Wellness / Preventative Healthcare is a major focus of For Cats Only. Our Preventative Healthcare approach is tailored to each individual cat with regards to their specific environment, lifestyle, nutrition, potential risks, and other considerations. Why such a focus on preventative medicine?
- Cats age much faster than humans and significant health changes may occur in a relatively short amount of time. See the Feline Aging Chart Below.
- Preventative Healthcare provides a means to alleviate or prevent potential suffering or pain associated with an underlying disease process.
- Prevention is better than treatment. Since cats often do not tell us when they are feeling unwell, early detection of an underlying disease is key. Preventative Healthcare’s focus is to prevent conditions from occurring and prevent conditions from advancing. Early detection of a disease process equates to early treatment and potentially a more favorable outcome or correction of a disease process. In many instances, treatment may become more costly and complicated when a disease process is allowed to progress to an advanced stage.
WHAT IS INVOLVED IN OUR PREVENTATIVE HEALTHCARE?
With the philosophy above, we have adopted the following Preventative Healthcare protocols. If you have any questions or concerns about our current protocols, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will continually update and change our Preventative Healthcare protocols as the veterinary profession continues to advance.
Preventative Health Care starts at home! Your goal is to know what is normal at home for your specific cat. If you notice any physical or behavioral changes, no matter how small, your cat needs to be evaluated. What should I observe at home? The big six categories include attitude, activity, eating, drinking, urinating and defecation patterns. You should have your cat evaluated if you notice any changes in these areas. For more information, please visit these Cat Wellness/Prevention websites:
- Comprehensive Wellness Physical Examinations – We perform a physical examination for all cats every 6 months. Please visit our Comprehensive Physical Examination Page for more specific information.
- Vaccinations – In accordance with the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Vaccine Guidelines, we only vaccinate our patients against rabies, FVRCP and FeLV, and only when necessary. We use the safest vaccines available and only use non-adjuvanted vaccines. Please visit our Vaccination Page for more specific information.
- Spay or Neuter – In addition to the pet overpopulation issues, having your cat spayed or neutered also prevents individual health implications. For male cats, neutering at a young age will help prevent marking, roaming and fighting behaviors. For female cats, spaying at a young age will help prevent mammary cancer, infection in the uterus, estrus or heat cycles, marking behaviors and unwanted kittens. Please visit our Surgical Services Page for more information
- FeLV / FIV testing – Our hospital follows the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Retroviral Testing Guidelines. Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are major causes of illness and death in cats. Both viruses affect the immune system and secondary illnesses may occur such as tumors, infections, immune-mediated diseases, and bone marrow disorders. Signs associated with a FeLV and/or FIV infection are numerous and encompass virtually every symptom. Early detection will help maintain a high quality of life and prevent spreading of these viruses. All kittens and cats should be tested at least twice in their lifetime 2-3 months apart. Why? The viruses can take a few weeks before commonly used screening tests can detect the virus in the blood. Therefore, the first negative test needs to be confirmed with a second negative test. Additionally, these viruses can remain hidden in the bone marrow where commonly used screening tests cannot detect the virus. These viruses may only be detected when your cat becomes unwell or with a bone marrow biopsy. Please visit the AAFP website for more information
- Heartworm Prevention – Feline heartworm disease is a serious, life-threatening disease. Fortunately, this is 100% preventable with year round protection. The heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes and indoor cats are just as susceptible as indoor / outdoor cats. Clinical signs may include coughing, sudden asthma-like attack, difficulty breathing, vomiting, weight loss, lethargy, anorexia, or sudden death. There is currently no treatment for heartworm disease in cats, so prevention is key! Our preventatives are available in a monthly chew or a monthly liquid that is applied to the skin on the back of the neck. Please visit the links below for more information.
- Fecal testing – Testing your cat’s stool at least every 12 months for internal parasites not only will help keep your cat healthy and disease free, it will also help protect your family against zoonotic parasites that your cat may be harboring. This is especially true if young children, elderly or immunocompromised individuals are living in your household. This is recommended for all cats, including indoor only cats. Please visit the links below for more information.
- De-worming – We recommend that all kittens have several de-wormings performed, as most kittens are harboring infections with roundworms and/or hookworms that they acquired from their mothers. Adult cats should be placed on a monthly product to protect them from these intestinal parasites. These products are available as an oral chew or as a topical liquid that is applied to the back of the neck.
- Flea and tick preventatives – This once a month prevention is generally recommended for cats whether they are indoor only or not. Fleas can be carried into your home on your clothing or the clothing of visitors. In a multi-cat or multi-pet household, all animals residing in the home should be on a monthly preventative to ensure proper ectoparasite control.
- Microchip Identification – This safe, permanent, individualized microchip only takes seconds to administer under the skin. If your cat is scanned, you will be contacted regarding the whereabouts of your missing cat. We are currently using HomeAgain Microchips and their website is below:
- Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control has updated their laws regarding felines, requiring all pet cats in the county to be microchipped by 4 months of age.
FELINE LIFE STAGES CHART
Chart taken from Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (2010) 12, 43-54
Age is not a disease; however, we are very familiar with the diseases that affect our patients in their later years. Cats are considered to be seniors once they reach 8 years of age. We pursue a Semi-Annual Comprehensive Examination and Senior Screening in an attempt to gain a baseline for each specific patient. This will also aid our doctors in detecting and treating disease early. The goal is prevention and early detection. The most common diseases in our older patients include dental disease, kidney disease, thyroid disease, diabetes mellitus, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Our Senior Screens include:
- Chemistry Panel
- Complete Blood Count
- Thyroid hormone (T4)
- Heartworm antigen
- Blood pressure
- FeLV and FIV test
Another potential challenge of senior healthcare is the balance between multiple, concurrent disease processes and potential medication interactions for patients on more than one medication. It is imperative to have doctors that are experienced with handling and balancing multiple diseases at once. It is not uncommon for cats to live to 18 and 20 years of age. Our senior patients are living longer thanks to improved healthcare. Our goal is to provide quality healthcare so that your cat can have a quality long life.
When you first adopt a kitten, the most important thing to do is bring your kitten to the veterinarian as soon as you can. At the initial visit, the veterinarian will go over any available medical history and make recommendations. It is very important that all kittens are tested for feline leukemia (FeLV) & feline immunodeficiency (FIV) viruses. It is also important to re-test each kitten 2-3 months from the initial test to ensure that they are free from the viruses. We recommend bringing a fecal/stool sample to screen for GI parasites, a common disease in kittens.
If your kitten is healthy enough after their comprehensive physical examination, vaccines will be discussed. All kittens will receive their rabies vaccine, as required by law, after 16 weeks of age. The AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners) recommends administering the FVRCP (sometimes referred to as distemper) vaccine every 3-4 weeks with the last vaccine administered after 4 months of age. The number of vaccines administered (as long as each kitten has had 2 vaccines 3-4 weeks apart) is not as important as when the last vaccine is administered. Studies have shown that if the last vaccine is not administered after 16 weeks of age, maternal antibodies can interfere with the vaccine and your kitten may not be as protected as they could be. By administering the last FVRCP vaccine after 16 weeks of age, we avoid interference of maternal antibodies and help ensure your kitten is protected adequately.
A recent addition to the AAFP protocol is that the feline leukemia (FeLV) vaccine is recommended for all kittens, even if they are considered indoor only. This a series of 2 vaccines administered 3-4 weeks apart. This FeLV vaccine is boostered a year after the initial series and then discontinued if the cat is indoor only and has no chance of escaping outside. The FeLV vaccine is recommended for cats that spend anytime outside for additional protection.
Spay/neuter is typically discussed after the vaccine protocol is finished and typically occurs between 4-5 months of age. Pre-anesthetic blood work is recommended to help ensure that anesthesia is safe. Pre-anesthetic panels typically evaluate the kidneys, liver and a test for anemia.