The Importance of Routine Veterinary Care for Older Cats

cat on barrel

Do you have a senior citizen kitty? By definition, a senior feline is any cat over the age of seven. While cats routinely go on to live well into their mid to late teens (or even their early twenties!), older cats are at higher risk for developing many diseases which may have only subtle symptoms.

 

Vomiting: A common misconception is that frequent vomiting, or bringing up food and hairballs, is normal. In truth, chronic vomiting or hairballs can be a sign of underlying disease. Although your cat many be a fast eater, a fastidious groomer, or “just a puker,” vomiting is never normal. Even hairballs can indicate abnormal function of the stomach and intestines. If you have noticed that your cat is vomiting frequently, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out possible causes including certain inflammatory bowel conditions, lymphoma, diabetes, or kidney disease.

Increased drinking and/or urination: It is also important to monitor your cat’s water intake and urination. For many feline diseases (like diabetes mellitus or kidney disease), your cat’s water and urine habits may change drastically. For example, diabetic cats have very high blood sugar which causes increase thirst and urination. Things to watch for include excessive drinking, larger urine clumps in the litter box, filling water bowls more frequently, or urinating outside of the litter box.

Arthritis: Arthritic cats may not have obvious pain or limp but you may notice that your senior feline friend is less playful, no longer jumps on high furniture, or chooses to lay in unusual spots lower to the ground. While arthritis is an irreversible condition, there are a number of supplements and medications that may help to reduce pain and increase their quality of life.

Dental disease: Dental disease can be easily diagnosed by your veterinarian on physical examination. At home, you may notice weight loss, decreased appetite, or bad breath. Advanced dental disease can cause serious health complications including severe pain, weight loss, tooth infections, and tooth loss. Did you know that dental disease can even affect the heart, liver, and kidneys? There are many good products that you can use to help prevent dental disease but the best thing for preexisting dental disease is a professional veterinary dentistry to remove dental tartar and to address any diseased teeth.

Hyperthyroidism: Hyperthyroidism is a very common condition in older cats. The most noticeable symptoms include weight loss, a dry/scruffy coat, and vomiting. These cats suffer from overproduction of thyroid hormone from the thyroid glands located in the neck. Unlike many other diseases, cats with hyperthyroidism often maintain a good appetite or may even be ravenous. Luckily, when hyperthyroidism is diagnosed early it can be easily treated.

If your cat hasn’t been to the veterinarian for their regular yearly check-up, or if you have noticed any of these symptoms, we recommend giving us a call to schedule an examination. Routine veterinary care is important for your cat’s well-being to ensure they live a long and healthy life!

  • Erin Schellinger, DVM
Longs Peak Animal Hospital, PC – 9727 Ute Highway – Longmont, CO 80504
303-776-6666  – http://www.longspeakah.com

Holiday Plants and Your Pets

Alex & Lily celebrating the season.

Alex & Lily celebrating the season.

As the holiday season approaches, it is important to be mindful of the types of plants you choose to decorate your home with or give as gifts to others that have pets. There are several plants that can pose a health risk to pets if chewed on or consumed. Below is a summary of common holiday plants to avoid if you have pets in your household or if you are thinking of giving someone with pets an arrangement of flowers.

  • Mistletoe: A common fixture in many homes during the holiday season, this plant poses a danger to pets that ingest any part of it (leaves, stems, or berries). Initially, symptoms may be delayed but can affect the gastrointestinal system (stomach and intestines), heart, and/or nervous system leading to signs including vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, collapse, and death. If you know your pet has consumed mistletoe, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.
  • Lilies: This pretty flower is common in many bouquets and other flower arrangements. Lilies can cause fatal kidney failure in cats within 24 to 48 hours. Cats that have eaten any part of the lily plant (leaves, flowers, or stems) should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
  • Holly: The leaves and berries of this plant have the potential to cause upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, and occasional neurologic signs (tremors, seizures). Veterinary treatment may be necessary.
  • Amaryllis: The bulb is the toxic part of this flowering plant. Signs are usually mild and self-limiting but may depend on how much your pet consumes. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Poinsettia: This popular holiday plant is often falsely believed to be highly toxic. In actuality, severe toxicity following ingestion is rare. If a pet consumes the leaves or stems of the poinsettia plant, irritation of the mouth or throat may occur. This may cause pets to cough, retch, or paw at their mouths. If large quantities are eaten, vomiting and diarrhea can occur which could necessitate veterinary treatment.
  • Christmas trees: While the tree itself is non-toxic, pet owners should be careful of curious pets that may ingest ornaments, chew on electrical cords, or drink water with chemical additives from the tree stand.

Treatment for plant toxicities depends on the type and amount of plant ingested. If you suspect your pet has eaten a potentially toxic plant, seek veterinary care as soon as possible. The sooner a veterinarian can intervene after a pet has been exposed to any kind of toxin increases the chances of successfully decreasing or eliminating severe, life-threatening toxic effects.

This is not an all-inclusive list of toxic plants. For more information, please refer to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control toxic plant database (http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control). The ASPCA Poison Control (888-426-4435) is also an excellent source to contact in the event of a poison related emergency when your regular veterinary office is closed.

Visit longspeakah.com for more information about our hospital and services and follow us on Facebook.

 

  • Erin Schellinger, DVM