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Turkish Van Cat Health Problems: 8 Vet-Reviewed Issues

Written by: Chantelle Fowler

Last Updated on January 4, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Turkish Van sitting in the garden

Turkish Van Cat Health Problems: 8 Vet-Reviewed Issues


Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet) Photo


Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The Turkish Van cat breed is relatively healthy. These beautiful yet rare cats are still susceptible to many of the same health issues that cats of any other breed are, though.

Today we’re going to provide information about some of the more common health conditions to keep an eye out for in cats, as well as the most common conditions Turkish Van cat owners put health insurance claims in for, according to ASPCA Pet Health Insurance.1

Keep reading to learn about the common health issues you might encounter if you own a Turkish Van.

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The 8 Common Turkish Van Cat Health Problems

1. Elevated Liver Enzymes

ASPCA Pet Health Insurance deals with a lot of insurance claims for elevated liver enzymes in Turkish Vans. Elevated levels of liver enzymes can be caused by a few different conditions.

Neutrophilic cholangitis can either be acute (ANC) or chronic (CNC). This condition occurs when there is inflammation in your cat’s bile ducts or gallbladder.

Cats with this condition will often show the following symptoms:
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal pain

Their blood tests will indicate elevated liver enzymes and liver function tests may show damage that makes the liver unable to perform its tasks.

Hepatic lipidosis is another disease that causes elevated liver enzymes. This condition is also sometimes known as fatty liver syndrome and is unique to cats specifically. It causes severe impairment of the health and functioning of a cat’s liver and can be fatal if not promptly treated.

According to Cornell Feline Health Center, more than 90% of hepatic lipidosis cases are a secondary consequence of a different underlying condition such as obesity, hyperthyroidism, or diabetes.

The most common symptoms of hepatic lipidosis include:
  • Poor appetite
  • Recent weight loss
  • Reclusiveness
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Muscle wasting
  • Jaundice
  • Drooling
white turkish van with curly tail
Image by Gabriele M. Reinhardt from Pixabay

2. Respiratory Issues

Respiratory issues are another common reason that Turkish Van owners make insurance claims.

All cats, not just Turkish Vans, are susceptible to respiratory infections according to Pets at WebMD. Respiratory infections in cats are similar to colds in humans, but they can become much more serious.

These infections can be caused by viruses and bacteria that target your cat’s upper airway instead of their lungs. Viral infections are much more common than bacterial, with the feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus causing around 80%-90% of all upper respiratory infections in cats. Most cats that contract the herpes virus will carry it with them for the rest of their lives, potentially spreading it to their feline housemates, even if they’re not showing symptoms.

These viruses can be transmitted between cats just the same way our human cold viruses are transmitted, through coughing, sneezing, or sharing food bowls.

Chlamydia and mycoplasma are the two main bacteria that cause upper respiratory infections in cats. These infections are common in animal shelters and homes with multiple cats.

Your Turkish Van may be experiencing a respiratory infection if he’s exhibiting any of the following symptoms:
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Drooling
  • Nasal and eye discharge (colored or not)
  • Fatigue
Turkish Van
Image Credit: platinumportfolio, Pixabay

3. Cancer

According to PetCure Oncology, over six million cats are diagnosed with some type of cancer every year. The good news is that, just as with humans, many cancers can be treated if they’re caught early enough.

Lymphoma, squamous cell carcinoma, bone cancer, and mast cell tumors are the most common cancers in cats.


Lymphoma is a form of blood cancer that originates in the lymph nodes and causes them to swell. Cats are more likely to develop gastrointestinal lymphoma affecting the lymph nodes of the gut. The lymphatic body system’s main job is to maintain the flow of fluids throughout your cat’s body, which also prevents the circulation of harmful agents. A lymphatic system that doesn’t work correctly could be circulating cancerous cells throughout your cat’s body.

Many vets believe that lymphoma is related to exposure to the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) as well as the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, although there are many cats that are negative for these viruses that develop lymphoma. There is now a vaccine that protects against FeLV, so both of these viruses are seen less frequently today.

Symptoms of lymphoma are often missed as cats are very good at hiding pain. These symptoms may differ depending on which organs are being affected by cancer.

The most common symptoms to look out for include:
  • Progressive lack of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a tumor that occurs in your cat’s skin cells. Tumors can develop anywhere that these cells are present, including the nail bed, eyelid, nose, eye corners, and even ear tips. SCC tends to develop in areas of your cat’s body that have few hairs or hairs that are lightly pigmented.

SCCs usually present as a sole lesion on one single location. There is one type of SCC called multicentric squamous cell carcinoma that can present itself in multiple locations throughout your cat’s body. This condition is known as Bowen’s Disease and is rare in cats.

Both types of SCCs can metastasize to other organs so it’s important to catch this form of cancer early.

According to PetMD, SCCs are seen more often in cats living at higher altitudes and in felines that enjoy spending time in the sun. Cats with white fur, like many Turkish Vans, are also more likely to develop these tumors than other colored cats.

The common symptoms of SCCs include:
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Sores where there is white or light-colored hair
  • Skin color changes with ulcers
  • White-colored growths

Bone Cancer

Osteosarcoma is the most common type of primary bone cancer according to PetCure Oncology. It accounts for over 95% of all bone tumors in cats. It can develop in any bone in your cat’s body and tends to be very aggressive and fast-spreading.

In cats, 90% of all bone cancers are malignant and capable of spreading to other areas of the body. This is why early detection is so vital. The most common location for osteosarcoma is the hindlimb, but they can also develop in the skull, ribs, vertebrae, and pelvis.

Signs and symptoms of osteosarcoma will vary from tumor site to tumor site.

Some of the signs to be on the lookout for include:
  • Swelling or lameness of the affected bone
  • Difficulty eating (if the tumor is affecting the jaw)
  • Breathing difficulties (if the tumor is affecting the rib)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Mast Cell Tumors

Mast cells are a type of white blood cell that are a part of a healthy cat’s immune system. Sometimes, however, mast cells can become one of two types of tumors—those that affect your cat’s skin (also known as cutaneous mast cell tumors) or those that affect their internal organs (visceral mast cell tumors).

Cutaneous mast cell tumors account for around 20% of all skin masses in cats with 90% of them being benign. They can form anywhere on your cat but are most often found on their head, neck, or body. These masses are small, firm, and raised. Some will become incessantly itchy, which will cause your cat to itch and chew at it to try and find relief.

Visceral mast cell tumors are most often found in the spleen, though they can sometimes develop in the intestine or liver. These internal tumors are more serious than those found on the skin.

Both the cutaneous and visceral forms of mast cell tumors can be excised via surgery and may require follow up chemotherapy or radiation.

Common symptoms of these types of tumors include:
  • Itching (cutaneous)
  • Lesions (cutaneous)
  • Weight loss (visceral)
  • Vomiting (visceral)
  • Diarrhea (visceral)
  • Black or bloody stool (visceral)
Turkish Van Cat side view
Image Credit: Luis Echeverri Urrea, Shutterstock

4. Ear Infections

Ear infections can occur in different parts of your cat’s ear. Otitis Externa is an infection that occurs in the outer portion of the ear. Otitis Media occurs in the middle section. Otitis Interna occurs in the inner area.

Otitis Interna is rarer than other ear infections in cats, but it is very serious as it can cause hearing loss and balance issues. This infection is sometimes caused by an immune disorder or an abnormality in the formation of the inner ear.

Ear infections in cats are most often caused by overgrown bacteria or yeast. Environmental allergies, immune conditions, ear mites, and ear canal polyps are other common reasons your cat may develop an ear infection.

Symptoms of ear infections to be on the lookout for in your Turkish Van include:
  • Smelly ears
  • Black or yellow discharge
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of balance
  • Redness around the ear
  • Ear discharge
  • Excessive wax
  • Black specks in the ear (ear mites)
  • Head tilting to one saw
  • Pawing at or rubbing the ear
Turkish_Van Cat
Image Credit: Katzenfee50, Pixabay

5. Diabetes

The fifth condition that many Turkish Van owners put in health claims for is diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus happens when your cat’s body can’t produce or respond to the hormone insulin. This then causes an increase in sugar glucose levels in your cat’s blood. Just like humans, your cat’s body cells need sugar in the form of glucose for energy. But, elevated levels of glucose in their blood require insulin to balance the blood sugar levels.

Cats with Type I diabetes have problems producing insulin which then causes high levels of blood glucose concentration. Type I diabetes is rare in cats, according to VCA Hospitals.

Cats with Type II diabetes experience high glucose levels because their bodies do not respond the way they should to insulin. Their bodies either cannot produce the proper amount of insulin or their organs and tissues have become insulin-resistant, resulting in the need for higher-than-normal amounts of the hormone to properly process glucose.

The most common signs of feline diabetes include:
  • Weight loss despite normal appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
Turkish Van
Image Credit: Pxhere

6. Obesity

Obesity is a major disease that contributes to many illnesses and deaths in cats. It can cause arthritis, diabetes, hepatic lipidosis, and other serious life-threatening diseases.

Unlike some of the other conditions above, obesity is entirely preventable. Keeping your cats active and engaged can help them stay healthy and keep a trim body, too.

If your Turkish Van is already overweight, you will need to take action to regulate his food intake and increase his physical activity. You’ll want to talk to your vet about the best course of action to encourage weight loss. You shouldn’t put an obese cat on a weight loss diet without approval and supervision from your vet.

7. Dental Disease

Dental disease is a very common medical condition in cats. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, more than half of cats over three years old will develop dental disease. The most common diseases include gingivitis and tooth resorption.

The problem with feline dental diseases is that many of them present themselves in a way that is undetectable to their owners. These conditions are often only diagnosable via full oral examination at the vet’s office under general anesthesia.


Gingivitis is the medical term for gum swelling. It happens most often in senior cats when excessive plaque causes the gums to swell, bleed, and turn red.

Gingivitis is the result of plaque accumulation throughout the years. It can occur on its own or be affected by other conditions like tooth resorption, fractured teeth, and infectious diseases.

Symptoms of gingivitis include:
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Bad breath
  • Plaque build-up on teeth

The easiest way to prevent gingivitis is through daily teeth brushing.

Tooth Resorption

Tooth resorption occurs when your cat’s body breaks down and absorbs tooth structures. This process will usually start in the enamel along the gum line and will continue to the middle of the tooth. It will eventually cause holes in the affected teeth and tooth loss.

Tooth resorption is a very painful condition, but it can be hard to identify since cats are so good at hiding when they’re in pain.

Some of the symptoms of tooth resorption include:
  • Difficulty eating
  • Turning their head to the side when eating
  • Dropping food while eating
  • Chewing slowly
  • Anorexia
  • Bleeding
  • Excessive drooling

There is no way to prevent tooth resorption in cats but committing to daily teeth brushings can help decrease plaque build-up to slow the development of periodontal diseases.

close up of a turkish van cat
Image Credit: mammela, Pixabay

8. Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is the most common cardiac disease in cats, according to the Cornell Feline Health Center. While it is more prevalent in breeds like Maine Coons, Ragdolls, and Sphynxes, it can develop in any breed.

The effects and prognosis of cardiomyopathy can vary considerably from cat to cat. Proper diagnosis and prompt treatment can decrease the likelihood of your Turkish Van experiencing life-altering symptoms and will improve their quality of life.

Some cats with this condition will not present with any symptoms at all. Some might show signs of congestive heart failure such as rapid breathing, breathing with their mouth open, and lethargy. These symptoms occur when fluid starts accumulating in and around the lungs.

There is no cure for this condition, but a personalized treatment plan can help you to manage your cat’s clinical symptoms.

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Final Thoughts

While we reviewed a lot of scary health conditions, it’s important to remember that your Turkish Van is not predisposed to develop any of these conditions or diseases because of his breed. The eight health problems we looked at are common in all cats. With regular check-ups by your vet, many of these conditions can be caught early and treated successfully.

Featured Image Credit: Vadim Petrakov, Shutterstock

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