The Importance of Routine Veterinary Care for Cats


The Importance of Routine Veterinary Care for CatsRegular wellness care is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle for all pets. Unfortunately, cats are less likely to receive routine wellness care than dogs. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), only 47% of cat owners brought their pets in for wellness care over the course of a year versus 79% of dog owners and 10% of cat owners never even take their cat to the vet at all. This is an unsettling statistic when you consider how many cats may be suffering from illnesses that could be prevented. Cats are experts at masking symptoms, hiding pain, and making us believe nothing’s wrong.

Because it can be so difficult to tell when a cat is ailing, some owners may feel that their cat doesn’t need routine wellness care. This means many cats don’t get the care they need until their condition is much more serious. Modern medicine has shifted away from just treating diseases to instead trying to prevent them, and veterinary medicine is no exception. We believe a proactive approach is required in order to keep our feline friends happy and healthy. Preventing illness and disease in cats is easier, more affordable, and overall healthier for cats and many feline illnesses can be easily and affordably treated or cured if caught early.

Veterinary Care for Cats

Here at Big Lick Vet, we want to highlight and champion the importance of routine veterinary care for cats. We recommend all cats have a wellness visit with their veterinarian yearly. It’s important to ensure your cat gets regular veterinary care because cats age more rapidly than humans and their health can change a lot over the course of one year. With regular wellness visit, we address concerns long before they become serious. Wellness care is a whole pet approach to vet care and encompasses a myriad of physical, emotional, and behavioral health services. We strongly encourage owners to take advantage of their cat’s yearly visit and to ask questions about your pet and alert us to any changes you may have noticed.

1. Physical Examinations

During a routine feline wellness examination, your veterinarian will listen to your cat’s chest with a stethoscope (auscultation) and feel certain areas of the body like the throat, abdomen, lymph nodes, and legs (palpation). They will observe your cat’s body condition to determine if they are an appropriate weight and body condition, as well as assess their skin and coat condition, looking for any new or changing lumps or bumps. Your vet will assess your cat’s level of alertness and interest in their surroundings, check the eyes, the ears, and the nose, and look at the mouth and teeth for signs of tartar buildup and dental disease.

2. Vaccinations

Vaccinations are an important part of keeping your cat healthy and free from disease. It’s a common misconception that indoor cats don’t need vaccinations however this simply isn’t true. While it is in fact safer overall for cats to live indoors and indoor living contributes to longer life expectancies in cats, it’s important to know that infectious diseases can find cats indoors. If your cat has certain health concerns your veterinarian will discuss with you the risks and benefits of vaccination and work with you to determine the best vaccines for your individual cat.

Rabies Vaccine
We recommend all cats receive a rabies vaccine yearly, regardless of whether they are an indoor or outdoor cat. It is required by law in most localities and regardless of legal requirements, maintaining regular rabies vaccination makes good medical sense. In fact, indoor cats are not immune from rabies. While keeping your cat indoors may help reduce your cat’s risk of contracting rabies, cats can and do escape, and bats will enter houses. Contact with bats poses the largest rabies threat to the feline population. Bats commonly find their way into houses where they are caught, eaten, and played with by pet cats. Cats may be infected through biting or eating bats, or by being bitten by them. Unfortunately, rabies is fatal 100% of the time and so we feel that prevention through vaccination is highly important for all cats regardless of their indoor/outdoor status. It is simply not worth the risk to the cat or your human family members to decline vaccination against rabies.

Feline Distemper Vaccine (FVRCP)
We recommend all cats receive the FVRCP vaccine. It is considered a core vaccine, meaning that like the Rabies vaccine, it is recommended for ALL cats. The final FVRCP booster lasts for one year and then it is administered every three years after that. The FVRCP vaccination prevents three potentially deadly airborne viruses: Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia. These are hardy viruses that can be brought indoor on inanimate objects or shoes and are highly contagious. Transmission doesn’t require direct contact with another cat, so even indoor cats in single pet homes can be exposed and become sick without appropriate vaccination.

Feline Leukemia Vaccine (FeLV)
Unlike the aforementioned vaccines, the Feline Leukemia vaccine is typically only given to cats who could potentially be exposed to other cats of unknown vaccination status. When it comes to FelV, it’s important to consider all cats in the household. If you have any cats in the house that spend any time outdoors, then it’s recommended that all cats in the home be vaccinated for FeLV. FeLV is passed from one cat to another through saliva, blood, and to some extent, urine and feces. The virus does not live long outside the cat’s body — probably just a few hours. We recommend vaccinating kittens for FeLV, even if they are going to be indoor cats, as they are more susceptible to this virus in the first few years of life. Some cat owners elect to vaccinate their indoor cats if they’re known to dart out the door and could unexpectedly come in contact with other cats.

3. Bloodwork

Bloodwork isn’t just for ailing cats – healthy ones should have it done too! That’s why we recommend bloodwork yearly for our feline patients. There are plenty of good reasons to have annual bloodwork done on your cat and it could potentially save their life by detecting signs of disease and illness. Here at Big Lick Vet, there are two blood panels that we typically choose from depending on a cat’s age and health. The first is called the Feline Jr. Wellness Panel. This test includes a complete blood count (CBC) and a blood chemistry, as well as a test for feline heartworm, feline leukemia virus (FeLV), and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) called the Feline Triple. The Jr. Wellness Panel is most commonly recommended for cats 7 years or younger. The second panel available is the Feline Comprehensive Panel w/ Fecal Antigen. This test includes a more extensive CBC and chemistry, as well as the feline triple, but also includes a test to monitor thyroid levels (Total T4), a urinalysis, and a fecal antigen test to look for intestinal parasites. The Comprehensive Panel is typically recommended for cats 8 years and older, cats who have health concerns, and cats who are on medications that require routine bloodwork monitoring. Your vet will work with you to determine what the best bloodwork panel is for your cat.

4. Intestinal Parasite Exam

Intestinal Parasite Exams determine if your cat has intestinal parasites such a hookworms or roundworms. Parasites don’t just make pets uncomfortable and irritable. They could lead to more serious conditions for your pet or even be transmitted to family members. While outdoor cats are at greater risk for acquiring parasites, indoor cats are at risk as well. Newer research has shown that indoor bugs like cockroaches, houseflies, and crickets may transmit intestinal parasites and 15% of commercial potting soil also contains roundworm eggs! We recommend an intestinal parasite exam yearly.

5. Prevention

Many people believe that their indoor cat does not need to be on any type of prevention, however that’s not the case. There are several ways indoor cats can get fleas, ticks, or parasites. Another pet, person, or unwanted rodent/pest can all bring them into the house. Here at Big Lick Vet, we carry a variety of preventatives for our feline patients. We recommend year-round prevention for all of our patients, canine or feline. Your veterinarian will work with you to assess the best one for your cat.

Bravecto Plus for Cats
Bravecto Plus for Cats is our preferred preventative for cats. It is a topical medication that protects your cat from fleas and ticks, prevents heartworm disease, and treats five intestinal parasites in a single, two-month dose. Many of our clients have found that because Bravecto Plus only has to be applied once every two months, it’s less stressful for everyone!

Revolution Plus Feline
Revolution Plus is a topical medication applied monthly that protects against fleas, ticks, ear mites, roundworms, hookworms, and heartworms.

Profender is a single dose, topical dewormer that treats and controls tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms. We recommend a dose of Profender be applied to all indoor/outdoor or outdoor cats who may be at risk of getting tapeworms due to catching prey.

6. Microchips

We highly recommend that all of our feline patients, indoor or outdoor, be microchipped. A microchip is a permanent pet ID that lasts the lifetime of your pet. It is read by passing a microchip scanner over the pet’s shoulder blades. The chip emits a unique ID code that can be used to positively ID your pet. Here at Big Lick Vet, we use HomeAgain TempScan microchips. With a swipe of the microchip scanner, we can get your pet’s body temperature, which means no more rectal temperature taking!

Microchipping is a simple procedure. Your veterinarian will simply inject a microchip (about the size of a grain of rice – 12mm) beneath the surface of your pet’s skin between the shoulder blades. The process is similar to an injection and takes only seconds. No anesthetic is required!

Not sure if your cat is microchipped or not? We can scan them for you! If they are microchipped, we can provide you with the microchip ID number and the company with which you need to register your cat. If they’re not, we can administer one and we’ll even register the microchip for you.

Questions? Call Us!

It’s our priority to work with our clients to ensure the health and safety of their feline friends. In an effort to encourage regular wellness care for cats, we’re holding a raffle during the month of March for a SureFeed Microchip Automatic Pet Feeder. Every client who brings their cat in for an annual wellness visit this month will receive a raffle ticket and one lucky winner will receive the automatic feeder! Please note that your pet must be microchipped to be able to use the feeder. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment for your cat’s annual wellness visit, please call us at 540-776-0700.