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Cat Loss of Weight

Veterinarian Reviewed on April 2, 2014 by Dr. Janice Huntingford

Cat Loss of Weight

Signs and Symptoms

It is necessary to note that weight loss in and of itself is not a disease; it is a symptom of something else going on with your cat. While there are many reasons for feline weight loss, it is vital to have the cat fully examined when weight loss occurs, particularly in the event of rapid weight loss.

Common causes of weight loss for cats including dental problems, Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), Cat Heartworms, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and Cat Hyperthyroidism.

Dental Disease in Cats

Older cats and even middle-aged cats can develop gingivitis, which causes inflammation and pain in the soft tissues of the mouth. This condition makes it difficult for the cat to eat, especially dry food varieties. The normal treatment for gingivitis is anti-inflammatory, antibiotics, and a deep cleaning of the teeth.

Feline Leukemia Virus

The feline leukemia virus can be extremely serious and can be transmitted between cats; it is particularly more prevalent in cats that are allowed to roam outdoors. The FeLV has four different subgroups including A, B, C, D, and T with each having their unique symptoms and causes. Common symptoms among all the subgroups include Cat Loss of Appetite, weight loss, Cat Fever, apathy, difficulty or labored breathing, and enlarged lymph nodes.

Preventing the virus includes having the cat vaccinated for FeLV before symptoms begin, because an infected cat cannot be given the vaccine. Treatment for those diagnosed with the condition includes interferon treatment, antiviral drugs, antibiotics, fluid therapy, and keeping the cat indoors at all times. During regular vaccinations of a kitten, the FeLV is part of the vaccination series and all cat owners should have their cats vaccinated.

Heartworm or other Parasites

Heartworms in cats are potentially fatal, but it is preventable with a monthly heartworm medication, if the cat tests negative. When a cat tests positive for heartworms and while this disease is more common in dogs, cats can develop it as well, especially cats that roam outdoors. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, weight loss, lethargy, difficulty breathing, and vomiting. Treatment of infected cats is extremely difficult because the treatment options themselves can prove highly dangerous to the cat. Adulticide treatment is an option as well as caparsolate drugs. As a last result, the worms can be removed surgically. The best way to prevent the heart worms is keeping your cat on a monthly preventative medication.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is an extreme common condition in cats and normally the cause for chronic diarrhea and vomiting. There is no clear-cut cause for IBD in cats, but some believe it is bacterial related. Symptoms include weight loss, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Treatment options include a diet that is highly digestible and contains a protein that the cat’s body is not familiar with. Prednisone is sometimes used along with anti-inflammatory and antibiotics.

Hyperthyroidism in Cats

Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid glands produce too much T3 & T4 hormones. Symptoms include weight loss, increased appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, poor coat, and rapid heartbeat. Treatment options include drug therapy and surgery to remove the enlarged thyroid lobes.


Monitoring your cat’s weight and behavior changes can help you know when you need to take him or her to see the veterinarian. Often waiting it out is not recommended since serious conditions require immediate treatment.

Read also: Cat Toxoplasmosis
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Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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