Standard Health Problems To Keep An Eye Out For In Your Cat
Thankfully, cats are typically healthy animals but just like us, every one of them will experience some kind of health problem whether it be big or small, in their lifetime. The positive news is that you can take action to prevent some of these illnesses from occurring altogether, and minimizing the harmful effects that others may cause. We wanted to compile a list of the most common types of cat health problems to look out for and what to do if your cat contracts them. We're all in this together and we know how stressful and sad it can be to have a sick pet so we hope this list helps you if and when you need it!
Just like with us humans, allergies can come in all shapes and sizes. If your cat has an allergy, you, unfortunately, can't cure it but you can give them some relief by identifying the cause and removing it from your pet's environment. There are four main types of allergies that cats suffer from:
Contact Allergy - This is when your cat's skin is irritated by something that it touches such as a blanket, collar, or counter surface. The symptoms include itching, thickened or discolored skin patches, hair loss, and a possible odor.
If you realize your cat has these symptoms you should identify the cause by removing different materials that touch the irritated area, one by one, and noticing whether the symptoms clear up. Once you've determined what the culprit is, keep it away from your pet in the future.
Food Allergy - This is when your cat develops an allergy to something contained in its food, oftentimes an animal protein. Symptoms appear as itching paired with digestive issues and respiratory problems.
If your cat appears to have these problems, consult your vet immediately. They may put your pet on a special hypoallergenic diet, or a series of diets until you find one that doesn't cause an allergic reaction. To be able to tell clearly the results, while each diet is being tested, make sure your cat eats only those foods included in the prescribed diet -- no treats or table leftovers.
Inhalant Allergy - This means that your cat is allergic to substances in the air, this can range from outdoor substances like pollen to indoor contaminants like dust, fungus, mold, or mildew. Your cat will itch severely which can result in bald patches.
If you have an outdoor cat that is sensitive to pollen, you want to keep them indoors during highly pollinated seasons. If your cat is irritated by indoor allergens, running an air purifier may help ease their symptoms. This may also help cut down on the outdoor allergens that make it into the house.
- Flea Allergy - Some cats can be allergic to proteins in the saliva of fleas which can come into contact with the cat's skin when they're bitten. Your cat will severely itch in response to this. We've listed a variety of flea remedies a little later on in the article.
Another similarity us humans share with cats is arthritis. Your cat's joints become sore and inflamed which can cause swelling and pain. You may notice that your cat avoids jumping, stretching, or any act that strains their joints. They might dislike being touched or held or display a depressed or irritated attitude. The effect areas might also be warm or hot to the touch.
If you're concerned your cat may have arthritis, consult your vet. They'll be able to clearly determine if your cat has arthritis and recommend treatment. They could prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication or suggest alternative therapies like herbal supplements, massage therapy, or acupuncture. We suggest never offering your cat medications or supplements designed for humans or prior to consult with your vet, both of these can be very harmful to your kitty. In some very serious cases, surgery might be appropriate. You can also arrange your cat's habitat to better support their arthritis. For example, you might elevate their food and water dish to a height where they can eat and drink without bending. You can add cushions or padded surfaces to areas they frequent or sleep on. You can swap their litter box out with one that has low sides to make it easy for them to climb in and out.
Back again to those pesky little pests, fleas. They manage to find their way into your cat's fur and make it a home and dig in to make them very difficult to remove for good.
Symptoms your cat has been infested by fleas is itching, and this can be passed on to fellow pets and human family members, especially if the fleas have migrated to the furniture within your home. What to do when this happens? Get rid of them! Eliminate the fleas from your pet and it's environment as much as you can. Ask your vet for recommendations or have them prescribe an effective treatment and repellants that are cat-friendly. Be careful about what kind you decide to use as the wrong type or strength level can be irritating at best and fatal at worst. It may not be your favorite activity but incorporating more baths can also be a strong defense against fleas in the future.
There are two pretty broad categories of worms that can cause issues among cats and cat owners. Your cat might be lucky enough to never be bothered by either but it's best to be educated on them just in case.
- Heartworm - Heartworm is developed and born via mosquitos in which worms infest the anima's heart and nearby blood vessels, often with fatal results. Symptoms including coughing, rapid breathing, vomiting, or weightless but the disease is tricky to detect and diagnose. If you think your pet could possibly have a heartworm know that there are no drugs currently approved for treating heartworms in cats. The best option is to prevent your cat from catching a heartworm, your vet can prescribe a preventive medication for you to provide your cat once a month.
Feline Urological Syndrome (FUS)
This is a general diagnosis label to cover one of several disorders that affect the cat's urinary tract. Some of these disorders can be potentially life-threatening so it's important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. Those include difficulty urinating, urinating in small amounts, or urinating outside the litter box possibly in a sink or bathtub. Sometimes the appearance of blood can show in the urine.
If you've found these symptoms, consults your vet immediately because these disorders can quickly become dangerous and must be treated quickly and properly. Your cat could be from a possible infection like cystitis which is an inflammation of the bladder, to a full urinary blockage. Urinary blockages occur when crystalized minerals irritate the bladder and urinary tract, clogging the tract and preventing the outward flow of urine.
The inability to urinate or to urinate quickly can lead to a buildup of toxic wastes in the bloodstream which can quickly lead to a tragic result. The best to tackle FUS is to prevent it! The combination of regular access to clean water, a well balanced and natural diet, a clean litter box, and appropriate exercise all can go a long way to fighting off FUS.
There are a variety of worms and other parasites that can infect your cat's stomach and intestinal tract. These worms are typically transmitted through contact with other animal feces, which for curious little animals, can be more often than not.
If your cat has been infiltrated by a parasite you may see changes in their appetite, diarrhea, weight loss, or occasional coughing but otherwise healthy cats may not show any signs. Sometimes you can see parasites like tapeworms visibly in their bowel movements. You can help prevent this by taking your cat in for regular veterinary checkups. Your vet will be able to determine whether they have parasites by taking and analyzing a fecal sample. These checks are usually done several times in a cat's first year and then annually after. If the test does come back with a positive result for parasites, the vet will likely prescribe the appropriate medication to safely rid your cat's system of whichever type is present.
To prevent parasites from infecting your pet, keep the cat away from places where other animals have left feces. We recommend adding the occasional probiotic to their diet to help support a healthy intestinal flora year-round.
Giardiasis (More Rare)
Giardia is a parasitic infection linked to gastrointestinal tract disease. This can be contracted via direct or indirect exposure to an infected animal. Indirect means things such as sharing a litter box or drinking from the same water bowl. An outdoor cat who eats its prey is also at an increased risk for giardiasis. It has one major symptom being diarrhea. If you have a multi-cat household or an outdoor cat it's best to vaccinate them.
Calicivirus and Herpesvirus
These viral infections of the upper respiratory system can lead to serious complications if not treated. Extremely contagious, they easily spread from one cat to another and are thought to cause 80 to 90 percent of infectious feline upper respiratory tract disease. Your cat may start sneezing, have runny eyes and nose, and possess a fever.
If your cat shows symptoms of calicivirus or herpesvirus, seek veterinary care promptly. Most cases can be treated successfully, though kittens are at greater risk for severe cases. Once infected, many cats carry the virus for life and can infect other cats. That's all the more reason to prevent this disease by getting your cat vaccinated, and keeping it away from unvaccinated cats.