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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 22615
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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- my normally fit & healthy cat with a good appetite has

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Hi - my normally fit & healthy cat with a good appetite has suddenly stopped eating, is hiding away for the entire day without going out and seems to be having some trouble breathing - she is breathing almost 60 times a minute with noticeable chest movements and a little wheezing - she has been doing this constantly for two days.
I took her to a vet yesterday who examined heartbeat & found to be normal and could hear no problems with lungs - she advised me to get a urine sample, but as the cat has not eaten or drank for two days now that's not going to be easy. Could this be a simple cat cold or something more sinister?

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

Does Bella sound congested or stuffed up?

Does she just have no interest in food even if brought to her "safe haven"?

Any retching, vomiting, teeth grinding, drooling, lip licking, or gulping?

Any voice loss, coughing or gagging?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

She doesn't sound congested, there is a slight noise as she breathes but it's hard to place if it's from nose/throat or chest.

Nose isn't running, there is a little eye discharge but only slight

She vomited a very small amount of a yellow substance two days ago - nothing found since then.

She isn't grinding teeth or licking

She has gone very docile and doesn't want to move - a little gulping when she gets up to move to a more comfortable position.

I've taken her favourite food to her and the sight of it makes her uncomfortable

No coughing, and she's never been a vocal cat so hard to guage but she did meow a couple of times in the car yesterday

Thank you Darren,

Now when a older cat goes off their food, becomes lethargic, and hides (which is their way of saying they feel too poorly to pretend all is well), these are vague clinical signs that can occur with a range of issues. Now with cats the anorexia is usually related to oral discomfort or nausea (which can be GI related or secondary to other internal health issues). That said, with Bella's wheezing, we cannot rule out issues associated with upper respiratory tract issues (though its usually congestion or throat discomfort for cat flu viruses that cause the anorexia with those cases. And while hopefully less likely for her (especially as she was examined), I would also have to put pain as a concern for us since this could also increase a cat's respiratory rate.

Now its grand that her heart was fine and that they didn't hear anything sinister in her lungs. Still with this elevated respiratory rate and her refusal to eat are major concerns and she cannot be left this way. Therefore, I will outline some supportive care to tackle possible nausea (since she has had a vomit and often that will precipitate them going of their food), what to do with trying to get her to eat and drink for us, and some decongesting supportive care just in case she cannot smell her food due to flu. If you try these and she doesn't start to eat for us or if you palpate her and she shows any discomfort at all, we'd need to consider a revisit to her vet +/- bloods to make sure there isn't more to her signs that she is not telling us about.

With all that in mind, to start, we need to rule out nausea as an anorexia differential. TO do so, you can try her on antacid therapy. There are a number of antacids that are available over the counter and pet friendly. I would advise only treating with one, but the ones I tend to recommend are Pepcid (More Info/Dose Here ), Tagamet (More Info/Dose Here), or Zantac (More Info/Dose Here). This medication of course shouldn’t be given without consulting your vet if she does have any pre-existing conditions or is on any other medications. Ideally, it should be given about 30 minutes before food to ease her upset stomach.

Once that is on board, you will want to try and see if you can get her eating (as I am sure you have been). Favourite foods are allowed or you can tempt her with a light/easily digestible diet. Examples of this would be boiled chicken, scrambled eggs (made with water and not milk), meat baby food (do avoid the ones with garlic powder in the ingredients) or there are also veterinary prescription diets that can be used here (ie Hill’s I/D or Royal Canin’s sensitivity.)

Further to this, if tempting doesn’t work, then we do have to consider initiating syringe feeds to get food into her. In that case, you may want to try Hill's A/D (LINK) or Royal Canin Recovery (LINK) from your local vet. These are critical care diets that is comes 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 into her 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 (LINK). It is actually by the same people who make Ensure, but is formulated to meet out pet's dietary needs. Your vet should be able to order it for you but it is available without a prescription. They also make one specifically for older cats with kidney troubles, and this could be an alternative for an older cat. This way it would a means of getting food, staving off hepatic lipidosis (which is a concern when cats are off their food for extended periods of time), and buying you time to uncover the reason for her anorexia and lethargy.

On top off all of this, you do need to keep an eye on her water intake and hydration. To check her hydration status to make sure she 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 she 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 her vet before this gets out of control for her.

In regards ***** ***** you can do to help stave off dehydration at home (though do note that if she is already then she will likely need more the oral rehydration), encourage her to drink but offering fresh water or even low-sodium chicken broth. As well, wet foods (as mentioned above) are 35% water, so getting her to eat will help us deal with water intake as well. If she isn't amenable to drinking, you may wish to offer unflavored pedialyte via syringe feeding. While we cannot do this if they are vomiting, it may be an option here. 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 she needs for the day and is a good starting point to give you an idea of her daily requirement. If she does vomits if you give pedialyte, I would discontinue this as a therapy. (since we don’t want her vomiting because of our intervention).

Finally, I do just want to note some steps you can take to make sure there isn't a bit of congestion with this wheezing blocking her sense of smell and making her feel rough. To start, we can steam treat her to try and open her nasal passages. To do so, you can take her in the bathroom while you run a hot shower. The steam will help loosen and clear some of the snot congesting her. You can also use a baby nebulizer/humidifier, but often cats don’t like things held up to their faces. That said, you can alternatively make a little ‘steam tent’ with Bella in her carrier and the nebulizer under a thin bed sheet.

You can also use saline nasal drops (like Ocean Mist) though do avoid anything medicated. 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.

Again as I noted before, cats that can’t smell their food often won’t eat as well as they should. Therefore, besides the above foods, you can try tempting her with a smelly wet food (since they are high in water). It may help to warm it up a bit in the microwave to help her be able to smell it.

Overall, anorexia and hiding away from the world are signs that can arise for a range of causes. Her elevated respiratory rate (which should be ~20-30 bpm for a resting cat) is a concern her but her vet's check at least removes major worries of heart and lung disease. Therefore, with her range of subtle signs, we'd want to tackle nausea, see if we can get her eating, and use the above supportive care for her. If you do try these but she isn't settling over the next 12-24 hours (since we don't want this anorexia nor elevated breathing rate to linger), we would need to consider having her reassessed or a second opinion +/- bloods or xrays (which depending on what they do or don't find on exam) to pinpoint the cause of her signs.
Depending on the findings, the vet will be able advise you on which issue is likely our culprit and what can be done to help Bella before she just fades away on us.

I hope this information is helpful.

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

All the best,

Dr. B.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks for the comprehensive reply, lots of useful information there and to take in - let me read through carefully and follow your instruction, I'll leave a rating a little later in case I need to clarify anything with you this morning. Thanks - Darren

No worries, Darren.

I do appreciate that I can be a wee bit verbose, but I do like to have a good plan of attack for our poorly kitties. So, do have a read and if you have any questions, just let me know and I will get back to you as soon as I am able (as I am in and out of the office this afternoon).

Take care,
Dr. B.
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