Pet Vet: Cat’s aversion to eating could be symptom of kidney problem

August 10, 2015

Andrea is concerned about her 9-year-old cat, Matilda. Apparently, Matilda has gotten a bit finicky about her food over the past few weeks, and Andrea is having a tough time finding foods that she will eat.

Matilda is an indoor cat and has been eating Science Diet feline adult maintenance formula, dry form, for eight years. About three weeks ago, she stopped eating her food. Andrea thought she might simply be tired of the same old food day in and day out, so she purchased a different brand of dry food. Lo and behold, Matilda eagerly ate her new food and Andrea thought everything was back to normal.

Unfortunately, Matilda’s newfound appetite disappeared again in seven or eight days. Again, Andrea headed back to the food department at the pet store and decided to try a new food, this time in wet form. She put the food down for Matilda and, yet again, she dove right in, only to show disinterest five days later.

Andrea’s latest theory on Matilda’s ever-changing food preferences is that she might have a tooth problem, so she had her examined by her veterinarian. Matilda’s physical exam was unremarkable and Andrea took her home, along with a special prescription diet in wet form. Matilda repeated her pattern and went for the new food with great gusto, but just for two days, then back to no interest. Andrea is out of ideas and has scheduled Matilda to go back to her veterinarian.

Initially, I would like to say that Matilda absolutely needs to return to her veterinarian. There is definitely something wrong. Cats — dogs, too, for that matter — do not change food preferences unless there is an issue. They do not get tired of their food.

One possible disease process that comes to mind when I am faced with a kitty showing the appetite changes displayed by Matilda is kidney disease. Cats with kidney disease in chronic form will commonly behave exactly as Matilda. They stop wanting to eat their regular food but will try a new formula for awhile, then stop that one and begin to eat wet food, often switching flavor preferences until they stop eating altogether.

This occurs with kidney disease because this disease process initially causes mild nausea, thus dulling the appetite. As it progresses, the nausea increases also, and with it a worsening of the appetite. These cats may still eat, especially if they are given a very pungent food with extreme palatability. Eventually, though, the appetite disappears as these cats fade toward death.

Matilda needs to have some blood work and a urinalysis performed during her veterinary visit. These simple tests will rule in or out renal disease. If Matilda is dealing with chronic kidney disease, an appropriate therapy can be outlined. Cats with chronic kidney disease can be effectively managed with both hospital and home care. As is always the case, the sooner the better.

Certainly there are many other possible etiologies for Matilda’s appetite change. It is not normal and, as Andrea has realized, Matilda needs veterinary care.




McClatchy-Tribune Information Services