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Devon Rex Cat Health Problems: 14 Common Concerns

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Dr. Lorna Whittemore

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The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you’re ready to get a new cat, you’ll likely be looking at a lot of breeds to find the one you want. Maybe you’ve looked into the Devon Rex (and if not, you should!). These adorable cats are on the small side, muscular, and sometimes compared to pixies (both because of their looks and mischievous personalities). This cat breed is active, curious, friendly, and does well in busy households.

But before you get a new cat, you need to know more than its personality and activity levels. You also need to be aware of any common health problems you could run into. And since it can be a pain trying to hunt down information such as that, we’ve pulled together this list of the most common health concerns Devon Rex owners might encounter. Take a look at what you should know before getting a Devon Rex!

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The 14 Most Common Devon Rex Cat Health Problems

1. Amyloidosis

This unusual health concern happens when amyloids, a type of protein, build up inside organs and tissues. The result is organ and tissue dysfunction, with the kidneys typically being the most affected. Other areas this can happen in cats are the liver and pancreas. If not treated, this issue can eventually lead to organ failure. Though there is no cure for amyloidosis at the moment, there are ways to manage it if detected early. Amyloidosis is an uncommon condition but seen slightly more often in Devon Rex and some other breeds.

Signs of amyloidosis include:
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Drinking more
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Build-up of fluid
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Hemorrhages
  • Blood clots
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Pale gums
  • Rapid breathing
Devon rex cat lying on red blanket
Image Credit: zkittler, Pixabay

2. Arterial Thromboembolism

If your Devon Rex is already dealing with heart disease, they could end up with blood clots in their arteries. Most often, these blood clots get lodged past the aorta, which is responsible for blood going from the heart to the body. This health concern is life-threatening, so if you think your cat is affected, you should get them to a vet immediately. When caught in time, your pet should be able to recover. If your cat has already been diagnosed with heart disease, medication to prevent blood clots may also be given.

Symptoms of arterial thromboembolism include:
  • Extreme pain and distress
  • Hind legs becoming cold
  • Hind legs becoming paralyzed
  • Breathing difficulties

3. Deafness

For pet owners looking to own a white Devon Rex, they could be at more risk for congenital deafness. White cats of any breed—particularly those with blue eyes—are more prone to deafness because of a dominant white (W) gene. And they don’t have to be completely white to have this increased risk; they may be white with colored spots. These cats are also more likely to have been born hard of hearing or deaf. If it seems as if your cat doesn’t hear you (and isn’t just ignoring you on purpose), make an appointment with your vet. There’s a chance it could simply be something like an ear infection that can easily be cleared up. Unfortunately, there’s no way to cure deafness in cats, but as long a deaf cat is kept indoors, it should be healthy and happy.

Symptoms of deafness include:
  • Not responding to sounds around them
  • Not waking up or being startled by loud noises
  • Sleeping more often
  • Meowing more loudly
devon rex
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

4. Dental Disease

This is not specific to Devon Rex but is a common problem in all cats. Let’s face it; brushing a cat’s teeth isn’t something many pet owners are willing to do often (those teeth are sharp, after all!). Unfortunately, this lack of dental care means your cat is likely to end up with dental issues at some point. Not regularly brushing the teeth can lead to tartar build-up, which will eventually lead to infections in the gums. Advanced dental disease could result in your pet losing teeth or even having organ damage. If you aren’t up for the task of brushing your cat’s teeth, you should be able to get your vet or a groomer to do the job. At the least, have your vet check your pet’s teeth at least once a year.

Symptoms of dental disease include:
  • Inflammation
  • Gum recession
  • Gingivitis
  • Loss of teeth

5. Hereditary Myopathy

Hereditary myopathy or congenital myasthenic syndrome is, as the name suggests, an inherited disease. Inherited as an autosomal recessive trait, it usually shows up in the Devon Rex anywhere between the ages of 3 weeks to 6 months. Myopathy is caused when the mechanism in the body that transmits signals from the nerves to the body is defective. The result is generalized muscle weakness problems. There is no treatment, around 9 months of age the illness may stabilize but it can be fatal for some cats. If you’re getting your Devon Rex from a breeder, you’ll want to ensure that cats have been tested for this.

Symptoms of hereditary myopathy include:
  • Inability to walk or exercise
  • Easily tired
  • Muscle tremors
  • Difficulty keeping the head in the proper position
two devon rex on scratching tower
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

6. Hip Dysplasia

Though hip dysplasia is more commonly seen in dogs, the Devon Rex is one of the cat breeds prone to it. This multifactorial disease causes the hip joints to develop incorrectly, which makes walking and movement more difficult for your pet as they age. It’s recommended you have your pet’s hips x-rayed when they are spayed or neutered to catch the problem early. And if you’re getting your Devon Rex from a breeder, this is another health issue you’ll want to ensure the cat’s parents have been tested for.

Symptoms of hip dysplasia include:
  • Difficulty running or jumping
  • Hesitance when rising from a prone position
  • Excessive grooming or chewing around the hips

7. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most diagnosed heart disease in cats, but the Devon Rex is a bit more prone to it. This genetic disease causes thickening in the heart muscle, which leads to higher pressure in the heart. In turn, this can lead to congestive heart failure or blood clots. There isn’t a cure for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, but it can be treated by controlling the heart rate and decreasing the chances of clots. When buying from a breeder, it’s vital to check if the parent cats have been tested for this disease.

Symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy vary by cat, and often cats may be asymptomatic for years.

Symptoms typically appear when the disease has progressed and may include:
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sudden death
grey devon rex
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

8. Hypokalaemia

Burmese Hypokalemia is an inherited condition that can also be seen in Devon Rex cats.  It results in low circulating potassium levels leading to weak muscles. The illness is usually noticed by the time kittens are two to six months old.  Supportive treatment for affected kittens will be needed.

Symptoms of hypokalemia include:
  • Difficulty walking, crouched gait
  • Lowered head due to weak neck
  • Tremor

9. Hypotrichosis

Hypotrichosis is a bit less serious than other health concerns on this list—it’s simply a defect due to a recessive gene that causes thin hair and balding—but it can still cause issues for your Devon Rex if you aren’t careful. The thin hair and balding itself don’t harm your cat, but their skin needs to be well-protected because of it. For example, if your Devon Rex goes out into the sun, they’re more likely to get sunburned because of this. There isn’t a treatment for this, but it can be fairly easily managed with proper attention.

Symptoms of hypotrichosis include:
  • Bald spots
  • Less hair than other cat breeds
  • Thickened skin
Devon Rex
Image Credit: Oleksandr Volchanskyi, Shutterstock

10. Obesity

Did you know? In North America, obesity is one of—if not the—most easily prevented diseases in cats. Your Devon Rex isn’t necessarily more likely to be obese than other cats, but obesity in cats is entirely too common, so it’s something to keep an eye on. Obesity in cats can lead to other diseases such as diabetes and shorten their overall lifespan. To prevent obesity in your pet, ensure they aren’t eating more than they should and that they are getting enough exercise each day.

Symptoms of obesity include:
  • Visible weight gain
  • Difficulty jumping
  • Unwilling to move around
  • Gassy
  • Unkempt coat

11. Patellar Luxation

The knee joint is incredibly important for cats, as it allows them to jump, crouch, and pounce. But sometimes, a cat will have what’s known as a luxating patella, or a kneecap that keeps slipping out of place because of a knee joint that didn’t develop as it should. And though this can happen to any cat, the Devon Rex has a genetic predisposition for it. If you catch it early, your cat can do physical therapy to improve the muscles and reduce the impact of this problem. So, get your pets’ knees checked around the time they are spayed or neutered. Corrective surgery is an option for some cats.

Symptoms of patellar luxation include:
  • On and off lameness
  • A skip in the step
  • A leg that kicks to the side
devon rex tabby cat is laying on a soft blanket
Image Credit: Veera, Shutterstock

12. Papular eosinophilic/mastocytic dermatitis

This skin disease can cause your Devon Rex to break out with little itchy, red bumps. Though it’s not exactly known why papular mastocytic dermatitis or urticaria pigmentosa occurs in cats, it’s suspected the reason is similar to why it occurs in humans—a build-up of defective mast cells (a type of immune  cell). It’s also believed the condition is genetic. Though rare, it can be treated with supplements and antihistamines.

Symptoms of urticaria pigmentosa include:
  • Red bumps
  • Itchiness

13. Polycystic Kidney Disease

This is an inherited condition that is common in several breeds of cats and Devon Rex are at moderate risk.  It results in numerous cysts within the kidney tissues and eventually to kidney failure. There is a genetic test available so make sure the cats have been tested for this. There is an international PKD negative register that can be consulted.

Symptoms of polycystic kidney disease include:
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced appetite
devon rex kitten
Image Credit Veera, Shutterstock

14. Vitamin K-dependent Coagulopathy

Another inherited disease, this results in a lack of ability to clot the blood. Blood clotting is how bleeding eventually stops when a cat gets a cut or injury. However, cats such as the Devon Rex may rarely lack the enzyme that absorbs vitamin K—the vitamin the liver needs to produce coagulants. Once the disease is diagnosed, it’s easy enough to treat; you just need to give your cat more vitamin K in the form of supplements. However, you may not realize your pet is affected until they get an injury.

Symptoms of vitamin K-dependent coagulopathy include:
  • Lethargy
  • Bruising
  • Pale gums
  • Blood in urine

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Conclusion

There are a lot of health concerns on this list, but just because the Devon Rex is prone to these, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get any of them as some are quite rare. All cat breeds will have their own health issues they’re predisposed to, so don’t let this list scare you off this beautiful breed! But now that you are well informed you can ask breeders to show you negative test results for the inherited conditions above.


Featured Image Credit: Seregraff, Shutterstock

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