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Weight Loss in Cats

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Causes of Cat Weight Loss continued...

Gastrointestinal problems. There are a variety of different conditions in the gastrointestinal tract that may cause cat weight loss. When this is the case, other  symptoms may include diarrhea, lack of appetite, and vomiting. Common GI problems that produce weight loss in cats include inflammatory bowel disease, food allergies, or certain infections. 

Intestinal parasites. Also known as worms, intestinal parasites may be the cause of your cat’s unintentional weight loss. Although symptoms are not always present, these parasites also may cause diarrhea, bloating, vomiting, and trouble breathing. 

Organ failure. Many elderly cats exhibit weight loss, and it can be difficult to determine the precise cause of the problem, especially because metabolism changes with age. Conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease become more common as cats get older. Your veterinarian can identify these problems with simple blood and urine tests.

Hyperthyroidism. Your cat may have a good appetite; in fact, she may be eating more than usual but is still losing weight. Hyperthyroidism results from a benign hormone-producing tumor on the thyroid gland that elevates levels of thyroid hormone. In addition to weight loss, hyperthyroidism may cause vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle wasting. In later stages, it may even lead to heart problems or death. Older cats also are particularly prone to developing this condition.

Toothache. If your cat suddenly stops eating and begins to lose weight, but seems otherwise healthy, it could be something as simple as a sore tooth causing the problem. Drooling and pawing at the mouth may be other signs of a tooth issue.

 

Treatment and Home Care for Underweight Cats

To determine what is causing your cat’s weight loss and design the best treatment plan for you and your pet, your veterinarian will likely do a complete physical exam, blood work, and urinalysis.

Depending on the reason for your cat’s weight loss, a variety of treatments and dietary changes to treat the underlying condition and restore weight may be prescribed.  Fortunately, even in older cats, weight loss can often be treated, if not cured.

The weight loss caused by certain conditions of the gastrointestinal tract may be addressed, either solely or in part, by making appropriate changes to your cat’s diet. If your cat is suffering from inflammatory bowel disease or other conditions that make food absorption difficult, an easily digested diet may be recommended. Cats that lose weight because of food allergies may recover completely when the offending foods are removed from their diet.

In situations where lack of appetite is contributing to weight loss, appetite-stimulating medications or feeding tubes may be used to maintain adequate nutrition while the cause of anorexia is being addressed.

WebMD Veterinary Reference

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on September 15, 2014
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