Does My Indoor Cat Need a Yearly Physical Exam?

  • A younger cat should have an exam at least once a year, but older cats should be seen every 6 months
  • 70% of cats over 3 years of age have dental disease
  • There are three chronic diseases to watch out for: kidney disease, hyperthyroidism and diabetes
  • Heart murmurs and abnormal rhythms can be detected
  • Indoor cats are more likely to be obese
  • Cats hide pain more than dogs; a thorough physical exam can help to detect pain
  • Older cats are also more likely to develop arthritis

Why Indoor Cats Need Yearly Physical Exams

Both outdoor and indoor cats need annual wellness exams because they have a tendency to hide their illnesses and pain. However, there are many diseases that can develop as cats age, such as dental disease, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, heart disease, and diabetes. Symptoms of these diseases can be detected during a physical exam.

Listen to the podcast on iTunes or read the transcription below:

Steve: “Why indoor cats need yearly physical exams, with an “Eye on Pets,” I’m Steve Grzanich with veterinarian Dr. Julia Georgesen.”

Dr. Georgesen: “It is common knowledge that cats need to go the vet more often. There’s a large push in the veterinary community. We’re really trying to educate cat owners and let them know that even though their cat is inside, and they are healthier than a cat outside, they can still come down with different diseases, and it’s important to have your pet have a thorough physical exam yearly when they’re younger. And I would recommend every 6 month exams when your pet is older. One of the main diseases definitely is dental disease. Studies show that 70% of cats have dental disease when there are greater than 3 years of age. Veterinarians know what to look for. We’re actually able to examine a cat’s mouth and define problems where there’s gingivitis and tartar or a bad tooth.”

Steve: “And as the cat gets older, there are other diseases that come on that people really need to be watching for well in advance.”

Dr. Georgesen: “The three big main ones that we see in older cats are chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes, and if these are caught early, these are definitely disease processes that can be managed and treated well.”

Steve: “There’s also a heart disease for cats and heart problems.”

Dr. Georgesen: “Another important reason to bring your cat to the vet…a physical exam is going to detect a heart murmur or an abnormal rhythm with your cat. They also will hide signs of heart disease until the disease is advanced, and you may not notice until it’s really causing a problem, but when you have normal physical exams, they’re having their weight checked, and the veterinarian is able to palpate the cat’s abdomen. In cats, you can feel most things. You can feel the kidneys, the bowel loops, the bladder…so it’s very important to have a physical exam.”

Steve: “One of the other big ones is obesity in cats.”

Dr. Georgesen: “A lot of times, it’s because they’re inside, and maybe their diet is too high in calories, or maybe they’re not getting enough exercise, so those are things that we can address. Another thing that people don’t realize as cats get older is that they are really prone to getting arthritis. I see this a lot. Ninety percent of cats 12 years or greater will have some form of arthritis.”

Steve: “Do cats hide their pain better than dogs do?”

Dr. Georgesen:  “Yes, I think that they hide pain. They hide signs of disease well, and really only a thorough physical exam helps to find these things.”

Steve: “With an “Eye on Pets,” I’m Steve Grzanich with Dr. Julia Georgesen. Remember, you can follow us on Twitter at “Eye on Pets” on News Radio 780 at 105.9 FM.”