Friday, September 3, 2010

Senior Cat Wellness Care

September is National Senior Health Care Month and we thought this would be a great opportunity to discuss the senior health of your cat. Advances in veterinary medicine and knowledge mean that cats are living longer lives. Not that long ago, a 15-year-old cat was a remarkable survivor, but these days that cat still has several good years of life left.

So at what age is a cat considered a "senior"? According to the American Animal Hospital Association's wellness guidelines, a cat is considered to be "mature" or middle-aged at just 7-10 years of age. While that may seem early to be labeled mature, many age equivalency charts match 7 years old in a cat to mid- to late-40's in a human. A senior cat is between 11 and 14, and their geriatric, or "golden years", start at 15+.

Just as with humans, as cats get older, wellness visits become more important. As cats age, they are at risk for a number of illnesses and conditions. Most of these are more easily managed when caught early. Regular physicals and diagnostic lab work are essential to keep your senior kitty in the best health possible for a long as possible.

Starting in their mature years, we'll start looking for age-related changes. A full physical exam every six months is key to maintaining optimal health. We also recommend full lab work every other year, which includes a complete blood count, blood chemistry panel, electrolytes, thyroid and urinalysis. We will take your kitty's blood pressure during her exam to make sure no problems are developing there. We also like to establish a baseline on x-rays of the chest and abdomen so any changes are more easily recognized. We also discuss your cat's changing diet needs as well as any changes in behavior or routine that you have noticed.

Once your cat reaches her golden years, we will look more closely at lab tests and behaviors, anticipating changes as she continues to age. We perform tests more frequently, running full lab work every year and taking x-rays every other year, because we know that your cat is more vulnerable at this stage in her life.

The goal of senior care is simple. We want to help you maintain the highest quality of life for your cat and thereby enhance the bond that we all share. Together we can make the senior years the most rewarding years for you and your cat to have with each other.

See our Life Stages Health Care Recommendations page on our website for specific details on wellness at all stages of your cat's life.

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