AGING


David McCluggage, D.V.M., C.V.A.

Aging is a natural event. The changes that take place during aging will vary a great deal from cat to cat. There is no specific time in your cat's life that they become a "senior". What does happen is that specific changes in organ function develop that we need to address on a cat by cat basis.

In contrast to what pet food manufacturers would have one think, there is no specific age at which your cat suddenly becomes a "senior," and, therefore, requires a "Senior Diet." Senior diets actually decrease the available nutrients, which is just the opposite of what is needed.

As the body begins to age, nutritional needs actually become greater, not lesser. Why? Because as the body ages, our cells weaken at a more rapid rate and must be regenerated with new, healthy cells. At the same time, the organs that provide the nutritional building blocks for this process are not as strong. So, they function less efficiently. The more nutrition we can provide, the less the body has to try to produce itself.

What we should be feeding our older companions is a diet that is higher in proteins - especially the high quality proteins found in meat. It should be higher in the essential fats, the complex carbohydrates, and the vitamins and minerals that are all so essential for health (just the opposite of what the senior diets do). Senior diets lower the quality of nutrition. They don't provide the body with the building blocks needed to optimize health.

Consider these thoughts:

  1. As the aging process progresses, there is a need for higher quality nutrients, including proteins, vitamins, minerals, and complex phytonutrients.
    1. Since the diet may not provide the needed nutrients, it is an important time to add supplements to the diet.
    2. Senior diets are rarely called for and are usually detrimental to your cat's health.
      1. They can accelerate aging and degeneration
      2. They lower the quantity and quality of proteins in the diet when, for most cats, aging requires higher quality proteins and at least the same protein levels as needed at earlier life stages
  2. Although aging is a normal event, each animal has its own unique problems that require different nutritional needs.
  3. To determine the unique problems your cat might have, blood tests, physical examinations and other tests such as radiographs may be needed.
  4. Therapies will vary by the unique pattern of disease in your cat
  5. Likewise, there is no universal nutritional or herbal product that treats all situations, even though there are many such claims made by various manufacturers.

We prefer to be specific about what each animal needs. For information focused on your cat's needs, contact us for a phone consult.

As your cat ages, we recommend:

  1. Routine diagnostic blood tests
  2. Routine health exams
  3. The condition of the teeth be closely monitored, dentistries are often needed more frequently
  4. Holistic care becomes crucial at this time
    1. Holistic medicine emphasizes bringing the entire body back to health
    2. Complementary therapies, including herbal and nutraceutical medicine, can be used to strengthen organs and tissues, allowing for a more graceful aging process

Aging and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine have recognized for thousands of years that the key to aging is to nurture Yin and not Yang. Yin is the calming, moistening, relaxing and reflective side to ourselves. This important concept in aging says that we should slowly age, age gracefully, and nurture the aging process, not speed it up. This approach provides the highest quality of health that your cat's body can achieve.

Western society tends to look for ways to gain short term "feel good" products that boost Yang. Yes, these products boost energy, and make one feel better rapidly. Our society uses products like caffeine, sugar (soda pop drinks and candy), and herbal stimulants such as Ephedra-containing products. This short-term boost in energy (Yang) is bound to come at a cost. It robs us of our vital strength (Yin), and is addictive in that we must always use more and more of these stimulants to feel good.

Many of the mass marketed products available do just the same thing: boost Yang at the expense of Yin. You can tell which of these products create short term gains at the price of long term health; they all make claims like "boost your pets energy" or "will make her feel younger than before."

Many western drugs share a common failing: they give a short term "boost" at the long term expense to your companion's health and quality of life. Unfortunately, there are many "natural remedies" on the market that do the same thing. WellVet.com does not recommend them and they are not found in our product catalog.

Unfortunately many of the products marketed as "cure all" remedies or "energy boosters" for older animals do just the opposite: they drain the body of its vital forces. You can recognize these products by their claims that they "boost your pet's energy" or "will make her feel younger."

WellVet.com recommends a variety of different products, depending on your cat's concerns. Besides reading through the information we provide, a phone consult with Dr. McCluggage or our staff will assist you in deciding which products to use for your cat.

The following list of products may be of benefit for your companion animal:

  1. VetriSciende' NuCat
    1. This is a complete multivitamin with ingredients added specifically to address problems commonly seen during aging
  2. Thorne's Small Animal Antioxidants
    1. As aging progresses, the need for tissue repair accelerates; antioxidant are important in this tissue repair
  3. EPA/DHA Metagenics
    1. Pure Omega 3 fish oils have been shown to improve many aspects of age related disorders
  4. Co Enzyme Q-10
    1. Heart disease
    2. Gingivitis
    3. Diabetes

And finally, to reiterate, we do NOT routinely recommend "Senior" diets for your companion animal (see our article on feeding your cat).