common viruses and diseases in cats

The 7 Most Common Viruses and Diseases in Cats

One of the most important parts of your job as a cat-parent is monitoring your cat’s health. Despite the rumors, cats don’t actually have nine lives. So it’s important to be aware of the common viruses and diseases that can affect your kitty. Knowing the symptoms of these illnesses, their causes, and how to treat and prevent them are the best way to keep your cat healthy. 

Seven of the most common viruses and diseases in cats are: 

  • Feline Lower Urinary Tract Diseases (FLUTD)
  • Tapeworms
  • Cancer
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
  • Heartworm Disease
  • Ringworm
  • Upper Respiratory Infections

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Diseases (FLUTD)

Thanks to the litter box, cat parents are very familiar with their cat’s bathroom habits. It also provides the opportunity to keep an eye on their urinary tract health. Feline lower urinary tract disease, or FLUTD, encompasses a number of different conditions that can affect your cat’s bladder and urethra. 

Your cat may have an increased risk of FLUTD if they: 

  • Are overweight
  • Eat dry food
  • Are commonly stressed
  • Live in a multi-cat household
  • Experience sudden changes in routine

Genetics, gender, and grooming habits can also contribute to urinary issues. 

Cat urinary tract issues should not be ignored. If your cat is experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is crucial that you take them to one of our veterinarians for a full check-up. 

If you notice your cat straining to urinate, take them to your closest PetWellClinic immediately as it can signal a blockage which can be life threatening. With our walk-in model, you won’t have to wait for an appointment and can have your cat looked at immediately.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease Treatment

The first step to treatment is identifying the reason for the symptoms and the type of FLUTD that your cat has. Our veterinarians will be able to diagnose and then establish a treatment plan. 

Common treatment methods involve:

  • Pain medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Dietary changes
  • Increased water intake

FLUTD Prevention

Keeping your cat’s litter box clean, managing their weight, proper grooming and limiting stress can help reduce your kitty’s chance of developing urinary issues.

Tapeworms in Cats

Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that live inside of the small intestine and can grow to be as long as 2ft. Because of this, it is common for the tapeworm to break apart when expelled, making it difficult to identify a full worm. So it is important to keep an eye out for symptoms of a tapeworm and monitor your cat’s feces. 

Symptoms of a tapeworm can be subtle. They include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Small rice-like segments in their bedding, feces, or anus 
tapeworms in cats
Courtesy of beChewy

Tapeworm Treatment

A variety of products are available to treat tapeworms. For example, a deworming medication called anthelmintic may be given as a tablet or injection. Find your local PetWellClinic for help deciding which type of deworming treatment is most suitable for your cat. 

Flea & Tick Prevention

Cats almost always get tapeworms as a result of swallowing an infected flea. This makes flea prevention the first and most important step to manage and prevent tapeworm infection. Ask your veterinarian for flea and tick prevention medication to prevent any further tapeworm infections. This medication is affordable and can be purchased at your local PetWellClinic.


As with humans, cats can get various kinds of cancer. The disease can spread throughout the body or stay confined to one area. 

Three of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in cats are:

  • Lymphosarcoma 
  • Squamous cell carcinoma 
  • Feline leukemia

Lymphosarcoma (LSA) is one of the most common types of cancer in cats. It is a cancer of the lymphocytes and lymphoid tissue. This tissue is present in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, bone marrow, and GI tract. 

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that can affect your cat’s ear, eyelid, or nose. Light-colored and white cats are more susceptible, but significant sun exposure should be avoided for any cat. 

Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is one of the most infectious viral diseases in cats, and it can be fatal. This virus attacks the bone marrow, allowing cancers to take hold. FeLV is easily transmitted from cat to cat through saliva and direct contact. Furthermore, kittens born to infected mothers are at a greater risk. 

This virus doesn’t always have symptoms, so it is very important to get your cat regularly tested. We can help you determine your cat’s risk for exposure to feline leukemia, and how the FeLV vaccination may offer protection against unexpected exposure.

There are some symptoms of cancer that you can watch out for. These include:

  • Lumps
  • Swelling
  • Persistent skin infections or sores
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Sudden lameness
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating

To tell if your cat is dehydrated, check their gums. If they are pale, or don’t retain their color when pressed on, this is a sign that they are dehydrated.

Feline Cancer Treatment

Treatment options vary depending on your cat’s cancer diagnosis and specific needs. Common treatments include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Immunotherapy
  • A combination of therapies

The success of these treatments relies on the extent of the cancer, and early detection is always best. Please note that if your cat’s cancer is not curable, there are many things you can do to make them comfortable. Don’t hesitate to talk to your PetWellClinic vet about your options, but good nutrition and loving care can greatly enhance their quality of life. 

Feline Cancer Prevention

Keeping your cat indoors will help reduce the risk of cancer, especially FeLV, as they are not around other unvaccinated animals that may be carrying the viruses. It also reduces the risk of squamous cell carcinoma because it protects your cat from repeated sunlight exposure. 

feline cancer treatment
Monitoring your cat’s health through preventative care is one of the best ways to detect early signs of cancer.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

FIV is spread through the saliva of an infected cat, usually through a bite wound. Symptoms of FIV may not show until years after the initial infection. Although the virus is slow-acting, a cat’s immune system is severely weakened once the disease takes hold. Furthermore, it compromises the immune system, making your cat more susceptible to secondary infections.

Because of this, it’s important to get your cat examined if they are showing any of the following symptoms: 

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Skin and respiratory infections
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Oral infections
  • Hair loss

FIV Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no treatment or cure for FIV other than symptom management.  Our vet may prescribe treatments to help ease the secondary effects of the virus. These may include:

  • Medication for secondary infections
  • Healthy diet
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Immune-system-enhancing drugs
  • Parasite control

You have many options to give your cat a comfortable life for months to years. Work with your PetWellClinic veterinarian to figure out a care plan that is best for your kitty. 

FIV Prevention

You can help prevent this viral disease by making sure that any cat your cat is around has tested negative for FIV and by keeping them inside to avoid any chance of contact. You can also speak to one of our veterinarians to find out if the FIV vaccine is appropriate for your cat. 

Heartworm Disease in Cats

Heartworm is increasingly becoming an underlying cause of domestic cats’ health problems. The disease is spread by infected mosquitoes and primarily causes lung disease in cats. If you live in areas that are highly populated by mosquitoes, it is important that you prioritize heartworm prevention medication. Talk to your local PetWellClinic veterinarian to find the right one for your pet. 

Because a domestic cat is not a natural host for the heartworm parasite, many of the worms die. However, an infected cat may have severe inflammatory and immune responses.

The following signs may indicate that your cat has been infected:

  • Coughing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy

Heartworm Treatment for Cats

There are currently no products for treating feline heartworm, but many cats are able to fight the infection themselves. However, side effects of this disease can be treated with medication. If your cat is infected, regular check-ups at the vet are important to ensure they are combatting the illness effectively. Please note that if your cat’s heartworms are not monitored and treated properly, it can have serious consequences on their health. 

Heartworm Prevention in Cats

There are several medications available to prevent feline heartworm. However, it is important to bring your cat to PetWellClinic for a screening for heartworm infection before giving them any medication. 

Regular checkups, preventative screenings, and limited exposure to mosquito-infested areas are other ways to prevent heartworm disease.

Heartworm prevention in cats
Talk to your PetWellClinic veterinarian for the best heartworm prevention for your cat!

Ringworm in Cats

Despite the name, ringworm isn’t actually caused by a worm, but a fungus. Ringworm is a highly contagious infection that leads to patchy, circular areas of hair loss with red rings. Kittens and older adult cats are most prone to infection, as well as long-haired cats and those who are immunocompromised.

Thankfully, there are physical symptoms you can watch out for: 

  • Skin lesions (commonly appear on the head, ears, and forelimbs)
  • Flaky bald patches
  • Localized areas of redness or dandruff

Keep in mind that not all cats will show signs of ringworm.

The ringworm infection can spread over your cat’s entire body, as well as spread to you and other animals in your household. This is why taking your cat to the vet for a proper diagnostic test is crucial. 

Ringworm Treatment

Treatment depends on the severity of the infection. Our veterinarian may prescribe a shampoo, ointment, or oral medications to kill the fungus. 

Ringworm Prevention

Healthy skin helps fight off the fungal spores that cause ringworm since a cat with a healthy coat and skin is less likely to develop ringworm. Nutrition also plays a vital role in maintaining their skin and hair follicles. 

Upper Respiratory Infections in Cats

Upper respiratory infections in cats allow your cat’s nose, throat, and sinus area to all be susceptible to infection caused by different viruses and bacteria. Feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus account for the majority of the infections. 

They can be transmitted through sneezing, coughing, grooming, or sharing food and water bowls. Chlamydia and Bordetella are two infections caused by bacteria. They are commonly found in shelters and areas with multiple cats.

Symptoms differ depending on the cause and location of the infection, but some common signs include:

  • Sneezing
  • Congestion 
  • Runny nose and teary eyes
  • Coughing
  • Clear or colored nasal discharge
  • Gagging and drooling
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nasal and oral ulcers
  • Squinting or rubbing eyes
  • Open-mouth breathing

It’s important to bring your cat to a veterinarian if you think they may be suffering from an upper respiratory infection. A brief exam by our veterinarian will help determine the type of treatment that is best for them. 

URI Treatment for Cats

Our veterinarian will be able to prescribe the best course of treatment for your cat, but treatment for these infections usually include antibiotics, fluids, and antiviral medication. If left untreated, some infections can progress to serious health problems such as chronic breathing difficulties or blindness.

URI Prevention in Cats

The best way to minimize the risk of exposure is to:

  • Keep your cat indoors
  • Stay up to date on their vaccines
  • Minimize stress
  • Prioritize regular vet exams and preventative care
  • Practice good hygiene when handling multiple cats

As a cat-parent, it’s crucial that you are aware of the different viruses and diseases that can harm your kitty. Preventative care, keeping your cat indoors, and staying up to date on their vaccines and check-ups are vital to maintaining their health. If your cat is expressing any unusual behaviors or symptoms, take them to your local PetWellClinic, and our veterinarian will be able to make a proper diagnosis. 

PetWellClinic is dedicated to being here for pet owners. Our hours of operation extend into the evenings and weekends, and our clinic environment is built with your pet’s comfort in mind. Ask your PetWellClinic veterinarian for guidance if you notice any unusual behavior in your kitty that could point to a bigger issue in their health.

PetWellClinic provides convenient, affordable veterinary care for pet owners. PetWellClinic has locations and services built with convenience in mind. Stop by with your pet any time! No appointment necessary.

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