Why Does My Cat Need Yearly Exams?

Millions of cats die every year from diseases that keeping them indoors can not protect them against. Cats are very good at hiding illness and typically do not show signs until it is too late to treat the disease. However many of these diseases can be caught early (prior to any clinical symptoms) with bloodwork and physical exam and treated successfully.

 

Thyroid

  • Hyperthyroidism is one of the most common diseases in senior cats
  • Disease affects all organs of the body
  • Signs are weight loss with a great appetite, drinking and urinating too much
  • Diagnosed through physical exam and bloodwork
  • Recommend checking thyroid levels on all senior cats annually

Lungs

  • Asthma common in cats of all ages
  • Will notice a change in the breathing rate or wheezing
  • Many treatments available so they can live long healthy lives
  • Diagnose by physical exam and x-rays
  • Feline Heartworm Disease is currently being diagnosed more in cats then ever before
  • Heartworms cause damage to lungs and heart and are harder to test for in cats
  • Monthly prevention (Revolution) is recommended

Heart

  • Heart disease (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) the most common silent killer in cats
  • Thickening of the heart walls making the heart not pump blood to the body effectively
  • Difficult to diagnose but physical exam can help catch it before it is too late
  • Diagnosed by ultrasound of heart (echocardiogram)

Gallbladder

  • Gallstones, inflammation, and infection of gallbladder common in cats
  • Diagnose through bloodwork and ultrasound

Pancreas

  • Diabetes common in overweight cats
  • Signs are weight loss, drinking and urinating too much
  • Diagnose with physical exam and bloodwork
  • If detected early may be able to control with just a food change to prescription diet
  • If detected late in the disease process will need to give twice daily insulin injections
  • Untreated will lead to death
  • Pancreatitis causes frequent vomiting which some owners assume is due to hairballs but there is a much more serious problem
  • Diagnosed through physical exam and bloodwork

Spleen

  • Cancer, spleen is a common site for many different types of cancers in the cat
  • Diagnose by physical exam, ultrasound, and bloodwork

Bladder

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Bladder stones can cause cats (especially males) to have urinary blockage and not be  able to urinate
  • Emergency situation, can die within 24 hours without taking to veterinarian to unblock
  • Bladder cancers also are common in cats
  • Diagnose all of the bladder conditions by physical exam, urinalysis, ultrasound, or x-rays

Liver

Liver Disease

  • Notice weight loss, not hungry, very vague signs
  • Bloodwork can help to diagnose disease early, then put on liver support medication and cat may never get sick

Hepatitis (Inflammation or Infection of Liver)

  • Diagnose by physical exam, bloodwork, ultrasound, and biopsy
  • Give medications to help

Cancer

  • Liver is a common site for many types of cancers in cats
  • Diagnose by physical exam, bloodwork, ultrasound, +/- biopsy

Gastrointestinal Disease (Stomach and intestines)

Feline inflammatory bowel disease or IBD (common in cats of all ages)

  • Frequent bouts of vomiting and diarrhea
  • Diagnose through physical exam, bloodwork, ultrasound, and biopsy
  • Managed by prescription diets, and medications

Cancer

  • Small intestines are a common site for many types of cancers especially lymphoma in cats
  • Usually see the cat lose weight, not eating well, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Diagnose by physical exam, ultrasound, and biopsy
  • There are different treatments available depending on severity of the cancer

Parasites

  • Cats commonly get parasites from eating rodents, insects, ingesting fleas during grooming
  • Using revolution monthly helps prevent most parasites
  • Annual fecal testing recommended for cats on revolution monthly. If not on revolution monthly recommend quarterly fecal testing or deworming

Large Intestine

Megacolon is a problem when colon is too large and flaccid which causes severe constipation and the cat cannot defecate

  • Diagnosed by physical exam and x-rays

Kidney Disease

  • Chronic kidney disease one of the most common senior cat diseases.
  • Signs are weight loss, drinking and urinating too much.
  • Diagnosed by physical exam and bloodwork .
  • If detected early (before showing signs of sickness) can slow disease down significantly.
     

Real examples from the Animal Health Clinic
of cases that a physical exam helped save a cat's life

RosieRosie is a sweet 5 month old kitten who we were seeing for the first time. She was eating normal but had been vomiting off and on for a week and was not growing as fast as expected. She was acting like a normal happy kitten throughout most of these vomiting episodes. On exam the veterinarian felt her intestines were firmer than normal, we did x-rays, and decided to do an exploratory surgery. In surgery the vet saw there was at least 1 foot of small intestine that was abnormal and needed to be removed. This abnormal part of the intestines was not allowing Rosie to absorb the nutrients she needed to grow and thrive. After surgery Rosie was eating the next day and no vomiting. She healed wonderfully and is now a 2 & ½ year old cat that spends her days playing with her brother and sister at home. If Rosie’s owner did not bring her in to get examined she could have easily thought the vomiting was a normal thing that some cats do and we may not have been able to save her in time.
Curly Sue is a beautiful light orange kitty who we began seeing here with her 2 brothers when she was only a few weeks old.

At her 1 year vaccine appointment she was acting perfectly normal at home but the vet noticed her gums were a little paler than expected. We did bloodwork and discovered she had an immune mediated disease attacking her red blood cells. Curly Sue was put on medication, has needed follow up bloodwork and exams to make sure she was responding to the medications and is currently thriving and doing wonderful at home. This was a condition that if not found and treated quickly could have been fatal.

Chantel Chantel is a senior kitty who came to see us for her senior exam.

The examination showed she had dental disease and was overweight but was acting normal at home. The vet recommended we do senior bloodwork and it was found that Chantel had early diabetes. Since it was caught early before she showed any signs we tried to just change her food to a prescription food made for diabetics. We rechecked bloodwork and it was better, so her diabetes was caught early enough that she did not need insulin injections.

Molly Molly is a senior kitty who presented to us for his senior exam in 2012. The examination in 2012 did not show any abnormal findings and she was acting normal at home. We did routine senior bloodwork and found Molly had early hyperthyroidism. It was recommended that she start medication for hyperthyroidism but the owner chose not to start medication at that time. We saw Molly again for her senior exam in 2013 and she had a new heart murmur and had lost 6 lbs. We again did senior bloodwork and the thyroid level had increased even more. Molly’s hyperthyroidism was damaging her other organs (especially her heart) and causing her to lose an unhealthy amount of weight. We started her on a new food that is specially made to treat hyperthyroidism in cats. Molly’s thyroid disease is currently well regulated and she is doing wonderful. Molly’s disease was going to be fatal , but a simple food change and monitoring her through bloodwork and physical exams saved her life.
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