Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 1, 2023 by Crystal Uys
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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 book Indoor Cat: How to Enrich Their Lives and Expand Their World, which is available since April 2022.
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
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:
- 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.
- When did you notice him vomiting for the first time?
- Has the frequency been consistent, or has it increased over time?
- 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?
- Does Rowdy vomit randomly or is there a pattern to the time frame in which he vomits after eating?
- 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
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.
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 homeopathy 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
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.
Skin problem or autoimmune disease?
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
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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About the author
Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.