Inappetence (lack of appetite) is a big problem for older cats and dogs who may suffer from chronic disease. Animals have tremendous survival skills and have evolved to have robust appetites. We never want to see our sick pets become anorectic so as pet owners we resort to home cooking. For years we deny them table food and then when they lose appetite, we offer all kinds of delicacies to prod them into eating. When our culinary efforts fail, we can resort to medications to stimulate their appetites.
Cyproheptadine is an oldie but a goodie. It is a first-generation antihistamine that has been around for decades. It is a mystery exactly how Cyproheptadine tablets work in the cat but this human medication stimulates appetite with minimal side effects.
Mirtazapine is an antidepressant also borrowed from humans that works great as an appetite stimulant in cats. Mirtazapine was originally a tablet but now is a veterinary product that is formulated into a transdermal gel called Mirataz. This ointment is applied to the hairless portion of the inner ear flap and absorbs into the skin. It is easily rubbed into the ear with a gloved hand while the owner pets the kitty. Mirataz is FDA-approved for appetite stimulation in cats. It is applied once daily.
There is a new oral liquid just for cats called Elura. This once-daily oral liquid is most effective for cats with chronic kidney disease. Cats with kidney failure tend to lose weight and have anorexia. It is especially difficult to get them to eat the recommended prescription diets that improve their kidney function. Elura is proven to slow weight loss and muscle wasting. It is well tolerated and the liquid is easy to administer.
Entyce is an appetite stimulant for use in dogs that is similar to Elura. It is also FDA-approved and very effective in some cases. We have seen very promising results especially in small dogs.
Appetite stimulants are less effective in very ill dogs and cats. It is important to run diagnostic tests to better understand if there is a medical reason for loss of appetite. Once a diagnosis is made, a good plan for the pet is set in motion. Appetite stimulants may be just the ticket to prime the pump and get the patient eating again. Unfortunately, in some cases palliative care may be the best approach. Appetite stimulants can be helpful to keep your pet eating and comfortable.