25 March 2013

Cats: L-Lysine

As I wrote in my post about herpes in cats, L-lysine is one of the few effective controls on the herpes virus.  The L-lysine works in one of two ways.
  1. L-Lysine works by competing with the absorption of arginine. Arginine is necessary for the herpes to reproduce, but a cat can easily use the lysine instead of arginine. So, if the system is flooded with lysine, the herpes can't reproduce. 
  2. A newer theory is the cat's cells need lysine to use the arginine in the cell. By giving the cat extra lysine, the cat is assured of having enough lysine to use up all the arginine in the cells, thus depriving the herpes of the arginine. No arginine, no little baby herpes viruses.  
Which ever model is correct, 500mg is considered maintenance for a 10 lb cat, with 1000mg being recommended for stressful times.  Having said that, I also know from experimenting on Isabel, who does have herpes, that the levels need to be slightly higher for raw-fed cats.  Raw meat has a higher level of arginine in it, so more lysine is needed.  When she has problems, I have upped the dose to 1500mg for 1-2 weeks and this helps bring the herpes back under control.  (While lysine is fairly safe, there are some concerns about high levels, which would be 3000+mg for a cat, impair protein absorption and utilization.)

The lysine itself is available in 3 forms:
  1. treats -- The treats are laced with lysine and many cats do like them.  The average cat needs at least 6 treats per day for maintenance (at least in one brand) and they are not cheap.
  2. gel -- Similar to hairball remedy, lysine is available in a tube.  The gel, which has only a slight taste (yes, I tried it), is not objectionable to most cats.  None of mine will eat it off my finger, but if mixed in food or put in a syringe, they will eat it.  It is moderately expensive and because it is mixed in a wet medium, it does expire.
  3. powder -- The powder itself comes in 3 forms.  Capsules of pure lysine from a health store.  The capsule is opened and spread on wet food.  Bulk lysine (for people) in a jar from a health store or online.  Usually 1/4tsp is 500mg.  And lysine powder for pets.  The lysine for pets is the cheapest and may work for most cats, except, of course, one of mine.  The lysine is listed as "in a palatable flavor base" and that's it.  This is one of my problems with 'pet' supplements -- the labelling is much less strict.  The "base" turned out to be whey powder, which Clancy cannot tolerate.  I put one dose on some food and within 30 minutes his face was swollen, he was drooling, and he was lethargic.  He did survive and he can tolerate lysine -- pure lysine -- so it was the whey powder which caused the problem.
In general, cats do tolerate the lysine well.  I have heard some people say their cats do not tolerate it and get either diarrhea or vomiting.  I am curious to find out what form they tried and if that was not the problem as opposed to the lysine itself.

17 March 2013

Cats: Herpes

Just like humans, cats can get herpes.  But with cats, the herpes can cause more than a bothersome cold sore.  In fact, herpes can cause anything from runny eyes to rupturing of the eyes, or even death.

Herpes in cats is caused by feline herpesvirus 1, which is obviously a herpes virus.  In cats and especially kittens, it causes feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR).  This a common upper respiratory infection (about 50% of all cats have had it) and is one of the leading causes of conjunctivitis in cats. Most cats get the virus and get over it.  Some cats get the virus and have major problems because of it -- conjunctivitis, pneumonia, corneal ulcers, etc.  A few cats get the virus, and because their immune system is weak, are never able to totally clear the virus and so they become chronically infected with it.

The virus is spread by nasal discharge, tears, and saliva.  The normal incubation period is 2-5 days.  A cat with FVR will have thick nasal discharge (usually yellowish), a fever, maybe coughing, and sneezing.  Antibiotics will not cure it but are used to prevent secondary infections.  Vitamin C and vitamin A and fasting are my treatment of choice in most cases.  After the cat flu stage, the cat will shed the virus for 1-3 weeks, or in the cat which become chronically infected, for the life of the cat.

Anya, who likely lost one eye to herpes
Until advances were made with DNA, there was no reliable test for herpes in a cat.  Now, there is a PCR test which is very sensitive and moderately expensive.

There is a vaccine which will lessen the symptoms, but not prevent the infection.

Unfortunately, the virus has an affinity for eyes, especially the cornea.  When a cat with a weakened immune system is exposed to the herpes virus, the virus enters the body and causes the typical symptoms.  Because the body can not fight off the herpes virus, like a healthy cat does, the virus escapes the digestive and pulmonary tracts and becomes chronic.  It can take up residence in a number of locations, such as the nose but especially the eyes.  With the eyes, the herpes virus causes eye ulcers which may lead to the rupturing and removal of one or both eyes.  My dear Anya came to me with one eye, but the other eye shows clear signs of previous ulcerations.  Without constant treatment with lysine, her eye and nose both quickly develop mucus and I would expect her remaining eye to ulcerate.

Isabel with staining due to excessive tearing
But there is also another form of herpes, or so I am convinced -- a subclinical chronically infected version.  A couple of researchers are looking at these cats, but so far, nothing major has come of their research other than to say the pool of chronic carriers may be larger.  Anya is a classic chronically infected cat -- ulcers in the eye(s), mucus, etc.  The other form is less obvious.  It's almost like a subclinical chronic infection, with periods of mild symptoms.  The symptoms, such as increased nasal discharge, could be caused by other things such as allergies or even dust.  These cats would not be considered to have herpes by most vets and without a PCR test, they would go diagnosed.  But they do have herpes.  My Isabel is one such cat.  Normally, her nose and eyes are fine.  But when she feels stressed (and then her immunity would be down), she starts having excessive nasal drainage as if she had a sinus infection.  Antibiotics do not clear it up, so it's not bacterial.  There's no pattern to it, so I doubt it's allergies.  But give her large doses of lysine (which helps to control herpes) and a bit of echinacea (which boosts her immune system), and she quickly returns to normal. 

In any case, for the chronically infected, while there are some antiviral medication that shows some promise, the herpes virus can't be removed even by interferon, but it can be controlled to a large degree.  Most owners rely on l-lysine, an amino acid, to control the herpes and to prevent flair-ups.

I will post about lysine in a day or two...

10 March 2013

Cats: Shaded Cameo Genetics

Since I'm getting my wonderful Peaches, I thought I would do a bit of research on the genetics behind the shaded cameo.  Her coat is wonderful and very intriguing to me.

First off, one must clearly understand what a shaded cameo is.  According to the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) website:
The Shaded and Smoke Division includes the shell and shaded cameos which have red tipping with a white undercoat....In repose, the smoke appears to be a solid color cat. In motion, the coat will break open, giving glimpses of a startling white undercoat. All should have the characteristic white ruff and ear tufts. The perfect balance of undercoat to overcoat is transitory and the perfection of color balance can usually only be seen six to eight weeks annually. Their brilliant copper eyes seem almost like burning embers within the smoke setting. CFA Persian Description
This description got me thinking of the silvers, which have white coats tipped in black. But that still didn't explain how you get colored tips on white hairs...  So, I looked up the genetics and gave myself a headache!  It seems the shaded cameo requires 3 different genes to produce their wonderful coat -- one gene off and no shaded cameo.  The genes are D-I-O.

The first gene, D, stands for Dense color.  The D works with the O to produce the red tipping, as opposed to a lighter cream tipping.  Having never seen a cream cameo, I have a hard time envisioning it.

The second gene, I, stands for Inhibitor.  The inhibitor gene I is dominant over the recessive i.  The I gives the hair the white shaft from the skin to the tip.  The amount of tipping varies from just a bit (shell cameos) to about half (shaded cameos) to most but not all (smoke cameos or red smokes).  With the i, the coat hairs would be solid (or agouti if carrying that gene).

The third gene, O, stands for Orange or red.

While it may sound 'easy' to produce a shaded cameo because all the genes are dominant, the problem is getting all 3 genes at one time without any other genes interfering, such as the gene for tabby markings.  

09 March 2013

Cats: Dehydrated Treats

Raw food is good.
Dehydrated raw food as treats is...

If you expected 'good', you might be surprised when I say 'maybe good, maybe bad.'  It depends on the number of treats that are given, actually.

Giving a cat a few small pieces of dehydrated chicken (or any other meat) won't cause a problem.

Giving a cat a handful of dehydrated treats and, well, you could have the problem my friend has.  She was enthusiastic that her normally picky cat would eat a different treat (other than Whiskas Temptations) that she kept giving her cat the dehydrated turkey last night.  This morning, the cat is sitting in the meatloaf position, refuses to eat, and acts as if her tummy hurts.

So why?

Most meats are 60-70% water (by weight).  Commercially dehydrated meat has most of that water removed, so less than 10% of the normally present water remains. (Some dehydrated treats are less than 5%.)  Dehydrated food (which hasn't been ground or pulverized) will re-hydrate readily if given water.  When the dehydrated food enters the digestive tract, it will pull water from the digestive tract to re-hydrate and usually expand.  If the cat is not fully hydrated or does not drink a lot of water near the time the treats are eaten, the now semi-re-hydrated treats will form a blockage as more water is pulled into it and the body slowly digests them.  (Without sufficient water, the digestion of them is also slowed.)  Eventually the body will move this mass along.

Notice I did put the caveat of not ground nor pulverized.  Dehydrated meats that are dehydrated and then crushed and formed into patties, etc., don't seem to cause this type of problem.  The reason I believe is the patty, for example, falls apart and does not form a large lump.  Also, most dehydrated food specifically says to re-hydrate it before serving.  And it is really amazing how much water one small dehydrated patty can absorb!

The solution to my friend's cat's problem is to give the cat sub-cutaneous fluids so that the cat has extra water to soften the treats and help them move along.

The overall solution is to limit dehydrated treats to 2-3 small pieces and only to give them to non-CRF (or other potentially dehydrated) cats.

07 March 2013

Clarissa Woes, Part 2

The last week or so have been a nightmare!  Clarissa, my tiny tortoiseshell Persian, had another spell of vomiting and not eating, similar to what she had a month ago.

Similar, but not exact...

She started by not eating all her food, just like last time.  Then she stopped eating or would eat and throw up shortly after, just like last time.  So, I'm thinking, "Oh, just like last time.  Wait and she will be fine."  So I did not panic and I waited.  I gave her some laxative hoping that the hairball would move on.  And then I waited more.  Only this time, on occasion, she would eat and be fine, or she would eat and throw up watery stuff about 2-3 hours later.  Not like last time...  And it dragged on....

Finally, she refused to eat -- even the baby food.  So, I finally took her to an ER clinic to see a vet that does acupuncture.  The thinking was the x-rays last time showed her internal organs were basically normal and her blood work was normal, so conventional medicine could do little more.  Besides, honestly, I did not want her to be man-handled like she had been.  Anyway, the vet gave her a treatment and some serenia pills.

So on Monday I was expecting good things, like her eating.  Nope...  In fact, she pulled back from the food without licking it.  Not a good sign!  (This is a non-scientific indication of the beginnings of liver failure.)

Finally called my homeopathic vet and of course got the receptionist.  I told her my name and that I needed to leave a message for my vet -- PANIC.  (Just one word, all capitals.)  Worked -- vet called back in 30 minutes.  We worked out a plan...

AND IT WORKED!!!  What we did was give her a small dose of prednisone for inflammation, the serenia for nausea, sub-q fluids for any lingering constipation, and B12 for an appetite stimulant.  Clarissa is now back to eating.  And I can breath....

So, why?

It goes back to the hair again.  She grooms a lot, so she gets hairballs.  Unlike my other cats, she doesn't throw them up, so eventually they form a blockage.  This time, I got at least part of the hairball to move, but some of it probably stayed and irritated the stomach or small intestine.  The irritation led to the vomiting.  Eventually, the vomiting caused the gag-reflex to be set to a lower threshold, so any minor problem caused her to vomit.

The key will be to prevent the hair from being ingested and to keep ingested hair moving through.  For the latter, once she's stabilized, I will add pumpkin, psyllium, or tater skins to her food, depending on what she will eat.  (I'd rather do this than constantly give her laxatone.)  To prevent the hairball from forming, I will go back to grooming her daily and bathing every 2-3 weeks.  (This is basically what I was doing when I was showing her and she had no problems.)

I'm just so very glad we could get her sorted out before she did have liver failure.  And I promise never to complain about her pulling all the DVDs off a bookcase at 4 am.

05 March 2013

Book Review: The Square Root of Murder

The Square Root of Murder by Ada Madison
ISBN:  978-0-425-24219-3

The Square Root of Murder is the first in the new cozy mystery series with a mathematics theme, the Professor Sophie Knowles Mystery series.  The series centers on mathematics professor Dr. Knowles at a small private college in Massachusetts.

This book has both good and bad points.  The main characters, namely Sophie, her boyfriend Bruce, the police detective Virgil, and her girlfriend Ariana, are all believable and adequately written.  I feel the characters lacked some depth, but perhaps this will come in future books.  Also, the characters were a bit predictable. The plot was interesting with a surprising ending.  Occasionally the story did lag a bit, but not enough to encourage me to give up on the book.  The writing was fine -- typical of cozy mysteries -- neither poor nor great.

One disappointment was the lack of math.  Yes, I'm not typical because I do understand higher mathematics, but I had expected a few references to some math.  The only real math mentioned is the fact that Dr. Knowles creates math puzzles for magazines (and based on this a few puzzles are included at that end of the book).

Still, this was a fun book to read and I will move on to #2 in the series.