Thanks for your replies, they have been helpful!
So, clearly, there is *something* going on with Oliver to cause him to have lost his appetite, lost weight, and be les active than usual. He is a bit of a puzzle since he is giving us so few clues.
The things that I would consider would be chronic renal insufficiency (CRI, kidney failure), hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver), diabetes and unfortunately we also have to consider neoplasia (cancer). These are the most common problems that I see in cats with these symptoms.
With chronic renal insufficiency cats tend to drink more, lose weight and have a diminished appetite. Some have vomiting. Many have dry hair coats and hair loss.
With hepatic lipidosis, however, they tend to lose weight and have a decreased appetite. Some have vomiting, many have lethargy.
With diabetes, however, cats tend to eat and drink more, and have dry hair coats and hair loss as well.
With neoplasia, they may eat more or eat less, and lose weight.
As you can see, many of the symptoms overlap and with Oliver I don't know which of these descriptions fits best. All are treatable, to different degrees.
Let me explain a bit more about each of them and the treatment options:
1. Chronic renal insufficiency.
With this disorder, the kidneys have lost the ability to concentrate urine. So, the patient just produces dilute urine all the time, regardless of what is going on. For a cat with normal kidneys, if they don't drink for a while (say, because of feeling nauseated with a hairball), the kidneys just concentrate the urine and the cat keeps normally hydrated. Same as with a human who doesn't drink all night - the first morning urine is more concentrated because the kidneys are retaining all the water they can.
Now, if your cat's kidneys can't DO that, and just keep producing large quantities of dilute urine, he is going to start getting dehydrated. One of the first things that happens is that the body tries to draw water out of the feces and the cat gets constipated because the feces are now dry and hard, so it's harder to pass them.
Also, as the patient becomes slightly dehydrated, he tends to lose his appetite. Imagine yourself being really thirsty and someone offering you a steak. No matter how delicious you might think that is, you would be unable to eat much without having a drink first.
Kidney disease can be diagnosed by physical exam and analysis of a blood and urine sample. On a physical exam, I check the kidney size and shape. For treatment, the first step is a low-protein diet available through your vet clinic. The patient may also need supplemental potassium, and perhaps fluids given under the skin to correct any dehydration.
Here is more information:
2. Hepatic lipidosis.
What I am concerned about is that he is developing Hepatic Lipidosis (Fatty Liver Disease). This is something that overweight cats are more prone to than slim cats. If an overweight cat decreases his food consumption by approximately 30% for as little as 2 weeks he is likely to develop hepatic lipidosis. Also, if a fat cat stops eating completely for 2-3 days he is likely to develop hepatic lipidosis.
I'm wondering if Oliver might have been eating less when you were away, if he missed you.
Essentially what happens is the body goes into a state of starvation, and a signal is sent out that the body must mobilize the fat stores to provide energy. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a signal about how much fat to mobilize and fat cats have a lot... so it all gets sent to the liver to be converted from fat into glucose. And the liver gets overwhelmed and shuts down. This leads to nausea and vomiting, which means the cat won't eat, and the body tries to mobilize more fat. The cycle continues and the liver gets into more trouble.
Often, in cats an underlying problem like cholangiohepatitis (an inflammation of the liver and bile ducts) could have been the initial reason for the loss of appetite. Or it could be something as simple as a hairball or dental pain... but the consequences of not eating or eating very little are serious.
I will add some links with further details:
3. Diabetes mellitus is also on the list of possibilities.
When a normal animal eats, the intestines absorb the calories into the bloodstream as glucose. So, now there is a lot of glucose in the blood. BUT it cannot get into the muscles or other cells that need it without insulin. You absolutely have to have insulin to get glucose from the blood into the cells. And it is the cells that need the glucose; the bloodstream is just a road that delivers it to the cells.
So, now there is a lot of glucose in the blood and it can't go anywhere. This then starts to spill into the urine - so now you have glucose in the urine. Glucose is a really large molecule, and where-ever it goes, it pulls water with it. So, all that glucose in the urine pulls a lot of water out into the urine with it, and suddenly the animal is urinating large quantities. This makes him dehydrated, so he has to drink huge amounts to try to stay hydrated.
Animals with diabetes thus drink an enormous amount of water. Also, they have ravenous appetites because their cells are starving as none of the glucose can get into them. So, they eat a lot and urinate a lot. There comes a point where their appetite really drops off and they start to become very sick.
Diabetes can usually be managed with insulin injections and/or with prescription food plus pills depending on how far advanced it is.
I'll give you some links to further information:
4. Unfortunately, we also have to consider neoplasia (cancer) because his symptoms could fit for this.
Hepatic lipidodis and Diabetes are FAR more common, however, so don't panic! To diagnose cancer, a vet would start with a complete physical exam to try to feel for internal masses, and would do blood work to rule out other problems. X-rays and biopsies might be needed.
If the tests for diabetes, CRI and hepatic lipidosis were negative, and other blood tests were all normal, I would have to start considering cancer, unfortunately.
Some forms of cancer grow as a mass or lump and can be palpated in the belly or seen on x-rays. Some forms of cancer invade as tiny little cells all through-out an organ like the gastrointestinal tract. They are hard to detect because you can't palpate them, and you can't see them on an x-ray because they are scattered throughout the organ. In these cases, ultrasound and biopsy or exploratory surgery and biopsy can be used to make a diagnosis. Looking at a piece of the organ under a microscope is the only way to see if there are cancer cells there.
Many types of cancer in cats respond really well to chemotherapy medication. There are even chemo protocols that consist of pills that the owner can give at home. Cats have minimal side effects from many chemo drugs - NOTHING like as severe as humans.
There are so many forms of cancer that it is hard for me to provide a link, but I'll give you one for a common type of cancer:
So, in summary, it sounds as though Oliver may have hepatic lipidosis, CRI or possibly neoplasia. From what you have described, my best guess would be that diabetes is most likely. This is very treatable! A check up and blood tests with your vet will help to make this diagnosis, and get him started on treatment to help him gain weight! I encourage you to take him in today or tomorrow as his condition sounds serious!
So, although I can't tell you for sure what is wrong with Oliver, I hope I have given you some directions to explore with your vet.
Now, I understand you may have financial limitations, so I have some suggestions for what you can do at home to help. What you can do is try to get some calories into him in liquid form - that way he is getting nutrition at the same time as fluids.
I suggest opening a can of tuna *in water* and offering him the liquid, diluted 50:50 or more with water.
Also, you can pick up Clam Juice in most grocery stores (sold in with the V8 or with the canned tuna in my grocery store) and mix that with some water.
You could try Lactose Free milk (Lactaid is the Canadian brand).
Offer him some canned cat food, and mix it with water to make a slurry if he won't eat it.
Things you can do to encourage a cat to drink are:
- offer water from a very wide flat bowl as cats don't like their whiskers to touch the edges when they drink (which is why lots of cats like the toilet bowl).
- If he likes dripping water, leave a tap dripping for him.
- Offer bottled water and see if he prefers it.
- Offer onion free chicken or beef broth, diluted 50:50.
- See if he likes water with an ice cube in it.
- See if he likes it out of a cup or martini glass.
- Offer Whiskas Kitty Milk
- Offer him canned food as the first ingredient in water
- You could try getting some human baby food in meat flavours (check that there are no onions or garlic in the ingredients) and mix that with warm water and offer that, or syringe it in little bits into your cat's mouth. Beech Nut makes a line of baby food that has nothing but meat (beef, chicken, turkey or veal) in it.
Here's a link:
If you cannot find this, you could find another meat baby food - just read the label carefully to be sure there are no onions, onion powder, garlic, or garlic powder in it.
Try to get him to drink small amounts frequently. If you can, try syringe 1 teaspoon (5 mL) or liquids per half hour into his mouth.
I hope that this helps you to help Oliver! I do think you should have him seen by your vet as soon as possible since I strongly believe there is an underlying problem that needs medical attention!
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The above is given for information only. Although I am a licensed veterinarian, I cannot legally prescribe medicines or diagnose your pet's condition without performing a physical exam. If you have concerns about your pet I would strongly advise contacting your regular veterinarian.