My cat isn’t sick - why is a physical examination so important?
It’s that time of year again. Time to take your cat to the veterinarian for his annual examination.
But maybe you’re thinking that you might skip it this year. After all, he isn’t sick. Maybe you will just put it off until next year – what could it hurt?
Actually, delaying an annual physical exam can hurt.
Annual physical exams are an important part of providing optimal health care and the best longevity for your beloved companion. Cats age quickly and they are unable to tell us if they are feeling a little off. Remember, it may be one year in your life but that can be about 5-10 comparative years in your cat’s life. A lot can change in that much time.
Sometimes, cats can be ill for weeks and you are unaware of it. This may not be from a lack of monitoring or caring; your cat just hides his illness until it is so far advanced he has no choice but to show signs of disease.
It’s easier for someone who doesn’t see your pet every day to detects lumps and bumps that you may not have noticed. Comparing annual weights, too, can determine if your cat is heading down the path to obesity or is slowly losing weight.
As a cat reaches middle to old age, annual physical exams become even more important. Certain problems that you may simply attribute to “old age,” and just something you will have to live with, may be signs of underling disease and may be very treatable.
Annual physical exams also give you an opportunity to ask your veterinarian any questions you may have about your cat’s health. Your veterinarian may recommend certain additional tests to determine overall health based on physical exam findings or may have suggestions for improving the quality of your cat’s life.
Remember, the primary goal for your veterinarian is to keep your cat healthy and provide the best care available. Your veterinarian cares a great deal about your cat – almost as much as you.
How to tell if your cat is ill?
Your cat cannot explain his symptoms, so it’s the responsibility of you and your veterinarian to keep him healthy.
Cats are very good at hiding their illness so it is up to you to observe your cat for abnormalities.
Common indications of a “sick pet” include:
- lethargy, weakness, weight loss
- lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, unproductive retching, straining to urinate
- difficulty or inability to walk, difficulty breathing
You know your pet best and can often notice subtle early warning signs that someone else may not detect.
If you observe any of the mentioned symptoms or other signs that concern you, call your veterinary hospital. The safest approach would be to have your pet examined.
Why your Older Cat needs more frequent exams
If your senior cat is getting biannual veterinary exams, you need not be alarmed at small changes in his behaviour or expressions of minor discomfort.
But one or more of the following symptoms could be caused by a range of minor or major illnesses. In these cases, it’s not your job to diagnose the disorder. Observe your cat and report his symptoms to your veterinarian as soon as possible. If he’s struggling to breathe or loses consciousness, take him to your veterinarian immediately.
Some examples of changes, include when he/she…
- Drinks water or urinates more often than usual
- Loses weight
- Is unusually hungry
- Vomits repeatedly
- Has diarrhea lasting for more than 2 days
- Finds it difficult to pass stool or urine
- Forgets his litter box habits
- Exhibits lameness
- Has trouble seeing
Scratching or head shaking? Could be an ear problem
Ear problems are one of the most common ailments afflicting dogs and cats and may be due to infection, trauma, parasites or other diseases.
Ear mites are common in cats and cause the cat to scratch the ears or shake his head, usually both ears are affected.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
- Ear scratching
- Head shaking
- Redness, swelling, discharge and odor from the ears
Talk to your vet, if you notice any of the above signs or if you have any questions!
Pro and con of spaying and neutering in cats
It’s time to start thinking about spaying or neutering your cat. But, you are not quite sure if it is the right thing to do.
Neutering is done most commonly at or around six months of age. However, many veterinarians perform this procedure earlier – as early as 8 to 10 weeks in some situations. Your veterinarian may suggest early neutering if you plan on declawing the cat at the same time as it is much easier for the cat to have that done early in life.
THE POSITIVE SIDE OF SPAYING/NEUTERING
Removes the risk of pregnancy.
Pet overpopulation is a serious problem and by allowing your cat to have litters, you are adding to the problem. Finding homes for your new family additions is not as easy as you may think. Even if you choose to keep the kittens, you will have the additional cost of vaccines, parasite control, toys and food for several pets. In addition to costs, the health of the mother can be in jeopardy during delivery. Some new mothers can have serious complications delivering kittens and can even develop health problems during nursing. All these potential problems can be avoided by spaying your cat.
Makes for a calmer cat.
Without the drive to mate, your cat may be quieter and won’t be prone to cat calls and the incessant need to seek out a mate. The spayed pet no longer attracts males and their annoying advances and serenades. Spayed cats are also easier to get along with. They tend to be more gentle and affectionate.
Neutering can result in a calmer, and sometimes cleaner, home. Without the drive to mate, your cat may be quieter and not prone to cat calls and an incessant need to seek out a mate. The neutered cat no longer feels the need to seek out and serenade females. He no longer has the stress of needing to mark his territory and urinate throughout the house and yard. Neutered cats are also easier to get along with. They tend to more gentle and affectionate. Neutered males tend to roam less and typically are not involved in as many fights with other animals and are less likely to get infected with Leukemia or AIDS.
Keeps your cat healthier.
A final positive aspect of spaying your cat is that spayed cats tend to have fewer health problems. Spaying is the removal of the ovaries and uterus. Without these organs, ovarian cysts, uterine infections and cancer of the reproductive tract are no longer a concern. Neutering is the removal of the testicles. Without these organs, testicular cancer is no longer a concern and the risk of prostate problems is reduced.
THE NEGATIVE SIDE OF SPAYING/NEUTERING
Spaying will result in the sterilization of your cat, and she will no longer have the ability to become pregnant. In the era of pet overpopulation and the fact that thousands of unwanted pets are euthanized each year, this is really not so bad.
May cause weight gain.
Cutting back on food intake or increasing your pets activity will help reduce weight gain.
So Your Pet Is Itchy?
The problem of chronic itching is very common in clinical practice. It often recurs on a regular basis and can significantly affect the quality of life of your pet. The scratching leads to damage of the skin’s protective layer and bacteria set up an infection referred to as pyoderma. Painful blisters are produced and antibiotic therapy is essential for a period of at least 3 to 4 weeks. Bacteria however are usually not the primary cause of itchy skin. The most common causes of itchy skin are:
- Atopy (environmental allergy) is similar to hay fever in humans except dogs and cats will itch rather than sneeze. These allergies may be caused by dust, plant pollen, fibres and microscopic insects. These allergies are often worse at a particular time of year.
- Allergies to certain food ingredients (some proteins) can cause persistent year round itching.
- Skin parasites; a wide variety of small and not so small insects that burrow or feed on the skin surface. Some of these parasites are transmissible to humans
- Thyroid disease, particularly a deficiency of thyroid hormone causes dry itchy skin and lowers resistance to infection.
- Fungi, such as yeast and ringworm can also establish themselves in your pet’s skin, causing very persistent infection.
What can we do to help your pet?
We can start with a thorough physical examination, looking for the signs characteristic of a particular disease. We take surface samples from the skin with adhesive slides and start antibiotic therapy immediately if numerous bacteria are found. If we suspect parasites we take deep skin samples under sedation. We may also take hair samples from which we try to grow fungi.
New blood tests make testing for thyroid problems much easier. We may suggest a diet containing a novel protein source to check for food allergy. Your pet will eat this diet exclusively for a period of 3 months. If the itching stops during this period your pet is probably food allergic. We will them challenge him with his old diet to see if the itching recurs.
Specialized tests are required to detect seasonal allergies to plants, dust etc. We will discuss the diagnosis and treatment with you as necessary.
Where do we start treatment?
Bacterial infection is so prevalent in itchy pets that antibiotics are almost invariably prescribed for a period of three weeks. Further treatment with antihistamines and/or steroids may be required to suppress itching as long as no underlying problem has been detected. Long term use of potent steroids to suppress symptoms without an appropriate diagnostic evaluation can harm your pet. This type of therapy is actively discouraged at Animal 911.
Food allergic animals stay on a diet that does not contain the protein to which they are allergic. Thyroid deficient animals are given supplements as required.
AAHA - Answering Questions About Vet Care Costs
Sometimes pet owners wonder about the costs of providing quality veterinary care for their pets. Although each individual case is unique, these questions and answers offer valuable insight.
Why is veterinary care for my pet(s) so expensive these days? Sometimes I believe I’m spending more on my pet’s health care than on my own.
Relatively speaking, veterinary care is a great deal. The cost of veterinary care has actually risen very little during the last 20 to 30 years. When compared to the rising cost of human health care, pet care is not at all unreasonable.
Bear in mind that your veterinarian is not only your pet’s general physician, but also its surgeon, radiologist, dentist, dermatologist, neurologist, ophthalmologist, psychiatrist, ears/nose/throat doctor, and pharmacist.
Your veterinary bill is a reflection of the costs of maintaining suitable facilities, equipment and support personnel to provide the level of care that is expected in animal medicine today. Remember too that the original cost of the animal has no bearing on the cost of services rendered.
Although it may feel as if you are paying more for your pet’s health care than your own, chances are that you probably have adequate health care insurance for your own needs. Consequently, you may never see the total bottom-line figure for your own doctor bills. When human health care costs are added up-including insurance, deductibles, and pharmaceutical costs-there is no comparison to the much lower veterinary care costs.
The American Animal Hospital Association strongly suggests that all pet owning families assess their financial situation and consider their ability to meet unexpected expenses that may be incurred for veterinary care. For some families, these expenses may be met through existing savings. Others may be able to use credit card reserves or medical payment cards. Some families should consider budgeting for these expenses and still others may want to consider protecting themselves through pet health insurance policies.
Today, pet health insurance is available to offset the costs of your furry friends’ medical expenses. The American Animal Hospital Association is not affiliated with any pet health insurance company but we do offer a non-exclusive Seal of Acceptance for catastrophic policies. (A buyer’s guide of pet insurance policies that have earned the Seal can be found by clicking here).
For those considering pet health insurance, AAHA offers the following suggestions:
- Be sure you understand what the policy covers. Some policies (but not all) cover some preventative care, such as vaccinations, but there may be additional cost for this coverage.
- Understand the exclusions. Almost all policies exclude pre-existing conditions and some exclude hereditary conditions. Some may exclude certain conditions unique to certain breeds.
- Almost all policies have a deductible and a co-pay requirement. Some pay according to a set schedule of “usual and customary fees” while some pay based on the actual incurred expense. Be sure you understand how expenses will be reimbursed.
- Ask whether or not the policy allows you to seek care from a veterinarian of your own choosing or whether you must go to a veterinarian that participates in the company’s network of providers. When faced with a pet’s serious illness, most pet owners want to be able to obtain care from their regular veterinarian.
- Speak with your veterinarian or someone on her practice team. While veterinarians do not sell insurance, chances are they have had experience with the policy you are considering and can provide helpful advice.
Again, veterinary care can provide your pet with many years of healthy and happy life. Managing the expense of veterinary care can be done in a number of ways; the important advice is to think about it before the need arises.
Isn’t the cost of veterinary medicine ridiculously high? It’s just animal health care, not human health care. I thought my doctor really cared and would go the extra mile for me and help me out with this.
You would never expect your own physician to provide a diagnosis, care and medication free of charge. You cannot ask your veterinarian to do this for your pet. The extent of care given to any animal is ultimately determined by its owner. As a responsible pet owner, you place a high value on your animal and will want to consider what’s best for your pet.
Every pet owner has different ideas about what is acceptable pet care. Veterinarians can only make their clients aware of the services and products that are available and then provide guidance in their choices and decisions. The owner is given options; the owner makes the call and the owner may ask for an estimate of the charges.
Your veterinary bill is a reflection of the cost of maintaining suitable facilities, equipment, and nursing personnel to provide the level of care that is expected in animal medicine today. Ask your veterinarian for an estimate before proceeding with treatment. If you have concerns about fees, AAHA strongly encourages you and the medical director or practice manager of that practice to discuss your concerns.
It’s important to understand that most veterinarians can and will go the extra mile for their clients, but they simply cannot jeopardize the quality of their business by waiving fees. Veterinarians must cover their employees’ salaries, costly equipment, the expense of years of professional training, and the expense of continuing education for staying up-to-date on the latest research. When veterinarians subsidize clients’ bills, they are endangering their practices.
Why you and your cat will love a Cat Friendly Practice
Cats need regular check-ups to help ensure longer, happier, and healthier lives. During routine check-ups your veterinarian can often detect conditions or diseases that may affect your cat’s health before they become painful or more difficult to treat. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) established the Cat Friendly Practice® (CFP) Program to reduce the stress associated with veterinary visits, improve the quality of care provided, and support the veterinary team so they consider a cat’s distinct needs and behaviors.
A Cat Friendly Practice creates a safe, low-stress atmosphere for feline patients, while providing the highest quality standard of care. Our veterinary team has advanced training to perform the veterinary care that cats specifically require with the special attention they need. Our practice has made the commitment to you and your cat by becoming a Cat Friendly Practice.
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