Senior Feline Concerns

Often, I hear owners of elderly cats express during an exam that their cat is doing great since it eats and drinks all the time. When I ask why they believe their cat is losing weight, they want to blame that on age, they do not like the new food, they vomit hair a lot, or are surprised that they lost weight at all. Once a cat reaches 8-10 years of age, we consider them to be seniors. Cats can live 15-20 years so some believe they are still young at 8. Yet we often discover early symptoms of health conditions at this time. Senior Wellness exams are extremely important to help address issues hoping to avoid life threatening symptoms later.

Three key questionsto ask yourself about your furry feline friend are:

  1. Does my cat drink an excessive amount of water?
  2. Does my cat have larger clumps of litter in the box?
  3. Does my cat have changes to its eating habits?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, I would encourage you to speak to your veterinarian.

Cats that drink excessively usually will have a litter box that has larger clumps in it or the box is wetter than usual. The challenge is determining who is doing what when you have multiple cats in your household. Sometimes the issue is a cat not using the box and it is assumed a bladder infection when it could be a problem with needing the box cleaned more often because a cat is peeing more.

Changes in eating habits can come in many forms. Some cats will eat large amounts every day and continue to lose weight. Some cats will eat one day and then seem uninterested in food the next day, so people go out and buy a new food to try and low and behold the cat eats it, so they feel they got it figured out. Then a few days later the cat stops eating that food as well, so they do buy another diet and the cat eats again. We call this cyclic eating. It has nothing to do with you buying a new food and everything to do with the health issue lurking within the cat’s body. Some cats eat but seem to vomit often. This one causes most owners to clean up the vomit and relate the vomit to hairballs. Hairballs can be a cause of vomit in cats but in elderly cats you must also consider other health conditions. With all these scenarios, most of the cats will have gradual weight loss. Sometimes the weight will come off quickly in the case of an obese cat. Whenever a cat has weight loss and you are not actively trying to have your cat lose weight, this should be a red flag that something may be wrong.

The three most common age related conditions with these symptoms are:

  1. Diabetes
  2. Kidney Disease
  3. Hyperthyroidism

It is extremely difficult to diagnose any of these without doing blood work and checking a urinalysis. A cat can look completely fine on the outside but have one of these conditions if you are noting any of the above symptoms.  All 3 of these can be treated by diet and/or medications. The sooner we discover what is happening the better the outcome will be. Please schedule a Feline Senior Wellness Exam so we can monitor these different values as they age and make recommendations as needed for a long and healthy senior life.

Grain Free Diets and Heart Disease

Recently articles have surfaced indicating that dogs on grain free diets may have an increased risk of heart disease. The following article was written by a Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN who is a pet nutritionalist at Tufts University. She has dedicated her life to pet nutrition and has a Petfoodology blog. The article is extremely well written and shares the concerns we as veterinarians have had for a number of years when it comes to pet foods. The marketing companies for pet foods have caused people to make nutritional decisions based on fads not science. If you have been feeding a grain free diet or a “boutique diet” or a raw and/or home cooked diet, I would highly recommend you read this article. We as veterinarians want to see your pets live a long and healthy life and nutrition is the foundation.

A broken heart: Risk of heart disease in boutique or grain-free diets …vetnutrition.tufts.edu/…/a-broken-heart-risk-of-heart-disease-in-boutique-or-grain-fre…

I am not going to add anything to her amazing article. It is extremely well written and explains in detail the important facts verses fads that are ever present in our pet food industry. She talks about what you should do to make certain your pet is not going to be affected by these nutritional fads and marketing schemes. She even has a pet food quiz you can take to determine how knowledgeable you are about your pets nutrition. I got 10 of the 12 questions correct. Take the quiz and let me know your score! For the health of your furry friends please take this information seriously. Have a Happy Halloween and remember to keep your candy away from your pets. CHOCOLATE IS POISONOUS to pets.

Fall Concerns for our Friendly Canines

As the weather changes we start to think about football and tailgates, bonfires and s’mores, but we also need to remember with the changes in weather our dogs may need a little extra attention too.

During the fall many families like to spend extra time walking in the woods always excited that the flying insects are diminishing. Yet the creepy crawling ticks are still present and need to be planned for. The deer tick have an active cycle in the fall. As you are crunching through those piles of leaves be aware of what is “questing” for its host.  We have great flea and tick products for our dogs that should be used until we have snow on the ground. Scientists have shown that ticks will continue to “quest” for a host even at freezing temperatures. I have removed deer ticks on dogs close to Christmas since there was no snow on the ground. We have no protection against these ticks for ourselves so it is crucial that you keep them out of your environment and off your pets.

Hunting dogs and dogs that get the opportunity to run through the tall grasses do have to be concerned about ticks but also about eye foreign bodies. Dogs and cats both have a 3rd eyelid that helps protect the eye. This elevated eyelid can easily get grass seeds or stickers underneath it. This can cause severe squinting, drainage, redness, and if left unattended corneal ulcers. These photos show the foxtail seed under the 3rd eyelid prior to removal with the corneal ulcer it created. The green stain indicates how much damage has been done to the cornea. Once removed, the ulcer can heal but it is important to have the eye checked quickly to reduce scarring.

As we start to pack away all the boats and campers for storage over the winter, never forget how dangerous our rat poisons are for our dogs. Since they are a grain base the dogs find them extremely palatable. All baits are harmful so do not be fooled by the labels. The new products are actually more deadly than D-con. With D-con at least we could do a lab test and quickly discover the dogs needed Vitamin K to help the clotting factors. The newest poisons cause edema (fluid leaking) within the spaces of the brain and severe seizures are seen. We have very little ability to control the symptoms and therefore many pets have died. Please make these baits unaccessible to animals.  Please seek immediate help if you have an animal that has consumed these baits. The symptoms do not occur immediately. The poisons have a delayed response but the response is dangerous and deadly so get help quickly.

Antifreeze seems to be another source of poison during the fall that can harm pets. Companies are starting to use the less desirable products that are not sweet and tasteful to the pets. This has reduced our poisoning cases caused by antifreeze. It is important to get help quickly with this exposure since once in the pets body we can see damage to the kidneys within 4 hours.

When purchasing ice melt look for the products that are not harmful to the pets feet. When pets are outside, these ice melt products stick to their paws and fur. We need to make certain the ice melt will not hurt their pads or their mouth or gut if they lick their pads.

Remember the cooler temperatures and shorter days make exercise more challenging so you must consider dietary adjustments to prevent weight gain during the fall and winter. Many pets gain weight during these cooler shorter days and they never seem to get back to their optimum weight. I am excited to report the poles for the Winterset Dog Park fence went up this week. This will be a great addition to our community when completed. Having a facility where your dog can be set free to explore and play will greatly help our pets maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. Happy Fall!

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