Cat Lover’s Guide To Common Feline Diseases [Infographic]
Is your cat healthy?
Hopefully yes. However, there are several different diseases that can affect our feline companions at any stage of life.
You know your furry friend best, so it's important to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms of a potential issue.
After all, she can't exactly tell you if she's not feeling well.
As her pet parent, it's your responsibility to notice if your animal is acting strangely so that you can get her evaluated as soon as possible. Keep reading to learn about some of the most common cat diseases, how to recognize them, and how they are treated. While not all of these diseases are curable, most can be well-managed with proper veterinary care.
- Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
- Feline Diabetes
- Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
- Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
- Feline Hyperthyroidism
- Lower Urinary Tract Disease
- Upper Respiratory Infections
- Feline Worm Infestations
- Cancer in Cats
- High-Rise Syndrome
- Periodontal Disease in Cats
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
What is chronic kidney disease (CKD)?
Chronic kidney disease is another name for kidney failure. It is a progressive illness that impairs kidney function. Your cat's kidneys are organs which are responsible for several functions, including electrolyte and fluid balance and excreting waste via urine.
What causes CKD?
It's not always completely clear what causes CKD. In many cases, the cause is “idiopathic,” which means unknown. But in some cases, the causes are known.
Any history of trauma or damage to the kidneys can lead to CKD later on in a cat's life. This can include a history of kidney infections (pyelonephritis), kidney tumors, toxins, high blood calcium, low blood potassium, birth defects, and the growth of fluid-filled cysts within the kidneys.
What are the signs of CKD?
The signs and symptoms of CKD tend to get worse over time, since the disease is progressive. These signs include:
- Weight loss
- decreased appetite
- Lethargy and weakness
- Excessive thirst and/or urination
- Foul breath
- Unhealthy coat
How is CKD diagnosed?
Your vet can collect blood and urine samples to confirm a diagnosis of CKD.
How common is CKD?
CKD Is is one of the most common diseases affecting felines, especially older ones.
How is CKD treated?
There's no cure for CKD, but the progression of the disease can be controlled and a cat's life can be extended through a combination of diet, supplements, and medications.
Cats with CKD should consume limited amounts of protein and phosphate, plenty of antioxidants and essential fatty acids, and lots of water to avoid dehydration.
Medications may include medicine to control blood pressure, treat anemia, reduce inflammation, and improve blood flow to and through the kidneys.
What causes feline diabetes?
Diabetes in cats is caused by an insufficient amount of insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas which helps control the amount of sugar in the blood. Impaired blood sugar control can lead to a variety of health problems.
Your furry friend may be born with a genetic predisposition to developing diabetes. Diabetes may also be caused by some other health condition (such as obesity or other endocrine diseases) or as a result of certain drugs.
What are the signs and symptoms of feline diabetes?
Middle-aged and older cats are more likely to have diabetes. This condition may affect males more than females, too. The most common signs of feline diabetes include:
- Excessive urination
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive appetite
- Weight loss (despite increased appetite)
Because many of the signs and symptoms are similar to other diseases, your vet can confirm a diagnosis through blood and urine tests.
How is feline diabetes treated?
Feline diabetes can be well-managed through proper diet and activity to ensure that the cat maintains a healthy weight.
A kitty with diabetes may also need oral or injected medications, including insulin replacement therapy. Regular consultation with the vet is important to ensure that all medications are dosed appropriately.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
What is Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)?
Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is an infectious disease. It is easily transmitted via the bodily fluids of infected cats. FeLV common in areas where there are many cats, such as multi-cat homes or communities with a lot of stray or feral felines.
What causes FeLV?
FeLV is caused by a virus that infects healthy cells in a feline's body. A diagnosis can be confirmed via a blood test.
What are the symptoms of FeLV?
Symptoms of FeLV can vary, but may include:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Unhealthy coat
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Skin, bladder, and respiratory infections
- Reproductive issues in female cats who haven't been spayed
Over time, this disease can lead to secondary health problems including anemia, liver problems, dental disease, poor wound healing, chronic respiratory infections, and leukemia.
How is FeLV prevented, treated, and managed?
There is no cure for FeLV, but a vet can help an infected feline feel as good as possible for as long as possible by preventing secondary health problems and managing her symptoms. Medications, supplements, and dietary changes can help.
Cats with FeLV should remain indoors, to avoid the risk of exposing other animals to the virus (dogs or humans cannot contract this illness from felines).
Fortunately, preventing the FeLV is possible through a vaccination. In fact, this vaccine is considered a “core” or essential vaccination for all cats and especially young kittens who have under-developed immune systems.
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
What is Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP)?
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a viral disease affecting cats. It's caused by the feline coronavirus.
Interestingly, the feline coronavirus is actually a common viral infection. In fact, as many as 40% of household cats are thought to be infected with the coronavirus, and upwards of 100% of cats living in multi-cat homes are infected.
The feline coronavirus usually does not cause any significant health problems. Unfortunately, in some cases the coronavirus will mutate into a strain that can cause FIP.
There 2 key types of FIP:
- Dry or non-effusive: this leads to chronic inflammation around blood vessels within different organs including the brain, skin, kidneys, liver, eyes, lungs, and other tissues
- Wet or effusive: this is hallmarked by the accumulation of fluid within the abdominal or chest cavity due to inflammatory damage to blood vessels
An infected cat may show signs of one or both types of FIP.
What are the signs and symptoms of FIP?
There is such a wide range of clinical signs and symptoms of FIP that diagnosis cannot be made on presentation alone. Early signs often include non-specific ones like fever, decreased appetite, and lethargy. Wet FIP can lead to a swollen belly or respiratory problems. Dry FIP can result in any number of signs and symptoms, depending on which organs are affected.
Sadly, FIP usually progresses very quickly. Symptoms can worsen rapidly in a matter of days or weeks, and typically results in the death of the affected cat (either due to fatal complications or humane euthanasia).
How is FIP transmitted?
FIP itself is not transmitted, but rather the virus that can cause FIP is transmitted.
The majority of cats who develop FIP are under the age of 2. Cats living in crowded and/or stressful environments may be more at risk for developing FIP.
Just because a kitty has the coronavirus does not mean that she will develop FIP, however. The development of this disease depends on whether the virus mutates into a FIP-causing strain as it replicates itself once inside the animal's body (specifically, in her intestinal tract).
How can FIP be prevented?
To prevent a feline from contracting this serious illness, it's important to avoid having large groups of kitties or having multiple litters of kittens in a household at one time.
Other ways to reduce a cat's risk of developing FIP is to keep food bowls and litter boxes clean and separate from each other, ensure proper preventive care through regular vet visits, and to maintain a calm and stress-free household environment.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
What is Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)?
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a type of viral infection that may lead to impaired immunity and other health problem. It's similar to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in humans, although FIV cannot infect humans nor can HIV infect cats.
How is FIV transmitted?
Cats are typically infected by FIV via bites from other infected cats or coming in contact with infected saliva. It may also be spread from a pregnant female to her kittens, or by mutual grooming.
How does FIV cause disease?
Once a cat is infected with FIV, the virus will never go away. Over time, the virus may lead to health problems because it infects white blood cells within the infect cat's body. This lowers the overall strength of a cat's immune system and makes her more susceptible to other diseases, including infections of the integumentary (skin), blood, and respiratory systems. These infections and other diseases often don't respond as well to treatment as they would in an otherwise healthy cat.
What are the symptoms of FIV?
When a kitty is first infected with the feline immunodeficiency virus, minor and often unnoticed signs of an acute viral infection can occur (like mild fever or swollen lymph nodes).
About 2-5 years after the initial infection, the virus may begin to replicate again, which can lead to a suppressed immune system and the onset of new infections and diseases.
The type of symptoms that will present depends on what tissues are affected and what types of diseases show up, but may include:
- Weight loss
- Recurring fevers
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Persistent gum disease
- Recurring respiratory, vision, skin, dental, and intestinal problems
- Neurological symptoms such as impaired coordination (if the virus infects the brain)
How is FIV prevented?
Cats can be given a vaccine to protect against FIV infection. If a feline does have FIV, then she should be spayed to ensure that she does not produce infected offspring. She should also be kept separate from other cats, but this can be difficult if the animal lives in a multi-cat home.
How do I care for my FIV-infected cat?
Not all cats go on to develop infections and other disease related to an FIV infection. Many cats with FIV can be expected to live a relatively long and normal life, especially with routine veterinary care and regular follow-ups.
That said, a cat with FIV should be given extra care to ensure she has a healthy diet, adequate physical activity, and a stress-free environment. If you have multiple cats, your FIV-infected feline should be given her own food bowl, and both her bowl and the household litter box should be cleaned and disinfected regularly to prevent the spread of the virus to other cats.
What is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is a type of endocrine disorder. It occurs when an animal's thyroid gland becomes overactive and secretes too much thyroid hormone. This can stress many organ systems within a feline's body. Hyperthyroidism can also lead to an overactive metabolism.
What are the causes of feline hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is considered an age-related disease. It's actually the most common endocrine disorder that affects senior and middle-aged cats.
Your kitty has two thyroid glands located on either side of her neck. One or both of these glands can be affected.
How can I tell if my cat has feline hyperthyroidism?
About 10% of cats over the age of 10 have hyperthyroidism. So, if you've got an older kitty at home, be on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms:
- Unexplained weight loss, especially if your cat has a normal or even increased appetite
- Excessive thirst and urination
- Unusual accidents outside of the litter box
- Increased vocalization
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Apparent restlessness
- A poor-looking coat
How is feline hyperthyroidism diagnosed?
Early diagnosis is important because it can improve outcomes for an animal with this disease. A routine wellness exam with your vet may reveal clinical signs including atrophy (loss of muscle mass), high blood pressure, and an enlarged thyroid gland (or both) that can be felt by the vet. Your furry friend's pulse and respiratory rate may also be higher than usual.
To confirm a diagnosis, your vet will likely need to run blood work, as well.
How is feline hyperthyroidism treated?
If your furry friend has been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, it's important to devise an appropriate treatment plan with your vet.
Untreated, feline hyperthyroidism can lead to significant health complications, including severe weight loss and organ damage.
Standard treatment for hyperthyroidism in cats includes radioiodine therapy (to destroy overactive thyroid cells), antithyroid medications, thyroidectomy (partial or full removal of the affected thyroid gland), and/or nutritional changes.
Lower Urinary Tract Disease
What are lower urinary tract diseases?
Feline lower urinary tract diseases are infections that affect the bladder and urethra within cats.
What are the lower urinary tract diseases caused by?
There are many different causes of lower urinary tract diseases. These include urinary stones, bacterial, viral, or fungal infections, obstruction of the urethra, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, birth defects, trauma to the urinary tract, and a condition called feline idiopathic cystitis.
What are the common signs of lower urinary tract diseases?
You may be able to tell if your cat has a lower urinary tract infection if she:
- Frequently attempts to urinate, even if not a lot of urine comes out
- Strains to urinate or vocalizes while urinating (a sign that urination may be painful)
- Excessively licks her genital area
- Begins to have accidents outside the litter box
- Has blood in her urine
How are lower urinary tract diseases treated?
Proper treatment of a lower urinary tract disease depends on the early and accurate diagnosis. Depending on what the vet staff finds, a feline may need medications, dietary changes, and lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms and resolve the underlying cause or causes of the disease.
How do I protect my cat against lower urinary tract diseases?
Any feline can contract a lower urinary tract disease, but certain cats are more at risk. This includes cats who are middle-aged, overweight, sedentary, stressed out, indoors-only, and cats who use an indoor litter box or eat a dry diet.
To protect your feline companion, ask your vet about the best type of food (e.g., wet food vs. dry food) for your feline. You may want to give her frequent small meals instead of 1-2 big meals per day.
Ensure that your cat always has access to clean water. Keep litter boxes clean. Lastly, do what you can to minimize stress for your cat, such as keeping the litter box in a quiet place in your home and maintaining a consistent daily routine.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a lethal viral infection that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) of mammals.
How is rabies transmitted to cats?
The virus can be transmitted via a bite or scratch from an infected animal. Because rabies can infect any mammal, including wildlife, outdoor cats who are unvaccinated are at the highest risk of contracting rabies.
Can I catch rabies?
Unfortunately yes. Rabies is considered a “zoonotic” disease, which means it can be passed from animals to humans. This means that if you are bitten by an infected animal, then the rabies virus may be passed to you.
What are the symptoms of feline rabies?
Feline rabies is a serious and deadly disease that sadly progresses very quickly. Symptoms depend on which stage of rabies infection the cat is currently experiencing.
There are 3 stages of rabies known:
- Prodromal stage: this typically lasts for 1-2 days and will usually present within 1-3 months after the cat is first infected. Signs and symptoms include behavioral changes and temperamental changes such as restlessness, increased vocalizations, unusual aggression, or unusual isolation. She may also experience a loss of appetite, difficulty walking, excessive drooling, dilated pupils, muscle tremors, weakness, and fever.
- Furious stage: within 2 or 3 days of symptom onset, a cat with rabies will begin to behave even more erratically. She may attempt to eat inedible objects like sticks and pebbles. She may begin to bite herself, snap at objects that aren't there (“fly biting”), behave very aggressively or violently, or become disoriented, uncoordinated, and hypersensitive to her environment. She may also begin to have seizures or start to wander.
- Paralytic stage: in this stage, an infected cat will become depressed and unresponsive. This is when she may begin foaming at the mouth. She'll have pronounced weakness and paralysis and will also have difficulty breathing. Eventually, this will deteriorate to respiratory failure and coma. Rabies is always fatal, so an infected animal will eventually die from the infection, typically within 1-2 weeks after her symptoms first appear.
How is rabies diagnosed?
It's not really possible to diagnose a cat with rabies while she is still alive. A diagnosis can be confirmed after the cat has died through a test called direct fluorescent antibody test.
How is rabies treated?
Sadly, rabies cannot be treated. If your cat is infected by rabies, she will die from the disease. It is a heartbreaking diagnosis, made worse by the fact that it can put the entire household (including humans and other pets) at serious risk.
For this reason, rabies prevention is critical. It's mandated by law in most countries that domestic cats and dogs are vaccinated against rabies. Typically, a rabies vaccine can be given to a cat when she is 3-months-old. She'll get a booster shot 1 year later, and then repeat vaccines every 1 to 3 years after that.
If you know your pet has come in contact with another animal infected with rabies, or if your pet shows any signs or symptoms that could be rabies, you need to call the vet immediately. You must practice extreme caution around your cat and keep other pets and humans away from her, because she may show unusual aggression and try to bite or scratch you.
Upper Respiratory Infections
What is an upper respiratory infection?
An upper respiratory infection (often known as an URI) is an infection of part of a feline's respiratory system, namely the nose and throat.
What causes upper respiratory infections in cats?
A cat can get an upper respiratory infection if she is exposed to certain bacteria or viruses. About 90% of URIs in cats are caused by either the Feline Herpesvirus Type 1 (aka feline viral rhinotracheitis) or the feline calicivirus, both of which are highly contagious and can easily be spread between felines who have not been vaccinated against them.
A cat may develop an upper respiratory infection by coming in direct contact with bodily secretions (e.g., saliva or nasal discharge) from a cat infected with such a bacterium or virus. While infectious bacteria and viruses can't live indefinitely outside a host animal, a feline friend can ingest them if she uses bedding, water and food bowls, or toys that have been contaminated.
What are the symptoms of upper respiratory infections?
Upper respiratory infections look a lot like a kitty cold. Symptoms, which typically show up 2-10 days after being exposed to the infectious organism, may include:
- nasal congestion
- red, itchy, watery, irritated eyes (conjunctivitis, or inflammation of the inner eyelid/outer eye membranes)
- runny discharge from the nose or eyes
- decreased appetite
- enlarged lymph nodes
- eye squinting (blepharospasm)
If a feline's upper respiratory infection is caused by the feline herpesvirus or feline calicivirus, then she may develop sores in her mouth.
How are upper respiratory infections treated?
An upper respiratory infection may go away on its own after about 7-10 days. But if you notice any signs or symptoms, you should contact your vet immediately. If left untreated, URIs could lead to more serious respiratory problems.
Your vet can usually diagnose an upper respiratory infection based on clinical signs alone, but tests of the nasal or eye discharge can be run to determine the specific infectious agent.
In cats who are otherwise healthy and who develop an uncomplicated case of URI, treatment usually consists of symptom management in a home setting. For instance, a pet parent may choose to bring her cat into a steamy bathroom for 10-15 minutes a few times a day to ease nasal congestion. Giving the cat highly appealing canned cat food may pique the animal's interest in eating.
The vet may prescribe antibiotics (if the infection is caused by a bacteria), soothing eye drops, nose drops, and appetite stimulants (if the cat hasn't been eating).
If an upper respiratory infection becomes complicated or if a kitty shows signs of depression, extreme weakness, or dehydration, hospitalization may be required.
How can I protect my cat against upper respiratory infections?
It's not possible to eliminate your four-legged friend's risk of developing an upper respiratory infection. This is because URIs can be caused by a wide variety of organisms. Ensuring your cat eats a healthy diet, keeping her away from other cats if she has an impaired or under-developed immune system (e.g., she's very young, very old, or is chronically ill), and keeping a clean and hygienic home can help reduce her risk of getting sick.
Some of the “core” or essential vaccines for felines protect against a few of the major viruses that cause upper respiratory infections. These vaccines are important, especially for young kittens. While vaccinating your animal will not offer her 100% protection, it will reduce the severity and duration of a urinary tract infection should she develop one.
Feline Worm Infestations
What are the common types of feline worms?
Feline worms are considered intestinal parasites who find their way inside a cat's digestive tract.
The most common types of worms infecting cats are:
- Roundworms: adults grow up to 3 to 4 inches long, and look a bit like spaghetti
- Hookworms: adults are typically less than 1 inch long; they feed on their host animal's blood and can lead to severe anemia
- Tapeworms: these are flat segmented worms that can reach up to 28 inches long
Worms can be transmitted in their larval or adult stages via infected fecal matter or sometimes skin to skin contact. Mother cats can also pass along worms to her kittens. A cat can get tapeworms if she eats another animal (e.g. flea or rodent) that is already infected with them.
What are symptoms of worms in cats?
A feline could be infected with worms for days, weeks, months, or even years without ever showing any clear signs or symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Gastrointestinal upset (e.g., diarrhea, constipation, and/or vomiting)
- Blood in the stool
- Weight loss
- Distended belly and bloating
- Worms or worm segments that are actually visible in the cat's feces or around its anus (if a tapeworm infestation; they resemble wriggling grains of rice)
A less common type of worm is the lungworm. As the name implies, these worms lodge in a cat's lungs. This may lead to a persistent cough and difficulty breathing, but not always.
Can worms be transmitted from animals to humans?
Yes. Hookworms, roundworms, and tapeworms are “zoonotic” illnesses, which means they can be passed from cats to humans.
How are feline worm infestations treated?
Your vet will need to perform a clinical examination and may need to run tests of your pet's fecal matter before determining what type of worm she has. Once a diagnosis has been made, the vet may prescribe oral de-worming medications to kill the parasites.
How are feline worm infestations prevented?
Preventing a feline worm infestation is easier, less stressful, and less expensive than treating one. So, ask your vet about a regular preventive medication routine, especially flea and tick prevention.
Here are a few other ways to protect your animal (and yourself!) against worm infestations:
- Clean out the litter box often.
- Use gloves and practice good hand hygiene when changing her litter box or handling her feces.
Lastly, you may want to consider making your cat an indoors-cat only. This will help her avoid exposure to other infected animals, fleas, and fecal matter.
Cancer in Cats
What causes cancer in cats?
Cancer is a broad term. As a disease affecting many living organisms, it happens when abnormal cells grow in an out-of-control way. This typically leads to the growth of tumors and to the death of healthy cells and body tissue. Among older cats, cancer is actually the leading cause of death.
A number of factors can increase a kitty's risk of developing cancer. This may include genetics, exposure to known environmental carcinogens (things that can cause cancer, like certain household chemicals and smoke), the presence of other health conditions (like obesity and feline diabetes), advancing age, and lifestyle (including sun exposure, activity level, and nutrition).
One of the most common types of cancer in felines is lymphoma, which affects the lymphatic system. Feline lymphoma has been linked with exposure to the feline leukemia virus.
Squamous cell carcinoma is a common type of feline skin. It often occurs in or around the mouth or on other areas of the animal's skin.
How can I tell if my cat has cancer?
Signs of cancer in cats can be difficult to spot. You may notice no symptoms at all, or see any of the following:
- Lumps and bumps that can be felt or seen
- Diarrhea and vomiting (if the intestinal system is affected)
- Difficulty in breathing (if the lungs are affected)
- Lethargy (your feline simply may not look well)
- Rough or unhealthy-looking coat
- Refusal to eat and/or unexplained weight loss
What should I do if I think my cat has cancer?
Cancer is less common in cats than it is in dogs. Unfortunately, feline cancer tends to be more aggressive compared to canine cancer. This does not mean your cat will definitely die from the disease if she develops it, but early treatment is critical to increasing her chances of survival.
So, if you have any questions or concerns about your pet's health, then bring her to a vet right away.
How is feline cancer diagnosed and treated?
Like with humans and dogs, the earlier a diagnosis of cancer is made, the better your furry friend's chances of recovery are. This is especially true because cancer found in cats is usually more aggressive than cancer found in dogs.
A cancer diagnosis can be made with a biopsy (testing of a tissue sample taken from the animal). Your vet may also use other tests and procedures, including lab work, to determine if your pet has cancer.
Once a diagnosis has been made, treatment can begin, which may include radiation, chemotherapy, and/or surgery. Many things will determine what the best course of treatment is for your animal, including the type of cancer she has and what stage the cancer is in.
How can I prevent my cat from getting cancer?
You can't completely eliminate your kitty's risk for developing cancer. But you can drastically improve her chances of staying healthy, or, if necessary, get earlier diagnosis and treatment by taking her to your vet on a regular basis.
You can reduce the risk of your pet getting lymphoma by having her get vaccinated against the feline leukemia virus. If your four-legged family member has light-colored fur or hair, try to avoid the risk of solar-related carcinomas.
Lastly, avoid her exposure to things like cigarette smoke and harsh household chemicals, and ensure she's eating a nutritious diet complete with healthy proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
What is high-rise syndrome?
True to its name, high-rise syndrome happens when a cat falls from a height greater than 2 stories, or about 29 to 30 feet (7 to 9 meters). A feline may take a tumble from a tall building, a tree, or even a bridge or high ledge of some sort.
No, cat's don't always land on their feet, and even if they do, they can still injure themselves if they fall from a high enough place!
High-rise syndrome isn't a specific disease, but can include any number of injuries that you may expect with blunt force trauma and falling from a great height. This includes:
- Bone fractures (including legs, ribs, jaw, and teeth)
- Acute damage to tendons, ligaments, joints, and other types of connective tissue injuries
- Internal injuries, such as damage to lungs and other organs
How is high-rise syndrome treated?
Certain studies have found that felines who have fallen and are still alive when brought to the emergency vet clinic have a 90% survival rate. This means that in the scary and unfortunate event that your kitty is injured in a fall, the sooner you can bring her to the vet the better.
Treatment, of course, depends on what type of bodily damage is sustained. Your local vet clinic's emergency triage team will work expeditiously and thoroughly to manage your pet's injuries.
How can I prevent my cat from getting high-rise syndrome?
Obviously, the best way to prevent your animal from falling from a great height is to make sure she doesn't have access to great heights. To do this, you may decide to make her an indoors-only pet. If you have a high indoor balcony, you may need to block this off using gates. You should also ensure that screens are securely installed in all your windows.
If you choose not to keep your pet cat indoors, consider putting full-screen enclosures in your backyard, or putting a secure fence around your property. This way, your cat can enjoy going outside while staying protected against falls, cars, other animals, and other environmental hazards.
What is ringworm?
Believe it or not, ringworm isn't caused by a worm infestation. It's actually a type of fungal infection that can affect cats, dogs, and humans. The organisms that cause ringworm are a type of fungi dermatophytes.
What are the symptoms of ringworm?
The classic symptom of ringworm (also called dermatophytosis) is raised ring-like shape on the skin that's often red. On cats, however, symptoms are often mild or difficult to see. They may include round patches of hair loss with thickened skin in those areas (especially near the head, chest, back, and forelegs), or a scaly residue that looks like cigarette ash deep in the coat. An infected feline may also develop deformities of the claws or a scaly base around the claws if this part of the body is infected.
How is ringworm transmitted?
A ringworm infection is particularly contagious and can easily spread between animals, either through direct contact or contact with objects that are contaminated by the fungus. It can take anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks for a person or animal to start showing signs of infection following an initial exposure.
Can my cat pass ringworm to other animals or humans in my home?
It depends on what type of ringworm she has. Certain strains of fungus only infect one species, whether it's cats, dogs, or humans. However, ringworm is usually caused by a particular species of dermatophytes called Microsporum canis, which is considered zoonotic. This means it can be passed from animal to human!
How is ringworm diagnosed and treated?
The gold standard method for diagnosing a cat with ringworm is to grow a culture of the fungus (collected from a skin or hair sample) in a lab. Your vet may also need to run other tests on your feline friend to rule out any other diseases that may explain her hair loss and other symptoms.
Treatment is necessary to prevent the spread of infection. It typically includes anti-fungal ointments, oral medications, and a thorough cleaning of the infected animal's environment to avoid the risk of environmental contamination.
Fortunately, most cats recover with treatment within about three weeks, but they may still be contagious during this time.
How can I protect my cat against ringworm?
It's not always possible to prevent ringworm infections, especially if your pet comes in contact with other animals. However, if you believe your kitty has come in contact with an infected animal, or if another pet in your home has ringworm, you can protect your kitty and other human family members by:
- Thoroughly washing your animal with a vet-approved medicated shampoo
- Thoroughly cleaning your home: disinfect all non-porous objects, wash what can be washed with a special disinfectant, and throw away what can't be cleaned.
- Lastly, be sure to keep your house very clean, and vacuum daily until your pet is clear of the infection.
Periodontal Disease in Cats
What is periodontal disease, and what is the cause?
Periodontal disease can affect felines, canines, and humans. It's a disease that's caused by inflammation of the gums and other supportive structures around the teeth. Over 4 in 5 cats over the age of 4 have this common condition.
Bacteria in the mouth are the main cause of periodontal disease, which can cause plaque to grow on your feline's teeth. When the plaque mixes with minerals within the animal's saliva, it turns hard and becomes tartar. Bacteria can slip under this tartar and grow within the gums. Overtime, this will lead to damage and inflammation of the gums, teeth roots, and other tissues.
Once the bacteria get into your kitty's gums, they can easily get into the bloodstream and infect other parts of your animal's body, including the heart, kidneys, liver, and other organs.
What are the symptoms of feline periodontal disease?
Symptoms of feline periodontal disease may include:
- Foul breath (halitosis)
- Redness and bleeding at the gums
- Receding gum line
- Excessive drooling (it may be pink if tinged with blood)
- Loss of appetite, difficulty chewing, and/or messy eating
- Frequent pawing at the mouth
- Loose or missing teeth
- Swelling in the face
- Increased nasal discharge
How is feline periodontal disease diagnosed and treated?
A combination of clinical examination and digital X-rays can be used to confirm a diagnosis of periodontal disease. In order for your vet to fully understand the extent of the gum and tooth damage, your cat will need to be put under general anesthesia so the vet team can look closely inside her mouth.
Treatment really depends on how far along the disease is. The earlier this disease is detected, the easier it is to treat, so regular dental exams and cleanings are important.
If the disease is in its early stages, a thorough dental cleaning from the vet may be sufficient. More advanced stages of the disease may require a tooth extraction, root planing, root canal, crown restoration, or the application of antibiotics beneath the gumline.
What are some ways I can prevent my cat from getting periodontal disease?
Brush your kitty's teeth! This is so important and only takes a few minutes of your day. If you start when your friend is just a kitten, it'll be easier for both of you. Aim to brush her teeth at least a few times per week, using vet-approved oral kitty care.
In addition to regular pet exams and pet dental cleanings, you should also be sure you're giving your feline healthy and nutritious food. This improves her overall health and reduces her exposure to ingredients (like artificial fillers and sugars) that tend to attract bacteria.