Family Magazine

Common Illnesses in Cats and How to Deal with Them

By Lucifer Bui

As much as we might wish that our cats would stay healthy all the time, unfortunately that's not the case.

Just like people, cats get sick, and when they do, they may need their owner's help getting better. It's a good idea to know about different illnesses in cats, so that if they do end up with something serious, you'll know what to watch out for. Remember that if something seems really off or wrong, you should definitely take a trip to your veterinarian. They are, after all, professionals in dealing with this sort of thing. When my cat Sokka got into a spill oflaundry detergent and became sick, the vet's office was a huge help. I was a crying mess, but they treated him immediately, and he got better within a day.

Common Illnesses in Cats and How to deal with them

Common Illnesses in cats - how to deal with them

Believe me, it was a huge relief. So please, don't hesitate to take your cat in if you're worried! Like me, you'll probably be glad you did.

That being said, this article isn't about my experience, but about the most common illnesses that cats face in general. Read on to find out more about different signs and symptoms, and what you can do if you suspect that your furry friend is getting sick.

Contagious Diseases - Most #1 common illnesses in Cats

Common Illnesses in Cats and How to deal with them

I figured I'd start with these, since according to the internet, cats end up with transmittable respiratory illnesses more often than any other infection. There's good news, though: some of these can be prevented with regular vaccinations.

What about the ones that can't, though?

Here, you can run into a bit of a problem: respiratory infections in cats are usually viral, so you can't give them an antibiotic and hope it goes away. You'll have to keep a close eye on your pet, give them lots of water, and make sure that their immune system is fighting the virus off. If they don't seem to be getting better, you should take them back in to the vet for further treatment.

So, what sorts of upper respiratory illnesses do cats get?

Some, like people, are just common colds, caused by cold viruses. And the symptoms are similar: coughing, acting lethargic, runny eyes and nose (with clear or yellowish discharge), and sneezing. For a mild cold, your vet won't recommend you do much. You can run a humidifier in your home to help your cat clear its nasal passages, wipe their eyes and nose for them, and feed them canned food if they don't have much of an appetite. Usually, they'll be able to fight off the infection on their own.

Unfortunately, some viruses cause more serious infections, and they can be harder to treat. FVR (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis) is an example - caused by a herpes virus, this illness might make your cat sick for up to 20 days.

No matter what, once your cat catches it, they'll become a carrier. The virus will live in their body, but in an inactive (latent) form. It can be reactivated when your cat becomes stressed, and then they'll have to deal with its symptoms again. They'll also be contagious during this time period. Symptoms are similar to cold symptoms, but can also include fever and conjunctivitis (redness/inflammation around the eyes). If your cat ends up with this problem, they might need medication applied to their eyes so that their eyes don't become damaged. Your vet will prescribe this for you.

Not all infections cats get are respiratory, either. Panleukopenia is caused by a virus as well, but it affects a cat's digestive tract. If your cat is experiencing bloody diarrhea, lethargy, fever, and dehydration, this is probably the cause.

Like respiratory infections, there isn't much you can do to help, other than offer lots of water and watch them closely. Kittens are especially at risk from panleukopenia, and if they're younger than eight weeks they probably won't survive it. Fortunately, there is a vaccine, so be sure to bring your kitten in for their shots to protect them!

Roundworms and Tapeworms - #2 common illnesses in Cats

Like many other animals, cats can contract worms, even if they're indoor cats. They don't just come from eating rodents or rare meat, either. Coming in contact with infected soil or eating infected insects can transfer the worms to your pet.

Common Illnesses in Cats and How to deal with them

Roundworm, one of the most common parasites in cats, starts in the intestines, but can move to other important parts of the body. If a kitten is infested with a severe case of roundworms, it can be fatal. So, of course, you shouldn't take the symptoms of roundworm lightly! Symptoms include spaghetti-like strings in vomit or feces, a distended belly, a dull coat, diarrhea, and reduced appetite. Fortunately for you and your cat, roundworm is treated easily with oral medication, prescribed by your veterinarian.

Tapeworms can affect cats too, but the symptoms are a bit different. A cat with a tapeworm will lose lots of weight and may have diarrhea. Look for rice-sized and -shaped objects in their feces or around their anus, too - these are also a sign of tapeworms. Treatment, like that for roundworm, is a simple oral medication. Prevention-wise, you have a few options to keep worms at bay. How do cats end up with tapeworms? By eating a flea that has tapeworm eggs inside it. So, to prevent this, make sure to check your cat for fleas regularly, and treat them if they do occur. Keeping your cat indoors does a lot to prevent worms in general, and so does keeping your environment generally clean.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) - #3 common illnesses in Cats

If you notice that your cat is straining and squatting while urinating, has blood in their urine, or is meowing in pain, they could have a UTI. A number of things can cause UTIs in cats - dehydration, the mineral content of your cat's food, or cystitis (bladder inflammation, cause unknown).

Common Illnesses in Cats and How to deal with them

Prevention can be as simple as having water more readily available (if your cat doesn't drink standing water try a fountain for cats!), or changing their diet. Keeping your cat's environment less stressful can help too. Consult your veterinarian to figure out what your best course of action is. Treatment involves a course of antibiotics, and urine checks to make sure that the infection has gone away. Keep giving those scheduled medications, and they'll most likely feel better before you know it!

So, there you have it - now you know a little more about what makes cats sick, and what to do if they end up with any of these common illnesses. Your vet will be able to take care of the rest. Don't worry too much unless you have to; leave that part to the professionals! Odds are, your cat will appreciate that you're trying your best to take care of them.


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