How You Can Help Your Veterinarian Make a Diagnosis
When one of my grays isn’t feeling well, you better believe I wish they could just tell me what’s wrong.
Unfortunately, since our cats can’t simply tell us if they have an allergy, if they swallowed a ribbon, or for that matter if they have cerebellar hypoplasia, it’s up to us to help our veterinarian make a diagnosis.
Here are a few ways you can help with that:
Keep a detailed and complete health record on your cat.
I highly recommend starting a file or folder the moment a cat enters your household. Keep all of the cat’s related paperwork — from adoption paperwork, to a letter from your landlord confirming that you can keep cats, to all paperwork received from vet visits, plus anything else that may come in handy — in this file.
At the very least, you’ll want your cat’s vaccination history, as well as your cat’s feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus statuses. Other medical records that cover other diagnoses or treatments are also invaluable.
Keep this paperwork in one place so you always know where to find it. All of this information is invaluable if you visit a new vet or need to take your cat to an emergency clinic.
Another best practice is to learn how to observe your cat — this way, you’ll be aware of changes as they occur.
If your cat starts to act oddly, you may even want to consider documenting the behavior change. Perhaps your usually active and friendly cat is mopey and quiet every so often. If so, write about the difference, date the sheet, and place it in the file. The change in behavior can really be anything — but the idea is that you get into a habit of being aware of the change and documenting it.
There’s also some basic information that you should know by heart that you should be able to supply to your vet, even if you don’t keep a detailed file.
This basic information includes your cat’s age, breed, gender, and if he/she is neutered or spayed. Although it’s basic, this information can really help your vet make an informed decision. For example, some diseases may not set in until later in a cat’s life. By simply knowing your cat’s age, your vet can rule out conditions that aren’t likely.
That said, I know some of us may not know exactly when our cat was born. Providing an educated estimate, for example, from the shelter you adopted the cat from, usually suffices.
Similarly, knowing the breed and gender can be equally helpful. While the gender is usually easy to identify (unless you’re a tiny Ellie!), it’s important to get the breed right. There’s a considerable difference between a cat looking like a specific breed, and it actually being that breed.
It can also help to tell your vet about your cat’s environment. Does your cat live indoors only, or does he go outdoors, too? Are there other cats who live in your home? Do any of them have health, emotional or other issues?
Along those lines, you’ll also need to share a bit about your cat’s diet. This means knowing the type and brand of food you feed your cat, as well as how much and how often. In addition, tell your vet about any treats, snacks, scraps, etc. that your cat may have access to.
Has your cat gained or lost weight? Does your cat eat all of his food? Does he only eat one type of food? Perhaps he only eats on one side of his mouth, or has decided he only wants wet food. These are all things that can signal an issue that your vet should look into more.
Of course, some of those issues we may not notice right away. But again, as pet parents, it is our responsibility to stay on top of all of these things and more, so we’re aware when there is a change. Some of the details you may want to document include: When was your cat last normal? Did the change come on suddenly or over time? Has the issue been previously treated for this issue?
Essentially, the more you know, the better you can inform your vet. While getting everything in place now may seem like a pain, I guarantee you’ll appreciate it if and when the time comes.