Common Illnesses in Older Cats

Your cat ages at a much faster pace than we humans do. Annual physical exams when they seem “normal” at home may seem frequent, but when you consider the average lifespan of a cat, one year is a long time for them. Yearly exams are especially important in senior cats, as it gives us your cats “normals” and a chance to detect any potential problems earlier. Here is a rough guideline for cat-human years.

  • 8  years old: 46 year old human
  • 10 years old: 54 year old human
  • 15 years old: 74 year old human
  • 20 years old: 94 year old human

Your cat’s health and lifestyle changes with age. Much like humans, their senses started to wane (hearing, smell, sight).  They slow down a bit and spend more time lounging in the sun. How do we know if they are “slowing down” or they have an illness? Cats are masters at hiding illness.  They often do not show any signs until they are very sick. So what do we do?

Some of the more common illnesses that we see in older cats are hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, arthritis, dental disease, and gastro-intestinal issues. Symptoms of these disease processes can overlap, so there are some subtle things you can watch for at home, that may indicate your cat needs to be seen by a Veterinarian.

  • Weight Loss/feel bony along the spine
  • Weight loss is not normal in an older cat if your cat is not actively on a weight loss program
  • Increased appetite/decreased appetite
  • Drinking more water, urinating more
  • Not jumping/moving around as much
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea

If you notice any of these signs in your cat, they should be evaluated by a Veterinarian. After a full physical exam, it’s most likely that we will recommend bloodwork at that time as it’s the best way to screen for most of these issues. We will then work together to come up with a plan that works best for you and your pet, to ensure we make their senior years as long and as happy as possible!

By Dr. Ashley Ellsworth


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