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Few things concern pet owners more than seeing symptoms that may lead to a sick cat or kitten. Therefore, it’s vital that you understand how to prevent and treat common feline diseases.
When your cat’s eyes are dilated, when she’s feeling lethargic or when you think you’re seeing symptoms of a more serious feline disease, it can be paralyzing.
So, how do you decide what’s serious and what is normal as your cat ages? Here’s your guide to understanding, preventing, and treating common feline diseases.
Symptoms to Watch Out For
There are serious symptoms that should never be ignored in your cat. A symptom is defined as “any problem that can indicate an underlying disease” and may be your first clue to the presence of a life-threatening problem in your cat.
Here are five symptoms of common feline diseases that should never be ignored (see more here):
- Not Eating or Loss of Appetite
- Trouble Urinating
- Losing Weight
- Breathing Problems
Identifying Common Feline Conditions
If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above in your cat, please see your veterinarian. There are also warning signs for other common feline diseases that you need to know how to recognize:
Renal Disease. Kidney failure is a problem that affects all breeds and ages of cat, although older pets are more frequently diagnosed with the condition. Common signs include weight loss, increase in water intake and urination, and vomiting.
Vomiting. At one time or another your cat may have a bout of vomiting. Usually he’ll have eaten something disagreeable, eaten too much or too fast, played too soon after eating or any number of non-serious conditions. Vomiting may be a sign of a very minor problem. If the vomiting continues after your pet eats, or if your pet acts lethargic or doesn’t want to eat, medical attention is warranted.
Diabetes. Affecting both humans and cats, diabetes is a chronic condition in which a deficiency of the hormone insulin impairs the body’s ability to metabolize sugar. Common signs include vomiting, weight loss, lethargy and increased thirst.
Diarrhea. This is another one of those conditions which comes up nearly every day in veterinary practice. Diarrhea results from excessive water content in the feces and is a significant sign of intestinal diseases in cats.
Upper Respiratory Infection. This is often a complex variety of diseases affecting the nose, throat, and sinus area. These infections are quite common and very contagious. They are especially prevalent in areas associated with overcrowding and poor sanitation. Cats at increased risk include those in catteries, from rescue shelters, and in outdoor feral cat populations.
Hyperthyroidism. If your adult cat suddenly begins to lose weight despite a voracious appetite, he may have a hormone problem. In particular, he may be suffering from an overabundance of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism is most common in cats over 9 years of age.
Urinary Tract Infection. Inflammation of the urinary bladder, sometimes called a urinary tract infection, is one of the top reasons for cats visiting the vet. The most common cause of lower urinary tract symptoms in cats is feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC), a condition which has no known cause. Common signs include frequent trips to the litter box, straining to urinate and urinating outside the box.
Pancreatitis. This condition results from sudden inflammation of the pancreas and is characterized by activation of pancreatic enzymes which can cause the pancreas to begin digesting itself. The pancreas lies in the upper abdomen and its inflammation commonly causes vomiting, nausea, weight loss, and lack of appetite.
Ear Infection. Otitis externa, commonly known as an ear infection, is characterized by inflammation of the soft tissue components of the external ear canal. It is characterized by red or swollen ears, excessive scratching or grooming in the area, and a foul smell or discharge.
Conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the tissue coating the eye and lining the eyelids. It results in inflammation, pain, discharge, and general discomfort.
When you own a cat (or a dog, bird, reptile, rabbit, or fish), you should be aware that your pet can have an effect on your health by infecting you with certain diseases. These are called zoonotic diseases, which are animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
You may already know about some of the more common zoonotic diseases: Lyme disease is a bacterial disease transmitted by tick bites; malaria is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito, and bubonic plague is transmitted by rats, or rather by fleas that become infected by biting the rats.
However, you should also be aware of several common zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted by your cat. Most common are:
Cat Scratch Disease. A bacterial disease caused by bacteria carried in cat saliva. The bacteria can be passed from a cat to a human through biting or scratching.
Rabies. A viral infection caused by a virus found in the saliva of infected animals and is transmitted to pets and humans by bites. Infected bats, raccoons, foxes, skunks, dogs, or cats provide the greatest risk to humans.
Toxoplasmosis. A parasitic disease you can acquire from soil or other contaminated surfaces by putting your hands to your mouth after gardening, cleaning a cat’s litter box, or by touching anything that has come into contact with cat feces.
Ringworm. The most common zoonotic disease transferred from animals to humans. It is a contagious fungal infection that can affect the scalp, the body (particularly the groin), the feet and the nails. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with worms. The name comes from the characteristic red ring that can appear on an infected person’s skin.
All animals can acquire zoonotic diseases, but animals at increased risk include: outdoor pets, unvaccinated animals, pets that are immunocompromised (a suppressed immune system), poorly groomed animals and animals that are housed in unsanitary conditions. People with immune disorders, on chemotherapy or immunosuppressive therapy may be at increased risk of infection.
Animals with zoonotic diseases may exhibit a variety of clinical signs depending on the type of disease. The signs can vary from mild to severe. As a pet owner you should know your animal and be aware of any changes in behavior and appearance.
Special Considerations for Senior Cats
Someone once said that cats don’t age; they grow more refined. Either way, as time progresses, certain illnesses can develop. By being aware of some concerns regarding older cats, you can be a more educated and prepared guardian for your aging companion. It’s important that your elderly cat receive routine veterinary care and periodic exams to keep him healthy.
Here are some of the most common feline diseases known to afflict older cats (see the full list here):
Nutritional Concerns. Obesity is a very common and serious concern in the older cat. It directly correlates to a decreased longevity, and may contribute to other problems. Overweight cats are more likely to become diabetic, suffer from liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) or feline lower urinary tract disease. Proper nutritional management is an important part of the care for your senior cat, especially since it is something that you can control.
Dental Disease. Dental disease and gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) are common findings in the elderly cat. Untreated dental disease leads to tooth loss, and may serve as a reservoir of infection for the rest of the body, posing a risk to other body systems.
Kidney Disease. Kidney disease is a very common finding in the older cat. With early detection, special diet and treatment, many cats can do well. Kidney disease is one of the primary reasons veterinarians recommend screening blood tests in older cats.
Resources for Common Feline Diseases
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