by Catherine Williams, VMD
As cats age they are prone to a variety of conditions such as chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone due to a benign thyroid tumor), pancreatitis, dental disease and arthritis. Annual exams are particularly important in senior cats so problems can be detected early. Many veterinarians recommend routine blood work at this age to determine if any such diseases are developing. While this is not wrong, I prefer a more customized approach depending on the individual cat.
What should you look for to determine if your cat may be developing age related health problems?
(1) Weight Loss: In many cases subtle weight loss is the first sign of a problem, but this is often not noticed until the weight loss pronounced. For this reason I recommend that senior cats be weighed every 1-2 months. The results should be recorded and if ANY weight loss occurs this is cause for concern, a loss of 1 pound in a typical cat is equivalent to a 10% loss in body weight. This is equivalent to a person weighing 150 pounds losing 15 pounds!! I strongly recommend buying a baby scale, as it is much more accurate then weighing yourself with and without your cat.
(2) Any increase in drinking or urination.
(3) Any change in appetite: either decreased or increased. (If your cat stops eating completely he or she should be seen immediately!)
(4) Any signs of stiffness or limping or not jumping up on surfaces he or she used to jump up on,
Many owners may ignore some of these symptoms thinking they simply represent the “normal” aging process. This is, to a certain extent true, but the underlying problems, though age related, are often treatable. Cats are “hard wired” to mask pain and what may seem like a minor problem may just be the “tip of the iceberg”.
At Mahomet Animal Hospital we believe that it is important to do everything possible to maintain a good quality of life for our senior kitties.