What is Increased Appetite?
Whether polyphagia is due to disease or psychological reasons, it is essential that you discover the exact nature behind your cat's increased appetite. A long-term complication with overeating can have dangerous effects on your cat's health and wellbeing.
Polyphagia is a term used to describe a substantial increase in appetite and food consumption. There are few diseases known to increase your cat's appetite, so the range of possible diagnoses is relatively small. However, physical ailments alone are not the sole causes, as a psychological issue can also have your cat increasing the amount of food it consumes.
Symptoms of Increased Appetite in Cats
Including being aware of an increased appetite, there are a number of other signs that you should watch out for that may indicate your cat is suffering from another problem:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Abnormal weight gain/loss
- Vomiting (fast eating can lead to throwing the food up immediately after)
- Muscle atrophy (decreased muscle mass)
- Large, protruding stomach
- Change in behavior (e.g. obsession with food)
Causes of Increased Appetite in Cats
A handful of complications can serve as the root cause of your cat's new eating habits. Some of the common causes of an increased appetite are listed below:
- Behavioral issues (e.g. overfeeding)
- Cushing's Syndrome (Hyperadrenocorticism)
- Certain medications
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Diabetes mellitus
- Diabetic ketoacidosis
- Insulin-producing tumors
- Malabsorption/maldigestion of food
Diagnosis of Increased Appetite in Cats
To begin to discover the cause of an increased appetite in your cat, your veterinarian will want to conduct a full physical examination. Furthermore, he or she will want to gather a complete medical history and a list of current medication, as that information can be highly important in determining whether the heightened appetite is due to a physical illness or a psychological response. Informing your vet of any changes in your cat's behavior can also greatly help in diagnosing the issue at hand.
After the initial evaluation, your vet will recommend a variety of screening tests. A complete blood count (CBC) can detect any infections or anemia. It can also reveal certain clues of conditions like Cushing's Syndrome or diabetes mellitus. Those with Cushing's often have an increase in white blood cells, while those with diabetes may suffer from a secondary infection that can also increase specific white blood cells, all of which can be seen once conducting a CBC. Further concerning Cushing's disease, a screening known as a low dose dexamethasone suppression test can help in diagnosing it.
A serum biochemistry profile can be used to evaluate the general health of your cat as well as to assess the function of vital organs. This test is usually best performed alongside a urinalysis as the urinalysis is vital in interpreting any changes found on the serum biochemistry profile. In addition, a urinalysis can detect the sugar found in urine which can help indicate diabetes.
There are a few additional tests that may be explored, such as an X-ray or an ultrasound of your cat's abdomen. Focusing on age, older and middle-aged cats are recommended to undergo a serum thyroid hormone (T4) level test. The test can check whether or not hyperthyroidism is a cause of the increased appetite.
Treatment of Increased Appetite in Cats
Once the actual cause of your cat's increased appetite has been rooted out, your vet will discuss with you the best course of action to treat the problem.
Change in Diet
Upon the diagnosis of a disease like IBD, low-fat and easily digestible food may help to improve the condition alongside medication. If the cause is determined to be purely behavioral, then your vet will propose you begin better monitoring your cat's food intake. To assist in curbing overeating, it is helpful to regulate the amount of food your cat consumes in one sitting. This can be done by breaking down their meals into several separate feedings throughout the day.
In the event that a pregnancy is behind the increased appetite, a diet change can help manage the overeating. You can provide your pet with food high in calories as they need that the most during the end of their pregnancy as well as during nursing.
A condition such as Cushing's Syndrome may require the use of specific medication in order to control the disease. In the case of diabetes mellitus, if diet change is not enough, then your vet will recommend the use of insulin injections to help treat it. Additionally, concerning diseases like IBD, your vet can prescribe antibiotics or steroids if a dietary change fails to improve the problem.
As certain medications can also cause an increased appetite, then your vet may encourage you to steadily discontinue use of the medication if it is possible.
Recovery of Increased Appetite in Cats
Once a cause has been found and you and your vet have come up with the best treatment plan, then it is best to stick to said plan in order to properly assist in your cat's recovery. When it comes to a diet plan, your vet can help you choose good quality cat food that can help your pet take in the appropriate amount of daily metabolic requirements. Try to avoid overfeeding, especially in the case of treats for good behavior as that can lead to your cat developing an obsession with food.
Medication should also be given as prescribed. For instance, if your cat has been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus, then they must undergo daily insulin injections if they have been prescribed by your vet. Adherence to the plan laid out by your vet is important in improving the welfare of your cat. Be sure to schedule frequent follow-up appointments, as a re-evaluation can help indicate whether or not your cat's condition has improved or worsened.
Increased Appetite Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My cat is extremely hungary all the time. Eats two can of cat food and some dry, but remains extremely thin. He fills like skin and bones, but does seem to have energy. He sometimes catches mice and voles.
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