Edgewood Animal Clinic

Text Box: Geriatric cats:  Hiding how they truly feel
Text Box: 	As cats age, they are quite good at hiding signs they are sick until they are REALLY sick.  This is one of the reasons that regular physical examinations are very important.  Many people believe that since their cat lives indoors and seems healthy that they “don’t need to go to the vet”.  As they enter their teen years, nothing could be further from the truth.
	We see a number of common health issues in geriatric cats, many of which can be managed successfully when diagnosed early.  Dental disease is probably our most common diagnosis;  we will leave that discussion for our winter newsletter when we Text Box: but suffice it to say that it can be very painful and also very treatable.
	Kidney disease is probably our next most common diagnosis in older kitties.  As the kidneys deteriorate, initially drinking and urinating will increase (but these are often missed as cats don’t have to ask to go out and usually don’t spend much time at the water bowl to start with– a rule of thumb is if you see your cat at the water bowl on a consistent basis, even if it doesn’t seem like much, it is worth checking out).  Appetite decreases, weight starts to drop, and vomiting (chronic or acute) may occur.  In the last stages of kidney failure they may stop drinking and urinating totally, stop eating, be very dehydrated and have a “urine” smell to their breath.  Kidney disease can often be successfully managed with a combination of diet, anti-nausea medications, and sometimes fluid therapy and medications to remove phosphorous from the GI tract.  Some of our patients live with kidney disease for years.
	Also very common, and sometimes seen at the same time as kidney disease is hyperthyroidism.  These cats produce too much thyroid hormone and typically eat very well, but lose weight anyway.  They may be chronic vomiters or stop using their litterbox.  Sometime Text Box: such as increased vocalization or irritability are noticed.  On a physical exam, we often see a typical “thyroid expression” with more prominent eyes and cheekbones.  These cats often have heart murmurs that we have not heard before and in some cases we can palpate an enlarged thyroid gland.  Thyroid disease has several options for treatment and these cats also can be managed well for long periods.  Usually we start with medication;  for long term radioactive iodine treatment can be considered.  While it is more expensive, it also usually means that the cat will not need long term medication (though some may need thyroid supplement) so the cost may be offset by the convenience as well as the success of treatment.   
	Diabetes is also seen in middle aged and older cats, usually in cats who were obese to begin with.  Often there are significant amounts of weight loss noticed as well as marked increases in drinking and urine production.  We treat diabetic cats with insulin injections, similar to people.
	Lymphoma, a type of cancer, is also common in older cats and our level of suspicion is raised when we have a geriatric cat losing weight but with normal bloodwork.  Some of these cats have fluid in their chest ;  others have abdominal masses.  Those cases often are diagnosed with