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Common Cat Illnesses & Their Symptoms

Cat's are stoic creatures, as such many common cat illnesses aren't detected until the cat is very unwell. Here our Winston-Salem vets share some of the most common illnesses in cats, their symptoms and what you should do if your cat is unwell. 

What are common cat illnesses?

Cat parents need to be on alert and prepared to visit their veterinarian if required, especially since cats tend to isolate themselves out of instinct when ill. Here are 3 common cat illnesses to be on the lookout for, and their symptoms.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Viruses and bacteria can cause infections in your cat’s upper respiratory tract, sinuses, nose, and throat.

Frequently seen in multi-cat households and shelters, cats can contract feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus through simply sharing a food or water bowl, coughing, sneezing or grooming.  Once a cat has contracted the virus it can then easily go on to transmit it to other cats.

Symptoms of upper respiratory illness in cats include:

  • Coughing or gagging
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Decreased or lost appetite
  • Runny nose or nasal discharge
  • Congestion or drooling

Common cat illnesses, Winston-Salem vet


If your cat doesn’t produce enough insulin to balance glucose levels or blood sugar, diabetes mellitus results. Poorly controlled diabetes can shorten your cat’s lifespan and lead to nerve disorders, numerous health problems, and severe emergency situations. Treatment for diabetes in cats is focused on management rather than cure and can include insulin injections.

Left untreated, diabetes can lead to several serious symptoms, including:

  • Thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased appetite or loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Motor function problems
  • Coma
  • Death


Cancer can affect a wide range of cells and organs in your cat’s body. The disease first starts to grow within a cell, before attaching to tissue underneath the skin and potentially spreading to other areas of the body.

Symptoms of cancer in cats may include:

  • Lumps or bumps that change in size or shape
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Odor from the mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Marked increase or decrease in appetite
  • Chronic weight loss
  • Difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Unexplained discharge

Feline Leukemia Virus (which cats can be vaccinated against) is a common contributor to cancer in cats. Other potential causes of cat cancers include toxins in the environment. If detected early during a physical exam, cancer in cats may be able to be treated.

Early detection is key when it comes to treating cat cancers. Other factors which influence the success of treatment include the type of cancer, extent of its spread, and the location of the tumor. 

If your cat is diagnosed with cancer your vet might recommend that surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy be used to help treat the illness.

What to Do If Your Cat Is Unwell

If your cat is exhibiting any of the symptoms above, it is essential to bring them to a vet as soon as possible. Many cat illnesses progress quickly and can become very serious in just a short period of time.

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists in Winston-Salem, our compassionate veterinarians and board-certified specialists extend services provided by your primary care veterinarian. We work with your vet to provide first-rate specialty and emergency care for pets in North Carolina.

If your cat is showing signs of illness, make an appointment to see your vet as soon as possible. If your cat is experiencing a medical emergency contact us for assistance.

Caring for Winston-Salem Pets

At Carolina Veterinary Specialists, we accept new clients to our specialty services by referral only. Our 24/7 emergency service welcomes all clients.

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