Preventative Health Care For Your Cat
Keeping Your Cat Healthy
In addition, schedule regular veterinary checkups. Your veterinarian will tell you how often your cat needs to come in for well-pet visits, which will include vaccinations, based upon your cat's age and state of health. Of course your vet will also see your cat when any rnedical problems arise. The more observant you are and the better your communication with your veterinarian, the healthier your cat is likely to be.Most certainly, you can extend the life of your cat far beyond what would otherwise be expected by following simple preventative health care measures for your cat.
The Mini-Physical Exam
It's a good idea to give your cat a mini-physical examination as part of the weekly grooming session. Make the home checkup an extension of the normal physical attention you pay your cat and he will not even know that he is being "examined". It doesn't matter where you perform the exam, as long as both you and your cat are comfortable. If your cat usually isn't allowed on the kitchen table or counter, don't examine him there, as it may be confusing and stressful.
Skin and Coat
Weekly grooming provides a good opportunity for evaluating the health of the skin and hair. Pass your hands over your cat's body, feeling for swelling, asymmetry, or sensitive areas. Call the veterinarian if you discover patches of hair loss, the black flecks that signal the presence of fleas, scabby areas, or skin bumps.
With your cat facing away from you, gently lift the tail and take a quick peck at his rear end. If you see tan-colored, rice-size objects, you are probably looking at packets of tapeworm eggs which require veterinary treatment. Next, use a moist paper towel to clean away any feces. In longhaired cats in particular, feces can get caught in the fur and, if' trapped against the skin, can cause serious problems. If the hair has become matted, you will need to use blunt-tipped scissors. Be very careful cutting out mats or, better yet, take your cat to a veterinarian or professional groomer, who can use clippers to remove the mats.
Check for fleas by parting the fur and
Tapeworm Segments on Tail
Face your cat head-on and examine the eyes. 'They should be
The tissue lining a cat's eyelids should be pink there should be no discharge.
your cat facing you, gently pull tip on the ear flap and look
|Mouth and Nose
your cat facing you, push back the lips to examine the gums and teeth.
Pulse Rates (resting and healthy) in beats per minute (BPM) Pulse rates for very young animals are usually in the higher ranges and older animals in the lower ranges of those values listed
Kittens 160-240 beats per minute
Adult Cats 140-220 beats per minute
The cat's pulse can be taken either by finding it on the inside of the hind leg near the groin or in the area along the left chest wall just behind where the elbow connects with the body by holding your hand over your cat's heart. Inside the hind leg, however, is more accurate.
NOTE: that there is no exact pulse rate for any cat or any particular breed, size, or age, under any specific circumstances
|To feel the pulse place your first two fingers on the inside of the thigh near the groin. (Femoral Artery)||The best place to feel the heartbeat is behind the left elbow between the third and sixth ribs.|
Taking Your Cat's
A cat's temperature is important information to have before a veterinarian is called. Taking the temperature reading of a cat may seem a formidable task to the uninitiated, but if done calmly, gently, and with confidence, it can become routine. Use a human rectal thermometer (never a thin-walled oral one). Shake it down to at feast 96ºF and lubricate it with K-Y jelly or petroleum gel. A flexible, electronic digital type is easier to read and safer to use with no fear of breakage and mercury poisoning. The Vicks Comfort-Flex, or B-D Digital Thermometers are fast (60 sec) and accurate to +/- 0.2ºF. Both are excellent choices and reasonably priced (~$10).
A second person can hold the cat gently on a counter, allowing it to grasp the edge with its front paws, which decreases the opportunity for injury as well as giving the animal a sense of security. The assistant can hold the cat's head comfortably with one hand and the front legs at the elbows (never the feet) with the other. A soft voice in calm conversation with the cat is soothing.
If there is no assistant, stand the cat on a counter and, holding the tail upright with one hand and gently gripping the cat's body with that elbow, insert the thermometer with the other hand.
If the cat resists, it may be necessary to roll-wrap it in a towel. Use a towel large enough to cover all four feet and wrap completely around the cat more than once. Leave the head and the anus exposed.
Place the thermometer with slow and gentle but steady pressure against the anus. Do not hurriedly force the thermometer into the anus or you may injure your cat. At first, there will be firm resistance from the rectal muscles, which will relax with continued gentle pressure. Patience and time are necessary in this maneuver. Insert about one inch and leave for one to two minutes if a glass rectal thermometer is used, or 60 sec (or until you hear a "beep") if you are using a flexible, electronic thermometer.
If it is not possible to get a rectal temperature, a less accurate estimate can be taken byholding the thermometer in the armpit (under foreleg) or in the groin between the hind legs, which are held together for two or three minutes. Do not place a thermometer in a cat's mouth. Absolute disaster will result if the thermometer is placed between the lips and teeth or anywhere in the mouth. Cats bite down on anything placed in their mouths, including a finger. The response is a defense mechanism to destroy a possible threat.
A normal temperature in the cat should range between 100.4ºF and 102.5ºF, with 105ºF being a danger sign. Temperatures over 108ºF can be immediately life-threatening if caused by heatstroke or heat exhaustion (which requires cooling in a cold-water bath). The cat is not as susceptible to brain damage as the human is from extremely high fevers from other causes.
The thermometer should be wiped clean before reading and the results recorded on paper, not left to memory. With the glass thermometer, it is customary to report temperatures to the closest tenth of a degree. However, a flexible, digital thermometer is highly recommended over glass thermometers.
Subtle Signs of Illness
Cats are notorious for their ability to appear healthy when they are actually sick. How can owners detect illness early? Get in the habit of giving your cat a weekly mini-physical examination, and always be on the lookout for the following, often subtle, signs of illness.
Lethargy or excessive sleepiness
This common sign of sickness is sometimes difficult for owners to recognize, as healthy
adult cats may sleep up to 16 or 18 hours a day. Get to know how much sleep is normal for
Change in appetite or water consumption
Keep track of how much your cat normally eats and drinks so that any variation can be
detected easily and early.
Change in grooming behavior
An ill-kempt, oily coat can indicate ill ness. Conversely, cats that groom too often
may have a nervous skin condition.
This sign often goes unnoticed, especially in longhaired cats. Owners who regularly
groom their cats may notice the ribs and backbone becoming more prominent. Those who
regularly weigh their cats are sure to see a change. A sudden loss of one pound in a cat
that normally weighs ten pounds is cause for concern. Subtle weight gains and losses
are difficult to notice in a cat you see every day - especially in long-haired cats.
Sudden weight loss is almost always a certain sign of water loss and dehydration
which are early symptons of feline diabetes and chronic renal failure, especially if the
cat eats primarily dry food. A human pediatric
scale is one of the best investments you can make in your cat's health care
Change in litter box habits
Cats that start visiting the litter box more frequently, or that repeatedly urinate or
defecate outside the box, may be suffering from a disease of the lower urinary tract or
large intestine. Cats that strain to urinate may have a urethral obstruction; such cats
are in grave danger and need immediate veterinary attention. Frequent and/or
increased urination are typically signs of feline diabetes and chronic renal failure.
Change in behavior
House soiling and aggression are both behavioral problems that can sometimes be
prompted by a physical illness. Hiding, lethargy, and any changes in behavior should
prompt an immediate trip to the vet.
Finding a Veterinarian
Finding and choosing the right veterinarian for your cat is extremely important. But how do you go about it? Cat-owning friends are a good source, and the shelter or person from whom you adopted or purchased your cat may also be able to recommend someone. If you are moving, You can narrow tire search by seeking the advice of your present veterinarian.
You can also contact the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and ask for a referral (tel 800-204-3514 or 505-888-2424); Web site address: http://www.avma.org/aafp
Some vets even have cat-only practices designed to cater specifically to the needs of' felines, and their offices will not have barking dogs, which can be stressful to cats. Within the last several years, the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners has begun recognizing feline specialists. There are just a few board-certified feline specialists at this time, but the numbers are growing.
In your search for a veterinarian, you may come across different types of practices. Some owners prefer solo practitioners to a group practice because they like the consistency of care and the familiarity that the vet develops with each pet's case. Veterinarians in a group practice regularly consult with one another about their patients and are also able to cover for each other during vacations and other times.
Referral hospitals are staffed by board-certified veterinarians with extra training in specific specialties, such as internal medicine, dermatology, or surgery. Referral hospitals typically treat patients referred to them by general practitioners.
Pet health insurance is a fairly recent development. Some policies require owners to use only participating veterinarians; others allow owners to use their veterinarian of choice. When shopping around for pet insurance, check references, read policies carefully, and ask your veterinarian to review any policies you are seriously considering. Make sure you understand the range of services covered. Some, for example, do not cover well-pet visits.
Pet Insurance Companies:
Evaluating a Veterinarian
A veterinary clinic should be neat, clean, and well equipped and should not have any unpleasant o ors. The condition of the office an examining rooms will give you a good indication of the conscientiousness of the doctors and staff.
Good communication is important. The doctors and staff should encourage you to ask questions, and they should answer them in an understandable way. However, some of us want more detailed information about out our cats' health, therefore, a vet should be happy to answer any technical questions you may ask. Lack of communication is the most common problem in the veterinarian-owner relationship.
Doctors and staff should always treat the pets in their care as gently as possible, even with more fractious patients. Some cats, being the independent creatures they are, may resist a veterinarian's attempts to help them and require firm restraint. However, a vet should never be overly rough or aggressive.
Find out whether there are veterinary specialists or referral centers in the area and if your veterinarian utilizes them. It isimpossible to be proficient and up-to-date in all areas of veterinary medicine; a good veterinarian should not be reluctant to seek the advice of other veterinarians or to refer difficult cases to a specialty center if necessary. When an emergency happens, every second counts. Find out how after-hours emergencies are handled. Some hospitals prefer to attend to their own emergencies, while others may refer them to a special emergency facility in the area.
Don't be afraid to talk about rates, fees, and accepted methods of payment. The veterinarian should be willing to provide running estimates on all services provided.
(See The Veterinary Examination)
If you have adopted a new cat or kitten, schedule an appointment for a physical examination within twenty-four hours after purchase or adoption. Give the veterinarian as much information as possible about the new cat, including date of birth and medical record.
A kitten needs his first visit to the vet at about six to eight weeks of age. At this time he should be given a complete physical and initial vaccinations (see the vaccination chart). Bring along a fresh stool sample so that your vet can check for internal parasites.
If your cat is sick, use the checklist at right to keep track of all the problems so you won't forget them when you are speaking with the doctor. If the cat has diarrhea or is vomiting, the doctor will want to know whether it happens at certain time of day, and what the cat's normal diet consists of If your cat is urinating outside the box, the veterinarian may ask where specifically the cat is taking her business. Be prepared to discuss how long the problem has been going on and how often it occurs. It's best if the cat's primary caregiver takes her to the veterinarian, especially if she's sick. Otherwise, be sure that whoever brings the cat in has a complete history of the cat's problem and can make prompt decisions about the cat's medical care.
Bring your cat to the veterinarian's office in a carrier, don't allow your cat to roam free in your car or carry her in your arms. Keep your cat away from other animals and in the carrier unless you are instructed to do otherwise, until you are in the examination room. Your cat will remain much calmer, safer and will be easier for your veterinarian to examine.
Bring a paper and pen with you and write down (or have the veterinarian write down) all important information and instructions. If you must administer medication or other treatments at home, make sure you understand how to do so. Ask the veterinarian or a staff member to show you, then have them observe while you perform the procedure to make sure you are doing it correctly.
Follow the doctor's instructions carefully, and faithfully return for any recommended follow-up visits. If you don't understand something, ask questions. Veterinarians like to know that pet owners are interested and concerned. If you are uncomfortable speaking with your veterinarian, it may be a good idea to try to find another with whom you can communicate better.
|Checklist for Veterinary Visits
Present Medical Problem(s)
If you think your cat might be sick, make a list of the following information so that you can provide your vet with a full account of the cat's condition.
date of onset
changes in behavior, appetite, water intake,
activity level, or litter box habits
medication(s) the cat was taking before illness
medication(s) the cat is now taking
current diet, including any changes
Past Medical Problems
If you are seeing a new veterinarian, either obtain your cat's records from previous care providers or make a list of the following information for all of your cat's past health problems.
Remember to ask the vet the following questions: What is wrong with my cat? What tests are needed for diagnosis? How will the condition be treated? Are there alternative treatments? Will hospitalization be necessary? What will the cost be? What is the expected outcome? Do you have any literature on this subject?
Finding A Specialist
In some cases, a highly trained specialist may be needed. A specialist has received additional, intensive, training in one or more areas (called "Specialties") in veterinary medicine and have earned the highly respected title of "Board Certified Diplomate". A Diplomate/Specialist can serve as your cat's primary care veterinarian or specialist for specific diseases, and also work with your veterinarian on a consultant basis. Specialists are extremely valuable in diagnosing and treating complicated diseases such as heart disease, cancer and neurological disorders and may very well make the difference between life and death.
For information about contacting or locating a Board Certified Diplomate/Specialist in the veterinary specialties of Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Neurology and Oncology, contact one of the below listed organizations:
The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM)
at (800) 245-9081 or E-mail: ACVIM@acvim.org
and do a search for an internal medicine Diplomate/Specialist in your area. American
College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Diplomates are about the best there is.
American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) 530 Church Street, Suite 700, Nashville, Tennessee 37219
Phone 615/254-3687 Fax 615/254-7047 firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.abvp.com/diplosearch1.htm and do a search for Diplomate/Specialist in your area
American College of Veterinary Surgeons 4401 East West Hwy,
Suite 205 Bethesda, Maryland 20814-4523
phone: 301-913-9550, ext 1, fax: 301-913-2034 or e-mail email@example.com and ask for a referral to a Board Certified Surgeon/Diplomate in your area.
The Veterinary Examination
Your cat Should be given a complete physical examination whenever he goes in for a well-cat visit. Through annual or semi-annual exams, many problems can be detected before they start to cause obvious disease. Some veterinarians prefer taking a complete medical history before even touching the cat , while others prefer to ask questions during the examination. Each veterinarian has his own order for performing an examination-some start by taking the temperature, others by evaluating the coat-but the typical complete physical exam should include at least the components listed below. We advise a yearly exam for all animals under five years of age and twice yearly after that. After 10 years of age, we recommend thorough exams, including complete blood and urine tests, three times a year as problems can creep up quickly in an older cat.
Weight loss in cats can easily go unnoticed, so it's important to have your cat weighed regularly on a sensitive scale- preferably the same one each time
VACCINATIONS should be given every three
years after the initial series and one year booster for panleukopenia (Feline Distemper), Rhinotracheitis,
and Calicivirus. However, the
panleukopenia vaccine is probably good for
life after the first year booster. The Feline
Leukemia Virus vaccine should be given only to cats with
a realistic risk of exposure and development of disease. Rabies
vaccinations are mandated by indivudual state laws. A vaccine is also available for feline
infectious peritonitis (FIP); however, due to questionable
efficacy and safety of this vaccine, the FIP vaccine is not
recommended for any cat by
the Academy of Feline Medicine Advisory Panel on Feline Vaccines. Show animals have
greater exposure risks, but even in your own yard cats can and do become infected.
Many of these viruses are airborne or are easily transported on clothes, feet and by
insects and birds. These vaccines are usually given in conjunction with the yearly exam,
and some veterinarians may advise additional boosters in high-risk areas or for certain
breeds. Kittens need a series of boosters initially starting at 6-8 weeks of age to
establish their own immunity to these diseases. There are those who believe that cats need
all vaccines on a yearly basis. It is our opinion and that of the Academy of Feline
Medicine Advisory Panel on Feline Vaccines that cats should be vaccinated only
against those pathogens for which they have a realistic risk of
exposure and subsequent development of disease.
A complete blood chemistry (chem screen) test, a Complete Blood Count (CBC), complete urinalysis (multistix, SpGr, Sed) and fecal analysis for internal parasites and to determine organ function and for early detection of disease, should also be part of a thorough exam. Because cats do indeed age at an accelerated rate, and because cats usually do not show signs of illness until the disease has progressed to the point where they can no longer conceal it, the frequency of feline examination is more than that of humans. Blood and urine samples should be collected at the same time because together, blood and urine tests offer a more accurate assessment of kidney function than either test alone.
If you have a male cat, periodic urinalysis for the detection of crystals and urine pH should be performed in addition to the regularly scheduled exams. Male cats can become plugged or blocked suddenly. Blocking constitutes a true urologic emergency. Cats that become blocked can die from acute renal failure and/or severe damage of the urinary bladder. Urinalysis can detect early signs of potential blocking and therefore, possibly avoid a life-threatening situation.
HEARTWORM TESTING AND MONTHLY PREVENTION is advised in
a few areas during spring and summer months. Some of the more moist and warmer areas
require treatment for nine months or even the entire year. Although heartworm disease is
relatively rare in the cat, only one mosquito bite is needed to transmit the illness.
Indoor only cats are also at risk. A simple blood test and monthly pill, and recently a
new topical heartworm prevention medication has become available (Revolution), can easily
prevent your cat from becoming infected. Often animals will harbor this disease until
irreparable heart and organ damage has occurred, and only then will the cat even appear
ill. At this point there is treatment but it is quite intensive and cannot reverse the
heart damage which has already occurred. (See: Heartworm
FLEAS AND TICKS can attack any animal in any home including the cleanest pet in the cleanest homes. Fleas and ticks can transmit internal parasites and other diseases that can be fatal. There are pills or a liquid preparation that can prevent fleas (and possibly ticks) and can be given once a month. Special repellent collars, sprays and topicals are also now available, discuss these options with your veterinarian. Treatment of the home is usually necessary although in heavily infested cases, home treatment may be necessary.
WORMING in general is not advisable unless specific parasites have been identified. Over the counter wormers on sale today often are non-specific and usually old drugs used decades ago. Most (if not all) over-the-counter wormers are poorly active and even toxic in some cases. Modern wormers available only through veterinarians are far safer when administered to handle a specific parasite, and are nearly 100% effective. In some cases, when your veterinarian has identified a continuous problem in your area, a regular worming program may be necessary and appropriate under their direction. Some veterinarians may worm all kittens as another preventative measure. Do not use over-the-counter wormers. Deaths have been reported from their use.
PROPER DIET is one of the most important health tips we can give you. Many diets are commercially available and a detailed discussion can be found in Feline Nutrition. It is advised that a premium, protein- fat-rich, carbohydrate poor food preferably lower in calories and higher in fiber be used for most adult cats. Some cats have special medical needs for which specific formulations are also available. These special diets are available through your veterinarian. While there is probably no one perfect food, your veterinarian can discuss the many choices on the market and help you choose the best for your cat.
Formulating your own cat food is a difficult and time consuming process. Also, the nutrients in the formula may not be available in the right quantities and proportions to be beneficial to your cat. Therefore, it is usually recommended that the cat owner use a commercial, nutritionally balanced product, unless a veterinarian recommends a recipe for a home-formulated ration. he amount fed is based on caloric content, quality of nutrients, and the cat's special dietary needs. Meat scraps from the table and specialty cat treats can be fed from time to time but should not be a steady diet for your cat. Those treats often lack the proper proportion of basic nutrients a cat requires to maintain its health. A rule of thumb is not to let treats exceed 10 to 15 percent of the cat's daily diet. Although raw meat is an excellent source of many nutrients, it is not recommended as food for cats, because it is a potential vehicle for toxoplasmosis. Also, salmonellosis can occur from contaminated meat and spoiled meat harbors various bacteria that can upset the digestive system.
Pregnant and nursing cats, although they do have special needs, often can do well without supplementation if a high quality diet is fed from the onset of pregnancy.
MICROCHIP IDENTIFICATION: is a newer, more universal method of animal identification. The value of identification that cannot be lost or altered cannot be overstated. Most animal hospitals, humane shelters and other animal organizations scan lost cats for the presence of microchips. This type of identification, while not a guarantee of safety, greatly protects your valuable friend if he or she ever becomes separated from you. Microchips can be easily inserted during any routine visit. They are usually placed under the skin in the area between the shoulder blades near the spine. The chips can occasionally migrate but have never proven to be of any health risk to any cat, being totally inert. The useful life of the chip is equal to the life of any cat.
SPAYING AND NEUTERING . In females, spaying will help prevent most breast cancers, the second most common cancer found in female cats. Spaying will also help prevent most ovarian and uterine tumors, heat cycles, aggressive behaviors and the desire to stray and roam away from home. In males, neutering helps prevent spraying, prostate enlargement and cancers, anal and rectal tumors, aggressive behaviors and the desire to roam and fight which can easily result in deadly, infectious viral diseases such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline Leukemia, and Feline Infectious Peritonitis; all of which are fatal disease for which there are no cures. There is no vaccine for FIV, and the vaccine for and FeLV is not 100% effective, and the vaccine for FIP is questionable.
Both procedures are better-performed around six months of age, and before
the first heat cycle in females, but can be done at any age to provide these beneficial
effects. The personality of the pet is not altered, but rather, the cat becomes less
wild and a more socially acceptable creature. Allowing a female have a litter
or to allow animals to mate does not improve the animal's personality. Breeding
animals are usually less social than spayed/neutered animals.
cancers Preventable by Spaying/Neutering
OVARIAN CYSTADENOMA cystic tumor, often
benign but can grow to a moderate size. Possible cure with ovariohysterectomy. Also preventable by spaying.
EPITHELIAL (i.e., carcinoma), and sex-cord stromal (i.e., granulosa cell tumor, Sertoli-Leydig cell tumor, thecoma, and luteoma) tumors. Preventable by spaying
OVARIAN ADENOCARCINOMA: malignant tumor of the ovary. Can be prevented by spaying female cats.
GERM CELL TUMOR: include dysgerminomas and teratomas,
tumors from embryonic-type tissues in the ovaries. Uncommon, can be moderately malignant.
Ovariohysterectomy, chemotherapy and radiation will be needed for a cure. Preventable by spaying.
UTERINE LEIOMYOMA: the most common uterine tumor found in female cats. This tumor originates from smooth muscle within the uterus, and is usually benign. Usually no outward symptoms are visible. Ovariohysterectomy usually produces a complete cure. . Preventable with spaying except in very rare circumstances.
UTERINE LEIOMYOSARCOMA: malignant cousin to leiomyoma, will invade and spread inside the abdomen, often before diagnosis. Can cause notable abdominal enlargement among other symptoms. Ovariohysterectomy and chemotherapy poorly effective. Preventable with spaying except in very rare circumstances.
UTERINE FIBROSARCOMA: very
invasive malignant cancer, more common in other areas besides the uterus. Can be treated
if caught early but often it will have already invaded other tissues (metastasize)
before diagnosis. Ovariohysterectomy and chemotherapy are possible but mostly ineffective
if metastasis has occurred. . Preventable with spaying
except in very rare circumstances.
UTERINE ENDOMETRIAL ADENOCARCINOMA: A very common uterine tumor, usually occuring in old cats. This tumor will metastasize but will remain inside of the uterine body to make complete removal possible if caught early. This tumor can metastasize to lungs, heart, abdominal organs and the brain. Preventable by spaying.
MAMMARY GLAND NEOPLASIA: the third most common type of
tumor in female cats comprising as many as 20% of all tumors the queen may have. Can be almost completely prevented by spaying before the first
heat as these tumors are highly hormone dependent. Cats spayed
after 2.5 years of age have a risk or incident rate 7 times
higher than cats spayed before the first cycle. Most tumors occur in cats 9-11
years of age and are found primarily in the breasts closer to the tail.
SERTOLI CELL TUMOR: usually small and benign but can grow very large as part of a retained testicle. Can produce estrogen, which is the most severe effect of the tumor, causing liver and bone marrow damage. Often curable if caught early or chemotherapy may be needed. In cats with high estrogen levels surgery can be risky. Neutering is preventative.
PROSTATIC ADENOCARCINOMA: malignant tumor, seen more often in cats that have not been neutered. This tumor causes enlargement of the prostate gland; prostate gland enlargement will often be quite irregular. Also, this tumor can cause urinary tract blockage, weakness, pain, bleeding from the penis, and weight loss. Spreads to areas inside the pelvis and sometimes other organs. There is no treatment effective towards a cure but neutering may slow growth of the mass. This tumor is rarely seen in castrated males, neutering considered preventative.
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