Spa day!

We believe that being able to trim your cat’s nails is an essential life skill for a cat parent. While some cats may make the process difficult, others are very cooperative. Of course, starting your cat out early in your relationship and using positive reinforcement training helps them to be more cooperative.

Nail trimming is a fairly simple procedure in a cooperative cat and is something that you should be able to master with a little instruction and some practice. The best part of trimming cat’s nails is that, unlike dogs with dark nails, you can almost always see the “quick”, or the pink, vital part of the nail very clearly. This is the part that if you trim it, it will bleed and be sore.

So first you need to be familiar with the anatomy of the nail.


You can see we have a thicker part with a pink triangle in it, then a hook that comes off of this. This is the “cat talon”. That’s a technical term created by yours truly. When you trim your cat’s nails, this cat talon is the part you want to remove with the nail trimmer.

Here’s Harley Quinn’s nail with a “cut here” line.


There are various kinds of nail trimmers in different styles. For most cats human finger or toenail trimmers actually work just fine, but if you prefer you can certainly purchase pet specific nail trimmers that come in both large and small pliers styles as well as guillotine trimmer styles. My preference for cat nails is the small scissors type, they are not too large compared to a cat paw, and are much more maneuverable than the large pliers or the guillotine type of trimmer, but everyone has their personal favorite.


Nail trimming is an important routine grooming procedure. Some cats’ might need their nails clipped weekly to every other week. Consider trimming your cat’s nails at least once monthly.

– Dr. Erika Raines, DVM, CVA, CVSMT


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Here Kitty!

So you decided to let your cat out… or your cat decided that it was going out whether you will or nil. Finding an escaped cat can be a very stressful thing if they don’t return on their own.

A couple of important points to remember are that cats are very rarely stolen. They are also rarely “lost”. Because of cat’s territorial nature they are less prone to wander off than dogs. However, the flip side to that is that most cats will be very nervous and find a safe hiding place when they are displaced from their territory. This can make them hard to find even if they’re just in your neighbor’s yard!

The most important thing to remember if your cat goes missing is that the most effective way to recover them is an aggressive physical search where you (with permission) hunt through your neighbor’s yards looking under every bush and object and up in to every tree. If you find your cat but it’s too scared to come to you, remember that we can loan out a humane catch and release trap that can be loaded with a smelly favorite food and left overnight to help you recover your kitty.

I’m certainly not the expert on this subject, but for more information, here’s a page written by some people who are.

Hopefully you never need this information, if you do, however, there is a wealth of information on how best to recover an escaped cat available right here on the internet.

– Dr. Erika Raines, DVM, CVA, CVSMT



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To go outside or to stay inside….

Summer is here, and with the good weather many of our feline friends’ thoughts are turning to the great outdoors. What is really best for your cat? A sheltered indoor life or the excitement of the great outdoors.

Like so many things, the answer depends on several factors. Where do you live, for example? If you live right on highway 99, letting your cat outside may not be the best choice. When cats tangle with cars, the cars usually win. So, the biggest factors I usually think about are location (what are the local dangers), your cat’s current level of health, infectious diseases and parasites, other neighborhood cats, and your cat’s personality. We’ll cover some of the risks first, then discuss the benefits.

I’ve mentioned one of the more obvious location related dangers: If you live near a busy road, this is not an ideal place to have a cat with free reign of the outside. Conversely, if you live far out of town, wildlife can pose a significant risk to your cat. Coyotes and owls can prey on cats and may cause an untimely end if you let Fluffy out, especially at night. To minimize both these risks, you can restrict your cat’s outdoor time to daylight hours (as much as she or he will allow you to), or you can install cat fencing. This will be a common theme in this post. Good cat fencing will keep your cat in your yard and other cats out. It may not prevent owls or a very motivated coyote, but keeping your cat inside during prime hours of predation will help minimize those threats, and the fence will help you to corral your kitty around sunset.

Obviously you want to take your cat’s current health into consideration. If you have an arthritic senior cat who has never been in the great outdoors before, free ranging the outdoors might not be the best plan as your kitty may be too compromised to escape from dogs, dodge cars, or do other things that outdoor cats need to do to stay safe. Also, if your cat has a communicable disease such as feline leukemia or FIV you should not allow them to roam free in order to not spread these diseases to other cats. Again, in these cases, a cat fence can help them experience the outdoors without significant risk.

If your cat has an infectious disease, you should definitely keep them confined, but if your cat doesn’t have an infectious disease, this is one of the risks of being an outdoor cat. Outdoor cats who are exposed to other cats have the risk of contracting feline leukemia or FIV. There is a vaccine available for feline leukemia, but not for FIV. If your cat is a cat with outdoor time, we do recommend testing for these diseases on a yearly basis, or 6 weeks after any time there has been evidence they were in a fight with another cat. Additionally, being outdoors exposes them to wildlife that may carry rabies. We definitely recommend rabies vaccination with ongoing boosters or antibody titers for cats who are potentially being exposed to rabies. In this case, a cat fence will keep other cats out and minimize the risk of feline infectious diseases, but wildlife will still be able to get in. Bats are one of the species that occasionally carry rabies in Oregon, and they can sail right over your fences. Supervision can minimize the risk of bat exposure, especially since sick bats are often out flying during daylight hours when you will be able to see them well.

If you read the blog post on fleas in our beautiful Pacific Northwest, you already know that a cat with any kind of outdoor time, even in a fenced yard, runs a significant risk of encountering fleas. While this is not a life threatening issue except for very weak cats with heavy infestations of fleas, it can be a very irritating issue, and in a cat with flea allergies, it can certainly be a source of misery. Fleas are easily treatable, though we prefer not to expose your cat to chemicals every month. There are several options for flea treatment, and I discuss them thoroughly in this post. Living an outdoor life often means catching small prey items like birds or mice that can carry parasites, so we recommend biannual deworming in kitties with outdoor access. Another source of internal parasites are fleas, which are an intermediate host for tapeworms. The biannual deworming for other parasites takes care of these little buggers as well.

As I mentioned while talking about infectious diseases, neighborhood cats can pose a risk to your cat. Particularly if there are several cats with previously well-defined territories. A cat fight with another cat can lead to abscesses (infection leading to pockets of pus under the skin), or other wounds. These are generally straightforward to treat and don’t usually cause a long term problem if the other cat was not a carrier of a viral disease, however they can be costly and certainly are uncomfortable for your cat. Again, cat fencing can go a long way to preventing this situation.

Much like your cat’s age and health situation, your cat’s personality is an important factor. If your cat is a wilting daisy, then a cat fence is in order so they don’t end up in a tangle they can’t fend off with another cat.

So, now that you’re thoroughly nervous with all the downsides of outdoor life (many of which can be prevented with cat appropriate fencing), there are upsides. Outdoor kitties get to experience all the natural feline lifestyle activities like hunting bugs or larger prey (though this may be a concern for the local songbird population). This also means that, should they choose to hunt, they also supplement their diet with what we consider to be the absolute ideal diet for a cat. Your cat will get to experience the electromagnetic reset of walking on moist earth with their bare paws, which can have many benefits. They will experience an environment much richer in stimulation than the inside can ever easily be which can help reduce anxiety and related behavioral problems. If you grow cat safe herbs and other plants they can also benefit from smelling and tasting these plants as they choose.

Many cats get immense enjoyment out of experiencing the outdoors. As long as you consider the risks and take steps to reduce them to what you feel is a reasonable level, this is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle for our feline companions.


– Dr. Erika Raines, DVM, CVA, CVSMT


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How old is my cat anyway? (Senior stage)

See the first two blogs in the series: Kitten stage, Adult stage

After a few years of relatively lower maintenance adult hood, we are now moving into the more mature stages of cat life. Preventative care for aging cats involves more preventative screening than care of younger cats did. We are approaching the age where regular blood work is a boon to monitor for trends in the blood count and in enzymes from the kidneys and liver that can be early markers of degenerative disease.

A good reference for the care of more senior cats can be found here at the AAFP page.

A handy chart from the AAFP

A handy chart from the AAFP

Mature: Care in the mature stage is actually quite similar to the prime stage. When cats are 7 to 10 years old they are getting to be middle aged. At this stage healthy weight maintenance and regular yearly wellness exams are crucial. If your cat is very active, this is also the age where you should consider adding a joint supplement before any problems with the joints emerge. Even relatively inactive indoor cats are elite athletes when you think about how many body lengths they jump up and down on a daily basis. Because of the wear and tear thus causes on joints, this is a good time to chose a gentle joint supplement that your cat will eat on a daily basis.

Feeding a joint supplement regularly (like the Dasuquin we carry here) will not be a problem if your cat is already accustomed to eating raw or carbohydrate free canned food. Supplements like Dasuquin don’t have a strong flavor and can be easily mixed into a small amount of moist food to give to your cat. Also, it cannot be overemphasized that feeding an appropriate diet will greatly help weight management and help prevent diabetes.

In this age range we start to look critically at vaccine recommendations and attempt to introduce the fewest number of only the most necessary reactive substances into your cat’s life. Depending on the patient, we may also start to recommend yearly senior preventative blood screenings at this point. We generally continue our deworming recommendations and combo test recommendations as in the Prime stage.

Senior: Congratulations! On their tenth birthday your cat officially enters their golden years. Cats between 10 and 14 are considered senior pets. Weight management is, of course, still of paramount importance. At this age we often start to fight weight loss from loss of muscle mass. Remember, though, that weight loss is not normal (unless you’re dieting your cat). If your senior or geriatric cat is losing weight, it’s time for a visit! I highly recommend adding a joint supplement to your cat’s routine starting at this age if you didn’t already do this in the mature stage.

This is the age when we for sure recommend doing senior preventative blood screening on a yearly basis. The recommendation for wellness exams also becomes more frequent. Because of how quickly the aging process can proceed in some cats, we recommend having your cat seen every six months at this age so that we can track any subtle changes in weight, heart rate, or other parameters before we start to lose ground on potential problems.

At this age your cat has likely had very many vaccines, and for an exclusively indoor cat in this age range, we may recommend stopping vaccines altogether, or may simply recommend titer testing based on risk assessment. We continue to recommend deworming in well cats, and cats with outdoor access still need their yearly combo testing.

Remember those food recommendations? Feeding moist food is crucial at this age since many cats develop kidney problems as they age. Feeding moist food helps to keep them hydrated even as the kidneys potentially lose their ability to concentrate urine and conserve water as well as they used to.

Geriatric: The geriatric stage lasts from about age 15 until the end of your cat’s life. The recommendations from the senior life stage all apply the same here. The only difference is that as your cat continues to age we may, on a case by case basis, start recommending even more frequent wellness exams, weight check ins, or preventative blood screenings depending on your cat’s personal history.

We want your kitty to be with you a long time and have many enjoyable years. Preventative care is an important part of making this happen.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your cat, please call us!

– Dr. Erika Raines, DVM, CVA, CVSMT


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How old is my cat anyway? (Prime stage)

See the first blog in the series: Kitten stage

There is a lot of initial health maintenance care to address in your kitten’s first six months, but things calm down after that. As we move through the life stages, I will be mentioning vaccine recommendations. Keep in mind that, as with all of the markers listed, these are generalized recommendations. Vaccine recommendations change from cat to cat, and in some situations we will recommend against vaccinating altogether (usually in the case of health issues).

A handy chart from the AAFP

A handy chart from the AAFP

Junior: This stage is similar to adolescence in humans. Junior kitties usually still have the playful attitude of a kitten, but they are starting to look more like an adult cat every day. The junior stage lasts from 7 months to 2 years of age. During this time your cat will finish their physical growth, and starting at this stage we recommend wellness exams on a yearly basis.

The major factor in maintaining wellness at this age is continuing on the path of healthy diet that you started on in the kitten stage, or getting there if you adopt your cat in the Junior stage and they’re eating a less than ideal diet. Again, we would prefer that these cats eat an entirely moist diet that is free of carbohydrates (canned or fresh frozen raw food), or a combination of dry and canned foods rather than a purely dry food based diet. This will help them stay hydrated and slim as they finish their growth.

If your kitten didn’t receive its first Rabies vaccine at 6 months, we recommend doing that in the first month or two of this life stage. Also, during this stage they will be due for their 1 year booster on their upper respiratory vaccine. The rabies vaccine we use here needs to be repeated yearly, and after the first one year booster the upper respiratory vaccine is every three years. The same is true for feline leukemia for cats who get this vaccine (a one year booster followed by boosters every three years), and cats who are never exposed to other cats should not receive this vaccine. Unless there are health issues or other concerns, these are our general vaccine recommendations for young, healthy cats.  As your cat ages, we will potentially talk about reducing vaccine frequency or running titer tests in lieu of vaccines. Titer tests measure the level of antibodies to a particular disease within your cat’s bloodstream. If the antibody levels are at a certain level, we assume they are protected and forego vaccination.

The other important considerations are deworming and combo (Feline leukemia/FIV) testing. If your kitty is an indoor only cat that does not get into fights and had a negative combo test as a kitten, there is no need to continue routine screening. If your cat goes outside, we do recommend yearly combo testing since they have a chance of being exposed. We also recommend regular deworming for both your and your cat’s health. Some intestinal parasites can be transmitted to humans (particularly the very young, the very old, and the immune compromised), so it is important to keep your cat free of parasites for that reason. Indoor cats generally only need to be dewormed once yearly, but cats who hunt in or out of doors, and cats who spend time outside should be dewormed every six months as their chances of getting worms are much greater than their indoor peers.

Prime: As your cat enters the prime of their life at 3 through 6 years of age, one of the primary ways you can keep them healthy is weight management. Over half of the pet cats in this country are overweight which can have serious health consequences. Being overweight contributes to diseases such as diabetes in cats and dramatically increases wear and tear on the joints. Cats will often have arthritis in their elbows as they age, and a significant contributor to this is increased landing forces on their forelegs from being overweight. If you’ve already been following the guidelines of feeding a carbohydrate free raw or canned diet, you are well on your way toward healthy weight promotion.

We continue to recommend yearly or biannual deworming depending on your cats lifestyle, and yearly combo testing for cats with outdoor access. It is in this stage of life where we start to discuss performing titers over frequent revaccination to help decrease your cat’s overall load of reactive substances in their body. If you didn’t know already, vaccines work by inciting the body to react to a substance that we inject or otherwise expose the body to. Through this reaction we incite the body to form antibodies in the blood stream or on a mucous membrane that will help to protect them from the disease should they come in contact with it. This is an excellent practice in moderation and when applied discerningly, but there is little need to continue to vaccinate if the body is continuing to produce antibodies. The schedules that we use to recommend revaccination are based on a general idea of how long the antibody production from vaccines usually lasts, but my own experience with using antibody titers has shown me that many of my patients hold an immunity to the diseases for which we are vaccinating for much longer than one or three years.

At this stage we continue to recommend yearly wellness exams to make sure we intervene before small issues become big problems as well as to assess risks and properly recommend preventative therapies such as deworming and any necessary vaccines or testing.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your cat, please call us!

To be continued!

– Dr. Erika Raines, DVM, CVA, CVSMT


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How old is my kitty anyway? (Kitten stage)

When we think about the stages of growth and development that we go through in our lives as humans, it seems only logical that our cats would go through similar stages.

Just like us, cats need different kinds of care at different stages of their lives. Since they sadly don’t live as long as we do, the ages that they reach and pass through these stages of life is very different from a human. If you are owned by a feline, it’s important for you to know approximately what ages these life stages occur and what sorts of health care is best when your cat is going through different periods of development.

A handy chart from the AAFP

A handy chart from the AAFP

Kitten: This is the first stage of life for our kitties and lasts from birth to six months. The most important things in this stage are socialization and getting them started out right from a health perspective. This involves testing for feline leukemia and FIV (a virus similar to HIV but specific to cats) which they can potentially get from an infected mother, deworming, sterilization, and vaccines. Another extremely important factor is getting them started on the right food.

Deworming is important because dormant worms in mother cats are awakened during pregnancy and lactation and can cross the placenta as well as enter the milk, because of this virtually every kitten is guaranteed to come with intestinal parasites as part of the package until they are dewormed.

Sterilization surgery is another important consideration. Shelter kitties are usually spayed or neutered before they are allowed to be adopted out, but if you adopt any cat that is not already sterilized this is an important consideration. The age of sterilization depends on your cat’s lifestyle and health situation, but we recommend no earlier than 6 months and only after your cat has reached at least 5 pounds in weight.

Vaccines are another major decision for your cat’s health that we start working on at this age. Again, most kittens you adopt from a shelter will have had at least their first upper respiratory/panleukopenia (FVRCP) vaccine while they are there, but this is usually the only vaccine that shelters administer. Vaccinations depend on your kitten’s lifestyle and health. For healthy kittens we virtually always recommend a series of upper respiratory vaccines, one every four weeks from 8 weeks of age until 16 weeks of age. We also recommend Rabies vaccines for both indoor only cats and cats with access to the outside, but we usually wait until around 6 months for them to get the first one. The last vaccine to consider is the feline leukemia vaccine. Whether or not we recommend this depends entirely on your plan for your kitten’s lifestyle. An indoor only kitten will not need this vaccine and should not receive it, however a kitten that goes outside or will go outside should have it, particularly if there are a lot of other cats in the neighborhood.

One of the other basic considerations for a kitten is what to feed them. This is also arguably the most important as it will set them up for a lifetime of success if you choose the right food. I always recommend choosing a grain-free food, and I advocate strongly for food with moisture content. As I’ve discussed in a previous blog, we want to offer food to our cats that most closely replicates their natural diet of small prey. This usually means that the best food to feed is either fresh frozen raw food or carbohydrate free canned food. Grain free dry food can be fed as well if it’s necessary, but always consider including at least some portion of the diet as high quality canned food. This is especially important for kittens as we are forming taste and texture preferences at this age that will be the foundation for the rest of their life. Having a cat that likes canned food is very helpful if you ever need to medicate your kitten, or if she develops a health problem in her future that requires a high moisture diet as part of the therapy.

Feeding raw food is the best option for most young, healthy cats, though my traditional Chinese medical perspective would caution you against feeding completely raw food for the first six months of your cat’s life. This is easy to deal with if you purchase raw food that does not contain bone. These ground foods can be very lightly cooked (certainly less than what we would eat ourselves) to make them the ideal diet for a young kitten.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your kitten, please call us!

To be continued!

– Dr. Erika Raines, DVM, CVA, CVSMT


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What to do about bugs on your cat….

Ok, so we know we live in the Pacific Northwest. Anyone whose been a pet owner here for at least a year can probably tell you that this is flea paradise.

Maybe this is something you don’t really have to think about because you have an indoor only cat who doesn’t come in contact with other pets who go outside, if so, that’s great! If not, read on.

Fighting fleas can be a never ending battle here, but how to do it without having to apply toxic pesticides to your precious felines all the time?

While flea control options are sometimes affected by your pet’s health conditions or lifestyle, here are some generalizations.

Please don’t apply flea control products every month year round! Even though fleas love it here, you shouldn’t have problems in the winter unless they’re in your house. If that’s the case, treat the house and the pet to eliminate the problem and eliminate the need to use products on your pet in the colder months. For treating the house we recommend using diatomaceous earth and a de-fleaing service that uses this product called Flea Busters. Diatomaceous earth is comprised of the fossilized silica skeletons of microscopic sea creatures. This substance works by literally slicing up the adult fleas as well as the immature life stages. It is non-chemical, non-toxic, and extremely safe while still being very effective.

Great, so your house is flea-free and it’s now summer. Your indoor/outdoor cat is about to start going outside again, what now?

Well, how about don’t treat until you find evidence of fleas?

I have lived in the Pacific Northwest for years and what I have found in my practice is that the pets who eat healthy (grain-free, meat based, generally canned or raw) diets and have low levels of inflammation generally do not become infested with fleas. They may pick up a flea here or there, but they do not usually have problems that require the use of chemicals. That said, we don’t want a small problem becoming a big one, so please comb your pet for fleas at least on a weekly basis looking for both live fleas and the approximately millimeter long, comma shaped dark pieces of flea dirt or droppings. Flea dirt can be distinguished from dirt by wetting it down. When flea dirt is moistened and rubbed on a paper towel, it will dissolve into the rust colored digested blood that composes it.

If you notice flea dirt or fleas, treat right away!

So let’s say your kitty has the misfortune of hanging out with a bad crowd and bringing a few unwanted friends home. Now what?

Well, for starters, please don’t use those flea products from the feed store or some pet stores (no Hartz or Biospot please). These products are not well regulated or tested and can have varying levels of chemicals in them that can range from being completely ineffective to very toxic for cats. If you need to use a chemical flea treatment, Comfortis or Advantage are usually the better choices depending on your pet’s needs. Advantage is a topical treatment that kills fleas when they contact the oils in your cat’s coat. Comfortis has a slightly safer chemical, but is a tablet that’s given orally. This means the fleas have to bite your kitty first in order to die.

Sound like a mild distinction? Well, it is unless your cat has a flea allergy as some cats do. Cats with flea allergies can have uncomfortable skin reactions from just one flea bite, so Comfortis is not the best option for them.

Once you’ve treated your fleas (and your cat will need three months of consecutive treatment to break the life cycle of any fleas that have started to set up shop in your home), don’t forget about deworming!

Fleas are the intermediate host for tapeworms, so any flea that is eaten in the course of your cat grooming herself has the potential to give her tapeworms. Be on the safe side and follow your flea treatment up with a deworming. We carry Drontal which is a safe and effective way to get rid of most intestinal parasites including tapeworms.

Want to know what’s new?

We just recently learned about a brand new flea collar technology on the market. Flea collars have a historical reputation for being full of terrible chemicals as well as having an unpleasant smell that your cat is unlikely to want to live with. These new collars promise to be nothing like that. We should be learning more about them soon, so keep your eyes peeled for an update on this new technology!

-Dr. Erika Raines

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A calorie is a calorie, right?

So, we’ve talked about the importance of nutrition for cats and that they are obligate carnivores and need a meat based diet. But, a meat calorie is a meat calorie, right? Other than allergies or your cat’s taste preference, once kind of meat is equal to another, right?

Well, maybe. It depends. According to conventional nutrition, pretty much. Sure different meats have different levels of nutrients, but in a “complete and balanced” cat diet this doesn’t matter much because any differences are compensated for in the supplements that are added to the food. The conventional nutrition perspective isn’t the only perspective, though.

I (Dr. Erika) have done training in traditional Chinese food therapy at the same school that I learned acupuncture from. In addition to learning about high nutrient traditional recipes such as bone broth, congee, and tendon soup for pets, we also discussed the energetic properties of food.

Food, like herbs, has different kinds of “Qi” in the Chinese system. This means that, just like herbs which are essentially the pharmaceuticals of the traditional Chinese medical world, food can be used to treat medical conditions. You read that right. Food can be used to treat conditions on a level different than the level of providing the nutritional building blocks for healing.

One of the best ways to understand the energetics of food is to think about different kinds of meat producing animals and their lifestyles. Consider the differences between a chicken and cow. Chickens are fast growing; they reach slaughter weight in a matter of weeks. They are also frenetic, active creatures who spend their days scratching the soil for bugs. They tend to be flighty and usually respond dramatically and suddenly to startling stimuli. Cattle, on the other hand, are slower growing; they take a year or more to reach slaughter weight. Cattle tend to be slow moving, grazing animals. They can move fast when startled, but generally respond more slowly and deliberately to stimuli than chickens do.

It should come as no surprise, then, that chickens are a more Yang animal than cattle. Chickens embody heat, action, and movement. Cattle are relatively more Yin embodying physical mass, calm, and relatively neutral energy.

Every plant, mineral, and animal that we consume has similar energetic characteristics that can be classified and used for their medicinal benefit. You might understand some of the concept of energetics now, but maybe you don’t see how we can put this into practice. Let me explain that a little.

In traditional Chinese medicine, much like in conventional medicine, we treat problems by applying an acupuncture point, herb, food, or massage technique that has the opposite effect to the problem. Too cold? Add heat. Too stagnant? Use moving herbs or acupuncture points. Food is used exactly this way. Have a problem with being cold, sluggish, and having poor energy? Eat chicken. The hot, energetic nature of chicken will help to treat the cold, sluggish nature of your problem.

The same applies in reverse. Have a problem with being too frantic, hot, or twitchy? Chicken is probably not a good food choice, maybe try beef or another cooler, more Yin meat instead.

Of course, these are only two food choices from a huge array of foods that were classically used in traditional Chinese medicine, and now days we have access to many other foods that the Chinese never dreamed of. Through careful study and experimentation, we know the energetic qualities of many foods that were not traditionally used. Kangaroo, for example, has been a popular pet food and is certainly not something that was mentioned in the classical Chinese medical literature. However, because of the work of knowledgeable practitioners, we know that kangaroo is a hot, Yang meat with some similarities to chicken.

If your pet is having a problem and is reluctant to take medications or refuses acupuncture treatment, food therapy can be a big help. It is also an excellent adjunct to treatment with food and herbs. As you might imagine, treating anxiety with herbs will only help so much if you are feeding your cat a anxiety prone animal (such as chicken). I would be happy to talk with you about your pet’s health concerns and how a diet change might help them out!

-Erika Raines, DVM, CVA, CVFT

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Cat won’t eat? Check this out…

Cats: Recognizing Nausea and Food Aversions

You know that feeling when you decide to go ahead and commit to buying a whole case of your cat’s favorite food…. and then they decide it’s poison? There might be a medical reason!

We have all experienced the sensation of feeling nauseous without the progression to actual vomiting. The same degree of nausea occurs in our companions as well. Cats that are feeling nauseous can simply refuse to eat or not venture toward their usual feeding stations. Or they can lick their lips frequently or swallow often or swallow effortfully. This “lip-licking” and “heavy swallowing” are common signs of nausea in our companion cats that you can observe without actually seeing a cat vomit. Some ill cats will come to their food bowels and bend forward as if to eat, but upon smelling or seeing the food, recoil and move away, and maybe lick their lips afterwards. We suspect that many of these cats weren’t nauseous until the sight or smell of the food triggered the nausea.

You may have also had the experience of being nauseous from a particular kind of food and then not wanting to eat that same kind of food for days, weeks, or even months thereafter. That is a food aversion and cats are famous for developing food aversions easily. Our feline friends can develop a food aversion after just once smelling or tasting a food while they are nauseous, or vomiting a type of food just one time. It entirely depends on the level of nausea – that is, how severe it was and how long it was present. Cats with medical conditions that often cause nausea like kidney failure, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease often develop such aversions. They can become triggered by the type of food they were eating like “chicken”, or the texture of the food like chunky canned food VS pate canned food, and even by the location in the house or the sight of the serving dish! Some cats can become averse to the texture and may not want to eat anything that is canned or anything that is kibble if they have experienced prolonged nausea with one particular texture.

So what can you do to help your feline friend who may be nauseous? First of all, just recognizing nausea without the act of vomiting is a good start. If you offer your friend some food and they recoil from it and give you that look of “get it away from me” – then remove it immediately and never dab it on their face or paws! Smelling it and not being able to get away from the smell is a sure way for them to develop a food aversion.

When our cat friends are not eating, we tend to go to great lengths to find something they find tasty enough to eat. It will be helpful to your kitty’s health care provider if you keep a list of the types and brands of food you have offered, and your cat’s reaction. And again if your cat recoils from the food, shows lip-licking, or heavy swallowing, remove the food right away. If you have tried several foods, and none have been acceptable, it is time to stop offering foods and get them to a doctor. It’s not uncommon for cat lovers to “run out” of flavors because they have offered everything they can find to a nauseous feline. So get your kitty some help and offer food when you have the best chance of it being accepted.

And if you do run out of things to offer, give us a call. We keep yak burger and antelope in the freezer to entice even the most finicky of our little friends 😉

-Dr. Sharon Blouin

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Why does my cat pee red?

Cats often have urinary issues, and sometimes they are caused by stress. If you’ve ever wondered how that’s even possible and maybe how you can help with diet, read on!

From a conventional perspective, there are a few reasons that kitties can have blood in their urine, and some are quite straightforward, like a bladder infection. I highly recommend that every cat having urinary issues is seen by a veterinarian and has their urine tested.

One of the frustratingly common urinary issues in cats is what we call “FLUTD”. Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. This is usually a sterile condition (so not an infection), and often is unrelated to crystals or stones. In fact, in conventional medicine we recognize one of the main causative factors for this condition is stress.

How on earth does stress make a cat get blood in its urine? Well, nothing in my conventional training really can give a good answer to that question. However, my Chinese medical training can shed a fair amount of light on this.

In Chinese medicine, we work with a cycle of five elements. These elements are categories that we sort everything into from musical notes to food to personality and even internal organs. It is through this system that we can explain how an inflamed bladder can occur just from stress.

Chinese medicine five element cycle

A diagram of basically how the Five Element cycle works

To begin with, bloody urine is Heat in the Bladder. Heat in Chinese medicine corresponds with anything that is burning, itching, yellow, red, or inflamed.

The stress connection is that in Chinese medicine, the organ that deals with stress is the Liver (Wood). The Liver detoxifies everything in the body and keeps energy moving around the body properly. When the Liver is pushed beyond its limits it stops regulating the circulation of energy. What constitutes being “pushed beyond its limits” is different for every individual depending on the strength of your Liver and what your baseline stress is. Because of this, excessive anxiety or stress causes Heat.

The constant movement of Qi (energy) is vital to the proper functioning of the body. The way that we can understand this is to think of Qi as a running car. When Qi is stagnated, or stops flowing properly, the car stops but the wheels don’t. As you might imagine, a stopped vehicle with spinning wheels generates an awful lot of heat through friction. Qi is very similar: When the Liver stops regulating it and it stops moving, it doesn’t stop wanting to move and this Heat can result.

So how does this Heat from the Liver make it into the bladder? Well, that’s a bit of a journey that involves the cycle of elements and the diagram shown above. You can see in the cycle that Fire/Heart is the step after the Liver. Most times when Qi stagnation causes Heat and anxiety, this ends up in the Heart (Fire). A big part of this is because the Heart is physically located higher in the body than the Liver and, as we all know, Heat tends to rise. Additionally, the Heat is simply traveling the path of least resistance along the five element cycle. So it ends up in the heart but only temporarily. The Heat is looking for a way out of the body. If you look at the relationship between the Heart and the Kidneys (Water) on the cycle, you see that Kidneys generally control the Heart (Water generally extinguishes Fire). However, if the Kidneys are weak, or if the Heat in the Heart is simply too much, we will have the Heat traveling the opposite direction on that path and ending in the Kidneys. We can visualize this with the idea of a bucket of water and a campfire. Generally the bucket will be sufficient to extinguish the fire, however if we suddenly have a bonfire and even just approach it too closely with the water, the water will all boil and evaporate leaving the bucket dry and quite hot.

So here we now have Kidneys that are hot and dry. In Chinese medicine organs are paired a solid organ with a hollow organ (Kidneys with Bladder in this example). The solid organ does the functional work of the pair and the hollow organ gets rid of the garbage. The Kidneys really don’t want to have all that Heat, so they move it along to the Bladder where it can exit the body as blood in the urine.

So there you have it. Anxiety causes bloody urine.

That’s all well and good, but how can we treat it?

We must do everything in our power to decrease Heat and to decrease baseline stress (another way of decreasing Heat). There are certainly lifestyle adjustments, Chinese herbs, and pheromone diffusers that can help with stress among other things, but decreasing the overall level of Heat has to do with decreasing the body’s baseline inflammation level.

A major place where pets acquire Heat in our modern world is from their diets. Therefore, simplistically, fix the diet and you will decrease the Heat which will eliminate the problem of excess Heat needing to leave the body in the urine.

What sorts of things cause Heat in the diet? Well, kibble, or dry food, is a major contributor. Kibble must be processed very thoroughly to end up in the state that it is in. Processing increases heat, especially when that processing involves cooking and drying like the processing of kibble does. So the kind of food matters.

What else? Well, particularly for cats, food ingredients are key. Cats do not do well with grains or carbohydrates, for reasons I can talk about in a more in depth exploration of diet. Carbohydrates and especially grains cause a lot of Heat in cats. Feeding a grain-free, or ideally carbohydrate free or low, diet is an excellent step toward reducing Heat.

The next step is to look at the kinds of meat that you are feeding. Some meats are very hot and some are cooling. If we’re talking about a kitty who has chronic problems with Heat, including FLUTD, being sensitive to the temperature of the ingredients is crucial.

Want to learn more? Come have a chat with me about your cat’s diet and how it may be affecting other parts of their life!


– Dr. Erika Raines

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