Focus on the Feline

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:05

    Serious illness is difficult to detect in cats without regular vet care

    If you have ever watched your kitty stalk a housefly, pounce on your toes under the covers or chatter at a bird outside your window, then you know how much they resemble their wild feline cousins. Wild cats, and their domesticated counterparts in the home, share many behaviors ? including the tendency to hide any sign of illness. It is a common misconception that cats live in the home and never get sick. Unless there are overt symptoms like accidents outside of the litter box and dramatic weight loss, many diseases in felines go undetected for a long time. Veterinarians and a select few pet parents know this all too well, but even the most educated, responsible cat owner can miss a serious ailment.

    The single most important thing you can do for your feline is bring them to the veterinarian for an examination at least once a year, and after the age of 9 years, twice a year. Weight loss, which is a common red flag, cannot be detected with the naked eye. As little as half a pound is impossible to detect under their coats. Meanwhile, diseases such as over-active thyroid and inflammatory bowel disease can be wreaking havoc on their insides. Felines with these diseases will have great appetites and seem hungry and normal to their pet parents, only to be suffering in silence. Early detection is the key and can be accomplished by your veterinarian via an exam and some testing.

    In New York City, most kitties are apartment dwellers like their pet parents. You may think that because your pets never go outside, they are not susceptible to the things that go with outdoor life. Not so. It is not uncommon for the Animal Hospital at Bideawee to see parasites such as intestinal worms and fleas in indoor only cats. We, as pet parents, can bring them in on our clothes. Similarly, "High Rise Syndrome," where a cat drops out of a high floor of a building through a window or balcony ledge, happens more often than you would think. Early microchip placement and yearly exams with vaccinations and parasite testing/prevention are appropriate and can help you protect your pets if they get outside accidentally. Emergency preparedness has come to the forefront as natural and unnatural disasters are more commonplace year after year. If you find yourself and your pets evacuated, they should have as much protection as possible to survive the elements.

    Dental disease is another common unknown preventable problem that is linked closely to kidney disease. More than 67 percent of the kidneys are irreversibly damaged before you may even know that your cat has a problem. Routine dental cleaning and early detection urine testing will help to ensure you that your cat lives a long and healthy life (and will keep your veterinary costs down in the long run).

    To do what you can, ask your veterinarian what is appropriate for you and your kitty. It is always better to know and make an educated decision on what your cat needs rather than guessing and possibly missing out on something that can save their lives. The responsibilities that come with caring for a feline companion pale in comparison to the joy and companionship they bring to our lives.