Thanks for your replies, they have been helpful!
So, clearly, there is *something* going on with your cat to cause her to have lost so much weight recently. She is a senior citizen and a bit of a puzzle since she is giving us so few clues. The things that I would consider would be chronic renal insufficiency (CRI, kidney failure), hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid gland), or a combination of the two, and unfortunately we also have to consider neoplasia (cancer). These are the most common problems that I see in senior cats.
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 hyperthyroidism, however, they tend to drink more, lose weight and have an INCREASED appetite. Some have vomiting, many have diarrhea.
With neoplasia, they may eat more or eat less, and lose weight.
As you can see, many of the symptoms overlap and with your kitty 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, she 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, she tends to lose her 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:
This is a common disorder of older cats in which the thyroid gland in the neck starts to over-produce a hormone called T4. T4 controls metabolic rate. So, the more you have of it, the faster the metabolism. Cats that are hyperthyroid tend to eat voraciously, but lose weight because they burn the calories up so fast. Their heart rates increase, and the transit time through the intestines increases. So, they may develop diarrhea and vomiting, but not always. Also, just to confuse matters, some cats with hyperthyroidism will drink and eat very little and be lethargic.
Hyperthyroidism can be diagnosed by physical exam and blood and urine analysis. On a physical exam, I check for enlarged thyroid glands, and a rapid heart rate, and sometimes heart murmurs. Blood and urine tests allow a vet to confirm the diagnosis.
Hyperthyroidism responds really well to treatment. The treatment options are oral medication (usually twice daily, always for the rest of kitty's life), surgery, or radioactive iodine treatment (this last is the BEST treatment because it gives you a cure, but it is expensive).
3. Unfortunately, we also have to consider neoplasia (cancer) because your kitty is older and there has been dramatic weight loss.
Hyperthyroidism and CRI 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 hyperthyroid disease and CRI 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 your cat may have hyperthyroidism, CRI or possibly neoplasia. From what you have described, my best guess would be that hyperthyroidism is most likely. If your vet has not checked for this, please ask him to do so - and ask for a "FREE T4 BY EQUILIBRIUM DIALYSIS." This is far more accurate than other ways of testing this hormone.
So, although I can't tell you what is wrong with your kitty, I hope I have given you some directions to explore with your vet.
Now, I understand you want to know what to do at home, so I have some suggestions. What you can do is try to get some calories into her in liquid form - that way she is getting nutrition at the same time as fluids.
I suggest opening a can of tuna *in water* and offering her the liquid.
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 her some canned cat food, and mix it with water to make a slurry if she 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 she likes dripping water, leave a tap dripping for her.
- Offer bottled water and see if she prefers it.
- Offer chicken broth, diluted 50:50.
- See if she likes water with an ice cube in it.
- See if she likes it out of a cup or martini glass.
- Offer Whiskas Kitty Milk
- Offer her 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 her to drink small amounts frequently. If you can, try syringe 1 teaspoon (5 mL) or liquids per half hour into her mouth.
The other thing you can do is to ask your vet to teach YOU how to give fluids under the skin at home. I am always happy to teach people how to do this and it really isn't that hard! It could make a huge difference to your girl, as you saw with how she felt the next day! You could have your vet teach you how to give about 100mls under the skin daily to keep her hydrated, as well as giving her as much by mouth as she wants. Here is a website with some *great* photos of how it is done!
I hope that these ideas help you to help your girl. And just tell your vet and your husband:
AGE IS NOT A DISEASE!
If this has been helpful, please "Accept" my answer and provide feedback. If you need more information, just click on reply and I will try to provide it!
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.