Monday, August 22, 2011

Does An Apple A Day Keep the Veterinarian Away? - Feline Health Myths Part 3

Myth: My cat doesn’t need to go to the vet because it is indoor only.

Reality: Over the last five years, the number of times pets visit their veterinarian has decreased significantly. Over that same time period, the incidence of preventable diseases has also increased in cats. In the 2011 State of Pet Health report released in April, the number of cats with fleas increased by 12% and is now double the number of dogs seen with fleas annually. The number of cases of cats with roundworms (which are communicable to humans) increased by 12.6%. The number of cats diagnosed with tapeworms increased by 15%. However, what is interesting is that the greatest increases were seen in diseases that are unrelated to whether cats go outside. Diabetes in cats increased by 16%, ear infections in cats have increased by 34% and dental disease now affects about 88% of all cats over the age of 3 years.

Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare logo
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), one of 16 veterinary health organizations engaged in the Partnership for Preventive Pet Healthcare, recommends yearly checkups at the minimum for all pets, whether they go outside or not. Disease in animals is very subtle, especially in cats. Cats are not pack animals like dogs, so their instinct is to hide their illness from others. It often isn’t until they are very sick that cats show obvious outward signs of poor health. Cats will continue to eat normally despite badly infected, diseased teeth. Kidneys can sustain loss of up to 75% of their function before cats or dogs begin to show outward signs of illness. Often the first obvious sign of high blood pressure (hypertension) in cats is sudden or gradual blindness.

Often the first sign of a problem is weight loss. This loss can be subtle and gradual, so it is important for your veterinarian to have a history of healthy weight trends for your cat. Even if you feel your cat is in perfect health, he should have an annual checkup – in fact, the annual exam is probably of more importance than vaccinations. At Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital an individualized vaccination schedule for your cat is always determined by multiple factors, such as age, health status, previous vaccination history and any previous vaccine reactions.

The doctor’s physical exam includes:
  •  a dental exam – are there any painful teeth or abnormalities to the mouth?
  •  a weight and diet assessment – is your cat overweight, underweight, just right. Could any change of weight or other health factor be due to a change in diet?
  • Dr. Bailey examines a white cat named Buddyan assessment of your cat’s skin and coat – does your cat have fleas? Dandruff? Itchy skin? Is there hair missing anywhere?
  •  an assessment of the ears and eyes – are your cat’s deep ear canals clean? Is the eardrum visible? Are the eyes clear? Does your cat show any signs of losing sight?
  •  an assessment of the heart and lungs – are there any unusual sounds in the chest? Is the heartbeat regular and normal, or is there a murmur?
  •  an assessment of the abdominal organs and the musculoskeletal system – are your cat’s kidneys normal in size and shape? Is there anything in the abdomen that feels out of place? Does your cat sit, walk and stand normally?
  •  Is your cat using the appropriate parasite control for its lifestyle? Are any previously discussed issues resolved or recurrent?
In addition to the exam, the veterinarian will discuss your cat’s lifestyle and condition with you. During your visit, be sure to bring up any health-related or behavioral issues, or even general cat care questions you may have. The staff should be more than willing to answer your questions and help make your relationship with your cat the best it can be!

Depending on what the veterinarian finds on physical exam and discusses with you during your visit, he or she may recommend additional tests such as a blood panel, fecal exam or urinalysis.