Senior Cat Wellness
How Old Is My Senior Cat Really?
Cats are considered to be seniors around 11 to 13 years of age.
Our older cats age 5 to 6 years in human years for every year of their lives. Obviously, dramatic changes in their health can occur over this time period.
During their senior years, we recommend a physical examination at least once yearly, vaccination (if health permits), and examination of a stool sample.
Depending on your pet’s health status, semi-annual or annual blood and urine screening may be advised. Senior pets who develop specific problems may need to have blood and urine levels monitored as often as every few weeks or months.
What Conditions Are Common in Older Cats?
Obviously as they age, pets are prone to develop age-related conditions similar to humans.
Eyesight and hearing deteriorates. In some cases, deafness or blindness may be very sudden. Sudden onset blindness is very significant and may indicate hypertension, cataracts, glaucoma, or retinal deterioration.
Dental disease is also very common in senior animals, due to long term tartar accumulation, gum inflammation, and recession of gum tissue. An infected mouth in an older cat often acts as a source of infection for other body organs and may cause premature deterioration of the kidneys or heart valves. Cats with dental disease may have bad breath and exhibit pain while eating or decreased appetite.
Joint pain due to osteoarthritis is another concern with older cats. Symptoms include: difficulty rising from a resting position, reluctance to exercise or climb stairs, limping, decreased appetite, or increased irritability. Evidence of arthritis can sometimes be found on examination as joints begin to “grind”, pain is observed, and muscles begin to deteriorate. Newer anti-inflammatories and pain control, as well as proven herbal supplements, can provide excellent relief from arthritis pain in cats.
A big weak spot for cats is their heart. About 50% of heart murmurs are from heart disease, but some heart disease shows no murmur, so it remains undetectable without an echocardiogram. This is the most common cause of sudden death with cats, with some breeds (Ragdolls) being particularly prone to heart disease.
Skin and coat problems are frequently benign, but many skin masses (growths) look alike. Growths require analysis to make sure they are not cancerous and likely to spread elsewhere in the body. You will likely see many skin and coat problems in older pets. Nutrients are not absorbed as well, increased skin oils and dander. Poor grooming in older cats may result in a poor coat with matting, dander, or oiliness. Diet changes, shampoo, and fatty acid supplements can dramatically improve the coat quality of older animals.
Abdominal palpation, performed by a veterinarian, can detect changes in older cats’ organ size. It also detects any abnormal masses or evidence of pain. Any of these signs would indicate the need for X-rays, ultrasound, or blood or urine tests.
Why Are Physical Exams Important for My Senior Cat?
During annual or semi-annual check-ups in older pets, weight gain or losses will be assessed and you will be asked questions regarding your pet’s appetite, lameness, changes in drinking, urinating, bathroom habits, general attitude, and energy levels.
Changes in any of these areas may indicate an early problem and by performing diagnostic tests we can improve the quality and length of life for your senior pet.
Is Your Older Cat Confused?
Cognitive dysfunction is very common for cats, as it is for ourselves. We have foods with supplements to help to slow down the brain aging process, and that can keep cats more alert, help with their day/night cycle, etc.