Home Bot CategoriesLivingPaws & Claws SILENT KILLERS OF YOUR CAT


by Dr Sharad Singh Yadav

As cat guardians, you should also be aware of five “silent” killers in cats. By knowing what the most common silent killers are, you can know what clinical signs to look for. With most of these diseases, the sooner the clinical signs are recognised, the sooner veterinarians can treat.

Chronic kidney disease

One of the top silent killers of cats is chronic kidney disease (CKD) This is sometimes called chronic renal failure or chronic kidney injury. These terms are all similar, and basically mean that 75% of both the kidneys are ineffective and not working. Clinical signs of CRD include excessive drinking, excessive urinating, larger clumps in the litter box, weight loss, bad breath, lethargy, and hiding.

With adequate management, cats can live with CKD for years. Chronic management may include a low-protein diet, frequent blood work, increasing water intake, medications and even fluids under the skin.


It is an endocrine disease where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This is seen in middle-aged to geriatric cats, and can result in very similar clinical signs to chronic kidney disease including excessive thirst, increased, water consumption/urination, vomiting/diarrhea, and weight loss.

With adequate management, cats can live with CKD for years. Chronic management may include a low-protein diet, frequent blood work, increasing water intake, medications and even fluids under the skin.

As hyperthyroidism increases the metabolism of cats, it causes: a ravenous appetite despite weight loss. It can also result in racing heart rate, severe hypertension, and secondary organ injury.

Treatment for hyperthyroidism is very effective and includes either a medication called methimazole, surgical removal of the thyroid glands. The sooner you treat it, the less potential side effects or organ damage will occur in your cat.

Diabetes mellitus

A silent killer that affects cats is diabetes mellitus (DM). As many of our cats are often overweight to obese, they are at a greater risk for DM. With diabetes, the pancreas fails to secrete adequate amounts of insulin (Type I DM) or there is resistance to insulin (Type II DM). Insulin is a natural hormone that drives sugar into the cells. As a result of the cells starving for glucose, the body makes more and more glucose, causing hyperglycemia and many of the clinical signs seen with DM. Common clinical signs are similar to those of Chronic Kidney Disease and Hyperthyroidism and includes excessive urination and thirst, larger clumps in the litter box, an overweight or obese body condition with muscle wasting or weight loss, decreased or ravenous appetite, lethargy or weakness, vomiting, abnormal breath, walking abnormally.

Treatment for DM requires twice-a-day insulin injections that you have to give under the skin. It also requires changes in diet (to a high protein, low carbohydrate diet), frequent blood glucose monitoring, and frequent veterinary visits. With supportive care and chronic management, cats can do reasonably well; however, once diabetic complications develop, DM can be life threatening. 

Cardiac disease

Heart disease is very frustrating for both cat owners and veterinarians. That’s because, while dogs almost always have a loud heart murmur indicative of heart disease, cats often don’t have a heart murmur present. Clinical signs of heart disease include a heart murmur, an abnormal heart rhythm, a racing heart rate, collapse, passing out, increased respiratory rate, difficulty breathing, blue-tinged gums, open mouth breathing, acute, sudden paralysis, cold, painful hind limbs, sudden pain, sudden lameness, and even sudden death.

Once cardiac disease is diagnosed, treatment may include emergency care for oxygen therapy, diuretics, blood pressure support, and heart medications. Long-term prognosis is poor, as the heart medication does not cure the heart disease; it prevents cardiac disease from getting worse. The exception is when cardiac disease is caused by hyperthyroidism, which often gets better once the hyperthyroidism is treated.


As dogs and cats live longer, veterinarians are seeing more cases of cancer. The most common type of cancer in cats is gastrointestinal cancer, often due to lymphosarcoma. Clinical signs of cancer include weight loss, not eating, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, abdominal distension or bloating, weakness, lethargy, hiding, fever, and generalised malaise. 

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