What is a cat wellness exam?

A cat wellness exam is a comprehensive physical exam for your pet. It'll be head to tail, so we'll usually start looking at the head, the nose, the teeth, the ears, and the eyes. We'll move back on an older cat, in particular, and we'll check the neck for thyroid disease and thyroid enlargement. We'll listen to the cat's heart, feel the cat's abdomen, check their limbs, check their tail, check their genitals. It's a good comprehensive hands-on physical exam, assuming we have a cooperative cat that gives us that opportunity.

Dr. Marty Greer
Checkout Veterinary

What will a veterinarian be looking for during my cat's wellness exam?

We'll look at any sign of change, such as an enlarged thyroid, dental disease, any ear or eye discharge or changes, a heart murmur, an abdomen that doesn't feel right, a body condition score where the cat may have lost weight or seems a little dehydrated, any enlarged organs, and any lumps or bumps. So it's pretty much a comprehensive physical exam.

Will my cat's wellness exam require any specific lab work or procedures?

It might, but it depends on the cat. I will usually start doing the geriatric cat blood profiles when the cat reaches the last 25% of its life expectancy. So if we expect a cat to live to be 16, somewhere around age 12, we'll recommend annual blood work. If the cat's losing weight or has symptoms of something sooner than that, we'll start it younger. Some cats don't like having a hands-on exam or don't like having their blood and urine samples collected because let's face it, that's not that much fun. In those cases, we recommend picking up gabapentin, a sedative you can give to the cat a couple of hours before the appointment. That can really make the cat's visit much more comfortable. The cat's going to be happier, you'll be less stressed, and it's going to be a lot easier for us to get accurate test results because we won't be struggling with the stressed cat. They're going to relax, and they're going to let us collect those blood and urine samples much more easily.

How does wellness impact the longevity and health of my cat?

Like us, any cat that's overweight, underweight, has a kidney problem, has heart disease, thyroid disease, diabetes, or any of those things will have a shortened life expectancy. So the earlier we can detect those disorders, the sooner we can intervene. For example, many cats develop thyroid disease as they age, which is very treatable. It's one of the best geriatric cat diseases we see because we have good treatment options, the cats respond well, and we often see those cats living nice normal life expectancies if we can detect it before they develop irreversible heart problems.

When should I bring my cat to the veterinarian for a wellness exam?

That's a really good question because we see a lot of kittens that come in for their kitten vaccinations, then we spay or neuter them at around six months of age. Sometimes we don't hear back from people that have a cat for the next 16 or 17 years. By the time they come in, the cat is frail, elderly, and thin, it's lost a lot of its body condition, and it has many or at least one serious health condition. So our recommendation is to see those cats annually. I know cats don't love their visits. They're not crazy about the carrier, but with some techniques we have videos on and some gabapentin, we can make those visits a lot less stressful. By seeing the cats annually, we're going to pick up some potential changes in their health, and if we intervene soon, we can really make a difference in your cat's longevity. I don't know anybody that says, "Gee. I really wish my cat hadn't lived to be old. I really was okay with him not living old." I think we all want our pets to live as long as possible.

What are some signs and symptoms that my cat may not be feeling well?

We frequently see weight loss, which can sometimes be so gradual that you don't even notice it. You see the cat every day, and until somebody comes over, like a family member or a friend, they look at your cat and say, "Oh my goodness, when did she lose so much weight?" You might not even recognize that there's been a weight loss. Of course, there are other symptoms, including vomiting, coughing, sneezing, diarrhea, frequent urination, and urinating outside the litter box. Those are all very commonly seen symptoms of diseases. Moreover, there's a change in appetite and a change in water consumption. So if you notice any such changes that are just not what the cat has always done, that merits a phone call for a veterinary visit.

What are some possible environmental factors that can affect cat wellness?

The cat's lifestyle, if it's indoors only or if it goes outside, is a really important environmental factor. Cats that go outside tend to have a lot greater chances of injury or fights. Cats that are outside may be more likely to pick up parasites environmentally. In the house, it's important that we know that the cat's getting adequate nutrition and adequate water, not too much or too little. Furthermore, access to litter boxes, the number of litter boxes you have, and the number of other cats in the household are all critical environmental factors for us to assess and know about because that may help us make decisions about how to manage your cat's wellness or its illness.

Why is early detection so important to the wellbeing of my cat?

Just like us, early detection is essential. Diabetic cats tend to get sick quickly, so that won't happen slowly and gradually, but things like kidney disease and thyroid disease are things we see very frequently as slow, gradual progressions. The sooner we can pick that up and get the cat on an appropriate diet or medications, the longer those cats have to live with you. If we detect kidney or thyroid disease early, we can significantly impact what they eat, how well they manage, how much weight they lose, how well they feel, and how long we can keep them happy in our homes.

If clients have questions regarding cat wellness, what should they do?

We're happy to talk to them. All they need to do is give us a call at (608) 318-6700 at Checkout Veterinary, and we can get them scheduled for an appointment for a full wellness exam and potentially some lab work as well.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (608) 318-6700, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media https://www.facebook.com/Checkout-Veterinary-100856988730575, https://www.instagram.com/checkoutveterinary/