Pets and People

What are the most common cat diseases?

posted: 05/15/12
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Most common cat diseases are easily preventable.
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Cats are prone to a handful of specific illnesses, all with distinctive symptoms. Knowing what ails them and why will help you determine the right treatment to get them healthy again. Preventing problems, from viruses to worms, will keep your cat from being sidelined by discomfort. Here are some diseases to watch for:

 

 

 

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All that howling might be a cry out for help.
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Viruses and bacteria can invade a cat's nose, throat and sinuses, causing upper respiratory infections (URIs). Feline calicivirus and feline herpes virus are the most contagious types of URIs. In multi-cat homes or shelters, viruses are passed through shared food or water dishes, grooming or sneezing. Secondary bacterial infections may develop along with the viruses. Stress and overcrowding contribute to URIs, and cats with flat faces, such as Persians, are more susceptible to infection. Signs of URIs include a runny nose, congestion, nasal discharge, fever, loss of appetite and rapid breathing. Antibiotics, isolation and fluids will effectively fight URIs. Keeping your cat indoors to limit contact with infected cats, minimizing stress, and having up-to-date vaccinations and regular vet exams, help maintain a healthy immune system.

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Your cat's teeth is usually a good indicator of his health.
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Feline gingivitis, or gum inflammation, is the earliest stage of periodontis, the most widespread feline dental disease. Gingivitis is caused by plaque, a combination of a sticky bacterial film and food particles accumulating along the gumline. Cats that've been fed a high-carbohydrate diet become more sensitive to plaque bacteria. Mingled with saliva and minerals, plaque can harden into tartar, a yellowish crust that irritates the cat's gums. Left untreated, tartar eventually builds up under the gum, separating it from the teeth. Reddened gums, bad breath and difficulty eating are early signs of gingivitis, which usually begins with one tooth but can spread quickly. This bacterium can spread to other organs through the bloodstream and cause kidney damage.

If gingivitis has been diagnosed, your cat's teeth should be professionally cleaned. Follow up with daily brushing, using a special feline-formula toothpaste. Good oral hygiene is the best way to fight gingivitis, and special dental-formula cat foods can help keep teeth and gums strong. Your vet may also prescribe antibiotics to treat gingivitis.

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Even indoor cats can get worms. Roundworm is one of the most widespread forms, contracted from eating infected insects, rodents or birds or by contact with contaminated soil. Roundworms invade a cat's intestines, and can migrate to his bloodstream and organs. Spaghetti-shaped strings in his feces or vomit, a distended belly, dull coat, lack of appetite and diarrhea indicate roundworm infestation. A large buildup of roundworms can be fatal for kittens.

Cats get tapeworm, long and ribbon-shaped, from ingesting a flea that has consumed tapeworm eggs. The larvae hatch in the cat's stomach, attaching to its small intestines. Tapeworms sap nutrients; a feline heavily infested with tapeworms will lose weight and suffer mild diarrhea. Rice-shaped grains around the cat's anus and in his feces signal tapeworm.

Oral dewormer medication is the treatment for roundworm and tapeworm. Cleanliness, flea control and keeping the cat indoors will help fight worms.

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Urinary tract disease occurs in the bladder and the urethra, the tube leading from the bladder that carries urine out of the cat's system. Characterized by blood in the urine and painful urination, urinary tract disease has no specific cause but several possible ones: cystitis, dehydration, bacterial infection or the high ash and mineral content in dry cat food. Cats experiencing urinary or bladder problems may strain while urinating, squatting and meowing in pain. Your vet may discover a thickened bladder wall, and blockage of urine flow or urinary crystals. With prescribed medication and a change in the cat's diet, the infection should cease within 10 days. Your vet will conduct several urinalyses to monitor the presence of blood in the urine. A low-stress environment and the proper nutrition can help prevent urinary tract infections.

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Feline kidney or renal failure involves the breakdown of the kidneys, which regulate blood and water levels, and filter and process waste. Chronic renal failure (CRF) stems from the gradual deterioration of the tiny units called nephrons , which process waste and maintain hydration. Some experts believe CRF is caused by poor-quality nutrition. Because it occurs gradually, cats may show no signs for years. By time they exhibit symptoms, damage is usually irreversible. Extreme thirst and frequent urination are among the signs of CRF, along with drooling, dehydration, weight loss and bad breath. Although CRF is incurable and progressive, a cat can be kept comfortable with dietary changes supervised by your vet, along with IV fluids and specific medications.

Acute renal failure occurs quickly, usually from accidental ingestion of antifreeze, or illnesses that affect the kidney area. Symptoms include straining to urinate, lack of coordination, vomiting, not eating, seizures and bad breath. Immediate vet attention is needed. Removing the toxins and restoring the electrolyte balance is the first step, and full recovery depends on the severity of kidney damage.

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