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Tips to Prevent Foreign Bodies in Cats

Sam Cat_two kittensCats love to explore, hide, and get into every nook and cranny in our homes. While our kitties have great fun finding new spaces and discovering high places on which to perch—it can sometimes lead to trouble. Cats can ingest dangerous objects without owners ever realizing it since most of us do not crate our cats when we are gone.

Here are symptoms to look for if you think your cat has eaten something he/she shouldn’t have:

  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargic/depressed
  • Painful abdomen
  • Straining to defecate, diarrhea, or constipation
  • Behavioral changes—especially when their abdomen is touched


The most common foreign bodies in cats are:

  • String
  • Carpet
  • Plastic


Keep your cat safe without having to limit their access in your home when you are away by following these tips:

  • Never leave string where your cat can get it.
  • Never leave small pieces of plastic or garbage sitting out.
  • Never leave your cat alone with toys that have string or yarn. Rawhides also present an obstructive risk. Only use these items under supervision.
  • Examine all toys for damage every time you give them to your cats.
  • If you suspect your cat has swallowed string, part of a toy, or any item in your home—call your veterinarian right away.
  • If you see string dangling from your cat’s mouth or rectum, do not pull! Call your local ER veterinary clinic immediately.

How to Help Your Cat Recover Comfortably at Home

Tweedy FB_EVCMany of our cats have the run of the house.  We are not used to restricting their activity or the areas they can access.  Here are some helpful tips to follow when you bring your cat home after surgery or being treated at the hospital:

  • Wearing an E-Collar:  Cats are master contortionists and diligent groomers.  It is imperative if your pet has a wound or sutures that you do not allow them to lick it.   Make sure your cat has a proper-fitting e-collar.  No more than two fingers should be able to fit between the collar and your cat’s neck or they will be able to slip it off.  Also, their nose should NOT come past the edge of the collar.
  • Confinement: If you have instructions to make sure your cat “rests” while he or she recovers, you will need to confine them.  This works best by providing them with access to only one small room of your house.  The bedroom or bathroom provide the most comfortable situation.  Family rooms or kitchens are too open.  Provide them with their favorite soft bedding, two litter boxes, food, water, and a window to look out when possible.  Allow them access to the rest of the house only when you can monitor them closely for the entire time and then return them to their room when you cannot be right there with them.
  • Solidarity: To properly recover your cat may need to be away from other housemates so they don’t run, jump, play, fight, or allow the other cats to groom their wounds.  This means keeping other cats and pets out of the assigned room and only allow contact under very close supervision.
  • Monitoring: It is important to make sure you can report back to your veterinarian about how much food and water your cat is consuming.  You may also need to keep a very close eye on how much urine and/or stool your cat is producing.  To do this, your cat must be the ONLY pet in the house to have access to the assigned litter boxes, food, and water bowls.

Remember, these situations are only for a short period of time—often about two weeks.  If you follow your veterinarian’s instructions and the above guidelines closely your cat will be back to normal in no time!

What You Need to Know About Preventing and Treating Snakebites

Caution_Venomous_Snakes_SignTo prevent snakebites—remove areas around your home where snakes may hide such as fallen trees, tall grass, rocky areas, standing water, and deep holes.


If You Suspect a Snake Has Bitten Your Dog or Cat

Look for swelling, redness, tenderness, and pain around the wound; two puncture wounds from the snake’s fangs; and signs of nausea or vomiting.


If a Snake Has Bitten Your Pet

  • Stay calm! Pets can sense and respond to your anxiety.  We want them to stay as calm as possible.
  • If you see the snake—note its size, color, and pattern but do not get too close as it may strike out in fear or self-preservation.
  • DO NOT put ice on the puncture wounds.
  • Get your pet to the emergency veterinary clinic as soon as possible but drive safely.  The sooner you get there—the better your pet’s chances are for survival.

Encouraging Your Cat to Eat

Sam Cat_1Just as you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make them drink— the same is true for our feline companions. Cats may lose their appetite due to:

  • Illness
  • Wearing an e-collar
  • New environment
  • Change in diet
  • Old age


It is important for cats to eat at least a small amount every day so they do not develop hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease. Other conditions, like diabetes, require owners to monitor their cats’ food intake. Try the following to encourage your cat to eat:

  • Make their food smell appealing by adding tuna or chicken water
  • Warm it up with warm water or in the microwave (be careful not to overheat it!)
  • Add a small amount of baby food, canned food, broth, or shredded chicken
  • Remove the e-collar (if your pet needs to wear one) for only a brief amount of time to allow them to eat
  • Feed them by hand or from a utensil
  • Give them their privacy and make sure no other animals are around. Allow them to eat in a secluded area.
  • If you are changing to a new food—do so slowly over time. Add the new food to the old food and slowly increase the amount of new food and decrease the amount of old food until your cat is accustomed to the new taste and texture


Always follow your veterinarian’s instructions when feeding a prescription diet. If your cat is not eating after a couple of days, call the office and update your doctor and ask for suggestions about what else you can give your pet and how to proceed.

Dr. Amy Pike Joins the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia to Lead Behavior Medicine Division

2016-07-26 07.18.24Amy Pike DVM, DACVB, one of fewer than 70 board-certified veterinary behaviorists throughout North America, joins the Veterinary Referral Center of Northern Virginia on September 1st to lead the new Behavior Medicine Division.  A U.S. Army veteran, Dr. Pike has 13 years of small animal and behavior medicine veterinary experience.  On a referral basis, she offers:

  • Diagnostic and Therapeutic Services
  • Behavior Consultation
  • Behavior Modification
  • Pharmaceuticals, Nutraceuticals, Pheromones, and Behavior Modification Products
  • Follow-Up Services to Meet Pets’ Specific Needs

Dr. Pike can be reached at 703.361.0710 or

Is Your Pet Overheating?

How to help your pet in the hot weatherDogs and cats have a normal resting temperature between 99.5 and 102.5 (103 for cats), but they can still overheat outside just as easily as a person.  In some cases, animals may be more susceptible to the heat because of their hair coats, age, and body condition.  Some dogs may continue to work/play outside despite a dangerously high core body temperature.  These pets may appear normal to their owners at a glance.  Here is what to look out for:

  • Rapid wide mouth panting that does not slow down once out of the heat
  • Bright red gums or pale white gums
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Depression or weakness or lethargy (not responding to your call, acting like they can’t hear you, etc.)
  • Dragging paws or keeping head very low or stumbling


If you think your pet is overheating, remove them from the heat as quickly as possible.  You can take their temperature rectally with a normal thermometer.  DO NOT submerse your pet in cold water, this can cause hypothermia and shock!

Here are steps you can take if your pet’s temperature is around 104.0:

  • Encourage them to lie down in a cool area with air conditioning
  • Wipe rubbing alcohol on their paws
  • Place a fan near them
  • Place an ice pack on the inside of their hind legs and/or around their neck
  • Encourage them to drink water and chew on ice cubes
  • Stop cooling measures once your pet reaches 103.5
  • Call your veterinarian if your pet does not recover fully in ten to 15 minutes


Take your pet to the Emergency Center immediately if:

  • Temperature is 104.5 or higher
  • Vomiting blood or blood in diarrhea
  • Urine is color of coffee or bright red
  • Difficulty breathing or turns blue
  • Refuses to eat normally
  • Does not recover fully even if temperature quickly returns to normal


Grooming Is Important for Your Pets

Ava CryingAll dogs and cats—no matter what texture or length coat they have—need to be groomed on a regular basis. Brushing your pet should be fun, easy and something you can do at home. Here are some helpful grooming tips:

  • Brush out any mats that can cause irritation or even a skin infection if left unattended
  • Check for fleas, ticks, and other parasites
  • Monitor any bumps or growths
  • Check for any injuries or lacerations
  • Use this as valuable bonding time with your pet

Regular grooming helps keep your pet cool in the summer, reduces shedding and hairballs, encourages a healthy, shiny coat, and makes your pet feel good!