Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Pet News

Advances in pet health and welfare range from a treatment for feline infectious peritonitis, to new pain medications, to preventing allergies to cats

Andrews McMeel Syndication

As we enter a new decade, we asked experts what they see as the best news for pets currently and what’s on the horizon.

-- For cat lovers, the big news is that a treatment is now available for feline infectious peritonitis, a viral disease that was once a death sentence.

“While FIP is not the most common disease of cats, it’s one of the most devastating,” says Drew D. Weigner, DVM, president of Winn Feline Foundation, which funds cat health research. “Great progress has been made in understanding the disease. Based on early results of research funded by Winn, an effective treatment is on the horizon. Work at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis by Dr. Niels Pedersen investigated protease inhibitors and nucleoside analogs -- used to treat diseases such as HIV -- to inhibit the virus that causes the disease. It was highly effective in the small number of cats studied, and those who responded are still normal years later.”

-- For dogs and cats, better pain relief is at hand. “Anti-nerve growth factor monoclonal antibodies to treat osteoarthritis pain in both dogs and cats are on the horizon,” says Mike Petty, DVM, an expert in pet pain management. “Studies have shown these to be powerful agents for treatment of chronic osteoarthritis pain. For cats in particular, this is a long-awaited therapy as there are currently no approved medications for treatment of chronic osteoarthritis pain.” Release dates for the antibodies depend on final FDA approval and production schedules.

-- Fear Free techniques and medication recommendations to reduce pets’ fear, anxiety and stress in the exam room aren’t new, but research supporting use of medication prior to veterinary visits is, particularly for cats, who often don’t receive needed care because owners are stressed about the difficulty of getting them to and from the veterinary clinic. Delivering medication beforehand can help to prevent pets from becoming conditioned to fear of travel, handling and veterinary care.

“For pets suffering from fear, anxiety, stress or pain, use of pre-visit medications addresses the emotional and physical welfare of the pet, the owner and the veterinary team,” says Gary Landsberg, DVM, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

Two recent placebo-controlled studies demonstrated that human medications including gabapentin and trazodone can help cats to be less stressed during car travel and veterinary visits. A third study found that treatment with gabapentin reduced fear responses during confinement in a community trap-neuter-release program.

“Evidence-based research helps guide veterinarians in developing effective treatment protocols, particularly in those situations when a labelled veterinary product has not yet been licensed,” he says.

-- One of the issues in finding -- and keeping -- homes for cats is managing allergies that some people have to them. A new food for cats, likely out sometime this year, may help neutralize Fel d 1, the protein that triggers allergies. Blocking the protein does not appear to have any negative effect on cats, said Michael Lappin, DVM, an internal medicine specialist and professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, speaking at a cat science symposium last October.

A study by Swiss researchers published last July in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reports that a vaccine for cats to neutralize Fel d 1 appears to be successful. The vaccine must still undergo clinical trials and isn’t expected to be available until at least 2022.

-- Morris Animal Foundation also funded scientific research with significant results. “We had many exciting advancements this year, including successful treatment for deadly arrhythmias, improved treatment for leishmaniasis, and findings showing that omega-3 supplements may reduce the risk of T-zone lymphoma,” said president and CEO Tiffany Grunert. “For us, each finding is valuable. It all contributes to the body of knowledge to advance discovery for animal health.”


Ooh, that smell!

How to nix pet odor

Q: I have dogs and cats, and I know my house smells like it. How can I keep the odor down and keep it smelling fresh?

A: Living with pets does come with odors, but that doesn’t mean you have to let them -- the odors, that is -- stick around. Here’s how to get and maintain a home that doesn’t smell like animals or cleaning products.

Invest in a large bottle of an enzymatic cleanser, especially if you have a puppy or kitten or a senior pet. Enzymes “eat up” components of pet waste and help to neutralize the stink.

As soon as you find vomit, urine or poop, get to work cleaning it up. The longer a mess sits, the harder it is to get rid of the smell. Using an old towel or paper towels, pick up what you can immediately. For urine, press down hard with the towel to soak up as much liquid as possible.

Then use enzymatic cleanser on the area. Be sure to go outside mess margins so you don’t miss any. Lay a dry towel over the spot and weight it with books or other heavy objects to ensure that it sucks up all the moisture. To remove the smell of cleaning products, finish by wiping down hard floors with water. Wash clean-up towels in hot water.

Regular cleaning also helps prevent odor buildup. Scoop your cat’s litter boxes and clean the yard of poop at least once daily. Wash pet bedding in hot water weekly. Vacuum every other day or use a Swiffer-type mop to get up hair and other debris pets bring in. Wipe down your pet with a damp cloth or baby wipe between baths. If pets spend a lot of time on furniture or in your lap, weekly baths will help keep them sweet-smelling. -- Dr. Marty Becker

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Top dogs of

the decade

-- Best dogs of the decade? Mental Floss magazine includes the following dogs in its picks: Duke, the canine mayor of Cormorant, Minnesota, which elected the Great Pyrenees four times before he passed on to the great city hall in the sky; Frida, a Labrador retriever who served nearly 10 years as a search-and-rescue dog; Gracie, the border collie “bark ranger” at Glacier National Park in Montana, where she keeps bighorn sheep and mountain goats away from high-traffic areas; and Riley, a Weimaraner who sniffs out insects that could damage paintings at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

-- Making pet-related New Year’s resolutions can improve dog and cat health and well-being and contribute to your own peace of mind. Here are 10 to consider: getting daily playtime and exercise, both physical and mental; making time for training practice daily; measuring food to help prevent obesity; teaching a new trick or two; getting involved in a dog sport; brushing your pet’s teeth daily; putting together a pet go-bag in case of emergency or natural disaster; buying pet health insurance; setting up a regular grooming schedule; and washing pet food and water bowls daily.

-- There’s barking, and then there’s barking. Dog vocalizations might sound monotonous, but they aren’t indiscriminate, and can send clear messages to those willing to listen. Researchers have studied both how dogs (with variations by breed) express themselves with different tones as well as the ability of humans to understand them. For example, there’s a bark that says, “There’s someone at the door”; a bark that says, “Hey, I’m ready to eat”; and a bark that says, “I’m really anxious.” That last bark tends to be more high-pitched in most dogs. Most people can interpret what their individual dog is saying through his barks. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.