Just because cats are low maintenance pets does not mean that
they are entirely self sufficient, and at times their
independence can become a challenge, especially in the case of
diagnosing ailments. Since you cat is unlikely to let you know
how they are feeling, it is imperative to make sure they are
seen by a vet at least once a year to make sure everything is
in fine working order. Outside of that, here are a few common
cat illnesses that can be detected by you, and if treated
early, can be managed or cured.
Diseases that Can Affect Cats
Feline cystitis or FLUTD – Feline
lower urinary tract disease can develop in cats whose diets are
too high in minerals or too low in fluids, or cats who live in
a stressful environment. It is also slightly more common in
long-haired cat breeds. Male cats are more prone than females,
and they can develop a urinary tract obstruction at the same
time—which can be fatal if not treated promptly. Learn about
how to recognize and treat cystitis in cats.
Periodontal disease – Did you
know that gum disease is one of the most easily-prevented
health concerns for cats and dogs? Brushing your cat’s teeth
even once a week can help prevent a painful tooth abscess,
decay, and tooth loss. Signs of periodontal disease include
trouble eating or extreme halitosis (bad breath).
Hyperthyroidism – The thyroid is
the endocrine organ in charge of producing hormones that the
rest of the body needs to function properly. Cats with
hyperthyroidism produce too much of certain hormones,
preventing vital organs from functioning properly. Luckily,
most cases of hyperthyroidism can be kept at bay with
medications, but there is no outright cure, so the treatment
will need to be administered every day for the rest of the cats
Renal or kidney disease – Kidneys
function as essential filters in the body, so when they're
diseased, it can result in urine back up, inflammation, or even
the kidneys shutting down. Persian and Exotic cat breeds are
more prone to cysts in the kidneys. If kidney failure becomes
an issue, you may have to switch your pet to a prescription
diet, give them antibiotics, and monitor their water intake.
Diabetes – Diabetes can be common
in older and overweight cats and shows itself in excessive
urination, extreme thirst, and lethargy. The disease prevents
the cat’s body from creating and managing insulin. Insulin
helps in the conversion and use of glucose (a major nutritional
source of energy). Low glucose conversion means low energy and
unused glucose in the blood. This can contribute to urinary tract infections.
Lymphoma – Lymphoma is a cancer
that can attack several different areas of your pet’s body, and
is more common in cats with FeLV or FIV. There is no cure, but
some cats will go into remission. Treatment methods will help
to reduce your cat’s pain and can sometimes help cats live for
a couple of years with the disease.
FeLV – FeLV, or feline leukemia,
is a viral infection and not a form of cancer, despite its
name. However, because of its effects on the immune system, it
can lead to secondary infections and even bone cancer.
FIV – Also known as Feline AIDS,
the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus attacks the cat's immune
system, making them more susceptible to other infections.
Worms and parasites – Some
parasitic worms, like heartworm, whipworm, and roundworm, can
infect cats and cause internal damage. Because some of these
nasty parasites can reach up to a foot in length—inside your
pet!—they are incredibly dangerous. Luckily, they are easily
prevented with monthly treatments. Learn more here.
Cat Tumors and Cat Skin Disease - How to Detect Them and What
You Can Do
Skin tumors are relatively common problems for cats, but it can
still be scary when you find a lump on their skin. Certain
breeds, such as Siamese, Persians,
and other longhaired cats tend to have tumors more frequently,
so you'll want to check their skin often. It's important to
have any cat skin tumors or lumps examined by your vet, who
will need to do a biopsy and other tests to determine if the
tumor is malignant or cancerous.
The good news is that there are many treatments for skin cancers in cats, and chances of
remission only get better the earlier you catch the problem.
You can even take steps to help prevent cancer through
careful nutrition and a
healthy lifestyle for your cat.
Is it Cancer?
Cats may experience certain skin problems that can be mistaken
for skin cancer. While they may not be as serious as cancer,
they should still be examined and treated:
Tumor: A non-cancerous tumor, however they may
still need to be removed
Infection: Ringworm infections, like
sporotrichosis, can cause skin lesions or significant
Reaction: Some allergic reactions, such as
eosinophilic granuloma, can cause raised ulcers, especially
on the mouth, face, feet, and thighs
If a tumor appears to be growing, or if it appears as an open
wound that isn't healing, it’s more likely that the tumor is
cancerous. Either way, it is important to have every tumor
examined by a vet. Only a veterinarian can give an exact
diagnosis with a biopsy and other lab tests, and they will
likely recommend surgical removal and additional treatment,
especially if the tumor is malignant.
Most Common Skin Tumors in Cats
While cats are susceptible to many types of skin tumors, a few
types are seen more often than others. Since they are so
common, veterinary oncologists have been able to develop
specialized treatments that can improve the prognosis for your
Carcinoma: This tumor is the most common,
especially for Siamese, domestic longhaired, and any
older cats. It can take the form of a single growth on top of
the head, or sheets of bumps which may also be found on the
back and chest. These tumors tend to spread by extension,
rather than by metastasizing (spreading to organs or to
another area), so there is less risk of malignancy, but
removal and treatment is still recommended.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma or
Epidermoid Carcinoma: This tumor looks like a
cauliflower growth or gray wound which has trouble healing,
and is usually located around the mouth, groin, or other
orafices, such as the upper and lower lips, nose, and ear
tips. There has been some presumed correlation between this
cancer and second hand smoke, but no research has been
conclusive. Cats may lick the tumor area to the point
of hair loss due to
Tumors: Mast cell
tumors have a one in three chance of being malignant
and most commonly affect Siamese cats. These tumors are often
found on the back legs, groin, and lower abdomen. They are
usually less than one inch long and can become an open wound
that has trouble healing. These tumors can spread to organs,
especially the spleen, so it's important to treat as early as
Melanomas: Just like in
humans, melanomas can start from moles and then begin to
spread, become raised, or bleed. Melanomas spread very easily
and can be found anywhere on the skin or in the mouth. Uveal
melanomas can be found in the eyes of older cats, often
changing the pigment color and causing pain.
Treatment and Prognosis of Skin Tumors in Cats
Hopefully you and your vet will catch a skin tumor in its early
stages. If caught before spreading, there is a much better
chance of remission and recovery after surgical removal.
Sometimes it will be necessary to use other treatments such as
radiation or chemotherapy to stop the spread of a malignant
tumor. While your cat is recovering, it will be important to
limit their activity and exposure to other animals.
While there is still a lot to be learned about cat skin tumors,
veterinary oncologists are finding better treatments every
year, and giving cats and their pet parents more time together.
Unfortunately, these additional treatments can become
very expensive, so you may
need to discuss the costs and benefits with your vet.
More on Cat Health
All About Cat Sleep
How To Play With a Cat
Maintaining a Healthy Cat Weight
This information is for informational
purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the
professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your
veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been
verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.