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March 29, 2012
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Animal Health SmartBrief Special Report: Senior Cats, Part II

Part II of this Animal Health SmartBrief Special Report on Senior Cats includes a Q&A with feline health expert Dr. Jane Brunt, executive director of the CATalyst Council, as well as resources on maintaining feline health. Part I, published on Tuesday, looked at senior feline wellness and common conditions.

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Finding the best option for the pet and pet owner is the key to success. Feeding Hill’s® Prescription Diet® y/d™ Feline provides another option for managing cats with hyperthyroidism. All options (nutritional management, anti-thyroid medications, radioactive iodine and thyroidectomy) should be discussed with owners of hyperthyroid cats so they can make an informed decision with guidance from the healthcare team. Learn more
  Talking with an Expert 
  • Ensuring senior cats' health requires preventive care, client communication

    SmartBrief spoke with feline health expert Jane Brunt, DVM, executive director of the CATalyst Council and past president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

    At what age is a cat classified as a senior, and what changes in a cat's behavior or physical condition might an owner expect to see when their pet enters this stage of its life?
    Keeping in mind that every cat is an individual, the "senior" status in cats has been described by the American Association of Feline Practitioners and American Animal Hospital Association in their Feline Life Stage Guidelines as cats 11-14 years of age, with cats from 7-10 called "mature" and those 15 and over "geriatric." Since aging changes are frequently a progressive continuum, many veterinarians group all three together and call them senior. "Senior at Seven" is an easily remembered phrase, and performing tests that can help identify conditions common in aging beginning at age 7 is appropriate and good medicine.

    What vaccinations and other examinations or procedures are necessary for older cats?
    As health conditions can change rapidly in older cats, it's widely recommended by many veterinarians that a thorough physical examination is best performed on all "healthy" senior cats twice yearly. Each patient is evaluated at each visit and recommendations should be made according to its lifestyle and health status. Decisions on which vaccinations are appropriate are dependent on risk factors including disease prevalence and municipal requirements. In addition to whatever vaccines are necessary, procedures recommended are infectious disease and parasite testing and prevention, oral care, nutritional assessment and recommendations and periodic senior health screening. The senior wellness profile in our practice is consistent with the published AAFP-AAHA guidelines and includes a CBC, chemistry profile, thyroid test, urinalysis and blood pressure as a baseline and to follow trends. Other procedures may be indicated depending on the findings of the examination.

    How can owners be on the lookout for signs of common conditions in senior cats?
    Knowing what a cat's normal behavior has been and then reporting any changes in that behavior to their veterinarian is crucial. And it's just as important for the veterinary health care team to ask what changes the owner has noticed. Following behavior patterns like appetite, elimination, activity and sleep patterns just as you would a kidney test are the keys to early identification of any problem. Besides the common conditions associated with aging cats, such as chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, periodontal and other oral disease, we are now recognizing much more arthritis in cats than ever before. 

    How can veterinarians communicate to clients the importance of preventive care?
    The adage "an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure" is so true with cats. Preventing parasites like roundworms, fleas, heartworms and others, preventing common infectious diseases like upper respiratory infection or, if at risk, feline leukemia virus, and preventing other conditions like painful oral disease or debilitating diabetes are far better for your cat, your peace of mind, and even your wallet. Following a veterinarian's recommendations for preventive care is the standard of care.   

    How can veterinarians make their practices more cat-friendly and also help owners who may have trouble calming their cats get them into the clinic?
    Becoming more cat-friendly is something every practice can do. By understanding what is normal for cats and how they react to change -- including transportation -- steps can be taken to avoid or lessen the stress and fear that happens when their environment changes. Starting when the cat is a kitten, carrier conditioning by leaving the carrier out, up and open with soft bedding inside will allow the cat to explore it on its own terms and become comfortable with it. CATalyst Council developed Cat Friendly Practice videos including a video "Cats and Carriers: Friends, not Foes," which can be given to clients as a resource, as well as provided to staff for training. Veterinarians should also visit the AAFP website for guidelines and to become a member, which will allow them to participate in the AAFP Cat Friendly Practice program.  

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 Nutritional management of hyperthyroidism
• Perform a diagnostic evaluation prior to beginning y/d™
• Transition patient to y/d™ over at least 7 days
• Recheck stable patients every 4 weeks until T4 is normal then every 6 months
• Recheck patients with concurrent conditions every 1 - 2 weeks until stable then as appropriate
• Call the Hill’s Vet Consult Service before using y/d™ for cats with concurrent disorders or who are receiving medications
Learn more

  • Successful feline veterinary visits
    Though more Americans own cats than dogs, feline companions are only half as likely to see a veterinarian. AVMA offers helpful information for owners to ease the process of getting a cat into the clinic in this video, as well as tips to keep stress levels low during the visit in this podcast. LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
  • Understanding common conditions
    As cats age, they are more likely to have medical concerns. Older cats commonly have hyperthyroidism, a typically treatable thyroid disorder. Learn more about hyperthyroidism from this AVMA podcast. Similarly, older pets often succumb to arthritis, which requires management at home. Learn more about arthritis in pets from AVMA's podcast and recognizing arthritis in cats in this AAHA article. Older cats are also susceptible to transmissible diseases, but many of these can be prevented via vaccination. Learn more about the importance of inoculating pets at all stages of life in this AVMA podcast. LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
Some 45% of cats experience arthritic pain, according to the Morris Foundation, which has supported arthritis-related research.


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