It’s that time of year again. Time to take your cat to the veterinarian for their annual examination. But maybe you’re thinking that you might skip it this year. After all, they aren’t sick. Maybe you will just put it off until next year – what could it hurt? Actually, delaying an annual physical exam can hurt.
Annual physical exams are an important part of providing optimal health care and the best longevity for your beloved companion. Cats age quickly and they are unable to tell us if they are feeling a little off. Remember, it may be one year in your life but that can be about 5-10 comparative years in your cat’s life.
A lot can change in that much time. Sometimes, cats can be ill for weeks and you are unaware of it. This may not be from a lack of monitoring or caring; your cat just hides their illness until it is so far advanced they have no choice but to show signs of disease.
Your veterinarian has special training and experience in detecting subtle illness in pets. Listening to the heart can detect murmurs. Increased lung sounds may indicate early respiratory illnesses. Abdominal palpation may reveal pain in certain areas, abnormal size and shape of various organs or even tumors. Checking out the eyes can detect early signs of cataract or other ocular problems. Ears may be in need of cleaning or medication. Dental disease may be detected as well as signs of allergies or skin problems. It’s easier for someone who doesn’t see your pet every day to detect lumps and bumps that you may not have noticed. Comparing annual weights, too, can determine if your cat is heading down the path to obesity or is slowly losing weight.
As a cat reaches middle to older age, annual physical exams become even more important. Certain problems that you may simply attribute to “old age,” and just something you will have to live with, may be signs of underling disease and may be very treatable. Annual physical exams also give you an opportunity to ask your veterinarian any questions you may have about your cat’s health. Your veterinarian may recommend certain additional tests to determine overall health based on physical exam findings or may have suggestions for improving the quality of your cat’s life.
Remember, the primary goal for your veterinarian is to keep your cat healthy and provide the best care available. Your veterinarian cares a great deal about your cat – almost as much as you.
Delaying or not having a recheck exam can hurt your cat. A recheck examination is an appointment that allows your veterinarian to assess the progress and follow-up on your cat’s disease or problem. Maybe you are thinking you can skip it because your cat is doing better? Even if your cat physically looks and feels better, he or she may not be completely back to normal. Some diseases can progress with very few outward signs.
Consider the possibility that recheck exams may actually save you time and money in the long run. Some chronic diseases can spiral out of control if not closely monitored for subtle changes. This could ultimately lead to more lengthy procedures, hospitalizations, trips back and forth to your veterinarian, and significantly higher veterinary bills.
Recheck exams are a worthwhile investment in your cat’s overall health. By taking your cat in for a “re-check” you are providing your cat the best possible care by allowing his progress to be professionally monitored.
Vaccinations have saved the lives of millions of cats. Before the days of effective vaccines, cats routinely died from panleukopenia (“feline distemper”) and complications of upper respiratory (herpesvirus, calicivirus) infections. Newer vaccines are available to protect against feline leukemia virus infection, feline infectious peritonitis virus and other infections. Current vaccination programs also protect our cats (and us) from the threat of rabies. All kittens should receive FVRCCP, which is Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Chlamydia and Panleukopenia, the so-called “4-in-1” upper respiratory/feline distemper vaccine.
Additional vaccines include Feline Leukemia Virus vaccine and Rabies vaccine. For kittens between 6 and 20 weeks of age, a series of vaccines is recommended. The first set of vaccines should be given when the kitten is 6-8 weeks old, and continue every 3 to 4 weeks until the chance of contracting an infectious disease is very low (typically the last “shot” is given between 16 and 18 weeks of age). A kitten may be lethargic for 1-2 days and show decreased appetite after the vaccinations. In very care cases, tumor development can be triggered by vaccination. It should be understood that, with very rare exception, the benefit of protection from disease by the vaccine far outweighs the chance of tumor development.
Talk with your veterinarian regarding follow-up vaccines.
For millions of pets and people, the tiny flea is a remorseless enemy. The flea is a small, brown, wingless insect that uses specialized mouthparts to pierce the skin and siphon blood. When a flea bites your cat, it injects a small amount of saliva into the skin to prevent blood coagulation. Some animals may have fleas without showing discomfort, but an unfortunate number of cats become sensitized to this saliva. In highly allergic animals, the bite of a single flea can cause severe itching and scratching. Fleas cause the most common skin disease of cats – flea allergy dermatitis. Remember that the flea spends the majority of its life in the environment, not on your pet, so it may be difficult to find. In fact, your cat may continue to scratch without you ever seeing a flea on them. Check your cat carefully for fleas or for signs of flea excrement (also called flea dirt), which looks like coarsely ground pepper. Current flea control efforts center on oral and topical systemic treatments. These products not only treat existing flea problems, they also are very useful for prevention. In fact, prevention is the most effective and easiest method of flea control.
It is best to consult your veterinarian as to the best flea control and prevention for your pet. The choice of flea control should depend on your pet’s life-style and potential for exposure. Through consistent use of these systemic monthly flea products, the total flea burden on your pet and in the immediate environment can be dramatically reduced.
Most people are aware that their pets have worms, but just what are these worms, where do they get them and how do you get rid of them? When pet owners talk about worms, they are really talking about all gastrointestinal parasites. And there are several gastrointestinal parasites that commonly affect our cats.
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