Caring For Your Senior Cat

caring for your senior cat boulder holistic vet angie krause

I am often asked by my clients if there is anything that can be done to help their aging cat. Many people wrongly assume that when cats enter their senior years, that it is best to stop intervening.

Here are five things you can do to make your kitty healthier and more comfortable:

1. Dental health. Please don’t shrug this off. If you are scared or skeptical of anesthesia keep reading and hear me out. Cats commonly get painful dental disease. They will never stop eating even though they are in constant pain. Tooth resorption and periodontal disease are the most common dental diseases in cats. If your cat has untreated periodontal disease, not only will he be uncomfortable, there will be a constant stream of bacteria and inflammatory mediators in his blood stream. This bacteria will find its way through all of his vital organs like kidneys, heart, lungs, liver and brain. This is bad. We want to do everything we can to prevent and treat inflammation. So, having a constant source of inflammation under the gums is the antithesis of holistic health. The point is untreated dental disease can cause other organs to be compromised.

Tooth resorption is so painful that I don’t even think I could make it one day with that kind of pain in my mouth. The only way to treat painful tooth resorption is to remove the tooth. This is an unfortunately common process in cats. Veterinary researchers are trying to figure out what causes it but at the time of this writing, no conclusions have been made.

Okay, I know, you don’t want to do the anesthesia. I get it, I really do. I acknowledge that your fear is legitimate. Everyone knows someone who lost a dog or cat under anesthesia. Anesthesia and veterinary dentistry are not practiced well by all veterinary hospitals. I am not trying to throw any of my peers under the bus, I just want to be honest. There are some practices that are not up to the current standard of care. However, when you find a practice or a veterinarian that does it right, the risks of untreated dental disease are FAR GREATER compared with the risk of anesthesia. I will be linking a separate post about how to advocate for your cat and find a practice that does great anesthesia and dentistry.

Back to why dental health is important. Most cats experience some degree of diminishing kidney function in their last few years. Depending on the stage of the kidney disease, anesthesia can be slightly trickier. This is why keeping your cat’s mouth healthy pays huge dividends. Don’t wait until your cat has kidney disease to have their first dental assessment.

I know this opinion may be unpopular, but don’t bother with anesthetic free dentistry. These services are usually not performed by a veterinarian and at best only help your dog’s mouth look better. The painful and dangerous disease is under the gum. When your animal is awake, the part of the tooth under the gum can’t be assessed. I have seen so many unfortunate cases of dogs and cats with severe and painful disease that have had regular ‘non-anesthetic’ cleanings.

2. Water. Keeping your cat hydrated can help him stay healthier. My favorite way is to feed moist food and have a running water fountain. Cats love to drink water that is moving. My personal favorite has been the Cat-it. I have no relationship with this company and this is not an affiliate marketing link.

3. Omegas. Specifically omega-3 is really important to decrease inflammation. The research to support omega-3 supplementation is pretty good. Right now I am really liking green lipped mussel from New Zealand. This is a really clean source of omegas so no worries about heavy metals and other contaminates. I also like it because it causes less stomach upset. I have been trying a brand called Moxxor. The capsules are super tiny which is a plus for cats. Another great source is canned sardines (make sure they are in spring water).

4. Acupuncture. This can really be effective in helping with aches and pains. I have also used it to treat kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). To find a veterinary acupuncturist close to you check out www.ivas.org or www.tcvm.com.

5. Regular bloodwork. Knowledge is power. At the age of 9 years I recommend bloodwork be done no less than every year. At 12 years (maybe younger depending on previous lab results) I like to move to every 6 months. More that can be done when disease is at its infancy. This holds true especially with alternative therapies such as acupuncture and herbs. For example, I have been more successful at slowing the progression of kidney disease when it is in the early stages.

If you notice that your cat is drinking more water, urinating more, losing weight, vomiting, has diarrhea, is eating less, or has increased activity especially at night, it is time to see your veterinarian. Don’t wait.

I would love to hear about your senior kitties and help you in any way that I can! You can post below.

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Carolyn Willis

My 14th.old cat is losing weight. He can’t get enough to eat. Still playing and drinking water. He won’t take meds so I haven’t took him to the doctor. Could this be serious?

Dr. Angie
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Dr. Angie

Yes this could be serious. Hyperthyroidism and diabetes are the first two things I want to rule out in cats with weight loss and no other symptoms. Both can be treated without oral medication. a physical exam and bloodwork would be a great place to start. Let us know how it goes!

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