Cats just wanna have fun and adventure but at what cost? Not all cats are as intrepid but cleverly cautious as Gris Gris. He’s never taken a misstep on his outdoor jungle-gym. But cats are curious and known to tread where they shouldn’t. This brings us to this week’s Vet 101 reader question from our cat expert and vet Dr. Richard Goldstein. To learn more about him, click on the Vet 101 tab above. He also addresses Vaccine-associated fibrosarcomas or VAS this week. Have a question? Send it to Layla@laylamorganwilde.com
Q: During the recent hurricane, our cat ran into the basement (unfinished) to play in the puddles and returned with very dirty paws. We used a mild soap and sprayed water to rinse but they’re still quite dirty. Any suggestions for cleaning and could there be any danger from him licking anything toxic?
A: Well, I guess your kitty has debunked the theory that cats hate water! You did the right thing by using a mild soap and water. Who knows what can be in puddle water! There can be oils and toxins that run off from the streets (motor oil and antifreeze can be deadly!), parasites and bacteria that can live in the water, and sometimes even sewage (that happens a LOT when there are big storms and the sewers and storm drains overflow). Since cats are such avid groomers, anything they get on their feet has the potential to cause problems not only from absorption through the skin, but also through ingestion. So, it’s very important for us to clean their feet for them to avoid these potential hazards. It’s also important to keep this in mind when selecting a product to clean the feet with.
Depending on what was stepped in, a non-detergent based dishwashing soap like Joy will often help with cleaning. Shampoos that are safe for cats can be very effective for cleaning the feet. If your kitty likes the water, letting the feet soak in a little water with Joy for a few minutes may allow the debris to be more easily rinsed off (you know, like Madge in the old Palmolive commercials?). Pet wipes or hypoallergenic baby wipes can help too. In cases of an oily or sticky substance, this can be tricky. Peanut butter often works, and can fairly easily be washed off with warm water. The important things to remember are: don’t use anything caustic or abrasive (no nail polish remover or turpentine!), and make sure you thoroughly rinse it off and dry the feet.
Editor’s Note: Since most cats don’t like water, make sure the water temperature is comfortably warm but not too hot. I find paper towels more absorbent and malleable for drying in between toes than a thick towel.
Vaccine-associated fibrosarcomas (VAS)
Vaccine-associated fibrosarcomas are very rare in cats, but the subject nevertheless warrants attention. Over the past 15 years or so, research has suggested that the formation of the tumors was often caused by a combination of the adjuvant in the rabies and leukemia vaccines – the other “stuff” in the vaccines that makes the body mount an immune response to the disease being vaccinated against – and the genetics of the individual cat. In many cases the adjuvant was aluminum-based. In some multi-dose vials of vaccine, it was suggested that the amount of adjuvant may have been higher in the doses from the end of the bottle than the beginning, especially if the vial wasn’t shaken thoroughly before drawing up a dose. To combat these findings, many drug companies have changed their method of vaccine manufacturing.
Today, many vaccines are non-adjuvanted (like Merial’s Purevax Rabies) and come in single-dose vials (most companies have adopted this policy). Merial also came out with an “intradermal spray” leukemia vaccine, and Heska came out with an intranasal FVRCP vaccine, that avoid injections under the skin. All of these changes have resulted in a significant reduction in the number of vaxosarcomas seen in recent years. In addition, changes in vaccine protocols and strategies have reduced the incidence of tumors. Every cat does NOT need every vaccine every year. As we’ve discussed before, it is essential to have a frank discussion with your veterinarian about your cat’s lifestyle and risks, and decide which vaccines are needed, and how often. By adhering to the AAFP vaccine guidelines, avoiding unnecessary vaccination, and addressing any lumps and bumps that develop as soon as possible, we can significantly minimize the risk of vaxosarcoma development. The benefits of vaccination against the core diseases far outweigh the risks of developing a vaxosarcoma.