Six Health Problems to Watch For in Your Older Cat

28 September 2015
 Categories: , Blog


According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, cats are considered mature between the ages of 7 and 10 years, senior between 11 and 14 years, and geriatric once they reach their 15th birthday. As your feline friend ages, observe him or her for warning signs of the following six health problems that arise in older cats.

1. Chronic Renal Failure

Chronic renal failure is an incurable and degenerative condition in which the kidneys lose their functioning capacity. Some classic signs of chronic renal failure include these:

  • Increase in thirst
  • Increase in urination
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting

The progression of chronic renal failure can be slowed with a treatment plan of fluid therapy and a low protein prescription diet.

2. Diabetes Mellitus

Older cats that are obese are at an increased risk for developing diabetes mellitus. Some signs to look for include these:

  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Weight loss

Diabetes mellitus requires dedicated management on the part of the owner. Insulin injections, prescription diets, and medications to combat secondary complications make up the treatment plan for diabetes mellitus.

3. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. Left untreated, this condition can result in life-threatening cardiac complications. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats include these:

  • Increased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Hyperactivity or other behavior changes
  • Poor coat condition

Hyperthyroidism can be managed with daily medication and a prescription diet. It can also be permanently cured through radioactive iodine treatment.

4. Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease occurs when tartar builds up on the surfaces of the teeth and infiltrates beneath the gum line. Left untreated, the bacteria migrate into the bloodstream and circulate to such organs as the heart and kidneys. The earliest signs of periodontal disease in cats are bad breath and reddened gums. As the cat's oral health degenerates, these additional signs may present:

  • Reluctance to eat, despite having an appetite
  • Drooling
  • Food falling out of the mouth while the cat is eating
  • Rubbing the jaw or face on the carpet or on vertical surfaces
  • Pulling away in pain when you touch the cat's jaw or face

Periodontal disease can be treated with a dental procedure to remove plaque, tartar and any teeth that are no longer viable.

5. Degenerative joint disease

Degenerative joint disease occurs as the cartilage that cushions the joints deteriorates. This results in the painful condition of bone rubbing on bone when the cat is mobile. Signs that indicate that your cat's joints may have degenerated include the following:

  • Decreased activity level
  • A lame or stiff gait
  • Increased irritability

Treatment plans for degenerative joint disease may include nutritional joint supplements, cold laser therapy, acupuncture, and prescription pain relief medications.

6. Cancer

There are several different types of cancer that affect cats, including lymphosarcoma, mammary cancer, and squamous cell carcinoma. Petting sessions with your cat will enable you to discover any new lumps or bumps. Other potential signs of cancer may include these:

  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Bleeding from anywhere on the body
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Respiratory difficulties

The best chance for cancer survival in cats is early detection. If metastasis, or spreading to other areas of the body, has not yet occurred, treatment plans may include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

With today's indoor-only lifestyles, advancements in veterinary care, and proactive efforts on the part of loving owners, cats are living longer than ever before. Cats that live into their twenties are not uncommon. Early detection and management of some of the aforementioned conditions can extend the life of your cherished feline companion. If you have any further questions or concerns or would like to make an appointment to have your cat looked at, contact a veterinarian from an establishment like All-Pets Hospital.