Health Problems In Cats
by: Ron King
It may come as a surprise, if you're a new cat owner, that many health problems
may befall your feline friend. Some problems are easily preventable, while
others are hereditary.
Hairballs are among the most common of cat health problems. Cats groom
themselves almost constantly, and swallow the loose hair that comes off their
tongues. Occasionally, the hair gathers into a ball and lodges in the cat's
digestive tract instead of passing on through the body. If your cat starts
coughing and hacking, he probably has a hairball. While the end product is
unpleasant for the owner, most cats don't have a problem dislodging hairballs.
However, hairballs can occasionally pass into a cat's intestines and cause a
blockage. This can be a life-threatening problem. There are a few signs to look
for to see if your cat's hairball is dangerous. If your cat is constipated, off
his feed, or is lethargic with a dull coat, then he could have a serious
blockage. A vet exam is definitely in order.
To prevent hairballs, groom your cat frequently to remove loose hair. In
addition, feed your cat food that helps control hairballs.
For many cats, worms are a recurring problem. Roundworms, tapeworms, and
hookworms most commonly infect cats. Cats can occasionally develop heartworms,
as well. If your cat seems unable to gain wait, is infested with fleas, or has
white specks that look like grains of rice in his stools, take him to the
veterinarian for worm testing.
Worms are easily cured with a few doses of medication, but if left untreated,
they can be fatal.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections are another common health problem in cats. This
infection is particularly common in unneutered male cats, although female cats
can also develop this problem. If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box,
a urinary tract infection is suspect. If your cat's urine smells strong, again
a urinary tract infection may be the cause. These infections need to be treated
by a veterinarian. Ask about cat foods that reduce the likelihood of another
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
FIP is caused by a mutation of the corona virus. According to some experts,
cats living in multi-cat environments tend to test positive for enteric corona
virus. Cats can live with that virus remaining quietly in the intestines with
no sign of disease for their entire lifetime. In other cases, probably a
genetic pre-disposition, the virus mutates into FIP.
Once a cat has contracted FIP, it will display symptoms of a mild upper
respiratory infection: sneezing, watery eyes, and nasal discharge. It may also
have diarrhea, weight loss and lethargy. Most cats fully recover from this
primary infection, although some may become virus carriers. A small percentage
of exposed cats develop lethal FIP weeks or even years after the primary
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus
FIV, or cat AIDS, is not always fatal. FIV decreases the ability of the cat's
immune system to fight infections. Cats with FIV may remain free of symptoms
for years. It is when the cat contracts other illnesses in the chronic stage of
FIV infection that FIV is first suspected. This long list of illnesses includes
oral-cavity infections, upper-respiratory infections, weight loss, ear
infections, kidney disease, and many others. Although there is, as yet, no
vaccine, all cats should be tested for the virus. The virus is transmitted
through saliva, usually when a cat is bitten in a cat fight.
Feline Leukemia Virus
FLV was, until recently, the most common fatal disease of cats. But with a
vaccine now available, the number of cases is dwindling. Although the name
leukemia means cancer of the white blood cells, this is only 1 of the many
diseases associated with this virus, such as other types of cancer, anemia,
arthritis and respiratory infections. FLV is preventable if the cat is
immunized before being exposed to the virus. Although the disease is not always
immediately fatal, cats with FLV rarely have a long life expectancy. NEVER
bring other cats into your household when you have a cat with FLV.
If your cat spends time outdoors, you should check him regularly for ticks. If
you find a tick on your cat's body and he has been lethargic and acts as if he
is in pain, ask your vet to test for Lyme Disease. This disease is transmitted
to people and animals by deer ticks.
Some cats may show subtle symptoms while others may show none -- symptoms are
hard to recognize and often may be confused with other illnesses or old age. Be
observant of your pet's behavior. It is the only way to know if your pet has
contracted Lyme disease if no tick was found. Some symptoms of Feline Lyme
reluctance to jump or climb stairs,
limping, or reluctance to put weight on a paw,
loss of appetite.
The key to dealing with Feline Lyme Disease is prevention and early diagnosis
and treatment. You should reduce the tick population around your home with
simple landscape changes and spraying.
Taking your cat for a regular check-up with the vet, and keeping all
vaccinations on schedule will help assure your cat a long and healthy life.
Prevention is the first line of defense for most feline illnesses.
Many owners keep their cats indoors to protect them from cars, from cat fights
which may expose them to deadly viruses, from ticks, and other hazards.
Outdoor cats will enjoy greater freedom, but require a watchful eye, loving
attention to their health status, and regular visits to the veterinarian.
About The Author
to learn more. Copyright 2005 Ron King. Ron King is a full-time researcher,
writer, and web developer.