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The Herald of Everett, Washington
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Local animal welfare groups and Herald staff | jloerch@heraldnet.com
Published: Monday, February 6, 2012, 4:16 p.m.

Does your cat really need an annual visit to the vet?

It's that time of year again when you receive a postcard from your veterinarian reminding you that your cat is due for his annual examination. Your heart starts to race, your palms begin to sweat – and you remember how difficult it was to pry your kitty out from under the bed and get him into his travel carrier.

You look at your cat and he appears to be healthy and happy. His vaccines aren't due for another year, and you wonder if it really is necessary to bring him into the office for an annual exam. The answer is a resounding ... yes!

Your cat will age, on average, five to 10 times faster than a human. And cats are notorious for hiding their signs of illness from us. During an annual health examination, your kitty's veterinarian will provide a thorough examination and screen your cat for:

1. Parasites: Fleas can carry deadly organisms that can be passed to your cat. Outdoor cats can become infected with intestinal parasites from hunting. Studies have shown that potting soil may contain roundworm eggs, so your indoor-only cat may be susceptible to intestinal parasites as well. There are several safe, effective products available to keep your pet parasite-free.

2. Dental disease: Cats can develop dental tartar and painful resorptive lesions on their teeth as early as 3 years of age. Untreated dental disease can lead to tooth loss, mouth pain, infection, heart disease and kidney disease.

3. Obesity: Overweight cats are at risk for diabetes, heart disease, skin infections, joint disease and arthritis. Prescription weight loss diets are available to help keep your cat at a healthy weight.

4. Geriatric diseases: Hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, arthritis, heart disease and cancers are common in cats over 8 years of age. Your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic tests to better assess your cat's overall health. Early detection and treatment are crucial to helping your cat live a long, happy, pain-free life.

Remember: While he may not exactly thank you for the trip to the veterinarian, your kitty will reward your efforts to keep him healthy by offering you unconditional love for many years to come.

Deborah Carlson joined Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital's companion animal department in June 2011. She brings more than 15 years of veterinary experience to the hospital, with special interest in internal medicine, complementary and alternative medicine, feline care and pain management.

Pilchuck has a class on feline health on Feb. 29. The event is free, but you need to register by Feb. 21. Click here for a PDF with more information.
Story tags » Animals

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