Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dieting Can Be Deadly For Cats

By Jennifer Bush, HSSV Volunteer 

One of the things I find so impressive about the Humane Society Silicon Valley is how much care and attention is given to each animal who comes through their doors. 

This is Oreo, a cat who came to HSSV last September. Oreo arrived weighing in at a plump 11.2 pounds. She was overweight, but in her first month at HSSV, staff noticed that she wasn’t eating well. Since arriving, she had lost more than 18% of her body weight. It is very dangerous for a cat to stop eating, so the staff admitted her to the HSSV hospital.

HSSV’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Julia Lewis, diagnosed Oreo with a life-threatening metabolic condition called fatty liver syndrome or hepatic lipidosis.  According to Dr. Lewis, fatty liver syndrome occurs when cats, especially ones who are overweight, stop eating or are put on a sudden diet. “Animals who stop eating use their body fat for energy. Fat cats have a lot of fat and this overwhelms their liver’s ability to use that fat effectively.”

When the liver doesn’t do its job, a cat may feel nauseous, which in turn makes her not want to eat, starting a potentially deadly cycle that won’t stop until the body stops metabolizing the cat’s body fat. To combat this life-threatening situation, cats need to get enough energy into their bodies in the form of calories. This often involves placing a feeding tube and an aggressive IV fluid treatment.

Oreo’s life was in serious danger. Fortunately, the HSSV medical staff took great care of Oreo, syringe feeding her and watching her around the clock. It took three months of constant love and attention before Oreo was finally eating on her own.  I’m happy to report that Oreo was just recently adopted and is maintaining a healthy weight of 8.5 pounds!

Remember, the best way to prevent fatty liver syndrome is to make sure your cat is eating an appropriate, nutritionally balanced diet. If you think your cat may be overweight, do not put him on a diet without speaking to a veterinary professional.  Your veterinarian can help you create a healthy plan to get your pet’s weight back on track.

Although it is okay for your cat or dog to skip a meal every so often, no pet should go without food for days. To learn more about feeding your pet, take a look at this information sheet or talk to your veterinarian.

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