Growing old is not for sissies. Just like humans, cats have problems as they age. Did you know that:
• Older cats shed more fur and often need assistance in grooming. Their nails grow faster and they often need more frequent nail trims.
• Dietary supplements such as Laxaire are useful in alleviating the discomfort and irritation caused by hairballs.
• Metabolic changes are common in older cats. You may notice either a weight gain or a weight loss as the first outward sign of metabolic change.
• Just like their human counterparts, obese cats have more health problems, especially those involving the heart, liver and the joints.
It is our job as members of The Cat Doctor team to make sure your cat is around long enough to watch you grow a lot older. We endeavor to make the aging process as pleasant and healthy as possible for your cat.
Signs of Aging
The signs of the aging process are not quite as obvious with your cat as they are for we human beings. We notice gradual changes in our hair, skin and physical capabilities. With your cat, there won't be graying or wrinkling. Your cat won't need glasses for reading the Sunday paper. However, your cat will have many of the same aging problems that you are eventually likely to experience.
When your cat hits his twelfth birthday, we begin requesting that you bring him in twice annually so that we can screen for possible age-related diseases. Your cat is very good at hiding the early symptoms of disease from you. He's so good in fact, that it is not uncommon for a cat to have a compromising health condition for a year or longer before it becomes apparent to you. That is why we recommend the following screening tests:
• complete blood count (CBC)
• blood chemistry profile
• thyroid function test
• blood pressure measurement
With these tests, we can detect the existence of diabetes, thyroid disease, early kidney disease, various blood disorders and many more medical problems which can be treated early in order to avoid much more serious, and often life threatening, problems later.
Physical examinations are even more important to your geriatric cat than they are to elderly humans. Your cat can't put into words complaints about an ache here or a pain there. She cannot tell you about a tender tooth, or general feelings of exhaustion or nervousness. When you bring your cat in, we carefully examine her for physical changes in weight, eyes, ears and mouth. We also palpate the abdomen to check for changes in organ size and the presence of masses. In addition, we monitor vaccinations and update them if necessary in order to prevent diseases which can be deadly to older cats.
Hypertension, the silent killer, can be equally life threatening, and there are often no symptoms until serious damage to the eyes and internal organs has occurred. We are able to measure and monitor blood pressure for your older cat. If your cat's blood pressure is high, we prescribe medication to control and maintain blood pressure and alleviate resulting damage.
Another under-appreciated, but very common cause, of health problems is dental disease. Poor dental health can lead to inadequate nutrition, kidney damage and many other problems. During your cat's regular check-ups, our veterinarians will check for signs of problems in your cat's mouth. Dental cleanings plus the extraction of diseased and broken or infected teeth prevent medical problems and keep your cat comfortable and happy.
Your cat depends mostly on you for her life and good health. Prevention of age related diseases first started when you adopted your pet and began bringing her to us on a yearly basis. The vaccinations your cat has received throughout her lifetime has kept her from getting calici virus, rhinotracheitis, rabies and other very dangerous diseases. You've kept her on that high quality diet we recommended, haven't you? Good nutrition is an essential part of aging well. Her yearly exams have enabled us to catch and treat problems early on. All those dental cleanings she's had throughout her lifetime? They've helped her immeasurably. Essentially, by following our advice, you have prevented your cat from obtaining life threatening diseases and have allowed her to age gracefully by your side.
As your cat ages, it becomes more imperative that you work closely with us to get the help and education you need to keep him healthy. His continued good health depends on:
• preventative care (see above)
• screening tests when appropriate
• early intervention
Catching small problems early often stops them from growing into major issues. Diseases of the vital internal organs such as
the heart, kidney and liver occur frequently in older cats. If a problem is found early, treatment can be life saving, allowing
organs to once again work efficiently. Diseases can be stopped or slowed before they debilitate your cat.
When your cat reaches the age of 12 or 13 years, he is considered a feline senior citizen, a geriatric cat, and the need for prevention becomes paramount. We will continue to work with you to create a program of proper diet, vaccinations, dental care, a program of health maintenance. We will continue to provide you the education you need to keep your cat as healthy and happy as possible.