Friday, February 24, 2012

Natural Remedies for Felines — Is Cinnamon Safe for Cats?

With the popularity of natural remedies on the rise, many people have begun wondering how many of the various herbs and other plants are safe for their feline companions. Cinnamon is commonly used by humans to aid digestion, relieve pain, and lessen the impact of colds and flus. But is cinnamon safe for cats?

Cinnamon Bark and Its Dangers

One of the most common problems of any natural remedy is ensuring that you have the right herb. In many cases, cinnamon is confused with cinnamon bark. True cinnamon, that which is found in most spice cabinets, is the inner bark of a small evergreen tree. Cinnamon bark is from the exterior of the plant.

Experts recommend that cinnamon bark not be used in any consumer products for either humans or animals. The bark, oil, and extract are all dangerous. If ingested in even small quantities, the cat could begin vomiting. Your cat may also develop severe liver problems. Cinnamon bark oil could irritate the eyes and even cause blindness. Cinnamon bark should be avoided for the health of your cat.

Cinnamon and Cats

In very small quantities, ground cinnamon is safe enough in cats. Some may even enjoy the taste of a little powdered cinnamon, though most cats seem not to like the odor. Do not allow your cat to ingest more than the smallest amount of cinnamon. In larger quantities, cinnamon may induce vomiting.

Cinnamon, like peppermint and other herbs, can have a variety of effects on cats. Some will find it calming; others will be stimulated. Some will react to cinnamon much in the same way as they will to catnip. There are also those cats who will hate it. You will have to observe your own feline to determine if cinnamon is right for your cat.

However, it is important to remember that cats have a heightened sense of smell. A scent that is pleasant to a person may be overwhelming for a feline. When using cinnamon around your cats, use as little as possible. Many cats hate the scent of cinnamon to the point where it becomes a repellent. In fact, some people use cinnamon as a decent cat repellent.

Cinnamon oil and extract should not be used around cats at any time. Both of these might burn a cat’s delicate skin and could damage mucus membranes around the eyes or in the mouth. Cinnamon oil may also contain a derivative of ASA, or acetylsalicylic acid (a pain reliever sold over the counter under proprietary brand names, including ASPIRIN® brand ASA). ASA is highly toxic to cats.

Some cats truly enjoy the scent and taste of cinnamon. For these cats, a small amount of cinnamon on their food or inside a toy (much like a catnip toy) can amuse and delight. Is cinnamon safe for cats? Yes, in small quantities. So, if you have a cat that enjoys cinnamon, use it sparingly.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dangers of Flea Infestations to Pets

Fleas mean so much more than some itching and scratching. They are a serious threat to the health and well-being of you, your pet, and your family. In large numbers, fleas can cause allergic reactions, anemia, and even death. It is important that the conscientious pet owner be aware of the risks during flea season (typically spring and summer) and take all necessary precautions to control the possibility of having a beloved pet infested with fleas.

There are many serious conditions that can be caused by flea infestation. Some of these are easily treated and fall into the category or irritations. Others can lead to serious complications down the road.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Some animals, especially cats, are allergic to the saliva of fleas. In this case, your pet may be even more sensitive to fleabites. These poor animals will suffer from acute itching and irritation all over the body. In the case of a large number of fleas, your pet may be so uncomfortable as to become a danger to you and your family, as the stress of flea allergy dermatitis (otherwise known as fleabite hypersensitivity) could make them aggressive. Signs of this condition include: inflamed skin, scabs, hot spots (in both cats and dogs), constant scratching, and unsightly hair loss.

Fleabite Anemia

Flea feed on blood. And many fleas will suck a lot of blood out of your animal companion. If too much blood is lost, your pet may develop anemia. Pets who are very old, very young, or who have chronic health problems are at greater risk of developing this serious condition. Symptoms include; weakness, lethargy, constantly yawning, excessive sleeping, and pale gums. Any animal suffering from these symptoms should be taken to a qualified veterinarian immediately, as fleabite anemia can result in death. Your vet will likely recommend a blood transfusion and iron supplements.


In many ways, hemobartonella (otherwise known as feline infectious anemia or feline hemotropic mycoplasmosis) mimics fleabite anemia. However, hemobartonella is actually caused by a parasite that is transmitted by fleas. The only way to overcome this dangerous and often fatal disease is to seek medical assistance as quick as possible.


Many fleas actually contain the tapeworm larva. A pet, when cleaning himself or simply trying to scratch that persistent itch, may inadvertently swallow one or more of these fleas. The larva is still alive, and begins to grow in the pet’s intestinal tract. Symptoms include diarrhea and small worms found in the stool. The best and more efficient way to treat tapeworms is through medication prescribed by your veterinarian.

Yersina Pestis

This bacterium prefers to live on fleas that attack rodents such as rats and mice. However, fleas are often not that picky. The ‘ratflea’ as it has become known, can sometimes infest dogs, cats, and even people. Yersina Pestis causes a kind of plague that is fatal to approximately half of all cats that contract it. Symptoms include: high fever, lethargy, and unconsciousness. It can be treated with antibiotics, but only if caught in time. It is also possible that this bacterium can be transmitted to both dogs and humans.

Fleas reproduce at an astounding rate and they lay eggs almost constantly. If you detect a flea problem, treat it immediately, ensuring your pets, home, pet beds, and gardens or other exterior areas are all flea-free. There are many ways to eliminate fleas. Your local home improvement store or pet supply store will probably have products to rid your home of fleas. Read the instruction and warning labels thoroughly before using, and ensure you treat your whole home, not simply the infested pet.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Asthma in Pets — Signs and Symptoms

Asthma is a serious respiratory condition that can affect animals as well as people. Generally, asthma is caused when irritants in the air cause some kind of obstruction in the airway. The result is inflammation or constriction of the airway and excessive mucus. Animals, however, lack the ability to describe their symptoms to their owners. Because of this, it is not always easy to tell if your pet has asthma. First, it is important to look at the symptoms displayed by your pet.

There are many signs that may indicate an asthmatic response, but as each pet is an individual, they will display individual symptoms. Some pets cough, but this cough often sounds like a hairball cough in cats, and so is often ignored by owners. In general, any signs of respiratory distress may indicate asthma. Serious symptoms might include wheezing, gasping for air through the mouth, or blue gums. If any of these symptoms are present at any time, you should immediately seek medical attention for your pet.

Outside of an emergency situation, if your pet displays any signs of respiratory distress on an ongoing basis, it is possible that your pet has asthma. The best way of coming to a firm diagnosis is to consult your veterinarian, working with him or her to discover the source of your pet’s problems. There is no single symptom for asthma, so your vet will likely have to do a little investigating to arrive at a conclusion. Some of the symptoms of asthma mimic those of other diseases, such as lungworm, respiratory infection, heart disease, heartworm, or even leukemia. Before arriving at a firm diagnosis, your vet will likely want to rule these more serious conditions out.

If other possibilities are eliminated, then your vet may arrive at a diagnosis of asthma. In this case, you will be responsible for treating and controlling your pet’s asthma. There is no cure, but it can be managed effectively with very little effort. There are several asthma medications on the market that your vet can prescribe that may diminish or eliminate the symptoms. Each pet is different, so you may have to try several medications before you find one that works for your animal companion. Even with medication, however, your pet may be prone to occasional asthma attacks.

Preventing asthma attacks isn’t as difficult as it may sound. It is simply a matter of avoiding whatever it is that triggers asthma attacks in your pet. The difficulty comes in identifying these triggers. Almost anything can serve as a trigger, but there are some common possibilities. It would be accurate to say that one of the most common triggers is second hand smoke. Many owners of pets with asthma report that asthma attacks were far less frequent once they stopped smoking around their pet. Other common triggers might include: dust, mold, cat litter, pollen, perfume, air freshener, spices, and even grass. If you can determine what triggers attacks in your pet, you can take steps to eliminate these triggers.

Having a pet diagnosed with asthma can be a frightening experience and is demanding on the owners, at least at first. With a little time, you’ll become proficient at helping your companion and minimizing their discomfort. You’ll also become more knowledgeable about asthma in general. You pet, with proper care and treatment, can live a long and healthy life with only a little effort on your part.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Musculoskeletal System: The Muscles of the Cat

From the first day a kitten is born and begins to slither towards its mother, it is attempting to control its voluntary muscles. These muscles will eventually allow the kitten to crawl, wobble, stand, walk, and even play with its littermates. The voluntary musclesare sometimes called striped or striated muscles because they exhibit longitudinal stripes. More commonly, they are called skeletal muscles because their chief function is to move the cat's skeleton from place to place. Skeletal muscles, which are secured by tendons and bones, are always arranged in pairs.

To understand how the skeletal muscles work, and why pairs are important, imagine a cat jumping. The cat must crouch down on its heels by contracting two flexor muscles, the hamstring and the tibialis. The hamstring is the muscle located behind the thigh bone while the tibialis is a muscle in front of the tibia and fibula bone. At the same time, the corresponding extensor muscles that were stretched while the hamstring and tibialis were contracting, contract themselves. This powerful contraction of all four muscles propels the cat forward, creating those gravity-defying leaps cats are so famous for.

The involuntary muscles, which are not under conscious control of the cat, are functioning even before the kitten is born. These muscles are known as smooth muscles and are found in the alimentary canal, the urinary tract, and the respiratory system, among other places.