As my indoor cat Willi approaches his 10th birthday in April am wondering if there are something I need to think about regarding his health. I generally take him in once a year for his vet visit and shots. Am debating if I should now move this to every 6 months. Any thoughts? I have read in someplaces there is a value to perhaps getting him x-rayed periodically to identify any possiblity of cancer early.

Also, he has never had his teeth cleaned and wonder if I need to be thinking about any dental issues he may have in his senior years. Overall, Willi has a good health history and had his PC surgery when he was 6 for a blockage and has never been outside the house. However, he is in the 16 lb range and really needs to lose some weight. He is currently eating a ProPlan weight management dry food.
Any feedback or thoughts are appeciated.
Magnus
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I would say once yearly which includes blood work. I think x-rays are not needed unless the vet detects something upon physical exam. His teeth should also be checked during this exam along with his body (which is felt for any lumps, etc).
Gail
I would say once yearly which includes blood work. I think x-rays are not needed unless the vet detects something upon physical exam. His teeth should also be checked during this exam along with his body (which is felt for any lumps, etc).[/nq]Kami was discover to have kidney insufficiency when she had a senior blood panel done prior to a teeth cleaning. The vet used an anesthesia that didn't affect the kidney (much to the chagrin of the vet caring for her after the first left the practice. He said he would never use it on a cat, much less a geriatric one). Now, she can't have her teeth cleaned under a general. In my case the vet said that the risk/benefit was against her for him to try it, i.e., risk of anesthesia is greater than the risk of her grimy fangs.

My point is that you might get a full panel done on your 10 year old and have the teeth clean if possible because you don't know how long you can keep it up. And once a year is fine for an exam and blood work unless you see a change. Kami thinks she gets a massage once a month or so when I'm really checking for lumps and such (she had one, but it was a benign fatty deposit). Of course the fact that I should be doing that on myself and don't is beside the point.

Emotion: wink
circa 17 Jan 2004 15:47:00 GMT, in rec.pets.cats.health+behav, MJohns7861 (Email Removed) said,
As my indoor cat Willi approaches his 10th birthday in April am wondering if there are something I need to ... lose some weight. He is currently eating a ProPlan weight management dry food. Any feedback or thoughts are appeciated. Magnus

I always start my cats on an annual geriatric workup when they are around nine or ten years old. Any veterinarian will know what you mean by this if you request it. They'll do a full blood panel and some geriatric-specific examinations and tests, watching for things like signs of hyperthyroidism, CRF, raised calcium levels (may indicate cancer, but not necessarily), liver issues, etc. If the labs and exams all look good, then an annual exam is fine. If the bloodwork or exams show any signs for concern, then your vet may recommend more frequent checkups, but a healthy older cat is usually fine with annual exams.
I would highly recommend an annual dental, as well. Dental health is crucial in older cats, as it reduces the amount of plaque and bacteria that get into the cat's system, as well as helping to ensure that the cat doesn't stop eating because of mouth pain. If your cat has a tooth that is cracked or otherwise compromised, it's better to have the tooth removed while he's still younger than to wait for years until it gets to the point where it has to come out and the cat is less able to tolerate the anesthesia. Also, a "bad" tooth can contribute to the development of heart disease (because of the plaque, I kid you not), and renal failure or other systemic disease because of the bacteria.
It's good that you're feeding him a weight-manangement food, and you should probably continue to do so, as gradual weight reduction is a good idea if the cat is chubby. Also, if your cat is a dry-food-only eater, you may want to try to switch to at least a primarily wet-food diet, as the higher moisture content can help keep the cat better hydrated, which in turn can help with any age-related loss of kidney function. It's also easier to mix supplements and medications into wet food than dry.
You may also want to think about chondroitin/shark cartilage supplements as older cats can become arthritic.As far as things to watch for in older cats, keep an eye out for increased thirst and larger-volume urination, as these can indicate renal insufficiency. Watch for constipation, both because it can indicate renal issues and things like megacolon. If your cat is prone to constipation, add plain canned pumpkin to his food, or baby food prunes, or even unflavored metamucil. If you add metamucil, add water to the wet food and mix it in there, as metamucil will require increased hydration.

You can also sprinkle it on dry food (I do both with my cats), but again, make sure you have lots of water sources available for the reason listed previously. In fact, one of the things I do as my cats age is to distribute more water bowls around the house. Cats do not necessarily like their water to be near their food (in fact, mine won't drink water near their food- they like it to be near the places where they sleep so that they can drink right before and right after napping).

Put water bowls in your cat's favorite "traffic" areas (by scratching post, cat trees, your bed, whatever).
Watch your cat for signs of pain or stiffness. If he starts to fail in jumping up on things that used to be easy for him, he may be arthritic or just plain old and stiff. If the fur on his spine is standing up (not like when a cat is freaked out and hissing, but just raised a bit), this may indicate that he is in pain and should prompt a vet visit.You may also want to start putting your cat's food on a plate instead of in a bowl. Cats cannot see what is right in front of their mouths- they actually use those little whiskers on the front of their mouths to "feel" their food. Some cats do not like to eat from bowls because their whiskers graze the sides of the bowl and make it harder for them to figure out where the food is. This happens more as they get older, in my experience.

Putting food on a plate for my oldest cat helped immensely both in getting him to eat and in getting him to quit dropping the food on the floor to eat it. Additionally, if you can raise the cat's food so that he doesn't have to crouch down to eat it, do so. It helps prevent stomach acid backup into the esophagus, much like not lying down right after eating a hearty meal helps people avoid heartburn.
I would recommend stocking up on the following items, as well:

- needleless syringes and/or droppers; these are great for administering liquid medications, supplements, etc.
- a mortar and pestle for grinding up supplements and medications that come in tablet form that isn't easy to administer to the cat. For example, Jacob gets 1/4 of a Pepcid A/C per day to reduce the extra stomach acid that builds up as a result of his CRF. I don't know if you've ever seen one of these tablets, but they're about 2 mm in diameter and difficult to accurately cut. Jacob is also difficult to pill. As a result, I finally resorted to grinding up one pill per 40ml of water (measured with the syringes, and ground with the mortar and pestle).

I then dissolve the Pepcid in the water and squirt 10ml onto Jacob's wet food each day. Obviously, if your cat doesn't have CRF, this isn't something you should adopt as a practice, but there are lots of medications and supplements that are easier to administer if you dissolve them in water and mix them into the cat's food, or if you grind them into a powder and sprinkle the food.

- a pill cutter, for reasons outlined already
- a couple of those parmesan cheese shaker jars. They're great for sprinkling powdered supplements onto the cat's food (such as the metamucil and the chondroitin- The chondroitin I use comes in pill form, and I powder it in a food processor, then sprinkle it onto the cats' food)
- a water filter or distilled water. Give your kitty filtered/distilled water instead of tap water. It's easier on his system.
- a tube of Felovite if your veterinarian thinks it's a good idea. You may not need to give it regularly, but if your cat gets sick, or "off his feed", a vitamin supplement may be helpful. When my now- deceased Alex was battling lymphoma, in the early stages of his chemo, the lymphoma was still so strong in his system that his appetite was nonexistent. Felovite actually helped stimulate his appetite as it made him feel better when he was basically feeling "hungover". Cats with renal problems can also become vitamin- depleted. Again, you may not need to give this as a routine, but it's good to have around "just in case".
- a cat "toothbrush", which is really a rubberized thing that slips over your finger and has soft little bristles on it. You can gradually acclimate your cat to it, and it will help with his dental health between cleanings
- cat enzymatic toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste for cats.

- a tube or two of hairball remedy.
- a few jars of onion-free chicken or turkey baby food. If your cat is feeling punky and not eating well, this is sometimes a good temporary supplement/alternative. Make sure that there are no onions in the ingredient list, as onions are toxic to cats.

- a bottle of plain mineral oil- no scent. If your cat has waxy ears (Jacob does, though there's neither yeast nor mites in 'em- they're just waxy), putting a drop or two in his ears and rubbing the bases of the ears is a good way to help loosen any gunk therein. Never put cotton swabs in your cat's ears. If you do use the mineral oil for your cat's ears, wad up a kleenex and hold it around the opening your cat's ears while you do the drip-and-rub thing. I actually use the kleenex to do the rubbing. The mineral oil may also come in handy as a supplement for constipation or hairballs, although you'll want to check with your veterinarian as to whether it's indicated.

- soft pads for your cat to sleep on. Older kitties' joints are stiffer and more tender, so if your cat likes to sleep in a patch of sunlight on the floor or whatever, putting a soft pad there for him to sleep on is a small and simple kindness.
- at some point, you may even want to put a little stepstool or platform near your bed if you have a high bed and the cat sleeps with you. My Jacob (sixteen years old) has a hard time jumping up on my bed these days, and giving him an intermediate jumping platform makes it easier for him.
None of these things are vital to rush out and get immediately, but having them ready in your house can be a great comfort for you, and save you a lot of time and trouble if and when you need them. Always check with your vet before giving your cat supplements, medications, etc. Just because you can doesn't necessarily mean you should. :-)

Also, as your cat ages, you may want to reduce the number of vaccinations he gets. My cats now only get rabies vaccinations, and once they develop long-term health conditions, I stop the vaccines altogether. I stopped Alex's vaccinations when he developed lymphoma. I have stopped Jacob's vaccinations as a result of his CRF (chronic renal failure) and because at his age, he's basically got all the immunity he's going to get. Indoor-only cats in a closed household (no exposure to new cats) do not need feline leukemia vaccinations. Ditto for FIV.Talk to your veterinarian about which vaccinations your cat really needs. As cats age, they tolerate the side effects of vaccinations (that two- or three-day lethargy and neuralgia that often occurs) less. Make sure that your vet uses adjuvant-free vaccines (Merial Purevax, for example). Adjuvants are strongly believed to be connected to vaccination-site sarcomas. Make sure your vet varies injection sites for the vaccines. Some vaccines should be delivered in the shoulder or haunch so that if a vaccination-site sarcoma should result, the affected limb can be amputated.

Unfortunately, this is often the most viable option in the case of a vaccination- site sarcoma. Varying the location each year where the vaccine is administered may also help reduce the likelihood of a sarcoma. Again, however, reducing the number of vaccines you give to your cat is the best way to minimize risk. There are vaccines that are listed as "core" vaccines, and vaccines that are considered situational or optional. Know which are which and adjust accordingly.

Also, annual vaccine is probably not required. Cornell did a twenty- or thirty- year study and found that cats generally maintain antibodies for three years. A good veterinarian will offer you the option of titering for antibodies before administering vaccines. That way, if the cat's antibodies are still sufficient, you can skip the vaccine altogether.
Develop a regular grooming schedule and watch for things like increased dandruff or hair loss. These can be signs of illness (dandruff, for example, is common in cats with renal failure).
Please don't think that you need to assume that your cat is inherently going to "get sick" because of all the stuff I've typed. Geriatric cats can be very, very healthy. You just need to be prepared for age-related conditions. I have three cats, who are 9.5, nearly 11 and nearly 16 in age. The two younger ones are in perfect health, and the oldest is in great shape aside from his renal issues. We found his CRF very early (over two years ago) because I had a geriatric blood workup and urine specific gravity testing performed due to his age.

As a result, the course of his disease has been slowed considerably, and he has never had a "crash", which is essentially a sudden, severe and serious downturn in health as a result of kidney functioning diminishing to the point that the cat becomes filled with toxins.
Last, as a cat ages, he may become more vocal and more prone to "night prowling". As a cat's hearing and sight diminish, he may become more vocal both as a locator mechanism and because he literally can't hear himself "talk" as easily. Night prowling (wandering around aimlessly, vocalizing a lot) may indicate increased thyroid activity (hyperthyroidism), which will also manifest itself in weight loss, dryer fur and skin, and muscle wasting.

Basically, you've had your cat for long enough to know what his normal behaviors are, and the best thing you can do is to be alert to changes in those behaviors.
With older cats, an ounce of prevention is worth ten pounds of cure, IMO.
HTH,
Laura

I am Dyslexia of Borg,
Your ass will be laminated.
What a great post. I saved it and will refer back to it as my babies, now 4 and 7, age. Thanks for taking the time to write it, Laura.
Watch your cat for signs of pain or stiffness. If he starts to fail in jumping up on things that used to be easy for him, he may be arthritic or just plain old and stiff.

Even when Kami is gimping about because of arthritis, she hasn't missed a target yet. Pretty darn good for 16 (in April). Emotion: smile
You may also want to start putting your cat's food on a plate instead of in a bowl. Cats cannot ... in getting him to eat and in getting him to quit dropping the food on the floor to eat it.

I have always had bowl trouble with Kami. Unless it's milk, ice cream or gravy or something, she won't stick her head in a confined space. Most cat food bowls are too deep and too narrow for her liking. I finally found a couple of small Tiara glass bowls (I think it's Tiara clear molded glass) at Goodwill that are perfect for her. If I used a plate she'd lick it right over the edge. A nice shallow flared bowl seems to be the best.
- a water filter or distilled water. Give your kitty filtered/distilled water instead of tap water. It's easier on his system.

I was told that distilled water doesn't have any minerals in it and doesn't taste good. Since Kami is supposed to drink a lot of water, it has to be tasty. I use spring water in her PetMate.
- a tube or two of hairball remedy.

Or Pounce Hairball Treats. A godsend for us.
- at some point, you may even want to put a little stepstool or platform near your bed if you ... time jumping up on my bed these days, and giving him an intermediate jumping platform makes it easier for him.

That is something I've been considering. I've tried to make a path for Kami to use up and down from the bed because she "splats" when she jumps down from things because her hips are getting weak, I think. She just won't use what I provide. Nothing worse than a prideful cat...
Some pet sites sell carpeted steps (2 or 3 steps) for this purpose. I think Drs. Foster and Smith have several in their catalog.

MaryL
circa 17 Jan 2004 15:47:00 GMT, in rec.pets.cats.health+behav, With older cats, an ounce of prevention is worth ten pounds of cure, IMO. HTH, Laura

Great post, Laura. I just forwarded a copy to myself to keep for future reference. Thanks!
MaryL
circa Sat, 17 Jan 2004 18:49:24 GMT, in rec.pets.cats.health+behav, Mary (Email Removed) said,

Aww, shucks, thanks. :-)
Laura

I am Dyslexia of Borg,
Your ass will be laminated.
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