Does My Cat Really Need the Vet?

Dr. Barnes examining a cat in the cage feline friendly way

Does My Cat Really Need the Vet?

Some people believe that veterinary visits are too stressful or unnecessary for their cat.  Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Cats are secretive and masters of hiding disease.  It takes a trained eye, a thorough history, and maybe some lab tests to know for sure.  Nature teaches cats that the sick and the weak fall, for this reason, they will hide sickness until they are no longer physically able to do so.

Frequently, when owners are concerned about their cats because they’re acting ill, they have a very advanced disease process.  These cats were often acting perfectly normal even up to the day before they started acting sick.  Routine examination and blood work can detect minor changes in organ function. Therefore, treatment can be started early and prolong the life of the patient.

An annual examination allows the veterinarian to have a good baseline for your pet.  This will help them detect abnormalities or changes over time.  A good annual exam will cover all body parts of your cat from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail.

Eyes and Nose
The vet will check for clarity, basic vision, and signs of infection or inflammation. They may also ask you about your cats’ behavior at home.
Oral Cavity
The vet will examine the oral cavity for gum inflammation, oral masses, signs of excess tartar on the teeth, and tooth abnormalities or breakage.
Ears
The vet will examine your cat’s ears for signs of infection, debris, inflammation, redness, drainage around the ear canal, and mites.
Heart and Lungs
Your vet will listen to your kitty’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope, listening for any heart murmurs or any other abnormal sounds, such as respiratory congestion.
Fur
Your vet will examine your cat’s skin and hair coat, these can be indicative of certain disease processes, allergies, or flea infestation.
Paws and Legs
The vet will examine the legs and feet.  They will palpate to make sure your cat has a full range of motion and is not painful.
Abdomen
Your vet will palpate your kitty’s abdomen.  This is to feel for any apparent masses or any pain in the digestive tract.
Rectum
The anus will be checked for visual evidence of worms, and the anal glands for potential signs of infection or impaction.

All of these things will give your vet an idea of your cats’ health.  Additionally, your vet may request lab work. This could include blood work, urinalysis, and potentially radiographs or an ultrasound.  Certain values in the blood or urine will change as organ function begins to decline.  These blood values may remain the only symptom for an extended period of time.  Early detection will make treatment much more possible and manageable.

Your vet will use all of these clues to determine the health of your pet.  Continued care and monitoring are the only way to detect changes.  This is the reason that an annual examination is the standard of practice.  As your cat gets older your vet may opt to do twice yearly examinations.  Waiting until your cat shows signs of illness may be too late.