According to veterinary science, when your cat is iron deficient it will affect the production of red blood cells. Red blood cells naturally occur through the marrow of the bones. Without the sufficient amount of iron, these red blood cells will be too small and will lack the oxygen-carrying properties to be productive. For this reason your feline may need to have an iron supplement to help boost its red cell count.
Iron’s Role in the Health of Cats
It may be a “small” mineral, but iron plays a vital role in keeping our feline’s healthy. As we mentioned earlier it is the main “ingredient” that helps boost hemoglobin (blood) along with copper. But it also carries with it specific enzymes that are needed to keep the cat’s body functioning on a normal level.
Iron is absorbed through the cat’s small intestine. It can be found in sources like lean meats, legumes, liver, fish and whole grains. Most well-balanced, high quality cat foods have your cat’s daily requirements of this mineral at a ratio of 36.4 mg of iron per pound of food eaten. However, since red blood cells only live for 110 days, they will need to be replaced on a constant basis. If your cat isn’t eating well, especially after surgery or other trauma, or has other underlying health issues, its iron levels and red blood cells may be affected.
What Can Cause Iron Loss?
Science has discovered that fifty percent of kittens between the ages of five and ten weeks-old are anemic. However, it is a transient condition that will rectify itself as the kitten begins to ingest a high protein solid diet, which usually begins around four to five weeks-of-age.
There are conditions in adult cats that can lead to anemia and low iron. They include;
● Kidney Failure: Chronic kidney disease will reduce the production of the hormone erythropoietin, which stimulates the bone marrow to make more red blood cells.
● Heinz Body Anemia: A condition in which the oxidation of the red blood cell is interfered with, creating a low blood cell count.
● Blood Parasites: An infection inside the blood cell.
● FeLV-infected cats: Viral cat disease.
● Blood-sucking Parasites: Infestation of fleas, ticks or hookworm. Especially in kittens.
● Trauma: Hit by a car etc.
● Inherited Anemia Deficiency: Passed on from one or both parents.
Symptoms of Low Iron in Cats
The following symptoms in your cat may indicate that it is iron deficient and anemic;
● Pale gums and tongue
● Rapid breathing
● Loss of appetite
● Low body weight/not growing
● Increased susceptibility to disease
If your cat is exhibiting any of these symptoms, be sure to make an appointment with your vet, as anemia and iron deficiency can be fatal if left untreated.
How is Iron Supplemented?
Once your veterinarian has run some tests to be sure your cat is indeed lacking in iron, he or she will prescribe a treatment plan depending on the severity of your cat’s condition.
Injectable Iron is done through a syringe and put directly into your cat’s vein or done through an IV bag over a longer period-of-time. Injectable iron will need to be done by your vet on a monthly basis until the issue is resolved.
Liquid Iron is given as an oral supplement. Along with the iron, some of these liquids contain other vitamins such as B-complex and amino acids.
A high caloric dietary supplement is not a direct iron supplement per say, but it does help increase the appetite of both cats and kittens, which may be enough to boost the iron levels through high quality nutrition alone.
Blood Transfusions are for those severely anemic cats that need an immediate boost of red blood cells or death will be imminent.
A Few Words of Caution When Using Iron Supplements
Before you supplement your cat with iron, be sure to contact your veterinarian for a diagnosis and a treatment plan. Just as too little iron is bad for your cat’s health, so is too much (iron toxicity). The decision to give your cat iron must be done through the expert hands of a trained professional with weekly, bimonthly or monthly checkups and blood work to monitor your cat’s condition. Never give your cat any supplement without first contacting your vet.