Pet Wellness Guides > Common Nutrient Deficiencies in Cats - Pet Insurance Review
Common Nutrient Deficiencies in Cats
In order for your cat to live a long, happy and healthy life, they need a well-balanced diet that meets their nutritional needs. Sadly, when it comes to nutrition, most pet owners rely on the advertising and shiny packaging of myriad pet food companies instead of speaking to their vet, but this can lead to nutrient deficiencies. And the truth is, while many cat food companies claim their food is veterinarian formulated or approved, many are low quality foods that don’t offer your cat the nutrients they need.
Nutrient deficiencies in cats can lead to numerous health problems. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common nutrient deficiencies in cats and the related health issues.
Most Common Nutritional Deficiencies in Cats
Taurine is an essential amino acid that all mammals need to live. This amino acid is necessary for heart muscle function and optimal vision. Most mammals can make taurine from other amino acids. Cats, however, are unable to make enough of this essential amino acid to meet their health needs, and so they must eat a diet that offers enough taurine.
When there is little taurine in the cat’s diet, they can experience the following health issues:
Without enough taurine in their diet, the cells in your cat’s retina can die, leading to vision problems and even blindness. Sadly, this condition tends to go unnoticed until it’s too late and the damage cannot be reversed.
Heart muscles require taurine to function properly. If your cat becomes taurine deficient, their heart muscles will become weak and lead to possible heart failure, a condition also sometimes called dilated cardiomyopathy. When this condition is left untreated, it can be fatal.
Thiamine, also sometimes referred to as vitamin B1, is an essential vitamin that plays a critical role in energy metabolism. Many cats are fed raw fish by their humans, thinking it is a tasty treat for them. But certain raw fish contain an enzyme called thiaminase, which destroys thiamine. And a thiamine deficiency can occur in just a few weeks.
Symptoms of a potential thiamine deficiency can include decreased energy and activity, anorexia and weight loss. A thiamine deficiency can also present with neurological problems such as weakness, enlarged pupils, falling and an uncoordinated gait. Should the issue go unchecked, it can lead to seizures.
In most thiamine deficiency cases, the vet will prescribe a thiamine supplement that will reverse most or all of the symptoms. Cats can make a full recovery if they have not experienced severe neurological issues.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is one of the most important fat soluble vitamins. People and many animal species are able to get vitamin D through sun exposure. But cats are not able to make vitamin D from the sun, they must get it from their food. Vitamin D helps your cat’s body regulate calcium and phosphorous.
When young kittens do not get the right diet, they can develop rickets, a disease which causes the bone to be soft and deformed. This is typically seen in kittens who are fed an all-meat diet. Common signs of rickets include:
· Bowing of legs
· A lack of wanting to move
· Lameness in hind legs
· An inability to control muscle movements
Providing there are no broken bones, misshapen bones or other irreversible damage, rickets can be successfully treated.
In adult cats, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to a condition called osteomalacia, which is very similar to rickets. The signs are also similar to those seen in kittens with rickets, though usually less severe. And, like rickets, if caught in time, your cat can make a recovery through proper diet and supplementation.
A calcium deficiency in cats may lead to a condition known as nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism. This can cause what is referred to as rubber jaw syndrome or fibrous osteodystrophy. This condition makes the cats body replace bone tissue with softer connective tissue like cartilage. This makes bones, particularly the jaw bone, seem “rubbery.” This condition typically occurs in cats who are being fed a meat-only diet.
Vets that see cats with this rubbery jawbone will perform a simple blood test to confirm low levels of calcium. If confirmed, the vet will recommend switching to a diet with a higher calcium content and may even put your cat on calcium supplements for a certain length of time.
It cannot be overstated how important proper nutrition is for cats at every stage of life. While many nutrient deficiencies can be reversed with the right change in diet, some can lead to lifelong health issues and even death if not caught and treated in time. If you are unsure about proper nutrition for your cat’s health, it is best to speak with your veterinarian who can recommend the best commercial cat foods on the market.
We Want to Help You Keep Your Cat Healthy
Cat owners love our cats, and we do everything we can to keep them happy and healthy. But even with the best of intentions, things happen and our cats can become ill or injured and require medical treatments. And sometimes these medical treatments can be very costly.
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- Taurine Deficiency in Cats. Retrieved from https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/cardiovascular/c_ct_taurine_deficiency
- Karp SI, Freeman LM, Rush JE, Arsenault WG, Cunningham SM, DeFrancesco TC, Karlin ET, Laste NJ, Lefbom BK, Plante C, Rodriguez KT, Tyrrell WD, Yang VK. Dilated cardiomyopathy in cats: survey of veterinary cardiologists and retrospective evaluation of a possible association with diet. J Vet Cardiol. 2022 Feb;39:22-34. doi: 10.1016/j.jvc.2021.11.002. Epub 2021 Nov 20. PMID: 34963075.
- An Overview of Thiamin Metabolism. Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Retrieved from: https://www.poisonousplants.ansci.cornell.edu/toxicagents/thiaminase.html
- Silver, R. DVM, MS, CVA. Vitamin D in dogs and cats. (2015) Retrieved from: https://ivcjournal.com/vitamin-d-in-dogs-cats/
- Tomsa K, Glaus T, Hauser B, Flückiger M, Arnold P, Wess G, Reusch C. Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism in six cats. J Small Anim Pract. 1999 Nov;40(11):533-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-5827.1999.tb03015.x. PMID: 10649598.