As a Sphynx owner or potential Sphynx owner, you’re probably wondering how you can create the best life for your precious, lovably kitty. And part of that is being aware of some of the most common issues that could affect the health of your Sphynx.
Staying informed on potential health risks for your Sphynx can help to prevent some of these diseases and catch others while they’re still treatable.
Genetic Health Issues in Sphynx Cats
As with any purebred cat, Sphynx cats are particularly predisposed to certain health issues caused by the selective breeding. It’s important that every Sphynx owner is aware of these health issues because many of them are treatable if caught early.
And just because your Sphynx might have a higher likelihood of developing some of these diseases than other cats doesn’t mean you should fret; breeders do everything they can to detect and eliminate troublesome genes from their litters.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM)
One of the most common genetic diseases seen in most purebred cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM, which is a condition where the heart muscle thickens and makes it difficult to push blood throughout the cat’s body. This is often caused by an overactive thyroid gland.
It can be difficult to detect the early signs of HCM as cats generally try to hide their pain and discomfort. Some symptoms to look out for are:
- Rapid breathing
- Poor appetite
In the worst cases, HCM can cause blood clots that might prevent blood transport to the rear legs and tail, rendering them paralyzed.
Generally it will be difficult for you to detect this early signs of HCM, because in many cases there are no signs at all. Your vet has more advanced techniques to discover HCM that they will conduct in typical wellness exams, which is why it’s important to have your cat checked up on at least twice per year.
Fortunately, genetic testing can determine if your Sphynx has the gene that causes HCM, and many breeders will conduct this genetic test on the kitten before handing it over to the owner.
Neonatal Isoerythrolysis (NI)/Hemolytic Icterus
Neonatal Isoerythrolysis (NI) is a fatal condition caused by the blood type difference between the mother and the kitten. If the mother is type B while the kitten is type A, the mother will transfer antigens to type A blood through the kitten via her milk. These antigens attack type A blood as though it were an invader, and so the transferred antigens will attack the newborn’s red blood cells. The newborn generally does not survive longer than a few days.
Unless you are a breeder, this is likely not a disorder you have to worry about as it only affects newborn Sphynx cats.
One skin disease specific to Sphynx cats is a disorder called urticaria pigmentosa, where the cat experiences a general itchiness with an unknown cause.
A visit to your vet can help diagnose the skin disorder and find treatment options that will reduce or eliminate the discomfort for your Sphynx.
Other Common Health Issues
Aside from the genetic health issues specific to Sphynx cats, all cats are in danger of certain health problems due to diet, exercise and lifestyle.
The good news is that most of these conditions are preventable and treatable, but so long as you stay informed on how to do so.
Having your cat be overweight or obese is a major risk factor in them developing a host of other ailments including diabetes and arthritis. Obesity can also reduce your cat’s lifespan by up to two years.
It’s not to be taken lightly, but with proper diet and exercise your cat will stay fit and trim, and live a long and happy life.
Talk to your vet on ways you can prevent obesity in your cat, including incorporating a special diet or encouraging your cat to move more.
Dental disease comes about when food residue on your cat’s teeth hardens and turns into tartar, which can cause infection in the gums and roots of the teeth. This is often the byproduct of not brushing your cat’s teeth often enough.
While it may not seem like a big deal, if left untreated dental disease can lead to organ damage or the need to remove some of your cat’s teeth. You’ll also notice their breath turn terrible, which is why keeping dental disease at bay is also a benefit to you!
Sphynx cats seem to be particularly prone to dental disease, so it might be necessary to brush their teeth up to three times per week.
Unlike most cats, Sphynx cats have the unique issue of having to worry about sunburn. For most cats, the hair on their body protects them from the sun’s UV rays, but Sphynx cats don’t have that luxury. This is why you should probably never let your Sphynx outside, because it can be hard to monitor and prevent sunburn with even a little time spent in the sun.
Another common physical concern for Sphynx cats is their particularly oily skin. Because they don’t have hair to help disperse the oil, it builds up on their bare skin and can get on furniture and carpet. This is why Sphynx cats must be bathed often (at least once per week) in order to prevent this oily build up that can oftentimes smell bad.
Reasons for a Vet Visit
It’s important to note that while you can help detect these health issues by staying informed, there is no replacement for a vet checkup. They will simply be able to find abnormalities you can’t through advanced screening techniques, so schedule a wellness checkup at least twice per year.
If you notice anything unusual in your cat, behavior or otherwise, that could be a good reason also to visit the vet. Some common symptoms that could indicate problems are:
- Itchy skin (scratching, chewing, or licking), hair loss, or areas of shortened fur
- Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
- Change in appetite or water consumption
- Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
- Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes