Annual Wellness Visits
Annual Wellness Visits
Is Your Cat Keeping a Secret?
A recent survey indicated cat owners are more likely to skip annual wellness visits for their pet than dog owners.
Two of the reasons cited were that cats can be difficult to transport and that they don't enjoy veterinary exams. These normal feline behaviors shouldn't interfere with getting your cat good medical care. It is also a cat's nature to hide a health problem.
In the wild, feral cats live a more solitary life, and don't receive protection from a pack like dogs do. Because of this, they are unlikely to display injury or disability. This behavior benefits a feral cat, but may result in a housecat's late diagnosis. Feline veterinarians can act as interpreters for cats that appear healthy, but may actually be experiencing a health issue that remains hidden from the owner until the disease is severe.
Everyone knows vaccinations are important as part of preventative health care for all species, but the physical exam is just as important, even in young cats. For example, the most common form of feline heart disease can emerge as early as 2 years of age. There are no symptoms at home, but a veterinarian may hear a heart murmur or arrhythmia. Physical findings such as these may allow an early diagnosis, a much-improved prognosis, and even a normal lifespan. In contrast, a cat brought in with breathing difficulties due to heart failure will often not live for more than a few months, even with intensive medical care.
Other problems that we are trained to identify that can be present in symptom-free cats include arthritis, dental disease, skin tumors, and thyroid disorders. The annual wellness visit is also a time to establish a trusting relationship with your veterinarian. His or her familiarity with you and your cat will be reassuring and helpful if your cat does become ill. In addition, important topics are discussed during the annual visits such as current nutritional recommendations, problem behaviors, and reducing your cat's risk for certain geriatric disorders.
As far as convincing your cat to enjoy a veterinary visit, we may not be able to change his or her mind. However, there are things you can do to help make it easier and rewarding to take this important step towards ensuring your cat's wellness.