Taking care of your cat to ensure they live a long, healthy life involves many factors, from being consistent with annual wellness exams to watching carefully for any change in behavior that might indicate illness. Cats are stoic regarding pain and disease, so keeping a watchful eye as their owner is critical. At Owings Mills Veterinary Center, we understand pet owners have questions about wellness exams for their cats, so we’ve taken FAQs about cat wellness and answered them here as thoroughly and accurately as possible.
If you’re looking for a highly trained veterinarian in Owings Mills, MD, we’d love to see your cat for a wellness exam, so please call us at (410) 807-8193.
What is a cat wellness exam?
A cat wellness exam is when you bring your cat in to see your veterinarian for a complete physical exam, even if they seem happy and healthy. This is an essential annual check-up to ensure everything is fine and administer any vaccines if necessary.
Since this is a wellness check, your veterinarian isn’t expecting any problems, per se. Instead, they ensure your cat’s good health by looking at their eyes, ears, mouth, and body condition. They’ll also listen to their heart and lungs, feel their belly, and check their skin for parasites.
What will a veterinarian be looking for during my cat’s wellness exam?
During a cat wellness exam, your veterinarian is looking to establish a solid baseline for your cat and understand what is normal for them. This helps to better identify anything abnormal in the future. They will ask you questions regarding your cat’s appetite, water consumption, urinary habits, litter box use, and typical behaviors. A thorough examination will come next.
During a wellness exam, your veterinarian will:
- Use an ophthalmoscope to check your cat’s eyes
- Use an otoscope to check their ears
- Conduct an oral exam to check your cat’s teeth, tongue, roof of the mouth, and gums
- Check their lymph nodes
- Listen to their heart and lungs with a stethoscope
- Take their body temperature
- Palpate their abdomen to ensure there is no pain
- Feel the urinary bladder, kidneys, and intestines
- Check the hair coat to make sure it’s shiny and healthy
- Check their weight to make sure it’s within an acceptable range
Will my cat's wellness exam require any specific lab work or procedures?
At Owings Mills Veterinary Center, we always give our clients the option of running an early detection profile, including a complete blood count (CBC) chemistry and thyroid test. If we find something that's not normal, it gives us a chance to intervene before a medical issue advances. Your cat’s wellness exam will include a fecal exam and possibly specific blood tests for feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). If you have a senior cat, your veterinarian might recommend a urinalysis to look for other diseases, and possibly x-rays to look at their heart, lungs, and joints.
How does wellness impact the longevity and health of my cat?
The longer you can keep your cat free of diseases and parasites, give them proper nutrition, maintain a healthy body weight, ensure good dental care, and detect issues early, the longer and more happily they will live.
When it comes to older cats, looking for minor changes that may indicate a problem is critical, as older cats are prone to developing kidney disease, hyperthyroid disease, and diabetes. Intervening early makes it easier to address the problem than dealing with a late-stage illness and managing symptoms.
When should I bring my cat in for a veterinary wellness exam?
During the kitten stage, you’ll need to visit your veterinarian for appointments at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks for vaccines and preventative care, followed by another visit to be spayed or neutered. Following those appointments, an annual exam is sufficient. If your cat is an outdoor cat, your veterinarian might recommend wellness exams every six months since they are exposed more frequently to diseases.
As your cat ages, they may require two visits per year for blood work and a blood pressure check to monitor for hypertension. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recently announced updated guidelines for senior cat care.
What are some signs and symptoms that my cat might not be feeling well?
While cats are very good at hiding any pain or disease, several telltale signs may indicate they’re not feeling well. You know your cat best, so pay close attention to any behaviors that are not typical for them.
Signs your cat isn’t feeling well may include:
- Failing to greet you when you return home
- Decreased appetite
- Drinking more water
- Sleeping more than usual
- Reluctance to play
- Change in their everyday habits
What are some possible environmental factors that can affect my cat's wellness?
There are quite a few environmental factors that can affect your cat's wellness, especially if they spend time outdoors, increasing their exposure to parasites and diseases carried by other animals. While safe inside from other animals, indoor cats can still get into harmful things around the house. Cats can also get allergies during the spring, fall, and summer months and suffer from heatstroke if they are outside without adequate shade and water.
Why is early detection of illness so important in the well-being of my cat?
The sooner your veterinarian discovers an issue, the quicker treatment can begin and the better the outcome will be. Finding medical issues before there are symptoms is far better than having symptoms and illnesses that may be difficult to reverse. Regular wellness checks, establishing baselines, and discovering things early can all benefit your cat in the long run.
If you have further questions about cat wellness, reach out to your veterinarian. If you live in or near Owings Mills, MD, we’d love to see your cat for a wellness exam, so please don’t hesitate to call us at (410) 807-8193.