As the level of veterinary care continues to increase our pets lead longer and more comfortable lives. We are seeing feline patients into their twenty’s, which in terms of human years would be well into the ninety’s. It is no secret that with increasing age come changes in appearance and new health problems. One of the most dramatic changes in appearance with older cats is weight loss.
Part of our standard exam is weight assessment. It can be very difficult for you to accurately estimate your cat’s weight at home. Cats are active and if you share your home with a non-lap cat you may not even spend enough time with them get a feel for changes in physical status. Cats with long hair are especially difficult to accurately estimate weight as their beautiful coat also hides their physique. For this reason a minimum of an exam once a year for younger pets and biannual exams for older pets should be standard protocol for all of your feline family members.
Many cat’s owners erroneously feel that weight loss is a normal part of aging and therefore there is nothing that can be done for it. You would be surprised at how fast your pet’s weight can change without any notice on your part. While it is true that some cats lose weight as they age for no apparent reason the vast majority of pets have identifiable health problems for which medical or surgical intervention can be of great benefit. Even for cats that may have no identifiable health problems there are nutritional options which under the direction of your veterinarian can be very beneficial.
Some of the common illnesses that will cause weight loss in older cats include, but are not limited to; hyperthyroidism, diabetes, kidney dysfunction, cancer, high blood pressure and inflammatory bowel disease. After a full examination your veterinarian is likely to suggest; felv-fiv testing, a blood chem panel and CBC, urinalysis and culture, intestinal parasite screen and blood pressure evaluation. Depending on the results of these tests X-rays, ultrasound or an ECG may be recommenced. Treatment recommendations will obviously depend on the outcome of the tests and the individual needs of your cat.
Please don’t ignore weight loss in your cats. As soon as you notice a change you should call your veterinarian to schedule an exam. Even if you think things are fine schedule at least one exam for young cats and two exams a year for older cats. Remember that pet’s age faster than we do, for instance aging six months for an older cat is roughly the equivalent of two years for us. The remaining years you have with your older cats are precious; you can make them even more unforgettable by providing the extra veterinary care that that they need as they age.