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Geriatric Feline Health Concerns - Page 2


Heart and Circulatory Disorders

Some cats born with heart defects may reveal no effects until later in life, when there is increased stress on the heart and circulatory system. Heart disease usually occurs in middle-aged cats (six to eight years old).

The most common acquired heart disease is cardiomyopathy, or failure of the heart muscle. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may develop as a separate disease, but in older cats it can develop secondary to hyperthyroidism and chronic kidney disease.

Unfortunately, some signs of heart disease (lack of energy and appetite, decreased activity, long rest periods) can be easily confused with the normal signs of old age, and thus may be overlooked until the disease is too far advanced for treatment. Other signs to watch for are a marked tendency to lie flat on the breastbone and reluctance to move from that position, panting or open-mouth breathing (due to fluid accumulation in the chest and resultant breathing difficulty), sudden paralysis of the rear limbs, and, in severe cases, a bluish-gray tongue (due to inadequate oxygen supply).

Anemia is a frequent malady of older cats that can be caused by a multitude of different chronic diseases and by parasitism. Anemia is easily detected by blood tests.

Diabetes Mellitus

Degeneration of the pancreas's islet cells, resulting in decreased insulin production or a reduced ability of the body's cells to respond to insulin, causes diabetes mellitus. The disease is characterized by an unquenchable thirst, ravenous appetite, and increased urination. Fortunately, diabetes can be controlled by dietary alteration and/or by daily dosages of insulin or oral hypoglycemia agents, which aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates.

Liver Disease

The liver of the older cat is susceptible to tissue degeneration and disease. Signs indicative of liver disease include vomiting, lethargy, poor appetite, neurologic dysfunction, and jaundice. There is no cure for many of the liver disorders, but medications and dietary management as prescribed by a veterinarian can help reduce the signs of disease.

Prepared by the Cornell Feline Health Center, Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca, New York 14853-6401. The ultimate purpose of the center is to improve the health of cats by developing methods to prevent or cure feline diseases and by providing continuing education to veterinarians and cat owners. Much of that work is made possible by the financial support of friends. ©1983, 1984, 1988, 1994 by Cornell University. All rights reserved.



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