How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Dr. B. Your Own Question
Dr. B.
Dr. B., Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 22616
Experience:  I am a small animal veterinarian with a special interest in cats and am happy to discuss any questions you have.
Type Your Cat Question Here...
Dr. B. is online now

Oscar is 14 years old and recently lost a lot of weight and

Customer Question

Oscar is 14 years old and recently lost a lot of weight and stopped eating. His breathing is shallow and he just seems very lethargic. We started feeding him things like salmon, prawns,chicken and trout and he has started to eat but then both his sides have swollen right out. His symptoms are the same but he has started using a patch of carpet to urinate on, at first he was using where a newspaper had been left but yesterday he just used the carpet. He is also disappearing during the day and vomits more than usual
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

I am quite concerned about Oscar.

How long has he been like this?

Can you tell me if his belly is hard, firm, or does it feel fluidy like a water balloon?


You noted his breathing is shallow (which is our biggest worry), can you tell me what his breathing rate is (you can check this by counting his breaths for 10 seconds and then multiplying by 6)?



Customer: replied 3 years ago.



His breathing is about 80 I think.


His tummy isn't hard its like its filled with air not like liquid. It seems to be getting bigger he's also started weeing on the living room floor.


He has been like this for less than 2 weeks

Expert:  Dr. B. replied 3 years ago.
Thank you,

Poor Oscar!
Now normal resting breathing rates for kitties is ~20-30 breaths per minute, so if he is breathing that quickly, then that is a terribly elevated breathing rate and tells us that poor Oscar is in respiratory distress. And this sign alone is a red flag that his situation is severe, serious, and he needs this addressed for him before he gets to a point where he cannot breathe fast enough to get enough oxygen into his body.

Now to hear that your elderly cat has a distended belly but has been losing weight everywhere else raises our concerns to what is within the belly and what is stealing nutrition from him. Furthermore, if he is struggling to breathe, we have to consider that this entity in his belly may be pushing up on his chest from the inside to limit his ability to expand his lungs or may have spread to the lungs reducing how much lung tissue he actually can breathe with.

Now when we have abdominal distension of this nature, we have a few concerns. We don't usually see air in the abdomen unless a cat has had a severe trauma (ie a hole in the body wall that could let air in or perforation of the gut letting gas into the abdomen). Instead, we can see organ enlargement, tumors, and fluid build up (which when severe can feel taut on palpation)

Now enlargement of organs like the liver are self-explanatory and can arise due to organ disease as well as secondary to metabolic diseases affecting the body on the whole. Otherwise, in regards to fluid build up within the belly (ascites), we can see fluid cause a similar distension of the belly and when we do it is often a side effect of a primary condition (which could also cause the weight loss and wasting). Examples of conditions of the elderly cat that could cause ascites in the belly includes heart disease, small tumors significantly affecting the circulation, liver disease, protein deficiency caused by protein losing diseases of the kidney or GI (we can also see this with viral or bacterial infections, but would be less likely with this history).

Finally, if we have a firm entity (not necessarily hard) in the distended abdomen, we have to always consider a potential tumor growing within the abdomen. This could be a nasty cancer or even a benign growth and can arise from the liver, kidneys, spleen internal lymph nodes, or even gastrointestinal tract. These masses often grow quietly until they get to a size where the cause distension of the belly, compression of the other abdominal contents, and steal nutrients from the rest of the body (leading to weight loss despite a great appetite)

In this situation, it would be ideal to have Oscar checked by his vet. (especially if he is struggling to breathe) They can have a feel of his belly to tell you if you are facing a tumor or fluid from one of the above conditions. They can also listen to his heart to determine if there are any murmurs or irregular rhythms that would elevate suspicions of heart disease. And if fluid is suspect, then they can either test a blood sample (to check organ function) or test the fluid directly (which can be checked for tumor cells, protein levels, and help determine the cause for its origin). And depending on their findings, will give you an idea to whether this is something that can be treated or if this is something that would have a poor prognosis for him and that he needs relief from suffering for.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.


If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need. Thank you and hope to see you again soon! : )