25 March 2013

Cats: L-Lysine

As I wrote in my post about herpes in cats, L-lysine is one of the few effective controls on the herpes virus.  The L-lysine works in one of two ways.
  1. L-Lysine works by competing with the absorption of arginine. Arginine is necessary for the herpes to reproduce, but a cat can easily use the lysine instead of arginine. So, if the system is flooded with lysine, the herpes can't reproduce. 
  2. A newer theory is the cat's cells need lysine to use the arginine in the cell. By giving the cat extra lysine, the cat is assured of having enough lysine to use up all the arginine in the cells, thus depriving the herpes of the arginine. No arginine, no little baby herpes viruses.  
Which ever model is correct, 500mg is considered maintenance for a 10 lb cat, with 1000mg being recommended for stressful times.  Having said that, I also know from experimenting on Isabel, who does have herpes, that the levels need to be slightly higher for raw-fed cats.  Raw meat has a higher level of arginine in it, so more lysine is needed.  When she has problems, I have upped the dose to 1500mg for 1-2 weeks and this helps bring the herpes back under control.  (While lysine is fairly safe, there are some concerns about high levels, which would be 3000+mg for a cat, impair protein absorption and utilization.)

The lysine itself is available in 3 forms:
  1. treats -- The treats are laced with lysine and many cats do like them.  The average cat needs at least 6 treats per day for maintenance (at least in one brand) and they are not cheap.
  2. gel -- Similar to hairball remedy, lysine is available in a tube.  The gel, which has only a slight taste (yes, I tried it), is not objectionable to most cats.  None of mine will eat it off my finger, but if mixed in food or put in a syringe, they will eat it.  It is moderately expensive and because it is mixed in a wet medium, it does expire.
  3. powder -- The powder itself comes in 3 forms.  Capsules of pure lysine from a health store.  The capsule is opened and spread on wet food.  Bulk lysine (for people) in a jar from a health store or online.  Usually 1/4tsp is 500mg.  And lysine powder for pets.  The lysine for pets is the cheapest and may work for most cats, except, of course, one of mine.  The lysine is listed as "in a palatable flavor base" and that's it.  This is one of my problems with 'pet' supplements -- the labelling is much less strict.  The "base" turned out to be whey powder, which Clancy cannot tolerate.  I put one dose on some food and within 30 minutes his face was swollen, he was drooling, and he was lethargic.  He did survive and he can tolerate lysine -- pure lysine -- so it was the whey powder which caused the problem.
In general, cats do tolerate the lysine well.  I have heard some people say their cats do not tolerate it and get either diarrhea or vomiting.  I am curious to find out what form they tried and if that was not the problem as opposed to the lysine itself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent article and thank you Linda. I have used the gel form but think I may try a treat form now. Thank you! Joane