During a wellness visit, what types of health and vaccine protocols are most common for a geriatric cat?
A cat is considered geriatric at age 12. She is comparable to a 70-year-old human. Geriatric pets often have health challenges.
Natural aging can cause some organs to wear out and fail. Changes in weight can be an early indication of disease, such as kidney failure. Changes in appetite, water intake and changes in bathroom habits or unusual feces or urine are also signs of health issues with an internal organ.
As a cat ages, her metabolism will naturally slow down. This results in a higher ratio of body fat to muscle. Very often, geriatric cats, despite the slowing metabolism, will lose weight because they fail to digest and absorb fat from their food as well as they did in their youths. If weight loss is excessive, it could signal a disease, but sometimes, since their sense of smell diminishes, they can just become finicky eaters.
Fortunately, canned and dry foods aimed at the nutritional needs of geriatric felines are available. These cats require regular teeth cleanings, especially if their diet consists of more wet food than dry food, since oral health issues such as tartar or gingivitis can quickly lead to gum damage, infection, tooth loss and, in severe cases, premature death. A good diet is also important to provide the cat with optimal nutrition, which helps to ward off infection or disease.
Another potential part of the natural feline aging process may be a change of vision. For some cats, this could simply mean a slight change of vision, which may or may not be noticeable to their owners. For other cats, this could mean blurred vision or total blindness. A veterinarian will perform an ophthalmic exam because vision changes can indicate various eye diseases such as cataracts or glaucoma, which may require medication.
As a cat gets older, she may no longer wish to chase her old toys. While this is normal, for some cats this can indicate pain in the limbs. Pain in the limbs may be indicative of issues such as arthritis or osteosarcoma. Physical changes in how a cat’s limbs feel, such as a lump on the bone or limping, may be a sign of a problem. A veterinarian can prescribe medications to ease the pain of arthritis or medications to treat other health issues that may affect the limbs.
As a cat reaches geriatric status, it is normal for her fur to be come less lackluster or soft. However, report any hair loss, a greasy-looking fur coat, loss of grooming habits or other changes in your geriatric cat to your veterinarian. Changes in the fur coat can be indicative of internal health issues, such as improper nutrition or organ failure.