Pet Health

ASK THE VET

posted January 15th, 2007 by
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This issue’s participating veterinarian: Stephanie Ensley, DVM

Q. My seven-year old cat has developed feline diabetes. Is there any chance that it could disappear as quickly as it developed? Also, will this disease affect the longevity of my cat’s life? D. Blackburn, Tulsa

A. 24 TulsaPets Winter 2007 Diabetes, a metabolic disease diagnosed in an estimated one out of two-hundred feline patients, can sometimes seem to develop overnight. Many owners can look back (good old hind sight) and recognize early indications of the illness that were not alarming initially. Examples might include increased litter box use, change in appetite and/or water consumption, change in activity level, vomiting, diarrhea and weight changes.

Feline diabetes is managed in most patients with diet and insulin. Some cats are able to be managed without insulin, or with decreased doses over time. Cats that develop diabetes following steroid treatment for other medical conditions may revert to a non-insulin dependent state if steroid use can be discontinued. I never consider diabetes to “disappear” but rather to be controlled. A big part of diabetes management is monitoring glucose levels and clinical signs. In a case where a cat reaches a point of no longer needing insulin I continue a supportive diet with regular monitoring and caution owners that the cat has shown us the predisposition to the disease and can at any time become ill from diabetes again.

Diabetic cats, if well managed, may live a fairly long life. Unfortunately some diabetics have other disease processes affecting their bodies that make glucose control difficult or they are not presented to the veterinarian for evaluation until they are deathly ill from the effects of diabetes, making the prognosis poor. Additionally, diabetics must be treated early and aggressively for any illness that develops. In many cases periodontal disease or a urinary tract infection can precipitate loss of glucose control in the diabetic patient. To help your diabetic cat live a long and healthy life it is essential to work closely with your veterinarian to set up monitoring guidelines, treatment plans and regular medical evaluations. Home management takes dedication on your part, but the reward…your feline friend…is worth it!


Q. I live near a location where the emergency sirens blow every Wednesday at noon. My lab puppy, who has never heard this sound before, has started running outside and howling when he hears the noise. Why does he do this and are the sirens hurting his hearing? S. Kirkpatrick, Tulsa

A. Dogs tend to bark and howl with sirens in chorus…sort of an instinctual pack behavior. The good news is the sirens are not harmful to your dog’s hearing at the level and duration they are used in a testing mode. The greatest problem with barking at sirens is that dogs build a habit of the behavior and cannot discern between barking at the noon test sirens and emergency vehicle sirens in the wee morning hours…an activity not many neighbors appreciate

Test sirens at a set time afford you a great training opportunity. If you are available at the times the sirens blow you can train your dog to go to a specific location and do a ‘sit’ or ‘down’ at the appointed place and then reward him as he stays put till the sirens stop. Since we live in an area of severe storms it is better to have dogs under control and in a predetermined location than out howling at sirens should a true emergency situation exist. In addition to having treats handy at this location you should also have leashes (or crates) as needed for your pets so that you can control them should you need to seek shelter with them. This training method may also be applied when doing monthly testing of your in-home smoke detectors.

That said, civil defense sirens at close range (100 feet) or for extended periods that would occur during a disaster can be damaging to the ear drum due to the high decibel (sound pressure) level required for the warning sirens. If your dog is particularly sensitive, agitated by the sirens, or they are activated for more than test duration you can place a cotton ball in the ear canals (gently…. don’t push it too far in) to muffle the noise and make your dog more comfortable.


Q. I have a very old dog who sleeps mostly all day in one favorite spot in the living room. She has started developing a strange habit of getting up and scratching furiously on the carpet where she has been sleeping. It’s almost like she is in a trance-like state when she’s doing this. In addition to saving my carpet, I’d like her to stop. Why has she started to develop this behavior? What can I do to help her stop it?

A. Older dogs do sleep more than young ones and can develop new, and not always desirable, habits. In some cases these new behaviors are due to underlying disease, pain or a dementia-like illness called canine cognitive dysfunction. I encourage you to take your dog for a thorough physical examination and blood work to look for related problems that can be addressed. Evaluation may reveal a problem that can be treated with a special diet and/or medication.

If you have a video camera it would help for you to record the described activity once without disturbing your dog, letting her cycle through her entire routine. Get someone to help you record it a second time and try to get your dog’s attention during the event to see how she reacts. I like to keep a written log of episodes observed including time, date, duration of episode and feeding time or other activities on the days you observe the event. In the meantime I recommend you take a cutting of carpet remnant to a carpet store where it can be finished off on the edges….you can place this in your old gal’s favorite spot so she will not further damage your carpet but will