ICAWC 2011: Maggie Roberts - Caring for Older Cats

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Maggie Roberts, Veterinary Director of Cats Protection, on the care of 'golden oldies' in shelters.

Maggie Roberts, Veterinary Director of Cats Protection, on the care of 'golden oldies' in shelters.

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  • 1. Golden Oldies
    • The care of older cats in shelters
    • Maggie Roberts BVM&S MRCVS
    • Director of Veterinary Services
    • Cats Protection
  • 2. Overview
    • The issues
    • The diseases of older cats
    • Assessing quality of life
    • Practical tips
  • 3. How old is an elderly cat?
    • In veterinary terms a cat is geriatric at 10 years.
    • In lay terms an elderly cat is 12 years onwards.
    • The average life expectancy of a cat is 14 years.
    • Many cats now reach their late teens and early 20s.
    • The world’s oldest cat is Lucy who is 39 years old!
  • 4. The issues for rescue
    • Cats are living longer
    • More elderly cats now coming into shelters
    • More likely to have health problems
    • More difficult to find homes; longer average stay
    • Increased resources (time and money) needed for older cats
    • Too many cats needing help overall
  • 5. How can we deal with more old cats?
    • Selective or balanced intake
    • Sometimes owners need to make hard decisions
    • Assess and make decisions on older cats promptly
    • Promote the positives of ‘mature’ cats
    • Agree to pay some of the costs if the cat has
    • a health problem
    • Sanctuaries?
  • 6. Advantages of older cats
    • Developed character
    • Less work than taking on a kitten.
    • Quieter and more sedate.
    • Less likely to wander.
    • Seek human contact more.
    • Good pets for elderly/ housebound people.
    • “Feel good factor” in helping a
    • needy cat.
  • 7.
    • Most elderly cats require more regular veterinary treatment.
    • They need to be monitored more closely.
    • Owner needs to monitor these cats so suitable owners need to be targeted.
    • Adopter is likely to have the cat for less time.
  • 8. Geriatric disease
    • Cats aged 10 years +
    • Most age-related disease is chronic (long term) and cannot be cured.
    • Many diseases can be controlled well with modern medicine and close monitoring.
    • The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the better, as more can be done.
    • Regular health checks are vital for older cats.
    • More than one disease may be present
  • 9. Common Diseases of Elderly Cats
    • Renal disease
    • Hyperthyroidism
    • Hypertension
    • Arthritis
    • Senility
    • Dental disease
    • Blindness
    • Deafness
    • Cancer
  • 10. Renal (kidney) Disease
    • One of the most common diseases of elderly cats
    • Usually chronic renal failure as a result of the natural ageing process
    • Damage to the kidney cells is irreversible so kidney function deteriorates over time
    • Waste products build up in the bloodstream and can cause damage to other body tissues
  • 11. Renal disease - signs
        • Increased drinking
        • Increased urination
        • Poor appetite
        • Weight loss
        • Anaemia
        • Poor coat
        • Vomiting
        • Lethargy
        • Depression
        • Halitosis (bad breath)
        • Fits or mouth ulcers when very severe
  • 12. Renal Disease - Diagnosis
    • Blood tests
    • Urine tests
    • X-rays or ultrasound
  • 13. Renal Disease – Treatment
    • Fluid therapy
    • Medication e.g. anabolic steroids, vitamins, appetite stimulants, benazepril
    • Prescribed diets with reduced levels of protein and phosphorus
  • 14. Renal Disease - Prognosis
    • Damage to the kidneys is irreversible
    • Tend to deteriorate over a period of time
    • With the help of treatment, affected cats can often maintain a good quality of life for several months or years
  • 15. Hyperthyroidism
    • A very common disease of older cats
    • Caused by an overactive thyroid gland
    • Excess thyroxine is produced
    • Cats with hyperthyroidism have an increased metabolic rate
  • 16.
    • Hyperthyroidism – Signs
      • Increased appetite
      • Increased intake drinking
      • Weight loss
      • Behavioural changes
      • Restlessness
      • Increased vocalisation
      • Vomiting
      • Diarrhoea
      • Poor coat condition
      • Enlargement of one or both of the thyroid glands (goitre)
      • Fast heart rate
  • 17. Hyperthyroidism – Diagnosis and Treatment
    • Diagnosed by a blood test (T4)
    • Oral medication - given long term
    • Thyroidectomy - surgery to remove one or both glands
    • Radiation treatment with radioactive iodine -very expensive and requires a long period of hospitalisation in isolation
  • 18. Hyperthyroidism - Prognosis
    • Fairly good if diagnosed early
    • Needs regular monitoring
    • If left untreated, there can be secondary effects in other organs e.g. the heart or liver
    • Once stabilised, cats will often live several more years
  • 19. Hypertension (high blood pressure)
    • Can occur spontaneously
    • May be secondary to another condition such as hyperthyroidism, heart disease or kidney disease
    • May affect the eyes, kidneys, heart and brain
  • 20. Hypertension - Signs
    • Blindness or changes inside the eye such as bleeding
    • Disorientation
    • Seizures
    • There may be no obvious signs in the early stages so all geriatric cats should have their blood pressure monitored
  • 21. Hypertension - Diagnosis
    • A thorough clinical examination, which includes the eyes
    • Blood pressure is monitored
    • Further tests to eliminate any underlying disease
  • 22. Hypertension - Treatment
    • Treat any underlying condition first
    • Medication e.g. Amlodipine
    • Prescribed diets containing reduced levels of sodium
    • Regular monitoring is vital
    • Outlook is dependent on regular monitoring and what the underlying cause is
  • 23. Osteoarthritis
    • Inflammation of joint(s)
    • Also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD)
    • Can be due to long term wear and tear and ageing or may be secondary to a previous injury
    • Very common in old cats
  • 24. Osteoarthritis - Signs
    • Stiffness (worse after rest or in cold weather)
    • Reduced motility (jumping less)
    • Lameness (much less common than in the dog)
    • Pain
    • Not grooming
    • Often bilateral (both sides)
    • The hips, elbows and spine are most commonly affected
  • 25. Osteoarthritis – Diagnosis and Treatment
    • Diagnosed by examination and x-rays
    • Long term anti-inflammatory medication
    • Weight management
    • Moderate exercise
    • Adapting lifestyle and home
    • Dietary supplements e.g. glucosamine
    • Surgery (if previous injury)
    • Alternative therapies e.g. acupuncture, magnetic collars
    • Treatment makes a huge difference to
    • QOL
  • 26. Senility
    • Cats are living longer so
    • senility is more common
    • Possible causes
    • Increased blood pressure
    • Brain disease e.g. brain tumour
    • Behavioural issues such as separation anxiety
    • Similar brain changes to Alzheimer’s
  • 27.
    • Disorientation or confusion
    • Change in social relationships
    • Forgotten learning patterns e.g. no longer using litter tray
    • Excessive vocalisation
    • Changes in normal routine – eating, sleeping, grooming etc
    Senility - Signs
  • 28. Senility – Diagnosis and Treatment
    • Diagnosed by ruling out other problems
    • Diets enriched with antioxidants or supplements
    • Environmental enrichment and adaptation
    • No drugs licensed to treat senility in cats; some may help reduce the signs e.g. behavioural drugs
    • Condition with gradually deteriorate
  • 29. Cancer
    • Any organ or body
    • system can be affected
    • More common in elderly
    • cats
    • The most common type of tumour in the cat is lymphosarcoma, which can occur at a wide variety of sites
    • Treatment depends on the type of tumour but in old cats quality of life must be the priority
    • Extensive or aggressive treatment should
    • not be undertaken lightly
  • 30. Assessing quality of life
    • Eating and drinking
    • Mobility
    • Continence
    • Pain
    • Ongoing medical/behavioural problem (cure or control?)
    • Mental well-being
    • Adequate care and environment
    • Will it ever get homed?
  • 31. Assessing older cats
    • Ideally need background information
    • Thorough examination by a vet
    • Blood pressure monitoring
    • Blood/urine tests (geriatric profile)
    • Observe and monitor closely
  • 32. Practical Tips in the Shelter
    • Routine and familiarity are especially important to an elderly cat.
    • Try to keep all resources (e.g. food, water and litter tray) fairly close by and accessible.
    • Provide gentle games in order to keep it stimulated.
    • Groom the cat regularly especially if they are arthritic, using a soft brush.
  • 33.
    • Regular veterinary health checks are vital to pick up the early signs of disease.
    • Monitor carefully especially eating, drinking and weight.
    • If paying for on-going treatments, clearly define what you will and won’t pay for
    • Ensure there are a number of soft, warm and quiet resting places with easy access.
    • Avoid communal pens
    • Use low-sided litter trays
  • 34. Thank You!