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Common cat illnesses: what to look for, how to helpCommon cat illnesses: what to look for, how to help

Upper respiratory infection

This is one of the most common illnesses cats contract and is often caused by the feline calicivirus or feline herpes virus. This airborne virus is easily spread from one cat to another. Cats under stress and breeds with truncated nasal passages—like Persians—are particularly susceptible.

Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, rapid breathing or fever. If your cat develops a secondary bacterial infection with the upper respiratory infection, he or she will need antibiotics. Still, the best treatment is always prevention: Make sure your cat's immunizations are current and that he or she receives routine check-ups from a veterinarian.

Feline gingivitis

Feline gingivitis is an early stage of periodontal disease caused when bacteria and food particles collect on the gumline as plaque. This irritates the gums and separates them from the teeth.

Look for red or swollen gums as an indicator that gingivitis has set in. To stop its progression, have your cat’s teeth professionally cleaned and brush them every day. A veterinarian may advise that you switch to a cat food specially formulated to promote dental health.

Roundworms and tapeworms

If your cat's feces appears to contain undigested spaghetti noodles, he probably has roundworms. A roundworm is a parasite that hatches from larvae deposited in your cat's digestive system that he or she ingests by eating infected prey or infected fleas. Other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss.

Tapeworms have the same effects and symptoms as roundworms, but their appearance is different. They'll look like long, flat white ribbons in your cat's feces—more like fettuccine than spaghetti.

To rid your cat of either type of worm, you'll need to visit the vet for a series of oral deworming medication.

Urinary tract infections

This illness affects your cat’s bladder and urethra. If you see blood in your cat's urine or notice that your cat strains to urinate, take him or her to the veterinarian right away. A course of antibiotics should eliminate the problem within 10 days.

Kidney disease

This is a very serious illness that may be caused by poor nutrition, poison ingestion or an untreated urinary infection. And the damage can be irreparable—kidneys regulate blood and fluid levels and also filter and process waste.

The most recognizable symptoms are excessive thirst and increased urination. If your cat is exhibiting these symptoms, make an appointment with your vet immediately. Your vet will likely run blood tests to determine the cause of these changes in your cat’s behavior, then will discuss a course of treatment based on the test results.

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