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Two Common Diseases of Geriatric Cats

Common Diseases of Geriatric Cats
Hypertension

Cats can get high blood pressure, in fact, hypertension is almost always due to kidney disease or hyperthyroidism in the feline. The veterinarian or a staff member will measure the blood pressure with a cuff placed around a leg, then attached to a manometer similar to how it is done in people.  

Multiple measurements are usually taken of the systolic pressure (the higher one taken for people). It is important to monitor for hypertension in cats with renal disease or hyperthyroidism as it may appear early or late in either disease. If it is found, oral medication will be used to correct the problem.

Cats are living longer and longer. This is due to better medical care and the fact that more cats are living only indoors. These cats commonly live up to 15 to 18 years of age, with a few living into their twenties. The oldest cat on record lived to be 38!

The two most common diseases of the geriatric cat are kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. It is said that if a cat lives long enough, they will get one or both of these problems.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism usually occurs in cats older than eight years of age. The older the cat, the more likely the disease. A tumor (97% of the time it is benign) causes too much thyroid hormone to be produced. No one knows why this tumor forms.  The tumor itself doesn't cause a problem, the symptoms are due to the excess of hormones. Common symptoms are weight loss even though the cat is ravenous, chronic vomiting, soft stools, fast heart rate, and some develop a heart murmur.

There are several treatments  for hyperthyroidism. A special diet made by Hill's Prescription Diet, Y /D, has been found to be very successful if your feline will eat it. This diet is extremely low in iodine, and it has to be fed exclusively in order to work. Other treatments are the oral drug methimazole, surgery to remove the mass, or radio-active Iodine. Surgery has fallen out of favor because often both sides of the thyroid gland are affected.  Radio-active Iodine has the advantage of being a one-time treatment (at least 97% of the time it is), but it is costly and needs to be done at a specialty clinic where the cat is hospitalized for a few days.

There is an ironic phenomenon where the disease of hyperthyroidism sometimes masks kidney disease. The kidney values may look fine until the veterinarian starts to treat the thyroid disease. If both diseases are present, the Y/D diet is good as it is also low in protein and phosphorus that is needed for renal disease.  But if Y/D is not an option, then a veterinarian may try methimazole next.  If the kidney values are still OK even when the thyroid disease comes under control, then we know the cat is a candidate for radioactive iodine if that is desired, or the cat can be continued on a full dose of methimazole. If the kidney values start to increase as we get the thyroid under control, then we know we can't fully treat the hyperthyroidism, we just try to reach a balance between the two.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is also very common. Symptoms are weight loss, vomiting, soft stools, and a poor appetite.  Anemia and excess phosphorus in the blood commonly occur as secondary problems.  Blood and urine tests will determine how severe the disease is, and what level of treatment is needed. A diet made for renal disease can really lengthen the time before the signs get worse. A more severe case may need hospitalization with intravenous fluids. After the cats are stabilized, some veterinarians teach their clients how to give subcutaneous fluids at home to their cats. A few cat owners have even had kidney transplants done for their beloved cats at teaching hospitals.  This is very expensive, of course, and they have to adopt the donor cat.

Cats are wonderful pets, but they are very good at hiding their symptoms. It is important to have an annual exam and laboratory tests to catch  these diseases early when it is easier to get them under control.

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Testimonial

Don't take a good vet for granted, that's what I say. I currently live in another state and have taken my 10 year old dog to numerous vets over the years (California, Colorado, Vegas, and then some). Never have I ever received the attention and care I've gotten w/Dr. Hines. Within the past 3 months alone, my dog went to 3 different vets for a horrible and painful skin problem that broke out all over her body.

The first vet: I spent more time ponying up the $175 for the visit than the Dr. spent actually looking at my dog. He performed a woods lamp exam for ringworm. Even without Google or a veterinary degree, I could tell it wasn't ringworm. Thanks for taking my money.
Second vet: "Here's some spray, now here's your bill. Bring her back in two weeks so I can charge you another visit." No tests, nothing.
Between the two, I felt like I got nowhere. No definitive answer on why this affected my dog and the medication given wasn't even for a diagnosed condition. Just some general topical spray. I could have bought it at Petsmart and saved myself the time and money.
Recently, on a visit to Idaho, I planned ahead to bring my dog to the Rupert Animal Clinic. I asked the same questions, had the same concerns and now have different results. Dr. Hines gave me options on what route to take, ran appropriate tests and communicated with me every step of the way (even calling me personally when test results came in). My primary concern was cancer. Our dog is like our child- we'll pay the money if we can keep her healthy and safe. In the future, I've resolved to bring my dog to Rupert Animal Clinic on our annual trip for all of her exams. I know she won't be treated as a little cash cow to exploit an owner's love for pets.

Sung L.
Rupert, ID

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