Persian Cat Health Problems

white persian cat

Last updated on June 6th, 2023 at 08:52 am

Persian cats are a very popular breed, known for their luxurious long hair, round faces, and sweet temperament. But did you know that they are more prone to health problems than many other breeds?

Persian cats are prone to health problems due to their genetics and conformation. This includes respiratory issues, dental problems, and skin and coat conditions. Additionally, Persian cats have a higher likelihood of genetic disorders like Polycystic Kidney Disease and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. 

If you own a Persian cat or are considering getting one, it’s important to be aware of the potential health issues that can arise. In this article, we will explore some of the most common health problems affecting Persian cats, and provide tips and advice on how to keep your furry friend healthy and happy. Read on to learn more about Persian cat health issues.

Persian Cats Popularity

Persian cats are a popular breed of felines known for their luxurious, long, and silky coats, sweet expressions, and gentle personalities. These cats have been adored by people for centuries and are considered one of the oldest and most popular breeds in the world.

Persian cats are known for their unique features, which include their round face, chubby cheeks, and big, bright eyes that make them look like adorable little teddy bears. Their thick, fluffy coat comes in a variety of colors and patterns, from solid white to black, and shades of grey, cream, and red.

The popularity of Persian cats is no surprise, considering their affectionate, docile, and calm demeanor. These cats are excellent companions, perfect for families with children or older adults seeking a loving and loyal pet.

Today, Persian cats continue to be one of the most sought-after cat breeds, with a significant fan base of cat lovers all over the world. Many celebrities and influencers have also popularized the breed, sharing their cute pictures and videos on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

Despite their popularity, taking care of Persian cats requires some extra attention and grooming because of their long hair. Not only that, but Persian cats are also high-maintenance when it comes to their health.

They are known to be prone to many health issues and frequently require veterinary care because of these.

Persian Cats Are Prone To Health Problems

A study in 2019 found that 65% of Persian cats seen at veterinary clinics in the UK had at least one underlying health problem. The most common issues involved the hair and skin (12.7%), dental disease (11.3%), overgrown nails (7.2%), and eye discharge (5.8%).

This study also found that the most common causes of death in Persian cats were kidney disease (23.4%), cancer (8.5%), and other tumors (8.0%).

Many of the Persian’s health problems are related to the very characteristics that they were bred for: their fur and their face.

These cats have a number of problems linked to their brachycephalic, or “flat-faced,” head structure. Studies have indicated that this pug-nose head shape is associated with various health issues in both dogs and cats. The flattened structure of the face results in breathing difficulties as well as problems related to the eyes and teeth.

Persian cats also have haircoat problems because of their long, thick, and luxurious fur, which requires regular grooming to maintain its health and cleanliness. It is often too much for the cats to deal with themselves and, without human intervention, their coat can become matted, tangled, and prone to skin irritations or infections

This breed also has several genetically-linked diseases. While some breeders do genetic testing to identify any animals carrying genetic markers for certain diseases from their breeding program, other breeders are not so dedicated.

Plus, some of these genetic diseases cannot be tested for. As a result, these genetic diseases continue to get passed down through the generations.

It is important for owners to be aware of the health issues associated with Persian cats, and to regularly visit the veterinarian to ensure their cat is in good condition. Early detection of any problems can help prevent the development of more serious illnesses.

AI image of a persian cat laying on a pillow

Persian Cat Problems Related to Conformation

Persian cats are prone to several health issues related to their conformation or physical features, which we will discuss in this section.

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS) is a condition that affects cats with a flat, wide head structure, and is one of the main health concerns of Persian cats. It results from the anatomical abnormalities of their flat faces that restrict the cat’s ability to breathe normally.

The primary feature of BAS is an obstructed airway, which can be caused by several factors, including narrowed nostrils, an elongated soft palate, and a small trachea (windpipe). As a result, cats with BAS may exhibit symptoms such as noisy breathing, panting, and coughing, particularly during exertion or in hot weather.

In severe cases, BAS can lead to respiratory distress, which can be life-threatening if left untreated. Treatment for BAS may involve surgery to correct the anatomical abnormalities or medications to manage symptoms such as inflammation or infection.

Owners of brachycephalic cats should be aware of the signs and symptoms of BAS and seek veterinary care promptly if they suspect their cat may be affected. Preventative measures, such as avoiding strenuous activity in hot weather, can also help reduce the risk of respiratory distress in affected cats.

Upper Respiratory Infections

Persian cats are prone to upper respiratory infections, a health issue that is also related to their brachycephalic airway syndrome.

Their narrowed nostrils and elongated soft palate make it more difficult for them to breathe and clear mucus from their respiratory tract. This can create an environment that is more susceptible to viral or bacterial infections, leading to respiratory infections.

Eye Problems

The Persian cat’s short, flat face structure can cause a number of eye problems. These include:

Tear Duct Overflow:

This is when excess tears overflow out of the eyes and down the face. It occurs because their tear ducts are too narrow to adequately drain away tears.

The resulting tear overflow can cause inflammation, redness, and itching, as well as lesions on the skin around the eyes. At the very least, it causes staining and matting of the fur underneath the eyelids

Entropion

Entropion is a condition where the eyelids roll inward and irritate the eye surface, due to the genetics and facial structure of the Persian cat. The inward rolling of the eyelid can cause the lashes and hair to rub against the surface of the eye, leading to pain, irritation, and even corneal ulcers.

Symptoms of entropion in Persian cats may include excessive blinking, squinting, redness, and discharge from the eyes. If left untreated, entropion can cause vision loss, corneal scarring, and even blindness.

Treatment for entropion in Persian cats may involve surgically correcting the position of the eyelids. The procedure involves removing a small portion of the eyelid to relieve the inward rolling and allow the eyelids to fit more comfortably on the eye surface.

white persian cat

Ectropion

Persian cats can also get ectropion, a condition where the edge of the eyelid rolls outward, exposing the delicate tissue lining the inside of the eyelid called the conjunctiva.

This can result in poor tear distribution and leave the eye surface vulnerable to corneal disease, which can potentially lead to vision loss.

While ectropion is common in dogs, it occurs relatively rarely in cats. However, it occurs far more often in Persian cats and other brachycephalic cat breeds than it does in others.

Corneal Ulcers

Corneal ulcers, which are painful open sores on the cornea – the clear, outermost layer of the eye, can be a common issue for Persian cats.

There are several possible causes of corneal ulcers, such as eye scratches or injuries, viral or bacterial infections, foreign objects in the eye, and issues with tear production or eyelids.

The flat facial structure of Persian cats can result in entropion, ectropion, and tear production or tear distribution problems as described. These conditions make these cats more susceptible to corneal ulcers.

Symptoms of corneal ulcers include:

  • Eye redness
  • Excessive tearing or discharge
  • Squinting or blinking more than usual
  • Swelling around the eye
  • Cloudy or hazy appearance to the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye rubbing or pawing at the eye

If left untreated, corneal ulcers can lead to vision loss or even rupture of the eye, so it is important to seek veterinary care promptly if you suspect your Persian cat has a corneal ulcer.

Treatment may include topical or oral medications to address the underlying cause of the ulcer and promote healing, as well as management of any pain or discomfort. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the damaged portion of the cornea.

Dental Problems

The short noses and flat faces of Persian cats make them more susceptible to dental issues. This conformation can result in malocclusion, or misalignment of teeth, which can lead to the development of tartar, plaque, and other dental problems.

As a result, Persian cats may require regular dental cleanings and care to maintain good oral health. Owners can reduce the severity and frequency of dental problems by daily brushing their cats’ teeth and feeding them high-quality dental-friendly diets.

Persian Cat Health Problems Related to Haircoat

While their luxurious coat is a hallmark of the Persian breed, it can also lead to a variety of health problems if not properly cared for.

Persian cats are prone to a range of haircoat-related health issues that can cause discomfort, irritation, and potentially more serious complications if left untreated.

Matting

The long and luxurious coat of Persian cats requires frequent grooming to prevent matting, tangles, and other related issues. When the hair becomes matted, it can create a breeding ground for bacteria and parasites, which can lead to skin irritation, infections, and inflammation.

These skin problems can cause your Persian cat to experience intense itching and discomfort, leading to excessive scratching and self-trauma. Scratching and biting at their skin can further damage their coat and skin, leading to open sores and scabs.

The presence of open sores and scabs can attract more bacteria, which can create a vicious cycle of worsening skin problems. In severe cases, untreated skin infections can lead to more serious health problems, such as abscesses, cellulitis, and sepsis.

orange and white persian cat matted fur

Hairballs

Although hairballs are technically a gastrointestinal problem, they are closely related to the Persian cat’s luxurious coat. As your cat grooms itself, small amounts of swallowed hair and fur can accumulate over time, forming clumps or mats in the stomach and intestines.

These hairballs can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, decreased appetite, constipation, or even life-threatening intestinal blockages.

The best way to prevent hairballs is frequent grooming and brushing of your cat’s coat, which can help reduce the amount of swallowed hair. Additionally, adding fiber to your cat’s diet can help move ingested hair through the gastrointestinal tract more quickly and easily.

Skin Allergies

Skin allergies are common in Persian cats, and they may develop due to various factors such as genetics, environment, and grooming habits.

Cats can develop skin allergies as a result of their immune system overreacting to a particular allergen, such as food ingredients, environmental allergens like dust, pollen, or mold, or grooming products.

The long and thick haircoats of Persian cats can trap allergens that may cause skin irritation and inflammation. This can cause your cat to excessively scratch and bite at its skin, leading to worse damage and increasing the risk of developing more serious skin infections.

In addition, Persian cats may have a genetic predisposition to developing skin allergies. Specific lines of Persians may be more susceptible to allergies, which can be inherited from their parents.

Persian cats can also develop skin allergies from grooming products such as shampoos, conditioners, or other products applied to their haircoat, resulting in skin irritation and itchiness.

To prevent skin allergies in Persian cats, it is essential to pay close attention to their grooming routine. Regular brushing and combing can help prevent matting and remove loose hair, which can help reduce the amount of allergens trapped in their haircoat.

Additionally, it is important to use gentle, hypoallergenic grooming products that are specifically designed for cats with sensitive skin.

If your Persian cat is showing signs of a skin allergy, such as excessive scratching or biting at their skin, redness or inflammation, or hair loss, it is important to take them to a veterinarian.

The vet may recommend allergy testing to determine the underlying cause of the allergy and may prescribe medication to help relieve your cat’s symptoms. In some cases, dietary changes or environmental modifications may also be necessary to prevent future allergic reactions.

Ringworm

The risk of getting ringworm, a fungal infection of the skin, is higher in Persian cats compared to other breeds. This is because their long and dense hair coat can trap moisture and create a suitable condition for fungal growth.

Additionally, Persians are more prone to seborrheic dermatitis, a skin condition that can make the skin more susceptible to ringworm.

Persian cats that are kept in overcrowded or unsanitary conditions are also at a higher risk of developing ringworm, as the fungus can be spread from one animal to another through direct contact or contact with contaminated surfaces.

Ringworm in cats is typically treated with a combination of topical and oral antifungal medications. The exact treatment regimen may vary depending on the severity of the infection and the overall health of the cat.

Topical treatments may include medicated shampoos or creams that are applied directly to the affected areas of the skin. In some cases, the cat’s hair may need to be shaved to improve the effectiveness of the topical treatments.

Topical treatments are not always effective, and oral medications may also be prescribed to help eradicate the fungus from the body.

It’s important to follow the veterinarian’s instructions carefully and complete the full course of treatment, even if the symptoms of ringworm have resolved. Just because you can no longer see any lesions does not mean that the ringworm is totally gone.

To prevent the infection from spreading to other cats in the household, it may be necessary to isolate the infected cat until the infection is cleared up. .

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis in cats is a skin condition that is characterized by redness, scaling, and excessive oiliness of the skin.

Secondary seborrheic dermatitis is the most frequently diagnosed type. It is often initiated due to underlying causes such as endocrine disease and allergies. This disorder is often associated with an overgrowth of the yeast Malassezia, which can cause irritation and inflammation of the skin.

Persian cats are particularly prone to secondary seborrheic dermatitis due to their long, thick haircoats that can trap moisture and create an environment that is favorable for the growth of the yeast and their predisposition to allergies.

However, Persian cats are also one of the few breeds that are genetically predisposed to primary seborrheic dermatitis. Primary seborrhea is a genetic skin condition that is characterized by abnormal keratinization of the epidermis, hair follicles, epithelium, or claws.

The treatment for seborrheic dermatitis in cats typically involves the use of medicated shampoos and topical creams to reduce inflammation, control the growth of yeast on the skin, and manage the underlying cause of the condition. In some cases, oral medications may also be prescribed.

Regular grooming and maintenance of the cat’s coat can also help to prevent the recurrence of seborrheic dermatitis.

3 persian cats outdoors in winter

Feline Acne

Feline acne is a skin condition that appears as blackheads, whiteheads, and pustules on a cat’s chin and lips. The severity of the condition can vary, from just a few blackheads to many pustules and inflammation.

Feline acne can be caused by various factors such as poor grooming habits, allergies, hormonal imbalances, or a weakened immune system. Although it is generally not severe, severe cases can be painful and may need treatment from a veterinarian.

Feline acne is common in Persian cats due to their short and broad faces which have deep skin folds around the mouth and chin. These folds tend to accumulate dirt, bacteria, and oils, leading to the development of acne.

Additionally, some Persian cats may have overactive sebaceous glands, which can also contribute to the development of feline acne.

The way feline acne is treated depends on how serious it is. If it’s a mild case, just cleaning the affected area with medicated wipes or an antiseptic solution might be enough. For more serious cases, antibiotics or other medications that are applied to the skin or taken by mouth might be necessary.

To manage your cat’s acne, your vet may suggest changes to their diet or how they are groomed. In severe cases, a biopsy or other diagnostic tests may be necessary to rule out other health problems.

Fleas And Ticks

Although fleas and ticks are a problem for all cats, Persian cats can be particularly badly afflicted. This is because their long, thick fur provides an ideal environment for these parasites to thrive.

The dense haircoat can make it difficult to detect the presence of fleas and ticks, and the parasites can quickly reproduce and spread throughout the cat’s body. Moreover, Persian cats are susceptible to developing allergic reactions to flea saliva, which can lead to intense itching, skin irritation, and secondary infections.

microscopic image of a cat flea

Genetic Diseases Of Persian Cats

Like many other purebred cats, Persian cats are prone to certain genetic diseases that can impact their health and quality of life. These diseases are inherited from their parents and can cause a range of symptoms and complications, from minor discomfort to serious health problems.

Genetic diseases of Persian cats include:

  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
  • Chediak-Higashi syndrome (CHS)
  • Hemophilia A

This is not an exhaustive list and there are other genetic diseases affecting Persian cats, as with any other breed. However, the diseases mentioned above are some of the most common and well-known ones affecting Persian cats.

It’s important to note that not all Persian cats will develop these genetic diseases, and responsible breeding practices can help reduce the incidence of these diseases in the breed.

Now, let’s look at some of these genetic diseases a little closer.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) affects several different purebred cat breeds, but it occurs most frequently in Persian cats. This is the number one genetic disease in this breed and one of the main causes of chronic illness and death in Persian cats.

This genetic disorder is caused by a mutation in the PKD1 gene that leads to the formation of multiple fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys, which can progressively enlarge and damage the surrounding kidney tissue.

The cysts can interfere with the normal function of the kidneys, leading to kidney failure over time. PKD is a progressive and irreversible disease, and once diagnosed, affected cats will require lifelong management and monitoring.

PKD can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages, as the cysts may not be visible on ultrasound until they reach a certain size. However, if left untreated, PKD can lead to kidney failure, which can be life-threatening.

Therefore, Persian cats need to be screened for PKD before they are used for breeding, to prevent the disease from being passed on to future generations. DNA tests are readily available to test cats for the carrier gene for PKD.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) affects the structure of the heart muscle in Persian cats. It is the most common form of heart disease in cats and is characterized by abnormal thickening of the left ventricle wall of the heart, which can lead to problems with the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively.

HCM can be asymptomatic or can cause symptoms such as lethargy, difficulty breathing, coughing, and sudden collapse.

Some cats may also develop heart murmurs, irregular heartbeats, or even sudden death. In severe cases, the thickened heart muscle can restrict blood flow and cause fluid to build up in the lungs, leading to congestive heart failure.

HCM is an inherited disorder and can be passed down from parent cats to their offspring. Unfortunately, the genes responsible for HCM have not yet been identified, so testing cats to determine their risk of passing the disease on to their offspring is not currently possible.

Therefore, Persian cats should undergo regular veterinary check-ups and cardiac screenings to monitor for any changes in the heart structure or function that may indicate the presence of HCM. Early detection and treatment can help manage the symptoms and prolong the cat’s lifespan.

persian cat wearing a blue harness

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a genetic disease that affects the retina, which is the part of the eye responsible for detecting light and transmitting visual signals to the brain.

There are several forms of PRA affecting different purebred breeds. The one affecting Persian cats is an autosomal recessive rod-cone dysplasia, which causes the photoreceptor cells in the retina to die off, leading to progressive vision loss and eventually blindness.

The disease typically begins around 5 weeks of age, with severe loss of photoreceptor cells occurring by 16 weeks of age. Affected cats will experience gradual vision loss over time, eventually leading to complete blindness by about 4-5 months of age.

Affected cats may exhibit uncoordinated eye movements and an increased eye-shine (tapetal reflectivity), which is often reported by owners and occurs due to the thinning of the retina as the disease progresses.

As vision loss progresses, affected cats become cautious, bump into objects, and move slowly in unfamiliar surroundings.

There is no cure for PRA, and the disease is irreversible once it has progressed. To date, no effective treatment has been identified, and management of the disease involves providing supportive care to make the cat’s life as comfortable as possible.

Since PRA is an inherited disorder, Persian cats should be tested for the carrier gene before being used for breeding, to prevent future generations from being affected. DNA tests are readily available to test cats for this gene.

Chediak-Higashi Syndrome

Chediak-Higashi syndrome (CHS) is a rare genetic disease that occurs in humans as well as other species. Within the Persian breed, it only affects blue-smoke Persian cats.

It is caused by a mutation in the LYST gene, which leads to abnormal lysosomal function of cells, resulting in a build-up of waste products within the cells and impaired cell function.

Affected cats have abnormal white blood cell function, making them more susceptible to infections. Platelets are also affected, making cats more prone to excessive bleeding following trauma or surgery, as well as gum bleeding and nosebleeds triggered by sneezing

This disease also results in partial albinism. This affects both their coat and eyes, making their eyes especially sensitive to light and more prone to developing cataracts as they get older.

Cats with only mild or moderate symptoms can go on to live a normal lifespan, but severe cases can be life-threatening. All affected cats need extra protection from the sun and are more susceptible to infections and injuries.

There is no cure for CHS, but affected cats can be managed with medical interventions. There is no test to detect carriers of the defective gene, which makes it difficult to identify and remove carrier animals from breeding programs.

blue smoke persian cat

Hemophilia A

Hemophilia A is an inherited bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency in the clotting factor VIII, a protein that is essential for blood clotting. This condition has been documented in several cat breeds, including Persian cats.

The symptoms of Hemophilia A in Persian cats include prolonged bleeding from minor cuts or injuries, bruising, and spontaneous bleeding into joints, muscles, and organs.

The severity of symptoms can vary from mild to life-threatening, depending on the level of factor VIII in the blood. Cats with severe Hemophilia A may develop internal bleeding that can lead to anemia, shock, and even death.

Treatment for Hemophilia A involves regular administration of factor VIII concentrate to replace the missing protein and prevent bleeding episodes.

How To Protect Your Persian Cat’s Health

As a cat owner, there are several steps you can take to protect your Persian cat’s health. First and foremost, regular visits to the veterinarian are essential.

Yearly check-ups can help catch any health issues early on, which can lead to better outcomes. Additionally, routine vaccinations and preventative treatments, such as flea and tick medication, can prevent many common illnesses and infestations.

In addition to regular veterinary care, it’s important to provide your Persian cat with a healthy diet and regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Proper grooming can also help prevent skin conditions and other issues.

It’s also important to keep your cat indoors as much as possible to reduce the risk of injury or exposure to diseases.

Lastly, staying informed about Persian cat health issues can also help you be proactive in identifying potential problems and seeking appropriate care.

Conclusion

Persian cats make wonderful pets but are prone to a variety of health issues due to their genetics and unique physical features. Owners need to be aware of these potential health concerns and take the necessary steps to protect their cat’s health.

You can protect your cat’s health by taking preventative measures such as regular vet check-ups, proper dental care, and feeding a balanced diet. Prompt recognition and treatment of any signs or symptoms can greatly improve a Persian cat’s quality of life and increase its lifespan.

While these health issues may seem daunting, with proper care and attention, Persian cats can live happy, healthy lives with their loving owners.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for information purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice. Always consult your veterinarian if you have specific concerns about your pet’s health.

grey and white persian cat sitting on a stool in a meadow of purple flowers

Author

  • Dr. Wendy Wilkins, DVM, PhD

    Dr. Wendy Wilkins is an experienced veterinarian and epidemiologist with over 20 years of expertise. She holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Throughout her career, Dr. Wilkins has excelled in clinical practice, academia, research, and regulatory veterinary medicine. She is a respected voice in knowledge dissemination, delivering factual information in a readable and understandable manner through articles, books, and public engagements.

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