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The Most Common Ailments Affecting Senior Cats (Part 2)

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash  This is Part 2 of most common ailments affecting senior cats. Becoming familiar with the most common ailments affects senior cats will help you stay on top of your cat’s health. The five most common ailments affecting senior cats include: kidney disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, cancer, and dental disease. Becoming familiar with the most common ailments affects senior cats will help you stay on top of your cat’s health. First let’s tackle kidney disease, what causes it, how it’s diagnosed and how it is treated.  READ PART 1 Kidney disease and diabetes are not the only diseases to affect older cats. Rounding out the most common aliments afflicting geriatric cats includes thyroid disease, cancer, and dental disease.  Thyroid Disease Hyperthyroid disease is one of the most common diseases found in older cats. The thyroid gland produces hormones that control metabolism. Hyperthyroid disease is caused by overproduction of thyroid hormone, usually from a benign tumor on the thyroid gland called adenomas.  Cause The cause of hyperthyroid disease in cats is unknown. However, the current theory is that the increased incidence of hyperthyroid disease after 1980 may be due to environmental factors such as BPA, phthalates, and fire retardants.  Signs and Symptoms Weight loss Increased appetite Hyperactivity/restlessness Increased heart rate  Diagnosis Blood tests Examination and evidence of prominent thyroid gland  Treatment Treatment options include surgical removal of the affected thyroid gland (thyroidectomy), radioactive iodine to destroy the gland, or medication to suppress the tumor’s secretions. Thyroidectomy is curative but the procedure is invasive, can have serious complications, and may not be suitable for cats with high general anesthesia risk, such as older cats, or cats with heart or advanced kidney disease. Treatment with radioactive iodine is also curative and is considered the gold standard because it is non-invasive. However, radioactive iodine is the most expensive, may not be available everywhere, and is not ideal for cats with concurrent kidney disease. Finally, medications are easily available, inexpensive, and effective, but are not curative and require lifelong administration. Unfortunately, hyperthyroidism is not preventable.    Cancer Cancer is another all-too-common ailment seen in older cats. What is cancer exactly? Cancer is a genetic change in a cell that causes it to divide and proliferate uncontrollably. There are two types of cancer: benign and malignant. Benign tumors grow but do not invade tissue and do not spread to distant locations. Malignant tumors grow invasively and can metastasize (spread throughout the body).  Most common cancers in cats Lymphoma Squamous cell Fibrosarcoma Mammary cancer  Signs and Symptoms Weight loss Decreased appetite Vomiting Diarrhea Lumps and Bumps  Diagnosis Physical examination Radiographs, ultrasound, endoscopy Biopsy or fine needle aspirate of any masses  Treatment The treatment depends on the type of cancer and location. As is the case with other diseases, typically the earlier cancer is detected the better the prognosis. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. In recent years, our ability to treat cancer has improved dramatically and pets are living longer. It is important for people to know that cancer treatment in pets is very different than in humans. Cats are not treated as aggressively as humans, they do not lose all their hair, should not be vomiting or become weak. The goal is to prolong cat's life while still maintaining quality of life. Treatments are at much lower levels and are better tolerated.  Prevention You may be surprised to learn that some cancers are preventable. So how can you prevent cancer in your cat? Keep your cat inside to prevent sun-induced squamous carcinoma. If your cat goes outside, vaccinate against FeLV to prevent leukemia and reduce the risk of lymphoma. Spay your cat before their first heat to decrease the risk of mammary carcinoma.     Dental Disease According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), 75% of pets over the age of four have dental disease. Dental disease doesn’t just lead to bad breath, it can lead to tooth loss, painful tooth root abscesses, difficulty eating, and other serious health problems.   Cause The combination of food, saliva, and bacteria leads to plaque formation. If not removed by brushing it mineralizes and becomes tartar. Tartar accumulation promotes bacterial infections below the gumline, which results in gum recession and destruction of the tooth’s support structures. Unless treated, pain and tooth loss can occur and bacteria can enter the blood stream and spread to organs, like the kidney, liver and heart.  Risk Factors Dental disease can occur at any age, but is more common in older cats and certain breeds, like Abyssinians and Siamese that appear to have a genetic predisposition for dental disease and often develop dental issues early.  Signs and Symptoms Bad breath Drooling Decreased appetite  DiagnosisExamination  Treatment If your cat already has dental disease a complete dental cleaning by your veterinarian is necessary. This involves an evaluation of the oral cavity and cleaning not only the surface of the teeth, but getting under the gumline where the majority of bacteria and tartar are found.  After the teeth are cleaned, they are polished to smooth the roughened surfaces that were created by the cleaning. Lastly the entire mouth is checked again and dental x-rays will likely be used to assess the extent of the dental disease and the need for any tooth extractions or additional work. The best way to prevent dental disease is to brush your cat’s teeth regularly with cat toothpaste. Non-anesthetic dentals but these are not recommended because they do not get to the root of the problem, they clean only the surface of the teeth (which is cosmetic) and are usually not able to do subgingival cleaning and definitely can’t take x-rays or evaluate each tooth.  Becoming familiar with the most common ailments affecting geriatric cats will help detect illness earlier and ensure your senior cat lives out its golden years in good health.      
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The Most Common Ailments Affecting Senior Cats (Part 1)

If you take your cat to the veterinarian routinely, why do you need to know about the most common health problems affecting cats? Wouldn’t your veterinarian be able to detect these diseases during their visit? The answer is yes, routine veterinary visits are important to screen for illness. However, even if you take your cat to the veterinarian every 6 to 12 months, a disease can progress to a more advanced stage between visits. As your cat’s pet parent, you see your cat every day and know your cat better than anyone else. Keeping your cat healthy is a team effort. Your veterinarian, and cat, depend on you to be the first line defense against illness.   First, what is a senior cat? Hold old is old? While there is some disagreement regarding the exact age when cats become senior citizens, most veterinarians define geriatric cats as cats over 7 years of age. With advances in medicine, nutrition, and homecare, pets are living longer as supported by the AVMA pet owners survey that found that the number of geriatric animals in the US has been increasing in the last several years. Getting older doesn’t just mean getting gray and slowing down. Senior cats have different metabolic requirements, and the prevalence of certain health issues increases with age. Becoming familiar with the most common ailments affects senior cats will help you stay on top of your cat’s health. The five most common ailments affecting senior cats include: kidney disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, cancer, and dental disease. Becoming familiar with the most common ailments affects senior cats will help you stay on top of your cat’s health. First let’s tackle kidney disease, what causes it, how it’s diagnosed and how it is treated.    Kidney Disease Kidney disease (technically known as renal disease) is one of the most common diseases affecting 1 in 3 older cats. Kidneys are important for balancing water and electrolytes in your blood and filtering out metabolic by-products and toxins to make urine. Kidneys also produce a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production. When kidney function gets impaired, waste products start to build-up and the electrolytes become imbalanced, making the animal feel ill and drinking more water to compensate.  Causes There are two kinds of kidney disease- acute, meaning sudden, and chronic, meaning long lasting, kidney disease. Acute kidney disease is more common in younger cats and is typically caused by injury or toxicity, with lilies, acetaminophen and NSAIDS, like ibuprofen, being the most common culprits. Always be careful with plants or flowers in your house. I have had several clients bring a bouquet home and not realize that the lilies in the arrangement were highly toxic to cats. Likewise, never give your cat NSAIDS, like ibuprofen, or acetaminophen (Tylenol). I have had several patients develop kidney disease and almost die after they were given just one Tylenol! Lastly, unlike acute kidney disease, chronic kidney disease develops slowly and can be caused by diabetes or hypertension.  Risk Factors Age Other medical diseases Breed: Abyssinians, Siamese, Oriental breeds, and Persian cats are at an increased risk for developing kidney disease  Signs and Symptoms Excessive thirst Increased urination Dehydration Weight loss Vomiting Lethargy Abnormal smelling breath Unkept coat, failure to groom themselves  Diagnosis If you see any of these symptoms, bring your cat to your veterinarian. As with most medical conditions, the earlier kidney disease is detected the better the prognosis, so don’t delay seeing your vet. After an examination, your vet will likely suggest doing blood and urine tests. Depending on those results, imaging to look for bladder or kidney stones, or cancer may be suggested.  Treatment Unfortunately, there is no cure for chronic renal failure in cats. The treatment involves hydration and controlling the associated symptoms. Treatment may include the use of fluids to improve hydration, and/or medications that increase blood flow to the kidneys, lower high blood pressure, or correct electrolyte imbalances. Medications used to help stimulate a cat’s appetite and control gastrointestinal upset may also be used if needed. Lastly your veterinarian may recommend switching your cat to a special diet designed to slow the progression of renal disease. However, as all cat owners know, cats can be picky, so the most important thing is to keep your cat eating.  Prevention Sadly, there is not much you can do to prevent your older cat from developing chronic kidney disease. However, you do want to catch the disease early so you can so you can start treatments aimed at slowing the progression of kidney failure. In the case of acute renal disease, you can take steps to prevent it by keeping poisons and toxic plants (like lilies) away from your cats and never give them any medication without first checking with their veterinarian.     Diabetes Diabetes is not just a human disease; cats can also suffer from diabetes. Estimates report that diabetes affects 1:200 cats nationwide and is increasing at an alarming rate. Diabetes mellitus occurs when the body is unable to regulate the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. The hormone insulin is responsible for moving sugar from the bloodstream into cells to be stored or used for energy. Type-1 diabetes occurs when the body fails to produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes, also known as insulin-resistant diabetes, develops when the body becomes less responsive to the effects of insulin. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes result in chronically elevated levels of sugar in the blood that damage capillaries and eventually lead to nerve damage, kidney failure and even death. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes seen in cats.  Causes As in people, diabetes is a multi-factorial disease caused by different risk factors including age, genetic predispositions, diet, and obesity. Unfortunately, obesity in pets, just like people, is increasing. It is estimated that 58% of cats in the US are overweight. That means more than half of the cats in the United States are at risk for developing diabetes.   Signs and Symptoms Increased thirst Sudden increase in appetite Sudden weight loss (despite an increase appetite) Increased urination Increased lethargy  Diagnosis If your veterinarian suspects your cat has diabetes, they will need to do bloodwork to look at blood sugar levels and a urinalysis to look for glucose in your cat’s urine. The urinalysis will also detect bladder infections which are more common in diabetic cats.  Treatment The good news is that diabetes is a manageable condition. The goal of treatment is to provide stable blood sugar levels. With treatment, diet changes and at home monitoring you and your veterinarian can manage your cat’s diabetes. Your veterinarian will work with you to put your cat on a diet (usually high protein, low carb canned food), and will instruct you on giving insulin and then have you do at home monitoring. The good news is that if treatment, weight loss and diet changes are started early, some diabetic cats be controlled without insulin.  Prevention Since obesity is a risk factor for diabetes in cats the best thing you can do is keep your cats trim. If you have a chubby kitty now is the time to get them in shape. Cut back on calories by decreasing quantity or switching foods, and increase exercise. How many of you know how to exercise your cat? Here are some ideas I give my clients. Walks, playtime, put food up so cats have to jump, move around to get it, etc.  Kidney disease and diabetes are not the only diseases to afflict older cats. Part 2 will discuss other common geriatric ailments, like thyroid disease, cancer, and dental disease. READ PART 2
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Easy Ways to Clean Up After Your Cats

Cats are cute but they can be messy. Whether it’s endless shedding, litter tracked everywhere, or stepping on a hairball, these elegant creatures are not always the tidiest roommates. Thankfully, having a cat doesn’t have to be a chore. Here are some ways to minimize the mess and keep your house neat and clean. Shedding With the exception of a few breeds, like the Sphynx and Devon Rex, all cats shed, some more so than others. One way to decrease shedding is to brush your cat regularly. Brushing your cat on a regular basis removes dead hair, prevents tangles, is enjoyable to your cat, and decreases shedding. Of course, even with brushing, fur may still end up everywhere. If you are tired of vacuuming hair every day, consider getting a robot vacuum. Robot vacuums, can make your life a lot easier. It can be programmed to run several times a day, offers multiple cleaning modes, and will automatically recharge when the battery is low. Robot vacuums do all the work for you so shedding is no longer a chore. Litter Litter can be messy and smelly, but it doesn’t have to be. Choose a high-quality litter, like ökocat, to absorb and neutralize smelly odors. ökocat is made from reclaimed wood and has superior odor control without added chemicals, dyes or fragrances. ökocat comes in different formulations to suit your cat’s tastes. To make kitty clean-up easier, ökocat makes their Less Mess Clumping Low-Tracking, Mini Pellets Wood Cat Litter. This litter is all-natural so it’s a cleaner, healthier litter for your cat and you! The low tracking formula helps keep litter in the box where it belongs. For added mess protection, use a litter mat to trap any loose litter pellets. Hairballs Every cat parent can relate to sleepily walking to the bathroom at night only to suddenly step on a warm, squishy hairball with their barefoot. Unless you have a hairless Sphynx cat, hairballs are the inevitable price we pay to have such clean pets. Cats naturally keep clean by licking and grooming themselves fastidiously. Unfortunately, hairballs result when cats ingest their fur and regurgitate it. You can reduce hairball production by brushing your cat regularly. You can also give them over-the-counter hairball medication which coats the ingested hair, making it easier to pass through their gastrointestinal tract. You can also consider switching your cat to a cat food formulated to help reduce hairballs. Accidents Anyone who has cats can attest that they can be messy roommates. Whether it’s litter box accidents, hairballs, or vomiting, it is inevitable that you will need to clean up after your cat. Besides cleaning up the accident, it is important to use the right product. Choose a cleaning product that is safe to use around your pet and that is formulated to neutralize pet odors. For example, urine smell can remain even if it seems completely cleaned-up. To prevent your cat from having another accident because they can still smell the urine, use a product that neutralizes rather than covers up the smell. House Cleaning Advice Just a word of caution regarding cleaning and pets, you need to be careful with cleaning products around your pets. Always keep them stored safely away from pets and children and remember if you clean the floor or counter, make sure it’s dry before you let your pets walk on it. Remember cats often lick their feet and can ingest any chemicals that get on their paws. Cats can be messy, but they give us so much love and joy…they are worth it. With the right products cleaning up after your cats doesn’t have to be hard.    
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Learn All About Feline Diabetes: Prevention, Symptoms, Treatment and Diet

November is American Diabetes Month®, and humans aren’t the only ones at risk of developing diabetes. Approximately 1 in 200 cats in the United States suffer from diabetes.  What is diabetes? Diabetes mellitus, commonly called just diabetes, is a disorder that occurs when the body is unable to regulate the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. There are two types of diabetes, type-1 and type-2. Type-1 diabetes, also known as insulin dependent diabetes, occurs when the body is unable to produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone released when blood sugar levels are high, called hyperglycemia, such as after meals. Insulin directs cells in the body to move sugar out of the blood stream and into cells for storage or energy. Type-2 diabetes, also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes or insulin resistance, occurs when the body becomes less responsive to the effects of insulin. Even though insulin is still being produced, blood sugars levels become elevated. Regardless of the cause, both forms of diabetes result in chronically elevated blood sugar levels that damage capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in the body. The damage to capillaries may lead to different complications. What causes diabetes in pets?  Diabetes is influenced by both inherited and environmental factors. Genetics seem to be an important risk factor in dogs, and certain breeds, like Keeshonds and Samoyeds, are more likely to develop diabetes. Age is another important risk factor. Though it can affect animals of any age, it is more common in middle-aged and older animals.  Obesity is a major risk factor for type-2 diabetes, which is more common in cats. Fat tissue impairs the effects of insulin and leads to insulin resistance. Unfortunately, obesity in pets is becoming more prevalent. It is estimated that more than half of all cats in the United States are overweight and at risk of developing diabetes. Fortunately, diet and weight loss play an important role in the treatment of type-2 diabetes.       How is diabetes treated or managed? While there is no cure for diabetes, it is a manageable condition. Just like diabetes in people, diabetes in pets can be controlled with medications and lifestyle changes. The goal of treatment is to stabilize blood sugar levels by preventing them from getting too high or too low. This can be achieved with some combination of diet, insulin and at-home monitoring. There are several different types of insulin available with different durations of action, your veterinarian will assess your pet to determine which type of insulin will be best for your particular pet. In addition to insulin, diet and weight loss are just as important when it comes to treating diabetes in pets. Recent nutritional studies show that switching to a low-carbohydrate and high-protein canned food diet is the most effective dietary routine for most diabetic cats. Your veterinarian will work with you to determine what if any nutritional changes are necessary for your cat. Weight loss is also important because obesity is a common cause of insulin resistance. Fatty tissue releases factors that impair the effects of insulin. To promote weight loss, you should increase your cat’s daily exercise (yes you can get your cat to exercise), in addition to following your veterinarian’s dietary suggestions.   Photo by Piotr Musioł on Unsplash What are the common signs and symptoms of diabetes in cats?  The classic symptoms of diabetes are: Increased thirst Increased appetite Increased urination Lethargic Weight loss Dull coat It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of diabetes so that you can promptly seek veterinary care if you notice any of these in your pets. Of course, it’s important to mention that cats are very adept at hiding illness so these symptoms may be difficult to recognize initially. That’s why regular veterinary check-ups are so important. Annual examinations and diagnostic tests help to uncover diseases, like diabetes, early when they are typically easier to treat or manage.   How do you know if your cat has diabetes?  Diabetes can only be diagnosed by a veterinarian. If you think your cat may have diabetes, see your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian can diagnose diabetes with simple blood and urine tests. These fast and easy diagnostic tests allow your veterinarian to detect abnormally high levels of sugar in your pet’s bloodstream and also look for the presence of sugar or sugar breakdown products in their urine.   What’s the treatment?  Fortunately, diabetes is a treatable disease. The goal of treatment is to avoid the complications of diabetes by providing stable blood sugar levels. This can be achieved with some combination of diet, weight loss and insulin. There are several different types of insulin available with different durations of action. Your veterinarian will determine which type of insulin will be best for your particular pet. If your cat is overweight, your veterinarian will likely change their diet. Recent nutritional studies have found that switching to a low-carbohydrate and high-protein canned food diet is the most effective dietary intervention for diabetic cats. To promote weight loss, follow your veterinarian’s feeding recommendations and encourage active play.  With the right medications, diet and weight loss, diabetes can be controlled.  It is important to realize that if caught early and treated with insulin and diet, diabetic cats can go into remission, which means their blood sugar levels, also known as blood glucose levels, remain stable for more than a month without insulin injections or oral medications. Studies have shown that diabetic cats have remission rates that have been reported to range from 15%–100%. Predictors of diabetic remission in cats include achieving excellent blood sugar control within 6 months of diagnosis and regular home monitoring. Even if your cat does not go into remission, the goal of diabetes treatment is to reduce symptoms and avoid complications of uncontrolled diabetes.     Take home message Diabetes is an increasingly common problem in older cats. Become familiar with the signs and symptoms of diabetes and watch for their development in your pet. Take your cat to your veterinarian for regular examinations and screening tests. Remember it is always best to catch diseases early before they become advanced and lead to complications. If your cat has diabetes, remember that diabetes is a manageable disease and with treatment cats with diabetes can live long healthy lives.  FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DIABETES SPEAK WITH YOUR VETERINARIAN.  The makers of okocat® natural litter are not only dedicated to making the best cat litter, they are also committed to helping cats live longer, healthier lives. By providing educational articles like this one, they hope to educate pet parents about important cat health topics.    
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