Senior Cat Wellness Care Recommendations

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Gladstone-Vet-SENIOR CAT

Many cats begin to encounter age-related physical changes as early as seven years of age. Senior cats should receive semi-annual examinations, so that disorders can be found and treated early, and ongoing medical conditions can be evaluated. We may recommend additional diagnostics, such as bloodwork, urinalysis, blood pressure readings, or radiographs to monitor your pet’s health. This care is necessary to keep your senior pet in the best possible health for the longest possible time.

Comprehensive Health Evaluation

Comprehensive semi-annual health evaluations are critical to the long-term health and well-being of your cat in his or her senior years, especially since cats are masters at hiding illness. Because pets age faster than people, major health changes can happen quickly, especially in senior pets. Semi-annual exams can help us find small problems before they adversely affect your pet’s health. This evaluation will also include a nutritional and weight assessment, discussion of any behavior issues, and a dental evaluation.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations protect against preventable infectious diseases and help your cat live a long, healthy life. We take your pet’s lifestyle and risk into consideration when developing a vaccination schedule so that your pet does not receive any vaccinations that he or she doesn’t need, but ensuring protection against contagious diseases that are preventable. We prefer to schedule vaccine boosters on a rotating schedule for most patients, providing a lighter burden on the immune system.

FVRCP: This vaccine protects against several highly-contagious upper respiratory viruses, including rhinotracheitis (feline herpes virus), calicivirus, and life-threatening distemper. Feline herpes and calici virus infections can be life-long. This is a core vaccine recommended for all cats. Once your cat has received appropriate kitten boosters, and an FVRCP vaccine 1 year later, then we recommendation vaccination every 3 years.

Rabies: This vaccine protects against a fatal disease that can be transmitted to humans. Rabies has been detected in foxes, coyotes, and bats in Oregon. Since cats are very curious and bats can get into our houses, we recommend rabies vaccination for all indoor and outdoor cats. We use a non-adjuvanted rabies vaccine in cats that provides protection for 1 year.

Leukemia: The feline leukemia virus is the leading viral killer of cats and is spread through bite wounds, mating, from an infected mother to her kittens, or through casual contact with an infected cat, such as sharing food bowls or litterboxes. We recommend feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) testing for all kittens and new cats. Following a negative test, we recommend an initial two-dose feline leukemia series for all kittens (since even indoor-only kittens may inadvertently get outside or may become indoor/outdoor cats later in life), and then risk should be revisited 1 year later. At-risk cats should continue to be vaccinated on a 3-year schedule. We use a non-adjuvanted feline leukemia vaccine.

Annual Deworming

We follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for at least annual deworming of all cats, both to protect cats, and also their owners from internal parasites that can cause severe disease, including blindness in children and adults. We use an oral medication called Drontal which treats roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms. The monthly preventive Revolution treats most of these internal parasites, except tapeworms and whipworms. Your veterinarian may recommend annual deworming even if your cat is on monthly Revolution based on his lifestyle or if he has a history of having fleas (which are part of the tapeworm lifecycle).

Annual Intestinal Parasite Screening

We recommend annual internal parasite screening for all cats. We test for hookworm, whipworm, roundworm, plus protozoa coccidia and giardia, which love to infect standing water in our wet weather (and which our routine dewormers don’t treat). When we also recommend annual deworming, we wait two weeks to have you submit a fecal sample for analysis, so we can ensure the effectiveness of deworming. Cats with heavy loads of internal parasites may test positive for hookworms, roundworms, or whipworms, even after receiving a broad-spectrum dewormer. Learn more about internal parasites in cats at PetsandParasites.org.

Senior Labwork

Just as our physical exam is used to evaluate your pet’s health, blood and urine testing provide an exam of your pet’s internal organs, and can help uncover underlying medical problems that may not be obvious from the physical exam. Baseline testing at 9 years of age followed by annual screening can help us monitor your pet’s health and allow us to catch illnesses early, before it’s too late. Depending on your cat’s health status and use of prescription medications, your veterinarian may recommend annual, semi-annual, or quarterly screening labwork to monitor your pet’s organ function.

Blood Pressure Screening

Cats are at higher risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure. This condition can a primary problem, or be secondary to other illnesses, such as kidney disease or thyroid disease. Regardless of the cause, hypertension in cats can result in sudden blindness due to retinal detachment, so screening senior cats is a very important component of preventive care.

Monthly Flea Prevention

We recommend monthly flea prevention for at-risk cats year-round. We offer a variety of preventives, and can make a recommendation for a product that will best suit you and your pet based on lifestyle and preferences. We carry the following products:

Revolution—topical prescription preventive that kills fleas within 48 hours, and also treats ear mites, and several internal parasites.
Comfortis—oral prescription flea preventive that kills fleas very quickly (within 4 hours of administration), and the main ingredient is labeled for use in organic farming. It is a flavored pill that must be given orally with a full meal.
Cheristin—over-the-counter topical flea preventive that kills fleas within 4 hours of application. The main ingredient is labeled for use in organic farming.
Frontline Gold—over-the-counter topical flea preventive that kills fleas within 12 hours of administration.

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