It’s no secret that getting feline patients into the clinic for regular exams can be more of a challenge than it is with dogs. Cats tend to be much more anxious during veterinary visits, and there is a prevailing myth among many cat owners that indoor cats don’t need annual exams if they appear to be healthy. However, what many cat owners don’t realize is that routine exams play a vital part in their pet’s health by providing the veterinarian with benchmarks on weight and body and muscle condition score.
Weight loss is more than a number
While obesity in pets often gets the most attention, unintended weight loss can be just as detrimental to the cat’s health and needs to be addressed early. Studies have shown that chronically underweight cats may have a shortened lifespan and are more vulnerable to infectious disease, delayed wound healing, and changes in hepatic metabolic function.¹ Cats with a body condition score of 6 had the highest survival rate, while that lifespan was shortened for those with a body score of less than 5.¹
Unexplained weight loss isn’t just an issue in underweight cats, but overweight cats are also at risk for developing additional health issues if their weight loss is unintended. Since weight loss can indicate a variety of underlying health concerns, recognizing and addressing the problem is key.
Recognizing the problem
Ideally, cat owners should bring their pets in at least once annually for a routine examination, but unfortunately, many only visit the veterinarian when there is a visible problem. With a yearly exam, benchmarks can be noted like weight, as well as body condition score (BCS) and muscle condition score (MCS) which can help the veterinarian determine if the cat is at its ideal weight.
If a cat is brought into the clinic with the concern that they have lost weight, getting additional information from the cat owner can help the veterinarian determine if environmental factors, like stressful events, or an underlying health condition could be the cause.
Some client prompts for additional information include:
- Have you noticed a change in your cat’s eating habits? If so, when did it first occur?
- How many times a day does your cat visit the food bowl?
- Have there been major changes in the home environment? These can include guests, a new baby, or the loss of a pet.
- Has your cat experienced any other clinical signs like diarrhea, vomiting, or constipation? Is your cat drinking or urinating more than usual?
- Have you noticed any other behavioral changes like altered grooming habits, increased vocalization, or reluctance to use the litter box?
Monitoring the cat at home
While weight loss may sometimes be a gradual problem that is hard for cat owners to recognize, there are simple things they can do at home to see if their cat is maintaining their ideal weight. A basic BCS/MCS can easily be noted while the owner is petting a cat, and they should take note of:
- Ribs or bony protrusions
- Any new lumps or bumps
- Painful areas
If the cat owner notices any changes, they should consult their veterinarian right away.
While determining and managing the cause of weight loss is critical, it is also important to get the cat back to a healthy weight. This will usually take time and can be done in conjunction with the cat’s current treatment program. Some diseases—like chronic kidney disease—have specific diets available to manage the condition and help maintain weight, but that is only a piece of the puzzle. Medications like Mirataz® (mirtazapine transdermal ointment) can be used to help support weight gain for a variety of conditions and situations, from a stressful move to a chronic illness. As opposed to generic mirtazapine tablets, Mirataz is FDA-approved for the management of weight loss in cats and is a transdermal formulation which makes dosing and administration easy for the cat owner. Once a cat is back to a healthy weight, the key will be monitoring the cat’s behavior and any changes in body condition.
Feline weight loss is something that is easily overlooked by many cat owners and can be a sign of an underlying condition. In addition to encouraging cat owners to bring their pets in for routine examinations, it’s important to educate owners about the importance catching unintended weight loss early and how they can monitor their cat’s body condition at home to help their cats live long and healthy lives.
To learn more about Mirataz® (mirtazapine transdermal ointment), visit Mirataz.com.
Mirataz is indicated for the management of weight loss in cats.
Important Safety Information
Mirataz® (mirtazapine transdermal ointment) is for topical use in cats only under veterinary supervision. Do not use in cats with a known hypersensitivity to mirtazapine or any of the excipients. Do not use in cats treated with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Not for human use. Keep out of reach of children. Wear gloves when handling/applying, wash hands after and avoid contact between the treated cat and people or other animals for 2 hours following application. Use with caution in cats with hepatic and kidney disease. Cat’s food intake should be monitored upon discontinuation. Safety has not been evaluated in cats less than 2 kg, less than six months of age or in breeding, pregnant or lactating cats. The most common adverse reactions observed during clinical trials were application site reactions, behavioral abnormalities (vocalization and hyperactivity) and vomiting. For product label, including complete safety information, click here.
1 Teng KT, et al. Strong associations of nine-point body condition scoring with survival and lifespan in cats. J Fel Med Surg. 2018;20(12):1110-1118.