When you first bring home that little feline fluffball, the last thing on your mind is preparing for a pet-related illness or emergency. As your Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital team, we are dedicated to your cat’s well-being, and we hope that your furry friends stay in tip-top shape for all their coming years. But, if and when sickness strikes, we will be here to provide gold standard care. We want pet owners to know about common feline health problems, and what they can do to minimize complications, so, whether you share your home with a kitten or a geriatric cat, become familiar with these common conditions:
Upper respiratory infection (URI)
Most URIs are caused by various common feline respiratory viruses and bacteria, such as feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus, and Chlamydia felis, which are extremely contagious and, therefore, often run rampant in shelters and cat colonies. A URI can present like a common cold in people, but these infections can quickly send a kitten to the intensive care unit. While an adult cat with a healthy immune system will likely clear a mild URI in a couple of weeks, a tiny kitten may suffer secondary bacterial infections, including pneumonia. Common URI signs include sneezing, clear or yellow discharge from the nose or eyes, conjunctival swelling, lethargy, and anorexia. Signs that an infection has progressed to the lower respiratory tract include coughing or difficulty breathing. You can protect your kitten or adult cat from many of these viruses by ensuring they receive timely immunizations. No vaccine has 100% efficacy, but they can help lessen the disease severity, should your pet contract a URI.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)
The lower urinary tract, which consists of the bladder and urethra, is a frequent source of problems in adult cats. FLUTD comprises a range of lower urinary disorders, including urinary stones, bladder inflammation, and urethral obstruction. Most often, affected cats will check off a few of these boxes—low water intake, male, indoor only, and overweight. Signs that your cat may be experiencing FLUTD include pain with urination, increased time in the litter box, bloody or discolored urine, or excessive genital licking. Your cat may also develop inappropriate behaviors, such as urinating outside the box. Any of these signs warrant a visit to Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital, but if your cat is straining to produce urine or producing no urine at all, emergency treatment is absolutely necessary. Many therapies can help support cats with FLUTD, including diet and lifestyle changes, and medications.
Thyroid hormones are necessary for many bodily functions, including skin and hair health, metabolism, and temperature regulation. People can experience diseases that cause too little (i.e., hypo) or too much (i.e., hyper) thyroid hormone, but in cats, hyperthyroidism is exceedingly more common. When the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland produces too much hormone, usually in adult or senior cats, the body responds with a variety of clinical signs that include weight loss, increased appetite, more vocalization, disrupted sleep, increased energy, or changes in the coat or skin. Thankfully, most feline hyperthyroidism is caused by a benign thyroid tumor, but prompt treatment is necessary to control the disease and any secondary conditions, such as heart disease or hypertension, that may arise. We begin screening for this condition in cats who have reached senior status, using a simple blood test, but if your cat is exhibiting any signs associated with hyperthyroidism, contact us for an appointment.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
The kidneys are experts in filtering out the body’s waste products. These impurities are filtered from the blood, into the kidneys, and excreted out of the body via urine. As cats age, their kidneys can gradually lose their function. Since the kidneys play such an important role in many bodily functions, clinical signs can vary, but include increased urination and drinking, weight loss, lethargy, anorexia, or bad mouth odor. Unfortunately, clinical signs often do not manifest until the kidneys have already lost almost two-thirds of their functioning, making treatment difficult. That is why we advise routine blood and urine testing to check for elevations in key waste products that may signal a problem with your cat’s renal system before you will notice any signs at home. CKD cannot be cured, but early detection and intervention may slow disease progression and, hopefully, bring comfort to your cat.
Health conditions can affect cats of all ages. Fortunately, modern veterinary medicine and technology have made it possible for our Walnut Creek Veterinary Hospital team to treat and prevent a wide variety of feline diseases, so your cats can get back to being cats. Ensure that your feline friend stays up to date on wellness visits to help prevent many of these ailments, or to catch them early, at least. For more information on common feline conditions, visit the Cornell Feline Health Center or contact our veterinary team.