Anorexia in Cats
Anorexia, as a behavioral condition that applies to humans, has been in the news so much that most of us are familiar with it on some level. The behavioral condition is referred to as anorexia nervosa, but anorexia as a medical condition is a very serious indicator of an underlying condition that needs prompt treatment. A cat will be diagnosed with anorexia when it is consistently refusing to eat and its food intake has decreased so much that drastic weight loss has occurred. If your cat is showing symptoms of medical anorexia you will need to consult your veterinarian immediately so that the cause can be identified before damage to the internal organs makes treatment impossible.
- Inability to eat
- Changes in organ size
- Changes in the eyes
- Distention of the abdomen
- Shortness of breath
- Heart and lung sounds are diminished
- Sudden weight loss
There are many potential causes which can be attributed to a cat not eating. For example, most diseases, including infectious, autoimmune, respiratory, gastrointestinal, bone, endocrine and neurological diseases, will cause an animal to avoid eating. Pain and internal obstructions, amongst other factors, can cause the affected cat to lose its appetite entirely. Anorexia can also be due to a psychological problem, such as overwhelming stress, major changes in routine, and environmental or dietary changes. Other causes include:
- Cardiac failure
- Toxicities and drugs
- Tumor (mass of growth)
You will need to provide a thorough medical history for your cat, including any changes in diet, environment, or routine. It will help if you have observed your cat's eating habits and have identified any problems it may be having with picking up, chewing or swallowing its food. Your veterinarian will conduct various tests, some of which may include:
- Ophthalmic, dental, nasal, facial and neck examinations
- Heart-worm exam
- Retrovirus exam
- Blood analysis
- X-rays of the abdomen and chest
- Endoscopy and tissue and cell samples
After identifying and correcting (or treating) the underlying cause of the anorexia, your veterinarian will work towards establishing a healthy, well-balanced diet for your cat. This includes increasing the fat or protein content of the food, improving the taste of the diet by adding flavored toppings and broths, or heating the food to body temperature.
Intravenous (IV) feeding may be required if your cat is severely anorexic, especially if it has not eaten for three to five days or longer. Also, if the anorexia is related to pain, your veterinarian might prescribe pain medications for your cat.
Living and Management
Anorexia is a serious condition which requires you to monitor and watch your cat very carefully. It is important that you notify your doctor of any progress (or lack thereof) so that the treatment plan can be changed if necessary. If your cat does not start eating on its own a day or two after treatment has begun, you will need to take your cat back to the veterinarian for more treatment options.