Cats are masters at hiding illness. Although humans have long admired cats for their agility and hunting prowess, domestic cats are also a prey species to larger carnivores. Due to this need to appear healthy and invulnerable to avoid becoming someone else’s meal, they are inclined to hide weakness or illness until they are physically incapable of doing so. For this reason, routine health screening, including monitoring body weight, testing blood and urine, and measuring blood pressure is especially important for cats as they age. Many common life-threatening ailments of older cats are treatable if identified early.
Chronic kidney disease, for example, can be managed medically, often yielding multiple additional years of good quality of life. Through increased fluid intake, dietary changes, electrolyte supplementation when needed and control of increased blood pressure, the course of disease can be slowed. Treated cats can often live good quality lives for years if kidney disease is caught early. Untreated, chronic kidney disease leads to weight loss and decreased muscle condition, nausea, decreased appetite, anemia, chronic dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and terminal kidney failure. It can be detected early by monitoring changes in urine concentration, blood chemistry, complete blood count, and blood pressure.
Hyperthyroidism, a disease caused overproduction of thyroid hormones, can lead to severe weight loss despite a good appetite, behavior changes, frequent vomiting, high blood pressure, and heart disease if not treated. Treatment with medication or diet can control and prevent progression of the disease. Radioactive iodine therapy and surgery can be curative.
These diseases, among other common health problems in older cats are reasons we strongly recommend routine screening to catch illnesses while they are treatable.
For more information:
Mature and Senior cats:
Chronic kidney disease:
Written by Dr. Molly Lynch