31 December 2014

Goodbye 2014!

I can't say I'm sorry to see 2014 go -- it was bad at times, great at other times, but just overall tiring.

Dante, RIP

The bad times:
  • Tom, my dear husband, had a couple of really bad spells where I thought he would actually die.  
  • Dante, my old 22 year cat, finally had to be put to sleep.
  • Bodhi, my crazy persian kitten, was sick enough to spend 3 days in a the ER vet clinic.
  • I lost some friends  -- some because they did die and some because they walked away.
The good times:
  • I directly helped to save 6 persians!
  • Tom (and I) got a cute, adorable persian kitten named Bodhi.
  • Peaches got some grand points in one cat show.
  • Bodhi, Halloween 2014
  • I met some truly special people.
Overall, I didn't like the year.  It was like waiting for something else bad to happen and that's never a good feeling.  I do hope 2015 is better, but I suspect I will lose Robbie and who knows what will happen to Tom.

28 December 2014

Advice to Cat Rescues

To my friends in rescue, here are three easy steps to alienate your supporters:
1. Beg for money from supporters for an ill cat and then NEVER give an update on the cat. Supporters like me love to wonder if the cat lived, if the money helped, etc. I'm not suggesting that a daily update is needed -- I know you guys are busy -- but maybe a simple post about the cat a week or so later would not be too much to ask.
2. Beg for money from supporters for cats, while claiming you are broke, and then bragging about the flat-screen TV you just bought on your personal page. Again, supporters like me love to wonder if the money we donate to help cats has actually helped you live a more comfortable life. As a corollary to this, if you are so desperate for cat litter and I want to buy cat litter and have it shipped to you, what is the problem? My little evil mind just wonders if the problem is cat litter can't be exchanged for movie credits on cable to watch on that big flat-screen TV.
3. Beg for money from supporters and NEVER bother to thank them. Supporters like me love to be ignored and taken for granted. I don't expect nor want a public thank you, but a simple email or PM with "TY" would be enough.
Are any of these three things too much to ask? No. Not in my world. I work hard for my money and, while this sounds childish, I would like to believe that if I give your rescue some of it, that you would appreciate the sacrifice. After all, I have bills and my own cats with vet bills to pay too.

27 December 2014

Book Review: Pasha: A Kydd Sea Adventure

Pasha: A Kydd Sea Adventure by Julian Stockwin
McBooks Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-59013-683-6

Pasha, by Julian Stockwin, is the latest installment in the Kydd Sea Adventures. In this volume, newly knighted Sir Thomas Kydd is sent to Turkey to help prevent the French from befriending the Sultan and thus establishing a land bridge to India. Meanwhile, his close friend, Renzi, leaves the ship and pursues his own destiny.

The writing, especially of the dialogue, was very impressive in this book. Not only were many of the accents accurately written, but the work choice itself was very reflective of the early 19th century. Likewise, the historical details, such as the loss of the Ajax, were spot on. The tale itself moved nicely along with enough details to be interesting, but not too many to drag.

Sadly, the book also suffers from predictability. Much of the plot is clearly foretold so that the climax is lacking. Additionally, and this is probably just me, but in 15 novels, Thomas Kydd has gone from pressed wig-maker with no sailing experience to a knighted captain on his way to admiral. I know this is fiction, but can't the guy have a failure?

Overall, it was a good, bedtime read. Not great, but serviceable. ( )

21 December 2014

Resigning From Facebook

I do not suffer stupidity well.  Never have, never will, and honestly, I don't even want to try.

I had the idea of creating a small group of people who would research feline health topics and then discuss their findings -- a real discussion with give and take.  I mentioned it, I set it up, and I got rude messages about it.  Why is my having a discussion at my level bad?  Oh, because my level is not for the average person and therefore very rude.  I'm intimidating, arrogant, overbearing, and disgusting.

Well, that group is gone -- stupid cat owners of the world celebrate!  Also, since it was pointed out to me that I'm egotistical and I stifle discussion in my other cat group, I will only reply when tagged.  And let's not forget that I'm not a vet so I shouldn't even be giving general advice... which really doesn't fit with me knowing so much vet material... but let's not be consistent... it is the hobgoblin of little minds.

And while we are at it, my owning a non-rescue persian is evil... Peaches' page is now history.

So, I hope I have made everyone happy.  I know this is petty and childish on my part, but at this point I don't really care.  I want to read and learn about cats.  I would like to discuss it with others, but obviously that can't happen on Facebook, at least not in public.

Peaches so very upset of the loss of her FB page

Cats: Causes of Chronic Renal Failure

What causes chronic renal failure(CRF) or chronic kidney disease(CKD)?  That is one of the most important questions that remains unanswered in veterinary medicine.  The problem, as I see it, is the cause in one cat may be different from the cause in another cat, which may explain the different progressions of the disease.

A small percentage of cats with CRF have this disease clearly because of genetic problems.  In Persians and related cats, the PKD (polycystic kidney disease) gene goes produce kidney failure due to the growth of multiple cysts in the kidneys which eventually are destroyed by the cysts.  Similarly, amyloidosis is a genetic disease in Abyssinians, Oriental shorthairs, and Devon rexes.

With the exception of genetic problems, the causes of CRF are not clearly known, but there is a list of potential causes.

1.  The after effect of acute renal failure.  Often any type of acute renal failure will scar the kidneys enough that full function is never restored.  With prompt treatment, some of these cats can reach a status where the damage does not lead to more kidney problems.  With others, the damage is too much and the scarring seems to hasten the development of CRF.  This latter group experiences a feedback cycle of lowering kidney function which leads to more stress on the kidneys which leads to lowering the function more.

2.  Immune problem which attack the kidneys.  The main two agents in this category are FeLV and mycoplasma polyarthritis (haemobartonella – feline infectious anaemia).

3.  Infections in the kidneys.  These range from chronic bacterial, to viral (FIP, FIV), to fungal.  Untreated, these infections interfere and then destroy the kidneys’ ability to function.

4.  Cancer.

5. Mechanical problems, such as large kidney stones, granulomas, or even the occasional cyst.

6. Idiopathic – no known cause.  This is, unfortunately, for most cats the ‘cause’ of CRF.   As late as 2 years ago, researchers still had no clear clue as to the causes (and there are probably multiple causes) for the development of most cases of CRF/CKD.  See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21262581 

What is interestingly missing from this list is food.  As I will explain in a future post, the moment a cat is diagnosed as having CKD, many veterinarians ask clients to switch the cat to a low protein food.  A few vets and some pet owners have taken this a step further and argued that the protein level in a cat's food should be restricted to prevent CKD from developing.  While researchers have looked into this, there is no scientific support for limiting protein levels to prevent CKD and there are a number of reasons why this could lead to other health problems.

17 December 2014

Cats: Demographics of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

One of the leading causes of death among cats over 10 years old is chronic kidney disease (CKD), which is when the kidneys slowly lose functionality.  A note about the name of the problem:  A decade ago, this was called chronic renal failure (CRF) because it involved the kidneys failing over a long period, as opposed to acute kidney failure.  In recent times, the preferred description is chronic kidney disease (CKD) because this name emphasizes the idea that many cats can live with diminished kidney function for years.  I became a 'cat person' when CRF was the term to use and often use that in preference to CKD, but I will try to follow the veterinary trend and use CKD.

Emily -- died of complications due to CKD
In terms of who is getting CKD, the ratio of females to males is 1.06:1, with a population ratio of 1.15:1.0, so females are a tiny bit less likely to get it than would be expected.

Some of the purebreds, eg. Birmans, British shorthairs, and Angoras, seem to be over-represented.  For example, DSH was 11.7%, Angora was 36.4%, Persians 9.9%. This could be either due to the owners of these cats being more able to do repeated early testing, or some yet-to-be discovered genetic factor, or small sample sizes on the rarer breeds.

In researching this topic, I ran across an interesting and horrifying statistic on the incidence of CKD.  In 1990, the estimated rate of CKD was 16 cases for every 1000 cats examined.  Looking at just the older cats, the rate was 77 per 1000 for cats over 10 yrs and 153 per 1000 for cats over 15 years.  The same type of study was conducted in 2000.  For cats of all ages, the rate increased to 112 per 1000, for 10 yrs or older 269 per 1000, and for 15 yrs or older it was 491 per 1000.

While some of this is due to the increased awareness of CKD and the importance of early detection, it is my opinion and the opinion of my vet that there has been an actual increase in the rate.  My vet started practicing in the mid 1980s.  She says she saw CKD in cats 12 yrs or older, but not at a high rate.  This summer we got discussing this and now she is seeing cats as early as 8 yrs old having the same symptoms and bloodwork as the 12 yrs cats in the 1980s.  She also commented that she now expects any cat over 15 to have CRF and is surprised when they don’t.  (She’s in awe of Dante at ~22 with no CKD!)

So, the question becomes what has changed in the last 20 years.  While one might want to blame inbreeding among some purebreds as a cause, this would not explain the increase among randomly bred cats, namely DSH and DLH.  My vet and I agree that there have been 2 significant changes which MAY explain part of the increase.

1.  Vaccines.  In the 1970s, most cats were not vaccinated.  In the 1980s, there were pushes to vaccinate cats for a variety of things.  By the 1990s, cats began to be vaccinated for 5-8 different diseases each year.  Some of the vaccines are grown on kidney tissue, which has lead to the speculation that the residue proteins from the kidney tissue in the vaccines may actually be causing inflammation of the kidneys which then leads to CRF over time. 

This actually has been researched (2005) and the conclusion reached was “Parenteral administration of vaccines containing viruses likely grown in CRFK cells induced antibodies against CRFK [Crandell-Rees feline kidney] cell and FRC[feline renal cell] lysates in cats.  Hypersensitization with CRFK cell proteins did not result in renal disease in cats during the 56-week study.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15822597)  Now, on the surface, this seems to rule out that vaccines are related to CKD.  Looking at the methodology, I do begin to wonder.  First, only 14 kittens were used.  Not only was the numbers low (14), but these began as 8-week old kittens which means the kidneys and other organs were still growing.  Second, they received 4 FVRCP vaccines at 0, 3, 6, and 50 weeks.  Basically one year of vaccines.  Third, the study concluded at 56-weeks, which is only 6 weeks after the last vaccine.  No one is saying that a vaccine causes immediate detectable damage, so 6 weeks seems far too short.

A different study (2006) did produce interesting results.  Researchers sensitized cats to CRFK lysates (remains of cells) and several cats did develop lymphocytic-plasmacytic interstitial nephritits after 2 years. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16713319 )  A study from 2010 confirmed that vaccination with FVRCP vaccine grown on CRFK (kidney tissue) does produce antibodies after 2 years which have been associated with nephritis in humans. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20136712 )

So, bottomline… There is no clear evidence that vaccines cause (and I mean this is a statistical sense) CKD.  There seems to be evidence that vaccines grown on kidney tissue do cause antibodies against that tissue which (speculation here) may lead to antibodies against all feline kidney tissue which leads to CKD.  What I don’t know (because I don’t follow vaccine stuff) is how common it is for FVRCP to be grown on kidney tissue or if there are other options.

2.  Food. (And note: this is MY pet theory which my vet agrees with now.)  When meat is processed into cat food, the proteins undergo a structural change when cooked.  They are denatured – like the clear egg white cooked becomes white opaque solid.  The cooking process also can create partially denatured proteins.  My personal opinion is that these denatured proteins and especially the partially denatured ones are not easily nor thoroughly digested but are absorbed anyway into the blood stream.  There, the kidneys then must filter out these forms of proteins which they were not designed to handle.  (Think of putting diesel fuel in a car instead of gas.)  These ‘foreign’ proteins then begin to clog the tiny tubules in the kidneys which then lead to more problems and eventually full scale CKD.

My evidence for this is twofold.  First, 40 years ago, the rate of CKD seems to be exceedingly low and many cats were let outside to catch mice, etc.  As the commercial pet food industry grew, so has the rate of CKD.  Yes, this is guilt by association and not causation.

Second, I have observed in my CKD cats virtually none of the secondary problems associated with CRF even in cats that are in stage IV.  My CKD cats in stage IV live an average of 4 years.  I have taken cats in stage IV, put them on raw, given no fluids, and have had the creatinine level drop so that the cat was as low as stage II.  The only explanation I can give is the raw food has a purer protein which spares the kidneys further damage.

Are there other things that may cause problems?  Sure.  Some drugs are excreted via the kidneys and when given in large enough doses can cause kidney failure.  The question remains for some of these drugs what are the long-term low dose effects on the kidneys.  I’m one of ‘those’ people that given any drug, if it can possible affect the kidneys, I immediately ask for an alternative.  Other things, such as water impurities, do affect kidneys both directly and via stone formation.  Scented oils seem to be more of a liver function problem.

14 December 2014

Book Review: The Great Influenza

The Great Influenza by John M. Barry
New York : Penguin Books, 2005.

The Great Influenza focuses on both the actual pandemic of 1918 and the problems associated with it as well as the science and doctors who fought, and in some cases died, to understand and stop this pandemic. Most of the material is drawn from the US, with some mention of events in other parts of the world. The book contains photographic plates as well as an extensive bibliography.

I approached this book with some apprehension, fearing that it would be a dry recitation of statistics about deaths, illness, etc. Instead, I found a book that both gave the important statistics and clearly set them in context regarding science, society, and history. The writing was well done -- perhaps not the best prose, but not dry nor tedious.

If there was a criticism to make it would be the last few chapters, where some of the biographical information about the researchers seemed to far from the topic. Additionally, I would have liked to see a more thorough discussion of how viruses mutate -- this perhaps would have been best as an appendix, but it was a key point in the book (as the flu came in waves after each mutation).

Overall, this was a very good book and one that I highly recommend to others interested either in epidemics or in science circa 1920. (  )

Cats: The Use of Folate (vitamin B9)

Folic acid is one of the B vitamins (B9).  It is absorbed in the jejunum and ileum (the middle and last sections of the small intestine), and transported to the liver which either releases it for circulation or stores it.

Gratuitous photo of Spencer 
A deficiency can cause reduced growth in kittens, anemia, neurological development problems, and changes in the bone marrow. It was the relationship to anemia which led to its discovery and to its importance with cats.  As many know, CRF cats often are anemic.  Many owners and vets will give B12 injections to help solve the anemia.  Sometimes this works and sometimes it does not.  When it doesn't, the cause of the anemia may not be low B12 levels, but instead low folic acid levels.  B12 and folic acid work together and both must be present in sufficient amounts to prevent or correct some forms of anemia.

What this means is if you are using B12 for anemia, use mixed vitamin B for the injections and not just B12.  While the cat may have enough folic acid (and other B's), excess folic acid has not known effects.  It is water soluble and so easily removed from the body.

As it is stored in the liver, cats with liver disease often are deficient for folic acid and would benefit from supplementation.  In one study of cats suffering from GI problems (including liver and pancreas problems), 38.8% had low folate levels. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17392004

There also are connections between folate levels in the blood and intestinal absorption, bacterial overgrowth, and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI).  These connections can help with differentiating various gastrointestinal issues.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21596348 

In brachiocephalic dogs, the supplementation of folic acid in pregnant bitches decreases cleft palates significantly.  I could not find any information on this for cats, like Persians, but as neural tube development in mammals seems to be folate sensitive, I would presume cats are equally likely to have this type of developmental problems when folate levels are low.

What all this means is this: 
-- for anemia, you should use mixed vit B and not only B12
-- for cats with liver issues, you should supplement with folic acid

-- for pregnant cats, you should a well balanced food with sufficient folic acid

13 December 2014

Making Plans for a New Year and New Me...

Yes, it's a bit early to make New Year's Resolutions but, with Facebook not in my life, I have begun to understand how much time it eats up.  Actually, it took most of my non-working, non-commuting time such that I neither exercised nor read nor did anything fun.  Worst of all, I didn't dote enough on my cats....

So, I've been thinking of what to do and how to do it.  There's so many things I do want to do, but I really have a very limited amount of time, even without Facebook.  Something like learn to play my flute just isn't going to happen -- practice 1/2 an hour every other weekend....  But there are a number of things I can or need to do:

  • Do something about my weight.  Yep, I'm fat.  Not only are some of my favorite clothes not fitting, I'm beginning to feel a bit inconvenienced when I move around.... I need to lose weight and get in shape.  Now, I know me -- if I say diet, I will for about 2 hours and then binge on something.  With tom losing weight and needing extra calories, I can't even keep the stuff out of the house.  So, maybe eat better, more nutritious meals is more realistic than a diet.  Then rely on exercise to actually help lose the weight.  I have a great book on losing fat via working with weights, so I'll start on that.  The program is simple and designed to be done in 20-30 minutes, which really does fit my schedule.  While walking would be nice, I don't have the time to do a 30 minute walk every day, and I won't do it after dark here.  (Too many semi-feral dogs wandering around looking for a fat juice morsel...)
  • Read something other than cats.  Yes, I love cats, but really, I don't need to read about them all the time.  I just finished a book on the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and started on an older book on English Dialects.  They both reminded me of all the other subjects I'm interested in.  So, I did the only logical thing -- I ordered 5 books on linguistics.  That will be my 'area of focus' next year.
Now those are the things I've decided on, but there's a number of other things floating around in my head.  Things like:
  • something to do for fun -- stamps? quilting? cross-stitch?
  • organizing the house -- cleaning, finishing painting the bathroom, building bookshelves, etc.  I suppose tackling THAT closet should be on the list too.
  • bathing and grooming the cats
  • really studying either feline nutrition or nephrology -- I have wonderful books on these topics, but I need the time to work through them.
  • eating better -- as in actually cook something, not just heat it in a microwave.
  • deal with the stuff from my father's house that is in storage in Iowa
  • sort out my retirement/investments
I have about 2 weeks to sort through all this and come up with a game plan.  

10 December 2014

Facebook "Improves" Again

Once again, Facebook has improved something to the extent that I, being the last person in the Western hemisphere on dial-up, can no longer use it.  Yes, I know (according to a lot of people) -- I should fork over the $60/month and get satellite internet, but why?  So I can get on Facebook?  Is it worth $60 + taxes per month?

What is the worth of Facebook?  What do I get out of it?  That's a couple of interesting questions, because I can think of several reason why Facebook is not worth it, even if it was free.  Namely:

  • lots of bitching, bickering, and pettiness by adults who act like 5 year olds
  • more and more people wanting money for either themselves or for their cats which desperately need _________ treatment and they can't afford
  • people who I either have never talked to or only casually know suddenly asking me to diagnose and suggest treatment for their cat and then NOT taking the advice
  • posts in groups are barely searchable so it's a pain in the butt to look something up
  • a specific group of do-gooders who want to save persians (noble ambition) but whose method is to annoy the rescue people who are actually doing the work in the trenches
  • the fact that 95% of all users basically 'share' items and never write anything meaningful on their timeline
So why use Facebook?
  • I have met a few really good friends (after sifting through a whole lot of people).
  • I can help cats via my Facebook group on feline health.
This latter reason is, right now, the only legitimate reason why I stay on Facebook.  My true friends I call or email.  My cat group has helped a lot of cats, and for that I'm happy, but it comes at a price to me.  This is horrible to say but sometimes I feel I neglect my cats just so I can help other people's cats.  I will admit that I have learned a few things either from what others have said or because I looked up various things.  But couldn't I just read and look up things on my own?  Yes.

So I'm back to the initial question/situation -- why spend $60+/month to get an internet connect that can allow me back onto Facebook with no real benefits when I pay $12/month and can get to basically everywhere else I want to go?  I really can't think of a good reason....

Back to blogging!!!