Feline anorexia – a particular challenge
Anorexia is a sign, not a disease in itself. It can be caused by numerous conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, renal disease, pancreatitis, neoplasia and foreign bodies. To make an accurate diagnosis, a detailed work up needs to be made.
Consider asking these questions
- Were there any signs before the anorexia began?
- Any vomiting or diarrhoea?
- Has weight loss been observed?
- Any evidence of jaundice?
- Any drooling or excessive salivation?
- Is the cat lethargic?
Feline anorexia presents a particular challenge
A cat that hasn’t eaten for more than 24 hours gives us with quite a challenge as they can rapidly develop severe liver disease (hepatic lipidosis). Left untreated, this can escalate rapidly with devastating and often fatal consequences. It’s important to recognise the problem and have a plan of action early on in the condition.
Hepatic lipidosis – a consequence of feline anorexia
Hepatic lipidosis is unique to cats, and is the process whereby fat mobilises into the liver causing the liver cells to swell and stop working. It’s seen most frequently in anorexic cats especially if they are or used to be overweight. A diagnosis can be confirmed by liver biopsy.
Cats diagnosed with hepatic lipidosis usually need to be hospitalised and fed via feeding tubes until they are able to feed themselves.
Managing an anorexic cat
The choice of treatment for anorexia very much depends on the cause, but may include any of the following;
- Appetite stimulants – mirtazapine is used widely in cats. It’s given once every three days
- Forced feeding – it’s generally accepted that to force feed a cat is not appropriate, as they will often develop a food aversion response. Oesophageal or nasogastric tubes are therefore used to help feed an anorexic cat. Take care to ensure the feeding tubes are placed correctly as oesophagitis and resulting strictures can occur
- Anti-nausea medications – common drugs used include maropitant and metoclopramide
- Antacids – these are used to stop the effects of acid in stomach, oesophagus and duodenum. Cimetidine, ranitidine and omeprazole are often used
- Analgesia – it’s important to make sure that pain relief is used when appropriate. A cat in pain will often refuse to eat. Use opiates such as buprenorphine and tramadol
- Fluids – a cat not eating will rapidly become dehydrated. Monitor levels of hydration, and give fluids intravenously when required
Follow the Cascade
It must be stressed that the use of any drugs in the treatment of animals must follow the Prescribing Cascade.