Animals can show similar signs of illness with many different diseases, but there are some signs of disease that are commonly seen especially in older cats or cats with specific diseases. As always, it is important to have your individual cat examined by your doctor and to follow his/her recommendations. The following discussion is intended to help you identify a few of the problems you may see in your cat and to discuss possible causes. Disease occurrence is often very specific to the patient’s age with seniors, adults and kittens all having their own unique set of problems. So, I’ve split the discussion into age related diseases for kittens, adults and seniors.
Kittens: for our purposes are less then 1 year old
2) Parasites – internal (worms) and external (mites)
In young animals viruses and parasites are the most common problem we encounter. The best way to protect your cat is to vaccinate early and completely. Many people don’t realize that, depending upon the cat’s age when first vaccinated; he or she will require at least one booster vaccine to actually become protected. Kittens will also commonly have worms that can potentially be infectious to children (rare) and we recommend that all young animals be treated for roundworms and hookworms to eliminate this risk. And ear mites are occasionally seen as thick clumps of brown debris in the ears. Ear mites are not infectious to people but can be transmitted to other kittens and puppies.
Common Signs of Illness:
– Head Cold like signs and/or diarrhea
Common signs of illness in kittens are often similar to a person with a head cold (although not an infection shared with humans) with sneezing, nasal discharge and runny eyes. Cats can actually become infected with several different types of upper respiratory infections (URI) and can cause signs similar to a head cold. Some of these URIs can also cause eye infections and corneal ulcers. Ulcers are an injury to the surface of the eye from the virus and can be very painful to the kitten. Typically the cat will squint and have tearing. If seen, this should always be addressed quickly to avoid further injury or rupture of the eye. Supportive care for the sick kitten often involves treating any eye infections, antibiotics for secondary bacterial infection (if indicated), fluids for dehydration and ensuring adequate food intake. Cats eat based on smell and with a stuffed up nose many kittens will have a decreased appetite. A good way around this is to keep the nose clean and warm up the food to bring out the smell.
May vary somewhat between hospitals and states
1) FVRCP: Protects from organisms that can cause respiratory infections as well as eye infections, vomiting and diarrhea. We will typically give the combined FVRCP vaccine every 3 weeks for a series of 3 visits.
– Chlamydia psittaci
– Feline Rhinotracheitis
– Panleukopenia virus
2) FELV: Protects from feline leukemia virus which causes immunosuppression and opportunistic infections and cancer. The leukemia vaccine is only given to cats with potential exposure to other cats. Typical transmission is via bite wounds or fighting. A booster is needed.
3) Rabies: Protects from Rabies virus
Rabies is given once at the last kitten visit and repeated yearly or every 3 years based on state laws.
Cats are one of the growing risk groups for rabies infection in the US. In part this is due to poor owner compliance with vaccination and also the cats are more likely to encounter infected wildlife such as bats.
Diarrhea: from parasites, viral infection or dietary changes
Another common problem in kittens is diarrhea. Diarrhea can occur from parasites, viruses and dietary change. We always recommend that you convert your new pet to any new diet slowly to avoid diarrhea. All kittens showing diarrhea should have a physical examination to check the kitten’s general health and also a fecal examination for potential parasitic infections. Most parasitic infections can be easily eliminated with the appropriate medications. However, many parasite infections require different types of medication, so you should always have a fecal exam done to identify the specific parasite which allows treatment with the appropriate medication.
Recommend deworming all kittens at least twice with a medication effective against roundworms and hookworms.
- – New kittens should be tested for FELV/FIV (leukemia & feline immunodeficiency virus
- – All new pets should have a microchip placed for permanent identification
- – Flea and tick prevention may be needed depending upon the state of residency and potential exposure to the outdoors. For cats, I like to use the new prescription products that can be applied to the skin between the shoulders once monthly.
Spay & Neuter:
All pets should be spayed or neutered to prevent unwanted pregnancies, reduce disease occurrence and help control roaming and urine marking. The age will vary with the hospital but typically we recommend sterilizing between 4-6 months of age.