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16 Symptoms You Should Never Ignore in Your Cat

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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There are serious symptoms that should never be ignored in your cat. A symptom is defined as "any problem that can indicate an underlying disease" and may be your first clue to the presence of a life-threatening problem in your cat. Here is a list of 16 symptoms that should never be ignored if you see them from your cat!

1. Not Eating or Loss of Appetite. Anorexia is a term used to describe the situation where an animal loses his appetite and does not want to eat or is unable to eat. There are many causes of a "loss of appetite" and is often the first indication of illness. Regardless of cause, loss of appetite can have a serious impact on an animal's health if it lasts 24 hours or more. Young animals less than 6 months of age are particularly prone to the problems brought on by loss of appetite. This is often one of the first symptoms of illness in cats and can be your first clue to a problem. Click here to learn more.

2. Trouble Urinating. "Trouble urinating" can include straining to urinate, frequent attempts at urination, spending more time in the litter box, urinating outside of the litterbox and/or evidence of discomfort when urinating. Discomfort may be demonstrated by crying out during urination, excessive licking at the urogenital region or turning and looking at the area. There are several underlying causes. One cause of this problem is a urinary obstruction which can be life threatening. .Some of the causes if left untreated can result in death in as little as 36 hours. Click here to learn more.

3. Losing Weight. Weight loss is a physical condition that results from a negative caloric balance. This usually occurs when the body uses and/or excretes essential nutrients faster than it can consume them. Essentially more calories are being burned than are being taken in. Weight loss is considered clinically important when it exceeds 10 percent of the normal body weight and is not associated with fluid loss. There are several causes for this, some of which can be very serious. Click here to learn more.

4. Breathing Problems. Respiratory distress, often called dyspnea, is labored, difficult breathing or shortness of breath. This can occur at any time during the breathing process, during inspiration (breathing in) or expiration (breathing out). When your cat has trouble breathing, he may not be able to get enough oxygen to his tissues. Additionally, if he has heart failure, he may not be able to pump sufficient blood to his muscles and other tissues. Dyspnea is often associated with accumulation of fluid (edema) in the lungs or the chest cavity (pleural effusion). This fluid can lead to shortness of breath, open mouth breathing and/or coughing. This is a very serious symptom and should be evaluated immediately. Click here to learn more.

5. Jaundice. Jaundice, also referred to as icterus, describes the yellow color taken on by the tissues throughout the body due to elevated levels of bilirubin, a substance that comes from the breakdown of red blood cells. There are several causes for jaundice and regardless of the cause, jaundice is considered abnormal and serious in the cat. Click here to learn more.

6. Urinating and Drinking Excessively. These signs are often early signs of disease including kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, thyroid gland problems, uterine infection (called pyometra), as well as other causes. Cats normally take in about 20 to 40 milliliters per pound of body weight per day, or one cup for a normal sized cat. Some cats will drink less if they eat canned food which has more water content than dry food. If you determine that your cat is drinking excessively, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Click here to learn more.

7. Lethargy or Weakness. Lethargy is a state of drowsiness, inactivity, or indifference in which there are delayed responses to external stimuli such as auditory (sound), visual (sight), or tactile (touch) stimuli. Lethargy is a nonspecific sign associated with many possible underlying systemic disorders. It may have little to no impact on the affected individual; however its presence may represent severe or life-threatening illness. Lethargy of more than a day's duration should not be ignored, and should be addressed, especially if it persists. Click here to learn more.

8. Pale Gums. Pale gums or mucous membranes can indicate blood loss or "shock". The possible causes for either blood loss or shock are life-threatening and thus should be evaluated immediately. Click here to learn more.

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