Senior Pet care in your Vail Valley and Eagle Cats!
“Senior Pet Health month” is here in the Vail Valley, and it’s during this time that we focus our attention on the needs of our long time companions, our pets, as their health needs most often far exceed their younger counterparts!
In this article, we shift our attention to our senior feline patients, who so often will live high into their teen years. Recent studies revealed that only about 63% of our feline population is actually brought in to seek veterinary care on an annual basis! This statistic is so disappointing, as so many conditions our feline friends develop, could easily be prevented, managed and cured, should our feline owners be diligent about routine veterinary examinations.
Our senior feline friends very often begin to exhibit clinical signs of the underlying disease processes long before the scheduled trip to the veterinarian. If we all educate ourselves on the common conditions of our senior cats and carefully observe for the clinical signs they exhibit, veterinarians will be able to diagnose and treat them far sooner!
There are multiple common conditions which can affect our senior cats, and as we discuss the clinical signs of these conditions there are some key “clinical signs” to be on the lookout for!
Is your cat more vocal all of the sudden while asking for more food and eating more, yet not gaining weight? Is the haircoat of your cat unthrifty ?Is your cat drinking a lot of water? All of these can mean your senior cat has a condition called “hyperthyroidism.” This condition can occur in up to 70% of cats over the age of 13, and results from a most often benign (non cancerous) nodule on the thyroid gland which begins to excrete an excessive amount of thyroid hormone resulting in these clinical signs. The condition can be quickly diagnosed by a simple blood test which your veterinarian can perform and can be managed and treated with multiple options depending on the overall health of your cat.
Has your pet suddenly lost a lot of weight, and is hovering over the water bowl ? Your pet may have diabetes! Diabetes results in overweight cats when the levels of circulating “insulin” are greatly reduced resulting the the inability of your cat to absorb sugar . Diabetes can easily be detected and even cured by simple blood tests performed by your veterinarian, diet changes and subsequent insulin. Managing and ultimately causing your diabetic cat to go into “remission” requires aggressive and diligent therapy, both with glucose monitoring and diet regulation.
Is your pet drinking a lot of water, seeking out water, losing weight, along with having a very foul odor in the mouth? In addition to the above conditions causing an increase in water consumption and urination, disease affecting the kidneys of your cats is a very common affliction. Essentially, your cat’s kidneys function as a filter for waste products in the blood and they excrete them through the kidneys into the urine. As your pet ages, the kidneys become smaller and potentially damaged by other conditions such as chronic infections, stones, cysts and tumors, and can no longer filter waste allowing it to build up in the bloodstream and cause your cat to not feel well. Typically, in addition to the increase in thirst and urination, your pet will have a lack of appetite, weight loss, and vomiting.
Kidney disease can easily be detected with simple blood tests and urinealysis during which time it can be “staged.” In the early stages, a pet owner may change to a lower protein “kidney friendly” diet, while inititiating fluid therapy at home may begin during the more moderate stages. Kidney disease cannot be cured but can be managed and result in a longer, more comfortable life for your pet!
Is your cat slowing down? Reluctant to jump up ? Limping or slow to get up? Your cat could be exhibiting signs of the common condition, arthritis. Unfortunately, many owner’s feel signs of arthritis are “normal”findings in their older cats and hesitate to have them examined. If left unaddressed, your pet’s quality of life can be markedly altered . A simple veterinary examination with Xrays can find arthritis and there are pain medications and joint supplements which can greatly help your cat feel better longer!
Finally, a common, yet preventable senior cat disease is heart disease. Many cats can develop a condition called “HCM” which stands for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This condition can be caused by many things, including a grain-free diet deficient in taurine. Regardless of the cause, this can result in heart failure in your cat and if not diagnosed early, can lead to an untimely death.
As we reflect on all these senior cat diseases and the many more not listed, we emphasize the importance of the senior cat exams on a biannual basis and urge our cat owner’s to allow their veterinarian to perform the necessary diagnostic tests such as blood tests , urinealysis, radiographs and ultrasound to give your senior cats the happiest and longest life possible!