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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 22616
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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I have a 14 year old cat who has feline flu the

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I have a 14 year old cat who has feline flu the last few years, this has become and problem and he needs an antibiotic every few months. This time he was okay when it erupted again.....his symptoms were mild and containable and I am worried about having antibiotics so frequently. However, the symptoms have suddenly worsened considerably this weekend and the vet is closed because it's bank holiday. He is very weak, will not eat or drink. If I go the emergency vet (at huge cost [email protected]£200), they can only give him a 24 hour antibiotic and he will have to go to his own vet again in the morning for a longer lasting antibiotic. I would rather keep him here until the morning but am worried about him not eating or drinking. What do you advise. I have a humidifier going but his mucous is so much more plentiful than it was and obviously he has lost his sense of smell. Lately I have noticed he does not seem to hear well anymore, nor see well either. PLease advise me.
Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.
Now chronic cat flu in elderly kitties can be a challenge to keep under control. This is because as the cat gets older and his immune system weakens, he is more at risk of these agents causing flare-ups and opening the door to opportunistic bacterial infections. And it is very common to see both senses of smell and hearing be affected by flu in cats (just as congestion can affect our own senses when we have flu)
In this situation, while we will want him to see his vet tomorrow for a long lasting antibiotic jab (if his nasal discharge is snotty/green/yellow), the mainstay of the moment is your supportive care. First, you will want to keep the kitty humidifier running (preferably in a small space or with him in his carrier, the humidifier next to him, and a bed sheet over both to give him a steam tent with concentrated steam). Further to this, if he is building up mucus that the steam isn't shifting, you can use a cotton ball moistened with warm water to wipe away crust and mucus. As well, do consider also using saline nasal drops (like Ocean Mist but not anything medicated) to help gently open his nasal passages. To do so, .tilt the head back and drop two to three drops in one nostril. Cats hate this, but it helps. After the drops go down, you can let the head up and wipe away any discharge that gets loosened. Then repeat with the other nostril.
Now as you highlighted, making sure he is getting food and water is important, as congested cats who can’t smell their food often won’t eat or drink. Therefore, with this loss of normal of appetite, then keep tempting him with smelly wet foods (since they are high in water). It may help to warm it up a bit in the microwave to help him be able to smell it. Further to this, if tempting doesn’t work, then we do have to consider initiating syringe feeds to get food into him. In that case, you may want to try Hill's A/D or Royal Canin Recovery diet from your local vet. Both are critical care diets that come as a soft, palatable pate. Both are calorically dense, so a little goes a long way nutrition-wise and this could just help get some more calories in even if we can’t get a huge volume of food in. As well, for syringing food, you can use the animal version of Ensure (balanced for animals dietary requirements) called Clinicare Canine/Feline Liquid Diet. It is actually by the same people who make Ensure, but is formulated to meet out pet's dietary needs. They also make one specifically for older cats with kidney troubles, and this could be an alternative for an older cat. The ER vets should carry this and be happy to dispense it over the counter. Otherwise for the short term until his vet is open, you can also use wet kitten food (which is more nutrient dense then his normal food) in this manner. Just mix it with water to make a gruel to syringe feed him. This way it would a means of getting food, staving off complications of not eating (ie hepatic lipidosis), and buying you time until his vet is open.
On top off all of this, you do need to keep an eye on his water intake and hydration. To check his hydration status to make sure he is not becoming dehydrated there are a few things we can test at home. One is whether the eyes appear sunken, if the gums are tacky instead of wet/moist, and whether he has a "skin tent" when you lift the skin. To see how to check these parameters for dehydration, you can find a wee video on this here. ( They use a big dog but it makes it easier to see and the principles are exactly the same. If you are seeing any signs of dehydration already, then you do want to have your kitty seen by your vet before this gets out of control.
In regards ***** ***** you can do to help stave off dehydration at home (though do note that if he is already then he will likely need more the oral rehydration), encourage him to drink but offering fresh water or even low-sodium chicken broth. As well, wet foods (as mentioned above) are 35% water, so getting him to eat will help us deal with water intake as well. If he isn't amenable to drinking, you may wish to offer unflavored pedialyte or water via syringe feeding. While we cannot do this if they are vomiting, it may be an option for this situation. A typical maintenance rate for hydration in an animal 48mls per kilogram of her body weight a day. If you do give syringe pedialyte, this should obviously be divided up into multiple offerings through the day rather then all at once. This value will give you the total he needs for the day and is a good starting point to give you an idea of the cat daily requirement. If he does vomits if you give pedialyte, I would discontinue this as a therapy. (since we don’t want vomiting because of our intervention).
Finally, I am glad to see that you do have your lad on L-lysine as this can be helpful if feline herpes is the cause for his signs (it is the most common of the agents that can cause cat flu) If you are using this, I would just note to make sure you are dosing at least 500mg daily. This can be mixed into his food as you syringe it or you can mix the powder with water and give it directly via syringe or dropper.
Overall, if he has recurrent flu signs then your supportive care is going to be just an important as the antibiotics. Therefore, at this stage, as long as he can breathe comfortably (open mouth breathing would be a red flag that he may need to be seen by the ER vet), do add the above supportive care to your current treatment. And if he cannot be tempted, then do consider syringing food/fluids to ensure he doesn't become dehydrated of suffer from lack of nutrition. And finally just to add to your long term care, do speak to his vet about Bisolvin. This is a mucus reducing medication (which is ideal since human decongestants are toxic for cats) that your vet can dispense that may just keep your lad breathing more comfortably despite his recurrent signs.
I hope this information is helpful.
If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!
All the best, *****
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! : )
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