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What can I do for my apartment cat during the heatwave?

A -- Our house cats evolved from desert-dwelling cats so they are much more adapted to handle the heat than we are. They often lay around quietly and eat a great deal less. You can help by keeping fresh air circulating with open windows or fans. If your cat can tolerated having its feet wet, then moisture you apply will cool as it evaporates. Change the water bowl frequently and consider adding ice cubes.

The heat can make an underlying disease a clinical problem by allowing the cat to dehydrate slightly. Kidney disease is an example. Temperature extremes that might occur in an air tight second floor apartment can cause hyperthermia. Panting, depression, or signs of heat exhaustion should promote an emergency call to a veterinarian.

W. James Brown, DVM

Hare hair

Q: My rabbit keeps getting his droppings caught on his back end and it really stinks. I don't know why he won't keep himself clean, but now he's got a real mess of filthy hair clumps that are wet with urine back there and the skin looks raw wherever I can see it between the clumps. How can I get him to clean up?

A: By the time you read this in print, I hope you have taken him to a veterinarian, because this condition is very serious! Some rabbits have spinal problems that affect the nerves to their back end. They may be unaware of the mess because they don't feel it. They may not be able to turn and clean themselves without pain. Spinal problems in rabbits may respond to veterinary treatment, depending on whether the nerves involved are destroyed or just injured. Arthritis or obesity can also contribute to this condition.The mess you describe can be a serious problem in itself, as it leads to severe skin sores. Often flies are drawn to the smell and may lay their eggs in the moist debris. The eggs hatch into maggots which then begin to eat the rabbits's skin and deeper tissues. This could kill a rabbit very quickly. It is crucial to for underlying problems and also to have the hind end shaved to keep the area clean and dry and allow healing. If your rabbit responds to treatment, he may resume self-maintenance. If not, you may have to do it for him regularly.

Melinda R. Burgwardt, DVM

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