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Chronic Kidney Disease in cats

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is thought to affect a third of all cats over 10 years of age. As time goes on we have more and more to offer animals diagnosed with this condition, and we hope to give cats with chronic kidney disease a good quality of life for as long as possible. The prognosis for cats diagnosed with chronic kidney disease can be excellent, and some cats will go on to lead happy lives for many months or even several years.

Usually once CKD is diagnosed, we cannot identify the original cause, as it most likely happened earlier in the cat’s life. The kidney is an organ that cannot regenerate (regrow) and so CKD is not a disease that can be cured. The disease will usually progress over time and, unfortunately, in a lot of cases, the end stage is kidney failure. However, with treatment we aim to support the function of the kidneys for as long as possible, and also to minimise any complications.

Most cats diagnosed with CKD will have vague symptoms including weight loss, reduced appetite, drinking more and urinating more and vomiting intermittently. If you notice any of these signs at home do book your cat in for check with a vet as it is likely that we would recommend a blood test and a urine test. Often though these signs are difficult to notice as they come on gradually, and so it can be at a yearly booster or other check up that weight loss or other symptoms are found.

Once CKD has been diagnosed, if your cat is otherwise well and eating well, the vet will discuss the best way to manage the disease. If your cat is unwell when they are first diagnosed, they may initially need more intensive treatment which might involve a stay in hospital.

We will often recommend a change of diet to a prescription diet, and there is evidence to show that this is one of the most important factors in slowing down the progression of CKD. We do know however that a lot of cats will struggle to change their diet, and it is always more important that they are eating well and are happy, so we will always discuss with you whether this is right for your cat.

Monitoring your cat with regular blood and urine tests and blood pressure measurements is very important as it allows us to pick up changes early so that medication can be added if required and any complications picked up. We hope that by picking up CKD as early as possible we can prolong your cat’s good quality life as long as possible.

Our free senior cat checks are a perfect chance to discuss any concerns you may have about any of the symptoms of CKD, or any other worries. Please call us at the cat clinic to book your cat in.
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Obesity in your older bunny

When our rabbits become older they lead a slower pace of life, unless we monitor and adjust feeding patterns accordingly, there is a higher risk of pets gaining weight and becoming obese.

Obesity can be a contributing factor in the case of other conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and pododermatiitis.

It can also be dangerous in cases of anorexia as they will metabolise fat which can be lead to hepatic lipidosis.

Rabbits should have a diet of high fibre pellets, add lib grass, hay and greens to prevent obesity and to lose weight.

Follow this link for a good guide on rabbit body condition scoring.

If you are concerned about your rabbit’s weight in their older age, why not book in for a geriatric check with one of our nurses. These appointments are available for rabbits over the age of 7 years old and are running during the month of November only.
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Cognitive dysfunction syndrome in older dogs

Ever walked into a room and wondered why you went in there in the first place? I know I have, and at 50 years old it seems to happen more and more! This is part of normal ageing, along with creaky knees and my silver fox hair. Not every person (or dog) ages the same way & sometimes we see changes that are more severe than those of normal “healthy” ageing.

One of the more common questions I get asked by the owners of geriatric dogs is “do dogs go senile?” The answer is yes they can, although we call it cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). Cognition is the mental process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and the senses, dysfunction simply means it is going wrong!

The age at which a dog becomes geriatric will depend on the individual, and factors such as breed, but is generally about eight years of age. It is important to realise that geriatric dogs will be less active and rest more, this is normal healthy ageing. What we see with CDS are behavioural issues which may affect the pet’s welfare and the human-dog bond.

Possible symptoms include disorientation (sometimes the dog doesn’t seem to know where he is even though he is somewhere familiar) and reduced interaction with the family, which may lead to fear or irritation. Disturbed sleep, for example becoming restless at night and sometimes crying at night for no apparent reason. You may see loss of housetraining and an increase in anxiety levels. In severe cases these changes strongly resemble senile dementia in old people, and can be very distressing for the dog and owner.

What can be done to help? It is important to realise there is no such thing as a cure for CDS. However a number of things can help.
  1. Drugs – the most commonly used drug is Selegiline .This is an enzyme blocker which increases levels of helpful chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine
  2. Diet- there has been a lot of research into “healthy brain” diets. As the brain ages it becomes less able to use glucose as fuel. By suppling diets that are rich in certain fats called medium chain triglycerides, we can fuel the older brain more efficiently. Also correct levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins B C & E and other ingredients such as Arginine can improve blood flow to the brain, reduce inflammation and help reduce free radicals which damage the brain.
  3. Enrich the environment – It is important to give plenty of attention and interaction to geriatric pets. Most older dogs will still enjoy walks and play, although maybe not so energetically as they did in their youth. Make sure beds are comfy and warm as older dogs will spend more time in them. Puzzle type dog toys can also be useful just as Sudoku and crosswords are helpful in keeping our human brains active
Remember growing old is a natural process which comes to us all (hopefully) and the vast majority of dogs enjoy their geriatric years despite the occasional “senior moment”. Now where did I put my car keys?
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Meet Lottie – our cat of the month

Lottie is a lovely 15 year old cat who came to see us as her owner noticed she was becoming unsettled at night and wasn’t eating as much as she used to. Her behaviour had changed and she was sleeping in unusual places. Her owner had also noticed that her pupils looked bigger.

The vet examined Lottie and could feel an enlarged thyroid gland in her neck. She also had a high heart rate and had lost some weight, which can be symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland.

Due to Lottie’s age and symptoms, we recommended some blood tests and to check her blood pressure.

Lottie’s blood pressure was very high and had caused damage to her eyes, resulting in her retinas (the back of the eye) in both eyes to start to become detached. This can cause permanent blindness unless it is caught early. Lottie was started on tablets immediately to try to bring her blood pressure down, and she was very lucky that her condition was diagnosed early and she has not suffered permanent damage to her eyes.

Lottie was also diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and the early stages of chronic kidney disease, which we are now successfully managing.

Lottie comes into our Cat Clinics on a regular basis to have her blood pressure measured with the nurse. This is very similar to when we have our own blood pressure checked, and doesn’t cause any pain or discomfort.

Blood pressure can be affected by stress so we recommend that these checks are carried out on our dedicated Cat Clinic days, which are Tuesdays and Thursdays at our Stoke Road surgery. It only takes a few minutes and we encourage owners to stay with their cats whilst this is being done to help them feel more at ease.

High blood pressure is being recognised more commonly now in older cats and, if left untreated, can lead to blindness as well as damage to the heart, kidneys and nervous system. It is important to monitor blood pressure in older cats, and we recommend that cats above 7 years of age come in once a year for a routine blood pressure check. Cats already on treatment for other conditions may be asked to come in more regularly for monitoring.
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Dental disease in our ageing bunnies

Our older bunnies can suffer with ‘age-related’ conditions the same as other species. One common problem is dental disease, which can present in a number of ways, such as abscesses, malocclusion and tooth root conformation. Malocclusion may occur in an older rabbits due to a tooth root abnormality or missing opposing tooth.

Overgrown teeth in older rabbits is common and can penetrate the gums, cheeks, tongue and lips, which can cause ulcers or even oral abscesses. Rabbit’s teeth are continuously growing around 2-3mm a week. Therefore it is best to keep the diet as natural as possible to grind down their cheek teeth effectively. If your rabbit is not eating properly or losing weight, we recommend they are checked for abnormal dentition.

During November, we are offering free health checks for rabbits over the age of 7 years. These clinics are available with one of our veterinary nurses, at our Walnut Tree, Stoke Road and Willen branches. Call our reception team today to book an appointment for your rabbit.
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