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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Feline Dieting

Has your favorite feline Fluffy turned into Fatty? Putting your furry friend on a diet is a maneuver that must be handled with finesse for the sake of kitty’s health. 

Unlike humans, a cat’s physiology is not adept at pulling energy from reserves of stored fat. If she loses weight too quickly, she’ll stop eating, and fat will accumulate in the liver. Fat cats tend to be susceptible to health problems, and if a fat cat stops eating for just 48 hours, it can trigger Hepatic Lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, a condition peculiar to cats. It doesn’t affect dogs or other pets. 

Symptoms of this disease show up as anorexia (refusal to eat), abdominal swelling, jaundice, diarrhea, depression, vomiting, weight loss, lethargy and irritability.

By the time the owner notices such symptoms, the liver may be struggling to overcome major damage.

Fortunately, the liver is a resilient organ, with an incredible reserve capacity and great powers to regenerate. Thanks to advances in dietary research, it’s possible that a 4 to 6 week program of force-feeding with the right food under a vet’s guidance can help stabilize necessary enzyme activity. With a return of appetite, kitty has a good chance of complete recovery.

A natural-health vet starts with an exam and a goal for getting kitty on track. Dr. Iris Ramirez, a holistic veterinarian in southwest Florida, advises that you not allow a cat to lose more than a half pound a week.

“The owner or caretaker should exam the cat weekly, taking notes on the types and quantity of food consumed and how the cat is responding,” says Ramirez. “If your friend is suddenly off of feed, call your vet that same day to make an appointment for the very next day.” The appointment can be cancelled if eating and activity improve.

Dietary no-no’s for a cat with liver disease are shellfish, organ meat and foods containing fish meal. All contain purines that metabolize to form uric acid, which can’t be processed by a damaged cat’s liver.

Ramirez puts her feline patients on “a raw foods diet rich in high quality protein.” But she says that fresh cooked also works. “The next choice would be canned food, followed by dry food with fresh supplements.” 

She explains that dry food is about 90 percent nutrient-dense dry matter that can dehydrate older cats that do not drink enough water or may have kidney disease. Canned food is closer to what their bodies are designed to process, as it consists of about 75 percent water. 

“Whatever type of food you choose, your cat will lose weight if you don’t let it overeat,” says Ramirez.  She believes that many health problems can be solved by mimicking a natural diet.

With proper planning and acute observation, Fluffy can morph from “built for comfort but not for speed” into a healthy muscular kitty. Losing that extra weight can put your playful companion back into action, enhancing your life, and lengthening her nine lives. 

By Betty Borsukoff

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