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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 32844
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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My cat is 15 and, over the past few weeks seems to have

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my cat is 15 and, over the past few weeks seems to have developed swollen sides from halfway along her body up to her back legs.. She has always been slightly heavy but I feel her bones are nearer the surface, especially at the end of her spine by her tail - none of us can decide if her sides may be the same size but look bigger because her back end is now smaller. She has always been hungrier in winter but seems to be eating more. She is bright-eyed, her coat is glossy and her tail is always upright with it's usual bend at the top. She seems to stare at some imaginary thing for a long time, but this seems to be the only difference in her usual behaviour. She is due for her annual injections in approx. 5 weeks so I was going to ask the vet to check her then, but am wondering if I should bring this forward. She hates the vet and gets stressed so I don't want to take her twice. When I feel her sides she does not seem to be in pain and I can't find any lump, so possibly this is fluid. What would you suggest? Thank You
I believe that you're correct. You appear to be describing an abdominal effusion - a collection of fluid in the abdominal space. There are quite a few possible etiologies for such fluid but most also cause an ill cat - certainly not one who would be wanting to eat more than usual. Liver or kidney insufficiency resulting in hypoalbuminemia (low serum albumin level) can result in a clear effusion and an ill cat. Neoplasia (cancer) within the abdominal cavity at Jasmine's age would cause a mixed inflammatory cell effusion and an ill cat. The FIP virus causes a variety of effusions but also an ill cat. Right-sided heart failure at her age is an important consideration and might not affect appetite at all - at least early on in the disease process. I would be more comfortable knowing that Jasmine were attended to by her vet at this time rather than in 5 weeks. I can't think of any vaccines she would need at her age in any event. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
My vet had always given Jasmine her yearly boosters, do you think she will not need them anymore because of her age?
I stop vaccinating cats at 8-9 years of age. The thinking is that if I haven't protected my patient by then, additional vaccines aren't going to the trick. The accepted protocol as published by the American Association of Feline Practitioners' Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel Report in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 2013 is to vaccinate with the core vaccines every 3 years - FVRCP (herpesvirus, calicivirus, panleukopenia) irrespective of age. I don't believe that's necessary. Please continue our conversation if you wish.
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Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Thank you, ***** ***** arrange to take her to the vet.
Thank you for your kind accept. I appreciate it.
I can't set a follow up in this venue and so would appreciate your returning to our conversation with an update at your convenience.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
My husband took Jazzy to the vet this morning, as when he called they said to bring her in - we were going to take her together in the afternoon. They said they would do some X rays and drain her tummy. I did notice after contacting you that she seemed to be breathing a little faster, although not wheezing or seeming to struggle - we counted 41 breaths per minute. The vet said there was fluid on her lungs and that would need to be drained. They told us to leave her with them. They then called and asked if we wanted them to run the bloods they had taken when they sedated her. I said yes in the hope it would help with finding the cause, as the vet then said there was no need to drain her lungs as there was little fluid there, but that she had drained 200 ml from her tummy. She told us she was in recovery and we could phone at 4.00 to collect her. This was 2.30.She said they would send her home with tablets but that the cause of the problem may mean she could have weeks or months left. She advised she had big heart - which was something you mentioned should be checked.This was a shock as she seemed well in herself.The vet then called before 4.00 asking if she could put her to sleep as her blood pressure had dropped dramatically and she thought there was internal bleeding as blood tests had shown her red cell count low, saying this was the cause of the increased respiratory rate. We asked if there was anything they could do - she was eating and drinking this morning, apart from the swollen tummy she was herself and seemed in no distress. I asked if we could come to say goodbye, we are 15/20 mins away but she said she was really 'flat' and would not know us and she did not want her to 'crash'. We were both in shock as we were getting ready to collect her soon. We felt pressurised to agree as the vet kept asking for permission, saying her blood pressure was lower than all the staff had seen in over 10 years and she did not want her to crash. She said she was too low to operate on so we brokenheartedly agreed.The vet then called again a little later asking did we want a cremation, and did we want a post mortem. She said that she thought there was probably a tumour and feeling her tummy had made it bleed more and this had caused her blood pressure to drop. She said in view of her age they could have found other cancers if they did operate, although I thought 15 was not especially old for a cat ?- she is a tabby, not a pedigree. The vet said she thought it was cancer of the spleen and they could maybe have operated if things had not turned out how they did. I do not intend to have a post mortem, it will not bring her back. I asked the vet if she had been in any pain over the last 10 days - she did not seem to be, but I appreciate cats are resilient. The vet said she could not say, but Jazzy did purr when we stroked her and, as I say, did not seem distressed.I know this update is longer than you probably anticipated, thank you for reading. Would you mind giving me your thoughts I'm not looking to blame anyone, I just want to understand. What did she mean by 'flat 'and 'crash', is this a heart attack? Also, was there anything else to be done and what is your view on if she was in pain. My daughter, 23, wants to go and see her before getting her cremated, I feel I never had the chance to say goodbye either but is this a good idea? will she just look asleep or wlll we see signs of trauma.Thank You
My condolences for your loss of Jasmine. If a patient is "flat out", she has "crashed". There's really no distinction between the terms. While cats don't suffer the type of heart attacks people do, they can have peracute (sudden) cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heart rates) resulting from lack of oxygen/blood supply, infections, electrolyte imbalances, etc., and these arrhythmias can be rapidly fatal giving the impression of "heart attack". She'll look asleep and I would expect her to be wrapped in a towel so just her head is showing which should mask any changes in the rest of her body. You're quite welcome.