Are These Five Killers Chasing Your Cat

As a cat owner, your first responsibility is to keep your pet healthy. However, even with balanced nutrition and a good amount of love and attention, cats can still get sick. Learn about the most common ailments that affect cats so you can try to prevent them or cure them quickly with the proper medical care when you first spot the symptoms.

Fleas Although cats and dogs can live with fleas, flea infestations should be controlled for several reasons. The most common flea, the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) may carry the Dipylidium caninum tapeworm larvae. If cats eat fleas during grooming, they may become infested with these tapeworms. Fleas could also transmit other infectious agents to both you and your pet. If kittens are exposed to fleas, they may become anemic.

Cats can also develop an allergy to flea bites, resulting in excessive scratching or possibly skin disease. Finally, humans are also susceptive to itchy flea bites, usually on the ankles. You may suspect your cat has fleas if he seems particularly itchy, or you see bites on human members of your household.

To check if your cat has fleas, groom him over a sheet of white paper. Look for a few fleas caught in the comb's teeth or flea dirt on the paper. Flea dirt is actually excrement of undigested cat blood, and appears black and comma shaped to the naked eye. If you place it on damp cotton wool, the flea dirt dissolves into bloody streaks.

To control fleas, all mature fleas must be killed and reinfestation prevented. Many commercial products are available both to kill adult fleas and remove fleas from the environment. Ask your vet for specific recommendations.

Make sure what you use kills both the adult mature fleas, as well as the eggs left behind, usually on carpet and bedding. Nothing is worse than to think you have conquered the problem, than several months later to have your family and pets attacked by blood hungry new hatchlings. Hairballs When cats cannot digest hair and food debris, they regurgitate hairballs. Hairballs are formed either at the back of the throat or in the small intestines.

Hairballs not only sound disgusting while your cat is producing them for you, but they also make an unsightly mess on your carpets and floors. Any cat owner who has had the thrill of watching their pet suffer through the process of hacking up fur balls will be highly motivated to prevent new ones from forming. The simplest method of hairball prevention is grooming your cat to remove excess hair.

The next step involves many products already on the market to prevent hairball build-up such as oils, treats, and diets. If your cat vomits frequently and the problem isn't resolved with regular brushings, you should consult with the veterinarian to be certain that a more serious problem is not the cause. Overactive thyroid Overactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, is a condition where the thyroid gland becomes enlarged and produces excess amounts of thyroid hormone. The condition is often provoked by a benign tumor on one or both lobes of the thyroid gland.

The good news is that thyroid tumors have only a 2-5% chance of malignancy. Symptoms of an overactive thyroid include: increased appetite or thirst, unexplained weight loss (particularly muscle mass), nervousness or irritability, frequent vomiting, lethargy and weakness, diarrhea, or a coat that looks ungroomed. A cat with the condition may not present every symptom, but the presence of two or more should prompt a visit to the veterinarian's office. At the vet's, your cat will be given a physical exam. If she notices enlarged glands, a CBC (blood panel) and a thyroid-specific test can make the diagnosis more conclusive.

There are three treatments that offer a good chance for your cat's full recovery: anti-thyroid medication, surgery, and radioiodine treatment. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, so you should learn more about the disease and its treatments and discuss your options with the veterinarian before making a decision. Diabetes Feline Diabetes can affect cats of any age, but is most common in older, obese cats-typically males. There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 is caused by insufficient insulin production while Type 2 results from a body's inability to handle insulin effectively.

Another type of diabetes, secondary diabetes, occurs as a side effect of drugs or diseases that impair the natural secretion of insulin or its effects in the body. The symptoms of feline diabetes include vomiting, dehydration, weakness and loss of appetite, increased thirst and urination, weight loss, breathing abnormalities, and an unkempt-looking coat. If your cat has any or several of these symptoms, take him to the vet. The vet will test for blood sugar levels and sugar levels in the urine. Doing both tests rules out an increased blood sugar level due to the stress of the office visit. If your cat is diagnosed with diabetes, it is usually treated through one or a combination of five methods: diet and weight control, insulin injections, oral medications, monitoring glucose and insulin levels, and nutrient and botanical supplements.

Each method of treatments has unique benefits and drawbacks, so be sure to decide on a treatment plan with your veterinarian. Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) This disease is a painful inflammation of the lower urinary tract that has the potential to be fatal. Feline lower urinary tract disease has a number of causes from decreased water intake and urine retention to viruses, bacteria, or diet.

Symptoms that your cat may have FLUTD include inappropriate or difficult and frequent urination, appetite loss, listlessness, blood in the urine, or frequent licking of the genitals. Vet treatment for FLUTD can include catheterization, fluid therapy, antibiotics, or even (rarely) surgery. At home, cat owners are often encouraged to change their pet's diet and style of feeding (more frequent, smaller meals).

It is also important for your cat to drink plenty of water. We all want to keep our cats healthy and with us for as long as possible. Understanding and being on the lookout for these common ailments will allow the discerning cat owner to take action before a small health problem turns into something more serious. Using good observation skills to evaluate any potential change in your cat's condition will allow you to take simple steps to keep your cat healthy, happy, and disease free. If you notice a continuing pattern of symptoms that may point to flea infestation, hairballs, an overactive thyroid, urinary tract disease, or even diabetes, timely consulation with your vet will allow you both to plan the best course of action. Your happy, healthy cat will thank you.

Romi Matsushita craves constant close contact with her calico cat. Find great tips, articles, and cat care advice at


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