Cats! They seem to live in a world of their own most of the time. They usually don’t come when they are called, they only let you pet them when they want to be petted and they always seem healthy until they are very, very sick. So, what are some of the most common warning signs to tell you that your cat may not be feeling very well?
Recent research suggests that the original feline was a desert animal, therefore, internal water balance was very important to their survival. Due to this necessary water balancing act many of the problems we see in cats today have to do with maintaining this balance. One of the biggest complaints that I hear from cat owners is that Fluffy is drinking water all the time and practically filling the litter box with urine. Drinking too much water and urinating too much is a common symptom for many diseases. The three most common feline diseases I see are Kidney Failure, Diabetes and Hyperthyroidism.
Many people mistakenly believe that a cat’s kidneys are functioning fine because the cat is urinating a lot. The opposite is actually true. One of the most important functions of the kidneys is preserving the water balance of the body. This means that when we drink too much, the kidneys dispose of it and when we don’t drink enough the kidneys conserve the water in the body. In kidney failure, the kidneys lose their ability to conserve water and therefore water just passes out of the body. This eventually will lead to dehydration and death. Unfortunately, apart from a kidney transplant, all we can do to treat this condition is use a special diet that will slow down the rate of kidney deterioration and encourage water intake.
Diabetes is a lack of insulin in the body. Insulin is required by cells in order for them to take glucose in for energy. This lack of insulin results in high blood glucose which then requires water in order for the body to excrete this excess glucose. This is why people with undiagnosed diabetes drink a lot of water. Diabetes in cats can usually be controlled either with diet alone or diet and insulin injections. Very large advances have been made in recent years in terms of the diets we can feed diabetic cats and the effectiveness of the insulin. There is a food available today that can reduce or even eliminate the need for insulin altogether. There is also a new type of insulin available that in some instances can eliminate the need for insulin over time.
Hyperthyroidism is the exact opposite of hypothyroidism which I spoke of last month. In hyperthyroidism cats can lose weight, eat voraciously, have activity that is described as “manic”, always want to occupy the coolest part of the house and drink lots of water. Once diagnosed there is medicine, surgery or even radioactive injections that can successfully treat this disease.