3 Ways to Test If Your Cat Can See
“Doctor, how would I know if my cat went blind?” asked a VirtuaVet Reader in October 2013.
Study the four pictures with this VirtuaVet story, and tell me who can see and who cannot.
How hard is it to tell? If you doubt your cat’s ability to see, or you wonder if your feline five-a.m. yowler is uncomfortable and maybe cannot see as well as they used to, you need to study these tips.
Cotton Ball Test
1) Obtain a cotton ball without your cat knowing you did it. Sneakily toss the cotton ball in front of your cat to one side. If your cat is not distracted by something else and does not turn to look at the cotton ball, try the second side. If they still do not indicate they saw the cotton ball, they might be blind.
Laser Pointer Test
2) Can your cat track a laser pointer?
“Many cats love playing with the red dot of light from a laser penlight,” says Doc Truli. “If your cat suddenly ignores the light, they might be visually impaired.”
The Menace Response
3) Does your cat have a menace response?
A what? (That sounds dangerous.)
It’s really not! A natural protective response of mammals on Earth is to blink when something is too close to the eye. It is an automatic defense mechanism that the conscious mind cannot choose to control. That makes it a good test for vision.
How the menace response works: the eye’s retina senses light, it tells the eyes (both) to blink. This is important because you have to cover one eye in order to do the test to the other eye.
Hold your cat gently and softly cover one eye. Gently, without creating a puff of air, waggle your finger in front of the ‘good’ eye. In a normal pet, the eye will blink in unison. This is called the menace response and it proves some light registers on the retina. The menace response does not prove a kitty has 20/20 vision!
The eye will blink if you do not cover the other eye well enough and the other eye sees your maneuvering. Be certain your kitty was not just blinking because you created a small breeze by the eye. Repeated tests may help.
If you suspect your cat is going blind or has gone blind, your trusted local veterinarian can examine your cat to help determine the cause and potential treatment for the blindness.
Signs Your Cat Could Have Liver Failure
Abigail looked sick. She sat hunched over on the stainless steel examination table. She would have blinked at the bright fluorescent light and sniffed the strange disinfectant on the edge of the table, but the 7-year-old short-haired tabby cat just did not care.
“Abby hasn’t wanted to touch anything but the juice on her food for a week,” said Abigail’s worried dad. “She’s never been sick a day in her life. I don’t understand how she could get sick so fast.” Veterinarians hear this every day, by the way.
Doc Truli asked,” Does Abigail vomit?”
“Yes, but she does that anyway about once a week.” That’s not normal.
“Do you see the yellow on her eyelid?” asked Doc Truli.
Abigail’s dad winced and said,”I really don’t like looking at eyeballs.” Lots of people feel the same way.
“Well I can see the normal white color of her eyelid has turned yellow,” said Doc Truli.
“Why is that?” said dad.
“Yellow in the membranes and tissues of the body is called jaundice (pronounced jawn-diss). There’s too much bilirubin (pronounced billy-roo-bin) pigment in the blood. Bilirubin is a waste product of metabolism. Either too much blood is being destroyed by the body and processed through the liver, the liver is not doing its job, or the bilirubin cannot get out of the liver because of a blocked or static bile flow (for instance, gall bladder disease). We need to run some tests to find out the cause of the jaundice.”
The very first place you can see jaundice in a cat is the back arches of the oral cavity (back of the mouth).
Ecchymosis (pronounced eck-ee-mo-sis) are red, flat spotches of blood just under the surface of the skin. Like a bruise, but not pooled blood, and like an abrasion, but not actually bleeding out of the skin. Imagine the tiny capillaries that carry one blood cell after another (not enough room for side-by-side) just leaking the red blood cells under the skin. You end up seeing the accumulation of these tiny bleeds.
If the blood pools in tiny one to five millimeter areas, this is petechia (pronounced peh-tee-key-ah). Bigger areas are ecchymosis.
These red areas are caused by the lack of clotting ability of the blood. In the case of liver failure, since the liver makes many of the clotting factors, if the liver is not working right, then the blood will not clot properly. (There are many other causes of ecchymosis- so see a local veterinarian you trust if you see this pattern on your pet’s skin.)
As soon as we shaved Abigail’s inner thigh in order to see her vein more clearly to obtain a blood sample, we saw the ecchymosis. Other areas we could easily see the ecchymosis were her belly and chest area where her fur was naturally thinner and white. In fact, Abby’s whole body was covered with ecchymosis under her fur. She was one sick kitty, indeed.
Tests revealed the source of Abigail’s jaundice and ecchymosis was liver failure. We identified a blood parasite as the cause *. After a week of intensive care and appropriate antibiotics, Abigail made a full recovery. She was one lucky kitty, indeed!
**There are many possible blood parasites and they vary from country to country, so it is irrelevant to publish here, seek local veterinary help regarding your cat’s situation.
Another Ear Infection?
On telephone: “Arnold’s ears are dirty. Can you ask the doctor if we can have the medicine that worked last time?”
As veterinary professionals, we hear this question every day. It’s almost hard not to snap back, “The doctor needs to see your dog to diagnose the problem and prescribe the correct medicine.” After all, it’s the right thing to say.
It sounds harsh to you, right? After all, your dog has had ear infections before. The doctor just looks in there and prescribes expensive medicine and you pay, again and again. How frustrating. Why can’t your veterinarian just let you have refills since the same medicine works every time, right? Sometimes, they do the “ear swab” test and charge even more money. Sometimes they change the medicine. It seems to result in the same thing: more money, temporary relief, the problem returns after the meds run out. Right? That certainly looks like what’s going on.
Would you like to know what’s going on from the veterinarian’s point of view?
Well, then. Read on. Read more…
Precious the Yorkie Had Bad Breath
“You can smell dental disease way before you can see it,” said Doc Truli upon meeting Precious, an 8-year-old female spayed Yorkshire Terrier. Precious saw the groomer at least once monthly. She ate only organic food. She drank reverse osmosis water and distilled water. She played at the neighbor’s house every day with her Poodle best friend. In short, Precious was well taken-care-of. She enjoyed her life.
Precious never had her teeth brushed. She never had a deep dental cleaning. Precious was a Yorkshire Terrier, one of Doc Truli’s Top Ten Dog Breeds Prone to Periodontal Disease.
“She doesn’t let me brush her teeth,” said Precious’ mom, Debbie. Of course not, her teeth hurt. Read more…
Tis is the third part of a three part series to help you decide the right way for you to say goodbye to your elderly or infirm pet. Doc Truli never intends for you to just ket your pet pass away because you did not seek local, trusted veterinary advice.
5 3 Pros of Letting Your Pet Pass Away Naturally
1) If there are no house calls available in your area and you cannot get your pet to the hospital (too large, for example) then this is a good option for you. Call your vet and be sure your pet is not in pain.
2) Very private.
3) No responsibility to “sign on the dotted line.” Many people feel guilty in American culture making the decision to euthanize another living creature. Doc Truli’s clients express a religious or cultural belief that they are not worthy of making the decision of when to euthanize a pet. They want the pet to “decide” by dying at home, preferably peacefully in their sleep.
4) Readers will have to come up with more. The more I write about it, the more I cannot justify NOT having your vet at least come out and give the shot and make sure everything goes smoothly.
5 Cons of Letting Your Pet Pass Away Naturally
1) Pain, fear, anxiety
2) You will not know when it will happen. Your vet cannot predict hours, days, weeks….
3) Heart attack and seizure are often involved
4) Will you know when they are dead? Are you sure?
5) What will the kids think? What if they find your pet dead? (Doc Truli did this as a kid. That was weird.)
If you decide to not euthanize your pet, your trusted veterinarian is still a good source of advice. Your pet may need anti-anxiety meds, pain medication, or protection from injury and pain in the end. Please consult with your vet about the likely course of action. Your veterinarian may be able to advise you about how the end will come, if not when.
If you need more guidance after your vet consult, please see VirtuaVet’s Guide to Quality of Life
Last week, VirtuaVet discussed 5 Pros and 5 Cons of hospital pet euthanasia. This week is part two of a three-part weekly series on pet euthanasia options. Let’s examine 5 pros and 5 cons of house call euthanasia,
5 Advantages of House Call Pet Euthanasia
1) Decreased anxiety in your pet’s natural setting. You choose the location, the bedding, who is present, mood music.
2) No transport to the hospital. Especially for immobile or large pets (like a horse) this becomes a huge plus!
3) No emotion-laden driving home for you.
4) Easier for other pets and children to say goodbye while in their own home setting. They don’t have to focus as much on what’s actually happening.
5 Disadvantages of House Call Euthanasia
1) Scheduling. You may have to wait until the end of a day or another day for your veterinarian or a house-call veterinarian to be able to get to your house. Or the service just might not be available in your area. And it will cost more at home because of the time the doctor and nurse are away form the office (seeing one patient, instead of 3-4 during the same time, means you must pay for 4 visits usually, instead of one.)
2) Sadness and emotional event happening in your house or on your property means you may always associate that spot with what happened there. This may be a plus or a minus, depending on how you take things.
3) You need to arrange electricity (for a shaver so the vet can see the vein), lighting (which is waaay brighter than normal house lighting), clean up hair and urine and feces after, and maybe have a spot where the vet can get up and down off the floor (at least offer to help an older vet up -the knees ain’t what they used to be, especially after floor procedures!)
4) Payment over the phone, or a portable credit card device (if your vet is modern), or come to the office.
5) Body care. Your vet may be able to put the remains of your pet in their vehicle. But you may need to call a pet cremation service and arrange for pick-up
Help Your Veterinarian Have a Smooth House Call
Help your veterinarian by providing payment in advance. Make your decisions in advance about body care after.
1) Choose a spot near electricity or provide a long extension cord.
2) Your normal house lamps or a flashlight will make the job MUCH more difficult. Provide bright lighting if you can (I bring a surgical battery-operated head lamp. You can get them online for under $20 these days.)
3) Choose a location with access to a wide walkway or doorway so your pet’s remains with or without a stretcher will fit to be carried to the vet’s vehicle. If you have a family member with a good back, the help would be much appreciated!
4) Keep children and other pets from getting in the way.
5) While it is wonderful for the vet to be a “Part of your family,” they have other pets to help. Please don’t have your vet stay for a prayer service or a memorial or a wake without first asking them if they want to participate. (Doc Truli once spent 4 hours at a lady’s house after her Himalayan cat passed away for a Buddhist spirit-release ceremony. Beautiful, but Doc’s own cats sat at home alone waiting for her to return!)
***Almost forgot the most important thing!!!! Do not smoke during your house call. While it’s your house, you are poisoning your doctor. Doc Truli, personally, gets sick for days just walking into a house where people have smoked. It’s the #1 reason she does not prefer house calls!
For more help on decisions regarding pet end-of-life, please read VirtuaVet’s Pet Quality of Life.
What Happens When It’s Your Pet’s “Time?”
19-year-old Randy visited Doc Truli twice yearly for his physical exams and blood tests. Once a year from the time he was 6 until he was 19, he stayed for a day at the animal hospital and went under anesthesia for a deep dental cleaning. He lost his first tooth at 17 1/2 years old! He really stayed in good health for an ancient Himalayan house cat.
Now, at 19-years-old, the seal-point Himalayan gentleman started to slow down. His kidneys were not as strong as they used to be and he absolutely refused to let his family give him treatments with fluids at home (subcutaneous fluids). He would bite and scratch and run and hide for days if they even tried to holds him for treatments. Doc Truli and Julia, Randy’s mom, knew he would eventually become uncomfortable from the kidney disease.
The question became, when it is his “time,” should Randy pass away naturally at home, or should we meet at the house or at the hospital to put him down?