Older Cat Health Problems

As cats age, their bodies change. Here are some common changes to expect and warning signs to look for.

By Cherie Langlois

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Keep this list handy. During your cat's aging process, if you notice your cat exhibiting any of the symptoms, contact your veterinarian.
Chronic Kidney Disease. Symptoms include increased thirst and urination, weight loss, reduced activity, appetite loss, vomiting, hypertension, anemia and dehydration. The disease is incurable but can be managed with special diets, extra fluids and medications. Kidney transplants have been performed in extreme cases.
Dental Disease. Symptoms include bad breath, appetite and weight loss, drooling, and tartar buildup on teeth. Treatment is regular teeth cleaning.
Hyperthyroidism. Symptoms include increased appetite and thirst, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, hypertension, and hyperactivity. Treatment involves lifelong medication, radioiodine therapy or surgery to remove affected thyroid lobes.
Arthritis. Symptoms include stiffness, decrease in activity, lameness and posture changes. Check with your veterinarian about appropriate medications to relieve pain and inflammation.
Cancer (Neoplasia). Symptoms include abnormal swellings or lumps, weight loss, appetite loss, vomiting, bowel changes, breathing difficulties, bleeding or discharge from body openings. Treatment involves removal of tumor and/or chemotherapy.
Diabetes. Symptoms include increased thirst and appetite, weight loss and increased urine output. Some cats can get by with oral medication, but the majority require daily insulin shots. Treatment also involves dietary management.
Megacolon (enlarged colon). Symptoms include constipation and straining. Treatment involves a feline-specific enema given by your veterinarian, dietary management, medication and sometimes surgery.
Heart/Circulatory Disorders. Symptoms include lack of energy, appetite loss, resting flat on breastbone, panting and paralysis of rear limbs. Treatment involves medication and dietary management.
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Reader Comments

Kelly    Jacksonville, FL

6/28/2015 2:45:27 PM

My girl is 15 yrs old. She is on medication for her heart and kidneys along with prescription diet. In January her life partner passed, they had been together since they were kittens. Since his passing she has lost a considerable amount of weight. Is this normal? I seem to be more concerned then my vet. Any ideas?

Bruce    Te Atatu Peninsula, AK

6/13/2014 8:43:29 PM

My cat is 18 yrs old Abysinian. about six months ago she started having appeleptic fits appoximately every four weeks is there anything I can do to help her ?

Cathy    Highland Park, IL

1/11/2014 7:36:41 PM

If a 16 year-old Siamese male shows signs of not feeling well and a (soft) lump is detected in side of neck and his purr becomes hoarse - he is given antibiotic shot and steroid. He then swells up in his neck and face, a soft mass, and then receives another short term antibiotic and another steroid,and the mass slowly diminishes, and the original lump is still there, but smaller, but now the cat suddenly is making motions with his mouth like his tongue isn't working -- and he has difficulty using his mouth to drink water - assuming this all happened in less than a week before he dies. Does cancer really go that fast? Might there have been other signs I overlooked? Two years to six months ago he vomited regularly - not hairballs - but could not find answers - then six months ago he had the same fluish symptoms as last week - responded to antibiotics and diagnosed hyperthyroidism. My main ? is : might all that vomiting have been related to his ultimate diagnose of cancer in esophagus? Was there something I should have looked for or seen to be able to prevent this?
And... How much did having moved to a new home and kids leaving for college have
contributed to stress/ultimate decline in health of past two years?
Thank you in advance for your kindness in answering.

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

11/30/2013 5:27:19 PM

Lovely list. :(

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