If you belong to any pet-related social media groups, participate in pet-health forums, or simply have a Facebook account, you may have come across recent discussions regarding Grain-Free Diets and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). This is a hot topic amongst pet owners and veterinarians alike, and with good reason.
The most common orthopedic injury in the dog is rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament. The cranial cruciate ligament is a ligament found in the stifle (the equivalent joint to a human’s knee), and is one of the ligaments that attach the tibia bone to the femur bone. It is the most important stabilizing structure of the stifle. For this reason, when the cranial cruciate ligament is torn, it will result is severe instability and degenerative joint disease.
A major contributing factor to cranial cruciate ligament injury in the dog is a characteristic of the dog’s anatomy, called the tibial plateau angle. The tibial plateau is the upper (top, proximal) surface of the tibia, and this is where the femur rests on the tibia. This tibial plateau is sloped in dogs, sometimes up 40 degrees. This results in a force that causes the femur to constantly want to slide down the slope of the tibial plateau. The cranial cruciate ligament is the ligament that resists this force. This means that the cranial cruciate ligament always has a loading force on it when the dog is weight bearing, placing constant stress on the ligament. This is in contrast to a human’s knee, in which the tibial plateau is very flat, and the constant straining force is not present when weight bearing. For a better understanding of this concept, please view this short video.
When there is a tear in the cranial cruciate ligament, it will cause lameness (limping). We can also see the dog holding the affected leg off the ground, swelling in the stifle joint, and eventually thickening of the joint. This thickening occurs because once there is instability present in the stifle, osteoarthritis occurs, which causes the femur and tibia bone to remodel, causing boney enlargement. Furthermore, there is thickening of the joint capsule and surrounding soft tissue.
A cranial cruciate tear is diagnosed in two ways. The first is by physical orthopedic exam, in which two maneuvers/tests are performed. These maneuvers are called Tibial Thrust and Cranial Drawer. When these tests are positive, it indicates that the cranial cruciate ligament is torn. Furthermore, radiographs (X-rays) are taken to evaluate the stifle. On radiographs, the veterinarian looks for a particular pattern of osteoarthritis, effusion (swelling) within the stifle joint, and also evaluates the tibial plateau angle.
There are several methods that have been developed or proposed to treat cranial cruciate ligament rupture. The chance that a torn cranial cruciate ligament tear will heal without surgical treatment is extremely low. This is due to the fact that the tibial plateau is sloped in dogs, and the constant shearing force this creates leaves no chance for the ligament to heal.
The most common method of treating cranial cruciate ligament rupture is a surgical repair called the Tibial Plateau Levelling Osteotomy (TPLO). This procedure consists of cutting the proximal portion of the tibia bone (the tibial plateau) away from the tibia and adjusting its position and then placing a bone plate to hold the bone fragment in place so it can heal in this new alignment. This procedure changes the tibial plateau angle to a target of 5 degrees, essentially removing the need for a cranial cruciate ligament.
In smaller dogs, such as those less than 10 kg, it can be appropriate to treat with a different surgical procedure called the Lateral Suture. This is a procedure that places a very strong suture across the outside of the stifle joint in a similar configuration to the cranial cruciate ligament. This essentially will perform the purpose cranial cruciate ligament and stabilize the stifle joint. In this procedure, the tibial plateau angle is not changed.
Whichever surgery is used as a treatment, it is also important that a stifle arthrotomy is performed. This is a surgical exploration of the joint to evaluate the cranial cruciate ligament and the meniscus. The meniscus is a shock absorbing cartilage within the stifle joint. The meniscus is often torn/injured in dogs that have cranial cruciate rupture. If the meniscus is damaged, and it is not debrided to remove damaged material, the dog will often remain sore after surgery.
As an adjunct to surgical treatment, several medical treatments are instituted such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, pain relieving medications, and joint supplements/nutraceuticals that help to treat osteoarthritis and acupuncture for pain relief. This can be especially important when surgery is not an option. There is also some potential to have a custom stifle brace created to help stabilize the stifle joint, but it is important to remember that a brace is not a substitute for surgery when surgery is an option.
After surgical treatment, the prognosis for the dog to be comfortable on the affected leg is good.
Post Written by Dr. Mackenzie Marks.
For more information on this condition or to make an appointment with one of our veterinarians to have your dog assessed call us at 204-275-2038.
Spring is around the corner, which means that the season in which the majority of Equine Dental’s happen is near! Equine dental health is a major aspect of horse health and it is important to understand what problems can arise in a horses’ dentition, and what can be done about it. Have you ever wondered what the veterinarian is up to when they perform an equine dental?
Typically, an equine dental appointment will start with the veterinarian gathering a history. They will ask the owner or stable manager questions in order to gauge what they may expect to find in the horses’ mouth. Typically, the veterinarian will ask if certain symptoms of dental problems have been present in the horse’s behavior. Some of these symptoms may be:
Dropping feed from the mouth while chewing. This is also known as “quidding” and can happen while eating hay or grain/pelleted feeds.
Awkward chewing motions while eating. This may look like exaggerated chewing action, chewing on one side of the mouth, or slow or intermittent chewing rhythm.
Trouble placing a bit in the horses’ mouth or difficulty riding when the horse has a bit in the mouth. This may be seen as fighting the bit, shaking or tossing the head when contact is made with the bit, or potentially the horse can be less willing to travel in one direction.
Next the veterinarian typically will sedate the horse. Sedation allows for a more thorough oral exam, as well as a more thorough dental float and treatment. Once the sedation has taken effect, the veterinarian will place a speculum within the horses’ mouth. The speculum holds the horses mouth open to allow the veterinarian to safely examine and work in the horses’ mouth.
The first thing that the veterinarian does once they have the horses’ mouth open is perform a comprehensive exam of the mouth, including the gums, mucosa, teeth, and tongue. Once the exam is performed and problems are identified, then the veterinarian will begin treatment.
The hallmark of equine dental care is a procedure called the Dental Float, which is to use a power or handtool to grind the teeth in certain locations to either adjust the alignment of the mouth, or to smooth out sharp or protruding points in the teeth. Once these sharp points are smooth, and the tooth surfaces are level, the veterinarian will also check to make sure that the occlusal surface angle is approximately 15 degrees. Furthermore, the veterinarian will evaluate the lateral excursion, which is a measurement that helps to ensure the chewing teeth are contacting properly. These are the main aspects of routine dental care to ensure the horse can eat properly and is comfortable while holding a bit.
The following is a list of the common pathology found in Equine dentistry and a brief description of what may be done to resolve that problem:
The most common issue found in an equine dental exam is sharp points on the pre-molar and molar teeth. These sharp points will typically arise on the lateral (cheek side) sides of the upper teeth, and the medial (tongue side) sides of the lower teeth. These sharp points form through regular chewing of feed and hay. Some horses are more prone to developing this problem than others, and it seems to be highly dependent on how coarse the horses’ feed is. These sharp points can poke into the cheek and tongue, causing discomfort. Occasionally, this can be severe enough to form ulcers along the tongue and inner cheek. This can also cause an abnormal contour to the tooth, which may interfere with the grinding/chewing action of the teeth. This problem is fixed by smoothing out the sharp points by grinding them down. This process is called a dental float and is the most common procedure in equine dentistry. For many horses, the dental float is a routine procedure performed every 6 months to every 2 years, and is essentially a maintenance procedure.
‘Caps’ are a common finding in horses that are 3-4 years old. These are the deciduous (baby teeth) pre-molar teeth that have not fallen out yet. When the caps are stuck, or delayed in falling out, they can be unstable and potentially develop sharp points, causing discomfort when chewing, or during riding. Commonly, if the caps are sharp or a little loose, they are removed by the veterinarian when they are found. This will relieve the horse of the discomfort until the adult tooth can complete erupting into this spot.
Hooks and Ramps:
Rostral Hooks and Caudal Ramps are sharp points that typically develop on the front edge of the upper pre-molar teeth, or on the very back of the lower molar teeth, respectively. This is a fairly common finding in horses which results from the chewing teeth not being correctly aligned, causing abnormal wear of the teeth. These hooks and ramps can be quite sharp, and can cause a significant amount of discomfort for the horse, especially while carrying a bit. These hooks and ramps are removed by grinding them down to be level with the normal tooth surface. Occasionally, they will be so large that it may require more than one dental procedure to completely resolve the issue.
A wave mouth describes the condition in which the occlusal surface of the teeth is not straight or level. The occlusal surface is where the upper chewing teeth and the lower chewing teeth meet, and it is normally in a fairly straight line. When a wave mouth forms, and the occlusal surface is not straight, it can cause binding between the upper and lower teeth, resulting the horse not being able to chew effectively. This problem often will require more than one dental procedure to correct completely, since changes may need to be made slowly. Often, routine dentals of every 6 months to a year will be required to keep the horses’ wave mouth under control.
Smile Mouth/Shear Mouth
A smile mouth is when the alignment of the incisor teeth is abnormal and is not straight. This problem is more common in older horses. It can cause abnormal occlusion of the molar teeth in the back of the mouth, and therefore cause ineffective chewing of feed. To correct this problem, the veterinarian will need to perform an incisor float, removing high points of the incisors to help straighten the occlusal surface of the incisors.
These are just a few of the problems that can develop within the horses’ dentition. There are also several other problems that can be found, such as crooked teeth, broken teeth, missing teeth, cavities, diastemas, feed packing, resorptive lesions, etc.
Post written by Dr. Mackenzie Marks
Check out our Spring Equine Packages (Package #1 includes a dental float) by visiting our promotions page Here!
Equine Lyme disease is caused by infection of a horse with the spirochete bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. B. burgdorferi is spread to horses by ticks that are infected with the bacteria, transmitting the bacteria through their saliva when they bite a horse. The most common tick to carry Lyme is Ixodes scapularis (also called the black-legged tick and commonly known as the deer tick). As the range and population of the deer tick has been expanding in Manitoba, the prevalence of Equine Lyme Disease has also been increasing.
Equine Lyme Disease a somewhat controversial and frustrating disease. Within medicine as a whole, there is relatively little known about the disease and how to effectively prevent and treat it. There is a good understanding of how many horses are exposed to the bacteria, but it is unclear how many will actually develop Lyme Disease.
Horses with Lyme disease can exhibit many potential symptoms, such as:
- Chronic weight loss
- Sporadic lameness
- Shifting leg lameness
- Low grade fever
- Muscle tenderness
- Poor performance
- Swollen joints and arthritis
- Skin hypersensitivity
- Neurologic signs such as depression, head tilt, difficult eating/swallowing
The most common signs seen are lameness, stiffness, and chronic weight loss.
There are two common tests to consider when testing a horse for Lyme Disease. The first is called a SNAP 4DX test. This test involves drawing a blood sample from the horse and the test can be run on the farm or in a veterinary clinic. This is a convenient, inexpensive test that is a good choice for screening horses for Lyme disease if they are not exhibiting symptoms. However, within Manitoba, it seems that the SNAP 4DX test can have false negative results. Furthermore, this test only gives a result of positive or negative, and does not provide a quantitative result that can be monitored over time.
If a horse is suspected of having Lyme disease, the best test to perform is a Lyme Disease Multiplex Test, which is offered by Cornell University. This test involves drawing a blood sample and sending it to Cornell University for testing. This test is much better at eliminating false positive and false negative test results. In addition, unlike the SNAP 4DX test, the Multiplex test can differentiate positive results to be from vaccination, early infection, and chronic infection. This test also gives quantitative antibody results, that can be monitored through repeated tests to gauge response to treatment. The Lyme Multiplex Test is considered the current gold standard test.
Treatment of Lyme disease requires treatment with an antibiotic to kill the Lyme bacteria. The most common medications used to treat Lyme are oxytetracycline and doxycycline. The current recommended protocol is to treat a horse with a 7-day course of intravenous oxytetracycline, and then follow up with a 3-6 week course of oral doxycycline. Preferably, an additional Lyme Multiplex Test will be performed about 3 months after treatment to evaluate for a decrease in the level of antibody present, signifying successful treatment.
B. burgdorferi tends to be a difficult bacteria to rid the body of. For this reason, treatment failure is relatively common and it seems to be more difficult to treat Lyme the longer the disease goes on. One important aspect of the disease is that removal of the bacteria will not necessarily resolve the damage that has already occurred within the body. Therefore, if the bacteria is successfully cleared from the body, it is possible for the horse to have some symptoms remain after successful treatment. Other adjunctive therapies may also be used to control symptoms, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ex. phenylbutazone) and muscle relaxants (methocarbamol).
Currently, there is no vaccine for Lyme disease licensed for use in horses. However, there is research that shows that vaccination with a vaccine licensed for dogs will result in a high level of antibody. There is also research that shows that a high level of antibody in horses will prevent transfer of B. burgdorferi from the tick. Therefore, many veterinarians who practice in Lyme endemic areas have been administering canine Lyme vaccines to horses. Anecdotally, these practitioners have found adverse reactions to the vaccine to be uncommon. They have also found that the vaccination seemed to be protective. In Manitoba, the prevalence of Lyme disease is high enough that vaccination of horses with canine Lyme vaccine is recommended in high risk areas. However, it must be noted that this is off-label use of this vaccine. The current protocol is to give an initial vaccine, administer a booster vaccine in 3-4 weeks, and then booster the vaccine annually.
Equine Lyme disease continues to be a frustrating disease to deal with, which is increasing in prevalence from year to year. Veterinary medicine has a lot more to learn about Equine Lyme disease. Thankfully, research into Equine Lyme disease is becoming more common and the future hopefully will hold more information to effectively prevent, diagnose, and treat this disease.
Post written by Dr. Mackenzie Marks
With the ever-expanding world of dog and cat rescue groups, choosing a reputable rescue can be challenging. It is not a decision we wish you to take lightly, especially when making decisions regarding the addition of a new family member to your home. Taking a moment to ask yourself a few key questions before moving ahead with a particular rescue, may ensure a smooth adoption process and a lifetime of success with your new dog or cat.
1) Does the rescue group have a strong working relationship with a veterinarian?
It is very important that the rescue group works closely with a veterinary clinic to ensure that their adoptees are thoroughly examined prior to being matched with their new home. In many cases, the past medical history of an animal is unknown, and so a keen and professional eye is necessary to ensure that a complete physical exam is completed. Potential health issues should be identified and prioritized, with a plan in place for long term treatment if required. Adoptees should also receive appropriate preventative care in the form of vaccinations, deworming and nutritional advice.
2) Does the rescue group operate out of a brick and mortar location, or do they rely on foster care for pet placement?
Some larger rescues, such as the Winnipeg Humane Society (WHS) and Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter, operate out of a single location. The WHS even has their own in-house veterinary clinic with upwards of four staff veterinarians. Many rescues are smaller and rely on a network of foster homes to care for their adoptees. In many cases, this is just as good if not better than physical shelters. However, be sure to ask about their foster home protocols (how many foster pets per home; how regularly are the directors in touch with the foster parents; etc)
3) Does the adoption fee include spay/neuter services?
Spay and neuter surgery is of utmost importance. Not only does it prevent future unwanted litters, but it also prevents a list of life-threatening health issues that are directly related to patients who are not spayed or neutered. These issues include: life threatening infections (pyometra), increased risk for mammary cancer, prostate enlargement, prostate infections and perineal hernias. A responsible rescue will adopt animals who are already spayed/neutered, OR they will include a clear plan for when and where the surgery will take place post-adoption.
4) Are the dogs/cats fully vaccinated? Have they received internal parasite prevention and/or heartworm prevention?
All adoptable pets should be fully vaccinated with a minimum of their core vaccinations. They should have received dewormer and treatment for ectoparasites (fleas/ticks) if regionally required. Always inquire about whether heartworm prevention has been administered, as this is an important part of keeping our pets healthy, especially in Manitoba.
5) Does the rescue have a board of directors?
A board of directors ensures a group of personally invested and accountable individuals. It allows for a group consensus on issues regarding adoptions, patient care, and rescue protocols.
6) Are rescue organizers timely in their response to inquiries? Are they available by phone and email?
In the digital age, sometimes it is important to be able to personally speak with a rescue director to ensure that you are comfortable with the rescue protocols and adoption protocols. Many people have unfortunately fallen prey to online scams that have asked for deposits on adoptees that don’t actually exist. An open line of communication between rescue and potential adopters is key.
7) Is there an adoption interview process?
This may include a phone interview, application process and perhaps even a home visit. This indicates that the rescue if fully invested in making sure their adoptees find dedicated and suitable homes.
8) Are past medical records available prior to, and upon adoption?
This is very important with regards to making an informed decision when adopting a pet with past medical concerns. Medical records should be made available and transferred to your veterinarian to guarantee that future care and management is complete and seamless.
We hope that some of these suggestions may help guide you towards your new best friend in the future. And remember, if in doubt, always reach out to your friendly veterinary staff. We are more than happy to advise you on whether a particular pet may be the right one for you and your family.
Post written by Dr. Samyra Stuart-Altman
Here at the clinic, we see A LOT of pets with allergies.
Generally, allergies are divided into two main triggers: Food and Environmental
We start to think about food allergies when we see pets that are itchy, have frequent skin or ear infections, sensitive stomach. Food allergies typically do not have a seasonal pattern.
Dogs are not born with food allergies, rather they become sensitized to certain ingredients over time. Therefore, it is possible for a dog who has been on the same diet for multiple years to develop allergies to the diet. Food allergies can technically be triggered by any ingredient in the diet, but the most allergenic ingredient is protein, mid-size proteins to be exact. They can be meat or plant in origin.
Common allergens for dogs include chicken, beef, dairy and wheat.
Common allergens for cats include beef, dairy, chicken, egg and fish.
Unlike environmental allergies, there are no formal blood or skin tests that can determine that a pet has food allergies, or what part of the diet they are allergic to. The only way to determine if a pet has food allergies is to perform a food trial. Food trials are performed over 8-12 weeks, where we feed ONLY the specific food. This timeline is due to how long it can take for the skin to normalize after the food allergen is removed. If the pet’s skin has improved over that time, we can perform a food challenge, where we feed the food that the pet was on previously and monitor for return of symptoms. Since every pet is different, we may have to try a few different diets before finding the right one!
Now, about the diet. Hypoallergenic diets are divided into two categories: novel ingredient and hydrolyzed.
A novel ingredient diet is a diet that contains ingredients that the pet has likely not been exposed to before. The immune system may tolerate these diets because it hasn’t had time to develop the allergy to that ingredient. It is possible for pets to cross-react to ingredients that are similar, for example a dog that has reacted to beef may also react to venison. Novel protein diets that we have had success with include kangaroo and rabbit.
Hydrolyzed diets contain ingredients that have been hydrolyzed or digested into smaller molecules (smaller than those mid-sized protein molecules). These molecules are thought to be too small to trigger the allergic reaction caused by common triggers. These diets may be a better choice for pets who have previously been exposed to a wide variety of food or treats.
We do recommend veterinary diets for food trials, as some store-bought foods can still contain ingredients that are not listed on the label. Grain-free diets will not be effective in a food trial unless the pet has a known grain allergy.
Food trials require a lot of patience and effort, and can definitely be frustrating at times. However, they can be so rewarding once we have a pet whose itchiness is controlled and is comfortable again!
Post written by Dr. Kristen Wilson
Whether we are dealing with a wound on a horse’s leg, trying to bring down swelling, or providing support for a limb, there are a few main rules that we follow for bandage application on horses to ensure proper application and safety for the horse.
When bandaging a limb, there are three main layers:
1) Primary Layer: The role of the primary layer of a bandage is to contact the wound and conduct discharge away from the wound. You may hear about adherent and non-adherent dressing – these are chosen based on the reason for bandaging as well as the type of wound (if present). We most often use non-adherent bandage material, our favourite being Telfa Pads.
Before applying the primary layer, ensure that the leg is clean and dry. The dressing can be applied directly to the wound or following topical medications, if applicable. A loose layer of stretch gauze can be applied over the dressing to ensure it stays put, because as we all know, gravity does not work in our favour when bandaging horse legs.
2) Secondary Layer: The secondary layer is meant for absorption of discharge, application of pressure and support for the limb. We will use either Gamgee or cotton pads for the secondary layer, again based on the purpose of the bandage. If we are dealing with a wound with a lot of discharge, Gamgee is a great product to use as it is nicely padded while providing a lot of absorptive action. If there is no wound, or a wound that does not have a lot of discharge, we can use reusable cotton pads as our secondary layer.
To apply the secondary layer, be sure to start it just below the horse’s coronary band. This will help prevent swelling below the bandage. Begin on the inside or outside of the leg, avoiding placing the edge of the material right on the cannon bone or tendons on the back of the leg. Make sure the material lies flat and smooth to prevent uneven pressure or discomfort (think about making sure your sheets are smooth when making a bed). Pressure should be snug, but not excessive – you want to prevent slipping of the bandage while also preventing disruption of circulation to the limb.
Following the padded layer, stretch gauze is used to hold the padding in place and apply more pressure. Again, you want this layer to be snug without being too constricting. Work from the bottom of the leg upwards, overlapping each round by 50%, ensuring even pressure distribution the whole time.
3) Tertiary Layer: The tertiary layer’s job is to provide more pressure, if necessary, and protect the underlying layers of the bandage. For this layer we use Vetrap (or similar self-adherent wraps) or polo wraps. Again, ensure even pressure during application, working from the bottom up with 50% overlap of each round. It is good to leave about 1cm of the underlying padding visible on the top and bottom to prevent a tourniquet effect on either end of the bandage.
Stacked Bandaging: When bandaging the upper limb of a horse, it is necessary to use a stacked bandage. A normal bandage should be applied to the lower limb, and then another bandage applied above that one. If the upper limb is bandaged alone, it can cause stocking up and disruption of the limbs circulation. Stacking the bandage provides even pressure over the entire limb, and that lower bandage will help prevent your upper bandage from slipping.
Bandaging the Hock: If your bandage involves the hock, there is a bit of a different technique involved. A figure 8 pattern should be used around the hock joint to prevent excessive pressure and rubbing on the point of the hock.
Post written by Dr. Kristen Wilson
This is just a friendly reminder to all of our valued clients and producers that starting on December 1st, all livestock producers in Canada will need a prescription from a licenced veterinarian, before they can buy a medically important antibiotic (MIA) for therapeutic use in livestock production.
Medically important antimicrobials are essential for the treatment of serious and life-threatening infections. This change is a result of regulatory and policy changes made by Health Canada to promote the responsible use of antimicrobials in animals and prevent the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance.
Having an established Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) will be an important part of a smooth transition.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) defines a legitimate VCPR as supported by evidence of “relevant and timely interactions with clients and their animals such as farm visits, clinic appointments, consultations, individual animal or herd examinations, lab reports or production record reviews, sufficient to show the veterinarian has taken the steps necessary to establish medical need to prescribe and dispense pharmaceuticals”. Basically, a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship exists when your veterinarian knows the livestock operation well enough to be able to diagnose and treat any medical conditions animals develop.
For example, a producer that has established a valid VCPR will be able to obtain a prescription for a given amount of product for perhaps a full year (depending on the circumstance) enabling them to buy it as needed and for use according to advice of the veterinarian.
For more information about changes to federal policy and the regulations related to antimicrobial use and resistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 204–275–2038 to speak with one of our large animal veterinarians or please access the following :
Feline house-soiling is a complex problem faced by many cat owners. It not only exerts stress on the bond between cat and owner, but it can also be an indication of either an underlying medical condition or a complicated behavioural issue. It is important to realize that your veterinarian and registered veterinary health technologists are a valuable resource when it comes to diagnosing, managing, and preventing house-soiling behaviours. We understand that this represents a stressful situation for cat owners. Many of us have been in similar situations with our own cats. Though it can feel like the behaviour is personal, it is very important to note that cats do not urinate or defecate outside of the litter box due to anger or spite.
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) recognizes that there are four main causes for feline house-soiling:
Marking is part of normal feline behaviour and can include urine spraying, scratching, rubbing and deposition feces. Marking will occur for a number of reasons, ranging from sexual behaviour in unneutered/unspayed males and females, anxiety-related marking in response to environmental changes and stress, as well as territorial marking due to a perceived threat from outside of the home (new people, neighbourhood cats, visiting tradespeople during renovations).
Social and Environmental Factors
Cats are very private and tidy creatures, so it is no surprise that they can be very particular with their litterbox requirements. In a multi-cat household, a dominant cat may cause a less dominant cat to seek areas outside of the litterbox to ruinate and/or defecate. Some cats may also avoid litterboxes in high traffic areas such as near doors, hallways or next to the household laundry facilities. Cats may also avoid using the litterbox if they perceive the experience to be negative, such a a dirty litterbox, loud noises occurring near the litter box (washing machine, furnace), or becoming trapped in a lidded-litterbox.
Every cat exhibiting house-soiling behaviours requires a thorough physical exam, which may include screening tests such as blood work, urinalysis and x-rays or ultrasound. This is because there are many medical conditions that may present with the first symptom of house-soiling. Conditions can be as varied as arthritis, other sources of pain, kidney disease, urinary tract infection, or constipation.
Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC)
This is a common condition of cats that results in symptoms similar to a urinary tract infection (UTI), however there is no bacterial component present. Inflammation of the bladder wall leads to frequent urination, painful urination, and sometimes there may be blood in the urine.
Treatment and Management
First and foremost, contact your veterinarian. This is especially important to rule out underlying medical conditions resulting in this type of behaviour. The next phase of management revolves around three key components
Providing the Perfect Litterbox
Number of Litterboxes: the general rule of thumb is to have one more litterbox than the total number of cats in the house.
Type of litter: consider trying different types of litter (clay, newspaper pellets, granules) as some cats may develop a preference for certain textures.
Size: LARGE! Cat’s love large litter boxes. Sometimes a homemade litter box made from a shallow yet large Rubbermaid container is better than any store-bought alternative.
Location of litterbox: Place litterboxes in different areas of the home with. Litterboxes should not be placed next to each other as cat perceive this to be one large litterbox, versus separate boxes. Prioritize quiet and sheltered areas and on different levels in multi-level homes. Older cats may prefer a litter box on the main floor due to mobility issues.
Other Helpful Tips
- Clean litterboxes daily
- Restrict outdoor and roaming cats from entering your yard
- Do not punish your cat for marking as this may result in fear aggression
- Use feline friendly pheromone sprays and diffusers, specifically Feliway
- Clean urine-marked areas thoroughly to remove any residual scent which may encourage re-marking
Cats are complex little creatures, and this is why we love them! However, they are sometimes accompanied by the complex issue of house-soiling. Please ensure to reach out to your veterinarian right away for guidance in understanding your cat’s medical, social and environmental needs.
For additional resources for enriching your cat’s environment and ensuring they are living a happy and stress-free life, we encourage you to visit: www.catfriendly.com/enrichment
Post written by Dr. Samyra Stuart-Altman
Understanding your cat’s physical, emotional and social needs will enhance your bond and your cat’s quality of life. There are a few easy steps to get started, which are listed below in five categories.
Provide Safe Havens
Cats like to have a birds eye view of their surroundings, and typically, they don’t like to share. Providing your cat with multiple elevated areas where they can perch, preferably by themselves, allows for your cat to feel relaxed and confident.
Schedule playtime with your cat in the same way that you schedule a walk for your dog! Cats like to exert their predatory behaviour, and directing this natural tendency to hunt, stalk and pounce towards a toy, helps to prevent this type of contact with you ankles! Using toys with different textures, laser pointers and wand-toys are all ways to encourage playful interaction. Always ensure that toys involving string or feathers are only used during monitored playtime to prevent ingestion of the toy. Leaving food puzzles, feeding balls and larger toys available at all times will help to provide independent playtime when you are not home. Try placing your cat’s favourite toy in different areas of the house for them to find. Or better yet, hide their toys on and around their scratching post and cat condo to encourage targeted scratching behaviour.
Positive human-cat interactions
It is important to provide positive and predictable interactions with all members of the human family in the house. It is no surprise that our feline friends are very particular individuals, and as such, they have their own likes and dislikes. Be sure to remind guests of their preferences, such as whether they like to be petted or brushed so as to avoid any unintentional distress or confrontation.
Provide multiple and separated resources in multi-cat households
In this scenario, resources are considered to be food and water dishes, toileting areas (litter boxes), safe havens and toys. This is especially key in maintaining a peaceful multi-cat household. Ensuring that multiple food and water dishes are located in different areas of the house, and sometimes on different levels such as on a counter or a bench to allow for separate feeding.
The nose knows: respect your cat’s sense of smell
A cat’s sense of smell is extremely sensitive! Be respectful and limit their exposure to scents from visiting cats or dogs. Ensure areas that may have been previously urine marked are cleaned thoroughly to prevent recurrence of marking. There is also abundant research showing that synthetic cat pheromones, such as Feliway spray and diffusers, can be used throughout the house to reduce stress.
It is true that we often view cats as “the easy pet” to have because they don’t need to go for walks, and they are often left to their own devices. However they are complex individuals that require an enriched environment to uphold their quality of life. Please consider taking a moment to review additional resources on the Ohio State University Pet Initiative website. But most of all, just remember to have fun with your cat!
Post written by Dr. Samyra Stuart-Altman