photo credit: thinkstockphotos.com
General Medicine & Preventative Care for Cats
by Annie Price, DMV
There are almost twice as many cats owned as pets in the United States compared to dogs. However, felines comprise only about 25% of a veterinary patient population. Where are all the cats? What can we do differently?
There is quite a misconception among cat owners that indoor cats and those who aren't sick do not need to be examined by a veterinarian regularly. Many of these same owners have dogs which they diligently bring in on a yearly basis. I have met many older cats who haven't been to a veterinarian in over 10 years. It is imperative that veterinarians help teach cat owners that these seemingly healthy cats are exactly the ones that we need to be examining on a yearly basis. Cats are absolute masters at hiding disease until they reach a crisis point and are then overtly sick. This is the point in which we have missed the window of opportunity to be as effective as we can with out treatments.
A thorough physical exam and yearly blood work screening can alert a veterinarian to many diseases that when caught early can be treated or managed successfully while improving quality and length of life in these patients. Regular checkups, effective vaccination, and broad spectrum parasite control protects cats as well as owners from infectious disease such as rabies, Bartonella (Cat Scratch Fever), roundworms, hookworms, toxoplasmosis, and fungal infections.
There is a tremendous amount of information gleaned from a physical examination which will include evaluating and palpating everything from the tip of a cat's nose to the tip of it's tail and of course everything in between. It is to be expected that cats hate going to the vet, but this shouldn't keep us from giving them the best care possible. I don't particularly enjoy a trip to the dentist, but we all know it is for my best health right?
I am going to mention some of the most common issues that veterinarians are trained to assess in our cat patients. Eighty percent of cats have dental disease by the time they are 3 years old. Many of these cats have terrible oral pain and infection. There is a life threatening and common heart disease in cats that may be found by hearing a murmur or arrhythmia with a stethoscope. Cancers of the skin or internal organs may be easily palpated as well as irregularly shaped kidneys which are indicative of kidney disease or failure. Kidney failure is the most common metabolic disease in cats, and by the time they are sick or showing clinical signs they have lost over 75% of the function of their kidneys. A grossly under-diagnosed disease in older cats is arthritis which can be extremely painful and debilitating. These usually are the cats who are noted to have stopped jumping on the counter or seemed to have “slowed down”. These are very subtle signs for a very painful condition. Obesity is an epidemic in our pets and can lead to diabetes in cats as well as causing or worsening other diseases. These conditions are just the most common ones diagnosed in cats.
Our goal as veterinarians is not only to diagnose and treat disease but also to always improve quality of life. With the advancements in medicine there are so many options for reaching these goals, but this is a team effort. Through education we hope to increase our patient visits/exams so that we can have an opportunity to help as many cats to live long, pain free, and happy lives. They are such great friends and most definitely deserve everything we have to offer.
Annie is currently the owner of Atlanta’s Ormewood Animal Hospital which is a small animal medicine and surgery practice. She treats dogs, cats, pet chickens and assists her technician who is licensed in wildlife rehabilitation to treat squirrels and wild birds.
photo credit: thinkstockphotos.com and Annie Price DVM
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