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cat weight loss

Keep 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 loss.

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 cancer.

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.






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