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SIGNS OF A SICK CAT

Different cats display symptoms of illness in different ways. However, if your cat is experiencing any of the following signs, you should contact your veterinarian immediately for guidance.

Diarrhea or Vomiting

Diarrhea or vomiting is not necessarily a problem. If your cat otherwise seems normal and if the diarrhea is watery, or if your cat vomits only once, withhold food for 24 hours. After 24 hours, start feeding only small amounts of a bland diet such as boiled chicken or fish mixed with white rice. Make sure fresh water is readily available but do not offer milk or any other type of food. If the cat is doing well, slowly increase the amount of food over several days and then gradually reintroduce their regular diet. If the vomiting continues after withholding food or after you begin feeding the bland diet, have your pet examined by your veterinarian.

The condition is urgent and requires immediate medical attention if:

  • There is blood in the vomit or feces, or if it has a strong, bad odor.
  • Your cat seems to be in pain or has abdominal swelling.
  • Your cat seems listless, dull or lethargic.

Scratching, Licking or Chewing

If your cat has fleas, ticks or other parasites, he may scratch or lick the area occasionally, or even bite himself. Examine the coat for parasites and, unless the problem appears severe, treat fleas or ticks with over-the-counter medication. Consult a veterinarian if there is no improvement.

The condition is urgent and requires immediate medical attention if:

  • Your cat's scratching, licking or biting comes on suddenly and severely.
  • There is inflammation or hair loss, or if his efforts break the skin.
  • Your cat has other symptoms, such as diarrhea or vomiting, pain, lethargy, coughing, difficulty moving, changes in appetite or difficulty breathing.

Panting, Coughing, Wheezing or Sneezing

If your cat coughs or pants occasionally, he may be overheated or overexerted. Try calming him down in a temperate room and watch him carefully for signs of deterioration or distress. Severe or prolonged coughing, wheezing, or panting is usually a sign of a problem that requires immediate medical attention. If your cat starts sneezing, it may be a cold and you should consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Also, if the sneezing is accompanied by your cat rubbing her nose a lot and there is nasal discharge, call your veterinarian.

The condition is urgent and requires immediate medical attention if:

  • Your cat is choking, pawing at his mouth or in obvious distress - give first aid for choking and contact your veterinarian immediately.
  • His breathing is shallow or labored.
  • He is wheezing.
  • He collapses or passes out.
  • His gums are pale pink, white, yellow or blue tinged.
  • He coughs up pus, blood or pink foamy fluid.
  • There are accompanying nasal and/or eye discharges.

Pain, Stiffness or Difficulty Moving

If your cat seems stiff or lame or if he is limping on one leg, examine the area for cuts, warmth or bruising, and don't forget to check the pads of his foot as well. If everything appears to be normal and if your cat is behaving naturally in every other way, keep him calm and indoors, and observe him for 24 hours for signs of improvement.

Never give acetaminophen or ibuprofen to your cat - it is toxic. The only permissible medication is buffered aspirin (ascriptin) or baby aspirin. Even then, consult your veterinarian before giving the aspirin to ensure it is safe to do so and the right dosage. If the condition seems to deteriorate in the meantime, or lameness persists for several days with no signs of improvement, consult a veterinarian immediately. If you have been medicating your cat, ask your veterinarian if it is okay to continue to do so prior to the vet visit as some medications may mask the signs and symptoms, thereby making a diagnosis more difficult.

The condition is urgent and requires immediate medical attention if:

  • Your cat is unbalanced, staggering or falling down.
  • The stiffness or difficulty moving came on suddenly.
  • He collapses.
  • He appears to be distressed or sensitive to light and sound - call for help with poisoning.
  • He is stiff all over or collapses.
  • He shows any sign of limb paralysis - treat as an emergency!
  • He hops on three legs or won't put weight on one leg.
  • There is an obvious limb or back fracture, or any open fracture (skin broken).

Bowel or Urinary Problems

Cats are susceptible to several disorders that can result in bowel or urinary problems, and they can develop internal blockages. If your cat appears fairly normal but strains to pass feces, he may be constipated; in a cat, this usually requires veterinary attention. Wait no more than 24 hours to call your vet if your cat is straining, but has produced no bowel movement. If your cat is drinking or urinating more than usual, consider his activity level and diet. If he appears to be normal otherwise, wait 24 hours for improvement. If there are other behavioral or physical symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

The condition is urgent and requires immediate medical attention if:

  • Your cat is straining to pass urine or passes only drops or dribbles.
  • He is vomiting as well as having bowel or urinary problems.
  • He has blood in the feces (may appear as black, tarry stools)
  • He has discolored urine- red, dark orange or brown urine

Eye and Ear Disorders

Different cats display symptoms in different ways. However, if your cat is experiencing any of the following signs, you should phone your veterinarian immediately for guidance:

  • Bleeding is most commonly the result of injury.
  • Clear discharge (excess tearing) can result from allergies, infections, irritation, or eye trauma.
  • Cloudiness often results from injury or infection, but can also signal cataracts, glaucoma, lens problems or simply the aging process.
  • Dry or bloodshot eyes are most often seen in older cats and can easily lead to infection. They are also signs of chronic eye disease or dry eye.
  • Failing vision can result from retinal dysplasia, stroke, progressive retinal atrophy, aging, cataracts, glaucoma or diabetes.
  • Inflammation can be caused by allergies, conjunctivitis or third eyelid infections.
  • Tumors or cysts can cause lumps or bumps.
  • Yellow discharge is most often the sign of infection, often following dry eye in older cats.