Cat Veterinary Services for Cats
Common Diseases of Senior Cats




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Cancer - Many types of cancer occur in cats, and cancer can be found anywhere in the body. External tumors may be readily seen, but internal tumors can be hard to find. Cancer is always a concern in senior cats that are slowly losing weight but seem normal in other ways. Blood tests, x-rays, ultrasound, endoscopy, or exploratory surgery may be needed to diagnose cancer. Each type of cancer responds in different ways to treatment, so a biopsy is needed to determine the exact cell type. Cancer treatments range from surgery to chemotherapy to radiation.

Dental Disease - Older cats can have significant dental disease and infected gums. Bacteria can spread from their mouths internally and affect other organ function.

Diabetes Mellitus - When a cat eats, food is metabolized into glucose which enters the blood. Glucose in turn triggers the pancreas to release insulin into the blood stream. This allows the transport of the glucose into cells, thereby nourishing the body. If an animal cannot get glucose into his cells, the body begins to “starve”. This is why diabetic cats typically have ravenous appetites. They tend to drink more water, urinate frequently, and show signs of weight loss. Diabetes is more prevalent in male cats, but is seen in females as well. Treatment of diabetes usually involves feeding a special diet and giving insulin injections.

Hypertension - High blood pressure occurs in cats. It can result from hyperthyroidism or kidney failure, or be a primary disease. If untreated, hypertension can lead to impaired vision, seizures, and disorientation. Treatment of the primary cause and use of oral medication can control hypertension.

Hyperthyroidism - This is very common in older cats. It is usually the result of benign growth(s) on a cat's thyroid gland(s). The thyroid glands produce hormones that affect general metabolism and organ function throughout the body. Thyroid growths cause an overproduction of these hormones. Excessive hormone levels can cause your cat to lose weight even though he/she has a voracious appetite. Rapid heart rates, arrhythmia, vomiting, and diarrhea are some of the other signs a hyperthyroid cat may exhibit. Diagnosing this disorder can be done with a simple blood test. Treatment options range from suppressing the thyroid with medication to surgical removal of the overactive tissue, to radiation therapy.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) - IBD is a problem that affects the lining of the stomach and/or the intestines. Cats with IBD typically have vomiting and/or diarrhea that do not respond to conventional remedies. To definitively diagnose IBD, biopsies of the stomach and intestine are needed. Biopsies can be obtained through the use of an endoscope or through exploratory surgery. Treatment for IBD involves reducing inflammation and controlling infection, usually with long-term medication. The prognosis for cats with IBD is good, but in some cats, IBD progresses in some cats to a type of cancer called intestinal lymphosarcoma.

Kidney Failure - The kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood, producing urine, and maintaining water and electrolyte balance in the body. When kidneys begin to fail, a cat's body is not able to maintain hydration and electrolyte balance. Cats with renal (kidney) failure tend to drink more water than usual, urinate more frequently, and lose weight. Since the kidneys cannot repair themselves, treatment is aimed at slowing down the degenerative process and controlling some secondary problems such as anemia, constipation, and dental disease.


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