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Hello I am Dr. Joey. Thanks for trusting me to help you and your pet today. I am a licensed veterinarian with over 15 years of experience. I look forward to working with you.
This sounds very suspicious to be tongue paralysis which can occur from complete or one-sided nerve paralysis of the nerve that innervates the tongue. This is rare. The most common causes for this may include a tumor, infection (fungal, bacterial), vascular disease, or idiopathic (we do not know the cause). It is also possible this is not tongue paralysis but she has a leison in the back of her tongue that is causing severe pain such as an ulceration or a tumor.
Ultimately, this really requires a good examination by your veterinarian. The classic presentation for unilateral tongue paralysis would be a deviation of the tongue toward the side of the lesion. In cases with sudden onset of sighs usually we note when the cat attempts to lick something there is a lot of difficulty. I find it hard to determine deviation of the tongue to one side or another, if I just open the mouth and evaluate tongue position as this can variable. If the cat won't lick voluntarily then I would inspect the tongue for evidence of muscle atrophy/loss which would suggest nerve problem. Bilateral (or both sides of the nerves) nerve paralysis is also rare and this would make me very concerned about a significant lesion like a tumor. If this is an infection, then treatment for that infection is possible but we may not get complete recovery of the tongue. If she just has a lesion/ulcer then cure of this may improve her function. However, since she is unable to eat very well this is what calls for a veterinary visit as soon as possible to have her evaluated.
In the meantime until you get her seen please keep offering softer foods. One that might be easier for her to lick up or at least you to syringe into her might be either people baby food of the pureed chicken variety OR chicken broth. Neither have very many calories but we just need to keep her eating.
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