Why is my cat still hacking?

July 2017, I discussed the topic of hacking cats and wrote more about hair issues and only briefly mentioned other causes. That blog has the 4th highest views on our entire website. People do not like hacking when it comes to their cats! It is messy and ruins fabric and carpets which can make having a cat less desirable. Follow this link to see how to handle hairball issues in your cat. If you have already made changes and are still dealing with a hacking cat, read on.

What other reasons cause cats to hack? This list is extensive and difficult to determine sometimes. One thing that owners can do after addressing a hairball issue is look at what the cat is eating.  If the cat is not dropping weight and acts completely normal but is vomiting up bile and/or hair on occasion, consider removing all treats, people food, and canned food first. Go for 2-3 weeks with only dry food and see if any vomiting occurs. If no vomiting, then you can feel confident the dry diet is not responsible.

The way to determine if it was one of those other 3 things is to add each one in separately and go for 2-3 weeks independently and see if any reactions occur.  For cats that act completely normal and are not dropping weight this method is okay while trying to figure out the puzzle. People food can always be a culprit especially if owners do not offer this to their cats regularly. Cats can be sneaky and mischievous and find people food on their own.  Once consumed it causes a digestive issue usually 2-3 days after the intake. It is not an immediate response like most people think.  It is important to watch friends, family, and young children who offer people food without your awareness. 

If doing these two things independently at home and your cat “is still hacking”, I would encourage you to seek veterinary care.  Cats can have other digestive or respiratory issues that can trigger hacking as well. We can have inflammation of the digestive tract that triggers vomiting of bile. We can have respiratory tract concerns that can trigger vomiting of a white foamy substance. Heart issues can cause cats to cough but after the cough some will spit up phlegm that is not yellow in color. This can be coming from the respiratory system. There are lung worms that can be present in a cat’s respiratory system. This is most common in outdoor or stray cats that have been introduced into your home.

Taking video of your cat during the episode can be helpful for your veterinarian to view.  These videos can help solve the puzzle. Paying attention to when they occur.  Does it happen with activity, after eating or drinking, after sleeping or resting, etc. What does it look like? Again, a photo can be helpful. We do not need to have you bring it in on a paper towel.  It is important to know what their stool looks like and the volume of stool. This is easy with one cat but can be complicated with a multi-cat household. Many times, an answer for hacking is not a quick and easy diagnosis. Getting frustrated with your cat or veterinarian is not going to fix the problem either. Switching from one cat food to another cat food or veterinarian to veterinarian is also a bad idea. This can prolong the situation and make it more challenging to control.

With many conditions in our furry friends, sometimes a cure is not meant to be but managing a condition with diet, supplements, medications, feeding routines can be achieved. One of my favorite diets to manage hacking of bile in cats is Royal Canin’s Hydrolyzed Protein dry cat food. This diet has allowed many cats to continue living in their homes and reduced the frequency, if not eliminating it completely, of hacking (vomiting) up bile. They cannot get any other foods or treats or people foods to be successful. It is a prescription diet and must be prescribed by your veterinarian.   If you are seeing more white frothy phlegm than bile in what is hacked up, this usually points to a heart or respiratory issue. It is important to seek veterinary care early since a delayed diagnosis can have long term complications.  Some of these episodes can occur seasonally and may be a form of asthma in cats. There is no one treatment fixes all “hacking cats”!  Just remember to be patient with your cat and your veterinarian as they help you work through all the causes of “hacking cats”.

Dog Bite Prevention Month

April 9-15th in 2023 is National Dog Bite Prevention week. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) cosponsors this event annually the 2nd full week of April. This week attempts to raise awareness on the high numbers of dog bites each year. In 2020, insurance companies paid out $853.7 million for 16,991 dog bite claims. The dog bite numbers are increasing but more importantly the dollars paid out for each claim has risen significantly. With the interest in taking our dogs more places this statistic is sure to grow over time. This number does not represent dog to dog fights which also involves cost of care to pet owners.

In March 2019 I posted a blog talking about dog bite prevention week coming up in April. This link will take you to that blog which has some great information about how to approach dogs: Dog Bite Prevention

Many of the dog bite events involve children. Dr Sophia Yin has some great posters centered around this topic. I have posted two here with permission from CattleDog Publishing to show how we should approach kid and dog interactions. If we focus on education about how to prevent dog bites, we can spare children having a lifelong fear of dogs related to these traumatic events. It has been noted that dog bites to children are as often from pets in their own homes as it is a stranger’s dog. These 2 following posters are a great reminder of how kids should and should not interact with dogs. Share this information with your families. If you see a child doing something that could trigger a bite, speak with the parents or the child to educate them on more appropriate interactions. This needs to be everyone’s mission regardless of your relationship with the dog or the child.

For many years I was involved in the Madison County Health Safety & Wellness Fair. Many professionals visited schools in the county and spent time educating the middle school kids about multiple topics. There were doctors, dentists, chiropractors, police, fire, ambulance, etc. that presented to the students. My topic each year was Dog Bite Prevention. I spent 12 minutes covering general information about what to avoid and how to protect yourself in the event of an attack. I sent home information with each student and we spoke to 6-8 different groups in a matter of a few hours. When covid hit in 2020, the program was halted and has not been restarted. It is necessary to somehow spread the word about dog bite prevention. If you have children or grandchildren share this information with them. Do not ever think that any dog is above biting.  Many people whose dogs have attacked people have said, “I do not know what happened. They had never done this before.” It can happen to you so be prepared.

Early intervention is still key when trying to prevent aggression with your dog. Spay and neuter since dogs left intact are 3 times more likely to bite. Take puppies less than 4 months of age to classes. It has been proven that early socialization to lots of people, other dogs, and new experiences helps make your dog more comfortable as an adult when introduced to new situations. Going to dog classes gets you time with pet trainers to ask how to deal with behaviors that are considered normal in dog world but unacceptable when interacting with people. Learn how to play with your puppy and what is not advised to prevent behavior issues. Classes often train the humans as much as we hope to train our puppies. If you get a puppy do not wait to start training. A puppy goes from 0-16 years of age in the first 12 months. We all know how difficult it can be to retrain a teenager SO START YOUNG.

Springtime Checklist for Poisons

March 20-26, 2023 is Pet Poison Prevention Week. Forty-six years ago the 3rd week in March was designated Pet Poison Prevention Week. Each year the Pet Poison Hotlines keep track of the most common pet poison calls. It is interesting to compare from year to year what the top accidental exposures are. They do not alter much from year to year. A few years ago though Cannabis entered the top 10 related to all the edible products that are now available for humans. With the online sales of CBD oil for anxiety and pain in canines there are accidental overdoses as well. 

It is noted that these are all accidental situations. No one offers these items to pets but our pets gain access to them one way or another. Puppies are the largest group involved because they chew and seem to be indiscriminate with what they put into their mouths. My suggestion is to get down at their level and look around to see what items my be in harms way. Check all rooms that the dogs have access to. Be certain to revisit these actions as the puppies grow since their reach increases as well. If visiting family and friends make certain to do a similar check in their homes and garages. With sheds and garages being open as warm weather increases these buildings are often a source of these toxins. Watch for access to neighbor’s buildings as well.

One common way to get pets to vomit up items they have consumed is to offer hydrogen peroxide orally until they vomit. My Weimaraner a few years ago gained access to my daughter’s gum in her room and I administered hydrogen peroxide orally until he vomited. I used up over 2/3rds of that bottle before he gave it up. I realize that seems like a lot but better to have him vomit then deal with the toxin going into his body. If your pet has swallowed gasoline or a caustic chemical, you should consult with poison control since those substances can cause more burning when coming back up again. I have used hydrogen peroxide to get a puppy to vomit back up a cat ball that he consumed to prevent a blockage as it moved through the digestive tract. Rat poison exposure is another good time to use the peroxide. If the time since consumption has been over 3-5 hours you will not gain anything by having them vomit. In those situations consulting with your veterinarian or the poison control would be advised. If you do not know exactly when it was consumed offering the hydrogen peroxide will not cause any permanent damage but may not be helpful either.

 The Pet Poison Helpline listed these as the top 10 poisons in 2022.

  1. Chocolate
  2. Grapes and raisins
  3. Xylitol – gum
  4. Ibuprofen
  5. Bromethalin – rat poison that causes brain edema – limited treatment options
  6. Marijuana
  7. Anticoagulants rodenticides – rat posion that causes clotting issues – have a treatment
  8. Vitamin D-3
  9. Onions/chives/leeks/shallots
  10. Carprofen

Item number 5 and 7 are confusing to people. There are differences between the poisons available to rid your home and buildings of rodents. The active ingredients sound similar but are very different in their toxicity to pets.  Brodifacoum is the active ingredient in anticoagulant poisons verses Bromethaliin. Bromethalin is a poison that causes lethargy, weakness, limb paralysis, tremors, seizures, coma, and even death at toxic levels of consumption.  Once this toxin has left the stomach, we do not have an antidote for it.  Please know what you are purchasing and how lethal the Bromethalin can be.

Another source that listed the top 10  poisons in 2021 was the ASPCA organization. This link will take you to their site. I like how they listed the items and gave more examples of what substances are important to consider.  Please take note of the plants listed and maybe visit the link provided to see a detailed list of toxic plants for pets. Many people are unfamiliar with what plants and flowers are a concern for our pets if consumed. Yet we may already have some of them in our home or landscaping.

In February 2017 my blog was about March being Pet Poison Month. I have attached the link since additional information is available there: March is Pet Poison Awareness Month

Spring is just around the corner so get outside and enjoy! Make certain to protect your pets so our children can enjoy their best buddies for years to come!  FYI – the photo is my oldest daughter with Coach from 1992. Weren’t they cute!

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