Cats Hide Unhealthy Secret

See why kitty might be sicker than you suspect.

By Ken Niedziela | Posted: August 25, 2014, 5 p.m. EDT

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Cat Health RisksMany cats who look and act healthy hide a secret.

A study of outwardly healthy cats discovered laboratory abnormalities in one out of every four tested. Furthermore, pet owners who answered a 48-question survey noted warning signs in nearly 70 percent of the 1,197 cats checked.

The results point to the value of annual veterinary wellness visits and in-depth questioning of pet owners, reported veterinary drug maker Zoetis Inc., which conducted the research.

"This study demonstrated that a health risk assessment … can help veterinarians identify issues that might otherwise go undiagnosed and untreated until serious symptoms become apparent,” said Dr. J. Michael McFarland, the group director of Companion Animal Veterinary Operations for Zoetis.

The study used data collected from 264 veterinary practices over 5½ years and included a cat owner questionnaire.
Among the cat owners who took part in the health risk assessment:
• 9% indicated that their cat had difficulty breathing, showing symptoms such as wheezing, sneezing or coughing.
• 11% thought their cats exhibited stiffness, lameness or pain associated with movement.
• 22% thought their cats were overweight or obese.
• 27% said their cat had chronic vomiting or hairballs.

The laboratory testing revealed that 25% of the 1,197 cats displayed abnormalities that may have been signs of anything from kidney or liver disease to inflammation or infection to hyperthyroidism or a blood disorder.

Finding problems early is key to keeping a cat genuinely healthy, said Dr. Bob Lavan, the associate director of Zoetis’ Outcomes Research Team.
"The goal of preventive medicine is to optimize health and minimize disease burden by proactively taking measures to prevent disease,” Lavan said. "Early detection allows for treatment options that may be less invasive, less expensive and significantly more effective.”

The study was conducted as part of Zoetis’ Pet Wellness Report, and detailed results were released in August. The Pet Wellness Report includes the health risk assessment questionnaire, which veterinarians such as Dr. Michael Hargrove use to help communicate with pet owners.

"Clinics across the country are seeing annual wellness visits decline,” said Hargrove, who practices at North Shore Veterinary Hospital in Duluth, Minn. "Bringing in a health risk assessment to implement change and show the pet owner the value of regular visits can be a huge step in the right direction.”

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Reader Comments

Judy    New York, NY

9/6/2014 5:14:10 AM

Great article. Walk the walk with me Zoetis! Just like humans, early intervention is the difference between life and death. By the time you recognize that your furry kid has suddenly been losing or gaining weight, it could be too late for a treatable diagnosis. That is why I am spending all my time trying to get this life-saving feeding bowl on the market. This product is a no-brainer for pet parents, irresistable for our furry kids and SAVES LIVES! Please contact me if you can help me get this safety net on the shelves for pet and pet parents!! Http://www.

Elizabeth    International

9/6/2014 2:25:38 AM

Karen of Parsipanny, everything dies in the end. I am sure you gave your cat a good life.

Veterinary science has progressed, almost too much. Quality if life is far more important than prolonging life in my opinion. We have to accept that we aren't omnipotent and vets can't have all the answers. In fact in some cases, I feel that leaving well alone is the best route.

I have a beautiful Maine Coone. He has a heart murmur abut seems very well. However, now five years old, the vet is encouraging me to investigate, in case I am missing subtle symptoms. I am struggling with this, not so much because of the expense - he has insurance - as because of the disruption and anxiety this will cause in Harry's life.

At the end of the day I suppose I will have to have the scan done - it may eliminate the need for worry, or if it identifies a fixable problem then that will be great. Or it could open a whole can of worms that may never find full resolution.

In the end all of us die, and hopefully we will be missed. All we can do for our pets is give them the best lives. I don't think veterinary science holds all the answers to this, and I certainly think that advances in veterinary science present as many ethical questions of welfare as they present solutions to problems.

Kelly    Springfield, IL

9/5/2014 6:17:47 PM

I just experienced this. I took my two male cats into the new vet because I relocated and wanted to have an established relationship if needed. They of course did labs for baseline. One of my cats had a white count of 22000. Ear infection (he has always had excess wax and itches at them). His behavior had not changes nor his eating habits. If I had not taken him in, no telling what may of happened.

Karen    Parsippany, NJ

9/5/2014 4:18:41 PM

My 14 year old cat was brought to the vet several times in her last few months. The bloodwork done 6 months before she died did not show any problems. The vet did not diagnose anything. But, she died last May, anyway. I spent hundreds of dollars on her the last two months if her life and she still died, and no explanation was given to me.

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