As a cat parent, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of common illnesses so you can seek veterinary help for your feline friend in a timely manner. We have listed some of the more common illnesses affecting cats in Singapore. Read on for more information about these common medical inflictions that can impact our cats.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)
Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) describes a variety of conditions that affect the bladder and urethra of cats. Cats with FLUTD often show signs of difficulty and pain when urinating. Both female and male cats can get FLUTD from any conditions that affect the lower urinary tract of the cats, including inflammation of the bladder and urethra. Some of the common conditions that cause FLUTD include Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and Bladder Stones (Urolithiasis). FLUTD can be frustrating for both pet owners and veterinarians because the underlying cause can be varied and difficult to identify, and the illness can range in severity. FLUTD can occur at any age, but it is usually seen in middle-aged, overweight cats.
Signs of FLUTD disease include:
Straining to urinate
Urinating in small amounts
Frequent and/or prolonged attempts to urinate
Excessive licking of the genital area
Urinating outside the litter box
Blood in the urine
How to prevent it from recurring
When you see signs of the disease, please take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible. FLUTD can sometimes be an emergency as your cat’s bladder may be blocked. The vet will usually perform a further examination to identify the cause of the FLUTD. Treatment of FLUTD is very individual and based on the cause and symptoms.
With proper treatment, improvement can occur within days. However, FLUTD can recur. Here’s what you can do at home to prevent the future recurrence of FLUTD.
Feed small frequent meals.
Provide clean, fresh water all day, every day. Cats need to drink adequate water to be able to produce enough urine to flush out the bladder and prevent crystal production. Urinary crystals cause a lot of pain and irritation in the urinary tract, leading to FLUTD. It can be a challenge getting cats to drink water and some cats will not drink stagnant water that has been sitting around for a period. If this is your kitty, consider installing a drinking fountain to keep the water clean and moving. Alternatively, add bone broth to your cat’s diet. This will help to increase her overall water intake.
Keep litter boxes clean and for a multiple-cat household, provide enough litter boxes.
Keep litter boxes in quiet, low-traffic areas of the house.
Minimise stress and major changes in routine. Stress is believed to play a big role in this disease.
Maintain a healthy weight. Several previous studies found that overweight cats had an increased risk of FLUTD.
Consult with your veterinarian about the best diet for your cat. There are options for prescription diets available to help manage FLUTD in cats. For situations where a prescription diet is not practical, cats with FLUTD will benefit from a wet diet to help increase water intake. Here’s a wet diet formulated for indoor cats to help with weight management - Wellness Core Pate Indoor Chicken & Chicken Liver Wet Cat Food.
Diseases of the teeth and gums are common in cats. In fact, some studies report that up to 90% of cats older than four years of age suffer from some form of dental disease. Dental disease in cats is commonly associated with the accumulation of dental plaque and tartar formation. Plaque is a film of bacteria that develops on the surface of the cat’s teeth. Plaque can be removed with frequent brushing. If plaque is left uncleaned, it can become hardened. Hard, calcified plaque is known as dental tartar. Accumulation of tartar causes gum irritation and leads to an inflammatory condition called gingivitis. Gingivitis, often seen as a reddening of the gums directly bordering the teeth, is an early stage of periodontal disease in cats. After an extended period, if nothing is done, the cat may end up with an irreversible periodontal disease.
The best prevention for cat gum disease is to regularly brush and clean your kitty’s mouth and gums. It is best to introduce toothbrushing to your kitty at a young age. There is also the no-brushing gel and water additives for cats who dislike the toothbrush. For more information on the various no-brushing solutions, refer to our earlier article – Alternatives to brushing your cat's teeth!.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is one of the most common infectious diseases in cats around the world. The virus attacks the cat’s immune system, leaving the cat vulnerable to other infections. Cats infected with FIV may appear normal for years before they eventually suffer from immune deficiency. A compromised immune system allows normally harmless microorganisms - bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi found in the everyday environment - to potentially cause severe illnesses in these FIV-infected cats.
The primary modes of FIV transmission are deep bite wounds and scratches, where the infected cat’s saliva enters the other cat’s bloodstream. FIV may also be transmitted from pregnant females to their offspring in utero though it is rather rare.
FIV is slow acting, and the signs of infection may not be apparent until years after the initial infection occurred. In the early phase of infection, also known as the acute phase (1 to 3 months after the initial infection), symptoms like temporary enlargement of lymph nodes and fever may be observed. This phase of infection may be very mild and is often missed by owners or attributed to other causes of fever. As the virus continues to spread through the immune system, cats will enter a progressive immuno-compromised state during which other secondary infections may occur. Most illness related to FIV is not from the FIV virus itself, but from these secondary infections. These secondary infections commonly cause other illnesses and health complications.
Even though there is currently no definitive cure for FIV, cats infected with FIV can live very normal, healthy lives for many years if managed appropriately. For a healthy cat diagnosed with FIV, the most important management goals are to reduce her risk of acquiring secondary infections and prevent the spread of FIV to other cats. Most vets would caution against feeding a raw diet to minimize the risk of food-borne bacterial and parasitic infections. Selected immune-boosting supplements like this NaturVet Mushroom Max with Turkey Tail (Advanced Immunity Support) Supplements for Dogs & Cats can be used to prevent secondary infections. Please discuss with your vet the best diet and supplements for your cat.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
The Feline leukemia virus is a retrovirus that infects cats. The virus causes anaemia (low red blood cell level), leukemia and other cancers, and immunodeficiency. Like FIV, FeLV also suppresses the immune system and predisposes cats to other deadly infections. FeLV is passed from one cat to another through saliva, blood, and to some extent, urine, and faeces. For indoor-only cats, the risk of contracting FeLV is very low. Cats in catteries are more at risk, especially if they share water and food dishes, and litter boxes. Contracting the virus is not a death sentence. However, proper care and disease management are necessary as the infected cat’s immune system is compromised. This predisposes the cat to secondary infections and other potentially fatal illnesses.
With FeLV, prevention is the best treatment. FeLV vaccines are available in the market. However, in Singapore, the vaccine is a non-core vaccine and is only recommended for cats with an increased risk of exposure. Indoor-only cats do not normally require the vaccine. If your cat does venture outdoors and may encounter other cats, you may want to consider getting your kitty vaccinated. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise on FeLV vaccination.
Symptoms of FeLV include:
Loss of appetite
Progressive weight loss, followed by severe wasting in the late stages
Enlarged lymph nodes
Pale gums and other mucus membranes (signs of anaemia)
Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and mouth (stomatitis)
Frequent infections of the skin, urinary bladder, and upper respiratory tract
Seizures and other neurological disorders
For the wellbeing of your feline friends, it’s important to keep these illnesses in mind and do preventions regularly. Do not neglect kitty’s annual vet checkup and consult the veterinarian on the best vaccination program for your pet. As with any illnesses, prevention is always better than cure. If you suspect your cat is sick, take her to the vet as soon as possible.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.