Dr. Patrick Mahaney Talks Eating Disorders in Pets on The Pet Show with Dr. Katy

September 23, 2019

You may not know it, but your pet could have an eating disorder.  
I had the opportunity to discuss this important health issue on the ABC7 WJLA program The Pet Show with Dr. Katy.  See Eating Disorders in Pets and share it with your fellow pet aficionados. 
What kind of eating disorders can my pet have?
There are multiple types of eating disorders that can affect your pet and not all disorders contribute to weight loss.
Anorexia is the loss of appetite.  As technically anorexia is a complete loss of appetite, we can consider other classifications of appetite like hypophagia/hyporexia, which is reduced appetite. The prefix hypo- means “less than.”
The converse of anorexia/hypophagia/hyporexia is hyperhagia/polyphagia, which is where appetite is excessive.  The prefixes hyper- and poly- mean “more than” or “in excess.”
How can I tell if my pet has an eating disorder?
You can tell if your pet has an eating disorder by being an observant pet owner and closely monitoring the amount of food and your pets ability to chew and swallow.
Any owner can watch a pet to see if the complete portion of food that is put down is finished.  If you are feeding your pet an appropriate amount of food to sustain body weight and the portion is incompletely eaten then there may be a health concern as to why your pet is not eating as much.
Owners can also observe their pets day-to-day habits to see if there is evidence of hunger beyond that satisfied by regular meals such as begging for food, taking food from other animals, or dietary indiscretion (eating things one should not).
Additionally, owners can observe their pets for evidence of weight gain or weight loss based on The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine Body Condition Scoring Chart (BCS) which helps owners and veterinarians determine if weight modification is needed.  The BCS scale is from 1 to 9 with 1 being the extreme of thinness and 9 being the extreme of obesity.
Owners can also weigh their pets at home using a commercially-available large or small pet scale.  If not pet scale is available or if you can’t get your pet onto the scale then pick up your pet, stand on a scale for humans, and subtract the difference.  Attaining an exact reading this way is more challenging with extremely large or small or uncooperative pets.
If You’re not able to weigh your pet, then schedule a technician appointment at your veterinarian’s office so an accurate weight can be determined and recorded in your pet’s medical record. 
Is there a reason why my pet may have abnormal eating habits?
Yes, often there are health reasons why a pet would not be eating too little or eating too much
  1. Kidney/liver disease
  2. Cancer- oral masses, systemic cancer (lymphoma, etc.)
  3. Periodontal disease- discomfort while chewing due to dental tartar/calculus/gingivitis and oral cavity infections 
  4. Addison’s disease (hypoadrenocorticism)- insufficient production of steroid and water balancing hormones from the adrenal glands
  5. Toxic exposure- chemical, biological (algal blooms, bacterial overgrowths, etc.), etc.
  6. Infection- bacterial, viral, parasitic, fungal, etc.
  7. Inflammation- muscular, joint, nervous system, etc.
  8. Stress/behavior- pet not being able to relax in home environment (i.e. separation anxiety)
  9. Immune-mediated (“autoimmune”) disease- Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA), Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia (IMTP), Immune Mediated Polyarthropathy (IMPA)
  1. Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism)- overproduction of steroid hormones from the adrenal glands
  2. Diabetes Mellitus- improper insulin production to regulate blood glucose levels causing hyperglycemia (elevated blood glucose) and lack of appropriate movement of glucose into tissues
  3. Hyperthyroidism- overproduction of thyroid hormone generally due to non-cancerous nodules in feline thyroid glands
  4. Cancer- neuroendocrine tumors (insulinoma, or insulin-producing tumor)
Cancer is a tricky one as it can cause appetite to be increased or decreased.
What should I do if I suspect my pet has an eating disorder?
If you suspect your pet has an eating disorder you should schedule an examination with a veterinarian.
The pet owner’s history combined with a veterinarian’s physical exam can determine a pet’s weight, body condition score (BCS), muscle condition score (MCS) and other important factors that can shed light on deficient or excess appetite.
I recommend pets have a physical examination by a veterinarian at least every 12 months and more frequently for pets having health problems, those on medications, and juveniles and seniors.
Your veterinarian may recommend diagnostic testing such as bloodwork, urinalysis, fecal evaluation for microorganisms (parasites, bacteria, viruses), x-rays, ultrasound, or others in striving to determine if there is an underlying why your pet’s appetite is deficient or excess.
Has your pet ever suffered from an eating disorder?  Feel free to share your perspective in the below Comments section.
Watch the full video here:

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Follow my adventures in veterinary medicine and life via Instagram (@PatrickMahaney), Twitter (@PatrickMahaney), and Facebook (Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets).

Copyright of this article (2019) is owned by Dr. Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian, Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist and Certified Veterinary Journalist.  Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr. Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr. Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.

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