Recently in Herbal Treatment for Cats Category

cat-at-the-vet.jpgYes, cats can get the flu.

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In the last couple of years, a hyper-virulent virus has been hitting shelters and other high-density housing of cats [catteries, rescues, veterinary clinics, pet stores]. And while nicknamed “cat flu”, it is most commonly caused by Feline Herpes Virus-1 [also known as Feline Virus Rhinotracheitis], or Feline Calicivirus. And then, there was also the startling news recently of a documented case of the H1N1 virus in a cat.

How is cat flu spread?

Much the same way a cold is spread in humans – from cat to cat contact, and from contact with the nasal and eye discharge from an infected cat.

Most kitten vaccines for feline distemper (panleukopenia) also include rhinotracheitis and calicivirus. There is also a vaccine for virulent calicivirus, but it is unlikely to protect against different strains. Like human flu viruses, feline calicivirus often mutates, making older vaccines ineffective. Vaccination does not prevent illness, and infected cats can still shed these highly contagious viruses; but vaccines are thought to minimize symptoms and reduce viral shedding. Fully vaccinated adult cats are still susceptible; in the case of virulent systemic calicivirus, adults actually fare worse than kittens.

cat-napped_pictures_of_cats.jpgStudies have shown that 30% of cats over 8 years of age, and a stunning 90% of cats over 12 years of age, have arthritis (osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease). These figures should give the veterinary community, which doesn't give nearly as much thought to arthritis in cats as it does to dogs, something to think about. What is generally perceived as "slowing down" or "a little stiff" may be a sign of significant joint deterioration, and probably causes some degree of discomfort in most older cats.

Arthritic cats often gradually stop jumping up as high as they once did, and may be reluctant to use the stairs. (Arthritis can cause litterbox problems if there is not a box on every level of the home.) Providing "steps" (a box or stool, for instance) up to a bed, chair, or other favorite high spots may be greatly appreciated by an older cat.

Cats cannot adequately metabolize many of the arthritis and pain medications commonly given to dogs, such as carprofen (Rimadyl). Moreover, ibuprofen (Advil), naproxyn (Aleve), and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are all highly toxic to both cats and dogs. Meloxicam (Metacam) is a newer NSAID that is commonly used for post-operative pain but only for a short time. Some experts claim it can be given long-term at a very low dose, but others are wary of the significant potential for kidney damage in cats. Aspirin can be used, but the dose and schedule are extremely limited; never give your cat aspirin without your vet's advice.

The good news is that there are simple, inexpensive nutritional supplements that are very effective and, most important, very safe. Supplements for arthritis include: glucosamine sulfate (250 mg per day), and MSM (methyl-sulfonyl-methane) (200-400 mg per day). Both of these supplements have excellent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

pictures_cats_arthritis.jpgGlucosamine supplies the basic building blocks of cartilage and helps maintain the fluid that cushions and nourishes the joints, and MSM provides elemental sulfur for the body to make certain amino acids and other compounds. But they are not quick fixes-it may take 3-5 weeks for improvement to be noticeable (MSM may take less or more time), and they must be given daily without fail to prevent return of pain. They may not work in all cats. But many guardians notice significant improvement in their cat's activity and flexibility. Glucosamine is often packaged together with chondroitin, another cartilage compound. However, the evidence is less clear that chondroitin is effective, and it is much more expensive. Plain glucosamine (sulfate only, not hydrochloride) is adequate in most cases.

Another cartilage building block, hyaluronic acid, is also available in oral form. This is the basic ingredient of Adequan, a drug commonly injected directly into affected joints. However, these injections need to repeated regularly and there is always a risk of infection. Hyaluronic acid now comes in oral capsules, but the most effective form appears to be a saline-based liquid called "Hyalun." A cat would need at most a few drops per day, although if you also have dogs (or if you have joint problems yourself!) it is a good way to go.

Some herbs, such as Boswellia (frankincense), appear to be effective anti-inflammatories, but few herbs have been thoroughly studied for safety in cats. Boswellia is traditionally used in combination with other herbs in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Since some herbs can be extremely toxic to cats, it's best to consult with a veterinarian trained in the use of western or Chinese herbs (see below).

The antioxidant algae blend, BioSuperfood (read more about this in the Little Big Cat Free Article Library) may also minimize the inflammation and pain of arthritic joints.

Omega-3 fatty acids also have excellent anti-inflammatory properties; we recommend Nordic Naturals pet products for their purity and safety.

white_cat.jpgFrom a holistic viewpoint, no physical condition is simply physical. In energetic terms, disease, including arthritis, starts on the energetic plane and progresses through the mental and emotional spheres before manifesting itself in the physical body. One way to address this is through the use of flower essences, which can heal the imbalances on the mental and emotional planes. Another way to look at this is that mental "stiffness" ultimately contributes to stiffening of the physical joints. Our sister company, Spirit Essences, has developed an essence remedy called Creak-Away that's designed to keep the animal mentally and emotionally "flexible" and minimize the energetic stresses that contribute to the development of arthritis.

Acupuncture, chiropractic, herbs, homeopathy, specific nutritional strategies and other holistic treatments may also be helpful for arthritic cats. For a practitioner in your area, visit or call the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association at (410) 569-0795.

Dr. Jean Hofve is a retired holistic veterinarian with a special interest in nutrition and behavior. Her informational website, http://www.littlebigcat.com, features an extensive free article library on feline health and pet nutrition, as well as a free e-newsletter. Dr. Hofve founded Spirit Essences Holistic Remedies for Animals (http://www.spiritessence.com) in 1995; and it remains the only line of flower essence formulas designed by a veterinarian. She is a certified Medicine Woman within the Nemenhah Native American Traditional Organization who uses holistic remedies as a part of body-mind-spiritual healing.

girl_grooming_cat.jpgUsually harmless, hairballs that your cat brings up every once in a while consist of fur ingested by the animal when cleaning itself. Some hairballs cannot be dislodged by the cat which is the time it can cause problems. At this point, if non-responsive to standard treatment (usually by way of laxatives), the cat might need surgical intervention or it could possibly die.

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Since hairballs are soft masses, they don't show up on x-rays so owners need to be aware of their pet's grooming habits. If you describe your cat as one that is always licking its coat and grooming itself, you should mention this to your veterinarian if the animal seems to be lethargic, losing weight and/or is disinterested in food.

Questionable Prevention of Hairballs

In his book Amazing Kitchen Cures, Joey Green claims that using a little Alberto VO5 conditioner in your cat's coat is a hairball prevention measure. He says the conditioner is safe because it's non-toxic and natural.

However, a March 2009 report regarding baby shampoos and children's bubble baths from big brand names like Johnson's, L'Oreal, Sesame Street, Huggies and Pampers, was cited in the news recently, saying that trace amounts of formaldehyde and other chemicals have been found in them. The cancer-causing toxins have not been separately added to the products (thus are not required to be listed as ingredients) but are by-products of chemical manufacturing and product development.

Although initial findings are not calling for product recall citing that the soaps are used quickly and then rinsed off children's skin and scalps, the same cannot be said for cats. If you put even a small amount of conditioner in a cat's coat, its grooming habits are such that the product will be ingested.

First Line of Defense Against Hairballs

pictures_cat_comb.jpgThe best thing you can do for your cat to prevent hairballs is to use a steel-toothed comb or a curry brush (one with rubber nubs) and comb her with it regularly. Simple, but there it is. Many cat owners find that the de-shedding tool called The Furminator ruins the animal's top coat (although dog owners tend to swear by it). Using a regular pet brush on your cat doesn't usually touch the undercoat, but can be add a nice finishing glossy touch to her fur.

If you have a kitten, this is the time to get her used to being groomed by you. If your cat doesn't appreciate grooming, a little at a time will help with periodic trips to a groomer whenever necessary. Grooming should always start with your hands, to feel for lumps, tangles or matted hair.

Holistic and Homeopathic Approaches to Hairball Prevention

Hairballs are comprised of a lot of fat in addition to your cat's fur. By adding a teaspoon of egg-based lecithin (not soy-based) to your cat's wet food twice a week, the fat is dissolved, allowing the hairball to pass through the intestinal tract.

Indoor-only cats should have access to "cat grass". This provides natural roughage to your pet's diet and seems have a mild laxative effect, which can help eliminate the fur that is ingested by your cat when grooming.

Slippery Elm Bark (a herb that turns slimy when you mix it with water) works by coating the digestive tract, again helping your cat to expel hair balls naturally. This is another preventive measure which you can give your cat twice a week. One way to prepare slippery elm bark is to mix 2 capsules with a tablespoon of boiling water. When it cools, add it to your cat's favorite wet food.

Food Supplements That Help Avoid or Get Rid of Hairballs

Pictures_of_cats_vacuuming.jpgIf your cat enjoys a pat of butter, you can treat her twice weekly with about a half teaspoon to help lubricate her digestive system. Soft bulk is another approach to help her pass hairballs, serving a teaspoon of pureed vegetable two times a week, like canned pumpkin (natural with no additives) or squash.

Pet Store Hairball Products

Petroleum-based laxatives that have been approved by the FDA for use in veterinary medicine include brand names like Drs. Foster and Smith Hairball Remedy, Felaxin, Kat-A-Lax, Lax'aire, Laxatone, to name a few. As with the homeopathic products and some of the foods, the vaseline basically coats both the hair in the cat's stomach and intestines, helping it to pass through the animal's gastrointestinal tract, and also lubricates the colon and stool itself.

In any of the laxatives, there can be a decrease in the body's ability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, & K) especially when it is used frequently and on a long term basis. Speak to your vet about vitamin supplements if you are regularly providing your cat with any hairball prevention foods, herbs or products.

Freelance writer Stephanie Olsen has been involved in animal rescue for many years. If you have questions about your cats or kittens, visit Kitten Adoption Info to read more informative articles.

Click here for our past posts, our archives have hundreds of helpful cat information posts for cat lovers.  Please subscribe to our RSS feed if you're a cat person that likes cat related information, cat care advice and news.

By Jean Hofve, DVM

pictures_cat_big ears.jpgCats often develop "food allergies" or "food intolerances" to ingredients found in commercial cat food. The top allergens are: chicken, fish and corn (very common cat food ingredients), beef (often referred to as "meat by-products" or "meat and bone meal" on pet food labels), wheat, and dairy products. However, an allergy can develop to any protein to which the cat is repeatedly or constantly exposed.

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The symptoms of food allergy are typically either skin-related or digestion-related.

* Skin symptoms include rashes (particularly around the face and ears), excessive licking (typically paws, legs or tummy), and red, itchy ears.

* Digestive symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea. These are similar to the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, which you can read more about here.

The conventional treatments for food allergies are steroids (also called "corticosteroids" and "glucocorticoids" to distinguish them from the anabolic steroids that bodybuilders and athletes sometimes use), hyposensitization, and diet therapy.

Steroids can be given by long-lasting injection ("Depo-Medrol" or other injectable cortisone) or by mouth in the form of a tablet. The two most common oral steroids are prednisone and prednisolone. Prednisone is hard for cats to metabolize and must be converted to prednisolone in the liver before it will work. Therefore, it is simpler and less stressful to give prednisolone itself.

White_Cat_grooming.jpgHowever, steroids have many dangerous side effects. The injectable forms can cause diabetes. Steroids can also damage the kidneys. The primary action of steroids is to suppress the immune system, so that the inflammatory reaction to the allergen does not occur. This makes the cat more prone to infections. Steroids can also cause ulcers in the stomach and intestines. Cats receiving steroids should not be vaccinated because the steroid prevents the immune system from responding to the vaccine.

Hyposensitization is not often used in cats, and requires knowing precisely what the cat is allergic to. Once this is determined, then the substance is diluted and injected to signal to the immune system that the substance is not harmful and it doesn't need to over-react. The skin test is considered the "gold standard"; there is also a blood test for allergies (sometimes called a "Rast" test). While both work well in dogs, they are notoriously inaccurate in cats.

Diet trials use "novel" ingredients that are not commonly found in pet food. Novel protein sources include kangaroo, emu, venison, rabbit, and duck. Novel carbohydrate sources include green peas, potatoes, and barley. Lamb and rice used to be novel, but since the introduction of lamb and rice foods years ago, many animals have (predictably) become allergic to those, too. The prescription-type diets (using green peas and novel meat sources) are available from some veterinarians. OTC choices include Nature's Variety Prairie (lamb, duck, rabbit and venison), Petguard (venison and rabbit), EVO 95% meat varieties, and Merrick Thanksgiving Day Dinner (turkey). A diet trial must last at least 8 weeks and must include only the test food; no treats, no exceptions. Just one diet slip (such as giving a treat containing chicken) could invalidate the entire trial and you will have to start over.

preventing_stray_cats.jpgHolistic treatments for food allergies include homemade diets for cats using novel ingredients, natural anti-inflammatories like slippery elm and antioxidants, skin-healing supplements like Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oils, flaxseed oil), and other immune-supporting treatments like BioSuperfood.

It should also be noted that even in cats who are not specifically allergic to something in the food still often do better with a hypoallergenic diet. It seems that the fewer allergens the immune system has to deal with, the less chance it will over-react.

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cats in grass.jpeg Thinking about herbal treatment for cats? There are so many theories and so many people selling stuff that is toxic to cats that it's really a buyer beware market. The problem is that there are no regulations and no real evidence to show what works and what doesn't. Its a bit of a risk, but if you are concerned about your cat's health, herbal treatment for cats might be the way to go. But first, always ask a vet, if your vet is not into herbal treatments, refer to this list of vets who practice alternative medicine. Some safe herbal treatment for cats include:

-Acidophilus - to restore intestinal health and maybe even correct diarrhea and constipation in cats.

-Catnip - it doesn't work for all cats, usually unneutered males like it the most because it resembles female cat urine.

-Topical Epsom Salts - don't let your cat lick it because it caused diarrhea! But it has been helpful to draw out infections from nail beds and soothe itchy paws.

-Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids - for a shiny coat and tests are showing that they help relieve cats of allergies.

-Glucosamine and Chondroitin - are used to treat arthritis in cats with much success.

-Milk Thistle - for when your cat's liver is under stress from some form of poisoning - but make sure you see your vet, cats have very sensitive livers.

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Of all the herbal treatment for cats I've researched over the years, these are the only ones that are proven safe for cats. But please, please, talk to your vet before giving any herbal treatment for cats. Your vet can alert you to harmful reactions and write it in your cat's medical chart for future reference. If your vet is not into herbal treatments and you are, then maybe it is time to get a new vet

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Herbal treatment for cats' illnesses seems like a good idea, but beware of the risks. The truth is, most herbal remedies sold for cats are formulated for dogs and are actually toxic to cats. Cats can become really sick or even die with prolonged use.

Pretty scary huh?

It seems that cats process toxins and chemicals very different than dogs do, so even if it says it is safe for cats, you need to look out for....

The final word on supplements. Do cats need supplements? or is this just something that health conscious humans think their cats need?

There are basic requirements that your cat needs daily to live a healthy life. Good quality proteins and amino acids are essential, especially taurine, without it, your cat will likely die or suffer serious medical conditions such as heart disease.

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Then there are vitamins and minerals that cats need in the proper ratio and in the proper form. And of course, Essential Fatty Acids - yes cats need fish oil too! Maybe that's why they like fish so much!

So with all these requirements, how do you know if your cat is getting enough? The bottom line is talk to your vet about it. So here are some guidelines for answering the question, do cats need supplements?

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