Cats, like dogs, suffer from inherited diseases. Understanding what these diseases are can help the cat owner work with their veterinarian to insure that their cat lives a long, healthy life. This article will briefly explain the five most common diseases. It is important to note that although many inherited diseases may be more common in certain breeds of cats, all cats can suffer from them.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
Affected cats can experience heart failure or sudden death at 6 months to 7 years of age. This disease is more common in Main Coon Cats and Ragdoll cats. There is genetic testing for this disease which should be done to all cats of these breeds, including kittens before they are sold.
It also appears in Sphynx, Norwegian forest cats, Persian, Chartreux, Bengal, and Birman cats.
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)
Is common in Persian cats as well as in high frequencies in Himalayan and other Persian-derived breeds. All longhaired cats that are suspected of having a Persian background should be suspect. Most affected cats develop kidney failure at an average age of 7 years (range, 4-10 years).
Suspect cats and kittens should have a PKD DNA test to determine if they carry the gene for this disease. There is no cure for kidney failure which results from the disease. Note that the old method, ultrasonography is not reliable and should not be used as a means of testing cats. I owned a Turkish Angora cat that suffered from this disease and died at a young age.
Lymphocytic or Plasmacytic Inflammation Disease
Also known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This is more common in Siamese and other Asian breeds. This disease can be controlled with dietary changes, anti-inflammatory or immunoregulatory drugs, minimization of environmental stress, and dental extraction in cats with severe gingivostomatitis.
This is a common diagnosis in cats and can be controlled with insulin and diet. Although it is common in all cats, it is often seen in Burmese, Siamese, Norwegian forest, Russian blue, and Abyssinian cats and overweight domestic shorthaired cats. Weight control is a good preventative measure for diabetes.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)
Persian cats seem to be at greater risk for this disease, but it affects all cats. It does not appear to be infectious. Owners must be diligent in treating and preventing this by minimizing environmental stress, maintaining anti-inflammatory or behavior-modifying drugs that decrease likelihood for bladder inflammation, and maintaining dietary control for cats predisposed to crystalluria.
Other common inherited health issues are:
Bladder stones, allergic skin disease, mammary tumors, and lymphoma. Hyperthyroidism is frequently seen as well but it does not seem to be inherited.
In conclusion it is best to have suspected cats tested for the various diseases that they may be susceptible to. This can be done through the Canine and Feline Hereditary Disease (DNA) Testing Laboratories at http://research.vet.upenn.edu/Default.aspx?TabId=7620