February is Pet Health Month – Give your Cat a Monthly Exam

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Craig the cat licking Pet Grass® Whisker Greens™

Monthly Cat Exam

By Dusty Rainbolt, ACCBC

Women have been taught from an early age that doing a monthly breast examination could save your life. If humans are supposed to monitor changes in our bodies, shouldn’t we extend that caution to our kitties?

Nineteen years ago, I found a large lump on the throat of my 11-year-old kitty, Chani. The next day the vet removed a date-sized malignant mass from her neck. Because I caught it so early, Chani lived nine more years.

To keep track of physical changes, do a nose-to-tail kitty exam every time you pay your rent. A monthly health log will alert you watch to changing patterns such as weight gain or loss. If you don’t want to keep a journal, make notes on the calendar when Fluffy vomits or his appetite wanes. Take your kitty to the vet if you notice physical or behavioral changes.

The first time you do the exam, have your vet go over it with you. Make it fun. Lot of pets and yummy treats.

The Examination

See if everything is symmetrical. It’s nice that cats have are two of most everything. Does the left paw look like the right paw? After several exams, you’ll recognize what is normal for your cat.

Nose. Is it dripping with goop?

Mouth. As you pet your kitty, pull his lips back with your thumb and check the teeth and gums. Are the gums and tongue pink, or inflamed and red? Does he have halitosis? Cats should not have bad breath.

The teeth should be clean and white. Some cats have pigment or dark spots inside their mouths that part of their own unique coloration. Ask your vet what is normal for your cat. If a spot changes, take your cat to the veterinarian immediately.

Look for changes in eating habits, like dropping food, not eating at all, eating ravenously, suddenly preferring canned food, or if he’s drink more water intake.

Eyes. Look at the eye by pulling the lid down. The eyes should be clear and bright.

Ears. There should be no wax.

Neck. Feel the angle of the jaw for lymph nodes that feel like soft jellybeans. Play around the folds of the neck and eventually you’ll feel them.

Belly. Gently knead the abdomen. You may not have a clue what each bulge and cranny is, but after a while you’ll recognize an enlarged organ or a new lump appeared. Feel the nipples for swelling.

Chest. Count his respiration when he’s at rest. It should be around 25 breaths per minute and heartbeats between 100 and 150.

Legs. Give the leg bones a gentle squeeze. Inspect the paws for toenails growing into the pads especially in older cats. Feel between the toes and pads for sores.

Back. Feel along the spine to check for tenderness. Look for lumps, bumps, mats or flea dirt. Your cat should think he’s getting a firm massage. Run your fingers down his tail to check for lumps or scabs. Lift his tail and checkout the back door. Is it swollen, or show evidence of diarrhea?  Ask your vet to show you how to take Fluffy’s temperature. The temp should read between 101° to 101.5°.

Watch your cat as he uses the litter box. Pooping should be effortless. His stool should resemble a firm little log, not a bunch of little balls. He should poop for every meal he eats.

If you find something out of the ordinary, contact your vet. Monthly examinations may not catch everything, but they can help you identify changes in your cat’s body. With early diagnosis and treatment, you increase the chance of your kitty surviving potentially life-threatening illnesses.

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