As defined in AAHA / AAFP 2021 Feline Life Stages Guidelines, cats over 10 years old are considered “senior”. Understanding the changing needs of each senior cat is essential for both veterinary professionals and cat owners. “Veterinary professionals are encouraged to use the 2021 AAFP Feline Senior Care Guidelines to improve their assessment and treatment of age-related medical conditions and to provide advice to clients so that they are included in their cat’s healthcare team, ”said the working group co-chair, Hazel Carney, DVM, MS, DABVP (canine / feline).
The Guidelines address the importance of regular veterinary visits which include a minimum of six months for cats aged 10 to 15 years in order to best monitor and manage health problems and to detect disease early. Healthy older cats over 15 years old should be examined every four months. Cats with chronic health conditions may need to be seen even more frequently depending on the severity of the condition. “The emerging new concept of frailty is presented in these guidelines and how practitioners can incorporate it into the assessment of senior cats. They also detail common issues in aging cats, including pain management, nutrition and weight management, disease and ailments, quality of life and end of life decisions, ”said Michael Ray, DVM, working group co-chair.
A discussion is included on the impact of Quality of Life (QOL) and Health Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) on the aging cat, and emphasizes the partnership between veterinarians and cat owners to make informed decisions for every senior cat. The task force also recognizes the impact of caring for an aging cat on the cat owner. Veterinarians are encouraged to consider four care budgets when developing treatment plans: 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 during decision-making discussions.
The AAFP provides additional resources to veterinary teams alongside these guidelines, including information on Quality of Life (QOL) and Health Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) instruments, video demonstrations on examination techniques myofascial and cat-friendly advice for dental exams, a printable client brochure, plus additional recommended resources.
the 2021 AAFP Feline Senior Care Guidelines and additional resources are available at catvets.com/senior-care. Resources for cat owners, including the new brochure for senior care clients, are available at catfriendly.com/senior.
The AAFP would like to thank the working group for their hard work in developing the content of the 2021 Feline Life Stages Guidelines – Michael Ray, DVM, Co-Chair; Hazel C. Carney, DVM, MS, DABVP (canine / feline), co-chair; Beth Boynton, DMV; Jessica Quimby DVM, PhD, DACVIM; Sheilah Robertson, BVMS (Hons), PhD, DACVAA, DECVAA, DACAW, DECAWBM (WSEL), MRCVS; Kelly St. Denis, MSc, DVM, DABVP (feline); Helen Tuzio, DVM, DABVP (Feline), CVA; Bonnie Wright, DMV, DACVAA.
The AAFP would also like to thank Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., IDEXX Laboratories, Inc., Merck Animal Health, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets, Royal Canin and Zoetis Petcare for supporting the development of the 2021 guidelines and resources for AAFP on Care of the Elderly. through scholarships at AAFP.
About the American Association of Feline Practitioners
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) improves the health and well-being of cats by supporting high standards of practice, continuing education, and evidence-based medicine (catvets.com). As a trusted leader in the veterinary community, AAFP has a long standing reputation and track record of facilitating high standards, including guidelines for excellence in practice and educational resources. Over the years, AAFP has encouraged veterinary professionals to continually re-evaluate preconceived notions of practice strategies with the goal of advancing the quality of feline medicine practiced. Launched in 2012, the Cat Friendly Practice® (CFP) program (catvets.com/cfp) was created to improve the treatment, handling and general health care provided to cats. Its goal is to equip veterinary practices, teams and individuals with the tools and resources to reduce the stress associated with the visit and to raise the standard of care provided to cats. Launched in 2020, the Cat Friendly Certificate Program (catvets.com/certificate) now offers this training to individual veterinary professionals. Catfriendly.com, or Cat Friendly Homes, is AAFP’s educational resource for cat sitters that is powered by feline vets and includes a monthly newsletter, The Cat Column.
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