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Why pet owners are switching to online vet care with Dutch

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High cholesterol (hyperlipidemia) is a health concern commonly associated with humans, but it can also affect our feline companions. While rarer in cats than dogs, high cholesterol and triglycerides in cats require careful attention to symptoms, causes, and the appropriate treatment to ensure their overall well-being. 

Understanding high cholesterol in cats can help you proactively manage their health and address potential risk factors. So, what causes high cholesterol in cats? While the causes of high cholesterol in cats vary, responsible pet owners should stay informed and attentive to their cat's health and well-being. Keep reading to learn more about high cholesterol in cats, its symptoms, causes, and treatment. 

Symptoms of High Cholesterol in Cats

Symptoms of high cholesterol in cats can manifest in various ways, indicating potential health issues. Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for early intervention and effective management. 

Symptoms of high cholesterol in cats

Symptoms can include the following: 

  • Seizures: Cats with high cholesterol levels may experience seizures characterized by uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity in the brain. 
  • Abdominal pain: High cholesterol levels in cats can also cause abdominal discomfort, which may manifest as restlessness, reluctance to be touched, or a change in posture.
  • Nervous system dysfunctions: Elevated levels of cholesterol in cats may impact the nervous system, leading to various dysfunctions. This can include changes in behavior, coordination issues, or abnormal neurological signs. 
  • Skin patches: High cholesterol levels in cats can also lead to patches of hair loss on the skin, which may indicate underlying dermatological issues associated with hyperlipidemia. 
  • Bumps: One of the most visible signs of hyperlipidemia in cats is the development of cutaneous xanthomata. These are yellow or orange bumps on the skin filled with a greasy liquid. 1

Causes of High Cholesterol in Cats

High cholesterol in cats can result from various factors contributing to high cholesterol and triglycerides in cats' bloodstreams. Understanding these factors is crucial for both pet parents and vets to manage the condition effectively and improve the overall health of the animal. Generally, the causes of high cholesterol in cats include:  

  • Dietary factors: Elevated lipid intake, especially from dietary sources, is a common cause of hyperlipidemia. This can occur in non-fasted animals, particularly after a fatty meal. 2
  • Underlying medical conditions: Most commonly, high cholesterol in cats is a secondary health concern to other disorders. Conditions such as endocrine imbalances, liver disease, diabetes , thyroid disease, and kidney disease can contribute to elevated lipid levels. Treating the underlying disorder is crucial for managing high cholesterol. 3
  • Genetic predisposition: There may be a genetic component to high cholesterol, making certain breeds more likely to develop it. 1 Lipoprotein lipase deficiency, a crucial enzyme for removing fatty acids from the blood, may be observed in some breeds, contributing to hyperchylomicronemia – a rare metabolic disorder that can contribute to elevated levels of triglycerides — a type of fat — in the bloodstream. 2
  • Medical treatments: Certain medical treatments, such as heparin, insulin, and thyroid hormones, can affect how the body handles fats. This interference might cause higher fat levels in the blood. 2

Risks of High Cholesterol in Cats

High cholesterol in cats introduces a range of risks that impact their overall health, encompassing both the symptoms directly associated with elevated lipid levels and the underlying causes contributing to this condition.

Symptomatic risks

High cholesterol levels in cats pose significant risks that can adversely affect their well-being. Firstly, high cholesterol has the potential to trigger seizures in cats, presenting a serious threat to their overall health. 1 Seizures involve uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity in the brain, leading to episodes of convulsions and potential injury. 

Additionally, high cholesterol can cause abdominal discomfort in cats. 1 This discomfort may manifest as restlessness, reluctance to be touched, or changes in posture. Such signs indicate that the cat is experiencing physical distress, impacting its comfort and behavior. Abdominal pain can lead to a decrease in appetite, changes in grooming habits, and an overall decline in the cat's quality of life. 

Without proper treatment and management of high cholesterol, these symptoms are likely to persist, significantly diminishing the cat's quality of life. 

Underlying cause-related risks

Underlying cause-related risks associated with high cholesterol in cats underscore the importance of addressing the root illnesses contributing to elevated lipid levels. High cholesterol, in many cases, is not the primary condition but rather a symptom indicative of an underlying health issue. Conditions such as diabetes mellitus and hypothyroidism, which result in hormonal imbalances, not only contribute to hyperlipidemia but also pose additional health risks.

Because high cholesterol is often secondary to a primary illness, treating it necessitates addressing the underlying health condition. This approach is crucial for effective management, but it comes with its own set of challenges. Treating the primary illness can be a complex and potentially risky process, requiring careful consideration and monitoring.

For instance, diabetes in cats involves challenges related to insulin regulation and blood sugar control. Successful management often requires lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, and, in some cases, insulin therapy. Similarly, hyperthyroidism involves regulating thyroid hormone levels, which may require medications and ongoing monitoring.

Moreover, hyperlipidemia is recognized as a risk factor for pancreatitis in cats. 4 Pancreatitis is a painful and serious condition that can significantly impact the overall well-being of the cat. Treating hyperlipidemia in this context involves not only managing cholesterol levels but also addressing the potential complications associated with pancreatitis.

It's crucial for cat owners to understand that solely treating the symptoms, such as high cholesterol, may not be sufficient. Comprehensive veterinary care is necessary to diagnose and treat the underlying illnesses effectively.

How to treat high cholesterol in cats

Diagnosing & Treating Cholesterol in Cats

Diagnosing and treating high cholesterol in cats involves a thorough veterinary approach. Your veterinarian will conduct a comprehensive physical examination, considering your cat's symptoms, diet, and relevant incidents. Providing a detailed health history for your cat is crucial for accurate diagnosis.

For a precise assessment, your cat may need to be hospitalized and undergo a strict fast for twelve hours or more. Subsequently, your veterinarian will order essential tests, including a chemical blood profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis. 1

These tests help rule out underlying diseases contributing to high cholesterol. Further testing for conditions like  hyperthyroidism may be performed based on initial results. 

Knowing how to treat high cholesterol in cats is also important. Treatment begins with dietary modifications, transitioning your cat to a low-fat diet containing less than ten percent fat. If dietary changes prove insufficient, your veterinarian may recommend alternative medical treatments based on your cat's specific condition. 1

Collaboration with your veterinarian, adherence to dietary recommendations, and consistent monitoring are essential for managing high cholesterol in cats effectively.

How to Prevent High Cholesterol in Cats

Preventing high cholesterol in cats is a proactive approach that involves a combination of conscientious pet care, a well-balanced diet, regular exercise, and routine veterinary checkups. By addressing lifestyle factors and incorporating key strategies, pet owners can significantly contribute to maintaining their feline companions' overall health and preventing lipid imbalances.

  • Low-fat diet: Opt for cat food options that are specifically formulated to be lower in fat. Avoid feeding excessive high-fat treats or human foods, as these can contribute to high cholesterol levels in cats. 
  • Balanced nutrition: Provide a well-balanced and nutritionally appropriate diet for your cat.  Choose high-quality cat food that meets their specific dietary needs. Select cat food options that are lower in fat content. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the ideal fat intake based on your cat's breed, age, and health status. 
  • Regular exercise: Maintain a regular exercise routine for your cat to promote cardiovascular health and prevent obesity. Engage in activities like interactive play sessions, the use of cat toys, and climbing structures to keep your cat physically active.
  • Avoid high-fat treats: Choose healthier treat options or consult your vet for diet and nutrition advice .
  • Regular vet checkups: Schedule regular checkups with your veterinarian to monitor your cat's overall health. Veterinary visits provide an opportunity to assess weight and blood lipid levels and identify potential health issues early on.
  • Address underlying health issues: Take care of your cat's overall health. Since high cholesterol might be a symptom of an underlying illness, it's crucial to manage any health conditions your cat has.

Young Asian woman petting cat while looking at laptop before an online veterinary consultation

Final Notes 

High cholesterol in cats requires pet parents to pay attention to their pets to ensure their well-being. Understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for hyperlipidemia is crucial and can help preserve your pet's quality of life. Addressing high cholesterol involves comprehensive veterinary care. 

Treatment may require dietary modifications, medical interventions, and managing associated health conditions. Pet parents must collaborate closely with their vets and adhere to recommended lifestyle changes while participating in regular checkups to monitor their cat's overall health. 

Ensure your cat's health with Dutch. Dutch streamlines veterinary consultations, ensuring timely access to expert guidance while enhancing the well-being of your feline companion. We offer a modern approach to pet care, providing convenience, online appointments, prescription delivery, and unlimited follow-ups. Sign up for Dutch today.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

How much will it cost for Dutch to treat my pet?

The Dutch membership starts at $11/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.