Feline Health

December 2017 Patient of the Month

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OREO, is our sweet, cuddly, cat that thought he was a dog.  He is our “Super”cat who would launch off the back of the sectional couch front arms straight ahead hanging out.  The cat that thudded through the house at top speed, all of his 19 pounds, at the call of his name.  The cat that would snuggle and purr, who tolerated just about anything. But...

At 3:00am the morning of July 6, 2017… I am sound asleep until I hear a cat cry.  Just once. Thinking it was one of our 2 cats getting sick, the odd cry before a hairball comes out, I didn’t think much of it and fell back to sleep.  Shortly after I awoke again to hear one of our dogs tails thumping like mad.  Our female Labrador, Alex, loved to drag things such as socks or shoes to her bed. Thinking she had dragged a flip flop of my husband's I wasn’t going to investigate. Her tail would not stop.  She was extremely excited about something.  Waking up enough to realize I should rescue that shoe, I was surprised to find it was Oreo laying beside her bed that had Alex all excited.  This was unusual behavior.  Alex loved Oreo sometimes more than he could tolerate.  It was then I realized just how still Oreo was beside her.

I quickly picked him up to find him limp in my arms.  Thinking he was just trying to be still so Alex would leave him alone, I put Oreo down in a different spot on the floor thinking he would take off.  Instead his legs, mostly the right front, collapsed beneath him.  I picked him up again and took him to my walk in closet where I could turn on a light and tried it again.  Same thing. In disbelief I tried again, same thing.  Oreo could not support himself and was now also panting.  I quickly woke up my husband and told him we had to leave.  Something was very wrong with Oreo.  

We quickly took off for Veterinary Medical Center upon which Oreo was immediately taken back and put on oxygen. How could this be happening????  Oreo was completely fine earlier in the day/evening.  Nothing was unusual about how he was acting or his activities.  My first thought was that Oreo had passed a clot.  A radiograph was done to check Oreo’s heart. Although it was found to be slightly enlarged everything else appeared normal.  It was recommended that Oreo remain at VMC (this is now 4:30am) until the morning when - as luck would have it - a Cardiologist would be there later in the day.  Our hope was to have an echocardiogram performed to rule out Oreo’s heart. So tough to leave at that point and to go on about our day.  Knowing Oreo was in the best of care we had no choice but to wait it out.

By 11:30am, it was found Oreo’s heart was normal.  This led to the next step, concerns of neurologic disease.  And with this the recommendation for Oreo to be transferred to Cornell University Hospital in HOPES of getting into a neurologist ASAP.  Again being told that the waiting list for an appointment could be a month or more, our best bet was to pick Oreo up ASAP from VMC and go immediately to the Emergency entrance of Cornell University. Fortunately for us and Oreo he was quickly seen. I could go on about all the findings and transpiring that occurred in the days to follow but here is the outcome.  The following day after a MRI was performed Oreo was diagnosed with having Ischemic myelopathy (C2-C4).  He had a lesion on his spine that was quite large - a stroke to his spine, not his brain.  All other bloodwork and testing proved normal.  


Oreo fell into the small subset of cases that did not have an underlying disease to cause this occurrence.  Research showed that the majority of cats could return to a normal or near normal lifestyle with supportive care and time.  In Oreo’s case this lesion to his spine was quite large leading to a potential recovery of weeks or months. Oreo spent his 8th birthday at Cornell.  We were able to visit him that day.  We found our sweet boy quiet, but aware, unable to walk, shaved and bandaged, and so very sad.  

On July 10th Oreo was brought home to receive nursing care and at home physical rehabilitation. Unable to walk, Oreo needed to be placed in his liter box on his side to go to the bathroom, supported upright to eat and drink, turned over from side to side every several hours to prevent pressure sores and respiratory complications, and have various range of motion, weight bearing exercises performed several times a day as well as massage of all limbs to all keep the neuropathways open and responding. Recommendations were made for laser therapy to help stimulate cell regeneration and increase blood circulation and Electo-acupuncture for treatment of pain. I must say it was a bit overwhelming.  Oreo was quite tolerant of these at home exercises, most of them, in the beginning.  Knowing it was never said that he wouldn’t walk again is what got me through and pushed me on to keep working with Oreo even as he began to fight back, get mad, hiss, push.  To me he was mad and the fighting back was him getting stronger!

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July 17, 2017…Our first visit to Care Pet Therapy.  Oreo received a consultation with Dr. Flaherty. It was recommended Oreo have twice weekly visits of physical rehabilitation with Lis or Jenn and weekly visits of acupuncture with Dr. Flaherty.   We started with physical rehabilitation visits which included laser therapy on Oreo’s neck.  Water treadmill therapy was attempted on two separate occasions with Lis, but being a cat Oreo's tolerance was minimal and not ideal.  Oreo did work on the dog treadmill on a couple of visits.  Much better than the water but a little to fast on its lowest speed. We were given more exercises to work on at home involving various exercise balls to hang over and do stretches with as well as the continual exercises of bending all his limbs, elbows, feet, massaging them to keep those neuropathways open. 

July 27, 2017….Oreo has been to see Lis earlier in the day for a walk on the treadmill, stretches, and laser therapy.  That evening I could not believe what I was seeing as Oreo rocks himself back and forth and attempts to stand. 3 weeks after Oreo’s incident it is the beginning of him finding his way back to walking on his own.  Over the next week plus he continued to get himself up more and more and walk with a drunken stagger gaining more and more strength.

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Oreo continued with biweekly visits with Lis and several visits with Dr. Flaherty for acupuncture.  Each visit showed improvement as Oreo continued to get stronger and fight his way back to a life of normalcy.

Today, November 6, 2016, 4 months from Oreo’s incident….Oreo is now walking on his own.  What started as a drunken stagger and falling over every few feet has now become almost normal.  Oreo is able to go up and down stairs slowly and supervised, and he can now do a full flight.  He still is a little slow with his right front leg, and I can hear him coming with a slight thud in his walk.  Oreo is my purring love of  a cat again.  He is such a people person and would spend all day snuggling with you if he could.  


Lis, Jenn, Dr. Flaherty, Alesha…without you all we would not have Oreo were he is today!!!  We can not thank you enough for your dedication, support and love that you have shown to us! Oreo had another visit with Lis today.  A month had passed since our last visit and Lis continues to see improvement.  

--Oreo's Family


Safety Nets


Through some unusual circumstances, this sweet, homeless, and very broken little guy ended up in our care. We knew right away that we loved him, but such an extensive injury in a stray cat doesn't often point toward a happy ending.


We, like so many other veterinary hospitals in our area, provide pro bono care for lost and abused pets on a daily basis. The sad truth of the matter is that the combined efforts of our veterinary community and our shelter/rescue community cannot possibly treat all the issues of every homeless animal in our area. Cats in particular have very little safety net at all. In many cases, a stray cat with such a profound and painful injury would have been euthanized.

We reached out to Animal Alliance of Greater Syracuse and their Leg Up Fund to see if they would be interested in sponsoring this cat's treatment.  Their answer was a resounding yes.  Almost simultaneously, one of our wonderful and compassionate Emergency Veterinarians fell in love with this lucky boy and adopted him (severely fractured leg and all) and transferred him into our surgical service for treatment. The Leg Up Fund wouldn't be necessary after all, and we're happy to report that this handsome boy is now all fixed up and enjoying his new home.

We’re proud of the Good Samaritans who went many extra miles to get this very injured kitty to a safe place.  We're proud of our talented surgical team who were able to neatly repair this complicated fracture. We have no idea how long ago this injury occurred, but it was definitely days after the ideal time for surgical repair. We're proud of yet another member of our staff who stepped in to provide a needy animal with a loving home and much needed medical care. We're proud of and grateful for Animal Alliance of Greater Syracuse and their Leg Up Fund for their willingness to provide a safety net for this and other homeless pets in need, even as we didn't need to lean on them in this case.

The Leg Up Fund is a relatively new initiative in CNY, but is already making a positive impact.  From the Animal Alliance of Greater Syracuse:

In the past 14 months nine homeless and ill pets have stepped into bright futures thanks to your support of AAGS’s LEG UP FUND!

We are honored to announce a new member has joined the LEG UP team—the Veterinary Medical Center of Central New York! With its dedicated staff and wide range of specialties, VMC joins Dewitt Animal Hospital-Shelter in providing the best possible veterinary care for seriously ill or injured strays in need of a leg up.

Most pets coming through the doors of veterinary practices have families to pay for what could be complex or long-term care. LEG UP pets have no one. Since most shelters are non-profits, ill strays who come through their doors can be the recipients of fundraising drives to cover their medical treatment.

LEG UP’s veterinary partners are not non-profits; donations to them are not tax-deductible. Therefore, they are not in position to mount funding appeals for homeless animals requiring significant care.

AAGS is not a shelter, rescue, or veterinary practice. We are an animal welfare advocacy group who can provide the needed fundraising service on behalf of these unowned pets. Since we are a 501c3, your LEG UP contributions to AAGS are fully tax-deductible and go directly to support the veterinary care of homeless pets.

Because donors like you have a special spot in your hearts for these vulnerable, deserving creatures, LEG UP has been able to raise thousands of dollars for a wide range of treatments: orthopedic repairs, heartworm, generalized mange, amputation, eye surgery, and more.

We post reports about each LEG UP recipient on the journey from being a discarded, unwanted animal to a beloved pet with a forever place in the heart and home of a family.

*To contribute online: Visit our Facebook page; the DONATE tab is under the cover photo: https://www.facebook.com/AnimalAlliance/

Or visit our website: http://www.animalallianceofgreatersyracuse.org

*To contribute by mail: AAGS, P.O. Box 94, Liverpool, NY 13088

*For all contributions, please note “Leg Up” in “Notes to Seller” or on the check.

Won’t you give a leg up?

Christmas Pet Safety Tips


No one wants to end up in our emergency room over the holidays!  Consider these risks to reduce the likelihood that we will need to see you!

Holiday Ornaments: Consider any new decoration you put out! This is especially important with young dogs and cats who are typically more boisterous and curious, and also with any pets new to the household.

  • Candles are an obvious risk. Place carefully and always supervise or consider flameless candles.
  • Ornaments pose several risks. How breakable? How dangerously chewable? Are they toxic? Homemade salt dough ornaments are extremely toxic.
  • New cords (for lights, etc.) can and will be investigated by a curious young dog or cat. Also assess risk of entanglement.
  • Tinsel: If you own a cat, forgo the tinsel. What looks like a shiny toy to your cat can prove deadly if ingested. Tinsel does not pose a poisoning risk, but is thin and sharp and can easily wrap itself around the intestines or ball up in the stomach once ingested. Many unfortunate cats have required emergency surgery to save them once the tinsel has caused obstruction or other problems.
  • Imported Snow Globes: Recently, imported snow globes were found to contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol.) As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze when ingested by a cat or a tablespoon or two for a dog (depending on their size), can be fatal. Be sure snow globes are placed where they cannot be knocked over and broken.
  • Liquid Potpourri: Filling your house with holiday scents is wonderful, but heating your scented oils in a simmer pot can pose risks. Scented oils can cause serious harm to your cat, with just a few licks resulting in severe chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors. Dogs aren’t as sensitive, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry. Simmer natural scents (orange, cinnamon, etc.) on the stove, or scent your home with a non-toxic candle kept safely out of your pet’s reach.

Holiday Foods: With the holiday season comes a delightful variety of baked goods, chocolates, and other rich, fattening foods. Do your best to keep your pet on his or her regular diet over the holidays and do not let family and friends sneak in treats.

  • Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical highly toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea but large amounts can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias.
  • Holiday baked goods are typically too high in sugar to be good for our pets in any form. Increasingly, many sugarless gums and candies also contain xylitol, a sweetener which is toxic to dogs. It causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and potential liver failure. It is also contained in some brands of peanut butter.
  • Grapes and raisins can result in kidney failure in dogs -- another check against fruitcake!
  • Alcohol: Because alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, it affects pets quickly. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure.
  • Yeasted dough: Raw dough can expand in a pet’s stomach and require emergency surgery. It may also cause alcohol poisoning as the yeast reacts in the stomach. Make sure that rising dough is well out of reach.
  • Overfeeding and “Garbage Gut”: A very common reason for a holiday trip to the veterinary emergency room unfolds innocently in a busy holiday household. The meal is over and everyone is too full to pay attention to where the leftover food is in relation to your pets. Your pets have been waiting literally all day for such an opportunity, and are busily helping themselves to the overstuffed trash container and/or the leftovers on the counter. While dogs are usually the main offenders in cases of “garbage gut,” cats are not immune! Within a few hours some combination of vomiting and diarrhea requires a trip to the emergency room. Leftover, fatty meat scraps can produce severe inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) leading to abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody diarrhea. It’s one thing if you occasionally give a little nibble of something to your pet, but if all 20 party guests decide to do the same, you can wind up with a seriously ill pet.

Holiday Plants:  Cats are usually most apt to "sample" your houseplants.  Veterinary advice should be sought if any of these plants are suspected of being ingested!

  • Lilies (including tiger, Asiatic, Stargazer, Easter and Day lilies) are the most dangerous plants for cats. The ingestion of one to two leaves or flower petals is enough to cause sudden kidney failure. We do NOT recommend any lilies in cat owning households!
  • Daffodils (including paperwhites) can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and even possible cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression. The bulb, plant, and flower are all toxic.
  • Holly is toxic, and can cause severe gastrointestinal upset and even heart arrhythmias.
  • Mistletoe: Both berries and leaves are toxic, and symptoms of toxicity include gastrointestinal upset, difficulty breathing, slowed heart rate, low blood pressure, and odd behavior (possible hallucinations).
  • Amaryllis causes vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, and tremors. The entire plant including the bulb is dangerous
  • Christmas tree and tree water: Bacteria, molds, and fertilizers can cause your pet to become ill with only a few laps, and both dogs and cats are at risk. Chewing on the tree itself can cause some more mild oral and gastrointestinal upset, and there is a small chance that needles can cause punctures and other gastrointestinal problems.
  • Though they have a bad rap, poinsettia plants are only mildly toxic. The effects are typically “self limiting” – chewing them is unpleasant, they taste bad, and then whatever little amount is eaten is fairly quickly thrown up. Pesticides on the plants are likely of more concern.

Houseguests and Holiday Hustle and Bustle Any time you stray from your normal routine or introduce people unfamiliar with your routine into your household, there is the possibility of your pets finding some trouble, including:

  • Escape
  • Overfeeding of unfamiliar or inappropriate foods
  • Ingesting guest’s medication
  • Stress!

Gates and doors left open, dietary indiscretion, guests leaving their medications in a place where your pet can “investigate”, and a host of other scenarios can create problems for your pets.

Keep your pet’s ID tags current and on your pet, and help your guests “Pet Proof” their belongings. This is the time to alert your guests of any “special” habits your pet may have (sock stealing/eating, etc.) so they can prepare.

Also remember that changes in routine can stress your pets, especially cats and older pets. Consider giving them a quiet space of their own to get away from the festivities if they don’t seem relaxed and content.

A little bit of prevention can help ensure that your holidays are happy, healthy, and spent at home!

VMC's April 2015 Patient of the Month

Conoco Conoco spent some time with our Emergency and Surgery services, and we all loved him!

Conoco's Story:

Conoco developed lower urinary tract signs in January, which prompted evaluation and treatment at another clinic. At that time he was hospitalized and treated with a urinary catheter, IV fluids and medications. He has since been monitored and further treated by his primary care veterinarian Dr. Ryan at Beaver Lake Animal Hospital where dietary management was instituted. He re-presented on February 23 for similar signs but was able to pass urine; his medications were restarted. On February 26 he presented to Dr. Ryan where a mucus plug was dislodged from his urethra and he was able to urinate. He was restarted on prednisone, prazosin and started on amitryptiline. This morning, however, he was growling and straining to urinate with no urination possible. He was then referred by Dr. Ryan to the Veterinary Medical Center for a Perineal Urethrostomy with Dr. Robinson who is a board certified surgeon. Conoco recovered well from surgery and was hospitalized for four days. I want to sincerely thank Dr. Robinson and all the numerous staff for wonderful care and respect to our needs during Conoco’s “ordeal”! What a top notch facility and the staff was extraordinary! What spoke volumes to me was Conoco was not used to strangers yet he gradually offered his belly to the staff that took such amazing care of him. Your care went beyond medicine it included love and kindness which I know had a hand in our being able to have more time with our beloved Conoco. I know that you can’t save the world however, sometimes you can save someone’s world.. ~Conoco’s Family

Conoco's Problems: Repeated Urethral Obstruction Secondary to Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease

Conoco's Treatment: Board Certified Surgical Intervention Perineal Urethrostomy

Conoco and friend

We love happy endings!


10 Tips for Feline Weight Loss


Did you know that approximately 35% of adult cats are overweight? If your cat suffers from obesity, know that you are not alone. In cats, as in people, obesity results when energy intake (through food and treats) exceeds energy expenditure (through exercise). Therefore, the best ways to promote weight loss in cats is to limit food intake and to increase exercise.

Limit food intake

Feed multiple small meals per day instead of allowing free access to unlimited food. Only the rare cat can resist the urge to overeat when provided with access to a 24 hour buffet.

Limit treats and table scraps. Did you know that feeding your cat just a 1 oz piece of cheese is equivalent to you or I eating 2 ½ hamburgers?! Due to their small body size even the smallest of treats can pack quite the caloric punch. Remember- cat nip is a calorie free treat!

Try switching to canned food. Canned food is high in moisture and protein, both of which have been shown to limit hunger. Also, it is lower in calories than the same amount of dry food. Importantly, cats should be offered canned food at first in addition to their normal dry. If they eat the canned food willingly you are free to substitute one or more meals per day with canned food.  Most cats should have no more than 1 large (8 oz) can of food per day or two small (4 oz) cans total.

Use measuring cups instead of “scoops.” In baking, 1 cup = 8 ounces. When your veterinarian hears that you are feeding 1/4th a cup of food we may assume you are feeding 1/4th of a measuring cup, or 2 ounces. Because dry food is very high in calories, cats should rarely eat more than ½ cup per day, total!

Try using an automatic feeder. An automatic feeder that can be set to dispense an exact amount of food at specific times of the day will not only control the calories that your cat receives but will also take you out of the feeding picture. This can be particularly useful when your kitty is begging early in the morning. *Note- avoid automatic feeders that dispense food based on motion sensing or pressing a lever- this is similar to a never-ending supply of quarters and a vending machine.

Cat tree

Increase activity level

Purchase or build a cat tree. A cat tree with multiple levels, climbing and scratching options, and dangling toys is an essential jungle gym of entertainment and activity for your cat.

Purchase or create toys that dispense food while the cat plays. Hollow toys can be filled with food that is dispensed only when the cat plays with and rolls it around. A water bottle with the cap on and small holes drilled in works fine. Remember that food used within the toy should be factored into the daily calorie count.

Cat Toy

Move the food dish around the house each day to make your kitty work for each meal. Moving the food dish to new location- upstairs then downstairs then upstairs again not only stimulates the cats’ natural hunting behavior but forces them to walk to the food dish each time.

Set aside playtime for your cat. Many cats love to chase after paper balls, feather toys, or the light from the laser pointer. Start slowly with 2-3 minutes each day and work up to 10-20 minutes per day. Interactive play promotes chasing, running, and jumping.

Arrange a hunt. Purchase a couple of crickets from your local pet store and release them in a confined space (such as a bedroom) with your cat. Crickets are a natural food source for cats in the wild and your cat will not be able to resist the urge to hunt. Note that younger crickets are less likely to chirp, but of course—be prepared for the occasional escapee. If you do not like the idea of releasing crickets you can still set up a “treasure hunt” by hiding small treats and cat-nip toys around the house and letting your kitty search for rewards. 

This blog post was written by Heather White, DVM, DACVIM, of VMC's Internal Medicine team.