When Dooney began losing weight, his owner became worried. Yet, although she suspected something was wrong with her 16-year-old Bengal, she was too afraid to take him to the veterinarian for a checkup, because she didn’t want to hear any bad news. I think many pet parents with senior cats are fearful of bringing their kitty to the veterinarian, but not getting your cat examined makes it harder to identify common senior diseases in their early stages when they are easier to treat.
During a basic senior cat visit at my clinic, we perform a full physical exam, check blood pressure, and test the blood and urine. These non-invasive tests help us diagnose six of the most common diseases and other less common conditions that affect senior cats.
Dental disease is by far the most common disease we see in senior cats. If 70 percent of cats over the age of 3 have dental disease, you can imagine what we find in cats 9 years and older. Most owners are not aware of how bad their cat’s teeth are until they are shown during an exam. Cats are stoic and continue to eat until they cannot bear the discomfort of deteriorating teeth and gums, so most dental disease is hidden in its early stages.
Signs of significant dental disease are inflamed gums (gingivitis), plaque and tartar buildup, halitosis (bad breath), resorptive lesions (erosions of the tooth at the gum line), exposed tooth roots, broken crowns (the part of the tooth above the gum line; a form of aggressive cavities) and even growths on the gums. Just touching the gums around a bad tooth with a cotton swab elicits a pain response and often bleeding.
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