Age is not a disease

August 2, 2018

Last week we made a video where I got the opportunity to share my cat’s story. I would love the opportunity to share a little more about her. Cat (yes, that is her name) just turned 19 years old. I got her from a friend when I was 17 years old. This means she has been a part of my family for more than half my life. She has been with me through so many big events in my life and she has a very special place in my heart. I know all of you reading this probably have similar stories to tell. The human animal bond is something quite special and unique to each person and pet that experiences it.


At Bethany Animal Hospital we are proud to be a part of the bond you share with your pets and are excited to celebrate Senior Pet Month with you in August. Our core values are focused around early detection and prevention so you can enjoy a long, healthy life with your furry family.

As I talked about in the video we shared, Cat didn’t make it to 19 by some genetic lucky draw, she has benefited from early detection and prevention throughout her life. I feel very lucky to be able to share her story with you and I hope you get some value from reading about some of the obstacles we have been able to help her overcome as she has aged.


One of the first health concerns we discovered was a Mast Cell Tumor. This tumor was discovered during a dental cleaning. I think that people often underestimate the value of preventive dental cleanings for our pets. Most people (at no fault of their own) don’t realize that just like people, pets need dental cleanings at least once a year. Cats and small dogs would actually benefit immensely by having a dental cleaning every 6 months! Back to Cat’s story; during her cleaning her mouth was checked for any dental disease as well as other abnormalities. During the oral exam the doctor found a small lump along her gum line. Oral masses can be benign (non-harmful) or malignant (invasive or what we think of as cancerous) so we decided to remove it while she was still under anesthesia. The mass was sent out to the lab for identification. The results were a low-grade Mast Cell Tumor. Because we caught it early and it was removed she was clear of the cancer with just the removal of the mass. She was lucky that we caught it early. That was close to 10 years ago!


Years went by with a happy healthy cat. I still continued routine exams and blood work each year excited to see her blood work would come back normal. Then one time it didn’t come back normal. It was quite a surprise to me because she was running around acting like a kitten I had no suspicion that something was wrong. The blood work showed what she was hiding. My cat was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is a common problem with cats and can cause them to lose body mass as well as cause underlying heart problems that without treatment are usually fatal. There are many treatments for hyperthyroidism. Most people opt for treatment with a drug called methimazole. Methimazole is available in a tablet form or our local Shamrock Pharmacy can make it into a gel that gets rubbed into the cat’s ears where is it absorbed into the body. Others choose to manage the disease with a special food called y/d, by Science Diet. This food completely eliminates iodine intake but must be fed as the sole diet with no other introduction of food or treats. I decided to go to RadioCat in Arlington Heights for a permanent resolution. There they use Radioiodine (I-131) for a 98-99% cure rate for Feline Hyperthyroidism. Everyone makes their own decision based on what they feel is best for their cat when it comes to how you treat this disease. For me the answer was simple, there is a way to cure her, I am going for it! I knew then that she was going to make it to a ripe old lady some day and that I will have to deal with treating something else in the future that didn’t have a cure, so let’s get the curable out of the way. There is a catch to this treatment of course, they have to be otherwise healthy especially their kidney function. Unfortunately, all too often by the time we can diagnose hyperthyroidism the cats have already developed other underlying issues like kidney or heart disease. This is where preventative health screens can help to extend the healthy life of or pets. Had I not run routine blood work, we may have not seen this problem until she started to show symptoms and she may have been too sick at that point to get the Radioiodine treatment.


After here hyperthyroidism was considered cured we once again enjoyed a happy healthy cat for a time. Eventually, as expected as a cat ages, her kidneys were just not functioning like a 5-year-old anymore and were starting to show her age. At the time of her diagnosis of kidney disease we did not have screening tests that could show early kidney disease. We relied on values that started to show kidney disease when the disease had progressed to approximately 75% kidney failure. I will come back to our new tests in a minute. At this time, I knew Cat’s kidneys were not functioning well, but again this was knowledge gained through blood work screening. She was still acting like a happy healthy cat. I immediately switched her to a food that reduces the stress on a cat’s kidneys called k/d by Science diet in order to provide her the best opportunity for a long life with the kidney function she has left and it has worked. Her blood work has shown no more progression of the disease and she loves the food. Such a simple switch and what an amazing outcome!


Now back to our continued progression of early detection. Now we have a new test available to us that will detect kidney disease as early as 30% loss of function. This is huge because we already know that using a kidney food will help to extend the function of the kidneys when we don’t know there is a problem until they are 75% lost, imagine the life extension that is possible when we can detect these problems with only 30% lost.

With her kidneys holding steady her only current problem is high blood pressure, which is a very recent development. This is the first time she will actually have to have medical intervention that involves a daily treatment (not too shabby for a 19-year-old). Now just like everything else I want to balance her ability to enjoy her daily life and my needing to treat her for a disease. I did this by contacting our local Shamrock Pharmacy in Elburn. Tom the pharmacist had me test a large variety of flavors until I found the perfect combination for her, Salmon/Catnip. Now Tom compounds her high blood pressure medication into a Salmon/Catnip flavored treat, which she practically paws out of my hand every morning! She will have to take this “treat” every morning for the rest of her life, but she will never know it is actually a medication. THANKS TOM!


I am sharing Cat’s story because we understand that without knowing that there are simple things that can help the obstacles that our aging pets face it is really easy to simply not do the blood work or get the exam because if there is something majorly wrong you wouldn’t have the means or desire to put them through treatment. I want everyone to recognize that early detection means we can make simple and affordable changes that can have a true impact on our pet’s longevity and the bond we have with these furry family members.


August is Senior Pet Month and we want to see how many pets we can complete early screening lab work and exams on because we know this means extending lives for healthy happy pets. We have Preventive Care Packages that will help you be able to complete the screenings in a much more affordable way. See our new Senior Pet Preventive Care information on our website and make an appointment today.


Are you wondering if your pet is considered a senior?

Dogs >100lbs are considered Seniors at 5 years

Dogs 20-99lbs are Seniors at 7 years

Cats and dogs <20lbs are Seniors at 10 years


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