Wednesday, January 13, 2010

geriatric cats -- what you need to know

Cognitive dysfunction and the
neurobiology of ageing in cats
With improvements in nutrition and veterinary medicine the life
expectancy of pet cats is increasing. Accompanying this growing
geriatric population there are increasing numbers of cats with signs
of apparent senility. A recent study suggests that 28 per cent of pet
cats aged 11 to 14 years develop at least one geriatric onset
behavioural problem, and this increases to over 50 per cent for cats
of 15 years of age or older. While behavioural changes may result
from systemic illness, organic brain disease or true behavioural causes may also be at the root.

Potential causes of behavioural changes in geriatric cats
d Arthritis (the pain and/or dysfunction of arthritis is often underrecognised in elderly cats)*
d Systemic hypertension (high blood pressure may either be primary or secondary to, for
example, hyperthyroidism, renal failure, diabetes mellitus, acromegaly or
d Hyperthyroidism
d Chronic renal failure
d Diabetes mellitus
d Urinary tract infection
d Gastrointestinal disease
d Liver disease
d Neurological defects (either sensory or motor deficits)
d Reduced vision or hearing
d Brain tumours (for example, lymphoma, meningioma)
d Infectious disease (for example, FIV, FeLV, toxoplasmosis, FIP or, perhaps, Borna disease)
d Dental or periodontal disease
d Inflammatory disease in general
d Pain in general
d True behavioural problems
d Cognitive dysfunction syndrome
*The importance of arthritis should not be overlooked. Radiographic evidence of degenerative joint disease is present in
70 to 90 per cent of cats over 10 years of age (Hardie and others 2002, Clarke and others 2005). Associated pain
and/or dysfunction can result in reduced activity and mobility (Clarke and Bennett 2006), aggression, altered
interactions with the family and/or loss of litter box training (Houpt and Beaver 1981). When asked, most owners list
the diseases that they see in their older cats in a different order to the list generated by veterinary surgeons. Top of the
owner’s list is arthritis, and this is followed by kidney failure, deafness, blindness, hyperthyroidism, bronchitis and dental
problems (V. Halls, personal communication). Owners can help their arthritic cats by adjusting their house; for example,
by moving food and water bowls to lower surfaces, adding ramps to allow easier access to favoured sleeping areas
and placing low-sided litter boxes within easy cat reach.
Journal of Small Animal Practice  Vol 48  October 2007   2007 British Small Animal Veterinary Association

No comments: