Let’s hear the story of Lily* the cat, a 5-year-old spayed female who lived a whole other life before being surrendered to the Austin Pets Alive animal shelter. Lily is a friendly cat, who loves eating, sleeping in the sunny spot on the back of the couch, and sitting in a window chatting with the birds outside. For the first few years of her life, Lily ate, watched birds, and slept to her heart’s content, always appearing normal and healthy. 

Lily the cat’s hidden disease

Lily’s owner didn’t realize that when her beloved cat was around 2 years old, she had begun to develop periodontal disease, which is an inflammation of the gums surrounding the teeth that can cause significant pain. Since Lily always appeared normal and content, her owner never took her for her annual veterinary wellness checks, and her condition and suffering went unnoticed. 

If you have ever had mouth or tooth pain, you know how much suffering one tooth can cause, so you can imagine the pain if your whole mouth was infected. Lily’s pain became so severe that chewing food became unbearable, and she stopped eating. When she began losing weight, Lily’s owner finally realized her cat needed help since she could feel her ribs. 

Lily was quickly taken to the veterinary hospital, where she was thoroughly examined, and her need for comprehensive dental care was easily apparent. Sadly, Lily’s owner had recently been laid off from work, veterinary care was not affordable, and Lily was surrendered to the animal shelter, which at least was able to provide the care she needed.

Cats are experts at hiding illness

Cats can suffer many painful diseases in silence, including periodontal disease, pancreatitis, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and arthritis. This is an inherited trait—cats can be predator and prey, and sick cats become prey, so they instinctively hide their illness, including from their family. Sometimes a cat will show subtle signs, such as sleeping less, lying in unusual places or positions, hiding, and not greeting their owners when they return home, but owners need to be especially attuned to their pet to notice. 

The annual feline physical exam

When a cat is brought into Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital for their annual physical exam, we examine them completely from nose to tail, and check all their major body systems, paying  attention to identifying any abnormalities, and watching for any signs of pain or discomfort. We compare the results to information from previous exams in their medical record, looking for changes. We will discuss your cat’s lifestyle, weight, behavior, and diet, and recommend changes, if necessary.

Here are the main components of an annual checkup.

  • The hands-on physical exam — During the exam, we will specifically check:
    • The heart and lungs — For abnormal sounds, rates, and rhythms
    • The mouth — For signs of dental disease, or oral tumors
    • The ears — For polyps, inflammation, or potential yeast, bacterial, or mite infections
    • The eyes — For cataracts, glaucoma, ulcers, or eyelid issues
    • The fur — Checking skin health, and searching for external parasites, infections, or allergy signs
    • The abdominal organs — Palpating for signs of pain, masses, or abnormal organ shape or size
  • Diagnostic testing — We will also screen for potential disease and illness, using these routine diagnostic tests:
    • Complete blood count (CBC)
    • Blood chemistry profile
    • Blood glucose
    • Thyroid level
    • Urinalysis
    • Fecal exam
    • Feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Vaccinations — In addition, we will administer vaccinations, based on your cat’s lifestyle, that they need for protection from infectious diseases, including:
    • Rabies
    • Feline viral rhinotracheitis
    • Calicivirus
    • Leukemia
    • Panleukopenia 

If your cat is healthy, with no signs of illness or injury, we will likely recommend that we see them again in one year, or perhaps in six months, depending on their age. The last thing we want is for your cat to suffer with a painful condition for months, or longer, before we see them again.

What happened to Lily the cat?

Lily needed several teeth extracted, and we prescribed antibiotics and pain medications to help her mouth heal. As soon as her mouth started feeling better, she began to eat, and she was soon her old friendly self, who charmed a prospective owner walking by her cage at the shelter. Now she is happy in her new home, eating and sleeping in the sunniest spot in the house. She is especially happy because her new owner has lived up to their promise to the shelter staff, and Lily has not missed an annual check-up. 

At Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital, we want to be sure your cat is living their happiest and healthiest life possible. We  recommend yearly wellness exams, so we can identify points of concern, and intervene before any suffering occurs. Give us a call and set up an appointment—not only are we dedicated to our feline patients’ well-being, but we are also Cat Friendly Certified, and we guarantee your cat’s experience at our clinic will be caring and low-stress. 

*Lily is a fictional patient, but an example of a feline patient who suffers for a long time before they receive veterinary care.