Eleven Common Geriatric Cat Conditions

Someone once said that cats don’t age, they grow more refined. Either way, as time progresses geriatric illnesses can develop. By being aware of some concerns regarding older cats, you can be a more educated and prepared caregiver for your aging companion. It’s important that your elderly cat receive regular exams at six month intervals to keep him healthy.

Here are some of the most commonly diagnosed illnesses of older cats to be aware of.

Nutritional concerns

Obesity is a very common and serious concern in the older cat. It directly correlates to decreased longevity, and may contribute to other problems like diabetes, fatty liver syndrome, and lower urinary tract disease. Senior foods are typically less calorically dense and need to be measured accurately to maintain a healthy geriatric weight, which is something you can control. On the other hand, when cats have lost muscle mass and weight in their teens, it may be a natural part of aging. But our Veterinarians may be able to detect an underlying metabolic disease that can be treated to stop muscle loss. Some cats may even regain weight and muscle mass!

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is the most common medical problem of the geriatric cat. With early detection, special diets and other treatments, many cats continue to live a good quality of life for an extended time, often years. It is one of the primary reasons our Veterinarians recommend screening blood tests in older cats.

Dental Disease

Dental diseases such as gingivitis, periodontitis, and resorptive tooth lesions are common in older cats. Untreated, this leads to abscessation, pain, tooth loss, and serves as a reservoir of infection for the rest of the body, posing a risk to heart valves, and many organs.


Hyperthyroidism is another common disease of older cats. The thyroid gland becomes overactive, often due to a tumor that is usually benign. Your cat will rapidly lose weight and muscle mass, be ravenously hungry, and eventually develop diarrhea, vomiting, and heart disease. With early diagnosis, treatments are available to completely control this condition so your cat can live out a normal life.


Most diabetic cats cannot be regulated with dietary changes and oral medications alone. Daily insulin injections are typically necessary. Our Veterinarians will be your close partner in educating, demonstrating all treatments and monitoring techniques, and achieving regulation of your diabetic cat so she can live out a normal life.


Cats with hypertension (high blood pressure) can develop sudden blindness due to retinal detachments, stroke, kidney or heart disease. Treatments are available to control blood pressure, even medications in gel that can be applied to the ear tip.

Heart Disease

The most common heart disease of senior cats is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle and thickening of the muscle walls). This is often associated with hyperthyroidism and hypertension. Early detection of heart disease, treating underlying disorders and proper therapy may slow the progression of heart disease.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

I.B.D. has the symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. It is often seen in association with inflammation of the liver and pancreas. We have new non-invasive lab testing and ultrasound to help diagnose the condition and most cats can be controlled with proper diet and medications.

Skin and Mouth Tumors

While not common, tumors of the skin and mouth require early detection and treatment to have a good outcome. Any excessive salivation or bloody saliva, or foul breath odor should be investigated. Early excision and sometimes follow up treatments are necessary to manage these tumors.


Cancer is a significant problem facing the older cat who is now living, on average, two to three years longer than they did twenty-five years ago. Not all cancer in cats needs to be fatal so contact our office immediately if you detect any unusual lumps or bumps. Our Veterinarians have extensive experience in diagnosing and resecting all types of malignant tumors and can administer chemotherapy if indicated. Radiation therapy, when indicated, is available locally now as well.


Older cats frequently are found to have low red blood cell counts. It is sometimes a transient or readily treatable type of anemia, but sometimes the bone marrow is not producing new red blood cells. This often occurs with chronic kidney disease, viral diseases, blood parasites, or with any prolonged chronic disease. There are now hormonal treatments that can stimulate the bone marrow to start producing new cells . Sometimes, causes like the invasion of the bone marrow by Feline Leukemia virus or abnormal tumor cells make treatment very difficult.

Senior and geriatric cats at PSVC often benefit from early detection of all these diseases. Geriatric Medicine and Surgery are the passion of Drs. Wiles, Santos, Eich, and Trichel. That is why we recommend senior blood panels, urinalyses, blood pressure testing, and other select testing during our biannual “nose to toes” geriatric examinations. We are dedicated to total care of your geriatric cat and look forward to consulting with our family of cat-loving clients.

Save 10% with our Winter Dental Cleaning and Polishing Special

During the months of November through February we are offering 10% off scaling, polishing, radiographs, and dental surgery for your dogs and cats!

Please call our office to speak with a member of our veterinary team to schedule an appointment today – 412-798-8770

Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

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