Friendship Animal Hospital, P.C.

9825 S. Mason Rd., Suite 150
Richmond, TX 77406

(281)239-6500

friendshipah.com

Senior Cat Preventive Care Guidelines

Classification by Age

 

Everyone ages on a spectrum, and individuals age at different rates.  One convenient way to classify cats based on age is as follows:

  • Mature or middle aged: 7-10 years
  • Senior: 11-14 years
  • Geriatric: 15+ years

 

Old Age is NOT a Disease

  • The incidence of certain health problems increases over time, including:
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Decreased skin elasticity
    • Reduced stress tolerance
    • Altered social standing
    • Altered sleep/wake cycle
    • Decreased hearing and sense of smell
    • Brittle nails
    • Decreased digestion/absorption of fat
  • Other diseases to watch for in the older cat:
    • Obesity or loss of weight/muscle mass
    • Dental disease
    • Kidney disease
    • Constipation
    • Pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease
    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Thyroid disease
    • Heart or lung disease
    • Decreased or loss of vision, diseases of the iris, lens, or retina
    • Hypertension
    • Cancer
    • Cognitive dysfunction/ senility

 

    Exams

 

Senior cats need regular check ups (every 6 months) to:

  • monitor for early detection of disease
  • evaluate for parasites and maintain a healthy parasite control program that protects both the cat and the family. 
  • address behavior issues
  • implement a vaccine series to protect from preventable infectious diseases

 

 

Vaccines

 

Senior cats should have the following vaccines:

  • FVRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia) vaccine:
    • Core vaccine (all cats need this)
    • Recommended only every 3 years
  • Rabies vaccine:
    • Core vaccine (all cats need this)
    • Boost yearly
    • Note***: We use a non-adjuvanted rabies vaccine for cats.  (See note below regarding adjuvant).  This vaccine is labeled for yearly boosters.  If the manufacturer gains USDA approval for longer booster intervals, then we will legally be able to reduce the frequency of this vaccine.
  • FeLV (Feline Leukemia) Vaccine:
    • Non-core vaccine: recommended only for at risk cats
    • Boost yearly if indicated by risk of exposure

 

***  Adjuvant is a chemical that is added to vaccines to encourage a stronger response from the patient's immune system.  However, it also appears to increase the risk of vaccine-related skin tumors.  We use only cat vaccines without adjuvant, and vaccinate only as much as is medically indicated, in order to reduce the risk of vaccine-associated sarcomas in our feline patients.  ***

 

Parasite Control

 

In the Gulf Coast region, which is endemic for heartworms, all cats need a monthly heartworm preventive.

 

Cats should be checked for intestinal parasites

  • 1-2 times a year
  • If parasites are found, a follow up test should be performed to verify successful treatment
  • See the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) Guidelines and info available at www.petsandparasites.com

 

 

 

    Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Testing

 

Testing for FeLV (feline leukemia virus) and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) is indicated:

  • Yearly if there is potential for exposure (especially unsupervised outdoor activity)
  • Prior to vaccinating for FeLV virus
  • All sick cats
  • Prior to entering a new household, regardless of age
  • 28 days or more after potential exposure to FeLV, and 60 days or more after potential exposure to FIV

 

    Early Disease Detection Testing

 

Test

Mature Cats (7-10 years)

Senior/Geriatric Cats (> 10 years)

Complete Blood Count

+

+

Chemistry screen

+

+

Urinalysis

+

+

Thyroid hormone (T4)

+/-

+

Blood Pressure

+/-

+


 

Nutrition and Weight Management

Frequency and Calories

  • Feeding small meals frequently increases digestive availability of nutrients
  • Adjust calories based on body condition score

 

Water intake

  • Increased fresh water intake is important as older cats are more prone to conditions that predispose to dehydration and subsequent constipation
  • Consider offering canned food
  • Use multiple water dishes
  • Tuna juice ice cubes
  • Water added to dry food
  • Drinking fountains

 

If a diet change is needed

  • Gradual changes over weeks to months may be needed
  • Offer the new food as a choice, rather than mixing it with the current food
  • Appetite stimulants may occasionally be indicated
  • Consider feeding a variety of quality canned and dry foods
  • Consider placing food in a variety of places around the house to encourage smaller, frequent meals.

 

Environmental Enrichment and Quality of Life

 

Keeping cats inside protects them from a variety of injuries and infectious disease and makes it easier to monitor for subtle changes.

  • Enriching the environment or allowing cats to be in a strictly supervised outdoor environment or enclosure is key to providing quality of life.
  • Provide companionship with regular human interaction
  • As chronic illnesses become more common in these age groups, it becomes more important to be vigilant for control of pain and distress and to monitor for quality of life.
  • Visit the web site for the Indoor Cat Initiative at www.vet.ohio-state.edu/indoorcat for more information.