What’s Making My Cat Sick? The Most Common Diseases of Cats
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease is the most common ailment of cats. It can be caused by a number of processes including: inflammation of the bladder, bladder crystal formation, stones, or urinary tract infection. Feline lower urinary tract disease is closely linked to stress in cats. Anything you can do as a cat owner to eliminate stress can help prevent illness (Learn how to reduce stress). The signs of feline lower urinary tract disease can include: urinating outside of the litterbox, licking at genitals, blood in urine, frequent trips to the litter box, a low long meowing sound. Some cats develop life threatening disease where they become blocked and cannot urinate. If you notice any of these signs, seek veterinary help immediately.
Upset Stomach is the next most common illness we see in cats. It can be caused by number things including allergies to food, infections, eating spoiled food, or kidney disease. The signs can include decreased appetite, decreased water consumption, vomiting, and diarrhea. Treatment depends on the cause and can include anti-vomiting or anti-diarrhea medicine, fluids if your cat is dehydrated, and sometimes antibiotics. If your cat is showing signs of an upset stomach for more than a day you should see your veterinarian.
Chronic Kidney Failure is the third most common malady in cats and the most common disease of older cats. The cause is not fully understood, but it is known that early detection can really affect the long term outcome. At our practice, through early detection and simple interventions, many cats have lived for years with chronic kidney failure. Since cats show signs of illness subtly, your cat’s annual exam and bloodwork can help your veterinarian intervene early to prolong your cat’s life.
Diarrhea has a variety of causes. Some of these causes can be food allergy, bacterial overgrowth, worms, eating spoiled food, or an infection. Treatment again will depend on the cause. You will need to visit your vet to get worked out, but some of the treatments may include fluids, antibiotics, anti-diarrhea medication, and a bland diet.
Skin Disease is 5th most common reason cats visit our practice. Skin problems can have a variety of causes including fleas, ticks, mites, bacterial infections, food allergies, other allergies (pollen, house dust mites, molds), fungal infections like ringworm, and more. A physical examination by your veterinarian can often determine the cause. Sometimes tests need to be run to sort it out. Treatments may include flea/ tick/mite control products, antibiotics, anti-itch medication, food trials, and antihistamines.
Diabetes is very common in cats and is highly associated with being overweight. It is also a disease of older cats. The signs include increased thirst, increased appetite, weight loss even though your cat is eating, and urinating excessively. Thank goodness it is a treatable disease. However, the treatment of diabetes can be very expensive. The best prevention is to keep your cats thin.
Constipation is very common in older cats. It can be caused by your cat being arthritic and painful. It actually hurts to assume the position to have a BM so he cat holds it in too long. Some cats loose colon motility and have trouble emptying. A physical examination can really help determine why your cat is constipated. Your cat may be treated with fluids, an enema, a diet change, GI motility medication, arthritis medication, and stool softeners.
Ear Infections are pretty common in cats. You cat is likely to be shaking his head, scratching at his ears, hate having his ears touched, and have dirty ears. An examination by your veterinarian, which will include looking into the ear with an otoscope, is necessary to diagnose the cause. Bacterial infections, yeast infections, and mites (in that order –it’s not always mites) are the most common causes. Sometimes cats can have foreign bodies, polyps, or masses the ear. A swab of the ear is needed to look microscopically. This is how your veterinarian can figure out what organism is the cause and then prescribe the correct medication.
Upper Respiratory Infections are very common, especially in kittens under a year. Sneezing, nasal discharge, and runny eyes are the most common signs. Some older cats chronically have symptoms. The most common cause of upper respiratory infection in cats is a herpes virus. Like herpes in people, herpes in cats is a lifelong infection. Thank goodness feline herpes is not contagious to people and most cats can eventually achieve remission from symptoms. Your veterinarian is likely to treat with eye medications and antibiotics if your cat has a secondary bacterial infection. Stress can cause cats to loose remission from their symptoms, so reducing stress is the key to help any cat with respiratory herpes.
Hyperthyroidism is a disease of older cats where they develop a benign thyroid tumor which produces excessive thyroid hormone. These cats often seem like they are on hyper drive. They are active, sometimes aggressive, eating a lot, and losing weight. Sometimes they vomit, and as the disease advances, they go into heart failure. It’s treatable with medication, surgery, or radiation.