Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Senior Pets: Don't Miss the Signs!

The other day I saw a 16 yr old cat who hadn't been to the vet since ???  What I find frustrating is why owner's wait. I honestly think in this case, it was simply that she didn't understand the signs to watch for in an older pet. I think many pet owners see changes as due to normal aging, when in fact, they can be signs that the animal needs to be brought in to see us. 

This cat was brought in because for the previous 2 days, she had been walking around crying. On her exam, I found her to be quite thin and very dehydrated. After questioning the owner, we found out the cat had been drinking a lot for a few months and had lost weight at the owner's observation.

The top three differential diagnoses on this patient are:
1. Chronic renal failure
2. Diabetes mellitus
3. Hyperthyroidism

These are the top 3 things we see in our older feline population. 2 and 3 we can manage with medication and diet. The first one is a bit tougher and carries a much poorer prognosis.

Our kitty has 1. I believe the owner will be bringing her in soon to have her euthanized. 

Now had she brought her in sooner could we have saved her from renal failure? Ultimately no. BUT, if we had detected it earlier we have been able to do some dietary and supplemental interventions to delay the onset.

My continual goal is to get the word out to pet owners that senior pets need an exam EVERY 6 months. We need to start getting a baseline blood panel on these guys at least 7 years of age (with dogs, breed dependent - could be younger for the GIANT breeds who only live to 8 or 9 yrs.)

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