October 17, 2012
Keep in Touch with Your Cat's Health
Regular nose-to-tail exams will help you spot health problems
Regular visits to the veterinarian are essential to keeping your cat healthy. Keep tabs between vet visits with nose-to-tail checkups at home.
Get in the habit of running your hands all over your cat's body whenever she's cuddling with you or you're grooming her. This is the best way to discover problems before they become serious. Call your veterinarian if you find any of these conditions.
While petting your cat, feel for any lumps, scratches, scabs, swelling, or any other irregularities. Dandruff, oily fur, and missing fur can indicate skin or internal problems. Part the fur to look for fleas; specks that look like black pepper are actually "flea dirt" (flea feces that contain your cat's blood and turn red when wet). Keep an eye on any lumps, especially if they appear after a vaccination.
Lend an ear
The hairless part of your cat's ears should be clean and odorless. If your cat is having problems, he may shake his head a lot and scratch his ears. Check for flaking, scabs, foul odor, or discharge. If you see a black, gritty substance inside, he probably has ear mites, parasites that cause severe itching and are contagious to other cats.
Look for bright, clear, evenly focused eyes. Redness, discoloration or discharge, squinting, or the emergence of the third eyelid can signal that your cat has a problem.
Healthy gums are pink, pale or bright; red gums may mean something is wrong. Drooling and pawing at the mouth are cause for conern as well. Brown streaks and tartar build-up on the teeth may indicate a dental problem. Your cat's breath should not be so bad that you can't stand to have her near you.
Cats noses should be clean. Depending on his activity level and the ambient temperature, though, his nose may be cold or warm. If he paws at his nose, sneezes frequently, or there is a discharge, contact your veterinarian.
Don't be a pill!
Never give your cat any medications without your veterinarian's advice. Many human drugs, such as aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol), can poison cats.
Look under her tail. If you see what looks like grains of rice or spaghetti, you are looking at signs of parasites—some of which may be spread to you or other pets. Your vet can give you medication to rid your cat of these unwanted guests.
Foot the bill
Most cats don't like to have their feet touched, but if yours doesn't mind, look for stuck-on litter, torn claws, cuts, swellings, or infections. Also, check your cat's claws regularly to see if they need to be trimmed; untrimmed claws can inadvertently scratch you, get caught on carpet and furniture, and grow into the paw.
Brush it off
If your cat likes to be brushed, finish off your exam with a nice grooming session. Brushing is good for removing loose fur, distributing oils, and stimulating blood flow. Brushing also helps prevent hairballs, which cats cough up when they've swallowed too much fur from grooming themselves or another cat in the household.
All owners should have at book on cat care (ask your veterinarian for a recommendation) that includes a section on emergency first aid. While you should never try to be your own veterinarian, you can learn some emergency procedures that could minimize damage and keep your pet relatively comfortable on the way to the veterinarian. Now is the time to educate yourself.