Adult Cats: 1 Year to 10 Years of Age
A yearly physical examination by your veterinarian is the basis for detecting diseases early and preventing medical conditions from developing or worsening. During this check-up, a Hoof N Paw veterinarian will perform a complete examination of your cat including the ears, eyes, nose, skin, heart and lung sounds, lymph nodes, teeth, and other body systems. A yearly check-up allows for early disease detection, which is the key to successful preventive medical care.
How often should my cat have a wellness examination?
The answer to this question depends on your pet’s age and current health status. During early kittenhood wellness exams are recommended on a monthly basis, while for the average adult cat annual wellness examinations are the norm, and semi-annual examinations are recommended for middle aged and geriatric cats. Your veterinarian is in the best position to recommend how often your cat should have a wellness examination, based on its age, lifestyle and health status.
What will my veterinarian check during a wellness examination?
During a routine wellness examination, your veterinarian will ask you questions about your cat’s diet, exercise, thirst, breathing, behavior, habits, litterbox habits, lifestyle (indoors or outdoors), and general health. Your veterinarian will also perform a physical examination of your cat. Based on your pet’s history and physical examination, your veterinarian will then make recommendations for specific preventive medicine treatments such as vaccination, parasite control (for both external parasites such as fleas, ticks and ear mites, and internal parasites such as worms or heartworms), nutrition, skin and coat care, weight management or dental care. In addition, your veterinarian will discuss your pet’s individual circumstances and decide whether any other life-stage or lifestyle recommendations would be appropriate.
What does my veterinarian check during a physical examination?
A physical examination involves observing the general appearance of the cat, listening to the chest with a stethoscope (“auscultation”), and “palpation”, or feeling specific areas of the body.
What else might be checked during a wellness examination?
Your veterinarian will recommend that a fresh sample of your pet’s feces (bowel movement) is examined as part of every wellness examination. This sample will be processed and microscopically evaluated for the presence of parasite eggs. In kittens, monthly fecal examinations are extremely important since many pups will have intestinal parasites.
Your veterinarian may also recommend heartworm testing if you live in an area where there is a high incidence of this parasitic disease.As part of a complete wellness examination, your veterinarian will usually recommend “wellness screening tests”. There are four main categories of wellness testing recommended for the cat: complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and thyroid hormone testing. Within each category, your veterinarian will advise you about how extensive the testing should be. In younger cats without noticeable health complaints, relatively simple testing may be adequate. In middle-aged or geriatric cats, more comprehensive testing is advisable. For older cats, additional wellness screening tests may include chest or abdominal x-rays to assess the size and appearance of the internal organs (heart, lungs, kidneys, liver), x-rays of the skeletal system to look for degenerative changes in the bones or joints, or blood pressure determination, especially if your veterinarian has any concerns about high blood pressure (a common complaint in older cats).
Is there anything I need to do to prepare my cat for a wellness examination?
When you book the appointment with your veterinarian, you should ask whether you should fast your cat before the visit. You should also ask whether you should bring in fresh urine or fecal samples.
Prepare yourself with some basic information, such as the brand and type of food that your cat eats, whether the family feeds any table scraps, whether you give your cat any supplements, and whether anybody in the family has noticed any problems. This is also the time that you should take note of any concerns you might have and make inquiries into optimal health maintenance strategies for your furry friend.
All cats should receive vaccinations to help fight off or prevent certain infectious diseases. During your cat’s yearly check-up your veterinarian will advise you of any vaccinations that may be due.Recent advances in veterinary medical science have resulted in an increase in the number and type of vaccines that are available for use in cats, and improvements are continuously being made in their safety and efficacy. Veterinarians routinely recommend certain vaccines for all cats (called ‘core’ vaccines) whereas others are used more selectively according to circumstances. Based on the most current scientific information available, we recommend the following vaccines and vaccination schedules
- FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis/Calicivirus/Panleukopenia): This vaccine is recommended for all cats. After a kitten vaccination series, this “5-in-1” vaccine should be administered at one and two years of age and then every three years.
- Rabies: This vaccine is recommended for all cats. rabies is a universally fatal disease and is transmittable to people. We recommend, therefore, that all cats be vaccinated against rabies as early as 16 weeks, one year later, and then every three years thereafter.
- Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV): This vaccine is recommended for cats that roam outdoors or associate with other cats that roam outdoors. A cat infected with FeLV may not show symptoms for a long time, therefore a blood test to screen for an FeLV infection is recommended before the vaccine is administered. Although this vaccine may induce a cancerous tumor in a very small number (1 cat in 4,000) of cats, the chances of contracting an FeLV infection for an unvaccinated at-risk cat are higher than that of developing a tumor from the vaccine. We recommend that cats at risk for FeLV infection be vaccinated against FeLV as early as 9 weeks of age and boosters given 3 to 4 weeks later, one year later, and every three years thereafter.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune system to produce antibodies to a particular microorganism such as a virus, bacteria, or other infectious organism. The animal’s immune system is then primed, or prepared to react to a future infection with that microorganism.
This reaction will either prevent infection or lessen the severity of infection and promote rapid recovery. In other words, vaccination mimics or simulates the protection (immunity) that a pet has once it has recovered from natural infection with a particular infectious agent
The immune system is complex, involving interaction of various cells and tissues in an animal. The main cells involved in an immune reaction are the white blood cells and the main tissues are the lymphoid tissues such as the lymph nodes.
One of the most important functions of the immune system is the production of specific protein molecules called antibodies. A specific microorganism, such as Feline Panleukopenia Virus, has components called antigens. When a foreign antigen is introduced into the body, the immune system will produce an antibody that specifically binds and neutralizes that specific antigen and no other. The body produces several different types of antibodies.
Other white blood cells such as lymphocytes are able to identify and kill cells that have become infected by the microorganism. This activity of lymphocytes and other immune system cells is called cell-mediated immunity
It is important to realize that most vaccines work by preventing your cat from becoming ill during a subsequent exposure to specific disease-causing organisms, but vaccination may not prevent the cat from becoming infected. In these cases things like varriations in the strains of viruses, the cat has had a very strong exposue, or the cat’s immune system may be compromised due to pre-existing disease or age.
The best diet for your cat is a good, high-quality commercial kitten food until one year of age, then an adult food after that. A high-quality commercial adult cat food should be fed because these diets have been specially formulated to contain all the nutrients that a cat requires. Dry or wet food can be used but care should be taken to feed the correct amount, especially when feeding canned diets since it is easy to overfeed a cat. Once a cat becomes overweight or obese, it is much harder to lose the excess weight than it is to prevent them becoming overweight in the first place. Many owners prefer to feed small meals of moist food once or twice a day and provide dry food in between meals. This is fine as long as you ensure that your cat is receiving the proper number of calories and getting enough physical activity. The amount to feed depends on the individual cat and the calorie content of the brand of food (check the food’s label for a feeding guide). To help prevent nutritional imbalances, table scraps and homemade diets are not recommended. Vitamin and mineral supplements are not needed if your cat is receiving a good balanced commercial diet. No single food is the absolute best food, and several foods are quite good.
Cats are obligate or true carnivores – an animal that requires meat in its diet. They may eat other foods offered to them, especially animal products like cheese and bone marrow or sweet sugary substances such as honey and syrup. These foods are not essential and are not consumed on a regular basis. True carnivores lack the metabolism required for the proper digestion of vegetable matter. Some carnivorous mammals eat vegetation specifically as an emetic or substance that causes vomiting. While some cat owners may find the fact that the domestic cat is an obligate carnivore disturbing or objectionable, it is important to bear in mind the practical consequences – cats cannot be vegetarians!
Cats are dependent on the specific forms of nutrients found only in animal tissue. Examples include certain essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins (especially calcium, Vitamin A and niacin). These nutrients are not found in plant tissue in forms that can be used by cats. Equally important, as an obligate carnivore, cats require high levels of dietary protein with the appropriate balance of amino acids (the building blocks from which proteins are made). Cats are “obliged” to use protein as its primary source of daily calories! By comparison, humans and dogs use carbohydrates as our primary energy source.
What is the natural feeding behavior of cats?
On their own, most domestic cats are “nibblers” and will eat small meals frequently throughout the day and night. In fact, depending on the individual and the type of food, some cats will eat from 12 – 20 meals a day! This is especially true for cats eating dry foods, whereas moist or canned foods are usually consumed quickly as one to three larger meals per day.
As anyone that has ever owned a cat can attest, cats can be “finicky”! This simply reflects the fact that the texture, odor, temperature, and flavor of food are strong influences on a cat’s food preferences. Cats often develop preferences for specific textures and/or shapes of food, and some cats will choose the familiar over the novel shape. Cats appear to prefer food with a strong odor. Food temperature influences its odor, and since warm food has more aroma or smell, cats eat it more readily. This is a helpful tactic to use when cats are sick; in many cases, they can be encouraged to eat simply by warming up their food.
FELINE LEUKEMIA VIRUS (FeLV) AND FELINE IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS (FIV) TESTING
FeLV and FIV cause incurable and often fatal illness in cats. A cat may be born with one of these viruses if its mother was infected or may acquire an infection from another cat. Cats infected with FeLV or FIV may appear healthy and not show symptoms of illness for months or years. If your cat has previously been tested for FeLV and FIV and has not been outdoors or around other cats since then, routine testing for these viruses may not be necessary. The vast majority of persistently infected cats will die either from tumors or because of the immunosuppression caused by the viral infection. Current vaccines provide a good level of protection and do not interfere with routine testing for the virus in breeding colonies. Because the virus tends to take many months before it causes disease, infected cats can appear completely normal and healthy. For this reason, your veterinarian may suggest your cat have a blood test to make sure it is not infected before vaccination. Despite vaccination, a few cats will still become infected with the virus.
Cats have dental care needs very similar to those of people. In fact, tooth and gum disease is the most common health problem of cats. Most cats will need a professional dental cleaning every one to three years, depending on the individual. Your veterinarian will assess the need for a dental cleaning during your cat’s yearly check-up. A proper and thorough dental cleaning is performed while your cat is asleep under general anesthesia. A careful oral examination is performed, then tartar and plaque are removed from all surfaces of the teeth (including below the gum line) with an ultrasonic scaling instrument, the teeth are polished, and lastly stannous fluoride is applied before he or she wakes up.
How common is dental disease in cats?
Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions seen by veterinarians. Approximately two-thirds of cats over three years of age have some degree of dental disease. The most common problems are due to periodontal disease, gingivitis and cervical neck lesions, also called oral resorptive lesions.
What are the clinical signs of dental disease?
Certain signs should alert you to the presence of dental disease or other oral problems in your cat. Your cat may show a decreased interest in food or approach the food bowl and then show a reluctance to eat. It may chew with obvious discomfort, drop food from the mouth, or swallow with difficulty. The cat may drool excessively, and the saliva may contain blood. The cat may have halitosis, or an unpleasant breath odor. In some cases, cats may paw at their mouths or shake their heads. A reluctance to eat may lead to weight loss, which can become quite marked. Many cats will refuse dry food and demonstrate a preference for moist or canned foods. Dental disease and oral pain may account for the “finicky appetites” that some cats display.
What causes dental disease?
The most common cause of dental disease in cats is tartar and calculus accumulation on the teeth. The tooth surfaces are a home to thousands of bacteria that multiply and produce a layer of plaque. Some of this plaque is naturally removed during eating or by the action of the cat’s tongue. However, the remaining plaque quickly mineralizes, forming tartar and calculus. The bacterial products and decaying food stuck to tartar are one potential cause of bad breath.
Tartar is easily identified by its tan or brown color. It normally starts at the gum edge, especially on the back teeth called the premolars and molars. In severe cases, tartar and calculus may cover the entire tooth.
The accumulation of tartar and bacteria on the tooth surfaces leads to infection and gingivitis or inflammation of the gums. If the disease is caught at an early stage and a thorough veterinary dental scaling and polishing performed, most of the teeth and gums will have a full recovery. However, if gingivitis is allowed to persist untreated, then irreversible periodontal disease will occur. Periodontal disease is an inflammation or infection of the bone and ligaments that support the tooth; as it progresses these tissues are destroyed, leading to excessive tooth mobility and eventual tooth loss.
HOME DENTAL CARE
To help maintain your cat’s dental health between professional dental cleanings, home dental care in the form of daily dental brushing is recommended. The best way prevent dental disease is to keep the mouth as hygienic as possible and to reduce the rate at which tartar builds up on the teeth.Special toothbrushes designed for a cat’s mouth and special animal toothpaste (human toothpaste can make your cat sick if swallowed) are available.With gentleness, patience and perseverance it is possible to brush some cats’ teeth.
In addition, or as an alternative to brushing, a range of antibacterial mouthwashes and gels can be applied to the teeth and mouth to reduce the number of bacteria present. Please ask your veterinarian for further details regarding the recommended dental products for your cat. Recent advances in pet nutrition have resulted in diets that reduce tartar accumulation. Your veterinarian can give you specific dietary recommendations that will benefit your cat’s dental health.
FLEA AND TICK CONTROL
Fleas and ticks are common external parasites of cats. Several effective flea and tick control products are available. Your veterinarian can help you to choose the product best suited for your cat’s situation.
Where did my cat get fleas?
The most common flea found on cats and dogs is the cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis), although any species of fleas, including fleas from rabbits, squirrels or other wildlife, can be found on cats.
Homes with carpets and central heating provide ideal conditions for the year-round development of fleas. The highest numbers of flea eggs, larvae and pupae will be found in areas of the house where pets spend the most time, such as their beds and furniture. Even though fleas may be in your house, you probably won’t see them. The eggs are tiny white specks the size of dust particles, while the larvae, which are somewhat larger, with dark heads and lighter bodies, migrate deep down in carpets, furniture or cracks in floors away from the light.
What effect do fleas have on my cat?
Many cats live with fleas but show minimal signs. However, the following problems can occur:
- Some cats develop an allergy to fleabites, especially if they are repeatedly bitten. Flea allergic cats groom or scratch excessively after being bitten by even a single flea, and often develop skin infections secondary to this self-trauma.
- Adult fleas live on animals and feed on blood. A single adult flea consumes many times its weight in blood over its lifetime. If a kitten, or a debilitated or older cat, has a lot of fleas, the blood loss can be severe, resulting in anemia.
- The flea acts as the intermediate host for one species of tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum). This means that the tapeworm is only able to complete its life cycle by infecting both an intermediate host (the flea) and the definitive host (in this case, the cat). Flea larvae become infected by eating tapeworm eggs, and if a cat swallows an infected flea while grooming, the tapeworm larva will develop into an adult tapeworm. Any cat with fleas is likely also to have a tapeworm infestation
I have not seen any fleas on my cat. Why has my veterinarian advised flea control?
Fleas are easy to find if a cat is heavily infested. If fleas are present in smaller numbers, it can be harder to see them. Fleas move fast! Try looking on the cat’s stomach, around the tail base and around the neck. Sometimes adult fleas cannot be found but “flea dirt” can be seen. This is fecal matter from the flea that contains partially digested blood, and it is a good indicator of the presence of fleas. Flea dirt is seen as small black specks or coiled structures; when placed on damp white tissue, it dissolves, leaving a reddish brown stain. Flea dirt may be found in cat’s bedding even when fleas cannot be found on the cat.
Although ticks are commonly thought of as insects, they are actually arachnids similar to scorpions, spiders and mites. All ticks have four pairs of legs for a total of eight legs as adults and have no antennae. Adult insects by comparison have three pairs of legs (6six total legs) and one pair of antennae. Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of their host, which can be an animal or a human
Ticks are efficient carriers of disease because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for a considerable time while feeding. Ticks take several days to complete feeding.
How did my cat get ticks?
Ticks wait for host animals on the tips of grasses and shrubs. Ticks are not commonly found in trees. When brushed by a moving animal or person, they quickly let go of the vegetation and climb onto the host. Ticks can only crawl; they cannot fly or jump. Some species of ticks will crawl several feet toward a host. Ticks can be active on winter days when the ground temperatures are about 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2 degrees Celsius).
What should I do if I find a tick on my cat?
- Use blunt tweezers or disposable gloves to handle the tick. If you must use your fingers, shield them with a tissue or paper towel.
- Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. This reduces the possibility of the head detaching from the body upon removal.
- Pull the tick out straight out with a steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick as this may cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin, increasing the chances of infection. Continue applying steady pressure even if the tick does not release immediately. It may take a minute or two of constant, slow pulling to cause the tick to release.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite area and wash your hands with soap and water.