Prevention and early detection are the keys to good pet health. The more aware you are of the most common cat ailments and symptoms, the better you can respond to feline health problems before they become life threatening. Here's a rundown of the five most common cat health problems and how to detect them.

Skin Problems

Veterinarians treat skin problems more than any other feline health problem. If you groom your cat regularly, you will often discover skin problems while they're still easily treatable.

Itching and hair loss are the tip-offs to most dermatological conditions. You may also notice dry skin, flakes, redness, oily hair, pimples, blisters, scabs, or foul skin odor. If your cat scratches, bites or chews at herself persistently, you should look for the source of the irritation and take appropriate action.

Your vet can help determine what's causing the inflammation. Most commonly, it will be one of the following:

  • Flea allergies,
  • Food or environmental allergies,
  • Abscesses from bites or scratches, or
  • Ringworm (a fungal infection).

Early treatment is essential both for your cat's well-being, and to ensure it is not a condition that can be transmitted to you or your other cats.

Parasites

Parasites are one of the most common health problems in cats, usually in the form of fleas and ticks. Flea infestations can result in tapeworms and cause anemia (especially in kittens). Ticks can also cause anemia and transmit Lyme disease.

Cats who suffer from flea or tick allergies may require treatment with antihistamines or steroids to get the inflammation under control.

Of all the common cat diseases and health problems, flea and tick infestation is the most easily prevented. Keep your cats indoors, apply flea and tick treatment regularly, wash your cats' bedding weekly, and treat your carpets, drapes and furniture with diatomaceous earth (a natural, non-chemical flea killer).

Hyperthyroidism

Feline hyperthyroidism is the most common feline endocrine disorder. It occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, usually in senior cats.

Symptoms include increased appetite, unexplained weight loss, increased thirst and urine output, vomiting, lethargy, weakness, and a dull coat. It's important to see the vet if these symptoms are present because the condition places excessive stress on the heart and other organs when left untreated.

There are three treatments to which most cats respond very well: medication with Methimazole, surgery, and radioiodine treatment. Of the three, radioiodine treatment is the most effective. It's non-invasive and returns more than 95% of treated cats to normal thyroid function with no further treatment or medication required.

Obesity

Recent studies show that as many as 40 to 50 percent of cats are overweight. Feline obesity is most commonly a result of free-feeding (leaving dry food out and available for your cat 24/7), high-carb dry foods, and a sedentar...