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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

A Veterinarian's Perspective on Treating a Cat from Hell

It was an honor to be asked by Jackson Galaxy (AKA Cat Daddy) to contribute my holistic veterinary perspective to seasons two and three of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell(MCFH). First, I have to thank my friend, author, and dog trainer, Nikki Moustaki, for facilitating an introduction to Galaxy. Second, I want to stress to cat lovers worldwide how valuable it is that Galaxy understands the intrinsic connection between feline behavior and underlying medical abnormalities. If this was not the case, viewers might witness a less than ideal outcome for some of Galaxy’s challenging cases.

For those cats Galaxy suspects of having health issues potentially correlating with their "hellish" behavior, I was called upon to provide a diagnostic workup and commence treatment. In season two, I worked on Stella and Polly. Season three finds me with Molly, a senior, spayed female, Domestic Short Hair (DSH) living an exclusively indoor lifestyle in a Hollywood hills home with other cats and her two human caretakers.

The main issues for which Molly’s owners contacted Galaxy are her tendency to act aggressively when touched around her lumbar spine (lower back) and tail base, and her pattern of inappropriately urinating and defecating in places besides the litter box.

Molly appears good from an overall standpoint of health, yet many aspects of her physical examination require diagnostics and treatment to promote her best health.

Molly has problems common to many cats, which are currently contributing to her "cat from hell" tendencies, including:

1. Obesity

Too much food and too little activity has made Molly a fat cat with a Body Condition Score of 5 (according to the Ohio State University Nutritional Support Service scale). Obesity is an unfortunate feline disease, and, in Molly’s case, is a contributor to many other health issues. It is completely preventable and can be resolved. Unfortunately, some of the secondary issues associated with being overweight or obese may be irreversible.

2. Areas of pain along her back and hips

Molly’s radiographs (X-rays) reveal underlying changes consistent with chronic inflammation in the joints (facets) connecting her lower back vertebrae and the joint in her right hip. When touched or groomed in these areas, Molly reacts aggressively toward whomever is causing the painful stimulus. Pain in these locations can also alter her normal patterns and chosen location for urination and defecation.

3. Regionally dull and matted coat along with mild skin flaking

Molly’s large body size makes it difficult for her to groom herself, leading to poor skin and coat condition. Molly’s dorsal midline (center of the body tracing the spine) from the junction of her thorax (chest) and lumbar regions were most affected. Additionally, discomfort and lack of flexibility from the arthritic changes in Molly’s back and hip (and potentially other places that are not yet showing radiographic changes) make her uncomfortable and less able to normally groom herself.

4. Inappropriate urination

A bacterial urinary tract infection (based on urine culture), hind end arthritic issues causing pain while posturing to eliminate, and anal sac abnormalities all contribute to Molly’s tendency to urinate inappropriately (outside of the box).

5. Inappropriate defecation

Molly’s full, non-expressing anal sacs (which contain the foul smelling fluid produced by the anal glands) are causing her discomfort while producing a bowel movement. Her habit of pooping in places besides the box correlates to her lack of normal anal sac expression.

6. Periodontal Disease

Molly has mild to moderate periodontal disease. Gingivitis (gum inflammation) can cause pain while chewing and lead to general lethargy. Oral cavity bacteria enter the bloodstream through inflamed gum tissue and other ports of entry (broken and loose teeth, feline cervical lesions, etc.), and are unhealthy for her internal organs. She really needs an anesthetized teeth cleaning, followed by regular periodontal care. (See my petMD article: Top Three Tips for Pet Dental Care from a Veterinary Dental Specialist).

As I am a traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM) practitioner, Molly’s ailments are also evaluated from a non-Western perspective.

She is considered to be deficient in Yang (heating energy), more specifically Kidney Yang (arthritis/degenerative joint disease), Spleen Yang/Qi (unable to void her urine and BM as she should), and Wei Qi (energy to help fight off infection). Molly also has excess in Heart Yang, and a deficiency in Yin (cooling energy) has contributed her Shen disturbance (behavior issues). Yang energy is associated with heat, warming, drying, excess, and external, while yin energy is cold, cooling, moistening, deficient, and internal.

My treatment goals are to improve Molly's health and behavioral concerns through the integration of western and TCVM, including acupuncture, nutraceuticals ("supplements"), medication (antibiotics), Chinese medicine food energy, activity modification, weight loss, and eventual resolution of her dental disease and anal sac issues.

After Molly’s urine and blood samples were collected and her radiographs were taken, she received acupuncture treatment with a combination of needles and MultiRadiance Laser. She was very cooperative and her painful areas showed notable improvement post-treatment.

On follow up, Molly’s owner indicated that she’s been steadily improving. She has lost weight, completed her course of antibiotics (and had a negative follow up urine culture), takes her nutraceuticals (fish oil based omega fatty acids and a joint supplement), and has undergone anesthesia for a teeth cleaning and anal sac expression.

Thanks to the combined efforts of Jackson, myself, and other members involved in her care providing team, Molly is healthier, better behaved, and has an improved quality of life. Hopefully, with consistent effort and treatment, Molly will no longer be a "cat from hell."

Tune in to Animal Planet on Saturday, July 21 (2012) at 8 p.m. (E/PT) to see me and Molly on My Cat From Hell. If you are on Twitter, follow the hashtag #MCFH and @PatrickMahaney to join our conversation.

cat from hell, sick cat, patrick mahaney

Molly pops her head out of the carrier to greet her audience.

cat from hell, sick cat, patrick mahaney

Molly receives her laser and acupuncture treatment.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Image: Molly, the cat from hell

Comments  4

Leave Comment
  • Poor Molly!
    07/17/2012 06:59am

    That poor kitty had several problems all at once. No wonder Molly was cranky!

    It's my rule of thumb that for any litter box problem, the very first thing is a trip to the doctor to rule out or treat any UTIs.

    This is also an excellent example of why dental health is so important for our critters.

    I'm curious how long it had been since Molly had been for a full checkup.

  • 07/24/2012 03:18am

    Yes, it's so likely that a cat's less than desirable behavior (from inappropriate urination to aggression) has a correlation with underlying medical issues.
    Especially is true from the urinary front. I'm always flabbergasted when I hear owners atomically default to the behavior option in these cases.
    Molly did have follow up with the veterinarian that had been treating her (yet may not have been aware of Molly's problems as worked up on the show) before I got involved, as she needed a dental cleaning and anal sac expression.
    Thank you for your comments.
    Dr PM

  • Great diagnosis!
    07/18/2012 05:01pm

    Great diagnosis and workup Dr. Mahaney! Sounds like she is getting the much needed appropriate treatment especially since she is in her "golden years." Hopefully the other cats in the household will also benefit health-wise from your fantastic holistic insight after they see Molly's transformation.

  • 07/24/2012 03:21am

    Thank you for reading and sharing your comments Dr Scheff!
    You know me! I have to give the full Chinese medicine diagnosis. It was so ingrained into my head during IVAS that I am trying to carry on the tradition in my cases and media projects.
    Too bad that viewers of Molly's episode of My Cat From Hell only caught a quick glimpse of the needle and laser treatment. Molly was SO cooperative and her painful areas melted away.
    I hope to see you back again on my petMD The Daily Vet page.
    Dr PM


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