The Secret to Knowing Whether Your Cat Needs to Go to the Vet

pet doctorIf you have a cat, you've certainly wondered - at some point - whether you should take them to the vet for something that doesn't seem right. Whether it's watery eyes, a cough, a persistent itch, vomiting, or something else, sometimes it's not obvious whether or not Kitty needs to see a doctor. To help eliminate some of the confusion, we’ve taken some time to answer a few frequently asked questions on this topic so that you'll know when a situation may require a professional's care.


How do I know whether to take my cat to the vet?

If your cat isn’t feeling well enough to eat, or if they’re repeatedly vomiting, having issues urinating or defecating, having problems breathing, or they’re lethargic and not moving around much, take them to the vet - today. These issues can be emergencies, so it's best to be safe and get care quickly. Other issues can be harder to decide, though.


Do I need to take my cat to the vet for a cold?

pet healthCats tend to get a lot of upper respiratory congestion, and they tend to be viral in nature. If the cat is mildly ill with just a bit of sneezing, the fluid coming out of their nose is clear, and they’re eating and drinking, you’re probably okay. However, if they have a fever above 102, and they’re not eating or drinking, or if the fluid they’re sneezing out is yellow or green or bloody, seek veterinary intervention.

If it’s a viral infection, there isn’t much we can do for cats. But if they get a secondary bacterial infection, then your veterinarian can intervene with antibiotics. Also, if the cat’s not eating or drinking well, we can try other supportive methods, like subcutaneous fluids or appetite stimulant medications. There’s a lot we can do to ease their discomfort while they’re recovering.


What are some signs that my cat needs veterinary attention?

Fluffy angry cat in litter boxA cat that’s having trouble urinating is in urgent need of immediate veterinary care. Many people don’t realize that any cat (but especially male cats) can develop a urinary obstruction. That’s the most common veterinary emergency we see besides significant trauma. If the cat is going to the litter box and is making efforts to go but can’t, that is a true emergency.

Things that can wait a bit longer are include limping and/or decreased appetite (as long as some appetite is still present). But if your cat is having persistent diarrhea, vomiting repeatedly, running a fever, can't walk at all, won't eat at all, is extremely lethargic, or has trauma or toxicity, then your cat needs prompt veterinary care.


How do I know if my cat isn’t just getting older or if there is something wrong?

To be clear: age isn’t a disease! We can’t look at a cat and say, "Oh well, he’s getting older, and that’s to be expected." Most cats that are getting older and are starting to have symptoms out of the ordinary have something wrong that can be treated.

The most common things we see in older cats are kidney failure, diabetes, tumors, and hyperthyroidism. Those are all conditions that require veterinary care, and they can be treated quite well—some better than others. But again, you can’t just chalk this up to them being old and slowing down. Any symptom of weight loss, lethargy, or changes in eating or drinking patterns all merit a trip to the veterinarian to get some diagnostics done. We can treat and manage many of those illnesses really well if we get to see the cat before the diseases have progressed too far.


My cat hasn’t eaten in a day or so? Should I bring them to the vet?

veterinariansYes, a cat that hasn’t been eating or drinking is a sick cat. As previously mentioned, there can be many reasons for that—an upper respiratory infection, an intestinal blockage, or urinary obstruction or blockage. If you’ve done a diet change or something else that explains the loss of appetite, then you might be okay. Switch back to the old diet and see if that does the trick. Most times, however, if a cat isn’t eating or drinking, that warrants a trip to your veterinarian.


Do I need to take my cat to the veterinarian for dental care?

veterinary careCats are the most overlooked species when it comes to dental care, and, yes, they need it! Cats get dental disease that dogs don’t get. Dogs get tartar and break their teeth. Cats can have both of those things happen, but they can also get dental lesions similar to cavities (aka caries), which can be very painful. Additionally, cats can also get feline stomatitis, which is an exceedingly painful inflammation of the gums. 

Unfortunately, many cat owners assume that any cat that’s still eating doesn’t have dental issues. The truth is, 80% of all cats 4 years of age and older have some kind of dental disease requiring veterinary intervention. If you wait until your kitty is actually showing signs of mouth pain, you're likely going to be in for a complicated procedure with a large bill attached. 


We understand that going to the vet isn’t always the most cost-effective or convenient event in your life, especially with cats, who are notoriously hard to get there! However, we also know that cats can be stoic creatures, hiding their pain well. As such, if you see signs or symptoms that something is wrong, such as a sudden change in your cat's behavior, you need to be the best pet parent you can be and bring your cat to the veterinarian. If you have any further questions about cat illnesses or disease, feel free to give us a call!


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