The Tonkinese cat is a human-engineered blend of the Burmese and Siamese breeds. As such, it is susceptible to diseases and conditions brought from both bloodlines. However, the early breeders of the Tonkinese line were highly selective in choosing mating pairs resulting in a hardy feline.
Gingivitis is a condition - literally a plaque - inherited from the Siamese side of the Tonkinese bloodlines. Pure breeds such as Siamese are more susceptible to plaque buildup on their teeth. In Tonkinese cats, the problem can develop as young as 3 months when permanent teeth begin to erupt and consumption of solid foods increases. Use of a specialized kitty toothbrush is recommended, but it can take several sessions to make this ritual pleasant for both the human and the feline.
Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Commonly referred to as IBD, this disorder is characterized by regular vomiting and diarrhea. It isn't pretty, and as with humans suffering from such symptoms, it quickly leads to dehydration. The various forms of IBD have names based on the type of invader veterinarians identify as causing the inflammation in the lining of the cat's digestive tract or mucosa. Vets order tests including a blood cell count, urinalysis, tests of fecal matter for parasites and bacterial agents, and abdominal X-rays or ultrasound. None of these exams is inexpensive, nor is it in and of itself completely conclusive.
Quite often, a veterinarian will recommend abdominal surgery to retrieve samples of the intestinal lining, the most definitive method to identify the cause of inflammation. Dietary changes, along with the corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and antibiotics to combat bacteria, are the most common treatments.
Excessive Protein in Body Organs
The condition that veterinarians call amyloidosis occurs when the bloodstream deposits too much amyloid protein in internal organs. For Tonkinese cats, the liver is the organ of most common distress. It's another hereditary trait from their Siamese bloodlines. This disorder can also affect several other organs, making veterinary care a must for survival. Left without appropriate medical care, a Tonkinese cat suffering from this condition will end up with toxic amounts of protein in his system.
Symptoms that a cat has too much protein in his internal organs include sudden loss of energy and appetite, vomiting, enlarged abdomen, swelling in limbs, yellow skin or yellowish tint to the white of the eyes, and abdominal discomfort. A veterinarian will order a full blood workup to determine the level of protein and an appropriate course of treatment.
Upper Respiratory Infection
Upper respiratory infection affects Tonkinese primarily as kittens. Most adult cats seem to have outgrown the tendency toward the sniffing, coughing and runny eyes often associated with this disorder. The bulk of these infections are caused by the rhinotracheitis virus and the calicivirus. These invade the lining of the upper respiratory system and are shed through sneezing. This infection spreads quickly among kittens, who are close to each while nursing. Keeping the mother healthy, and limiting interaction with other cats until the kittens establish full immunity, are the best preventions. If kittens do develop upper respiratory infections, it is crucial to seek veterinary advice, as their young systems are not fully developed.
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.