Why your Indoor Cat needs a Yearly Physical Exam
By keeping your cat indoors only, you are preventing her from coming in contact with other animals/wildlife, run-ins with cars, and many infectious diseases. This saves millions of cats’ lives each year. However, millions of cats die from diseases from which we cannot protect them (inside or outside). Cats are very good at hiding when they don’t feel well, and only a thorough annual physical exam (which may or may not include blood work) by a veterinarian can detect most of these diseases.
Dental disease is not cosmetic (bad breath and yellow plaque/tartar.) It is infection, inflammation, and PAIN. Studies show that over 70% of pets over three years old have some degree of dental disease. And lets face it, how many of us open up our pets mouth and thoroughly look at their teeth on a regular basis? Your veterinarian will.
Older cats in particular are more susceptible to diseases such as diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease. If caught early, they are treatable.
Cats with an abnormal heart rate or a heart murmur do not usually show us any signs until the heart disease is advanced and the cat is very ill or worse, dies suddenly. Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmias) and heart murmurs can only be discovered through a thorough physical exam. The same holds true for lung disease such as asthma.
Sometimes the only sign of cancer is weight loss, which can be subtle in cats. Loss of even 4 oz. is significant, and most of our home scales can’t detect that amount. Annual physical exams allow your vet to monitor your cat’s weight and overall well-being for hints of cancer.
Older cats often have an infection in their urinary bladder, but not show any of the classic signs of an infection. This doesn’t mean they aren’t painful. They can also harbour viruses (such as leukemia and herpes), in their bodies which can cause disease.
When cats are inside only, they often don’t wear down/scratch their nails as much as an outside cat and these can curl around and grow into the pads of their toes. OUCH!
Studies show that indoor cats quickly become overweight due to their sedentary lifestyle: They are no longer relying on their hunting skills to eat, and we are feeding them too much. Obesity can shorten cats’ lives by making them predisposed to arthritis, heart disease, diabetes mellitus, asthma, constipation, and more.
90% of cats 12 years and older have some degree of arthritis!! There are two reasons we don’t notice it as easily in cats as dogs : Cats are good at hiding when they’re sick or sore and they usually get arthritis on both sides of their body, not just limping on one leg. What is often interpreted as “slowing down with age” is actually PAIN.
Being indoors only doesn’t guarantee your cat won’t get fleas. They are everywhere outside and you can carry the eggs in on your feet or on your clothes. People who come to visit you who have pets can also bring them in. Fleas are not just itchy, they can: carry diseases that cause life threatening anemia, carry tapeworm eggs that infect your cat when she licks off a flea, and cause anemia from the amount of blood they consume from your cat.
That’s right – cats can get heartworm disease, just like dogs. And studies show that inside cats get it just as often as outside cats, as you can still get mosquitoes in your house, which are what transmit heartworm disease.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Just like humans, cats can develop severe, life threatening high blood pressure and unless a blood pressure measurement is taken at your veterinarians during a physical exam, it often goes undetected.