Like all animals, cats are susceptible to health problems, some more serious than others.
Here we discuss the five most common health issues seen in cats.
When cats throw up it can be a result of regurgitating or what is called true vomiting. Occasional vomiting in a cat is quite normal especially if the vomited material consists largely of hair.
Regurgitation involves the cat expelling whatever they have ingested out of their esophagus. In some cases the stomach contents move backwards, up into the esophageal track and into the mouth. Sometimes the ingested items do not make it to the stomach.
True vomiting is the forceful ejection of food from the stomach & upper intestine. Vomiting is a more traumatic event for a cat and includes salivation, retching and abdominal muscle contractions. Vomit will often contain bile, blood and mucus.
Cats will vomit when their stomach lining is irritated. This can be from a hairball, grass, a foreign object, eating too fast or being too active right after eating.
More serious causes include intestinal parasites, infectious disease, kidney or liver disease, or a central nervous system disorder.
If you cat has persistent regurgitation or vomiting and seems lethargic, consult your vet right away.
This is one of the most common conditions seen by veterinarians. Diarrhea results from excessive water content in the feces and can be acute or chronic. Acute diarrhea lasts less than 2 to 3 weeks and chronic greater than 2 to 3 weeks.
Diarrhea is a symptom of an underlying problem. There are many causes and these include but are not limited to: a change in diet, food allergies, a blockage from a hairball or foreign object, ingestion of a toxic substance, intestinal parasites such as tape worm, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colitis. More serious diseases that may result in watery stools are hyperthyroidism, kidney or liver disease, pancreatitis, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency or cancer.
If your cat experiences persistent diarrhea, take it to your vet immediately to find the cause and to prevent your cat from getting dehydrated.
Cats commonly scratch at their ears. When this scratching becomes severe or is accompanied by redness and inflammation, head shaking and a foul smell or discharge, this indicates an ear infection that needs treatment.
Most ear infections are caused by ear mites, allergens, or an overgrowth of the bacteria or yeast naturally present on your cat.
Left untreated, ear infections can spread to the inner ear and cause severe and irreversible damage.
Urinary tract issues
Feline lower urinary tract disease (IFLUTD) – also called urinary tract infection (UTI) – is a general term for a number of disorders of the urinary system of cats.
The symptoms can include blood in the urine, difficult or painful urination, abnormal and/or frequent passage of urine, urinating outside of the litter box and partial or complete blockage of the urethra.
The cause of UTI can include urinary tract infections (bacterial, fungal, parasitic, and perhaps viral), urinary stones, urethral plugs and cancer.
Recent studies support the theory that a psychologically stressful event can bring on UTI just as it does in humans with interstitial cystitis (IC). This event can be as simple as a change in the weather or something more traumatic such as a move to a new environment.
Fleas and worms
While fleas would not be considered a medical issue, they still present a potential health problem for cats.
In of themselves, fleas can live for more than a year, and your cat is at risk for anemia if left untreated. Many cats are allergic to fleas and in addition to causing serious skin problems, an indefinite allergic reaction can also compromise your cat’s immune system.
Symptoms of a flea infestation include constant scratching, frequent licking, flea dirt in the form of tiny black dots, red or irritated skin, hair loss and skin infections or hot spots.
Fleas can also spread tapeworm to a cat in a cycle that can be hard to break.
The tapeworm cycle begins when the flea larvae eats fecal matter that contains tapeworm eggs. The eggs then hatch inside the flea. When grooming itself, a cat with fleas swallows a flea infected with tapeworm.
When the flea is digested, the tapeworm is released into the cat’s system where it attaches itself to the lining of the cat’s intestine and feeds off the nutrients of the digested cat food.
As the tapeworm matures the tail segments drops off. Each segment contains the eggs of the tapeworm and these eggs are passed in the feces of the cat into the environment where the cycle begins all over again.
The easiest way to tell if your cat has tapeworms is to look at its feces and around its anus. If you see small white worms, or what look like grains of rice or sesame seeds, your cat likely has tapeworms. You may also see them in places your cat sleeps.
When a cat has fleas and tapeworms, you will see what is called salt and pepper where they sleep. The salt are the tapeworm segments and the pepper are dried bits of blood from the fleas biting your cat.
While many of these more common cat health issues can be treated with over the counter and homeopathic medications, if you have any doubt as to the cause or severity of your cat’s condition consult your veterinarian.
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