Older cats can be good at hiding what’s wrong with them

Cats live longer and are good at hiding what’s wrong with them, but there are signs to watch out for.

Ember was a much-loved, small, long-haired cat full of character. At the age of 13, her owners brought her to the practice because they were worried about some changes in her behavior. She paced constantly and cried repeatedly for food. Despite her voracious appetite, she was also losing weight.

Just as people are living longer, thanks to better nutrition and good veterinary and home care, the lives of our cats have also been extended. In recent years, the ages and life stages of felines have been redefined, with cats now being considered 11 years old, senior cats defined as those 11 to 14 years old, and geriatric cats 15 years and older.

Although many complex changes come with age, age itself is not a disease. Even though many conditions cannot be corrected, they can often be taken care of, managed and controlled medically.

The key to ensuring that your senior cat has the best possible quality of life is to recognize and reduce any factors that may be health risks, such as weight gain and dental disease, to maintain healthy body systems and to detect and manage disease. treat early.

Symptoms of senility may also be observed: wandering, excessive meowing, apparent disorientation, and avoidance of social interactions.

Examples of common age-related disease processes in older cats are kidney disease (very common with varying symptoms including loss of appetite, increased thirst, and weight loss); degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis (although most arthritic cats do not become overtly “lame”, they may become quite stiff and thus have difficulty accessing litter boxes and food and water dishes, especially if they have to jump or climb stairs to reach them); hyperthyroidism (often leading to excessive activity, hypertension – high blood pressure – and noticeable weight loss despite a voracious appetite); diabetes mellitus (often diagnosed in older, previously overweight cats, with symptoms of increased thirst and weight loss); pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease (causing symptoms of loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting and diarrhea); dental disease; and cancers.

The immune system of older cats is also less able to fend off infections.

Their skin is thinner, less elastic and more prone to infection. Older cats groom less effectively, which sometimes leads to thickening of the hair leading to underlying inflammation and infection of the skin. Additionally, the claws of aging cats are often overgrown, thick, and brittle. Regular grooming and nail trimming are therefore recommended for older cats.

Symptoms of senility may also be observed: wandering, excessive meowing, apparent disorientation, and avoidance of social interactions.

Changes in the eyes are common, often with slight “blurring” of the lens noted. In addition, several disease processes, especially those associated with high blood pressure, can suddenly cause blindness.

Cats are real experts at hiding illness. Unfortunately, it is quite common for an older cat to have a serious problem without showing any obvious signs until the disease is quite advanced. Never assume that the changes you see in your older cat are simply due to “old age”, and therefore incurable.

Ember’s blood tests revealed that she had hyperthyroidism and she was started on daily oral medication in pill form to which she responded very well.

Alison Laurie-Chalmers is a senior consultant with Crown Vets in Inverness.

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