We here at Pet Food Plus more often find ourselves getting asked questions about our customer's pet's health - and we're more than happy to help! Though we are not vets, our staff are very knowledgeable and can, most of the time, identify what issue your pet may be facing when they begin to show unusual behaviour (and, more importantly, how to help treat your pet as a result). In today's article, we will cover 10 of the most common ailments that a cat can face, what behaviour to look out for, and how we recommend that you get your cat treated.
The first condition that we shall look at is Diabetes. Cats, like humans, can get diabetes, in which case their body cannot properly handle glucose (sugar molecules) by turning it into molecules that can be properly stored. This condition can be very troublesome for cats, especially because we currently do not have any way to specifically treat them. In the majority of cases, cats develop diabetes due to obesity. As such, it is doubly important to act in a preventative manner here by ensuring that you keep your cat at a healthy weight. To read more about this, see the 10th paragraph, in which feline obesity and how to tackle it is further outlined.
The second condition under examination will be on kidney dysfunction. Many cats may end up developing a condition in which their kidneys lose much of their functionality, which can lead to great harm for them. In particular, the kidneys are essential to eliminating harmful toxins in the body, so when damaged these toxins can build up and become a real issue. Detecting such illnesses are difficult, as some cats do not show any symptoms at all. Others might show a decrease in appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, and weight loss, but these symptoms themselves are rather common, so they are not a decisive sign. It is also difficult to treat your cat to prevent these conditions from developing, as the usual cause stems from cancer, infections, or high blood pressure. As such, it is one of the many reasons why it is important to visit your vet every once in a while just to keep a check on your cat's health. However, if your cat already has the ailment, your vet will most likely tell you that you need to feed your cat on a diet specifically for kidney care, such as Proplan Optirenal.
Thirdly, there are also urinary health issues to consider. Many cats, especially older cats, can develop urinary tract infections, blockages, or even cancers, and this can be very troublesome. Some types of food can also start forming crystals within the cat's bladder, making it very difficult and painful for them to urinate. To catch signs of these problems, if your cat uses a litter box see if they strain a lot, and try to note whether they are using their litter box more or less frequently, as either could be a sign of this. Further, some cats with these medical issues develop bad, urine-y smelling breath. If you are concerned that your cat may be suffering from one of these issues, it is best to take them to a vet, who can provide you the bulk of what you would need to treat them. One thing worth noting, however, is that due to the crystal formations mentioned above, it is very important to switch your cat's food to a variety that prevents this crystal formation, such as Hills Feline Urinary Care, which you can get from pet stores like ourselves.
The next condition to review is cancer. Like with humans, cats can develop malignant cells that can cause a lot of havoc on a cat's body. Unfortunately, cancer can develop anywhere, and can manifest in a large variety of symptoms. The most common sign is the development of a lump or unusual swelling of a part of the body, but this isn't always the case. Again, it is best to visit your vet often for check ups, and if there is a lump or swelling that causes you concern, it is best to visit them as soon as possible.
Next up is ear infections. A cat's ears are important to them, but there are a lot of things that can go wrong with them and cause them pain and discomfort. A cat's ears can get infected due to many different possible causes, including excessive earwax, mites, or a standard bacterial or viral infection. The symptoms to look out for are excessive head-shaking, swollen and smelly ears, and an extreme dislike of their ears being touched. The simplest way to treat this is to keep the ears clean for the duration of the infection, by usage of ear drops, such as Otodex Ear Drops, or Bamboo Stick Ear Cleaners. These products are also useful for preventative reasons, as it is best to treat the ears at all times and prevent these problems from occurring to begin with.
Another set of medical issues to examine are dental issues. A cat's teeth are tough, but like any animal they can sometimes require some degree of maintenance to stop them from decaying. Unlike our own diets, cats do not consume a lot of food high in sugar or other substances that can decay teeth quickly, but plaque and other damaging substances can still form on their teeth, which can harm them over time, as well as possibly giving them other nasty diseases such as gum disease. This can usually be identified by directly looking into your cat's mouth and checking the quality of their teeth and gums, and can also be identified if your cat begins to eat slowly or has a greatly reduced appetite. Continuing a theme set out above, it is recommended that you take preventative action against the possibilities of these medical problems to ensure your pet does not suffer or get affected to begin with. For this, it is recommended that you use either Petkin Plaque Gel or Hatchwell Dentifresh Toothpaste.
Another common health complication that can arise in cats is that of skin allergies. Skin allergies can be surprisingly common for cats, but sometimes goes unnoticed due to how the skin is covered by their fur. Usually when a cat suffers from a skin allergy, it's skin will go red, bumpy, and sometimes might shed fur, leaving a bald patch on the area. This is usually indicated by behaviour, as if a cat has a skin allergy they may start scratching, licking, or biting that area more frequently or intensely than before, and will often react badly to the affected areas being touched, or avoid being touched at all. These allergies can be caused by a multitude of things, and if you notice your cat showing signs of a skin allergy, it is best to try and think about any recent changes that may have caused it, such as new furniture or carpets, new food, medications, or the usage of shampoos. However, bear in mind that allergies can form spontaneously, meaning allergies that weren't there before can suddenly appear. If it turns out that the allergy is food-related, it is best to try going back to feeding them the food that they ate before it developed, but if that is no longer the option, or if a lot of different foods seem to cause the same issue, it is often best to look into feeding your cat Arden Grange Adult or Kitten.
The next set of medical conditions to look at are digestion-based. Cat's are prone to getting illness that disrupt their digestive system from time to time, which can give them unfortunate symptoms such as constipation or diarrhoea. These illnesses are most often an infection within the intestines that cause a problem, such as inflammation, and such infections can have a variety of causes, including bacterial growths, changes in diet, or the consumption of something that does not agree with them. If the cat is experiencing such symptoms in what seems to be isolated cases (i.e, every once in a while) it's generally not much to worry about, but if there is some consistency to the occurrence then it is likely that you have to start evaluating the possible causes. For example, a cat suffering from constipation may not be getting enough fiber within their diet, which can easily be remedied by sprinkling wheat bran in with their food. Alternatively, it could be that the cat is eating food it should not, like yoghurt or animals that it may catch outside. In these cases, it is important to try and prevent them from eating these things. If there doesn't seem to be any cause, it is likely a bacterial or viral infection, in which case the best thing that can be done is simply to wait for it to pass. In the mean time, you could also treat your cat with Pro-kolin+ or Johnson's Diarrhoea tablets, which will greatly ease the unpleasant symptoms of diarrhoea.
The second most common condition that cats suffer from is parasitic infections. Parasites consist of a range of horrible creatures that love to latch on to your cat and feed off of them, usually to the detriment of their health. This most often means fleas, ticks, or worms such as ringworm or heartworm. Fleas are by far the easiest to spot, as you will notice your cat scratching or biting at their fur more often, and sometimes you might even notice them jumping around, and can further be found when combing through your cat's fur. However, by contrast, worms are much, much more difficult to spot, as they remain burrowed within your cat's body, and can generally only be spotted within the cat's faeces. As with all other medical concerns, preventative actions are the best ones to take here, as it is best to keep your cat regularly treated for both fleas and worms and keep them protected at all times. For protection against worms, this can be done in many different ways, such as the use of granules, with products such as Johnson's Round Wormer Granules, tablets, such as Bob Martin Clear Wormer Tablets, or most popularly, the use of spot-on treatments, such as Bob Martin's Clear Wormer Spot-On. For fleas, it is best to stick with a tablet treatment, such as Johnson's 4fleas Cat Tablets. If the cat already has fleas, however, you may have to take an extra step of action. If you have noticed that the fleas are infesting your house (as many do), you will need to combat them using a spray or fogger, such as Johnson's 4fleas room fogger or Frontline homeguard, and you will have to utilise a short-term flea solution, such as Frontline Spot-on for cats that will actively kill any living fleas. For more information on how to fully combat fleas, it is also a good idea to read our full article on the subject, which can be done by clicking here.
Finally, the number one most common health problem that cats face is obesity. We all love to feed our pets extra treats now and again, and this is usually fine, but sometimes cats can get too fat for their own good, and this needs to be opposed. Cats that are obese can start to get many health problems, such as the deterioration of their joints, heart and circulatory system problems, hyperthyroidism, and a whole host of other illness ranging from the benign to the outright deadly. As you may have guessed, a lot of the time this is a symptom of over-feeding your cat, whether that is through feeding too much food or giving too many treats (be aware that some cats are very crafty! They may manage to convince several members of the household that they haven't been fed even when they have!) Of course, it isn't all about feeding too many treats, or even really about feeding too much in general. Like in humans, some cat's metabolic systems slow down as they get older, meaning that the energy they consume isn't used up as quickly and so ends up getting stored on their body in the form of fat. Cats can also get less active with age, which could be the side-effect of other problems, such as joint pains. This can become a spiralling problem, where a cat with bad joints can become less active, leading to obese through lack of activity, which further puts stress on their joints, causing yet more inactivity. The most direct way to help your cat fight obesity is to reduce their calorie intake, which is done most simply by reducing their food intake - though this itself could cause other problems if your cat doesn't get the nutrition that they need, so their food intake should only be limited to a safe degree. In many cases, it would be much better to swap your cat to a low calorie, or 'light' food that will bypass this problem by providing a low calorie diet that still provides the nutrients that the cat needs, which can be done with specific foods such as Royal Canin Light Weight. If you suspect it may be a lack of activity that causes the obesity, it may be best to take your cat to a vet to get them to check their joints to ensure that they are healthy.
And with that this article comes to a close. We hope that it has helped you to understand some of the problems that your cat is facing, or may face in the future, and how best to help and prevent them. If there are any questions you have that have gone unanswered, feel free to click here to contact us and we will be happy to help in whatever way we can.
Hope to see you in-store again some time soon!
Henry Jackson, head of IT for Pet Food Plus More.