Providing the best care for senior cats - Veterinary Medicine
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Providing the best care for senior cats
Senior cats are likely to have one or more health problems, but with your help they can still lead long and comfortable lives. This internist answers the most common questions practitioners have about caring for senior cats.


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Still thriving after all these years

Zeke is a 16-year-old domestic longhaired cat with multiple, yet successfully managed, health problems.
Zeke, a 16-year-old male castrated domestic longhaired cat, is a great example of how a well-organized senior care program can identify and address underlying diseases as they occur and provide a long, good-quality life. At age 16, Zeke's current health concerns include obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, and diabetes mellitus. How did my colleagues and I at North Georgia Veterinary Specialty Care successfully get Zeke to age 16?

An ongoing problem...

Obesity (body condition score of 5 of 5) had been an ongoing problem for Zeke since age 7. We counseled Zeke's owner about weight loss for Zeke and started Zeke on a high-fiber diet. Zeke's weight stabilized on this diet but no weight loss was noted. The results of yearly blood work, urinalyses, total T4 concentrations, fecal examinations, and blood pressure measurements were normal each year. Zeke also returned every six months for a thorough physical examination, including evaluation of all vital signs and his weight.

A second problem arises...

Zeke began vomiting almost daily at age 12. He had lost a little weight but was still overweight (body condition score of 4). The results of blood work, urinalysis, a total T4 concentration, and blood pressure measurement were normal. Because Zeke was showing clinical signs of disease, we performed an FeLV antigen test and an FIV antibody test, and the results were negative. Abdominal radiographs revealed no abnormalities. Since Zeke lived in a heartworm-endemic area, we performed a heartworm antibody test, and the results were negative. The results of Toxoplasma gondii serology (IgM, IgG) were also negative. The results of a feline-specific serum trypsin-like immunoreactivity and pancreatic lipase immunoreactivity test were normal, but the folate concentration was elevated and the cobalamin concentration was low, suggestive of bacterial overgrowth or other small intestinal disease. The results of the fecal examination were negative for intestinal parasites.

Broad-spectrum anthelmintic administration and diet changes (intestinal, hypoallergenic) did not alleviate Zeke's clinical signs. We performed gastroduodenoscopy, and the histologic results revealed that the stomach and small intestine contained moderate to severe infiltrates of lymphocytes and plasma cells scattered beneath the surface and accumulated at the villous tips, consistent with a diagnosis of moderate to severe lymphocytic-plasmacytic gastroenteritis.

We prescribed prednisolone (5 mg once daily) and started Zeke on a low-residue intestinal diet. He showed a good response to the drug and diet therapy, with control of the vomiting. We eventually lowered the prednisolone dose to 2.5 mg once a day for maintenance therapy. During the first 12 months after diagnosis, the owner brought Zeke in for a thorough physical examination, including evaluation of all vital signs and his weight, every three months.

At age 13, Zeke continued to do well on therapy. He was still overweight (body condition score of 4), but his weight was stable. The results of blood work, urinalysis, a total T4 concentration, a fecal examination, and blood pressure measurement continued to be normal. He returned six months later for a physical examination, and all parameters were stable.


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