Common Diseases Affecting House Cats in America

According to 2013 pet ownership statistic census, there are well over 73 million cats and 71 million dogs living in American households. It is estimated more than half of American households claim ownership to at least one cat or dog. Increasingly too, cats or dogs are considered as a family member rather than mere pets for amusement or companionship.

Despite the common saying of cats having nine lives, they do suffer from a multitude of illnesses, some are mild, some are deadly. Here are some of the most common illnesses that often strike house cats.

Renal failure
Renal failure, due to a diseased or deteriorating kidney, is the leading cause of illnesses in cats. Age, genetic predisposition, and environmental safety are contributing factors of renal failures. There are two types of renal failures, chronic and acute. Chronic renal failure (CRF) is due to the gradual deterioration of kidney function in processing waste and fluids. Nearly 50% of cats above 15 years of age are suffering from chronic renal failure. Symptoms are insatiable thirst with excessive urination initially, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, and bad breath at the later stage. Because the illness progresses slowly, cat owners may not notice the subtle rise in water consumption initially. By the time other symptoms arise, the illness likely has reached an irreversible stage. Although CRF is incurable and progressively deteriorating, a combination of wet diet, IV fluids, and medication can keep an ailing cat comfortable.
Acute renal failure (ARF) is caused by sudden cease functioning of the kidney, usually due to ingestion of poisonous material such as antifreeze, or illnesses that severely affected kidney functions. Possible symptoms include difficulty in urination, vomiting, bad breath, refusal to eat, poor coordination, and seizure, Prompt veterinary attention to remove toxins and balancing body electrolyte are crucial steps for a damaged kidney to recover.

Feline Leukemia
Feline leukemia is a common viral infectious disease affecting feline health around the world. It is spread from one cat to another through bodily fluids, including nose discharge, urine, and saliva, whether through bites, sharing food and water bowls, or affectionate nursing, licking and grooming. Kittens are at higher risk in catching the disease than adult cats.
Feline leukemia can bring forward a variety of complications, including severe multiple organ infections and inflammation, anemia, diarrhea and cancer. Like renal failure, there is no cure for feline leukemia, but veterinarian record has shown that the disease rarely occurs in vaccinated feline populations.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
FIV is the feline equivalent of human HIV disease. Feral cats, free-ranging cats, and territorial tomcats are most at risk in catching FIV as it is spread primarily through bite wounds. Unlike feline leukemia, casual friendly contact among cats does not actively caused FIV infections.
FIV is a terminal disease that caused irreversible damage to a feline’s immune system. The virus may stay dormant for years but once activated, the cats will experience increasing bouts of enlarged lymph nodes, gums inflammation, tongue and mouth ulcers, weight loss, skin infections, diarrhea, eye infection and cancer.
The best way to avoid contracting FIV is to keep your cat indoors, and vaccination up to date.

Feline Panleukopenia (or known as Feline Distemper)
Feline panleukopenia is a very contagious and deadly viral disease in cats, especially for kittens. The virus, found in feline bodily fluids, feces, and fleas, can easily spread through contaminated litter trays, food and water bowls, household soft furnishing and clothing. The virus spreads quickly and can kill within a day or two of contraction. Once diagnose is confirmed through fecal and blood tests, aggressive treatment typically involved blood transfusions, injections of antibiotics and vitamins to fight the disease quickly. A signature symptom of feline distemper is the tail and back leg gnawing, along with the typical behavior of refusal to eat, lack of energy, diarrhea, and vomiting. Again, as with most cat diseases, prevention is better than cure. Vaccinated cats have much lower rate of infection than unvaccinated populations.

Feline Rabies
Feline Rabies is a very dangerous zoonotic disease. An infected cat can pass the disease to other household pets and humans too. It is usually spread to cats through bites from wild animals such as a raccoon. An infected cat may exhibit strange behavior, yowling, drooling, lack of coordination, fever, weight loss and depression. Once contracted, the cat is usually put down as there is no cure or treatment for feline rabies. The best way to prevent your cat from catching the disease is to keep vaccination up to date and keep it indoor as much as possible.

Roundworm and Tapeworm Infestations
Cats can get worms into their digestive systems through swallowing infected insects, flea, small animals, birds, and contaminated soil. Worms can invade a cat’s intestines, stomach, bloodstream, and organs, sapping nutrients from the host, causing diarrhea, vomiting, distended belly, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Scheduled administration of oral deworming medication is effective in preventing built up of roundworms and tapeworms in the body. Keeping the cat indoors and observe general hygiene and cleanliness are also crucial steps in preventing worm infestation.

Urinary Tract Disease (UTD)
Urinary Tract Disease is characterized by the presence of blood in cat urine and difficulty in urination. It is caused by blockage of urine flow from the bladder to the urethra tubes. Dehydration, cystitis, bacteria infection, or dry cat food with high ash and mineral content can be possible causes of UTD. Medication and a change in diet should be able to bring the infection under control.

Cats are sensitive and lovable animals, to have them living among us is a blessing. Loving and takes care of them ensures many years of  togetherness.