Illustrated Articles

Cats + Medical Conditions

  • Atrial fibrillation describes very rapid contractions or twitching of the heart muscle, specifically in the atria. Most of the time, atrial fibrillation in cats occurs secondary to heart disease. Sometimes, in large breed cats, atrial fibrillation will occur as a primary heart problem. Most cats who develop atrial fibrillation have underlying heart disease, so the signs that are observed are often related to that underlying condition, and may include exercise intolerance, cough, or difficulty breathing. Treatment varies depending on whether the pet has primary or secondary atrial fibrillation. Your cat will need to be monitored on a regular basis.

  • Atrioventricular (AV) valve dysplasia describes a developmental malformation of the mitral or tricuspid valve. AV valve dysplasia is one of the most common cardiac abnormalities diagnosed in cats. Dysplasia may occur in both the mitral and tricuspid valves in the same cat; however, this is not a common condition. There may be a breed predisposition to mitral valve dysplasia in Sphinx cats. Tricuspid valve dysplasia occurs more frequently in Chartreaux and Siamese cats. Exercise intolerance, accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, weight loss, and stunted growth may be seen. Difficulty breathing or collapse may occur if congestive heart failure develops. Treatment of AV valve dysplasia is focused on managing signs of congestive heart failure, generally using medications. Activity may need to be restricted based on your cat’s exercise tolerance and nutritional modification may be recommended.

  • AIHA or IMHA is a life-threatening condition which may occur as a primary condition or secondary to another disease. Most cats with AIHA have severe anemia, their gums will be very pale, they will be listless and tire more easily, be anorexic and will have increased heart and respiration rates. Diagnosis involves CBC, biochemical profiles, urinalysis, and X-rays or ultrasound of the abdomen and chest. Treatment may involve blood transfusions and other medications over a prolonged course of time. The prognosis may be better if an underlying cause can be identified.

  • Our bodies have an immune system that protects us from foreign invaders that can cause disease and infection; however, if you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks itself by mistake, causing serious illness.

  • Bandages or splints may be necessary at times if your cat has a wound or a broken bone. Bandages can be readily applied to the head, neck, chest, tail, or lower legs of a cat. Splints are usually applied below the knee on the back leg or below the midpoint of the humerus on the front leg. Home care is very important and you will need to monitor for changes closely. Your veterinarian will give you more specific directions for the length of time that your cat has to be bandaged.

  • Bladder stones are rock-like formations of minerals that develop in the urinary bladder. All stones form because of disease or inflammation in the bladder. The most common signs of bladder stones in the cat are blood in the urine and straining to urinate. Large stones may act almost like a valve, causing an "on-off" or partial obstruction at the neck of the bladder. In males, small stones become lodged in the urethra and cause an obstruction. X-rays (with or without contrast dyes) or ultrasound may be necessary for diagnosis. The fastest way to remove bladder stones is via a surgical procedure called a cystotomy. Special diets or passing a catheter may be successful for some bladder stones. Your veterinarian will advise you of the best course of action for your cat’s particular situation.

  • Blepharitis means inflammation of the eyelid and can affect one or both eyes. The affected eyelid will usually be red, swollen, and itchy. Any condition that can cause irritation of the eyelids can lead to blepharitis. Common causes of blepharitis include congenital abnormalities, allergies, infections, tumors, and occasionally other inflammatory disorders. Your veterinarian will conduct an eye examination to determine the extent of the eyelid involvement. Specific treatment for blepharitis will depend on the underlying cause of the disorder and the prognosis depends entirely on the cause.

  • A transfusion reaction is a medical reaction that occurs in response to a blood transfusion. Many transfusion reactions occur acutely, within seconds of starting the transfusion up to 48 hours post-transfusion. In other cases, however, transfusion reactions may be delayed. In many cases, a transfusion reaction can be diagnosed based on clinical signs alone. Your veterinarian will then administer medications specific to the type of reaction that your cat is experiencing.

  • Botulism is a rare condition that can cause paralysis in cats. It is caused by ingesting the botulinum toxin, which is produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum that can grow on raw meat and dead animals. The toxin can cause muscle paralysis and lead to death. It is difficult to diagnose and there is no vaccine available, although an antitoxin is available if the condition is identified before signs develop.

  • Bowel incontinence refers to the loss of the ability to control bowel movements. There are two broad causes of fecal incontinence: reservoir incontinence and sphincter incontinence. In reservoir incontinence, intestinal disease interferes with the rectum’s ability to store normal volumes of feces. In sphincter incontinence, a structural or neurologic lesion prevents the anal sphincter from closing normally. Clinical signs, diagnostic testing, and treatment vary based upon the underlying cause.