Q: Our older cat, 14 years, has been gradually getting thinner over the past couple of years. We have taken her in to our veterinarian a couple of times for routine checks and even had some blood samples taken, which all turned out to be normal for her age. She has never been a big eater, so we don’t know if that is part of her problem. What can we do to help her maintain weight and not get too skinny?

A: Older cats can have a lot of health issues that cause them to lose weight. It sounds like you have already had at least a basic blood panel run, which would have checked her liver and kidney function. Since those apparently turned out to be normal, I would make sure that she has her thyroid level tested, if it wasn’t part of her original blood test. Hyperthyroidism is very common in older cats and can certainly be treated if it is a problem.

If her thyroid levels are normal, then you have to start looking more specifically at gastrointestinal problems. Two of the most common are intestinal lymphoma and inflammatory bowel disease. Both of these diseases will typically cause either vomiting or diarrhea, so they may not be a problem since you didn’t mention this. They certainly need to be ruled in or out as a cause of the weight loss, though.

A final consideration would be lack of absorption of nutrients simply due to her age. There is ongoing research in feline medicine to try to understand why older cats don’t absorb calories and nutrients as well from their diets as they do when they are younger. Although there is no actual cure or medicine that directly treats this problem, you can try to change her diet to one that is more highly digested and absorbed than the average diet. Ask your veterinarian about this and they can probably recommend at least of couple of diets that would fit this criteria.

 

Got a pet-related question? Send it to Dr. Anderson, a veterinarian at Hawthorne Park Animal Care Center in Bloomington, via email at features@pantagraph.com.

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