Cat Illnesses

My Cat Has a Lump Under Her Skin!

Every cat caregiver should take the time to feel their feline friend's body from head to toe when allowed. ;) Cats can sometimes develop skin lumps and the sooner they're caught and diagnosed, the better. Troyce B. writes:

I just discovered a golf ball size growth on Serbrena’s right side at the end of her rib cage. She seems to feel OK. She is about 15 years old and looks like a Maine Coon but she’s not as big. She lives Inside. What should I do?

Troyce, this can't be diagnosed without a hands-on exam. You should get Serbrena to her veterinarian as soon as you can. It's most likely a fatty tumor called a lipoma. Your vet will need to do a biopsy to find out if it's cancerous or not. About 10% are, so odds are she's in no real danger. You just need to get it checked out.

Many cats develop small lipomas that are completely benign. If they don't get in the cat's way, they usually don't need to be treated at all.

If it is cancerous, the mass will need to be surgically removed. The procedure is a simple one and can usually be handled on an outpatient basis. If the lump turns out to be cancerous, it will be very important to monitor Serbrena for additional lumps or the re-growth of this one.

There are literally dozens of other potential causes of skin lumps on cats. These include abcesses, infections, parasites, and even adverse reactions to injections, but most of these never develop into anything as large as a golf ball. Your veterinarian will be able to identify exactly what Serbrena has and recommend the best course of treatment.

Help, My Cat's Not Pooping!

Cats are well-known to have occasional digestive problems. It's our opinion that most of these issues stem from incomplete nutrition. Even the best raw food diets can be incomplete because they offer neither the variety nor the diversity of foods that a cat would consume when hunting prey in the wild. The pet food industry has made matters even worse by using substandard ingredients and presenting cat caregivers with misleading marketing claims. What we really need is better science regarding the needs of cats. Until that time, we have to do what we can to help them get past their digestive problems. Nancy S. writes:

I noticed there has not been any poop in Precious’ litter box. Then the other day her backside and tail were covered in poop. I took her to the vet and they did blood work and gave her de-worming medicine. She is now eating her wet food, but not drinking her water. Her blood work was all good but she is still not pooping. Is there anything I can give her to help her to poop? My kitty is almost 8 years old and this has never happened before.

Nancy, constipation is a symptom of something else that's going on inside Precious. It's too bad she can't just tell us, but we can do better than guessing. We can follow the clues she shows us and the ones the veterinarian's tools can reveal.  If she's had a change in diet recently, she may just be having a change in her bowel habits.  Many cats change their litter box habits when switched to a raw diet, for example, and poop less than they did on conventional commercial diets.  If she's straining to defecate but can't produce results, you know for sure that she's constipated.

It's important to first rule out intestinal blockage. All cats ingest some hair when grooming. Many cats will also ingest rubber bands, hair ties, strings, etc. and these can get stuck in their intestines, requiring surgery for removal. The only way to rule out blockage of this sort is to X-ray the abdomen. See this post on why you shouldn't use strings as cat toys.

Other causes of constipation are irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diabetes, kidney disease, pancreatis and other diseases that result in dehydration. To check if Precious is dehydrated, grasp the skin at the scruff of her neck and pull it upward without lifting her. If the skin springs back into place quickly, she's probably well hydrated. If it stays pinched and doesn't return to position quickly, she could be becoming dehydrated.

A couple of notes on water consumption are in order. A healthy cat will only drink water a couple of times a week. If they drink more than that, they're showing you that they're dehydrated. Domestic cats are descended from desert-dwellers and have very low thirst drives. That's one of the reasons why dry foods are so bad for them. They get most of their moisture from the foods they eat. Adding a little water to already wet food can be the most effective way to get more water into their diets. A wet-food-only diet is a MUST. 

Treatment must eventually address the cause of the constipation, not just the symptom.  You can only arrive at a conclusion with the help of an attentive veterinarian. If you feel that your current veterinarian isn't digging into this matter to your satisfaction, there's nothing wrong with getting a second opinion.

 
 

Symptom treatment can vary considerably with the cause, but commercial cat laxatives are never recommended. We've had the most luck adding a level teaspoon of canned pumpkin (100% pumpkin only) to wet food along with a couple of teaspoons of additional water. This treatment should be continued for at least a week. It's important to stop adding pumpkin soon after positive results are observed since too much fiber has been shown to increase hair balls in many cats. 

Nancy, you'll also need to try not to express your stress when observing Precious' litter box visits.  Precious will pick up on your stress and it could have a negative impact on her improvement.  We've even seen cases where a fretting human caused their cat friend to stop using the litter box entirely. Observe her casually and do your best not to let on to her that you're worried about her poops.

One last thing to consider are changes to Precious' litter, litter box, or household in general. Any big change can cause large amounts of stress in an indoor cat. Look at her world from her point of view and see if you can identify any new causes of stress in her life.

We feel certain that, along with a helpful vet, you can solve Precious' problem. We wish you both all the best!

Conjunctivitis in Cats

Eye discharge is fairly common in cats.  It can have many different causes, from allergies to tear duct issues.  But if a cat has gunky discharge accompanied by redness, it's a safe bet she has conjunctivitis (AKA pink eye).  Holly M. writes:

My cat Lita, who is a little over a year old, has never had any problems until now. I woke up one morning to find that her eye had green/yellow discharge coming out of it and her eye looked a little pink. I took her to a pet hospital and they did tests and diagnosed her with conjunctivitis. The gave us an ointment and a cone to keep on her for 10 days. After 10 days, the eye was looking great and we were told we could stop the ointment and take her cone off. Two days go by and she’s fine, but by the 3rd day her eye started getting gunk in it and it was pink again. She also is not opening her eye all the way either. I’m worried that the diagnosis was wrong and there is something else going on. I just need help trying to figure out whatever this is.

Holly, it sounds like a good diagnosis, especially since you saw immediate results from the prescribed medication.  Sometimes conjunctivitis can be difficult to eliminate completely.  Conjuctivitis just means that Lita has an infection of the eye's surface which is called the conjunctiva.  The cause can be a physical irritant, a bacteria or a virus. 

If Lita's conjunctivitis was caused by feline herpesvirustype 1, it can be particularly hard to get rid of.  The virus can go into remission only to spring back into action later.  To know if FHV-1 is the culprit, your veterinarian will need to take a culture from Lita's eye for analysis.  If the topical treatment Lita was prescribed won't work long-term, she may need to be put on an anti-viral medication, but there's no need to jump to that conclusion just yet.

Talk to your veterinarian.  Chances are she or he has seen this many times before.  We feel certain you'll be able to get this little problem under control.  We wish you and Lita all the best!

Hair Loss in Cats

Cats shed their coats seasonally, depending on the hours of daylight they're exposed to each day.  Winter means shorter days and longer, thicker hair.  But what happens if your feline friend is losing his hair?  Anna M. writes:

My cat, Micheal, is losing hair. He used to lose his fur a little but it is just getting worse. Also my cat hates my other cat Luna but she is never aggressive towards him.

Anna, hair loss in cats can be caused by a number of things.  Foremost is diet.  A cat who is either not being fed enough protein or is being fed an inadequate type of protein will certainly experience hair loss.  It's important that all cats be fed a high-quality, wet-food-only diet which consists mostly of meat.  You can see our food recommendations in this post.

Another potential issue is skin allergies.  Verifying this will require a visit to your veterinarian.  He or she can also recommend a course of treatment.  If you haven't taken Michael to the vet in a while, this could be the signal that it's time to get him a checkup.

Lastly, some cats chew their own hair off in patches when they're stressed.  You mentioned that Michael and your other cat, Luna, don't get along.  It's possible that this is stressing him out to the point where he overgrooms himself.  This usually makes cats feel better in the short term, but can also become a kneejerk reaction to long term stress.  We have a post on the subject here.  We also have a good post on helping your kitties get along here.

We feel that with a little effort and some good nutrition, you can help Michael with his hair loss.  We wish you both all the best!

 

Mammary Lumps in Cats

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Just like humans, regular doctor visits are essential to cats.  This is especially true of ferals and strays who've gone without medical care for most of their lives.  Gloria T. writes:

My cat Hobo has large soft lumps in her breast. They do not hurt her. Why are they there? She was a stray cat that we took in.

Gloria, first off we want to thank you for caring for Hobo.  It's certain that her life will be much improved now that she's off the streets.

As to the breast lumps, they're probably tumors.  The only way to know whether or not they're malignant is to have a veterinarian test them.  It's a simple test involving removing some of the fluid around the tumor or doing a biopsy.  They may be harmless lipomas which are just fatty deposits, but they could also be mammary gland tumors.  The only way to know for sure is to have Hobo tested.

Mammary tumors metastacize very quickly in cats, so if that's the case with Hobo, you'll need to see a vet as soon as you can.  Their treatment usually involves surgical removal of the tumors and the surrounding tissue.  It's also recommended to have Hobo spayed if she hasn't been spayed already.

No need to jump to conclusions, though, Gloria.  Just make an appointment with the vet and put yourself at ease.  We wish you and Hobo all the best!