Back to Client Info Index

Polyphagia (Increased Appetite)

Understanding Your Pet's Medical Diagnosis

What is polyphagia?

Polyphagia is a medical term. It is defined as the act of eating more food or eating more frequently than normal.

What causes polyphagia?

Polyphagia can result from normal, physiologic conditions; from social interactions between animals; from disease processes; or from behavioral problems.

The normal physiologic causes include:

-Lactation (nursing)
-Response to a cold environment or exercise, when greater food intake is required

The disease processes that may cause polyphagia include:

-Diabetes mellitus
-Hyperthyroidism (excessive secretion of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland)
-Hyperadrenocorticism (increased activity of the adrenal gland)
-Pancreatic insufficiency
-Degenerative diseases of the brain
-Some drugs, especially steroids, may cause polyphagia.

What are the signs of polyphagia?

Polyphagia is a sign itself. Pets with polyphagia will eat a greater quantity of food than normal, will eat more frequently, or both. The animal may be obese as a result of the polyphagia; however, animals with a medical problem, such as diabetes, may be thin.

How is polyphagia diagnosed?

Initially, polyphagia is diagnosed through a good medical history and physical examination. A variety of medical problems and behavioral abnormalities can cause polyphagia. A behavioral history should be taken to determine if a behavioral problem is the possible cause of overeating (such as stress due to the addition of a new person or pet in the home). Additional diagnostic testing is performed to determine the underlying cause of the polyphagia. A complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry panel, and urinalysis are necessary to diagnose diseases of the various organs that cause polyphagia. Radiographs (X-rays) may be helpful in identifying abnormal conditions (such as an enlarged liver) that can aid in the diagnosis.

How is polyphagia treated?

Treatment for polyphagia is based on the underlying cause. If the cause is a normal physiologic need (such as pregnancy or lactation), the animal should be provided with plenty of good quality, high calorie food. If the cause is medical or behavioral, the treatment will be directed at the cause. It is important to determine whether the cause is a social interaction. Most animals will eat more food in the presence of other animals. This is especially true for dogs, which may compete for the same food. Treatment for this type of social overeating is relatively simple: limit the amount of food so that the animal maintains a normal body weight and separate the animals when feeding. A low-calorie diet can be given or the animal can be made to work for its food. Chew toys and play can be substitutes for eating. Care must be taken, especially in cats, that a low-calorie diet does not lead to lack of appetite (anorexia) and additional medical problems.

What is the prognosis for animals with polyphagia?

The prognosis (outcome) for animals with polyphagia depends on the underlying cause. If the cause is a disease process, the outcome is dependent on the severity of the disease.


Larry Tilley's Recommended Info site (www.VetMedCenter.com)