8 years of age and older
When your cat reaches the age of 8 years, he or she is considered a senior pet. Preventive medical care for your senior cat should continue as it always has. However, since senior cats have different health issues than younger cats, an expansion on the preventive health care plan is appropriate from the age of 8 years onward. Preventive medical care for the senior cat still consists of a regular check-up, a yearly fecal parasite exam (if your cat goes outdoors), vaccinations, proper diet, home dental care, professional dental care, and flea and tick control. Additional measures for senior cats include blood and urine tests and blood pressure checks.
BIANNUAL CHECK UP: A twice-yearly physical examination by your veterinarian is very important for your senior cat. During this examination, you should report health or behavior changes you have noticed since the last time your cat had a check-up. Just as for younger cats, your senior cat will receive a thorough examination of all body systems. Some of the more common medical conditions of senior cats that may be detected during this examination are skin tumors, cancer, heart disease, osteoarthritis, dental disease, thyroid gland disease, obesity, and kidney disease. Early detection of these and other problems during a check-up can afford your pet a better chance at successful treatment.
YEARLY FECAL PARASITE EXAM: As a senior pet, your cat will still be susceptible to infections with intestinal parasites if he or she goes outdoors. As such, a microscopic examination of your cat’s feces at least yearly is recommended in order to detect these infections.
VACCINATIONS: The vaccination program recommended for adult cats should be continued in senior cats. Senior cats are still susceptible to infectious diseases and “old age” is not a good reason to stop vaccinating your cat.
PROPER DIET: Older cats should receive a diet formulated for senior cats. As cats get older they develop changes in their metabolism that in turn change their nutritional needs. Senior feline diets contain fewer calories, more antioxidants and vitamins, and protein levels appropriate to meet the nutritional needs of senior cats. Many good senior diets are available. We only recommend feeding your senior cat foods whose label contains the AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy.
HOME DENTAL CARE AND PROFESSIONAL DENTAL CARE: Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions of cats, especially senior cats. Dental tartar build-up can lead to infection of the gums and bones of the jaw, which in turn can get into the bloodstream, adversely affecting the heart and other internal organs. Most senior cats tolerate general anesthesia very well. Your veterinarian can perform laboratory tests to assess your cat’s anesthetic risk and identify many unknown medical conditions that may be present so that the most appropriate anesthetic may be chosen. Daily home dental brushing is also as important in senior cats as it is in younger cats.
FLEA AND TICK CONTROL: These aspects of preventive medical care are just as important in senior cats as they are in younger cats and should be continued throughout your pet’s entire life.
BLOOD AND URINE TESTS: Many medical conditions of senior cats do not cause noticeable symptoms until they are advanced. An organ function blood panel and urine analysis, however, can often detect these conditions early, allowing successful medical intervention. Examples of some of these diseases include kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes mellitus (i.e., sugar diabetes), thyroid gland disease, bladder infections, and others. These tests should be done at least yearly. If your pet has a medical condition or is receiving certain medications, laboratory tests may be recommended more frequently than once a year.
BLOOD PRESSURE CHECK: Cats ten years of age and older are considered at risk for high blood pressure. Although high blood pressure can occur as a result of another disease, high blood pressure can occur in senior cats as a primary condition by itself. If untreated, high blood pressure can have adverse effects on your cat’s kidneys, eyes, heart, and brain. If detected early, high blood pressure can be controlled with medication. All cats ten years of age and older should have their blood pressure checked at least yearly.
As your cat ages, his or her nutritional and medical needs change. Early disease detection is the most important factor in the successful management of many diseases for which senior pets are at risk. A comprehensive preventive medical care program as outlined above will ensure that your senior pet has a long healthy life.