Cat Care And Health - Other

Malabsorption Cats Absorption of Nutrients Gastrointestinal Tract

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Malabsorption in cats can cause several potentially dangerous conditions in your pet as the result of their system not properly absorbing nutrients into the body. This condition disrupts your pets gastrointestinal tract from properly absorbing nutrients in one or more of the digestive stages.

If it is severe enough, it can cause several nutrient deficiencies to occur in your cat.

Malabsorption can cause diarrhea, a severe weight loss, and extremely foul smelling stools. It can also cause your cat to develop deficiencies that can induce muscle spasms, fatigue, cracks at the edges of their mouth, and very raw and sore tongues, just to name a few.

Malabsorption in cats is a deficiency in the absorption of nutrients in your pets gastrointestinal tract that disrupts the normal process of both digestion and absorption. These two actions in your cat normally occur in three distinctive stages: Intraluminal digestion, mucosal digestion and absorption, and than the delivery of the nutrients to your pets body through circulation. It is considered a syndrome in that it produces a number of disorders in which nutrients from your pets food are not absorbed by the small intestine.

Under normal circumstances, foods that your cat eats are digested and than the nutrients are absorbed into their blood stream primarily in the small intestine. Malabsorption can and does occur if there is a disorder that interferes with the actual digestion of the food or if it interferes directly in the process of absorbing the nutrients.

If the food that your cat eats is not mixed properly with their digestive enzymes and acid from their stomach, this critical process can malfunction. There are several underlying diseases that can cause this disorder, as well as several symptoms that you can watch for that your cats system may not properly be absorbing some or all of the nutrients from their food.


There are several symptoms that you can watch for that your cat has developed malabsorption. The first set of symptoms will all be based around your cats stools. When malabsorption is just beginning, your pet will start to have very soft or watery stools that will soon turn into diarrhea.

The stools will also start to turn greasy in substance and you can see at this stage, in most cases, undigested food in their stools. As this syndrome advances, your cat will also start to increase the frequency of their defecation and the volume of the stools will become larger. However, the most telling signs will be the evidence of undigested food as well as an extremely fowl smell; and as this condition grows, so will the odor.

The next set of symptoms will be a sudden weight loss that will be accompanied by either a voracious increase in appetite or a complete loss of appetite, depending on the actual underlying cause. As the condition grows, your cat will also start to have abdominal discomfort and as well as developing both flatulence, which is gas, and borborygmus, which is a series of grumbling noises that will come from their gastrointestinal tract.


There are several diseases that can cause malabsorption in cats but the most common is from IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease. IBD is especially challenging to treat as well as to understand as there has yet to be a definitive cause identified. It is a group of gastrointestinal disorders that attack the gastrointestinal tract by inflammatory white blood cells. It is extremely destructive and can affect both the upper as well as the lower portions of your cats stomach

IBD is most common in middle aged or older cats and seems to be much more common among purebreds than it is in mixed breeds.

Intestinal bacteria overgrowth, which is a process where the normal bacteria in your cat overgrows and as a result disrupts the digestive process may be another cause, as well as bacterial, viral, fungal or parasite infections.

Short bowel syndrome may also be the underlying cause which occurs after large portions of your cats intestinal tract becomes restricted. As a result of this restriction, the remaining bowel is not able to function properly, and the result is malabsorption.

Potential nutrient deficiencies:

Malabsorption in cats can also cause several forms of nutrient deficiencies to occur as the result of the lack of absorption of the nutrients from the food your cat consumes. If the nutrient Calcium is not absorbed your cat may start to have bone pain as well as bone thinning, which can lead to osteoporosis. They may also start to have muscle spasms as well as tooth discoloration which will eventually lead to tooth decay.

If Folic Acid and Iron become deficient, it can very quickly lead to fatigue and weakness as a result of anemia. If a deficiency Niacin occurs it will cause diarrhea as well as skin disorders. It can also develop into pellagra which can cause your cat tongue to become extremely sore to the point where they can not eat.

If the Niacin deficiency is severe enough it can eventually lead to what is referred to as the 4 D's.; Dermatitis, Dementia, Diarrhea, and than Death. If protein absorption becomes severely restricted, it can cause tissue swelling, and edema, which are abnormal amounts of fluid in your cats circulatory system.


There are at this time no preventive medications against malabsorption in cats. The best forms of treatment will be a dietary modification once the symptoms have been identified and tests have been run to determine exactly which nutrient your cat is not properly absorbing.

Pancreatic enzyme replacements have been successful in some cases, but the results have not been widespread. Since IBD is believed to the most common cause and it has no definitive root cause, the best treatment you or your veterinarian can provide will be to identify the symptoms early.

Once identified, it can easily be determined what nutrient will have to be supplemented in your cat's diet to bring their system back into balance.

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