How does aging impact a cat's overall health?

Cats' nutritional requirements change as they age, similar to humans. They don't need as much calcium, protein, and fats. It's recommended to switch them to a senior diet after they reach the age of 9 or 10. Some signs of aging in cats include them being less active, not jumping on furniture as often, and taking breaks on stairs. You might also notice that they appear thinner in their back legs or along their back due to less muscle use, which can lead to a decrease in muscle size.

Dr. Kelley Wallace DVM
Catawba Heights Animal Hospital

What are some common health complications in senior cats?

The top three health complications in senior cats are chronic kidney failure due to age, hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid), and diabetes. Unfortunately, cancer is also common in senior cats. As medical treatments advance and we successfully prevent or treat many diseases, we're seeing more cases of cancer because we are eliminating diseases that used to not allow us to live as long.

How can we ensure that cats' health issues are detected and addressed early?

Cats are known to hide diseases well, so by the time they show outward signs of illness, they're often very sick. Therefore, it's important to have your cats undergo blood work at least once a year, or even every six months depending on their condition. Regular vaccinations are also important as cats' immune systems weaken with age, making them more prone to diseases. Annual wellness checks are crucial to monitor their health.

Identifying weight loss in cats can be challenging because a loss of half a pound to a pound in a 10-pound cat is significant (10% of their body weight), but may not be noticeable as you see them every day. Their fur coat can also hide weight loss. Therefore, it's recommended to bring them in for regular check-ups where they can be weighed and thoroughly examined by a vet.

What kind of tests should be included in the blood work for older cats?

The blood work for older cats should include a thyroid check, as they are prone to hyperthyroidism. Also, a test for a heart enzyme called ProBNP should be done. This tests for the stretchability of the heart muscle because cats can get a common heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This disease is hard to detect without an ultrasound, but this new blood test can suggest its presence and help in early detection.

How often should senior cats have check-ups and why?

Senior cats should have check-ups at least once a year, even if their vaccines are not due. Regular blood work is also necessary because it's easier to treat diseases when they are caught early on. If a disease cannot be cured, early detection allows us to start treatments that can help prolong the cat's life.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 827-0616, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram

Cat Wellness Exams FAQs

Dr. Kelley Wallace
Catawba Heights Animal Hospital

Are cat vaccines necessary?

Yes, cat vaccines are necessary. Rabies, for instance, is required by law here in North Carolina. It is required by 16 weeks of age. We do see various diseases in this area such as panleukopenia or feline parvo, feline leukemia, and feline AIDS.

What cat vaccinations are typically recommended and what are they for?

The cat distemper, frequently called FVRCP for feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia, is a core vaccine. Rabies is required by law. We usually recommend feline leukemia virus in kittens. We also see feline AIDS virus in this area, but there's no vaccination for it in the United States. Another vaccine that we don't really use much anymore is feline infectious peritonitis, or FIP.

What is the vaccine schedule for kittens?

For kittens, we recommend the distemper parvo, or FVRCP, starting at six to eight weeks of age, and then every three to four weeks for a series of three. Rabies is given sometimes between 12 and 16 weeks. Feline leukemia virus is usually given at 12 weeks of age. For senior cats, we recommend the FVRCP and rabies. After the kitten is one year of age and has received those vaccines at least once before, they're given every three years.

Are there any risks or side effects associated with cat vaccines?

Yes, like with any vaccine, there can be reactions. Mild symptoms include running a slight fever or tenderness at the vaccine site. A big reaction typically results in vomiting. There can be an anaphylactic vaccine reaction, which is severe and immediate. Another side effect associated with the feline leukemia virus is a fibrosarcoma. However, the risk of leukemia in this area is much higher than the fibrosarcoma tumor that has been seen or associated with these vaccines.

If my cat is going to live strictly indoors, do they still need to be vaccinated?

Yes, they do. Rabies is required by law. Pets can get out, and you don't know when they're going to get out. Also, vaccines are required for boarding facilities and vet visits.

Why is it important to avoid missing a cat vaccine?

It's important to avoid missing a cat vaccine because by keeping your pet up to date on vaccines, they're much less likely to come into contact or get sick from various viruses and bacteria. It'll allow your pet to live a longer, happier life.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (704) 827-0616, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram