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Home Care for Cats: Dealing with Common Afflictions

Veterinary care is an essential, albeit sometimes expensive, part of proper cat care. You can never put a price on the health of your feline friend, but, just as you don’t rush to the doctor for every little ailment you get, you shouldn’t need to bring your cat to the vet every time she has a minor issue.

Caring for your cat at home can help keep her healthy and strong, and it can enhance the bond between you and your favorite furry friend — not to mention the money you’ll save on vet bills.

However, before you examine your cat at home, be sure you can answer these questions. Then, take a look at these home-care tips.

Cat Scratch Fever

Itching is caused by stimulation of certain nerves within the skin by mediators of inflammation. Thus, any skin condition that causes inflammation can cause itching. The act of scratching may stimulate the release of inflammatory mediators and worsen the itching causing a vicious cycle. Specific treatments of itching are dependent on the cause, but there are general approaches you can take.

First, look at the skin. Examine the skin where the pet is itching the most. If it is the ears, you may notice red inflamed or smelling discharge in the ears which is consistent with an ear infection. That may be the cause of itching in that area. Licking of one ear may be associated with a skin infection or lesion in that area. Itching everywhere with hair loss is most often associated with allergies or flea infestations. Look closely for fleas. You may see the live active flea or “flea dirt.” Flea dirt looks like small flakes of pepper and is actually the bowel movement of the flea.

If you can identify fleas, a soothing bath that kills flea and is safe for cats may be helpful. Flea prevention products would also be recommended. Home cleaning for fleas is also essential as for every flea you see on your pet — there are 200 in your home or yard in different life forms waiting to soon become an adult. If you only treat your cat, it won’t help as new fleas continue to jump on him. Cats with flea allergy tend to scratch their back ends leading to lesions on the rump, hind legs, tail, and belly. There may be few to no fleas seen on the cat since it takes just one flea to make the cat react.

Ear Anomalies

Several factors, including infectious problems such as ear mites, allergies, trauma, tumors, foreign material in the ears, and generalized skin diseases, can predispose cats to ear infections. A common question pet owners ask is, “How can I treat an ear infection at home?

Hold your cat to evaluate the ear. If you notice blood or extreme redness and irritation, the best thing to do is to see your veterinarian. Many infections require prescription antibiotics. If your cat is shaking her head and/or has ear discharge and you can not take her to your veterinarian (which is recommended), then there are things you can try.

Administer only prescribed medications. Please check with your veterinarian before giving ANY medications to your cat. Do not put anything in your cat’s ear that was not made for the ear. One issue with ear infections is that they can have many different underlying causes. For example, ear infections can be caused by any of the following: ear mites, fungal organisms, and/or bacteria. Many cats with ear infections have allergies as a predisposing cause. To be most effective, the medications for each cause can be different. If possible, clean the debris from the ear. Use a commercial ear cleaner, which you can get at your veterinarian’s office or at many pet stores.

Extreme Fluid Loss

Vomiting and diarrhea can be caused by a variety of problems including eating too much, eating something that is not digestible, changes in the cat’s food, eating spoiled food or garbage, infectious agents (including bacterial, viruses, or parasites), as well as systemic problems such as cancer, diabetes, pancreatitis, kidney disease or liver disease. Home treatment of vomiting and diarrhea in cats can take on many forms.

Withhold food and water for two hours. Oftentimes the stomach lining may be very irritated. Some cats will want to eat even though their stomach is irritated, and they will continue to vomit. Give the stomach time to rest for a few hours.

After waiting for two hours, if your cat has not vomited, offer small amounts of water (a few tablespoons at a time). Continue to offer small amounts of water ever 20 minutes or so until your pet is hydrated. Some cats won’t drink water. You can offer fresh water, water in a different bowl, top off the water bowl with fresh water, or adding ice cubes to the water can encourage some cats to drink. Sometimes offering tuna juice can stimulate cats to drink. If there has been no vomiting after the small increments of water are offered, then you may gradually offer a bland diet.

When It’s More Than a Scratch

Laceration can be caused by a variety of traumatic events. The most common causes of lacerations in cats include getting cut on glass or sharp objects in the yard (especially rough wires around fencing), bite wounds, and injuries that break the skin as a result of being hit by a car. Some cats come in bleeding with a laceration and their owners never know what happened. The traumas that most commonly lead to lacerations are usually associated with contamination from debris, dirt, and bacteria.

Specific treatment of a laceration depends on the degree and depth of injury, in addition to associated or secondary injuries. The best thing to do is to take your cat to your veterinarian to help you determine the extent of the injury, but if you cannot take your cat to your veterinarian, you can start by carefully evaluating your cat’s wound. He could be in pain so take special care not to be bitten when examining the wound.

If your cat’s wound is bleeding, take a clean towel and gently apply pressure. Again, be careful. If the wound is superficial, if possible, try to clip the fur around the wound. Take care not to get hair in the wound. You can place sterile KY Jelly in the wound to protect it while clipping the hair. This allows the hair to stick to the KY Jelly instead of the wound.

Examine the extent of the injury. If the wound is deep, if it seems to go deeper than the full thickness of the skin, and it is bleeding profusely, or if the wound is longer than about 1 inch, it really is best for you to see your veterinarian. The wound should be examined and most likely sutured.

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