Parkway Animal Hospital Recommends…
A Semi-Annual Physical Exam
The information we gather at each annual exam becomes part of your cat’s medical history. It can be critical when an emergency or sudden illness arises.
a. General Body Condition: Significant weight change can be an early warning sign of disease or obesity – a common problem for cats.
b. Musculo-skeletal System: Assess the condition of your cat’s legs, joints and spine.
c. Skin / Hair coat: Hair should appear healthy and well groomed. Dull, dry, brittle hair or hair loss may indicate an underlying illness. Check for fleas.
d. Internal Organs – Abdomen: Palpate your cat’s abdomen for such things as abnormal masses or tenderness.
e. Internal Organs – Thorax (chest): Listen to chest for heart murmurs, irregular heartbeat and abnormal lung sounds.
f. Eyes: Examine eyes for things such as cataracts, glaucoma or inflammation.
g. Ears: Examine ears for things such as ear mites, infection or inflammation.
h. Nose / Throat: Evaluate nose and nasal passages for possible signs of upper respiratory disease or allergies.
i. Oral Cavity: About 85% of all cats will need some form of dental orperiodontal care by the age of 3. Evaluate cat’s teeth, and check color and condition of gums.
j. Lymphatic System: Palpate thyroid and lymph nodes for size and signs of tumors or infection.
An annual physical exam is your cat’s best health insurance. Even healthy looking pets can have diseases. Regular examinations can help avoid problems by detecting them before they become serious. An annual physical exam, at our hospital, together with a fecal exam, comprehensive vaccination program, and heartworm preventive are the best ways to keep your cat healthy.
To help protect your cat as well as other pets under our care, we require that pets be vaccinated for common infectious diseases, especially if they are to be hospitalized, boarded, groomed, or surgically treated at our hospital. If your cat was given vaccinations at another clinic we ask that you provide a certificate from a licensed veterinarian documenting the required vaccines, or that you provide us with the name of the veterinarian or clinic where vaccinations were administered so that we may obtain the necessary information. If your cat is not currently vaccinated, we will provide that service upon admittance to the hospital. Please see OUR WELLNESS PROGRAM page for additional information.
Cats are independent animals. Their natural roaming habits may bring them into contact with other animals – increasing their exposure to disease.
Several diseases that cats can acquire may destroy the good health of a cat or they can be fatal. Kittens are at greater risk for disease and have decreased survival when they occur.
Fortunately for your cat, vaccines are available to help prevent many cat diseases. Vaccinating your cat is the best and least expensive way to help prevent disease. Listed here are the vaccines that the Parkway staff recommends to help prevent infectious diseases.
We care about your pet’s health, and we want to ensure animals housed in our facility are adequately protected if exposed to communicable diseases. We also have a responsibility to make sure other pets are protected within our hospital by requiring proper vaccination of your pet. Additional information on vaccinations may be found in A PET OWNER’S GUIDE TO FELINE VACCINATIONS.
Feline Panleukopenia (FPL)
FPL sometimes called Feline Distemper, is most commonly seen in younger cats, but can affect cats of any age. It is difficult to prevent exposure, so all cats should be vaccinated.
The FPL virus can affect many parts of a cat’s body, causing fever, appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, weakness, tremors, and incoordination. Death can occur within a week. Estimates range form a 50% to a 90+% death rate in clinical cases of Feline Panleukopenia.
At Parkway Animal Hospital, FPL vaccines are given to kittens in series until they reach 16 weeks of age. Annual boosters are recommended for adults.
Feline Respiratory Disease
Direct contact or droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing easily pass respiratory disease from one cat to another. Kittens can die from the disease, especially if it progresses to pneumonia. Cats with respiratory disease may have watery or sticky discharge from the nose and eyes, sores on the nose and mouth, fever, lethargy and loss of appetite.
Most respiratory diseases are caused by one of two viruses – Feline Rhinotracheitis Virus or Feline Calicivirus. Rhinotracheitis tends to be more severe and can cause abortions in pregnant cats.
Vaccines against these two viruses are given here at Parkway. This vaccine is available in both an injectable and as droplets in the cats eyes and nose. The veterinarian will be glad to discuss the choice that might be best for your cat.
Another respiratory disease is caused by an organism called Chlamydia Psittaci. Although once called Pneumonitis, the disease primarily causes inflammation of the eyes and nose. This disease can also be controlled by vaccination
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
FeLV suppresses the cat’s immune system, leaving it unable to fight off other infections, such as pneumonia. FeLV can also cause cancer in some cats. Typically FeLV is spread when the saliva of an infected cat comes into contact with another cat. This can occur from mutual licking and grooming or shared food and water bowls. The virus can also be spread through urine or feces, that is sharing litter boxes.
Very few cats recover from a brief FeLV infection and rid themselves of the virus. In most cats, permanent infection occurs, and death almost always eventually results. Any cat that is in continuing poor health or that often becomes sick with infections or fever may have feline leukemia. We can do a simple blood test in our hospital to determine if your cat is infected with FeLV.
The Feline Leukemia vaccine is strongly recommended for any cat that will have any contact with outdoor cats. Two initial doses are recommended three weeks apart, followed by annual boosters.
All warm-blooded animals (dogs, cat, livestock, wildlife, and people) can become infected with rabies virus. Because rabies cases have been documented in almost every county in North Carolina, the state requires all pets to be vaccinated.
Rabies is a virus that attacks nerve tissue. The disease develops over 10 days to several months. Infected animals may withdraw and avoid contact with people and animals. Others may become unnaturally aggressive and may attack. Death always occurs once a rabies-infected animal shows signs of disease.
In North Carolina, raccoons are more likely to be the source of rabies than any other animal. However, infected animals, such as cats, dogs, foxes, skunks, bats and farm animals can also transmit rabies through a bites or contact with saliva. Therefore an unvaccinated pet involved in a fight with a wild animal or with wounds from an unknown animal should be suspect for rabies. When rabies is suspected, animals must be quarantined and observed. This may lead to euthanasia to obtain a definite diagnosis by laboratory testing for public health reasons.
If humans are exposed there are a series of post exposure injections.
Cats should be vaccinated at 16 weeks of age or older, boosted 1 year later and again every three years (In North Carolina we vaccinate every three years. Other states may vaccinate annually).
We recommend an annual fecal examination. Parasites are transmitted to a kitten through the placenta, in its mother’s milk, and in the stool from its mother and other pets. Some parasites migrate through the lungs and liver to the intestines. While other parasites will remain dormant until a stress occurs years latter in your cat’s life. Yes, that is how an indoor cat with no exposure to other cats can develop intestinal parasites. By routinely checking your cats stool we monitor for parasites of the gastrointestinal tract.
Tapeworms, Roundworms, Hookworms, and Coccidia are routinely tested for in stool samples. If your cat is ill or has diarrhea we may perform additional tests for Giardia or bacterial diseases.
People, especially children, can be exposed to animal parasites when they work or play in contaminated soil, such as a sandbox or the garden, and accidentally put dirty hands in their mouth. Parasite eggs cannot be seen by the naked eye but are present anywhere stool from an infected animal is found.
Humans infected with parasites can have problems ranging from intestinal upset to death. It is estimated that 10,000 children in the United States are annually infected with roundworms and that 750 will suffer permanent visual impairment or even blindness.
The monthly heartworm preventative also is helpful in controlling parasites. Additional worming medications will be dispensed when stool samples confirm the presence of parasites. See A PET OWNER’S GUIDE TO INTERNAL PARASITES for additional information.
Heartworms can live in the heart and lungs of cats and cause serious disease. One heartworm can result in permanent damage or even death. Treatment to eliminate heartworms in cats is dangerous; therefore, prevention is the best choice. The symptoms associated with heartworms are similar to the signs of heart failure. These include tiring easily and a mild, nonproductive cough. In advanced stages of infection these signs can be very severe.
Even indoor cats are not safe from heartworms. A recent survey found that 55% of the cats that tested positive for heartworm infection were kept exclusively or mostly indoors.
Mosquitoes transmit heartworms. A mosquito bites an infected animal, drawing out some of that animal’s blood. The mosquito then bites an uninfected cat and injects saliva, contaminated with microfilariae into the uninfected animal. Heartworm disease occurs only where mosquitoes are present.
In North Carolina we recommend keeping your pet on heartworm preventive medication year round. Year-round prevention provides the best protection. Tests for feline heartworms are available, and we would be happy to discuss testing with you. For addition facts on heartworm disease see A PET OWNER’S GUIDE TO HEARTWORM DISEASE IN CATS.
Flea and Tick Protection
Fleas are another big concern in North Carolina and because of our mild winters, flea season never ends. Fleas are small biting insects that takes a blood meal from cats and when starved they will bite humans as well. The bite can cause an uncomfortable itchiness, allergic reactions, and can transmit diseases.
Animals that become severely infested with fleas can develop anemia due to blood loss. Pale gums and weakness are the main signs of anemia.
Fleas can be hard to find on animals with thick fur, however, they leave a telltale sign behind – flea dirt. These little black specks are actually flea feces. Even if you are unable to find a flea, flea dirt indicates fleas are present.
Flea control involves two steps. First, you must eliminate fleas from the animal. Second, you must eliminate fleas in the environment. The topical medication called ADVANTAGE is recommended for killing fleas on your cat and long term use for environmental control. An oral pill called PROGRAM can also be given for environmental control; PROGRAM prevents flea eggs from hatching.
If you are having a problem with ticks as well, FRONTLINE is another topical prevention that can be used to prevent both fleas and ticks. A PET OWNER’S GUIDE TO FLEAS contains additional information on this topic.
Routine Blood Testing
We recommend testing all new cats or kittens for Feline Leukemia and Feline AIDS. Because both of these diseases are contagious to other cats and because they are both fatal, we encourage you to find out if your new pet has either of these viruses. We can perform the blood test for these viruses in our laboratory, it takes about 15 minutes. See A PET OWNER’S GUIDE TO HEALTH SCREENING for more information.
We further encourage all cat owners to perform a routine blood screen. The veterinarian will be glad to discuss their recommendations for your cat. These tests provide us with a window into the body. The routine physical exam can not tell us how well your cats organs are functioning. By running routine blood work we can establish baseline normals for your individual cat, and may be able to diagnose illnesses before they become otherwise evident.
For kittens we recommend Science Diet GROWTH. For Adult cats Science diet MAINTANCE. And for cats over 8 years of age we recommend Science Diet SENIOR. HILL’S PRESCRIPTION DIETS may be recommended by our veterinarians for certain diseases or conditions. Additional nutritional information may be found in A PET OWNER’S GUIDE TO PREMIUM PET FOODS
We all appreciate the importance of dental hygiene in maintaining the health of our teeth and gums. Your cat is no different. He or she needs regular brushing to avoid gum disease. Dental cleaning along with brushing will help prevent the development of one of the most common diseases in cats: periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is started by bacteria present in plaque, which attack the gums, bone and ligaments that support the teeth and hold them in the jaw. Most pets suffer from this disease to some extent. It is a progressive disease, which usually starts out as gingivitis, an infection affecting the gum tissue. This will appear as a thin red line and sometimes swelling at the edge of the gum. At this point the disease is still reversible with adequate oral hygiene. However, if the disease is not treated, it may progress to the moderate stage. Moderate disease is characterized by damage to gums, bone and other structures that support the teeth. The appearance at this stage includes red, swollen gums, which bleed easily. There may be mild gum recession causing exposure of the roots of the teeth. Advanced periodontal disease results in severe gum recession with the loss of supporting bone and subsequent loss of teeth. A further complication of periodontal disease is that the bacteria involved in causing the disease enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body (kidneys, liver, and heart) causing secondary infection.
The first step in preventing periodontal disease is maintaining good oral health for your dog or cat at home. There is no substitute for brushing your pet’s teeth at least every other day. Brushing helps to remove plaque before it forms tartar. Most cats can be introduced to brushing and will even enjoy it. Be sure to use toothpaste safe for pets such as the C.E.T. brand. Science Diet T/D is specifically formulated to remove plaque from teeth and can be helpful when used as a treat or after meals.
While brushing is the major part in the maintenance of good oral health, it is still necessary to have your cat’s teeth cleaned on a regular basis by your veterinarian to remove tartar. This allows the gums and supporting structures to return to a healthier state. The combination of home care and regular visits to the veterinarian will help control the build-up of plaque and harmful bacteria, contributing to successful treatment of periodontal disease. We may ask you to begin antibiotics 3 days prior to the dentistry to avoid infection in the event that bacteria are released from the teeth into the bloodstream during the procedure.
Sometimes cracked, broken, abscessed, or loose teeth are found upon close inspection during the dental procedure. These teeth should be extracted to prevent pain and infection at the roots. Cats often develop erosions of the tooth at the gum line. The roots can be eroded also. This can bevery painful and they must be extracted.
Remember, the early stages of dental disease are more easily treated than the advanced stages, with better long-term results.
A PET OWNER’S GUIDE TO PREVENTING PERIODONTAL DISEASE contains additional information on caring for your pet’s teeth. If your pet has been vaccinated by you or someone other then a licensed veterinarian, we ask that it be properly vaccinated by our staff or any licensed veterinarian prior to hospitalization. The health and well being of your animal and the promotion of responsible pet ownership are our primary concerns.