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Although it might be tempting to skip regular trips to the veterinarian when your ageing cat appears healthy, appearances can sometimes be deceiving. Blood tests on your cat needs to be done regularly in order to screen for common diseases in older cats. Here's why it's so important to take your older cat to the vet.
Wellness Checks for Senior Cats
Cats age much more rapidly than humans. Although the rate varies somewhat cat to cat, depending on factors such as body weight and lifestyle, a cat is generally considered middle-aged by the time they’re 6 years old. By the age 10, cats are considered geriatric. At some point between these ages, typically around 7 years old, cats should begin having biannual senior wellness examinations and testing to check for diseases and other health issues that cats are more prone to develop as they age. Getting your senior cat checked and having blood tests done every six months will provide the best chance of early detection. This could make treatment easier and more effective in many cases. In some cases, it could even save your cat’s life.
Common Diseases in Older Cats
While cats can get sick at any age, there are a number of health conditions that cats become more susceptible as they age. The most common is chronic kidney conditions that affect 3 out of 10 cats, says Pet Health Network. Other conditions common to ageing cats include the following:
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes mellitus
- Organ failure
- Arthritis and other joint issues
- Feline dementia and other cognitive disorders
Cat Blood Work
Wellness checks for senior cats will typically include comprehensive blood tests for these common diseases. Typically, this will include a complete blood count to check the number of red and white blood cells as well as platelets. A biochemistry profile will be done to check organ function and detect whether your cat has diabetes. Your vet will also conduct a urinalysis to check kidney function and screen for urinary tract infections, certain types of cancer and other illnesses, and a separate thyroid test to check thyroid function. Your cat may also be given the symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA) test to screen for kidney disease. This is a newer test that can detect kidney disease months to years sooner than standard methods of kidney screening, says Pet Health Network. An SDMA test could vastly improve your kitty's outlook if diagnosed with kidney problems. Check with your vet to see if this test is included in your cat's routine wellness testing. If not, you might consider requesting it.
Caring for Cats With Health Conditions
If your kitty is diagnosed with a chronic illness, be prepared for their routine care to change. Depending on the condition, more frequent visits to the vet to treat and monitor their condition may be required. In addition to medications, your vet may recommend a prescription cat food to help manage the condition. You may also need to make changes to their environment. For example, for an arthritic cat you may need to switch the litter box to one with lower sides so that it is easier to climb into, or provide steps up to a favourite sunny spot. Whether or not your older kitty is diagnosed with a health condition, it's important to keep a sharp eye on your ageing cat and report any changes in weight, mood, behaviour, or bathroom habits to your vet. Such changes could be symptoms of illness. Don't wait until your cat's next routine checkup.
Some cats sail through old age with few or even no significant health problems. Still, schedule regular checkups and blood tests to help catch diseases early, helping to hopefully lengthen your cat's lifespan and improve quality of life as they age. Please, check with your veterinarian regularly to ensure proper care.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.