Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.
Cats are often forgotten members of the household in terms of veterinary care, since they are by nature self-reliant and hide illness and discomfort remarkably well. According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), a “senior” cat is defined as a cat over 11 years of age, while a “geriatric” cat is defined as being over 15 years of age.
As age increases, cats are more prone to developing subtle changes in behavior that can help clue us into various common diseases in older kitties, such as arthritis, chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, hypertension (high blood pressure) and small intestinal disease.
Chronic pain caused by osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) is the most common condition we diagnose that causes a chronic, negative impact on quality of life. Studies have shown that up to 90% of older cats will have changes consistent with osteoarthritis on x-rays, affecting many different joints in the spine and limbs.
Recognition of feline pain and pain management in cats has come a very long way in the last two decades. Some cats will develop visible lameness or signs of discomfort, but often the signs are much more subtle, such as:
- Hesitation before jumping.
- Relocating favored perches and sleeping areas to more accessible areas.
- If in a home with stairs, limiting themselves to one level of the home.
- Under grooming or over grooming.
- Not using the litterbox, especially to defecate.
- Reclusiveness and/or changes in temperament.
Treatment of osteoarthritis is often multimodal, meaning approached from many different angles. We generally start with omega-3 and joint supplements, as well as some prescription foods to manage the disease from a nutritional angle. Weight management is also an important part of nutritional management, as obesity creates a pro-inflammatory state in the body that can worsen disease symptoms (this is true of humans and dogs, as well!). Pain management with various drug therapies are often recommended; as well as physical therapy, cold laser therapy and acupuncture.
Osteoarthritis and common systemic diseases in cats, such as chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, hypertension and gastrointestinal disease, often have an insidious onset and a nonspecific set of symptoms (weight loss, increased or decreased appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea, increased water consumption and accidents outside the litter box, etc… ).
The non specificity of symptoms, and often coexistence of multiple diseases in a single cat, is why we recommend a blood pressure and comprehensive blood work and urinalysis profile any time a senior or geriatric cat presents with any combination of these symptoms. We may also recommend diagnostic imaging such as x-rays and abdominal ultrasound to be able to further define symptoms and come to a diagnosis. Treatment of the various common systemic diseases in older cats is also multimodal, often employing a combination of supplements, diet and drug therapies.
In the generally healthy senior or geriatric cat, the annual physical examination is a great opportunity to review the happenings of the past year with your veterinarian, and have a discussion as to the “normals” and “abnormals” of your unique kitty. We very often have findings on our examinations that are so subtle that clients have not noticed them at home, such as weight loss and painful joints.
In addition to our standard annual physical examination, vaccine and intestinal parasite prevention protocols, the AAFP additionally recommends annual baseline blood work, thyroid, urinalysis and blood pressure in all senior cats. Having these baseline values for an individual patient is extremely helpful for comparison to their “normal” if illness arises. For some senior and all geriatric kitties, it is often recommend to have examinations, and sometimes blood work, on a biannual basis.
Amazingly, it is not uncommon for cats to live into their early 20’s with regular preventive care, pain management and early and persistent management of chronic diseases. We absolutely love our well-lived and well-loved senior and geriatric feline patients!
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“Probing the highly imaginative, inspired mind of Teresa Oaxaca is not altogether unlike having a present-day conversation with an Old Master,” says Nashville Arts Magazine.
Here is an unusual opportunity to learn from this incredibly talented and accessible artist, at Art House 7’s two-day oil painting workshop in October. Teresa will give 2 portrait painting demonstrations for 3 hours each morning. Students will then be painting from a clothed live model. Teresa will offer individual critiques that focus on materials, techniques, process and artistic vision. You’ll get jazzed up about painting and become more confident about your abilities.
Art House 7, Two-Day Oil Painting Workshop with Teresa Oaxaca. Saturday, October 22 and Sunday, October 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. EDT $250.
See more about Teresa Oaxaca here. Art House 7 5537 Langston Blvd., Arlington, Va. 22207
Validating one’s emotions has the power to heal, transform, and empower. What Is Validation? Every human being has feelings. We all have emotions that change over time, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. The question isn’t whether we feel; it’s how we handle feelings once they arise.
Building strategies to understand emotions is essential to positive mental health, and validation is one effective skill to practice.
Emotional validation is the process of understanding, embracing, and actively listening to another person’s feelings (or your own).
Understanding someone’s emotions doesn’t necessarily mean you approve of how they are feeling or reacting to something. You can be supportive in acknowledging and validating an emotional experience without agreeing or diminishing it. Validation is a skill to learn and improve over time. It may take practice, but the effort is most certainly worth it. Emotional validation has the power to enhance interpersonal communication and foster strong relationships.
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