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Meouch: Common cat ailments

Cats are widely considered low maintenance pets, but even the most independent feline can use a helping hand from his owner every now and again. That helping hand is perhaps most necessary when cats find themselves facing a health issue they can't overcome. The following are a handful of common cat ailments and what cat owners can do to help their furry friends go back to living life to the fullest.

Feline lower urinary tract diseases

Many things can cause a cat to get a feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD. A collection of clinical symptoms that can be caused by a host of factors, FLUTD can prevent a cat from fully emptying its bladder and may even lead to a fatal block of the urethra, which is the tube connecting the bladder to the outside of the body. Cats that are overweight or obese might be susceptible to urinary tract problems, and those suffering from FLUTD may experience frequent or painful urination, bloody urine and frequent licking of the urinary opening. Other indicators of urinary tract problems in cats include a hard, distended abdomen, prolonged squatting in the litter box and possibly fear or avoidance of the litter box that leads to soiling in inappropriate places.

Cat owners who suspect their cats are suffering from FLUTD should bring their cats to the veterinarian immediately. The veterinarian will conduct a complete physical examine and order a urinalysis, and the results of these tests will determine treatment, which varies depending on the cause of the problem and the doctor's prognosis.

Fleas

Fleas may be most associated with dogs, but cats commonly get fleas as well. Cats with fleas may be constantly scratching at their skin, which be covered with tiny black dots. Such dots are flea dirt. In addition, cats with fleas may suffer hair loss and their skin may be noticeably red or irritated.

Fleas pose a serious threat to cats, as they can live on felines for more than a year and increase cats' risk of anemia, a condition in which cats have less of the red blood cells they need to carry oxygen to the tissues in their bodies. A veterinarian can design a course of treatment for cats suffering from fleas, and that treatment plan may include medication (oral or topical), powders and foams.

Tapeworms

The most common internal parasite found in cats, tapeworms can live inside a cat's small intestine, and cat owners may be shocked to learn that these parasites can grow as long as two feet. Cats fighting a tapeworm infection may vomit or lose a noticeable amount of weight. But it's important that cat owners recognize vomiting is very common in cats, and not necessarily indicative of tapeworms. The best way for cat owners to determine if their cat's vomiting and/or weight loss is the result of a tapeworm is to examine the feline's feces and the areas around its anus. Small white worms that may look like grains of rice may appear in the feces or around the anus of a cat with tapeworms.

Cats often get tapeworms as a result of fleas. Cats may bite or eat fleas that harbor immature tapeworms in their intestines, so it's important that owners of cats with fleas address the flea issue first before addressing the tapeworms. If a flea issue is allowed to continue without treatment while a tapeworm issue is addressed, the tapeworms are likely to return when the cat eats or bites another flea. Veterinarians will likely prescribe medication to treat tapeworm infections.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea is another common ailment in cats and can be the result of an allergy, spoiled food or infection. Some cases of diarrhea are indicative of a more serious problem, such as cancer or liver disease. Diarrhea that lasts longer than 24 hours should be brought to the attention of a veterinarian. Cats whose stools appear dark or bloody also should be brought to the veterinarian immediately.

Cats have independent streaks that may result in cat owners missing certain signs that their cats are having health problems. Cat owners should always be on the lookout for signs that their cats are unhealthy and take immediate action if any such signs appear.