Preventive medicine is a concept that involves routine care to help educate pet owners about healthy lifestyles for their pets, as well as disease prevention and the importance of catching diseases early to minimize their severity. Preventive care is crucial for all pets’ overall health and wellness, but especially for cats, who are known to hide signs of illness and may not visit the veterinarian as regularly as dogs.
Regular physical exams for cats
According to the AAHA-AVMA Feline Preventive Healthcare Guidelines, every cat should have a physical exam at least once per year. Many cats, such as kittens, seniors, or those with current health problems, should be seen more frequently. During the physical exam, your veterinarian will assess your cat’s ears, eyes, nose, mouth, thyroid gland, heart, lungs, abdomen, lymph nodes, coat, skin, joints, muscles, weight, and hydration status. Your cat may appear healthy, but your veterinarian may observe subtle, but significant, clues to underlying problems. At the wellness visit, your veterinarian will also take a comprehensive history of your cat’s behavior and lifestyle, because it is important to know how well she is eating; her diet; changes in her urination, drinking, or litter-box habits; if she goes outside or stays indoors; if she is vomiting or has diarrhea; and if she is taking any medications or supplements. Again, slight changes in behavior or lifestyle can indicate a bigger problem. Come prepared with this information when planning your cat’s preventive-care examination.
Vaccinations for cats
Your veterinarian will also discuss whether your cat needs any vaccinations. Core vaccinations are recommended for all cats, regardless of lifestyle, and include the rabies vaccine and a combination vaccine that immunizes against panleukopenia virus, feline herpesvirus-1, and calicivirus. Non-core vaccinations are recommended for cats who are at risk for certain diseases such as feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus. The feline leukemia vaccine is considered a core vaccine for kittens only, with annual to bi-annual boosters thereafter for at-risk cats. Vaccines are administered subcutaneously, ideally in the lower limb. Vaccinating cats does bring a small risk of a rare cancer called feline injection-site sarcoma (FISS), but the prevalence of this disease has decreased with current vaccine technology and guidelines. The benefits of vaccination still far outweigh the risks.
Parasite control for cats
Like many domestic animals, cats are susceptible to various types of parasites, such as fleas, ticks, ear mites, intestinal parasites like roundworms or tapeworms, and mosquitoes, which spread heartworm disease. While cats who spend time outdoors are more likely to contract a parasite, indoor cats are not immune and should receive some form of routine parasite control. Your veterinarian may recommend an oral or injectable dewormer, or a monthly, broad-spectrum, topical medication.
Spaying and neutering
All female cats should be spayed and male cats neutered, unless they are to be used for breeding purposes. Not only will these procedures eliminate the possibility for certain diseases, such as pyometra (i.e., uterine infection), and uterine or testicular cancers, but they will also prevent unwanted pregnancies. In addition, cats who are no longer intact are less likely to wander and become involved in fights or vehicular accidents. Cats are typically spayed or neutered at around 6 months of age, but can be done earlier. Talk to your veterinarian to determine what’s best for your feline friend.
At-home dental care for cats
Dental disease is a big, but preventable, problem in pets. As in humans, oral bacteria form plaque on the tooth’s surface that, without regular dental care, builds up to form tartar. The tartar cannot be removed with simple tooth brushing, and requires veterinary intervention to remove the calculus below the gumline. To help prevent dental calculus build-up, consider instituting an at-home dental care routine. Daily manual tooth brushing is ideal, but other products, including oral rinses or water additives, are also available. Regardless of which preventive oral care routine you choose, adult cats will also benefit from routine anesthetic dental cleanings by your veterinarian.
Preventive care plays a big role in keeping our pets—and especially our cats—happy and healthy. Contact us to schedule your cat’s routine physical exam and wellness care.