Aging in Cats

Another colleague in rescue (I have many of them) shared a Journal Article about cat aging, what’s typical, and what one should look out for that might indicate a problem.

While reading the article, I thought about Patches. I am about to talk about Patches at length.

Patches turned 17 this past June, and it’s only been the last year or so that her age is really catching up to her. I’m incredibly grateful for this.

Our vet recommends that cats older than 10 receive yearly blood panels in addition to wellness checkups, so Patches has been receiving them for awhile. Admittedly, they’re costly (we pay between $80-$180 depending on how in depth the panel). However, these help the vet catch possible changes that could indicate a problem a lot sooner than if the symptoms manifested in later stages.

This is how our vet caught early stages of kidney disease for Patches about 5 years ago.  It made sense; Patches had been experiencing 1-4 Urinary Tract Infections in one year. Her infections were so common that she’d developed a resistance to Clavamox and Convenia antibiotics. Patches has been on a prescription K/D diet since.

Benefit: It is designed to be less stress on the kidneys.
Con: It’s costly, and we’ve been through both Hill’s K/D diet and Royal Canin’s with her. Eventually, she gets tired of eating her food and either chooses not to eat, or eats the other cats’ food.

Since being diagnosed with kidney disease, Patches receives regular blood workups twice a year instead of just one. This is how we learned about 2 years ago that Patches had also developed hyperthyroidism.

There are several available treatments for hyperthyroidism. The least invasive is Hill’s Prescription Y/D Diet. This food has low amounts of iodine. The inexpensive and probably more common option are daily pills. More invasive procedures can include radiation of the thyroid.

We tried prescription food at first, but found that going the food route only works if you have a single cat home (obviously we do not). All effects of Y/D are nulled if the cat eats any other food. In our home, where other cats are eating regular food, we just couldn’t keep patches from finding a leftover morsel in their bowls. Y/D is also even more expensive than K/D food, so there we couldn’t afford feeding all of our cats Y/D.

Patches is now taking felimazole, medication taken twice a day. Our vet said with her age, it’d be risky and a pain to undergo radiation.

I would say up until this year, her regiment of prescription K/D food and twice daily pills did the trick. The past few months however, her appetite has waned. She shuns her prescription food, to the point where we began feeding her regular food for the sake of having her eat anything at all. In six months, her weight dropped from 8.5 lbs to 6.5, 20% of her total body weight.

Her blood profile last month revealed increased kidney values and thyroid levels. Right now, she’s eating both K/D and regular food (whatever I can get her to eat), increased dosage of thyroid medication, and 50cc of IV fluids daily.

The idea of sticking a needle into her to give fluids made me nervous. My husband and I went to the vet’s office, where they taught us where to insert into the skin between her shoulder blades. Fluid goes under the skin, like a camel hump of water. She’s been on this regiment for about 2 weeks now. The more often I do it, the easier it gets. I refer to the task as “watering my cat” the way one would water their plants.

Patches had another blood test this month, and despite upping her thyroid medications, her thyroid levels increased. She continued to drop weight, now at 5.8 pounds. I’ve been told that with hyperthyroidism, cats will lose weight no matter how much they eat.

It’s frustrating, but a sad part of her getting older. Our vet has hinted that at this point, it’s about doing what we can to keep levels as good as possible, but it’s not likely going to upside reverse. Her thyroid meds are increased again, as are her IV fluid amount daily.

But it doesn’t matter how old she is, she’s always my little baby girl.

Sage Journal Link


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