As a responsible, pet owner is very important that your senior cat visits your veterinarian annually. Recent studies have shown that cats are now more popular pets than dogs (Consumer Corner: Canadian Pet Market Outlook, 2014) yet only 50% of our cats see a veterinarian versus 78% of their canine counterparts (Pet/Vet Infographic). Because of the advances in veterinary medicine and animal nutrition, our pets are living longer than ever before. While longevity is important, your cat’s quality of life is equally important. This is why annual checkups (yes even for your indoor kitties!) shouldn’t be skipped. Your cat is a member of your family and deserves the very best care, and the best way to ensure your cat stays healthy is with a senior wellness examination with your favourite veterinarian!
When you bring your feline friend in for their checkup, the veterinarian will ask you a number of questions. The answers you give will allow him or her to assess your cat’s nutrition, behaviour and lifestyle. As a pet owner, you should note any changes in your cat’s eating habits, behaviour and activity level prior to your exam and be prepared to discuss these in detail with the doctor. Identifying causes for these changes in behaviour will not only improve your cat’s quality of life but hopefully your own as well. Your veterinarian may also make nutritional or environmental enrichment recommendations to help keep your pet at an ideal weight. They will also help to formulate a weight loss plan if needed and provide support through cat’s weight loss journey.
Your veterinarian will also examine your pet from head to toe. This exam will note any changes to your cat’s eyes, heart, lungs, skin, abdomen. Your pet’s joints will also be assessed for pain, muscle weakness and arthritis. They will also assess your cat’s overall appearance, weight and body condition. Even small amounts of weight loss may be significant. Annual geriatric blood work is also important as it allows your veterinarian a glimpse of what is happening inside your cat’s body. This blood work will check blood counts, internal organ function, thyroid function and electrolytes. These blood tests screen for diseases that your cat may be at risk for. Older cats are at risk for chronic kidney disease, arthritis, heart disease, hyperthyroidism and even dental disease. We recommended annual wellness bloodwork in all of our senior patients. Vaccinations are equally important for our senior pets as they prevent disease. You cat could get outside accidentally; you might decide to adopt a new pet from a shelter that could be a carrier of disease or stress could cause a latent disease to flare up.
Cats are masters at hiding pain and signs of illness. Many of these subtle signs may be missed by even the most astute cat owner. They are so good at this in fact that without annual exams and regular blood work we may not know they are ill until it is quite advanced. Many diseases are less expensive to treat and manage with early diagnosis. Working with your veterinarian, you can help ensure your cat lives a long, healthy life!
Written by Melissa Finn, RVT