“Dr. Randolph, I appreciate that you send me reminders for Daisy, but she’s an old cat and that’s why I don’t bring her in to the clinic any more.”
This is actually a common sentiment, despite the poor logic.
Think in terms of your elderly parents or grandparents. Read here to understand just how appropriate this analogy is. As people get older we experience typical aging changes of arthritis, heart disease, kidney failure, liver problems, vision deficiencies, the list goes on and on.
And, just as with people, there are treatments and/or medications for these infirmities.
Renal failure (kidney disease) is a very common ailment in older cats. Diagnosis is made by a combination of physical examination, history and laboratory testing of blood and urine. Treatment is primarily diet-based with a high quality low-protein, phosphorous-restricted food. In addition, medications are used to reduce gastric (stomach) inflammation and stimulate appetite.
Arthritis is less common in geriatric cats than dogs, but is typically manifested by a cat’s unwillingness or inability to jump onto high targets he used to hit. “Missing” the litterbox or having stool and urine land outside the box can be evidence of arthritis causing a patient to no longer be able to comfortably squat into the usual position for litterbox activities. Nutramax makes a special formula of their chondroprotective (cartilage-saving) neutraceuticals (Cosequin and Dasuquin) just for cats. In addition, a new NSAID (non-steroidal antiinflammatory drug) has been approved by the FDA for use in cats. It can reduce pain and inflammation in arthritic joints.
Congestive (or restrictive or hypertrophic) cardiomyopathy is the most common form of heart disease in cats. It tends to appear between maturity and middle age and, like all conditions of the feline heart, veterinary treatment can extend life expectancy and quality of life.
Cats may suffer from primary or secondary liver disease. Cholangitis is a primary liver-destroying disease that may occur at any age, but tends to worsen with advancing years. Lipid infiltration or fatty liver disease is usually a secondary condition of feline livers. It occurs when cats fail to ingest sufficient calories when they are ill from some other condition. Both require intensive treatment and the prognosis is much better when your pet’s doctor leads the way.
Cataracts tend to occur earlier in dogs than in cats. Many cats lead long, healthy lifespans without developing cataracts, but, when they do, board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists add to quality of life by surgically removing them.
Hyperthyroidism has been diagnosed in cats as young as 3 years, but the risk rises with age. It is a condition that can ravage the feline body if it is allowed to burn uncontrolled, but several routes of treatment exist to control it.
When flu season rolls around each year, what portions of the human population are urged to get vaccinated? The very young and the very old. Likewise, because of their aging immune systems, older cats should also continue to receive vaccinations on the schedule your pet’s doctor recommends.
Most important of all, as always, is the physical examination. That can be performed annually, but semiannual examinations are twice as good at identifying problems early. Early diagnosis of a lump, heart murmur or other problem early gives your precious kitty a huge head start toward a return to normalcy.
So, dust off that unused cat carrier, give it a high-powered cleanup at the car wash, and follow some simple steps to making your kitty’s travel to the doctor and his golden years truly enjoyable.
See you next week, Dr. Randolph.