Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: July 3, 2023 by Crystal Uys


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.

Pain management for arthritic cat

Dr. Bahr,

I really appreciate the time and expertise you give us kitty parents in answering our questions and concerns!

My Maggie is a 12-year-old long hair cat with arthritis. I’ve been giving her worksSOwell 1-TetraDecanol Complex (which I saw recommended on this site) and that seems to have been helping, but of course her arthritis is getting worse. I took her to her vet a couple days ago, and the vet gave me Onsior for the pain. It worked but I believe it’s just supposed to be given just for a short period of time, and it’s pricey anyway. Do you know of anything else I can give her or do for her to help ease her pain?

She also had a mammary tumor removed a few weeks ago. The vet said she didn’t take it all out, and now it’s getting larger again. I really, REALLY hate to put Maggie through that surgery again, especially at her age. But I guess that’s a decision that only I can make. In the meantime, if I can do something to ease her arthritis pain, that would be a definite bonus.

Thank you so much, Doctor! – – Alice Kemp

Hi Alice,

Maggie is lucky to have a guardian, like you, who is aware of her arthritic condition and I am happy to hear that you are looking for ways to help alleviate her pain.

There is no one “magic bullet” for pain control and it typically takes a multi-modal approach to keeping arthritic pain managed. If Maggie is carrying extra weight, then a carefully controlled weight loss program will help her immensely and should be the first place to start. In addition to the Onsior and supplement you are giving her, it might be helpful to investigate cold laser treatments and/or acupuncture, CBC, and the Assisi Loop for additional relief.

Take an assessment of your home environment to see if there are ways in which you can help her navigate her surroundings easier. This would include adding ramps to the bed, couch, and favorite sleeping places to eliminate the need for her to jump up or down from these places. Low sided litter boxes help too. Since warmth is often helpful with alleviating arthritic pain, you may also consider placing pet warming blankets out for her to lay on.

I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful.  Let me know which ones work for Maggie.

white cat laying on the animal scale while the vet measure weight
Image Credit: Odua Images, Shutterstock

Black spot above nose

Hi Dr. Bahr,
My male ginger is 5 yrs old. He got a black flat spot right above his nose a few weeks ago. it looked like an ink smudge spot. Then it got darker and then disappeared completely. The black spot came back again like a week later, then disappeared again, very strange. Could it be the salmon food he’s eating? Idk, it seemed like that’s when it appears. Very strange. Thank you. – Terri

Hi Terri,

Thank you so much for taking time to write in about your kitty’s nose. Unfortunately, you did not provide enough information for me to really give you any good advice. But the fact that it goes away on its own is a good sign and I would not be too concerned about it unless it continues to recur. If it does show back up again, take pictures, keep a good log as to when it appeared and disappeared, and get your boy checked out by a veterinarian.

It is strange indeed and if you find out what is going on, please let me know.

Vet checking cats eyes
Image Credit: santypan, Shutterstock

Sudden trouble breathing

Hi Dr. Bahr,

I have a question.

This year our cat ‘Dee’ passed away. It all happened rather quickly, with her suddenly having trouble breathing (the dyspnea type), but no other symptoms (such as congestion). The emergency pet hospital vets found out that her problems were being caused by air getting next to her lungs. (After a blood test and x-rays) They weren’t able to find out what was causing that to happen, and we lost her.

In the midst of everything that was going on, I’m not sure if the emergency vets were aware that her regular vet had recently put her on a prescription. It was Zyrtec- for an ear infection that apparently was caused by allergies.

There are many questions about losing her that I know will never be answered. The question I was hoping you could answer is: is it possible that her prescription was treating/masking symptoms that might have allowed the vet to diagnose what was causing her breathing problem? – Madie

Hi Madie,

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved Dee. Please accept my sincerest condolences.

It is unlikely that the Zyrtec interfered with the diagnosis but without a lot more information I cannot say that for sure. Only your veterinarian would be able to answer that question and if this is a lingering thought you cannot get rid of then by all means contact your veterinarian.

Hopefully, fond memories of Dee will help ease the pain of her loss. I understand your sorrow and am sending you virtual hugs to let you know you are not alone in mourning her.

Cat owner man talking to veterinarian
Image Credit: silverblackstock, Shutterstock

Persistent fungal infection

Thank you Dr. Bahr for doing this column.

One of my cats is 14, with small cell lymphoma–in remission, though he’s still taking chlorambucil biweekly and prednisone daily. He’s doing well except for a fungal ear infection that just won’t go away–now over a year in duration.

In the past several months, his vet has prescribed a week’s increase in his pred and a week on Clavamox, in case there was a bacterial factor. We’ve also tried a few weeks of Otomax ointment and another ointment that I’ve forgotten the name of. I was given an ear flush that’s both antifungal and antibacterial, but Plyna objected strongly to that and shook his head so that I was afraid of it getting into his eye. That ear has also been packed several times using BNT, which seems to help a little, but only for a week or so. His vet thinks that the best we can do is just manage the infection.

Most of the time he acts like it doesn’t bother him, but the stink can be horrendous, especially one week when he scratched it enough to cause blood to mix in with the fungal discharge. Nail caps are doing a good job of preventing more of that sort of damage.

I apply a little coconut oil when the ear looks sore.Would dropping a little in that ear regularly do any harm? Can you think of anything else worth trying? – Carol

Hi Carol,

I know that I often recommend seeking a second opinion and am going to do so again in your situation.

I would be concerned about the chronicity of your baby’s ear infection and would want to know what is going on in his ear canal that might be causing the problem. That could entail sedation with a deep ear cleaning and looking into the canal to make sure there isn’t a polyp or tumor in there.

My best recommendation to you would be to get your boy seen asap by a veterinary dermatologist or a veterinarian that has the expertise and an endoscope that can be used to evaluate the ear canal properly.

Your boy should not have to suffer from this problem and I highly encourage you to seek a second opinion asap.

Good luck and let me know the outcome. I am keeping my paws crossed for a good one.

Veterinarian examines white cat
Image Credit: Hananeko, Shutterstock

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8 Comments on Ask the Cat Doc: Managing Pain, Dark Spot Above Nose, Fungal Infection & More

  1. Terri! I hope your cat is doing well. Strangely enough we just dealt with a very similar thing. Dark spot on the nose- came on for about a month & got darker. Then, it fell off/disappeared. My vet did not know what to make of it, but we are keeping an eye on him. If you find out anything else please let me know. Kind regards, Steph

  2. Dr. Bahr,
    I have a 13 yr. old male cat. Ziggy recently started losing weight . I called my usual vet and was told I couldn’t see a vet until Dec. 4th. We have only lived in this area since end of 2019. It was hard to find a vet. Then when I really needed a vet, I couldn’t get an appt. So they finally gave me a number to reach a vet in their network. This 13 lb. cat only weighed 7 lb. They did x-rays and bloodwork and gave him fluids. I’ve been giving him the antibiotic and using eye ointment. He seemed to be improving. This was on Mon., after the Fri. appt. they called to tell me his white count was high and red count was low. Then on Wed. they called to see how he was. Today they called to tell me there was something in the x-ray that showed his liver and spleen needed a ultra sound, which would be another $400. I’ve already paid $583. I’m wondering if this testing is necessary since he is improving?

  3. A follow-up, regarding Plyna with his ear infection….

    Since posting my question, I was told by his vet that a surgery called TECA-BO was the only permanent way to treat his problem, but that couldn’t happen because he wasn’t a good candidate for surgery. A couple of weeks later he suddenly got vertigo so bad that he kept falling over–and he stopped eating. His vet said that the ear polyps must have moved into his inner ear. (Can’t believe I forgot to mention them.)

    I started giving him ondansetron for nausea, and a couple of days later a tiny bit of mirtazapine, which did get him eating again. But by then he was making odd noises and purring non-stop (from pain?). After one horrible night when he had trouble breathing and I had to give him a narcotic just so he could settle and sleep, I decided it was time to euthanize him.

    Despite all his ailments—some of them quite painful—he had the best disposition of any of the many cats I’ve lived with. He always forgave me for pushing pills into him, and he would lie still while I cleaned the gunk out of his ear a couple of times every day. (Of course he got a treat afterward.) He was such a sweet, loving, old cat.

    He lived with me less than a year. I miss him so much. – Carol

  4. Hi. Recently, my cat had an ear infection. As part of helping with that infection, I was told by my vet to clean her ears 2x a week using an Oticetic Flush, which I did. However, I’m confused as to whether I was doing it right in the first place.

    1. The first vet nurse told me to squeeze the liquid onto a cotton ball and then squeeze the cotton ball so the liquid goes into the ear. Then I had to use q-tips to clean some of the debris in the ear.

    They did say not to put the q-tip all the way into ear. The most the q-tip can go in is half the cotton swab. The other half of the cotton part should be sticking out of the ear. I would clean as much of the inside of the ear that I could or as much as Sophie would let me.

    2. When I went for a re-check, another vet nurse told me to add the drops to the cotton ball, put in the ear, and massage the ear so the liquid goes into the ear, not as aggressively as squeezing the liquid from the cotton ball as I was told initially.

    Everything else is the same in regards to the qtips.

    3. After the infection cleared, they recommended that I do an ear cleaning 1 to 2 times a week.

    So I bought an ear cleanser, but this is where I’m confused. The instructions says to add the drops inside the ear, rub the base of the ear and then wipe with a cotton ball moistened by more of the ear cleanser. And under no circumstances to not use cotton swabs.

    I’m not sure what’s the correct way. I’m leaning towards the second option, but the whole ‘do not use cotton swabs’ is throwing me off.

  5. My 13 yr old female with hyperthyroidism (taking methimazole BID) is losing hair. If it were spring I might think she was thinning her coat for the warmer weather. But it’s fall and cooler here now. When she gets up from a spot where she’s been lying down, it’s not unusual for me to find a couple of clumps of her hair left behind. She’s also bringing up hairballs with unusual frequency.
    I’ve found a Greenies treat with fiber which is supposed to help with hairballs. She loves it, so it’s easy to give it to her daily. I brush and comb her as much as she will allow, once / day but not for too long. I will take her to see her vet, but not immediately as I am in the throes of major dental work I can’t pause right now. Any suggestions?

  6. Our Norwegian Forest Cat, Gandolfini, was dx with CHF in May, quite suddenly. After a weekend in ER, we got him into a cardiologist relatively quickly, within 2 wks, and he is on a variety of meds, and is holding his own. What are the best medications for this, food to feed and expected lifespan? Thank you.

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