Nowadays, our feline friends seem to live longer than before into their late teens and sometimes even their 20s. However, along with this a rise has been seen in age-related conditions and illnesses in senior cats that were less common before.
Not one age is considered senior for a cat but according to American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP):
7-10 years is considered mature or middle-age
11-14 years is senior age and
15 years or older is considered geriatric.
From arthritis to heart conditions and cancer, the illnesses that affect senior cats are similar to what senior people face. Listed below are the common illnesses seen in senior cats:
Cancer is a major disease that kills senior cats with mammary cancer, leukemia, lymphosarcoma, squamous cell carcinoma being the common diseases. The signs depend on the type of cancer but can include sores (in exposed areas of white cats), new lump, lethargy, weight loss and vomiting. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation but depends on the type of cancer.
Chronic Renal Disease (Kidney):
Conditions affecting the kidneys are also common in senior cats. The kidneys act as filter for the body removing the waste products produced by the cat’s body. These waste products are eliminated via excretion and urine after they have been filtered from the cat’s blood. When the kidneys fail to do so being damaged either by aging or some illness, waster products are not filtered effectively that leads to a buildup in the blood stream of the cat, this buildup is called azotemia.
The symptoms seen with chronic renal disease are increase in urine, increased thirst, a lack of appetite, weight loss and vomiting.
Like senior humans, heart diseases are common in senior cats and are of different types. The most commonly seen is cardiomyopathy that is a heart muscle diseases along with degenerative valvular disease. Irrespective of the cause, the end result of heart conditions is congestive heart failure or CHF that affects the ability of the heart to pump blood effectively.
Main signs are coughing, loss of appetite, lethargy and difficulty in breathing and rear-limb weakness in case of blood-clot.
Diabetes results in increased blood sugar level. Type-2 diabetes is more common in cats than dogs and strikes male cats frequently if they are overweight. Most cats that are diagnosed with diabetes require insulin injections. Signs include becoming weak, vomiting and skin/coat conditions. If aggressive treatment starts early in disease before the pancreas are damaged (trying to produce enough insulin for regulation of increased blood sugar), it might be possible to decrease diabetes. If decrease does take place taking insulin will not be necessary.
If remission is not possible your senior cat may have to get insulin injections for the rest of its life.
Arthritis is really common in senior cats which many cat owners do not realize. But often the arthritis symptoms are mistakenly perceived as normal aging signs. Cats with arthritis sleep more, become less active and may not be able to access elevated surfaces. Signs include limping, difficulty both in jumping and running or going up and down stairs. The pain associated with arthritis alters the cat’s quality of life if not addressed. Special diets, therapies and supplements might help in easing the pain.
Dental disease is not really specific to older cats. At least 2/3 cats over three years of age suffer from dental disease. For senior cats, it can be a serious issue that can affect your cat’s weight and appetite. Some signs are red bleeding gums, recessed gums, bad breath and reluctance to chew. Infected or hurting teeth can be extracted or treated.
Conditions like kidney disease, heart disease or hyperthyroidism may also result in high blood pressure or hypertension. It can worsen heart and kidney diseases and may contribute to blindness. Treatment might include medication or special diet.
It is similar to the human Alzheimer’s disease and can be seen in some senior cats. Signs may include excessive meowing, confusion, disorientation and aimless wandering. Although there is no cure for cognitive dysfunction, you can reduce the signs of this condition with the help of your veterinarian with the help of medications or supplements.
As the name suggests, hyperthyroidism is an illness of the thyroid gland. In hyperthyroidism, an excessive amount of thyroid hormones are produced. When released in excessive amounts, the hormone can have numerous effects on your senior cat. A number of cats with hyperthyroid condition display an increased and ravenous appetite and weight loss. Some of the other symptoms of this condition may include diarrhea, vomiting, and an increase in water consumption along with increase in urine volume.
Quite often, your senior cats may be suffering from more than one disease at the same time. Sometimes, some cats struggle with different diseases that make it really difficult to diagnose and manage the conditions and these cats.
Just like aging humans require special care and regular health checkups, senior cats also require veterinary care. All of the cats should be examined by a vet at least yearly but it is essential for senior cats to be examined appropriately twice a year. These visits to the vet happen to be the best way to maintain your cat’s health and being aware of any condition if it arises. It is far easier to treat diseases and conditions if they are diagnosed at an early stage.
Early diagnosis and treatment can lengthen your cat’s life and play a major role in improving the quality of your cat’s life. Sometimes even cats are not aware of their cat’s illness as cats tend to be expressive in showing their moods and considered moody. Cats are quite good at hiding their sickness and senior cats are no exception either. It is compulsory to work with your vet so that you can keep your cat in best health especially senior cats that are more likely to suffer from illnesses due to their age.