It’s tough to find specific statistics on the percentage of dogs who develop arthritis, but arthritis is more apt to strike large breed dogs like German shepherds, golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers; dogs with long backs like Dachshunds and Corgis as well as any canine who is overweight or worse, obese.
So, what do you do to relieve pain and mobility limitations in your arthritic dog — and more importantly, what can you do to possibly even prevent this disease from showing up in your dog?
Two simple but powerful solutions: exercise and diet. By keeping your dog engaged in some form of daily exercise, you can prevent him from transforming into a canine couch potato. By not dishing up overflowing bowls of kibble and excessively heaping on treats, you can keep him from morphing into a hairy ottoman.
Research conducted in 2015 by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that more than one half of adult dogs in the United States are overweight. Sporting extra pounds can not only spur arthritis, diabetes and heart disease, but reduce the dog’s lifespan by two to five years compared to dogs kept at healthy weights and exercised regularly.
“Combining an exercise routine (like taking daily walks on level surfaces, rolling the ball during fetch sessions and swimming in safe bodies of water) with proper diet that keeps your dog at a healthy weight can positively affect the health of your dog,” declares Nancy Soares, DVM, president of the American Animal Hospital Association and owner of the Macungie Animal Hospital in Macungie, PA.
Adds Denis Marcellin-Little, DACVS, DECVS, a certified canine rehabilitation veterinarian and associate professor of orthopedics at North Carolina State in Raleigh, “Being overweight can certainly accelerate the progress of osteoarthritis and make mobility much more limited. Mobility is immensely important in dogs for their longevity, comfort and joy.”
And here’s a surprising fact: excessive fat tissue not only packs on the pounds and impairs mobility, but these tissues (known as adipose tissues) actually secrete hormones that promote pain.
“Adipose tissue is a major endocrine organ within the body that secretes hormones and other substances and these substances secreted trigger an inflammation cascade, which brings about pain,” explains Dr. Soares.
Even if your dog is diagnosed with arthritis — be it in the form of hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis of the knee or other joint, our experts assess some tactics to ease the aches and pains:
1. Nutraceuticals do best in supporting roles. Consult your veterinarian about the possible benefits of providing supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM to your adult dog before or at the early signs of arthritis. “While most products in this category are not studied and cannot make claims regarding their efficacy, anecdotally, anti-inflammatory benefits can be seen,” says Dr. Soares.
2. Think outside the (conventional) box. Acupuncture, acupressure, therapeutic massage, hydrotherapy and laser therapy may be beneficial, but make sure they are administered by professionals who are certified. “Hydrotherapy is a form of exercise, so it is effective, but realistically, it is easier to take your dog on a walk than finding a place that offers an underwater treadmill,” says Dr. Marcellin-Little.
3. Fight the pain safely. Pain management medications prescribed by a veterinarian, such as anti-inflammatories and analgesics can reduce swelling and pain in the joints, but steer clear of human medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) as they are both extremely toxic to dogs.
4. Weigh the benefits of surgery. Yes, some dogs do well with joint replacement surgeries, but make sure the operation is performed by a board-certified orthopedic surgeon. “Our pets deserve specialty treatment when advanced care is warranted,” says Dr. Soares.
5. The jury is still out on stem cell therapy to treat arthritis in dogs. “There is limited clinical evidence to support the expense and invasiveness of stem cell therapy,” says Dr. Soares. “Additional research is underway to determine the best treatment and efficacy for the best outcome.”
The parting message: “The big three weapons in combating osteoarthritis in dogs are managing pain with medications, losing excess weight and exercising regularly to help your dog stay strong and have good joint mobility,” says Dr. Marcellin-Little. “Your dog will feel better and move better and hopefully, enjoy a long, quality life.”
What Should You Feed an Arthritic Dog?
We can’t stop the aging body clocks inside our dogs, but by making smart nutritional decisions, we can possibly delay or stave off the impacts of arthritis. The signs are hard to miss: your dog’s gait slows. He starts to limp or favor one limb or hesitates before jumping on the bed or out of the car. Arthritic pain can make some dogs grumpy and a bit snappy. Or, you may also notice your dog is excessively licking a leg, a possible indication of his attempt to deal with joint pain.
Jean Hofve, DVM, holistic veterinarian, best-selling author and founder of the Little Big Cats website, identifies these five “arthritis-fighting” foods safe to give affected dogs:
1. Wild-caught salmon (not from fish farms), sardines or herring. All three are packed with omega-3 fatty acids touted for their anti-inflammatory properties.
2. Leafy green vegetables, such as kale or chard and spinach if your dog does not have digestive issues with oxalates. These greens contain antioxidants that also keep inflammation in check.
3. Blueberries, cranberries and apples. They contain less fructose (sugar) than most fruits and are loaded with anti-inflammatory agents and fiber.
4. Whole ground bone-in chicken, game birds or other poultry. “Oxtails for bigger dogs and turkey necks for medium-sized dogs,” adds Dr. Hofve. “The cartilage lining the joints contains all the cartilage building blocks your dog needs to repair joint damage to the extent that is possible.”
5. Green-lipped mussels. Dr. Hofve ranks them as arthritis-fighting super foods. “These mussels contain not only glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acids, but also the full spectrum of omega-3s.
To maximize your dog’s health, Dr. Hofve also recommends adding these key supplements touted to reduce inflammation and ease pain, such as:
• Chondroprotective agents (CPAs), such as glucosamine sulfate, MSM, eggshell membrane and adequan (intramuscular injection). These CPAs slow the rate of cartilage degeneration. Start your active dog on these now while his joints appear to be healthy and pain free.
• Turmeric root powder. New studies show that this spice has the ability to lessen arthritic inflammation, boost the immune system and act as an antioxidant. Also consider adding turmeric root to your dog’s diet as a preventive aid in the battle against arthritis. A little bit goes a long way. Consult your veterinarian for the right amount for your dog.
• Yucca, ginger, cinnamon and Boswellia in small amounts. “They are packed with antioxidants, but don’t give too much,” says Dr. Hofve. “With dogs’ ultra-sensitive noses standing guard, a little goes a long way.”
By Sarah Zumhofe
For lots of us, a family outing just wouldn’t be complete without our four-footed family members.
Unfortunately for many dogs, though, going anywhere that involves any kind of travel gets a little “ruff” because they suffer from motion sickness.
Motion Sickness in Dogs is Very Common
Canine motion sickness affects as many as 1 out of 5 dogs! It’s much more common than many of us realize. But the good news is that there is a solution!
Addressing Your Dog’s Motion Sickness
Unfortunately, very few pet parents are talking to their veterinarian about their dogs’ motion sickness. As a result, they aren’t getting the help they need. And, because there are so many other things that they need to address at a typical visit, our veterinarians don’t typically bring it up in an exam either.
So why wouldn’t the parents of a dog with motion sickness ask their vet about the issue? Often, it’s because they don’t recognize or understand the symptoms. They may think it’s a “mental thing” that their dog might just get over it. Or they don’t even realize that their veterinarian could help.
In many cases, pet parents just stop taking their dog places, either to avoid the potential situations that make their dog vomit, or just because they can tell how miserable they are, and they want to spare them the ordeal. This is not the only option. If you notice signs of motion sickness in your dog, talk to your vet and ask for help!
Signs of Motion Sickness in Dogs
Many dogs can get motion sick even on a short car ride. So, a simple trip to the vet or the groomer can result in a miserable pooch! Trips by plane or train can also trigger them. Some dogs even get sick from other activities like boating.
Vomiting is an obvious sign that your dog is suffering from motion sickness, but it’s not the only one. There are several other symptoms you should be aware of. Just because your dog doesn’t “Ralph” in the car doesn’t mean he’s not feeling sick. Some of the symptoms of motion sickness would be easy to dismiss if you don’t know what you’re looking for, so it’s important to understand all of the potential signs. Symptoms of motion sickness include:
• Dry heaving
• Excessive lip licking
• Excessive panting
If you notice your dog doing any of these things when you travel, you should talk to your veterinarian. You can also take this online quiz to help you decode some behavior and symptoms that might be caused by motion sickness.
Help for Dogs With Motion Sickness
The good news is that there is a great solution for canine motion sickness. Many years ago, vets would prescribe things like acepromazine, Benadryl®, or Dramamine® for motion sickness because there wasn’t anything else available. They’re human drugs, not made for dogs, and they are not ideal because they “work” by making your pet drowsy. We don’t want or need that!
Of course, you don’t want your pup getting sick or vomiting either. Besides the fact that it’s no fun to clean up a car full of your dog’s last meal, vomiting can be painful, exhausting, and anxiety-inducing for your dog.
Thankfully, there’s a treatment for the vomiting due to canine motion sickness that works without making your dog drowsy or loopy. CERENIA is the first and only veterinary FDA-approved anti-vomiting medication for dogs (and cats too). This video explains how Cerenia can help a dog with motion sickness.
CERENIA is an anti-emetic (anti-vomiting) medication and that addresses the cause of vomiting due to motion sickness. CERENIA works by blocking a neurotransmitter that’s involved in vomiting. For use at home, it comes in a once-a-day tablet form. To administer, you’d give your dog CERENIA with a small amount of food, two hours before traveling. It’s safe to give to your dog once a day, for up to two days in a row.
CERENIA is also available as an injection for dogs or cats undergoing surgery. Many animals don’t feel well after surgery due to the anesthesia. So, if your dog is getting ready for surgery, be sure to ask your vet if he or she plans to give your dog an “anti-emetic” (CERENIA) before surgery so the recovery process is smooth for your pet.
CERENIA is only available by prescription. So if your dog shows signs of vomiting because of motion sickness, make sure you talk to your veterinarian about whether CERENIA can help before your next ride!
By Sarah Zumhofe
One of the most popular options to occupy a dog’s time (and mind) while home alone is to offer him a Kong or other dog chew toy slathered with peanut butter.
However, in this age of Keto diets — and with the rise of people diagnosed with diabetes, more and more popular foods and products are being offered in sugar-free forms. Specifically, these foods often contain xylitol. This safe sweetener for people can be found in sugar-free yogurts, chewing gum, mints and toothpaste.
However, xylitol is toxic to dogs. When a dog eats peanut butter containing xylitol, his blood sugar levels plummet and damage to the liver begins immediately. The xylitol causes a dog to vomit, have trouble walking, lose muscle control and worse. Some dogs can experience seizures, liver failure and even death.
By Sarah Zumhofe
Smart marketing is one of the basic tenets of any industry. In the case of the dog food industry, it’s all about caveat paw emptor: pet parent buyer beware.
Ignore that enticing photo of a dog running through a field on the front and turn that bag, can or container around. Reading a label isn’t easy, but do pay close attention to this.
Keep in mind: Pet food labeling is one thing; pet food ingredients and facts are another. Labels are deceiving, and sadly there’s no one stopping dog food makers from continuing to fool us into our dogs must consume their product. Dog food labels are confusing. That’s why the emphasis seems to be on what is on the front of the bag. Ignore that.
In fact, read a dog food label with a discriminating eye. You may need to supplement. Here are 10 secrets pet food manufacturers try to squeeze past you and hope you won’t notice.
#1. Made with Human Grade Ingredients
There are some very interesting and startling facts about dog food labels. “Made with human grade ingredients” is a bunch of malarkey. Made with human-grade ingredients does NOT mean a finished product is actually legally, human grade. An ingredient might start off being fit for people to eat it, but once it is shipped to a pet food plant and processed according to regulations for feed grade products, the term “human grade” can no longer apply. By true definition, that ingredient is not human grade.
#2. Feed Grade
Feed grade refers to the quality of a finished product which is not suitable for consumption by humans according to FDA standards. It is only legally allowed to be served to animals because of the ingredients it contains or how it has been processed. Further, it may include by-products, chemicals, fillers, and parts from “4D” meats: animals which are dying, diseased, disabled, or deceased.
This means dead pets from shelters can end up in dog food. ID tags from euthanized dogs may end up in dog food. Does it happen? There is no mandate that dead pets must not be in pet food. The folks at DogFoodAdvisor.com are unable to locate any current regulation forbidding the use of euthanized pets in commercial dog food.
There are no formal definitions for organic pet food. Organic, according to the USDA, is food raised without chemical fertilizers and meet very stringent guidelines. The definition of organic in pet food is based on human standards. Those human standards may not apply to animals. The FDA’s website has this to say about organic labeling: “There are no official rules governing the labeling of organic foods for pets at this time.”
#4. Made With
If you see “made with” on a dog food label, it means that only three percent of something is included for the “made with” label to be applied. It could be real meat, organic meat, or some combination of who know what. Three percent.
#5. Holistic Dog Food Labeling
There is zero legal requirement in order for something to be called ‘holistic’ on a dog food product. Holistic is slapped on dog food labels in an attempt to get dog parents to purchase — and it works.
#6. First Ingredient Fooled Ya’
The first ingredient in a bag or can of dog food does not mean that is the primary ingredient. The moisture content of meat in a dog food is about 75 percent. That sounds fantastic, right? It would be if 75 percent of real safe meat went into your dog’s food. Food gets processed, dried, and the meat ends up being under 10 percent. Beef that starts out as 75 percent of the content in a dog food ends up at less than 10 percent when it goes into dry dog food. Sad!
#7. Glucosamine for Strong Joints
Glucosamine is anti-inflammatory in its properties and can help dogs with stiffness and arthritis. Glucosamine and chondroitin have taken a stronghold in the pet food additive arena. Buyer beware because glucosamine and chondroitin are considered nutraceuticals (not pharmaceuticals) and are not strictly controlled by the FDA. Even if a can or bag of dog food claims to be a ‘rich source of glucosamine,’ don’t be fooled. How much of the dog food would the dog need to eat to get benefit of the glucosamine? According to Dogs Naturally Magazine, a 50-pound dog would need to consume about 1,000 mg of glucosamine supplementation per day to reap the benefits. Your dog would have to eat over 20 cups of kibble in some cases to get this amount.
#8. Carbs Are Not Required on Dog Food Labels
It’s not easy to find the carbohydrate content in dog food because it isn’t required on the label. To roughly calculate the percentage of carbohydrate in a dog food, look at the guaranteed analysis on the label, and subtract the amount of protein, fat, moisture, and ash from 100 percent. The carb content is what’s left over. (You may have to contact the company to get the food’s ash content; it’s not required on the label, either.)
What we do know is this: Fresh, whole food is good for dogs. Kibble loaded with corn and other fillers/sugars can lead to problems in a dog.
#9. Chubby Dog Syndrome
Veterinary nutritionists say that dogs eating fresh food diets as opposed to kibble are usually not chubby, as their carbohydrate intake is lower. They also tend to have better muscle tone, less dental tartar, and better skin and coat quality with no “doggy odor.”
#10. Does AAFCO Matter?
AAFCO is the Association of American Feed Control Officials, a non-government body comprised of federal and state employees. Note the key word ‘feed’ and not ‘food’ in their name. AAFCO does not approve pet foods to market and they do not regulate pet food. So, animals eat feed; people eat food. Feed can contain dying and diseased animals and all sorts of contaminants and pesticides on animals. Food cannot. Ack!
A dog’s food should meet AAFCO nutrient profile requirements for sure. That said, Whole Dog Journal points out, “The organization is painfully slow to adopt changes that reflect newer research; the current guidelines date back to 1995! They have been arguing over and delaying implementation of changes based on the 2006 NRC updates for more than eight years now.”
If you want to really go down a rabbit hole, try searching for “lies about pet food” in your favorite web browser. Check out the credible sources and reports there.
Dogs do have special nutritional needs. Their bodies do react to the food and supplements, vaccines and topicals we put on them and in them. Is it any wonder that cancer and other diseases are on the rise in the canine world?
What you can do is understand your dog’s nutritional requirements. What you feed a 10-pound Yorkie will vary from what you feed an 80-pound Rottweiler. No two people are alike in their dietary requirements and the same goes for dogs.
Bonus Tip: How to Read a Dog Food Label
If you use your favorite search engine and type in, ‘how to read a dog food label,’ you’ll see results on pages one and two that are written by big brand pet food companies. It’s not that the information is amazing; it’s that they know how to properly SEO optimize a post. Meaning, the right words in the right place targeting the right people at the right time. SEO is search engine optimized. Those results get there because they are big companies, they know what they are doing, but you want your information from an objective source that isn’t associated with the pet food brands.
By Sarah Zumhofe
More and more pet parents are looking into options to pair with traditional medicine to address a host of issues in their pets. And, fast growing in popularity is the use of CBD oil. That stands for cannabidiol, a compound found in cannabis and hemp.
Not all CBD oils are the same. "The CBD oil should not contain THC- tetrahydrocannabinol," says Elisa Katz, DVM, veterinarian and owner of the Holistic Veterinary Center in Bourbonnais, IL. "THC is the compound that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties. So, CBD oils made from hemp and not THC will not cause your dog or cat to get high. The CBD oil can help the pet relax."
In looking for top-quality CBD oil products, seek products that are:
CBD oils can be safe for use on dogs or cats when given the proper dosage. Here is a rundown of some situations in which CBD oil can be given to a pet:
Bottom line: CBD oil not containing THC is legal and safe to give to dogs and cats.
By Sarah Zumhofe
While it is easy to tell a person’s or dog’s emotional disposition — happy, sad or peeved — by looking at their facial expression, cats wear a mysterious poker face so they aren’t as easily read. But cats have several behaviors and vocal intonations by which they communicate. Once you learn to recognize and translate the behaviors, you’re on your way to great conversations with your cat through the art of communication.
Cats communicate with other cats predominately with body language and scent. They communicate with us using body language, vocalizations and scent marking (although we cannot smell most of it). Unfortunately for cats, we humans have failed to uphold our end of the communication deal. We need to better understand normal feline behavior and the cat’s communication methods. Our cats do communicate with us and we need to do our best to “listen” and understand their language. Otherwise, we may miss important messages like, “Back off!” “I’m sick,” and “You are my favorite possession in the whole wide world!”
Cats are highly intelligent beings and have mental skills equivalent to that of a human toddler. Let’s talk about the subtle and not-so-subtle art of feline communication:
The art of feline nonverbal communication with humans engages the total body, from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. Sometimes, we misinterpret nonverbal cues or interpret the cue to mean the same as a dog’s behavior — which is very often the opposite. Misinterpretations can lead to injury, scratches and bites. The best clue to nonverbal communication is to observe the total body for more accurate communication.
The eyes may be a beautiful, mysterious window to the soul, but you can think of them as your cat’s mood ring. Cats’ pupils vary in size from the narrowest slits to wide-open black pools, for different reasons from emotional to environmental. For example, pupils may widen or narrow adjusting to light levels or signifying fear or aggression. A happy kitty’s pupils are narrow, but the narrowest of slits means you’ve got an angry cat or a sleepy cat. The opposite, dilated pupils, again, may be adjusting to light or may indicate a fearful, agitated cat. Yet, it may also signal pain. The best interpretation of mood is reading the body posture in conjunction with the eyes.
Direct eye contact, or staring, is sometimes considered rude in human communication. In cat communication, a direct stare is an intimidation posture. The first to look away, blink or slink off will be considered to have ceded defeat.
Can You ‘Ear’ Me Now?
Cat ears are remarkable. Like radar dishes, cat ears hear the faintest sound, especially important for the hunter outside or inside the home. They also swivel independently, move up and down, and rotate 180 degrees thanks to 32 muscles. Ear placement indicates mood, too. An interested, relaxed cat sports upright, forward-facing ears.
An aggressive cat’s ears also stand up straight initially before moving sideways and flat. Look at the body to tell the difference. An aggressive cat’s ears rotate back and flatten, with whiskers forward. A swift paw, hissing, growling and/or spitting may accompany the posture. Hint: the flatter the ears, the angrier the cat!
Don’t Get Your Whiskers in a Twist!
Whiskers, or vibrissae, are sensitive tactile hairs, aiding the cat’s sense of touch. Whiskers are deeply embedded in muscle tissue and connect to sensitive nerve endings. Whiskers act like a cat’s barometer, transmitting information about air currents, air pressure and objects they touch. Additionally, whiskers act as a GPS system, sending back information about the cat’s surroundings. Cats have three sets of facial whiskers: the eyebrows, chin hair and the longest set, the muzzle whiskers. Muscles allow the whiskers to move forward and backward and it’s this movement that serves as a mood evaluator.
Much like body position and ears, whiskers and ears work together to indicate mood. A happy cat’s whiskers point forward while the ears are upright and forward. Whiskers pointed outward, with ears rotated back and flat, signal a cat is gathering information or agitated/aggressive. Whiskers pulled flat to the cheeks, accompanied by ears pulled to the side, indicates fear or aggression. Heed the warning.
A cat’s body posture and attitude can invite us closer or warn us away. The classic Halloween stance — back arches with raised ridge fur, raised rump, legs straight and tail fur puffed out — is a warning stance. These are physiological changes indicating extreme stress, fear, aggression or threat. Distance yourself if you come upon a cat exhibiting these characteristics.
Conversely, if a cat approaches you with a raised back and flat fur, rubbing up against you, you’ve been invited to a pet fest.
Some cats do what I call the “Stop, Flop and Roll” maneuver. The cat stops walking, flops on the floor and rolls back and forth, exposing the tummy. It’s usually right in front of you and it’s an attention-getting scheme for petting. Go ahead give the cat lots of chin scratching and head rubbing.
Careful, though. Here’s the scheme part: don’t pet the tummy! While some cats tolerate it, most don’t. A cat’s exposed tummy is not a submissive posture or invitation to a tummy rub like a dog. In cat language, it’s a strategic posture to better engage claws and teeth, even if it’s your hand that’s the possible target of attack. The more you try to pull away, the tighter the grip. Relax — yes, really — the cat will release shortly.
There is one posture or behavior that I think is an overlooked, misunderstood behavior: the defensive cat posture. The defensive cat sits curled in a tight, crouching position with the tail curled around the body, head to the side and fur flattened, trying to be as little as possible. This withdrawn posture should alert you to your cat’s nervous state. Salivating, shaking, vomiting and/or defecation may also be seen.
The defensive posture denotes stress, which may be from a larger problem of intimidation, bullying or harassment from another pet in the home, or, sadly, maybe even a human.
A cat’s tail clearly telegraphs the feline’s emotional state of mind. Learn the signs and remember the condition can change in a quick flick:
• Tail swishing side to side indicates a slightly irritated cat. But because some cats express joy with a swishy tail, you should know your cat’s disposition and personality. If not, be sure to look at other body indicators.
• Swiftly slapping tail means agitation. Leave this cat alone. Unlike a dog’s rapid, happy, wagging tail, approaching a cat with this tail movement often results in pain — yours.
• Tail thumping, similar to a drum beat, signals frustration or a warning.
• Tail up and fully fluffed means the cat feels threatened. If that fluffed tail moves over the top of the back, and the cat looks mad as well, stand back. Attack is imminent.
• Tucked tail is the universal sign of submissiveness.
• Low horizontal tail position says, “I’m cool, calm and collected.” • Upright, erect tail with a slight hook indicates a jaunty swagger and means your cat is interested in you or the surroundings.
• Straight up with a quiver is a great sign. Your cat is shaking with delight.
Feline Signs of Affection
Cats show us many signs of love and affection using body language. They sit near us, on us or follow us from room to room. They lick us, give us head butts and give us cheek rubs, all as love signs. Here are some common love signs and their translations:
• Head butts, known as bunting, involve cats rubbing against us gently with their forehead as a happy greeting and sign of affection.
• Eye blinks are “kitty kisses: in feline parlance. Direct eye contact is confrontation, but slow eye blinks express love and trust. Be sure to blink back.
• Licking, the pillar of cat grooming, health care and cleanliness learned way back in kittenhood, is lavished on us when they consider us a member of their family.
• Nose kisses are a sweet, gentle, nose-to-nose greeting between cat friends (and humans when we’re lucky).
Once you learn the basic forms of feline communication, it’s important to learn your cat’s quirks or dialect. Learn feline signs of affection and reciprocate them for a loving relationship. Learn the warning signs before they escalate to aggression, and then heed the warning.
By Sarah Zumhofe
Who hasn’t visited a cat lover’s home and inhaled a lungful of ammonia? Ah, Eau de Toilette Feline. Your friend holds out a World War II gas mask, saying, “You might want to put this on before you come inside. I’m having a little trouble with my cat.”
Getting rid of the cat isn’t the answer. The problem will persist long after the perpetrator has left your home. Imperceptible pee clings to surfaces, posting an invisible olfactory signal that instructs any new pet (both cat and dog) to, “Pee here.”
There is hope. You can reform your cat and rid your home of the odor of cat pee. Even the most odoriferous home can be restored to a pollution-free zone.
I’ll walk you through the process of regaining your home and help you rekindle your love affair with your kitty. Take a deep breath. I smell fresh air in your future.
Inappropriate elimination is more complicated than a congressional health-care bill. To arrive at a fresh-smelling home, you’ll need to:
• Figure out who’s making the mess if you have a multi-pet home. • Take your kitty to the vet.
• Determine if he’s marking or going to the bathroom.
• Find out what’s upsetting your cat.
• Fix it.
• Retrain him.
• Find all the soiled spots.
• Remove the smell of pee from the floors and walls.
• Make the target area unattractive.
• Enjoy the new feeling of calm.
Let’s focus on cleanup strategies:
As soon as you notice the mess, clean it up. Removing all traces of ammonia and pheromones from the carpet is the first step in persuading the cat to return to the litter box. After all, if it smells like a toilet, Fluffy will use it as a toilet.
Cat pee and poop in a carpet contains pheromones that continue to attract cats to the soiled areas. It is as if the cat has posted an olfactory sign saying, “Bathroom.” If you simply mask the pee odors, you may be able to fool your nose, but Fluffy, with his superior sense of smell, will be able to find his alternate potty every time.
Completely banishing the odor requires treating the entire affected area, including the carpet pad and subflooring. Here are your needed cleanup supplies:
• Ultraviolet light
• Masking tape
• Odor neutralizer
• Old sponges
• White towels or paper towels
• Spatula or putty knife
• Cheap, large crystal silica gel cat litter
Before you can clean up the cat pee, you’ve got to find the pee spots — all of them. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Hydrogen sulfide, a gas emitted by poop and pee, deadens the nerve endings in your nose. You may be able to smell ammonia, but your nose, confused by locations, can’t pinpoint them. Fortunately, those inconspicuous pee spots are visible under the right conditions.
The soiled area in the carpet resembles an iceberg. You are only seeing the tip. If the surface stain appears to be the size of a silver dollar, it has likely spread to dinner plate diameter beneath the pad. You must clean all the layers. Even the best odor eliminator won’t work if it doesn’t fully saturate the soiled layers. You may want to use a large medical or cooking syringe (a needle is not necessary) to inject sufficient quantities of chemicals deep into the carpet pad.
When the ammonia odor persists or your cat returns to the spot, pull the carpet up and treat the wood or concrete subflooring. When the subfloor has dried, seal it, then saturate the carpet with odor removers. Failing that, you may need to replace floor boards, in addition to carpeting and padding. Don’t forget to scrub the walls and baseboards. You may have to treat the carpet multiple times in order to pass the feline muster.
You can safely and cheaply remove cat pee from your concrete slab by steeping it with hydrogen peroxide. It will bubble on contact. Repeat the process until you can apply the peroxide without a bubbling reaction. It may take a week of repeated treatments to thoroughly purge the odor. Once the odor has been removed from the foundation, apply a concrete sealer. This creates a vapor barrier.
When cleaning up a fresh mistake (translation: still wet), place a white cloth or paper towel over the spot and blot it by pressing down. Do this until you pull no more moisture from the carpet. Avoid printed designs or borders because the dye could bleed into a light-colored carpet. Also, don’t rub the carpet with the cloth, as this will only force the pee farther from the original spot and deeper into the pad. Left untreated, cat pee will eventually fade the color of the carpet — another reason to clean a pee spot as soon as you find it.
Before you buy a cleanup product, find out how it works. Read the label warnings. These cautions list a cleaner’s wide range of potential injuries, from irritation of the gastrointestinal tract to chemical burns in mouth, esophagus and stomach. While the warnings are alarming, the more frightening part is they are intended for people. Your cat is more at risk.
Next, look at the ingredient list. Look for ingredients ending in “-ol” or “-ene,” which typically indicates toxic solvents. “Chlor” usually includes chlorine. “Glycols” contain petroleum-based ether. “Phenols” can include coal tar derivatives. None of these things are good for your cat.
Never allow your cat into areas where you use or store cleaners. Clean up spills of concentrated chemicals immediately so your cat doesn’t walk across it and later ingest it while licking his paws.
When you think the site is clean, rinse again. The same logic should be used whether you are cleaning carpets or mopping the floor. Avoid cleaners containing ammonia. Because cat pee contains ammonia, cleaning a pee stain with ammonia is basically inviting your cat to refresh the spot with his own ammonia — pee.
Most products are safe for use around cats when you follow the directions. Three factors determine the dosage of what is toxic to cats:
• Concentration: Is the concentration of the chemical 2 percent or 98 percent?
• Quantity: Did the cat get one or two licks or two tablespoons?
• Size of the cat: Is he a 2-pound kitten or a 14-pound adult? Size makes a difference.
You may turn to “natural” cleaners to protect your cat, but just because the active ingredient comes from a natural source doesn’t ensure its safety.
Here is a rundown of odor neutralizers, how they work and the advantages and disadvantages of each:
Molecular odor eliminators: This class of product bonds with odor molecules, permanently converting an odor molecule into a non-odor molecule. They aren’t affected by chemicals previously applied to the carpet. They work immediately and permanently, but they are rather expensive. Some of the best are Zero Odor, and CritterZone Air Naturalizer.
Oxygenators: These products cause a chemical reaction that adds oxygen to the odor molecule, changing its composition. These products break down odors into carbon dioxide and water. The process is frequently used in wastewater treatment plants and in the purification of drinking water. You can buy ready-to-use liquids or powders. One of the best oxygenation odor eliminator for carpets is Fizzion.
Disinfectants: Antibacterial agents kill the bacteria – the source of the odor. If the bacteria are destroyed, so is the odor. Most bactericides can be used on soiled spots with results in under an hour. The carpet should then be cleaned immediately and liquids extracted. Allow the floor to thoroughly dry before giving pets access. Disinfectants should not be used at full strength. Check the label and use according to directions.
Enzymatics: Enzymes are made of proteins that work like saliva, breaking down the odor molecules, but they do not digest it. Since they’re not living organisms, they are not vulnerable to chemicals and extreme heat and cold, like live bacteria. Chemicals in other products, such as detergents and pesticides, won’t affect the enzymes. Enzymes will dissolve detergent residue from earlier carpet cleanings. Enzymes are pH sensitive and pH fluctuates as the odor breaks down, working best at a neutral pH between 6 and 8. They only work when they are moist, and like bacteria, can take about 24 hours to break down odor molecules.
Deodorizer/Masking Agents: These products use fragrance to cover up a stinky molecule with pleasant-smelling molecule. The foul reality is temporarily overpowered by the fragrant smoke screen. The odor’s true nature will return when the masking perfume wears off. Deodorizers usually contain fragrances, alcohol and water, which mask the odor-causing molecules but do not change them. These products may fool your nose, but not your cat’s. He knows where to find the pee.
Detergents: Detergent cleans and odor absorbers (such as foaming spray carpet cleaners) use surfactants to loosen organic material and dirt from fabrics, but some odor may remain. They may contain cationic detergents that can burn your cat’s skin or mouth.
If your carpet is too heavily soiled, you may need to bring in a professional carpet cleaning company to completely remove urine odor. Before hiring a company, find out what kind of chemicals the company plans to use. Ask your veterinarian to see if those chemicals are pet-safe. Also, check with your local Better Business Bureau for complaints and other websites for other reviews the company may have.
By Sarah Zumhofe
Sarah Zum Hofe was born in 1987 in St. Louis, MO- and has since then had a love affair with animals!