Common Feline Health Conditions
to be more of a seasonal concern, being the most
prevalent in the summer and early fall. Often the
first time you might notice fleas is when they bite
you and your family, so watch closely for the symptoms
of fleas on your cat and use protective measures
to prevent them.
The warning sign of
fleas are excessive biting; scratching and rubbing
by the cat; small, visible, fast-moving brownish-black
bugs; multiple skin irritations caused by the flea
bites and noticeable “flea dirt;” the
small black feces of the flea.
To test for fleas,
moisten a sheet of white paper and hold it under
your cat. Briskly comb the cat’s fur. Any
“flea dirt” which falls onto the paper
will produce a visible red bloodstain.
To prevent fleas, keep
your cat away from unfamiliar animals, especially
wild animals. Vacuum and clean the carpet, furniture
and the cat’s bedding repeatedly to remove
fleas and eggs. Fleas on your cat can be controlled
with many different treatments available from your
vet. All animals in the home must be treated for
fleas as well. Ask your vet or a pest control company
for the best way to treat your home and yard for
Ear mites are insects that are too small to see
with the naked eye. If the condition goes untreated,
ear mites may cause a secondary infection that must
also be treated. Ear mites are transmitted by direct
contact between your pet and another infected animal,
so be sure to keep your cat away from other animals
that have ear mites. Symptoms are vigorous shaking,
scratching or rubbing of the affected ear and a
thick black crust formed in the ear canal of the
If you suspect your
cat may have ear mites, it is advised that you have
your veterinarian check his or her ears. Your veterinarian
can recommend the appropriate treatment since many
forms of treatment can be effective. The cat should
be immediately isolated from other pets until completion
of the treatment.
Feline Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)
Feline upper respiratory infection is often referred
to as URI. The viruses that cause feline URIs are
common among cats. In fact, most cats are carriers
of these viruses, even if they never show any signs
of illness. Stress and other diseases can cause
an otherwise healthy cat to become clinically ill.
Feline URIs are often found in situations where
there are many cats housed in close quarters, such
as animal shelters and pet stores.
Typical signs of URI
are fever, lethargy, decrease appetite, sneezing
and/or coughing and discharge from the nose and
sometimes the eyes. The discharge may be runny and
colorless to thick and yellow or green. In some
cases there may be ulceration, or sores, on the
nose and/or within the mouth.
Many cases of simple viral URI resolve without specific
treatment in five to seven days. More complicated
cases usually require treatment with antibiotics
or other veterinary intervention. Good nutrition
is essential, but many congested cats refuse to
drink or eat. Warming a “smelly” type
of canned cat food may help encourage your cat to
eat. You should seek the assistance of your veterinarian
if mild signs of upper respiratory infection persist
for more than five to seven days. Also, see the
vet if there is a thick or discolored discharge
from the eyes or nose, if your cat is very lethargic
or if his or her appetite is greatly decreased.
If your cat has a significantly decreased appetite
for more than a week, it is important to call your
veterinarian as soon as possible.
Although it does not
prevent infection, previous vaccination can often
eliminate or reduce signs of illness upon subsequent
exposure. Vaccination when a cat is ill is not of
benefit and is not recommended.
Otitis occurs when moisture collects in the ear
canal resulting in decreased air circulation, inflammation
and eventually infection. Factors contributing to
Otitis include excess hair in the ear canal, a history
of allergies and dirty or wet ears. Typically, you
will notice your cat scratching at his ears or shaking
his head. Additionally a strong odor about the face
or ears may be detected as well as redness in the
ears or an increase of wax in the canal. If severe
or left untreated, the infection can result in rupture
of the eardrum, excessive growth of the tissues
of the ear canal and even deafness. To prevent Otitis,
it is helpful to remove excess hair from the ear
canal. This can be done by a groomer, veterinarian
or by the guardian, if properly trained. Be sure
to keep your cat's ears clean and dry. If you notice
any redness, discharge, or foul odor of the ears
it is important to contact your veterinarian for
proper care and treatment of your cat’s ears.
Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation on a
diet which may help to reduce cases of infection.
Feline leukemia is a contagious viral disease of
cats. It is transmitted through the saliva and nasal
secretions of an infected cat and infects only other
cats. Feline leukemia can cause tumor formation,
bone marrow disorders, immunosuppression and many
secondary diseases. Most cats that develop a persistent
infection die from the disease within two years.
Feline leukemia is a disease found in our area,
so your cat is at risk.
Luckily, feline leukemia
can be prevented! It is important that you talk
to your veterinarian about an appropriate vaccination
program. Another preventative measure you should
take is to not allow your cat to roam outdoors,
which could result in contact with a feline leukemia
Even if your cat or
kitten has tested negative for feline leukemia,
it is important to have the cat re-tested in the
future in case of recent infection and also to keep
your cat current on her vaccinations.
This virus is also called feline distemper, feline
parvovirus or feline enteritis virus. It is contagious
to all species of cats and raccoons. Signs include
vomiting, depression, fever and severe diarrhea.
The virus may attack the fetus in utero or kittens
shortly after birth and cause death or birth defects.
The younger the cat, the greater the chance he or
she will NOT survive. The virus is transmitted through
all body secretions, but urine and feces are the
most potent sources of infection. The virus can
also live on contaminated rugs, bedding, shoes and
other objects. An effective cleaning disinfectant
is 4 ounces of bleach in one gallon of water.
Cats remain highly
susceptible to panleukopenia until two weeks after
the last injection of the immunization series. Death
from panleukopenia may result from dehydration,
overwhelming bacterial infection from the cat’s
lowered resistance or blood loss from internal hemorrhage.
In Feline panleukopenia,
the cat often becomes ”dehydrated” from
the vomiting, diarrhea and inability to consume
fluids. Life is NOT possible when 12-15% of the
normal body fluids are lost. This is the reason
fluid therapy is so important. Treatment is aimed
at maintaining the normal composition and preventing
secondary bacterial infection. We have no cure for
any animal virus, just as there is no cure for any
Whenever you suspect
an illness, infection or virus of your cat, please
contact your veterinarian.