Cachexia and sarcopenia: emerging syndromes of importance in dogs and cats

J Vet Intern Med. 2012 Jan-Feb;26(1):3-17. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-1676.2011.00838.x. Epub 2011 Nov 23.


Cachexia is the loss of lean body mass (LBM) that affects a large proportion of dogs and cats with congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic kidney disease (CKD), cancer, and a variety of other chronic diseases. Sarcopenia, the loss of LBM that occurs with aging, is a related syndrome, although sarcopenia occurs in the absence of disease. As many of the diseases associated with muscle loss are more common in aging, cachexia and sarcopenia often are concurrent problems. Both cachexia and sarcopenia have important clinical implications because they are associated with increased morbidity and mortality. The pathophysiology of these 2 syndromes is complex and multifactorial, but recent studies have provided new information that has helped to clarify mechanisms and identify potential new targets for treatment. Newly identified mechanisms and pathways that mediate cachexia appear to act by increasing energy requirements, decreasing energy intake, impairing nutrient absorption, and causing metabolic alterations. Whereas cachexia and sarcopenia are important areas of research for drug development in people, they are only beginning to be recognized in veterinary medicine. Greater awareness and earlier diagnosis will help provide practical approaches to managing body weight and lean tissue in dogs and cats, as well as more directed targets for treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cachexia / drug therapy
  • Cachexia / physiopathology
  • Cachexia / veterinary*
  • Cat Diseases / drug therapy
  • Cat Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Cats
  • Dog Diseases / drug therapy
  • Dog Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Dogs
  • Sarcopenia / drug therapy
  • Sarcopenia / physiopathology
  • Sarcopenia / veterinary*