Welcome and thanks again for joining me. Now take a look at the photo of the cat above. This is classic example of a cat that is losing too much weight! She is not just old as some people might say — she has an illness. If I had to bet some money on the most likely condition(s) she has, I would pick one of two; either chronic kidney disease OR hyperthyroidism (or both if she is unlucky) BOTH of those conditions are manageable which is why I am writing this blog today. This blog is not about how to treat either of those conditions specifically. Instead this is about helping pet owners recognize what weight loss might mean and when to look at weight loss seriously.
Often times a cat like the one presented above presents to me on ER with the complaint of ADR. This is actually my favorite acroynm (some vets hate it but I am not one of those…) This stands for Ain’t Doing Right. Upon questioning the owner of this cat we may start to unconver that she has been eating voraciously and is losing weight. Or maybe we will discover she is hanging around the water bowl more often, or having accidents around the house, or having diarrhea or whatever. For our conversation here the only thing that matters is that I get at least one person who owns a cat, that has this happen to them, to detect it early on and bring their pet in!
Age is NOT a DISEASE and this cat has an underlying condition. So once we recognize that fact I need the folowing questions answered to help narrow which direction I am going to take my diagnostic and treatment plan in: (BONUS POINTS FOR OWNERS THAT COME IN WITH THE ANSWER TO THESE QUESTIONS-already available)
- is my pet eating more or less than normal?
- are they drinking more or less water?
- where are they losing weight the most?
- does it seem like their muscles are wasting away too?
- any other behavior changes (i.e. do they tire more easy, are they vomiting etc)?
Depending on the answers above we can start to move forward with diagnostics that hopefully will get us closer and closer to a diagnosis, or help you and the vet decide what to do next.
I have failed to answer a specific question you may or may not be asking — what amount of weight is too much?
I believe that a loss of greater than 10-15% of body weight per year is too much and investigation is necessary. I also believe that losing muscle rapidly is a sign of an important underlying disease. So this means losing 1 lb in a normally 10 lb cat in less than one year — that’s not good. If you have this weight loss AND you have detectable changes in eating, drinking, urinating and defecating habits at the same time then that is EVEN MORE suggestive of a problem.
So don’t forget to monitor your pets weight. It’s free! and if you catch something early it is far more likely we can treat it then when it has been developing over many months to years.
And as a final aside — it is nearly impossible to “go wrong” with having your pet evaluated if you are concerned about one of the changes we have discussed.