an open eye out for rapid weight loss in cats.
By Bernhard Pukay
Q: Our 12-year old cat has been rapidly losing weight
over the last few months. She is strictly an indoor cat, and is very
active and playful and has a really good appetite. However, despite her
good appetite, she continues to lose weight. Her stool has been tested
for worms and was negative. Should we try to feed her more or should
we set up an appointment with our vet? We are reluctant to do that because
she gets stressed so easily.
A: You should make the appointment with your veterinarian.
Rapid weight loss despite a healthy appetite is not normal. While weight
loss is often considered to be desirable, it can be an important indicator
that something is medically wrong.
If weight loss occurs over a short period of time (for example, a few
days), it is usually the result of a loss of body fluid. In these cases,
the pet must be evaluated for dehydration and, if it is dehydrated, it
must be re-hydrated, usually with intravenous fluids. Weight changes
that occur and persist over a period of weeks or months are usually indicative
of a change in tissue mass and must be thoroughly investigated.
A pet that eats well or too much yet continues to lose weight should
be examined for a number of diseases. For example, hyperthyroidism is
an excessive production of thyroid hormone that can cause weight loss
despite a voracious appetite. Pets with hyperthyroidism tend to have
a very high metabolic rate, which in effect "burns up" calories
very quickly, causing the patient to be hungry all the time.
Your cat may have diabetes mellitus. Diabetic cats lack insulin and this
makes the blood sugar unavailable to them. As a result, the pet becomes
hungrier and hungrier as the diabetes progresses.
In some patients, the intestines may not properly absorb nutrients from
the food, which results in pets eating lots but not really absorbing
much of what they eat. Called malabsorption syndrome, this disease causes
patients to lose weight despite eating well. Similarly, any chronic intestinal
disease, whether of the small or large bowels, can also result in weight
Chronic and low-grade infections can lead to significant weight loss.
In cats, feline leukemia virus and feline infectious peritonitis virus
are frequently implicated. Unexplained weight loss can also be due to
Call your veterinarian as soon as possible to set up an appointment.
The potential benefits of a visit far outweigh any negative impact on
your cat from the stress of visiting the veterinarian.