Bengal Cat Health
Bengal cats are beautiful, with distinct personalities and unique characteristics. They are a vivacious and intelligent breed whose popularity is quite understandable if you’ve ever come across one of these cats. They tend to be an active and healthy breed, however, it’s always wise to consider common inherited health problems in any breed before adopting any pet, so let’s take a look at some issues that the Bengal Cat could potentially suffer from.
Like many cat breeds, Bengals are highly susceptible to developing cataracts, an eye disorder that develops as a milky film over the pupil and disturbs the cat’s vision. The cataract forms in the lens of the eye, causing the lens to turn opaque and lose its natural transparency, resulting in blurred vision or blindness.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a genetic eye disease common in several cat breeds, with various ages of occurrence. This can manifest in blindness at night, progressing into total blindness. It can occur in Bengals from as young as 18 months to 7-years-of-age. The gene must be present in both parents of the animal for the disease to occur. A test for the possibility of this disease in an animal is available in the UK, Europe, and the US. The good news is that a cat with the gene can be bred with a cat without the gene to produce offspring who will not develop the disease.
Bengals are prone to developing a heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, although this disease can be found in many other breeds of cats as well. The condition involves a thickened inner muscle of the heart, resulting in interrupted blood flow that affects how the heart works. The condition can occur rather early on in a Bengal’s life and has even been known to be fatal in Bengal kittens.
The best course of action is to take you Bengal in for an annual scan to ensure that this condition is not developing in your cat. IThis would be a pro-active and responsible approach, as this disease has been known to be common in Bengals. Unfortunately, the disease will affect muscles and can weaken the cat to the point that it can barely move.
A serious neurological disorder that affects an estimated 9% of Bengals, Distal Neuropathy can be diagnosed in these cats at as young as one year of age. One early symptom in a cat affected with this disorder is weakness, along with constipation and wounds that do not heal in a timely manner, if at all.
If the disease progresses, it can result in total paralysis. Sadly, the prognosis of a cat afflicted with this disease is grim, but recent advances in the veterinary medicine field have seen a better understanding of this disease, leading to better treatment options.
Entropion is a common disease of the eyelids in which the lower or upper lids roll inwards. This abnormal conformation of the eyelids is considered an undesirable inherited trait as it typically leads to pain and swelling of the eyes as a result of irritation caused by eyelash and other eyelid hair impinging on the cornea. Cats affected by this disorder may scratch at the affected eye, leading to further damage and possibly even total blindness.
Symptoms of Entropion in Bengals may involve constant blinking, mucus discharge from the eye, squinting, inflamed and swollen eyelids, aversion to light, and pawing at the eyes.
Treatment of Entropion typically involves surgery. Some cats may need multiple surgeries.
A disease that may be present at birth in a Bengal, but can happen at any time, is Patellar Luxation. Patellar refers to the cat’s kneecap, and Luxation means that the kneecap slips out of place. This condition tends to be common in cats. Symptoms include limping, attempting to walk on just three legs to avoid pressure on the hurt knee, and /or raising the leg to communicate that they are in pain. This condition rarely goes away untreated, and the affected leg can develop deformity.
This condition is commonly treated through bed rest and anti-inflammatory medication for mild to moderate cases. Some cases are treated with steroidal medications. In recurring or severe cases, surgery is recommended. The best thing to do to prevent this condition is to watch your cat’s weight, as too much weight can add stress to the joints.
Follicular dysplasia is a condition caused by an abnormality in the canine hair follicle. It typically manifests as hair loss or abnormal hair growth that progresses over an animal’s lifetime.
Symptoms include hair loss over the trunk, post-clipping alopecia, and undercoat crimping along with reddish discoloration beginning at age 3-4 months.
The disease is not treatable. Management of the scaling and secondary infections is usually undertaken via supplements, shampoos, topical applications and topical antimicrobials when necessary.
In everyday language, Psychogenic Alopecia is “over-grooming”. It is believed to be a stress-related disorder that can hasten to an obsessive-compulsive behaviors that Bengals have been observed developing. Self-grooming can be a cat’s way of self-soothing, so when they are stressed they may use grooming as a calming coping mechanism.
When this coping mechanism becomes harmful, it could result in the cats grooming themselves to the extent that they lick off their fur or even pull out tufts of their coats. A cat with this condition tends to focus on the insides of their thighs, and in their abdominal and groin areas.
If you observe your cat becoming overzealous in their grooming to the extent that they have bald patches, take them to the vet immediately. Doing so will give the opportunity for a proper diagnosis to be made and treatment to begin. Your vet will take a skin sample to be tested for the diagnosis, and then prescribe the proper medication for your cat to take for a period of time.
The “Bengal Nose”
This condition causes an ulceration to develop on the nose, sometimes a result of an allergy or a poor diet. If you notice this developing, take your cat to the vet as soon as possible for diagnosis and a treatment plan.