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cat Health conditions

The Top 5 Most Common Health Problems in Cats

At Petplan we pay out over £4 million in claims every week. With over 90% of claims being for illness and many claims requiring ongoing treatment – it’s important to consider Petplan's Covered For Life® policies.

Check out the top 5 most common health problems affecting cats, how to spot the signs and top tips for cat owners below...

1

Gastroenteritis

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2

Hyperthyroidism

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3

Kidney Disease

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4

Cystitis

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5

Diabetes

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Gastroenteritis in cats

Fact

Petplan paid out over £2.9million in claims for gastroenteritis in 2016

What is it?

Gastroenteritis is an irritation of the stomach and intestines and has several causes including changes in diet, inflammatory bowel disease, parasites, bacteria, viruses, allergies, hairballs and eating foreign objects such as string and tinsel or feeding ‘people’ food or table scraps.

What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

The most common signs are vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy and weakness. If your cat has diarrhoea or is vomiting, they may become severely dehydrated – consult your vet promptly.

Gastroenteritis is quite common and most episodes clear up within a few days. But some cats may need long-term management because they have regular or permanent digestive problems. Your vet will want to determine the cause and will commonly ask if your cat has ingested any foreign objects or garbage or if there has been a change in diet. Your vet may take a blood sample to perform a number of tests to check vital organ function, sugar levels and electrolyte levels to ensure your cat isn’t dehydrated. X-rays of the abdomen may also be required if a foreign body or obstruction is suspected.

If your cat is dehydrated they may need to be hospitalised and be given fluids via a drip and medication to protect the stomach and to stop any vomiting.

Tips for owners:

  • Some of the best ways to keep your cat healthy are to keep them free of parasites with monthly worming and keep vaccinations current.
  • Avoid exposure to table scraps and if you do change your cats diet – do this slowly over a period of time. Starting with a small amount of the new diet mix with the old diet and slowly increase the amount of new diet over 5 days.
  • Consider taking out a Petplan Covered For Life® policy in case your cat develops a common condition such as gastroenteritis, so you can receive help covering the cost of any unexpected veterinary treatment they require.
hyperthyroidism in cats

Fact

Petplan paid out over £2.2million in claims for hyperthyroidism in 2016

What is it?

Hyperthyroidism is one of a number of hormonal disorders that can affect cats. It occurs when the thyroid glands, which are located in the neck, produce too much thyroid hormone. This most commonly occurs as a result of a benign (non-cancerous) tumour of the thyroid gland, although a cancerous tumour known as a thyroid adenocarcinoma can also occur.

What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

Symptoms include increased appetite, increased thirst, weight loss, restlessness or irritability, a poor and un-kept coat and you may notice your cat’s heart beat is faster.

Surgery, long-term medication, radioactive iodine therapy or diet changes can be used to effectively treat and manage the condition, meaning the cat can live a normal and comfortable life.

Unfortunately there is no way to prevent hyperthyroidism as the underlying cause is currently unknown, but it’s usually seen in older cats and knowing the signs of it and early detection can prevent your cat from displaying severe symptoms.

Tips for owners:

  • It’s important to maintain regular check-ups with your vet so they can monitor your cat’s thyroid hormone levels and vary treatment accordingly.
  • If you and your vet decide to take the route of long-term medication, you will need to ensure your cat gets their tablet at least once a day – sometimes twice a day. As every cat owner knows some cats can prove tricky when administering tablets! For those cats that will not readily accept the tablet from your hand, hide the tablet in just a small amount of food. Once they have eaten this (and the tablet) you can give them the rest of their meal.
  • Consider taking out a Petplan Covered For Life® policy in case your cat develops a common condition such as hyperthyroidism so you can receive help covering the cost of any unexpected veterinary treatment they require.
Kidney disease in cats

Fact

Petplan paid out over £2.1million in claims for kidney disease in 2016

What is it?

Cats’ kidneys are responsible for filtering the waste products from the blood into the urine. Cats may be affected by kidney disease caused by infections, blockages, tumours or toxins (acute kidney disease) as well as age related changes (chronic kidney disease), which occurs when the kidney function deteriorates gradually over a period of time.

What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

Symptoms include passing urine more often than usual, increased drinking, weight loss and decreased appetite, mouth ulcers, bad breath with an ammonia-like odour, vomiting and weakness.

Treatment of kidney disease depends on the cause and the extent of damage, but usually begins by flushing the kidneys using intravenous fluids, followed by special diets and medications. Acute kidney disease can be reversed in some cases if diagnosed in time, however chronic kidney disease is irreversible, but with the right support many cats can enjoy a reasonably normal life.

Tips for owners:

  • Limit your cat’s exposure to toxic supstances. Ethylene glycol (antifreeze) is highly toxic and should be locked away and medications should be kept out of reach at all times. Never administer human medications to cats, without consulting your vet first. Do not bring Lilies into your home or garden as they are extremely toxic to cat kidneys.
  • Schedule twice-yearly appointments with your vet – senior felines in particular. Cases of kidney failure caught early, have the best chance for long-term health because intervention can take place early in the disease process.
  • Know the signs of kidney disease – any changes in water intake or trips to the litterbox warrant a check-up with your vet, as does weight loss, vomiting and bad breath.
  • Consider taking out a Petplan Covered For Life® policy in case your cat develops a common condition such as kidney disease, so you can receive help covering the cost of any unexpected veterinary treatment they require.
Cystitis in cats

Fact

Petplan paid out over £749,000 in claims for cystitis in 2016

What is it?

Conditions that affect a cat’s bladder and urethra are collectively known as feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), which is more commonly referred to as cystitis, and causes include stress, not urinating enough, infections and bladder stones or crystals.

What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

Symptoms include difficulty or pain in passing urine, passing urine more often, urinating outside the litter-box, blood in the urine or over-grooming especially around their back-end.

Cats diagnosed with cystitis will usually require pain relief, access to plenty of water, special diets and perhaps some help to reduce stress.

Tips for owners:

  • Encourage your cat to drink more and pass urine more by ensuring fresh water is available in several locations. Ceramic bowls are preferable to plastic or metal as these can leave an unpleasant odour or taste. Use wide, shallow bowls so your cat can see what is going on around them whilst drinking, ensuring the sides of the bowl don’t touch their whiskers – this can be irritating for cats. Water fountains are also an option.
  • Ensure there is at least one litter box for every cat in the household - ideally provide more. Ensure they are placed in quiet, non-busy areas in a variety of locations and try different types of litter to understand what type your cat prefers.
  • Stress can be a key contributing factor to cystitis. It’s important to try to avoid specific triggers such as overcrowding or conflict with other cats in the household or neighbourhood, abrupt changes in diet, owner stress, changes in the household such as moving furniture or DIY. Cats that spend a large amount of time indoors can also be more susceptible to stress as their environment may lack enrichment. Regular play-time and introducing new toys frequently can help.
  • Consider using synthetic feline pheromones which can make cats feel more comfortable and reduce stress – either as a spray that can be sprayed on bedding/furniture or a plug-in diffuser.
  • Consider taking out a Petplan Covered For Life® policy in case your cat develops a common condition such as cystitis, so you can receive help covering the cost of any unexpected veterinary treatment they require.
Diabetes in cats

Fact

Petplan paid out over £1.3million in claims for diabetes in 2016

What is it?

Diabetes mellitus (or ‘sugar diabetes’) is a complex disease in which a cat's body either doesn't produce, or doesn't properly use insulin. During digestion, the fats, carbohydrates, and proteins that are consumed in the diet are broken down into smaller components that can be utilized by cells in the body. One component is glucose, a fuel that provides the energy needed to sustain life. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas and is responsible for regulating the flow of glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. If insulin is deficient, blood glucose levels will rise, and the body will not be able to use glucose efficiently as a source of energy, and the cat’s body starts breaking down fat and protein stores to use as alternative energy sources.

The exact cause of the disease is not known and although it can affect any cat - male, older, obese cats are more commonly affected.

What are the symptoms and how is it treated?

Cat owners often notice these four classical signs of diabetes mellitus: ravenous appetite, weight loss, increased urination, and increased water consumption.

Diabetes is one of the most common endocrine (hormonal) disorders of cats, but fortunately in most cases it can be diagnosed and managed successfully, although management options can be quite complex and treatment has to be adjusted to the individual cat.

Most diabetic cats require insulin injections administered under their skin twice daily. However; some can be treated with oral medications. Each diabetic cat is an individual, and each responds differently to treatment, but all diabetic cats do best with consistent medication, consistent feeding, and a stable, stress-free lifestyle. In addition to medication, diet is important in managing diabetes by feeding a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet. ‘Prescription’ diets designed for diabetic cats are available and can be purchased from your vet.

Tips for owners:

  • Obesity is a major factor in insulin sensitivity, so if your cat is overweight, you will need to help him lose weight gradually. It’s important to consult with your vet before making any diet change as they will be able to tailor a safe weight-loss program, in which your cat loses weight gradually. In some cats, weight loss may dramatically reduce or even eliminate the need for insulin treatment.
  • Make injection time part of a good experience! Try injecting your cat during a pleasurable activity such as whilst he/she is eating or if they enjoy being brushed - inject during your kitty’s grooming session.
  • It’s important to know the signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and what to do! The first signs are often suptle and include muscle tremors, restlessness and hunger. Then as the body becomes starved of glucose – lethargy, weakness, seizures and coma can develop. Always have a high-glucose syrup such as honey on hand to give to your cat and take to your vet immediately. Once hypoglycemia has developed it can take days to resolve possibly including hospitalisation and treatment.
  • Consider taking out a Petplan Covered For Life® policy in case your cat develops a common condition such as diabetes, so you can receive help covering the cost of any unexpected veterinary treatment they require.