Dr. Pawz answers your pet questions: How old is your pet, exactly?

One reader asks Dr. Katy about his cat\'s changing eye color and what it could mean for his cat\'s health. (User submitted photo)

WASHINGTON – Dr. Katy Nelson is at it again — taking your pet questions and offering advice and best practices.

Do you have a question about your pet? Dr. Nelson (a.k.a.: “Dr. Pawz”) is here to help. Email your questions to Dr. Nelson for free pet advice from a local veterinarian.

This week’s questions from readers address pet age, food choices and health concerns.

Question from Bruce: My cat’s right eye is changing colors and is getting more brown specs as she gets older. Is it possible that this is normal, or does she have something seriously wrong going on?

Response from Dr. Katy Nelson: Bruce, you need to make an appointment with your veterinarian ASAP. Your veterinarian will want to do a thorough ophthalmic exam, including taking a measurement of the pressure inside the eyes to rule out glaucoma, and an exam with an ophthalmoscope attachment called a “slit lamp.”

This will help to determine whether these color changes that you’re seeing are due to glaucoma, and whether they are raised or flat, an important part of making a diagnosis in a case like this.

The worst case scenario here would be a diffuse iris melanoma, or a slow-growing cancer of the iris. The best case scenario would be a form of heterochromia, a benign condition where the eyes are different colors.

An iris can also have a progressive increase in pigmentation with chronic anterior uveitis, or an infection inside the eye. Finally, in very old cats, the irises may develop a mottled appearance due to some breakdown of the fibers of the iris itself.

A proper diagnosis is extremely important in this situation, and your veterinarian may recommend referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist in order to do a complete work up on your kitty and determine the best course of action.

It may be as simple as monitoring the color changes, or they may recommend surgical intervention if this is a cancerous process to prevent the spread of the disease.

Best of luck, Bruce, and please let us know how your kitty does.

Question from Jeannie: My cat Max is 14 years old. How old is he in “human” years?

Response from Dr. Katy Nelson: Jeannie, I love this question! Most people have the misconception that cats and dogs age seven “human” years for each year of their life, but the truth is that pets age much more quickly in their first two years of life.

It is believed that when a kitty reaches 1 year old, they are the equivalent of a human 15-year-old. By 2 years of age, they are closer to a 24-year-old human. After that, the aging process evens out, and is more like aging approximately four human years for every year of their life.

A kitty that is 5 years old is approximately 36 in human years. Your kitty, at 14, would be the equivalent of a 72-year-old human.

Keep in mind: kitties that live outdoors age MUCH more quickly, as they face much more risk of accident and illness and, in general, receive less regular healthcare. The average lifespan of an outdoor cat is close to 10 years, almost HALF that of indoor cats.

Question from Margarita: We love watching your show and really liked one of your guests that came on to talk about all meat diets, but we read and heard that if we’re going to switch our cat from a brand that does use fillers and veggies to all meat, we have to do a transition.

What do you recommend would be a good way to transition our girl, Mystery, to this protein-based diet? Mystery is a sweet 9-year-old that we adopted almost a year ago from a rescue organization.

Response from Dr. Katy Nelson: Congratulations on making an upgrade in your kitty’s diet. We are what we eat, after all! Anytime you are making a change in your pet’s diet, you need to take your time.

I generally recommend at least a 10-14 day transition period to ensure you do not create gastrointestinal distress.

Start by adding just a teaspoon or two of the new diet to your pet’s current food and removing the same amount of the old food. Slowly and steadily increase the ratio of the new diet to the old diet over the next two weeks, until you’re totally transitioned over to the new food.

If, at any point, your pet develops diarrhea, begins to vomit, or shows signs of inappetance or lethargy, call your veterinarian immediately.

Dr. Katy Nelson is an emergency veterinarian in Alexandria, Va. Tune in to “The Pet Show” with Dr. Katy every Saturday at 11 a.m. on Washington D.C.’s News Channel 8, and listen on WTOP for her Dr. Pawz segments every two weeks. Have questions for Dr. Katy? You can follow her on Twitter @drkatynelson, on Facebook or email her at askdrkaty@wtop.com.

Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

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