Even my own cat needs help with control issues

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Published on November 23, 2011 with No Comments

by Dr. Nicholas Pappas

I’ve been involved in veterinary medicine for 40 years and practiced for more than 30 years. May I say, in all humility, thank you. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of caring for your beloved pets and becoming a part of your lives.  And, through the prism of the years, I’ve come to realize how blessed I am. I truly lived in abundance even in the lean years.

Cowboy is my cat. Cowboy, shall we say is “big-boned” euphemistically speaking.  OK, he is a portly 25 pounds.  OMG (I was a text virgin until recently), a veterinarian who has an overweight feline.

Should I ignore his 5:30 a.m. supplications at the pantry for a treat? Probably. Should I remove his food at bedtime?  This is usually not a good idea for a nocturnal animal, unless you want to listen to an evening of high-pitched protestations. No, I relent to his convivial pleasures and don’t like a veterinarian pontificating to a client who in all other aspects cares for their pets in an exemplary fashion. 

Cowboy is a Maine Coon and probably would weigh circa 18 pounds if left to his own devices. But, if we were to extrapolate, Cowboy weighs 250 people pounds.

I’d like to make two points, one is philosophical and the other is medical.

Philosophically, Cowboy’s life consists primarily of window bird-chasing, playing with his woobies, sleeping on his back between my wife and I while purring at the same decibel level of a 737, watching “House” with me in my office and eating.  Eating in a Greek-Italian household borders on a religious event. 

I am under no illusions from a medical standpoint, will I increase his chances for developing Diabetes?

Answer, yes. 

Will I possibly exacerbate any orthopedic problems.

Yes, cats can develop Hip Dysplasia, so answer, yes.

Ah, but there is one immutable fact some veterinarians seem to have forgotten. A cat is not a small dog.  Cats and dogs are wonderful companions, but for many different reasons.

Cats are subject to many stress-induced medical problems and removing a cat’s food (even for their own good) can and will upset their routine and lead to a spate of medical problems.  Fifty percent of female cats will develop a urinary tract infection after moving to a new house within two to three weeks.  Inappropriate soiling invariably will follow suit.

Remember for medium-to-large cats the largest litter box made is too small. File carriers (two feet by three feet) and a good scoopable litter will preclude many of these problems. They should be “scooped” twice daily, changed every two weeks and cleaned with a mild dish washing liquid.

Our profession has been subject to many of the vagaries of other professions.  Many things have changed in the last 6-10 years of veterinary medicine.  Clients have access to the internet and specialist that used to be peculiar to academic institutions.

Moreover, clients have access to many of the technological advances that are commonplace in human medicine such as MRI’s, CT Scans, ultrasounds, digital X-rays, laser surgery, et al.  Medically, these are great tools but we have seen some cases of exponential increases in veterinary bills.

It would be very sad if the day ever came where we have to choose between our pet and a very expensive test.  Remember, the best test has always been a good physical exam.

Please consult with your primary care veterinarian about the need for such tests; i.e. the cost-benefit ratio, especially in this economy. I’ve always been proud that our profession has proffered expertise at affordable prices.  It would sadden me to see this change.

We have been overwhelmed with a new lexicon including Chronic Wasting Disease, Mad Cow Disease, Foot and Mouth Disease, prions vs. viruses, Canine Influenza, Lyme Disease ad infinitum.

At some point in time logic must take over.  A two pound poodle on Lake Shore Drive shouldn’t necessarily be vaccinated yearly, if at all, for every disease or even every year except that which is state law such as one- or three-year rabies. 

Is your dog “boarded” a great deal?  A working Border Collie would and should have different recommendations. 

Many new veterinary hospitals are being built.  Go in unannounced – ask for a tour.  Are you made to feel important? Trust your feelings and never leave an office visit without all your questions being answered. 

Dr. James Read of Chesterton declawed a cat for me with his new laser and I was very impressed by the lack of pain, bleeding, shortened healing time, etc.  As Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a changin.”  God willing, these changes will supplement our clients’ needs not add to their stress.

Rarely does a week go by that I don’t receive a phone call from a former client for a second opinion. I welcome them because they honor me and this applies to anyone who reads this column.

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