Cats can get into trouble and catch infectious diseases and parasitic infections. Those that spend time outdoors see me for reasons that differ from strictly indoor cats. Know what to look for so you know when it is time to see your vet.
- Bite Wound Abscesses
Cats are very territorial and fight when they feel that their space has been invaded. They host a type of bacteria in their mouths that infects other cats at the site of a bite. You may not realize your cat was bitten until a few days later when the bacteria have grown enough to create a painful abscess. These wounds have a very distinctive presentation with pain and swelling, but sometimes you cannot see the swelling if your cat has long hair. If your cat is acting painful, hiding or seems sick, an abscess could be the reason. Because of the level of pain you will need your veterinarian’s help to sedate and care for your cat’s wound.
- Upper Respiratory Signs
Upper respiratory signs, like coughing and sneezing are extremely common in cats. Even if there are no known nearby stray cats, your cat is at risk because the causative agents are very contagious. Coughing and sneezing can be signs of issues that are not infectious too. Cats certainly can have allergic disease, asthma and bronchitis. If you hear your cat coughing or sneezing frequently, even if she is not acting ill, your veterinarian can help you uncover the cause and prescribe appropriate treatment.
- Retrovirus Infection
Retroviruses are things like Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). These infectious viruses are spread among cats and cause many secondary problems from anemia, cancers and susceptibility to a variety of additional infections. Both can be spread by fighting and FeLV has even been suspected of being spread through shared food dishes. Not every cat that is exposed to FeLV will become terminally ill, so seeing a vet for current recommendations is a great idea. Cats that present with other illnesses can actually be primarily infected with one of these nasty bugs, so don’t skip the vet when your cat seems to be acting sick, even if you cannot pinpoint the symptoms.
Cats that are allowed to free roam suffer more traumatic incidents. Anything from falls to vehicle injuries must be on the list for cats that go outside unattended. These patients present with just about any complaint from limping to collapse depending on the nature of the trauma. Sometimes an injured cat will merely hide and you will not even realize he is injured. Any visible wound must be pursued with professional help because many times there are further injuries that you cannot see. Do not assume that your cat does not go in the road or leave your yard. Because of a cat’s nature, he does wander even if you do not know it.
Any animal that wanders is susceptible to a poison risk. Clients often say that someone intentionally poisoned their pet, but I choose to hope that most of these are accidental. Plants can serve as toxins for cats, as can antifreeze and pesticides intended for use on dogs. The presenting complaints vary from disorientation to tremors. Any cat with possible access to toxins must be examined by a vet as soon as possible. Many poisoning cases can be saved with swift and appropriate medical management. Cats that tremble, stagger or vomit might have ingested something toxic, don’t delay.
Cats that spend time outside have special issues that can come from exposure to many other things, like infected stray cats, cars and poisons. They are more prone to injury because their environment is less controlled. If your cat spends time alone outside (even if you think she never wanders), be alert for any changes in her behavior or signs of trouble that might require a trip to the vet.
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About The Author: Dr. Kathryn Primm is a practicing small animal veterinarian and practice owner at Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, TN. She has consulted on articles for national magazines, done numerous radio interviews and appeared on local television. She has contributed to articles for Prevention magazine (April 2015) and Woman’s Day (Feb 2014 and June 2015). Her radio segment Chattanooga Pet Talk airs each week on all the local iHeart Media affiliates.
She has a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and enjoys interaction with others about her passions, animals and communication. She has written a book, Tennessee Tails:Pets and Their People. The book received recognition as Runner Up in the Memoirs category at a national book festival. You can read more about Dr. Primm and how to get the best value for your pet care dollar at her website, www.drprimm.com.