What are some chronic conditions that may surface in a cat suffering from a protein deficiency?

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Proteins are necessary for all aspects of growth and development and are very important in structural makeup and the immune system. In addition, they are burned as calories and can be converted to and stored as fat.

Cats require more protein than dogs and this may be due to cats’ inability to regulate the rate at which liver enzymes break down protein. When protein quantities are too low, the cat’s body will soon start breaking down the protein in its own muscle. To avoid this, cats must consistently consume a high level of protein.

Everything in the cat’s diet revolves around the need for adequate amounts of taurine. Taurine is an essential amino acid for cats, meaning that it must be provided in the diet, most often found in meat and fish. Unlike canines, who can manufacture taurine in their bodies, cats cannot.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Since protein is created in the cells, in a kind of step-by-step fashion, the lack of just one can stop the entire process, cause major health problems and, possibly, death. Since proteins have different amino acid profiles, please don’t assume that something has an adequate amount just because it has a high protein count.

The biggest health problem is called feline taurine deficiency, a syndrome most commonly caused by inadequate intake of taurine in the diet. The most common cause for deficiency is an improperly balanced diet.

Most commercial diets are supplemented with taurine. Cats eating an improperly balanced home-cooked diet or vegetarian diet are at increased risk. Taurine deficiency most commonly results in dilated cardiomyopathy, an enlarged, weakened heart. This condition is usually reversible with taurine supplementation. Deficiency can also cause central retinal degeneration, degeneration of the functional part of the eye (the retina) which can lead to partial or complete blindness.

Cats actually require 23 amino acids (the building blocks that make up proteins). Cats can synthesize 12 of them, but 11 of these amino acids must be consumed.
They include: arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, and taurine. A deficiency in any of the amino acids can cause health problems.

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