I just read a very interesting article that addressed the importance of wellness exams for our cats. The article was published in the latest Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, which is a highly respected veterinary publication.
Everyone knows that a sick pet should see the doctor. But if the cat is feeling fine… what’s the point? We’re all busy people – trying to fit a veterinary appointment into an already busy schedule is challenging. And it’s going to cost some money to go to the vet – maybe you’d rather go out to a nice dinner. And then there’s getting the cat into the carrier, which can be quite a challenge. A cat that puts up that much resistance must be fine, right?
Well, maybe not. At least that’s what this article reiterated. We’ve been saying for years that our pets need to be seen by a veterinarian at least once a year to help maintain good health. We’ve advocated screening tests to identify problems at earlier stages. Skeptics say this is just a way for vets to make more money. Vets say that we are taking better care of pets. This article provides the impartial evidence both veterinarians and owners are both looking for to make the best decisions in caring for our animals. Believe me, as a veterinarian who performs many wellness screens on cats, I’m happy when I have a very, very long string of normal results. And all those normal results make me sometimes wonder if what I’m doing is necessary, although I do love giving people good news that their cats are healthy.
In this study, cat owners were asked a variety of routine health questions. Cats were all deemed by their people to be outwardly healthy, no concerns. The cats were considered middle age to senior, so 6 years old and up. They were screened with blood pressure measurements, blood testing, and urinalysis, as well as routine physical exams. Here are some of the interesting findings:
- 8% of the cats had high blood pressure, or hypertension. In cats and humans, this is a silent killer, causing permanent organ damage and death if untreated.
- 72% of the cats had dental disease. As we’ve discussed before, dental disease untreated can lead to heart problems and kidney problems, as well as cause significant pain and tooth loss.
- 15% of the cats had at least some evidence of kidney disease. Kidney disease is serious and progressive. If caught early, we have a better chance in battling this all too common problem.
- 3% of the cats were pre-diabetic or diabetic.
- 3% of the cats were hyperthyroid.
Remember, 100% of the cats were deemed healthy with no problems by the owner.
Scary? Maybe. Enlightening? Yeah. Helpful? Extremely!!! Personally, I think the bottom line is that when we see our pets every day, we may not be aware of subtle changes. Also, the longer we wait in between veterinary visits, the more potential there is for damage to be done to the cat’s various organs if there is a problem. There are ways to address the challenges of getting the cat to the vet. Practice with the carrier. Talk to your veterinarian about your scheduling challenges. Start a savings account just for your pets. Consider pet insurance. Pay close attention to eating habits, drinking habits, and litter box habits. But most of all, make sure you have your cat checked thoroughly at least once a year, and that screening bloodwork just might save his life.