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Potential causes of your pets diminished appetite

Veterinarian Dr. Lee Pickett shares pet medical advice about senior cats and sudden weight loss.

Potential causes of your pets diminished appetite

Q:Reggie, my elderly cat, is losing his appetite and getting thinner. A friend told me about a drug her veterinarian prescribed when her cat lost his appetite. What is the drug, where can I get it, and what is the dose?

A:If Reggie is losing his appetite, it’s important to find the cause and treat that.

The first step is to make an appointment with your veterinarian for a physical examination and lab work to determine whether Reggie’s loss of appetite is related to pain, nausea, overall loss of energy or another cause.

Once you know the cause of Reggie’s diminished appetite, a treatment plan can be devised. The medication you mention may be mirtazapine, a prescription drug available through your veterinarian. It is sometimes used to boost a cat’s appetite until the underlying disease is controlled.

For example, your veterinarian may find that Reggie has a broken tooth, infected gums or some other dental disease that makes eating painful. Arthritic joints also can make his journey to the food bowl feel like more trouble than it’s worth.

Nausea-induced lack of appetite may result from kidney or bladder disease, liver dysfunction, pancreatitis, intestinal parasites, diabetes and many other disorders. To identify these conditions, take a stool sample with you and ask your veterinarian to do fecal testing, blood work and a urinalysis.

If Reggie is lethargic, he may not have enough energy to eat as often as he once did. Sluggishness occurs in conjunction with many diseases, including heart disease. A physical exam often can detect signs of heart disease, including abnormal heart sounds, weak pulses, pale gums and an unusually low body temperature.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at

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