You'll notice the text "Senior Wellness Screening" at the end of each section; this refers to diagnostics included in our Senior Wellness Packages. To offer you the best care at an affordable cost, our veterinarians developed tailored packages of the most important health screening tools to detect disease in its earliest stages and prolong your senior cat's quality of life. Click here to view details and pricing about Senior Wellness Packages for Cats.
1. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
The most common of all feline kidney diseases, CKD is the result of declining kidney (renal) function over a period of time. The function of the kidneys is to filter impurities from the blood, removing them from the body through urine.
Without proper filtering, waste products build up in your cat's bloodstream, often causing lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, and loss of appetite. They may drink more and urinate larger volumes. CKD can also result in high blood pressure (hypertension).
While lost kidney function cannot be restored, early diagnosis can help us provide a proper diet and treatment regimen to slow the progress of the disease. Luckily, advances in laboratory testing allow veterinarians to detect renal decline earlier than ever before: the SDMA test can show signs of kidney disease at 20-40% loss of function.
Senior Wellness Screening: CBC/Chemistry Panel, Urinalysis, Blood Pressure Assessment
2. Heart Disease
Cats with heart disease (cardiomyopathy) often do not show any outward signs of illness. Subtle changes like lethargy and weight loss can give pet owners a clue that something is amiss, but a thorough physical exam and diagnostic testing are the best bet for catching heart disease in cats early.
When the veterinarian places the stethoscope on your cat's chest, she is listening for any abnormalities that might indicate disease: abnormal or irregular heart rhythm, fluid buildup or congestion in the lungs, and murmurs (though many cats have "functional" heart murmurs not associated with disease).
Senior Wellness Screening: EKG, Chest Radiographs (x-rays), Blood Pressure Assessment
Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease occurring when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin or when your cat's body is unable to properly use insulin to regulate blood glucose ("blood sugar").
Diabetic cats often exhibit an extreme increase in appetite, water intake, and urination in combination with weight loss. Untreated diabetes can result in liver disease, ketoacidosis (a life-threatening condition), and secondary bacterial infections.
Treatment of diabetes in cats often involves twice-daily insulin injections, diet changes, and frequent monitoring of blood glucose levels. Our veterinarians will work closely with you to tailor your cat's specific treatment plan, and our staff will walk you through how to administer insulin at home.
There is good news: unlike humans, some (not all) cats are not lifelong diabetics. Remission may be possible with early diagnosis and aggressive treatment, and after a length of time insulin would no longer be needed.
Senior Wellness Screening: CBC/Chemistry Panel, Urinalysis
This may come as a surprise, but arthritis is quite common in cats! Unfortunately, its signs are often normalized, the blame placed on "he's just getting old." Stiff joints, sleeping more and not wanting to chase the catnip mouse could be good indicators that your senior cat is just too painful to be active.
Some may notice when their cat no longer jumps onto her favorite windowsill, or sits on the floor waiting to be picked up onto the bed. Behavior changes are subtle and gradual, but they can tell you a lot about how your cat is feeling.
There are treatment options to help improve your arthritic cat's quality of life, including rehabilitation/physical therapy, laser therapy, and pain management.
Senior Wellness Screening: Physical Exam & History, Radiographs
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormones, increasing your cat's metabolism and causing a host of problems. The resulting chronically rapid heart rate can severely damage the heart if the thyroid disease is not managed. Hypertension can also occur, which in turn can damage vital organs like the kidneys, eyes, heart, and brain.
This hyped-up metabolic rate increases calorie burn, so cat owners will often bring their cat in for an exam after noticing weight loss despite a ravenous appetite. We frequently hear stories about hyperthyroid cats that uncharacteristically steal food straight from their people's hands, jump onto the kitchen table, and constantly beg for food.
Other signs may be present, such as increased water intake and urination, an unkempt haircoat, and in some hyperthyroid cats, vomiting and diarrhea.
Various treatment options are available to treat hyperthyroidism in cats; the most common (and least expensive) is a twice-daily medication to reduce the thyroid's hormone production. Regular blood work is necessary to monitor thyroid levels and check for side effects or secondary diseases.
Senior Wellness Screening: CBC/Chemistry, Total T4, Urinalysis, Blood Pressure Assessment, +/- EKG, Chest Radiographs
6. Dental Disease
Cornell University states that up to 90% of cats over the age of four show some sign of dental disease. By the time your cat reaches his senior years, it is more likely than not that periodontal disease has set in.
If plaque buildup is not removed (yes, you should be brushing your cat's teeth!), the bacteria in the film on the teeth causes gingivitis (painful inflammation of the gums).
When left in place beyond this point, the soft plaque absorbs minerals and hardens into a cement-like substance called calculus. Calculus cannot be brushed away with a toothbrush; it can only be removed with ultrasonic scaling under general anesthesia.
Advanced dental disease is called periodontitis, a painful condition that results in bone loss below the gumline, and eventually loss of affected teeth. Cats with severe periodontitis may drool, be reluctant to eat, chew only one one side of their mouths, or drop kibble while trying to eat.
Cancer, (neoplasia) can affect any part of a cat's body, so signs of illness and treatment options vary greatly. Three of the most common cancers in senior cats include:
In any case, we understand that a cancer diagnosis is scary for cat owners, and will work with you throughout the process to find an appropriate treatment plan or to guide you through hospice/end-of-life care.
Senior Wellness Screening: CBC/Chemistry, Radiographs
We want to do as much as we can to support your feline friends, and for you to spend as many quality years with them as possible. Cats age much more rapidly than people, so aspects of your cat's health can change dramatically from year to year. To detect disease early and begin treatment when it is most effective, our veterinarians recommend that all cats over 8 years of age should have a semi-annual physical exam every six months.