Top Health Problems for Cats
Despite the popular saying, cats do not have nine lives. So, if you’re a cat lover like me, you want to do all you can to keep your furry companion healthy and to stay informed about possible health threats in order to keep her around for as long as possible. Regular veterinary care is the main resource in this endeavor, but it doesn’t hurt to learn more about some challenges she may face.
While they do have a hardy nature, cats are vulnerable to a number of health concerns. Let’s take a look at some of the more common conditions.
Lower Urinary Tract Disease
There are several issues that can affect a cat’s urethra and bladder. They typically come about spontaneously and affect both male and female cats, ages one to 10. The exact cause can be difficult to diagnose since the same symptoms can apply to several different infections and the feline urinary tract responds to various outside influences, says PetMD.
- Not using the litter box
- Straining without producing urine
- Excessive licking of the genital area
- Painful urination
- Blood in urine
Your veterinarian will first try to identify the cause of the symptoms, which may include urinary tract blockage, bladder stones or infection. Your cat may need pain medication, antibiotics or a procedure. Going forward, you may consider dietary changes or encourage more water intake. “Canned food is less often associated with urinary tract problems because of its increased water content,” according to the Cat Hospital of Chicago.
You may not have realized there are even supplements to support healthy bladder function in cats. If you want to try a more natural approach to begin with, check out Bladder Support for Cats. I have personally had success by eliminating grains and gluten from my cat’s diet. My boy cat Harris, had a couple urinary tract infections and after reading numerous articles, I decided to try eliminating grains from his diet. Amazing . . . he hasn’t had an infection in well over two years. So you might try dietary changes first before resorting to supplements or medications.
Diabetes mellitus is fairly common in cats. It tends to affect males more so than females, and cats over the age of 4 years, especially if the cat is overweight. It seems like a disease that might creep up and go unnoticed for months before some of these obvious symptoms appear.
- Increased thirst
- Increased volumes of urine
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
- Abnormal walk
- Increased hair loss
Depending on your cat’s situation, treatment generally consists of dietary changes and, for some cats, oral therapy or insulin injections. A large part of the decision is based on how early you catch the condition, as well as your personal and financial commitment.
Dietary carbohydrates can have a detrimental impact on your cat’s blood glucose balance and insulin response. Many commercial cat foods, especially Kibble, can be quite high in carbs, so your veterinarian may suggest a low-carb diet. According to CatInfo.org, “Cats are obligate carnivores and are not designed by nature to consume a high carbohydrate diet or one that is water-depleted (dry kibble).”
Just as in humans, diabetes is more common in overweight cats than those closer to optimal weight, so watch your cat’s weight. Again, avoiding excessive carbs can also help here, as extra carbs are stored as fat.
For these reasons, a grain-free diet may be beneficial for your cat. I personally found the EVO brand of cat food to be the lowest carbohydrate cat food available in our area. Even more so than the brand the vet had recommended (and sold). You might find other options near you. Changing to wet food from dry food may help as well I’ve read.
It’s also important to know that the earlier your cat’s diabetes is treated, there is a greater possibility that they may go in to remission with their diabetes. Paying close attention to your cat’s health is the best prevention of a serious condition. If your cat’s blood glucose is not too high, you might try a product that also helps support blood sugar close to normal ranges like Blood Sugar Gold.
This one seems relatively easy to spot however it takes an observant owner to catch this one early. Much like humans, cats tend to favor joints and limbs that bother them. So you might not notice they aren’t following their usual behaviors in playing or navigating around the house.
- Swollen joints
- Problems getting up, climbing or jumping
- Muscle wasting
- Reclusive behavior
- Problems grooming due to mobility
Treatment for feline arthritis is very similar to human osteoarthritis. I have heard many pet owners giving their pet the same glucosamine that they are taking for themself. It appears that this is ok, at least according to Drs. Foster & Smith. There are several pet arthritis supplements available though if you want to be quite certain it is safe for your pet. Options include glucosamine, msm, curcumin and boswellia blends.
Just as you would for an aging relative, you can help them by making their surroundings more accessible and convenient for them. Put their feeding and water dishes at a convenient height and spot. Try to put all of their daily needs (litter box, scratching post, etc.) on the same level of the house so they don’t need to navigate stairs needlessly.
Feline Leukemia Virus
The Cat Hospital of Chicago explains, “There are three major disease categories associated with the feline leukemia virus … leukemia, lymphoma, and non-cancerous diseases and health conditions.” Leukemia is a cancer involving the white blood cells. Lymphoma is a cancer that typically begins in lymphoid tissue and goes on to affect other organs. Other diseases and health conditions that a cat can normally fight off can present themselves because of a suppressed immune system.
- Poor appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Drooling/mouth pain
- Poorly healing infections
When feline leukemia virus leads to cancer, your veterinarian may suggest chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or immunotherapy. Other health conditions acquired due to low immunity are treated as appropriate.
Obstructive Lung Disease
Asthma and bronchitis affect many cats, particularly those from two to eight years of age. These conditions are characterized by hyper-responsive airways, where the bronchi react to certain stimuli becoming inflamed. The Cat Hospital of Chicago lists these as: inhaled debris or irritants (dust from cat litter, cigarette smoke, perfume or hairspray, carpet fresheners, flowers, and perfumes in laundry detergent; pollens, molds, weeds, grasses; infectious agents (viruses, bacteria); and parasites (heartworms, lungworms).
- Respiratory distress
- Poor appetite
- Mouth breathing
- Blue-tinged gums
Your veterinarian will work to control or manage the symptoms with bronchodilators, corticosteroids, oxygen and such. It is up to you to identify and eliminate the actual cause to avoid future reactions. In addition to the irritants listed above, gluten and grains of any kind from food are also potential causes. Some pet medical facilities offer allergy testing, which can help you determine the type of allergen involved.
Renal insufficiency or renal failure is especially common in geriatric cats. The process usually develops over months to years. Essentially, the kidneys lose their ability to remove waste products from the blood due to age-related changes in this organ. These conditions were not common 20 or more years ago, as today’s cats are living so much longer. A source of confusion with renal insufficiency and renal failure is that the cat still has the ability to urinate, and may even produce large volumes in its body’s attempt to rid waste products that are accumulating in the blood, according to the Cat Hospital of Chicago.
- Increased urine output
- Increase in water intake
- Watery-looking urine
- Loss of appetite (more advanced renal failure)
- Lethargy (more advanced renal failure)
- Weight loss (more advanced renal failure)
- Depression (more advanced renal failure)
- Poor coat (more advanced renal failure)
- Vomiting (more advanced renal failure)
- Bad breath (more advanced renal failure)
Unfortunately, the Cat Hospital of Chicago reports that urine specific gravity, BUN and blood creatinine tests do not detect renal failure until over 75 percent of kidney function is lost. Newer tests are available that may detect renal insufficiency much earlier. While there isn’t a cure for this kidney disease, your veterinarian will work to manage it. The aggressiveness of treatment depends on the cat, the severity of the problem, and your willingness and ability to provide treatment. These include but are not limited to: fluid therapy, renal diets, antacid meds, potassium and vitamin supplementation, anabolic steroids and kidney transplant. Pet Wellbeing even makes a product called Kidney Support Gold for Pets that may be helpful for your aging pets.
One thing I have found over the years (with a variety of cats) is that if you see a noticeable difference in your cats behavior, it bears watching. Now that you have a better idea of the common cat health concerns to watch out for, and possible ways to avoid them, I hope you are able to enjoy many more quality years together!
Meet a 28-year-old cat here!
Natural Healthy Concepts offers many healthy cat products you may want to consider to help your cat make the Guinness World Records!
If you’re a fellow cat lover, I’d enjoy hearing about the ways you are keeping your feline healthy. Comment below!
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