An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure: Preventative Medicine and Testing in Cats

Preventative and wellness care is an excellent way to make sure your feline friend has a long and healthy life.  It is almost always easier to prevent health problems in pets than it is to treat illnesses later.   Here are some common vaccines, tests, and preventative products that are frequently used to help keep your cat healthy:


Both indoor and outdoor cats should be kept up to date on vaccines to help prevent a variety of illnesses.  Vaccines work by stimulating your pet’s immune system, helping to protect them against a variety of infectious organisms.  Below are some commonly administered vaccinations in cats:

  • Rabies: This is the most important vaccine in cats. Rabies, which is transmitted through saliva, is universally fatal if infection occurs.   This is a disease that can be spread to all mammals, including humans.  In Pennsylvania, all cats over 12 weeks of age are required to be vaccinated against rabies.  In certain situations, exceptions to this rule may be available for outdoor only cats.   
  • Distemper (also known as FVRCP): This combination vaccine protects against a variety of organisms including feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia (also known as feline distemper). All of these viruses can make cats extremely sick and in some cases can even lead to death.
  • Feline Leukemia Virus (also known as FeLV): The FeLV vaccine protects against a virus that can lead to cancer and immune system disorders in cats. The feline leukemia virus is spread through saliva and nasal secretions between cats in close contact with one another.

A number of other vaccines exist as well.  Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on what vaccines are right for your pet.

Wellness Testing:

Many diseases, illnesses, and disorders in cats can be detected through wellness testing.  Each cat is different, so your veterinarian will recommended a specific testing program for your cat based on a variety of risk factors. If underlying problems or diseases are detected, we are often able to treat the patient before clinical symptoms develop.  Below are some commonly performed tests in cats:

  • Wellness Bloodwork: This test allows us to asses many different parameters in cats, and also gives us an idea of how your pet’s internal organs are functioning. Wellness blood work can be useful in screening for and diagnosing a number of different issues such anemia, infection, liver disease, kidney disease, metabolic disorders, cancers, and autoimmune problems.
  • Feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus testing (FeLV/FIV testing): This combination test is useful for detecting infection by viruses that can lead to a variety of problems including cancer and immune system disorders. FeLV and FIV are not curable and can easily be spread to other cats.
  • Fecal testing: This test allows us to check your cat for a variety of intestinal parasites such as worms and protozoa. These parasites can lead to symptoms such as weight loss, diarrhea, and vomiting. 
  • Urine Testing: In some cases, your cat’s urine can be used to screen for many different diseases, such as diabetes, infections, and kidney issues.

Preventative Products:

Fleas, heartworms, intestinal worms, and ticks can all cause serious illness in cats. For fleas and ticks, a variety of over the counter and prescription products are available. Make sure that any over the counter flea and tick products are specifically designed for cats, since many dog flea and tick preventatives are toxic to cats.  If there is ever any doubt, please consult your veterinarian before using a flea and tick preventative in cats.

Heartworm preventative products are obtained through prescription only.  Most of these cat specific products also help to kill intestinal worms and fleas.

So What Do I Do Now?

The bottom line is that many different vaccines, tests, and products exist to help keep your furry friend healthy.  At your appointment, your veterinarian will be able to guide you towards the proper preventative steps to keep your cat healthy.  Give us a call today to schedule your cat’s exam!