Thank you Duncan,
If Chicken is completely unable to eat and possibly unable to drink due to inflammation and irritation based within her throat, then we have quite a dilemma that requires us to be proactive. The reason is because cats were not well designed for the anorexic lifestyle. When cats are off their food (even if they would eat for us if they could) even for a few days, their body will break their fat stores down to "feed" them. The problem is that when high levels of fat are released into the blood stream, the cat's liver will try to filter the fat, and ends up in distress (ie. hepatic lipidosis) which can make getting them better even more difficult for us. So, in this situation, we do need to move quickly if she cannot eat or drink anything at all.
Now in regards XXXXX XXXXX signs, when we see cats showing episodes of retching/gagging and throat discomfort associated with trying to eat, it can be a sign of a number of issues. Since she is an older lass, we’d hopefully be able to put issues like foreign bodies wedged in her nasopharynx lower down our list; but at her age we’d have keep issues like growths (ie polyps, tumors, etc) in the back of our minds. That said, with her current history of cat flu, this does make bacterial and viral tracheitis and potentially esophagitis more likely in her situation.
To touch on each briefly, esophagitis is an inflammatory condition of the esophagus that can arise if she had had a period of vomiting preceding this, if she has had any acid reflux, if she had been on any medication, secondary to severe coughing, or if she has perhaps ingested something that caused a slight trauma to the tissue (ie hard kibble) and allowed bacteria to cause an infection. In these cases, the only way to 'see' if this is present would be to pass a scope with a camera into the esophagus. Since this is not practical for every case, we will often treat these kitties symptomatically to allay their signs (using scoping only in the treatment resistant cases). In regards XXXXX XXXXX mild cases can be settled with soft foods (ie wet diet or soaking her kibble a bit) alone. For more severe cases like Chicken's, we often do try these cats on a course of antibiotics and feline friendly anti-inflammatories (ie metacam) to settle the irritation. Typically we'd want to start them on treatment via injection (to get them settled) before trying to wrestle with any oral treatment.
The other tissue who's inflammation/irritation can manifest as retching is that of the trachea. Tracheitis is quite common in cats and has been linked to an upper respiratory virus called the feline herpes virus. They are often infected as kittens and this life long can cause intermittent signs of this nature without warning (often linked to physiological or immune stress --which can be a part of older age or if there is something underlying starting to affect here) As well, bacterial infection of this tissue can cause similar inflammation and irritation to cats and lead to the same signs. For the tracheitis from feline herpes virus infection, they do tend to settle as the immune system gets the flare up under control (typically the signs pass within a week or two). But we can aid the kitties with supplementation of with L-lysine (a nutritional supplement) can help them recover quicker. This is available over the counter at health food. They tend to come as huge tablets, so they need to be crushed and mixed into food (since they are way too big to ask a cat to swallow). An average cat dose is 500mg a day. Again in severe cases like Chicken's, we will again need to use our feline friendly anti-inflammatories to soothe the inflammation within the trachea. And if a bacterial tracheitis is suspected, then antibiotics would also be indicated.
Overall, Chicken sounds to have a severe inflammation (either an esophagitis or tracheitis) secondary to her coughing and flu signs. Since she cannot get any food down just now and we cannot be sure she is drinking, you will be limited with what you can do at home. Therefore, it would be ideal to have her seen by her vet at this stage. Her vet will be able to fully examine her,rule out our other concerns (masses, foreign bodies, etc) and at least get her onto some cat safe anti-inflammatories via injection to reduce the inflammation that is preventing her from eating. Once that is on board, she will likely be able to eat for you and oral medication and supportive nutrition (ie Hill's A/D (LINK), Royal Canin Recovery (LINK), or Clinicare Canine/Feline Liquid Diet (LINK)) would be indicated to get her over this, over her respiratory infection, and get her back on track for you.
I hope this information is helpful.
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All the best,
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