Ask-the-Cat-Doc-with-Dr.-Lynn-Bahr

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Welcome to our regular “Ask the Cat Doc With Dr. Lynn Bahr” segment! Once a month, Dr. Bahr answers as many of your questions as she can, and you can leave new questions for her in a comment.

Dr. Bahr is a 1991 graduate of the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine and founder of Dezi & Roo, a company that designs, manufactures, and sells solution-based products that enhance the lives of cats and their owners. She volunteers at numerous animal-related charities and causes and serves on the Fear Free Advisory Board, the Parliamentarian of the Society of Veterinary Medical Ethics, the Cat Committee of the Pet Professional Guild, and the Alley Cat Allies’ Feline Forward Task Force.

Dr. Bahr is co-author of the upcoming book Indoor Cat: How to Enrich Their Lives and Expand Their World, due out in April of 2022 and available for pre-order now.

For more information about Dezi & Roo and their unique and innovative cat toys, please visit Dezi and Roo on Etsy.

Do you have a question for Dr. Bahr?
Leave it in a comment and she’ll answer it in next month’s column!

Cat vomits several times a week

Hello and thanks in advance….We have two seemingly healthy, small sibling cats, 11 mo. old. Roxie/female weighs 6 lbs. and Rowdy/male weighs 7. They are vet checked and found to have no ailments. The issue is that Rowdy throws up digested food several times a week, sometimes daily, a teaspoon full to half of the eaten meal. They have good appetites in general and get quality wet food with a little, again quality, dry food, a freeze dried raw treat and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast on top. The toppings are to get Rowdy, the picky eater to eat the wet food. Together they are fed a total of 15 ounces of food a day, spread out into four meals about 5 hours apart. (plus toppings) The protein in all is chicken. Both are active, happy, loving cats. Suggestions?
Thanks again, Patsy. – Patsy Kelly

Hi Patsy,

Thank you so much for writing in with your concerns about Rowdy.  I am concerned too. His frequency of vomiting is not normal and should be investigated further. Rowdy’s pickiness is another sign of something being amiss and I encourage you to seek a second opinion soon. Do not take “seemingly healthy” as a reason to cast this problem aside.

The many possible causes for Rowdy’s gastrointestinal issues include a congenital abnormality, parasites, diet sensitivity or intolerance, and other less common possibilities. Since he is so young, I would certainly want to make sure he has been properly dewormed multiple times and I would look closely for possible congenital abnormalities. Once those concerns have been eliminated it is time to move on to diet history and a good physical exam.

You can help your veterinarian by supplying a complete, and concise, written history prior to your visit. Here are some suggested questions for you to answer that will be helpful:

  1. Document on a timeline, from the time of weaning to now, of the foods Rowdy has been fed. Be specific with type (dry, wet, raw, treat, probiotic), brand, and ingredient list. It helps to look at both commonality and differences among the proteins or textures that he has been ingesting since he began eating solid food.
  2. When did you notice him vomiting for the first time?
  3. Has the frequency been consistent, or has it increased over time?
  4. What does the vomitus look like? Does it always look the same or does it vary in consistency or volume? If the vomitus is fluid in nature, then what color is it? If solid, does the food look digested or undigested?
  5. Does Rowdy vomit randomly or is there a pattern to the time frame in which he vomits after eating?
  6. Does he vomit more often in one room vs another? If so, which room?

The history you provide, along with a good physical exam, should help point your veterinarian in the right direction toward achieving a diagnosis and treatment plan.

I am confident that the underlying cause of Rowdy’s problem can be solved and hope that you continue to advocate on his behalf. There is long term damage that can occur from chronic vomiting, so this is a good time to head that off. Resolving this issue now is not only good for Rowdy’s health and quality of life but it might also help expand his palate. No one enjoys feeling frequently nauseous and it might be a contributing factor to his pickiness. Successfully treating him will also improve your quality of life by reducing the need to be constantly cleaning up vomitus. Your well being is important too!

There is every reason to believe this can be turned around with the right diagnostician. I hope you find the cause of your baby’s frequent vomiting soon.

Watering eye and wheezing

I have a rescue cat aged 4 years and have had her only 3 months. She loves to be petted at her convenience but so far she keeps herself to herself and doesn’t like being disturbed. She was very difficult to settle the first few weeks; and at the moment she has to be an indoor cat, which I don’t like but seems necessary.
She has developed a watering eye, and wheezes in her sleep. The first three weeks of her arrival she managed to get into my bathroom wall which is hollow and filled with fibre glass, I left food out for her at night but there she stayed for the full three weeks until I got the RSPCA to bring the cat trap and was successful. Could the fibre glass have affected her lungs. I cannot get her to a vet because I cannot get her into the carry basket, more than my life is worth. Hope you can help, thank you. – Karen Steele

Hi Karen,

I completely understand your dilemma and know the limitations of dealing with skittish or scared cats. It is, unfortunately, a major challenge to maintaining their health and well being but it is possible to overcome these obstacles with time, consistency, and patience.

We now have more resources available for helping cats like yours receive medical care and I recommend you investigate them. Some begin at home and include clicker training, acclimating cats to their carriers, or enlisting the care of a mobile veterinarian. Working with your current veterinarian to obtain pre-visit pharmaceuticals and ensuring that the clinic is designed and dedicated to limiting your cat’s fear, anxiety, and stress will help ensure successful visits. You can start working with these techniques now so that your kitty can receive future medical care.

There are many possible causes for your cat’s symptoms, and the fiberglass is just one of them. It could also be viral (like herpes) which has been exacerbated by stress, fungal, bacterial, or parasitic in nature. If she is eating, drinking, urinating, defecating, and acting normally there is no need for panic. But if anything changes you will need to get her seen by a veterinarian sooner than planned. So now is a good time to start working on the processes mentioned above.

I am happy to hear that she enjoys being petted. That is a good sign that things are going to continue to improve as she gains familiarity and confidence in your home. With a little bit of time, patience, and consistency she may very well surprise you with how quickly she overcomes her fears. She is lucky to have been adopted into a caring home and I wish you both a happy life together.

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Drippy nose, wheezing, sneezing, and chronic eye infections

Hi Dr. Bahr, I’m glad you brought up upper respiratory issues. My 11 year old male hauspanther, Adam, has always had a drippy nose, wheezing and sneezing since we adopted him at age 2. I’ve asked our vet numerous times about his wheezing since it seems to be an asthma attack that lasts for about 30 seconds or more but the vet doesn’t seem to say much about it. Lately, when he has an attack he ends up throwing up what little might be in his digestive tract. We haven’t seen the vet personally in over a year because of the pandemic; just drop off the cat and consult by phone.

Adam had bad gums and lost all his teeth except for the tiny ones between the fangs. He had chronic eye infections that finally responded to probiotics, which surprised me. Obviously his immune system is compromised. This is a vet who does large and small animals, even going one day a week out to his horse patients. Recently, his office staff offered a choice of antibiotic or homeopathic for an eye flare-up. I hesitated, not being trusting of homeopathic while at the same time not wanting to over-use antibiotics. The following day the eye was clear so we never did treat it. But his asthma worries me. It occurs a few times a week now, along with constant upper-respiratory symptoms. I don’t have a feline specialist in the area. – Ann Seeber

Hi Ann,

I am so sorry to hear that your veterinarian keeps dismissing Adam’s wheezing problem and understand your frustration. I share your concern and highly recommend you seek a second opinion elsewhere. Are there any small animal practitioners in your area or is this the only veterinarian in town?

Adam needs medical care consistent with a proper diagnosis and unfortunately, you are going to have to search for a veterinarian with expertise to help him. Conditions like asthma that affect the lower respiratory tract can be serious and left untreated even life-threatening. Fortunately, we have successful treatments for most upper or lower respiratory diseases, and it is worth looking for a root cause.

One of the best diagnostics for airway disease is radiology and I highly recommend you pursue chest x-rays to assess his lungs and surrounding structures. I would also suggest that you seek oral x-rays at the same time to make sure that root or teeth fragments were not left behind from his extractions. If any were, they could be contributing to his chronic eye issues.

I applaud you for being hesitant to start medications or treatments that are being offered to placate you. Continue to rely on your gut feelings and use your “mom” instinct when it comes to Adam’s medical care.

Hopefully, you will be able to find the right veterinarian to help your precious boy. I look forward to hearing the outcome.

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Skin problem or autoimmune disease?

angiesrecipes

Hallo, Dr. Bahr , I was the one who asked about the skin problem a few weeks ago and we took your advice and brought my cat to a new vet. After two blood tests…one test found out that my cat coco (13years old, we adopted him from a shelter in another European country) has some kind of autoimmunity problem and the other test (according to the vet, that some foreign country diseases needed to be ruled out first) turned out just fine. The vet. doesn’t really know what exactly the problem is, but coco still scratched himself like mad…a couple of visits followed, the vet decided to give coco an injection of cortisol which should have worked in a couple of hours, again, it didn’t work. The vet also said that this kind of injection is not ideal because it would hurt his liver in a long term. So he prescribed another one (Atopica-Ciclosporin, 10 times more expensive than the injection :-(( ) for coco…and this solution does work. And he needs this for the rest of his life…now I worry about the side effect…is this medicine safe for long term use?  Thank YOU in advance! – Angie

Hi Angie,

Thank you so much for the update on Coco’s skin issue. I am thrilled that you now know the underlying cause of his discomfort. While auto-immune diseases are nothing to be celebrated, I am so happy to hear that you have finally found a definite diagnosis and a successful treatment.

I sympathize with your sensitivity to the possible side effects of Atopica, but I do not know if you have many other options. I try not to mess with success and if Atopica is keeping your boy happy and healthy, I do not recommend you focus your attention on anything to the contrary. If you believe in quality of life over quantity of life, then stick with what is working.

I appreciate you going to the ends of the earth to find Coco relief from his skin problems. You are a pawsome pet parent and he is a lucky boy to have you as his humom.

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10 Comments on Ask the Cat Doc: Frequent Vomiting, Upper Respiratory Issues, Autoimmune Disorder, and More

  1. Dr. Bahr,
    Thank you for sharing the news about Coco. You may have given me a clue to Rosie’s skin problems. She is 10 and has been with me since she was 2. (She started life feral and was brought in to the shelter as a TNR when a volunteer was feeding her colony.) She has always had itchy itchy skin. She’s seen 3 vets in the local clinic where we go. The first was sure it was a food allergy. We tried single protein food for cats with allergies. Was not helpful. Vet #2, who is really good and considerate and gave Rosie plenty of time, was convinced it’s a flea bite allergy. I put a Rx topical anti-flea treatment on Rosie monthly. And have also given Captstar if she’s scratching a lot anyway. This summer nothing stopped her scratching. She has a large hotspot from under her chin down her neck front and side. Friday she went to the newest vet in the practice who is especially interested in skin problems.
    She got an injection of antibiotic and Rx’s of prednisolone, chews and liquid (because I can’t be sure which she will accept I need choices). Every night I put a mixture of ResQ cream with manuka honey and a liquid prednisolone onto the hotspot. The hotspot is looking better, tho it’s not cleared.
    I was given a liquid Atopica, p.o., for her once, but it tastes terrible and she will NOT take it. Does it come in injectable form?
    The hardest part of treating and caring for her is that she wants to be outdoors. She sits at the cat flap (locked closed now) and begs me to open it, calling and calling for hours. I don’t expect this to change. I will have to let her out again when the hotspot has healed. I hope and pray she will decide it’s OK again to come in to sleep and eat, as she used to do. But it would be so useful to have an injection I could give her when I do get hold of her. If not Atopica, what else?

  2. I have a male cat who is 10 years old and generally healthy. However he gets congested with a lot of sneezing, snorting and blowing his nose in air conditioning and when it gets cold in the winter which it does occasionally here in Florida where I am. During good weather when I have the windows open he can sometimes still get congested. I have taken him to the vets and they gave him an antihistamine which only worked for a couple of days and he now refuses to take it. I administer it by mouth with a syringe.

    Would steroids shots make Willow more comfortable? Is there anything you can recommend?

    Thank you
    BJ Beavin

  3. Hi Dr Bahr! I have a couple questions, I hope it is ok. First, I have a kitten and her brother I rescued when they were 5 weeks old, they are now 14 weeks old. Their eyes were matted shut, they had URI. The runt “Mini” has never been able to shake it completely. Her brother is sick again too. It is always in the nose and eyes, lungs remain clear. I’ve tried many homeopathic remedies, two different antibiotics and antivirals to no avail. The only thing that’s made a difference is human doses of Transfer Factor Plus (a natural super immune booster that has had amazing results with FeLV cats) but if I give them smaller doses they wake up not able to breathe out of their noses. We do steamy bathroom every few hours and Little Noses Saline nose drops. Is there anything I haven’t tried?

    My other question is about my 11 year old girl Luna. Luna went from obese to skin and bones. She used to be 18 lbs now she is 8 lbs! She used to eat dry kibble but would vomit often and get bladder infections. After I switched her to wet food she stopped vomiting and has not got a one single bladder infection since! But she constantly begs for food now even if she just ate! And she’s Soo skinny!I took her to the vet and had them run every test possible on her. All tests came back negative and the vet said she is fine other than needing her teeth cleaned. She’s not fine being this skinny and begging for food. She’s bit my son and I on the hand thinking we are holding food. All my cats eat strictly wet food now. Any suggestions for dear Luna?

    • I have a 10 yr old cat diagnosed with hyperthyroidism after he lost a bit of weight. He is on Medication for this, however, he hasn’t gained any weight on kibble or wet food. He likes wet better, but will eat kibble if I put water on it. My other cat has stopped using the littler box for urination….HELP! He is also about the same age.

  4. I know the struggle about a cat with respiratory problems. When we had Pono, he had this problem since the day we brought him home, at 6 months old. We almost lost his a couple of times because he was so sick. I tried a lot of vets that couldn’t figure out why he kept getting sick. Then it dawned on me, the allergy-like symptoms he was getting, prior to it turning to a respiratory infection, started about the same time my allergy symptoms started. I told this to one vet and he couldn’t believe it, saying cats don’t get airborne allergies. But I convinced him to treat the allergy symptoms and that seemed to help Pono quite a bit.

    • Hello Janine,
      Your words “we almost lost him a couple of times because he was so sick” literally just made me feel guilty and hurt.. I brought my 3yr old cat, Ellie, to the Animal Hospital as she was having respiratory symptoms including labored breathing and cold paws due to no circulation, I guess. Those two symptoms came on suddenly, like hours. She sneezed every now and then but otherwise perfect. One month before, my 4yr old cat, Faith also presented with respiratory symptoms (fast breathing / lethargy) also suddenly within hours..
      July 22-The Animal Hospital said Faith had asthma and sent her home with prednisone, and a full recovery with a long life..
      August 21-The Animal Hospital immediately tells me to euthanize ELLIE.. XRays that I never saw supposedly showed fluid in/around her lungs and heart. was in tears, but never offered any type of option but DEATH. I wish I went with my instinct and tried prednisone at home to see if it would’ve helped. Why didn’t they try antibiotics or prednisone? The only thing they did for BOTH my cats was charge my care credit account the same exact amount for both of them, but one month apart.
      Unbeknownst to me, I did not have another $700 of care credit so they would NOT let me take Ellie’s remains home. Instead they made me (while still crying after watching my cat get injected with propanol and dying) apply for EVERY loan company under the sun, literally at 2am!!
      I apologize for the long story but I have SO much guilt because I fully believe she could have been saved but they rushed me into the euthanasia process.
      What helped your cat survive respiratory symptoms and problems?

  5. Hello Dr Bahr,
    My question is regarding my cat who can not travel in the car as she drools, vomits and poops in the cage when ever we go to the vet. They said gabapentin is the med of choice 100 mg the evening before and 1 hour prior to the car ride. I fear this is a hefty dose of medication as I had to take this same med for my back pain in the past. Your opinion?

  6. Hi Doctor. I just read the questions by other cat parents and wanted to leave my own. My cat George is 6 years old, and hasnt been feeling good for a few months. He looks glassy eyed, hunches over on the floor like hes in pain in the back or stomach, feels warm to the touch, and lays on me and around the house with his chin in the floor looking miserable. Ive taken him to three different vets and the only thing they know for sure is that he has a heart murmur. Otherwise they all say hes okay, that they cant find anything. But whatever is going on is bothering him more lately, and now hes getting some feces on his tail (hes a Maine Coon) and not able to clean back there very well. I’m worried about him and I dont mean any disrespect toward vets in general, but I feel like the ones I’ve seen are brushing me off and I feel angry and disappointed because something IS wrong and if they or another vet dont find it, hes either going to continue to be miserable or worse. I’m at the end of my rope, and tired of watching my little guy feeling bad and being helpless to help him. Do you have any ideas of what could be wrong and what else I can do or say to the vets now? I dont want something to happen to him because they think hes “fine”.

    Thanks for your help,

    Tracy

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