We have recently become aware you have an ageing animal in your household.  As
you are probably aware, cats age a lot quicker than us humans, and "senior" is
generally classified as a cat over 7 years old.
As your pet ages, changes in physical and mental condition occur, body systems
diminish in their functional capacity and there is increased risk of disease.  The good
news is that many of these conditions can be controlled or even prevented if detected
and treated early.
Some of the more common problems we see in our older patients:
Mouth Problems
Kidneys
Kidney failure in cats is very common.  Deterioration of kidney function is a slow but natural part of the ageing process.  We
suspect kidney problems in older cats that have an
increased thirst and frequency of urination, and weight loss.  Other signs
of kidney disease are loss of appetite, vomiting, depression, diarrhoea and dehydration.  Usually by the time your cat starts
showing these clinical signs, they have only 25% of kidney function remaining.  Kidney failure is confirmed with urinary and
blood tests.  It is impossible to give an accurate prognosis or life expectancy, as there is a lot of variation between individual cats
and the type of kidney disease present.
Chronic renal failure is usually a progressive condition. Your vet's aim is to slow the progression as much as possible and
maintain a good quality of life for your cat.
Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism is the most common hormonal illness affecting cats in Australia.  This problem occurs when the thyroid
becomes overactive.  Like the thyroid, your cat may also become hyperactive or restless if they suffer from this disease.  Other
signs such as excessive thirst and urination, weight loss, vomiting or poor hair coat are similar to cats suffering from kidney
disease.  Hyperthyroid cats usually have an increased appetite and may become aggressive, signs not usually seen in kidney
disease.
If you're worried, your vet can diagnose hyperthyroidism with a blood test.  
Left untreated the disease can cause other
problems including fatal heart disorders.  
There are several treatment options available if your cat has hyperthyroidism.
Nutrition
Many cats enter their senior years overweight.  Studies have shown obesity can
shorten your cat's life span
and is associated with a wide range of serious
diseases
.Conversely, some cats become very thin as they age.  This may be
associated with diseases such as kidney failure, diabetes or cancer.  However, it
could also be that "picky" cats become pickier as their sense of smell and taste
diminishes. Ask your veterinary clinic about the many specially formulated
commercial diets that can be tailored to your senior cat's requirements.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus- FIV
Feline Immunodeficiency virus (FIV) acts the same as HIV in that it attacks the cat's immune system.  FIV is not transmitted to
humans, and HIV does not infect cats.
This virus is mainly spread through bites, so we see in more in cats that have visited the
vet regularly over the years with cat fight abscesses.  A cat is infected for life, but there may be a number of years in which the
virus remains silent until we see clinical signs of disease.  Because of this "lag" period, we more commonly see sick cats in
their senior years.
Clinical signs may include fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, depression or simply an inability to fight infection.  Diagnosis of
FIV is through a blood test that can be performed at the clinic.  There is no specific treatment for FIV.  The good news is there is
now a vaccine available to prevent FIV infection if started early enough.  This will involve a series of 3 injections two weeks apart,
and a yearly vaccine from then on.  If you are worried or want more information don't hesitate to call your veterinary clinic.
Cancer
There are many different varieties of lumps and bumps that can affect your senior pet.  They may be on the outside or on the
inside depending on their origin.  Sometimes with cancer all you may notice is your cat losing weight or their appetite.  Cats are
more likely than other species to have malignant (nasty) tumours.
Not all growths are nasty, and if you're worried, getting new lumps checked out by your vet may ease your mind.  Looking at and
feeling lumps is often not enough to work out what they are.  Other tests such as biopsies may be necessary to determine the
origin of the growth and treatment options.
So what tests will the vet do?
This will depend on the individual case.  The initial veterinary consultation will include
you providing the vet with your pet's history and any concerns you may have.  From there
the vet will give your cat a thorough physical exam including listening to their heart and
lungs, palpating their abdomen, and looking externally for any abnormalities.  They may
suggest blood tests or urine tests to help diagnose disease.  Sometimes it may be
necessary to take x-rays or an ultrasound, which we can do here at the clinic.
The bottom line is early detection and regular health checks are the key to keep your
senior pet living longer with a better quality of life.   Make sure you keep an eye on any
changes in behaviour eg drinking more water or uncharacteristic urination patterns, and
also changes in appearance that may help the vet decide the best plan for your cat.
For the health and wellbeing of your beloved senior
feline, please consider a visit to your Vet soon !!
Dental disease is very common in older cats.  85% of cats over the age of 3 years are affected, largely as a
result of their diet. Dental disease not only causes your senior pain and discomfort, but
can also lead to severe
systemic health problems
.  Signs that may indicate your cat is suffering from dental disease include :

     *   
Bad Breath !
     *   
Red, irritated, swollen or bleeding gums
     *   Difficulty or reluctance to eat
     *   Excessive drooling
     *   Pawing at the mouth

Remember, your cat cannot tell you that he has a toothache and often they learn to tolerate pain well.  If you're
concerned, get your vet to examine your cat's mouth and they will tailor an individual plan to keep your cat
smiling.
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Kalinya Cattery would like to thank the MOORONG VETERINARY CLINIC, Wagga Wagga for allowing us to publish this
document.
It is useful information like this that assists us all in giving a quality of life to our beloved felines - after all, we do owe it
to them as they gives us so very much !!!

Thanks again the Moorong Vet team - Ian, Geoff, Sue, Libby and their assistants.
Feline SENIOR AWARENESS