miracles' in cats with diarrhea. Cases so bad that the stool leaks out of the cat when it is just laying down. Where the cat's legs are scalded from diarrhea and the cat is miserable. Where the anus is inflamed, where the cat is just wasting away. I don't remember the first time I gave a cat with diarrhea raw food to see if it would help, but I do remember the result. In about a day the cat was significantly better. I remember trying to get the cat back on commercial food after that and the diarrhea returned, so I kept the cat on raw for about a week and tried again and the cat was healed enough to handle it. I have had a half dozen or more situations that were similar. Sometimes they could get off it sooner, sometimes it would take longer for the cat to heal, but they all healed. No more rounds of metronidazole, no more albon. no more forcing medications down the throats of cats who already feel miserable and instead I am feeding them food they want to eat, food that their whole body was designed to eat.

    When I make the recommendation of raw to people who are at the end of their rope, they often lament it is too expensive or too complicated, and to them, I say: get raw hamburger or ground chicken. I always say "Yes, it is not complete and balanced, but right now your cat isn't absorbing nutrients from their foods anyway, so give it 24-36 hours, give them two to three meals of raw meat and see what happens."

    If there is not an underlying cause (and sometimes even if there is) they often see a dramatic difference in the cat. Even if you are unwilling to feed your cat raw food over its lifetime, this is worth trying.

    I can hear you already, what about the parasites and pathogens we have been warned against? Okay, well there hasn't been parasites in the human food chain in a while now. Pork used to be an issue, but they have new biosecurity measures so trichinosis is less of an issue than it has ever been, but knowing your source, getting human grade meats (from your butcher or your grocery store) keeps that down to a minimum. Pathogens, yes. Ecoli and Salmonella are concerning, but not to a cat. Their stomach acid is so strong that it kills most everything it comes in contact with, and its digestive tract is short so the pathogens do not have time to multiply and become an issue. Again, knowing your source will keep this risk to a minimum too. No grocer or butcher wants to be known for selling contaminated meat. Good hygiene and raw meat handling practices keep contamination to a minimum and keeps any that does occur from multiplying and being an issue. Could it happen? yes. I won't lie.. it can. What you should know, though, is there are far more cases of bacterial contamination from commercial foods then there has been from raw.
Treating diarrhea in kittens is not fun, dealing with the aftermath and the consequences of cats who don't quite get how to not stand in the liquid pool after it comes out, so it is easy to become frustrated and annoyed at them, but remember it is not fun for them either.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Art3mis is still available at @AWSKennebunk

After the adoption event, I went over to the shelter to visit with Art3mis. She has been adjusting to living at the shelter, but she still has some quirks that I wanted to help her with. She does not like to be held at all and picking her up is still questionable. She loves to be petted, even offering me her belly to be rubbed, but new people are hard on her - which is why I hadn't been going as often.

I almost didn't recognize her when I first saw her. I only knew it was her by the little red dot in her left eye. She has filled out quite a bit and is sleek and looked so darn happy. She had recently taken ownership of the room she was in. It was hard for her because there was another cat with a strong personality that had tried to take control of both rooms. She eventually took ownership of hers, and now with the adoption of the other cat, I think she has really blossomed.

I would say she would get along well with other cats as long as they don't expect her to be submissive. As long as you don't expect to pick her up and carry her around all day she will be a lovely companion to anyone.  I am so happy with how far she has progressed from the cat I met that first day who went right under the couch and didn't come out for nearly five weeks.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

PetSmart Adoption Weekend

I found out that the shelter I volunteer for was having an 'adoption weekend' via Facebook.

PetSmart in Biddeford is hosting AWS for a very special adoption event this weekend. We’ll have dogs, cats, puppies and kittens ready to go home with you! 

July 23rd: 9 am - 3 pm
July 24th: 10 am - 3 pm

All adoptions are on first come, first served basis so plan to arrive early at PetSmart. Kittens and puppies are especially popular and will go home very quickly. We will hand out numbers to those waiting in line at PetSmart starting at 5am on Saturday and 6am on Sunday.

Visit our adoption pages to see which animals will be available on which days:

Even if you’re not ready to adopt a new pet, stop by for some fun. There will be food trucks, games and activities for kids throughout the event. We hope you can make it and help us celebrate a fun weekend of pets going home!

For more information, please contact Stephanie Delage at 207-985-3244 ext. 114.

Please note:

-All dogs and cats are spayed or neutered and up to date on all age appropriate vaccines.

-Adoptions run on a first come, first served basis.

-PetSmart Charities donates $35.00 to AWS for each adoption at the store throughout the weekend.

Food trucks? sign me up.  I wasn't sure if I would have enough time or energy to commit to volunteering, but I thought I could stop by and take some photos.. Everything is blog fodder ;)

My husband and I happened to be in the area around 2:00 PM on Saturday and I saw nothing. No food trucks, no big event, I was confused if I had my times right.  We purchased a few things when out of the corner of my eye I saw that they were in the front training area out of sight (and there were no signs pointing us in that direction) I sent my husband out to the truck while I ran over to take a peek at what was going on.  There was a bank of cages on one side of the room, and the kittens were free running on the floor amongst the people, and there appeared to be a lot of people.  I stepped into the room to get a feeling of what was going on and saw only one volunteer there. I patted a kitten and ended up leaving fairly quickly since I knew my husband was waiting for me.

The next morning I found myself heading back over to PetSmart and showed up at 10 AM. There were one and a half dogs left for adoption.  I say half because one was in the arms of someone who was about to say yes (she did) and then no more than ten minutes later someone else showed up and took the black lab that was left.  Even with adoption fees that were just shy of $400 they all went home.  Good for them, but part of me was sad that the cats aren't able to command that kind of demand. They are still considered 'free' animals. That is changing and kittens at least have $199 adoption fees. Considering just a decade ago we had such an overpopulation of cats that we were having to kill over half of them that came into the shelter, I'd say change is happening.. and that is an awesome thing.

Without any dogs to adopt out they took down the tents and moved things inside. There still weren't any food trucks, and no real signage to point out where we were or that there were kittens up for adoption. They made announcements on the speaker from time to time. At one point I went over to the adoption area and saw people looking at the cats so I mentioned that there were kittens in the front of the store and they did not know. I mentioned to the shelter that they should put a sign on the cat area to direct people to the kittens which they did. I also trimmed a few claws of kittens who had sharp pointies and weren't afraid to use them.

While I was there, several kittens were adopted. According to the shelter, 57 animals went home this weekend.  That makes me very happy.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday Morning Kitteny Goodness

I am too supposed to be up here, standing on the TV remote.. Roman 
The girls
The whole family 

Their time is coming to an end and I'm sure Max's dad can not wait to get him home. I have been sending some photos along to him and I've been told he has one as his computer desktop now.  They have come such a long way from the complete and utter hot mess that they were when they showed up. I'd like to say that I will miss them (okay, fine, I will) but they have reached that stage when I know it is time for them to go back by the amount of havoc they create. Not sure when that is going to happen, but hopefully sometime this week. They need more room than I can provide and they need people of their own.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Fish heads fish heads eat them up yum

I brought the bag of freeze dried minnows from H3 down to the kittens..
They tried to make off with the bag

Then I opened the bag and made them VERY happy, especially Rose.

They absolutely, positively LOVED them..LOVED them!!

Seriously, turn the volume up..

The only thing that would make this post better?

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