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Silent Killers of Cats and Their Symptoms

Apr 24, 2017 | Cats, Disease and Symptoms, Pet Care

As pet owners know, it’s not always easy to tell when your pet is sick. They can’t always communicate how they feel, and sometimes certain diseases can be silent killers. Find out how you can identify these common silent killers in your cat, so your pet can continue to lead a healthy and happy life!


Chronic kidney disease is the most common silent killer in cats, and can be genetic. With this disease, 75% of both of your cat’s kidneys don’t work properly, and there are a few symptoms you can identify:

  • Excessive drinking and urinating
  • Larger clumps in the litter box
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath caused by toxins in the blood
  • Sluggishness

Chronic kidney disease doesn’t have to be fatal, and with the right management and treatment, your cat can go on to live a long life. Low protein diets, regular blood work and more water intake, as well as medications, can all help to manage your cat’s kidney function.


Did you know that it’s not uncommon for house cats to be overweight or obese? Diabetes mellitus is a common disease in cats, and causes the pancreas to secrete a smaller amount of insulin than they need. The symptoms of diabetes are similar to kidney disease:

  • Excessive drinking and urination
  • Larger clumps in the litter box
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Loss of appetite or increase in appetite
  • Sluggishness
  • Change in the way they walk

Diabetes is an expensive disease to treat, as it includes insulin injections twice a day. Changes must also be made to their diet with more protein and fewer carbohydrates, but with enough care and support diabetes can be managed. Once complications like hyperglycemic syndrome arise, it can be life-threatening.


While it’s easy to identify heart murmurs in dogs with heart disease, cats almost never have a heart murmur present, making identifying heart disease in cats trickier. Other symptoms include:

  • Abnormal heart beat
  • Heart racing
  • Collapsing or passing out
  • Laboured or difficulty breathing
  • Sudden paralysis, especially of the hind limbs
  • Sudden pain or lameness

Diagnosing heart disease in your cat is important, and treatment may include oxygen therapy, diuretics, blood pressure and heart medications. Unfortunately, medication does not cure heart disease and the prognosis in the long-term is poor.


With hyperthyroidism, your cat’s thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. It’s most common in middle-aged to senior cats, and produces many of the same symptoms as kidney disease. Symptoms include:

  • Excessive drinking and urination
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Racing heart rate
  • Hypertension, acute blood loss, neurologic signs, clot or stroke
  • Other organ injuries like heart murmurs

The prognosis for hyperthyroidism is excellent, given the right treatment and medication. The sooner it’s identified and treated, the better the prognosis and the less likely they’ll develop secondary side effects or organ damage.


It’s a word none of us want to hear, whether it involves our pets or our family members. But as our dogs and cats live longer, cancer is becoming a more common illness. For cats, the most common form of cancer is gastrointestinal, but others can occur as well. Symptoms include:

  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Weakness or sluggishness
  • Hiding
  • Fever

Unfortunately, the prognosis for cancer in your cat is poor, so it’s important to recognize the signs early so you can start your cat on a treatment path.

As a pet owner, you know your cat’s personality. If you notice any sudden or obvious changes to their routine or their energy, contact us at Close Vet Clinic in Kitchener. Our veterinarians and technicians are trained in diagnostic testing so we can get to the bottom of what’s causing your cat’s symptoms!