As preventive medicine catches on and medical therapies improve, cats are living longer and longer. No doubt, you have a large number of senior feline patients. In December 2008, a panel of feline medicine experts revised the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Senior Care Guidelines to help ensure that all older cats are receiving the best care possible. The guidelines cover common issues and diseases in aging cats, including nutrition and weight management, dental care, anesthesia, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes mellitus, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, and osteoarthritis. Also included is a client questionnaire to help you identify cognitive dysfunction in your aging feline patients. See the link to the full text below to read all of the panel's recommendations, but here are some general pointers:
- Examine healthy senior cats every six months to potentially uncover hidden health problems.
- Emphasize wellness care to clients that mirrors that for younger cats and includes an examination, parasite preventives, oral health care, weight management, vaccination, and assessment of retroviral status.
- Consider obtaining a minimum database at least once a year, which consists of a complete blood count, a serum chemistry profile, a urinalysis (paying particular attention to the urine specific gravity and protein content), a T4 concentration, and blood pressure measurement.
- Make sure cats have a predictable routine, and make environmental changes as needed to ensure ready access to water, food, and litter boxes; opportunities for social interactions such as attention and grooming; and a safe and serene resting, sleeping, or hiding space.
- Take precautions to address older cats' fluid, oxygen, thermal, and analgesic needs associated with anesthesia, and account for the potential for changes in drug metabolism in cats with certain illnesses or weight issues.
- Be aware that senior cats can have multiple diseases and that one disease may hide another (e.g. chronic pancreatitis or hyperthyroidism is easily missed in diabetic patients, hyperthyroidism may go undetected in cats with kidney disease, liver disease, or cancer).
Link to the full text from the AAFP Web site: