Anorexia? This is not a term your veterinarian uses to describe your cat’s poor body image. This term simply means not eating. What may be to the casual observer an insignificant symptom, anorexia is one of the most important and often only indications that your cat is not well. Our feline companions are exceptionally good at hiding discomfort and illness, and only once they are feeling quite bad will they indicate their decline. As a result, a cat that is anorexic (not eating or eating significantly less than its metabolic needs) is one that needs immediate veterinary attention.
The primary disease causing the inadequate calorie intake can initiate a cascade of metabolic events that affects the liver as well as protein and fat metabolism. The feline liver is not designed to handle these changes, which can result in a condition called Hepatic Lipidosis, or fatty liver. In this condition, the liver becomes “clogged” with fat that it cannot handle and causes it to fail. The original disease may be one easy to manage alone, however when compounded by anorexia, recovery may be negatively effected. Almost any illness or problem can lead to your cat’s poor appetite, including but not limited to pain, nausea, Diabetes, kidney disease and thyroid disease. Nutritional support for these cats not only helps the pet to recover, but will “buy” time for a diagnosis to be made, especially in difficult cases.
If you think your cat’s appetite is poor, depending on your cat’s symptoms and status, a veterinarian can recommend several patient-specific nutritional strategies that the pet parent can try at home to encourage an anorexic cat to start eating.
Don’t wait for your cat’s appetite to completely disappear before seeking help from a veterinarian.
There are many things your veterinarian can do provide nutritional support, while causes of anorexia are investigated. Medications to control nausea, appetite stimulants, syringe feeding and in the most severe cases, feeding tubes are used to aid in calorie intake. It is imperative that your cat continue to have adequate nutrition to improve its outcome. Feeding tubes may seem extreme, however they are relatively simple and cost effective to place and can be managed easily by owners at home if necessary.
As your veterinarian works to identify and treat the primary disease affecting your cat, with blood work, radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound, etc., nutritional support will drastically improve the chances that your cat will have a positive outcome.
Dr. Jennifer Teitelbaum is the veterinarian owner of Mulberry Grove Animal Hospital, The Villages Florida Veterinarian. Dr. Teitelbaum lives with her husband and two children in Summerfield, along with two dogs and one cat. She enjoys spending time with her kids and family, running and boating.