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.

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ICAWC 2011: Maggie Roberts - Caring for Older Cats

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