Prevention and early detection are the keys to good pet health. The more aware you are of the most common cat ailments and symptoms, the better you can respond to feline health problems before they become life threatening. Here’s a rundown of the five most common cat health problems and how to detect them.
Veterinarians treat cat skin problems more than any other feline health problem. If you groom your cat regularly, you will often discover skin problems while they’re still easily treatable.
Itching and hair loss are the tip-offs to most dermatological conditions. You may also notice dry skin, flakes, redness, oily hair, pimples, blisters, scabs, or foul skin odor. If your cat scratches, bites or chews at herself persistently, you should look for the source of the irritation and take appropriate action.
Your vet can help determine what’s causing the inflammation. Most commonly, it will be one of the following:
- Flea allergies,
- Food or environmental allergies,
- Abscesses from bites or scratches, or
- Ringworm (a fungal infection).
Early treatment is essential both for your cat’s well-being, and to ensure it is not a condition that can be transmitted to you or your other cats.
Parasites are one of the most common health problems in cats, usually in the form of fleas and ticks. Flea infestations can result in tapeworms and cause anemia (especially in kittens). Ticks can also cause anemia and transmit Lyme disease.
Cats who suffer from flea or tick allergies may require treatment with antihistamines or steroids to get the inflammation under control.
Of all the common cat diseases and health problems, flea and tick infestation is the most easily prevented. Keep your cats indoors, apply flea and tick treatment regularly, wash your cats’ bedding weekly, and treat your carpets, drapes and furniture with diatomaceous earth (a natural, non-chemical flea killer).
Feline hyperthyroidism is the most common feline endocrine disorder. It occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, usually in senior cats.
Symptoms include increased appetite, unexplained weight loss, increased thirst and urine output, vomiting, lethargy, weakness, and a dull coat. It’s important to see the vet if these symptoms are present because the condition places excessive stress on the heart and other organs when left untreated.
There are three treatments to which most cats respond very well: medication with Methimazole, surgery, and radioiodine treatment. Of the three, radioiodine treatment is the most effective. It’s non-invasive and returns more than 95% of treated cats to normal thyroid function with no further treatment or medication required.
Recent studies show that as many as 40 to 50 percent of cats are overweight. Feline obesity is most commonly a result of free-feeding (leaving dry food out and available for your cat 24/7), high-carb dry foods, and a sedentary lifestyle. Spayed and neutered cats are more vulnerable because of their lower calorie requirements.
According to the Winn Feline Foundation, obese cats are four times more likely to develop diabetes mellitus, twice as likely to suffer non-allergic skin conditions and are at risk for the liver disease hepatic lipidosis.
Canned cat food is typically a better food choice for a cat who’s getting a little pudgy, and “senior” formulas have fewer calories. If your cat will only eat dry food, choose one that is high in protein and low in carbs, and feed measured amounts morning and night instead of leaving the 24-hour buffet open. Increase her energy output through daily play sessions that include a lot of running and jumping.
If your cat is already obese, consult with your vet on a weight loss program.
Many Common cat Diseases and Health Problems are related – directly and indirectly – to obesity, so keeping your cat trim will ensure better overall health and lower vet bills.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Diseases (FLUTDs)
Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is an umbrella term for a number of conditions affecting the feline bladder and urethra including Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC), urinary stones and urethral obstruction.
Cats with FLUTDs usually exhibit signs of difficulty and pain when urinating and urinate frequently. Blood is often observed in the urine. Affected cats might lick their genitals excessively, and will often urinate outside the litter box.
FLUTD is most common in middle-aged, overweight cats who use an indoor litter box, have restricted access outside, and eat a dry food diet. Providing a fresh, clean water supply (cat fountains are excellent for this) will increase water consumption, which helps keep FLUTDs at bay.
Although no one knows exactly why, stress seems to be an important factor in the development of Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC). If your cat has had FIC in the past, be vigilant for symptoms during period of stress including household moves and the addition of new household pets.
FLUTD can sometimes be life threatening if not treated within 24 hours, so it requires immediate veterinary attention when symptoms are observed.
Most cats will experience at least one of these health problems in her lifetime. If your cat is young and in good health, consider pet health insurance. It will provide peace of mind knowing that most of your veterinary expenses will be covered when seeking treatment for these common ailments.