Anorexia (Loss of Appetite) in Cats

Anorexia is a term used to describe the situation where a cat loses his appetite and does not want to eat or is unable to eat. Appetite is psychological, dependent on memory and association, as compared with hunger, which is physiologically aroused by the body’s need for food.

There are many causes of anorexia in cats. Often, a loss of appetite is the first indication of illness. Diseases of the digestive system (esophagus, stomach, intestine, liver, pancreas), the kidneys, the blood, the eyes, mouth, nose, and throat, the skin, the brain, and many other organs in the body can cause a loss of appetite. Pain of any cause can also make a cat less willing to eat.

Alternatively, cats will occasionally refuse food for reasons that are much less serious, such as dislike for a new food, or behavioral reasons (new home, new animal or new person in household, etc.)

Regardless of cause, loss of appetite can have a serious impact on your cat’s health if it lasts 24 hours or more. Very young animals (less than 6 months of age) are particularly prone to the problems brought on by loss of appetite.

Diagnosis of Loss of Feline Appetite

Because of the numerous causes of anorexia, your veterinarian will recommend certain procedures to pinpoint the underlying problem. These may include:

  • Physical examination including buccal exam (looking at the gums), auscultation (listening with a stethoscope), abdominal palpation (feeling the size and shape of the organs in the belly), and taking the temperature and weight
  • Complete blood panel and urinalysis (urine test), to screen for certain diseases of the internal organs
  • X-rays of the chest and the abdomen
  • Fecal examination (microscopic evaluation of the stool to look for parasites)
  • Additional tests, depending on initial test results

Treatment for Feline Anorexia

Treatments are of two kinds: “specific” and “supportive.”

  • “Specific” treatments are those that deal with the underlying cause. That is, they either slow down or eliminate the problem that caused the loss of appetite in the first place. Examples of specific treatments that reverse loss of appetite include giving antibiotics to eliminate a severe bacterial infection, surgically removing a foreign object that was blocking the intestine, treating dental disease that made chewing painful, and so on.
  • “Supportive” treatments are those that help sustain a cat that is debilitated as a result of not eating. Examples include fluid therapy such as intravenous fluids (“IV”) or subcutaneous fluids (injections of fluid given under the skin), hand feeding or coaxing to eat, appetite-stimulating drugs, and others. For tips on getting a cat to eat – please read Tips on Getting Sick Cats to Eat.

Supportive treatments do not reverse the problem that led to the loss of appetite. They simply help “carry” the animal through the most difficult part of the illness.

Home Care for Anorexia in Cats

Home care is concerned with observing your cat for possible reasons for his anorexia and helping him to eat.

  • Note whether any recent change has occurred in the home environment, such as a recent move to a new home, a new person in the home or the addition of a new pet. These may contribute to the loss of appetite and should be mentioned to your veterinarian.
  • Note whether any other symptoms are present. The presence of symptoms in addition to loss of appetite should prompt a veterinary examination sooner, rather than later.
  • To combat dehydration, some animals can benefit from being given oral rehydration supplements such as Pedialyte®. Ask your veterinarian whether this is appropriate and how much should be given. Also, for tips on getting a cat to drink, please read Tips for Encouraging Your Cat to Drink.
  • Additional feeding techniques. If an animal is unwilling or unable to eat, feeding may be enhanced with certain techniques such as warming the food so it is easier for the cat to smell it, mixing in certain home-cooked ingredients specifically suggested by your veterinarian, or offering the food by hand or with an oral syringe. Any warmed food should be checked to make sure it is not too hot, which could scald the mouth or digestive system. This is particularly a concern when the food is warmed (unevenly) by microwave.
  • New foods. When therapeutic diets are prescribed for a certain medical condition, a cat may not eat that diet immediately. Mixing with the previous diet and gradually decreasing the amount of the prior diet over several days can be tried in order to avoid cutting the appetite completely.
  • Young animals (6 months or less) are particularly fragile when not eating, and loss of appetite for even 12 hours in a kitten of 1-6 weeks of age can be life-threatening. Regular milk (i.e. cow’s milk) is poorly balanced for cats, soft drinks (soda pop) and sports drinks are usually much too sweet and are deficient in electrolytes, and soup (e.g. chicken soup) is usually too salty and does not provide enough nutrients for energy. These infant animals may need to be fed a milk replacer by syringe if they have not yet been weaned; balanced milk replacers for cats are available. Oral rehydration solutions made for children are less well-balanced but are still better alternatives than soda pop, chicken soup, etc. It is essential that you consult with your veterinarian to determine what to feed and to determine how much to give.

In-depth Information on Anorexia in Cats

The reasons for which animals refuse to eat may be grouped into two major categories:

Psychological and Medical

  • Psychological causes imply that something in the animal’s environment has caused him to lose his appetite. Examples include moving to a new home, having a new person or new animal in the home, and switching to a new pet food.
  • Medical causes are disease processes that result in the loss of appetite.
  • A major difference between psychological loss of appetite and disease-related loss of appetite is that when there is disease, additional symptoms are usually present. These symptoms can include the new development of excessive salivation (drooling), vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or sluggishness, weight loss, labored breathing, signs of infection such as the discharge of pus or blood, or sudden changes in behavior.
  • Common diseases that make animals unwilling to eat include the following:

Gastrointestinal Diseases

If the esophagus (tube in the throat that connects the mouth to the stomach), the stomach, or the intestine, is inflamed (irritated) by disease, eating can become uncomfortable or nauseating, resulting in anorexia. Diseases that can cause this kind of irritation include parasites (worms), viruses such as parvovirus and coronavirus, other infections such as bacterial and fungal infections, ulcers, food allergy, inflammation of unknown cause (“idiopathic”), and certain infiltrative cancers. A complete or partial blockage of the digestive tract can also cause unwillingness to eat. This most often occurs with foreign bodies (objects that are swallowed and become stuck partway down the digestive tract) and cancers of either a benign or malignant nature.

Acute Collapse in Cats

Overview of Acute Collapse in Cats

Acute collapse is a sudden loss of strength causing your cat to fall and be unable to rise. In acute collapse, your cat falls to the ground either into a sitting position (hind limb collapse) or a lying position (complete collapse). Some cats that suddenly collapse will actually lose consciousness. This is called fainting or syncope. Some cats recover very quickly and look essentially normal just seconds to minutes after collapsing, whereas others stay in the collapsed state until helped.

Acute collapse is usually caused by a disorder of one of the following:

  • The nervous system (brain, spinal cord, nerves)
  • The musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, muscles)
  • The circulation (heart, blood vessels, and blood)
  • The respiratory system (mouth, nose, throat, lungs)

    What To Watch For

    If your cat suffers an acute collapse, he will sit down suddenly or lie down and won’t be able to get back up. Call or take your pet to your veterinarian immediately.

  • Veterinary Care for Acute Collapse in Cats

    Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine the cause of acute collapse so that subsequent treatment recommendations are specific and most likely to be successful.

    There are dozens of diseases that can cause acute collapse. In order to pinpoint which is responsible, your veterinarian may perform one or more of the following evaluations.

    Diagnosis of Acute Collapse in Cats

  • A complete physical examination and history
  • Routine blood tests (complete blood count and serum biochemical profile)
  • Specialized blood tests that measure endocrine (hormone) function or identify antibodies against muscle cells
  • Measurement of arterial blood pressure
  • X-rays of the thorax and the abdomen (the chest and belly)
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) or ambulatory electrocardiogram (Holter ECG or event monitor)
  • Ultrasound of the abdomen or heart
  • Treatment of Acute Collapse in Cats

    Treatment of acute collapse is dependent upon the underlying cause. Initially, emergency treatments may be necessary if the blood pressure is too low or if bleeding has occurred. The following are possible treatment options that your veterinarian may choose to implement.

  • Reversal of the problem if the cause of collapse is known. Examples include removing an object that is obstructing airflow in the throat, giving an antidote if poisoning has occurred, or administering glucose (sugar solution) in cases of low blood sugar.
  • Intravenous fluids (an “IV”). These fluids can rehydrate and support the blood pressure.
  • Surgery if the underlying problem is operable, such as a bleeding abdominal tumor.
  • Intravenous drugs. The exact drug selection depends on the underlying or suspected problem.
  • Blood transfusion or blood substitute if anemia or hemorrhage contributed to the collapse.
  • Home Care

  • When acute collapse occurs, do not panic. Observe your cat carefully. Notice if there has been a loss of consciousness. Remember what – if anything – precipitated the collapse, how long your pet was collapsed, and how he acted immediately afterwards. If your cat is unconscious, see if you can feel the heartbeat on the left side of the chest. If your pet seems dazed or aggressive, be very careful not to be bitten. Call your veterinarian and explain what has happened.
  • If your cat cannot rise, prepare to transport the collapsed animal immediately after speaking with the veterinary hospital personnel. USE CAUTION. Cats that collapse may be disoriented, confused, or aggressive during the collapse and during recovery. Consequently, they may bite aimlessly and can injure even the people most familiar to them.
  • Cats that have collapsed often act normally within a few minutes. In such cases, a veterinary examination is still warranted to find the cause and try to determine if future collapse is likely.
  • If your pet appears completely recovered, try to make some notes. Remember the events surrounding the collapse. Was there an obvious cause (e.g. choking on a ball or toy)? Did it happen during normal activity or during vigorous exercise? How long did the collapse last? Was there a loss of consciousness? How did your pet behave afterward? These pieces of information can help the veterinarian tremendously.
  • When a collapse persists, generally, it is best to go immediately to the nearest veterinarian rather than spend time on “life-saving” measures. Inappropriate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), for example, may be ineffective and can also cause internal organ damage if done improperly.
  • In-depth Information on Acute Collapse in Cats

    A collapse may involve extreme weakness of the front or rear limbs, falling to the ground, or unconsciousness, in which case the cat is unresponsive to sound or touch. The severity and symptoms will often be related to the cause of collapse.

    Often consciousness is maintained but the cat has an expression of confusion or of anxiety. A “glassy-eyed” appearance may be evident. The collapse may last for only a few seconds, or it may take many minutes to hours before your cat can stand again.

    Numerous diseases can cause acute collapse. Often a disease is fairly advanced when such an extreme manifestation as collapse occurs. However, there may not have been prior symptoms.

    Examples of illnesses that may cause collapse include:

  • Heart disease, including congenital heart disease (birth defects in the heart), acquired valvular heart disease (leaky heart valves), heartworm disease, tumors of the heart, pericardial disease (disease of the lining of the heart) and primary cardiac arrhythmias (erratic heartbeat). When blood is not properly pumped through the body, the brain is most vulnerable. It can be momentarily “starved” of oxygen, causing collapse or fainting.
  • Fainting (syncope) can occur due to abnormal blood pressure control mechanisms (neurocardiogenic syncope). This can be difficult to diagnose without a very full evaluation.
  • Diseases of the blood. These include internal hemorrhage from a ruptured tumor or organ; severe anemia, leukemia, and polycythemia (abnormally thick blood caused by an excess of red blood cells). The brain and the muscles need an appropriate amount of blood to function (and the oxygen carried by red blood cells). Failing this, collapse can occur.
  • Respiratory diseases including blockage of the throat by a foreign object or by laryngeal paralysis (the inability to open the voice box so that air can enter the lungs). Other causes include respiratory disease such as bronchitis, collapsing trachea, pneumonia, or pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs). CAREFUL! Many conditions cause gasping during collapse, but without a foreign object in the mouth or throat. Do not risk being bitten by trying to remove from the throat an object that is not there. “Choking on something” is a common owner’s description of animals that have respiratory problems without any foreign body in the mouth or throat.
  • Diseases of the nervous system are common reasons for collapsing. These include fibrocartilagenous emboli (when clots in the bloodstream damage the spinal cord), intervertebral disk disease (“slipped disk” in the neck or back), degenerative myelopathy (degeneration of the spinal cord), and myasthenia gravis (defective conduction from the nerves to the muscles). In diseases of the spinal cord and muscles, the animal’s consciousness and mental abilities are generally unchanged during collapse, whereas in brain diseases disturbances of consciousness such as seizures can occur during collapse.
  • Musculoskeletal diseases, including hip dysplasia (abnormality of the hips), lumbosacral disease (arthritis of the lower back), and others. Generally, with the musculoskeletal causes of collapse, symptoms such as limping, difficulty getting up, or inability to sit up or jump have been present and getting worse for some time (days, weeks, months) before collapse occurs.
  • Toxicity. Poisonings of many kinds can cause sudden weakness and collapse. Any known exposure to substances that are deliberately poisonous (e.g. rat poison, snail/slug poison) should be reported to your veterinarian, even if the poisoning may have taken place several days earlier.
  • Drugs and medications. A simple example would be an overdose of insulin causing an excessively low blood sugar. Many human drugs that might be mistakenly eaten by your cat (or maliciously administered by someone) could lead to low blood pressure. Similarly, some veterinary prescription medicines can lead to low blood pressure and collapse.

    The most serious cases of collapse are life-threatening.

  • Anorexia (Loss of Appetite) in Dogs

    Overview of Anorexia (Loss of Appetite) in Dogs

    Anorexia is a term used to describe the situation where a dog loses his appetite and does not want to eat or is unable to eat. Appetite is psychological, dependent on memory and association, as compared with hunger, which is physiologically aroused by the body’s need for food.

    There are many causes of anorexia. Often, a loss of appetite is the first indication of illness. Diseases of the digestive system (esophagus, stomach, intestine, liver, pancreas), the kidneys, the blood, the eyes, mouth, nose, and throat, the skin, the brain, and many other organs in the body can cause a loss of appetite. Pain of any cause can also make an animal less willing to eat.

    Alternatively, some animals will occasionally refuse food for reasons that are much less serious, such as dislike for a new food, or behavioral reasons (new home, new animal or new person in household, etc.)

    Regardless of cause, loss of appetite can have a serious impact on an animal’s health if it lasts 24 hours or more. Very young animals (less than 6 months of age) are particularly prone to the problems brought on by loss of appetite.

    Diagnosis of Anorexia in Dogs

    Because of the numerous causes of anorexia, your veterinarian will recommend certain procedures to pinpoint the underlying problem. These may include:

    • Physical examination including buccal exam (looking at the gums), auscultation (listening with a stethoscope), abdominal palpation (feeling the size and shape of the organs in the belly), and taking the temperature and weight
    • Complete blood panel and urinalysis (urine test), to screen for certain diseases of the internal organs
    • X-rays of the chest and the abdomen
    • Fecal examination (microscopic evaluation of the stool to look for parasites)
    • Additional tests, depending on initial test results

    Treatment of Anorexia in Dogs

    Treatments are of two kinds: “specific” and “supportive.”

    • “Specific” treatments are those that deal with the underlying cause. That is, they either slow down or eliminate the problem that caused the loss of appetite in the first place. Examples of specific treatments that reverse loss of appetite include giving antibiotics to eliminate a severe bacterial infection, surgically removing a foreign object that was blocking the intestine, treating dental disease that made chewing painful, and so on.
    • “Supportive” treatments are those that help sustain a dog that is debilitated as a result of not eating. Examples include fluid therapy such as intravenous fluids (“IV”) or subcutaneous fluids (injections of fluid given under the skin), hand feeding or coaxing to eat, appetite-stimulating drugs, and others.

      Supportive treatments do not reverse the problem that led to the loss of appetite. They simply help “carry” the animal through the most difficult part of the illness.

     

    Home Care for Anorexia in Dogs

    Home care is concerned with observing your dog for possible reasons for his anorexia and helping him to eat.

    • Note whether any recent change has occurred in the home environment, such as a recent move to a new home, a new person in the home or the addition of a new pet? These may contribute to the loss of appetite and should be mentioned to your veterinarian.
    • Note whether any other symptoms are present. The presence of symptoms in addition to loss of appetite should prompt a veterinary examination sooner, rather than later.
    • To combat dehydration, some animals can benefit from being given oral rehydration supplements such as Pedialyte®. Ask your veterinarian whether this is appropriate and how much should be given.
    • Additional feeding techniques. If an animal is unwilling or unable to eat, feeding may be enhanced with certain techniques such as warming the food so it is easier for the dog to smell it, mixing in certain home-cooked ingredients specifically suggested by your veterinarian, or offering the food by hand or with an oral syringe. Any warmed food should be checked to make sure it is not too hot, which could scald the mouth or digestive system. This is particularly a concern when the food is warmed (unevenly) by microwave.
    • New foods. When therapeutic diets are prescribed for a certain medical condition, a dog may not eat that diet immediately. Mixing with the previous diet and gradually decreasing the amount of the prior diet over several days can be tried in order to avoid cutting the appetite completely.
    • Young animals (6 months or less) are particularly fragile when not eating, and loss of appetite for even 12 hours in a puppy of 1-6 weeks of age can be life threatening. Regular milk (i.e. cow’s milk) is poorly balanced for dogs, soft drinks (soda pop) and sport drinks are usually much too sweet and are deficient in electrolytes, and soup (e.g. chicken soup) is usually too salty and does not provide enough nutrients for energy. These infant animals may need to be fed a milk replacer by syringe if they have not yet been weaned; balanced milk replacers for dogs are available. Oral rehydration solutions made for children are less well-balanced, but are still better alternatives than soda pop, chicken soup, etc. It is essential that you consult with your veterinarian to determine what to feed and to determine how much to give.

     

    In-depth Information on Anorexia in Dogs

    There are several causes for anorexia in dogs. The reasons for which animals refuse to eat may be grouped into two major categories:

    Psychological and Medical

    • Psychological causes imply that something in the animal’s environment has caused him to lose his appetite. Examples include moving to a new home, having a new person or new animal in the home, and switching to a new pet food.
    • Medical causes are disease processes that result in the loss of appetite.

    Acute Collapse in Dogs

    Overview of Acute Collapse in Dogs

    Acute collapse is a sudden loss of strength causing your dog to fall and be unable to rise. In acute collapse, your pet falls to the ground either into a sitting position (hind limb collapse) or a lying position (complete collapse). Some dogs that suddenly collapse will actually lose consciousness. This is called fainting or syncope. Some dogs recover very quickly and look essentially normal just seconds to minutes after collapsing, whereas others stay in the collapsed state until helped.

    Acute collapse is usually caused by a disorder of one of the following:

    • The nervous system (brain, spinal cord, nerves)
    • The musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, muscles)
    • The circulation (heart, blood vessels, blood)
    • The respiratory system (mouth, nose, throat, lungs)

      What To Watch For

      If your dog suffers an acute collapse, he will sit down suddenly or lie down and won’t be able to get back up. Call or take your pet to your veterinarian immediately.

     

    Diagnosis of Acute Collapse in Dogs

    Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine the cause of acute collapse so that subsequent treatment recommendations are specific and most likely to be successful.

    There are dozens of diseases that can cause acute collapse. In order to pinpoint which is responsible, your veterinarian may perform one or more of the following evaluations:

    • A complete physical examination and history
    • Routine blood tests (complete blood count and serum biochemical profile)
    • Specialized blood tests that measure endocrine (hormone) function or identify antibodies against muscle cells
    • Measurement of arterial blood pressure
    • X-rays of the thorax and the abdomen (the chest and belly)
    • Electrocardiogram (ECG) or ambulatory electrocardiogram (Holter ECG or event monitor)
    • Ultrasound of the abdomen or heart

    Treatment of Dogs with Acute Collapse

    Treatment of acute collapse is dependent upon the underlying cause. Initially, emergency treatments may be necessary if the blood pressure is too low or if bleeding has occurred. The following are possible treatment options that your veterinarian may choose to implement.

    • Reversal of the problem if the cause of collapse is known. Examples include removing an object that is obstructing airflow in the throat, giving an antidote if poisoning has occurred, or administering glucose (sugar solution) in cases of low blood sugar.
    • Intravenous fluids (an “IV”). These fluids can rehydrate and support the blood pressure.
    • Surgery if the underlying problem is operable, such as a bleeding abdominal tumor.
    • Intravenous drugs. The exact drug selection depends on the underlying or suspected problem.
    • Blood transfusion or blood substitute if anemia or hemorrhage contributed to the collapse.

    Home Care

    • When acute collapse occurs, do not panic. Observe your dog carefully. Notice if there has been a loss of consciousness. Remember what – if anything – precipitated the collapse, how long your pet was collapsed, and how he acted immediately afterwards. If your dog is unconscious, see if you can feel the heartbeat on the left side of the chest. If your pet seems dazed or aggressive, be very careful not to be bitten. Call your veterinarian and explain what has happened.
    • If your dog cannot rise, prepare to transport the collapsed animal immediately after speaking with the veterinary hospital personnel. USE CAUTION. Animals that collapse may be disoriented, confused, or aggressive during the collapse and during recovery. Consequently, they may bite aimlessly and can injure even the people most familiar to them.
    • Dogs that have collapsed often act normally within a few minutes. In such cases, a veterinary examination is still warranted to find the cause and try to determine if future collapse is likely.
    • If your pet appears completely recovered, try to make some notes. Remember the events surrounding the collapse. Was there an obvious cause (e.g. choking on a ball or toy)? Did it happen during normal activity or during vigorous exercise? How long did the collapse last? Was there a loss of consciousness? How did your pet behave afterward? These pieces of information can help the veterinarian tremendously.
    • When a collapse persists, generally, it is best to go immediately to the nearest veterinarian rather than spend time on “life-saving” measures. Inappropriate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), for example, may be ineffective and can also cause internal organ damage if done improperly.

     

    In-depth Information on Acute Collapse in Dogs

    A collapse may involve extreme weakness of the front or rear limbs, falling to the ground, or unconsciousness, in which case the dog does not respond to sound or touch. The severity and symptoms are often related to the cause of collapse.

    Often consciousness is maintained, but the dog has an expression of confusion or anxiety or a “glassy-eyed” appearance. The collapse may last for only a few seconds, or it may take many minutes to hours before your pet can stand again.