Regular wellness checks vital for senior cats

AAFP’s updated feline senior care guidelines stress regular exams for aging cats to stay on top of health-related issues

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) has released the updated 2021 AAFP Feline Senior Care Guidelines. Photo ©BigStockPhoto.comWhen it comes to maintaining the health and wellness of senior feline patients, regular veterinary visits are incredibly important.

This is according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). Building off of a resource published in 2009, the group has released the 2021 AAFP Feline Senior Care Guidelines, offering veterinary professionals an overview of emerging advances in feline medicine in respect to the aging cat.

The resource emphasizes the importance of regular veterinary visits to help track and manage health-related issues, as well as detect disease early. Specifically, senior cats (aged 10 to 15 years) should be examined every six months (minimum), while healthy cats older than 15 years should be seen every four months. Cats with chronic health issues may need to be examined even more frequently, depending on the severity of illness, AAFP says.

“The newly emerging concept of frailty is introduced in these guidelines and how practitioners can incorporate this into the senior cat assessment,” says task force co-chair, Michael Ray, DVM. “They also detail common issues in aging cats including pain management, nutrition and weight management, diseases and conditions, quality of life, and end-of-life decisions.”

The guide also includes discussion on how quality of life and health-related quality of life can impact the aging cat and emphasizes the need for veterinarians and cat owners to work together to make well-informed decisions for the individual senior cat.

Additionally, veterinarians are asked to consider four budgets of care when developing treatment plans with clients: financial, time, emotional, and physical. The weight of each of these budgets will vary for each cat owner and it is important to recognize this when having decision-making discussions, AAFP says.

“Veterinary professionals are encouraged to use the 2021 AAFP Feline Senior Care Guidelines to enhance their assessment and treatment of age-associated medical conditions and to provide guidance to clients so they are included in their cat’s health care team,” says task force co-chair, Hazel Carney, DVM, MS, DABVP (canine/feline).

The updated guidelines will be published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.

To access the resource, click here.

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