Monday, November 2, 2015

Preparing for your cat's vet visit: Gathering up the right data

Black cat in rocking chair
When I brought senior cat Troy home with me earlier this year, I knew he was a little on the frail side. But over the past week or so, I've seen some changes in his behavior and his health. And that means he is heading out for a vet visit and a checkup in a day or two.

Senior cat vet visits can be a little stressful for the cat, the cat person and the veterinarian. Often, we cat people come in with vague descriptions of what we've seen and wild theories about what we think is going on. For example, when I worked in the industry, I often had clients say things like, "I just know something isn't right with my kitty. I can't explain it. But something is wrong."

There's an industry term for this: Ain't doing right (ADR), and it can be a hard thing to track down. Should you start with x-rays? Is bloodwork better? Should we just wait and see?

The course the vet decides upon could have an impact on how much better the cat feels. But it can also have an impact on how the owner feels, as some of these options are very expensive. And some won't deliver the right kinds of answers.

So to make things easier for everyone involved, it's best to take notes before the visit. And these are the sorts of questions we cat people should be prepared to answer.

1. Is the cat eating more or less than usual? 

Troy has always been a very picky eater, so this question always stumps me a little bit. But the key here is to focus on the words "than usual." This question is designed to help the team understand if the cat is going through some sort of appetite change, not whether or not the kitty is the same as the other kitties in the household.

In Troy's case, his appetite is off. He is still eating, but he's eating about 25 percent less than he might on an average day. He still wants treats and things, but he's more likely to walk away from a food bowl. That's an important bit of data to pass along.

2. Is the cat drinking more or less water?

Cats that park in front of the water dish can be dealing with all sorts of issues, particularly issues involving the kidneys. Troy has always been a big water fan, and while his blood work has never flagged a severe kidney problem, he is drinking much more now than he has in the past. This is a vital point to discuss during his appointment. 

3. Are litter box problems an issue?

Diarrhea, constipation, straining to pee or doing anything outside of the box could all be signs of illness. I've been watching the old man closely, and I haven't seen anything like this at all. But if I had, this would be a great thing to mention.

4. Is the cat vomiting?

A cat that vomits is a cat that can quickly become dehydrated. In fact, a cat doing a lot of vomiting might need to go to an emergency clinic. Thankfully, Troy isn't doing this.

Black cat in his blue cat bed

5. Is the cat playful, or does the cat sleep more than usual? 

Troy has never been one for antics, so this could be another stumper. But the idea is to measure how behavior in the kitty may have changed over time. When I think about the question this way, I can report that Troy is sleeping more than he would sleep in the past. That's an important thing to report, as would a change in the opposite direction. If he suddenly became very perky and antic, I'd need to discuss that, too. 

6. Is the cat affectionate, or are there areas of pain? 

Painful cats, like Eamon was when his arthritis was bad, can become very aggressive. They are attempting to keep you away from parts of their bodies that are hurting, and they are often willing to use claws, teeth or both to accomplish that goal. Thankfully, Troy isn't doing this. He is still very responsive to affection. 

7. Is there anything else going on? 

This catch-all question allows you to talk about problems that you might see but don't have an opportunity to discuss in your answers to other questions. I am planning to discuss Troy's coat quality here, for example. He seems a little greasy and unkempt these days, and he is shedding much more than he has ever done before. I have no idea why this is going on, and I don't know if it's significant. But it's something I need to mention.

I'm hoping that Troy is struggling with something simple, like a change in the weather that's causing pain, but my answers to these questions should help his team give me the right answers, and the right treatment program, so I can get him back on his feet.

Wish us luck!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful and informative post on what to look for in order to have a meaningful helpful discussion with your vet. On No. 7 above, looking back at signs of my cat Beau Beau's illness, we had noticed a lot of dandruff/flaking skin coming from him but no other symptoms. So it's good to note all kinds of things about anything different. Thanks!