Q: My cat is 15. My veterinarian says that he is a geriatric now and that I should keep a close eye on him. On what am I to keep a close eye?
A: (Part 1) Generally this means monitoring their level of socializing, activity, vocalizing or changes in their routine, pattern of vomiting, litter box habits, appetite, thirst, breath and weight. Noticing a slight change in one of these parameters does not necessitate an immediate trip to your veterinarian; however, if the change persists for two weeks, you notice other changes or the change is dramatic, then an exam is warranted.
Your observations can provide your veterinarian with important clues. Granted, history gathered on our pets is minimal compared to what we can describe of ourselves to our own MDs, it can still be of great help in narrowing down the list of possible diagnoses thereby reducing the time and tests needed to reach a diagnosis.
There are 313 diseases that cause weight loss, 119 diseases cause increased thirst, 97 disease cause increased urination, 23 diseases cause increased appetite, and 12 diseases that can cause very stinky, soft, large stool.
So for example, if you present your teenage cat to me because you notice weight loss, and I find no abnormalities on examination, I have a very long list of 313 possible diagnoses to work through to find the cause of your cat’s weight loss. However, if you tell me that not only is he losing weight but he seems to have an increased appetite, the list of possible diagnoses of diseases that can cause both weight loss and increase their appetite, the list shrinks to 19.
And if you also tell me in addition to his healthy appetite and weight loss that you notice when scooping the litter box that his stools have increased in volume and smell a lot worse than they used to, the list of possible diagnoses just shrank to a mere three.
With a only a few observations, you have the potential to make my job 100 times easier and move us a lot closer to the diagnosis. In the next article, I will explain the sorts of changes in these parameters that you should consider noteworthy.
Dr. Jeffrey Person practices at the Delton Veterinary Hospital and co-hosts the listener call-in show Pet Talk, heard every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on AM630 CHED.