You have described to me a 7 year old female Persian cat who has recently started to refuse her dry food. She is loosing weight. Although she refuses her own food, she seems to want to eat dry dog food or canned tuna. She has not had any vomiting or diarrhea and her activity and energy levels are good.
You have wondered about tapeworms. Tapeworms are an intestinal parasite that pets can get either from eating fleas or eating mice. The common tapeworms seen in cats and dogs are Dipylidium and Taenia species, and less commonly Echinococcus.
With your cat, she could have picked up a tapeworm from either eating a flea or eating a small rodent. Generally, people become aware that their cat has tapeworms because they see small rice-like segments in the hair around the anus.
Here is more information on tapeworms:
Tapeworms can be treated with either Drontal Plus or Cestex (which contain praziquantel which is effective against tapeworms). In Canada this medication is only available through a veterinarian.
Here is more about praziquantel:
So, I think it is unlikely that this is what has changed your cat's appetite.
From what you have described, my first thought was a dental problem, just as you wondered. If would still want to do a thorough dental exam if I were to see her. However, there are a number of different things that I would be considering if your cat were on her way to see me. The things that I would be considering are:
1. Hairballs –
You obviously know what these are. Hairballs are fairly common in cats. If there is a wad of hair in her stomach, and it is not passing, then she may feel full all the time and not be inclined to eat. Maybe it has passed and that is why she is now willing to eat again?
It could not hurt to give her some hairball remedy. You could try laxatone, tonic-lax or petromalt. All of these are essentially vaseline with flavouring added. Many cats love them! You could start at 1/2 teaspoon daily and see how she does
2. A foreign body.
This acts in much the same way as a hairball in that it can obstruct the pylorus and prevent food from moving through. I have taken some odd things out of cat's stomachs - ribbons and ear plugs among them. They do eat the strangest things sometimes.
Cats like to play with strings and ribbons and they can be particularly problematic. What can happen is that the ribbon goes down into the stomach and one end gets knotted up into a big ball. If the ball is too big to fit out the pylorus, it gets stuck there.
The danger is that a tail of ribbon may slip out into the intestines. If you have a big ball in the stomach and a tail out in the intestines, the intestines will try to move the tail along, but cannot. Instead, the intestines will "plicate" up around the tail of ribbon. Think of a hair scrunchy - that is what happens to the intestines. The ribbon is now all tightly pulled up in these scrunched up intestines, and it can then saw through the intestines!
This is very serious!
Here is more about foreign bodies in cats, which can be a cause of loss of appetite:
3. Another possibility is that your cat could have gastritis.
This is an inflammation of the stomach that could be caused by having eaten something she should not have (plant leaves, or anything rough or indigestible).
If you think of rubbing sandpaper across your wrist for a few hours, you can imagine how raw your skin would be. The same thing happens to the inside lining of the stomach when a cat eats something indigestible like a ribbon. The stomach will try hard to digest it, and get quite raw in the process.
Treatment involves resting the stomach by giving only easy-to-digest foods and medication to act as a "band-aid" to raw ulcerated areas.
Here is more:
4. Cholangiohepatitis/pancreatitis -
This is an infection in the area of the pancreas or bile ducts, which can occur for no known reason. This is called cholangiohepatitis and pancreatitis. This comes on suddenly as you have described with no known cause. In a severe case, it causes fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Blood work and x-rays aid in diagnosis, and treatment involves hospitalization, fluids and antibiotics.
With a mild case, the cat may just lose her appetite.
With treatment for cholangiohepatitis, often, the cat is hospitalized to get these treatments intravenously (into the vein) using a catheter. This is particularly true if the vomiting prevents oral fluids or antibiotics. Pancreatitis can be very serious, and can even be fatal if untreated. Cats with this are very sick, lethargic, reluctant to move, and nauseated.
Here is more: http://www.petplace.com/cats/cholangiohepatitis/page1.aspx
Now, as to what you can do at home for your cat...you can do is try to get some calories into her in a 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 the liquid.
You could add some of the tuna to her regular dry food to tempt her back to eating it.
Also, you can pick up Clam Juice in most grocery stores (sold in with the V8 or the canned tuna) and mix that with some water.
You could try Lactose Free milk (Lactaid is the Canadian brand). Whiskas makes a tetra pack of "Kitty Milk" that is lactose free milk with flavouring added.
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.
Offer her some canned cat food, and mix it with water to make a slurry if she won't eat it.
Boil a chicken breast and then put it in the blender with water to make a baby-food consistency gruel to offer.
You could pick up nutristat http://www.agri-med.com/site/255063/product/NUTRST-4.25
It is a calorie-dense paste that you can syringe into them to get maximum caloric impact from a given volume of food.
Here is another link to ways to encourage cats to eat:
It has some good suggestions.
I do think you are going to need to take her to see your veterinarian again to have her checked. If she is not eating with the above suggestions, then do have her in to see your veterinarian.
Good luck with her, and please let me know what happens!
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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.