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Two Common Diseases of Geriatric Cats

Common Diseases of Geriatric Cats
Hypertension

Cats can get high blood pressure, in fact, hypertension is almost always due to kidney disease or hyperthyroidism in the feline. The veterinarian or a staff member will measure the blood pressure with a cuff placed around a leg, then attached to a manometer similar to how it is done in people.  

Multiple measurements are usually taken of the systolic pressure (the higher one taken for people). It is important to monitor for hypertension in cats with renal disease or hyperthyroidism as it may appear early or late in either disease. If it is found, oral medication will be used to correct the problem.

Cats are living longer and longer. This is due to better medical care and the fact that more cats are living only indoors. These cats commonly live up to 15 to 18 years of age, with a few living into their twenties. The oldest cat on record lived to be 38!

The two most common diseases of the geriatric cat are kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. It is said that if a cat lives long enough, they will get one or both of these problems.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism usually occurs in cats older than eight years of age. The older the cat, the more likely the disease. A tumor (97% of the time it is benign) causes too much thyroid hormone to be produced. No one knows why this tumor forms.  The tumor itself doesn't cause a problem, the symptoms are due to the excess of hormones. Common symptoms are weight loss even though the cat is ravenous, chronic vomiting, soft stools, fast heart rate, and some develop a heart murmur.

There are several treatments  for hyperthyroidism. A special diet made by Hill's Prescription Diet, Y /D, has been found to be very successful if your feline will eat it. This diet is extremely low in iodine, and it has to be fed exclusively in order to work. Other treatments are the oral drug methimazole, surgery to remove the mass, or radio-active Iodine. Surgery has fallen out of favor because often both sides of the thyroid gland are affected.  Radio-active Iodine has the advantage of being a one-time treatment (at least 97% of the time it is), but it is costly and needs to be done at a specialty clinic where the cat is hospitalized for a few days.

There is an ironic phenomenon where the disease of hyperthyroidism sometimes masks kidney disease. The kidney values may look fine until the veterinarian starts to treat the thyroid disease. If both diseases are present, the Y/D diet is good as it is also low in protein and phosphorus that is needed for renal disease.  But if Y/D is not an option, then a veterinarian may try methimazole next.  If the kidney values are still OK even when the thyroid disease comes under control, then we know the cat is a candidate for radioactive iodine if that is desired, or the cat can be continued on a full dose of methimazole. If the kidney values start to increase as we get the thyroid under control, then we know we can't fully treat the hyperthyroidism, we just try to reach a balance between the two.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is also very common. Symptoms are weight loss, vomiting, soft stools, and a poor appetite.  Anemia and excess phosphorus in the blood commonly occur as secondary problems.  Blood and urine tests will determine how severe the disease is, and what level of treatment is needed. A diet made for renal disease can really lengthen the time before the signs get worse. A more severe case may need hospitalization with intravenous fluids. After the cats are stabilized, some veterinarians teach their clients how to give subcutaneous fluids at home to their cats. A few cat owners have even had kidney transplants done for their beloved cats at teaching hospitals.  This is very expensive, of course, and they have to adopt the donor cat.

Cats are wonderful pets, but they are very good at hiding their symptoms. It is important to have an annual exam and laboratory tests to catch  these diseases early when it is easier to get them under control.

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Testimonials

  •           8/29/2017

    I love Balboa Pet Hospital! Balboa Pet Hospital's staff is amazing! The staff is knowledgeable, caring and above all honest! I feel confident that my pets are getting the best possible care there. The staff has always taken time to answer all of my questions and if I think of something after my appointment, I can just email! I know I won’t have to wait too long for response.

    Unfortunately, this year I’ve had to make some really difficult decisions. The compassion the staff showed to both my pet and I made these unbearable times tolerable. I am indebted to both Dr. Del Rosso and (the wonderful) Dr. Ravn for their kindness, compassion and dedication.

    If you are new to the area or just looking for a new vet, please give Balboa pet Hospital a call!

  •           6/5/2017

    LOVE everything about this place!!! The people are all super nice & caring. I never feel like they’re trying to sell me stuff I don’t need. The vets (especially Dr. Alice Chan) are wonderful, I always fee; comfortable coming here whenever Walle has an issue. They even help me file the insurance claims after each visit! Would highly recommended any pet owners to see them for their fur-baby needs.

  •           6/5/2017

    My dog has been a regular patient since 7 years ago. Once in a while we visit other hospitals due to time conflicts. However, we always go back to Balboa Pet Hospital. My dog has bad allergy and the doctors and assistants always follow up with us after the treatments or visits, help us submit the insurance claims. It’s not a cheapest place to go but their patience and caring are irreplaceable.

  •           4/28/2017

    I’m glad to have found Balboa Pet Hospital near my home. It’s definitely a hidden gem! Dr. Chan saw my dog, Oreo, for her skin problem last week, and my three cats, Pepper, Tofu and Cola, today for annual check-up. She’s very patient (especially with Oreo who’s shy to strangers), knowledgeable and approachable. The front staffs are also very friendly and helpful. They are so prompt to reply my email (within a few hours when I checked back my mailbox). All my pets are about 1-year-old and I’ll definitely bring them here for their health issues/checkup in many years followed.

  •           5/4/2017

    Brought my dog here for a checkup and some minor concerns. Dr. Chan was very professional. She got my dog the treatment he needed and answered all my questions regarding my concerns. The rest of the staff were very friendly and gentle with my dog. You could tell that the staff are genuine animal lovers; definitely something you want when you entrust the health of your pet to someone.

  •           5 of 5

    Been bringing our animals to Balboa for over 25 years and will continue because they provide great advice and care. We love Dr. D and staff are really helpful and friendly. Now if I can find medical care for myself like my animals get at Balboa...

  •           5 of 5

    I have been a patron of Balboa Pet Hospital for almost 500 years now (wink). I love Everybody there and feel they are have always been a great resource and the BEST support system for everything pertaining to my pets.

  •          

    The staff is very kind and gentle, the doctors are very caring and patient when dealing with my scared cat Lulu. I appreciate the time they took to put her at ease and making this procedure as painless as possible for the both of us. Will definitely be spreading the word. Thank you Balboa Pet Hospital.
     

    Linda P.

    San Francisco, CA

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