Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dog food review: Tasty kibble from Weruva for portly pooches

Liam the pug posing with his bag of Weruva
We've all heard a thousand times that humans gain a pound or two during the holiday season, and most of us don't lose that weight during the rest of the year. I found out recently that the same goes for pets. They gain an equivalent of a human pound during the holiday season, and they don't lose it in time to meet Santa's sleigh the next year.

For dogs like Liam, that are at a great weight now but at risk for weight-related problems with even a slight uptick in pounds, this is a big deal. So I was thankful when the team at Weruva provided me with the opportunity to try out a new kibble for dogs, just in time for the holiday season.

Sinead posing on her bag of dog kibble

Sinead and I went to a seminar to learn more about this food (read the writeup about that here), and I became convinced that this was a good addition to the dogs' daily lifestyle.

Both Liam and Sinead are raw food eaters, but I like to round out their diets with a lunchtime kibble portion. They like the crunch, and the kibble seems to stick with them throughout the afternoon, so they don't pester me for dinner. Plus, kibble makes for great, low-cal training treats.

I've been using Weruva's Caloric Harmony for several weeks now, and I have nothing but good things to say about it. Liam's sensitive stomach (which I've been dealing with for years, if this very old blog post is any indication) didn't act up when he started eating this food. And his poops have remained firm, without any excess gas.

Sinead has also enjoyed her little kibble bites, and I'm thankful that the food is appropriate for her small mouth. Many kibble products made for dogs have huge, rock-like bites that she simply can't tolerate. The Weruva kibble is smaller, and it crumbles relatively easily. That means Sinead can eat it without choking.

The big test involves taste. If they don't like the kibble, they won't eat it. And they certainly won't work for it as a treat. As this video makes clear, both Liam and Sinead think this stuff is worth working for.

So I'm a fan. And I'm thankful to Weruva for giving me a sample of the food to try. Liam and Sinead love it!

Disclaimer: I was given a bag of Weruva food to try for this review. That was my only compensation. All opinions and views are my own. Rest assured that I only review products that I think deliver real value to readers. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Sassy pets

Sinead closes her eyes with disappointment
Sinead the Boston terrier has always been a touch on the sassy side. She even seems disappointed when the other pets can't match her sassy level (note the closed eyes when Liam tips his head on command; she is pretty disgusted).

Unfortunately, the other pets seem to be listening to her, and this week, I've had a ton of sassy snaps. Check it out.

Liam the pug looks a little disgusted
A rare look of disgust on Liam's face.
Popoki the cat in a small basket looking unhappy
Popoki doesn't understand why this is funny.
Popoki is glaring at Sinead the Boston terrier
Popoki interrupts this photo shoot to give Sinead the stink eye.
And while they all did their best to mimic and take cues from Sinead, no one can best her stink eye. It's epic!
Sinead gives the best stink eye photographs

That's it for this Wordless Wednesday, courtesy of BlogPaws. Don't forget to leave me a comment, so I'll know you were here! And do visit some of the other blogs in this hop. You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Want to help a shelter pet? Consider a virtual foster program!

Liam the pug is ready to volunteer
Every year some 7.6 million animals enter shelters in the United States. Of those animals, some 2.7 million are adopted. And, some 2.7 million are euthanized.

Those statistics come directly from the ASPCA, and they are a little depressing. Turning them around means getting involved, either directly or indirectly, with community animal shelters. But often, when I talk to people about shelter volunteer programs, I hear the same sorts of sentences:
  • "I don't have time to commit to a regular volunteer program."
  • "I don't have room in my home for another pet. If I volunteer, I'll take one home."
  • "My heart will break if I see animals in cages, and I can't do anything about it."
  • "I don't have spare money to give to an animal shelter."
These are all very valid reasons for avoiding some of the stickier parts of volunteer programs. If you can't commit to a regular shift, it doesn't make sense to sign up to volunteer. Same goes for overcrowding. If you can't take a pet in, you shouldn't.

But there is one thing almost every single person out there could do to help a shelter pet. I'm calling it "virtual fostering."

Liam the pug is ready to take notes
Liam is ready to get started.
As a virtual foster, you'll walk into the shelter and pick just one animal for your special project. You'll find out how old the animal is, where it came from, what its life was like before and what kind of home will be best for it in the future. You'll spend a little time with the pet and get your own impressions, but the paperwork from the shelter (or a quick interview with the staff) should give you the background you'll need.

Then you'll take a few photographs of the pet with your cell phone or camera. You don't need to do anything fancy with the photos. Just a quick snap of the pet should do the trick. Here's one I took of a shelter kitten as an example.

Athena the shelter kitten takes a beautiful photo
Isn't she adorable? And she was adopted.
With your notes and your snaps, you're ready to do the important part of this project. You'll share this animal's story on all of your social networks. You could write up a blog post, send out a Tweet, write a Facebook post or share the snap on Instagram. The idea is to help spread the word about the pet's need for a home, and the awesome things that pet can deliver.

Sinead is ready to write a pet social media post
Sinead likes privacy when she's writing.
You can share a story just once, or you could keep on talking about that pet until it is adopted. And you could write about pets all the time, or just do it now and again when you have the time to spend on the project. Either would work.

The great thing about this? You'll be directly involved with linking a pet with a family that can take that pet. This work is far from depressing. You'll see successes for yourself. Plus, there's no financial commitment involved, and you don't have to take a pet home yourself. And, you can do this foster work on your own time, as it fits into your own schedule.

And as you get going, you'll find that the work gets easier. And there are plenty of resources that can help. If your shelter is full of black pets, for example, this blog post can help you take great snaps.

And if you can't think of what to say or how to organize it, this SlideShare I put together may help.

I believe in this project (clearly), and I'd love to help you to get started. Shoot me a note in the comments with your ideas, and I'll help. And you can follow the cat blog I write for Willamette Humane Society, too, so you can see how I put this plan into action in my own community.

While we may not be able to take home every shelter pet, and we may not be able to throw tons of money at every shelter, I hope I've helped inspire you to help in a small way in your communities. Together, we really can make a difference.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A special cat litter for a cat's very special (and sensitive!) eyes

Popoki the exotic shorthair cat has huge eyes
Exotic shorthair cats like Popoki have absolutely huge eyes set into wide sockets that are close to the edges of the skull. These round, wide eyes give Popoki her sweet and innocent expression, and it's something almost everyone notices about this beautiful girl.

But the sweet expression comes at a price, especially when I add traditional cat litter to the mix.

So I was thrilled when my friends at Healthy Pet sent me a sample of a new kind of cat litter to try. I just knew it could be the solution I've been looking for.

Popoki sitting with a new kind of cat litter

Traditional clay-based cat litter contains all sorts of eye irritants, including bentonite and silica. These are the tiny, gritty granules that fly up into the air every time a cat uses the litter box and scratches around to cover up the evidence.

Cats with normal eyes can be irritated by this cloud of grit, but Popoki's wide eyes make her especially vulnerable to the damage.

Okocat litter is different.

This product is made up of reclaimed timber and unused lumber, so it doesn't contain scratchy dust. You know that cloud of goo that flies up when you fill the box with clay litter? You don't get that with this stuff. There's very little airborne dust involved at all.

Okocat also doesn't contain perfumes and artificial smell-busting ingredients that can irritate Popoki's eyes. It can take care of cat odors just fine, but it doesn't harm her eyes or her health in the process.

Popoki checks out an open box of Okocat

I've tried using other products like this in the past with Popoki, and I haven't had a lot of luck. Popoki was declawed by a previous owner, and like many declawed cats, she has very sensitive feet. Big, rolled-up chunks of litter really hurt her crippled paw pads, and when I fill the box with products like that, she finds other places to go.

Okocat is a ground-up product that won't hurt her little feet. It feels a lot like clay between my fingers, and it's soft to hers. I didn't have any problem with her using this product at all.

This is what the cat litter looks like

I've been slowly transitioning Popoki to this cat litter, adding in just a little bit at a time. In a week or so, she should be using only this product. And that makes me really happy.

Clay litter is deeply dangerous to not only Popoki's health, but the health of our planet. Many clay products come from strip-mined materials that are deeply damaging to our environment as a whole. Sustainable, reclaimed products like this are better for future generations (and green consumers).

So I'm a convert. Do any of you use products like this? Shoot me a note in the comments. Love to hear your stories.

Disclaimer: I was sent a sample of this product to try. That was my only compensation. All opinions in this column are my own. This disclosure comes in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday selfies: Cat new year's resolutions for 2015

Popoki looks a little sad in this cat selfie
After Popoki completed her wonderful selfie for this week, I reminded her that she needed to pull together some resolutions for the new year. Clearly, she wasn't too happy about the idea.

But I reminded her that my friends at The Cat On My Head love a good blog post. I told her we should do all we can to craft something special for the Sunday Selfie series.

So after a little brainstorming, we came up with three excellent kitty resolutions for the new year, all demonstrated with selfies. In 2016, Popoki promises to:

Popoki the cat eating her dinner
Eat right.
Popoki practicing her yoga moves
Get plenty of exercise (including yoga).
Popoki resting during a cat nap
Sleep soundly every night (and most of the day).
I think those are pretty good resolutions. What about you? What are your cats planning for 2016? Leave me a note in the comments, and let me know.

And be sure to visit the other blogs in this hop, too! Everyone loves a good holiday guest.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sharing a holiday feast with your dog? Here's what you should know

Liam is waiting for his holiday meal
Chances are, there are all sorts of things on your holiday menu that your dog would love to share. Turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and carrots are all favorite dog snackies. And it's fun to load up a pup's plate with human food for the holiday. To us, it feels like sharing.

But the key involves moderation.

Much of the food we eat when we're celebrating is a little too rich for a dog's delicate constitution. Feeding a pup a lot of fatty turkey, drippings-based gravy and butter-laden carrots can lead to a condition called pancreatitis, and it can be fatal in a dog.

Let's get technical for a minute.

The pancreas secretes juices the body needs in order to digest fatty foods. If that organ is pushed too hard for too long, the pancreas can begin to secrete excess juice. And that excess can, in turn, start to digest the pancreas itself.

This is an incredibly painful condition, and dogs who have it tend to whimper and cry. And, obviously, they don't want to eat anything at all. Medical care can turn the situation around, but it isn't uncommon for dogs in recovery to need a special diet. And sometimes, they need that diet for the rest of life.

I saw this condition quite a bit when I worked in the veterinary ER, and often, the families I talked to had no idea that they could put pup's health at risk by sharing festive food. When they found out, they felt just terrible.

I'd like to keep that from happening to any of my readers. (You can read more about the condition here.)

Both Liam and Sinead love their holiday food, and I like to vary their diet by incorporating different protein sources cooked in different ways. This is the sort of diet that can protect against picky eating, and it tends to provide a complete nutrition profile that helps them to stay healthy.

But their portions of holiday snacks are incredibly small. Liam gets about a tablespoon of potatoes, with no gravy, and he gets a piece of turkey that's about the size of one playing card, with no skin or gravy. Since Sinead is smaller, she gets even smaller portions.

Do they want more? You bet. And they can have another little bit when we have our leftovers. But big portions given out all at once? It's just not safe.

I hope all of you have a holiday that is merry and bright (and free of an emergency vet trip!). Be sure to leave me a comment, so I'll know you were here. Love to hear your holiday stories!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: A special cat Christmas present for a special cat

Sinead the Boston terrier checking out a cat bed
If you asked Sinead the Boston terrier to describe what a cat is and what a cat should do, she'd probably start talking about something like this.

Maggie the senior cat in her favorite bed
Both Sinead and Maggie the cat are firm believers that all cats should have ample food, warm beds and plenty of grooming. Come to think of it, I believe all of that stuff, too. So we're all heartbroken about this pretty kitty.
Senior cat Dolores is very thin
This is Dolores, and she's waiting for a home at Willamette Humane Society in Salem, Oregon. She was found as a stray, and she's incredibly thin. She's loving and sweet and kind, but it's clear that her life has been very hard.
Dolores looks at the camera with cat intensity
We all wanted to help. I donated some green stuff, and then we put our heads together to come up with a donation that would be meaningful to Dolores as she waits for her home.
Liam Sinead and Maggie check out cat food
I got some cat food, and Liam, Sinead and Maggie all made sure it was approved for donation. (Maggie is being pretty low-key about her involvement.)
Sinead and Maggie approve of this cat food
Maggie and Sinead agreed that this was a fine donation. So then we moved on to bedding. That had to be inspected, too.
Maggie the cat inspects a cat bed
Finally, everything was signed off and ready to go. Sinead gave her seal of approval first.
Sinead standing on a cat bed and cat food
And Maggie went back to bed.
Maggie back in bed behind the donations
Tomorrow, we'll head to the shelter to deliver the goodies to Dolores. She's been waiting for a home for a little more than a week, and I'd love to see her go soon. Should you feel inspired, my blog entry about her on the WHS website is here. Love to see it shared.

Thanks for looking! And do visit the other blogs in the BlogPaws hop this week. Good stuff!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The "urban myths" of cat declaw surgery (a volunteer's perspective)

Popoki the cat resting in the sun, showing off her mutilated paws
I had a completely different blog post planned for today, but I stumbled across an article that really pissed me off. And after spending about 15 minutes responding to comments individually, I came across one little tidbit that sent me over here to write a longer response.

The article is about pending legislation in New York that would make cat declaw surgeries illegal. If you dive into the comments section, you'll see impassioned notes from people who claim that their cats never, ever struggled with declaws.

I expect these comments on declaw articles. And I understand why people would write this sort of thing. If they admitted that they had harmed their kittens with surgeries, they'd have to do a lot of soul searching. It's just easier to suggest that the cats weren't harmed in the slightest, rather than examining the issue closely.

But there was one little statement in there that gets me.

"I have seen many (front) declawed cats (my parents adopted one that lived to be 21) and I have never seen behavioral issues, litter box problems etc.). It's urban legend."

Urban legend?

As most readers know, I volunteer at my local animal shelter. I'm on the board of Willamette Humane Society, as a matter of fact. I am deeply involved in the cat program at the shelter, which means I am often working with cats when they're new to the shelter and unsure about what everything means for them.

That's how I got Popoki. She was a terrified and sick cat in the shelter, unwilling to eat and very shy about what her future held. And, Popoki was a front declaw.

Popoki with her declawed front toes

Her surgery was inexpertly done. Her toes are ragged and uneven, and some are almost missing altogether. And she perfectly demonstrates all of the "myths" this reader is discussing in her comments.

For example, Popoki is very particular about her cat litter. I tried using a pellet-style litter with her recently, as I was looking for an eco-friendly option, and she simply would NOT use it. It's easy to understand why that's the case. Big pellets that look a little like gerbil food are too rough for her little foot pads. Her toes probably hurt, so she needs to keep things soft. If I hadn't switched to a softer litter, she very well may have demonstrated very real litterbox issues.

Next up: Behavior.

I've introduced cats to one another many, many times. I've been a successful cat foster to both adults and kittens, and I know all about how to combine cat colonies gracefully. Popoki absolutely stymies me. She flies into deep, deep aggressive states when she feels even slightly cornered by my other cats. If they so much as walk by her, she will dive for cover while growling and screaming.

It's possible, if not likely, that she does this because she has no natural weaponry. She is worried these cats will kill her and she'll be unable to fight back. She CAN'T fight back. She has no claws.

I've seen cats in the shelter that react in a slightly different manner. These cats are terrified in their kennels about the people they don't know, and they cower and slink about. When you peek into their kennels, you see this.

Hiding and scared cat

Cats can't stay hidden in their kennels at the shelter. Their cages need cleanings, and the cats need exams and shots. A frightened cat with claws can scratch when cornered, and that scratch could buy the cat time. There are no real consequences for a cat that scratches, and typically, shelter staff gives an upset cat like this some time and space before the issue is readdressed.

But a declawed cat can't scratch. Often, these cats go from hiding to out-and-out biting, and that is a disastrous choice for a cat. Every cat bite has to be reported to the state health department, and a cat that bites often enough can be considered a public health issue. A biting cat could lose her life due to that behavior.

This isn't a myth, people. It's a fact, and it's something that happens every single day in shelters all across the country.

Cats come into the shelters because they don't use cat litter, due to the pain it causes their deformed toes. And when they're in the shelter, they bite their caretakers.

The real myth here is that declawing a cat can save its life. In my experience, the opposite is true.

Now, I'm going out on a limb to publish this, as the last time I talked declawing, I got a nice little death threat as a comment. I HATE being controversial.

But we all need to start talking about the problems we're seeing in our cats that are declawed. We need to share their stories. We need to voice their pain. That's the only way we can combat the idea that declaw pain is a myth.

So who's with me? You? If so, check out the article that spurred this rant right here. Dive into the comments, and let's start fighting!

And thanks to all of you for reading to the end of my rant. I appreciate you!

Monday, December 21, 2015

BarkBox December 2015 review: So many dog toys!

Sinead the Boston terrier with her present toy
I just got done filling Liam and Sinead's Christmas stockings with treats and toys, when our BarkBox for December arrived. So the dogs had a bit of an early holiday this weekend, sampling many of the treats and toys in our shipment that I just couldn't cram into their stockings.

Here's what we liked best.

This present Sinead is posing with up top is pretty amazing. The yellow bow is loose, so Sinead can pick it up and carry this toy pretty easily. I'm happy about that, as many big toys like this don't allow her any purchase. She can't wrap her small mouth around something big like this. The bows are a brilliant idea.

Deep inside this toy is a square block of something that squeaks when it's pressed in just the right way. Liam decided to haul this thing to his bed to try it out.

He spent quite awhile burying this toy in his blankets and digging it back out again, and it stood up to his rough play. So far, I'm a big fan of this thing.

Sinead poses with her sweater dog toy

Next up is this toy shaped just like a sweater. It has a recycled bottle inside, and a squeaker, too. That means this toy makes a ton of different noises when the dogs play with it. And play with it, they did. Something about the wool of the sweater seemed to bring out the wildness in them, and both of these dogs spent most of Saturday in poses like this.

Sinead the Boston terrier is chewing on her toy
Notice that she's gripping this toy with both her paws AND her teeth. Yikes! By the end of the weekend, she had chewed a tiny hole in the bottom of this toy, but it was easy enough to fix with needle and thread. I'm hoping she'll be a little more gentle with this toy in the future!

We also got a ton of different snacks and treats in this shipment. Check it out.

Tons of dog treats

I haven't used any of these little snacks yet, as we're still slogging through other treats at the moment. But it's great to have so many snacks in the larder for the rest of the month. We'll start of 2016 in style!

So that's it! Want to try your own BarkBox? Use my code for a discount.

And if you'd like to see reviews of previous BarkBox offerings, click here or here or here or here or here or here or here.

Disclosure: Some product links in this post are “affiliate links.” If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a commission. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I believe provide real value. This disclosure comes in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sunday cat selfie: Lucy the blind cat tries out the camera

Lucy the blind cat tries a selfie
Santa brought me a new phone as an early Christmas gift, and it has a very quiet click. That means I can use it with Lucy without frightening her. That's great news, as I like to participate in the Sunday selfie series, hosted by The Cat on My Head.

This week, I thought I'd let Lucy take her own shots. But since she's blind (and she doesn't have any thumbs), it was a bit of a challenge. I'll let her take things over from here.

Lucy the blind cat and Sinead the Boston terrier in a bad selfie
"First, the dog hopped up and broke my concentration." 
Sinead the Boston terrier and Lucy the blind cat can't get coordinated
"Then mom tried to help us get coordinated."
Lucy and SInead can't remember where the camera is
"Once I had control again, we couldn't get remember where the phone was."
Lucy and Sinead finally have a good photo
"Finally! They tell me it looks great."
Thanks for reading along! And do leave a comment, so I can tell Lucy you were here. She likes it when I read to her, and believe it or not, I do read her all of the comments you leave. She loves the feedback!

And remember to visit some of the other blogs in this hop. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

How much fat is in your dog's food (and why should you care)?

Liam the pug needs to watch his weight

During this week's vet appointment, Liam got a little bad news: He needs to watch his waistline. As soon as I heard that, I knew we were in a lot of trouble.

Like most pugs, Liam lives for food. He will do anything for food. The only way I could get him to pose for these photos was to promise him a little morsel when we were done. And given that he smacks his lips while he's sleeping, he probably even dreams about food. 

But, he's at the top end of what his doctor deems an appropriate weight for his age and breed. He doesn't need to lose weight, but he simply cannot afford to gain any more.

And I think I may have a solution.

Liam and Sinead are both raw food addicts. Twice each day, morning and night, they get a bowl of dehydrated raw pellets, along with a few veggies. They love this food, and it's good for them. But it's also really high in fat.

The average raw food diet contains about 27 percent fat, per Dog Food Advisor. That means the average raw food diet could be contributing, at least in part, to Liam's weight woes. Adding in another food for a supplemental feeding, while slightly reducing his raw portions, might help him to avoid weight gain.

This is a good option for Liam, as he simply will not tolerate eating smaller portions at meals. He likes to eat, and he lives to eat. My job is to find a food that he can eat to his heart's content that won't make him chubbier.

Dry food could do the trick.

That same Dog Food Advisor article points out that dry kibble has an average fat content of just 16 percent. That could qualify this food as a low-calorie option, good for pets with weight issues. Using this food as a lunchtime meal could allow Liam to continue to enjoy the benefits of raw, without ruining his waistline in the process.

And, kibble makes for an excellent training tool. Rather than handing out dehydrated meats, low-fat cheese or preserved meats, I can give him one or two nibbles of kibble when he's been good. It's a low-cal snack he'll work for that won't ruin his health.

So what kibble will I be using? Glad you asked.

Sinead the Boston terrier with Weruva products

Last week, I had a chance to sit in on a sales presentation by Weruva, held at my local pet store. The food I've chosen to try in the new Caloric Harmony line, Venison and Salmon, has just 13 percent fat. That's a very low fat content, and it makes this food appropriate for dogs that are a little higher on the weight spectrum.

The Weruva team gave me this big bag of food to try, and I'll be keeping notes over the next few weeks. Watch for my review on this blog in January.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to try something new. Here's hoping it helps Liam stay slim and fit during the holidays!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wordlesss Wednesday: Sinead is ready for Santa Paws to appear!

Sinead the Boston terrier sitting under the tree
Last week, I took Sinead into my local pet supply shop for an after-hours meeting (more on that tomorrow, so be sure to check back!). The store was all decked out for the holidays, and since there were no other people or pets around, I had the whole set to myself.

Perfect for Wordless Wednesday, as I know the team at BlogPaws always wants the very best shots for these photos.

We started with a few photos beneath the tree, and then we moved to some shots in front of the fireplace.

Boston terrier waiting by the fire

I think she was really hoping the fire was real, as she was a little chilly. But, sadly, this was a fire made up of lights and paper. Safer, for sure, but it doesn't produce much warmth!

Thanks for looking, and as always, do leave me a comment so I'll know you were here.

And be sure to check out the other blogs in today's hop!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dog lumps and bumps: What happens at followup veterinary appointments

Liam the pug always looks happy at the vet's
You can't tell from the big smile on his face, but when I took this photo of Liam yesterday, he was waiting for his doctor to walk through the door.

Yup, Liam is so cheerful that he even enjoys visiting the veterinarian.

But I had a few worries about this appointment.

For about a year, I've been keeping an eye on a lump I found on Liam's left shoulder. (I first wrote about it here.) When I first felt that bump, I whipped Liam in for an appointment. And this was his followup visit for that bump.

Liam wasn't alone in his visit, either. Sinead also had to come in for a visit, for a bump I've been monitoring on her forehead. You can see it clearly (as long as I don't remove it with Photoshop, that is.)

Sinead has a bump right above her left eye

The first visit for a dog lump or bump is always the scariest. Typically, the team measures how big the bump is, and they take exact measurements to determine just where the bump is on the dog's body. Knowing that Sinead's bump is an inch from her eye, for example, makes it easier to track.

When all the measurements are done, the team then pushes a tiny needle into the lump and pulls out a sample. Any fluid or tissue in that sample is squirted onto a slide, and then the goo is stained and examined. If anything suspicious shows up, intensive testing involving biopsies is typically the next step.

I've been through those steps with both of these bumps. But that doesn't mean I can relax. Followups are also really vital.

Once a year, my veterinarian likes to re-examine these lumps and bumps. He's ensuring that they haven't grown, moved, changed color or done something else unusual. And, he pinches and pushes them, just to ensure that they aren't causing the dogs pain or discomfort.

I'll admit that I worry before these appointments. It's hard to watch the dogs get poked and pushed and measured, and I'm always worried that the appointments will flag up something bad. But so far, I've been lucky. These lumps are both benign, not moving and not changing. So this appointment came with no bad news.

But next year? I'll be back. Just to check things out again.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Kitty drinking too much water? Watch out for cat kidney disease

Popoki is drinking water right out of my glass
If I pour a glass of water and put it on my desk like this, Popoki is likely to come flying over for a sip. She's not always successful at drinking out of the glass (which I highlighted in a Wordless Wednesday post a few weeks ago), but when she can get a sip of cold and filtered water, she seems so happy. She'll drink that water down until she just can't reach it.

Many of my cats have been the same way about filtered, chilled water.

And I've been asked about their kidney health as a result.

It's an excellent question, as cats with kidney disease tend to become absolute water freaks. They'll sit beside the water bowl for hours and hours, drinking water until they absolutely cannot drink anymore. Troy, in the later stages of his kidney disease, would drink so much water that I started filling up the water bowls in the middle of the day. And sometimes, he would drink so much water that he'd overload his stomach and vomit all of the water back up again.

It's that type of drinking pattern that makes veterinarians worry. And any cat that drinks that much very likely does have a problem that should be addressed.

But routine drinking of tasty and cold water? I'm not so certain that's an issue to be concerned with.

To Popoki, cold and filtered water probably tastes really good. If it's mine, she'd like to share it with me. She also tries to drink my coffee, tee and wine. If it's a fluid that I think is good enough to drink, she thinks she should get a sip of it, too.

Since Popoki eats wet food exclusively, she gets a lot of moisture in each and every meal she eats. So it's rare for her to sit in front of her water bowl before, during or after her meals. In fact, it's rare to see her drink out of a bowl at all.

So I chalk her water obsession up to sheer envy.

But there are ways to make sure her behaviors don't tip into the danger zone.

For starters, I measure how much water she has in her water bowl every morning. I fill the bowl up to the same level when she gets her breakfast, and I eyeball how much water is left in that bowl the next morning. If there are big dips in the level, she might be drinking a little too much.

And changes in drinking habits like that are things I'd need to discuss with my veterinarian. A sudden need for more water should be assessed with urine tests, blood tests and more. That's the best way to spot and treat kidney disease when it appears.

But for now, I'll just pour two glasses of water a few times per day—One for her and one for me. It's her little treat, and as we cat people know, handing out treats is part of the job description.