Health issues for elderly cats are many and varied, and as Vets nowadays have many more pills and remedies they can prescribe than even a few years ago, it's worth discussing. So here is our take on the common health problems in senior cats.
Is your senior cat losing weight?
This is not uncommon in senior cats and can be due to various reasons. Weight loss can be a sign of health problems, including diabetes, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease and gastrointestinal cancer. Another problem that can lead to weight loss in cats is dental disease. Chipped teeth or gum disease can make eating painful for cats. Many conditions are managed by giving your cat a good quality of life. If your cat has a noticeable loss of appetite or other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea or lethargy, you should take him to the vet.
As with most living things on this planet, changes occur with age, and muscle wasting is common in older cats. Healthy weight loss results from the loss of fat, but when a cat is sick or injured, it loses mostly muscle, and in this case, it is called cachexia. This usually happens in cats suffering from common diseases such as heart disease, kidney disease or cancer. However, in ageing cats, the loss of muscle is called sarcopenia. This means that even healthy older cats have less muscle mass than younger cats.
As our cats reach their twilight years, they may become ill, and their overall health may deteriorate. While some cats' health deteriorates with age, others struggle with chronic illness. To help you understand your older cat's possible ailments, let's discuss some of the most common health conditions in older cats.
Cats are good at hiding their pain. As natural predators, they know that weak and sick people become prey, so they instinctively hide any signs of problems. Because of this tendency, it can be difficult to tell when your cat is not feeling well. However, as cats live up to 15, 20 years and beyond, chronic health conditions are not uncommon. Kidney problems and even cancer are among chronic health problems in the cat population. Your cat may also be at risk for hyperthyroidism and even arthritis.
What to expect when you own an elderly cat
If you take care of your elderly cat, a cat's life expectancy is around 15 – 20 years, saying that the average being around 15 years. Advances in veterinary treatment and prescription diets have contributed to this increased life expectancy, along with the propensity for the “house-only” rule. Cats older than seven to eight years are referred to as seniors. As cats age, their dietary, exercise and health care needs also change, so you must monitor these changes closely.
There are veterinarian-prescribed, over-the-counter diets and pet supplements that can provide relief. Memory games also help maintain a routine, reducing stress and enriching the environment, perhaps with a special bed for your ageing dog. The FDA has approved the human drug selegiline hydrochloride (Anipryl) to treat cognitive impairment in dogs. Anipryl can help prevent progressive damage to the brain. It acts on one of the neurotransmitters responsible for the nerve to nerve communication and slows down the natural destruction of the brain's chemical compound dopamine. Dr Landsberg says the drug works very well in about a third of cases, nominally well in another third, and not at all in the last percentage of dogs.
Kidney disease is widespread in older cats. Although kidney disease in cats is manageable, it is a progressive disease that will worsen your cat's health over time. If your cat is struggling with kidney failure, you can expect some common signs. Kidney failure in cats can cause weight loss, vomiting, loss of appetite, foul breath, lethargy and more. If your cat is suffering from kidney failure and showing any of these symptoms, it would be a good time to talk to your vet about your cat's quality of life.
A condition such as hyperthyroidism is common in cats and is most often seen in middle-aged and older cats. Increased thyroid hormones production due to an enlarged thyroid gland in the cat's neck leads to hyperthyroidism. Often, this enlargement is caused by a non-cancerous tumour, but malignant tumours can also cause it. When hyperthyroidism occurs, you should look out for signs such as weight loss, increased appetite, thirst and urination. You can also expect your cat to vomit, have diarrhoea, be hyperactive, and your cat's coat to look matted or greasy.
Do you have an older cat?
Here are some possible common problems to look out for as your pet gets older. Dying cat stages, but my brain tells a different story.
Behavioural changes during the last days of their life:
Cats often change their behaviour in drastic ways and become more irritable because of the pain they are going through.
Many cats that die of natural causes stop eating in the 48 hours before death – the body effectively shuts down.
Signs your cat is sick
Although cats are predators, in the wild, they are preyed upon by larger predators. Since sick or old animals make easy targets, any obvious illness sign will alert other predators that the animal is sick. This means that a cat owner will often only notice that the cat has become quiet and withdrawn in the early stages of an illness. Unfortunately, this also means that a cat can be very ill before the owner realizes that something is wrong.
When a cat dies, even if it is not from disease but old age, its body will start to shut down. They may show some of the same signs of being frail as a sick cat, such as not making it to the litter box anymore, refusing to play or not eating. Her senses don't seem as sharp as they used to be, and she may not be able to see or hear you as easily. Her sense of touch is the only one that doesn't deteriorate, so she will never stop feeling your reassuring pats, not even at the end.
Cats tend to hide symptoms when they're unwell, and weight loss tops the list of 5 signs your cat is ill. Your cat could be suffering from a stomach disorder after eating something it couldn't tolerate or a food allergy. Stomach problems can also be related to serious illnesses such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism (in which case your cat would lose weight despite a healthy appetite) or cancer.
Whether you choose to put your pet to sleep or let him die at home, it is important to recognize the signs that a dog is dying so that you can prepare and make him as comfortable as possible. It is important to be aware that there is no standard timetable – every animal's dying process is different. Breathing problems: As your dog or cat nears the end of its life, its breathing will likely slow down and become shallow. The dog's heart rate drops from the normal 100 to 130 beats per minute to 60 to 80 beats per minute, and the pulse is feeble.
Emergencies and your cat
Certain situations may be considered urgent. You should not have to wait for an appointment with your vet if your cat is in an emergency. Keep information about after-hours vets handy in case you need to rush to one. If you see the signs of an emergency, do not hesitate. Go to the nearest open veterinarian immediately—trauma (e.g. falling from a great height or being run over).
Euthanasia is a final solution that should never be undertaken lightly. Only in emergencies should the decision to end life be made hastily, and then only eliminate pain. There is no rush to euthanise an otherwise healthy cat based on test results alone. Although we don't know all the details of this particular story, we can educate ourselves and our veterinarians to do better.
Bronchodilators dilate narrowed airways and are an important medication in emergencies. Bronchodilators are often referred to as emergency medications because they do not treat the underlying inflammation that causes asthma. Like corticosteroids, bronchodilators are available in inhaled forms that, when used with the aerostat* chamber, directly target the airways to provide rapid relief.
How to prevent illness in cats
You can prevent weight loss by visiting the vet regularly for wellness exams. Cats are experts at hiding illness and injury, but your vet can spot a problem before it gets out of control. Report any changes in your cat's behaviour to your vet immediately. It is much easier to treat a health problem in its early stages than to wait until your cat becomes very ill.
It is important to schedule regular appointments with your older cat's veterinarian. Older cats are more susceptible to illness due to a weakening immune system. Even if your cat may appear healthy, an annual check-up is essential as many diseases may show no symptoms. Older cats are more susceptible to urinary tract infections because their urine is more dilute, and they have difficulty keeping their genital area clean. The growth of e-coli bacteria in the faeces, along with your older cat's reduced natural body defences, can lead to problems such as kidney failure over time.
Introduction Ketosis and ketoacidosis are serious complications of diabetes mellitus that can occur in newly diagnosed and poorly controlled diabetic dogs and cats. Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) occurs when a relative lack of insulin and increased glucoregulatory hormones lead to an overproduction of ketones (1). The condition is characterised by dehydration, electrolyte disturbances, osmolality imbalance, hyperglycaemia, glucosuria and ketonemia/uraemia (2-4). Patients often have concurrent conditions such as pancreatitis, chronic renal failure, urinary tract infections, hepatic lipidosis and/or neoplasia (2,5). Treatment goals include rehydration, correction of electrolyte and acid-base imbalances, lowering blood glucose levels, reversing ketonemia and treating concomitant diseases.
Most cats kept as pets die of old age. Cats are robust animals, and with proper veterinary care, many enjoy long, happy lives. Serious illnesses such as cancer or accidents (e.g. being hit by a car) can take our pets from us prematurely. Many accidents can be prevented by properly supervising and keeping your cat indoors. Many diseases can be prevented by feeding your cat a healthy diet, making sure their vaccinations are up to date, taking them to their annual vet visit and keeping an eye on their general health.
Pet health and safety
Cataracts are much rarer in old cats than in old dogs. They are almost always the result of another eye problem, such as trauma. With a cataract, the pupil of your cat's eye will appear whitish in colour. Fibres have grown into the lens, limiting vision. In most cases, a cat will only have a cataract in one eye. This means that it can still see and move around quite well. Surgery is not recommended unless both eyes are affected by cataracts, and even then, it is not usually done.
Completely white cats of any breed, if your cat has blue eyes, are at more of a risk for congenital deafness and are likely to be born with reduced or no hearing. Hereditary or genetic deafness has also been found in some American Shorthair bloodlines. So if you suspect that your cat's hearing is not as sharp as it should be, make an appointment with us immediately. It could be caused by a treatable issue like ear polyps or an ear infection. However, if your pet's ears are healthy and he's still ignoring you, a more thorough hearing exam might be in order, including a brainwave analysis if indicated.
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