Cat Health Problems and Symptoms – An Owners Guide

 

Cat health problems and symptoms are vast and numerous.  There are so many different diseases and so much to know about health when you become a cat owner.  Cats are very sensitive beings and their bodies are susceptible to many different diseases.  Fortunately, some are not as serious as others.  Following is a list of many (but not all) ailments that may affect your cat during its lifetime.  I have given a short description and symptoms for each illness.  Some items contain links to my other pages with more detail and stories about my cat’s health struggles.  Cat health problems and symptoms are not always easy to identify but I’m hoping to give help on those topics where I have the most experience.

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Abscess (Skin)

Abscesses are pus filled, swollen bumps that may be tender to the touch.  These sometimes occur when a cat has been bitten or scratched.  Because these wounds can get infected, a trip to the vet is in order.  The vet will probably clean the wound and may prescribe some medicine.

Over the years, we’ve had kitties that had gotten into things and had some serious gashes.  Luckily not life threatening but they definitely did need a trip to the vet for a wound cleaning, a cone, and some antibiotics.

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Acne

Yes, cats can get acne.  They usually get it on their chin in the form of black heads or white heads.  However, it isn’t unusual for a cat to have swelling, red pimples or a crusty chin either.  Cats who aren’t very good groomers or have been sick and lack the desire to groom are the main ones to acquire the problem.  On the other hand, excessive grooming may also be to blame.  This isn’t a huge medical issue however with severe cases, your cat may be in pain so be sure to notify your vet if you think something is wrong.

Gyula has had acne in the form of blackheads on his chin.  He gets it when he is not feeling well from his constipation issues and isn’t taking proper care of himself.  It’s never been more serious than the blackheads and didn’t seem to bother him too much.  Right now he is blackhead free!

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Allergies – Flea

Flea allergies are believed to be caused by the saliva that the flea produces.   The allergy causes severe itching which would cause scabs and hair loss usually in the hind end.  If the allergy isn’t detected and goes on for an extended amount of time, anxiety can also happen.  The remedy is a regular flea treatment schedule which can include topical treatments like Revolution or a more natural treatment like diatomaceous earth.  I use diatomaceous earth on the cats and I have been flea free.  I do keep up on regular monthly treatments and I haven’t had a problem.

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Allergies – Food

Food allergies may cause gastrointestinal issues, diarrhea or vomiting.  This can happen at any age and all cats can have the allergy.  A common symptom of food allergies is excessive head or neck scratching.  The biggest culprit is chicken.  Many cats are allergic to chicken and you must read the ingredients as many fish flavored foods still contain some form of chicken.  My cats are allergic to chicken and I have found many brands that don’t contain chicken.  One of my favorites (and the cat’s favorites as well) is Soulistic.

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Allergies – Skin

Allergic dermatitis can result in hair loss, dandruff and dry, scaley skin to name a few.   Your cat may be in some pain and it best to get your cat to a vet if you notice any significant changes in your cat’s behavior.   It can be caused by so many different things including:

  • Grooming products like litter
  • Food allergy
  • Environmental irritants like
    • Pesticides
    • Fleas
    • Pollen
  • Worms
  • Fungus
  • Yeast
  • Acne
  • Stress
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Ear mites
  • Lice

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Anal Gland Disease

Cats have sacs in their bottoms that are generally used to mark their territory.  They really don’t serve any other function and are not needed by a cat for general health.  If there is no issue with your cat’s gland then there is no need to fret however sometimes these sacs can become clogged, infected and/or abscessed.  When your cat’s anal glands get clogged, they will have pressure and pain and may develop constipation.  An infection is the result of bacteria and your cat will have pain and itching.  An infection can quickly turn into an abscess which will cause a ton of pain, swelling and may make your cat angry and stressed.  This needs to me addressed by a vet immediately before a rupture occurs.  Your vet should be contacted as a clogged gland can turn into an abscess.  The vet may remove the pus and prescribe an antibiotic.  If the problem reoccurs often, then removal of the sacs may be necessary but is a definite last resort as incontinence could occur.  The signs of anal gland disease include:

  • Scooting their butt on the floor
  • Chasing their tail often and not out of play
  • Excessive licking
  • Excessive biting
  • Pain
  • Swelling

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Anemia

In severe cases, anemia requires medical attention, however, with mild cases anemia can generally be treated or reversed.  You will definitely need to visit your vet in order to diagnose and receive treatment for this disease.  Anemia is basically a reduced red blood cell count.  Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to the rest of the part of the body.  The most common symptoms of anemia are lethargy, decreased appetite, and pale gums.  The causes can range from a simple infection, virus or blood loss from flea bites to other more serious diseases like immune diseases, a stomach bleed, cancer or kidney disease.  Another less thought about cause could be medication or toxins around the home.

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Arthritis

Arthritis is inflammation and pain in the joints.  In cats, it is fairly rare but when it does happen, it usually affects the elbows.  Older cats tend to be diagnosed with arthritis more than younger felines unless you have a husky kitty.  It is easy to treat with pain medication, supplements, and weight loss if necessary.  Feri had a back injury a few years ago from falling off a window in the bathroom.  The vet gave him some pain meds as well as some glucosamine and chondroitin.  Although it wasn’t arthritis at the time it has grown into that and he has trouble making his jumps on occasion.  He is pain-free but I will have to monitor him as he ages.  The most common signs of arthritis are:

  • Stiffness
  • Lethargy
  • Swelling
  • Lameness
  • Decreased flexibility
  • Decreased activity
  • Discomfort
  • Poor litter box habits (from having to climb over the rim)
  • Hesitancy to run, jump or climb stairs

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Asthma

Asthma can be very dangerous to cats just as with humans.  Asthma is the chronic inflammation of the throat and during an attack, it thickens and constricts.  An asthma attack can very quickly turn into respiratory distress and can turn deadly very fast.  During an attack, a cat may discharge some mucus, cough or wheeze.  With mild cases, your cat may have a chronic cough.  Any of these symptoms need an immediate vet evaluation due to the seriousness of the disease.

Symptoms of asthma range from:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Squat with hunched shoulders and extended neck with rapid breathing or gasping (think furball stance)
  • Gagging with foamy mucus discharge
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Blue lips and gums
  • Difficulty breathing after exercise
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy

Causes of asthma usually stem from allergies, heart condition, illness, parasites, stress, obesity, tumors or pneumonia.  Your vet can prescribe medication for the condition and evaluate your cat for a possible underlying cause.

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Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis stems from allergies of all types.  It is an inflammatory skin disease that is chronic and will probably not go away on its own without changes to the environment or food.  Check the allergy section to see what types of allergies can affect cats.

Dogs are much more prone to atopic dermatitis than cats but when it affects cats it is mostly found in and around the ears, wrists, muzzle, ankles, underarms, groin, eyes and in between the toes.  Symptoms of atopic dermatitis include:

  • Itching and scratching
  • Hair loss
  • Rubbing the eyes
  • Excessive licking
  • Hot spots
  • Twitchy skin

Your vet can prescribe some corticosteroids or antihistamines to help alleviate the symptoms and ease your cat’s symptoms until the specific allergy is identified.  It is very important to NOT administer over the counter human products as the dosage could be too strong and hurt your kitty horribly.  Zoli has a very mild case of atopic dermatitis during the summer where he gets itchy, watery eyes from the pollen.  There is not much that I can do for him and it doesn’t seem to bother him too much.

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Bladder Infection

See Urethral Obstruction/Uroliths

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Bladder Stones

Bladder stones are in essence crystals in your cat’s urine.  This may indicate a urinary tract infection but it may not.  The best diagnosis would be performed by a vet of course.  The crystals that form are like sand and irritate the bladder.  They may plug the urethra and stop the flow of urine making for a life threatening situation.  The crystals can bind together and create larger stones as well.  Bladder stones can be found in the kidneys, ureters, bladder or the urethra.  Symptoms of a blockage include blood in the urine, inability/straining to pee, small quantities of urine, peeing outside of the litterbox and excessive licking.  Treatment of the blockage is usually surgical removal followed by a diet change to a vet prescribed food.

Zoli had this happen when he first came to us.  He didn’t act sick and was still peeing in the litter box but he would sit in there forever.  I took him to the vet and he had an overnight stay because of the surgery.  He was a tiny kitten and I felt so bad for him.  The entire procedure and expenses cost a little over $1,200 with a diet change that he is now off of.   He has not had a reoccurrence and is such a happy little bugger!

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Blepharitis

Blepharitis is the inflammation of the eyelid or in severe cases, the inner eyelid lining.  It can be caused by pink eye or keratitis (inflammation of the cornea).  It can also be caused by the eyelid turning in and rubbing against the cornea which can happen to some breeds of cats with flat faces.  A whole list of different things can turn a simple pink eye infection into blepharitis including:

Signs to look for are red, swollen and itchy eyes, blinking frequently, scratching, rubbing, discharge, hair loss and dry crusts.  Depending on the cause of blepharitis a vet may tell you to hold a warm compress for 5 -10 to the affected area.  For lid abnormalities or tumors, surgery is usually required.  Bacterial infections like pink eye will generally call for ointment or drops as would the herpes virus or allergies.  One thing to keep in mind though is that each type of infection would generally take different kinds of medications.  Pink eye is bacterial whereas herpes is viral so a medication that you may have gotten for one condition may not work for another.

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Blood Clot in Artery

A blood clot in an artery is very serious and is usually caused by some form of heart disease.  It is the interruption of blood flow in the aortic valve and is believed to be hereditary.  Males are twice as likely to get heart disease than females.  Heart disease is generally caused by cardiomyopathy or an infection.  Symptoms of a blood clot include:

  • Vomiting
  • Paralysis
  • Pain in the legs
  • Lameness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Barking noises
  • Anxiousness
  • Pale paws
  • Hypothermia

It is imperative that you get your cat to the vet immediately if you notice these signs.  Your cat will require hospitalization which could include pain and stress management, oxygen therapy and/or thrombolytic medication.  If your cat doesn’t respond to medication then surgery may be required.  Frequent lab tests to monitor your cat will be required after any hospitalization or surgery of this nature.

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Bronchitis

Bronchitis in cats is also referred as feline asthma but that term is somewhat misleading.  Asthma is a constriction of the muscles whereas bronchitis is the inflammation of the airways.  Bronchitis can be caused by bacteria, a virus, parasites or environmental irritants.  It may be a short-term illness or if left untreated, it may be long term which sometimes causes irreversible damage.  Symptoms of bronchitis include:

  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Gagging (mimicking a furball)
  • Rapid breath
  • Open mouth breathing

Generally, a trip to the vet will treat any infection with medication.  However, if no infection is found and the bronchitis is diagnosed as caused by environmental irritants, then elimination of the irritants is required.  By environmental irritants, I am referring to cigarette smoke, pollen, pesticides etc.  It may be a bit tricky to figure out what is the exact cause in this case but with a bit of trial and error, you should be able to find the source.

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Calicivirus

Calicivirus or FCV is a viral respiratory infection that targets the respiratory tracts, lungs, nasal passages, mouth tongue, intestines and musculoskeletal system.  Infections are more common in unvaccinated cats and can affect any cat at any age.  However, most of the time this virus is seen in young kittens.  Symptoms of this virus include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Eye and/or nose discharge
  • Tongue, nose, lip or claw ulcers
  • Pneumonia
  • Trouble breathing
  • Arthritis
  • Lameness
  • Painful to walk
  • Fever
  • Hemorrhaging

If the virus results in pneumonia or hemorrhaging, then hospitalization is necessary.  However generally this virus is treated with antibiotics for any bacterial infection and resolves without too many complications.

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Cancer

Cancer is seen less in cats than in dogs but is much more aggressive in cats when they do get it.  This is a very broad topic but the top cancers found in cats are lymphoma which is associated with feline leukemia, oral tumors, skin tumors and breast tumors.  The treatment varies depending on the severity of cancer and should be discussed with your vet.  My Mom’s cat, Sara, got cancer late in life and within a week could hardly walk.  She had stopped eating and was pretty much skin and bones.  We put her to sleep to end any unnecessary suffering knowing that she had a very long and fulfilling life.  Symptoms of cancer include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diahhrea
  • Trouble breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

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Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is associated with heart disease and is thought to be hereditary.  Male cats, age five to seven years, seem to be the most affected.  The usual treatment for this disease will include a hospital stay to minimize stress and administer oxygen as well as medication.  After recovery, follow-up lab tests should be done to monitor the cat’s heart.  However, if medical treatment is not sought early enough, death can occur.  Symptoms of cardiomyopathy include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weak pulse
  • Trouble breathing
  • Crackly breathing
  • Abnormal heart beats
  • No desire to exercise/play
  • Blue paws
  • Collapse
  • Heart failure.

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Constipation

Constipation in cats is something I know a great deal about since I have been struggling with Gyula and his issues.  Constipation is the difficulty to defecate and is usually associated with the digestive system.  Chronic and untreated constipation can cause megacolon.  There are a ton of factors that can cause constipation including inflammatory bowel disease, stress, diet, colitis or medication.  Check out how I treat Gyula’s constipation here.

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Deafness

There are two basic types of deafness in cats; conduction and nerve.  Either can be congenital which meansit is hereditary and usually has an onset at birth.  Conduction deafness is where the sound waves don’t hit the nerves due to inflammation, tumors, rupture or some types of medication.  Nerve deafness is generally acquired from ear mites, infections or tumors.  An aging cat also may start to lose his or her hearing.

Some breeds of cats may also be prone to deafness such as Ragdolls and Maine Coons.  White cats with blue eyes also have a tendency to be deaf at birth.  The symptoms of a cat who is losing or has lost their hearing include:

  • Unresponsiveness to sounds, their name or squeaky toys
  • Sleeping soundly through loud noises without even a flinch

While a deaf cat does have a disability, most cats live a happy and normal life.  You will have to adjust the way you communicate with them by using hand signals more and limiting their outdoor activity since they can’t hear cars coming.  However, you and your deaf cat can have a wonderful and fulfilling life with these few adjustments.

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Diabetes Mellitus (Sugar Diabetes)

This type of diabetes affects obese cats more often, however, the disease does have the ability to go into remission once the diabetes is under control.  Usually, a diet change with a strict feeding schedule is put into place to help control the disease.  Depending on the severity of diabetes, a cat may also need to be given insulin with follow up lab test every few months to monitor the sugar levels and sometimes adjust the insulin levels.  The most common symptoms of diabetes mellitus are increased thirst and urination.  Other symptoms of sugar diabetes include:

  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Motor function problems
  • Coma or death (if left untreated)

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Diarrhea

Diarrhea is not uncommon in cats.  A ton of things can cause a bout of diarrhea including diet changes, inflammatory bowel disease, colitis, worms, pancreatic disease, cancer, dairy products, megacolon or an upset stomach.  If your kitty has diarrhea then do not fret, however, if it lasts for more than two days then I would call the vet as you may have a more serious circumstance.  Also, call the vet if the diarrhea is accompanied by:

  • Black or bloody stool
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

If your kitty is diagnosed with a food allergy, inflammatory bowel disease or colitis, then your vet may prescribe a special diet and perhaps some medication to ease the symptoms quicker and get your kitty feeling better.

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Dislocated Joint (Luxation)

The term luxation is used to describe a total dislocation of a joint.  Usually, a luxation will also include ligament damage as well.  A subluxation is used to describe a partial dislocation of the joint.  Both of these injuries are usually associated with trauma or are congenital which means that the dislocation was present at birth.  Depending on the severity of the dislocation, surgery might be needed.  However, these can also heal on their own with lots of rest, stabilization, and cold compresses.  Symptoms of a dislocation include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Lameness
  • Not using the limb
  • Partial weight bearing
  • Limping

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Distemper

Distemper is a highly contagious disease for cats.  It can also be deadly if not treated.  The medical term for distemper is Panleukopenia Virus (FPV) and it is very similar to the parvo virus found in dogs.  This is one shot that I always get for my kitties so that they never have to catch this nasty virus that affects the blood cells.  It causes them a ton of pain and depression.  If your kitty catches this disease, the prognosis is good but is a long hard road for both of you.  First, rehydration is necessary along with antibiotics.  Second, your kitty will need to be quarantined at home until the virus is completely gone.  You will need to allow your kitty tons of rest and extra love since it makes them so depressed and leaving them alone can prolong the disease.  Lastly, a thorough cleaning of every inch of your home will be needed as this virus can live for years without a host!  The good news is that your kitty will be completely immune to the disease and will never be able to catch it again!  The symptoms of distemper include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diahrrea
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Rough fur
  • Depression
  • Hiding
  • No interest in food
  • Hangin head
  • Feet tucked under body
  • Chin on the floor
  • Lack of coordination

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Dry Eye

Dry eye is also known as Keratoconjunctivitis and is relatively uncommon in cats.  It stems from a low amount of tears or a lower tear film that is generally over the eyes.  It causes inflammation and severe drying.  It also seems to affect mostly females.  Dry eye is generally a secondary symptom that can be caused by many different factors including immune disease, trauma, medications, surgery, x-rays, bacteria, viruses or an infection.  It is usually treated with artificial tears and antibiotics to treat the underlying cause.  Surgery is sometimes needed but is used much less frequently.  Regular check ups with your vet will help to keep your kitties eyes healthy.  Symptoms of Keratoconjunctivitis include:

  • Excessive blinking
  • Swelling
  • Prominent third eyelid
  • Discharge
  • Cornea changes
  • Loss of vision (in extreme cases)

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Ear Hematoma

Ear hematoma is basically a ruptured blood vessel within the ear flap that swells and looks like a balloon.  It can affect one or both ears and is generally caused by shaking of the head.  The main underlying cause is ear mites but an infection, allergies or immune disorders can also be the root cause.  It is non-life threatening but is painful to your cat.  The only treatment is drainage and your cat will heal fine but may have a crinkly looking ear afterward.

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Ear infections

Ear infections can be caused by several different things and is usually a secondary condition.  Causes of ear infections include allergies, tumors, something in the ear, ear mites, rupture, wax, yeast, or diabetes.  Depending on the root cause, your vet will prescribe an antibiotic, anti parasitic, anti fungal or a corticosteroid.  Signs of an ear infection include:

  • Discharge
  • Swelling
  • Waxy buildup
  • Odor
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of balance

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Ear Mites

There are several different types of ear mites and these nasty little buggers will feed off of the wax and oil in your cat’s ear.  They are barely visible and live only three weeks but hey will make your cat miserable.  They are easily caught between cats and are mostly seen in kittens and outdoor cats.  It causes pain, irritation, and inflammation and since your cat will be constantly shaking its head, they can also cause ear hematoma.  They are super easy to get rid of with a prescription ear drop and/or anti biotic from your vet.  Just remember to have all your household cats checked for the same problem.  A gentle cleaning with a cotton ball will help to rid the ear of the discharge.  Be sure to never use q-tips or stick anything in your cat’s ear.  as you can end up pushing things deeper inside and causing more problems.  A simple wiping of the ear flap is all that is needed.  If you suspect ear mites look for these signs:

  • Excessive scratching
  • Head shaking
  • Hair loss
  • Discharge that looks like coffee grounds
  • Odor
  • Inflammation
  • Scabs

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Entropion

Entropion is typically genetic and results in an abnormal eyelid which is either inverted or folded.  This leads to irritation and scratches to the cornea.  It may cause decreased or complete loss of vision if left uncorrected for a prolonged period of time.  However, most vets will catch this condition by age two.  Certain types of cats with a flat facial shape and short nose, like Persians, are usually the most affected.   Your vet will prescribe artificial tears and possibly antibiotics if an infection is present.  In certain cases, eyelid surgery will fix the problem for good.  Symptoms to look for include:

  • Excessive tearing or keratitis
  • Red eyes
  • Sagging eye skin
  • Mucus or pus (signs of an infection)

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Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex

Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex is an allergic response that creates skin inflammation.  It is thought to be genetic and can be caused by allergies to food or other environmental factors like pesticides, fleas, pollen or other insects.  It is generally diagnosed by age 2 and seems to affect mostly females.  Treatment for this disease includes allergy tests as well as anti-inflammatories.  There are three different types that affect different parts of the body; plaque, granuloma and indolent.  Signatures symptoms for each type of this disease include:

  • Plaque
    • Lesions on the abdomen, chest and/or inner thigh
  • Granuloma
    • Lesions on the thigh
    • Lameness
  • Indolent
    • Lesion on the mouth, lips or gums

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Epiphora

Epiphora is an eye condition that creates watery eyes and/or eye discharge.  It is basically the overflow of tears.  It is more of a symptom of an underlying disease rather than a disease itself and the underlying cause must be diagnosed.  Underlying diseases may be conjunctivitis (pink eye), allergies, trauma, abnormal eyelashes, corneal ulcers, infection, entropion, tumors or glaucoma.  Treatment starts with determining the underlying cause and treating that problem first.  If there is no relief, then surgery is possible if the tear ducts remain clogged.  Symptoms of epiphora include:

  • Staining around the eyes (cats have rust-colored tears)
  • Excessive tearing
  • A damp face (a result of excessive tearing)
  • Squiting
  • Inflammation
  • Redness

Zoli has this condition during the summertime when he is outside the most.  He tears a lot and his little white paws get stained from the tears from cleaning his eyes.  He isn’t in any pain and when he comes inside for the winter, it completely goes away.  We have determined that Zoli has allergies and although it doesn’t bother him, I do have to keep an eye on him so that it doesn’t turn into an infection.

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Eye Infections

Eye infections are quite common and can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi or allergies.  It is best to visit the vet for a proper diagnosis and not reuse old medication from a previous infection as the symptom may be a secondary disease.  Generally, antibiotics in the form of an ointment or drops are prescribed to beat the infection.  I find it much easier to use the ointment as it would be pretty hard to get a cat to sit still while I drop liquid in their eyes!  Various symptoms include:

  • Red eyes
  • Discharge
  • Winking
  • Rubbing
  • Squinting
  • Pronounced 3rd eyelid

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Eyelid Conditions

See Entropion

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Fading Kitten Syndrome

Fading kitten syndrome is the failure to thrive as a baby.  It usually happens to nursing kittens from birth up to nine weeks old.  The causes are generally environmental, genetic or infectious.  Symptoms include:

  • Weakness
  • No weight gain
  • Staying away from the litter
  • No suckling from the mother
  • Crying
  • Discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness

A vet trip with the mom cat as well as the whole litter is needed.  Depending on the cause, the kitten may need supplemental nutrition, warmth, antibiotics and/or hydration.

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Feline Immunodeficiency (FIV)

Feline immunodeficiency virus may remain dormant for years before signs occur.  With this disease, immune systems are severely weakened and cats are vulnerable to secondary infections. This virus is passed through deep bite wounds from an aggressive fight or from mom to kitten. Symptoms include:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Poor fur
  • Poor appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)
  • Gingivitis / Dental Disease
  • Inflamed mouth
  • Skin redness and/or hair loss
  • Wounds not healing
  • Sneezing
  • Eye and nose discharge
  • Behavior change
  • Urinating often, straining to urinate and/or urinating outside of the litter box.

There is no real treatment for feline immunodeficiency virus although medication is usually prescribed for secondary infections. Also, a good diet along with fluid therapy, anti-inflammatories,  immune enhancing drugs and/or parasite control (if needed) are usually prescribed by the vet.

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Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)

This immune disease is caused by viral strains of the coronavirus. It causes inflammation in the abdomen, kidney or brain. FIP is progressive and almost always fatal. Although the disease is relatively uncommon, it can be found in kittens with weakened immune systems and older cats. Years can pass after the actual infection and before actual symptoms arrive.  Symptoms of FIP are:

  • Upper respiratory ailments such as sneezing, watery eyes, and/or nose discharge
  • Mild intestinal problems such as diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Depression
  • Rough coat
  • Fever

There is no treatment for this disease. A vet will usually prescribe supportive care including steroids, antibiotics, other medication, fluid therapy, draining of fluids, and or blood transfusions.

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Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)

This virus impairs the immune system and causes cancer. Males between the ages of 1 to 6 years are more susceptible to this disease than females. There are three types of this leukemia and are categorized as A, B or C.  Cats can be infected with one or with all three types.

Category A includes all cats with FeLV which weakens the immune system. Category B includes 50% of infected cats and includes the addition of tumors and other growths. Category C includes 1% of cats infected and creates severe anemia. The disease is caused by cat to cat transmission.   Symptoms include:

  • Anemia
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Abscesses
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Ear or skin infections
  • Poot coat
  • Fever
  • Wobbly gate
  • Inflammation of the nose, cornea, eye, gums and/or mouth
  • Lymphoma or fibrocystic sarcoma

Medication is used to treat the symptoms and yearly visits to the vet are required for vaccinations. Unless the condition is severe there is no hospitalization. Sometimes in extreme cases, blood transfusions are required along with fluid therapy, nutritional supplements and/or special diet.

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Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

This disease affects the bladder and urethra. The name is actually a term used to describe the condition rather than an actual disease. Cystitis is a common cause as well as bladder stones, obstruction, defects and cancer which is uncommon. Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty urinating or painful urination
  • Straining to urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Peeing outside of the litter box
  • Over grooming
  • Behavior change

Treatment includes cleaning all the litter boxes thoroughly, quality time with your animal, reduction of stress, sufficient space, and cat pheromones such as Feliway.

Also see Urethral Obstruction

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Feline Viral Respiratory Disease Complex

The most common cause for feline viral respiratory disease is the herpesvirus or calicivirus.  

It is obtained through cat to cat contact and is the term used to describe a condition affecting the mouth, nose, sinus, eyes and upper airway. Symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Discharge of the eyes, nose or both
  • Drooling
  • Ulcers on the nose

    Lysine Powder
    The Lysine powder that I use

  • Pneumonia
  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression

The symptoms also depend on which virus, herpes or the calicivirus your cat is infected with. Treatment includes lysine for herpes which is a nutritional supplement, antibiotics for any infections, ensuring food and water intake, reducing stress and treating any ulcers or lesions that have formed.

Also see Upper Respiratory Infection

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Flea Bite Dermatitis

Flea bite dermatitis is an allergic response to flea bites. Common symptoms are:

  • Frequent biting and scratching
  • Intense itching
  • Loss of or thinning fur
  • Fleas
  • Flea dirt
  • Red inflamed skin
  • Small red raised lesions
  • Eosinophilic plaque or linear granuloma (lesions)

Flea treatment for both the cat and the home is required including thorough washing of bedding or anywhere your cat may sleep.

Also see Allergy – Fleas

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Foreign Body (Nasal and Oral)

A foreign body can be inhaled by your cat which can cause distress.  Inhalation of grass, baby teeth, needles, bones or any other small types of fragments can cause symptoms of:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Retching
  • Wheezing
  • Headshaking
  • Blue gums
  • Nose and mouth pawing
  • Fainting
  • Nosebleeds
  • Odd movement of the tongue
  • Gagging
  • Respiratory distress
  • Salivation
  • Tremor
  • Anorexia
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bad breath
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing

Call your vet right away if you suspect that your cat has inhaled something foreign.  Your vet will remove the foreign object and usually prescribe an antibiotic for any secondary infection that may occur from the object being stuck in there too long.

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Gastritis

Gastritis is the inflammation of the stomach and can be acute or chronic. It occurs more in kittens or in curious cats who eat things that they shouldn’t such as garbage, plants, toxins, mold, fungi, table scraps or leftovers. Other causes can be certain medication, underlying diseases, stress, over eating or food allergies. Gastritis symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Increased thirst
  • Blood in the vomit or feces
  • Abdominal pain

Treatment includes withholding food for 24 to 48 hours but giving small amounts of water during that time. After 24 hours of if there is no vomiting then you should start feeding small amounts of food gradually. Gradually increase the food over 2 to 3 days and notify your vet if the vomiting return. The vet may prescribe medications to treat some discomfort in your cat.

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Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the early stage of periodontal disease and includes the inflammation of gums, plaque or redness.  It is very common in many cats. Causes of gingivitis include:

  • Old age
  • Too many teeth in the mouth
  • Eating only soft food
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Bad chewing habits
  • Lack of oral care
  • Diabetes
  • Autoimmune diseases such as FeLV or FIV

Symptoms include red swollen gums, bad breath and plaque. Treatment is usually to clean your cat’s teeth or removal of any extra teeth they may have.  Cica had most of her teeth removed and she did very well without them.  Her previous owner was an animal hoarder and didn’t take care of the animals at all.

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Glaucoma

Glaucoma is high pressure that occurs in the eye.  It is the cause of failure of normal fluid drainage and if left untreated will cause blindness. There are two types of glaucoma, primary and secondary. Primary is caused by improper development of the eye whereas secondary is caused by luxations, inflammation, tumor or injury. Secondary glaucoma is much more common in cats than primary. Symptoms of glaucoma include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Behavior change
  • Excessive blinking
  • Eyeball receding
  • Red eyes
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Vision loss

Once glaucoma reaches an advanced stage, symptoms include enlargement of the eyeball, loss of vision or degeneration of the eye. Treatment for glaucoma includes medication to lower the pressure and salvage vision.  If the glaucoma is in an advanced stage, surgery may be required but your cat may lose its eye.  Cats are known to be very healthy and happy with one blind eye or even two blind eyes.  They can still live a normal life with some changes and help from you.

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Hairballs

Hairballs are caused from grooming.  When a cat grooms himself, any dead hair that is loose is usually swallowed.  However, cats will usually vomit them out from time to time.  (I had to clean up a lovely hairball this morning from my beloved Feri)  Sometimes if hairballs get stuck in their esophagus it can cause a life-threatening blockage. Symptoms include:

  • Hacking
  • Gagging
  • Retching
  • Vomiting

If these symptoms produce no furball then they may have a blockage and you will notice a lack of appetite, lethargy, constipation or diarrhea. You should also call your vet to make sure the blockage isn’t life threatening.  Treatment includes brushing your cat regularly, a high-fiber diet, a hairball product and discouraging excess grooming.

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Heartworm Infestation

A heartworm infestations medical term is dirofilaria immitis. It is a parasitic nematode that lives in the animal’s heart. The severity depends on the amount of worms, the duration and the response of the host. Most cats only have a few worms.  This disease is more prevalent in dogs than in cats. The worms are generally smaller the lifespan is shorter than in dogs.  

Outdoor cats are more susceptible to heartworm which is caused by mosquito bite. Mosquitoes will bite a cat and lay the heartworm eggs right in the skin which then travels through the bloodstream and into the heart. A spontaneous cure may occur within a cat since these worms are smaller and their lifetime is not as long as a dog.

Symptoms include coughing, trouble breathing and vomiting. There is no treatment for heartworms but surgery may be required to remove adult worms.  However, since cat heartworms tend to die on their own, a spontaneous cure may happen which will deem surgery unnecessary. Medication for symptoms is usually prescribed but the use of preventative such as Revolution for cats Is usually the best treatment.

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Herpesvirus

Herpes is a life long disease that your cat can carry for its lifetime.  Just to calm your worries early, humans can not catch cat herpes and vice versa. Causes of the herpes virus include cat to cat contact such as sharing litter, bowls and/or grooming. The herpes virus causes upper respiratory infections and flares of the virus. Cats usually become latent carriers after some time and some cats never show any symptoms at all. Stress can cause flares of the virus. Symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Eye and nose discharge
  • Conjunctivitis (Pink eye)
  • Lesions in the eyes
  • Eye ulcers
  • Congestion
  • Fever
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drooling
  • Squinting
  • Lethargy

There is no treatment for the herpes virus and once a cat has herpes it will always have herpes.  Only symptoms are treated with this virus. If there is an underlying infection then antibiotics are usually prescribed and sometimes antiviral medications for some symptoms. All of my cats have herpes.  There is a ton of information that I have covered about this virus and you can read about the stories here.

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Histoplasmosis

Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection that affects the lungs and intestines.  Dogs, cats and people can get are susceptible to this infection. It is caused by ingesting or breathing in contaminated soil or bird droppings but is usually found in moist and humid areas. Symptoms include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing
  • Lameness
  • Eye discharge
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Pale gums
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

Generally, this infection will clear up on its own but because of the risk of spreading or becoming more severe, medication is usually prescribed by the vet. A severe infection would require hospitalization to give medication, fluid therapy and nutrients.

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Hookworms

Hookworms are parasites that live in the intestine. They are bloodsucking and if an intestinal infestation occurs then blood loss may happen as well. Hookworms can be fatal especially in kittens and are communicable after 2 to 4 weeks of investigation. Hookworms can enter through the skin or be ingested.  Symptoms include:

  • Anemia
  • Inflammation of the small intestine
  • Bite-size lesions
  • Lesions on the bottom of the feet in and in between the toes
  • Coughing (if the larvae have traveled to the lungs)
  • Dark tarry stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Poor coat
  • Poor appetite

Treatment includes a deworming medication and nutritional supplement. If the infestation is severe than a hospital stay may be required which would include fluid therapy, blood transfusion and oxygen therapy. If left untreated, possible sudden death may occur.

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Hypertension

Hypertension is basically high blood pressure. It may affect different organs including the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nervous system. It also may be genetic but is usually caused by an underlying disease. Symptoms include:

  • Seizures
  • Circling
  • Disorientation
  • Blindness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Retinal detachment
  • Hemorrhage of the eye
  • Blood or protein in the urine
  • Nosebleed
  • Weakness
  • Rolling eyeballs

Treatment usually starts with treating the underlying cause first. Medication is usually prescribed indefinitely for the lifespan of the cat. You also must change your cat’s food to a low sodium diet.  Regular visits to the vet to make sure that all is well are also recommended.

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Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is when an overactive thyroid creates excess hormones. This usually occurs in older animals and is usually paired with an underlying disease. Symptoms you will see include:

  • Weight loss
  • Increased appetite
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Hyperactivity
  • Rough coat
  • Panting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased shedding
  • Vomiting

Medication is usually prescribed by a vet and sometimes surgery is required to remove the thyroid gland. There is also radioactive iodine therapy which may be able to help.

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Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease is where the intestine is partly inflamed. The causes are unknown but can be genetic, nutritional, infectious or immune system related. This can be controlled but not cured.  Symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea or constipation (either extreme)
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Blood in stool
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever

Treatment includes a change in diet, medication and nutritional supplements like probiotics.

Gyula has IBD and we are now on a good routine which helps him greatly.  He has returned to the state that he was in many years ago when I first got him; playful, loving and cuddly.  You can read about Gyula’s story here.  There is a ton of information that may be helpful to you.  

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Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is more prevalent in older cats but is sometimes due to trauma or an infection of the kidneys. Kidneys manage the blood pressure, make hormones, stimulate bone marrow to make red blood cells, and remove toxins from the blood. Early diagnosis of kidney disease is key because your cat will need good care as this is sometimes not curable.

There are two types of kidney disease.  The first is called acute renal failure which is sudden and usually occurs from poisoning, trauma, shock, infection, blockage or low blood pressure.  It can be reversed if caught quickly. Chronic kidney disease is the second type and is the one that is not curable. It occurs in older cats and is usually caused by an infection, blockage, dental disease, high blood pressure, thyroid problems or cancer. Symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Peeing outside of the litter box
  • Drinking tons of water
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Cloudy urine
  • Mouth ulcers including the lips and tongue
  • Bad breath
  • Brown tongue
  • Dry coat
  • Constipation

Treatment includes surgery to remove any blockages, fluid therapy, diet change and medication.

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Laryngitis

Laryngitis is the inflammation of the larynx and yes, cats can get it. It is often caused by excess meowing or coughing but also by infection, hairballs, upper respiratory infection, dust, smoke, tumor or trauma. Symptoms include:

  • Cough (which is usually harsh and dry)
  • High-pitched breathing
  • Vocal changes
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Noisy breath
  • Holding the head low with the mouth open
  • Difficulty swallowing (which can also be painful)

Treatment includes reducing stress and use of antibiotics for any underlying infection.  If there are allergies involved, the vet will usually prescribe medication. Perhaps a hairball remedy can be used if hairballs end up being the cause. Using wet food only may also help if your kitty has difficulty swallowing.  In an emergency, a hospital stay may be required in order to administer oxygen therapy and steroids.

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Lice

Lice are parasites that live on the skin and are not as common as fleas.but they can be obtained through cat to cat contact. Humans cannot get cat lice. Symptoms include access itching and scratching, dry scruffy coat, hair loss around the ears, neck, shoulders, groin or rectum. Treatment includes a lice treatment washing the cat’s bedding and disinfecting everything else around the house.

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Liver Failure

Acute liver failure is a sudden loss of 70% or more of liver function. This usually happens through toxins, poor flow of fluids the liver, inability to breathe, excess heat, metabolic disorders, glucose, absorption problems close absorption problems, and death can occur if there is no treatment. Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in stool
  • Jaundice
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Muscle wasting
  • Depression

Treatment includes hospitalization which would include fluid therapy oxygen therapy restricted activity medication and a diet change.

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Luxations

Luxations are dislocations.  There are several types different types of luxations including the jaw, hip and eye lens, however, the most common is the kneecap.  Talk with your vet if you suspect that your cat has a luxation.

Also see Dislocated Joint

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Lymphoma

Lymphoma is cancer of white blood cell and can result in tumors. White blood cells are very important to the immune system.  Different areas of the body can be affected by this disease including the lungs, gastrointestinal system, abdomen, liver, lymph nodes, kidneys or any other location in the body.  It is usually caused by leukemia (FeLV) or FIV. Symptoms include:

  • Open mouth breathing
  • Cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Black tarry stools
  • Blood in stool
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Increased urination

A cure for lymphoma is unlikely but you will want to improve the quality of life for your cat.  Sometimes chemotherapy or radiotherapy is used depending on what type of lymphoma it is. Everything depends on the stage of the lymphoma age and the overall well-being of your cat. Sometimes surgery for the tumors is done but again, it depends on the type of lymphoma.

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Mange

Mange is caused by scabies and is rare in cats. It generally starts on the face and ears and spreads all over the body. It is a very contagious parasite. Cats that are malnourished or have bad immune systems are more prone to it. Symptoms include restlessness, itching, scratching, and patchy hair loss. Treatment includes isolation, medication, shampoos dips and topical treatment.  One of my mom’s dogs had mange.  Where he got it from, we don’t know.  The poor thing was so miserable until we finally figured out what it was.

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Mast Cell Tumors

There different grades of mast cell tumors and the prognosis depends on the grade of the tumors.

  • 50% of cats are affected on the trunk or butt
  • 40% on the extremities
  • 10% on the head or neck

Symptoms are dependent which stage the tumor is in (one through four) and the causes are unknown. Symptoms include tumors under the skin that may resemble an insect bite, itchy and inflamed skin, vomiting, loss of appetite or diarrhea. Treatment includes medication and sometimes surgery but surgery depends on the size and location as well as the stage of the tumor.

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Megacolon

Megacolon is the abnormal dilation of the large intestine due to nerve injury, abnormality, spinal cord deformity, cancer, inflammation or chronic constipation.  Middle-aged domestic short hair males are more susceptible. At one point I thought Gyula had megacolon and you can read about that story here.  Symptoms include:

  • Dehydration
  • Straining to poop
  • Reduced amount of stool
  • Hard and dry stool
  • Pooping outside of the litter box
  • Blood in the stool
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
Miralax
I use Miralax to help Gyula

Treatment depends on the severity but usually will result in increasing the fiber with psyllium husk, wheat bran, pumpkin or using Miralax. Sometimes hospitalization occurs where a procedure called an extraction (or as the vet calls it, “a dig out”)  will occur.  An enema is sometimes given as well.  Gyula had both a dig out and an enema (actually 2).  Lactulose which is a medication that helps to soften stool is sometimes prescribed however lactulose is not something that you want to give your cat on a long-term basis as they do get immune to it.  You would have to increase doses and it is harmful to a cat for extended periods of time.  Cisapride is also sometimes prescribed but this too should not be given for extended periods of time.  Gyula was on lactulose for a while but now he is on a wonderful pet food and Miralax.  Read all about my history with Gyula here.

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Mouth Tumors

Mouth tumors are cancer. These tumors grow quickly and invade the bone and other tissue but do not infect the organs. It is mainly seen in older cats and has fatal results if left untreated. Symptoms include:

  • Drooling
  • Difficulty eating
  • Bad breath
  • Blood from the mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Loose teeth
  • Growths
  • Swollen face
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Treatment depends on the size of the tumors. If the tumors are small then freezing the tumors would probably be recommended if they have not spread. If they are large and invade the bone then surgery may be required to remove the bone. Most cats recover when the bone is removed however if the tumors are too large than radiation is used alone. Radiation may be also be used on all sizes of tumors.

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Obesity

Obesity is the excess of body fat of a cat who had is over nourished, has a lack of exercise and has a tendency to retain weight.  Multiple areas of the body are usually affected if a cat remains to obese for too long including the bones, joints, digestive organs and breathing. Middle-aged cats who are neutered and indoor cats are at higher risk for obesity. Symptoms include weight gain, excess body fat, and unwilling or inability to exercise. Treatment includes weight loss, reduced calorie food or an increase in exercise.  Zoli is overweight.  He is not largely obese but he does love his dry food and love to lay around.  You can read of all about Zoli’s story here.

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Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease. It is progressive and permanent in the long term. Deterioration of the joint cartilage occurs and is usually found in older animals. It can happen because of trauma, abnormal wear, birth defects as well as obesity.  Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty grooming
  • Difficulty jumping onto furniture
  • Difficulty accessing the litter box
  • Stiff legged walk
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Increased irritability

Treatment includes surgery to help the symptoms and slow the progression but there is no cure.   The use of physical therapy, cold or heat therapy, pain medication as well as glucosamine and chondroitin as a supplement will also help your kitty.

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Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. If left untreated the kidney, liver and/or the abdomen may be affected and permanent damage to the organs or brain may occur Also if there is no treatment, bleeding may occur and cause shock and possible death. Pancreatitis progresses rapidly but is often treated without permanent damage to organs. Causes that may cause pancreatitis are concurrent inflammatory bowel disease or liver disease, diabetes, certain infections, abdominal trauma, and some insecticides. Symptoms of pancreatitis are:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Sluggishness
  • Depression
  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing

Treatment includes fluid therapy, pain relief medication, antibiotics, plasma transfusion, corticosteroids, restriction of activity and in serious cases, surgery to remove blockages, fluid or damaged tissue. Regular vet visits to follow up will also be required.

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Panleukopenia Virus

See Distemper

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Parathyroid Disease

Parathyroid disease is high levels of parathyroid hormone in the blood due to an overactive gland. These glands regulate calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood. There are two types of this disease, primary and secondary. The primary form is usually a tumor in the gland which creates excess hormone increasing the blood calcium. The secondary form is caused by a deficiency of calcium and vitamin D associated with malnutrition or long-term disease kidney disease. It is also possibly hereditary. In primary forms for this disease, cats don’t seem to be ill and their signs are mild. You may see symptoms of:

  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Lack of appetite
  • Sluggishness
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Urinary tract stones
  • Stupor
  • Coma
  • Enlarged glands

In primary forms treatment usually requires inpatient care and surgery. The secondary form of this disease is usually managed on an outpatient patient base with calcium supplements, a low for phosphorus diet and possibly medication.

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Pneumonia

There are three types of pneumonia in cats, bacterial, aspiration, and fungal. The bacterial form of pneumonia and Is usually caused by an inflammation of the lungs due to disease causing bacteria. Aspiration is usually it caused by an inflammation from inhaling a foreign object, from vomiting or re

gurgitation of stomach acid. The fungal form of pneumonia is usually a fungal infection.

The bacterial form of pneumonia include symptoms of:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Sluggishness
  • Nasal discharge
  • Dehydration
  • Rapid breathing

The aspiration form of pneumonia includes the symptoms of:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Bluish skin
  • Weakness

The fungal symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Eye and nose discharge
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lameness
  • Eye problems
  • Possible blindness
  • Depression
  • Emaciation
  • Crackling sound in the lungs

For treatment of the bacterial form of pneumonia, vets would generally include medication, oxygen therapy, fluid therapy and rest. Aspiration pneumonia is usually treated with suction of the airways to remove the foreign body, oxygen therapy, fluid therapy and rest. The fungal form of pneumonia is treated with medication if the cat is eating.  In severe cases hospitalization is required in order to stabilize the animal. Fluids, potassium, oxygen and antibiotics are usually administered.

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Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a disease where the photoreceptors of the eyes degenerate.  Cats start this disease with night blindness which progresses to complete blindness within 3 to 5 years.  It is not very common in cats and is more pronounced in dogs.  There is no treatment or cure for this disease but many cats learn to live healthy and happy lives.  Symptoms of this disease include:

  • Hesitancy to down downstairs or down a dark hallway (beginning stages)
  • Behavior changes (beginning changes)
  • Dilated pupils (progressed stage)
  • Unfamiliar with surroundings (progressed stages)

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Ringworm

Unlike its name, ringworm is not actually a worm but a fungus. It is very contagious both to humans and to other animals. Ringworm symptoms are:

  • Dandruff
  • Poor coat
  • Reddened skin
  • Irritated skin
  • Itchiness
  • Hair loss which is generally patchy and circular in nature

Treatment for weight ringworm is on an outpatient basis. Quarantine is generally advised because of how  contagious the skin disease is.. Antifungal medication is usually prescribed in the form of pills or cream. If in the cream form is prescribed, then an Elizabethan collar is generally worn so the cat won’t lick off the medication.

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Rodent Ulcer

Don’t be alarmed buy this disease’s name as it  is not caused by rodents. It is generally the ulcer of the lips and can be caused by allergies, immune system problems, fleas and flea allergies, dental disease or the use of plastic or rubber water dishes. It is also possibly genetic. Symptoms include ulcers that usually occur on the top lips but can also be on the bottom lips.  Treatment is usually in the form of steroids.

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Roundworms

Roundworms are intestinal parasites that can lead to abdominal swelling, colic, stomach issues, and even intestinal rupture. Symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal feces
  • A mother that doesn’t want to nurse
  • Anorexia
  • Cough

Generally treatment is on an outpatient basis with medication. However under severe circumstances, surgery to remove most of the worms is done. Revolution the flea medication that I use for my cats flea prevention  is also a preventative for roundworms.  It’s a topical solution that you put on right between the shoulder blades.  You can read about Revolution here.

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Salmonella

Salmonella can be transmitted to humans as well as other animals.  It is an infection caused by the salmonella bacteria. There are over 2000 different types of salmonella which may be caused by imbalanced healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Shock
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Skin disease
  • Mucus in stool
  • Increased heart rate
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Vaginal discharge

In uncomplicated cases it is treated on an outpatient basis. However in severe cases, hospitalization may be needed to avoid sepsis. In these cases, fluid therapy, plasma/blood transfusion, antimicrobials or steroids may be used.

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Scabies

See Mange

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Sinusitis

Rhinitis is a problem with the cat’s nose whereas sinusitis is an inflammation of the nasal passages. If this is left untreated and is prolonged then i can develop into an infection. It can be caused by a parasite, fungus, tooth infection, viral or bacterial infection, a foreign object being inhaled or polyps. Symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Facial deformity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nasal discharge
  • Stuffy nose

Treatment usually includes using a humidifier in order to ease congestion, antibiotics for any underlying infections, and any other medication needed for any other underlying diseases.

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Skin Cancers

Skin cancers are typically tumors or sores on the skin. Cats that live in high altitudes, spend a lot of time in the sun, are light or white colored are more susceptible to this disease. Skin cancers are mostly seen in older cats as well. Symptoms include:

  • Ulcers
  • Hair loss
  • Growths
  • Tumors

Skin tumors may be completely treated topically before they actually become cancer. Once they become cancerous, if there are only one or two growths, then freezing is usually done at the vet’s office. If there are a large number of tumors, surgery is usually required. If all tumors can’t be completely removed, then usually radiation or chemotherapy is also administered for treatment.

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Stomatitis

This is a severe and painful inflammation of the mouth and gums that cause causes ulcers. It is caused by dental diseases, viruses and other inflammatory conditions. Treatment is usually long-term in order to control the disease. Symptoms include:

  • Drooling
  • Poor coat
  • Refusal to eat
  • Bad breath
  • Weight loss
  • Pawing at the mouth

Initial treatment is usually medication that is administered for inflammation and pain including antibiotics. Treatment also will include a dental cleaning and/or tooth removal as well as treatment for any underlying disease.

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Stud Tail

This disease is mostly seen in intact males. It is a skin disease at the base of the tail where a gland that secretes sebum is located. In stud tail, an abnormal amount of sebum is released. Symptoms include:

  • Greasy hair
  • Missing hair
  • Blackheads
  • Waxy substance
  • Skin infection
  • Foul older

Treatment includes an anti-seborrheic shampoo and antibiotics for infection. Neutering is also generally recommended.

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Tapeworms

Tapeworms occur in the small intestines and there are many types of these  worms. You want to destroy these worms before they infect humans or damage your cat. These worms are frequently passed through fleas. All of my cats have had worms at one time or another. Symptoms include seeing a white or cream colored segment that generally comes out in their poop. They generally look like little pieces of rice and you’ll find them near their butt or where they sleep. Another symptom is excessive licking or dragging their rear on the floor. Treatment includes an injection or oral meds to kill off the tapeworms which will come out when they use the litter box. I’ve never used an injection.  Usually it’s just a little pill and boom they are cured.

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Thromboembolism

Thromboembolism is a blood clot the affects the blood flow to the hind legs.  It is usually a result of heart disease. Symptoms depend on if it is a total or partial blockage of the vein. They will usually have a heart murmur, and muscle swelling along with a hard and painful leg. Their legs may be also cool to the touch and they may be unable to walk. A cat may also go into shock or have blue paws since there is no blood flow to the legs. There is a very poor outcome of treatment.  The condition is very painful and usually putting your kitty to sleep is recommended as treatment is not generally successful. However, if only one leg is affected then treatment may be attempted.  Treatment would include lots of rest, pain medication and an anticoagulant.  

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Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is an infection by a parasite and usually affects warm-blooded animals as well as humans however cats of the primary ones who are infected. Humans catch this through handling raw meat and unwashed veggies without washing their hands afterwards. There are two types of toxoplasmosis; chronic and acute. With chronic toxoplasmosis you will not really see any symptoms however with acute toxoplasmosis there are many more symptoms. Symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Trouble breathing
  • Coordination problems
  • Seizure
  • Tremor
  • Muscle weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Inflammation of the cornea, iris, tonsils or retina
  • Jaundice
  • Loss of appetite

Treatment for acute toxoplasmosis is hospitalization to administer fluid therapy, antibiotics and proper nutrition however the prognosis of acute toxoplasmosis is very poor.

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Upper Respiratory Infections

Upper respiratory infections are caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria however virus are a much more common cause.  The herpesvirus accounts for 80 to 90% of all upper respiratory infection. I can’t tell you how many times my cats have had a URI because of their herpes!

If a URI is left untreated, a bacterial infection or pneumonia may occur. Types of bacterial infections that may casue a URI include chlamydia and Bordetella however Bordetella is very rare and more often seen in dogs.

Stress is a major cause of outbreak of a URI.  Recently, Zoli had a very stressful occurrence and he had a huge breakout of a URI along with a viral conjunctivitis. You can read about that story here.

Symptoms of a URI include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Nasal discharge
  • Gagging
  • Drooling
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nasal and oral ulcers
  • Squinting

    Lysine Treats
    Lysine Cat Treats

  • Rubbing of the eyes
  • Depression

Treatment includes medication, rest, lots of fluids, and lysine.  Many sites also recommended isolation but since it is a depressing infection, you should make sure that your cat gets plenty of love if you choose to isolate your cat from the rest of the brood. I didn’t do this because all of my cats already have herpes so it didn’t matter. When one had an upper respiratory the other wouldn’t get it because they weren’t under stress, it was just that one little guy who was stressed out.  Unless of course, it’s a bacterial URI.  That’s a whole different ballgame!

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Urethral Obstruction/Uroliths

Uroliths are stones and are also known as struvite.  A urethral obstruction is caused by those stones which usually start as urinary tract infection (UTI). Other cause may be urinary or prostate disease.  This happens mostly in males and if left untreated then renal failure or even death can occur.   Unfortunately, it is also prone to repeat. Symptoms include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Very little urine coming out
  • Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Straining to pee
  • Staying in the litter box with no urine coming out

Treatment includes sedation to remove the blockage unless the vet doesn’t think that it is severe.  In that case they may initially try to massage the abdomen and use fluid to push the obstruction back into the bladder,  A catheter is then left in place for 24 hours so that the stone can come out.  Fluid therapy is used to flush the system since the urine has backed up and the kidneys have been working overtime. If smaller stones are noticed then the vet may try to dissolve the stones rather than opt for one of the two surgical methods described above.  After a cat has shown signs of these stones, medication and diet therapy (food change) is generally the next step.  Zoli had this when he was very little.  He had to have the second surgery where they push the stone back into the bladder.  He was hospitalized for 3 days  Read about that story here.

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Urinary Tract Infection

See urethral obstruction

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Uveitis

Uveitis is the inflammation of the front of the eye and it is very painful. It affects the iris and the surrounding pupil tissue and can threaten the cat’s vision. There are many different causes including autoimmune diseases, tumors, cancer, trauma, metabolic diseases, infections or viruses. Symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Excessive tears
  • Discharge
  • Squinting
  • Smaller or uneven shaped pupils
  • Swelling of the eyeball
  • Front of the eye cloudy/dull
  • Uneven color of the iris.

Treatment includes drops or ointments, anti-inflammatories and medication to manage the pain.  Treatment depends on the underlying causes. Some cases, such as a tumor, require surgical removal.

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Vaccine Associated Fibrosarcoma

Vaccine associated fibrosarcoma is a tumor at the site of an injection and is usually from the rabies or feline leukemia vaccination. It is highly invasive and rapid growing as well as malignant. It often spreads through the lungs, lymph nodes and the skin. Symptoms include lesions that are persistent and growing.  In advanced stages, those lesions become fixed and ulcerated. Surgery is usually required as treatment as well as radiation.  Using radiation wbefore or after surgery and enhances survival greatly.

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Worms

See Tapeworms

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6 comments

  1. Wow, this is a BIG list and I didn’t really realize that there could be so many cat healthy problems and symptoms. I have a question though, even with this big list, how likely is it that my cat would end up with any of these? I understand a few of them like the fleas, but for the most part are cats pretty healthy if well taken care of and if they are also mostly an indoor cat?

    1. If your cat is an indoor cat and well taken care of then the probably that your cat would get some of these is next to nothing as many of these illnesses are linked from cat to cat transmission.  WIth that being said, there are several diseases that are hereditary or can just happen from stress or running around the house.  Let me know if I can be of further help.  Thanks!

  2. Cat,
    This list is very interesting for me. I have not had cats in years. My friend passed away suddenly two weeks ago. She had a cat that needed a home. I took Uno into my home.
    I will book mark your website so that I can use it when things come up. She is an inside cat that is about 11 years old.
    She came with a lot of food and toys, she just likes to hide a lot.
    Any ideas to make her comfortable in her new location, she has not been out of her old house in 7 years.
    John

    1. Your new cat is probably very scared as well as mourning the loss of her owner.  It takes a lot of patience especially in these types of situations.  Give her a safe, quiet place to herself but also make sure to spend time with her.  Whenever I introduce a new cat to my home, I give them the extra bedroom with a litter box, food and water and leave them be.  However, I do go in for an hour or two a couple times a day and read out loud.  They may still be hiding but this will help them get used to your voice.  After some time, you will see that they start to come out and lay closer and perhaps even come out of the room.  Good luck and let me know if you need any further help!

  3. I was quite surprised at how many illness that cats can actually get. Many people who have cats and who keep them indoors think that because they are indoors they are safe from illnesses. Some of these illnesses they are protected from butr others they are not. They falsely believe that they do not need to take them to the vets. Our pets are part of our family so like the other family members they do need a health check at least once a year. Treat them like you love them.

    1. I totally agree!  You should definitely have all your pets get a check up at least once a year just to be sure that nothing has popped up that you may not know about.  Cats are excellent at hiding their pain and sometimes we just don’t catch things that may be bothering them.

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