Why Cats Need Veterinary Care
(Written by our very own Lauren Barrow, DVM)
There are an estimated 80 million owned cats in the United States, and an increasing number of them are not getting the medical care that they require. Over the last few years, more and more cat owners are electing to forego routine visits to the veterinarian, often in an attempt to save money, an attempt to avoid stressing their cats out or an incorrect assumption that their cats do not need care.
The truth is, most people love their cats and want the best for them. If they knew a way to keep their cat healthy and happy and help them live longer, they would do it. Are you one of them?
If you are the proud parent of a cat or two (or three!), here are some common questions (and the answers) regarding routine veterinary care for our feline friends:
Does my cat need yearly wellness exams, like my dog or my kids? Why?
It is recommended that an apparently healthy cat get an examination by a veterinarian every year. While at the wellness appointment, the veterinarian will inspect his eyes, ears, nose, mouth, teeth, heart, lungs, abdomen, musculoskeletal system and urogenital system. Additionally, the veterinarian may recommend checking blood work, fecal analysis or urinalysis, depending on your cat’s age and risk factors. Many times, potential problems or disease can be caught and treated early, saving time and money and adding years to your cat’s life. Any questions you have can be answered, concerns can be addressed and you can have peace of mind knowing your cat is happy and healthy.
Does my cat need vaccines?
There are several vaccines available for cats; discuss with us which would be appropriate for your cat’s lifestyle. The following are the most common, but not all available:
FVRCP– This is an acronym for the vaccine that protects against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia. Rhino and calici are very contagious respiratory infections and panleuk is a serious disease of the white blood cells, closely related to parvo in dogs. Currently, we give this vaccine every three years to indoor only cats and yearly to cats who go outdoors.
Rabies Virus Vaccine– This vaccine protects against a deadly neurologic disease that can be spread to any mammal, including people. For that reason, rabies vaccine is required by law in the United States. Currently, we give this every three years, except for the first vaccine which is boostered in a year.
Feline Leukemia Virus– This vaccine protects against a very serious form of contagious cancer that can be spread from cat to cat when they have direct contact, share bowls, etc. It is usually recommended in cats that go outside or have contact with cats beyond their household. Currently, our veterinarians recommend giving this vaccine to every kitten during their first series, then giving it yearly to cats who go outside.
What if my cat never goes outside? Does she still need vaccines?
Very few people can guarantee that their cat has never ever slipped out the door and never ever will. Chances are your cat will have direct contact with another cat at some point in her life. It is also possible for many of these diseases to be spread by fomites (objects such as bowls, litter boxes, or your clothing). Additionally, the rabies vaccine is required by law and there are very serious repercussions should your cat ever bite anyone and she is not current on that vaccine.
Is my cat too fat? Can that really cause a problem?
Obesity is an epidemic in the United States, for people, dogs and yes, cats. It is estimated that nearly 55% of cats are considered overweight or obese. This can predispose them to many serious diseases including cystitis (lower urinary tract disease), hepatic lipidosis (a liver disease), cardiovascular disease, arthritis, muscle injuries, skin conditions and diabetes mellitus. One alarming study found that overweight cats are two times as likely to die at middle age (6 to 12 years). Many owners don’t even know that their cats are overweight and much more need help getting their cat to shed pounds. We can help assess your cat’s body condition score and then give diet recommendations, exercise tips and other advice to help keep your cat healthy.
Are you serious? You want me to brush my cat’s teeth?
If you can! Or at least, get those teeth examined and cleaned by a professional.
70% of cats over the age of three have some form of oral disease. Cats, just like dogs, are prone to periodontal disease and gingivitis, which can cause halitosis (bad breath), loose teeth and pain. Furthermore, the bacteria from diseased teeth can spread to other important organs in the body, causing systemic disease. Many cats are brought to their veterinarian because they are not eating only to find they have severe tooth decay and pain which could have easily been prevented. Additionally, cats are unique in that they are prone to stomatitis (inflammation in the oral cavity) and resorptive tooth lesions (causing painful holes in the enamel coating of the tooth). It is highly recommended that ALL cats have their teeth examined at least yearly to detect, prevent and treat these painful and debilitating oral diseases. We can discuss with you ways to do this including brushing, oral rinses, medications and professional dental radiographs and cleanings.
Why does my cat act that way?
Who knows? Cats do crazy things…
The number one reason that former owners give when relinquishing their cats to shelters is “behavioral problems”. Anyone who owns (and loves) a cat knows that they can have unexpected, frustrating and often confusing actions. Is your cat urinating on your clean laundry pile? Is he going in his litter box like a good boy or is he urinating everywhere else? Is he doing that on purpose? What about your furniture…is there anything you can do to stop him from scratching up your nice leather sofa? Why does he hide under the bed all day? Why does he keep attacking the other cats? Cat behavior can be just that- behavior- but it can also be due to other reasons such as disease, injury, anxiety and pain. Parkside Animal Health Center can help sort out the reasons behind your cat’s strange habits and treat any underlying problems. Additionally, we can often help with good old fashioned behavior problems either directly or by referring you to a qualified behaviorist.
OK, so my cat needs yearly wellness exams, but how do I know if he’s sick?
Many cats do not show pain, discomfort and disease as easily as dogs do (if at all).
If any of the following signs are seen, contact our clinic immediately:
-vomiting, diarrhea, not defecating, defecating outside the box
-suddenly eating more or less, suddenly drinking more or less
-straining to urinate, bloody urine, urinating outside the box, urinating more often
-limping, refusing to jump, refusing to play, other changes in activity level
-hiding, suddenly being clingy, other changes in social interaction
-losing weight, gaining weight
-bad breath, changes in grooming habits
-changes in sleeping habits, vocalizations
-squinty red eyes, discharge from eyes, thick or greenish nasal discharge
-open-mouth breathing, panting, coughing
-anything else that seems strange or unusual for your cat
Some of these are very obvious, but many of these are so subtle you may not notice at first. However, that small change may be the only clue you get before your cat is so sick we cannot help him.
The bottom line is…
Cats need routine veterinary care too! If you want to help your kitty live longer and keep her healthier and happier in the meantime, schedule a wellness exam with your veterinarian today.