What is Weight Loss and Chronic Disease?
A cat that is losing weight, but still consuming food is likely affected by chronic disease. Your veterinarian may refer to this condition as cachexia, the term used to describe the wasting and weakness of one’s body due to chronic illness.
Any time a cat loses a significant amount of weight it is a reason to be concerned, as your cat’s body mass index greatly affects the functions of the body. Cats lose weight for a variety of reasons with most due to anorexia, or refusal to eat. Infestation of internal parasites, stress, anxiety, depression, a change in food and even moving to a new home can cause a feline to stop eating, leading to a dramatic decrease in body weight. Nevertheless, any cat that is losing more than 10% total body weight should be thoroughly examined by a veterinarian, especially if it is consuming food and still dropping pounds.
Symptoms of Weight Loss and Chronic Disease in Cats
Weight loss is fairly easy to note in felines due to their petite stature. You may notice the hip bones, spine, and shoulder blades are now more prominent in your cat after losing weight. The skin may be loose and look a size too big for the body. Your feline’s fur will appear dull, brittle and may even fall out. Additional symptoms may also be noted depending on which chronic disease is causing the weight loss in the feline.
Weight loss caused by chronic disease in cats can result in additional symptoms:
- Muscle wasting
- Hair loss
- Lack of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes)
- Lack of energy
- Increased thirst (polydipsia)
Causes of Weight Loss and Chronic Disease in Cats
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease is the term used when referring to a group of chronic gastrointestinal disorders, not just one single disease. However, the common denominator for each of these IBD conditions is that they are all caused by an infiltration of inflammatory cells, resulting in a thickened intestinal wall. The thick wall prevents the gastrointestinal tract from functioning properly, resulting in poor appetite, anorexia and, of course, weight loss.
Gallbladder disease refers to a group of diseases with the common denominator being the gallbladder organ. Disease of the gallbladder could be gallbladder failure, gallbladder stones, gallbladder infection or cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation).
Liver disease is known as hepatic lipidosis, or commonly known as fatty liver disease. Hepatic lipidosis is commonly found in starving cats, or those that refuse to eat, resulting in a low functioning organ.
Pancreas disease is a broad term used to describe an improperly functioning pancreatic organ. However, pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas and is the most common exocrine pancreatic disease found in felines.
Hyperthyroidism is the term used for when the thyroid gland produces more thyroid hormone than is needed in the body.
Addison’s disease, or hypoadrenocorticism, is the term used to define an inadequate production of adrenal gland corticoids, aldosterone and cortisol.
Diabetes is the inability to produce insulin, the hormone used to balance the body’s glucose levels.
Diagnosis of Weight Loss and Chronic Disease in Cats
Weight loss can be caused by so many ailments, it’s important for you to know your cat. Any information that you can provide the veterinarian can help in the diagnostic process. Important answers to questions you should know in a weight loss case are primarily eating habits, energy levels and any recent injuries the cat might have sustained.
After the veterinarian has discussed your feline’s recent behavior, eating habits and medical history, he or she is likely to conduct the following diagnostic exams:
- Physical examination
- Complete blood cell count (CBC)
- Biochemistry profile: A biochemistry profile measures the components of blood, providing an overview of most bodily functions. It will determine the feline’s electrolyte levels, glucose levels, blood proteins, as well as the pancreatic, liver and kidney functions.
- Urinalysis: A urinalysis will determine the feline’s hydration status and kidney function.
- Fecal sample test
- Abdominal ultrasound
Treatment of Weight Loss and Chronic Disease in Cats
Treating weight loss associated with chronic disease depends on which disease the feline is affected by. Talk to your veterinarian about the appropriate treatment protocol for your cat’s specific condition. The veterinarian may recommend treating symptoms to encourage the feline to eat. Cats in a severe state may be hospitalized to receive intravenous fluids, medications and professional care. Your veterinarian may recommend the placement of what is commonly referred to as a “feeding tube” to provide the feline with nutrients. Types of feeding tubes include:
- Naso-gastric or Naso-esophageal tube (nasal tube)
- Esophagostomy tube (esophageal tube)
- Gastrostomy tube (stomach tube)
Recovery of Weight Loss and Chronic Disease in Cats
A cat with weight loss and chronic disease can have a complete recovery with proper treatment and continuous monitoring. Weigh-ins and follow-ups are expected frequently. Follow your veterinarian’s treatment recommendation to the T. If you do not notice a change in your cat’s condition within the estimated time frame set by the veterinarian, contact him or her immediately.