Wellness Care for Your Cat
By Terri Johnson, CVT
While a wellness care philosophy isn’t new, focusing on keeping pets healthy instead of just treating illnesses can really enhance their lives. Aubrey Lavizzo, DVM, owner of The Center for Animal Wellness in Denver, Colo., recently built a new practice and changed the name to reflect his overall wellness philosophy.
“Our old name, Plaza Veterinary Clinic, didn’t reflect how we practiced medicine or what we’d become,” Lavizzo explains. “We’ve been practicing wellness and preventive care for years, focusing on educating clients about the importance of annual wellness exams and follow-ups. The name change reflects the positive approach we take in our practice.”
Cats have become the most popular pet in the United States. Recent data from the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) 2007 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook cites the number of cats (81.7 million) as outnumbering that of dogs (72 million) among the pet-owning public. Even though we have more feline friends at home, the AVMA also reports that cat visits to the veterinarian fell 11% between 2001 and 2006.
Part of a wild cat’s survival instinct is to not show weakness. As domestic cats evolved, they kept some of those survival traits, making it difficult to determine if a cat is sick. No one knows your cat better than you, so if you think you’ve noticed any of the following changes, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your veterinarian.
• Behavior: Any personality changes such as being more moody, shy, not wanting to be held, hiding more than usual, becoming more aggressive.
• Appearance: Unexplained weight loss or gain, fur thinner or more coarse, dull, not grooming, or excessive scratching.
• Appetite: Decreased or increased food consumption or not eating at all.
• Drinking: An increase or decrease in water consumption.
• Elimination behaviors: Going outside the litter box, a marked increase or decrease in urine or stool, the presence of blood or mucus, or a strong or unusual smell.
• Activity: Decreased interaction with you or other family pets, or hyperactivity.
• Sleeping habits: Sleeping more than normal (16 to 18 hours per day) or signs that they’re uncomfortable lying down and/or getting up.
• Vocalization: Increased howling could be a sign of pain or other problem.
• Bad breath: Dental disease, problems in the mouth, or some other systemic abnormality.
• Walking or movement: Walking more slowly than normal, limping, avoiding putting weight on a limb, favoring one leg, exhibiting stiffness when walking up or down stairs, not wanting to jump up or down from things.
It can be challenging to recognize changes in your cat. Changes can happen over a period of days, weeks or months, or they can happen quickly. Sudden or abrupt changes are easier to notice. Because you’re with your cat every day, some changes may occur so slowly that you may not be aware of them until they’ve progressed. That’s why it’s important to evaluate your cat’s health on a regular basis.
Wellness care is a lifelong commitment, and you play a major role. It’s based on choices you make for your pet every day. A major influence, and Lavizzo’s top choice for things that pet owners can do to influence their pets’ wellness, is nutrition.
“We now recognize that feeding a diet more consistent with what the cat eats in its natural environment is significant in reducing the onset of conditions often associated with aging: dehydration, diabetes, kidney and other urinary tract disease, etc.,” he explains.
Our focus on medical care is changing from one of treating disease to doing as much as we can to provide wellness care, to prevent disease, and to help your pets be as healthy as possible. Take a proactive step in your cat’s life, and talk to your veterinarian about preventive and wellness care for your cat.