Annual Feline Health Checklist

Beth Adelman
by Beth Adelman
View Biography

It seems like just a short time ago that your best (feline) friend had a veterinary check-up, but today, once again, you've spotted that familiar reminder card in the mail. Another veterinary exam already? Here is a checklist of some of the ways you can help ensure your cat's good health throughout the year:

Do make an appointment for a veterinary check-up. "Well cat" visits are critical for detecting subtle changes in your pet's physical health - especially important for a species likely to hide any illness until it becomes debilitating. Ideally, cats should be seen at least once a year, or more frequently if they are older or have special medical needs.

Vaccinations
Be sure your cat's vaccinations are up to date. The Amerian Association of Feline Practitioners currently recommends boosters every three years for feline panleukopenia ("feline distemper"), feline viral rhinotracheitis and feline calicivirus, and your state may mandate the frequency of rabies boosters. This is also a good time to discuss feline leukemia virus and other vaccines, and whether they are right for your cat.

Worms
If you live in a high-risk region, your cat's blood should be tested annually for heartworms or their immature microfilaria. Ask your veterinarian for current recommendations regarding heartworm preventives for your cat. Bring a small sample of your cat's stool to the veterinary clinic, where laboratory technicians will examine it for the presence of parasite eggs. Ask your veterinarian for help with identifying tapeworm (cestode) segments, which are not easily detected in a stool sample.

Fleas and Ticks
Discuss flea and tick control with your veterinarian. Products that work against these parasites are updated quickly and frequently. Remember that fleas, or at least their pupae, will live year-round in your home and yard!

Oral Care
Is it time for a dental cleaning, under sedation or anesthesia, for your feline companion? An annual examination will help determine whether (or when) dental prophylactic cleaning will be needed, and will permit early identification of common, but often painful, cervical neck lesions on teeth.

Emerging Problems
An annual assessment of your cat's behavior will help identify newly emerging problems - perhaps before they become serious. Whether your cat is spraying urine on the wall, chasing other cats in the house, or meowing through the night, her misbehavior can usually be controlled if it is addressed early enough.

If your cat is elderly, discuss his special needs with your veterinarian. Just like people, senior cats may suffer from various organ system problems, osteoarthritis, loss of vision or hearing, and even memory loss or dementia (also known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome). Luckily, many problems can be successfully controlled with medication or simple lifestyle changes.