As the proud mama to two senior cats — Thomas, age 13, and Siouxsie, age 17 — I’ve had quite a few years to learn about the special needs of our elderkitty friends. Both Thomas and Siouxsie have had dental procedures done under anesthesia, and each time I knew that the surgeries were more risky for them than they would be for a younger cat. Here are some of the things I did to make sure they were as safe and comfortable as possible.
Dental cleanings and extractions are almost certainly the commonest surgical procedures performed on senior cats. Veterinarian cleaning a cat’s teeth by Shutterstock
1. Get the pre-anesthetic bloodwork
Many vets won’t even agree to do surgery without pre-anesthetic blood tests to determine how well your cat’s liver, kidneys, pancreas and thyroid gland are working, as well as to detect issues such as infections or anemia. This is particularly true when it comes to senior cats. Even if your cat just had his regular senior blood panel a few months ago, if your vet recommends blood work, do it. After about age 10, cats age four years for every one calendar year, and a lot can happen in a short time.
2. If your vet recommends other diagnostic tests, listen to her
Your vet has a good understanding of your cat’s general health, and she may feel that additional tests are needed in order to minimize the risk and the amount of time your cat is under anesthesia.
Siouxsie was pretty schnookered after her first dental.
3. Ask what you can do to get your cat as strong as possible
Your vet may have some ideas about supplements, foods or other ways you can ensure that your elderkitty is as healthy as possible when she goes in for her operation. If you know a holistic vet, you may want to ask that person too — and, of course, keep your regular vet in the loop.
4. Follow the preoperative instructions
Your vet will ask you to withhold food and water from your cat overnight. There’s a good reason for this: If your cat vomits while she’s under anesthesia, food or liquid could get into her lungs and lead to pneumonia or other serious complications.
Ginger cat with a broken leg by Shutterstock
5. Ask about any medications your cat is currently taking
You’re not supposed to feed your cat before surgery, but should you also skip the morning dose of his medicine? Make sure your vet has answered all your questions and that you understand the answers.
6. Bring a piece of home for the recovery room
After surgery, your cat will rest in a warm cage while he’s coming out of anesthesia and sedation. He’ll be carefully monitored by hospital staff, and they’ll certainly give him lots of love, but it’ll still be a stressful day for him — and stress can affect senior cats more than it may affect younger cats. Bring your cat’s favorite blanket or mat and ask the staff to put it in the cage with him so he can be surrounded by smells from home.
Next time Thomas needs to go to the vet for a dental cleaning, I’m going to send this little purple and pink blanket a friend of Paws and Effect created for the kitties.
Do you have any other tips for preparing a senior cat for surgery? What have you done to help an elderkitty friend who’s had to go to the hospital for an operation or other procedure? Please share your thoughts — and your questions and concerns, if you’ve got an old kitty who needs to go to the hospital — in the comments.