Q: Our 14-year-old male Maine-Coon-mix cat has lost a ton of weight in the past few months. He weighed close to 20 pounds. He has had constant diarrhea, drinks a lot, eats a lot, pees excessively, is extremely skinny now (under 8 pounds), has taken to pulling out his own fur and has huge bald spots, has very bad breath and seems to constantly want our food. We know he is not well, but we’re concerned about the cost of veterinary care. Is there anything we can do?
A: Your cat desperately needs veterinary care immediately.
The clinical signs that you describe — drinking a lot, urinating a lot, losing weight despite an excellent appetite, diarrhea — are classic for hyperthyroidism, a glandular disorder that is very common in older cats. Feline diabetes has the same clinical signs, but diabetes tends to occur when cats are middle aged — around 8 or 9 — while hyperthyroidism tends to hit older cats, usually around 13 or 14.
Ideally, a complete blood count, chemistry panel, thyroid test and urinalysis should be done to assess your cat’s general health. If this can’t be done due to cost concerns, you should at least do a thyroid test. This one test is less expensive than an entire senior panel. You should also ask your veterinarian to measure your cat’s blood sugar. Most veterinarians have a glucometer in their office and can get a blood sugar measurement instantly. Most veterinarians also have urine dipsticks in the office and can test to see if there’s sugar in the urine.
With these three little tests, two of which can be done right at the veterinarian’s office, you can at least rule out two common causes for your cat’s clinical signs. Hyperthyroidism is easily controlled with medication. Diabetes can be controlled by giving insulin shots, but that can be somewhat costly.
Veterinary cost resources are available to help people care for their pets in tough financial times. Talk to your own veterinarian about your cost concerns.