Look Out: Common Health Conditions in Adult Cats
Adult cats tend to be very healthy, but many still need veterinary attention for some disorder. According to a large pet insurance company, the most common reasons insured cats visited a veterinarian were for lower urinary tract disease, chronic renal failure, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, skin allergies, dental disease, and eye infections.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), also called Feline Urological Syndrome (FUS) is a common and potentially fatal disease in which sand or stones form in the urinary tract. Female cats can pass these stones but male cats are not always able to, which can lead to urinary blockage. Urinary blockage in turn leads to kidney failure and death. If your cat has painful urination, urinates small amounts around the house, or tries to urinate unsuccessfully, he needs immediate veterinary attention. The formation of stones or sand is influenced by diet and by the amount of time urine is held in the bladder before the cat urinates. Most good quality commercial cat foods have lower levels of magnesium and are formulated to maintain a urine pH level that discourages stone formation. Provide plenty of water and feed wet food rather than dry to increase the cat's frequency of urinating, and make sure your cat has easy access to a clean litter box at all times.
Hairballs are a common cause of vomiting. An occasional hairball is no cause for alarm, but if your cat is vomiting up a hairball more often than every two weeks or so, you should see a veterinarian. He may suggest taking steps to prevent hairballs, such as adding certain lubricants or a small amount of fiber in his diet. Your veterinarian can also supply you with special products designed to combat hairballs.
Kidney disease, while more common in older cats, is also seen in adult cats. Signs include excessive thirst and urination, weight loss, appetite loss, vomiting, and lack of self-grooming. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition with urine and blood tests, and can prescribe treatment that may include a special diet, medication, appetite stimulants, and subcutaneous fluids.
Hyperthyroidism, defined as increased levels of thyroid hormones in the body, is also more common in older cats but found in adults. Signs include weight loss, increased thirst and urination, changes (usually increase) in appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and hyperactivity. Your veterinarian can diagnose it with blood tests, and can prescribe medicine, surgery to remove the thyroid gland, or radioactive iodine treatments.
Diabetes mellitus is caused by the body's inability to either produce sufficient level of insulin (Type 1) or use insulin efficiently (type 2). Type 2 diabetes is more common in obese cats, and seems to strike males more often. If your cat is losing weight or appetite, vomiting, becoming dehydrated or weak, having breathing abnormalities or declining skin and coat condition, he may have diabetes. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition and place your cat on a special diet for weight reduction and control of blood sugar levels. Your cat may also be placed on injectible or oral medications. Although treatment will entail diligent monitoring of your cat's condition, he can live a long and active life once the condition is brought under control.
Skin allergies can be caused by allergens the cat eats, touches or inhales. Common signs include scratching, pulling out tufts of hair; skin twitching; or areas of red skin, hair loss or crustiness. Your veterinarian can make a diagnosis with skin testing or by placing the cat on a different diet, and can make treatment recommendations based upon these results.
Feline acne is a common condition is which blackheads develop on the chin. The area may appear to be dirty. The blackheads can break open and the area can become crusty and swollen. The cause is not known, but it may be related to allergies, suppressed immune system, skin conditions that produce abnormal amounts of oil, or other causes. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition and prescribe treatment, but it is a condition that is usually managed rather than cured.
Conjunctivitis is a problem for some cats. The eyes may be red, watery and crusty. Your veterinarian can diagnose and treat the problem.
Dental problems often begin in adulthood. Bad breath, bleeding gums, loose teeth, recessed gums, and reluctance to chew are all signs. Your veterinarian can examine your cat's mouth and extract any infected or painful teeth, and may also prescribe medication.
Other health problems include:
Abscesses from bite wounds are common in outdoor cats or cats that fight with other cats. The bites may go unnoticed at first, so your first hint is when the cat is limping or has a swollen area most commonly on the neck, face or tail base. An abscess near the skin surface will often open and drain on its own, but because the infection is usually still inside the wound, the abscess tends to reoccur. Abscesses are easier to prevent than treat. Ask your veterinarian about giving antibiotics if your cat was in a fight. If an abscess does form, your cat may need the abscess to be surgically drained so it doesn't keep coming back.
External parasites, such as fleas, ticks, and ear mites, can be a problem in many areas. Newer treatments available from your veterinarian are easier to administer, more effective, last longer and are safer than the choices available a decade ago.
Ringworm (dermatophytosis) is a skin infection caused by a fungus, not a worm. It creates a round, red hairless area with a ring of scale around the edges. The fungi spores are in the environment and may cause infection when they contact the skin, especially of animals with reduced immune capacity. It is contagious to humans. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition with a special light, fungal culture, or microscopic examination. There are several medications for treatment.
Internal parasites, such as roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms most commonly infect cats. Signs include weight loss, pot-bellied appearance, poor coat condition and vomiting. Your veterinarian can test a stool sample, make a diagnosis and prescribe appropriate medication. Cats can also contract heartworms if they are not on preventive medication. Heartworm infections are relatively asymptomatic until they are too severe to be treatable.
Feline asthma is a recurring situation in which the airways are constricted, making it difficult for the cat to get a deep breath. Signs include exercise intolerance, coughing, and wheezing. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition and provide treatment.
Feline rhinotracheitis is a widespread viral disease that causes severe upper respiratory infection. While vaccination won't prevent it, it will make its effects milder.
Feline calicivirus is another widespread viral disease of the upper respiratory system. Even treated, an infected cat can have runny eyes and sneezing all its life, and can carry the virus. A vaccination for calicivirus is part of the core vaccination program.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) impairs the immune system, so the cat is more likely to be affected by other diseases. A cat with FIV should be kept indoors and away from other cats to both shield the cat and prevent passing it on.
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) suppresses the immune system, so the cat is more likely to contract and succumb to other diseases. A vaccination is available for higher risk cats, but is not suggested for all cats.
Hereditary diseases may first emerge in adulthood. These can include diseases of the eyes, digestive system, musculoskeletal system, nervous system, respiratory system, heart, or skin. Become familiar with the hereditary problems to which your breed is predisposed so you can be on the lookout for signs.