Cats, like humans, can experience a variety of health issues over the course of their lives. Knowing what to look for can make the difference between catching a problem early, when it’s usually easier and less expensive to treat, and catching it late when treatment is often more complex and the prognosis less certain.
This article will delve into some of the most common cat health problems, their symptoms, and when it’s necessary to take your feline friend to the vet.
Dental disease, particularly periodontal disease, is extremely common in cats, especially as they get older. It starts with the build-up of plaque that hardens into tartar, leading to gum inflammation (gingivitis) and eventually affecting the tooth’s support structures.
Symptoms: Bad breath, red or swollen gums, difficulty eating or chewing, drooling, or visible tartar on teeth. In advanced cases, you might notice weight loss or changes in behaviour due to pain.
When to see the vet: Dental check-ups should be part of your cat’s regular veterinary care. If you notice any of the symptoms above, schedule a vet visit as soon as possible.
Obesity is a growing problem in cats, with serious health consequences like diabetes, arthritis, and liver disease. It usually results from a combination of overfeeding and lack of physical activity.
Symptoms: Weight gain, lethargy, difficulty jumping or moving, increased appetite, and changes in grooming habits due to difficulty reaching certain body parts.
When to see the vet: Regular weight checks are crucial. If your cat is gaining weight or showing any signs of obesity, consult your vet for dietary and exercise advice.
Kidney disease, also known as renal disease, is particularly common in older cats. The kidneys filter waste products from the blood, which are then excreted in the urine. When the kidneys don’t function properly, toxins build up, leading to illness.
Symptoms: Increased thirst and urination, weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting, lethargy, bad breath with a chemical odour, and mouth ulcers.
When to see the vet: If you notice any signs of kidney disease, particularly in an older cat, take them to the vet immediately. Early detection and treatment can significantly improve your cat’s prognosis.
FLUTD encompasses a range of conditions affecting a cat’s bladder and urethra, including urinary stones and cystitis. It’s a common issue, especially in overweight and less active cats.
Symptoms: Straining to urinate, blood in the urine, crying out while urinating, frequent licking of the genital area, and urinating outside the litter box.
When to see the vet: FLUTD can become a life-threatening emergency if a cat becomes unable to urinate, which is more common in male cats due to their narrower urethra. Any urinary changes warrant an immediate vet visit.
Hyperthyroidism is typically a disease of older cats, resulting from an overactive thyroid gland producing too much thyroid hormone. It leads to a range of symptoms and can affect nearly all the body’s organs.
Symptoms: Weight loss despite increased appetite, increased thirst and urination, hyperactivity, unkempt coat, vomiting, diarrhoea, and rapid heart rate.
When to see the vet: If you notice any signs of hyperthyroidism, especially in an older cat, schedule a vet visit as soon as possible. Your vet can perform a simple blood test to diagnose the condition.
Preventative healthcare plays a pivotal role in preventing common health issues in cats. Just as in humans, early detection and prevention of disease can result in better outcomes and increased lifespan.
Here are some measures you can take to ensure your feline companion remains healthy:
Routine veterinary check-ups are essential to catch any potential health problems early. Vets perform a thorough physical examination, assess your cat’s weight and overall body condition, and may recommend blood tests or other diagnostics based on your cat’s age and health status. They can log all this information onto your cat’s microchip so that if anything happens, a vet can quickly check the microchip to see your cat’s medical history.
Vaccines protect your cat from many potentially serious and life-threatening diseases, such as feline panleukopenia (distemper), feline calicivirus, feline rhinotracheitis, and rabies. Your vet can provide advice on the appropriate vaccination schedule based on your cat’s age, lifestyle, and health status.
Routine dental care is vital in preventing dental disease. Regular teeth brushing, dental diets, and dental chews can help, but professional dental cleanings by a vet may also be needed. This procedure requires anaesthesia, so it’s something that needs to be scheduled well in advance.
Being aware of these common health problems and their symptoms can help you detect any issues early, when treatment is likely to be most effective. Regular vet check-ups are crucial as cats are masters at hiding pain and illness.
With good preventative care, a keen eye, and swift action when necessary, you can help ensure your feline friend stays healthy and content for many years.