Iron-Rich Foods for Cats to Increase Red Blood Cells
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Iron in cats, just like in humans, is a very important mineral for the proper functioning of the body. When iron is deficient, red blood cells do not develop as they should. When there is not enough iron in the bone marrow, the cells produced are too small and their capacity to carry oxygen is too low. It is essential to recognize iron deficiency anemia as soon as possible because the underlying disease can be life-threatening to our cats.
The following AnimalWised article lists some of the foods that can prevent iron deficiency in cats.
Symptoms of iron deficiency in cats
When a cat's body is iron deficient, the red blood cells do not develop as they should. This iron deficiency causes the cells produced by the bone marrow to be too small and too low, which interferes with oxygen transport. The most common symptoms include:
- Anemic cats appear listless and tire more easily because they lack energy and stamina.
- In some cases, pica may occur, which is the behavioral urge to eat inedible materials such as garbage or feces.
- Loss of appetite and associated weight loss are also not uncommon in cats with anemia.
- However, the most representative and easily recognized sign of anemia is pale mucous membranes. Pale mucous membranes can be easily identified by looking at the cat's gums, which appear whitish rather than pink.
If you notice these symptoms, you should see a veterinarian as soon as possible to diagnose the cause of the anemia. Anemia is not a specific disease, but rather the result of another disease process or condition. Continue reading this other article to learn more about anemia in cats, its causes and treatment.
What causes iron deficiency in cats?
Iron deficiency in cats can have a number of causes.
Sometimes, iron deficiency in cats is caused by their diet. An under-compensated diet can lead to iron deficiency in cats. Generally, this is extremely rare in pets that eat commercial dry or canned food, but can occur in cats that eat homemade meals. For this reason, if you want to switch from dry food to home-cooked cat food, you should ask your veterinarian for advice and perform routine analytical tests to make sure your cat has no health problems.
Blood loss, whether from internal bleeding (e.g., from ulcers, organ ruptures, or certain cancers) or external bleeding (typically from wounds), blood loss causes anemia. The most common site of blood loss is the gastrointestinal tract. In fact, about 50% of kittens between five and ten weeks of age have transient iron deficiency anemia.
Anemia can also be caused by blood sucking parasites such as fleas or intestinal worms, particularly if the infestation is severe.
If you want to know more about common blood sucking parasites, keep reading this other article where we discuss what are hookworms in cats, its causes and treatment.
Iron-rich foods for cats
The first step to treat iron deficiency is to Make sure your pet's diet meets its nutritional needs. Fortunately, there are many iron-rich foods that can be offered to cats. You can help improve your cat's iron levels by adding iron-rich foods to the diet in addition to high-iron cat foods. Iron supplements can also help if the deficiency is severe. Always remember to get your veterinarian's approval before giving your cat a new food if serious medical treatment is needed or if your cat has a food allergy.
- Red and lean meat are a good choice to naturally increase your cat's iron levels. However, due to the health risks that raw meat can pose, especially if it is not fresh and of the highest quality, you should cook it minimally beforehand. Lean meats like turkey, pork, beef, and chicken are also good choices to increase iron in your cat's diet. Just be sure to trim the fat from pork products before feeding it to your cat, as too much can cause pancreatitis.
- Fish also contains a lot of iron and is readily eaten by cats. Remember to cook the fish before giving it to your cat, because raw fish contains thiaminases and other substances that can be harmful to cats.
- Eggs are also among the best known iron-rich foods. They, too, should not be given raw.
- Green leafy vegetables and some grains, especially whole grains, are also high in iron, although it may be more difficult to get your cat to eat this type of food.
It should be remembered that although dietary iron supplementation is very effective, the iron-rich diet should be maintained for several months to see long-lasting results.
If the iron deficiency is not due to an unbalanced diet, your veterinarian must first treat the underlying disease. If the anemia is severe, your cat may need injections for iron replacement therapy, followed by oral iron supplements. However, cats with severe iron deficiency are not able to absorb iron very well, so oral iron supplements do not help much until iron levels are raised.
If you want to know more about how to properly and safely feed your cat raw food, read this other article on raw food diet for cats.
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