My Feline Buddy Column

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Hi there! My name’s Cristina and I’m a certified veterinarian. I’ve been in love with animals ever since I can remember and I’ve always loved cats more than anything, but that doesn’t mean that I discriminate. All animals are wonderful and I’m sure many pet parents will agree with what I’m about to say – that they can be far better friends than humans, at times.

When I was in the 6th grade, my parents allowed me to have a pet – it was a cat that my dad brought home one evening, a stray. That cat was my companion for thirteen years and I loved him to bits. Right after getting my PhD in 2015, I adopted a cat. Without any exaggeration, she has become one of the creatures (humans included) I love most in the world

My lovely cat has taught me that you can love animals no matter what you do. I want all my posts to bring you, as a cat parent or lover of cats, a lot of value. I hope you find these posts both informative and enjoyable.

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Common Health Problem of Senior Cats and Dogs

By Cristina, 2020

Old age comes with a variety of medical health problems and complications that young people and animals don’t have to experience. The life span of pets has increased significantly in the past decades due to better veterinary care and less exposure to risks and dangers.

Senior pets are affected by a variety of diseases. But when can pets be considered geriatric? The first changes begin around the age of 7 to 8 years, in both cats and dogs. Larger animals have a shorter life span than smaller breeds, which is why, in their case, they can be considered seniors at around 5 to 6 years of age.

Even though all senior pets develop age-related problems, age is not a disease per se. With good care, your companion has an excellent chance of living a long, happy, and healthy life.

Before moving on to the list of health problems that we have put together, we’d like to underline the importance of regular vet checkups. With old animals, this can mean that you should take your pet to the vet at least three times a year.


Arthritis is something that affects every senior animal, no matter the species. It is the primary cause of chronic pain, and it can be characterized by stiffness or intermittent aches. Most pets will avoid some of the activities that they used to love engaging in — whether that’s running, jumping on the couch, or climbing the stairs to be with you.

You might also notice limping, for instance. Get in touch with your vet to select a good therapy option. Even though arthritis is a degenerative disease, so it can’t be cured once it is developed, its symptoms can be improved significantly.

Some of the supplements that aid with the pain and that sustain a pet’s joints are chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, essential fatty acid supplements (such as omega 3), and hyaluronic acid. There are other treatment options, too, such as veterinary chiropractic care, laser therapy, or acupuncture.

Since most older pets (especially those that are neutered or spayed) tend to get a little overweight, helping them lose some can dramatically improve the pain they might experience due to arthritis. Needless to say, all that weight puts a lot of pressure on an animal’s joints (which is true in the case of senior humans, by the way!).

Vision problems

Vision deficits are extremely common in geriatric pets. You can tell whether it’s time to take your cat or dog to the vet if you notice constricted or dilated pupils, cloudiness in the eye’s appearance, or squinting. A pet that doesn’t see well will often bump into furniture even though he or she knows its location very well.

Diabetic pets are more predisposed to eye problems, such as glaucoma, for example. As your pet ages, you should keep up with the vet checkups and ask your veterinarian to perform an ophthalmic exam once in a while.

Hearing loss

This is another common problem that most senior pets will experience at one point or the other. You can tell if your companion is experiencing hearing loss if you start noticing that he/she doesn’t react to sounds as per usual. Pets that don’t hear well usually look in the wrong direction when you call them or do the same when they hear an ambulance, for example.

Hearing loss can be caused by other issues, such as untreated ear infections. There are many symptoms that can tell you that your friend has an ear infection, such as pawing at that side of the head, constant scratching, or avoiding being touched on that side. Most ear infections are easy to treat, especially in their incipient stages, so try to pay as much attention to this as possible.

Behavioural changes

In case you didn’t know, cats and dogs can end up suffering from dementia, especially when they become old. Most of the signs you could notice in a pet that’s affected by senility are anxiety or nervousness, wandering around the house, confused behavior, decreased interest in playing, house soiling, and disturbance to loud sounds.

Some dogs and cats can bark or meow without any particular reason. Most can be easily irritable, even with people that they know and love. Other than some supplements and vitamins that support the nervous system, there isn’t a specific treatment for this type of problem. It just calls for a lot of patience on your behalf.

Kidney disease

Kidney problems are particularly common in geriatric cats. Unfortunately, since cats are also very good at hiding illness, you might not notice any clinical signs whatsoever, especially at the beginning of the disease. Most cats with kidney failure will tend to consume more water and ‘go to the bathroom’ more often.

Pets that have a chronic kidney problem can develop a variety of other complications, such as the appearance of lesions inside the mouth, lethargy, vomiting, as well as weight loss. Take your dog or cat to the vet if you notice any urinary changes or water consumption differences.


As cats and dogs tend to live longer nowadays, that also means that they are more exposed to the likelihood of developing cancer. Cancer can be caused by three main factors – genetics, oncogenic viruses, and certain substances that can be present everywhere. The chemicals that commercial dog or cat food can contain (preservatives, flavors, and artificial colours) can also cause cancer, among other problems.

Not all neoplasms are the same. Some can be benign, but others can be malignant. The malignancy degree needs to be established by the veterinarian as surgery might not be a suitable therapy option if other organs besides the one with the primary tumor have been affected.

In treating cancer, vets use three types of therapies — surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Talk to your vet about managing your pet’s life with cancer as best as possible. Unfortunately, this disease is more and more common in humans and pets alike.

If you would like to do your best at preventing it, try feeding your cat or dog a species-appropriate homemade diet. There are many tutorials online on how you can make your own pet food right in the comfort of your home and that’s how you’ll know what it actually contains. Also, use pet-safe cleaning products in your home, as these can be dangerous, too.

Final thoughts

Ageing is a natural process for both humans and the pets that we love and share our lives with. It is our responsibility, as pet guardians, to give them the best care that we can. Preventing and curing age-related illnesses can be done if you pay attention to your companion and take him or her to the vet as soon as you see anything suspicious.

Top Homemade Flea Remedies

By Cristina, 2020

If you want to get rid of fleas on cats and dogs, there are many commercial products out there that are very effective. But some of them aren’t that safe, especially those that do not come with specific instructions as to how they should be used in terms of the pet’s body weight, for example.

The pet’s age is also important as it is widely known that kittens and puppies can be a lot more sensitive to synthetic flea medications and spot-on products compared to adults and geriatric animals.

In today’s post, we’ll look at several homemade flea remedies that work, but you should bear in mind that they might be less effective compared to their chemical alternatives.

Why homemade?

If you are feeling a little weary about trying out chemical flea products, you could go for an all-natural option. There are more than enough safe commercial sprays and spot-on solutions to choose from in this category.

The reason you should choose natural or homemade instead of commercial insecticides is that many of the substances that can be found in products such as Stronghold, Frontline, or Advantix, for instance, have an effect on the flea’s nervous system but they can do the same for the pet’s nervous system. They are less safe to be used on pets, especially when they are used in the incorrect dosage.

There are also some pills that you can give your canine or feline companion by mouth. In this case, too, the dosage has to be extremely specific so as not to lead to intoxication. The widest variety of synthetic flea products available out there cannot be used on pets that are younger than 12 weeks of age. Most of those designed for this age category are made from natural ingredients anyway.

Homemade flea remedies for pets

1. Essential oils

There are lots of essential oils that have flea-repelling capabilities, such as lemon, eucalyptus, sage, lavender, cedar, and others. Unfortunately, some of these are also toxic to pets. For example, cinnamon essential oils can be quite dangerous, so you have to do a bit of research before deciding to use this solution to your flea problem.

The ones that have to be avoided at all cost are wintergreen, pennyroyal, and clove essential oils. These can be extremely dangerous. Plus, since most essential oils have a strong scent, cats might really dislike them, even if you rub just one drop into their collars.

2. Natural flea repellent sprays

Did you know that you can actually make your own natural flea repellent right in the comfort of your home and with ingredients that you might already have in your pantry? For example, you could use one lemon, one sprig of lavender, another of garden sage, and two sprigs of rosemary. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and use it when needed.

3. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is safe to be applied topically, but it always has to be diluted in water. You can mix six ounces of vinegar with four of warm water and a quarter of a tablespoon of salt and then use the resulting solution as a flea repellent spray. Never apply it on sensitive areas, though, such as around your pet’s head (for fear of it getting into the animal’s eyes).

4. Amber resin

This is a good repellent. It might not actually kill fleas, but if you have already used a defleaing product and you want to prevent them from showing up again, you can rely on amber resin. There are amber resin collars available, but you can use it at home, too. Cats might not appreciate it, though, since it has a certain scent.

5. Lemon

Lemon is great because it contains citric acid, and guess what? Fleas hate citric acid! Unfortunately, so do cats and some dogs. Instead of diluting a whole lemon in water, though, especially if your pet doesn’t like to be sprayed on, you can squeeze one into a bowl and dip a flea comb into it. We recommend doing this outside as you don’t want to get the fleas to escape into your living environment. This is also a repellent, not a flea killer per se.

Homemade flea remedies for your house

The biggest problem that pet parents can encounter is that they can’t get rid of the fleas on their companions without getting rid of them from the living environment, too. Using chemical solutions to kill the fleas in your carpets or upholstery automatically calls for you moving out with your pets for at least a couple of days. Most insecticides are toxic, so do keep that in mind.

You can trap and kill some of the fleas if you use a shallow dish, fill it up with warm water and a little dish soap and then put it next to a light source. Most fleas are drawn to the light and warmth, so they will get close and jump into the liquid. It’s actually said that they confuse the higher temperature with a potential host.

Baking soda is an effective flea killer and repellent. You can sprinkle it on your carpets and upholstery before you vacuum your house. If you use a brush and rub it in, it’s even more effective. You can do the same with salt, but it’s not going to kill the flea larvae — just the adults.

Last, but not least, you can use diatomaceous earth. It can help you get rid of fleas, but it takes a couple of days to become fully effective. You can get rid of it afterward by vacuuming your home. Although diatomaceous earth is all-natural and technically non-toxic, it can still irritate both your eyes and your throat, and it goes without saying that it has the same effect on pets. Therefore, you can use it in a room, close the door, and not go in for two to three days, and then get rid of it by vacuuming.

For your yard, you can use garlic water, although some people might argue that this solution isn’t really that effective.