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Posted By: Josh - Vet

Caring for our Elderly Feline Friends

Here at Shepton and Wells vets we see and treat cats of all different life stages, ranging from kittens to our elderly companions. Each life stage brings different challenges and considerations, none more so than when our feline friends are entering their latter years. We work a lot in partnership with cats protection (CP) who frequently bring in elderly cats for us to examine and provide appropriate care. Often owners might think there is little to be done with elderly cats and any issues are just put down to the normal aging process. This is almost always not the case and with the right treatment and care these cats can enjoy many more years of good quality life. Cats are living longer and longer and it isn't uncommon for some to live to 20+ years! Older cats need just as much attention and care as cats of any other age but unfortunately tend to be forgotten. Because of this, we tend to see some quite common and easily treatable conditions. The first of these is dental disease. As with any ageing pet, it isn't unusual for plaque and tartar to develop on teeth and lead to some degree of gingivitis and tooth decay. Cats also suffer from an unusual but painful condition where some teeth slowly get reabsorbed. This is not true of every cat, but in those where this does happen removal of the offending teeth would lead to a much more comfortable mouth.

As they age, cats may become quite skinny, and people might think this is just part of ‘getting old’. However significant weight loss should ALWAYS be a cause for concern. By far the most common reason for an older cat having noticeable weight loss is a condition called hyperthyroidism. This is where the thyroid gland overproduces hormones, causing a large increase in the body's metabolism, leading to significant weight loss despite a very good appetite. Hyperthyroidism is easy to diagnose and treat and improvements are seen very quickly. Elderly cats begin to put weight back on, become more active and much more like their old selves. The number of undiagnosed hyperthyroid cats must be huge, which is a shame because it is very treatable - by just putting a liquid or tablet in their food - and makes a huge difference to that cat’s quality of life.

There are of course other causes for weight loss in an older cat, for example kidney disease, diabetes and cancer. The 2 former conditions may again be managed effectively. Kidney disease also causes excessive drinking from our elderly friends and is best managed by a change of diet and possibly some medications alongside to reduce protein loss through the kidneys or control high blood pressure. Diabetes in cats causes similar signs to hyperthyroidism with an increased appetite but also weight loss and increased drinking. Its management does require a slightly bigger commitment with insulin injections given daily, which when shown how to do properly is quick, easy and effective. Some cats with diabetes can even cure themselves over time following insulin injections meaning they can be stopped!

So if you think your cat is just getting old and there is nothing that can be done please bring them n or ring for a chat with a vet! There are often common and treatable issues going on which would vastly improve their quality of life. We recommend regular check up's to try and catch any issues early as the earlier the treatment the better the outcome 

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Shepton Veterinary Group Limited
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Shepton Mallet BA4 5QH

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