June 20, 2018
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Letting your cat out at night could be writing her death warrant

By By Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services

Q: I just got married and my husband wants to let my cat out at night. That’s because his mom did that when he was a kid. (By the way, my husband is 69.) Bella doesn’t really want to go out at night, although she sometimes goes outside during the day. What can I do? — B.C., Cyberspace

A: Keep Bella inside and put your husband out! Having an indoor-outdoor cat is one thing (though I’m not a fan of this), but worse is forcing a cat out at night. That’s cruel.

Personally, I wonder if your husband wants the worst to happen to your cat. In any case, the worst easily could happen. While cats do have exceptional night vision, they’re most at risk at night.

Despite what many people seem to think, cats are hit by cars. Other dangers include stray dogs, coyotes and other predators. Where the weather gets cold, temperatures drop lowest at night. Cats seeking shelter may slink under a warm car hood. When an unknowing driver starts the car, the cat is mangled. The list of hazards goes on.

What’s more, Bella might use a neighbor’s garden as a litter box. She could kill songbirds or other wildlife. Our pets don’t belong unsupervised outside.

While I have similar concerns about cats outside during the day, at night life is truly more dangerous. Please show your new husband this column. My hope is he’ll change his mind and demonstrate empathy and kindness, and honor your love for Bella.

Q: Both of our dogs have fleas. It’s ridiculous! We bought a flea-control product at the store, yet before that, our dogs had no fleas. Can flea products actually attract fleas? — B.A., Belle Glade, Fla.

A: Talk about ridiculous! Flea products don’t attract fleas. You need to consider other factors that may be affecting your situation.

“To be frank, some flea products aren’t consistency efficacious, and in Florida, or anywhere really, it’s no surprise that the fleas are picked up outside and then reproduce inside,” says Dr. Michael Dryden, veterinary parasitologist at Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Manhattan. “This is exactly why advice from a veterinary professional is critically important. That’s so you know you’re purchasing a proven product, the right product for your pet and your pet’s lifestyle, and also to insure you know how to use the product.”

Also, even if you buy the best flea-busting product on the planet, you must protect all the pets in your home. For example, if you also have a cat in addition to those two dogs, the cat also needs flea protection.

If you seek professional advice from a veterinarian (and if the problem is bad enough, also an exterminator), your home should soon be flea-free, says Dryden.

Q: I have a cat diagnosed with FIP (feline infectious peritonitis). My vet recommended an FIP test. The results were 1:5000. What do the numbers mean? My vet seems to think my cat has FIP. — J.C., Louisville, Ky.

A: You’re referring to a blood test to determine if your cat has a positive titer (concentration of protective antibodies) fighting the feline enteric corona virus. The numbers you quote are a potential cause for concern, but different labs use different scales of measurement.

Besides, those numbers don’t mean all that much, according to Dr. Melissa Kennedy, assistant professor, Department of Comparative Medicine, and director of the clinical virology laboratory at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine-Knoxville, who researched the value of these titer tests to diagnose FIP.

“There is absolutely no single test to determine if a kitten has FIP,” she says. “Brick by brick, you’re building a diagnostic wall, and perhaps one criterion is an elevated antibody level.”

Backing up a step, the feline enteric corona virus is very common in cats, and always benign. Sometimes it’s so benign that there are no symptoms. When symptoms do occur (such as an upset tummy, lack of appetite or just not acting “right”), they typically dissipate in a day or two. Feline veterinarian Dr. Susan Little, past president of the Winn Feline Foundation, says it’s thought that only around 2 to 5 percent of cats with the corona virus wind up with the fatal immune-mediated disease called FIP. Somehow, in these cats, the corona virus transforms into a completely different and typically deadly disease called FIP.

Little, of Ottawa, Canada, describes symptoms of FIP. Many on the list may be present, or just one or two:

  1. A fever, often waxing and waning
  2. Weight loss
  3. Decreased appetite
  4. Enlarged abdomen (or scrotum)
  5. Changes in the eyes
  6. Neurological abnormalities, including seizures or difficulty with balance
  7. General depression, decreased energy

There are two types of FIP. For one type (dry FIP), Dr. Al Legendre of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine seems to have found a potential treatment. If your cat does have dry FIP, your vet can contact Legendre to determine if the cat can be included in his study.

Legendre will present the results of his work — and, for the first time, hope for at least some cats with FIP — at the Winn Feline Foundation Annual Symposium June 23, in Reston, Va. Dr. Niels Pedersen, another longtime FIP researcher, will present findings of his research at the event, which is open to the public. Tickets must be purchased in advance ($45, including dinner). Learn more at www.winnfelinehealth.org.

Q: Several months ago, you wrote that yawning is a sign of stress in dogs. Well, my 9-year-old bassett hound must be the most stressed dog on Earth. He yawns a lot, especially in the morning when he gets up. Any advice? — N.S., Las Vegas, Nev.

A: Yes, yawning is a sign of stress in dogs. However, it’s all about context. If there’s no explanation for stress, your dog my simply be tired. Dogs (and people) often yawn as they’re waking up, or when their body is saying, “I need sleep.”

Steve Dale welcomes questions and comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, N.Y. 14207. Send email to petworld@stevedale.tv. Include your name, city and state.

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