One of the best methods of preventative health care for your cat is scheduling regular visits with your veterinarian. The interval will be determined by your cat’s age and current health. Routine visits include discussing your cat’s health, vaccination, diagnostic testing and detection of health problems.
Vaccines are given to prevent specific viral infections. They cause the immune system to produce antibodies that combat viruses. If the cat comes into contact with the virus at a later time its body can now fight it off. Illness can decrease the immune response so cats should not be vaccinated until they are healthy again. Allergic reactions to vaccines are rare but do occur. Lethargy, collapse, diarrhea, vomiting, swelling, or itching of the face within the first 24 hours after vaccination should be reported to your veterinarian immediately. If left untreated, an extreme allergic reaction to the vaccine(s) could cause death.
Parasitic control is important to the well being of your cat. Keeping your cat free from internal intestinal parasites such as hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms and worms such as heartworms which reside in the heart and sometimes the lungs is easily done with precautionary measures. Your veterinarian can perform laboratory tests to check for the presence of intestinal worm eggs in the stool and heartworm microfilaria (active embryos) in the blood. There are daily or monthly tablets you can give your cat to prevent infestation. Although, historically, only dogs were treated with preventatives for heartworm, in warmer climates it has recently become more common in cats than ever before. Discuss with your veterinarian whether or not your cat would be a good candidate for a heartworm preventative.
Fleas, ticks and mites comprise the external parasite group. Fleas can cause allergies and hair loss as well as tapeworm infection. There are monthly flea control products on the market which are quite effective. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and cause tick paralysis. Mites cause mange whose symptoms include intense itching and hair loss. Mange is diagnosed by taking skin scrapings and examining by microscope. Ear mites are determined by taking a sample of ear wax and also examining it under a microscope.
Gum disease and tartar buildup cause discomfort and disease. They lead to loss of teeth, abscesses, heart and kidney disease. Routine cleaning helps prevent these problems. Home dental care including brushing teeth and gums is encouraged.
Nutrition is a very important aspect of pet health care and there are a number of commercial pet foods available that serve the need. A much larger problem surfaces other than malnutrition and that is overnutrition or obesity. It is associated with hip dysplasia, diabetes, and hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver).
Obesity can be controlled by feeding an appropriate feline diet low in carbohydrates with moderate to high fat and protein content. Increasing activity or exercise also plays a huge part.
Diagnostic testing is important for preventative health care and detecting illnesses and diseases, before they become physically noticeable. In their early stages, they can be more successfully treated or even cured. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The perfect affirmation for performing blood tests on a regular basis. Spending a small amount of money on a regular basis may just save your pet’s life and curtail costly treatments in the future.
There are diagnostic tests for just about everything, discuss options with your veterinarian. One of the most telling is a complete blood profile including both plasma and serum analysis, including RBC’s (red blood cells, erythrocytes), WBC’s (white blood cells, leukocytes), platelets, hemoglobin, hematocrit, glucose, BUN (blood urea nitrogen), creatinine, and cholinesterase just to name a few. These tests are important in determining if your cat may have a viral or bacterial infection, anemia, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, and poisoning amongst other diseases and conditions. Please see our Hematology section which discusses these blood tests and the normal accepted values for them. Common blood tests also include FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) and FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) tests.
Most veterinarians recommend a routine blood profile yearly, beginning at the age of 6 or 7 years old with repeat profiles every 6 months beginning between the ages of 9-11 years old through the rest of your cat’s life (barring diseases such as diabetes which may need testing done more often). Ideally, a blood test should first be done when your cat is young and healthy at about 2 years old and then use the above schedule thereafter. This way you can determine what the adult normal values are for your cat when it is healthy and the veterinarian may compare these values to the ones your cat gets as it ages or if it is sick. Some cats have normally higher or lower values than what is actually considered within the normal range or they may test on the borders of the normal range. The cost of a blood profile may actually add years to your cat’s life and prove to be financially negligible. If you adopt your cat at an older age, a complete blood profile should be done along with a thorough examination as soon as you receive it. A new cat should be kept separated if you have existing cats until it is thoroughly examined by a veterinarian.
Preventative health care will not prevent your cat from getting sick but it will reduce the risk of illness and disease and increase the overall health and life expectancy of your cat.
Information on this site is for general information purposes only and is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. This site is not intended to replace professional advice from your own veterinarian and nothing on this site is intended as a medical diagnosis or treatment. Any questions about your animal’s health or diet should be directed to your veterinarian.