Iron deficiency in cats always has been and always will be somewhat controversial, but at the same time iron deficiency anemia continues to be a very large problem.
This condition affects cats worldwide and although it can be caused by underlying diseases, the most common cause is a deficiency of iron in your cat.
As all owners can attest to, cats seem to have a sixth sense about them, and when they become ill with iron deficiency anemia one of the first actions they take is to start to eat dirt or in some cases, even their own cat litter from their box.
The reason is very simple; they are searching for iron as a result of their natural instincts.
Iron deficiency in cats is especially dangerous during pregnancy and can have severe impacts on the litter if the mother did not receive enough iron from their diet during the pregnancy.
Cats must have at least 36.4 mg of iron daily for every pound of food that they eat, and it should be in form that does not include iron oxide or carbonate.
There are several experts that suggest that cats can get the correct amount of iron in their daily diet.
But if this is the case, why would iron anemia still be such a concern in any cat, let alone nursing cats?
Feeding a nursing cat iron supplements is too late, as they cannot make up a loss of reserves simply because these supplements cannot increase the much needed iron in their milk.
It must be done prior to the pregnancy, as most kittens will develop iron deficiency anemia during this period if the mother is deficient of iron.
This is especially dangerous as it can retard the growth of the entire litter, as well as causing them to become very weak which makes them susceptible to several diseases and infections.
It also severally lowers their resistance to stress, and this can also cause several problems.
Iron deficiency in cats results in the development of anemia in your pet, which is a lower than normal red blood cell count.
Once this occurs, kittens as well as cats of all ages will start to show some very alarming symptoms.
The first sign that your cat has an iron deficiency will be when their gums start to turn pale. This may be very gradual at first, but as the deficiency increases, so will the paleness.
This is than usually followed very quickly by an increased respiratory rate that may lead to your cat collapsing as they become weak.
As the red blood cell count continues to be lower than normal, your cat is usually hit broadside by several other blood complications.
They will also start to loss blood through their urine, as well as developing external blood loss as the condition grows.
If all of these symptoms do develop, your cat will also start to show a yellow discoloration in their skin. Once this occurs, the iron deficiency has become severe.
What is Iron Deficiency?
Iron deficiency in cats is a condition where your pet’s red blood cells suddenly stop developing the normal compliment of iron containing hemoglobin and the cells that form their bone marrow.
There are several different types as well as potential causes of anemia, but the most common is the lack of iron in your cats system.
If iron is deficient, the process of red cell maturation is delayed.
As a result the young red blood cells will no longer contain the needed amounts of RNA, which is a polymeric constituent of all living cells as well as several viruses.
As a direct result of this, the red blood cells do not regenerate fast enough and this is what produces the lower counts.
In most of these cases, there will also be a marked increase in the size or shape of the red blood cells, and red cell fragments start to occur.
Cats are especially hit hard with this condition as their red blood cells are often so small that platelets overlap as a result of this size difference.
Iron deficiency in cats also causes your pets immune system to coat red blood cells with antibodies as a natural defense.
This adds to the complications as they are than removed from circulation by their spleen.
This process helps to kill attacking organisms and the iron in your cat’s body is then used to build new blood cells.
However, there are so many cells being destroyed that they cannot keep up with the demand.
Once this occurs, it leaves your cat wide open for even more parasite attacks. It may take as long as thirty days for your cat to become sick, but they eventually will.
The mortality rate of severely infected cats is at its peak in the next thirty days, and if your cat does recover, their system is still not fully rebuilt and risks further infections.
Iron deficiency in cats is much more common than is iron toxicity, and although it can occur, it is extremely rare.
Because iron is a mineral, it is stored in your cat’s body and if the levels become excessive, they become toxic. But is very important to remember that toxicity is very rare and is almost always the result of an overdose of iron supplements.
If your cat is fed too much iron or accidentally eats loose supplements, the early signs of toxicity will occur within the first six hours.
They will become very drowsy as well as lethargic, and then will start to vomit. But the real warning sign is a very sudden burst of bloody diarrhea.
If your cat is not treated, they may appear normal, but it will only be temporary.
Any type of toxicity does not have a spontaneous recovery, and usually within twenty four hours the symptoms will reappear.
When they do, it can cause liver damage, shock, and possibly induce a coma in your cat.
Iron deficiency in cats will always have some people on the side that say you should never supplement, but these are the same naysayers that fought for years that Beriberi could not be treated with Thiamine.
Today, it is a well-known fact that Beriberi is caused by a thiamine deficiency.
Iron is critical to all cats in the prevention of anemia, and in most every case it is the first treatment that is used in correcting it.
But you also have to ask yourself this question about your legendary cat’s sixth sense. If they can sense that they are iron deficient, why do they try to find iron by eating dirt or their own cat litter?
Iron is critical for cats and supplementing it is your cats diet should always be done with your veterinarians guidance and then using very simple common sense methods of protecting your cat from any accidental overdose.