How To Tell If Your Cat's Secretly Sick

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. Find him online at He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (

Katie Kegerise, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Reading, PA, contributed to this article

It’s always shocking to me when I see an extremely sick cat, while the owner has not noticed any overt signs of illness. It just happened twice in the last couple of weeks. Paris, a 6 year old kitty, had a gigantic (benign) cyst on his liver. It was easily the size of both your fists, putting pressure on all of his belly organs. And Paula, a 12 year old cat, had a kiwi-sized cancerous tumor along her small intestine. In both cases, the first signs of sickness were noticed just 2 days before the surgery occurred!

And I’m not referring to neglectful owners. No, I’m talking about good, concerned, caring owners who just didn’t or couldn’t notice very early or subtle hints that something was brewing inside. Why is it so tough to identify those signs? Possibly because cats have kept the ability to hide signs so well, that they sometimes go unnoticed. Remember, when animals act sick in the wild, they get eaten. [Editor's Note: Remember, bringing your cat in for regular checkups is your best way to ensure you're catching problems as early as possible. Unfortunately, far too many cats go without, making it harder to impact the course of issues that occur.]

Let’s go over 10 common signs of illness in cats – although many of them also apply to dogs.

1. Change in appetite
Eating too much or too little can potentially signify disease. If you notice a change either way, you should notify your veterinarian. There are countless diseases that can cause overeating or losing one’s appetite. You veterinarian’s job will be to investigate why. This typically starts with blood work, X-rays and/or ultrasound.

2. Stinky breath
A foul odor coming from your kitty’s mouth can mean gum disease or tooth decay. Brushing your cat’s teeth is a good way to decrease those risks. Imagine if you went 5, 10 or 15 years without brushing your teeth! In addition, breath that smells like ammonia can be a sign of kidney disease.

3. Eliminating outside of the litter box
Causes of this annoying habit can be behavioral or indicate a disease. Discuss your pet’s symptoms with your veterinarian to rule out a bladder infection or urinary blockage before treating this as a behavior issue.

4. Weight change
Weight loss can be an indication of thyroid disease or worse, cancer. Weight gain or a growing belly can be related to various conditions such as pyometra (a uterus full of pus). Obesity by itself is detrimental to your pet’s health: it can lead to arthritis, tumors and a shorter lifespan.

5. Behavior change
If your normally social kitty suddenly becomes antisocial, there may be a medical reason. A classic sign of illness is hiding: kitty feels bad, tries to hide from “predators” and hides in a closet or under a bed.

6. Grooming change
Lack of grooming can cause a dull or greasy hair coat, which can indicate skin disease or other problems. Some cats over-groom and end up with bald patches. Skin parasites, like fleas or mange, or even stress can cause this behavior.

7. Activity change
A sudden increase in activity level in a middle-aged to older kitty can indicate an overactive thyroid. If your kitty seems less than enthusiastic about moving around or playing, it may indicate arthritis or other issues.

8. Sleep pattern change
If your cat seems to sleep all day when he used to be active, he may be trying to tell you he doesn't feel well. The opposite is also true. If your kitty is up all night roaming the house, vocalizing, or seems overactive during the day, there might be an underlying cause.

10. Voice change
Voice changes can actually indicate a problem. Normally quiet cats with an increase in vocalizations, or a usually chatty kitty which suddenly becomes quiet, might mean trouble.

Any of the above changes, whether slow or quick, should be a reason to take your cat (or dog) to your vet to investigate the cause and find a treatment as soon as possible.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Greyhound jumps for joy when owner puts on pants

A popular flea and tick collar is reportedly making thousands of pets sick and even killing some of them — and critics are blaming the Environmental Protection Agency for turning a blind eye to the problem.

The EPA, which is responsible for regulating products that contain pesticides, has received 75,000 incident reports about Seresto pet collars, developed by Bayer and manufactured by Elenco, since they were introduced in 2012, according to public records.

Those include 1,698 pet deaths and nearly 1,000 incidents involving harm to humans, according to an explosive report published Tuesday by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting and USA Today.

“After seven years of an increasing number of incidents, they are telling the public that they are continuing to monitor the situation,” Karen McCormack, a former EPA official, said of the agency, according to the report. “But I think this is a significant problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.”

Seresto, McCormack added, “has the most incidents of any pesticide pet product” she’s ever seen.

Keri McGrath, a spokeswoman for Louisville, Ky.-based Elanco, told The Post in an emailed statement that More than 25 million Seresto collars have been sold since they were approved in 2012. Figures cited in an incident report for last year amounted to “a fraction of 1 percent of users,” defined by the World Health organization as “uncommon,” she said.

“It is critically important to understand that a report is not an indication of cause,” McGrath said. “What those numbers represent is the number of reports received, and do not reflect causality.”

EPA officials appeared to downplay the incidents in a statement for the Tuesday report.

“No pesticide is completely without harm,” an EPA spokesperson said, according to the report, confirming that the agency has found the Seresto collars are “eligible for continued registration.”

“EPA ensures that there are measures on the product label that reduce risk,” the spokesperson added. “Some pets, however, like some humans, are more sensitive than others and may experience adverse symptoms after treatment.”

But in a statement to The Post, the agency appeared to suggest the lapse was a failure of the Trump administration.

“Under the Biden-Harris Administration EPA has returned to its core mission, which includes protecting our pets’ health,” the statement said. “We take every incident reported seriously and review these data to see whether action is necessary. EPA encourages pet owners to read the entire label before using the pesticide product and follow all directions carefully, including monitoring your pet after application to see if side effects occur. If side effects develop, the label tells the consumer to consult the pet’s veterinarian immediately.”

On Amazon, the Seresto has been the top-selling collar.

Rhonda Bomwell, of Somerset, NJ, said she lost her 9-year-old Papillon service dog, Pierre, after putting a Seresto collar on him in June, according to the report. A day later, Pierre had a seizure. She rushed him to the hospital but he died before he could get treatment. Bomwell didn’t think to take off Pierre’s collar at the time, the report said.

“I just didn’t put it together,” Bomwell said.

On Amazon, the Seresto has been the top-selling collar. Nevertheless, there have been many disturbing reviews about the collar, which is worn for six to eight months and slowly releases the chemicals onto the animal.

“10 days after placing the Seresto collar on my dog, she suffered a neurological problem diagnosed as meningitis of ‘unknown origin,'” one customer wrote. “She temporarily lost the use of her hind legs and vet bills have already exceeded $5,000.”

Another reviewer said, “Put this collar on my 10 pound Maltese and 14 pound Shih Tzu in May 2016. Within 3 days the Shih Tzu was laying in his bed all day whining and every time I picked him up he would cry out, as if he was in pain…. take the collar off, bathe him AND by the next morning he is back to normal. Called my Vet and Bayer and was told he must be allergic to an ingredient in the collar.”

How to Identify a Pedophile

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All parents want to protect their children from predators, but how do you keep your kids safe when you don't know how to spot one? Anyone can be a child molester, so identifying one can be difficult — especially because most child molesters are initially trusted by the children they abuse. Read on to learn which behaviors and traits are red flags, what situations to avoid, and how to deter child molesters from targeting your child.

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Losing a Pet — How to Help Your Toddler Deal With Death

Losing a pet is hard for anyone, but it’s an especially difficult concept for a toddler to grasp. That can make it pretty hard for you to help your darling deal with the death of a pet. First of all, how do you break the news? It might seem easier to work up a little white lie (“Lulu ran away, but she’ll find her way back soon!”), but experts advise being honest and upfront with your children (so you don’t have to keep fibbing when Lulu never returns). Here’s what to say and do about losing a pet.

  • Stick to the facts. Skip the TV-sitcom scenario (you know, the one in which the parents secretly replace the old pet with a look-alike), and instead give your child an age-appropriate explanation of what happened. Simply state the facts: Lulu was struck by a car, or had cancer and had to be euthanized, or died of old age. You don’t need to share the details, just tell your tot what she needs to know: “Lulu died. We’re very sad that we won’t see her anymore.” An older toddler or preschooler may want to know more, so you might explain that when animals get very old or very sick their bodies stop working. You could also read children’s books that help cope with losing a pet, such as Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant and I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm.
  • Don’t use euphemisms like “put to sleep” or “went away.” Those terms can confuse or scare your little one. You certainly don’t want her to be afraid to sleep or leave the house — or imagine that you won’t wake up should you catch a nap. Explain gently, and repeatedly if necessary, that Lulu died and she’s not coming back.
  • Encourage your tot to talk about her feelings. It’s okay to be sad or mad about the death of a pet, and make sure your child knows that. But don’t be surprised if your little one isn’t as upset as you are, especially if she’s very young. She’s probably not really grasping the concept of death or never being able to play with her pet again. Or she may not have the same emotional investment in your furry (or feathered) family member that you or your older child have.
  • Say goodbye. If you’ve made the difficult decision to euthanize your pet, be honest. Consider it a teachable moment for talking about suffering (books can help here, too). Then let your little one say her good-byes, and make sure she understands that Lulu won’t be coming back home.
  • Share your grief about the death of a pet. Learning how to deal with sad feelings is an important lesson for toddlers, so let her see that you’re sad. (After all, teaching your little one about compassion and empathy is one of the benefits of having a pet at all.) You can even cry a bit, but don’t lose control in front of her. If you feel the need to really weep, do so in private so she doesn’t get frightened on top of being sad.
  • Memorialize her pet. Sometimes it’s helpful for a toddler to say good-bye after losing a pet, perhaps by holding a simple ceremony to honor her pet’s life or by drawing a picture. Encourage this — and help her remember good times with the family pet, either by looking at photos or telling stories about the pet’s antics.
  • After losing a pet, take a break before getting a new one. Give your household time to grieve before bringing another animal into your lives. If and when you do decide to get another pet, let your tot know that it’s okay to still feel sad about the old one and be excited about her new four-legged friend.
One more thing to keep in mind when losing a pet: Expect all sorts of behavior — toddlers tend to hate any kind of change, especially sudden ones. Your tot might act out, be extra cranky, or have trouble sleeping when her much-loved kitty or pooch dies. Or she might get super-clingy — after all, if a pet can die, so can the people she loves. Help her adjust by being extra patient and reassuring.

What to do when your wife or husband says they are done and want a divorce

If your husband or wife clearly says they want a divorce, you have two options:

  1. Try to change their mind, or
  2. Accept that the marriage is over, and make plans to move forward with a divorce, and the rest of your life.

These are scary times. Do not pretend they will change their mind or get over it. it is time to take action.

Many unhappy couples seek out therapy, both individually and together, to work through their troubles. Even if you have both accepted that the relationship is over, a skilled therapist can be useful in defusing the anger, and helping you move forward in an amicable way, so that negotiations around the children and money are less explosive, and you can focus on how to manage co-parenting, as well as best practices for helping your kids move through this difficult period.

“My wife wants a divorce.”

If your wife wants a divorce, keep in mind that the old model in which women keep kids the majority of time, and dads see kids on weekends and pay child support (and possibly alimony) still stands. Call an attorney now. Take this seriously.

Case study of what not to do: I recent heard from a dad who started to go through a garden-variety separation when his wife relocated with their baby from their home in Seattle to live near her family in Alabama. The dad was desperate to reason with her and keep the marriage together, and instead of filing for divorce and custody in Washington, he followed her to Alabama to attempt to reason with her. By doing so, the jurisdiction for the case moved to Alabama where his chances of getting a fair time-sharing arrangement were far less than Seattle.

What to do when a husband wants a divorce — and you don’t

If you don’t already have a therapist you like, asking friends for a local referral is helpful. Your religious leader, or even a trusted mutual friend can help, too.

How do I change my husband’s mind about divorce?

First, you probably can’t change your husband (or wife’s) mind once they decide to move on.

However, online couples therapy offers the unique ability to communicate in a three-way call, video or text or email exchange with a certified and licensed therapist — without being in the same room as your soon-to-be ex. BetterHelp’s database of thousands of therapists serve individuals, couples and teens. Better Business Bureau A+ rating. Check out BetterHelp now >>

Regardless of whether you choose to fight to keep the marriage together, agree to separate and divorce, or are scared out of your mind about the future … call a lawyer. Call a few family lawyers near you. Most attorneys will take your call for free, and answer your questions without charge. This is not only a good way to get a sense of who you may hire to help with a divorce, but also whether you need a lawyer at all. But most importantly, a lawyer will answer your questions and help you understand what your life post-divorce will look like, taking much of the fear and uncertainty out of what is one of the most stressful situations you will face in your life.

As you speak with attorneys, as well as friends who have gone through divorces of their own, consider what type of divorce is right for you. Do you really need to each have your own litigator, and drag the issue out in court? Or would a mediated divorce, in which the two of you agree to work through the divorce details with a mediator?

Or, could you agree to an uncontested divorce, in which you both work out your own agreement and file yourself? Even in the most amicable cases, it is advised to pay an attorney to look over your documents to make sure that you are both protected, and that the papers are filed according to your state’s rules (so they are not rejected and you have to re-do them).

There are several quality online divorce apps. Here is what you need to know about filing divorce online, and our recommendations for the 10 best DIY online divorce programs.

Regardless of your path, start to educate yourself now about the divorce process, how property is divided in divorce, why shared parenting is usually best for kids, and how you can best move forward for a happy, healthy, independent life after.

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