The American Association of Feline Practitioners updates feline senior care guidelines

It’s been a good year for senior cat care.

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) released their updated 2021 AAFP Feline Senior Care Guidelines this week. It follows the release of the 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines last March, a joint effort that updated feline life stages and defined cats older than 10 years of age as “senior.”

NEWStat talked to AAFP task force cochair Hazel Carney, DVM, MS, DABVP (Feline), a veterinarian at AAHA-accredited WestVet Emergency and Specialty Center in Garden City, Idaho, who also served on the joint AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines task force, to find out what’s new.

“The joint life stage guidelines address the full lifetime of the cat,” Carney said. “[The] AAFP senior care guidelines address only senior cats and approaches to care for their unique problems.”

“Senior cats differ significantly from cats of other ages in that they’re much more prone to multiple diseases in the same cat at the same time,” she said. “The comorbidity incidence increases dramatically as cats age.”

She added that veterinarians who treat senior cats are also more likely to face decisions about hospice care or chronic pain management on a routine basis, as well as evaluations of significant changes in quality of life and the possibility of cognitive dysfunction syndrome—a diagnosis Carney said rarely occurs in young cats: “Roughly 25% of all cats above age 10 will at some point show what human doctors would consider evidence of mental function decline.”

The guidelines also address the newly emerging concept of frailty as a medical condition in cats, and how practitioners can incorporate the concept in senior cat assessments. Carey said this is significant because the frail cat has decreased ability to respond to medical or living stress. Frailty can also affect their response to treatment: “Everything can be compromised.”

Carney noted that one of the biggest changes in the updated guidelines are the additional supplementary resources for veterinary teams, including information on quality of life and health-related quality of life instruments, video demonstrations on myofascial examination techniques and cat-friendly tips for dental examinations, a printable client brochure, and additional recommended resources, which she called “invaluable.”

Carney said the updated guidelines are very clinically oriented: “They’re aimed at practitioners who want to dramatically improve the care of senior cats.”

Photo credit: © cglade/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

NEWStat Advancements & research