Caring for a sick animal can be one of the most emotionally trying times for pet owners and their furry friends. Unfortunately, cats are susceptible to a range of illnesses, from pesky ailments to life-threatening infections. But just because some felines suffer from these health problems, doesn't mean your kitty has to. Study up on some of the most common cat illnesses out there, then see what you can do to keep your kitty safe from falling ill.
Illness: One of the most common eye problems for cats, Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the membrane that covers the back of the eyelids. Conjunctivitis is often brought on by an underlying infection.
Symptoms: Pink, swollen, and/or crusty eyes, persistent squinting, eye discharge, excessive blinking.
Who's Affected & Why: Similar to human "pink eye," Conjunctivitis is common in kittens due to their weaker immune systems. Since the ailment is usually caused be an underlying infection, like cat flu, felines who live in shelters or have contact with many other cats are more susceptible. This problem is also common in pure-bred felines. Conjunctivitis arises due to exposure to bacteria, outdoor allergens, or a cat with a viral infection.
How to Prevent & Cope: If your cat develops conjunctivitis, your vet will be able to determine the severity and determine the right outpatient treatment plan. Treatment can include medication to fight infection, removal of possible irritants in the home, and, in serious cases, surgery. To prevent conjunctivitis, limit the exposure your cat has to outdoor allergens and felines that possibly have a viral infection. There are also several vaccinations that have proved successful in helping to prevent this issue. (petMD)
11. FELINE DIABETES
Illness: Feline diabetes is a disease affecting the pancreas. The organ does not produce enough insulin to lower the body's blood sugar levels. These increased levels can lead to hyperglycemia, which is dangerous and potentially fatal to cats.
Symptoms: Increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite, weight loss.
Who's Affected & Why: Overweight cats are the most at risk for developing diabetes. A poor high-carb diet and extra weight are found in most felines suffering from this disease. These factors put too much added stress on the body.
How to Prevent & Cope: It is important to do your best to keep your cat lean and feed it a high-protein diet. This will greatly lower your kitty's risk of developing diabetes. If you suspect your cat has diabetes, it is important to take your cat to the vet immediately. With early detection and a diet change, diabetic cats can go into remission and only require insulin temporarily. If you let diabetes go unchecked for too long, your cat will probably need insulin injections for life. (Cornell)
10. CANCER (Lymphoma)
Illness: Lymphoma, the most common cancer in cats, originates in white blood cells known as lymphocyte cells. This blood cancer can appear in various parts of your cat's body and affects its immune system.
Symptoms: Symptoms vary depending on where the tumor develops. Common symptoms include lumps, swelling, weight loss, skin infections, loss of appetite, bloody stool, lethargy and vomiting.
Who's Affected & Why: Lymphoma is responsible for 90% of blood cancer cases in cats and 33% of the tumors found in felines. The cancer is believed to be linked to exposure to the Feline Leukemia and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Any cat is susceptible to developing Lymphoma, but those who were exposed to either of the previously mentioned viruses have a drastically increased chance of developing the cancer.
How To Prevent & Cope: Your vet can offer the best treatment depending on the type of Lymphoma your cat has. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are all possible options that can help a feline go into remission, but treatment depends on your cat's overall health and age. Sadly, there is no known cure for Lymphoma. The best form of prevention is routine vet visits that will guarantee early detection if a tumor should develop. (petMD)
9. FELINE IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS (FIV)
Illness: A Feline Immunodeficiency Virus infection is a complex retrovirus that leads to an inability to develop a normal immune response. FIV is similar to human HIV, in that it is slow-moving and leads to a variety of other health problems.
Symptoms: Since FIV can stay dormant for long periods, symptoms may not arise for years. Be on the look out for: fever, enlarged lymph nodes, weight loss, dental disease, decreased appetite, hair loss, wounds that don't heal, behavior changes.
Who's Affected & Why: FIV is usually transmitted from cat to cat by deep bite wounds. For this reason, intact males who fight and are allowed outdoors are the most at risk. FIV can also be passed on from mother to kitten, but this is less common. FIV is rarely passed on from casual forms of contact, like bowl sharing and grooming.
How To Prevent & Cope: There is no cure for FIV, but owners can focus on prolonging their cat's lifespan and holding off the chronic stage of the infection. This is done through medication, a healthy diet, parasite control and a stress-free environment. The best way to prevent your cat from contracting FIV is to have your feline spayed or neutered and to keep them indoors. Ensure any new cats that come into your household test negative for FIV. (ASPCA)
8. FELINE PANLEUKOPENIA (Feline Distemper)
Illness: Feline Panleukopenia or Feline Distemper is a highly contagious disease that attacks the blood cells. Distemper mainly targets blood cells in the intestinal tract and bone marrow. The virus behind the disease can lead to anemia and open your cat's body up to infection.
Symptoms: Vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, high fever, depression, lack of coordination, decreased interest in food and water.
Who's Affected & Why: Distemper is the leading cause of death in kittens, due to their weak immune systems. Pregnant cats and those with pre-existing immune system problems are also highly susceptible. All cats are at risk of picking up distemper, especially since the virus is so resilient and contagious. The virus can survive for years in a contaminated environment and be passed on by fleas, infected waste, humans who have come in contact with an infected cat and bowls used by cats with Distemper.
How To Prevent & Cope: Cats infected with Distemper need to be treated immediately due to the risk of dehydration. Your vet will provide medication and instruction for disinfecting your home once your cat's body fluids are back to normal. If Distemper is discovered early enough and you give your cat enough time to recover, the survival rate is high. To prevent Distemper it is important to get your cat vaccinated against the disease and make sure to thoroughly disinfect anything that an infected cat has come in contact with. (WebMD)
7. KIDNEY FAILURE
Illness: Kidney failure can be divided into two types: acute and chronic. Acute failure is the rapid failure of kidneys due to exposure to a toxin or an infection. Chronic kidney failure happens as your cat reaches old age and loses nephrons. Both types cause an inability to remove the waste that builds up in the blood, which leads to uremic poisoning.
Symptoms: Vomiting, lethargy, weight loss, behavior change, increased drinking, back pain, increased urination.
Who's Affected & Why: Kidney failure is one of the leading causes of death in cats and can be brought on by a variety of issues. Cats who have malformed kidneys, autoimmune diseases, cancer or have received kidney damage have a higher chance of going into kidney failure. Older cats are at risk as well, due to their shrinking nephron levels. Because kidney failure can be caused by exposures to household poisons and urinary tract problems, all felines are susceptible.
How To Prevent & Cope: Kidney failure requires complex and sometimes frustrating treatments. Dialysis and transplants are available, but are often costly and come with risks. Since kidneys do not heal or regenerate, it is important to find the treatment the will allow your cat the longest, most comfortable life. These treatments vary depending on the cause of kidney failure and the severity. To prevent kidney failure, keep all potential poisons, like anti-freeze, far away from your cats. Regular vet check-ups can also help catch kidney issues in their early stages. (petMD)
6. FELINE LEUKEMIA VIRUS (FeLV)
Illness: The Feline Leukemia Virus is a retrovirus that severely inhibits your cat's immune system, leading to varying infections and illnesses.
Symptoms: Cats can be infected with FeLV and show no symptoms. Those that do usually experience: weight loss, inflamed gums, poor coat condition, fever, seizures, changes in behavior, diarrhea, skin diseases, respiratory problems, lethargy.
Who's Affected & Why: FeLV is one of the leading causes of death among cats because it is passed between felines so easily. The virus is passed by most body fluids, which can be exchanged during grooming, pregnancy, litter box sharing and bowl sharing. Because the transmission of FeLV relies on contact, outdoor cats with a tendency to fight are highly susceptible, but any cat can pick up the virus if it comes in contact with an infected cat or object. Be extra careful when it comes to kittens, because their weak immune systems make them easy targets.
How to Prevent & Cope: There is no cure for FeLV. Owner's with an infected cat should focus on given their pet the best life possible, and treating the illnesses that come as a result of the infection. To prevent the transmission of FeLV it is important that your cat gets vaccinated against the virus, and that all cats that come in contact with your pet are tested for the virus. (ASPCA)
Illness: Hyperthyroidism is a condition where one or both of the thyroids become overactive. This over-activity causes a cat's metabolism to rapidly increase leading to anorexia, kidney failure and other issues.
Symptoms: Weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, poor coat condition, increased thirst, breathing problems, aggression.
Who's Affected & Why: There is no genetic predisposition for Hyperthyroidism in cats. The condition tends to appear in middle-aged and older cats. Felines that have a high diet of fish-flavored or giblet-flavored canned food also appear to have an increased risk.
How to Prevent & Cope: Depending on how advanced your cat's Hyperthyroidism is, your vet will suggest drugs, surgery or radioactive treatment. With these treatments and early detection your affected cat can live a long and happy life. Feeding your cat a high-protein diet of quality cat food can help ward of Hyperthyroidism. Routine vet check-ups can ensure early detection and treatment of Hyperthyroidism, if problems arise. (Petside)
4. CAT FLU
Illness: Also known as an Upper Respiratory Infection, the Cat Flu is like the human cold. The infection will result in a runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes.
Symptoms: Sneezing, discharge from eyes, coughing, difficulty breathing, fever, lack of appetite.
Who's Affected & Why: Any kind of cat, at any age can pick up the cat flu. Outbreaks are usually found in felines kept in close quarters like kennels and shelters, because the infection is easily spread through sneezing and contact. Kittens are more susceptible than adult cats because of their weakened immune state. While cat flu is usually easy to clear up, it can prove to be fatal for kittens or felines with pre-existing health issues.
How to Prevent & Cope: Treatment is usually a regiment of medication over several weeks. As long as you give your cat the medication properly and keep them away from infected felines, the infection should clear up without issue. Just like the human cold, the cat flu is hard to prevent. Vaccinations can help, along with limiting your cat's exposure to other felines who may be infected. (Blue Cross)
Illness: Fleas are external parasites that live off the blood they gets from biting their hosts. Many cats have a hypersensitivity to fleas bites and can develop a skin condition as a result.
Symptoms: Itching, flea sightings, hair loss, scabs on the cat's skin.
Who's Affected & Why: Outdoor cats are likely to encounter fleas much more than cats that stay indoors, though no kitty is immune to the pests. Severe allergic reactions to flea bites tend to develop when cats are young, but can arise at any age.
How to Prevent & Cope: There is a variety of topical treatments to chose from when dealing with a cat with fleas. Talk to your vet about which one is best for your pet, and follow application instructions. Using some of these treatments on cats without fleas can be a smart preventative measure. To lower the risk of exposure, keep your feline indoors and away from infested pets. (WebMd)
2. FELINE LOWER URINARY TRACT DISEASES (FLUTD)
Illness: FLUTD is a blanket term for the numerous urinary tract and bladder problems that plague felines. Among those that FLUTD refers to are Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC), urinary stones and urethral obstructions.
Symptoms: Difficult urination, blood in urine, urinating outside the litter box.
Who's Affected & Why: FLUTD is more common in middle-aged, indoor and overweight cats. These felines are more susceptible because they have a better chance of irritating their urethra from indoor litter box use, extra fat, poor diet and a lack of access to the outdoors. All cats can develop some type of FLUTD, and stress often plays a role in its development.
How to Prevent & Cope: Get immediate vet attention when you notice symptoms, some FLUTD issues can be life-threatening if not treated within 24 hours. After determining your feline's condition, your vet will suggest environmental changes and treatments that will help your cat. To prevent FLUTD from occurring, keep your cat's litter box clean, feed them a diet mainly of wet food, and always supply them with fresh drinking water. (Catster)
Next: 13 Most Prevalent Dog Illnesses
Illness: Extra weight on a cat that far exceeds the feline's suggested weight, leading to a variety of health problems including: arthritis, respiratory issues, diabetes and more.
Symptoms: Lethargy, trouble moving, breathing issues, lack of body definition.
Who's Affected & Why: More than half the cats in the United States have been deemed overweight or obese. This epidemic is a growing problems that any feline is susceptible to. Poor feeding habits, bad diets and a lack of exercise are putting more cats at risk every year. In this case it depends on the lifestyle of the owner, not the cat.
How to Prevent & Cope: There are plenty of easy ways to help your fat cat shed their extra pounds. All weight loss plans should be approached carefully and be spread over an extended period of time. With dedication, a new diet and daily activity, most cats can lose weight. These actions can also help keep the pounds off. To prevent weight gain, feed your cat a protein-rich diet that is separated into meals measured for correct calorie intake.