Itchy cat

Adult cats tend to be very healthy, but the adult years are not necessarily worry-free. As with people, any number of problems can crop up and require veterinary attention. According to a large pet insurance company, the most common reasons insured cats visited a veterinarian were for lower urinary tract disease, chronic renal failure, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, skin allergies, dental disease and eye infections.

Internal Conditions

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), also called feline urological syndrome (FUS), is a common and potentially fatal disease in which sediment or stones form in the urinary tract. Female cats can usually pass sediment, but male cats are not always able to, which can lead to urinary blockage. Urinary blockage is a medical emergency that can be fatal if not treated. If your cat has painful urination, urinates small amounts around the house or tries to urinate unsuccessfully, he needs immediate veterinary attention. The formation of stones or sediment is influenced by several factors, including diet, and by the amount of time urine is held in the bladder before the cat urinates. Most good-quality commercial cat foods have appropriate levels of magnesium to maintain a urine pH level that discourages stone and sediment formation. But cats with FLUTD sometimes need prescription diets to help manage the problem long term. Provide plenty of water to increase the cat’s frequency of drinking (and therefore urinating), and make sure your cat has easy access to a clean litterbox at all times.

Hairballs are a common cause of vomiting. An occasional hairball is no cause for alarm, but if your cat is vomiting up a hairball more often than every two weeks or so, you should see a veterinarian. He may suggest taking steps to help prevent hairballs, such as adding certain lubricants or a small amount of fiber in his diet. Your veterinarian can also supply you with special products designed to combat hairballs.

Kidney disease, while more common in older cats, is also seen in adult cats. Signs can include excessive thirst and urination, weight loss, appetite loss, vomiting and lack of self-grooming. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition with urine and blood tests and can prescribe treatment that may include a special diet, medication, appetite stimulants and subcutaneous fluid injections.

Hyperthyroidism, defined as increased levels of thyroid hormones in the body, is also more common in older cats but found in adults. Signs include weight loss, increased thirst and urination, changes (usually increase) in appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and hyperactivity. Your veterinarian can diagnose hyperthyroidism with blood tests and can prescribe medicine, surgery to remove the thyroid gland or radioactive iodine treatments.

Diabetes mellitus is caused by the body’s inability to either produce a sufficient level of insulin (type 1) or use insulin efficiently (type 2). Type 2 diabetes is more common in cats and seems to strike males more often. Obesity is a well-known risk factor for diabetes in cats, but not all diabetic cats were obese before developing diabetes. If your cat is drinking and urinating more than usual, losing weight or appetite, vomiting, becoming dehydrated or weak, or having breathing abnormalities or declining skin and coat condition, see your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition and place your cat on a special diet for weight management and control of blood sugar levels. Your cat may also be placed on injectable or oral medications. Although treatment will entail diligent monitoring of your cat’s condition, he can live a long and active life once the condition is brought under control.

Skin and Eye Health

Skin allergies can be caused by allergens the cat eats, touches or inhales. Common signs include scratching, pulling out tufts of hair, skin twitching or having areas of red skin, hair loss or crustiness. Your veterinarian can make a diagnosis through allergy testing or by placing the cat on a special diet (if food allergy is suspected). Treatment recommendations can be based on these results.

Feline acne is a common condition in which blackheads develop on the chin. The area may appear to be dirty. The blackheads can break open, and the area can become crusty and swollen. The cause is not known, but it may be related to allergies, suppressed immune system, skin conditions that produce abnormal amounts of oil, or other causes. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition and prescribe treatment, but it is a condition that is usually managed rather than cured.

Conjunctivitis is a problem for some cats. The eyes may be red, watery and crusty. Your veterinarian can diagnose and treat the problem.

Dental problems often begin in adulthood. Bad breath, bleeding gums, loose teeth, recessed gums and reluctance to chew are all signs. Your veterinarian can examine your cat’s mouth and perform a dental cleaning (under anesthesia). Damaged or infected teeth may be extracted, and medication may also be prescribed. For long-term care, your veterinarian may recommend tooth brushing or a rinse solution to help slow the buildup of bacteria and dental tartar.

Other Health Issues

Abscesses from bite wounds are common in outdoor cats or cats who fight with other cats. The bites may go unnoticed at first, so your first hint may be when the cat is limping or has a swollen area most commonly on the neck, face or tail base. An abscess near the skin surface will often open and drain on its own, but because the infection is usually still inside the wound, the abscess tends to reoccur. Your veterinarian can recommend the best treatment, which may include antibiotics and surgical drainage of the wound.

External parasites, such as fleas, ticks and ear mites, can be a problem for many cats. Newer treatments available from your veterinarian are easier to administer, more effective, last longer and are safer than the choices available decades ago.

Ringworm (dermatophytosis) is a skin infection caused by a fungus, not a worm. It creates a hairless area that may have a ring of scale around the edges. The fungi spores are in the environment and may cause infection when they contact the skin, especially of animals with reduced immune capacity. It is contagious to humans. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition, and there are several medications for treatment.

Internal parasites, such as roundworms, tapeworms and hookworms, commonly infect cats. Many cats don’t show any outward signs, but signs can include weight loss, pot-bellied appearance, poor coat condition, diarrhea and vomiting. Your veterinarian can test a stool sample, make a diagnosis and prescribe appropriate medication. Cats can also contract heartworms if they are not on preventive medication. Heartworm infection may not cause any symptoms in cats, but it can also cause severe breathing problems or sudden death.

Feline asthma is a recurring situation in which the airways are constricted, making it difficult for the cat to breathe. Signs include exercise intolerance, coughing, wheezing and trouble breathing. Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition and provide treatment.

Feline rhinotracheitis and feline calicivirus are two widespread viral diseases that can cause severe upper respiratory infection in cats. Symptoms may include sneezing and runny eyes. The recommended core vaccination protocol for cats includes vaccination against these two viruses.

Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a contagious, untreatable virus that impairs the immune system, so the cat is more likely to be affected by other diseases. A cat with FIV should be kept indoors and away from other cats to both shield the cat (from infections) and help prevent passing FIV on to other cats.

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is another contagious, untreatable virus that suppresses the immune system, so the cat is more likely to contract and succumb to other diseases. This virus is also associated with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. A vaccination is available for higher-risk cats but is not suggested for all cats.

Hereditary diseases sometimes first emerge in adulthood. These can include diseases of the eyes, digestive system, musculoskeletal system, nervous system, respiratory system, urinary or reproductive tract, heart or skin. Become familiar with the hereditary problems to which your breed is predisposed so you can be on the lookout for signs.