Pet health care is more sophisticated currently than it has ever been in the past. We have vaccines at our disposal to prevent many common viral diseases. We have flea and tick products that are more effective and more easily used than previous products. We have quality foods available that fit the needs of almost any pet and pet owner. We have a wide variety of technology that can detect many diseases early in their course when treatment is most likely to be successful. Despite all of this, preventable illnesses are still on the rise for our pet cats.
There are some very troubling statistics regarding cats and their health.
- Obesity has increased with 58% of all cats reported to be either overweight or obese. Even more disturbingly, many cat owners are unable to recognize that their cat has a weight problem. The majority of cat owners with overweight or obese cats believe their cats to be within a normal weight range. Even more disturbingly, many people are amused by the image of a fat cat. Too often, the health risks involved with increased weight are overlooked or ignored by cat owners.
- As a result of the weight issue, diseases like diabetes are on the rise as well. The incidence of diabetes in cats has increased by 16%, affecting roughly 64 of every 10,000 cats.
- Dental disease also is a major problem for many cats. The majority of cats (70%) exhibit some degree of dental disease by three years of age. If left undiagnosed and/or untreated, the cat’s mouth will only get worse with age. Dental problems can be quite painful for an affected cat. Dental disease can easily impact your cat’s quality of life.
- Fleas also are being seen more commonly in cats, with a 12% increase in the number of cats diagnosed with fleas. Fleas can cause a variety of problems for cats. Cats with flea allergies can become extremely uncomfortable as a result. Fleas can also carry parasites and other diseases that can be transmitted to your cat. Similarly, internal parasites are more common now as well.
These statistics are particularly worrisome because these are diseases that are preventable with proper health care. Unfortunately, the number of cats visiting their veterinarian for an examination has decreased in recent years. Cats as a species see their veterinarians much less often than their canine counterparts.
Many cat owners mistakenly believe that routine veterinary visits are not necessary for their cat and only bring their cat to their veterinarian when symptoms of illness occur. One of the problems with that strategy is the fact that cats are masters of disguise when it comes to illness. Symptoms, depending on the disease, can be so subtle that even the most observant cat owner may not immediately notice. By the time the symptoms become obvious, it may be much more expensive to treat the cat. Worse, it may even be too late to save the cat in severe instances.
What can you do to protect your cat?
- Schedule regular veterinary checkups for your cat. Your cat should have a thorough examination at least once to twice a year. Cats with chronic illnesses may require more frequent examinations.
- Feed your cat a quality diet and keep your cat lean. Avoid overfeeding so that your cat does not become overweight.
- Talk to your veterinarian about what you can do to care for your cat’s teeth. Even if your cat will not allow brushing, there are options that can help.
- Use a safe effective flea and tick product to keep these pests away from your cat.
- Have your cat’s fecal sample checked periodically and take appropriate measures to control intestinal parasites.
- Talk to your veterinarian about whether your cat needs heartworm prevention as well.
Being proactive with your cat’s health by practicing preventive health care will not only ensure your cat a longer, happier life but also will save you money in the long term.
Dr. Lorie Huston