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Spoons
07-26-2011, 12:07 AM
I've noticed that my cat, Denver, is losing weight. In a way, this is not entirely unexpected. Denver is 12, and I understand that's when a cat is considered elderly, and like a human, likely to lose weight at such a time. But Denver doesn't seem to be too distressed about his age; he still eats, drinks, poops, and pees like he always has. Even more, he still plays with his favourite toys, enjoys head skritches, horks up hairballs, hates being carried anywhere (he's never liked being picked up), and purrs like there's no tomorrow when he gets such things as kitty treats and head skritches. In short, Denver's behaviour and personality hasn't changed. Only his weight.

Normally, I'd ask a neighbour, who is a retired veterinarian, and who has looked after Denver and my other cats when I have to go out of town. The neighbour has been a great and willing resource in the past, fielding phone calls from me and mentioning what he observes when he is simply over for coffee*. But the neighbour is on vacation right now, and I cannot ask him.

I'm wondering if this is a normal function of aging, or whether it is indicative of something more serious. But I would like to know whether this is something that needs to be looked at right now, or whether it can wait until my neighbour returns. I would really like my neighbour to help, as he knows Denver and his history quite well. But lacking my neighbour right now ... well, the SDMB is the best I can do.

Of course, if Denver appears to be in distress, or seems to get worse, I will rush him to a vet immediately. And naturally, I am not looking for a diagnosis here. But in the opinions of SDMB cat owners, and our resident veterinarians, I must ask: For now, with Denver behaving normally, and weighing just a little less than he was, can I wait a couple of weeks until my neighbour returns to advise me more professionally?


*My neighbour and I play off each other's skills: I'm a lawyer with questions about my cats, and he is a veterinarian with legal questions. We informally help each other as we can.

ETA: Upon rereading, I realize that this post might be better in IMHO. I'll leave it to the Mods to move it as they please.

chiroptera
07-26-2011, 06:15 AM
I'm no medical professional, but I've owned and fostered/cared for scores of cats in my life.

Cats are extremely good at hiding pain, and may act normally even if they're quite ill. Is he grooming himself? In my experience, inappetance in cats may be a sign of something very serious, and he needs to see a vet right away. Is he drinking? Check for dehydration by pulling up some skin on his back or flank; it should snap back instantly. If not, he's dehydrated: serious. How is his breath? Could be an abcessed tooth.

Could be anything from dental problems to impacted hairtball to kidneys shutting down to cancer, but does need to be addressed right away. IMO.

Chefguy
07-26-2011, 09:49 AM
I'm no medical professional, but I've owned and fostered/cared for scores of cats in my life.

Cats are extremely good at hiding pain, and may act normally even if they're quite ill. Is he grooming himself? In my experience, inappetance in cats may be a sign of something very serious, and he needs to see a vet right away. Is he drinking? Check for dehydration by pulling up some skin on his back or flank; it should snap back instantly. If not, he's dehydrated: serious. How is his breath? Could be an abcessed tooth.

Could be anything from dental problems to impacted hairtball to kidneys shutting down to cancer, but does need to be addressed right away. IMO.

This is truly the Straight Dope when it comes to cats. Another thing to do is to have a blood test done for thyroid levels. An uncontrolled thyroid can cause weight loss and also vomiting. The medication for thyroid is a cream that can be rubbed inside the ear.

Yorikke
07-26-2011, 11:09 AM
These days, 12 is not elderly for a cat. Upper middle-age, I'd guess. 15 is very common, maybe even average for an inside cat.

Joe

Wheelz
07-26-2011, 02:04 PM
Our two healthy cats are about 12 as well. They had both lost weight at this year's annual checkup, and the vet said that happens as they get older. He didn't think it was any cause for concern absent any other issues. He advised us to just feed them more.

I'd say keep a close eye on Denver if you're worried, but unless he shows any other troubling symptoms, you can probably wait for your neighbor. (assuming he's on a normal one- or two-week vacation...)

Hello Again
07-26-2011, 02:33 PM
My Smokey cat started losing weight around 12ish. Prior to that, he had been on the plump side (not hugely overweight, but I was always watching his intake). The vet said it was typical for a cat to be less efficient at digesting food as they got older (his blood tests were normal).

I took his regular dry cat food, and cut it 2:1 with kitten food, and he put on a couple pounds and kept them on without getting overfat. That worked for four or so years until he really did begin to develop thyroid problems.

Unless your cat's weightloss is sudden, or he is dehydrated as described above, or his litterbox or social behavior seems abnormal, this can probably wait a week. If any of the above conditions are observed, take him to the vet.

Lasciel
07-26-2011, 03:07 PM
Reinforcing what they said above - sudden weight loss, even if it's minor, is really bad.

I hadn't really thought about it before I had a sick cat myself, but for an animal who weighs somewhere around 10 lbs, losing one pound in a week is like a human dropping from 120 to 108 in a week.

That's just not good. Rapid weight-loss always means something is wrong, and besides the inital whatever is wrong, the rapid loss itself is really bad on the system, and can cause even more troubles.

TerpBE
07-26-2011, 03:28 PM
How much weight are we talking, and how quickly?

I've had this situation twice in the past year. One cat lost almost three pounds in a month (and he was only 12lb to begin with!). He had been refusing to eat and drink due to an inner ear problem, so we had to syringe feed him for a month. Eventually everything cleared up with medicine, and he's now doing great despite being 16 years old (and mostly deaf as far as we can tell).

Another of our cats lost 1-2 lbs in 3 months. After an ultrasound, it was determined that he has masses on his spleen. Medication seems to help, as he is back to his normal self and has gained the weight back, but it likely has just bought us some time.

I think one of the major deciding factors on whether you can wait or not is how quickly he's losing.

Anna Nimity
07-26-2011, 03:34 PM
My cat has lost weight as he's aged also. He was never hefty though, which is probably one of the reasons he's lived so long. He's 21 now, actually he could be older, he's been with us 20 years and he was full grown when he came to live here, I'm assuming he's was no more than a year old then.

purplehorseshoe
07-26-2011, 03:41 PM
Yes, rapid weight loss in cats can lead to fatty liver disease (http://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/digestive/c_ct_hepatic_lipidosis), which causes a vicious cycle (http://www.cat-world.com.au/hepatic-lipidosis-fatty-liver-disease): the cat's body starts trying to burn body fat for fuel, but feline livers are not good at processing fat, so the liver starts to shut down, the cat starts feeling craptacular, starts eating even less, etc.

It's sometimes seen in cats who are stressed from something like a move, new addition to the household, etc. We had this in a cat once, and the vet prescribed tiny little pills that gave the cat the munchies. :) He went on to live a happy life with us after the apparently terrifying move into our home...

So, really, OP: is he suddenly skinny? Or are you just now noticing a gradual change?

Spoons
07-26-2011, 03:49 PM
How much weight are we talking, and how quickly?

...

I think one of the major deciding factors on whether you can wait or not is how quickly he's losing.That's hard to tell. Like I said, Denver hates being picked up, and so, I rarely pick him up. But I had to the other day for some reason, and I noticed that he seemed lighter than he did about six months ago (which was probably the last time I had picked him up). How much weight, I couldn't say--he just seemed lighter than he had before. Looking at him, he appears to have lost a bit; but he is not emaciated or scrawny. He certainly isn't acting unhealthy; as I mentioned, his appetite and litterbox use hasn't changed, he still likes head skritches and play, and he interacts with my other cats like he always has.

Yes, it is a "normal length" vacation for my neighbour. He should return in two to three weeks.

It sounds like it can wait a bit for the neighbour to return, but I will keep an eye on Denver. If anything out of the ordinary develops (goes off his food, tries to hide from the others, is not interested in play, etc.), I will get him to a vet immediately. And though he may not like it, I'll pick him up daily, just to see if I can gauge any sudden weight change. Again, if I notice one, he'll be off to the vet.

Thanks so far, folks--much appreciated!

Scubaqueen
07-27-2011, 01:24 PM
sudden weight loss happened to peggy, one of the superkitty predecessors. turned out to be thyroid and easily cured with pills. don't put off a vet visit.

Spoons
07-27-2011, 05:16 PM
don't put off a vet visit.I don't plan to. Last night, Denver wasn't much interested in playing; and today, he decided to go for a nap under the bed. That's unusual, since Denver never goes under the bed, much less naps there.

So it looks like something out of the ordinary has developed. I have called the vet, and we have an appointment for later today.

chiroptera
07-27-2011, 05:41 PM
I don't plan to. Last night, Denver wasn't much interested in playing; and today, he decided to go for a nap under the bed. That's unusual, since Denver never goes under the bed, much less naps there.

So it looks like something out of the ordinary has developed. I have called the vet, and we have an appointment for later today.

Good. I was worried about Denver.
In my experience, unexplained weight loss in cats I've owned (or known) is never, never a good thing. Unless it's very gradual and part of normal aging and atrophy, or the cat has been put on Kitty Weight Watchers for being too pudgy.

Hope he's going to be fine!

Cat Whisperer
07-27-2011, 08:45 PM
Glad to hear he's going in for a check-up. I took Feather in Monday, too (she'll be 13 in a few months). She has a high normal thyroid level and very slight dehydration, but other than that, all her tests came back normal. She has lots of plaque, though - crap. Time for expensive dental work for kitty.

Jim's cat lost weight suddenly when she was about 11 or 12, too, but she did have arthritis flaring up at the same time, too, and our other cat took that as her opportunity to start eating the other cat's food. Have any of your other cats suddenly fattened up?

Spoons
07-27-2011, 09:01 PM
Well, Denver has suffered a significant weight loss--he's down to 12 pounds, from his former 15 or 16.

But that's the only apparent problem that the vet noticed in a physical exam. Other things were normal: his temperature, his teeth (though when did you lose a tooth, Denver?), his heart rate, his breathing, and his gait. His eyes were bright, he took a little interest in a toy he was given, and he happily purred in response to head skritches. He did not attempt to hide from the vet or in the exam room, and cooperated nicely.

The doctor said that given these signs, and others I was able to inform him about (such as Denver's eating, drinking, and elimination habits), but with a significant weight loss, thyroid problems were possible, as were kidney problems. He took blood and urine samples, and will send them to a lab for testing. I should have the results in a week or so; but in the interim, Denver will be okay. The vet said that if the lab results indicate a problem, it is very likely that it can be treated, as it will have been caught early.

So, we're back home now. Denver got to keep the toy he was given, and I gave him some of his favourite treats when we got home. Right now, he's napping by the window--one of his favourite places, so that's a good thing.

Spoons
07-27-2011, 09:05 PM
Have any of your other cats suddenly fattened up?Nope. Both Tigger (aka "His Royal Bigness") and Hope (aka "Football With Legs") are both pretty hefty to begin with, but the others are the same size they've always been.

Cat Whisperer
07-27-2011, 09:07 PM
He got a toy? Feather didn't get no toy (she just got a thermometer up her bum, blood and urine taken, and traumatized from the car ride). :)

Fingers crossed for the bloodwork!

Spoons
07-27-2011, 09:27 PM
He got a toy?Yes, and Tigger has already stolen it! Well, in fairness, Denver tends to be finicky with toys--he gave this one a little interest in the vet's office, but only a little. I guess it wasn't his preferred size, or shape, or smell, or whatever.

KlondikeGeoff
07-28-2011, 11:07 AM
One of my cats, Mehta, at around age 11, began to lose weight. He continued to eat the normal amount, but eventually went down from 13 lbs to only 9 lbs. Really just skin and bones.

Before this, the vet did a large battery of tests, and everything was normal. She eventually determined that he had Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). You can Goggle this, or read about it here (http://www.ibdkitties.net/)

Unfortunately, there is little that can be done about it, but one med does help some, I think. As awful as the poor thing looks, he is perfectly normal, eats well, plays and runs around, and show no other symptoms other than weight loss. And, of course, a hatred of vets. :D He is now 14 and still doing well.

Whether this is the problem with Denver, I don't know, but you might ask your vet about this just in case.

Spoons
07-29-2011, 04:24 PM
Whether this is the problem with Denver, I don't know, but you might ask your vet about this just in case.Geoff, thanks for the tip. If the tests come back inconclusive, I'll certainly mention it to the vet.

Spoons
08-02-2011, 04:43 PM
The test results are back, though the tests that the vet ordered indicate one of two things: either diabetes or pancreatitis. The vet says that diabetes is the more likely of the two, though he has suggested (and I agreed) to a couple of further tests to make absolutely sure.

If it is diabetes, he says that it is easily treatable. Yes, Denver will require insulin injections, but the vet said he would show me how to administer those. And I know that I can always ask the neighbour for help, when he returns.

I'll be very happy when the next test returns which it is for sure; but for now, I feel relieved to know what it likely is, and that something can be done. Denver is a great little guy, and I'd like to see him back at his normal weight, and playful again.

purplehorseshoe
08-02-2011, 05:28 PM
Thanks for updating us, Spoons. Hooray for modern medicine!

Lasciel
08-02-2011, 06:03 PM
Keeping my fingers crossed for diabetes - very easy to manage. Lucky kitty to have such a caretaking person!

kittenblue
08-02-2011, 06:07 PM
I had to give a cat I was catsitting for insulin injections, and it was ridiculously simple. Cat didn't even seem to notice them. My elderly cat has lost a ton of weight in the past few years, but she seems to be otherwise healthy. We did switch to a lower-calorie food, which added to her advanced years (18) explained most her her slimming-down. Glad to know you got answers, and good to have a neighbor that can help!

all1966
08-02-2011, 06:16 PM
A friend's 10 yr old kitty, Mr. Quincy, had similar symptoms, ie - weight loss but otherwise normal - and turns out he has diabetes - good news is, very treatable, and with the 1 insulin shot a day, Mr. Q has gained weight and is back to his normal ornery bossy self. Of all the kitty illnesses it COULD be, this is the lesser of the evils...and much preferable to pancreatitis...fingers crossed for Denver!

mikews99
08-02-2011, 06:28 PM
If it's diabetes, you may be able to reverse it using the Lantus Protocol (http://www.tillydiabetes.net/en_6_protocol2.htm). I successfully reversed diabetes in two of my cats, one who had such severe diabetes his BG was unresponsive to Humulin and remained over 600mg/dL for several weeks. It does require close monitoring, but it's not a difficult task if you can get your cat used to the blood glucose measurements (pricking the paw or ear for the blood drop).

Spoons
08-02-2011, 06:49 PM
Thanks for all the good wishes, folks! I'll pass them along to Denver. And I'll update when we know the test results for sure.

But apologies also--this is the SDMB, and we have rules about cat threads.

Here's a photo (http://img38.imageshack.us/img38/3662/denversmall.jpg) of Denver; and here's a photo (http://img199.imageshack.us/img199/1566/denverfionahopesmall.jpg) of Denver (on the left), and two of my other cats: Fiona (in the middle), and Hope. Obviously, these were taken when he was in better health, and I hope that with treatment, he will return to what you see here.

kiltie
08-03-2011, 07:21 PM
Hi there,

I decided to register after reading your posts to be able to share my experience with you.

I lost my first cat to diabetes many years ago, and one of my others developed it a number of years later. The advances in understanding regarding the treatment of this disease are astounding.

Ara was always a thin cat, so weight loss was hard to notice. The fact that she only tolerated human contact on her own terms didn't help.

When she was diagnosed, she was put on meds to get her blood sugar under control, but that was only for a week or two. Her diabetes was then controlled by a simple switch from dry cat food to wet. See here for more info

http://felinediabetes.com/diet.htm

You might want to discuss this with your vet. Good luck!

Cat Whisperer
08-03-2011, 09:31 PM
I spent almost an hour on the phone with my vet yesterday, and Feather's tests weren't conclusive, either. Dammit! We're trying an anti-inflammatory for a week for the peeing, and she's going back in in two months to get her thyroid levels checked again. We also got a Feliway diffuser in case she needs to feel more secure and that's why she pees.

Fingers still crossed that Denver will have an easily managed condition. I like the picture of Denver and the ladies helping you with breakfast. :)

chiroptera
08-03-2011, 09:33 PM
Aww. Denver looks just like my Archie.

Fingers crossed for diabetes - I had a small (probably about Denver's size) diabetic blind foster dog for about nine months last year, it's not a big deal to do the shots. The needle is so tiny I don't think he noticed. And yeah, dietary management is a big part of managing diabetes in animals, just like with people.

Spoons
08-04-2011, 05:40 PM
It's diabetes.

Interestingly, the vet said that with the additional test results, there is a good chance that Denver's diabetes might go into remission--at least, other cats with the same (or close to) results have after a regimen of insulin was started. But he added that there was no way of knowing when, or even if, that might happen, so I shouldn't get my hopes up. And depending on how Denver responds to treatment, he may require a different diet than the rest of my cats.

But I don't care. It's good to know what it is, and it is great to know that Denver will be okay.

So, tomorrow, Denver and I have another appointment with the vet. It's an appointment for me as much as it is for him, so I can learn how to handle a syringe and inject Denver where necessary. And then, off to the drugstore with a prescription for insulin.

Thanks, everybody, for the comments and answers you've offered. They have been very helpful.

KarlGrenze
08-04-2011, 05:49 PM
Ask the vet if a change in diet would help your cat. Certain diets were found to help cats control their diabetes, to the point of either lowering their insulin or not needing it at all.

chiroptera
08-04-2011, 06:06 PM
Wal-Mart is your friend, if cost is a concern. Humulin and boxes of needles are a fraction of the cost there, compared to anywhere else I checked last year. Also the pee strips (to check blood sugar) - hmmm, I wonder how one does that with a cat? Dogs are easy, but cats are lower to the ground and a bit more particular about their toilet habits. If you get a chance, I'd like to know how one manages the pee strip testing with cats - assuming you have to.

Hopefully it will go into remission and you'll be able to rely on dietary management alone, that would be cool.

Spoons
08-04-2011, 07:00 PM
Ask the vet if a change in dfiet would help your cat. Certain diets were found to help cats control their diabetes, to the point of either lowering their insulin or not needing it at all.The vet said that might be a possibility also. It may present a few logistical challenges, as Denver has never eaten a full meal at once (he is more likely to graze throughout the day), and my other cats might well go for his "special" meal after he's had a few bites and gone for a nap or a drink of water. But perhaps something can be done in this regard--for example, if Denver is willing to finish his meal all at once, I could put him in a room with a closed door at mealtimes. Good point, thanks; and I will look into this further with the vet.

Also, good point about testing, chiroptera; but for the first while anyway, the vet wants to monitor Denver's blood. So we will be returning from time to time. This is fine by me, as the vet now has a baseline from which to monitor Denver's progress, and he'll be able to track it better through blood samples than I can with a urine test strip--assuming I can even get Denver to pee on demand and aim correctly. Perhaps, in the future, my neighbour (remember, my neighbour, the retired vet?) can help with drawing blood samples so office visits aren't necessary. I may have to take care of him with a nice single-malt, however. :)

KarlGrenze
08-04-2011, 07:09 PM
Spoons, it may be that the diet the vet recommends is one that can be eaten by the other cats (unlike, say, a renal disease diet).

Cat Whisperer
08-04-2011, 09:54 PM
Glad to hear that you've got the definitive diagnosis. Now here's hoping for remission (or at least controlled with diet)!

Spoons
08-04-2011, 10:25 PM
Spoons, it may be that the diet the vet recommends is one that can be eaten by the other cats (unlike, say, a renal disease diet).Another good point, Karl. If the vet recommends a special diet for Denver, I will certainly ask if the others can eat it too. Even if his preferred suggestion isn't good for everybody, he may have a second choice that would be.

Karl, just because I'd like a little general information as to Denver's needs, I'd like to ask: what kind of diet should a diabetic cat eat? I remember having a diabetic girlfriend from many years ago, and how she had to have (for example) green vegetables right now; but of course, Denver won't touch such things, and he can't tell me what he needs anyway. I'm not looking for specific brand names (I'll ask the vet for those), but what should I be aware of when asking about a diet for Denver? High-carbohydrates, low-calorie, regular-fiber...? I admit that I know little in this area, and if you're willing, your advice will help when I speak with the vet tomorrow.

At any rate, I must thank you again!

KarlGrenze
08-04-2011, 11:51 PM
IIRC, the diet specified was described, in a simplified way, as an "Atkins-type" for cats. In that particular study (again, IIRC), that type of diet seemed to work for at least some of the diabetic cats that ate it, and was what we were told was more recommended for diabetic cats (in contrast with diabetic dogs). It's been a while and formulations, recipes, and brands are prone to change, so I'm not sure I can go farther than that.

The reason I mentioned that about the diet is that, from what I remember, the formulation of the ingredients was not likely to cause adverse reactions in otherwise healthy cats, specially if they free fed. Other prescription diets are not recommended for animals without the particular disease/condition.

Spoons
08-13-2011, 11:25 PM
Denver has been getting his insulin for a week now, and has improved. He's not back to his old weight yet, though he does seem a little heavier than when I originally posted my question. At any rate, he is coming back to his old self--he has romped a bit with my other cats, and he meows at me when he wants to play. We don't play quite as roughly as we once did--he's still pretty fragile--but we have fun, and Denny purrs loudly.

Denver gets his insulin twice a day, usually when I wake up; and then twelve hours later, at suppertime. According to Denver's vet, the food I serve my cats is fine for him, so there are no problems about special feedings.

The insulin must be kept in the fridge, but it cannot be given to him "cold," so I warm it up by putting it in my pocket for a while. The syringes are very fine, and it is likely that Denver feels nothing when he gets his shot. If he feels anything, it would be something like a mosquito bite. It is subcutaneous--I get the scruff of his neck, and insert the needle. I have to be careful not to get a blood vessel, but if that doesn't happen (and it hasn't yet--fingers crossed), I plunge the syringe home, and pull out. That's it; it's pretty easy. Denver cooperates, which make it even easier.

Just want to thank all the Dopers who participated in this thread, and who sent their best wishes to Denver. Thank you all, and I know Denver thanks you too.

JuliaSqueezer
08-14-2011, 12:18 PM
I somehow missed this thread before, but I have a bit of experience with this.

My wonderful cat, now deceased (at the age of 21. Damn. Just old enough to vote) went through much of what you describe. She was about 15 and got very thin. I noticed she drank and lot of water and the litter box needed to be changed more often and it was heavy! Her coat became dull and dandruffy.

She was tested and found to have diabetes, and was put on insulin, twice a day, with a very fine gauge needle. The insulin was cheap and lasted for months. The disposable needles cost a bit more but were not horribly expensive, IIRC.

Within 3 months, she was back to her normal, if svelte, self. Shiny coat, lots of energy. It was like she'd been revived or something. The vet switched her to a fish-bound protein type of insulin after a couple of years (sorry-- I forget the name. It had a "z - dash - something in its name) that lasted longer, and kept the insulin levels more constant.

So yes, it can be a way of life for these cats. I believe mine felt better when she received her injection. In fact, if I was late giving it to her, she'd come and meow in my face, then calm right down afterward.

She lived another 6 years on insulin, and died of a liver tumor at 21.