Common Feline Ailments

Common feline ailments can be loosely grouped into several different categories. Every cat owner should be aware of these ailments and learn to recognize the early signs and symptoms so they can choose the best course of treatment and prevent a medical emergency.

Gastrointestinal Ailments

Many cats have liver, bladder and kidney problems that, if not caught early enough, will kill them. Symptoms such as excessive thirst, increased urination, nausea and loss of appetite point to kidney ailments. As the disease advances, the cat develops bad breath, severe dehydration, lethargy, vomiting and mouth ulcers. Bladder ailments will show the same early symptoms as kidney ailments, but will often be accompanied by symptoms such as straining but producing little urine, improper elimination and bloody urine.

Liver ailment symptoms include nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, swollen abdomen, jaundice and pale stools.

Constipation usually occurs in sedentary cats or ones with little bulk in their diet.

Diarrhea is usually a minor irritation in the digestive tract and will clear up if you withhold food for 24 to 48 hours. Be sure to offer plenty of water. If it doesn't clear up or if the cat is vomiting or having convulsions, you need to get him to the veterinarian right away.

Vomiting can occur when a cat eats too fast or has hairballs he needs to eliminate. Check out what he vomits up; a hairball problem will respond to an OTC remedy you can purchase at the pet store. If he is vomiting up food, give him smaller, more frequent meals or leave dry kibble available to him to eat at will.

Skin Ailments

Common skin ailment symptoms include hair loss, itching, dry flaky skin, inflammation, oily hair, redness, crusty patches and foul skin odor. If your cat is biting, scratching and chewing at his skin, check him over carefully. Food allergies and chemical toxicity found in products such as pesticides, paints and cleaners are the usual culprits.

Abscesses are swollen lumps that frequently break through the skin and either have a bloody discharge or crusty top.

Feline acne is small pimples usually found on the chin. You can try cleaning with hydrogen peroxide, but call your veterinarian if it does not clear up in 14 days.

Dental Ailments

Periodontal disease is a slow build-up of tartar and plaque on the cat's teeth and causes the gums to swell, recede and bleed. The cat will often have foul breath, salivate excessively and, if left unchecked, infection could enter the bloodstream.

You can combat this by brushing your cat's teeth regularly and adding hard kibble or chewy treats to his diet.

Pale gums could be a symptom of feline leukemia or anemia and should be checked by a veterinarian.

Eye and Ear Ailments

Cornea tears are frequent in cats and require immediate veterinary care.

The most common ear problem is mites. You can buy a good OTC remedy at your local pet store.

Parasitic Ailments

Parasitic ailments include fleas and tapeworms (the larvae of fleas) and usually appear near the anus or in the stool as moving grains of rice.

Roundworms are usually seen in kittens, although adult cats can also harbor them. Symptoms include extended abdomen, diarrhea, vomiting, black stool, weight loss and anemia. Your veterinarian should be consulted for treatment of worms and fleas.