What veterinary healthcare should my senior cat (7 and up) receive?
Senior Cat Care and Early Detection Screening
Comprehensive Physical Examination By the Veterinarian
This Comprehensive Physical Examination is the most important part of any preventative health care plan. The veterinarian will examine your cat from head to toe evaluating every organ system. You will be provided a written report of your cat’s examination and any
associated recommendations. This report will be reviewed with you verbally. Any questions that you might have will be answered as well.
Senior Care Level 3 : $168.50
Older cats are prone to disease in virtually every part of their bodies as the result of age-related degenerative changes. Although the signs of some problems may be obvious and many can be revealed by a veterinarian’s thorough examination, others can only be detected through laboratory testing. For geriatric cats, we strongly recommend blood and urine testing in conjunction with the comprehensive veterinary examination included in the annual health program.
The forty-one blood tests provide valuable information regarding the following conditions: kidney and bladder disease including kidney failure, infection, stones and cancer; Diabetes Mellitus; liver diseases; pancreatic diseases; muscle diseases; thyroid hormone levels; electrolyte levels, Red blood cell disorders including anemia; White blood cell abnormalities including infection, Leukemia and stress; blood protein abnormalities including dehydration, protein losing disorders and cancer; some endocrine (hormone) diseases. AND twelve urine tests provide valuable information regarding the following conditions: kidney disease including kidney failure an insufficiency, infection, stones and cancer; bladder disease including infection, stones and cancer; Diabetes Mellitus; some liver diseases, some Red blood cell disorders; some endocrine (hormone) diseases.
Veterinarians depend on laboratory results to help them understand the status of your cat’s health. When your cat is healthy, laboratory tests provide a means to determine your cat’s “baseline” values. When your cat is sick, the veterinarian can more easily determine whether or not your cat’s lab values are abnormal by comparing the baseline values to the current values. Subtle changes in these laboratory test results, even in the outwardly healthy animal, may signal the presence of an underlying disease. AAHA recommends that cats at middle age undergo laboratory tests at least annually. During the senior years, laboratory tests are recommended every six months for healthy cats. At a minimum, the following tests are recommended:
- Complete Blood Count This common test measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in a given sample of blood. The numbers and types of these cells give the veterinarian information needed to help diagnose anemia, infections and leukemia. A complete blood count also helps your veterinarian monitor your cat’s response to some treatments.
- Urinalysis Laboratory analysis of urine is a tool used to detect the presence of one or more specific substances that normally do not appear in urine, such as protein, sugar, white blood cells or blood. A measurement of the dilution or concentration of urine is also helpful in diagnosing diseases. Urinalysis can assist the veterinarian in the diagnosis of urinary-tract infections, diabetes, dehydration, kidney problems and many other conditions.
- Blood-Chemistry Panel Blood-chemistry panels measure electrolytes, enzymes and chemical elements such as calcium and phosphorous. This information helps your veterinarian determine how various organs, such as the kidneys, pancreas, and liver, are currently functioning. The results of these tests help your veterinarian formulate an accurate diagnosis, prescribe proper therapy, and monitor the response to treatment. Further testing may be recommended based on the results of these tests.
- Fecal Exam/Parasite Evaluation Microscopic examination of your cat’s feces can provide information about many different kinds of diseases, such as difficulties with digestion, internal bleeding, and disorders of the pancreas. Most importantly, though, this test confirms the presence of intestinal parasites, such as roundworm, hookworm, whipworm, tapeworm and giardia. As always, maintaining your cat’s heartworm prevention medicine is strongly recommended.
For cats, an additional routine blood test is recommended in order to check for hyperthyroidism, a common ailment in senior cats. Additionally, depending on your individual cat’s condition and other factors, other tests and assessments might be recommended. These include heartworm tests; feline leukemia/feline immunodeficiency virus test in cats; blood pressure evaluation; urine protein evaluation; cultures; imaging such as x-rays, ultrasound, and echocardiography; electrocardiography, and special ophthalmic evaluations, among others. Additional tests become especially important in evaluating senior cats that show signs of sickness or are being prepared for anesthesia and surgery.
Related article: 5 Easy & Simple Steps to Better Health for Your Cat
The Effects of Age
Sensory Changes With the senior years comes a general “slowing down” in cats. As their major senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell) dull, you may find that your cat has a slower response to general external stimuli. This loss of sensory perception often is a slow, progressive process, and it may even escape your notice. The best remedy for gradual sensory reduction is to keep your cat active—playing and training are excellent ways to keep their senses sharp. Cats may also be affected mentally as they age. Just as aging humans begin to forget things and are more susceptible to mental conditions, your aging animals may also begin to confront age-related cognitive and behavior changes. Most of these changes are rather subtle and can be addressed in a proactive manner. Regular senior health exams can help catch and treat these problems before they control your cat’s life.
The physical changes your cats experience are generally easier to spot than the sensory changes. As the body wears out, its ability to respond to infection is reduced, and the healing process takes longer. Therefore, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian if you notice a significant change in behavior or the physical condition of your cat. A very common and frustrating problem for aging cats is inappropriate elimination. The kidneys are one of the most common organ systems to wear out on a cat, and as hormone imbalance affects the function of the kidneys, your once well-behaved cat may have trouble controlling his bathroom habits. If you are away all day, he may simply not be able to hold it any longer, or urine may dribble out while he sleeps at night. In addition, excessive urination or incontinence may be indicative of diabetes or kidney failure, both of which are treatable if caught early enough.
Many older cats benefit from specially formulated food that is designed with older bodies in mind. Obesity in cats is often the result of reduced exercise and overfeeding and is a risk factor for problems such as heart disease. Because older cats often have different nutritional requirements, these special foods can help keep your cat’s weight under control and reduce consumption of nutrients that are risk factors for the development of diseases, as well as organ- or age-related changes.
Exercise is yet another aspect of preventive geriatric care for your cats. You should definitely keep them going as they get older—if they are cooped up or kept lying down, their bodies will deteriorate much more quickly. You may want to ease up a bit on the exercise with an arthritic or debilitated cat. Otherwise, you should keep them as active—mentally and physically—as possible in order to keep them sharp.
Surgery for the Older Cat
In the event your veterinarian is considering surgery or any other procedure in which anesthesia is needed, special considerations are taken to help ensure the safety of your senior cat. AAHA recommends all senior cats undergo the laboratory testing mentioned above, ideally within two weeks of any anesthetized procedure. A blood pressure evaluation and additional tests might also be recommended, depending on your individual cat. These screening tools can provide critical information to the health care team to help determine the proper anesthesia and drug protocol for your cat, as well as make you aware of any special risk factors that might be encountered.
Cats experience pain just like humans do, and AAHA recommends veterinarians take steps to identify, prevent, and minimize pain in all senior cats. The AAHA guidelines encourage veterinarians to use pain assessment as the fourth vital sign (along with temperature, pulse and respiration). The different types of pain include acute pain, which comes on suddenly as a result of an injury, surgery, or an infection, and chronic pain, which is long lasting and usually develops slowly (such as arthritis). You can play a key role in monitoring your cat to determine whether he suffers from pain. For more information, see the article on Pain Management for Cats. To help ensure your cat lives comfortably during the senior life stage, it’s critical to work with your veterinarian to tailor a senior wellness plan that is best for your cat. Be sure to monitor behavior and physical conditions and report anything unusual to your veterinarian, who can help your cat head into the twilight years with ease.