Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why is my old cat losing weight?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital

Tucson, AZ

A common observation made by pet parents about older cats is that they are losing weight or look skinny.  Unfortunately, some people may assume it is simply due to "old age".  Old age itself is not a disease.  Cats are more prone to certain diseases as they age, which can lead to weight loss.  Although for most cats, a one pound weight loss is not noticeable to the naked eye, 10% of your cat's weight has vanished!  As part of your cat's annual exam by your veterinarian, your cat will have its weight assessed.  As soon as you notice a decrease in your cat's weight, it is very important to seek veterinary care.  Here is a link to determining whether your cat is underweight.


Similar to younger cats, older cats can become thin due to causes such as stress, poor diet, internal or external parasites, food bowl competition, liver disease, and infections/fever.  Have you changed cat foods?  Has your cat's routine been disrupted by new human or pet household members?  Does your cat go outside?  Has your cat been hiding or sleeping more than usual?

There are other diseases that can cause weight loss due to a poor appetite.  A poor appetite (anorexia) can be due to simply not feeling well, nausea, difficulty eating, or trouble getting to the food dish.  These diseases can include heart or lung disease, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, kidney disease, constipation, dental or oral disease, cancer, or arthritis.  Has your cat been less active or having trouble breathing?  Has your cat been vomiting or having diarrhea?  Has your cat been drinking or urinating more than before?  Has your cat been defecating daily?  Has your cat been drooling or having a bad mouth odor?  Has your cat been jumping less, limping, or moving stiffly? 

There are also age related diseases that can cause weight loss despite an increased appetite (polyphagia).  These diseases include diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and pancreas enzyme insufficiency. 

Scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian for your older cat is a perfect time to discuss your cat's food intake, type of food fed, behavior or activity changes, litterbox usage, or other symptoms.  During your cat's physical exam, your veterinarian will evaluate your cat for signs of the above diseases and then recommend additional tests to confirm their diagnosis.  Afterwards they will discuss treatment recommendations that will assist your cat gain weight and increase their quality of life. 

Your donations to PAWSitively CATS help the shelter provide dental care and medications to our cats, such as Philip, Petra, and Necco, while waiting for their forever home!

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