Knowing the common diseases of cats, their symptoms and treatments can help you save your pet cats from turning treatable diseases into serious life threatening sickness.
Learning how to treat sick cats at home can even save you a visit to the vet, thus saving you money. But it´s also important to know which diseases and which stages can be treated at home and which cannot.
1. Digestive Disturbances — The Mouth
Bones frequently become lodged around the teeth or in the throat. Needles and pins are often found piercing the mucous membranes. Thread is sometimes swallowed and often becomes caught around the tongue, preventing its passage from the digestive tract. When the needle is attached it usually becomes lodged in the cheek or the roof of the mouth.
The presence of these foreign bodies as well as decaying or coated teeth causes an inflammation of the mucous membranes.
A thick viscid substance which may be white or brownish red in color drools from the corners of the mouth. The cat refuses food but may attempt to drink milk or water. There is great depression and if the condition lasts for several days the animal rapidly loses flesh.
Removal of the foreign body, tartar, or loose teeth, followed by swabbing the mouth cavity with a warm solution of boric acid.
This occurs as a symptom of a disorder of the stomach. It may be the result of a slight upset due to indigestion or worms, or following the ingestion of some irritating material such as hair, or if it persists and becomes violent it is an indication of a severe inflammation of the stomach. The vomit may consist of the offending material, it may be a white froth, or it may be yellow, as a result of the involvement of the liver.
In severe cases it may be streaked with blood or be reddish-brown in color. Constipation usually occurs with vomiting, and, in fact, may be considered as a contributing cause to it. The appetite in mild attacks may remain good, but the ingestion of food at this time will only tend to make the condition worse. In severe attacks the animal will refuse all food but will drink a great deal of water.
In the later stages it will sit over the water dish as though it wanted to drink, but could not.
Withhold all food and drink in order to give the stomach a much-needed rest. The bowels may be emptied by the use of a glycerin suppository in the rectum or by giving a cathartic tablet containing two or three grains of cascara sagrada per mouth, or milk of magnesia may be given in teaspoonful doses every three or four hours. With this may be given five grains of subnitrate of bismuth. Should the vomiting continue for more than twenty-four hours it should receive more vigorous attention.
This may occur in animals fed on nothing but raw beef because the meat is so thoroughly digested that there is not sufficient residue to make a copious stool. However, the usual causes are improper food, foreign bodies, and poor digestion.
Aside from the absence of a passage the cat may act languid, refuse food, and later start to vomit.
The movements of the animal should be noted each day in order to keep a check on their occurrence as well as their consistency. If they become hard, oil should be given, either on the food or with a spoon. For this purpose olive oil or mineral oil works nicely. If you observe that the cat has not had a movement for a period of twenty-four hours, oil should be administered during the next day, a teaspoonful, once, twice or even three times, if no movement occurred at all.
If the bowels fail to move during the second day, a suppository may be used. If this doesn´t work, or if the cat starts to vomit, the veterinarian should be immediately called.
This may be due to improper food, an inflammation of the bowels due to cold, infection, or worms. Milk often disagrees with the cat, causing a violent diarrhea after each feeding. Some cats cannot take milk in any form, while others may take raw milk with impunity and develop diarrhea from evaporated or condensed milk. But it can be the opposite for other animals.
When you think that milk may be the cause it should be discontinued. If the diarrhea stops, another form of milk, only milk specifically for cats, may be given in order to see if there may be any that´s agreeable to the cat in question. If all forms of milk tend to cause a similar upset, it should be entirely eliminated from the diet.
Diarrhea due to a cold will usually be accompanied with a fever and probably a watery discharge from the eyes or nose, or both. There´s an infectious disease, occurring in cats characterized by vomiting and diarrhea, which is very fatal and very contagious. Worms may, in some cases, be the cause of diarrhea. Diarrhea stools are usually black, but if the liver is involved they are yellow in color. The stools may range from one to twenty a day and from a few drops to two tablespoonful.
Food and drink shouldn´t be given. If possible, a teaspoonful of castor oil should be given, or several doses of milk of magnesia. After the subsequent cleansing of the bowels, if the diarrhea does not stop, subnitrate of bismuth should be given in five-grain doses, every two to four hours. Diarrhea shouldn´t be allowed to persist for any length of time.
5. Hair Balls
While hair balls may occur in any cat, they´re more frequently found in those of the long-haired variety.
As they clean their coats, hairs are picked up by their tongues and swallowed. If only few hairs are taken at a time, they pass on into the intestines, become mixed with food and are passed out with the stool.
But when large numbers of hairs are swallowed, they tend to fasten themselves together in the form of a ball. This may happen either in the stomach or in the intestines. Thus, the hair ball may be thrown up after it has become of considerable size, or it may be passed as a stool. If the accumulation is great, it may form an obstruction in the intestine which is followed by an inflammation of the bowels. Hair may remain in the stomach for years without causing any trouble. One hair ball was removed from the stomach of a cat after death, which was as large as the ordinary baseball.
There´s no regular trend of symptoms exhibited by hair balls. There may be initial evidence of irritation of the stomach indicated by repeated attacks of vomiting — the vomit consisting only of white froth. In other cases there´ll be evidence of constipation, which in a few days will be followed by vomiting. The appetite will be impaired and the cat will show depression. Many cats habitually throw up a hair ball at regular intervals.
A teaspoonful of castor oil will often cause vomiting of the hair ball from the stomach. If on the other hand, it is located in the intestines it may cause its passage. However, for this effect, mineral oil in repeated doses is more preferred. These cases should not be neglected as this may result to serious problems.
Young cats are occasionally infested with round worms, while tapeworm is rare. As a rule the first evidence of trouble will be noticed when the animal suddenly throws up a worm. Since cats are very susceptible to any of the poisons active enough to disturb the worms, their administration should be carried out only by a veterinarian.
7. Kidney Diseases in Cats
While inflammation of the kidneys may occasionally develop in cats its diagnosis is very difficult. The most frequent urinary trouble occurs in male cats, due to the presence of calculi in the urethra. The very small stones are formed in the bladder in large numbers, and are forced down into the urethra as the cat urinates. Because of the very small-caliber of this canal the stones become imbedded in it and their removal is very difficult. When the stones are of sufficient size to obstruct the canal urination is impossible. As the cat strains in the attempt the stone becomes more firmly imbedded. The disease may be diagnosed by observing these attempts at urination, and in their event the animal must be rushed to the veterinarian immediately.
Even then the outlook is not very good for if the offending stone is removed it will only be a matter of time when more will pass down into the urethra and cause further trouble.
8. Diseases of the Skin – Eczema
The cat suffers much from falling of the coat, dandruff, and eczema. The conditions are very closely allied and are primarily due to disorders in digestion brought about by faulty feeding. In young cats, worms are frequently a contributing cause. Confinement and lack of exercise also play an important part.
Read How to Treat Skin Diseases in Cats for more information on how to treat eczema.
If the diet is bad it should be corrected. If the cat is fat, he should be put on short rations. If worms are present, they should be treated. Unless the lesion existed for a long time it will probably respond to careful applications of borated vaseline, which should be applied sparingly, and well rubbed in, so that the cat won´t lick up too much of it as it cleans itself. If the condition persists for any length of time, internal medication and more vigorous external treatment will be needed.
Mange first appears about the head and ears and gradually spreads back over the body. The lesion consists of a very thick crust of scales of grayish-brown color which gives the skin the appearance of being very much thickened. If the disease involves a large part of the skin area it is questionable whether or not it is advisable to attempt treatment. In the early stages and in mild cases sulphur and lard may be applied. However, it´s much better to consult a veterinarian while there´s still chance to save your cat.
During the summer months cats suffer greatly from fleas. Because of their susceptibility to drugs, great care must be exercised in the selection of the treatment. Persian insect powder is one of the safest remedies. The cat is placed on a newspaper or sheet and the powder is sprinkled over the body and worked well into the hair with the hands for about twenty minutes. By this time the fleas will begin to migrate toward the head and as they come to the surface they may be picked off and dropped in a strong disinfectant ‘solution. Those which drop off upon the paper may be disposed of in the same manner.
After all the fleas possible have been removed the cat should be given a good brushing to remove most of the powder. This treatment must be repeated frequently as long as any fleas remain.
If it is possible to bathe the cat a solution composed of one tablespoonful of kerosene and a pint of milk can be rubbed into the fur, and after an interval of half an hour the animal must be bathed. About two or three treatments, at intervals of three days, will be necessary to free the cat of her pests.
Black Flag should never be used. Coal-tar disinfectants are also too toxic to use around cats.