Beyond 9 Lives: Take This Checklist to the Vet

Beyond Nine Lives

This is a sponsored post by Elizabeth Arguelles, veterinarian and owner of Just Cats Clinic at Lake Anne Plaza.

Preventive care and regular wellness checks at your veterinarian are an important part of helping your cat live beyond nine lives. In addition to keeping your feline friend’s vaccinations up to date, wellness care also gives your vet an opportunity to catch any disease processes early before further damage occurs.

How often should you take your cat in for wellness exams?

While it depends greatly on your cat’s particular needs, the general rule of thumb depends on age. For healthy cats seven years and under, annual examinations are recommended, even if no vaccinations are needed at that time. Senior cats, ages 8 to 14, need preventative exams once every six months, or twice a year. Geriatric cats, ages 15 and beyond, ideally need exams once every three months, or four times a year.

Factors that influence the frequency of the visits include your cat’s age, breed, prior medical history, lifestyle and vaccination history.

What preventive care will the vet administer during each visit?

The first and arguably most important part of every wellness check is a full visual and physical exam of your cat. The information that your veterinarian collects during this exam will help establish a baseline regarding your cat’s health for use in this and future exams.

When your vet does a nose-to-tail exam, they examine the following:

  • Body condition score: Checking your cat’s weight and body condition on
  • Weight: Checking for trends of weight loss or gain
  • Coat condition: Checking if your cat’s coat is dry, oily, has any dandruff
  • Eyes: Checking for any abnormalities and assessing vision
  • Ears: Checking for any debris
  • Mouth: Checking dental health including plaque, tooth decay, gingivitis a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being too thin and 5 being too heavy and whether your cat is grooming itself regularly
  • Heart and Lungs: Listening for any abnormalities and assessing any
  • Abdomen: Palpitate abdomen feeling for any abnormalities and checking
  • Pain Assessment: Checking on a scale of 0 to 4 by applying pressure
  • Walk/gait: Checking for any stiffness or abnormality
  • Mouth: Checking dental health including plaque, tooth decay, gingivitis and overall gum health. Cats’ teeth can develop problems very easily, so regular dental checkups and cleanings are critical to maintaining good health, especially as your kitty ages. The dental screening often helps prevent mouth pain and infections that, if left untreated, could lead to other illnesses.
  • Heart and Lungs: Listening for any abnormalities and assessing any heart murmurs
  • Abdomen: Palpitate abdomen feeling for any abnormalities and checkingfor changes in size of liver, kidneys and the large/small intestine.
  • Pain Assessment: Checking on a scale of 0 to 4 by applying pressure during examination at certain points and watching for reaction with 4 being very painful and 0 being no sign of pain
  • Walk/gait: Checking for any stiffness or abnormality when walking/jumping; looking for signs of pain or potential joint disease

An exam should also include:

Annual Labs: By performing lab work annually, we may be able to spot underlying disease processes and create a treatment plan before symptoms become severe. Even if you have a young cat, annual labs can provide an important baseline for your veterinarian to spot future early disease processes.

Vaccinations: Vaccinations are an important (and in some cases, a legally required) part of good health maintenance. Keeping them current is the best way to ensure that your kitty does not contract any of a variety of diseases including feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia or FVRCP, rabies, and/or leukemia (if you have an outdoor cat).

Prevention and treatment of parasites: Unfortunately, cats are susceptible to a number of internal and external parasitic infections, even when they are always indoors. As a result, regular prevention is critical to ensuring that your cat stays healthy and parasite-free.

If your cat is outdoors often, your vet may also recommend a fecal test to check for additional parasites. The most important, even for indoor cats, is heartworm prevention. Medications, either topical or oral, are typically given once every 30 days and should be continued year round.

Preventive care and tests will help your cat live a happier and healthier life and potentially save you money in the long run by catching things early. So if you’ve been putting if off or your cat hasn’t been to the vet in a while, call your vet to schedule a check up today!


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