Vet Tips for Elderly Cat Care

As we age our bodies change. The same thing is true for our cats.

What do you need to know about elderly cat care? As your cat changes, so do physical and emotional needs. Ideally, elderly cat care should focus on preventative measures. Whenever possible, it is better to prevent a problem from occurring rather than to wait for a problem to develop. Detecting diseases in the early stages greatly improve the outcome.

What to be Aware of as Your Cat Ages

As your cat ages, she may lose weight. This can be part of the normal aging process, but it can also be a sign of a medical problem like cancer, kidney failure, hyperthyroidism or something else. Changes in weight can be the first sign of disease, so don’t take chances with your senior cat. If you notice any significant changes contact your veterinarian.

Elderly cat care should include regular visits to your veterinarian. Your senior cat is at risk for several medical problems as she ages, which is why she needs periodic exams to stay healthy. Some of the most common illnesses known to afflict older cats include nutritional problems, dental disease, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, skin tumors, and cancer. Other concerns with elderly cats include liver diseases and anemia. To learn more about possible disorders with your senior cat, go to 10 Common Disorders of Senior Cats.

As your cat ages, your veterinarian will help to monitor any changes along the way. Most vets recommend a checkup every six months. Have your cat’s hearing and eyesight checked. It’s not unusual for a senior cat’s eyes to look cloudy. But like humans, your senior cat can develop cataracts and glaucoma. Your senior cat can also develop hearing loss. Your cat may have hearing or eyesight problems if he seems surprised when you come close, if he bumps into things, or if he doesn’t come when you call him.

Senior Cats and Nutrition

Remember that elderly cat care includes good nutrition. As your cat ages, her metabolism slows down and your older cat will require fewer daily calories. Make sure that your senior cat is eating well. There is no one best food to feed to a senior cat – the best food depends on your cat’s specific problems or nutritional requirements. Most foods for older cats are lower in protein, sodium, and phosphorus to help their aging hearts and kidneys. Increased amounts of certain vitamins have also been found to be beneficial in the senior cat.

Keep your senior cat active. Provide moderate exercise to help maintain muscle tone, to keep his heart and digestion healthy, and to improve his attitude.

Cat Obesity: A Growing Epidemic

In 2016, 58.9% of cats were classified as clinically overweight or obese.

Obesity is a problem to be taken seriously. It directly correlates to a decreased longevity and may contribute to other problems like diabetes and arthritis. According to the Pet Obesity Organization 2016 Pet Survey, over 50 million cats are clinically overweight or obese.

The primary causes of obesity are overeating and lack of exercise. When regular caloric intake exceeds the energy burned, the excess is stored as fat. As little as an extra 1 percent caloric intake can result in 25 percent increase over ideal body weight by middle age. Most owners don’t recognize that their cats are overweight until they take them to the veterinarian for another reason. To learn more about how to tell if your cat is overweight, go to Is Your Cat Too Fat.

If your senior cat has arthritis, there are some things you can do to help. Consider buying a set of pet stairs to help your cat more easily access the bed or sofa. Give your senior cat a soft yet supportive place to sleep. Consider a good glucosamine supplement. To learn more about arthritis in cats, go to Arthritis in Cats: Does Your Cat Have Arthritis

As a rule, cats don’t like change, and this is especially true for older cats. Your senior cat is set in her ways. Stick to a regular schedule. Feed your cat at the same time every day. Cats love a routine, and they will appreciate it even more as they age. Any changes in daily routine, schedules or environment will cause undue stress. Stress can weaken your cat’s immune system and make her more susceptible to disease, so keep change to a minimum.

Cats are good at hiding illness and this is just as true for elderly cats. Diseases can be treated with better outcomes when they are caught early so it is important to carefully monitor your senior cat’s behavior and health, and to have regular checkups with your veterinarian.

Do Dogs Die In Their Sleep? The Irreverent Vet Speaks Out

Many dog owners will one day face the sad fact that their animal companions are ill and will die soon. A large number of them express the desire to have their dog quietly and mercifully die at home “in their sleep.” This conjures up peaceful notions for pet parents of a solemn and gentle passing.

But what’s the reality? Do dogs really die peacefully in their sleep?

Before I go any further, let me introduce myself for those of you who don’t know me. I’m the Irreverent Veterinarian, and I give you my honest opinion on issues in the animal care world. Some might say that I’m honest to a fault. I speak my mind and I won’t sweet-talk you or sugarcoat the truth. I tell it like it is: to you, the drug companies, the pet product manufacturers, professional breeders, and pet owners. Some of what I say can be controversial, but that doesn’t stop me—it can be hard to hear the truth.

How Long Are Dogs Sick Before They Die?

Death isn’t always swift and graceful. Sick dogs can be ill for hours, days, or even weeks. It can vary from pet to pet, so one might succumb after only a brief illness while another will languish for much longer.

A dog that is so ill that you think it is destined to die likely has no quality of life. If a pet is doing poorly and looks like he or she is “dying,” there’s a very good chance that they are uncomfortable, in pain and unhappy. Their breath might be labored and their body may hurt. Their mind can be clouded and their temper can be short. A dog that is not eating, having trouble breathing, acting lethargic or weak, can’t stand and walk, can’t control urine or bowel movements, or is unconscious is “suffering”. If a dog can’t sleep without discomfort or difficulty, that is suffering too. All in all, they are no longer enjoying their life to any real degree.

Some pet parents have no intention of providing additional veterinary care for their dog. They want their dog to peacefully die. This happens in a number of situations. Perhaps they have limited financial resources or the pet is an injured stray they have found. Maybe they have already treated the dog and it either hasn’t responded to therapy or has a terminal condition. However it happens, these animals often end up in prolonged discomfort or pain because of their owners.

Should You Wait for Your Dog to Die in His or Her Sleep?

If a dog is suffering, “dying naturally” can take a very long time and it can be very painful. Many owners say that they want to give their pet “time to say goodbye” but in the opinion of most veterinarians, you are a kinder friend to your dog by euthanizing and ending their life. An extra few hours or days of suffering isn’t any reasonable quality of life for the dog. It is good only for the humans who are prolonging the dog’s pain for their own needs.

The Conclusion

The expectation that your dog will “die in their sleep” can happen, but it is generally uncommon. It is more likely that a dog dies because they aren’t eating and they get progressive dehydration, which is uncomfortable and painful. It is nice to want your dog to die at home but please consider euthanasia if it is at all likely. You have the power to put a peaceful end to your pet’s suffering; doing so may be your last act of love for them.

Disclaimer **The Irreverent Vet is a columnist that regularly contributes to PetPlace.com. The goal is to add a balanced and alternative view of some controversial pet issues. As happens with all of us, veterinarians can’t say what they really think without offending some clients. This commentary allows vets to say what they think and give you, the pet owner, the opportunity to consider another view. All opinions are those of the Irreverent Vet and not the views of PetPlace.com and are not endorsed by PetPlace.com.**

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