Wednesday 19 October 2011

Cat Health Problems

Photo: Priority Pet Hospital
Cat health problems from the perspective of a cat owner usually revolve around a core set of issues. There are obviously many possible cat health problems but there are some mainstream problems that crop up time and again. There are also cat health problems that are associated with specific cat breeds; the Siamese and Persian are two well known breeds that have more than their fair share. These are genetically linked diseases in purebred cats. We should have a general knowledge of what to look for in a healthy cat.

As cat owners (I prefer cat caretakers) we don't often have to deal with cat health emergencies. Perhaps other people do but I don't. Not much happens in the way of emergencies. I had to take a stray cat, Timmy, to the vet for a cat abscess acquired in fights and my lady cat broke a bone in the foot once jumping off a fence. That is it.

However it probably makes sense to keep a cat first aid kit. Few people will, though. Dealing with a cat in an appropriate way after suffering an injury and before getting her or him to the vet is important. Burns and broken bones can occur in and around the house.

One fairly commonplace health emergency is cat poisoning. My mother's cat died from a poison. Poisoning can be accidental or deliberate. There are a host of items in the house and garden that can poison a cat.

Signs of dehydration can be considered an emergency. In countries such as the USA cats can suffer bites from insects and spiders etc. that can cause severe health problems.

One core cat health problem is worms! Those horrible parasitic creatures that we hate. I am talking about gastrointestinal parasites. They are many and varied. We should have a reasonable understanding of these parasites and think about deworming treatments. Another type of parasite that lives in the gastrointestinal tract is the protozoan toxomplasmosis gondii. This is far more common that we care to think. Both people and cats have been exposed to this parasite. People say that pregnant women should get rid of their cat. I disagree with this. There are some misconceptions about toxoplasmosis.

Most cat health problems concern infectious diseases. There are a number of bacterial diseases and bacterial infections can follow injury and viral infections. The mainstream viral infectious diseases are fairly well known, Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (Feline Aids or FIV), Panleuk or Feline Panleukopenia also called feline distemper, FeLV and the upper respiratory tract infections (URIs). Pink eye or conjuncitivitis is common. The herpes virus and calicivirus are major culprits.

Cat scratch fever is something we can get from our cat and is a bacteria. Cat ringworm can also be acquired from our cat (zoonotic disease).

Cat vaccinations are important of course but they are about risk management. We shouldn't automatically assume that our cat, no matter what her age or lifestyle, should be routinely vaccinated year in and year out. Vaccinations carry risks to health.

Shelter cats and multi-cat households are exposed to contagious diseases. This is a real cat health issue that should be recognised by people adopting from shelters and people assisting in homeless cat adoptions.

An easy diagnostic tool is the condition of your cat's coat and skin. Cat coat shedding is governed by light. The cat flea is perhaps the biggest single nuisance to cat owners and their cats. Fleas can bit people. Some cats are allergic to fleas. The flea is part of the tapeworm life cycle. We need to use flea treatments carefully and treat the environment and the cat in unison. Hair loss in cats can be due to a wide variety of cat health problems. Allergies and over grooming are two causes. Many vets would say that cat food allergies are a growing cat health problem. This is due to modern ways of manufacturing cat food. Raw food is best but it carries risk. If fleas are bad ticks are horrible. They need careful removal and can cause disease in the cat and us.

Cat eye disease is a cat health problem that I have not had to deal with personally but it is worth knowing a bit about these diseases. This page lists them all.

Cat ear mites are nasty and cause great discomfort in our cat. We need to be alert to them. Deafness in cats, particularly blue eyed cats is also something that it is good to be aware of. Deaf cats cope well. Male cats can acquire damaged ears in fights over territory. That is why they fold them down and back before fighting and it is why the cat abscess is often on the ear.

With regards to the cat's nose, the obvious cat health problem is discharge from it due to a URI. When the cat is healthy, should the nose be wet or drySneezing, if persistent, is an obvious sign of ill health.

The biggest cat health problem concerning the mouth is periodontal disease - gum disease. Teeth and gums should be checked regularly. Some cats are genetically predisposed to gum disease. Cats sometimes have pigmented mucous membranes inside the mouth which is normal and healthy. Drooling is a sign of ill health and is not normal. It could be caused by gum disease or an obstruction.

Regarding the digestive system, cats are good at vomiting. It is normal to a degree. When should we be concerned that vomiting is a sign of ill health? Food allergies are not uncommon. Hypoallergenic cat food will be prescribed. IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) is on the increase. Is it due to modern cat food? Doing our cat litter provides us with the chance to check on our cat's health by monitoring our cat's stool. Is there diarrhea or constipation. A good stool consistency is important - blood?. As is regular and normal urination. Flatulence is normal to a certain extent. But needs dealing with if excessive. Feline diabetes is also on the increase as is cat obesity. Is cat food the reason? Dry cat food high in carbohydrates can cause sugar diabetes.

A cat coughing persistently needs attention and cat purring is not always associated with contentment. Different types of abnormal breathing gives us clues as the reason. Feline asthma is more accurately called feline allergic bronchitis.

Regarding the circulatory system, we can check our cat's heart beat - pulse as a health monitoring process. We can also check for heart murmur. Heart murmur can be a symptom of HCM. HCM is not uncommon in purebred cats particularly Bengal cats. See also cat heart disease. Feline anemia is often one symptom of a serious infectious disease preventing the production of red blood cells. Heartworms are a cat health issue as well.

Regarding the nervous system a typical injury is to the spine in a car accident. The tail can get trapped pulling on the spinal cord causing paralysis. Seizures are discussed on this page and feline stroke. Maine Coons can suffer from spinal muscular atrophy. Feline cerebellar hypoplasia is a nervous system disease that we should be aware of.

With respect to the musculoskeletal system declawing immediately comes to mind. It is a cruel and unnecessary process. Also what comes to mind is the fairly common hip dysplasia in cats and patella luxation in large cats especially purebred cats such as the Maine Coon. Burmese cats can suffer from hypokalemic myopathy and the Devon Rex from hereditary myopathy.

The urinary system is an ever present and major area of concern with respect to cat health. Feline kidney disease is a major cause of death in cats.  PKD (polycystic kidney disease) is routinely dealt with in Persian purebred cats. Feline cystitis is a urinary tract disease caused by a bacterial infection. It can be caused by a constant diet of dry cat food. Carefully prepared raw cat food is the best but carries risks too. Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is one of the core cat health problems.

Most of us will not deal with cat pregnancy and cat neutering is unfortunately essential. A cat in heat behaves in a very noticeable way. Ideal kitten food can include raw cat food in my opinion. If you are breeding sexing a kitten is important! And home made kitten formula may come in handy. Fading kitten syndrome is an important area.

Old cats bring new cat health problems one of which is dementia. Urinary tract problems are common for old cats. I have a page on geriatric cats.

You can buy certain medications over the counter but seek veterinary advice where appropriate. Good nutrition is essential to good cat health. What is the best canned cat food in the USA and the best dry cat food in that country?

Cancer is one of the major causes of cat fatalities in part because of FeLV. Feline fibrosarcoma are highly malignant, highly aggressive, tumors. This page discusses cat health and cancer and lists the types.

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