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Minnesota Veterinary Hospital Blog

Understanding Feline FIV



Cat owners are often confused about the difference between feline FIV and feline FeLV and what a diagnosis means for their pet. Feline FIV, which stands for feline immunodeficiency virus, is the equivalent of the AIDS virus in humans. Feline FeLV, on the other hand, is a leukemia virus. Approximately two to four percent of cats in the United States has one of these viruses. Both are retroviruses and can be fatal. That means a cat can live with the virus for many years before becoming seriously ill.

Feline FIV First Identified in 1986
Although the disease has existed for decades, veterinarians first labeled it as Feline FIV a mere 30 years ago. It depletes infected cats of white blood cells, which in turn makes it more difficult for them to fight off infections. Since it is such a slow-acting virus, most cats enjoy a normal lifespan. The reason cat owners tend to panic at the diagnosis is its association with AIDS in humans. However, cats with FIV rarely develop the severity of symptoms that people with the AIDS virus do since they already have a shorter lifespan. Additionally, the strain of each virus differs considerably.

Transmission and Symptoms of Feline FIV
A cat infected with FIV has the virus in his blood, saliva, or both. Biting is the main method of transmission from one cat to another. Outdoor cats who get into fights with other cats are most at risk of becoming infected. The incidence of infection is highest in feral cats and male cats who have not been neutered. If your male cat does go outside, make sure that he is neutered to prevent wandering behavior and fighting. Fortunately, the HIV virus cannot survive long outside of a cat’s body and it cannot be transmitted to humans. It also cannot be transmitted indirectly, such as through contact with food bowls and bedding.

Some cats with FIV remain asymptomatic throughout their life span. Those who do become ill may display some or all of these symptoms:

• Poor appetite and/or weight loss
• Disheveled fur
• Diarrhea
• Fever
• Inflammation of the gums and mouth
• Hair loss
• Non-healing wounds
• Behavior change
• Frequent urination and straining to urinate
• Discharge from the nose or eyes

Please contact Minnesota Veterinary Hospital to schedule an evaluation for your cat if you notice any of these symptoms. We will conduct a blood test to determine the presence of the virus and notify you when the results come back from our laboratory. Your cat’s regular veterinarian will then develop a treatment plan to address her individual symptoms. 

Photo Credit: Bill Oxford / Getty Images


December is Safe Pet Toys and Gifts Month



One of the joys of being a pet owner is watching your dog or cat enjoy playing with a toy that you picked out especially for him. Toys help meet your pet's need for stimulation while also providing him with exercise and entertainment. An added bonus is that having a decent stash of pet toys keeps your dog or cat from becoming destructive with your personal or household belongings. It's also important to keep in mind that your pet needs toys for different reasons, such as activity, comfort, and distraction.
Selecting Safe Dog Toys
Since dogs can range from a few pounds to more than 100 pounds, you need to make sure that the toy you choose is appropriate for your dog's size. Additionally, make sure the toy doesn't have small parts that are easy to swallow, such as buttons, strings, and plastic eyes. We recommend avoiding toys with polystyrene beads or nutshells as these present a choking hazard.
Hard rubber toys, rope toys knotted at both ends, and tennis balls all appeal to your dog's instinctual need to chew. Kong or busy box toys that hide a treat inside will keep your dog motivated to interact with the toy until she uncovers the treat.
Toys to Give Your Cat
Cats are easily entertained, so don't feel like you have to spend a lot of money on toys. If your cat is like most, he may be more interested in the box the toy came in than the toy itself. According to International Cat Care, the two things a cat wants from a toy are that it moves and that it gives her an opportunity to interact with her owner. Homemade items, such as rolled up newspaper or the cardboard center of a roll of paper towels, work just fine.
A fishing-rod type of toy is a great choice for any cat. You hold one end in your hand while dangling the other end containing a small toy just out of your cat's reach. Batting at the toy allows him to release energy while feeling like he has successfully captured his prey. Flashing a light on the wall and having your cat chase it can also prove entertaining. Toy mice containing a small amount of catnip should inspire even the most dedicated napper to get up and swat it around a few times. It is especially important for indoor cats to have access to a variety of toys to alleviate boredom and help them get their exercise.
Order Safe and Fun Pet Toys from Our Online Store
 Did you know that we offer gifts for dogs and cats from nine different categories in our online store? Skip the hassle of shopping at a crowded discount store or pet store this year and have your pet’s gifts delivered to your home instead. 
Minnesota Veterinary Hospital wishes you the happiest of holiday seasons. 

Photo Selection: absolutimages / Getty Images


Signs of Cancer in Dogs and Cats You May Overlook



Because dogs and cats age much faster than people do, pet owners often mistake symptoms of cancer for normal aging. Many are unaware that cancer is the leading cause of death in pets, especially dogs over age 10. Since November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month, Minnesota Veterinary Hospital would like everyone who owns a dog or cat to be aware of the following symptoms of cancer:

• Abnormal discharge: Bleeding, diarrhea, expelling pus, or vomiting are not normal and should be checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible. A distended or bloated stomach may indicate that the pet is showing signs of internal discharge.
• Appetite change: Disinterest in eating or refusing to eat at all could indicate an oral tumor that makes chewing and swallowing difficult for the pet.
• Body and breath odor: When cancer occurs in the anal region, nose, or mouth, it can produce highly offensive odors.
• Coughing or breathing difficulty: When cancer has spread to a pet's lungs, it usually causes frequent coughing and even gasping for air.
• Elimination changes: The dog or cat may urinate or defecate more frequently or less often. His or her stools may also be loose or bloody.
• Lethargy: Pets that sleep more, seem depressed, and are less willing to engage in exercise or play may be exhibiting early signs of cancer.
• New lumps or bumps: A hard mass that wasn't there before could indicate an internal tumor.
• Non-healing wounds: When a cut or wound doesn't heal in a normal amount of time, it may be cancer that is preventing it from healing.
• Pain: Limping or refusing to use one of the legs may indicate a tumor growing on a bone.
• Weight loss: If you haven’t put your pet on a diet, any sudden weight loss should be checked by a veterinarian.

Never Dismiss Symptoms
While these 10 symptoms don't necessarily mean cancer, we recommend scheduling an immediate appointment if you notice any of them. It is important to determine whether cancer or another health issue is causing problems for your pet. His or her regular veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination and order diagnostic tests to figure out exactly what is causing the symptoms. 

If it is cancer, we will begin treating it right away so your pet can remain comfortable and have a good chance of overcoming it. While a cancer diagnosis is difficult to hear, the staff at Minnesota Veterinary Hospital are dedicated to helping your pet survive and thrive in spite of it. After all, November is Pet Cancer Awareness Month.

Photo Credit: Eriklam / Getty Images