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.
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 collar (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.
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.
There are three vaccines that we give:
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia - i.e. FVRCP or 3-in1
Rhinotracheitis and calicivirus cause most upper respiratory infections (“colds”) in cats. Both diseases are very contagious and can cause signs for the life of infected cats. These diseases can be very serious. The vaccines don’t usually prevent these diseases but they do lessen the severity.
Panleukopenia is also called "feline distemper". It is very contagious and potentially fatal. Signs include severe vomiting and diarrhea. It is most common in kittens.
Feline Leukemia Virus - i.e. FeLV
Feline leukemia virus is a common, fatal disease. It is fairly easily transmitted through direct contact. It can also be transmitted via shared food or water bowls. We recommend that most kittens and most adult cats that have potential contact with infected cats be vaccinated against FeLV. We recommend that cats that do not have potential exposure to infected cats not be vaccinated.
Rabies is a fatal disease transmitted through bite wounds. Around here, it is carried primarily by bats. It is very rare but because a cat with rabies could transmit the disease to people, we recommend that all cats be vaccinated against it.
Vaccine Associated Cancer:
Some rabies vaccines and some FeLV vaccines are associated with causing cancer at the injection sites. It is uncommon - less than one in 2000 and probably doesn't happen with the vaccines that we use (Purevax) but because of this and for other reasons we recommend against the FeLV vaccines in adult cats with unlikely exposure to the disease.
Vaccines that we almost never recommend:
Pneumonitis - AKA Clamydia
You will sometimes see vaccines called FVRCP-P, or 4-in-1. These are the FVRCP with this added organism.
FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) is a fatal disease of cats. The vaccine is of questionable value in preventing the disease and may interfere with testing.
FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) is a usually fatal disease of cats that can cause a number of signs. Some studies indicate that the vaccine causes the disease to be worse.
Ringworm is a fairly common fungal disease of hair. The vaccine hasn’t been shown to prevent infection and it can cause a number of side effects.
Bordetella - It is uncertain whether bordetella actually causes disease in cats. If it does, then it is a mild upper respiratory infection that is easily treated.
Giardia is a parasite of the intestines. The vaccine probably doesn’t prevent disease.
Links to Additional Sources:
American Association of Feline Practitioners
American Veterinary Medical Association
It may seem odd to put anesthesia under preventive health care but we felt that it belongs here for the following reasons:
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.
Good nutrition may be the most important preventive medicine someone can provide for their cat.
As carnivores, cats normally eat a lot of protein. It is the main nutrient that they use for energy and it is what tells them that they have had enough to eat. To keep them healthy, we recommend feeding high protein foods to most cats. Limiting the amount of food consumed may also be necessary.
Pet insurance only helps if you get coverage before your cat gets sick. There are pluses and minuses to getting insurance for your cat. We don't advise one insurance company over another but we do have some thoughts about it.