Why is my senior cat losing weight and not eating and what should I do about it?

Original Question: My senior cat has seen a vet for change in appetite and weight loss. Nothing is wrong with blood work or urine test. What can I do to increase her appetite? How do I know if I should seek a second opinion or further testing? - Fiona

Why is my senior cat losing weight and not eating and what should I do about it? Sep 16, 2017

Hi Fiona,

Thanks for your question.

You’re right to be concerned. Inappetence and weight loss are serious symptoms of many different diseases. It’s true that blood and urine testing can find a lot of the diseases that can cause these symptoms such as diabetes, renal disease and hyperthyroidism to name a few. Here are a few suggestions that I have:

First, renal disease can be at an early stage and still cause these symptoms and can be missed by the occasional veterinarian. I suggest you get a copy of the blood work and urinalysis and look at the resources available at International Renal Interest Society. This is a society that has put forth an internationally agreed upon set of diagnosing the stage and treating renal disease. It has algorithms you can follow that could help you diagnose the stage and share this with your vet.

Second, I would recommend further testing that could reveal the cause of weight loss and inappetence. I would recommend whole body survey radiographs to look for mass lesions, such as cancers or foreign bodies in the GI tract that could cause these symptoms. Consider parasite testing as well.

Third, you can always consider seeing another veterinarian or get a referral to an internal medicine specialist. They will have further ideas on diagnostics that could reveal some answers.

Lastly, an appetite stimulant is a temporary solution. I try not to use them because they can eliminate a symptom but they don’t address the underlying cause. There are many that your veterinarian can give you. Stimulating appetite can also be done by warming up food, adding tuna juice or onion powder to the food but start with just a tiny amount and watch the result to make sure it doesn’t upset your cat further.

I hope this helps!

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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