senior-cat-care-guidelines

For the first time since 2009, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has updated its senior care guidelines.

The update provides updates on emerging advances in feline medicine that impact aging cats. “Veterinary professionals are encouraged to use the 2021 AAFP Feline Senior Care Guidelines to enhance their assessment and treatment of age-associated medical conditions and to provide guidance to clients so they are included in their cat’s health care team,” stated Task Force Co-chair, Hazel Carney, DVM, MS, DABVP (Canine/Feline).

The Guidelines address the importance of regular veterinary visits which includes a minimum of every six months for senior cats 10 to 15 years old in order to best track and manage health-related issues and detect disease early. Healthy senior cats over the age of 15 should be examined every four months. Cats with chronic health issues may need to be seen even more frequently depending on the severity of illness. “The newly emerging concept of frailty is introduced in these Guidelines and how practitioners can incorporate this into the senior cat assessment. They also detail common issues in aging cats including pain management, nutrition and weight management, diseases and conditions, quality of life, and end of life decisions,” said Michael Ray, DVM, Task Force Co-chair.

I was happy to see that the new guidelines also include a discussion of how quality of life affects aging cats, and how caring for an aging cat impacts the human caregiver emotionally, financially, and physically.

You can read the complete guidelines on the AAFP website.

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7 Comments on New Feline Senior Care Guidelines Emphasize Partnership Between Vets and Cat Parents

  1. My two rescue kitties, Lily & Emily, were seized from a hoarder by the County I live in & placed in the County animal shelter, which thankfully is a well managed no-kill facility that recognized that they were very highly bonded, and handled them accordingly. The shelter required that they only be adopted as a pair, recognized the need for special care & were advertised as “oldies but goodies” who needed a home that would love & save two darling senior cats. Amazingly, ages & the requirement to adopt both cats discouraged most potential adopters. They had been in the shelter for several months & no one wanted them because of their ages & the requirement to take both.

    They were precisely what we had been seeking. We fell in love with their internet pictures & profiles before we even personally met them, and decided that they were going to be our new furkids. We called the shelter, asked if they were still available, and were told that they were. We committed to these two girls over the phone, went in immediately that day & adopted them & brought them to their new forever home that evening. Some of the shelter caregivers cried with joy & relief when we took them.

    The shelter had no pre-intake information, medical or otherwise, of their histories, and all we knew was what was discovered by the shelter vets at their intake exams. They were gaunt, malnourished & had clearly been starving. They each weighed less than 5 lbs (and should have weighed over 7 lbs) & were skin-and-bones, but :::::appeared::::: to have no other MAJOR issues. We took them home & undertook making them healthy.

    Little did we know that they both came with some heavy baggage that was not discovered by the shelter vets (which I still don’t understand) — severe gingivo & caudal stomatitis. Estimated on a 1-10 scale, 8 for lily & 9 for Emily. We discovered this when we took them to our primary care vet the next day. They were in severe pain & couldn’t eat much because of it. They were immediately put on pain meds & we scheduled an emergency appointment for both of them, with a vet dentist/oral surgeon 50 miles away the next day. The diagnosis was confirmed & they were both examined & scheduled for full mouth extractions (their conditions were too severe for treatment with meds alone), i.e., all teeth & all roots were surgically removed. Their ages were estimated as 4 & 7 based on dental radiographs taken for the surgeries. (Subsequent DNA tests indicated that they were closely related, probably mother & daughter).

    Bottom Line: These adoptions, while costly, were the best things that could possibly happen to us & to two almost unadoptable senior cats (the shelter felt that they would have to live out their lives there). They even offered to take them back when they heard what had happened. Of course, we refused to accept the offer.

    WE & THE TWO GIRLS ADOPTED & SAVED EACH OTHER.

    Four years later, two happy & healthy senior kitties & happy & somewhat healthy senior humans. The girls get exceptional veterinary care from top-notch vets, who are worth every dollar we spend on them. We are all bonded. A match made in heaven.

    Is veterinary care expensive? Yes, but as a general rule not overly so. Vets have to financially survive also. They are, IMHO, for the most part overworked & underpaid. Their education is very expensive. I’ve read & been told that it’s often harder to get into vet school than it is to get into medical school. The vet suicide rate is mind boggling (I believe the latest figure is 6%). Appreciate the availability of excellent veterinary care for your animal companions. For the most part you get what you pay for. Pick your vets wisely, not cheaply.

    Love your animal companions as they love you. Understand that you have taken on a tremendous personal responsibility & that these wonderful creatures are totally dependent upon you.

    Dick Weavil

    • Thank you for sharing your story of your two “unadotable” senior girls, Richard. I also really appreciate your comment on the cost of veterinary care – far too many people complain about it without understanding what goes into becoming a vet and the challenges that vets face each and every day.

  2. Oh sure, every 4 months. Give me a break. Perhaps if there was reasonable rates and decent coverage for Pet insurance and if Vets didn’t charge outrageous fees for visits, exams, blood work, tests, more tests, drugs and more drugs, EVERY time I take my cat in, I could afford more visits. But as it is, being a senior on only Social security, with a senior (14 years old) cat, I can only afford an annual exam of $300. Unfortunately, because of this, I just found out my cat has developed Hyperthyroidism. THAT visit cost $400 and “needs” follow-ups every 3 months now because of the $65 a month meds he has to take that can cause renal failure.
    My cat is my only companion and it breaks my heart to see him suffer. I will do what I can afford to keep him comfortable.
    Reduce Vet rates and we’ll be able to save more cats!

    • Yes, veterinary care is expensive, but what most people don’t realize is that, relatively speaking, veterinary care, especially when compared to human healthcare, is actually not at all unreasonable. I’d encourage you to read this article to understand what goes into these costs, and as a former veterinary hospital manager, I can assure you that nobody goes into veterinary medicine for the money. Vets come out of vet school with a massive debt load, and veterinary salaries are very low compared to other professions. https://consciouscat.net/2013/01/28/why-is-veterinary-care-so-expensive/

  3. Thank you so much for this post Ingrid. We and Squirt’s Doctor are a team & this gives us that much more information & support.

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