As cats and dogs near the age of ten, they start to fall into the category of geriatrics. Like humans, pets are not immune to the effects of aging, and certain conditions start to manifest in this age group. Also, like human medicine, our ability to identify and treat these conditions has improved hugely over the last 25 years, meaning our pets are living healthier lives for longer. To pick up on these illnesses as early as possible, we recommend bringing your pet in once a year for a check-up (usually at the same time as their annual vaccination), or more regularly if you suspect something is not quite right. Conditions to look out for include …
Arthritis. Both cats and dogs commonly suffer from arthritis which is often more pronounced in these winter months. By identifying the problem early in the disease process, through examination and X-rays, we are able to manage their weight and supplement pets with natural molecules such as glucosamine, chondroitin and fatty acids to preserve their joints and cartilage for as long as possible. This in turn prolongs the period before pharmaceutical agents, which can have negative health impact on their kidneys and stomach, are required.
Kidney disease. Cats are unfortunately predisposed to developing kidney disease as they age, with Oriental breeds tending to have a higher incidence than your average moggy. Unfortunately, dialysis and transplants are not currently available for our furry friends, so early identification of the disease is the best way of prolonging your cat’s life. Once the disease is identified, they can be started on a special diet which lowers the workload of the kidneys, ensuring that they function normally for as long as possible. Submitting a urine sample (which you can collect with special kitty litter), or bringing your cat in for a blood test is the easiest way to test the function of your cat’s kidneys.
Cognitive dysfunction. Like humans, some pets start to become a bit senile as they become older. This can be as subtle as a change in sleeping patterns or an increased level of anxiety, to a complete loss of normal toileting behaviour. There is little known about these conditions in pets, but like humans, it is thought that mental stimulation and feeding high levels of omega fatty acids can help maintain brain health.
Hyperthyroidism. Cats are also prone to developing an overactive thyroid gland. This can initially be seen as the cat getting grumpier with old age or the cat having an increased appetite, which people often mistake as a good thing. However despite this increased appetite, cats will lose weight and the excess thyroid hormone leads to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart and kidney disease or blindness. If you notice your cat’s appetite and behaviour changing, then it is best to bring it into the vets as soon as possible.
Neil Warnock, Wellsford Vet Clinic