Caring For Your Senior Cat
It may be hard to believe that at 7 years of age your pet is considered a senior. Although they may still seem young in appearance, there are physical changes occurring within their body that can affect your cat's health. We would like to take the opportunity to inform you of some of the changes that may occur as your pet becomes older. By being aware and educated about the changes that may occur you can help your cat enjoy an active and healthy senior life.
Some of the changes that occur in aging animals include:
Metabolic changes - as animals age the metabolic rate slows and nutrition requirements change. Older animals can require more water intake, different proportions of minerals and a good quality, easily digestible, but not excessively high, protein source. Older cats can also be more susceptible to dietary upsets, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Proper nutrition plays a very important role in senior health. Our veterinarians will make recommendations appropriate to your pets needs.
Dental Disease - oral health is important at all stages of your pet's life, but especially as your pet ages. Dental disease is one of the most common diseases our veterinarians diagnose. Dental cleanings should be done before advanced gingivitis or periodontal disease is present, as these conditions are painful and can cause further health problems. The stage of your cat's dental disease will be determined at his/her health check. Dental cleanings and treatment will be recommended based on their oral health. It is now scientifically established that good oral health can lengthen your pet's life by several years.
Musculoskeletal System - osteoarthritis is the most common musculoskeletal problem and can cause significant discomfort as it progresses. Please let us know if you notice any stiffness or slowing down in your pet.
There are many steps that you can take to help your pet stay comfortable as their joints age. We have an entire section within our website that deals with arthritis in your cat.
Heart Disease- the heart is a powerful organ made of specialized muscle tissue. As your pet ages their heart may become damaged. This damage may result in heart failure or other cardiac (heart) disease. Signs of heart disease can include coughing, lack of energy, shortness of breath, weight loss and or exercise intolerance. Early detection is vital for detecting and managing heart disease.
Kidney Disease - is one of the most common medical problems of older cats. The kidneys filter and remove waste materials from the blood and help regulate body fluids. Kidney disease occurs when the kidneys fail to perform these functions properly and waste materials accumulate in the blood. Signs of kidney disease can include increased drinking and urinating, depression, vomiting, weight loss and poor appetite. All pets, especially those over the age of seven should be screened early for kidney disease- BEFORE signs of illness appear. The progression of the disease can often be slowed by something as easy as a diet change.
Thyroid Disease - in cats the incidence of hyperthyroidism increases from middle age on. Signs of thyroid disease include weight loss, increased drinking and urination, vocalization. Early detection and treatment of thyroid disease can significantly improve quality of life and is as easy as a blood test to diagnose.
Diabetes - diabetes mellitus is a condition that develops when your pet cannot use sugar (glucose) effectively and cannot control the sugar levels in the blood. Insulin is made in the pancreas and is essential for regulating the use and storage of blood glucose. Insufficient insulin production is life threatening. Diabetes is more common in middle aged, over weight cats. Signs of diabetes include weight loss, excessive drinking and urinating. Diabetes can be readily detected on routine wellness blood work.
Skin and Coat - you may notice that your pet's coat is becoming dull and lusterless or that they are losing hair. This happens over time as the hair follicles age. Older animals also tend to have more tumors of the skin than younger animals. Early detection of malignant tumors can allow for early treatment, which in turn significantly prolong your pets life.
Liver Disease - the liver is an important organ with many functions, including the digestion and conversion of nutrients and the removal of toxic substances from the blood. Senior pets have a higher incidence of liver disease. Early detection through Wellness blood screening can significantly improve the management and limit the progression of liver disease. The signs of liver disease are not very specific but can include decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, increased thirst and jaundice. Consult the clinic immediately if your cat is not eating. A life threatening condition of the liver called hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver can develop in cats that are not eating well.
Urinary Tract - It is very important to be aware of potential changes in the urinary tract health of your cat. Any cats showing signs of urinary tract disease i.e. straining, inappropriate urination, hematuria ( blood in the urine), increased frequency of urination etc. should be examined by a veterinarian. Feline Urinary Tract Disease ( FLUTD ) - crystals-can occur at any age in the cat but FLUTD caused by calcium oxalate crystals is more common in older cats.
Interstitial Cystitis - is now a more commonly seen condition of the urinary tract in cats caused by inflammation in the bladder. This disease can present like a urinary tract infection. Although the cause is unknown it is thought to be related to stress in the cat. It is important for the veterinarian to examine any cat showing urinary tract signs
Remember we are here to help you and your feline friend. If you have any questions arising from this information please let us know.