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Someone once said that cats don’t age; they grow more refined. Either way, as time progresses certain illnesses can develop. By being aware of some concerns regarding older cats, you can be a more educated and prepared guardian for your aging companion. It’s important that your elderly cat receive routine veterinary care and periodic exams to keep him healthy. Here are some of the most commonly diagnosed illnesses known to afflict older cats:
Nutritional Concerns. Obesity is a very common and serious concern in the older cat. It directly correlates to a decreased longevity, and may contribute to other problems. Overweight cats are more likely to become diabetic, suffer from liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) or feline lower urinary tract disease. Proper nutritional management is an important part of the care for your senior cat, especially since it is something that you can control.
Dental Disease. Dental disease and gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) are common findings in the elderly cat. Untreated dental disease leads to tooth loss, and may serve as a reservoir of infection for the rest of the body, posing a risk to other body systems.
Kidney Disease. Kidney disease is a very common finding in the older cat. With early detection, special diet and treatment, many cats can do well. Kidney disease is one of the primary reasons veterinarians recommend screening blood tests in older cats.
Hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is another common disease of older cats. The thyroid gland becomes overactive, often due to a tumor, and the cat becomes quite ill. There are several treatment options available that can help your cat regain his health and live a longer life.
Diabetes. Unlike people, most diabetic cats cannot be maintained on diet changes alone. Daily insulin injections are typically necessary. Occasionally, oral medications and diet can improve the blood sugar level, without the need for injections.
Hypertension. Cats with untreated hypertension (high blood pressure) can develop serious signs of illness such as sudden blindness or heart disease. Sometimes, underlying kidney disease or hyperthyroidism is the cause of the hypertension. Treatment is available and can help improve your cat’s health.
Heart Disease. The most common heart disease in the senior cat is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (enlargement and weaknening of the heart muscle). This is often associated with hyperthyroidism or hypertension. Early detection of heart disease, treating underlying disorders and proper therapy may slow the progression of the heart disease.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is associated with vomiting and diarrhea. Sometimes IBD is associated with liver inflammation or inflammation of the pancreas. Treatment is available and most cats can do well on proper diet and medication.
Skin Tumors. Lumps and bumps are common findings on the elderly cat. On the basis of the size, location and aspiration results, your veterinarian may recommend removal of one or many skin masses. If not removed, the lumps should be monitored closely for any changes in size, shape or texture.
Cancer. Unfortunately, cancer is a significant problem facing the senior cat. Lymphosarcoma is the most common type of cancer in the cat. Not all cancer needs to be fatal. Surgery, chemotherapy, even radiation therapy is available that can significantly extend your cat’s quality time, or produce a cure. The prognosis depends on the type and location of the cancer.
Other Concerns. As cats age, their organs also age and do not function as well as they once did. Various liver diseases are common in aging cats, including fatty liver syndrome and cirrhosis. Another concern with elderly cats is the potential to develop anemia. Whether associated with kidney disease, cancer, chronic disease or primary bone marrow disorders, anemia can cause your cat to be profoundly weak and, without treatment, may even become so severe that emergency medical help is needed.