Many people perceive cat diseases as a family member’s disease, so if, for example, a cat gets sick, doesn’t eat anything, walks sluggishly, and hardly reacts to you, it’s a reason to think about treating it at home. But how do you know that your cat needs our help? Is it possible to distinguish the symptoms of different illnesses on your own? Before answering this question, we recommend that you read the information below.
How do you know if a cat is sick?
Cats are fickle creatures that, at one moment, can be carried around the house unbridled, while at the other, they can lie on the sofa virtually motionless. They also have the same impermanence in food consumption, replacing daytime hunger strikes with simply brutal nighttime consumption.
- complete rejection of food or deterioration of usually good appetite
- sudden loss or similarly rapid weight gain
- aggression, nervousness or lethargy
- baldness on hair
- redness and flaking of the skin
- uncharacteristic discharge from the nose, eyes or genitals
- difficulty in urinating or complete cessation of urination
- blood in urine or faeces
- vomiting, diarrhoea
The presence of even one of these symptoms should already cause anxiety in a caring owner, and the first wise decision in such a situation is to go to a good veterinarian. Many diseases are hazardous for pets and can cause death in a short time.
All unaccompanied pets risk getting a very unpleasant disease; cats are no exception. Almost all of their ailments are already classified and described by veterinarians, but we will only focus on the most common ones in this article.
Infectious diseases spread quickly from cat to cat and can affect more than one pet in a short time. They are all divided into several types, each with its characteristics and individual treatment.
For example, viral diseases include cat plague (or infectious panleukopenia), which can instantly lead to death, caliciviruses, rabies, and coronaviruses. Their symptoms are varied, but in most cases, a sick animal will be feverish, diarrhea, vomiting, and often an ulcer will open. Other cats get the disease from an infected species, and special serums and antivirals are used to get rid of it, but their effectiveness often depends on the stage of the disease and its type.
Often infections are caused by a wide variety of fungi that affect the cat’s internal and external organs. Depending on the pathogen’s nature, a considerable number of such pathologies are identified, but the most common are candidiasis, histoplasmosis, and cryptococcosis. Infection occurs at any contact with fungus spores: at meals, damage to the skin, or merely inhaling infected air.
Which one of us hasn’t heard from our parents ‘don’t touch her – there will be worms’, but despite this, children still tend to squeeze cats. Many cat parasites can live in the human body, although most of them only cause trouble to the animal.
In addition to internal parasites, parasitic diseases are characterized by illnesses caused by the activity of ixodic ticks, fleas, lice, or moisture eaters. The animal itches all the time, its hair may fall out, and it often gets bald.
In any case, cats should be treated for parasites at least twice a year: in spring and autumn. Also, anti-helminthic medicines (drops, suspensions, or pills) are given to the cat even 10-14 days before the scheduled vaccination. In principle, all such products have the same effect: they are first absorbed in the blood and then have a harmful impact on the body’s parasites.
The main preventive measures are isolation of sick individuals and their timely treatment, cooking of meat products, and regular disinfection of all pet care items.
A cat’s respiratory system is much like a human one. When it enters the larynx through the throat, the air moves through the bronchi and trachea to the lungs, from where it, in turn, spreads to all cells in the body. Eventually, in the process of relaxing the diaphragm, the “exhaust” air passes backward.
Some cat owners determine their pet’s breathing problems by the frequency with which they breathe, but this is not a constant indicator and should not be relied upon. Your cat may breathe more quickly as a result of stress, rage, or a moment of joyful excitement, but this is all a one-minute change; if breathing doesn’t stabilize after the external stimulus has disappeared, it is a serious reason to think about the pathology.
These animals are not particularly susceptible to respiratory illnesses. Still, if you have shortness of breath, cough, vomiting, hemoptysis, or difficulty breathing while lying down, you should rule out the possibility of illness.
Feline CNS diseases are very diverse and can be caused by lesions of the nervous tissue and any systemic lesions (e.g., hormonal disorders, hepatitis).
Aggression is the most common sign of neurological disease. If you exclude the possibility of a change in mood due to sexual ‘hunting’, pregnancy, or lactation, the sudden change in cat behavior should alert the owner. Your cat may have contracted rabies; then, you need to protect him from contact with the rest of the family until an accurate diagnosis is made.
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Of course, this is by no means the full range of possible diseases, but in many cases the common symptoms are breathing problems, changes in animal behaviour, poor coordination and increased blood pressure.
Although there are quite a few diseases of the urogenital system in cats today (nephrosis, pyelonephritis, urocystitis, bladder spasm, acute diffuse nephritis), the real problem today is urolithiasis. It is the most dangerous disease most often diagnosed in cats, and cats are much less exposed.
If you can’t get rid of the smell of cat urine, you should pay attention to the health of your cat’s excretion system!
An attack can occur quite suddenly, and a seemingly healthy animal suddenly starts meowing heavily when trying to go to the toilet. There may also be small blood compounds in the urine, which is also a common urocystitis symptom. In the latter case, the urine released has a deep dark color, sometimes with a reddish tint. Read more about how to train kitten to litter box
Illnesses in the digestive system of cats are not in the last place in terms of frequency, and their characteristic features do not allow them to be ignored. Diseases widely known today include ascites, acute enteritis, peritonitis, stomatitis, acute and chronic catarrhal gastritis, inflammation of the bile ducts and gallbladder, and gastric ulcer.
Typical symptoms of problems in the digestive system include diarrhea (or constipation), vomiting, loss of appetite, bloating and pain, dehydration, bleeding, mucus in the excreta, and changes in the consistency and color of the chair. The animal reacts to stomach pain by loud meowing or even wailing in unusual poses.
Read more about how to feed your kitten
Usually, intestinal diseases in cats are inflammatory. Still, because their symptoms are similar to many other ailments, only a gastroenterologist can make an accurate diagnosis based on a complete examination of the animal and the relevant test results. Among the mandatory therapeutic measures, it is worth emphasizing diet adherence, and in some cases, short-term starvation is prescribed.
The most common heart pathology in cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (enlargement of the ventricular wall). According to statistics, every ten cats face this disease. The disease (loss of appetite, breathing disorders, rapid fatigue, and lethargy) are not always visible to the owner. However, even a timely start to treatment cannot guarantee your pet a long life.
Other, more rare diseases of the cat’s cardiovascular system include abnormal heart valve function (valve pathology), myocardial diseases, arrhythmias, vascular diseases, heart shunts, and even parasitic diseases caused by heartworms in the body. In almost any of these cases, fainting, lethargy may occur, and if there is a lack of oxygen in the blood, the mucous membranes will become blue.
Eyes and ears
Unlike many other diseases, the source of which is hidden from our eyes inside the animal’s body, infections of cats’ eyes and ears are easy to identify, as they are well recognizable by external signs: redness and puffiness of the eyelids, protrusion of the eyeball, blurred lens, dilation of the pupil, lack of reaction to light, and excreta from the eyes.
Suppose at least one of the symptoms described is also present in your cat. In that case, it is likely that it suffers from one of the most common diseases: conjunctivitis, cataracts, glaucoma, corneal wounds, or inflammation. Depending on the type and nature of the pathology, your doctor will prescribe ointments and antibiotics after the examination, and in some more severe cases, surgical intervention is also possible.
As far as ear diseases are concerned, in addition to the most common infestations of ear parasites (e.g., ear tick), there are also other common diseases: eczema, otitis, and bruises. The most dangerous of these are otitis, i.e., inflammatory processes in the ears characterized by large amounts of blood and sulfur secretions.
When touching a sick area, the animal may react aggressively, which is the first inspection signal. The disease’s causes are usually infections, injuries, hypothermia, or foreign bodies entering the ears.
Dental problems of varying degrees of severity are observed in animals of different ages, and often the most severe illnesses develop in young years. Infectious diseases usually cause problems, poor nutrition, inherited predisposition, changes in the mouth’s microflora, and even hard water. In any case, it is essential to identify and exclude any of these factors in the treatment of the disease, as it can again become the cause of the disease.
The following are some of the characteristic symptoms of problems with cats’ teeth:
- persistent rubbing of the face (with the paw or against protruding corners in the flat)
- bad breath of the animal
- inflammation and redness of the gums;
- discoloration of one or more teeth;
- the aggression of the cat when trying to pet her cheek or look into her mouth
- partial or total rejection of food; restless behavior with a possible increase in salivation
Important! The cat’s teeth will be completed by around eight months, but if not all permanent teeth have appeared after one year, they will be missing for the rest of the animal’s life.
The most common diseases are tartar, plaque, dental caries, abnormalities of the teeth and bite, osteomyelitis, periodontitis and gingivitis.
Bones and joints
No less common cat diseases include joint and bone problems, the symptoms and treatment for which are not clear (for example, some cats only suffer from food rejection and mild lameness during arthritis, while others are very sluggish and do not stand still at all). Some diseases affect only the joint’s surface, while others harm the tendons, cartilage, synovial bag, and fluid inside the joint.
All such ailments are divided into congenital diseases (e.g., knee-cap dislocation) and those acquired during life. The latter include hip dysplasia, septic, immuno-mediated and cancerous arthritis, osteoarthritis, and problems associated with the injury (ligament lacerations, hip dislocation, contusions). Characteristic symptoms can be “reported” to the owner of a problem: claudication, meowing pain when walking, swelling of joints or even soft tissue, stiffness of movement.
Often the body temperature rises, and the cat refuses to eat, which is a serious reason to see a doctor in combination with one or more of the above symptoms.
Nearly one in five cats has cancer problems, and in almost all cases, aggressive types of cancer are diagnosed. As with humans, it can be challenging to identify cancer in cats. In the early stages, the symptoms are almost non-existent and can easily be confused with other diseases’ characteristic signs.
Important: tumours are more common in older cats aged 10.5-12 years, and the risk of cancer is reduced again.
New growths in the oral cavity, mammary glands, or other highly visible areas are easy to spot, but they can be perfectly disguised as wool even in the early stages. If you examine your cat, you will find an unusual seal or protrusion, you will see a doctor immediately, as it is merely impossible to solve this problem at home. The standard treatment scheme consists of chemotherapy or even surgery in incredibly tricky cases.
The most common cat diseases associated with gynecology include:
- uterine curling – an animal loses its appetite and can be thirsty, and when moving around, it is forced to hump
- uterine hernia – diagnosed only by touching a cat during an examination
- pyometry – an infectious disease of the uterus in which pus accumulates in its cavity
- chronic endometritis
- endometrial glandular hyperplasia
- vaginitis (vaginal inflammation)
- ovarian cysts
Most of these ailments are characterised by reddish and brownish excretions from the genital gap, increased body temperature and painful feelings when pressing on the animal’s stomach.
Late delivery of medical care in all cases will result in the death of a cat, and the only difference is the duration of the illness.
Any illness is easier to warn than to treat it further. This applies to infectious and parasitic cat diseases, the symptoms and treatment for which can vary widely. Above all, make sure your pet has a comfortable living environment with a full and balanced diet. Brush your cat and regularly inspect his body, without losing sight of the slightest change in his normal routine.
In caring for your pet, it is important to know how to properly wash your cat, cut its claws, get rid of cat hair and make sure that the cat does not sharpen its claws against your favourite sofa.
Read more about the most dangerous cat diseases