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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pet Smarts: Whether indoors or out, all cats need to visit the vet at one time or another

By Dr. Michelle Arnold
Sheabel Pet Care Center
 

There are almost 8 million more cats owned in the United States. than dogs (AVMA.org), yet we see far fewer cats in the veterinary hospital than we do dogs. Why is that? There are many reasons, and hopefully the following will shed some light for cat owners and their frustration in getting their feline family members to the clinic.
 

(Photo from Creative Commons)

My cat is an indoor cat only
 

One of the biggest misconceptions about indoor cats is that they do not need to go to the veterinarian. However, it is just as important for indoor cats as it is for outdoor cats to visit the clinic once or twice a year. All cats need the basics: vaccines, intestinal parasite testing and heartworm and flea prevention. Indoor cats may escape and meet other cats that carry common viruses that can be deadly if they are contracted by a non-vaccinated cat.
 

It is required for all domestic animals to be vaccinated for rabies in the state of Kentucky. Cats should also be vaccinated with an upper respiratory combination vaccine (FVRCP) and a feline leukemia vaccine (FeLV). Indoor cats can become infected with intestinal parasites by eating rodents and fleas, and they can be infected with heartworms from mosquitos (yes, they can get in your house!). Several intestinal parasites are zoonotic, meaning people can get them from animals, so it is very important to check your pets regularly for intestinal parasite infections so they can be treated appropriately.
 

My cat never gets sick
 

Cats are very stoic animals, and it is very difficult to tell when they are under the weather until they are REALLY sick. Subtle signs include not eating as much, losing weight and decreased self-grooming. Cats will also hide when they are not feeling well, sometimes for days, so if your cat’s daily routine seems to have changed and you don’t see him/her out and about as much, it may be time for a check-up with your veterinarian. Wellness bloodwork is a good way to check for internal diseases that you may not be able to detect by just looking at your cat. Common feline illnesses detected on blood work include kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes and liver disease.
 

My cat hates going to the veterinarian
 

One of the top reasons we don’t see many cats at the vet clinic is that they hate everything about the entire process. They hate getting in the carrier, riding in the car, all the noises and smells at the clinic and being restrained. Overall, it can be an extremely stressful event for cats.
 

Many veterinarians strive to make the visit as stress-free as possible by providing the following: separate areas for dogs and cats to check in and out, immediately putting cats in an exam room away from barking dogs, using a pheromone plug-in or spray to help calm the cats, allowing the cat to stay in the carrier during the exam (if the top is removeable) and using the least amount of restraint possible. Some cats may need to be sedated to be examined thoroughly or to obtain a blood sample.
 

Feline house calls
 

Some cats may benefit from having the veterinarian come to them, rather than the cat traveling to the clinic. Wellness house calls can provide a minimally stressful experience because the cat is in its own territory, hasn’t been placed (or shoved!) into a carrier and the whole process may only take 10 to 15 minutes. A wellness visit would include a physical exam, vaccines, collecting a stool sample (either from the cat directly or obtaining a fresh sample from the litter box), and possibly collecting blood and urine. It is difficult to schedule house calls for sick cats because they most likely will need to come into the clinic anyway for diagnostic testing, IV fluids and/or surgery. But it is a good option for healthy cats who need their annual exam and vaccines.
 

In summary, cats need to have regular check-ups with a veterinarian to prevent parasites and viral infections and to screen for possible internal illnesses. Schedule your in-clinic or house call appointment today!
 

Dr. Michelle Arnold is a Lexington veterinarian at Sheabel Pet Care Center, a full-service veterinary center in Lexington. She received a bachelor’s from Asbury University in 2006 and a DVM from Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012. For more information, visit sheabelpets.com.

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