All too often cat families think that their pets do not need to see the veterinarian regularly if they don’t go out. Though your cat may not be exposed to as many contagious diseases as a feline who regularly spends time outdoors, there are a variety of other common diseases that can be very threatening to the well being of your pet. There is a misconception that veterinary visits are primarily for vaccinations. Nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout many years the emphasis of annual medical visits has been placed on immunizations to protect your pet against various diseases. Feline Leukemia Virus, Feline AIDS Virus and Feline Distemper or Panleukopenia are several of these conditions. It is true that your cat’s potential for disease is greatly reduced by not venturing outdoors. However systemic conditions such as hyperthyroidism, renal (kidney) disease and periodontal disease may actually be more common in indoor cats. Due to the capacity of cats to compensate for illness early on in the course of disease (think the “9-lives” scenario) illness may be considerably advanced before the family notices any thing out of the ordinary.
For example, hyperthyroidism typically occurs in middle aged to older cats. Symptoms may include hyperactivity, increased appetite and weight loss. To an owner who has an older cat that is now eating better and more active it hardly seems a concern that something could be wrong. However the unseen problems that may accompany this are hypertension, heart disease and retinal problems. While you may think that your pet is enjoying a “second kittenhood” you may actually be witnessing the signs of a potentially fatal disease.
Periodontal or severe dental disease may only be obvious by a foul smelling breath in your cat. But in reality sinus infection, tooth root abscess and even cancer can occur without noticeable signs or vocalization. This lack of your cat showing obvious signs of illness is the biggest reason that felines are often presented to the hospital far advanced in kidney, liver or heart disease. At that time there may not be much that can be done to save your pet’s life. Conversely there is so much that can be done to prevent or at least slow down the progress of disease it seems very sad when pets suffer or succumb much earlier than needs to be the case.
As veterinary health care providers one of the most difficult things to deal with is the premature demise of a pet. It is very difficult to witness the struggle and the guilt of a client upon realization that they inadvertently contributed to the loss of a special family member. Please remember that cats, whether indoors or outdoors need careful observation and professional checkups. They are counting on us.