Sat, Nov 09, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Vets urge regular checkups for cat health

By Wu Shu-wei and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Two pet owners hold their pets in a pet-friendly space at President Tsai Ing-wen’s Tainan campaign headquarters on Friday last week.

Photo: Tsai Wen-chu, Taipei Times

A Hong Kong-based Taiwanese veterinarian advised pet owners to take their cats for regular checkups to prevent the onset of heart disease, saying that the condition is difficult to detect and often causes death in cats.

Lethargy is a sign of heart problems in animals, but cats tend to be less active by nature, making it more difficult to notice when they have a problem, veterinarian Yeh Shih-ping (葉士平) said.

Regular checkups and preventative medication are advised for cats to lower their risk of heart disease, and enable early detection and treatment, he said.

In his book Animal Doctor (動物醫生), Yeh, who uses the pen name “Dr Eason,” said that heart disease is one of the biggest health threats for domesticated cats.

Heart disease is more of a risk to cats than dogs, as cats tend to sleep for most of the day and are rarely let outdoors to engage in physical activity, he said, adding that this lack of activity means that owners are more likely to overlook physiological changes in their pet and miss the early-treatment window.

Research by veterinary scientists in the US has shown that about 16 percent of domesticated cats develop heart disease, with the condition often leading to thrombosis or sudden death, he said.

The most common heart condition that cats develop is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in which part of the heart grows thicker and becomes less able to pump blood, he said, adding that the Maine coon, American shorthair and Persian breeds are more likely to develop this condition.

Many pet owners dismiss preventative medicine as a waste of time and simply a source of torment for cats, focusing on how frightened their cat becomes when taken to the vet, he said, adding that avoiding vet visits is a lost opportunity to prevent health problems.

With dogs, veterinarians use a stethoscope to check for a heart murmur and determine whether a dog has heart disease, but more tests are needed for cats, veterinarian Lu Tai-li (盧大立) said.

The reason is that heart murmurs are inconsistent in cats, and the presence of a murmur is not always a sign of heart disease for cats, Lu added.

About 80 percent of fatal conditions in cats are due to heart attacks, he said, adding that in most cases surgery is unnecessary.

Younger cats can get by with annual checkups and preventative shots, while those aged eight or older should have checkups every six months, Lu said.

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