NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

September 9, 2011

Paw Prints: Watch cats for weight loss

If you own a kitty, chances are your beloved feline is chubby.

More than half of all pet cats in this country are overweight or obese. With this condition comes a myriad of health problems. So, if your cat is losing weight, it must be a good thing, right? Especially if Fluffy was battling the bulge, it seems logical that shedding those pounds should be applauded.

But what if Fluffy is not on a diet or exercise plan? What if Fluffy is mysteriously slimming down? This is a cause for concern because cats don't typically lose weight easily. Almost anyone who has tried to diet a cat will empathize.

Remember that cats are small creatures, so small weight changes are important. Ounces are significant, and pounds are alarming. A 15-pound cat that loses only 1.5 pounds has lost 10 percent of his body weight.

Cats make their own rules, and they are masters of disguise.

Unexplained weight loss may be the only obvious sign that Fluffy is in the early stages of serious illness. Very often, these cats are still playful, interactive, eating and drinking. But inside their bodies, something is changing so that they are not able to process food for energy as they have in the past.

A very common malady in older cats is an overactive thyroid gland, or hyperthyroidism.

This is an illness of senior cats, and the risk increases every year from that age. The metabolism soars, and calories burn more rapidly. The resulting weight loss is a signal of all that's happening inside. Virtually every organ in the body is affected. Muscles are used for energy, the heart is overworked, blood pressure may increase, and kidneys are damaged.

Hyperthyroidism causes body wasting because the cat cannot consume enough food to meet its caloric needs. Various treatments are readily available. However, some organ damage is irreversible.

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