As cats enter their senior years, their need for veterinary care increases. When cats reach the age of 10 years, their wellness checkup should be done twice a year, rather than annually for adult cats. In many cases, the physical examinations and lab tests will be essentially the same as for adult cats under the age of 10. However, the physical exam will be more thorough, as the veterinarian checks for certain "red flags:"
- Evidences of Sight Impairment
Older cats can develop cataracts, just as older humans do. All the incidence is relatively small, Feline Diabetes increases the risk. Other conditions that affect sight can eventually lead to blindness.
- Evidence of Hearing Loss
A combination of certain conditions can affect a senior cats hearing, and may eventually result in deafness.
- Dental Problems
Without a long-term dental care plan, older cats are susceptible to tooth decay, stomatitis, or gum problems. The resultant tooth loss can directly affect the cat's ability to get adequate nutrition, as well as release toxins into the blood which may cause problems with other organs.
- Evidence of Weight Loss
One of the first symptoms of several diseases common to senior cats, is a sudden or gradual weight loss. The cat may be anorexic, or may eat heartily and still lose weight. I highly recommend investing in a scale, and do routine weigh-ins for your older guy or gal at least twice a month.
Diagnostic Tests for Special Needs Senior Cats
- Feline Diabetes
Blood glucose levels will be tested with both blood and urine samples.
- HCM (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
Tests may include X-Rays, Electrocardiogram , Echocardiography, and/or Blood Work-Up
Along with the routine blood panel, T4 levels will be checked.
- CRF (Chronic Renal Failure)
It is sometimes said that CRF takes more older cats than any other disease, as cats who live long enough inevitably develop it. CRF is diagnosed by a blood panel, which measures levels of critical blood components such as blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, and a red blood cell count. Analysis of urine will test for protein, bacteria, and blood, as well as how well the kidneys are concentrating urine.
Annual VaccinesWhether to continue the annual Core Vaccines for your senior cat is a subject you and your veterinarian should discuss. Some schools of thought hold that by the time a cat has reached the age of 10, he has developed permanent immunity from most or all infectious diseases. In addition, there are certain negative side effects to some vaccines, which can be exacerbated in older cats, particularly those who are also burdened with some of the diseases common with senior cats. This information is included based on the assumption that your senior cat is kept indoors-only. If he or she is allowed to roam freely, all bets are off.
Special Vet Care for Senior Cats With Chronic DiseaseSenior with the above listed special needs diseases will require more frequent veterinary visits during the year. While working in a partnership with your veterinarian, you will learn what signs and symptoms to watch for. For feline diabetes, you may be asked to monitor your cat's blood glucose level at home, and will learn steps to take in case of problems. Discuss with your veterinarian any special at-home care, and arrange for regularly scheduled visits.
Armed with this knowledge, may your senior cat live long and prosper, and share many happy more years with you.