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Hereditary Diseases of the Siberian Forest Cat

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I enjoy writing as it helps me define myself and learn as I progress through this life. I especially enjoy writing about our feline friends.

The Siberian Forest Cat

The Siberian Forest Cat

Striking Qualities of the Siberian Forest Cat

The Siberian Forest cat (often referred to as the Siberian cat, and closely related to the Norwegian Forest cat) is originally from Russia. It’s sometimes also known as the Moscow Semi-longhair. It remains a firm favourite amongst cat lovers due to their long fur essential for the colder northern European climates. Their fur is interesting as it is triple-layered and even water resistant!

Their dog-like loyalty makes this Siberian cat variant a devoted friend and pet. The cats remain strong and athletic with high intelligence. Its fur is reportedly hypoallergenic, allowing for many cat allergy sufferers to keep the Siberian Forest cat as a pet.

Unfortunately, this unique and beautiful cat can display common health problems and can get sick. The majority of these illnesses have developed over the course of the cat’s unique heredity. These illnesses have been passed down from generation to generation through the pedigree gene-pool. Fortunately, many of these diseases can be treated by a veterinarian, so the cat can return to full and lasting health.

Most Common Health Problems

The common health problems with the Siberian Forest cat as a breed falls into four main categories of illness:

  • Heart Disease or HCM
  • Kidney Disease or PKD
  • Hereditary Cancer
  • Urinary Crystal or FLUTD
  • Gum Disease

Heart Disease: HCM Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

The word Cardiomyopathy comes from three words:

  • Cardio = the heart in its entirety (hence cardiovascular)
  • Myo = comes from the Latin word for muscle
  • Pathy = disease
  • Hypertrophic = thickened

So now we have the word for the disease—thickened heart muscle disease or HCM.

HCM remains a well-known heart disease affecting a number of purebred cat breeds. The disease results in thickened heart muscles that can prove fatal in the long term. These thick muscles effectively weaken the heart as it has to strain harder to move blood around the cat’s body. HCM has the potential to affect all domestic cats yet the hereditary excellence of the Siberian breed has made it more susceptible than other breeds. This unfortunate illness has led to the condition of HCM affecting even cats that are still their kitten phase of life.

Early diagnosis using ultrasound to produce an echocardiogram of the heart is the best way to identify if your cat has this disease. Check with your local vet if they can conduct this medical test. It has been suggested that certain herbs can help limit the disease including hawthorn. In addition, anticoagulants such as aspirin, warfarin, or heparin may be administered to help think the blood and reduce the strain on the cat’s heart.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

This disease generally affects the Siberian Forest cats in later life. The disease itself is a slow degenerative condition that gets worse as your pet gets older. Enlarged and dysfunctional kidneys are a key indicator of PKD's presence.

PKD is a hereditary disease with cysts (or liquid-filled sacs) having formed at the kitten’s birth. As the cysts enlarge and fill with liquid the normal functioning of the kidneys is reduced. Typical problems include weight loss, reduced appetite, excessive thirst, increased urination. It’s possible to diagnose this condition in your kitten from six months and above.

However, as PKD is hereditary, there’s no effective preventative measure that can be put in place to avert your Siberian Forest cat from succumbing to this disease. The finality of this disease is total kidney failure and there’s no effective remedy.

As PKD is genetically based, breeders have actively been encouraged to keep regular checks on their cats to stop the disease. If a cat’s found to have this trait, it must not be allowed to breed thereby eliminating the genetic pass-on to future generations. Genetic control’s effectiveness, however, relies solely on the responsibility of Siberian Forest cat breeders around the world.

Genetics Poll

The Siberian Forest cat has been in Russia for centuries.

The Siberian Forest cat has been in Russia for centuries.

Hereditary Cancer

This genetic form of cancer appears to only affect the pure white lines of the Siberian cat. Hereditary cancer is a common disease amongst the pure white lines descended from the parentage and pedigree of “Gesha Olenya Krasa" and "Dolka Olenya Krasa.” However greater scientific studies need to confirm if its presence is as established in other coat colours.

The probability of a Siberian becoming diagnosed with hereditary cancer increases significantly if the pure white’s descended from these two cats. The onset of this cat cancer is due to the detection of an Oncogene (cancer-causing gene).

Although hereditary cancer is a common disease that remains genetically connected, primarily with the Siberian cat, with the proper diagnosis and treatment the cat’s longevity remains possible. Regular veterinary check-ups, as well as a balanced nutritious diet, are advisable in the first instance.

Routine check-ups can help detect certain cancers before they become too serious.

Routine check-ups can help detect certain cancers before they become too serious.

Urinary Crystal (Bladder Stones) FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease)

Urinary crystals are the formation of stone-like minerals, crystals and organic matter and reside in the cat’s bladder. They can form from an early age or will form as your Siberian Forest cat ages.

The Siberian Forest cat commonly suffers from FLUTD. It’s essential that a check of the parentage is carried out to find out if the parents or grandparents of the cat suffered from this illness. It’s not fully understood by veterinary science if this illness exists as a hereditary condition. FLUTD covers all urinary tract disorders including, blockages, kidney stones as well as infections.

As this disease affects the bladder, typical symptoms include:

  • Blood in the urine (hematuria – blood that can be seen, as opposed to microscopic which is unseen)
  • Painful urination
  • Frequent urination or straining to urinate
  • Genital licking
  • Chronic urinary tract infections
  • Urinary tract obstruction
  • Urine spraying
  • Passing urine in unusual places

Luckily this disease is treatable by your vet through the following methods of detection. Radiographs, ultrasound, urinalysis and urine culture can all help locate the presence of these crystals. Once your cat has been identified as having this disease, there are several treatments and medications that be taken to eradicate or breakdown the stones.

Medication that helps dissolve the minerals is an easy solution. Also in addition to medicines, the stones can be surgically removed from your cat’s bladder. There’s also a technique called Lithotripsy that physically destroys the stones through shock. This method uses High-energy shock waves, also called sound waves to smash the stones into smaller pieces that can then be passed in your cat’s urine.

This breed loves the outdoors!

This breed loves the outdoors!

Feline Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease)

All cats suffer from gum disease (periodontal disease), to some extent. Although, this can be affected by diet and lack of supplements the Siberian Forest cat is prone to this disease. It is, unfortunately, a common condition. If your cat’s health starts to deteriorate from this condition tooth extraction is the only viable option. The only effective relief for your cat from the pain suffered through consistent tooth pain is the removal of the offending tooth or teeth.

Many Siberian Forest cat breeders strive to ensure their breeding stock remains free from this hereditary dominant disease. The illness, however, is a result of the efforts to stabilise the breed by interbreeding with the Persian, Maine Coon Cat, and the Himalayan cat. Unfortunately, these cats were also prone to gum disease so the illness has been passed down through the heredity lineage.

Teeth Removal

Your cat will return to normality and loss of pain once the teeth have been removed, however, a diet change will be required to cater for your pet's lack of teeth. You’ll have to start considering using softer foods that do not require your pet to eat by chewing.

Preventative Treatment

Although, as gum disease is so common, there are a few preventative measures you can take to stop the periodontal disease from affecting your animal. Giving your Siberian Forest cat regular periodontal treatment can help the start of this common gum disease.

Just as in humans regularly brushing your cat's help can prevent the formation of the disease. Using a recommended cat mouth rinse can also help. In addition, you should get your cat routine dental cheques through an approved veterinarian.

How Gum Disease Develops

  • Bacteria form on the teeth
  • Minerals and plaque unit together and start the tartar build-up which is hard to remove—unless your cat has regular teeth checks.
  • Bacteria move into the gums causing gingivitis which is inflammation.
  • Once under the teeth, the bacteria start to erode the tooth structure leading to pain and tooth loss.

Regular brushing can help stop the build of tartar. Use a recommended cat toothbrush and toothpaste. Human toothpaste should not be used. Also, foods should have an abrasive action that can scrape the cat's tooth. This action (similar to dental brushing) helps destroy the build of tartar.

CET toothpaste contains a unique formula for dogs and cats that helps provide natural antibacterial action inhibiting the formation of plaque.

A Siberian Forest Kitten: These cats are beautiful, friendly and intelligent.

A Siberian Forest Kitten: These cats are beautiful, friendly and intelligent.

Be Proactive for Your Siberian Forest Cat's Health

  • Consult with your vet to discuss preventative measures.
  • Check if you can have regular dentistry checks to remove plaque.
  • Have your pet checked for Urinary problems by using a Radiography.
  • Regular vet checkups to determine if the onset of hereditary cancer is likely.
  • Use ultrasound to produce an echocardiogram of the heart to detect HCM.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.