After carefully placing the good ol’ fashioned wicker carrier on my examination table and undoing its three rusty fiddly clasps, out strode an old thin female tortie and white cat called Charlie who after sniffing the air a couple of times, jumped down off the table and started happily exploring her new surroundings.
Now I always let cats jump down. It not only allows them to get their bearings and confidence after being squeezed into a picnic hamper for the last god-knows-how-long, but allows me to watch their behaviour, breathing and mood before even laying a finger or stethoscope on them.
During this time I’ll also encourage worried owners to tell me all their pets problems so by the time Charlie’s fetched back up onto the table (sometimes cats will even jump back up!) I’m ready to examine a patient that’s chilled, stretched its legs and feels relatively safe. Much better.
Charlie’s owners were obviously sad and were already admitting defeat – totally prepared for me to send their beloved pet of fifteen years upto that great cattery in the sky with its endless supply of tasty angelic mice, rivers of fresh cream and never-ending catnip spliffs.
An old thin cat like Charlie must have either deadly kidney failure or a ‘nasty’ right?
So wrong! Sure they are possibilities, but the veterinary mantra states ‘Common things are common’, and Charlie was suffering from one of the most common diseases that old cats can get.
Gentle palpation of Charlie’s near-emaciated neck structures revealed an obviously enlarged left thyroid gland – classic sign of the disease Feline Hyperthyroidism. Other symptoms can include weight loss but strangely with an increased hunger, a definite speedy and noticeable heart beat at rest, and increased nervousness.
Over the last few months Charlie’s enlarged gland (responsible for her body’s supply of thyroxine hormone), had gone into overdrive; accelerating all her body’s cellular processes and burning off valuable energy supplies making it impossible for her to keep her weight even constant.
After a simple blood test confirming the disease treatment started immediately. Feline hyperthyroidism can be treated safely both medically and surgically. But the point I’m trying to make is this: if you own an old pet which is clearly sick, please get them looked at straight away.
Most senior problems (arthritis, heart failure, kidney disease) these days are easily managed, preventing any further suffering; and most importantly, if caught early, can lead to a good few more years sharing your lives together.