Cats: they are the masters of disguise

Cats are masters of hiding the fact that they are sick.  Often they are very sick before they show their owners that they are sick or hurt.  Cats still show signs of disease, but these signs can be subtle.  Sometimes the only sign is urinating outside the litterbox or behavior changes, either acting more friendly or hiding.  Some conditions in cats are emergencies, but other conditions can wait for an appointment.  

•    Open mouth breathing/panting: Cats don’t pant like dogs.  When a cat starts open-mouth breathing it is due to extreme stress or the inability to breath.  
•    Not urinating/being vocal in the litterbox: Male, neutered cats are prone to getting “blocked”, losing their ability to urinate.  This is most commonly caused by crystals in the urine, which get lodged in the urethra.  This condition causes a backup of waste products and electrolytes in the body, which can cause death within a few days.
•    Lying flat out/unresponsive:  If you find your cat like this, rub some corn syrup or honey on their gums and call the veterinarian right away.  If it is caused by diabetes, the sugar in the corn syrup/honey can increase the sugar levels in the blood, which can save their life.  There are many other reasons for a cat to be this sick.
•    Vomiting:  Any cat that vomits more than 3 times in a day or vomits for several days in a row should be seen.  When cats eat string or yarn, it can saw through the intestines, causing severe damage.    
•    Not eating:  Cats, especially those that are overweight, cannot go very long without food.  In situations where they can’t or won’t eat, they can develop a severe liver disease.  For that reason, we often recommend a feeding tube in very sick patients.

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•    Increased urination or thirst:  Increased urination can be a sign of multiple different diseases – diabetes, kidney disease, urinary tract infections, among others.  Most of these diseases are treatable, but have a much better prognosis with earlier treatment.
•    Weight loss:  Weight loss can be caused by a lack of appetite, or you may see weight loss in a cat with a great appetite.  Those cats with a great appetite most likely have hyperthyroidism, IBD, lymphoma, or diabetes.  Any illness can cause a decreased appetite and weight loss in a cat.
•    Inappropriate urination: Urinating outside of the litterbox can be a sign of stress, inflammation in the bladder or a bladder infection.  If your cat stops urinating, this condition turns into an emergency.  
•    Vomiting:  Cats vomit whenever they feel sick or eat too fast.  If a cat vomits right after eating, try feeding smaller meals or using a food puzzle.  If that doesn’t work, or your cat vomits more than 3-4 times a month, it is recommended to get a check-up.  

Tips for keeping your cat healthy:
Preventative care exams: These annual exams are a great way to check up on your cat’s health.  Small problems can be found and treated, before they turn into more severe and more expensive problems.  As pets age, they have an increased chance of developing diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and hyperthyroidism.  Bloodwork is a good way to check on your cat’s internal health, especially as they age.  

Keep track of your cat’s weight: A kitchen scale works great.  If you only have a bathroom scale, hold your cat while you stand on the scale, then weigh yourself.  You can subtract your weight from the combined weight to calculate your cat’s weight.  This is a great way to keep track of your cat’s health, not only to monitor for weight loss, but also to ensure that they are not gaining too much weight.  Overweight cats can have troubles grooming themselves, have more stress on their joints causing pain and arthritis, are prone to developing diabetes and are more prone to blockages in their urinary tract.

Check the litterbox: Having an idea of how often and how much your cat pees can help detect problems early.  You can often detect blood in the urine, increased urination and decreased urination.  

Dental care: Dental care is just as important in cats as it is in dogs.  Dental disease can be very painful.  Brushing your cat’s teeth every day and regular veterinary cleanings is the ideal way to keep their teeth clean.  However, some cats are never going to be a fan of getting their teeth brushed.  Dental food, even as treats, can be a good way to decrease the tartar buildup on your cat’s teeth.

Cats are very good at hiding their illnesses, but there are signs to watch for.  With care and attention, your cat can live a wonderful, long life.    

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