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Ask the Doctor May 2015 Issue

When to use supplements; a cat whose bed is now the litter box; treatment for eye disorders

Feeding a probiotic
Q Our cat (a 12-year-old female) was recently put on clavamox antibiotics for two weeks. As a result, we are trying to give her Purina Fortiflora probiotics to counter the adverse effects of the antibiotic, but she is reluctant to consume it on her own.
This is the only probiotic our veterinarian has, and we would like to know if you could suggest another probiotic or delivery method to get her to accept it. We enjoy reading your newsletter every month and value your opinion.
Lenny Uhlig

A Dear Lenny: This is a great question. We are frequently asked what owners can do to entice their cat to willingly take a medication, supplement or therapeutic diet. In your case, the most important question is whether the probiotic is necessary in the first place. Short-term oral antibiotics are frequently prescribed for a variety of reasons for dogs and cats, and they usually do not alter the normal intestinal flora enough to cause problems such as diarrhea or malnutrition. The bottom line is that your cat may not see a significant benefit from supplementation with probiotics.
That aside, in some cases — particularly with supplements — the risks of causing a food aversion may outweigh potential benefits of providing the supplement. There are two types of supplements that can help intestinal health: prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics are a form of nutritional supplements that can improve intestinal health by providing nutrients for the ‘good bacteria’ in the intestines to grow, while probiotics are supplements that actually contain the ‘good bacteria’ themselves. This can be of help in some patients who are experiencing diarrhea due to stress or long-term oral antibiotic use.
However, it’s not guaranteed to help every patient. If the cat loves it being mixed into their canned food or sprinkled on the dry food, this could potentially be beneficial —but not if it causes the cat to avoid her food or to not eat it at all!
In a case where you must administer a critical medication to an unwilling cat, drugs can sometimes be compounded with fish or meat flavors, or given in alternate routes such as through the skin or by a needle.
Owners can also visit the Tufts Heart Smart website for low sodium products that aid in the administration of medication to cats at www.tufts.edu/vet/heartsmart.
Deborah E. Linder, DVM, DACVN
Head of Tufts Obesity
Clinic for Animals
Foster Hospital for Small Animals


Senior cat stops using litter box
Q We have two wonderful 14-year-old cats who are sisters. A few months ago, our veterinarian cleaned their teeth and discovered that the one named Julie had a bladder infection that was treated with an oral medication for two weeks.
She lives a comfortable life, napping in a bed located under our dining room table. She regularly uses the litter box located about 12 feet away. We also have a cat bed in the kitchen.
One day, we discovered Julie defecating in her bed in the kitchen. The next day, she urinated in the bed. We replaced the soiled beds with clean ones. Why is she not using the litter box consistently? Is this an age-related problem?
Betty Harris

A Dear Betty: I don’t think that Julie’s use of her bed as a bathroom has anything to do with old age, although feline cognitive dysfunction is possible in a 14-year-old cat. You would be reporting other behaviors as well, including nocturnal restlessness, howling, disorientation and altered social interactions.
You refer to the litter box — implying there is only one — but there are two cats. You should always have one more litter box than you have cats. I know things have been stable in your home for years, but that is sometimes the way it goes until one fateful day when, say, Julie comes around the corner bursting to use the litter box and finds it occupied by her sister. Whatever the precise cause of the problem, she has now invented another litter box for herself — and that is her bed.
I can almost guarantee you if you put down the correct number of boxes and fill them with unscented, scoopable litter — which you keep fresh by regular scooping — that the problem will not occur again. You do, however, need to dispose of soiled beds and perhaps put a litter box in its place or she’ll be tempted to use it again due to undoubtedly lingering odors.
Nicholas Dodman, BVMS
Animal Behavior Clinic Director
Cummings School of
Veterinary Medicine at
Tufts University


A cat with puffy eyelids


Q My two-year-old cat has puffy red inner lids. Her outer lids are pink. I have been using pure saline solution according to information I read in a book called The Natural Cat.

THINKSTOCK

If your cat seems to have an eye problem that doesn't resolve quickly, you shouldn't rely on at-home care. She needs to receive prompt veterinary attention.


Unfortunately, there’s not much of a difference after a few days of my using this solution. Veterinarians in my community are expensive, and sometimes, it can be difficult to schedule an appointment that fits with my work schedule. Should I continue with the saline solution or make it a priority to have her examined by a veterinarian? Is there anything else I could try? Thank you for any advice you can provide.
Carolyn Taylor

A Dear Carolyn: I’m not sure exactly what you mean when you say “inner lids” versus “outer lids.” Cats have a structure in their eye called the nictitating membrane that is often referred to as an inner eyelid or “third” eyelid. If this membrane is puffy or swollen, your cat might have a condition called conjunctivitis.
It is also hard to interpret what you mean by the outer lids being pink. White cats and some orange cats have eyelids that are more prominently pink than other cats — this is normal for them and is nothing to worry about.
 In most instances, conjunctivitis is caused by infectious agents, such as viruses or bacteria. Saline solution alone is unlikely to have any significant effect. Your cat probably would benefit from a topical eye antibiotic and/or antiviral medication, either as drops or ointment.
I don’t think there’s any way to avoid taking her to a veterinarian for evaluation. I wouldn’t procrastinate. Eye problems in cats need to be addressed promptly. Some eye problems — if untreated — may result in vision loss.
Arnold Plotnick, DVM, DACVIM
Catnip contributor

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