Preventive Health Care
There are a few things that we routinely recommend for most cats to help them live a long and healthy life.
With routine physical examinations we commonly uncover early diseases and other conditions that can affect quality of life and longevity in cats. By addressing these problems early in their course, we can prevent a lot of suffering and long term costs.
We feel that every cat should have a thorough physical examination at least once a year. The examination should include an assessment of the general condition, weight, temperature, eyes, ears, mouth, teeth, skin, bones, joints, claws, lymph nodes, abdomen, heart, lungs, and anal and urogenital areas.
Blood and Urine Testing
It is generally recommended to tests cats for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus on a regular basis, depending on their individual risk.
For older cats (seven years old and older) we recommend yearly blood and urine screening tests. The tests include: a complete blood count, a serum chemistry panel, a thyroid test, and a urinalysis.
Of the many vaccines available for cats, there are three that we recommend.
Other than fleas and tapeworms, parasites are uncommon in San Diego County. Some of these can be especially dangerous for humans, though, so we do recommend addressing all of them.
We recommend microchips and collars (with phone numbers) for all cats. The microchip is permanent and can't be lost while the collar is more prominent and more quickly identified.
Both of these are critical for outdoor cats, especially if they are ever found injured.
We recommend collars and microchip for indoor cats, even those who are afraid to go outside. Earthquakes, wildfires, and burglars are examples of reasons for indoor cats to end up alone outside.
Sedation and Anesthesia
It may seem odd to put sedation and anesthesia under preventive health care but we felt that was the best place for it for the following reasons.
Fear and stress can have a lot of negative impacts on cats and anti-anxiety medications and sedatives are sometimes used to prevent these effects. The ideal is for cats to always be in a stress free environment but when stress is unavoidable, some cats benefit from appropriate medications. We often recommend antianxiety medications for cats coming to visit us.
Usually beginning with a spay or neuter, most cats are anesthetized at some point or points in their life. An appropriately administered anesthesia is preventive in that it:
- Prevents and alleviates pain, suffering, and stress, all of which can have short and long term consequences.
- Prevents short term complications such as hypothermia or death.
- Prevents long term complications such as kidney damage that can progress to kidney disease.
An anesthetic procedure should include: a physical examination, sedatives, blood screening, an IV catheter, I.V. fluids, I.V. induction, maintenance gas anesthetic, monitoring and management of depth, heart rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, temperature, carbon dioxide levels.
Routine Health Care Recommendations For Kittens:
- At least one complete examination, including a screen for ringworm.
- An FeLV / FIV test at the time of the first vaccinations and again 4 months later. (We should note that because of limitations of the FIV test, it is controversial whether this test is indicated in young kittens.)
- At least three fecal exams.
- Routine deworming and heartworm preventative starting no later than the time of the first vaccines.
- Neuter or spay at four to five months of age.
- A microchip.
Preventive Medicine for Adult Cats:
The exception is cats who are so aggressive when they come in that they do not allow an exam without heavy sedation. Cats with chronic diseases should receive an exam more frequently.
Yearly fecal exam and monthly intestinal parasite preventative:
This is especially important in cats who live with small children or people with weakened immune systems. It is extremely important to prevent parasites in outdoor cats who use vegetable gardens and children’s sandboxes as their litter box.
Annual laboratory tests.
For senior cats (seven years old and older) without clinical signs of disease, we recommend:
- An FeLV/FIV test at least once.
- A complete blood count yearly.
- A serum chemistry panel yearly.
- A thyroid test yearly.
- A urinalysis yearly.
*These recommendations are based in large part on the guidelines of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.