Senior Cats & Dogs
Why should we treat old cats differently to young cats?
As cats age, all of their body systems are affected: Reduction in exercise may result in reduced muscle tone, which may further reduce the cat’s ability to jump, climb or exercise. This may also lead to a stiffening of the joints and arthritis. When coupled with reduced activity, common in older individuals, this lack of exercise can result in a fall in energy requirements of up to 40%. If a cat maintains a good appetite, its daily food intake must be reduced to prevent excessive weight gain.
Inappetance or lack of desire to eat may develop in some senior cats since the senses of smell and taste become dull with age and periodontal disease is common. Gut function and the ability of the intestines to absorb nutrients are reduced in many older animals.
Thirst is also decreased, causing an increased risk of dehydration, especially when combined with concurrent renal insufficiency, a type of kidney disease common in older cats.

Does my senior cat still need to have regular booster vaccinations?
Although little is known about the feline immune system, it is generally assumed that with age immune function may deteriorate. This may in turn result in a reduced ability to fight infection or destroy neoplastic (cancer) cells. Most cats that have a low risk of contracting many of the common preventable diseases are vaccinated on a three-year rotating schedule. Our veterinarians will determine the appropriate vaccination program for your cat based on its physical condition and lifestyle.

What diseases do senior cats commonly get?
The major health risks seen in older cats are:
  • Obesity
  • Hormonal disorders such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Neoplasia or cancer
  • Infections such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
  • Periodontal disease
  • Heart disease
  • Osteoarthritis
It is important to remember that while young cats usually have only one disorder at a time, this is often not the case in older patients, where diagnosis and treatment may be complicated by the concurrence of multiple interacting disease processes.

What can I do to make my senior cat as happy as possible?
Most cats age gracefully and require few changes to their general regimen. Since older cats do not generally respond well to change, it is important that any changes are introduced slowly.

Elderly cats should have easy access to a warm bed, situated where the cat can sleep safely without fear of disturbance. It is strongly recommended that you feed your older cat a premium brand senior diet. They should always have easy access to fresh drinking water. As cats age, some will experience a reduced ability to control urination and defecation. To reduce the risk of “accidents”, it may be necessary to allow access to multiple litter boxes.

Tips for senior dogs
Keep vaccinations current. Your veterinarian will determine the proper vaccine schedule for your senior pet’s lifestyle. Most senior pets will receive most vaccines every two to three years. Some vaccines with shorter duration of immunity such as the “kennel cough” vaccine, may be given more frequently.
Brush your pet frequently to prevent matts. This can contribute to skin infections and may hide skin tumors.
Clip toe nails as needed to prevent overgrowth. Long toe nails may cause the dog to stand and walk abnormally and result in pain or accelerate and exacerbate arthritic changes.
Keep plenty of fresh water available and monitor its consumption. Increases in water consumption or urination are often associated with conditions such as diabetes, kidney and liver disease.
Keep other pets from preventing your senior pet access to food and water.
Keep your senior pet indoors most of the time, especially in inclement weather.
Weigh on the same scale and record results at least every two months. Changes in weight can be an early indicator of disease.

How often should I take my senior dog to the veterinarian?
You should take your senior dog to the veterinarian at least once a year for an annual check-up. Have your veterinarian examine your dog if you notice for any of the following:
  1. Sustained significant increase in water consumption. (Abnormal is intake greater than 100 ml/kg/day or approximately 1 ½ cups (1two ounces)/day for a 10 pound dog)
  2. Sustained significant increase in urination.
  3. Weight loss.
  4. Significant decrease in appetite or failure to eat for more than two consecutive days.
  5. Significant increase in appetite.
  6. Repeated vomiting.
  7. Diarrhea that lasts over three days.
  8. Difficulty in passing stool or urine.
  9. Sudden loss of housetraining.
  10. Lameness that lasts more than three days, or lameness in more than one leg.
  11. Noticeable decrease in vision, especially if sudden in onset or pupils that do not constrict in bright light.
  12. Masses, ulcerations (open sores), or multiple scabs on the skin that persist more than one week.
  13. Foul mouth odor or drooling that lasts over two days.
  14. Increasing size of the abdomen.
  15. Increasing inactivity or amount of time spent sleeping.
  16. Hair loss, especially if accompanied by scratching or if in specific areas (as opposed to generalized).
  17. Persistent coughing or gagging.
  18. Excessive panting.
  19. Sudden collapse or bout of weakness.
  20. Inability to chew dry food.
  21. A seizure (convulsion or “fit”).
Rosswell Animal Hospital, Ontario, Courtice

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Rosswell Animal Hospital, Ontario, Courtice

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