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Dr Amelia Bunker, Resident Veterinarian - Knose Pet Insurance

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Dr. Amelia Bunker

Dr. Amelia Bunker (BVSc), our resident veterinarian at Knose, blends her passion for animal care with her expertise in veterinary science. Her journey from mixed practice clinics to insurance expert motivates her dedication to animal welfare, both in her professional role and as a pet owner.

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Bringing a new kitten home can fill your heart with joy, but that joy can turn to worry if your kitten gets sick. Very young kittens can be susceptible to common cat diseases, and they may need special care from their human parents to recover.

When you’ve adopted a new kitten, make sure to be on the lookout for general symptoms such as:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal or Eye discharge
  • Excessive scratching
  • A bloated belly
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

These are all signs that your kitten may need veterinary care. But before calling the vet, make sure to understand what these symptoms might mean so you can take the right actions at home. If you are concerned, a quick phone call to your vet will help you determine if you need to take your kitten to the veterinary hospital or if you can care for your kitten at home.

New kitten parents armed with the following facts about these 5 common kitten health problems can help their kittens avoid them entirely, take appropriate action at home, or know when to get treatment:

1. Upper Respiratory Infections

Upper respiratory infections are incredibly common in kittens and cats, but keeping your kittens up to date on their core vaccination schedule will help them avoid the most common upper respiratory infections:

  • Feline Calicivirus
  • Feline Herpes (Rhinotracheitis).
  • “Cat flu”

In these cases, you may notice symptoms of sneezing, lethargy, and loss of appetite as well as a nasal or eye discharge. As these are viruses, nursing care at home is very important, as well as watching for any symptoms that are getting worse. If symptoms are not improving after a few days or are worsening, a trip to the vet may be necessary to clear up a secondary bacterial infection.

Chlamydia, another common upper respiratory bacterial infection can cause conjunctivitis, which can even spread to humans. Watch out for any of these common kitten upper respiratory infection symptoms:

  • Runny nose and sneezing
  • Teary, red, discharge-producing eyes
  • Lethargy

Many kittens will improve at home with the proper rest and care, including:

  • Quarantine from other cats
  • Enforce plenty of rest
  • Helping them stay hydrated and eating
  • Wipe discharge away from nose and eyes with a damp, warm cloth

Make an appointment with your vet if your kitten refuses food and drink and if these symptoms are not improving after a few days or if they are worsening. Bacterial infections will usually clear up with continued care and a course of antibiotics.

2. Intestinal Parasites

Intestinal parasites are common in kittens and veterinarians will routinely give your kitten a wormer every 2 weeks until they are 3 months of age. The most common culprits include:

  • Hookworms
  • Roundworms
  • Tapeworms

Common symptoms of intestinal parasites in kittens include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Chronic vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea (with bloody or mucous-filled feces)
  • Dull coat
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Dehydration
  • Swollen belly

Don’t ignore these symptoms! If you suspect intestinal parasites, seek care for your kitten right away. Your veterinarian will use a stool sample from your kitten to test for intestinal parasites and then recommend the proper treatment.

3. Ear Mites

Ear mites are common, contagious kitten afflictions but many over-the-counter applications can help eliminate them if you follow the directions closely. Because ear mites are highly contagious, be sure to treat all the pets (dogs and cats) in the home at the same time. Some symptoms include:

  • Coffee-ground-like (blackish brown) discharge from the ears
  • Sores around the ears and head
  • The kitten can’t stop scratching and rubbing around the ears

If a good OTC treatment doesn’t work, seek veterinary assistance for a stronger treatment. Ear discharge and itching can also be caused by other diseases, therefore it is important that you see your veterinarian if your kittens symptoms are not improving.

4. Fleas

These tiny blood-suckers can sneak into the cleanest house to infest your kittens, so practice constant vigilance by keeping them on the correct dose of flea preventative treatments prescribed by their veterinarian as they grow. It may be helpful to set a reminder on your phone so as not to forget.  

Some signs your kitten may have a flea problem include:

  • Weakness from anemia
  • Constant licking and scratching
  • Sores where your kitten was licking and scratching.

In addition to irritation and fatigue, in some unfortunate cases, fleas can transmit diseases and even intestinal parasites to kittens.

If you and your kitten are struggling with fleas, ask your veterinarian about starting, changing, or upgrading your pet’s flea and tick preventative medication and go on a massive and thorough cleaning spree involving all of these potential flea egg-hiding spots:

  • Rugs and carpets
  • Furniture upholstery
  • Pet bedding
  • Human bedding
  • Clothing

Keeping fleas and other insects like ticks away from your kitten can be very easy as long as you follow the correct dose of flea preventative medication at the right intervals.

5. Fading Kitten Syndrome

This sad, mysterious collection of symptoms often kills kittens whose mother suffered health difficulties and was unable to properly nurse and care for its young. It’s best to quickly recognise and address symptoms to give your kitten the best chance of survival. Symptoms include:

  • Infections
  • Hypothermia
  • Malnutrition and dehydration
  • Fatigue and listlessness

Keeping your kitten warm, loved, properly fed, hydrated, and treated against infections, fleas, and any other health problems can give your kitten a better chance of survival against FKS.

Get all the details you need to keep your new kitten healthy and happy, subscribe to Knose’s pet health tips today.