CATS: Managing Your Senior Pet's Health
These suggestions will enable you to provide the best health care for allowing your cat to live as long as possible.
► ANNUAL PHYSICAL EXAMINATION
A year between physical examinations for your cat is like 4 to 7 years between annual exams for us. Once your cat develops symptoms of age-related illness, or is older than age 12, twice yearly examinations are recommended.
Feed the highest quality food you can afford. Premium pet foods are much more digestible and result in a healthier pet with less stool volume. Some cats with diseases such as heart or kidney problems will require specific prescription diets as part of their medical treatment.
• FINICKY EATERS: Older pets lose some of their senses of taste and smell as they age, and often become more finicky. Unfortunately, they are also more prone to dietary upset from too much variety in the foods they eat. Canned cat foods containing fish such as salmon or whitefish contain a chemical call PBDE that can contribute to the formation of thyroid tumors in cats, so these foods should be avoided.
• SUPPLEMENTS: Many senior pets have dull, dry coats. Vitamin or fatty acid supplements may be needed. Supplements such as glucosamine also help with arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and kidney disease. We will be happy to advise you on what supplements your cat should be taking.
• CONSTIPATION: is a common and uncomfortable problem in older cats. The fiber content of your cat's food is very important and supplements are available for this as well. Tell us if your cat is constipated or is having other troubles.
• MULTIPLE CATS: Make sure your older cat doesn't have to compete for food with younger, stronger cats. You may need to feed old or ailing animals separately to ensure they are receiving their fair share.
► INTERNAL PARASITES
These nasty lil' critters threaten your cat's health. In large numbers they can cause intestinal blockage, bloody diarrhea and even death. Older cats are more susceptible to parasites. Certain types can also affect you and your family. Microscopic examination of your pet's stool needs to be done regularly.
► PROVIDE A CONSTANT SUPPLY OF FRESH, CLEAN WATER
Increased thirst is a symptom of several serious diseases. Please notify us right away if your pet seems to be drinking or urinating more than in the past.
• PET FOOD RECALL INFORMATION: CLICK HERE This information is from USDA and the list kept updated. Plus we will tweet about any new recalls.
►VACCINATIONS and BOOSTERS
Older animals, like older people, have decreased resistance to disease. Unfortunately there is no safe, effective drug available to combat any of the major viral diseases of cats. Vaccination is the only effective form of protection. Vaccination enables your cat to fight infection by stimulating the immune system so it makes antibodies against the viruses.
To maintain this protection, cats must be vaccinated regularly so the level of immunity is always high enough to help prevent disease. This is especially important in older cats. Immunity produced by vaccination does not last forever. It is very important that your cat be revaccinated regularly. However we may adjust our vaccine protocols when your cat becomes very elderly.
► DENTAL CARE
This is just as important for your pet, as it is for you. The average lifespan of a cat that receives timely dental care is 15 to 20% longer than one that doesn't. Infected teeth and gums are verey painful to your cat, and also spread infection to the kidneys, heart, liver and elsewhere. Dental cleanings are a necessary component of a long, happy life for your pet.
► PREVENTING OBESITY
Extra pounds burden the heart, kidneys, joints and muscles, decreasing life expectancy 30 to 50%. Preventing obesity is the best way to prevent diabetes in pets, just as it is in people. Feed your pet only enough food to maintain a healthy weight, and ask us for advice on obtaining and maintaining that healthy weight. Increased water consumption/urination, accompanied by weight loss despite a good appetite, are the signs to watch for.
► BRUSH YOUR CAT REGULARLY
To prevent mats and tangles, brush your cat regularly. After brushing, wipe off loose hair with a damp towel to remove loose hair. This is especially helpful if members of your household are allergic to cats. It also helps to prevent hairballs in your cat. Older cats sometimes become lax in their grooming habits, especailly if arthritis makes it hard for them to stretch and bend. Extra care with grooming may be needed.
• LUMPS and BUMPS: Also keep a close eye out for lumps and bumps. Tumors in and under the skin are very common in older cats. The earlier they are taken care of, the less danger they will spread to other organs.
• SKIN PROBLEMS: Keep an eye out for fleas, dandruff, sores, or bald spots. Report any skin problems to us!
► TREAT ARTHRITIS
90% of cats over the age of 12 have arthritis on x-rays. Your cat doesn't have to suffer from painful joints. Glucosamine supplements and pain medication can greatly improve your cat's quality of life. Ask us about adding supplements.
► PREVENT PARASITES
Intestinal parasites, heartworms, fleas and ticks can all be problems for cats at any age. Heartworm disease can be deadly and there currently is no effective treatment for cats, so preventative medication is highly recommended. Talk to us about flea and tick products before you buy anything over-the-counter.
► CAT'S LITTER PAN
Scoop out your cat's litter pan daily, and empty it competely at least once a week. Avoid heavily scented litter as many cats don't like it. Arthritis may make it more difficult for your older cat to enter and exit the litter box. A shallower pan may be needed, or cut out part of one end. If your cat has to go up and down steps to get to the box, you may need to move it to a more accessible location, or add a second pan in another location. Any accidents outside the box can signal a medical problem.
► NEVER GIVE ASPIRIN, IBUPROFEN OR TYLENOL (Acetaminophen) TO YOUR CAT!
We will discuss with you the safe pain medications that are available for your cat to keep it comfortable in its older years.
► CHANGES OR PROBLEMS
Please report any changes or problems in your cat's health or behavior to us as soon as possible. Diseases or behavior problems usually are more successfully treated the earlier they are addressed.
► AS YOU CAT AGES
A laboratory screening will help detect many of the problems caused by aging: kidney, liver, heart, arthritis, dental, etc. Early detection can lengthen your pet's life. Proper treatment will improve your pet's quality of life. Blood testing, urinalysis and stool sample testing should all be part of your cat's health care program. The older your cat is, the more important this becomes.
With lots of patience and love, both you and your pet will continue to share a happy and healthy life. Thank you for taking such good care of your aging pet.
If you notice different behavior in your cat, please download this handy check list to make notes and take it with you on your next veterinary appointment.
Senior Care Checklist.KCVF.org.pdf
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