Cats are somewhat secretive and elusive as a species and they always try to hide illness. They understand on a very basic level that nature selects for the strong and the weak will be targets of predators. Because of this species tendency, your cat may have subtle clues of illness that will slip by you if you do not know what to look for.
Things happen to pets that are not curable or even treatable and I think fear of those diagnoses is sometimes why people do not seek my help, even if they have a suspicion something is wrong. Here are 5 things that can indicate something grave, but also can be indicative of something manageable if you know about it. Many times, early intervention can alter the eventual outcome, so knowing is important for making a difference in your cat’s quality of life.
- Weight loss-Although weight loss is not a sign of any one specific disease, it shouldn’t be ignored. Some very manageable diseases are heralded by weight loss as an early sign. If you are not trying to diet your cat and she starts to feel light or look thin, do not wait to see your vet.
- Changes in water intake– Increased thirst and the accompanying increase in urination can signal several common feline diseases. Diabetes is one (See my article about Diabetes here) and metabolic issues like kidney and liver disease are others. Most veterinary facilities have an in-house lab that could rule these out while you wait. Knowing is worth a trip to see the vet.
- Dental lesions– Most people do not ever look at their cats teeth. I didn’t before I was aware that I needed to, but now that I open cats’ mouths all day, I cannot tell how many painful dental lesions I find. There is a dental disorder specific to cats that is so painful that cats under surgical anesthesia will twitch in pain when I probe them and I see them with sad regularity. If you don’t look, your cat will hide their pain. Ask your vet to help you know if your cat is suffering in silence.
- Stumbling/Staggering/Inability to Walk-I imagine if you are taking the time to read this article, you know if your cat cannot walk straight and is staggering around the house, it is time to head for the veterinary facility. The good news about this frightening symptom is that sometimes it will be a condition called Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome, a problem that will resolve completely with appropriate medical management. There are other more serious causes however, so a medical work up is definitely in order.
- Masses/Growths– Cats get cancer and now that our felines are living longer because of excellent care, we see cancers in this species commonly. If you see a mass or growth on your cat, get your vet to examine it because sometimes even if the mass is a malignant cancer, removal can be curative. Masses that are ignored are given the chance to spread and invade other organs, ultimately killing your cat.
This list is important, although not a complete list of all the things that should prompt a trip to the vet. If you notice any changes in your cat, be alert. Cats are predictable and love schedules. Changes are probably significant, even if not deadly. Remember, treatment can alter the outcome. Don’t be afraid to know more.
About The Vet: Dr. Kathryn Primm is a practicing small animal veterinarian. She has consulted on articles for national magazines, done numerous radio interviews and appeared on local television. She has contributed to an article for Prevention magazine and Woman’s Day in Feb 2014 and June 2015 on shelves now.
She has a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and enjoys interaction with others about her passions, animals and communication. She is a regular contributor to Boomeon, the online community which can be found at www.boomeon.com . She has also written a book, Tennessee Tails:Pets and Their People. The book received recognition as Runner Up in the Memoirs category at a national book festival. You can read more about Dr. Primm and how to get the best value for your pet care dollar at her website, www.drprimm.com.