Have You Ever Heard of Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures?

Birman CatDoes the sound of someone chewing their food or tapping their fingernails make you cringe? Is there a common sound that doesn’t typically bother others, but can easily and quickly send you over the edge? If you have a kitty companion, you may not be alone.

Discovered in the United Kingdom

 A bizarre seizure disorder affecting felines was discovered a few years ago in the United Kingdom. Common, everyday sounds seemed to trigger these epileptic-like seizures, accompanied with various symptoms such as loss of balance, convulsions, running in circles, restlessness and freezing in place. Noises that induced these seizures included things as simple as the clicking of a TV remote control, rustling of a newspaper and a variety of other normal household sounds.

Researchers began investigating this odd phenomenon and soon learned pet parents from around the world witnessed the same reactions to certain sounds in their own felines. The one factor almost all cases had in common was the affected cat’s veterinarian having no explanation for the condition, and the general disbelief that sound was the trigger.

FARS, a.k.a. the Tom and Jerry Syndrome

With these findings, the researchers became even more determined to study the anomaly and find answers. They collected data from 96 affected cats and concluded that some cats do indeed suffer from seizures caused by sounds. The disorder was named Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures (FARS), otherwise known as “Tom and Jerry Syndrome.”

Research found some sounds did indeed cause the afflicted cats in the study to experience non-convulsive seizures, brief jerks of a muscle or group of muscles, or full-body seizures that lasted up to several minutes. The sounds that most often trigged these seizures were:

· Aluminum foil being crinkled

· Tapping of a metal spoon against a ceramic bowl

· Clinking or tapping of glass

· Crinkling of a plastic bag or paper

· Typing on a keyboard

· The clicking of computer mouse

· Clinking of coins and keys

· Hammering of nails

· A person clicking their tongue

Among the 96 cats studied, all were affected by one or more of these sounds, but the Birman breed proved to be particularly vulnerable.  The cats in the study all ranged in age from 10 to 19 years, with the average age being 15, leading researchers to conclude a seizure disorder may be overlooked by veterinarians as older animals naturally tend to have other health issues that are more obvious and recognizable.

Thanks to the UK researchers, FARS is now a known and recognizable disorder and the kitties who suffer can be treated with sound aversion and anti-seizure medication.

If your kitty companion experiences any of the signs that go along with FARS, seek veterinary attention and mention your suspicion that your kitty may have the disorder.

The Battle Against Bloat

Dog BloatGastric Dilatation Volvulus, commonly referred to as dog bloat, is one of the most heart-wrenching medical emergencies that can be experienced by a pet parent. One moment, your dog is healthy and happy, and the next he is fighting a battle between life and death; a battle in which the odds are stacked against him.

What is Bloat?

Imagine your canine companion’s stomach expanding like one of those balloons clowns use to make balloon animals. Then imagine the clown twisting the balloon to make his animal creation. This is similar to bloat, with your dog’s stomach rapidly expanding with fluid and gas, then being twisted on each end. When this happens, the stomach contents fester, pressure builds, and the blood supply to the stomach is cut off. As a result, a portion or even all of the stomach may die.

Sadly, a domino effect then begins and, if left untreated, bloat can lead to death within just a few short hours. Even sadder, up to half of the dogs who suffer from bloat will not survive, even with emergency treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Bloat?

Keep in mind, some dog breeds are more susceptible to bloat than others, particularly large chested breeds like Great Danes, Weimaraners, Rottweilers and Boxers. If you’re unsure if bloat may be a possible problem for your pooch, consult with your vet.

Bloat develops suddenly and is more common in middle-aged or senior dogs. Often times, the first symptoms may appear after your dog has eaten a large meal, ingested a large amount of water, or has been exercising vigorously before or after eating.

Be aware of these five early warning signs:

  1. Your dog is drooling more than usual.
  2. Your dog is retching, but unable to vomit.
  3. Your dog’s stomach is tight or swollen.
  4. Your dog is visibly tired but can’t seem to rest.
  5. Your dog appears to be uncomfortable or in pain. He may groan, whine or grunt – particularly when his stomach is touched or pressed.

As the problem progresses, your dog may go into shock. His gums and tongue may appear pale, his heart rate my increase greatly, his pulse weaken, and he may experience difficulty breathing, and perhaps even collapse.

Even if you have just the slightest suspicion of bloat, take your pooch to the nearest veterinary clinic immediately. If the stomach has twisted, emergency surgery is the only option.

What Can You Do to Prevent Bloat?

Unfortunately, there is no clinically proven cause for bloat in dogs. There is debate in the pet medical community about genetics, temperament, stress and a host of other factors.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to try to prevent your dog from getting bloat, including:

  • Feed your dog a few times per day rather than just one big meal.
  • Slow down a speedy eater. Try a slow feeding dog bowl or put a tennis bowl in your dog’s food dish to slow his roll when it comes to scarfing down his food.
  • Provide a raised feeding station for your dog.
  • Try soaking your dog’s dry kibble in water, or try a wet food diet.
  • Don’t allow your dog to drink too much water at once.
  • Prevent your dog from exerting excessive energy just before or just after eating.
  • Consider preventative surgery. If your pooch is an at-risk breed or has a close family member who suffered from bloat, preventative gastropexy may be the answer. During the procedure, a veterinary surgeon will stitch the side of your dog’s stomach to the abdominal wall, preventing the stomach from twisting.

Bloat is a scary situation that many pet parents don’t consider, and few are prepared to recognize. Keep your dog’s best interests at heart by doing what you can to prevent bloat and, if the situation arises, to recognize it so that every effort can be made to save your precious pooch.

Believe It or Not, There IS a Right Way to Hold a Leash

Yes, you read that correctly… there is a right way, and several wrong ways, to hold your dog’s leash. Holding a leash may seem like a basic task, but the way in which you do so can mean the difference between the safety of you and your dog, and possible disaster.

I know, right now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Seriously? How can holding my dog’s leash possibly be dangerous?” Many people don’t even think about how they hold a leash; they simply do what’s comfortable. But, consider these tidbits of information:

  • No matter how big or small your pooch, NEVER wrap the leash around your arm, wrist or any part of your body in general. You may feel doing so gives you a good grip, but it can easily result in you being dragged by your dog (say, for instance, Rover spots a squirrel and quickly takes off after it with you in tow), which can lead to something as serious as a broken bone to a minor dislocated digit. Whether you’re a pet parent to a tiny Toy Poodle or a monstrous Mastiff, being pulled abruptly by your pooch can happen, and the results can be disastrous.
  • Rather than wrapping the leash, put only your thumb through the loop of the leash, with the leash lying in the palm of your hand, forming a fist, as shown here. If you need additional support, hold the leash below the handle with your other hand.

dog leash safetyWith your hand properly gripping the leash, hold your hand on your abdomen, its exact position depending on your dog’s size and shape. Typically, it is ideal to hold your hand a bit above your navel, but you may find it best to hold it a little lower if you have a particularly large and/or strong dog. This hand placement will give you better control.

  • Speaking of control, many pet parents think they have greater control over their dog if they hold the leash tightly, but usually the opposite is true. Most dogs tend to struggle against the pressure on the neck when the leash is being held too tightly, which will only cause him to pull harder. Ironically, using just a little bit of control may be the best way to control your dog during your walks. Just remember, a tight leash tells your dog there’s something to be anxious about.
  • If your dog tends to pull, work on teaching him how to heel on command.

Bottom line: when it comes to walking your dog, learn how to take the lead (pun intended!). Proper leash holding and the right amount of control can result in delightful walks for you and your precious pooch!

Enhancing Your Senior Pet’s Quality of Life

Senior

Have you noticed your aging pet’s personality changing? Is Gus becoming grouchy, or has Cutie Pie been more cantankerous? As our cuddly companions age, we have a tendency to tolerate the various changes in their behavior and physical aptitude, conceding to them as inevitable factors of aging, rather than challenge these changes.

Your pet feels the effects of aging, just as we do. Wear and tear on her body takes its toll, making arthritis and muscle degeneration common in our senior canine companions and feline friends. The discomfort that comes along with these ailments can turn Rover from his usual affectionate, gentle self to more of a grumpy loner. And, to make matters worse, the discomfort will likely impede your pet’s desire to move, which will spark further degradation of the muscles, which will reduce bone and joint support. It’s a vicious circle of events!

Accept the Change?

Should we, as loving pet parents, simply sit back and accept these unwelcome changes in our fur friends? NO! The physical and psychological symptoms experienced by pets as they age can come to a halt, and maybe even reverse, with weight control and regular exercise. Here are a few tips that should help Fluffy and Fido feel better in no time:

  • Keep your senior pet dry and warm at all times. Extreme temperature changes and even dampness can cause your pet’s arthritis to flare-up, just as it can humans. Heating pads and warm water soaks can help relax muscles and increases blood flow, which can help alleviate arthritic pain.
  • Help your pet maintain a healthy weight, as added weight adds undue stress to your pet’s joints. Most major pet food companies offer “senior” brands that are lower in calories, higher in fiber, and contain added vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Ask your veterinarian for advice on which brand will be most beneficial to your furry family member.
  • Become a pet masseuse. Massaging your pet will move fluids through his muscles and remove tension from the tendons that surround the joints. One area at a time, rub around the joints to warm the underlying tissue. Next, place your hands over the area and apply gentle compressions over the area, establishing a rhythm as you press and release. Once you complete a full-body massage, end the experience with soft caressing to soothe your pet’s nerves. Regular massages for your pet may help prevent and/or alleviate the stiffness and pain that accompanies arthritis.
  • Invest in an orthopedic pet bed, which provide extra cushioned support and reduce stress on pressure points.

Sadly, there is no cure for the inevitable aging process, but there are effective practices that can make it less stressful on your pet. Your four-legged friend has blessed you with the best years of his life. Do all you can to ensure his senior years are comfortable and pleasant.