Cats seem to be pretty easy pets to care for; all they really ask for are food, water and a clean litter box. But felines in general have many health concerns that responsible pet owners should be aware of and discuss with their veterinarian.
Hairballs – Because cats groom themselves they are always swallowing loose hair. Occasionally this hair forms into a ball and lodges in the cat’s stomach; your cat may do a great deal of coughing and hacking to dislodge the hairball, eventually coughing it up and out. If your cat is unable to expel a hairball then it is time to take action. There are over the counter medications that you can use to help the cat pass the hairball one way or the other, or you can visit your vet and he will administer a treatment after examining the cat to make sure there are no other problems.
Worms – Roundworms, tapeworms, hook worms and even heartworms can affect your cat. If left untreated, worms can be fatal to your feline friend. You can take your cat to the vet to be checked for worms and choose the best treatment for the specific type of worms.
Urinary Tract Infections – Bladder problems are common in both sexes of cats; however male cats risk a life threatening blockage due to urinary and bladder infections. A veterinarian should examine any cat you believe has a UTI or any problems with urination.
Fleas – Flea infestations cause anemia and have been known to kill kittens. Many times you can deal with fleas at home with flea dips and treatments to prevent infestation, but in the case of kittens younger than 6 months you should contact your vet before using any topical treatments. Linda Cole has written two helpful articles on how to fight fleas: Natural Flea Control for Dogs and Cats, and Winter is the Best Time to Fight Fleas.
Cat Flu – This viral infection that affect the upper respiratory tract can make your cat very sick, and can even kill young kittens and older cats. Pus leaking from the eyes, sneezing and thick discharge from the nose, fever or loss of appetite are all symptoms of cat flu. A veterinarian should be consulted immediately if your cat is displaying any of these symptoms.
FIV – Also known as feline AIDS, this disease lowers the cat’s immunity to common infections. A cat that suffers a long list of illnesses is commonly found to have FIV. While there is no vaccine for FIV, all cats should be tested so that preventive steps can be taken.
Feline Leukemia Virus – Thanks to a recent vaccine, FLV is no longer the most common fatal disease in cats. Cats that contract FLV rarely have a long life expectancy, and all cats should be immunized while young before they are in contact with any other cat that may have FLV.
Abscessed Wounds – The skin on a cat is tough and does not tear easily. This means that when a cat gets a scratch or bite the skin heals over quickly, often trapping bacteria underneath. These bacteria can cause your cat to become very ill as the infection spreads. An abscess can rupture on its own releasing thick yellow pus. If you clean this with warm salt water or peroxide the abscess will usually heal with no further problems. If an abscess does not rupture you should take your cat to the vet so that he can drain it and resolve the infection with antibiotics.
By keeping a close eye on your cat and his behavior, you can many times head off any health concerns before they become a problem.
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