The Top 10 Cat Medical Conditions of 2009
JEN REEDERHaving a sick cat is a stressful experience, especially if you aren’t sure what is wrong or how to help. Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), a pet insurance company that receives more than 1 million claims each year, has compiled a list of the top 10 causes of veterinary visits by cats in 2009. That list, along with advice from a veterinarian about how to identify and treat each ailment, includes:
1. Lower Urinary Tract Disease
Signs of lower urinary tract disease, which is a general name for any disease of the lower urinary system, include straining to urinate, not producing urine, and/or spotting urine or blood. A veterinarian should be contacted as soon as any signs of disease are noted because causes of the disease include inflammation, infection, crystals and stones – and in male cats, inflammation of the urethra can lead to blockage, an emergency since it can lead to death.
Gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach tissue, and vomiting can lead to dehydration. “In my experience, most common causes of vomiting in cats include hairballs, dietary indiscretion – eating non-cat food items – foreign bodies, bacterial, parasitic or viral infections,” says Aman Sukhija, DVM, AAHA board of directors, president of VFVMA, and owner and medical director of Atlantic Animal Hospital, an AAHA-accredited Practice, and Atlantic Animal Hospital South in Florida. Stress and over-the-counter medications can also lead to stomach inflammation. Be sure to monitor your vomiting cat and take them to the veterinarian.
3. Chronic renal failure
This type of kidney failure is often caused by aging, as well as urinary stones, infection, thyroid disease and toxins. “At my hospitals, we recommend semi-annual medical evaluations and annual baseline lab tests for all cats over the age of seven,” Dr. Sukhija says. “Like all diseases, an early diagnosis can lead to better treatment and long term outcome.” Symptoms include increased thirst, weight loss, decreased appetite, vomiting and lethargy.
An overactive thyroid gland is usually caused by an overactive thyroid nodule, but can also be caused by cancer. Signs to look for include increased appetite, weight loss, and increased thirst and urination. Several treatments are available. Dr. Sukhija recommends doing lab screens for hyperthyroidism, especially for cats over seven years old. “Thyroid disease can also lead to kidney and heart disease, so early screening and diagnosis is very important,” he advises.
Cats usually contract Type-2 diabetes, which occurs when there is delayed or insufficient insulin secreted from the pancreas in relation to the cat’s blood glucose level. “Just like in humans, older and overweight cats are more predisposed to this disease,” says Dr. Sukhija.
Symptoms include increased thirst, urination and appetite, and weight loss, with later stages causing lethargy, depression, anorexia or vomiting – without treatment, it can even lead to death. Ask your veterinarian about blood screening to help diagnose the problem sooner for better treatment, which may include monitoring glucose levels, starting a special diet and insulin injections.
Enteritis, an inflammation of the intestines, can lead to diarrhea. Common causes include dietary changes or indiscretion, foreign bodies, or bacterial, parasitic or viral infections, as well as stress. Seek immediate veterinary treatment to avoid dehydration.
7. Skin allergy
“Cats can be allergic to pretty much anything,” says Dr. Sukhija. Common allergies include pollen, mold, fleas and dust mites. Your veterinarian can help you find the best treatment regimen, which might include medication in the form of pills or shots.
8. Periodontitis/dental disease
“The mouth is the gateway to the body, and dental disease can lead to heart, liver and kidney disease,” warns Dr. Sukhija. For this reason, routine dental evaluations and teeth cleanings as recommended by your veterinarian are extremely important. Dr. Sukhija recommends having dental x-rays performed when you go in for a cleaning since so much dental disease lies below the gums. Talk about preventative measures with your veterinarian, including water additives, oral sealants, flavored tooth brushing kits and dietary considerations.
9. Ear infection
Common culprits for ear infections include ear mites, bacteria and yeast. “In my experience, outdoor cats are more susceptible to ear infections than their indoor friends,” notes Dr. Sukhija. Your veterinarian can prescribe an ear cleaner, and routine cleaning can help prevent them.
10. Eye infection
“Eye infections can be caused by trauma, bacteria, viruses, allergies or a combination of these,” says Dr. Sukhija. See your veterinarian immediately if your cat shows any signs of eye irritation. Treatment will depend on the cause, but may include eye drops, ointments or oral medications.
Freelance journalist Jen Reeder’s cat Pretzel lived to be 20 years old thanks to regular trips to the veterinarian.
Note: All content provided on HealthyPet.com, is meant for educational purposes only on health care and medical issues that may affect pets and should never be used to replace professional veterinary care from a licensed veterinarian. This site and its services do not constitute the practice of any veterinary medical health care advice, diagnosis or treatment.