Preventive Medicine:
for Adult and Senior
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Wellness Exams and Vaccine Programs Recommended for Adult & Senior Cats

Life Stage: 3-7 years

Life Stage: 3-7 years

These are prime years for the health of most cats. 
But don’t ignore the importance of wellness exams, dental exams, the constant vigilance needed for parasite control, and vaccines.

What do we recommend:

Continue the practice of a Complete annual Physical - Wellness exam.  At our clinic this includes a screening test for Ringworm, a careful dental exam, careful attention to eye, ear, and skin problems, and an EKG.  We record weight, heart rate, resp rate, body score, and temperature.  Remember our goal with Preventive Medicine; to find problems in their early stages so we can deal with it.
Rabies Vaccination   We recommend giving this important vaccine yearly for the first few years of life.  But at this 3-7 year life stage, we recommend giving rabies every 3rd year using the 3 year approved rabies vaccine.
Note that some States have different legal requirements and that when a local region has a rabies outbreak among the local wildlife, your State Vet may change the recommendation to every year again.
And if your cat is a free roamer or happens to have a lot of contact with wildlife or rodents, you might want to continue with a yearly schedule.

Other Vaccines:  At this stage of life, we can also stop giving the combination shot of feline distemper or panleukopenia, herpes viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and chlamydophila every single year.  Our profession is still arguing about the pros and cons of vaccinating too often versus not enough, but the consensus seems to be that about every 3 years at this life stage is about right. But this every third year business is not set in stone and so much depends on the health and genetics of the individual patient as well as the situation such as indoors only versus out and about. 

Leukemia Vaccine:  Leukemia disease is common and deadly serious, but it’s mainly, though not exclusively, a disease of younger cats.  And leukemia vaccine has a bad reputation for causing vaccine reactions (mostly minor, but occasionally very serious).  So once again, the consensus seems to be that we should give this vaccine yearly for the first few years of life and then every 3 years after that and maybe not at all for totally indoor pets and senior pets.

Many vets are changing over to this new regimen of giving Rabies, Leukemia, and the combination of other vaccines every 3 years instead of yearly once a cat reaches a certain age.  For those excellent pet owners who bring in their pets for at least an annual physical – wellness exam, we are often alternating which vaccine we give each year to further limit the amount of vaccine antigen we give a pet on any one visit.  In other words, we give rabies vaccine one year, the leukemia vaccine the second year, and the combination vaccine the third year.

Also consider:

Heartworm screen to ensure the ongoing protection of your pet from this devastating disease.

Many vets like to do a microscopic fecal exam at this time.  (I prefer to do this test at the Mid Year check up.)  In some localities, some vets recommend twice yearly worm exams.

I like to give a free yearly bolus of dewormer to my patients.

Lastly, make an appointment for your midyear wellness check in 6 months so you don’t forget.  We’ll send you a reminder and it’s easy to change to date if the original date is inconvenient. 

A note about Intestinal Worm Control:

Controlling worms is a multi-attack situation; none of the tests or products we have available are 100% reliable.  So, for best results and a family dog free from the irritation, pain, and debilitation of even a minor parasite load, we recommend

1.  Frequent microscopic stool sample checks (1-2 times yearly)

2.  The protection for intestinal worms that is provided from your monthly heartworm medication.  For cats this usually means Revolution which also controls fleas, ear mites, and mange well.

3.  Twice yearly boluses of dewormer.  At present, I like to switch back a forth between high doses of Pyrantel and Panacur.  Because worms rapidly become resistant to worm medications, and because newer and better products often become available, this specific recommendation might change at any time.  Trust your vet to be fairly up to date (we are constantly updated about drug and disease management improvements by professional bulletins, articles, sales reps, and seminars) and to recommend the best for your situation.  And to point out the obvious: we vets are constantly examining hundreds of poop samples a week; so we KNOW what products are working well and which are not in our local regions.

4.  The vigilance of the pet owner.  Use your eyes and look for any obvious abnormalities in your pets stools.  However, you need to know that many of the parasites that cause major disease are not visible without concentration techniques, special stains, and a microscope, so don’t rely on looking alone.  Trust your vet’s recommendations and do those fecal exams!
Another comment about intestinal parasites:

Successful parasites are ones that can feed off your pet but not kill it!  Most of the common parasites that affect dogs and cats are very successful and for the most part don’t kill your pet.  Most people wouldn’t know their pet had parasites if it weren’t for the fecal exams. Most pets with small to moderate loads of parasites act okay on the outside and even their stool will appear more or less normal.  But, on the inside, those parasites are causing constant inflammation and irritation, draining nutrition, and causing havoc in the immune system.

Okay, enough said about worms.  Certainly the most important part of a yearly wellness exam is the exam itself and time spent with your veterinarian discussing the health, habits, diet, and behavior of your pet. 

And it should be time to stock up for another 6 months on heartworm preventive, flea control, and oral hygiene products.

Mid year wellness check for adult cats 3-7 years old:

A mini wellness exam.  For preventive medicine to work well, we need to check up on our patients every 6 months.  We need to monitor and record weight, resp rate, heart rate, temperature, and body score.

We do EKG screens at our clinic at these mid year exams.  Heart disease is the #2 cause of death in cats from disease (number 1 is kidney disease) and an EKG can pick up heart problems long before we can detect them using a stethoscope alone.

It’s also time for:

Fecal examination

Bolus of Panacur or other Dewormer
Capstar if warranted
Trial of TD, Biotene, or other teeth and gum cleaning products
Pick up Flea and Heartworm Control; it should be running out about now.

Make an appointment for your pet’s annual wellness exam in 6 months.

Life Stage : Senior cats age 7-12

Annual Complete Physical. Cats at this age are like people in their 50-70’s and we can usually find several things that need medical attention if we look carefully on an exam.  This is an age when dental problems, joint disease, lumps and bumps, and cataracts are common.  And that’s just the more obvious stuff.  Internally, it’s common for pets this age to suffer from different degrees of heart, lung, immune system, and metabolic-hormone problems such as diabetes, liver disease, early kidney disease, stones, early cancers, and thyroid disease.  A good exam at least once a year is critical at this stage of life if are goal is early disease detection and to maximize the comfort and life of your loyal pet family member.

Blood Work:  At our clinic we do an inexpensive BUN kidney screening test at this annual visit.  We also do a hematocrit or PCV test to check for anemia.  More extensive blood work is recommended on a case by case basis

Urinalysis:  We encourage our clients to bring in a fresh urine sample in order to do a urine protein test which is a detection test for early kidney disease.

Heart:  we do an EKG for our older patients every year as part of our check up.  We consider X-rays of the chest on a case by case basis

Bowel Health:  We generally do routine fecal samples at our mid year check up but most vets do them at the annual check up so I’m listing this here.  At this age, we recommend doing fecal exams, but not so much as a parasite check but rather for signs of bowel irritation, inflammation and poor digestion.

Vaccines:  Rabies every 3 years unless yearly is warranted
feline distemper or panleukopenia, herpes viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and chlamydophila  every 3 years, and Leukemia every 3 years.  Ideally, we rotate these so that your cat gets one vaccine one year, another the second year, and so forth.  This technique reduces the chance for reactions.

Basically, we now base our older cat vaccine recommendations on an individual basis depending on exposure, activities, legal requirements, and most importantly on the general health and immune status of the patient.

This is the time we spend a lot of time discussing your pet’s weight, arthritis problems, dental hygiene, body odors, and any other issues that need to be dealt with.  And of course, we enjoy playing, petting, bonding, and massaging our older patients each year.

Once again, it’s time to stock up on any needed heartworm, flea, and parasite control products and to make another appointment for 6 months away for a mid year check up.

We also usually recommend Glucosamine and Omega 6:3 fatty acid supplementation for this age group.  And oral hygiene products.
Senior Cats: Mid year;

Mid Year check up paying close attention to dental, ear, and skin inspection.  Record of weight, Heart rate, resp rate, and Temperature
Bowel Health/Fecal Examination.  At this life stage, in addition to checking for parasites, we are looking for signs of liver dysfunction, intestinal bleeding, poor digestion, and bowel inflammation.

Blood Panel:  Depending on the general health of the individual patient, we often recommend a panel of tests … they keep getting better and less expensive … that picks up all kinds of diseases that would otherwise be missed on routine exam.  Anemias, Kidney disease, liver disease, Cushings, Addison’s, pancreatitis, diabetes, Hypercalcemia, thyroid disease, and much more.  As you probably know, these tests are done routinely on human patients after turning 50, and as a result, we’re all living a lot longer.

Pick up Flea and Heartworm Control Meds, Glucosamine, Arthritic pain medication, Omega fatty acids, and oral hygiene products.

Make an appointment for the next annual examination.

Geriatric Life Stage: Cats over 12

At this life stage we see a wide variation of health.  Many pets are still active and outwardly normal.  Others are in obvious decline.  With our help, though, we can keep the lucky ones healthy and active for  awhile longer and the pets with geriatric problems happier and more comfortable.  At he annual and mid year vet visits, we tend to customize what we recommend and do based on the individual patient’s health and lifestyle.  But it all starts with a good exam:

Yearly Geriatric Physical:  It’s rare that we can’t find something needing attention in cats at this life stage on a good physical exam.  And it’s rare that we can’t improve your cat’s health and comfort level.  The most common problems are dental pain, masses, ulcers, and cysts, aches and pains of sore muscles and joints, kidney problems, weak or malfunctioning hearts, digestive disorders, cataracts, eye lid cysts, cancers, arthritis, hormone deficiencies, skin problems, anemia, liver disease, and neural degeneration.  We inspect every body part during a good exam to help identify and grade the problems of your old pet friend.

We also rely on lab tests, EKG’s, and radiographs:  whether or not we take advantage of any or all of these diagnostic tools depends on the physical exam findings and whether or not you have already recently done these things as we may have recommended them at the last mid year check up.

And we rely on an ever improving arsenal of treatments and supplements for improving the ailments of old age.  Here’s a list of just some:

Durlactin, Cox-1 pain inhibitors, Glucosamine, MSM, Adequan, and Omega fatty acids for arthritis and other pains.

Prescription diets and supplements such as potassium and phosphate binders for the management of kidney, liver, and bowel problems.

Anenosyl-Methionine for the treatment of depression, osteoarthritis, and liver disease

Pancreatic enzymes for digestive problems.

And a smorgasbord of vitamin potions, hematinics, appetite stimulants, serious pain medications, skin treatments, oral hygiene products, and hormone replacement therapy as needed.

Vaccines?  Often not needed at this age, but it depends on your pet’s breed, activity level, health, and exposure.  Most  vets are vaccinating every 3 years for cats this age or skipping certain vaccines altogether.  

Make an appointment for the mid year check up in 6 months !

Geriatric Cats; Mid Year Check Up

A mini check up; at this age problems can crop up fairly quickly and we want to identify them as early as possible for hopeful resolution.

Consider the need for dentistry, blood panels, and survey radiographs on an as needed basis.

A fecal test looking especially for signs of bowel irritation and inflammation.

A hemocrit test for anemia and ictrus

Monitor and discuss your pet’s problem list.  Modify diet and treatments as needed.

Refill any needed medications, supplements and so forth

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How I approach Preventive medicine for different age groups of adult and senior cats

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