A health list for your kitty to avoid


A lot of people I talk to have been guessing what is on the list for the top 10 reasons cats are brought to the veterinarian.

Cat owners have no problem guessing the number one problem people bring their cats to the vet: Urinarytract disease. Using the term “bladder infection” is actually a misnomer. Infection means bacteria, and not many cats have urinary tract disease that is primarily related to bacteria.

The term Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) is used to describe the group of diseases we see in cats. The most critical syndrome is when crystals form in the bladder and cause obstruction of a male cat’s urethra. Urethral obstruction is a life-threatening situation and can quickly lead to death. Symptoms include frequent trips to the litter box, vocalizing when in the litter box and blood-tinged urine.

Many people mistake a cat straining to urinate as constipation and wait to take him to the vet. If your cat is showing any signs of straining, bring it immediately. When caught early, the illness is much easier (and less expensive) to treat.

For prevention, feed your cat a good-quality diet. Most quality diet manufacturers are aware of cats’ problems with urinary tract disease and have formulas that decrease risk by decreasing the amount of minerals in the diet that form the crystals and make the urine the proper acidity to prevent crystal formation. Once your cat has a urinary problem related to crystals, you’ll often need to have it on a prescription diet for the rest of its life.

Female cats also get bladder problems, but because of the difference in anatomy, they aren’t at a high risk of obstruction. The bottom line is if your cat is straining, make an appointment ASAP with your vet.

Stomach issues are the next most common cause for taking cats to the vet. Cats are experts at vomiting. My cats are especially good at coughing up hair balls in the middle of the night directly in the path of where I will step when I wake up. Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach) can have many different causes and often depends on the cat’s age, diet and lifestyle. If your cat is frequently vomiting or losing weight, schedule an examination. Don’t forget to take a fecal sample for evaluation. This is the first test to run on any vomiting cat.

Next on the list is kidney insufficiency/failure. Not to be confused with FLUTD, kidney insufficiency is often seen in older cats whose kidneys aren’t working well any more. It seems like their kidneys just wear out with age. This is definitely a case where early detection can make a huge difference in the long-term outcome. Blood and urine-testing are necessary to diagnose this condition. When caught early, therapy as simple as a special diet can slow the progression of the disease and improve the quality and length of the cat’s life. Later in the disease, much more intensive treatment is needed to try to stabilize the kidney function, and the prognosis is much worse when caught in the later stages.

Intestinal disease is next on the list and has the same “rules” as stomach problems. Outdoor cats are more prone to stomach parasites, and regular fecal-testing and monthly deworming is a great step to take against intestinal worms.

Diabetes Mellitus made it on the list. Risk factors include obesity and corticosteroid administration. So if your kitty is on the large side, you can help prevent diabetes by getting your cat on a weight-loss plan. If your cat has more than 10 percent of its body weight to lose, it is best managed by your veterinarian. Corticosteroid treatment is taken much more seriously because of the risk of causing diabetes, so your vet will usually discuss the risk versus benefit of using corticosteroids to treat other diseases and often choose a different treatment whenever possible.

Two preventable diseases on the list are ear infections and respiratory disease:

• Ear infections in cats are most commonly due to ear mites. There is a monthly medication that prevents ear mites, fleas and intestinal worms, called Revolution, available from veterinarians. I like it because it prevents multiple parasites, and all outdoor cats should be protected.

• There are vaccines to prevent the severity and spread of many respiratory diseases, so keeping your cat up to date on vaccines is appropriate. In addition, if you bring any new cats into the house, give them an “isolation” time of one to two weeks to prevent any new disease spreading to your current pets.

Hyperthyroidism is last on the list. Cats are unique creatures and metabolically different from other mammals. People and dogs are prone to have underactive thyroid glands, or hypothyroidism, as they age. Cats are prone to develop overactive thyroid glands (hyperthyroidism). Classic symptoms for hyperthyroidism are losing weight in spite of having a huge appetite. On physical exam, we can often feel enlarged thyroid glands and a fast heart rate. Basically, the increased thyroid activity puts the cat’s metabolism into overdrive – everything speeds up. For many of us, that would be a blessing to have such a fast metabolism that you can eat anything you want. However, the downside is the stress that is placed on the internal organs leads to serious consequences. Happily, this a treatable disease.

Melanie Caviness is a veterinarian and owner of Wilderness Veterinary Clinic. She can be reached at wildernessvet1@qwest.net