Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Watching the Weight...Both Ways

With feline obesity at record levels (as my late Frankie here illustrated in showing off his big belly), we're all pretty much aware that we need to be concerned if our cats are getting too fat. But what if they're getting too skinny?

Weight loss in cats can be due to a number of health issues that are also causes for concern. If your cat seems noticeably lighter when you pick her up for a cuddle, it could be due to:
  • parasites
  • hyperthyroidism
  • diabetes
  • food allergy
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • an intestinal tumor
  • periodontal disease
  • feline leukemia
  • feline AIDS
My own little Vixen started losing weight, despite wanting to eat all the time and being fed multiple times throughout the day. At her advanced age (23!), a hyperactive thyroid is the likely culprit. She's been on a kidney diet for years, so her kidneys are already compromised. But her teeth aren't good any more, either, so perhaps that's it. An exam and blood tests at the vet are the only way to be sure. But cats as old as mine are still rare, so she gets a little of the dismissive treatment my mother also experienced toward the end of her life. The unspoken message is, "You've lived a long life, so congratulations! We don't know how to treat someone your age, and can't be bothered with trying to find the source of your discomfort, knowing that you may not live much longer anyway." Hopefully, as cats living into their 20s become more commonplace, more research will be done on geriatric cat conditions and more vets will specialize in geriatric veterinary medicine.

A recent article by veterinarian and radio talk-show host Dr. Heidi Bassler discussed sudden weight loss in cats. Dr. Bassler wrote:

Remember that cats are small creatures, so small weight changes are important. Ounces are significant, and pounds are alarming. A 15-pound cat that loses only 1.5 pounds has lost 10 percent of his body weight.

Cats make their own rules, and they are masters of disguise.

Unexplained weight loss may be the only obvious sign that Fluffy is in the early stages of serious illness. Very often, these cats are still playful, interactive, eating and drinking. But inside their bodies, something is changing so that they are not able to process food for energy as they have in the past.

Obviously, if your cat is losing weight, a trip to the veterinarian is the first step. Once your vet has determined the cause of kitty's sudden new svelteness, a visit to Old Maid Cat Lady's Health Time page may be in order. We carry natural and homeopathic remedies for a variety of ailments, as well as products to help cats gain weight, as well as lose it. Most importantly, don't ignore unexplained weight loss. It could be serious.

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