Senior Cat Health

Dr Woody Dudley

Have you noticed any subtle changes in your Senior Cat such as poor hair coat, weight loss, bony back, drinking more water than he/she used to, less active?

As senior felines age, they develop the aches and pains that many of us experience when we age. Cats are at increased risk for heart disease, kidney disease, GI illnesses, urinary infections, hormonal imbalances, abscessed teeth from gum disease, vision deterioration, elevated blood pressure, cancer, and pain from osteoarthritis as they age. When these illnesses which are part of the aging process are detected early, the outcome is better, including a longer pain-free life.

We have many effective screening tests to detect these issues early. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA.org) recommends beginning early senior detection screening every 12 months beginning at 7 years of age, the beginning of the senior phase of life. Because our feline patient’s age more rapidly than we do, a 6-month health exam and consultation is also recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association. In many cases, simple diet changes based on Screening Tests can prolong and improve your pet’s life and prevent costly visits to the emergency hospital.

Blood and Urine Wellness Testing is effective for early detection of the commonly seen illness that develop and occur with increasing frequency as our cats’ age, including Kidney Disease, Urinary Infections, Pancreatitis, Liver and Intestinal Disease, Hyperthyroidism, and Diabetes. A Senior Blood and Urine Wellness test is also a good test to determine if your feline friend is a low anesthetic risk for Dentistry Procedures. Teeth cleaning is recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association, AAHA.org, every year to prevent and treat gum disease.

Blood Pressure should be checked every year in our Senior cats. Hypertension or high blood pressure is dangerous to your cat’s health. A systolic blood pressure over 160 should be treated with blood pressure medication to prevent cardiovascular accidents to the brain (stroke), eyes (blindness and retinal detachments), and kidneys (infarcts that cause kidney damage). Hypertension can also cause thickening of the heart muscle. If blood pressure is elevated, further testing should be done to determine and treat the cause. The most common cause of high blood pressure in cats is due to Kidney Disease.

An affordable Ultrasound Screening has been developed for Senior Patients by Dr. Greg Liscandro, an Emergency Specialist in Texas. With this type of noninvasive Ultrasound, we can evaluate your pet’s chest, heart and lungs, and abdomen often without sedation, without shaving, in a very thorough way without radiation exposure from  X-rays. This procedure is used to screen for heart and lung disease, organ disease including liver, gall bladder, kidneys, spleen, intestines, and urinary bladder. Cancer and advanced cancer that has spread can often be detected in this way as well. Ultrasound has been found to be superior and more economical than X-rays for the detection of many of these conditions.

Eye Screening is recommended yearly in our senior cats to preserve vision and prevent eye pain. Glaucoma, Uveitis (inflammation inside the eye), Cataracts, and inflammation of the cornea can all lead to blindness and pain as our feline patient’s age. Eye testing is economical and can prevent vision loss in our senior patients.

Early detection and diagnosis lead to better outcomes including longer life and better quality of life. Early detection helps prevent costly trips to the emergency room.

Can senior cats have more than one health issue at the same time?

Most senior cats have Comorbidities which means they have more than one health condition at the same time. These include the following:

Arthritis or Osteoarthritis occurs in 90% of our cats over 10 years of age based on studies with Xrays. This is a painful condition that slows down our senior feline patients.

Gum disease, Periodontal Disease, occurs in 80% of cats. This is a painful oral condition that causes tooth abscesses.

Chronic Kidney Disease, a progressive disease that can result in death, is one of the most common conditions seen in senior patients. In a recent study, more than 60 percent of senior cats (10 years of age and older) and about 80 percent of geriatric cats (15 to 20 years old) were diagnosed with CKD.

Hypertension or Elevated Blood pressure has been proven to increase with age in cats. Elevated blood pressure can lead to problems in the brain (“stroke”), eyes (blindness/retinal detachment), and kidneys (infarcts) as well as thickening of the heart wall. This is also called target organ damage.

Heart Disease, Cardiomyopathy, occurs in 29% of cats over 10 years of age. With this heart disease, we see a thickening of the heart wall and fast heart rates which can lead to weakness, heart failure, and “strokes” to the back legs.

Hyperthyroidism, an elevated thyroid hormone level, is a life-threatening disease that occurs in senior cats. It occurs in 10% of senior cats.

Urinary infections occur in 29% of older cats with Comorbidities (Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery 2007, 9 , 124).

Pancreatitis occurs in Senior Cats. According to veterinarypractice.com, the reported prevalence of feline pancreatitis is from 0.6% to 67%.

Can we prolong my cat’s life and improve my cat’s life by treating these senior health conditions?

Yes, there is treatment available for all of the above conditions that will improve and lengthen your cat’s life if detected early.

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