Did you know that 83% of cats visit the veterinarian before their first birthday, but more than 50% don’t return until they become sick or are in pain, according to one study? Most cat owners clearly understand the importance of the initial kitten appointments and vaccinations, but many skip out on important preventive care as their pets age. We’re here to tell you that regular veterinary care is essential for your cat’s health—no matter their age. Here, we detail the important aspects of feline preventive care.
If you cuddle enough with your cat, you’ll likely recognize when something is off. Whether you notice a lump on the skin, a squinty eye, or a flinch when you caress a certain area of your pet’s body, these are all indications that your pet may need veterinary attention. But, although your cat may seem completely normal and healthy, they still need a thorough examination at least once a year. Our Scripps Ranch Veterinary Hospital team is highly trained to look for subtle clues during an examination that may warrant further attention. Changes like abdominal masses, heart murmurs, blood pressure changes, or retinal abnormalities are all problems that would remain hidden without routine examinations. And, since time is often of the essence when it comes to pet health, you don’t want to wait until it is too late.
Infectious disease testing
Like humans, cats are susceptible to a range of bacteria and viruses that can cause various problems, from common upper respiratory symptoms, to life-threatening immune system compromise. Feline immunodeficiency virus, and feline leukemia virus, are two such contagious diseases that can lead to life-long complications. All domestic cats need to be assessed for these viruses by way of a simple, table-side test, which is generally performed before a kitten or adult cat enters a new home—especially those with other cats. Most cats will need only one test throughout their life, but if your feline friend spends a lot of time outdoors interacting with other cats, transmission is more likely, and more frequent testing may be recommended.
Vaccinations work by mimicking a particular disease, thereby encouraging the immune system to create antibodies, and memory cells, against various bacteria and viruses. Vaccinations are an effective way of protecting a population, including cats, from harmful diseases. Typically, kittens begin their immunization series at around 6 to 8 weeks old, with booster vaccines every three to four weeks thereafter until they are around 4 months of age. Timing is important, to allow a kitten to establish an appropriate vaccine response. Most kittens will receive vaccines against a variety of upper respiratory pathogens, along with feline leukemia virus, and rabies. The importance of immunizations in kittens goes without saying, but keeping up with boosters is also important for adult cats—especially those who wander outdoors. Not to mention, the rabies vaccine is required by law.
If your cat spends most of their days lounging around on the window perch, you may question why they need parasite prevention. After all, don’t parasites live outside? While outdoor cats are certainly more susceptible to acquiring parasites like fleas, ticks, and intestinal worms, our indoor friends are not off the hook. Every year, indoor cats who’ve never stepped foot outside present with problems caused by fleas, which are excellent little hitchhikers, and will readily hop on to a person for a free ride—indoors or out. Additionally, if you share your home with other furry friends who frequent the outdoors, they can easily bring home a few “friends” to you, and your cats. Currently, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends that all dogs and cats receive year-round prevention for fleas, heartworm, intestinal parasites, and when appropriate, ticks.
There is a lot of buzz in the veterinary world about keeping your pet’s teeth squeaky clean. Many pet owners are shocked that their pet has dental disease, but the harsh reality is this condition is exceedingly common—most pets over age 3 have evidence of dental plaque or tartar. Unless you’re brushing your cat’s teeth daily, this isn’t truly surprising. As part of your pet’s annual examination, our veterinarian will evaluate your pet’s teeth and oral cavity, looking for disease signs. If an anesthetic dental cleaning is recommended, we will review this process with you before the appointment.
As our pets age, we often turn to preventive diagnostic testing, looking for signs of internal diseases, such as kidney or liver problems. This usually includes blood testing, urine analysis, and sometimes X-rays, and you should plan for these diagnostics once a year when your cat reaches 7 or 8 years old. Remember, our pets age more quickly than we do, and catching disease early is important for prognosis and treatment planning.
When was the last time your pet visited Scripps Ranch Veterinary Hospital for wellness care? If you aren’t sure, or need to schedule an appointment, contact us. We can’t wait to see your feline friends!