Let’s face it, even though we all want our beloved Maine Coon to live a long, healthy life, there are health issues common to the breed and cats in general you should know about. In this complete guide to common health issues in Maine Coons, we’ll dive into genetic disorders and general health problems that affect many Maine Coons, and what you can do about it.
- Genetic Disorders in Maine Coons
- General Health Issues
Genetic Disorders in Maine Coons
To start, we’ll cover the most common genetic disorders in Maine Coons that you should be aware of. While there’s nothing you can do to prevent many of these conditions, being informed will help you make the right decisions when it comes to choosing a breeder to get your Maine Coon from, how and when to do genetic testing, and symptoms to look out for.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
In short, HCM is a form of heart disease common in many purebred cats and is a thickening of the heart muscle that can result in blood clots. Many cases of HCM are caused by an overactive thyroid gland, but isn’t necessarily caused by environmental factors. You should have your Maine Coon tested for the gene abnormality that causes HCM (or have the records of testing from the breeder).
Symptoms of HCM might include rapid breathing, lethargy and poor appetite in your Maine Coon. Cats tend to not show signs of weakness and pain, so it’s likely that they will hide these symptoms for weeks at a time, and only present symptoms when they’re really in trouble.
At a certain stage, HCM can cause blood clots that could result in paralysis of the legs and lower back in the Maine Coon.
Patellar luxation is where the patella (or kneecap) slips out of place (luxation). Cats require proper alignment of the kneecap to be able to spring, jump and run. It seems that this disorder has hereditary causes, and while most cats have some predisposition to getting it, Maine Coons are at a higher risk.
In order to catch a luxated patella early it might be a good idea to have your Maine Coon x-rayed around three to six months of age (about the time they get spayed or neutered).
Treatment for patellar luxation might only include arthritis treatment if it’s not too severe, but could require surgery to re-align the kneecap if it’s severely affecting your Maine Coon’s movement.
Hip displasia is where the hip joints malform and can result in arthritis. Like patellar luxation, it can be painful for the cat to move properly, so signs of the disorder will include decreased movement and signs of soreness with movement.
Hip displasia is most commonly found in dog breeds, but is also a common hereditary disorder in Maine Coons. It’s best to catch it early before it gets too advanced while your Maine Coon is around three to six months of age.
Diagnosis of the disorder will include x-ray imaging to see the severity of the dysplasia, and might require surgery to restructure the hip and put it back into its proper place.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums, causing redness and pain that’s linked to other diseases. It’s common in people and also in Maine Coons.
Gingivitis has been associated with feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), so it can be an indicator of one of these diseases.
Mild gingivitis can often be treated by some mouth wash at the veterinary, but severe forms can cause more pervasive issues such as periodontal disease and stomatitis.
Renal failure is the failure of the kidneys to perform their usual functions of clearing waste from the blood and regulating hydration. It’s very common among all cats, and while it’s mostly seen in older age, it can be caused by environmental toxins and genetic predisposition.
While renal failure almost always ends up in fatality, when caught early there are things you can do to slow down and alleviate its affects with diet and medication.
Genetic deafness is a trait found in Maine Coons in above average occurrences, and it especially likely in cats that are completely white with blue eyes. Keep in mind that deafness could simply be caused by inflammation in the ear or ear polyps, which are treatable, and a visit to the veterinarian will be able to find this out.
Although genetic deafness is not treatable in cats, your Maine Coon can still live a long and happy life. It’s important to not let your Maine Coon outside, though, if they experience deafness because they cannot hear signals of danger such as cars and predators.
General Health Issues
Aside from genetic health issues, you should also look out for some general health issues in your Maine Coon that are preventable. While these are common just just about all cats, you should be aware of them in order to help your Maine Coon live a long, happy life.
Just like in humans, Maine Coons can also become obese if overfed and under exercised. Overweight or obesity in cats is often ignored in cats, but can shorten your Maine Coon’s lifespan by up to 2 years.
Obesity is also one of the main causes of arthritis in cats and the main cause of diabetes. Fatty liver disease is also strongly linked to obesity, and can develop in as little as 48 hours if your cat stops eating for any reason.
It can sometimes be difficult to detect the extra pounds on your Maine Coon because their fluffy coat covers and hides much of their body, and they’re already gigantic cats to begin with. However, regular visits to the vet can detect extra pounds in your Maine Coon quite easily, and they can give good tips on how to help your cat lose weight or stay at a healthy weight.
The two most important factors in your Maine Coon maintaining a healthy weight is good diet and exercise. Not overfeeding your Maine Coon is important, but also keeping them engaged and playing with them will keep them from eating out of boredom and give them the exercise they need.
Like in people, dental disease is a common problem to look out for in Maine Coons. Food residue hardens into tartar over time on the cat’s teeth, resulting in infection in the teeth and gums and bad breath if left untreated. In worst case scenarios, terrible dental health can cause your Maine Coon to lose teeth and sustain internal organ damage, and cost you a hefty vet bill.
Fortunately, dental disease can be easy to treat right at home. Brushing your cat’s teeth regularly will eliminate this food residue and keep tartar from building up in the first place.
Your Maine Coon can catch a whole host of parasites, from ticks and fleas to ear mites on their skin and ears. Internally, they can catch hookworm, roundworm, heartworm, and whipworm if they drink contaminated water, walk on contaminated soil or get bitten by an infected bug such as a mosquito.
Even worse, a lot of these parasites can be transferred to the people in the household, so regular checkups at the vet are important to catch and treat them.
Bacterial and Viral Infections
Like in humans, cats can develop a number of bacterial and viral infections, many of which are completely preventable with vaccines.
There is a common core of cat vaccines that are given to just about every cat from birth, and can prevent panleukopenia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis, rabies and feline leukemia virus (FeLV).
Make sure you obtain paperwork of these vaccinations from the breeder or schedule to have your Maine Coon receive them from the vet if they haven’t already.