Ask The Vet

Q: Hi there, I would like a professional opinion on cat claws, please. Facebook and other media channels have been advertising these soft gel claw caps for cats, that get glued on their claws so they don’t scratch your furniture. Apparently, they grow off. A lot of people, however, seem to have a huge issue with this, and say that its cruel and unnatural. Is this uncomfortable for cats and does it hurt them?

Scratching is a natural behaviour for cats, largely used for territory marking by leaving both physical marks as well as a scent produced by glands on their paws. The behaviour also serves other functions such as conditioning the claws and exercising the muscles and tendons involved in claw use. The application of soft gel claw caps is said to allow normal scratching behaviour to continue with the added benefit that the scratching won’t damage any household items. The gel tips are manually applied to each individual nail and grow off the nail in one to two months (or however long it takes for the caw to chew it off when grooming). While there are very few negative reviews of gel claw caps, veterinarians who are knowledgeable of the product do recommend that the nails are properly maintained between gel tip applications as nail dirt or overgrown nails could lead to discomfort and claw problems over time. As always, it would probably be best to begin using the gel tips under the guidance of a veterinarian who knows what they’re doing to avoid any negative consequences.

Q: I have 3 medium sized dogs who all eat Vets Choice Lite. I also have a Yorkie and I feed him Royal Canin. One of my medium size dogs eats the other dogs poop. She is the only one that does that. She is not bothered with strange dog’s poop, she has never done it when we go for walks. Besides their pellets, I also cook for them, rice with carrots and either chicken or red meat in the evenings. What could be the reason for her doing this?

Eating faeces (or coprophagia to use the scientific term) is actually a common behaviour in dogs. A recent study at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine revealed that up to 16% of dogs (almost one in six) are “frequent” stool eaters, meaning that the owners had noticed them eating stools at least six times. That same study found no link between coprophagia and diet, age or trainability. It’s hypothesised that this behaviour has been passed down from their wolf ancestors and was a way of keeping the living den clean, which reduced the burden of faecal-borne parasites. Dogs labelled as “greedy eaters” and dogs from multi-dog   households tend to be the most common offenders. While many people have speculated whether the behaviour is linked to a deficiency in the diet, this is probably untrue in most cases. According to the study; food additives and supplements did little to discourage the habit.

Q: I would like to find out what the best way is for transporting my cat to the vet. My cat gets upset as soon as I take out the cat carrier. She knows where we’re going when I take that out. Even after the vet visit she is usually skittish and not thrilled with me. What is the best way to reduce the “trauma” of going to the vet for cats?

First off; the reason she gets so skittish around the carrier is because she can only associate it with negative experiences. It would help to keep the carrier around where she will become familiar with it in a more positive light. Make a bed in it for her, or even feed her in it occasionally. During the car ride it’s important to ensure that your cat and her carrier are properly secured. You don’t want her bumping around in a carrier that’s sliding backwards and forwards over the back seat. Also make sure the fan or     heater isn’t blowing directly into the carrier. Once at the vet, try reducing your cat’s exposure to other animals as far as possible, perhaps even waiting outside if the reception area is very busy. Once in the consult room, keep your voice calm and re-assuring while talking to your cat and stroke them in their favourite spots, provided this doesn’t interfere with the examination.

The use of pheromone products (such as Feliway) in the car can be fast acting and there is evidence to support their use. Other drugs such as gabapentin or alprazolam can be used as an absolute last resort to reduce anxiety in cats during vet visits. These, however, are schedule drugs that may have side effects and should not be used in animals that are sick.

Q: My 4-year-old female cross breed seems to have trouble urinating. Should I be concerned? If it’s bladder infection will it clear itself up or should I give her something to drink? She is fine in all other aspects of health.

There are several causes of difficult urination and your vet would have to examine your dog and evaluate her urine to figure out what the cause of her problem could be. Any animal showing any discomfort while urinating should be seen by a vet as soon as possible. Since urine is one of the ways the body rids itself of toxins, the inability to urinate can cause a build-up of poisons within the body that can quickly become life threatening. While this problem is most common in male cats; dogs and female cats can be affected as well. Regarding your dog specifically, a bladder infection is certainly possible, and would require antibiotic treatment to clear it up. Bladder infections that are not treated increase the risk of your dog developing bladder stones which are not only painful but can also result in bladder blockages.




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