One of the blessings of cats is that age seems to creep up on them
gently — so much so that it may be difficult for us to notice that they
getting older and have developed some of the common health problems of
old age. Though some conditions are inevitable with advancing age, there are ways that you and your veterinarian can work together to help your cat stay more comfortable and contented for as long as possible. Here are some of the most common health issues seen in senior cats, and how they can be addressed.
According to feline veterinary specialist
Dr. Arnold Plotnick, studies have shown that 90 percent of cats over 12 years of age are likely to have radiographic signs of arthritis. If
your cat no longer wants to go up or down stairs or jump on or off
furniture, has difficulty grooming himself,
pees outside the litterbox because it’s difficult for him to climb inside, or seems stiff after standing up, arthritis may be the reason. If you notice any of these signs, talk to your veterinarian about
ways to help relieve your cat's pain.
Thirty percent of all
cats over age 10 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer, according
Dr. Heather Wilson, assistant professor of oncology at the
Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. One of the most common types of cancer seen in cats is
lymphosarcoma. Take your cat to the vet immediately if you notice any of these
warning signs: appetite loss or unintentional weight loss;
lumps or bumps that increase in size, sores that don’t heal, or
bleeding or other discharge from the mouth, nose or anus; unusual body
odor, lack of energy, difficulty eating or swallowing, unexplained
lameness that doesn’t improve; or difficulty breathing,
urinating or defecating.
your cat having trouble
chewing — or picking up his food and then dropping it? He may have painful periodontal disease, a common problem in
aging cats. Plaque and tartar can build up heavily over the years,
especially if teeth aren’t
brushed or professionally cleaned on a regular basis. Schedule a thorough cleaning, and then follow up by
brushing your cat's teeth every day to help keep them clean. Keeping teeth and gums clean is an important part of maintaining your cat’s good health.
Cataracts, glaucoma and retinal
detachment are among the
eye conditions that can affect older cats. Look for signs such as
cloudiness or whiteness of the lens, general cloudiness of the eye, dilated pupils or, of course, bumping into things. Medication can help, depending on the type and severity
of the problem. Cataracts can be removed surgically, but cats typically
get around so well using their sense of smell that it’s often not
necessary. Just remember not to move the furniture around, or he might
bonk his head.
Even for cats, the sense of
hearing begins to go with age; it’s just a fact of life. You
can’t purchase hearing aids for your cat — yet — but you can still
communicate with him. Teach hand signals, stomp your foot, so he feels
the vibrations and knows you are nearby, or use the time-honored method
of going to him to alert him that it’s dinnertime.
He’ll appreciate it.
Though it may seem like a good thing, an excessive appetite and increase in energy could be clues that your senior cat may have developed hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland produces far greater levels of thyroid hormone than necessary. Cats with hyperthyroidism are also prone to hypertension, which can contribute to
kidney failure or heart disease if the condition goes untreated. If you suspect your cat may have developed hyperthyroidism, schedule a visit with your veterinarian
for blood work and to discuss treatment options.
Kidney failure is one of the most common problems veterinarians see in senior
geriatric exams, starting early in your cat’s golden years, can increase the likelihood of early detection and proper management of any deteriorating kidney function. Though kidney failure isn’t reversible, in many cases, a therapeutic diet,
subcutaneous fluid therapy,
and sometimes medication and certain supplements
can help to manage the condition and add months or years to your cat’s