5 “Silent” Diseases of Cats

5 “Silent” Diseases of Cats

Overall taking care of your cat is simple:

  • Keep your cat safely indoors (Why indoors is best)
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Make sure you are following a preventive care schedule (e.g., an annual physical examination, laboratory tests, and the appropriate vaccines)
  • Plenty of cuddling and exercise

Most cats will live healthy, happy lives for year with just the bullet points above. But it’s important to be aware of a few diseases that impact cats that often have no symptoms until it’s too late. By learning about these conditions, you may be able to recognize the clinical signs and therefore give your veterinarian time to treat your cat.


1. Chronic kidney disease

One of the top silent killers of cats is kidney disease. This is when 75% of both the kidneys are ineffective and not working to filter the blood. Clinical signs to watch for in kidney disease are:

  • Excessive drinking
  • Frequent urination
  • Soaking the litter box
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath 
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding

If your cat has kidney disease, there is still hope. With proper management, cats can live with Kidney disease for years. Management may include a low-protein diet, regular blood work, increasing water intake, medications and even fluids under the skin (which many pet owners can learn to perform at home).

[10 common causes of kidney disease in cats.]

2. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is an overproduction of the thyroid hormone. This disease occurs in middle-aged to geriatric cats, and can present similarly to chronic kidney disease including:

One symptom differentiates Hyperthyroidism - a ravenous appetite even though the cat is losing weight. This is due to an increase in the cat’s metabolism. It can also result in:

  • A rapid heart rate
  • Severe hypertension 
  • Secondary organ damage 

The treatment for hyperthyroidism may include medication, surgery, and/or diet. Of course, the sooner this disease is detected, the better chance for treatment and a long, healthy life for your cat.

[Learn more about hyperthyroidism in cats.]

 Give us a call at Muirfield Animal Hospital to make an appointment. We can evaluate your cat and ensure he or she has the best possible outcome.

3. Diabetes mellitus

Another common disease that affects cats is diabetes mellitus (DM). Since cats are often overweight to obese, they are at a higher risk for diabetes. Diabetes is when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin (Type I DM) or there is resistance to insulin (Type II DM). Insulin is a natural hormone that allows sugar to be absorbed into the cells. As a result of the cells not getting enough glucose, the body reacts by making too much glucose, causing hyperglycemia (i.e., a high blood sugar) and many of the clinical signs seen with DM. Common symptoms for diabetes are akin to those of kidney disease and hyperthyroidism and include:

  • Excessive thirst and frequent urination
  • Soaking the litter box
  • An overweight or obese body condition
  • A decreased or ravenous appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal breath (e.g., acetone breath)
  • Walking abnormally (e.g., lower to the ground)

Treatment for diabetes is expensive, since it requires insulin injections twice daily.. Treatment also includes diet restrictions (to a high protein, low carbohydrate diet), frequent blood glucose monitoring, and regular veterinary visits. With the proper care, cats can do fairly well; however, left untreated, diabetes in cats is fatal. 

For more information, contact Muirfield Animal Hospital for a consultation.


4. Heart disease

Heart disease is very hard to detect. In fact, it’s estimated that 50% of cats with heart disease have no audible heart murmur, which is the main symptom. Additional signs of heart disease include:

  • An abnormal heart rhythm (e.g., an abnormal beat and rhythm)
  • A racing heart rate
  • Collapse
  • Passing out (e.g., syncope)
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blue-tinged gums
  • Open mouth breathing
  • Acute, sudden paralysis (e.g., typically of the hind limbs)
  • Cold, painful hind limbs
  • Sudden pain
  • Sudden lameness
  • Sudden death

Once heart disease is found, there are some treatments available, but long term prognosis is not good, since heart disease cannot be cured. Vets can only keep the heart disease from progressing further. Muirfield Animal Hospital can assess your cat and determine next steps if he or she is diagnosed with heart disease.

[Learn more about feline heart disease.]

5. Cancer

Dogs and cats are living longer, and as such we are seeing more cases of cancer. The most common type of cancer in cats is gastrointestinal cancer, often caused by lymphosarcoma. Symptoms of cancer include:

Unfortunately, the prognosis for cancer is poor. However, the sooner cancer is detected, the sooner treatment can begin. Contact Muirfield Animal Hospital for more information. We can conduct a thorough assessment and go over next steps with you.

[Learn more about cancer and cats.]