Treat the Patient; the Diagnosis is Secondary

Question:
A couple of weeks ago you spoke regarding overweight kitties. Smokie is five years old and weighs 13.8 pounds.  I have moved him to canned kitten food.  My other three are all over 13 years. The tabby is not overweight, healthy.  The Siamese has issues with bowel, so he is on the Science Diet for gastro, works great. Sasha is a Siamese with issues and on meds.  She refused the prescription food, would rather starve. Really.  As these geriatric gang, and not overweight, and Sasha underweight, should I move everyone to kitten food?

Dr. Nichol:
Actually, I didn’t speak about overweight kitties; I wrote those words. Maybe my editor can add audio accompaniment to the printed version of the Journal. Just open the Fetch! page and I’ll start pontificating, like the Daily Prophet in the Harry Potter stories. Creepy.

You are right to feed your kitties carefully; each has individual needs. The high protein, low carbohydrate, low fat nutrition in canned kitten food is best for healthy cats of all ages. But (there are a lot of buts, some more significant than others) kidney failure is a fact of life for all senior cats. That’s why annual lab profiles are important for pets over the age of 10. At the first indicator of kidney issues they will feel better and live longer if they eat a low sodium, restricted protein diet like Hills k/d or Royal Canin LP.

Special diets are important to the treatment of many disorders but, as you have observed, some cats would rather wither on the vine than eat right. For stubborn pets we prescribe a food they will accept. Sometimes that means causing the least negative diet-related impact while supporting healthy weight. Treating the diagnosis matters but a pet’s well-being trumps all.
·
Back in July, 1996 Karen Moses, the Journal’s managing editor, asked me to write a weekly Q/A pet care column. Today’s marks #1000. It has been a privilege and a joy to extend this service. I’m celebrating with an updated photo showing the effects of 19 more years of veterinary practice and column writing.  I can’t predict the future of the Fetch! page but rest assured that I plan to continue my rants.