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Hairballs, Heat stroke, and Parasites: Three Potential Summer Woes for Cats

A cute cat
The independent and often mellow attitude of cats can lull pet owners into the belief that they do not need any supervision. It may seem that fresh water, regular meals, and attention on their terms are all a cat needs. However, there are some increased health risks for cats during the summer that require that their human pay a little more attention to them - even if the cat disagrees. 
Protect From Parasites
The risk of flea and tick infestations increase as the temperature rises. Cats are not as susceptible to Lyme disease as are dogs, but they can get other diseases from fleas, including the potentially fatal cytauxzoonosis. Discomfort due to flea bites is enough of a reason to want these pests off a pet, but the risk for illness makes it imperative for owners to practice good flea control. 
The dangers of not treating a flea infestation include an infection known as Bartonella (cat scratch fever) which can cause flu-like symptoms and seizures. Anemia, tapeworms, and skin irritation also occur in flea-covered cats. A monthly preventative medication can stop the risk of infestations from fleas and ticks, as well as another dangerous parasite, the heartworm. 
Treat Frequent Hairballs
The elevated temperatures in summer can lead to intense shedding. Cats always swallow some fur as they groom themselves. If the amount consumed is too voluminous to pass through the digestive system, it returns - usually onto a new rug or some other carpeted space - as a hairball.  
Over-the-counter hairball treatments can be enough to solve the problem and prevent further digestive complications. Brushing the pet to remove loose fur can also help. If the cat is expelling more than one hairball a week or has diarrhea and a lack of appetite too, take them to a veterinarian for observation. 
Other health concerns and the tendency of some cats to swallow other small, non-food items can cause frequent vomiting. Some hairballs become too large enough to pass through the intestines or for the cat to regurgitate and can cause an intestinal obstruction. A physical exam, blood tests, and ultrasound or x-rays will help diagnose the cause so your cat can get the help they need.  
Watch for Heatstroke
The idea that a cat could be susceptible to heatstroke may surprise anyone that has watched one sleep so close to a heat source that its fur feels like it could burst into flames. However, cats are as sensitive to overheating as are dogs or people. 
Cats with medical conditions or those that are elderly or obese have a higher risk of heatstroke. Flatfaced breeds like the Persian or Himalayan or any cat with a long, thick coat also overheat easier. 
Keep cats inside whenever there is a heat advisory, and make certain that they always have access to fresh water. Do not leave any pet in a car or a small room without air conditioning or adequate ventilation.  
The signs of heatstroke in a cat include excessive panting, lethargy, and vomiting. A pet with heatstroke may drool, seem restless, or appear disoriented. If an animal shows signs of heatstroke, move them to a cooler environment and offer them water. Use a fan or mist them with cool water to lower their body temperature faster. 
Get them medical attention if they do not improve quickly or if they lose consciousness. Continue to work to bring their body temperature down while transporting them to the vet. Contact their veterinarian for advice even if they do recover immediately and seem to be okay.
A little extra attention can ensure that a cat enjoys the great weather of summer without any worries. If a problem does arise, contact us at Riverfront Animal Hospital. We offer loving care for all companion animals. Contact us for an exam or bring your pet in to learn more about how to keep them safe all year.